Was the Church Misguided until the Reformation?

Hey everybody, I’ve just got a quick question for you and I would really appreciate your responses.

So I was having a discussion with my dad today about certain church-related issues and the topic of authority came up. I mentioned that not everything Jesus did or said was recorded in scripture (JOHN 21:25). Things that Jesus said/did that is not recorded in scripture does not mean that they are irrelevant; what Jesus said is still true and was taught by the early apostles and church fathers even though it is not explicitly stated in scripture. (basically I was going against the idea of Sola Scriptura, or the idea that Scripture alone is adequate).

So if Sola Scriptura is false, there must be something besides the Bible…which is tradition. I said that these teachings of Jesus, passed down by tradition, are equally as important as what is stated in scripture. I said that these traditions and beliefs that the early apostles and early church fathers taught are still in place in the Catholic church today, and most doctrines have remained unchanged over the centuries. I also mentioned that councils (as seen in Acts 15, for example) were led by men who must have been guided divinely by the Holy Spirit to come do a decision. I explained this is how councils have worked over the centuries, that men are guided by the Holy Spirit to make church-related decisions.

BUT- here’s the problem:
Would the Holy Spirit misguide people, or fail to lead people to the truth? My dad (being a Protestant) thinks that the church has been “in error” from after Christ died to the Protestant Reformation. He says as his “defense” of this idea is that the Israelite’s “wandered on their own” for hundreds of years before God would step in again and help them out of their sin. But If Jesus established the church and everything, why would the Holy Spirit -not necessarily misguide, but step away or fail to intervene-in the church until the protestant reformation? Would not God want his church going in the right direction from the beginning?

My dad believes that only during/after the Reformation did the Holy Spirit ‘intervene’ and bring his people to the truth. But if this were true, it would be very questionable if Christians for the first 1500 years even made it to heaven! His idea does not makes sense to me, and I am unable to provide examples or evidence that the early church must have been what God wanted, considering it has always existed and continues to exist today.

Please help to provide me with some evidence and some help, I greatly appreciate your responses. Thank you very much.

By what authority does he claim these things?

Just as a tree is known by its fruits, a road is known by its destination! The belief that the Spirit will guide the faithful without the aid of the Pope has resulted in thousands of denominations all at odds with one another. Is this the destination that Christ wanted to lead us to-- division? Then why would he build such a road? The answer is, he would not.

Christ loves us. He died for us and he gave us truth. If I loved someone enough to die for them and give them truth, would I then confound them for 1500 years, and make it a big guessing game as to what is the real truth and what is just a partial truth that someone else concocted? There is no way for one Protestant group to claim truth over another, because they have the same authority-- themselves!

As Catholics, Christ has been guiding us from the very beginning, through the authority that he established, to make it easy for his flock to be guided. It’s simple.

Ask him what he has against the Catholic Church. If the answer is nothing, why does he take the convoluted path instead of the straight path-- that Christ established a Church, that he made it easy to recognize, and that it has been here since the beginning?

If by “church” he means the invisible body (typical protestant view) then he will have to explain how the reformation has changed the sin of men. Men of today are just as sinful as they were then. There were/are no impeccable men leading the church. If by “church” he means a visible body (typical Catholic view) then he will have to show which church is the true church.


There is NO DOUBT that the Church of the Sixteenth Century was IN NEED of reformation. Not because of doctrinal errors, but because of misrepresentations and abuses by Catholic clergy. The Papacy had suffered several periods of shameful Popes. The currency of the Church was cheap indeed.

Luther thought the way to reform the Church was to form a church of his own. That’s not a reformation - it is a rebellion.

It is probable and likely that Luther’s rebellion finally motivated the Church to clean Her own home. But the Church did it - not by abandoning Scripture and Tradition - but by actually reforming it from within. This event is known as the Council of Trent.

The post-Trent Church would have offered little for Luther to object to. But his rebellion had gathered steam, and had become a political tool for the German princes (and others) to seize Church property and enrich themselves.

Luther did not “restore” the Church to its Apostolic roots. The Apostles never taught what Luther taught. Trent restored the Church to its Apostolic roots.

