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Paul’s Reply to Scott Hahn

Hi Scott,

I am replying here to your testimony along with friend and brother in the Lord, Victor Hafichuk. We are not representing any organization, or particular doctrine. We are speaking to you in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who alone is faithful and true, and judges all in righteousness.

In 1979 the Lord sent Victor and his wife to Israel, where they met me. The Lord had sent them to talk to me. He had moved me to pray to Him to send someone to do that very thing. How did I come to this place? I will tell you briefly:

I was born and raised a Jew. My family was not very religious, but I did attend synagogue until bar mitzvah. My own personal view was bewilderment and non-acceptance of any particular doctrine or belief in God. However, over the years things progressively pressed on me to want to know the truth, until at age 21 I was in earnest asking God to show me the truth. He did this for me, leading me to look to Jesus Christ. I began reading the “New Testament,” in particular, to hear the testimony given of Jesus. I was given to believe and know that testimony as true. I received that Jesus Christ was crucified and resurrected on our behalf, so that we might also believe on God and become children of God like Him.

This was a wonderful thing, causing no small amount of rejoicing on my part to say the least. However, I also did not know or understand how hard it was to forsake all that was required to walk with the Lord in true holiness. I remained in a relationship of fornication, and even justified myself in doing so, which is the very heart and nature of sin. This soured things for me, though I didn’t attribute the souring to the relationship because, in part, this person was not critical of my belief, and wanted to be with me. I had in a short while moved to Israel, and it was there that I cried to the Lord to send someone to help me.

When I met Victor, and heard that the Lord told him and his wife to move to Israel, I knew that the Lord had done this for me. What a wonderful gift! He answered my prayer, the God of heaven moving a man halfway across the earth to speak to me. How marvelous that was to me!

The Lord showed Victor what was happening in my life, and what was needed. It was not what I wanted to hear, but the truth did prevail. The Lord began to set me free by turning me from my ways that I had chosen, to learn to walk in His. These many years later I can testify that this work of the Lord Jesus Christ has been done in me through the ministry He gave Victor. Only the work of the Lord can change a soul. This work is not identified with any work of men. As you will also understand by his letter to you, God had removed Victor and his wife from all religious works. Therefore he was sent to me not as the servant of any organization, but of God Himself. The Lord has kept us and taught us all these many years since, by commandment keeping us outside of all religious works and the confusion they engender. We are now sent to speak to the world of repentance from these very things and from all sin.

Scott, I will begin answering you by saying that almost everyone makes the claim that their church is based in Scripture. We simply cannot go by man’s testimony, however. The Scriptures are clear that every man is a liar, and that God alone tells the truth (Romans 3:4). Anyone who tells the truth is of Him. Anyone who receives the truth also does know Him (I John 4:6).

So, what does the Lord say by His Spirit and His ministers? Scripture alone is not enough. The Scripture does not say “How lovely is a leather bound Bible,” but rather, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel…”(Romans 10:14-15). God has written His law in our hearts; His testimony is poured out of earthen vessels. Looking to the Bible as the answer is no different than looking at a tv set as though it produces what you see of itself, aided only by your imagination. However that which actually is presented comes from elsewhere through the device. The essence of the Scriptures is the Lord Himself. Without Him, the letter is dead and even worse than useless; it becomes a destructive agent in the hands of men (II Peter 3:16).

The Scriptures are true, but it is God alone Who can give one to receive the truth. Outside of Him people can and do make many things out of Scripture. Until the heart is turned to the Lord (not the Bible), the vail that keeps one from seeing Him remains. The Scriptures testify of Jesus Christ, and this understanding is received not by letter, nor by ritual, but by His Spirit that gives illumination. This is what happened when the Lord sent Victor to me. I, by the grace of God, had already acknowledged the authority of the Scripture because He, the Author, gave me to know Him and to hear His voice. But like the eunuch on the road with Philip, I needed someone to show me more specifically what I needed to hear. The one sent to me spoke the living Word, which was confirmed and in agreement with the recorded Word. And we must know that hearing always implies obedience. “Be you doers of the word, and not hearers only…” (James 1:22). Faith without works is indeed dead.

This is from where and how we answer you, Scott. The Author of Scripture sends us, to show you the Way, the Truth and the Life. We are the living Word, one with Him and His Holy Scripture. We give you His answer and reply.

It is a fallacious argument to say that if Luther is wrong, that which he protested against must be right. Even in the world, whether it is in politics, or business, or at the family dining room table, no one will accept such a syllogism. It is readily apparent to all that both can be wrong. And both are, in fact, wrong. The conflict is not between Catholic and Protestant, but between the works of men and the work of God.

This wrong thinking is summarized and exemplified in the following quote from your testimony:

One of my most brilliant professors, a man named Dr. John Gerstner, had once said that if we’re wrong on sola fide, I’d be on my knees outside the Vatican in Rome tomorrow morning doing penance.

What this sentiment reveals is that the Protestant movement is simply a branch of the Catholic Church. This man is basically saying that if he is mistaken in a premise that diverges from Catholic doctrine, he must then return to the “mother” church. It is the mother and child reunion. He acknowledges by his thinking that they are one and the same.

Martin Luther was also a Catholic, who wished to reform the church, not toss it out or leave it behind. So why should it surprise us if one weaned on Luther, such as you, would return to his mother?

The question is, is the mother right? If so, then there is hope that the children can also be reconciled and corrected from their errors by returning to her. But there is also this possibility, that the mother is also wrong. In that case reconciliation does not change the basic condition of wrongness for either party. This is precisely the way things are, and we prove this by Scripture and the revelation of the only true God and Lord Jesus Christ.

Scott, you try to prove the authenticity of the Catholic Church as the true Church of God by building a case for the sacraments practiced therein as foundational to salvation. These sacraments are conveniently controlled by men (Catholic Church), and are in direct denial of the works of God Who saves whomever He wills by faith and obedience to Him. For example, you say the following about water baptism:

But I discovered what Jesus meant in John 3 when He said that you’ve got to be born again. He turns around and says that you’ve got to be born of water and spirit. In the previous chapters He was just baptized with water and the Spirit descended upon Him. And as soon as He is done talking to Nicodemus about the need to be born from water and Spirit, the very next verse says that Jesus and the disciples went about baptizing. I taught that being born again is a covenant act, a sacrament, a covenant renewal involving baptism. I shared this with my seminary students; they were convinced.

Being born again is not by water baptism. Paul said he didn’t come to baptize (I Cor. 1:17). If water baptism brought the new birth, then Paul certainly would have been doing it, would he not? You may say that others preceded him in this work. But it is also clear that Paul brought the gospel to many, and he was not, by his own words, water baptizing those newly converted. Being born again comes not by performing a ritual, which men can control, but is through being baptized in the Spirit, which God controls.

Water baptism was given to signify the way of death, burial, and resurrection that were to follow repentance towards the Lord. This death is the death to self that Jesus described in taking up your cross to follow Him. Jesus did not prescribe a ritual (something of perpetual repetition) for the rich young ruler, or for anyone else. For salvation He spoke of obedience by faith in those matters needful for the individual in question. The ball is in His court, not man’s. He is Lord. The Catholic Church is a usurper, proclaiming itself Lord by exercising such control over men.

Abraham believed God, and it was accounted as righteousness to him. His works only confirmed what God had said and done for him. He did not offer Isaac weekly, or ever again. The covenant of God was given to Abraham, not in a repeated ritual, but by grace through faith expressed in obedience to the personal commandment of God to him. Circumcision was the sign given of this covenant. It was not the covenant; it was only a token of it. The ritual does not mean anything. This is what Paul also said:

“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that outwardly in flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart; in spirit and not in letter; whose praise is not from men, but from God” (Romans 2:28-29).

God testifies of Abraham the following:

“For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment, that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which He has spoken of him” (Genesis 18:19).

The covenant is one of the grace of God given to men whereby they may keep the way of the Lord that His promises may be fulfilled. This, we know, comes by Jesus Christ, Who is made the righteousness of God unto us, and by Whom grace and truth come (II Cor. 5:21 and John 1:17). Now, the question becomes, how do we receive Christ? I turn, Scott, to your line of reasoning and statements regarding this and what is said in John chapter 6. We pick up after many of His disciples left the Lord because of His words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood.

My research showed me that he turns to the twelve, and he says to them, what? “We better hire a public relations (P.R.) agent; I really blew it guys.” No! He says, “Are you going to leave me too?” He doesn’t say, “Do you understand I only meant it as a symbol?” No! He says that the truth is what sets us free, I have taught the truth. What are you going to do about it?

These statements give a false understanding and even omission of what the Lord actually did say. It is recorded there for us to see and believe. He said: “Does this offend you? What and if you shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the Spirit that quickens, the flesh profits nothing; the words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life…” Jesus said it wasn’t physical consumption that would profit you, but rather the spiritual. Because He didn’t try to correct people in their error is no admission that their error was correct. He corrected the error for those who remained. The Lord did not chase anyone to try to explain things. The Lord even spoke in parables so that many would NOT understand. To attribute the thoughts you do to the Lord is wrong, Scott. You place importance on man, and not God.

