Archives for category: Roman Catholicism
This is a response to a person who assumed I was a Catholic simply because I defended the position that Church history mostly favours Catholicism (and even then it is more favourable to Eastern Orthodoxy than Catholicism)
“It seems you assume much without knowing my story or the true facts of Church history. Just to make things very clear I am a non-believer. A very honest and emotionally painful journey to find the truth of Christianity eventually led me out of it. I was taught and I believed not to trust in man’s opinions, but only God’s truth. But no matter where I turned all I saw was man’s interpretations. How to determine man’s opinions from God’s truth? I didn’t seem to be able to find an infallible rule for doing this. And the further back I went all I saw were more opinions. But those opinions were very different from the ones today. Until it dawned on me that all of “God’s truth” is simply man’s opinions, set in dogmatic stone. Yet, this unchangeable truth changed! There is no scientific method in theology. Only opinions. That’s why we have 40000 denominations, with more every week and an ever evolving theology going in ever wider variants.
Call Catholicism heretical if you wish, and indeed it does include many modern innovations not found in the first 300 years, but I challenge you to show me any Christian before, say, Tyndale, who didn’t believe in Baptismal Regeneration. When you don’t, ask yourself why no Christian after the death of the last Apostle and for the following 1500 years until around the time of the Reformation (except for Gnostics) taught salvation alone apart from works.
 
You are left with three possible explanations.
 
1. The Church failed and disappeared immediately after John died and was only revived after Luther reformed the Church. This is known as Restorationism and forms of it are taught by various Christian groups such as Mormons. The problem with this view is that from a spiritual perspective it would appear to make Satan victorious over Christ as Christ declared that the gates of Hades would not prevail against His Church. Of course that is not the only way to interpret that verse, as gates are not known to be offensive but defensive and so a more logical interpretation is that of an offensive Church breaking down hell’s gates and releasing the captives. Still, if Evangelical doctrine is the pure doctrine and salvation is as they teach then there was no Church to attack hell for 1500.
 
2. The true Church only survived underground very soon (though not immediately) after the death of the last Apostle. The date typically given is around the time of the Nicean Council, though it is taught that Catholicism was already growing into the monster it would become when Constantine supposedly took the helm of the Church in 325. This view was made popular by authors such as J. M. Carroll’s Trail of Blood and E. H. Broadbent’s The Pilgrim Church. It assumes that Evangelical doctrines were taught by the Apostles but that Satan moved immediately to start corrupting them. Proponents of this view point to the Corinthian and Galatian churches and to Gnosticism as a general movement as very early examples. It is then taught that Roman Catholicism then began to take grip and eventually smothered the true Church. So that it had to go into hiding. Groups such as the Montanists, Novatianists and Donatists are used as early examples of this pure church. Later groups such as the Paulicians and Bogomils are used then as well as the Waldensians, Lollards and Moravians later still.
 
You even have KJV Onlyists latch onto this view and say that the true Church also kept the true Bible preserved all those years in the Alps. They have gone so far as to say the Waldensians were actually direct descendants of the Apostolic Churches and went into hiding in the Italian mountains for centuries and centuries. Preserving the Latin Vulgate along the way until it could get into the hands of the godly reformers and eventually translated into the infallible KJV! This is how desperate people get when history and facts don’t go their way.
 
The problem with this view is that all of these groups were widely divergent in their beliefs against one another. The earliest groups were all essentially Catholic in their beliefs, just like the main Church itself. There is no Evangelical church to be found during that time. The problems they had were with orthopraxy. Almost any group today would be far too lax in comparison with the main Church of that day, never mind the strict Novatianists. The Paulicians and Bogomils were Neo-Gnostics. The Waldensians still believed in many central Catholic doctrines when they formed, but did evolve slowly. The Reformation can, in many ways, be seen to start with John Wycliffe, culminating in Luther’s act of revolt on 31st October 1517.
 
Both of these positions suffer irreparably from what we can actually know about history.”
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In the main, Evangelicalism claims to be THE orthodox body of Christian belief on the earth today. Yet, with a little bit of research it can be easily determined that is very far from the case.

Many Evangelicals claim perspicuity of the Bible. Yet, they all get the Trinity wrong according to the understanding of the early Church.

Many claim that the Holy Spirit teaches true Believers the truth, yet He seems to have failed to teach them that.

The only recourse is to claim the early Church got it wrong and modern Evangelicalism got it right. But this presents huge problems for any Evangelical who wants to claim their brand of Christianity is the original Apostolic brand and is therefore superior.

We know that Protestantism got much of its theology via the Roman Catholic Church whom we have to thank for the modern version of the Trinity here in the West. And a lot of that theology comes from the middle ages.

Also if some Evangelicals are willing to go as far as to say that Christianity was corrupted very early and restored only at the Reformation then they are just like the Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists they revile for saying the same thing.

Evangelicalism is just slightly more in line with historic Christianity than these other “Restorationists” and they’re also a much larger movement (being so spread out among all the various denominations). This gives them the false impression that their religion is historic and the genuine thing.

