In my research on Catholicism vs Mormonism etc, I came across this article on a website regarding the supposed “origins of the Catholic Church”. To summarise, it is saying that the Catholic Church didn’t exist until the 4th Century and the true Christian Church was paganised. Is there a Catholic answer to this please?
I didn’t read the article, but it is objective history that there was an organization in the first / second centuries that organically evolved into the same Church that existed in the 4th century. There was no fundamental change in structure. This is a common “myth” propagated by many non-Catholic groups.
Read the letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch. He was a disciple of the Apostle John and his letters, which we still have, date back to approximately AD 107 - just a decade or two after the New Testament was likely completed. Among other things he refers to:
*]the Catholic Church
*]the role of bishops as the head of the local Church
*]the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist
Read Rod Bennett’s The Apostasy that Wasn’t for an in-depth look at precisely what happened and why with the Council of Nicaea.
The problem with such claims is that they never get into the real question of precisely which doctrines and beliefs were changed or “paganized” in the fourth century. I.e., precisely what did the Church believe before and after it was allegedly paganized. That is never discussed, mere allusions offered which are more intended to obfuscate than to clarify.
The best thing to do is to read solid Christian theologians on what the essential beliefs of the Church were before and after the fourth century and you will realize those didn’t, in fact, change.
Another way to dispel this myth is to read some of the early Church Fathers such as Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus of Lyons, Justin Martyr and Polycarp, then read the Church Fathers who wrote during and after Nicaea such as Athanasius, Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom and Augustine to see that the essential beliefs of the Fathers and the Church had not changed.
Also spend some time with the actual doctrines from the Council of Nicaea to see that the claims about “paganization” are completely false.
In fact, Arianism – which the Council of Nicaea ruled against – was an attempt to paganize Christ by making him something of a created man raised to half-divine status in the pagan sense similar to Hercules or Perseus. Arianism took hold among the Germanic pagan tribes precisely because of that affinity and acceptability to their pagan ideals.
The LDS belief is that human beings, through our own efforts can become gods and rule our own planetary system – just as God the Father and Jesus, his son, did in the past. That is far more pagan-like (Arian and Greco-Roman) as a belief system than Christianity is.
The Church, however, continues to insist, just as the Apostles did, that Christ was God, the Creator of all that is, become man – fully God, fully man – which is still the centre of Christianity today.
Even a cursory reading of the New Testament will reveal that the Catholic Church does not have its origin in the teachings of Jesus or His apostles.
…is precisely the problem. He fully relies on merely a “cursory reading” of the New Testament and overlooks the strength of consistent arguments from the entire Church through history and especially those of the early Church Fathers who addressed every question the writer raises in the article.
So clearly they believe the gates of Hell have prevailed over the original Church, which was supplanted by the Catholic Church. Whoever is pushing this idea, better explain why they’re not in a synagogue now.
The writer, for example, claims there is nothing in Scripture of a virgin birth.
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 **“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). **24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
— Matthew 1:18-25
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 **And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. **36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God." 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
— Luke 1:26-38
14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.
16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.
The followers of Jesus began referring to themselves collectively as the “Catholic Church” as early AD 107.
The early Church - the Church founded by Christ as promised in Matthew 16:18 - was that which was originally known as “the Way” (cf. Acts 24:14). Later, those individuals who followed Christ began to be called “Christians” beginning at Antioch (cf. Acts 11:26). As early as 107 A.D., those same individuals referred to themselves collectively as the “Catholic Church”. In a letter to the Church of Smyrna, Ignatius of Antioch wrote:
You must all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father, and the presbytery (priest) as you would the Apostles. Let no one do anything of concern to the Church without the bishop. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, A.D. 107, [8,1])
Notice that Ignatius does not take pains to introduce the term “Catholic Church”; instead he uses it in a manner suggesting that the name was already in use and familiar to his audience. This further suggests that the name, Catholic Church, had to have been coined much earlier in order to have achieved wide circulation by the time of this writing. In other words, the Christian assembly was calling itself the Catholic Church during the lifetime of the last Apostle, John, who died near the end of the first century. John, the beloved disciple, may have thought of himself as a member of the Catholic Church!
