Is the “Great Apostasy” the same event or historical process inherent in the foundational rationale of Mormons as for Jehovah’s Witnesses and other 19th century sects or cults that deny the authority of the Catholic church and apostolic succession on that basis? If several sects use the same argument, what is the origin of the idea of the Great Apostasy? Was the argument ever used prior to the Reformation, or by the Reformers and their “successors”?
I don’t recall hearing the term “Great Apostasy” applied to it, but in some areas of Protestant thought, there is a fanciful and unfounded reading of Church history that approximates the concept.
According to this reading, when the Christian (they deny it was Catholic) faith was sanctioned by the state (actually, it was just made legal to be a Christian, along with anything else, and not the establishment of a state religion at that point, as is frequently claimed), a bunch of people supposedly joined the Church to gain social advantage. The story continues that to accommodate these folks, the Church intermixed a lot of paganism, to make them comfortable, and thus lost the faith. But a small, invisible remnant remained faithful, and emerged anew at the Reformation.
Extreme fundamentalists are fond of this story, and the above is just a brief sketch of it, more to identify it than tell it in detail. However, there is a very good discussion and examination of it in Karl K’s “Catholicism and Fundamentalism,” where it is well explored, and its errors noted. It is briefly discussed at the link:
The term is used commonly in Mormonism. It is rather a requirement for most protestants as well as pagans such as the mormons.
If there is no Great Apostacy then why not be Catholic?
(I am Methodist, by the way. Interesting)
This term is commonly used by people who are justifying the establishment of a new religious system by declaring that the existant religious system(s) have fallen away from their original intent. The three most common perpetrators of this philosophy are the Mormons (Joseph Smith), the Jehovah’s Witnesses (Charles Russell), and the Seven Day Adventists (Ellen White).
Since there isn’t, why not indeed!?
The problem with the notion of a Great Apostacy at the time of Constantine (also referred to by some scholars as a Constantinian shift) is that apart from a rethinking of the relationship of Church and State, which also was by no means a full rethinking, most all of the Catholic doctrines that supposedly arose with the Great Apostasy can be traced back well before the 300s. The Real Presence in the Eucharist, primacy of Rome, Apostolic succession, prayers for the dead, and many more, can be found in writers such as Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Ignatius of Antioch, and even on the walls of the Roman catecombs. Even if one were to admit a change in Christian beliefs, these doctrines would not fall under that shift.
Great Apostasy, WE ARE NOT IN IT! To be in the Great Apostasy we would have to see apostasy throughout the whole world. Not happening! We might be seeing apostasy here and there, but regional apostasies do not make the Great Apostasy.
From New Catholic Dictionary: * *
(Greek: apostasis, a standing-off)
A total defection from the Christian religion, after previous acceptance through faith and baptism. Refusal to accept a particular tenet of the faith is properly called heresy.
Apostasy may be merely interior, or exteriorly manifested as well. It may be formal (with full consciousness of the obligation to remain in the faith), or material (without such consciousness). Exterior formal apostasy involves excommunication, reserved in a special manner to the Holy See (canon 2314).
Apostasy from religious life is the unauthorized departure from a religious house of an inmate under perpetual vows, with the intention of not returning; or, if the departure be legitimate, a subsequent refusal to return in order thus to withdraw from the obligations of religious obedience (canon 644). Such apostates incur excommunication (canon 2385).
Read Desmond Birch’s summary on why the Great Apostasy is not happening at this point of history:
[font=Arial]Sean, the Church has been through many turbulent times. Changes are always painful. But eventually the dust settles and a period of peace reigns. This same analysis would have fit before. The end times has occupied the human mind from the earliest days of the Church. Is it time yet? I am not sure. But it really does not matter. For two thousand years people have been meeting their private end times. I could contract a grave illness and suffer for a decade and at the end I could die. Or I could be living in the great apostasy and the end of the world is perhaps less than a decade away and I could die during the persecutions. Makes no difference, we all have to die sooner or later, and some of us will go through great sufferings for different reasons. But I would not go up on the mountain just yet.