His Truth Will Set You Free

Listen to what Jesus says; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

Non-Catholic denominations are not “true” churches. Really?

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The Catholic Church is the one and only “true” church, or so some believe. According to a July 10, 2007 article I stumbled across (see it here), “Pope Benedict XVI has reasserted the universal primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released Tuesday that says Orthodox churches were defective and that other Christian denominations were not true churches.”

The Vatican document said. “The other communities cannot be called ‘churches’ in the proper sense because they do not have apostolic succession — the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ’s original apostles.” Specifically, if a church cannot trace the succession of its leadership back to the apostle Peter, then it cannot be called a true church of Jesus Christ. Since the Catholics claim Peter as their first Pope, then that makes the Catholic Church the one and only “true” church.

You see, when Jesus stated that Peter was the rock on which He would build His church (Matthew 16:18), the Catholic Church took that to mean that Peter was the starting point, the true cornerstone of the foundation of Jesus’ church. Was Jesus’ intention to have Peter as the one foundation from which He would build His united church? What else does the bible say?

At one time, Jesus sent out His 12 apostles to, “preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:1-9) Another time, He sent out 72 others to, “heal the sick and tell them the kingdom of God is near you.” (Luke 10:1-20) Does this sound like the act of someone who would place the responsibility for His church on the shoulders of just one man? It appears to me like Jesus intended to spread the responsibility around.

There was another time when the 12 apostles got rather ticked off when they discovered there was someone outside their inner circle who was doing their job. So they went to Jesus and blew the whistle on this guy… “‘Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.’ (Mark 9:38-40) Does this sound as if Jesus is trying to establish some kind of exclusive club? It sounds to me like Jesus doesn’t care who is doing the work, as long as they are doing it “in His name.”

And what about Paul, who was not one of the original apostles? The Catholic Church appears to ignore him. So the churches he started were “defective”, I suppose. I’m sure that would come as a surprise to Paul, especially since Jesus himself gave Paul the assignment. As evidenced by the calling of Paul, Jesus was not exclusive. Why would He be? Such an approach would limit the growth of “His” church. Why send the church off in one direction, with Peter as the lead runner, when you can start off in multiple directions?

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Yet, the Catholic Church originally had worthy intentions. For a time, the Catholic Church was indeed the one true church, assuring and enabling the unity that Jesus prayed for (John 17:20-23). Their motives were noble. Jesus wanted unity, and the Catholic Church provided a way. Then, in the early 1500’s, the reformation happened and the church split into pieces; no more unity.

However, maybe having all believers belonging to the same organization is not what Jesus had in mind when He prayed for unity. Maybe he meant united in beliefs, rather than united in affiliation. Maybe it wasn’t that He wanted us all to belong to the same religious establishment, with the same human leader, but that we all look to Him and Him alone as our leader.

Jesus wasn’t praying for all believers to be united by man-made things, such as religious bureaucracies, ceremonies, traditions, and “holy” relics. Jesus was talking about being united by spiritual things, such as love for God and faith in the saving power and love of His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus asked His Father God, “…that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:22). The unity that Jesus prayed for is modeled by His relationship with God.

Were God & Jesus unified by a common membership in some kind of organization? No, their unity was much higher than some human standard. The Catholic Church has set a human standard for unity; membership in their organization. But Jesus’ standard is a heavenly standard – a shared communion with the Holy Spirit of God. We are to be united as Jesus and God are united. How can a man-made religious establishment bring such a thing about?

I do not believe that Jesus intended for a man-made institution to bring about such spiritual unity, for I think that would be impossible. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, His presence in each of our lives, to manifest the spiritual unity of love and faith. By our mutual connection to the Holy Spirit, we are all connected to each other. We may all be one by our common bond to the Holy Spirit. We are all branches, and we are unified by our common bond to the vine, which is Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit (John 15:1-17).

By the way, Jesus never even mentioned a human-made and run organization as the foundation for our unity. In fact, setting the Catholic Church as the standard for unity is a distraction from our true foundation, our true cornerstone – Jesus Christ.