The Catholic Church began with Peter and the Apostles and continued without interruption or cessation through their disciples (Ignatius, Irenaeus, Polycarp, Clement, Justin Martyr, etc.) down to the present day. As a side note, it appears that the believers in Antioch may have coined both terms still in use today: “Christian” and “Catholic Church” – terms they used to describe the one body of believers in Christ.
Protestant Scholar on the use of the Proper Name "Catholic"
One Protestant author who is honest about this history is the renowned Church historian, J. N. D. Kelly. Kelly dates the usage of the name “Catholic” after the death of the Apostle John, but he acknowledges that the original Church founded by Jesus called itself the “Catholic Church”.
“As regards ‘Catholic,’ its original meaning was ‘universal’ or ‘general’ … As applied to the Church, its primary significance was to underline its universality as opposed to the local character of the individual congregations. Very quickly, however, in the latter half of the second century at latest, we find it conveying the suggestion that the Catholic is the true Church as distinct from heretical congregations. . . . What these early Fathers were envisaging was almost always the empirical, visible society; they had little or no inkling of the distinction which was later to become important between a visible and an invisible Church” (J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 5th ed. [San Francisco: Harper, 1978], 190f).
You can find the Catholic Church in **five of the earliest **non-canonical orthodox Christian writings:
Clement’s letter to the Corinthians
ALL of these are either first century or second century. That is, between AD 80 to AD 180. THAT means hundreds of years before Constantine, the legalization of Christianity, etc.
The New Testament is thoroughly Catholic. If someone wants to allege that Catholicism is unbiblical, they will find themselves in a dilemma, for it was the fourth century Catholic Church – with its bishops, popes, and councils – that determined once-for-all the canon of the New Testament. Why trust their decision/recognition of the Bible but not other doctrines and structures of the fourth century church? It’s an arbitrary decision to say “I will trust the church’s decision on the New Testament, but *not *their beliefs on the Eucharist, apostolic succession, the Papacy, communion of saints, penance, baptism, etc.”
ANYWAY – Back to those early Christian writers. While the NT is thoroughly Catholic, the point of these other early Christian writers is to provide an interpretive context for the CORRECT understanding of the New Testament. After all, all Christians have the Bible to work with: They all claim to have the right view.
The Didache, Ignatius, Clement, Irenaeus, and Justin Martyr all explicitly show that within 100 YEARS of the last book of the Bible, these Christian doctrines and practices were quite apparent:
Eucharist as SACRIFICE and as REAL PRESENCE
Apostolic succession and importance of the local bishop
The primacy of Rome and the Bishop of Rome as successor to Peter
the structure of the Mass
the unity of the church as a communion of churches led by the bishops
divinity of Jesus Christ
the term “Catholic Church” as the identification of Christ’s church
Previous posts have expressed a lot of good points.
The Roman Catholic Church (those so-called that are united with Rome, i.e. the Pope) is entirely opposed by LDS. I heard a popular Catholic priest the other night on EWTN radio (check the ewtnradio.com website for a Catholic radio station in your area, hopefully) speak to this opposition.
You can explore information on Catholicism in this Catholic Answers forum and you can search the ewtnradio.com for call-in programs with experts who will answer a question if you call in, and many other questions that you haven’t even thought of. “Called to Communion” is a daytime program, re-run in the evening, that is geared to those considering the Catholic Church. Dr. David Anders is the expert, himself a convert to the catholic faith. The subtitle to this program is, What’s keeping you from becoming a Catholic?
The program is broadcast simultaneously on the internet, when live, maybe when it’s re-broadcast, too. Anders speaks very fast so be ready for it, he is quite the expert. There is call screening for the program, so perhaps he is aided by somebody feeding script to him or pulling up discussions from a computer archive.
I’ll add this too, with less certainty. avemariaradio.net has archives of a lot of programs for non-catholics and you might search there for much more authoritative information than I can give.
