Seperation of the early churches


#1

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?

In Christ
Anthony


#2

[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?

In Christ
Anthony
[/quote]

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.


#3

[quote=anthony flavell]What I’m really asking is whether the early churches developed independently of each other, or were they all very closely linked?
[/quote]

Early Christian communities were led by a local Bishop (as they are today), who was (and still is) largely antonymous in his office. The Pope did not (and still does not) tell Bishops how to run their dioceses.

Most of the early Christians were pagans, or from a pagan heritage (and “pagan” does not mean “bad” or “evil” – it simply means someone who is neither Christian nor Jew. There are many “good” pagans, and many honorable pagan influences). Naturally, many of these early pagan Christians (including priests and bishops) were influenced by their history and culture. Sometimes they allowed these influences to creep into their teaching. **This is called “heresy.” **There were plenty of heresies in the early Church, many of which had pagan origins. The Church had ways of dealing with heresy (these ways have not changed).

This situation was not unique to the pagan Christians. We read in Acts where some Jewish Christians also clung to their former understanding of Faith and demanded that Christians must also be circumcised. This is heresy (although the heretical nature of the error may not have been readily apparent at the time). The Church also dealt with that heresy.

The Church has seen MANY instances where erroneous teachings have been promoted (maybe from pagan influences, or Jewish influences, or maybe somebody made something up – it really doesn’t matter where the error originated - error is error). But Our Lord promised that the power of hell would not prevail over His Church. If error and lies were allowed to corrupt Her teaching, then Satan (the father of all lies) would prevail. This cannot happen – Our Lord will not permit it (because He has given us His assurance).


#4

If someone said that to me, I would also ask for specific examples - too often we let ourselves be put on the defensive because someone makes a broad statement that’s not based on any proof - possibly like this one, based on my limited knowledge.

But then I would say, even if there was an influence of paganism in the early Church, so what? The Church is the Body of Christ, and the Bible is very clear in Jesus’ teachings that (a) we will have wolves amongst us to mislead us, and (b) the Church will be sustained to the end-time. So it’s not going away. Additionally, even if there are examples presented, and for sure there are many many examples of human failings in the Church all the way up to Popes, the Church is still the One, Holy, Apostolic, and Catholic Body of Christ.

Humans fail and sin. The Church is the Body of Christ, His bride, and it does not.


#5

I totally agree with u guys, but what I’m really trying to get as is, how close were the churches, and** would it be likely that heresy that originated in one would spread to all the others**.

My argument to Protestants is that if a doctrine such as purgatory began in the roman church it would have been contained there, because the other churches where so separated from each other. But instead all non apostolic churches have a doctrine of purgatory, thus, according to my argument purgatory must have been an original doctrine of the Apostles.

The protestant would then say that the churches weren’t that isolated from one another and if a doctrine began in one church it could easily spread/infect the other churches.

Am I correct, or is the Protestant?


#6

[quote=anthony flavell]how close were the churches, and** would it be likely that heresy that originated in one would spread to all the others**.

The protestant would then say that the churches weren’t that isolated from one another and if a doctrine began in one church it could easily spread/infect the other churches.
[/quote]

The individual parishes in the early Church did not have close associations. But that wouldn’t (and didn’t) make any difference as far as heresy was concerned. Heresy DID spread, despite the fact that the individual parishes were not closely associated. Look at the Arian heresy as a good example - just one priest (Arius) managed to promote a heresy that spread throughout all Christianity. This sort of thing happened over and over again.

As Catholics, we should never try to deny that errors (heresy) have influenced the Church - that would be nonsense, as it is plainly obvious that this DID happen. But we must point out that the Church was not *overcome *by the error (heresy). Herisies caused confusion and disruption, but the Church prevailed every single time (as Our Lord promised).


#7

The interesting thing is that Christianity ‘baptized’ the pagan practices that were good…kinda like St. Thomas ‘christianizing Aristotlian thought’, wedding rings, use of candles, even the crucifix were all pagan in origin…but Christianity has this uncanny ability to clean up something and use it for a noble purpose to serve humanity. Many of the ritualistic acts that we find in other religions pre Christian that were adopted are in a sense poetic in the sense that if it is good, then it can be absorbed by the most human faith.