And another thing: Jesus was the origin of His church, not Peter. Jesus is the vine, not Peter. Jesus is the cornerstone, not Peter. Jesus is the one true church, not the Catholics.

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Author: C.J. Penn

Reflections on a double life... I'm just a wanna-be writer. What's it like trying to do serious writing while also being consumed with a full-time engineering job? Between the two, I sometimes don't get much sleep. But I love writing - it gets me out of bed when it's way too dark, just so I can do some work on my book before heading off to work. I'm also passionate about the truth of God and Jesus, a truth that is not always visible in the outward view of the Christian religion. It's this passion that has pulled me out of bed to write for over 6 years now, still working on the same book, a book about truth. Will it ever be finished? God knows.

3 thoughts on “Non-Catholic denominations are not “true” churches. Really?

  1. You’re right about a lot of that.

    But the Pope is right, too.

    Here’s the problem. Christ’s church is many things:

    1. It is the new Israel; the new “People of God” or “Family of God”;

    2. It is Christ’s Bride.

    3. It is Christ’s Body.

    4. It is Christ’s Kingdom, which starts small like a mustard seed but grows and develops until all the birds of the world can nest in it.

    5. It is the “pillar and foundation of Truth.” (Some Bibles translate this as “pillar and bulwark of truth.”

    6. It is the Authority to which Christians can go to resolve disputes between them when one Christian sins against another but denies it was a sin.

    7. It is the ongoing organization in obedience to the successors of the Christ’s ministers, the apostles, and most notably, of Christ’s chief minister or “household steward,” the apostle Peter.

    8. It is the organization which will exist until Christ returns, against which “the gates of hades will not prevail.”

    9. It will have both wheat and tares in it; that is, true Christ-followers and unrepentant traitors. (No surprise, there: Heck, the Twelve were selected by Jesus Himself, yet one of them, Judas Iscariot, was a “tare” rather than “wheat!”)

    There are other descriptions, but those are the biggies.

    Now it’s true — absolutely true! — that anyone who has been baptized into Christ’s death and received the Holy Spirit is, in some sense, “in Christ.”

    Such a person is truly a Christian. In that sense, they are truly in the Body of Christ. And of course all the now-fully-sanctified believers in heaven are in the Body of Christ more fully than any of us on earth are!

    But some of us damage our relationship with Jesus in various ways. We sin, for example, and impede that relationship. Or, the Holy Spirit prompts us to do some good work (by grace, not in our own effort), but we wuss out and grieve the Holy Spirit by rejecting those works.

    When we do that, we begin to separate ourselves from Christ to some degree. As Paul says, “Neither life nor death nor principalities nor… [long list] can separate us from the love of Christ” …but you’ll notice he DOESN’T say, “Neither fornication nor murder nor theft nor unforgiveness nor blasphemy against the Holy Spirit…!” For those of course, as Scripture teaches repeatedly, can partly damage our relationship with Christ, and if we permanently refuse to repent, then that relationship is entirely severed and we go to hell. We become “branches” which, because we did not “bear good fruit,” are “cut off, cast aside, and burned.”

    So of course all Christian churches, Catholic and Protestant, contain persons who are in varying degrees of union with Christ.

    Catholics say that all Christians, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, have spiritual vitality given to them through their Baptism, through the Scriptures, and through their sheer willingness to follow Christ. In that sense, they are “in the Church,” and to that degree, Catholics agree with the evangelical notion of “the Church” as consisting of all the faithful, wherever they are.

    HOWEVER…,

    The Bible also says other things about the Church, which makes clear it is also identified as a visible unified organization with authority to pass binding rules or judgments on Christians.

    For example, note that when Christian X sees Christian Y sinning, he is to go to him privately and tell him to stop. After that, he is to take another Christian with him, then “two or three.” After that, he is to take Christian Y “to the Church, and if he refuses to listen even to the Church, he is to be treated like a heathen or tax-collector.”

    You can’t take someone “to the Church” if it’s an invisible communion. You have to know who to take them to.

    Moreover, “the Church” has to be able to render authoritative judgments. If Christian X sees Christian Y trying to procure an abortion, Christian X is to take Christian Y to the church. The church will rule that abortion is sin and that Christian Y must repent. That is the New Testament model.