Reading stuff into the Bible is easy, and I am convinced that 90% of theology is just this. Much of what passes for pure Biblical doctrine in the eyes of its adherents is late, very late from a New Testament time frame and would have been thrown out as heretical by the early Church. Calvinism for example comes via Gnosticism and Augustine. Interesting that Augustine was a Manichean before he became Catholic. “Augustine’s position raised objections. Julian, bishop of Eclanum, expressed the view that Augustine was bringing Manichean thoughts into the church.” (Chadwick, Henry (1993). The Early Church. Penguin.) Yes, he was a dyed in the wool Catholic. He is famous for his little phrase “In essentials unity. In non-essentials liberty. In everything love”. Yet can it be doubted that his version of what constituted essentials and non-essentials would have differed very much from what Evangelicals today consider to be such? Augustine believed in Baptismal Regeneration. He believed infants who had not been baptized would go to hell. That sounds like an essential to me. Yet this is anathema to all Evangelical, especially to those Calvinists who hold him up as their patron saint (almost). What is also interesting is that you do not find anything like the determinism taught in Calvinism anywhere in the early Church prior to Augustine. This is why it was never accepted by the Church at the time. It was an innovation. Yet for some reason Augustine was never condemned for it. Maybe because he was held in such high regard. But the Roman Church has surely regretted not doing so, since the child of that theology was born at the Reformation and has grown into a giant today. The only place you find determinism of any description in the early Church prior to Augustine is in Gnosticism.

This post has gone on long enough. Armininians will love reading about Gnostic Calvinism, unfortunately they run into major problems too when examining Christianity from an historic point of view. Some have actually tried returning to “Pure Christianity” including me, but serious problems arise at every turn. My conclusion is that whatever primitive Christianity was, it is lost. Irretrievably lost. Jesus has failed. It would seem to me that the gates of Hades have prevailed.

I have been accused at different times of reading back into history something that is not there. So I have called pre-critical Christianity Fundamentalistic, to which it was said that Fundamentalism can only refer to a movement started in early 20th century America by men like R. A. Torrey and A. C. Dixon and continued on by others such as H. A. Ironside up to people like Jack T. Chick and his ilk today.
 
I have also been accused of ignorance because I refer to the text used by Jews in the first century as the Masoretic.
 
All I can say is that my only crime was not adding the prefix “proto-” to these ideas. I still hold to the undeniable reality that pre-critical Christians were fundamentalist in thought and action and that the Jews in the first century read from a source that closely resembles the Masoretic we have today. While Christians in the first few centuries before Jerome read almost exclusively from the Septuagint.
 
So let me say this instead. Christians, before the advent of modern science were proto-fundamentalists. Jews in the first century read, what scholars call, a proto-Masoretic text.
 
My favourite philosophy is Existentialism. Philosophers have identified various thinkers throughout history as proto-existenialists. Augustine of Hippo would be one example. And this without much controversy. You can find the list near the bottom of this page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_existentialists.
The practice of ascribing to earlier generation a title that is unquestionably of later origin is fine within proper boundaries. Augustine was not an Existentialist. Hell, most existentialists were not Existentialists! But it is still perfectly acceptable to ascribe certain beliefs of his as existential in nature. What later philosophers described rather exactly, earlier thinkers saw in more vague terms.

At the same time I totally agree that it is possible to read something back into history that isn’t there. To illustrate this I will refer you to this article: http://trinities.org/blog/weasel-talk-about-early-christianity-and-the-trinity/
It’s a fine line to walk. We have many Restorationist Christian groups such as Anabaptists, Seventh Day Adventists, Church of Christ, Baptists, Mormons, Plymouth Brethren, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other Protestant splinter groups.declaring to be in a long line of dissenters against the Roman Catholic Church. The worst case I have ever seen is Jack Chick’s “Did the Catholic Church Give Us the Bible?” It is full of lies and half-truths and pure fabrications. If you are not easily led I recommend reading it for a laugh. Many of the groups mentioned have thankfully distanced themselves from earlier attempts by Church historians tying to find genuine links with every group possible that had any disagreement with the Catholic Church. So we have the absurd situation where Baptists are trying to claim Gnostics, such as the Paulicians, as their spiritual and doctrinal forefathers.
My point is this: genuine connections in thought or practice are possible to find, without turning these into a type of absolute lineage akin to the idea in Catholic theology of Apostolic Succession. Pretty much the only thing many of these groups have in common is their opposition to the main body of Christians. Even their reasons for disagreement are often radically different.
The same can be said for the Catholic and Orthodox. Physical lineage is not the same thing as actual agreement with the doctrine and practice of the early Church, especially the Ante Nicene Christians. Calling yourself Catholic and showing some supposed unbroken lineage proves very little. The changes (especially in Catholic theology) are so vast as to make something like Newman’s Development of Doctrine absolutely essential in this critical age. yet Newman does exactly what I am accused of. Reading into Church history something that simply isn’t there. So what does he do? He looks for any old scrap of similarity and says it was a “seed” that grew into a great oak tree in his own day… Yeah right Newman, pull the other one please…