So how does one partake of the Lord spiritually? Paul said that many were sick because they didn’t partake worthily of the Lord’s body. Who or what is the Lord’s body? Are not we, those of us in Him who are His church (I Cor. 12)? Are we not bone of His bone (Eph. 5:30)? Those who are sickly are those who are among His people, yet not living in recognition of His presence in the brethren.

Jesus said that He that comes down from heaven is the bread of life. Men didn’t recognize Him because they served themselves. For those who do receive Him, He is the bread of life. It is the same Lord Who comes for all. Those who receive the one sent by Him receive Him. This is Jesus Christ coming in the flesh. The angel told the apostle John that the brethren have the testimony of Jesus. He is here, now, speaking through those who are joined to Him by His Spirit.

It is not the eating of a piece of bread, but knowing and doing the will of God that is the partaking of His life. Jesus said, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me” (John 4:34). The same applies to His people whom He sends in His Name. His will is our meat. We do not receive Him by physical bread any more than Jesus had to receive the Father by eating a certain food, or performing a certain ritual.

When one is brought to obedience by the cross, he or she partakes of His sacrifice, and the same Spirit that resurrected Jesus is made manifest. This is showing His death till He comes for all. This is also the covenant on which the family of God is founded. Jesus asked, “Who are My brother and mother?” Those who do the will of God, He said. So it is.

You continue on with these words, Scott:

Peter stands up and speaks out; he says, “To whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life and we’ve come to believe.” Peter’s statement, “To whom shall we go?” implies that, “You know, Jesus, we don’t understand what you mean either, but do you have another Rabbi on the scene you can recommend? You know, to whom shall we go? It’s too late for us; we believe whatever you say even if we don’t understand it fully, and if you say we have to eat your flesh and drink your blood, then somehow you’ll give us the grace we need to accept your words at face value.” He didn’t mean it figuratively.

His flesh and blood is real, not figurative. I am one with Him because I partake of His flesh and blood, not something imaginary. The partaking is as we have shown, in the walk of obedience unto death, which is real. If we are so identified with Him we also will receive sustenance from Him and live. This is real. It is the eucharist of the world’s churches which is imaginary. Men imagine it to be the flesh and blood of Christ. The imagination is powerful. However, it is not God, and can’t change the basic nature of man as He does. That is demonstrated in the acts of those who consume this bread. The fruits tell a different story. The Catholic Church preaches a form of holiness, but abuses and perversions of all kinds are committed and hidden by them. The fruits show whether there is authentic conversion or not. If Christ were in the wafers, transferred into His eaters, then very different results would be forthcoming from this alleged “bride of Christ.” Can anyone in his or her right mind argue with this? He isn’t in the wafers or ceremonies of the Catholic Church. He is not subject to the works men have set up in His Name. His Church and works are His own, and manifest His glory and workmanship.

Scott, you try to supplant His Church with the Catholic Church by a line of reasoning that goes like this: Scripture alone is not all there is for revelation and instruction for mankind. There are also a people who have authority from Him to speak and administer His word. These people are the Catholic Church, which claims it was given its authority by Jesus Christ with the words He spoke to Peter (Matt. 16:18). Points one and two are true, but point three is false. Two-thirds truth is not enough. One-third arsenic in your water will kill you.

I will start by affirming what is true.

Nowhere does Scripture state that only Scripture is inspired. How could it, as Scripture comes through MEN who are inspired by the Spirit of the Lord to record these things? Can anyone honestly believe that all inspiration from God is recorded in a book? Of Jesus it was said that if they recorded all He said and did there wouldn’t be room enough for all the books. Are we to believe that His expression is so limited that all we can ever hear or know of God is from a book? How utterly ridiculous! Why should the Lord have come and suffered for us if all we could have of Him would be from a book?

Now, in no way does this diminish the veracity and import of what is in the Book of books. The Bible is the testimony of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, given for our edification and instruction in godliness. So we quote and administer from it.

However, the Lord Who gave the prophecy to men, by His inspiration, must also inspire us to receive that testimony. Otherwise, the words are meaningless and dead. “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:20-21). The same Spirit Who inspires to interpret Scripture, also inspires us to know all things. “But he that is spiritual judges (discerns) all things… (I Cor. 2:15).

One of the major idols of the Protestant Church has been the Bible. It is worshipped and served much as the Jews did when Jesus spoke to them, rebuking them for looking to the Bible when the One of Whom it spoke stood before them, and they wouldn’t listen to Him.

As with all idols, it isn’t for a love of the object that men worship the Bible, but to serve themselves, according to their own thinking and judgment. It is the legacy of the "original" sin, where mankind began to judge for himself as he partook of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

You can’t know God by your own thinking and study, Scott. Did Paul? Did Abraham? Did Moses? Did Jesus? Did Peter? It was even remarked of Peter and those with him that they were unlearned. Paul, in all his learning, knew nothing of God, until the time appointed. Is it your time, now?