    This system clearly cannot work if Christian Y can reply, “Well YOU say abortion is sin, but the other church across the street says otherwise, and they’re just as valid as you guys, so I’m going to ditch you guys and go become a deacon or even a pastor, across the street.”

    Clearly, then, Jesus anticipated His church being unified and able to agree — worldwide, with a single voice! — about whether abortion is sinful. Or homosexual acts. Or contraception (which all Christian churches considered gravely sinful until 1930, by-the-way!). Or euthanasia. Or stem-cell-research. Or human cloning.

    Jesus set up a system which could not function unless there’s one Uber-Church with authority over all local church congregations, able to impose its judgments about matters of faith and morals in a clear way so that they all knew what was sin, and what wasn’t.

    And of course that’s the way Christianity worked until the East-West schism in 1050; and it continued to work that way in the West until the Protestant churches began in the 16th century.

    Nowadays, in Protestantism (for all its glories, which I don’t deny!), Jesus’ system of church discipline can no longer function. For what one pastor or denomination allows, another may call sin. And there is no court of final appeal, no highest court to which a decision can be appealed, beyond which the matter is settled. The system is broken…because it was never intended to function apart from the Grand Vizier.

    Examine Isaiah 22. In there you’ll find that the House of David, the hereditary Davidic Kingdom, had ministers who had “the keys” (the symbols of authority) for “binding and loosing” (that is, for making laws and judgments within the kingdom). You’ll also find that there was one minister, the Prime Minister (or in Middle Eastern terms, the Grand Vizier), whose word was the tie-breaker when ministers disagreed (assuming that the King himself was out-of-town on a diplomatic trip).

    In Isaiah 22, a Grand Vizier, Shebna, had been unfaithful in his office. God decided he would be replaced with Eliakim, who would be more faithful. As Grand Vizier, he would be the chief minister over all the other ministers. All the other ministers had the “keys” of authority, but the Grand Vizier or Prime Minister had the final say: What he locked up, no one could open; what he opened, no one could lock up.

    Now examine the gospel of Matthew (the gospel which talks most about Jesus coming as Son of David to renew the Davidic Kingdom and turn it into the Kingdom of God or “of Heaven”). Examine particularly Matthew 16 and 18. There, the apostles are given “keys”: Any first century Jew would understand this: Jesus is re-establishing the ministerial offices, creating viziers in the Messianic Kingdom. But in Matthew 16, Jesus indicates which apostle will be his Grand Vizier, in the following words:

    “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are “Rock,” and on this Rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

    For the rest of his life, Simon son of Jonah was no longer called Simon, but Kepha (“rock” in Aramaic), or Petros (a masculinized version of the word Petra, which is the Greek word for “rock”), or “Cephas” (a sort of Greek-speaker-friendly version of the Aramaic “Kepha”). In other words, Simon’s name was changed to Peter, “The Rock.”

    Putting aside the whole “rock” thing (though I think it significant), look at the Grand Vizier thing: Like Eliakim in Isaiah 22, Peter is given the keys of authority. All commentators read this passage as parallel to Isaiah 22. But in that case, Peter is Grand Vizier, with authority to make judgments in the kingdom which will be binding.

    Notice also that the judgments Peter makes will be infallible: What he decides on earth is decided identically in heaven. How can that be?! We know God will not agree with Peter — a fallible human being! — if Peter makes an error. The only possible explanation is this: God promises to send the Holy Spirit in a special way, to prevent Peter from making errors in kingdom judgments. Only then could God promise to ratify Peter’s decisions.

    Likewise, Jesus later tells Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to have ya’ll [plural of ‘you’] so that he can sift ya’ll like wheat. But I have prayed for YOU [singular] that your faith might not fail. And after you have gotten yourself turned back around again, strengthen all your brethren.”

    In other words, Satan will have a field day with the apostles for a time…but Jesus’ prayer for Peter (singular) will be effective, so that once Peter gets his, uh, “stuff” together, he will strengthen the faith of all the others.