The Church may owe a certain debt of gratitude to Luther (who was a Catholic Augustinian priest) for pointing out the errors of Her ways, and motivating Her to address them. He could have done so WITHIN the Church (and would have been the “hero” of Trent), but he chose the path of rebellion and heresy.


This part of your post struck me…

He says as his “defense” of this idea is that the Israelite’s “wandered on their own” for hundreds of years before God would step in again and help them out of their sin.

This is quite true. The Lord did chastise the Isrealites in different ways over the centuries.
But notice that when he brought them back it was always to the same community; to a profound and visible unity. He brought them back to the Temple…He wanted them to be unified and not running off in all directions.

But If Jesus established the church and everything, why would the Holy Spirit -not necessarily misguide, but step away or fail to intervene-in the church until the protestant reformation? Would not God want his church going in the right direction from the beginning?

Simple - the Holy Spirit did not do this.

I’m sure you dad stands on the Bible - what is recorded in the Bible. Fair enough…
Ask Him to turn to Mt 18 - I believe about verse 19 or 20 where it says “where two or three are gathered in my name - there I am also”…
Ask him if Jesus is present when they meet on Sunday…What about when his church’s council meets to deal with various issues - is Jesus and the Holy Spirit present there too?

Well, when the bishops gathered in council - in Jesus name - was not the Spirit there as well?
And if Jesus and the Holy Spirit were present, at these various church councils, then how could the Church have been misguided.

That might make a good place to start discussion.


bc96christian #1
My dad believes that only during/after the Reformation did the Holy Spirit ‘intervene’ and bring his people to the truth.

That would make liars of the Holy Spirit, and Christ.

Jesus specifically entrusts Peter with His authority and confers infallibility:
The doctrine of Papal infallibility is found in Scripture (Mt 16:17-19; Jn 21: 15-17; Mt 28:19-20).

All four promises to Peter alone:
“You are Peter and on this rock I will build My Church.” (Mt 16:18)
“The gates of hell will not prevail against it.”(Mt 16:18)
“I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven." ( Mt 16:19)
“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” (Mt 16:19) [Only this later to the Twelve].

Sole authority to Peter:
“Strengthen your brethren.” (Lk 22:32)
“Feed My sheep.”(Jn 21:17).

Firmly and irrevocably given to us by the Sacred Scripture written by His followers in His Church. As Jesus had commanded: “Going therefore, teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe whatsoever I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:19). There is nothing more that God the Son, the Christ, did to make it crystal clear that His Church could not teach error or lead astray in doctrine or dogma

The Sacred Scriptures confirm Christ’s express confirmation of authenticity:
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:15-18) “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name, he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” (John 14:26) “But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-15)

St. Paul has counseled you as to whom to avoid: “Preach the word. Be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, entreat, rebuke with all patience and teaching. For there will come a time when far from being content with sound teaching, people are avid for the latest novelty and collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes.” (2 Tim 4:3).

At the beginning the Holy Spirit had confirmed what Christ had said by descending in the upper room in Jerusalem as tongues of fire.

I’m not sure if the little rolling panda represents Martin Luther or the Holy Spirit? But it warmed my heart. A bit distracting but nice post.

,and,eh, um–back to the thread: good questions and responses, thank you.

The Church is considered to be infallibly led by the Holy Spirit only concerning matters of faith and morals: the message, IOW. Members of the Church, the messengers, themselves, are still human, not at all guaranteed sinlessness or impeccability, including the pope. We believe that the Church’s message is the same as was handed to her from the beginnings of Christianity, and that in that regard the Reformers did nothing but harm to the message of Christ.

Several points

*]When Jesus said “I will build my Church and not even the gates of hell will prevail against it” Then If one argues that the Church failed, then they really argue Jesus failed, and in extension, Jesus promises mean nothing as well.
*]How does one assess success v failure? Here’s an exerpt from Jesus to consider [/FONT]John 17:20-23 . Has Our Lord’s Church remained one for 2000 years under Peter as head pastor from the beginning Just as Jesus established? Yes. It’s the Catholic Church.
*]Pope Francis is the 266rth successor of St Peter in an unbroken line of succession.

