Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Does the Catholic Church Look Like the Early Church?

I have a habit of making responses that are too lengthy. (It's to discourage anyone from challenging me on any point.) Just kidding. Here's my recent response to a Protestant who raises some good objections with my recent link to the 'When Did Your Church Start' page:
(His words in green, other quotes in blue, mine in black)


Thanks for the comments Kenny.

The great schism is a fairly objective schism of the East & West. The year 1054 points to a most pronounced climax of the (not merely recent) tensions that had existed between the East & the Western parts of the Catholic Church. Congregations did break off and rejoin the Catholic Church prior to 1054 but that year is accepted among historians as when we can semi-officially point to a split.

Now as for who broke off from who, sure thats debatable but remember, the Church split. This is very different from the reformation. The Church did not split during the reformation, the reformers formed a new tradition. Eastern Orthodox Christians still have valid sacraments whereas Protestants do not (according to the Catholic Church) therefore it is a much different situation than the Reformation.

The Orthodox, like Catholics maintain... well.. orthodoxy. We differ only a few very small issues (outside of Church government) and the split was over government and not over theology. In other words, no one started teaching a new doctrine like Martin Luther.

Lastly, as James Likoudos (author of "Ending the Byzantine Greek Schism" and former Greek Orthodox (now Catholic) says, there is no such thing as the 'Eastern Orthodox Church' as you called it. There are only churchES, as the different churches and patriarchates disagree on various issues between themselves. Also, the Orthodox churches (and dont get me wrong I love them) have a strong tendency to nationalize. You cant remove the "Russian" from the Russian Orthodox churches. But the Catholic Church is the Catholic Church whether in Charlotte, NC or in Quiapo, Philippines (I know, I've been to masses in both places)

Now as for whether the Roman Catholic Church is the same as the one started by Jesus is not up for discussion. It is an objective fact that the Catholic Church extends to Christ. If you talk to an Eastern Orthodox person, they will tell you they split from the West because they 'wanted to stay the same' and Rome 'wanted to change'. But the changes in the Church which developed over the centuries can all be historically monitored. Did the Church at one time lack a modern day understanding of the papacy? Sure they did. Doesnt prove a thing. The Church didnt always have a modern day perspective of the Trinity either!

What did Christ say? 'the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants'. If you were to find a church that looked like the early Church, you could rest assured you've stumbled into a group of heretics!

The early Church was entirely (not mostly) Jewish, they kept Torah, they didnt believe in the Trinity (not like we do anyhow), they barely understood Christ's divinity, they had no official structure, they had no official canon, they operated on word of mouth etc.. etc...

But instead of staying in the ground, a seed grows. Likewise, the Church, the new Israel, the bride of Christ grows as well.

So yes, it could be argued that the hierarchy of the Eastern churches more closely resembles the Church (of about 90AD - 350AD) the question then comes down to interpretation of key Scripture passages (namely those in Matthew 16)

"If, however, we were to study it on the basis of organizational continuity as objectively historically verifiable and nothing else, the Eastern Orthodox Church would almost certainly score higher than the Roman Catholic Church, because there is no evidence whatsoever that Peter ever claimed the type of authority the Papacy has claimed for itself over the past thousand years"
I appreciate your points but this statement could hardly be any more false. From Bruce Shelley (unambiguously anti-Catholic Protestant historian) on page 133 of his book "Church History in Plain Language:
"the concept of papal rule of the whole church was established by slow and painful stages. Leo is a major figure in that process because he provides for the first time the biblical and theological bases of the papal claim."
Aside from the objective fact that Mr. Shelley is entirely wrong on that point, even if we take his anti-Catholic position, it still puts the beginning of unequivocal papal claims no later than 460 AD. Much much too early for your above statement to be true. Even if we use that as a starting point, the Catholic Church has claim to nearly 600 years of uninterrupted, papal rule and Church structure acting in almost exactly the same way as it does today. Again, there were many "papists" before this including the Protestant's beloved Saint Augustine (yes there's a reason why he's a saint):
"[In] the Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep, down to the present episcopate. And so, lastly, does the name itself of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house. Such then in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian name which keep a believer in the Catholic Church, as it is right they should.... With you, where there is none of these things to attract or keep me.... No one shall move me from the faith which binds my mind with ties so many and so strong to the Christian religion.... For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church." (Against the Epistle of Manichaeus [Contra Epistolam Manichaei Quam Vacant Fundamenti.)
and his predecessor, Saint Ambrose:
"It is Peter himself that He says, "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.' Where Peter is, there is the Church. And where the Church, no death is there, but life eternal." (Commentaries on Twelve of David's Psalms 40,30)
Both of these predating Mr. Shelley's attempt to discredit the orthodox of papal authority. This of course speaks nothing of Saint Clement (1st century) and his letter to the Corinthians in which he demands obedience to the Church at Rome (and this while St. John is still alive!)

So now there are plenty of resources you can go to on this discussion. Here is a Orthodox vs Catholic debate.

Now I have spent much more time on your comments about Eastern Orthodoxy because, they're a lot closer to the truth.

Born Again - Im not sure what he's referring to when he says that. Its obviously not a denomination that I know of, but side note; in the Philippines they call evangelicals "Born Agains" ... So we're probably talking semantics here.
"If you could argue that the views represented by some church do not predate some particular era, that would be a claim that mattered."
Thats like taking candy from a baby! EVERY (not some or a few) but EVERY doctrine which distinguishes Protestants from Catholics extends no further back than.. when they were invented. Sola Fide was invented by Martin Luther. This is plainly admitted by even pro-Luther scholars such as Heiko Oberman who said that it can be certain that this doctrine is found no where in writing before Martin Luther.

There is only a sliver of evidence that anyone ever believed in such a thing. That would be in James' epistle where he explicitly condemns the heresy. (We would assume some are believing in it since he mentioned it but we have no written evidence of anyone teaching such).

sola scriptura obviously originated with Luther. Such a belief would be anachronistic to the extreme at any point in time preceding Guttenberg.

Rejection of infant baptism, rejection of real presence, rejection of regenerative baptism, pre-trib rapture, once saved always saved etc.. all of these are objectively young beliefs.

It is historically verifiable that infants were baptized as early as the second century and we have very good reason to believe that they were baptized in the first as well. It is absolutely undeniable that the Early Church believed in the Real Presence and in a regenerative baptism. The early Christians werent unanimous on all things, but they were certainly unanimous on those two things. This is just a historical fact and most Protestant scholars will openly admit that.

Now, on Apostolic Succession, from a 21st century, American Protestant perspective, it might not seem very important. But to the early Church, this doctrine was of extreme importance. (Literally life and death since they lived and died by the gospel that they received). Their only means of authority was 'apostolic succession'. Its impossible to overestimate the importance of this doctrine to the early Church (especially the pre-nicaean Church which is what I am most interested in)

Anyway, loved your comments, they really got my gears turning!

>>>> Second post>>>

Sorry let me correct myself. I misread your statement;
"there is no evidence whatsoever that Peter ever claimed the type of authority the Papacy has claimed for itself over the past thousand years"
I thought you were saying that the early popes didnt claim the authority that the Papacy has claimed for itself over the past thousand years. Still my points stand and you'd have to extend your range from 1000 to at least 1540 (by the most anti-Catholic standards)


TheGodFearinFiddler said...

The discussion continues...see the original post.

Tiber Jumper said...

nice discussion GFF!