Answering John Martignoni: Assurance of Salvation

July 17, 2013

vine and branches

This will be the first installment of a series of articles where I will give my answer to questions asked by John Martignoni in his newsletters. But before we get to the question on assurance of salvation, I would like to briefly share my encounter with John Martignoni.

In January 2009, John Martignoni responded to an article I wrote where he asked me a barrage of questions in response to my criticism of his assertion that oral tradition is responsible for the canon of Scripture. I was happy to answer all his questions sincerely and honestly. Since in his newslettesrs John tends to ask a lot of questions to his Protestant opponents and then berates them for not answering them, I wondered how he was going to respond to someone that addressed each and every one. But much to my surprise, I never heard back from him. I suspect the reason was that he was too nervous about being called out on the false information he presented to his some 30,000 newsletter subscribers.

Read the rest of this entry »

John Martignoni’s video apologetics

June 19, 2010

Catholic apologist, John Martignoni decided to take his one-man apologetics show to You Tube. He intends to present a series called, “Questions Protestants can’t Answer.” He opens the series with this question: “Is a dead body really a body?” The analogy is that a body without a spirit is still a body though be it a dead body, and faith without works is still faith, but like a body without a spirit it is a dead faith.

So far very good and very biblical, but then Martignoni attempts to associate the doctrine of “faith alone” with dead faith. And how does Martignoni associate faith alone with dead faith? He doesn’t say. Martignoni offers nothing to support his accusation. Nevertheless he is willing to send his disciples out to confront Protestants with this accusation armed with nothing but ignorance and misconceptions.

Take a look.

If Catholics are going to confront Protestants on this issue, they better be prepared to talk about works, specifically works of the law.

Faith alone is a biblical doctrine and it refers to a living faith. Dead faith is faith that is not accompanied by the fruit of the Spirit, which is the works of God in us. There are indeed those who proclaim Christ yet lack the works of the Spirit in their lives, these have dead faith. But those who by faith have become a new creation in Christ are alive in Christ and Christ in manifested in them by the fruit they bear. When a person truly believes the Gospel of Christ they desire repentance, and in their repentance they change the way they talk, the way they treat others, and the way they perceive their neighbor. They begin to manifest the fruits of the Spirit, this faith is a living faith accompanied by good works.

Conversely, the Catholic view of faith plus works is entirely unbiblical. This view separates faith from works. If we apply this doctrine to the thief on the cross next to Jesus we have a conflict. In order for the thief to be saved, and we know he was, an exception has to be made to the Catholic doctrine. And if we are to say that a person can believe and be saved upon their deathbed we again have to make an exception to the doctrine. And again exceptions have to be made with regards to small children and the mentally handicapped. All this is proof that the Catholic doctrine of faith plus works is a doctrine of men.

In addition, the Catholic system, yes system, of salvation includes adherence to “canon law.” For example, if a Catholic does not go to mass on a day deemed mandatory by canon law, they supposedly commit mortal sin and are immediately removed from a state of grace. Then comes the exception; if they confess their “sin” to a priest and do the mandatory penance they can return to a state of grace.

Such laws were never intended to be imposed on Christians. Salvation by faith is accompanied by good works apart from any law. Catholics are told that their salvation is dependant upon following canon law, the Apostle Paul said,

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23)

Response to Martignoni’s “Biblical Evidence” for the Catholic Mass (Part 1)

January 6, 2010

Catholic apologist, John Martignoni, in his latest newsletter asks his readers (of which I am one) to respond to an email he received from a non-Catholic. The email Mr. Martignoni received was rather brusque and only offered someone else’s article as a response to his earlier newsletter. Martignoni’s objection to his challenger’s email was that it did not address the Scripture references he cited in his previous newsletter on the sacrifice of the mass. So my response will be to address those references in this and forthcoming blog posts. Read the rest of this entry »

Catholic Apologist Refutes Own Logic

October 13, 2009

Catholic apologist John Martignoni’s own “logic” has handed him a shovel and he’s digging deep. While attempting to defend the Catholic doctrine of the immaculate conception from Revelation 12, John Martignoni logically states that since Jesus and Satan are real people, the woman mentioned in that verse must also be a real person; and that real person, Martignoni claims, is Mary. Here is a quote from his newsletter for context.

