I have very little left that I can disagree with the church about. At this point, for me to argue seems like the pharisees and saducees trying to trip up Jesus in his own words. My conscience is satisfied with the answers I have recieved in these forums. I have one small question though, to put out a different point of view and see what you think.
Regarding the early church history; if I accept that the early church in the first centuries after Christ really ‘looked’ Catholic, then couldn’t it be possible that those early doctrines are still incorrect? What I mean is something like this: America is hardly 200 years old and it is founded on the consitition. To try to find the spirit of the founding fathers, we try to interpret the consitition as accurately as possible. In America there are already many people who are quite far from the original teachings of that document. So isn’t it feasable, that even if history declares that by 300 the Church looked very catholic, that it still was mistaken about doctrinal issues, and that we ought to return to trying to understand the bible just by itself? I believe this would be how Luther wasw thinking. Not knowing where to turn, the safest place is Sola Scriptura.
Please accept this as an honest question, by an honest searcher.
Fair question, but if you assume the Church was in error you have to assume the cannon of scripture was finalized in error making the Bible about as reliable as the church. I, for one, like taking my chances and believing firmly that the church wasn’t in error, simply because the Lord promised that the Holy Spirit would protect it.
Another problem with your analogy is that it says by 300, the Church looked Catholic. I’d say it “looked Catholic” in the existent writings from Ignatius letters (circa 110AD), in Justin Martyr’s writings (circa 155AD) and in Ireneaus writings (circa 180AD). Ignatius was ordained, maybe by Peter, in one of the earliest church communities, Antioch. He would have had heard Peter and maybe other Apostles preach the word of the Gospel. Ireneaus was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John. These people had first and second hand access to the original Biblical letters and Gospels.
I think it would be arrogant to think that 2000 years later, we can better interpret the Scripture than these people when you consider that:
a) We are 2000 years removed from the culture that produced these Scriptures.
b) We’ve been through more than one translation of these Scriptures - each Translations loses the original meaning of the inspired Scriptures.
Have you ever read Justin Martyr’s description of the Mass? How more Catholic can you get?
*All [Christians] who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place. The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as much a time permits. ***[Readings and the Gospels] ***When the reader has finished, he who presides over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things. ***[Homily] ***Then we all rise together and offer prayers for ourselves… and for all others, wherever they may be, so that we may be found righteous by our life and actions, and faithful to the commandments, so as to obtain eternal salvation. ***[Prayers and Petitions] ***When the prayers are concluded we exchange the kiss [of peace]. ***[Sign of Peace]
** Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine mixed together to him who presides over the brethren. ***[Offeratory Gifts] ***He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and for a considerable time he gives thanks (In Greek: eucharistian) that we have been judged worthy of these gifts.**[Eucharistic Prayer] *** When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all present give voice to an acclamation by saying; “Amen.”
When he who presides has given thanks and the people have responded, those whom we call deacons give to those present the “eucharisted” bread, wine and water and take them to those who are absent.[Communion]
Or how about Hippolytus’ Eucharistic Prayer (circa 236AD)?
*The bishop lays his hands upon the bread and wine and water offered upon the altar and begins the following dialogue:
Bishop: The Lord be with you.
Congregation**: And with thy spirit.
Bishop**: Hearts up.
Congregation**: We have them to the Lord.
Bishop**: Let us give thanks to the Lord.
Congregation**: It is meet and right.
Bishop**: We thank thee, God, through Thy beloved Servant Jesus Christ, whom in the last times Thou hast sent us as Savior and redeemer and Messenger of Thy counsel, the Logos who comes from Thee, through whom Thou hast made all things, whom Thou wast pleased to send from heaven into the womb of the virgin, and in her body he became flesh and was shown forth as Thy Son, born of the Holy Spirit and the virgin. To fulfill Thy will and to prepare Thee a holy people, he stretched out his hands, when he suffered, that he might release from suffering those who have believed on Thee.
And when he delivered himself to a voluntary passion, to loose death and to break asunder the bands of the devil, and to trample hell and to enlighten the righteous and to set up the boundary stone and to manifest the resurrection, he took a loaf, gave thanks, and spake, “Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you.” Likewise also the cup and said, “This is my blood which is poured out for you. As often as you do this, you make my commemoration.”
