New Testament reveals that the early church wasn't in union?


A friend of mine is attending a protestant seminary. He is protestant, and just found out that his professor is an ex Catholic. He asked the professor why he didn’t stay with the one oldest Church. The professors response was weak in my opinion, but he said because it’s evident from the New Testament that it wasn’t ONE Church. There was the Corintheans, and the Romans, and the Thessalonians, etc. And it’s evident from reading Paul’s letters that their beliefs were all slightly different.

My response to that would be, if their beleifs were different, that would be why Paul was writing them, to set them straight, and that they were in all ultimatly in union with eachother. I may even use the Council of Jerusalem in Act’s 15 as further evidence.

Does anyone else have a better response to this? I’m going to see if I can start up a dialogue with this professor.


It is evident that there were factions seeking to compete with the Church from the beginning. The Church fought to keep the Apostolic teachings intact. Does that mean that there was disunity “within” the Church over it’s teachings? No of course not.


Thats interesting! I have never heard that defense for disbelief in the unity of the Catholic church. I totally understand where they might be coming from, but i am not an apologist. However, I do believe that you definitely hit a hot-spot when you mentioned Paul writing to ‘set them straight.’ Those who God started the church upon (Peter, and the other disciples accompanied Peter) were a union. They were the Catholic Church along with those disciples who chose to follow under Jesus, Peter, and the Apostles, too, all in accordance to the new Covenant, which is through Jesus Christ. Everyone after that were the same. They joined the church by accepting Jesus and accepting the beliefs layed down by Jesus.

Like I said, I am definitely not an apologist.

But May God bless you anyway :smiley:


Justin Martyr100,

I’m unsure how I’d respond because my apologetic skills aren’t that good, and I haven’t learned enough about church history, however one question that arises is which branch are we (Catholics, Protestants, & Orthodox)? Which group did we decend from? And who are the other groups? Who are the decendents of the Corinthians or Thessalonians?

Also two other things I’d probably mention or question would be 1) what would be Paul’s authority over them if they were each their own Church? Would it simply be a suggestion (in which case we can all disregard the NT) or would it be some kind of authority? and 2) how would this relate to Jesus’ wish that the church may all be of one fold (sadly I can’t find the exact verse, and haven’t memorised it :o).

In fact there are other things that you could bring up I’m sure like how did the early church view this, but those are all questions so you’d have to do some research to make sure they’re retorical :wink:



This has been addressed before. I do find it hard to believe that a professor, of all things, uses such a feeble excuse for leaving the Church. He should be wearing a dunce cap.

Yes, there were other “Catholic” churches in other locations. Just because they were in different cities does not indicate that they were not Catholic. That’s like saying that the Catholic Church in Boston is a different Catholic Church in New Orleans, or the Catholic Church on the other side of town is different. They were all Catholic and you are correct in your statement that Paul was keeping them “straight”.

This is a common ploy among the less educated anti-Catholic crowd. They say “See , there were churches other than the Catholic Church.” There was only one Church for 1500 years until the Reformation, so his belief holds no water.


I am posting a link to a speech by Fr. Thomas Hopko, who is Orthodox. I think it may be relevant to your question:

Hope this helps.



I think this “argument” only holds water for a non-Catholic audience, because they truly do not understand the structure of the Catholic Church and its heirarchy. Most non-Catholics I know of think the Catholic Church is entirely “Roman Catholic”, and takes any and all orders and directives DIRECTLY from the Pope.

They do not seem to understand there are many Rites of the Catholic Church that are not the Western Rite. If you look at the liturgy and disciplines of these Rites you clearly see they are not “Roman Catholic”, but they are every bit as Catholic (yes “CAPITAL C CATHOLIC”), and in full communion with the Bishop of Rome in spite of having different Holy Days of Obligation, allowing priests to be married, having different liturgies, etc. They are visibly very distinct Churches, but are still a full part of the Catholic Church, even by the Pope’s standards.

The other thing non-Catholics don’t seem to realize is exactly how much authority is entrusted to the local bishop of each individual diocese. Disciplines such as lenten abstinence can be legitimately dispensed of by a local bishop, and some dispensations can even be granted by the local parish priest. When a non-Catholic realizes exactly how much authority is executed at the diocesan level, they are usually extremely surprised.

When someone has a truly accurate picture of how the Catholic Church is actually structured, and understands it in the context of the beliefs and practices of ancient Christianity, the parallels between the “Biblical” Christian church and the modern Catholic Church are unmistakable.


My main point would be that normally it is the Protestant denominations who see the first century as a golden age to which we must return.
Actually, as the Professor points out, there were many problems in the Church at that time, just as there are today. In absence of good communications or any strong central authority some might well have been only in a nominal communion. When you read St Paul’s letters to the Corinthians he says “must I came with a rod in my hand”. Essentially they had drifted into heresy through an over-emphasis on the gifts of the spirit, but on that occasion St Paul arrived sort things out.
However St Paul himself fell out with St Peter. All we’ve got are St Paul’s letters as evidence, so we don’t know how serious the dispute was. We do know that by the end of the first century, St Paul was accepted as the Church’s foremost intellectual, and St Peter as the leader, so the dispute was resolved posthumously at least.

So the Professor has a point, but Christians did see themselves as a unified movement. Disputes certainly arose, but the two we know most about - St Paul vs St Peter and St Paul vs the Corinthians, appear to have been resolved.


The message of the New Testament is not that “Christianity was wonderfully diverse” but that Christians struggled against those who would pervert the faith – and were successful.

If the professor’s argument were valid, we would say that the mere existance of sin proves Christianity failed – since Christ clearly opposed sin!


Acts 2:42
And they continued stedfastly in the **apostles’ doctrine **and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Simply ask him to define the “apostles’ doctrine” in Acts 2:42 and demonstrate where those churches went astray from it.

Your main case is that it is an apostle that is correcting their doctrine in line with the apostles doctrine.



I’m having the same problem about a claim from my protestant friends that the Church was there always divided. Here is my post:

I entirely know that their view is not correct. I’m not an apologetic, yet :wink: , so I could show them the Truth and total richness of my faith only by my everyday life and works.
However, I am really astonished that they could believe this without deeper thinking about it, I mean, if they have truly wanted to know how it was in Early Church, they could not be so eagerly convinced about it. Just my thought…


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit