How do protestants explain the 1500 year gap.

This was the real question I had in a previous thread that got derailed. Personally leaving my non denominational church and coming home to the Catholic Church if both had a solid answer from the bible I had to go with the catholic one because it was rooted in history such as the writings from the first three centuries after Christ.

When ever I show protestants of any kind writings such as the Didiache, polycarp, and ignatius of Antioch. They say “well false teachers were there from the beginning and I have the truth from the bible”. This had come from Lutherans to baptists

Having converted to the Church from the church of Christ (cambellite), I can give you a little background of what it is my understanding that they believe about the 1500 year gap.

From my understanding they believe that the Church went into apostasy very early on, however, there was always a very small remnant of the “true church” (aka church of Christ) that was suppressed and persecuted by the Catholic Church. Then in the 1800’s the coC recreated the early church during the restorationist movement. However, in all honesty church history is never spoken about.

During high school I remember asking several times where was the proof for the claims of the church of Christ and other protestants claiming to be the original church, I was never given an answer and was treated poorly for even questioning. This is what led me to learn more about Church history and eventually I became Catholic.

I don’t see Lutheranism as a breach with 1500 years of church history, more of a continuation of it.

I don’t have a problem with the Didache, Polycarp, Ignatius, or any other church father.

What about how the early church fathers prohibited remarriage and today you remarry in your church or the fact that they said the church should be one under the pope as gods representative

Curious that a Lutheran would relegate Polycarp and other early fathers to be nothing but “false teachers.” Lutherans respect and appeal to the ECFs just as Roman Catholics do. Would that I could’ve heard that conversation.

Lutherans don’t believe in any ‘Great Apostasy,’ so there is no “1500 year gap.” The church catholic has always existed and continues to this day. The Church in Rome is just as much ‘church’ as we believe ourselves to be, even if we believe Rome to hold some heterodox beliefs.

‘Remarriage’ in our churches is not what you think. Source where the ECFs prohibit remarriage in all cases?

Source and context where ECFs state the church only exists in communion with Rome?

I know many Catholics who are remarried, so I am not sure criticism of us is anything other than posturing. That being said. Some in the early church allowed for remarried following divorce caused by adultery or sexual immorality on the other spouses part, which is consistent with Jesus’ teaching. Even so, we aren’t big fans of divorce and remarriage, it’s always caused by sin.

As per the church being one under the pope, the early church fathers generally agreed that all bishops were equal, and that the bishop of Rome is first amongst equals. But not a universal monarchial bishop to which all other bishops must submit or else, nor infallible, nor the sole “vicar” of Christ, those beliefs would take hundreds of years to develop.

The entire Lutheran religion kind of falls apart since Martin Luther himself, in his own writings, speaks of the validity and absolute authority and oneness of the Catholic Church. Lutherans are not Catholic. They are not in communion with Rome and have no ties to Apostolic Succession. Their “priesthood” is not valid. Their ministers are self ordained, not ordained by God. They are not a continuation of the Church. They are a dissident group who broke away from the True Church and created their own religion/ideology to suit their needs.

Hi HH,
You write: “As per the church being one under the pope, the early church fathers generally agreed that all bishops were equal, and that the bishop of Rome is first amongst equals.”

Would you post quotes from the early church fathers who believed that all bishops were equal?

Also you write:
Some in the early church allowed for remarried following divorce caused by adultery or sexual immorality on the other spouses part, which is consistent with Jesus’ teaching. Even so, we aren’t big fans of divorce and remarriage, it’s always caused by sin.

Who were these early church leaders who allowed for remarriage following divorce? Do you have quotes?


Well that’s just like, uh, your opinion man.

Thankfully, your past few popes have seen us in a much more positive light.

Actually no, HH that is historical. May I ask why you left the Catholic Church? I ask this because I left once and joined the Lutheran Church (LCMS) but returned after reading and studying Church History. I was taught by a History professor not in school he was a friend.


Would you post quotes from the early church fathers who believed that all bishops were equal?

The Lord saith unto Peter, I say unto thee, (saith He,) that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven (Matt. 16:18–19). To him again, after His resurrection, He says, Feed My sheep. Upon him being one He builds His Church; and although He gives to all the Apostles an equal power, and says, As My Father sent Me, even so I send you; receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosoever sins ye remit, they shall be remitted to him, and whosoever sins ye shall retain, they shall be retained (John 20:21);—yet in order to manifest unity, He has by His own authority so placed the source of the same unity, as to begin from one (A Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church (Oxford: Parker, 1844), Cyprian, On The Unity of the Church 3-4, pp. 133-135).

