Witnessing in the Local Newspaper (Letters to Unbelievers)


Between April and July, 2016, I took part in a discussion in the “Have Your Say” (Letters to the Editor) section of the Limerick Post (LP) newspaper. The website of the LP states, “The Limerick Post weekly newspaper is distributed throughout Limerick City and County in the region of Munster. It is considered Limerick’s most popular newspaper with a circulation of over 53,000 copies per week and an estimated readership of 238,500.”

The occasion for the first letter was the “Follow the Icon” (mariolatrous) event in Limerick in April, 2016. After I had engaged in some interaction on the subject of Mary, some atheists challenged me to “prove” God. This led to a further discussion on the subjects of atheism, faith and unbelief, evidence, etc. 

I include the letters here.  By reading them, you will, by reading between the lines, perceive what my opponents’ arguments and objections were. The editors of the LP removed the words in bold before publication (presumably because of space constraints). I have removed the names of the people to whom I responded (indicating this with Mr/Mrs/Ms […]). At one point, I was responding to four unbelievers at once [Mssrs. [...], [...], etc.]).

Of course, much more could be said in response to atheistic unbelief and Roman Catholic superstition and idolatry, but the “Have Your Say” section of the newspaper permits only brief submissions. It is difficult succinctly to present the truth in such a forum. It was, however, a good opportunity to witness to the truth of God's Word.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Peter 3:15).

Letter 1:

9 April, 2016

Because Reformed Christians refuse to participate in the“Follow the Icon,” event, we are sometimes asked, “Do you hate Mary? Are you not devoted to ‘Our Lady’?” Of course, we do not hate Mary. She was a godly woman, and we admire her faith and her piety. But in our admiration for Mary we do not go further than the Word of God allows us.

First, the Bible does not give to her titles such as  [refer to her as] “Our Lady,” or “Queen of Heaven.” The first title, “Our Lady,” is really the female equivalent of “Our Lord.” Lord or Lady is a title of honour and authority, but the Bible never speaks of Mary in such terms. Jesus alone is Lord. Mary is not “Lady.” She is “the handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1:38). There is one Lord. Indeed, the title “Queen of Heaven” is the name of a pagan goddess, not the title of Mary (Jer. 7:18). Heaven has a King, the Lord Jesus Christ, but Jesus has no Queen. Mary’s blessedness in being chosen to be the mother of the Lord was great, but her greatest blessedness is that she, like all of God’s people, received salvation and the forgiveness of sins. Mary is not the fountain of all graces. Jesus is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Mary is a recipient of grace.

Second, the Bible does not give credit to Mary for the works of salvation which Jesus alone performed. Mary did not “cooperate” with God in saving the world. The Saviour is Christ alone. The Mediator is Christ alone. The Intercessor is Christ. The Advocate is Christ: “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (I John 2:1). To take these titles (Saviour, Lord, Mediator, Intercessor and Advocate) and to share them with Mary is to dishonour Jesus Christ.

Third, the Bible does not teach that Mary was born without original sin or that she lived a life without sin. Only Jesus is without sin. Mary freely confessed that she was a sinner because she needed a Saviour from her sins. She sang, "My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour" (Luke 1:46-47).

Fourth, the Bible does not permit us to pray to Mary. Our prayers may be addressed only to God through His Son Jesus Christ. This does no dishonour to her because Mary cannot hear prayers in heaven. How could a mere woman, a creature, hear the millions of prayers offered to her, and then have the power to answer each of those prayers? Besides, Mary did not die on the cross and therefore has no basis on which to grant anything. When we pray, we pray in Jesus’ name or for Jesus’ sake, never in the name of Mary.

In short, Mary was the humble handmaiden of the Lord, and she would be horrified if she knew what was being done in her name, that prayers are offered, candles are burned and devotion is given to her. Mary is a beautiful example of humble, childlike faith and obedience to God. We must not dishonour her by calling her "Our Lady."

For all these reasons, and more, we look to Christ, not Mary. We seek salvation and forgiveness of sins in Christ, not Mary. We urge you to do likewise!

(Rev.) Martyn McGeown, pastor of Limerick Reformed Fellowship.


 Letter 2:

30 April, 2016

In response to Ms […]’s letter on Mary’s status as “Our Lady” (Limerick Post, April 23), I wish to make the following observations.

            First, when Jesus said “Behold your son” and “Behold your mother” in John 19, he meant, “Mary, John will be your son now, to care for you;” and “John, care for Mary as your mother.” This is obvious because “from that hour that disciple [John] took her unto his own home” (v. 27). Jesus did not designate Mary the mother of the whole church or the mother of the whole human race. As he was dying, he was fulfilling his filial duties. Indeed, Jesus never calls Mary “mother” in the Gospels: he calls her “Woman” (John 2:4, 19:26) and he rebukes her when she interferes with his divine mission (Luke 2:49; John 2:4; Matt. 12:46).

