The early Christians or, 'Catholics' got it wrong!

Hi all,

So I have been trying apologetics with a Protestant friend.
I got stumped when he made the claim that the early church Fathers got it all wrong! :eek: Say what!? I have attempted to explain the Eucharist to him as well as describe the Papacy in its biblical basis but to no avail.

He’s Presbyterian and personally believes there are a lot of ‘grey areas’ in the bible.
Note: because he’s an ex catholic I just want to explain the faith in an unbiased and well informed way, perhaps sowing enough seeds to bring him back home.

I have been trying to articulate the fact that if the earliest christians’ understanding of everything was wrong, this would affect what was recorded in the bible itself, would it not? And therefore his own doctrines are based on the misunderstandings of Jesus’ teachings?

Any other tips or ways to get around this? How do I respond to the claim that the earliest Christians got it wrong? Bamboozled. :blush:

I quote: “so they misunderstood what Jesus stood for and the implications of traditions and other things whatnot”

I’m lost for words. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t this not logical?

Thanks so much in advance all.
God bless.

So the men who learned the Christian faith directly from the Apostles or their direct disciples simply didn’t understand what they were being taught for decades. Makes complete sense. (/sarcasm)

And exactly why is his opinion (which is all it is) more reliable, 2000 years later, than the writings of those who learned directly from the Apostles?

Just stunning amount of arrogance, pride and ego. Especially when you consider that these were the men who were tortured and executed for the Faith.

You have Clement, who was the 3rd Pope, is mentioned in the Bible, and was ordained by St. Peter. You have Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp, who both learned the faith directly from the Apostle John. We’re supposed to ignore what these men wrote, for the opinion of your friend 2,000 years later? That’s just silly.

Your friend’s arguments can be challenged significantly if you ask him something like this (and ensuring beforehand you have the dates and locations of the various councils that defined Scripture):

*"If the Bible is your sole rule of faith, and Christianity is a historical religion with real people, events and not myth, then explain what body, inspired by the Holy Spirit, decided what books would form what we call the Bible? Your faith tradition did not exist in the 4th century, where historical records show that the Catholic Church, through the successors of the Apostles, the bishops, defined which writings were inspired or not inspired in several councils in the 4th century. The Bible hasn’t a divine table of contents created by God that says that these books were OK and these were not. The book did not just drop out of the sky. God Himself may have penned the Ten Commandments on stone, but Moses was the one that carried them down from the mountain.

And even if the Catholics “have it wrong,” you are still using a version of the writings they chose as inspired. By version, I mean that your Bible has seven fewer books because a human in the 14th century, without authorization from the Spirit or the Church, declared those seven books as uninspired to fit his personal theology of Scripture.

In any case, if you claim that the Catholics have it wrong, the very Scripture you hold and use to defend your arguments is also based on something flawed, since your faith tradition cannot claim or defend with historical evidence that an organized body outside of the Catholic Church had codified the Bible. If not the Catholic Church, then whom?"*

And, as Christ noted that his Church would represent Him on earth, how can we doubt Christ’s word, even if the Church is run with sometimes flawed people?

Being that your friend is an ex-Catholic who became Presbyterian, I would be very curious as to the true reason for his leaving Catholicism. It is almost never about doctrine. Then you might have a shot at correcting whatever difficulties he has with Catholicism.

Once a Catholic become some variety of Protestant, they invariably become expert theologians and doctrinal experts. But while they were in Catholicism they probably understood very little. That’s been my experience. Good luck!

It is undoubtedly true that some early Christians did get some things wrong, as a significant portion of the New Testament was written to try to correct some of those erroneous views. Nevertheless, Christian charity demands that we give people the benefit of the doubt and not consider them guilty of a crime unless their guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The same goes for the writings of early Christians; we should consider them as representing orthodox Christianity unless their heterodoxy is proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Ambrose makes a very good point here.
People tend to leave the church due to a misunderstanding with a priest, a fight with a parishioner over something that is not a salvation point, or a slight they perceive happened to them or someone in their family. My late husband’s whole family left the church because his mom spent a lot of time volunteering and his father’s dinner was late one day. Poof. No one could go to “that place” anymore.
I’d be interested to know (if it’s not too personal) why he left. There are also a lot of people (I’ve heard it here even) that folks believe we make them “jump” through hoops" to receive Sacraments, the directive of pastors and Bishops with regard to catechesis notwithstanding.
Good luck. I think you’ve gotten some excellent advice here.
I’ll be praying that the Holy Spirit gives you the right words.

Assuming he takes the eucharist as symbolic only, you might ask him a question that has an evident answer now just as it did in the days of the church fathers, who took the eucharist as true presence. Are my sins and yours and those of the whole world’s, only symbolic of sin or are they really sins?

About the Papacy, if the true faith that is preserved in the true church could have remained intact without a primary individual authority to make determinations on all matters of faith and morals, how is it that it has remained with one?

How would you explain the fact that the apostles were not perfect, judas betrayed Jesus even when Jesus still walked the earth. Peter was rebuked because he was doing something he shouldn’t. Jesus constantly rebuked them for “lack of faith” etc and didn’t they sleep the night before Jesus died when he actually wanted them to pray? I can’t recall the bible verses and where and when…but it’s in there several times. If they could have such little faith and get things wrong with Jesus there, how do we know that they didn’t go completely wrong with him gone? Times a slight mistake by 2000 years and you’ve possibly got a whole lot of wrong.

Also you have to remember many people have died for their individual religions…dying for something doesn’t make it right,

Did you forget the passages that Jesus also said that after He is gone, He would send the HS to guide them…and only then will they understand what He had taught them for the 3 years He was with them.

So…do you trust Jesus promise of the HS and that the gates of hell would not befall the Church He established?