Certainly the other Apostles also were what Peter was, endued with an equal fellowship both of honour and power; but a commencement is made from unity, that the Church may be set before as one; which one Church, in the Song of Songs, doth the Holy Spirit design and name in the Person of our Lord: My dove, My spotless one, is but one; she is the only one of her mother, elect of her that bare her (Cant. 9:6) (A Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church (Oxford: Parker, 1844), Cyprian, On The Unity of the Church 3, p. 133).

Orthodox theologian John Meyendorff explains:

The early Christian concept, best expressed in the third century by Cyprian of Carthage, according to which the ‘see of Peter’ belongs, in each local church, to the bishop, remains the longstanding and obvious pattern for the Byzantines. Gregory of Nyssa, for example, can write that Jesus ‘through Peter gave to the bishops the keys of heavenly honors.’ Pseudo–Dionysius when he mentions the ‘hierarchs’—i.e., the bishops of the early Church—refers immediately to the image of Peter…Peter succession is seen wherever the right faith is preserved, and, as such, it cannot be localized geographically or monopolized by a single church or individual (John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology (New York: Fordham University, 1974), p. 98).

Who were these early church leaders who allowed for remarriage following divorce? Do you have quotes?

IX. The sentence of the Lord that it is unlawful to withdraw from wedlock, save on account of fornication, Matthew 5:32 applies, according to the argument, to men and women alike. Custom, however, does not so obtain. Yet, in relation with women, very strict expressions are to be found; as, for instance, the words of the apostle He which is joined to a harlot is one body 1 Corinthians 6:16 and of Jeremiah, If a wife become another man’s shall he return unto her again? Shall not that land be greatly polluted? Jeremiah 3:1 And again, He that has an adulteress is a fool and impious. Yet custom ordains that men who commit adultery and are in fornication be retained by their wives. Consequently I do not know if the woman who lives with the man who has been dismissed can properly be called an adulteress; the charge in this case attaches to the woman who has put away her husband, and depends upon the cause for which she withdrew from wedlock. In the case of her being beaten, and refusing to submit, it would be better for her to endure than to be separated from her husband; in the case of her objecting to pecuniary loss, even here she would not have sufficient ground. If her reason is his living in fornication we do not find this in the custom of the church; but from an unbelieving husband a wife is commanded not to depart, but to remain, on account of the uncertainty of the issue. For what do you know, O wife, whether you shall save your husband? 1 Corinthians 7:16 Here then the wife, if she leaves her husband and goes to another, is an adulteress. But the man who has been abandoned is pardonable, and the woman who lives with such a man is not condemned. But if the man who has deserted his wife goes to another, he is himself an adulterer because he makes her commit adultery; and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has caused another woman’s husband to come over to her. Letter 188, St. Basil the Great.

I left for lots or reasons all amounting to I didn’t believe any of the distinctive Catholic dogmas anymore. I was raised non religious but became Christian and Catholic in college. I was drawn to its history and intellectual tradition. There were a few things I couldn’t quite accept but on direction from my spiritual advisor he told me to practice the faith and those things would fall into place. They never did. Ten years later I was trying to practice my faith that was getting more dead and moribund by the day. I was going through the motions and getting more and more resentful of the church. Yet my resentment was making me terrified of my salvation. I laid awake at night terrified that my contrition was not perfect or if I even had it at all. I did confession because it was an obligation. It gave me no comfort. I went to mass because I was obligated and it gave me no comfort. I bought every book Catholic Answers put out and read all their tracts. I went and crossed swords with Protestants in real life and online. I was not trying to convince them, I was trying to convince myself. I realized all my “answers” were pathetic.

I started to hate all the obligations of the church. I hated going to mass. I hated going to confession. I pretended to be on the same page as everyone else. Even though they looked as miserable as me. They all ran out of the church so fast after mass that you would think the building was on fire. My dismal and dead faith offered me no peace, no comfort. It became a source of pain in my life. I was in a state of spiritual torture and agony, I had to make it stop.