Remembering therefore his death and resurrection, we offer to Thee the loaf and the cup and give thanks to Thee that Thou hast counted us worthy to stand before Thee and to do Thee priestly service.
And we beseech Thee, that Thou send down Thy holy Spirit upon this offering of the church. Unite it and grant to all the saints who partake of it to their fulfilling with holy Spirit, to their strengthening of faith in truth, that we may praise and glorify Thee through Thy Servant Jesus Christ, through whom to Thee be glory and honour in Thy holy Church now and ever. Amen.
You have an interesting question. Consider this possible response. The Catholic Church teaches that the Lord promised to send his Holy Spirit upon her to protect her from error. Just think about this though in and of itself for a moment, without considering whether it is historically accurate. I think that one must admit, on the face of it, that this is a wonderful idea, an idea that would keep the teachings of the Lord pure through the ages. Now consider where this idea came from. It either came from the Lord, or the early Church. If it came from the early Church, do you really think that the early Church was capable of producing an idea that was better than those the Lord had given? Take a look at the people the Lord called: fishermen, tax collectors, a tent maker. Then take a step back and see how the Holy Spirit strengthened them, inspired the early Church, and indeed, inspired not only the books of the Bible, but the list of what is considered to belong to the Bible itself, the Canon. Next consider how copies of the Bible was made by monks for over a thousand years, and without this, no one, Catholic or otherwise, would have a Bible to quote from.
Next take a look at what happens when one attempts to actually follow Sola Scriptura. There is no doubt that there are many non-Catholics who read the scriptures and develop very meaningful spiritual relationships with the Lord. The problem is that these churches that are founded on this teaching cannot reach agreement on doctrinal and ethical issues. There needs to be a Church that is guided by the Holy Spirit to give us definitive answers to these issues. Without that Church, humans inevitably turn to the creed that suits them best, i.e. the easiest to follow.
I think that if you look at the consistency of doctrine, the consistency of liturgical form, you will open yourself up to the possibility that the Catholic Church may be the institution the Lord founded.
Keep in mind that faith is not reason, and we cannot prove the Catholic faith, only how reasonable it is. True faith is a gift from God.
That’s definitely true, but look how long it’s taken them to get there. Ask yourself, historically, who were the more trustworthy interpreters of the Constitution: those who lived in the nineteenth century, or those who live in our own century? I think you’ll see, historically, that even in this short time difference, the earlier interpreters are far more trustworthy than the later. How much more do you think that will apply in the case of the early Church, who had the Scriptures in their own language, written by and to people of their own culture, as opposed to people of the Church of the sixteenth or twenty-first centuries, reading the Bible through the lens of their translations and vastly different culture?
So isn’t it feasable, that even if history declares that by 300 the Church looked very catholic, that it still was mistaken about doctrinal issues, and that we ought to return to trying to understand the bible just by itself?
No one tries to understand the Bible just by itself. Everyone brings something to the table, everyone has some lens through which they read God’s written word. The question is not “Can we rid ourselves of these lenses,” but “Which lens is the correct one to use?” For my part, I want to read the Bible through the lens of the Church by whom, to whom, and for whom it was written, rather than my own lense or some borrowed lens from a sixteenth century priest far removed from the culture and context in which the Bible was written.
I believe this would be how Luther was thinking. Not knowing where to turn, the safest place is Sola Scriptura.
Not knowing where to turn, the safest place is the Church, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Not knowing where to turn, we should turn to the apostles, the prophets, the teachers, pastors, and evangelists, not to our own best attempt to interpret Scripture. Luther, it’s worth noting, was all for Sola Scriptura when applied to himself, but strongly opposed its use by those who disagreed with him In practice, all Protestants (myself included until fairly recently) do as Luther did: we start with Sola Scriptura and end with Sola me or, at best, Sola nobis.
Great question. Consider the issue of infallibility - either Jesus has preserved His Church from teaching error or He hasn’t. If He has, great…swim on across. If he hasn’t, then we have a huge problem. So, did he or didn’t he?
First, can Jesus protect His Church from teaching error? Sure. He can inspire people to write “God-breathed” scripture, can’t he? Protecting the Church from error is very similar.
Second, did he promise to do so? I think so, and I’ve got some verses along these lines for you to consider.
Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’
“Therefore” implies that Jesus is sending the Apostles out with that same authority.
He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.
This “proto-Magisterium” is sent out with the authority to speak in Christ’s name. Could they teach error in His name? Well, if they did, then people would be right to reject them. Therefore, we can assume that they taught correctly in Christ’s name because those who listened to them HEARD Christ.
If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
Here, the Apostles were promised the Holy Spirit.
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
Here, Jesus tells the Apostles that the Holy Spirit would remind them of everything Jesus had said to them. Another protection against error. BTW, this promise was NOT made to all Christians - the “Bible Christian” who thinks that God will guide him into all truth does NOT have the same promise of infallibility that the Church’s Magisterium has because (s)he was not there to hear Jesus’ preaching the first time, so there is nothing for them to be “reminded” of.
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
Again, the HS guides the Church into all truth - not the individual believers, mind you, but the Church through its leaders - the Apostles and their successors the Bishops.
Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’
The Father sent Jesus how? With all authority. How is Jesus sending the Apostles? As the the Father sent him…with all authority.
1 Thessalonians 2:13
And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.
The Apostles teaching is not the word of men, but the Word of God. Powerful, eh?
1 John 4:6
We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
“We are from God.” John makes the case for the leadership of the Church pretty succinctly, eh?
Hi Justin, we are warned that false teachers will try to infect the church with their false doctrines. We know from Jesus’ parables that wheat and tares, that there will be unbelievers in the church. So, we need to examine what is taught first by apostolic tradition called the New Testament, and then with the church fathers and history.
Acts 20:30-32 (New International Version)
30Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
32"Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
Here is where the blood of the martyrs and the work of the councils comes in to play. We know that early Christians were willing to die for the faith, and we know that the early Church fought tirelessly against heresy. Thus we have twin witnesses of the willingness of the early Church to uphold and defend the faith.
For heresies to have crept in to the entire Church (for that is what would have happened. Not just one part of the Church, but the entire Church), would require one of two things, perhaps both. Either cowardice (but the blood of the martyrs stands against that charge), or ignorance of the faith newly handed down (but the active vigilance of the Church, councils, bishops to combat heresies stands against that charge).
For a heresy to enter the entire Church, what must happen? Every single bishop, theologian, lay person must be taught something that contradicts the faith they have accepted. And they must do so without any opposition, any argument, any challenge to the heresy. For we see absolutely no historical evidence of any challenge to these alleged heresies which took over the entire early Church. No writings. No councils. No wars. Nothing!
Thus, at the very same time that the Church is dying for the faith, and combatting heresies wherever they spring up, one must believe that through cowardice and/or ignorance, they were allowing other heresies to enter the Church without the slightest peep of opposition?! When you look at it in this light, it is seen for the absurdity that it is.
…and that we ought to return to trying to understand the bible just by itself? I believe this would be how Luther wasw thinking. Not knowing where to turn, the safest place is Sola Scriptura.
Problem is, every single heresy looks to the bible for support. Heresies don’t avoid the bible, they appeal to it! So the issue of not knowing where to turn is greater with Sola Scriptura, not less.
I’d look at it this way:
We acknowledge that history shows that the early Church was “very Catholic” in it’s doctrines and practices. So—each of the doctrines and practices were either correct or incorrect.
We know that God loved us so much that He himself came to earth and established His church. Would God have then immediately left humans to fend for themselves? Wouldn’t He have known that humans would immediately go off into error without Him? Would He establish the New Covenant and forget about humankind, merely intending to come back later and check on things? Surely common sense contradicts this. Surely what we know in our hearts contradicts this. Surely the bible contradicts this.
I don’t consider Sola Scriptura a safe harbor at all. I consider it to be a prime example of not being faithful in and trusting of God, instead relying on our own minds and our current and all-too-human opinions. Surely our God is more on the ball than the idea that He simply inspired a few books and walked away, leaving us to our own devices. Would He pop in around 300 AD just to get men to make sure they got all of the correct books in place and then NOT address the various screwups in doctrine that same Church came up with?
Do we trust God or don’t we? Do we have faith or don’t we?
Sola Scriptura strikes me as the ultimate act of disbelief.
