I was evangelical Protestant for over 40 years, and I was a member of a church that has produced some of the most respected evangelical teachers in the world, e.g., Evelyn Christenson, Gary Smalley, John Ortberg.
Here is exactly what I was taught as I was growing up.
**I was taught that after the Apostles died, Jesus’s Church still existed, but in a loose form, with no formal organization (because of the persecutions). Groups of Christians hid in the catacombs and kept the Gospel going. There were no appointed leaders, but there were men and women who were called by God to preach the Gospel and sometimes be martyred. Many of their teachings were lost or twisted by non-Christians, therefore, many of their writings cannot be trusted. Only their writings that agree with the Bible (Protestant version) can be trusted, the rest are all apocryphal.
I was taught that the Bible was the sole authority for these teachers, and that the New Testament was done in 90 AD and in use among Christians. (I was never taught that there were other books written than the canonical New Testament books.)
I was taught that the Church gradually became more and more corrupt as the teachings and traditions of man crept in. Many of these teachings were borrowed from pagan religions, e.g., the worship of Mary was borrowed from the Babylonian mystery religions, and the eating and drinking of body and blood were some of the most evil of the pagan teachings, totally in conflict with true Biblical teachings that forbids cannabilism.
But even during the 1000 years or so of corruption in the Church, there were still remnants of true Christians, mainly in small house churches, who taught people from the BIBLE about the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is faith alone in Jesus Christ saves us. Many of these good Christians were martyred by the false church.
Sometime in the 4th Century, a group of men set up the Catholic Church and used Christianity to become a world power in and of themselves. There was very little “Gospel” in the Catholic Church, and it existed mainly for political reasons, so that power-hungry families could control peoples and nations. These people were ruthless in martying true Christians, e.g., Tyndale.
In 1500, the corruption in the Catholic Church came to a head, and a monk named Martin Luther challenged and brought it down. After that, the Catholic Church declined and has continued to decline, while the Protestant churches have flourished and grown, indicating that they are obviously teaching the true Christian Gospel.
At this point, many individual Catholics, including Pope John Paul II and Mother Theresa of Calcutta, are true Christians because they have accepted Jesus as their personal Savior. Many Catholics are Christians without knowing it because they believe in Christ, which is all that is required to be a Christian. Although many of these Catholic Christians leave the Catholic Church and return to the true Christian churches, there are some Catholic Christians who choose to remain in the Catholic Church so that they can bring the true Gospel to the Catholics and bring them out of the church of man and myth into true Christian fellowship with Bible believing churches. For this reason, we should be friendly with Catholics, in order to be witnesses to them.**
This is what I was taught, and in spite of what some on this thread are saying, this is what many evangelicals have been taught. I think I am correct to say that many evangelicals today believe this version of history.
Why didn’t I question it? Because I respected and trusted the leaders and pastors in my evangelical church.
Why did I begin to question it? I began to question it when my family was kicked out of our Evangelical Free church and shunned, even though we had done nothing wrong. The pastors of that church believed a LIE about us, and treated us cruelly, using the Bible to justify their evil deed.
When I realized–and it was a shock–that evangelical pastors and teachers could be devils in disguise, I started questioning EVERYTHING I had ever been taught by evangelicals.
Much of it I still believe, because it is the truth, e.g., the inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures, the virgin birth, the incarnation of God in Jesus, the death and resurrection of Jesus, salvation by the grace of Jesus, heaven and hell, etc.
But the nonsense that I was taught about church history is a LIE. Any cursory examination of the Bible, especially the book of Acts, and other ancient history proves in an instant that the evangelical version is a lie. I had always had my doubts, but I was willing to squelch my doubts because of my trust in my teachers.
My life verse is John 2: 24 & 25–But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to bear witness concerning man for He Himself knew what was in man.