If the Church fell apart immediately after Jesus ascended to heaven, then the HS has never been in control of anything. And for one to think the HS only intervened during the Protestant revolt, they just undercut scripture as well. Here’s proof of why that’s false. Remember our Lord’s prayer about unity? The sign of Our Lord’s Church is perfect unity behind Peter and his successors. The sure sign of an anti Spirit is schism and disunity from Our Lord’s Church. Paul tells us specifically that Satan is behind division. Romans 16:17-20 . And he says people who do it don’t serve Our Lord but Satan because they do evil. Here’s something to consider. When the HS was sent by Jesus to inspire the apostles on what to teach and write, where did that teaching originate from? It came from Jesus John 16:12-14 . And we know what Jesus says about unity. It is to be perfect. ZERO division… So in addition, if the Church fell apart immediately, it is Jesus who failed. And we know He didn’t. But we do know, that Jesus, the one who judges the living and the dead, tells us through the HS, through Paul how He will judge division and schism in His Church. [/FONT]Galatians 5:19-21 , Division διχοστασίας dichostasia = dissension / sedition same word in both Rom 16:17. And Gal 5:19… and we see the catastrophic consequence for the soul who remains divided and won’t return to unity with the Church, but instead dies in that sin (V 21).

Look over the following , then let’s talk

forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=11550728&postcount=36 all the internal links are operational

Benedictine monasticism built western society in many ways and in many ways kept it alive. Hospitals and universities grew out of Benedictine monasteries. The little Rule of St. Benedict altogether changed western society.

The Holy Spirit wanted the Bible to be available to us so the Holy Spirit guided Catholic Benedictine monks to hand copy Bibles for about 12 centuries until the printing press could be invented in 1433. There wouldn’t even be a Bible if it were not for the efforts of Catholic Benedictine Monks.

Even the founder of the Reformation, Martin Luther, was a Catholic Augustinian Monk. Much of what you see in mainline Protestant Churches today is Augustinian/Benedictine, especially in England.


Wow my friend! I don’t think you will be Protestant for long! You are right where I was two years ago!

You laid out a good case, I would say the burden of proof is on your Dad.

Scripture clearly states that the Holy Spirit will guide and protect the church and that the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

It sounds like your Dads position is contrary to Jesus when he states such things.

It’s also good to point out that writers in the first and second century where clearly Catholic. Bishops, Eucharist,authority, salvific baptism, etc… It is really stretching to say the church fell off the rails within one generation of the deaths of the Apostles.

It also seems that if your Dad’s wandering in the wilderness theory was true and the Reformation returned Christianity to how it should be, that would mean the Reformers were more than just men with ideas. They would be more like prophets sent by God. Is he really prepared to call Martin Luther a prophet of God?

Keep on trucking!

Good questions. You should keep your fellowship as well as possible with your dad. You are recognizing some important Catholic beliefs, and I naturally believe it is our Father drawing you to His Church. I have found it best to focus on each other’s genuine faith, and let the Holy Spirit bring guide the fellowship.

We believe the Saints have taught, in many ways over the centuries, interpretation of the Scriptures. The Church as an authoritative instrument of God, has always confirmed and defined true Teaching.

This idea your dad expresses about the Church losing its way until the reformation is not representative of all protestants. Not much doctrine is representative of all protestants. What i mean is your dad is making quite a general statement that seems to follow more closely to Mormonism, to me.

Look at how the canon of Scripture was confirmed. Long after your dad suggests the Church became lost from the Holy Spirit!

Also, JRKH raised a good point. If the reformation restored the Church to the Holy Spirit, why did it become instantly and perpetually divided? Martin Luther said something to the effect, “there are now as many religions as there are heads.” At this time there were already 40 splits in the ‘protestant’ faith. :shrug:

We all must struggle to walk in the ways of the Lord. I, personally, dont need to complicate who the Church is and weather or not I can trust her authority. I decided to look through the Catholic Church’s heart at the Scriptures a long time ago. No other protestant ‘church’ is able to harmonize all of Scripture as a whole unto itself. Yet, there are still many genuine Christians in these communities.