    And later, Jesus asks Peter three times “do you love Me?” and when Peter answers (with increasing anxiety) in the affirmative, Jesus gives him a task: “Feed My Sheep.” (Who are Jesus’ sheep? All Christians.)

    In Acts 1, when Judas Iscariot is dead, Peter notes that an “office” is vacant, and leads the eleven remaining eleven apostles in selecting a replacement to fill the now-vacant office. This shows the apostolic offices were offices of succession; they did not die with the apostles. SOMEONE is still in them TODAY.

    In Acts 15, when the Proto-Council of Jerusalem rendered a decision about whether circumcision was required for Christians, they DID NOT APPEAL TO SCRIPTURE TO DECIDE. (If they had, we’d all be circumcised today, because no New Testament books were yet written at that point, and all the OT books required circumcision!) Instead, they debated a bit, until Peter stood up and gave his views. After that, there was no more dissent. James, as the local bishop of Jerusalem, followed Peter’s lead and announced the judgment, which was to be BINDING on all Christians.

    And, again, they made no appeal to Scripture. Their justification for their binding decision was thus: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.”

    In short, they acted like ministers or viziers, occupying offices with kingdom authority, and rendered a decision ratified by the Grand Vizier, who happened to be there.

    And vizier offices are always successive; they do not die when the occupant dies, but are passed on to a replacement; and sometimes the number of viziers is expanded to handle a growing kingdom, but there’s always only one Grand Vizier.

    My question to you is this:

    Granted, as a baptized Christ follower, you are “in Christ.”

    But are you on the outskirts of the kingdom, ignoring everything His ministers say (except when it happens to suit you)?

    Or are you following the Scriptural model of obeying the ministers who make kingdom judgments in the King’s Name? Especially the grand vizier or prime minister, since the King Himself guaranteed that the grand vizier’s judgments would always be ratified by the King Himself, who set that grand vizier with the huge duty of “feeding His sheep?”

    It is possible to be “in the church” after a fashion, but not really IN the CHURCH: Loving the King, but disconnected from the messages the King keeps sending through His messengers and servants. You can be a somewhat loyal subject, sort of…but not exactly an upstanding citizen. Not heeding the marching-orders the King sends, when He sends them through His ministers.

    The Catholic Church does not deny that other Christians are real Christians. She even admires what the Holy Spirit does among the “separated brethren,” just as Jesus, Messiah of the Jews, commended the faith of the Syro-Phonecian woman even though she was not a Jew.

    But the Catholic Church does say that Jesus wants people to be ALL THE WAY in the Kingdom, the way Jesus set that Kingdom up. The “fullness” (one of the root meanings of the word “Catholic”, the other being “universality”) of the Christian faith can be found in the Catholic Church.

    C.S.Lewis, an Anglican who by modern standards was very nearly Catholic (believing in purgatory and prayer for the dead and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and in confession to a priest), wrote a brilliant book called “Mere Christianity.”

    Mere Christianity is good. But it’s better to have the whole package, not a stripped-down, bare-bones version. Mere Christianity is good; More Christianity is better. Better to have the whole package; to have all the graces and helps and truths that Jesus always intended His followers to have.

    So the Catholic church says, “Well, these individual congregations are churches in the sense of people who love Jesus. But they’re not The Church, the fullness of Him who is our All in All. For that, they need to be in the kingdom, in communion with Christ’s viziers, and having the benefits of authoritative judgments on matters of faith and morals, so that they can know — truly KNOW, for sure — that the teachings they’re hearing aren’t the opinion of one pastor or one denomination, but are the actual Laws of Christ.”

    That’s the deal.

    As a former evangelical (mostly Baptist) worship leader who recently became Catholic, all of this was surprising to me. I had never heard it before. (For obvious reasons.)

    But it’s true. The early Christians were Catholics. They prayed for the dead; they obeyed their bishops because they believed them successors to the apostles who were Christ’s viziers, they called Mary “ever-virgin” and “God-bearer”; they confessed to priests and did penance, and they all — ALL — held that the Eucharist or “Lord’s Supper” became, by the Holy Spirit acting through the bishop, the ACTUAL Body and Blood of Christ, as a fulfillment of the Todah or “thanksgiving” sacrifice. (Which is why it’s called “Eucharist” to begin with; it’s the Greek word for “thanksgiving.”)

    In other words, the early Christians, who learned Christianity from the apostles themselves, were all Catholics. Read Justin Martyr. Read Ignatius of Antioch (another martyr). Read Irenaeus of Lyons. Read the Didache. Read first Clement. They’re all obviously Catholic, and they learned it from the apostles.

    My reaction was, “Why didn’t anyone ever TELL me?!” But it turns out my story is the usual one: People who learn too much about the history of early Christianity, generally become Catholics. They “read themselves into the church.” Because the connections are just unavoidable.

    That is what the Catholic church means, when she says that “the Church of Christ subsists” in the Catholic church.

    Make sense?

    I don’t mean, “do you agree?” It took me four years of studying this stuff before I myself finally adjusted my thinking, and came into the Church. I suppose nobody moves from evangelical simplicity to Catholic fullness very quickly. It’s too much to take in.

    But even if it’s a lot to wrap your brain around, I hope it makes sense.

    Like

  2. E.D.:

    Here are some followups, responding to specific arguments you made in your post:

    You mention that Jesus asked His Father God, “…that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:22).

    You then say, “The unity that Jesus prayed for is modeled by His relationship with God.”

    I agree. But you go on to say: “Were God & Jesus unified by a common membership in some kind of organization? No….”

    I answer as follows: No, it must be much more than that…BUT, it must not be LESS than that.

    Let me put it to you this way: Does Jesus ever say to the Father, “Dad, do you see those Methodist baptizing babies? I wish they’d cut it out…” only to have the Father reply, “Well, actually, Son, I approve of infant baptism myself.”

    I don’t think so.

    Do the Father and Son disagree about what the Lord’s Supper or “Eucharist” really is and does? Do they disagree about whether it’s okay to have instruments in worship music? Do they disagree about whether women can be ordained pastors? Do they disagree about abortion, about homosexuality, about whether salvation includes works of love, or is by belief alone? Do they disagree about whether one can lose one’s salvation? About free will?

    No, no, and no.

    When Jesus prayed that we Christians be one as the Father and Son are one, He must, at minimum, have expected us all to agree about the central truths of the Christian faith!

    But how can we do that, if on EARTH, there is no final “buck stops here” voice to say, “Thus saith the Lord?”

    It’s impossible, and the 30,000 denominational divisions which have occurred in Protestantism (not counting the little home churches which start daily) prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

    The Protestant theory was that organizational unity was not needed because everyone, given a little seminary training, would easily agree about what the Bible taught; and therefore, unity on doctrines could be achieved by taking the Bible alone (“sola scriptura”) as one’s sole authority.

    The last 500 years have been a lab-test of that theory, and it has failed utterly.

    Plus, it ignores the whole vizier/ministerial authority structure Jesus plainly set up for his kingdom in the Gospels — plainly, that is, for first century Jews and all the early Christian writers, though it’s pretty obscure and easy to miss for us 21st century Americans living in a decaying and sexually perverse democratic republic on the other side of the world!

    Anyhow, that’s why Jesus’ prayer in John 17 has always been a favorite of Catholic apologists; it argues for doctrinal unity, and only the Catholics have a principle of unity that makes that possible. Who can say what Presbyterians believe, or Methodists? No one, because they themselves can’t say anything with binding authority. Only the Catholics do it the scriptural way.

    You also say, “By the way, Jesus never even mentioned a human-made and run organization as the foundation for our unity. In fact, setting the Catholic Church as the standard for unity is a distraction from our true foundation, our true cornerstone – Jesus Christ.”

    Well, I hope I’ve dispelled the notion that Jesus never mentioned an organization. He did, when he said you could go to that organization to get binding judgments. He did, when He set up a kingdom and bothered to put in place administrators to run it on His behalf after His ascension.

    But more than that, how on earth could obeying Jesus, and having the certainty that you know His commands, “distract” from Jesus?