By looking at Scripture alone and the Constitution alone one is left in both cases with the same problem. Who interprets them correctly? In the case of the Constitution we were given the Supreme Court which has the final say. With the Bible we have been given the Magisterium or teaching authority of the Bishops together with the Pope to be the final interpreter of the Bible in the light, however, of Sacred Tradition which includes not only the Bible but all else that the Apostles taught that Jesus said. In fact in at least one place in the Bible it says that there was more that Jesus taught that was not in that particular piece of writing. That being said we are taught that there can be no contradiction between Bible and Tradition when correctly interpreted. There are things that appear in both and some that appear in one but not the other. What we end up with as our standard then is the Bible, Sacred Tradition, and the Holy Spirit guided interpretation of both by the Magisterium (Bishops in union with the Pope).
Here is a response from someone who was led to leave the Catholic Church…
Yes. Very much so.
One cannot read the NT, which predates the writings of those in the early church, without seeing that error had already begun taking root and multiplying in the Apostolic era churches.
These are churches planted by the Apostles themselves with leaders appointed by the same.
From Acts forward, we see the errors creeping in and attempted correction after attempted correction being given. Almost all the Epistles set out to combat serious errors that have already found a home in Apostolic era assemblies.
This is very significant.
If Apostolic era churches can so easily err…even though planted by the Apostles themselves, with leaders appointed by the Apostles themselves, and with the oversight of the Apostles themselves…then how much more so for those churches without all that?
From the Gospel accounts on, the Holy Spirit is abundantly clear that error will find its root and source within the church, among Christians themselves, and among Christian elders. Looking for the standard of pure doctrine in those same churches is a recipe for disaster, IMO.
The surest source of correct doctrine is God’s infallible and inerrant Scriptures. The early fathers recognized this early on as well.
Truth is not consistently found in men, but in God alone.
Atemi cannot point in the NT to a single incorrect doctrine that took hold in the entire Church, which is the question at hand. Of course heresies sprang up, and of course they were combatted. But the question is whether a heresy could enter into the entire Church, and without the slightest historical evidence that this had even happened. The NT certainly does not support that possibility, in fact it clearly argues against it by showing how the Church as a whole did discover and combat error, and particularly, doctrinal error. What he offers as evidence that heresy could overtake the entire Church is actually evidence that the Church detects and overcomes all such heresies.
[quote=AlmostCatholic]Not knowing where to turn, the safest place is Sola Scriptura.
I believe that Jesus gave the Gospel not just to his immediate community but to all the world and moreover was particularly concerned about the have-nots.
Would you disagree with that?
I believe that Jesus also promised us that he would not abandon us nor leave us orphans.
Would you disagree with that?
The Bible was not compiled until about 400 years after the death of Christ.
Would you disagree with that?
For centuries over 90% of the Church was illiterate. They could not read the Bible. Even those who could read had to afford a Bible. Before the invention of the Gutenburg Press, bibles were more precious than gold and had to be chained to pulpits to prevent their theft.
Would you disagree with that?
If you do agree with what I have said, then you would have to conclude that, if Jesus did keep his promise not to abandon us, then He did it by providing means other than the Bible to preach the Gospel.
Sola Scriptura hinges on literacy; excludes the illiterate and the poor from the Gospel; and implies that Jesus either misled us (which He would not do) or meant something that could only be understood through gnostic means (which He would not do).
If Jesus opened Salvation to all, then He surely would not limit the Gospel to only those who could read or only those who had the money to buy a Bible or only those who were gnostics – particularly since gnosticism is a heresy.
To be fair, Sola Scriptura speaks to the sufficiency of the Bible. Well, if Jesus used means other than the Bible to spread the Gospel, then surely those means are also sufficient. Otherwise He would not use them.
Do you disagree with that?
But the point is that the Bible is not sufficient to spread the Gospel. It was profitable to spread the Gospel.
St Francis of Assisi gave us an insight into this: Preach the Gospel as often as possible and when necessary use words. Obviously he understood that there were ways to preach the Gospel other than using words.
The example of a righteous Christian life, for instance. The saints; the martyrs. Even the troubled Tertullian admitted that the blood of the martyrs was like seed; where one Christian fell, ten more sprang up.
[quote=AlmostCatholic] Please accept this as an honest question, by an honest searcher.