Amen to this,

Also, JRKH raised a good point. If the reformation restored the Church to the Holy Spirit, why did it become instantly and perpetually divided? Martin Luther said something to the effect, “there are now as many religions as there are heads.” At this time there were already 40 splits in the ‘protestant’ faith. :shrug:

Had to go back and re-read my post. In truth I did not make that point as strongly as I usually do.
It is, to me, one of the most profound errors of the Protestant Reformation, supposedly built on the foundation of Scripture Alone, that the reformers did not come together to resolve their differences - as per the instructions and example contained in Scripture.
If one were to apply the protestant understanding and application of “church” to the issue raised in Antioch at the beginning of Acts 15, one would find TWO Christian Churches quickly established - one Jewish Christian and one Gentile Christian.

Of course - before springing such an argument - one must go carefully through the idea of “church” and “authority” so that the protestant firmly declares that “church” and “authority” are local…


Thank you everybody who responded! You all have such great opinions and ideas.

to David Filmer: I think your point about Luther’s rebellion motivating the church is great. The church was in definite need of fixing,

to JRKH: Your logicalness is awesome :slight_smile: I really like how you explained that if God is at church on Sunday, and in church meetings, then he, too, was involved in councils in the early centuries of the church, since Matt. 18:20 states "If 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, there I will be also.) Clearly the Holy Spirit was involved in the church and did not misguide them.

to steve b: I think you made excellent points in your post.If there is to be unity in the church, then the Protestant Reformation does not solve the problem, considering disunity exists among Protestant denominations. I think it is also quite interesting in the article you posted about “schismatics,” and them not going to heaven. I have never heard of this before, I will have to take a deeper look into its meaning, but I appreciate your help and advice.

to Jon S: Yes, I have been exploring Catholicism for the past couple years now. It all began with me reading my Bible and coming across verses I found either contradicted what I originally thought or never noticed before. I have been doing a lot of reading and I am still deeply exploring issues related to Protestantism, as well as looking into the beliefs of Catholicism, Lutheranism and Anglicanism. Oh, and back to your points…my dad does not call Martin Luther a “prophet” of God. And yes, it is certainly obvious that the early fathers of the church were Catholic in their beliefs and practices. This is a good point to make too.

And to everybody…I deeply appreciate your responses. I took pages of notes on things you all said and added scriptural references to them. I am still open to further responses too. I am very appreciative for everybody’s willingness to help me and I truly feel led by God to continue my spiritual journey. Thanks!

Now that you have seen this…Look ap a few verses to Mt 18:15-18…
Two things I will point out in this.

  1. Sin against a brother would include teaching a false doctrine.
  2. Vs 17 says to "tell it to the Church and to “Listen” to the Church.

This passage is what we see played out in Acts 15 where the Jews and Gentiles could not resolve the dispute.

Does this seem like the Holy Spirit was not leading the Church n council?

Where is the effort among the various protestant denominations to come together in council to resolve their differences…to determine what is or is not false teaching?


Your dad would be incorrect. It is a mistaken way to view the Reformation.


Misguided until the Protestant Reformation?

Consider that until the Great Schism in 1054, there was but one Church. Then, we had Christendom divided with the Church of the West and that of the East. And, so it remained until the 1500’s. Protestant Reformation. Now, some 500 years later there are some 20,000 denominations.

Now, if unity is understood as a sign of the Holy Spirit, which time period would you say so represents this? The one of 1500 years, or the one of the last 500? Something to reflect upon.

Jesus said that He would found His Church, that He would be with it until the end of time and that He would protect it. So, unless He was wrong, the Church He founded 2000 years ago could not have been misguided. That doesn’t mean that the “tears among the wheat” didn’t sin, they most certainly did. But The Church did not.

Hey Jon,

Im glad you posted this. I did not think that was well representative of mainline protestant faith.


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