            Second, Martin Luther is not my authority, so what he said (wrongly) in his 1527 sermon is irrelevant. The Bible does not teach that Mary was free from original or actual sin. If she had been, she would not have needed a Saviour. Mary’s Magnificat is a beautiful song in which she praises God (“My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour”). When she exclaimed, “All generations shall call me blessed,” she did not mean, “All generations shall bless me,” or “all generations shall venerate me.” She meant, “All generations shall recognise that God has blessed me.”

I praise God for what he has done: “When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:4-5). Mary was only an instrument in God’s hand.

 Martyn McGeown, Limerick Reformed Fellowship


Letter 3:

7 May, 2016

 Mr […] (Letters, April 30) lays down a challenge: prove the existence of God. What kind of proof would he accept? Since he has ruled out the existence of God, what proof would be acceptable? Would he believe if God appeared to him?

If Mr […] received an apparition just because he demanded it, that appearance would not be God. The Almighty does not submit himself to man’s scientific, mathematical or philosophical examination. He is our Creator and our Judge. The whole universe reveals him, but atheists suppress the truth, and pretend that he does not exist. Mr […] may think that he is an atheist, but God does not “believe” in atheists. Mr […] knows that God exists, but he hates and fears him. That is the teaching of Scripture. God created the universe, and God sent his Son to be the Saviour, and people crucified him rather than believe in him!

Scripture charges man with spiritual blindness. Only a miracle of grace can make a blind man see.  In short, there is no proof that I could offer to Mr […], for it is impossible to explain the beauty of the sunrise to a blind man. The atheist is blind and walks in darkness, but boasts that he can see.

Martyn McGeown, Limerick Reformed Fellowship


Letter 4:

21 May, 2016

God is not a philosophical construct, but has revealed Himself in creation, in His Word, and in His Son. Messrs. […]. […]. […] and […] (Letters, May 14) reject that revelation. Only the power of God’s grace can open their hearts. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17).

I can assure Mr. […] that God will not display His awesome power to make him a “cowering believer.” When God determines to save a soul, He reveals His love, and shows a man what a great sinner he is. He reveals the wonder of His grace in the cross of Jesus Christ. The believer does not cower in terror before God, but loves Him and serves Him out a glad and thankful heart.

Unbelief is nothing new. When Jesus was on earth, God spoke out of heaven. “It thundered” was the response of the crowd. God has given definitive proof by raising His Son from the dead. Jesus asserted, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31). People who witnessed Jesus’ miracles did not believe. Modern man might think himself more sophisticated, but he is as spiritually blind as the unbelievers who crucified Jesus.

If Messrs. […]. […]. […] and […] do not believe the record of God’s Son in the Scriptures, no argument, and not even a miracle, will persuade them.

Let them read and believe the Bible, and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation.

Martyn McGeown, Limerick Reformed Fellowship


 Letter 5:

4 June, 2016

Mr […] appeals to Marian apparitions in Lourdes, Fatima, Knock and Medjugorje as proof that God speaks today (Limerick Post, May 28).

The apparition at Lourdes declared, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” The apparition at Fatima dedicated the world to her “Immaculate Heart” and called herself the “Queen of heaven.” The apparition at Medjugorje announced that she had crushed the head of the serpent. All these apparitions declared dangerous falsehoods. This leads to one conclusion—they are not apparitions of Mary, but deceptions of Satan.

If that sounds harsh, remember that God speaks, although not audibly today, only through His inspired Word, the Bible. Every other supposed revelation must be tested in light of Scripture. Paul warns that Satan appears as “an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14) and that “though we, or an angel from heaven, preach unto you any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8).

The Medjugorje claim is deadly deceit. In Scripture (Genesis 3:15), Jesus, who is the seed of the woman, crushed the head of the serpent (Satan). Jesus did that when He conquered sin and death by His death and resurrection, a work in which Mary had no part.

We must not allow supposed apparitions to lead us away from the truth of God’s Word. God has spoken in His Word. We must hear Him there.

Martyn McGeown, Limerick Reformed Fellowship


Letter 6:

18 June, 2016

A clash of worldviews is evident in your “Have Your Say” column. The Christian begins with the truth that God has spoken in His Word, and that man is a creature accountable to the Creator. The secularist begins with man, a (supposedly) highly developed animal, who determines truth for himself. The secularist worldview is materialistic, which means that he believes that there is nothing beyond (physical) matter. Ultimately, however, the secularist worldview explains nothing, for without a transcendent Creator and Lawgiver, there is, as atheist Richard Dawkins expressed it, “at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” The Christian and the atheist live in the same world, but they reach different conclusions because they begin with different presuppositions.