Jesus said to the word (letter) worshipers of His day, "You have not His word abiding in you." Why was this, because they didn’t "believe" the Bible? No, it was because they didn’t believe Him Whom God had sent to them. “Only by Scripture,” or "Sola Scriptura" as Luther (or whoever) termed it in Latin, is not at all Biblical.

John the beloved disciple and apostle wrote, "…many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh" The deceivers aren’t saying the Bible isn’t true. They are deceivers because they say it is true, but they don’t believe those whom Christ sends. Those whom He sends are His coming in the flesh.

Do you think that He comes in robes with great pomp like the pope? Or does He come as He said he would, as a thief, without observation, not seen by fleshly show or grandiosity, but by the Spirit?

How did one recognize Him when He first came? How would one know that Paul or Peter were His? In their day the Jews had their priests, and those who even sat in Moses’ seat, as Jesus said. So, who are these men (Christ’s disciples), without affiliation or pedigree, preaching Christ? They weren’t part of the Pharisees, or Sadducees. They weren’t "identifiable," except by those who could see by faith. So it is today.

I quote here a crucial sequence in your reasoning:

"Then I decided to pose him a question. I said, ‘Art, what for you is the pillar and foundation of truth?’ And he said, ‘Scott, for all of us Scripture is the pillar and foundation of truth.’ I said, ‘Then why, Art, does the Bible say in 1 Timothy 3:15 that the pillar and foundation of truth is the church, the household of faith?‘"

This is precisely the point! The Church is His Body, and HE is the pillar and foundation of truth. The Church, the Temple of the living God, is in the world, but not of it. Jesus said His disciples are the salt of the earth. He said His people were the light of the world. He said He would send His own as the Father sent Him. None of these things are said of the Bible.

The recorded word of God is truth of truth. But the Bible wasn’t sent to preach. "How shall they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10:14). Paul said that those he brought to Christ were his epistles, written in his heart.

"God also has made us able ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (II Cor. 3:6).

Does this make void the letter? Not at all. It only makes void the use of the letter by those without the understanding and knowledge of Him to Whom the letter refers. ("Search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have life, and they are they that testify of Me.")

Your narrative continues:

There was a silence and he said, “Well, Scott, I think you’re setting me up with that question then.” And I said, “Art, I feel like I’m being set up with lots of problems.” He said, “Well, which church, Scott? There are lots of them.” I said, “Art, how many churches are even applying for the job of being the pillar and foundation of truth? I mean, if you talk about a church saying, ‘We’re the pillar and foundation of truth; look to us and you will hear Christ speak and teach’? How many applicants for the job are there? I only know of one. I only know that the Roman Catholic Church teaches that it was founded by Christ; it’s been around for 2000 years and it’s making some outlandish claims that seem awfully similar to 1 Timothy 3:15.

In this world perhaps the Catholic Church can claim to be most ancient of organized bodies. But there clearly is another Church. It is the one of which we have already spoken. Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against it. It is based on the same revelation that Peter had, which is the revelation of Jesus Christ from the Father, that He is the Son of God. This Church is comprised of those to whom Jesus Christ is revealed, those He chooses and adds to His body. It does not meet in this or that building, or in Rome or Jerusalem, but worships the Father in spirit and in truth. It is not one of the many names of blasphemy that men take to themselves. It is given a new name that only those who overcome know. It is not of this world, and is not recognized by this world. Nevertheless, it is seated in heaven in Christ and rules with Him, to be seen in due time.

“My kingdom is not of this world.” Can the Catholic Church say the same? Did Jesus meet with world rulers to negotiate, appease, cajole, or lecture them? What did He have to say to Herod, or Pontius Pilate? What did they have to say to Him?

The false church, of which the Catholic Church is only a part, is divided, a sure sign that it shall not stand, according to the words of Jesus. His Church is one, according to His testimony and prayer. He also said His kingdom doesn’t come by observation and that He comes as a thief. Are these the hallmarks of the Catholic Church and all the other works of men? Did He not come as a thief? Was He recognized? Do you think you can do better than those who were zealous of Scripture in their day? In whom do you place your confidence?

You were converted to false religion, Scott, not the living, resurrected, Lord Jesus Christ. You started with a false shoot, and have gone back to a false trunk. We speak to you that you would repent of doing your own thing, and supporting those who have done likewise. None could answer you before, but now God has sent those who can and do answer, without equivocation or uncertainty.

By His grace and will we testify to you and to all,

Paul Cohen

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