[quote=anthony flavell]Often when Protestants try to discredit Catholic authority they claim that the Church became dominated by pagan beliefs.
When I am confronted with this argument I often say that all non protestant churches (apostolic churches) are almost identical in their beliefs with some very minor differences. I point out that these churches are dramatically separated by both geography and culture, and that because of this separation it would be impossible for them to develop almost identical beliefs to one another.
Is my assertion reasonable? Or were the EARLY churches so closely linked that it would have been quite possible for pagan beliefs to infect them all?
What I’m really asking is whether the early churches developed independently of each other, or were they all very closely linked?
You might want to specify what kind of beliefs were supposedly influenced by pagans. There are pagan influences but it has nothing to do with influencing beliefs.
You have to remember that pagans aren’t totally useless. The greek philosophy and roman legal organization that the early Church adapted definelty has pagan origins but you can’t possibly accuse the Church of worshipping the Pantheon of Olympus. Non-Christian contributions to our society in general are profound. If it weren’t for those heathen Hindus and polytheistic Arabs our numbering system would be very cumbersome to say the least, but I don’t see any six-armed elephant paintings anywhere except in motel management offices.
About early churches developing independantly of each other, look at the epistles of Paul and the letters of the Church Fathers. Paul wrote his letters and did his preaching tour so the churches would have a common belief.
Apostolic Churches back then were probably different in terms of local custums as they are today. A Roman Catholic Church on the Las Vegas Strip would seem vastly different than a Syrian Catholic Church (eastern rite) in Iraq but they hold the same beliefs. Its the local customs that affect the individuality but the theology is always the same. So the next time you go to Iraq, there is no excuse for not going to Church. Watch out for those IEDs!
I know I am being a bit general, but some on these boards have vast knowledge on the religious aspects of your question and probably will go into a greater depth.