All this coupled with some very negative experiences at my local parish, where I was a lector and my wife a Eucharistic minister. I finally told her on the way home from church that I wanted to check out somewhere else. I related all this to a coworker who was feeling very bad about his Reformed baptist church. We both decided to check out a local tiny confessional Lutheran parish in my town. The pastor told me the Lutheran Law Gospel distinction. He offered to baptize my daughter free of charge with no strings attached. Folks actually stayed after church and enjoyed each other’s company. It was like coming up for air. I recently moved and found a new small confessional lutheran parish similar to the first. I was confirmed in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod late last year.

Working with my pastor I have let go of my anger towards my former church. Turns out I may have something called scrupulosity. Something that my hero Luther also may have had. His writings on the issue felt so close to home. I can relate. Now I actually respect my former church more now than a year ago and half ago. I believe that the Catholic Church preaches the word and administers the sacraments, I believe it is a legitimate coequal, co blessed by God, beloved Christian Church home to many Christians. But its simply not for me.

You are correct, insofar as Lutherans consider the church catholic to be one (despite the corporate divisions that human sin has caused). But let’s correct some misinformation here.

Firstly, no Lutheran pastor is “self ordained;” we practice ordination and the laying on of hands by surrounding bishops (usually 5-10 surrounding ministers, not just 3 bishops as is common in Roman Catholicism). Secondly, if “validity” is based solely on Apostolic Succession, then we Lutherans would be an odd case for Rome to consider, since some Lutherans never ceased the traditional order and practice of Apostolic Succession. Though we know the likely answer, your communion has never ruled specifically on the validity of our priesthood.

In my opinion it depends on the denomination especially the more far branched out ones.

I respect the Lutherans and in my opinion they are closer to Catholics than other Protestant denominations.

Other Protestant denominations that are not some of the big name denominations like the Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterian, will have a hard time explaining that giant history gap.

Great posts on this thread…

Ok the primacy of The pope was very clear and need to confess to a priest

Your personality sounds just like a 1500’s German Augustine monk…

Everyone has their own opinion even if it is contrary to the very Church they claim to be in. You might be very interested in what the Roman Catholic Church has to say about Lutherans. Perhaps you could start with the Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification:

  1. “In light of this consensus the remaining differences of language, theological elaboration, and emphasis in the understanding of justification are acceptable. Therefore the Lutheran and the Catholic explications of justification are in their differences open to one another and do not destroy the consensus regarding the basic truths” (JDDJ 40). “Thus the doctrinal condemnations of the sixteenth century, in so far as they relate to the doctrine of justification, appear in a new light: The teaching of the Lutheran churches presented in this Declaration does not fall under the condemnations from the Council of Trent. The condemnations in the Lutheran Confessions do not apply to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church presented in this Declaration” (JDDJ 41). This is a highly remarkable response to the conflicts over this doctrine that lasted for nearly half a millennium.

How do protestants explain the 1500 year gap?

I’ll answer from my experience as a Protestant, and from what I have observed then and since.

**They don’t, in general, attempt to explain the 1500 year gap. **Moreover, they resist any questions about it (as NorthTexan experienced, and I have experienced).

They have these as “given”:

  1. The Bible is the sole and sufficient authority for the Christian
  2. The Catholic Church has strayed from the Bible
  3. The Catholic Church at the time of the reformation had descended into a terrible state (the Inquisition, indulgences, clergy living in sin and luxury, etc…)
  4. "Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. " (Mark 7:13).
  5. “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, were to preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be anathema.” (Gal 1:8)

(and probably a few more…)

If you put that all together then Martin Luther, Sola Scriptura, and the Reformation were a fresh start, where Biblical Christianity was restored. There is no need to look into those 1500 years, other than to observe what happens if you don’t adhere to the Bible.

So, the Early Church was right and biblical and the Catholic Church, by 1500, was wrong and un-biblical. To look into what happened in-between is to recognize “The traditions of men”, which is, at best, a waste of time, and, at worst, could be damaging to one’s soul.

To see this easily, I suggest that you try, at a Protestant study, to bring in any passage from, say, St Benedict or St Bonaventure, or to mention the brave act of any Pope. For some reason St Francis of Assisi is exempted - and I’ll commend the them for for that!

That’s the big picture, however it becomes a problem when one starts to looks closely at what the Bible actually says about itself, about authority, about the Church, or about “Tradition”; or one questions specific historical claims (as NorthTexan did with the CofC). Biblically and historically it’s a sieve with so many holes that one can fall through it in many places.

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