Hi. I recently had a conversation about the church with a protestant friend and I’m hoping to get some clarity on how to better explain the catholic understanding of church better.
His argument is that a church building is a human construct, not something given to us by God and we don’t really need to go to church and he quoted Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
I understand that from a protestant prospective this could be true, but I tried explaining how that’s a protestant idea and he wouldn’t accept anything else I said since he believes since Jesus said he will be there where people are gathered in His name - you can have ‘church’ anywhere.
I told him about the meaning of the Catholic mass, how it’s about the sacrifice and true presence of Christ. That since the Temple was destroyed and Arc of the Covenant lost, the only place to find God among us is in the sacrifice of the mass.
I understand his argument from his point of view, but how do I show him that Christ established a church and better explain what that means? I’m finding a lot of good information online that is helpful, but thought someone here may be familiar with this way of thinking and have some insight that could help me.
I haven’t heard this argument before and am having a hard time conveying my knowledge of church - I think in a way we are talking about two very different things and I’m not sure how to bridge them.
The Church in any case is a physically united body of believers, with a common authority, holding a unified faith, established by Christ at the beginning of Christianity. It has a continuous living historical legacy, traceable to the Apostles. Without such a Church having existed, there would be no Christian faith or bible today, and Christianity would be no more than a minor footnote in ancient history.
His argument might work if the Church taught that Jesus is only present in physical Church buildings. The Church has never taught that.
Yes, Jesus is present where two or three are gathered. He is also present here with me when I am by myself. That doesn’t mean he didn’t also establish a visible Church with a visible hierarchy. He did. He built in upon Peter. He gave him the keys. That is also in Scripture.
Thanks for all the replies! Each of them is very helpful.
After talking with my friend a little more about this, it seems like he’s using that verse as a proof that you don’t need to attend a church service, since God is present with us even if we aren’t in a particular building. At least now I think I know what he’s getting at, even if I disagree.
See, this is what happens when you treat the Bible as the only record of the Christian faith that there is. But since he probably won’t listen to appeals to the lived tradition of the Church even in its first few centuries, you can show him the following verses:
Acts 2:41-42 – those who were baptized by Peter after his sermon on Pentecost “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
Hebrews 10:24-25 – the author of this letter expresses his hope that the readers “not [neglect] to meet together, as is the habit of some.”
His idea is very popular.
It’s the notion that the Church is real, but it’s just spiritual bonds between people, like the common knowledge and love shared between people of good will. There are many loving Christians who believe this.
But, you have to ask him, if this is the case:
Why did God bother to become flesh in the womb of a woman,
live through the hidden years of a mundane life of poverty,
quit his day job to go out and heal people,
endure ridicule for doing good things,
and then suffer a cruel death without raising his hands against his enemies?
Isn’t it all just 2 or 3 around a campfire?
THEN…(if that’s not enough)
physically rise from the dead, and instead of staying here to crush all our doubts,
he goes to paradise, leaving the buffoons who abandoned him to start something (Church) in his name.
The Lord of the universe, who can do anything that pleases him, leaves us and puts human beings in charge of the thing he started.
How can your friend believe the Church doesn’t have an institutional and corporeal presence when Christ himself made it this way?
…this is an old argument… those who deny the Authority of the Church must quantify their rejection of it… they live in a construct that rejects Christ’s Word and that of the Apostles.
Here’s the error:
When Jesus entered His Public Life (Ministry), where did He gathered and preached?
Did Jesus compelled His Followers to join some commune or some underground movement?
Jesus frequented the synagogues and even visited the Temple (his first formal religious encounter was at the Temple at age Twelve).
Jesus then Founded His Church on Cephas. Cephas gathered the other Apostles, awaited for Pentecost and, once directed by the Holy Spirit, initiated the establishment of the Church. Due to the various persecutions they left the synagogues and began to meet in various places (Believers’ homes, deserted areas, wilderness, even the catacombs).
As the emerging Church began to solidify, physical places were established for the Breaking of the Bread, Prayers, Thanksgiving and for the various functions of the Church.
Here’s an example of the physical Church:
17 For this cause have I sent to you Timothy, who is my dearest son and faithful in the Lord; who will put you in mind of my ways, which are in Christ Jesus; as I teach [size=]everywhere in every church[/size]. (1 Corinthians 4:17)
While it is true that Christ said that when two or three are gathered in His Name, He is there in their midst, that is not proof-text that Jesus Founded an “invisible church.”
Can you imagine, there are over a billion Catholics in the world (2.18 billion total Christians) so if Jesus intended that where a few gathered in His Name there would be a church we are talking about .322 to 1.09 billion churches in the world–all having their own interpretation of Scriptures and determination of church doctrine and creed!
Does that sit right with Scriptures?:
33 For [size=]God is not the God of dissension, but of peace[/size]: as also I teach in** all the churches of the saints**. (1 Corinthians 14:33)
Finally, let’s see what Jesus had to say about gathering and the Church:
30 He that is not with me, is against me: and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth. (St. Matthew 12:30)
15 But if thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother. 16 And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more: that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. 17 And if he will not hear them: [size=]tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican.[/size] 18 Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven. (St. Matthew 18:15-18)
…so while two or three who are gathered in Jesus’ Name are gathered in the Grace of Jesus, those who do not abide in Jesus (St. John 15:1-10) are scattered (removed from the Fold); yet, the Authority is not given to any two or three gathered in Jesus’ Name but to the Church–it is she who has Jesus’ Delegated Authority to bind or loosen.
The Church is an entity not a makeshift congregation that people can erect or disassemble and re-erect and re-disassemble as whim/finances/will (psyche/ego)/special interest dictates.
…fyc (for your consideration): Jesus never ceased being God, correct? Yet, Jesus, as the Son of Man, was obedient to our Heavenly Father in all things, including a prayerful Life!
St. John the Baptist attempted to dissuade Jesus from receiving his Baptism–John stated that it was He, Jesus, who should Baptize him (John); Jesus replied that it was necessary that He should be Baptized, in order to comply with the Father’s Commands… are we greater than God to circumvent God’s Commands? Did He Found His Church so that we may “choose” to ignore her?