Hi. I’ve been “around” for years but never posted much. I am a born Protestant who has, for lack of a better way to put this, been all over the theological spectrum. I am also a student of history who has spent many years researching the ancient world and, and first century Judaism, Palestine (Judea), Greece and Rome. I’ve learned, of course, of the many controversies and interpretations of doctrine over the two millennia of the church, as well as the “schisms.” Some things are clear to me, and some are not “fixed” yet in my mind as to the most accurate portrayal of the early church’s position on some hot button issues, mentioned below. Here is where I am right now:
At this point in my life it is obvious to me that the early church was liturgical, apostolic, and had an organization which could variously be described as Catholic and/or Orthodox in outlook. I am very close to contacting a Catholic priest to begin RCIA classes, but I have a couple questions.
I am also familiar to a great extent with the Orthodox perspective on Mary, filioque, the Creed, and the whole “purgatory/toll houses” comparison thing. I need definitive proof that the Catholic church has the strongest argument on two things: Papal Primacy and Immaculate Conception doctrines. Once these issues are firmly settled in my mind, I will feel I am on firmer ground theologically as to where I go next. I do know that with the knowledge base I have so far, Protestantism is out of the question in the future. I guess my basic quandary now is to resolve the differences between Catholic and Eastern Orthodox branches of Christianity. The filioque thing is not a big stumbling block to me because I understand there is some “give” there even among Orthodox about how that was traditionally interpreted.
So, what I’m asking is, can any of you point me to some references that will help me understand the development of the Immaculate Conception doctrine, especially intimations in the early church fathers? As for papal primacy, again, I am seeking early church fathers’ writings which would be helpful in putting this issue to rest once and for all. To clarify, this is because the Orthodox view the bishop of Rome as “first among equals” and rely so much on church councils, thus don’t recognize Papal Primacy in authority, only in honor. Ok…so…help! This is getting confusing…
Since the positions of the Orthodox and Catholic faith are so similar in many respects, I also want to be sure I have a correct understanding of the differences, since I am devoted to learning and following the true, original faith of the Apostles.
I appreciate any assistance you may provide, and God bless all of you for helping me stumble through this. Please also forgive me if these issues have been discussed recently in another post. You have so many wonderful forums here I could spend literally weeks browsing all of them, and will.
Thank you again.