Protestants: How do you determine which denomination holds the truth?

I am a former Evangelical, and I never asked myself this question, but when I did, I personally saw no other alternative than Catholicism or Orthodoxy. The roots of the tree were there, and the closer to the time if Christ, the more Catholic it looked.

So, if any of you have found another method besides history to determine the true expression of Christian faithfulness in a Protestant denomination, I’d love to hear it.


It is because of history that I remain a Friend.

I do not find the faith affirming history of the Catholic church to be compelling. When the “darker side” of Christian history is examined one finds a very different view.

While the ECF’s present what the proto-Orthodox/Catholic churches believed and practiced, they were also pretty “loose” with their “facts” when they wrote about other traditions they perceived to be “heretical”…not ALL ECF’s took this road, many did.

Bart Erhman’s “Lost Christianities” and “Lost Scriptures” present I believe a more fact based history of early Christianity.

Now I’ve been a Friend for over 35 years, so I obviously couldn’t have made my decisions when I was 19 thru reading Erhman…he just confirmed what I had come to understand.

I don’t believe my own tradition is “the True Church” …nor do I believe any organization hola a monopoly on Truth. I made my choice based on the character of Jesus and what he came to do. He did not come to free us from one set of rituals and rites to only burden us with a new set.

He alone is Priest. I could not be Catholic/Orthodox/Mormon/Lutheran/ Anglican or any body that requires me to undergo a ritual done by someone else to or for me in order to share in His Life. If another man is required to perform a ritual for or to me, that places them in between me and God…/and I need no ones "intervention " to make sure the right words or right gestures are done in order for me to approach God.

That’s pretty much it in a nut shell. Christ and He alone has made the Way open.

First, whatever method is discussed, I am sure it is still a fork in the road. Actually, do you mean to ask how and why Protestants become Catholic ?

I agree with Publisher on this point. I find the history of the church to be fascinating, but I certainly don’t believe that history offers unequivocal proof that everything the Catholics or Eastern Orthodox say about themselves is accurate or beyond dispute. I personally see the hand of God working through the events of the Protestant Reformation and even into the present within Pentecostalism.

I don’t agree completely with this. I agree that baptism is not required to share in Christ’s life and resurrection. However, I think its weird to refuse to do something that Christ wanted us to do.

EDIT: I forgot to add the main reason for my post, the answer to the OP’s question, “How do you determine which denomination holds the truth?” I look to Holy Scripture. I read it, meditate on it, pray for understanding, and I study wiser men then myself through listening to preaching, reading commentaries, and sometimes theological works.

I don’t read it to look for the right “denomination.” But I do read it to discern if a particular doctrine is biblical or if a practice or habit is consistent with a Christian walk. In that way, I can discern if something is right or wrong and if the person saying it is someone to be listened to.

Well I think I have a grasp of why Protestants become Catholic. At least for myself and in reading a number of conversions.

I suppose my question is more of how can any Protestant not become Catholic when seriously looking at history? With what grounding do you hold your interpretation (or denominations interpretation) of scripture and what it means to be a Christian?

Wouldn’t you think it strange that God would set up a priestly ministry for thousands of years, Jesus would participate in priestly worship of God (circumcised, presented in the Temple, teaching and worshiping there, etc). And then now such an idea is deplorable to you?

Why, under whose authority would you reject the idea of priests ?


Thanks for your perspective. Can you point to something specific that gives you the confidence that the Church as established by Christ and the Apostles would allow for something like the protestant reformation to occur the way it did and be of value forming multiple churches instead of reforming or bettering the one church?

Something in the New Testament or Early Church Fathers?

It seems all of my readings would point to submission to the church in all disputes (Matt 18), Submission to the Bishops and priests, and to avoid anyone that causes schism and disunity like the plague.

This part sounds nice twin…I used to do that too. The mormons also do it. So I don’t think it is a correct way to look at things. It seems like in the end you are still influenced by whatever extras you are reading or grew up reading.

I could and do the same as you, but with Catholic commentaries and teachings and find everything very cohesive with scripture.

So I guess you would just say your personal opinion/perspective is the final authority??


Of course, the “princes of the church” at the time were never going to voluntary reform themselves, which is why the Reformation occurred the way it did. If “the Church” existed in the manner that Christ desired, there would have been no need for a Reformation.

