Holy Ground Blog Tour Begins!

You’re invited to join me on the first leg of my book tour. Over the upcoming weeks, I’ll travel to Australia, Kentucky, Cayman Islands, Tennessee, and Michigan. I’d love for you to come, and the nice part is that you won’t have to leave the comforts of your home since this first leg, called the “blog tour,” is entirely on the web. You say, “What on earth is a ‘blog tour’?” Basically, a number of high profile bloggers have been nice enough to read Holy Ground and send me questions which I’ve since answered and will be posted on their respective websites on an appointed day (listed below).

All the bloggers are terrific guys whom I’ve enjoyed during the last several weeks of preparation. Even so, precious few of them have thrown me easy lob balls. Most of their questions were lightening fast pitches rifled down the middle, blazing hot, probing into the deepest controversies between Catholics and Protestants. If you’ve ever wondered what Castaldo believes about this or that conundrum, you’ll likely find out.

Do I expect fireworks to be ignited in the list of comments that follow each blog post? Well, in the words of a notorious hockey mom, “You Betcha!” Sit with me and watch the sparks fly; perhaps we’ll even roast a few marshmallows over the fire. Following is the schedule:

Nov. 16 Paul Grimmond www.solapanel.org

Nov. 18 Jim Hamilton www.jimhamilton.wordpress.com

Nov. 20 Doug Phillips secondtimothy215.blogspot.com

Nov. 23 James Grant www.inlightofthegospel.org

Nov. 24 Trevin Wax trevinwax.com

Nov. 25 Ray Van Neste www.rvanneste.blogspot.com

Nov. 30 Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile www.purechurch.blogspot.com

About the author

Chris Castaldo (PhD, London School of Theology) is the lead pastor at New Covenant Church in Naperville, Illinois. He is the author of Talking with Catholics about the Gospel and coauthor of The Unfinished Reformation.


  1. I am myself a Catholic, but I am afraid that there will be a rush of Catholics to this place launching all kinds of personal attacks. The truth is what matters, and emotions need to be kept in check.

    Your story sounds interesting in that it’s getting lots of publicity, but publicity doesn’t make something true (as you would agree).

    Virtually ever Catholic ‘deconversion’ I have come across are the result of a misunderstood notion of what the Catholic Church really teaches. Sadly, we are living in an age where ‘growing up’ Catholic and ‘attending Catholic school’ doesn’t guarantee the Catholic position was accurately conveyed to the individual – and in many cases it means the true Catholic position was actually distorted or never conveyed at all!

    While this isn’t the place for me to go writing up a long post, I’d like to leave you with one argument from Scripture for the Catholic position, which few Protestant scholars have dared to examine:
    Psalm 106:30-31 says Phinehas’ good work was ‘credited as righteousness’. That’s the same exact phrase in Hebrew and Greek that appears in Genesis 15:6 where Abraham believed and his faith was ‘credited as righteousness’. Using the principle of ‘scripture interprets scripture’, we should assume the phrase ‘credited as righteousness’ means the same thing in each case. Now, this would mean Abraham’s faith itself was seen by God as a truly righteous act, just as Phinehas work was seen as a truly righteous act. Contrary to this, the classical Protestant position states it was not Abraham’s faith itself, but rather the alien righteousness of Christ in view here, but that’s simply not how the term ‘credited’ is used (see the 40 times the Greek term for ‘credit’ is used in the NT, and you’ll see it supports the Phinehas example).
    At the very least, I’d hope this ‘food for thought’ will show you the Catholic position is indeed Biblical on key issues like these, the question now is, does the Protestant view compare to arguments like the above?

    Any questions/comments: nicholas42@gmail.com

  2. p.s. I would encourage you to enable the option on your blog called “email me of follow up comments” so that users who post can be notified by email when new comments are made.

  3. Thanks Nick,

    I think I get your question. If not, please follow up with me.

    As I understand it, from an evangelical Protestant perspective, the issue comes down to understanding the *ground* of our justification. You are pointing out that only *after* Abraham believed was something credited to him. This, it would seem, undermines the Protestant teaching of faith alone, in that God is acting in response to human behavior (if I’m following you correctly). I (and Reformed theology) would say that one must believe in order to be justified. However, the *ground* of one’s belief is not their own volition, it is the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit. In other words, in the order of salvation, regeneration or what’s also called “effectual calling” comes first, then belief, justification, and so on. The Apostle Paul describes this ordo salutis in Romans 8:29-30. Ephesians 2 also sheds helpful light on it. Blessings Nick, -CC

    PS Thanks for your suggestion. I’ve contacted my web-master.

  4. Thank you for your response. I didn’t notice you mention the Phinehas example, so my conscience is still bound to accept what I see as the more Biblical argument (a la Psalm 106:30f). I’m not sure why saying Abraham was justified “after” believing is wrong, because the alternative is being justified before believing, which clearly is wrong. Even if this act of faith was fully ‘triggered’ and controlled by the Holy Spirit, it shouldn’t logically change whether faith itself is the object of crediting as righteousness. That said, I don’t see how one can be said to believe something with 0% volition.

  5. Thanks Nick,

    You misunderstood my last statement about volition. I’m asserting that volitional belief is necessary, but it happens on the basis of God’s enabling grace, what is commonly called monergism–as Paul puts it in 1 Cor 15, “I labored more than all the other Apostles, *yet not I* but the grace of God within me.” Or in Phil 2, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling *for* it is God who is at work to will and to work for his own good pleasure.” Or in Augustine’s words, “When God crowns our works, he is crowning his own gifts.” God is the efficient cause. This keep us in the realm of sola gratia over and against a synergy of faith and works.

    SO, in the case of both Phinehas and Abraham, belief was a necessary step in the order of salvation in order for their faith to be credited to them as righteousness, but it is a faith that *ultimately* happens according to divine grace and not on account of human will (Eph 2:8-10), even as Paul says in Romans 4: “What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

    Finally, I’m not sure your statement about about Ps 196 being an argument that “few Protestant scholars have dared to examine” is completely accurate. In my experience, any serious consideration of imputation deals with Phinehas.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful exchange. Richest blessings to you and yours. CC

  6. The way you described “God is the efficient cause” in that first paragraph is perfectly orthodox Catholicism, so I must assume your objection resides elsewhere.

    I think I am at fault for the Phinehas example, let me rephrase it:
    The Bible says Phinehas’ good work was “credited as righteousness”.
    Now, what does this phrase mean to you?

    To me, it means God considered Phinehas’ good work as a righteous act and blessed him for it. By this same reasoning, God considered Abrahams strong faith as a righteous act and blessed him for believing.

  7. Yes, and humans everywhere must believe in order to have their faith credited as righteousness (Rom 3:21-22; 10:10-11). The issue is what’s the *basis* of that belief. Evangelical Protestants, at least in the Reformed tradition, asssert that the basis is God’s effectual calling (or regeneration) which textually is made most explicit in Romans 8:29-30, “…thos he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (cf. Titus 3:5-7). Practically speaking, I can’t take responsibility for my belief. The only reason why I believed in Jesus is because God gave me new life through the preaching of the gospel, giving me a new heart (Catholics will, at this point, say through the Sacrament of Baptism, as you know) and thus made belief possible. This is what makes it grace alone, through faith, not as a result of works, so that no one can boast.

    Thanks again Nick!

  8. I already affirmed Catholics accept God’s effectual calling, which you called “God’s enabling grace,” so I don’t see how the *basis* is different or the deciding factor. Catholics repudiate the notion man can believe or turn towards God without grace coming first.

    Look at the Council of Trent, Canon 3:
    “If anyone says that without the predisposing inspiration of the Holy Ghost and without His help, man can believe, hope, love or be repentant as he ought, so that the grace of justification may be bestowed upon him, let him be anathema.”

    If this is what you see as the deciding factor, then maybe there isn’t that serious of a division as you came to believe between Protestants and Catholics.

  9. Are you saying that “first actual grace,” as Catholic theology calls it, and regeneration (in the Catholic context by means of baptism) are the same? I think your answer would be no. For evangelical Protestants, however, the answer is yes. This is our difference. Thanks Nick.

  10. No, they are not the same, but we are also using terms differently.

    Protestant-regeneration corresponds to Catholic “first actual grace” (or as the Trent quote above says “predisposing inspiration of the Holy Ghost and without His help”).

    Baptismal Regeneration is something *different* than those, it comes ‘later on’ at the moment of justification, and corresponds to the Biblical usage where the only time “regeneration” appears is in Titus 3:4-7, speaking of justification at Baptism.

    Catholics do not teach that Protestant-regeneration takes place at Baptism; there are two different things being mixed up here.

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