If the universe is the product of random processes, why do humans have any greater significance than animals? What is the basis for morality? What are truth and falsehood, good and evil, life and death? Why bother trying to improve the world or solve its problems if we evolved from slime and are heading toward oblivion? At best, we can seek some temporary, but meaningless, pleasure before we die.

But when we receive God’s Word, we know our Creator, we have a purpose for life (God’s glory), we have a standard for behaviour (God’s law) and we have salvation in His Son through faith in the blood of His cross. In a clash of worldviews, only the Christian’s is coherent.

Martyn McGeown, Limerick Reformed Fellowship


Letter 7:

2 July, 2016

Mr […] (Limerick Post, June 25) takes offence at my letter. I did not write that atheists are immoral. I wrote that they have no basis for their morality. Without an absolute standard for truth and a transcendent Creator, we have moral relativism. When Mr […] condemns (rightly) genocide, rape and infanticide, he can do so only when he borrows from my Christian worldview. Such activities are evil because God forbids them. Mere “nature” does not indicate that these things are evil. Is a lion “evil” that kills a gazelle? Is a python “evil” that constricts a mouse? Is a weasel "evil" that snatches a baby rabbit from its mother and eats it? Why then, according to the evolutionary secularist worldview, does a human who kills a fellow human commits evil? If we are animals that evolved through “survival of the fittest,” there is no objective reason for good or evil. Even Richard Dawkins admits that he wants to live in an anti-Darwinian society, because a Darwinian society would be a cruel, oppressive society in which only the fittest survive.

When Mr […] criticises the actions of God in Scripture, he judges the Creator, which as a creature he has no right to do. Suffice to say that Mr [...] misunderstands the Scriptures. (Lack of space forbids me to explain further). Besides this, the evils committed by religious people (which are only objectively evil if there is a God who forbids them) are not the fault of God or His Word. The wickedness that Mr [...] (inconsistently) decries is condemned in God’s Word, a Word that he rejects. Because God has clearly revealed Himself in both the creation and the Bible, they who rebel against Him are without excuse.

Martyn McGeown


Letter 8:

23 July, 2016

Ms […] (Limerick Post, 2 July) adds her voice to those who demand “evidence” for the Christian faith. Then she disparages the evidence as a “2,000 year old book,” which does not have the answers. There are different types of evidence: empirical evidence (what appeals to the five senses), historical evidence (based on historical reports), and testimonial evidence (based on accounts of witnesses), to name but three. For example, evidence for Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar is primarily historical or testimonial, that is based on “old books.” Would […] refuse to believe in those historical figures because there is no “evidence”?

The issue is not lack of evidence, but unbelief.  God proved that Jesus is His Son by raising Him from the dead, a fact to which the apostles testified and for which they were willing to die. That it happened 2,000 years ago does not make it any less true. Jesus said, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”

Martyn McGeown

Limerick Reformed Fellowship

Letter 9

22 October, 2016

I respond to the request of [...] for a chronology of events for Easter Sunday (Limerick Post, 15 October). When the Bible contains two or more accounts of an event, they vary according to the purpose and emphasis of the writer. Those variations are not contradictions. 

If John mentions only Mary Magdalene, it is not because she was alone, but because he wants to focus on her. John does not write, "Only Mary Magdalene..." He mentions only her. There is a difference. To mention the other women, who are mentioned in the other accounts, would distract from John's purpose.

Accounts of events can vary without being contradictory, as everyday examples illustrate. If I went to an event at which my friends John and Margaret were present, and I said, “John was there,” but did not mention Margaret, I would be giving an incomplete, but not a false account. (I was interested primarily in John, so I mentioned only him). If another person was at that event, and he said, “John and Margaret were there,” his account complements and completes mine, but it does not contradict it.

With four gospel accounts, we do not expect  carbon copies. Each one has a different emphasis and complements and completes (without contradicting) the others.

If Mr [...] would like to contact me, I will be happy to supply a full chronology of events from the Four Gospels, for which space is limited in the Post

Martyn McGeown

Limerick Reformed Fellowship

Letter 10

12 November, 2016

Mr [...] (Limerick Post, November 5) suggests that “if God could be subjected to our law” he would have a case to answer. That is exactly the point—God is not subject to the creature’s laws. Since God is absolutely sovereign, he has the power of life and death. The Creator, not the creature, gives life and takes it away, as it pleases him. “In him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

To those who question God’s justice, the Almighty responds, “O man, who art thou that replies against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, why have you made me thus?” (Rom. 9:20). 

When we stand before God, all mouths will be stopped. No one will accuse God, and everyone will confess that Jesus is Lord. Only those who find refuge in the mercy of God in Jesus Christ will be saved on that Day.

I find it very curious that atheists like [...] spend so much time railing against a being whose existence they deny. It is because the atheist knows that God exists, but he hates and fears God, his Creator and Judge. 

Martyn McGeown

Limerick Reformed Fellowship