Galatians 1:8, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”

1 John 2:26-27, “I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.”

Unless, those same people are running the joint. See Revelation 2-3, where its clear that many of the seven churches were in need of reformation.

Not so much.

We cannot know this for certain, but we do in fact see many many reforms since the reformation. The Catholic Church did not have to make these reforms, but did. They move slower than the reformers wanted, but time should move slow when doctrine is at stake yes? We don’t want to be chasing fads.

Galatians 1:8, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”

1 John 2:26-27, “I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.”

I love that you quoted these.

How would you then answer that PRIOR to the Reformation, there was no disputing, and it was Universally held:

Infant Baptism
Real Presence in the Eucharist
The priestly office
The Authority of Bishops in the Church

(to start with) It really seems that all of these things are creations of the reformation that are “contrary to what was taught” for 1500 years all the way to the time of Christ.

Haha me too.


Though I’m not one to speak for Publisher, the idea of priests as they exist within Catholic theology is not deplorable so much as it is totally ignoring the book of Hebrews. That book demonstrates that the priestly caste within Israel was a foreshadowing of Christ and is culminated and completed in Him. Christ is THE priest and there is no need for any others. Because the Church is His body, all members of His body share in that priestly office. Now, of course, there are those who are specifically called to the Office of the Ministry, but the ministry is not the OT priesthood.

You know perfectly well I would not say that. I don’t know any evangelical who says that. You are perfectly justified in thinking that about me, but we are adults. If that’s what you think then just say it. :slight_smile:

I believe Scripture is the final authority. The church, and I am part of the church, is the steward and teacher of Scripture. I take the responsibility to rightly divide the word of God and proclaim the whole counsel of God quite seriously. This is the way all Christians should feel about scriptural truth.

I don’t claim that my mental capacity and skills of interpretation are perfect, but I also do not abrogate my own personal responsibility to study the Scriptures and grasp their true meaning. It’s not easy, but it is necessary. I wish that I could just say, “Let the Pope do it.” However, I don’t believe it’s his or any other bishops job to do it alone.

When I stand before God, I firmly believe that the “but they told me this was correct” excuse want cut it.

God bless. :slight_smile:

The same could be asked of your interpretation of history. With what authority or grounding do you read history to be able to proclaim that it is squarely Catholic? There is much that is, and there is much that is medieval invention and some of the mix thrown in. Newman’s axiom that to be deep into history is to cease to be Protestant only exists because of his novel development of doctrine theory. Even he could see that without it, the Catholic Church of his day was markedly different than the previous several millennia.

I agree it is very different than the old testament priesthood, but there was an apostolic office in the beginning for a reason, and we have very early writings that describe the priestly office we have today and all the Apostolic Churches have it, so it is definitely a modern invention to reject such an office.

No I am not talking about blindly following either. I agree we all have a responsibility to discernment.

That said, if our discernment leads us into a teaching that is a modern invention compared to the teachings before, I wonder with what authority or confidence one can hold such a teaching?

I mean to me, it almost seems that it would take a prophet of God to give the authority to something so radical as rejecting the real presence of the Eucharist?

I also find it problematic that many protestants, and perhaps you, find that they each need to discern for themselves completely without the aid of the Saints and the first 1500 years of Christian history (and often the first 18-1900 years of Christianity)

So I am not advocating “let the pope do it”, but instead advocating that one include the first 1500 years of Christianity when they form their faith!

In many ways the Counter Reformation was reactionary, doubling down on the most objectionable doctrines, making the gap between the two parties even wider.

Just because something is an antique doesn’t make it pretty. :wink: But seriously, conciliarism was not an invention of the Reformation. If one studies history, one sees that the claims that everything was perfect and no one was making noise wanting change to the system or calling for the system’s entire collapse are simply not accurate.

People who are not Catholic don’t see it the way you do. I was raised Baptist and then Pentecostal and they didn’t talk about “true” churches…it was more of an almost Gnostic thing–of course we go to church to worship but it’s more an expression of our individual walks with Jesus and not “the Church”. We came to draw encouragement, support, and strength from each other and to pray and sing, but the Church was seen as all Christians not just our denomination, if that makes sense. I know some Protestants that hate Catholics (and sadly most have no idea what they hate) most just flat out don’t agree on some issues and it’s not “personal” it’s their understanding of their theology which is just as important to them as yours is to you.

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