    The principle difference between the Catholic church and all others is that in the others, the pastor says, “Here’s what I think the Bible means, and let’s not think about the fact that three blocks away there’s another pastor teaching his congregation that it means something different” …whereas in the Catholic church, when a question comes up, it may not become settled right away, but once it becomes settled, it is SETTLED, for all time, until the Lord returns, period. As the early Christians were fond of saying, “Roma locuta, causa finita est.”

    You also add, “And another thing: Jesus was the origin of His church, not Peter.”

    Of course! Catholics agree wholeheartedly!

    “Jesus is the vine, not Peter.”

    Yes, naturally….

    “Jesus is the cornerstone, not Peter.”

    Ah, yes, but haven’t you noticed those aren’t mutually exclusive?

    Here’s what I mean. (Warning, I’m about to be facetious, in order to make a point):

    Jesus is the Good Shepherd. “Pastor” means “shepherd.” Therefore when churches have “pastors,” they are putting someone else up in place of Christ! Don’t they know that Jesus is the only Good Shepherd, who gives His life for the sheep?

    Some people talk about being “Jesus’ hands” and “Jesus’ feet” in the world. What blasphemy! Don’t they know that Jesus’ body was resurrected, and He still has His hands and feet, in heaven?

    Jesus is also the great “healer.” How dare doctors pretend that THEY are healers? Don’t they know that Jesus is the one true healer?

    My dad claims to be my “Father,” and the Apostle Paul says to the Corinthians that he became their spiritual “father.” What blasphemy! Don’t my dad and Paul know that there is only one Father, who is Our Father in heaven?

    …and so on, and so on. (Turning off the facetiousness now.)

    Here’s the deal: Have you noticed that God glories so much in His creations that He delegates His own roles to us?

    God is the Father in heaven: But he allows earthly fathers to understand Him better by being fathers to their children, thereby reflecting His overarching fatherhood which is the source of all fatherhood.

    Jesus is the sacrifice, the ultimate martyr: But He allowed the early Christian martyrs to die for His sake, reflecting His obedience unto death.

    God can preach the Truth better than anyone: But He allows us to preach on His behalf, even though we don’t do half so good a job!

    Jesus is the Good Shepherd: But He allows church pastors to exist.

    Jesus is the Light of the World: But He allows us to be “salt and light” to the world on His behalf.

    Jesus has a resurrected body: But He incorporates us into His body, that we can be His “hands and feet.”

    “God Is Love”: But He tells us to “love one another.”

    In summary: Anything we can do, He can do better. But for His glory, He glorifies those who love Him, calling them to perform this or that special duty which ultimately reflects His character, and speaks to the world of Who He Is.

    Is it any wonder, then that Jesus, the Cornerstone, should call Peter to be a “Rock,” and then make the apostles into “living stones,” and then make ALL of us into “living stones” to build the church?

    It’s not EITHER Peter OR Jesus. It’s not “either/or,” it’s “both/and.”

    Jesus is the Good Shepherd: He delegates His shepherd-hood to fathers (in their families), in a greater way to church pastors (in their congregations), even more to bishops (in their dioceses), and most of all to the successor of Peter (for the church on planet earth).

    No inconsistency there; indeed, it all seems very much in God’s usual style.

    A final observation:

    The argument for the Catholic church is best made by seeing that it’s the only church today still believing what the early Christians believed.

    And, it can be made by showing all the myriad passages in Scripture for which Protestants have either (a.) no explanation, (b.) conflicting explanations, or (c.) really bad explanations which require twisting the text out of recognition.

    And, it can be made by showing that the early Christians didn’t even know which books belonged in the New Testament until a bunch of Catholic bishops, who believed exactly the same doctrines which are distinctive to Catholics today, decided in council which were the correct 27 books to canonize.

    This disproves “sola scriptura,” since (a.) the Bible never teaches sola scriptura; and (b.) the Bible never lists which books should be included in (or excluded from) the Bible. The only way you can know that authoritatively is on the basis of some apostolic authority outside the Bible…and the only plausible claimant in the entire world to that authority is the Catholic church.

    In short, it’s not “should I obey the Church, or the Bible?” It’s not either/or, but both/and: If I don’t acknowledge the authority of the Church, I have no way to know what should be in the Bible. No church, no New Testament.