“Now, some will say that the woman represents the Church, because it is the Church that brings Jesus to the world; or that she represents Israel, because Jesus is a child of Israel. And, at one level of interpretation, they would be right. The image of the woman can be a metaphor for either the Church or Israel. There are many passages of Scripture that can have different levels of meaning, and this is one of them. However, at the most basic level of meaning, the woman is also a real person – Mary, the mother of Jesus. After all, no one ever says that the male child who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron is a metaphor. Nor do they say that the ancient serpent, Satan, is a metaphor. Why then do they claim “the woman” is only a metaphor? They claim that because they do not want her to be Mary. To admit that could damage some of their arguments against Catholic teaching on Mary. So, in the parallel passage of Gen 3:15, we see three real persons, but in chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation, we supposedly only have two real persons and a metaphor?” (John Martignoni; Apologetics for the Masses – Issue #127)

If it is only logical that the woman be a real person in Revelation 12, than the same logic must apply to the woman in Revelation 17; the two chapters refer to the same woman. In Rev. 12:6 the woman flees to the wilderness, in Rev. 17:3 John is taken to the wilderness where he finds the woman. It’s obviously the same woman. The dragon never became something different later in Revelation so why would anyone think the woman was something different- especially when we have the location to tie the two together?

No Christian would ever say that the woman in chapter 17 is Mary, so why accept that interpretation in chapter 12? The woman is a metaphor plain and simple. Martignoni defeated his own logic, unless of course his logic allows for double standards. I would ask him, but he’s probably tired of digging.

Where do infants go when they die?

September 26, 2009


Hi Brian,

I was reading this article again [If a baby dies, does it go to Heaven or Hell?], and I was just thinking, what would be a Biblical answer to the question “Where do infants go when they die?” There doesn’t seem to be a clear answer in this article, but I see an excellent response to the Roman Catholic position of having to be baptized as an infant. Could you clear up the question with the Biblical mindset that we are all born into sin and that everyone needs a savior (including infants).

Thank you


Hi David!

You are right; the article was focused more on addressing Martignoni’s assertions rather than addressing the actual question. That being the case, I thought I would post my response to your question here so I could properly address it. Thanks for your feedback!

I know there are a lot of varying opinions out there concerning this question. My philosophy is to just stick with what I understand. So I will try to answer your question using biblical examples and logic, and you can decide whether or not it makes sense.

The big question is: do infants inherit Adam’s sin and therefore considered (by God) guilty of sin? We cannot answer for God, who ultimately is the Judge of such things, but I think we can understand what the answer might be from biblical study; and the answer for me comes down to one word: law. Paul said, “For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” (Rom. 5:13) So the question becomes, if sin is not imputed without law, what law, if any, is an infant under?

Adam, as soon as he was formed, was placed in the garden and put under law. “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:16-17) Adam’s innocence was conditional; so long as he was obedient to the law over him, he remained without sin. But as we know, Adam disobeyed God. His disobedience brought about the promise God made to him, that he would surely die.

Adam and Eve’s nature changed the moment they disobeyed God; at that moment they knew they were naked and experienced shame and regret. And although God promised they would surely die, He also promised that He would save them through their posterity. Therefore, the descendants of Adam are not descendants of innocent Adam, but descendants of fallen Adam.

The curse placed upon Adam is placed upon his descendants, which is all of mankind. It is the curse, not the sin that is passed on throughout our generations. When God’s Law came through Moses sin was once again revealed, because God commanded the children of Israel to obey His commandments. So disobedience to the Law imputes sin upon those who disobey, just like Adam did.

So what about those who were not under the Law of Moses; how is sin imputed to them in light of what Paul said, that sin is not imputed where there is no law? Paul himself answers that question in Romans, chapter 2.

For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.” (v 12-16)

Adam and Eve did not need God to tell them they should feel guilty over their sin; it came naturally. As soon as they disobeyed God, Adam and Eve’s conscience bared witness to them of their sin. The same is true of those who are ignorant of the Law of God, or His grace. So the similitude of Adam’s sin is found in disobedience to the law of nature and is witnessed by the conscience.

When we consider what Paul said, “…their thoughts accusing or else excusing them in the day when God will judge the secrets of men,” what does it mean for those whose thoughts cannot accuse them? It can only mean that they are excused on the Day of Judgment because they did not disobey the law, which, according to Paul, is the only way sin could be imputed to them. Nevertheless, as Paul also taught in Romans 5, death reigns over those who do not sin in the similitude of Adam because Adam brought death into the world, which was conquered by Christ at His resurrection. Therefore, all who are justified, whether by forgiveness or by innocence, are made alive through Christ’s obedience.

One more thing to consider: Christ possessed the same humanity we do. Although He is God, He became a man, born under the Law and prevailed over the Law, which rather than having the power to condemn Him it declared Him righteous through obedience. Nevertheless, even Jesus, in His humanity, was stricken with Adam’s disease. Likewise, every human being drinks from the dregs of Adam’s curse, and those who are disobedient to the law will suffer condemnation. That condemnation falls upon all people whose conscience has witnessed to them of their sin; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. 3:20)

An infant, though seemingly under natural law, has no knowledge of sin; and where there is no knowledge of sin and no conviction of conscience, there is no condemnation from law. But that is only true because of Christ. I think what we need to understand is that humanity was separated from God through Adam’s sin. Only God could reconcile that separation. And without God’s intervention no one, including infants, could be united with Him. Thanks and reverence be to God that He loved us enough to send His Son to reconcile us back to Himself!

Martignoni’s Dilemma

January 19, 2009

Mr. Martignoni seems to believe that every book of the New Testament, as we know it today, was delivered from city to city throughout the ancient Roman Empire with the assurance of “word of mouth oral tradition” backing its authenticity. History, however, disagrees with Mr. Martignoni and it would be nice if he would take the time to explain, if he can, exactly what he means by “oral tradition.”

The catechism of the Catholic Church says the following regarding tradition:

“This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. Through Tradition, “the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes.” “The sayings of the holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of this Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer.”” (CCC 78)

Perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes.” If this were true, and, as Mr. Martignoni asserts, the canon of Scripture was set by oral tradition, why did the early church not know which books to include?

I hope Mr. Martignoni returns to answer this question and the one I presented in my comment:

Which of these oral traditions came from the apostles: to observe Pasch (Passover) on Sundays only, or to observe in accordance with the Jews?

Brian Culliton

PS. Anyone is welcome to answer the questions.

John Martignoni’s Word of Mouth

January 9, 2009

I was cleaning up my bookmarks for the New Year when I came across a link to the website of the Catholic apologist, John Martignoni ( I had bookmarked the website because of a debate between him and Dr. Joe Mizzi of the “Just for Catholics” website. When I came across his assertion on “oral tradition” I couldn’t help but respond by writing this post.

A quote taken from John Martignoni’s website adequately demonstrates why so many Catholics I encounter are completely ignorant of the canonization of Scripture. It seems many Catholics (maybe most Catholics) think that the authenticity of New Testament Scriptures was passed down orally through a succession of bishops, then put together and canonized by a Catholic council. The impression they have is that a church council, sometime back in the fourth century, was faced with dozens of writings from which they decided, from apostolic oral tradition, which were inspired and which were not.

Nothing could be further from the truth, as I will demonstrate here.

In issue 89 John Martignoni makes this statement:

Well, the problem for Joe [Mizzi] is, they received “by word of mouth” that the canon they were passing on was indeed apostolic in origin. It was passed on “by word of mouth”…oral tradition…that 1 and 2 Corinthians were indeed authentic letters of Paul. It was passed on “by word of mouth”…oral tradition…that Matthew and John were indeed authentic writings of Matthew and John. It was passed on, “by word of mouth”…oral tradition…that the writing of Mark represented the oral traditions of Peter; and it was passed on, “by word of mouth”…oral tradition…that the Luke who wrote the Gospel that bears his name was indeed the companion of Paul and was indeed inspired by the Holy Spirit…The Church determined the canon of Scripture based on Tradition…Tradition that had been passed down orally from the beginning of the Church. And, that canon was set at the Council of Rome in 382 A.D.” (John Martignoni)

What John is referring to when he says the “canon was set at the Council of Rome in 382 A.D,” is actually a list from the Gelasian Decree produced in the sixth century and sometimes falsely attributed to the council of Rome. The earliest council to address the canonical list is probably Hippo in 393, but certainly Carthage in 397 finalized it. Just about every Catholic I have encountered on this topic is under the impression that the council of Carthage decided which books belong in the Bible and which do not. In actuality, all the council did was close the canon that already existed and forbade the reading in church of any writings outside the accepted canon. There is a great deal of history with regards to the formation of the canon of Scripture, and to say that oral tradition is responsible for its authority as Scripture is simply false and far from the facts of history.

In the apostolic church the Pauline letters circulated singularly, but as early as the beginning of the second century they circulated collectively, and with them the epistle to the Hebrews. This collection is known as the Pauline Corpus. The Chester Beatty manuscript is the oldest surviving copy. It did not include the three Pastoral Epistles (1, 2Timothy and Titus), but did include Hebrews.1

Of the 27 canonical books, Irenaeus quoted from 23 of them in his treatise against heresies in the second century. And Eusebius provides an account of early second century Christians not only evangelizing orally, but delivering written books of the Gospels to people who had not heard the Good News.2 And in 1740 historian Ludovico Muratori published his Muratorian Fragment containing a list of New Testament books dating to around 170 A.D.

The Muratorian Fragment contains the oldest list of canonical books of the New Testament recognized in the Roman church at the time. The list includes the four Gospels (though only Luke and John are actually present on the fragment, the Gospels of Mathew and Mark are assumed have been mentioned before them because the first completed sentence on the fragment is “The third book of the Gospel is that according to Luke“). The compiler comments that Luke’s authority is derived from his association with Paul. He claims that Luke was Paul’s legal expert, which when understood within the context of the Roman world implies that Luke was part of Paul’s staff and thus issued his writing with his own name but in accordance with Paul’s opinion (F.F. Bruce). With regards to this opinion it is reasonable to suppose that the explanation for Luke writing Paul’s Gospel originated in Rome, perhaps about the time this list was compiled.