In JPII’s Faith and Reason, towards the end he explains that we are to continue this tradition of giving credence to the indegenous cultures by bringging it in—of course after it’s given its proper sense and purpose in the church.

in XT.


#8

Hi Anthony, when someone plays the pagan card, I simply say so what.

If you read the Hellenized NT commentary, you will see pagan concepts on every page of the NT.

You may want to read Ralph Woodrow’s The Babylon Connection?

Our everyday life is engrossed in paganism.

wedding ring, calendar, base 12 clock, base 10.


#9

Thanks guys, I suppose we do have many pagan influences, I just hope none of our primary doctrine (purgatory, intersession ect.) originated from paganism and not Christ.

Sounds like a very fine line to me


#10

Anthony, you’re on to something with your questions.
The churches were spread out all over the Roman empire, in different countries and in different cultures, as well as had spread into India (St. Thomas), Persia, North Africa, and Ethiopia.
BACK THEN, HERETICS DIDN’T HAVE THE MEANS TO QUICKLY INFECT THE ENTIRE CHURCH IN EVERY COUNTRY WITH THE EXACT SAME DOCTRINAL ERRORS. For example,
they couldn’t pick up a phone and contact their counterparts in another part of the empire to organize heresy-spreading in the churches. So the fact that ALL of the ancient churches believe basically the same things about Christ, the Eucharist, Apostolic succession, priesthood, the Trinity, Holy Mary, etc., shows that these beliefs are the Traditions of the Apostles.
When the Arian heresy sprung up and began to spread among the clergy and bishops, the laity by and large REJECTED it until finally, after many decades, it was extinguished. Arianism was a heresy. It began in a local, verifiable location (Alexandria, Egypt), was started by an historical person (Arius of Alexandria), and you can trace it’s spread thru the Church. It was NOVEL. It was NEW. And it CONTRADICTED what had been taught by the Fathers. And, finally, it was defeated.
God bless,
Jaypeeto3


#11

It is correct to say that the Church was at once united and disunited. As one post eariler noted each See was an independent entity. However at the same time they were all united to the Roman See as the See of superior Origin and of which all Sees must be in union with for them to hold orthodoxy. However, we do not seem to realize that the communication between Sees was vast because of the constant communication between Bishops and the frequent councils and synods that were called to address all manners of issues. Because of this unity of the Bishops we find that there is a cross-over of traditions from one See to another. This is the same today only it happens a bit faster because of the advent of the communications age.

As another poster noted the Church would use the traditions and celebrations of the local people to help evangelize. This is what we now call inculturalization which was first employed by St. Paul in Athens. This is the common trend of the Church in history when it comes into a formaly “pagan” area. This method of “baptizing” practices and giving them a Christological meaning has been the most effective mode of evangelizing in every area of the earth.

The response that I always give is “So what if it was a pagan practice? It isn’t anymore.”


#12

[quote=anthony flavell]Thanks guys, I suppose we do have many pagan influences, I just hope none of our primary doctrine (purgatory, intersession ect.) originated from paganism and not Christ.

Sounds like a very fine line to me
[/quote]

Anthony:

I think we need to remember that the Church had the Old Testament, The Gospels, the Letters of Paul and the other Saints, and that everything was compared to “the Faith that was received”.

We also have to remember that 5 Apostolic Sees were strategicaly placed throughout the Roman Empire (4 are now in the EO Churches), and that one of them (Rome) was considered as the Primary See with the final say in all matters of Faith and Doctrine.

They had a lot of “safeties” built into this system.

You’ll find those doctines in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments. So, I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

What you, and most Catholics, need to do is to learn which scriptures support which doctrines.

In Christ, Michael


#13

[quote=anthony flavell]Thanks guys, I suppose we do have many pagan influences, I just hope none of our primary doctrine (purgatory, intersession ect.) originated from paganism and not Christ.

Sounds like a very fine line to me
[/quote]

Instead of just hoping, why don’t you read up on the subject?


#14

[quote=Sherlock]Instead of just hoping, why don’t you read up on the subject?
[/quote]

Can anyone recommend any good resources?

In Christ
Anthony


#15

[quote=anthony flavell]Can anyone recommend and good resources?

In Christ
Anthony
[/quote]

I would recommend “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma” by Ludwig Ott, and “An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine” by Newman.


#16

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