    And, the case for Catholicism can be made by showing that only Catholics continue to consistently teach what all Christians believed from the first century until quite recently about contraception (other Christians began permitting this in 1930) or remarriage after divorce (17th century) or ordaining women (late 20th century) or abortion (mid-20th century).

    But the best case for Catholicism is this: Protestantism only barely manages to save souls, because the Holy Spirit is working so hard to help all these earnest folk who love Jesus but are clueless about the Church. But nobody knows for sure what the doctrines of Christianity actually are!

    Find me three different Protestant churches. Ask them what the truth is about ten hot-button doctrines, including ones which are critical to salvation. You’ll get three-to-the-tenth-power answers (every possible permutation).

    A few critical questions…

    Baptismal regeneration?
    Infant baptism? Believers only?
    Baptismal form and formula?
    What does it mean when Peter says “baptism now saves you?”
    Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist?
    Who may consecrate the Eucharist?
    Who may participate in communion?
    What’s the meaning of John 6’s “bread of life” discourse?
    How works play into salvation?
    What does Paul mean when he says he/we cooperate with God as co-workers?
    What does Paul mean when he says he makes up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His body, the Church?
    What does it mean, “baptized for the dead?”
    What does it mean, we are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses?”
    What does it mean when Paul says that a man, after he dies, if some of his works are imperfect and not founded on Christ, will “suffer loss,” but the man himself “will be saved, but only as through fire?” Where is this place after death, where saved people go, but suffer loss to purify them of impure works?
    Is remarriage after divorce okay?
    Contraception?
    Abortion?
    Homosexual marriage?
    What’s Christ’s intended church authority structure?

    …and so on. There is no agreement. That is why there are 30,000 Protestant denominations, so far. Churches split and split and split and split.

    Protestantism is not the Christianity Jesus intended us to live in.

    Where, then, is it?

    Once sola scriptura is eliminated by sheer logic and on the basis of its unity-destroying results, there just aren’t a lot of options left.

    Or that, after four years serious reading, was my conclusion.

    I always wanted to believe ORTHODOX Christianity, not some newfangled recently-spawned variation. I wanted to believe, as Vincent of Lerins said, “What has been held by all, in every place, in all times.”

    Then God showed me: for 75% of Christian history, there were no Protestants. Protestant doctrines, as currently preached and practiced, wherever they differ from Catholic and Orthodox doctrines, DID NOT EXIST prior to 1500 except occasionally, in a few heretic offshoots who also believed other doctrines that both Catholics and Protestants would now consider heretical.

    So God pointed out to me: “If you want to practice the Christian faith of the early church, the martyrs, the people who not only knew the apostles but were chosen by them to become bishops of the local Christian churches once the apostles were ready to move on to other missionary journeys…if you want to practice as they did, why don’t you read what they wrote about their practice?”

    So I read 1st Clement, the Didache, the letters of Ignatius of Antioch, the apologia of Justin Martyr, “Against the Heretics” by Irenaeus, and a few others.

    And it was plain. They were Catholics. Obviously Catholics. The Eucharist was only valid if done by the bishop or a priest he appointed. It was a thanksgiving sacrifice which mystically folded time to re-connect with and unite us to Christ’s one sacrifice on Calvary. Only Christians in good standing with no mortal sins could partake; those guilty of moral sins must confess and receive absolution first. Mary was ever-virgin and without sin and the New Eve and the Ark of the New Covenant. And the word of the Bishop of Rome was received as the word of Peter himself, if not of the Lord, Himself.”

    That is Christianity, as the apostles taught it. The historical record is clear. As John Henry Newman found, “to become deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.”

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  3. Your smug tone and fallacious arguments do nothing but reaffirm in me the belief that the Catholic church is the one church true Church set up by Christ. I was brought up as a Protestant… And have been heavily considering a conversion to Catholicism. And your Protestant ways go a long way to prove that the Protestant movement, little more than 500 years old, has no
    roots in the Church established by Christ. It’s also very clear that Protestant religions are very much not ready for prime time. And given their lack of authority, never can be.

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