This is certainly the right place to post. However, so many topics are mentioned in the article that I think it unlikely that anyone could adequately address all of them in a single post, especially given the 6000 character limit to posts. I suggest you take one topic at a time, such as “papacy” or “Mother of God” or “Queen of Heaven” etc., search for that topic at the main Catholic Answers website (www.catholic.com) for articles, tracts, etc. If that doesn’t provide a satisfactory answer for you, then I suggest you search these forums for that topic. If that still doesn’t provide a satisfactory answer for you, then I suggest you post a question on that particular topic, one topic per post.
If you are seeking the beliefs and practices of the post-ascension, Apostolic-age Church of Christ, then you should (“must”) read the Didache, which is the oldest known non-scriptural Christian document. It was written most likely between 70-90 AD, while the Apostle John was alive. It can be read in about 10 minutes.
As you read it, ask yourself if early Christian belief and practice resembles Mormonism, Protestantism, or Catholicism/Orthodoxy.
Also just a little note, stay away from that website. They spread many false claims, one of which is that the Church killed 50 million people. In general, they really just don’t know what they are talking about.
In the New Testament, there is no mention of the papacy, worship/adoration of Mary (or the immaculate conception of Mary, the perpetual virginity of Mary, the assumption of Mary, or Mary as co-redemptrix and mediatrix), petitioning saints in heaven for their prayers, apostolic succession, the ordinances of the church functioning as sacraments, infant baptism, confession of sin to a priest, purgatory, indulgences, or the equal authority of church tradition and Scripture.
By the way, in the above sentence, the article misrepresents as worship/adoration the honor/veneration Catholics give Mary. Contrary to what the article says, Catholics do not worship or offer adoration to Mary. Catholics worship or offer adoration only to God. Worshipping or offering adoration to Mary, a creature, is condemned by the Catholic Church as idolatry. The article continues this misrepresentation later when it says: “Many temples to Isis were, in fact, converted into temples dedicated to Mary,” as if temples dedicated to the worship of Isis were converted by Catholics into temples dedicated to the worship of Mary. It is my understanding that some pagan temple buildings were cleared of their pagan elements and converted into Catholic churches dedicated to the worship of God and so I would not be surprised if some temples of Isis, once dedicated to the worship/adoration of Isis, were converted into Catholic churches and named in honor of Mary. However, Catholic churches named in honor of Mary are Christian churches dedicated to the worship/adoration of God not to the worship/adoration of Mary. Typically, such Catholic churches contain artistic representations (statues, paintings, mosaics, stained glass windows, etc.) of Mary and her life of exemplary service to God, in much the same way numerous statues and relief images of cherubim who serve God were featured in the God’s Temple in Jerusalem. (1 Kings 6:23-36)
In the above sentence, the article also misrepresents the level of authority Catholics give church tradition, if by “church tradition” is meant merely man-made traditions, customs or disciplines. Contrary to what the article says, Catholics do not give equal authority to church tradition and Scripture. Catholics distinguish between apostolic traditions and church traditions. Apostolic traditions are those inspired traditions received once and for all from the apostles either by word of mouth (Sacred Tradition) or in writing (Sacred Scripture). (2 Thessalonians 2:15) Catholics do give Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture equal authority because they were both inspired by God but Catholics do not give merely man-made, church traditions, customs or disciplines that same level of authority.
You can historically trace the Catholic Church back to the first century while the Mormon Church can easily be traced back to its 19th century origin. That in and of itself should be insightful when comparing the two.
Catholic or LDS??? Wow! bipolar opposites…Curious how it has come down to those two?? Especially considering the usual dilemma or choice Protestants face when converting to EO or Catholic. That seems to be the typical two options Catholic or Eastern Orthodox.
Long story short, the Catholic Church either is the Church Christ founded or it isn’t. If it is, then problem solved. If it isnt, then all Protestant denominations aren’t true either since they came from the Catholic Church and wouldn’t have apostolic authority anyway. Same with Eastern Orthodox, it was split from the Catholic Church and I don’t think it actually exists in the UK (I’ve never seen one of their churches anyway!)
Catholic or LDS, apostasy (as in loss of authority) or not (granted there are other restorationist churches)