Besides the four Gospels, the list includes as acceptable all of Paul’s epistles (but not Hebrews, which incidentally in Rome, was not recognized as Pauline until the fourth century), the Apocalypse of John (Revelation), Jude and two epistles of John. In all, 22 of the 27 books of our New Testament are presented in this list as acceptable in the church. The apocalypse of Peter was also mentioned as acceptable but not by all. And oddly the Wisdom of Solomon also appears on the list as acceptable.

The books of our New Testament not mentioned are, 1 and 2 Peter, third John, Hebrews and James. There are also interesting exclusions such as the Shepherd of Hermas. The Shepherd of Hermas was read regularly in the churches but was rejected because, the compiler says, “It was written quite recently in our own time.” This is interesting because it shows us that the early Christian leadership compiled Scripture, not based on oral tradition, but on evidence of authenticity. The four Gospels and the Pauline Corpus were never brought into question because they were deeply rooted in the catholic (universal) church and recognized by all as authoritative. But the absence of the five books of our New Testament from the Muratorian Fragment poses an even bigger problem for Martignoni and other adherents of oral tradition. If indeed the bishops in Rome could determine by oral tradition, which books belong to the canon of Scripture, these five books could not have been missing from the list because the same oral tradition is said to have reached the council of Carthage, which included them.

In Eusebius’ time (early fourth century), the final number of accepted books had still not been established. Eusebius lists James, Jude, 2Peter, 2John and 3John as disputed but recognized by many. He lists the Apocalypse of John as generally accepted but rejected by some. The composer of the Muratorian Fragment states that the Apocalypse of John, Jude and two of John’s epistles were accepted in the catholic church.

If oral tradition is responsible for the collection of accepted books, it has proven itself unreliable to say the least. Eusebius, however, describes something far different than oral tradition when he comments on the compilation of Scripture in his own time:

But we have nevertheless felt compelled to give a catalogue of these also, distinguishing those works which according to ecclesiastical tradition are true and genuine and commonly accepted, from those others which, although not canonical but disputed, are yet at the same time known to most ecclesiastical writers- we have felt compelled to give this catalogue in order that we might be able to know both these works and those that are cited by the heretics under the name of the apostles, including, for instance, such books as the Gospels of Peter, of Thomas, of Matthias, or of any others besides them, and the Acts of Andrew and John and the other apostles, which no one belonging to the succession of ecclesiastical writers has deemed worthy of mention in his writings.

And further, the character of the style is at variance with apostolic usage, and both the thoughts and the purpose of the things that are related in them are so completely out of accord with true orthodoxy that they clearly show themselves to be the fictions of heretics. Wherefore they are not to be placed even among the rejected writings, but are all of them to be cast aside as absurd and impious.

(Hist. Eccl. 3:25:6)

The ecclesiastical tradition, used to determine the accepted writings, was clearly not oral tradition. Writings, whether accepted or rejected, were scrutinized and compared to orthodox ecclesiastical writings. Notice that Eusebius condemns the Acts of Andrew and John and the other apostles. The compiler of the Muratorian list also excluded these writings by saying, “the Acts of all the apostles have been written in one book.” However, he claims that Luke only recorded the things that took place in his presence and, therefore, omitted the passion of Peter (the account of Peter being crucified upside-down) and Paul’s departure to Spain. Both these stories are detailed in the Acts of Peter, a book deemed unworthy and absurd by Eusebius and ignored by the ecclesiastical writers, yet considered factual accounts by many in our day.

By the time Eusebius wrote his history the canon of New Testament Scripture was almost completed. In 330, just after establishing his new capital in Constantinople, Constantine requested that Eusebius provide 50 copies of the Christian Scriptures. Unfortunately we are not told what books were included in Eusebius’ New Testament, but there is little doubt based on his writings that it contained the 27 books of our current New Testament.

In his thirty-ninth festal letter, announcing the date of Easter in 367 AD, Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, presented the list of New Testament books exactly as we have them today, but not in the same order. He was the first in history to produce a written list of the 27 books. Canon 60 of the regional council of Laodicea in 363 also lists the books of the New Testament, but excludes Revelation. Canon 60, however, may be a later addition, as it is absent from some of the Laodicean manuscripts.

In conclusion, this short post is merely a tiny synopsis of the vast and rich history of the development of our New Testament Scriptures. The oral tradition assertion often touted by Catholic apologists like John Martignoni, is backed by nothing. It relies entirely on the reader’s, or hearer’s ignorance of church history.

Brian Culliton

1 F.F. Bruce, Canon of Scripture (InterVarsity Press, pp 130)
2 Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3:37:2 (Hendrickson Publishers, pp 102)