And so if the Apostles made errors along the way…then those who succeeded them would pass on these errors down through history…so what you now believe is unreliable…:shrug:

I’m not catholic…

Yes but surely both Jesus and HS are God, so if they could do wrong while Jesus himself was with them (and presumably his church couldn’t be led astray because he himself was there)…why would they then be perfect with the HS?

There was no need of the promise while Jesus was on the earth…but you suggestion suggests that Jesus himself couldn’t control his church? If they could disobey Jesus with him there, why would they be any different with the HS?

It’s the same as a parent keeping order, then going on an errand and leaving the older sibling in charge. The promise of someone to guide etc is still there…but it doesn’t mean the kids obey any more or get it right anymore? :shrug:

Just playing with ideas by the way…

Edit: it’s also worth remembering that with what we are talking about, it’s the apostles that told us about the promise. If they go things wrong, how do we know the promise isn’t one of them. In fact, the CC constantly reminds Protestants that they compiled Bible. They also claim to be the church under said promise…how do we know the church didn’t “add it in” to keep the flock in the church? Well if hell can’t prevail against it, I ain’t leaving…:shrug:


your friend is lashing out at Rome.

He’s more pissed off at RCC than He is seeking God.

I’m protestant, I defend RCC all the time in chat forums from folks like him. It isn’t going to matter how you argue the points. He’ll yeah but… you to death and never answer your objections.

He’s unreasonable because of emotions. Your only hope is to appeal to him with action. Ask him why he feels that way and keep having him explain. Keep asking questions eventually he’ll hang himself.

You’ll never make a point by telling him.

However, he might feel love and respond, but that won’t be through words.

Just support him. Tell him you’ll support his walk however he chooses to walk. As long as he promises to sincerely seek God, you’ll walk with him in your faith. Be his anchor.

That’s love.

That’s God.

That’s what he’s looking for.

Starting off, Jesus said, “I am the way, the TRUTH (emphasis mine), and the life.” (Luke 14:6)

Any arguments so far? One of the things that the Truth (also known as the Word of God) commands is that his apostles and disciples go out and write a book, right? Except in Mark 16:15 he says to go out and proclaim the news. He doesn’t say go write a book and become famous, so whoops, wrong, he said to go out and teach. So the Truth commands his followers to go out and teach. If he commands it, then that is what we should follow, the authority he gave to teach us. Now, we can also look at some of Jesus’s claims.

In Matthew 16:18 he says that he will build a church that the gates of Hell will not prevail against. Also in John 14:15-25, he promises the coming of the Spirit of Truth.

If we have the Truth giving us a teaching authority, promising to give us a church (that authority) that Hell itself cannot overcome, and sending us the Spirit to keep said church free from error, how can the early Christians have gotten it wrong? If they did, then Jesus’ promises must have been no more than empty air. If that is the case, what guarantee is there that he is God? If he could not protect a small group of people, than why should we worship him?

Finally, in response to the claim that even the disciples made mistakes, Jesus knew Peter would betray (denial being a form of betrayal) him and tells him that WHEN he repents, he will strengthen his brothers, as shown in Luke 22:32. Jesus knew of the denial and of the repentance. If we follow the logic of having erred in the past being no guarantee of being safeguarded in the present or future, then we have no reason to believe that what was taught at Pentecost was free from error or that the Gospels themselves were free from error.

In short, if the early Christians got it wrong, we should throw all of Christianity out the window because there is no reason to believe that it is true.

I can party with you. :slight_smile:


it helps to be baptised in the Holy Spirit – or Born again-- when having conversations-- with other religious demoninations–

Because then you cn simply ask the Holy Spirit – what you should say to that person–

this is how the book of james 1:4 works – if you lack wisdom of the Holy Spirit – than ask God who gives liberally and unbradeth not-- etc etc–

Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit who would lead the Church into all truth. And Jesus did exactly that when He sent the HS at Pentecost. You either believe and trust in Christ, or you don’t.

And I acknowledge that people die for many religions. My point was that these were the first Christians who werebeing tortured and executed for the faith, men who gave everything. And we are supposed to ignore their testimony for the opinion of someone 2,000 years later who’s sitting comfortably on his couch telling us these guys were wrong.

I’m confused as to why the 2000 years is important? The terrorists involved in 911…most would (I hope) agree are wrong, few would see them as martyrs (remember the parties in the street). So in 2000 years are you saying people should respect the opinions of the terrorists more? They’ve given their life for their religion after all. :shrug:

The difference is you connect Christ to a physical church, I don’t at the moment. I accept God, I accept Christ, but I really don’t know if I believe in organised religion anymore.

The promise was given to us by the bible, compiled by the Catholic Church, written by the apostles. If the apostles were mistaken in some ways, they could have quite easily mistakingly included it. The Catholic Church could have used it for their own purpose when they compiled the Bible. The fact is we are trusting the bible by trusting the church by trusting the apostles before knowing what Jesus said. Unless people have seen actual writings of Jesus? Even the Catholic Church claims Jesus never said to write stuff down.

So we have a promise, in the bible, compiled by the church, written by the apostles…that’s a lot of trusting in their accuracy. It’s a similar argument to sola scriptura. Protestants claim bible alone when the bible itself is a tradition…it’s a circle…you claim a promise but that very promise was written by the apostles…who could have been mistaken. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit…how do we know…it’s in the bible, which was compiled by the church, written by the apostles and so even with that we are back to the apostles

In truth, how the heck do we know?

Apologies. I’m having a crisis of belief in organised religion today.

Good post.

There are people who just despise the Church and no matter how much Scriptural evidence you give them, they will never ever be convinced. Even if Jesus Himself tries to set them straight.

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