When did the church become different from what Jesus intended?


It has been stated by a pro-protestant member:

*the entire point of Protestant churches is that they believe they (individually) represent most accurately that church that Jesus intended, and what existed in the first few centuries. *

If I get this position correctly it means there are three main periods in Christian history. In the first one the church was more or less as Jesus intended. Then Christians went astray. Finally, there was a restoration of the original church by an individual denomination. In other words, travelling through time back to the first period, one would acknowledge one’s own denomination, essentially.

I’d like to ask Protestant members ( as well as members of any denomination with a similar view ), if they more or less agree with the existence of such a tripartion of Church History (and if they don’t, why ?), to give approximate dates for the end of the first period and for the beginning of the third one, according to your denomination or your personal opinion.

In case the passage from one period to the following one was a long process, when did it begin ?

Please, focus on timing, and an explanation of it, rather than the nature of the changes.



The point is a blunt one, however, incapable of penetration.

So the historical analysis you understandably want amounts at best to an excursion at worst to a fool’s errand. It turns on a misconception fed by some pious fantasy, fantasy which has been given such incentive and publicity for so long it passes for fact.

In apologetics, I would suggest the real answer lies in the very misconception of Christ’s “intention.” Misconceptions: that whatever we know about the early church necessarily reflects any such intention; that Christ would have intended whatever did reflect His will then should reflect it now; third that the NT is the one and only proof we have for His will. I’m sure I’m not even scratching the surface.

The RCC, at all events, is the historic church Christ founded in St. Peter. All the rest is either proof of that fundamental truth or an exercise in futility.

God bless.


This is your vision. Obviously, it is not shared by our non catholic brethren. My point is:

  • History matters.
  • If I belong to a denomination, I am supposed to believe it is
    as faithful as possible to the original church
  • If this denomination was born in a given period, I am supposed to believe that this birth amounts to a sort of Restoration, or to a part of a more general restoration process. (Reformare deformata)
    In some way, you can even say that I have to believe something like that.
  • Hence the rationale ( or even the necessity ) for a tripartition of Church History ( ie Original Church, Ecclesia Deformata, Ecclesia Reformata)

Now, it would be interesting, IMHO, to know whether western non catholic Christians support a variant of this vision. If they don’t, what their alternative vision is. If they do, what the timing of the tripartion is, according to their own denomination or their personal opinion ( since a tripartition does need a timing, sort of). And how all the above is explained.

I don’t want to oversimplify. On the contrary, it would be fine to point to the problematicity of every step, if necessary. Hopefully, we could all learn something.


First of all, the overwhelming silence you are hearing comes from the fact that you’ve, perhaps insultingly, posted to apologetics: these are necessary for Catholics because the era of invenire nova atque aliena obviously began in the sixteenth century, and the RCC has had to deal with Protestants, sadly, ever since. You should probably have posted to non-Catholic religions. It is all the same to me.

The contested term was vera religio: it is not true that all reformers simply dismissed–as your Latin phrases suggest–the RCC in all of Her splendor.

The RCC is not a denomination.

You are answering your own question: yes, Protestants on the whole have to believe they are a faithful recreation or some such silliness of the early church. Since an impartial view takes one–as it does for evangelicals more and more–to the RCC, which was and continues the early church, you can save yourself time by joining Her.

All the rest is fantasy or footnotes.

God bless.


Asking the question “When did the church become different from what Jesus intended?” is like asking “When did you finally stop beating your wife?”. No matter how you answer it, you’re going to be wrong.

My immediate answer to this would be, “What make you think the Church DID become different from what Jesus intended?”

That puts the ball in his court, and he has to come up with proof.



God bless.


I agree. The question posed in the OP is a strawman rhetorical question hinging on an assumption that the Holy Spirit actually did not preserve the Church against the Gates of Hell. (Don’t worry, Holy Spirit; we know that You did preserve us.) The onus of proof is not on us but on the person posing the strawman.


Not to feed possible misunderstandings, which are certainly my fault, I do not share at all the statement which you guys have rightly read in the question of the title. (Has anybody read my public profile ? :shrug: ).
Anyway, no matter of onus of the proof, here, even for those who do believe that. That would be another thread. I am just asking each of them, the “When” of the supposed corruption, as well as the “When” of the supposed restoration.

I hope things are clearer now, and look forward to contributions by
non catholic western Christians.


31 October, 1517.


I am sorry if I offended you.

I read the op having just read one by someone pretending to be Catholic while obviously not, so despite your public profile I assumed too much.

Again, sorry.

God bless.


I think it went astray when it became a state religion, that is political power in nature.


Thanks for answering.
So, may I assume you accept the “tripartition” ? I understand you have it that the passage between the first and the second age of Church History took place during the IV century.Was it, according to you, before or after Nicea ?

And what about the date(s) for the restoration ?

For Palladio: you’re wellcome :slight_smile:


Here’s my problem answering this question. It seems to me the deviation happened gradually, as one might expect. When I look at the earliest biblical and extrabilbical evidence regarding Church organization, I get a rough picture of the apostolic-era Churches, and then over time I see what appear to me to be a sequence of changes, starting with the monarchical bishop fairly early and step by step moving away from the initial picture. (I should note that even in apostolic times the situation seems far from uniform, with different factions having different views and internal strife over doctrinal issues within the Church on important issues.) Moving into the “third phase,” the time element seems equally murky. I don’t see the reformation-era thinkers as ushering in any sort of magically pure Christianity either. I think they had important insights about some key issues, but there was no “moment of restoration” where everything returned to its primitive state.

I realize that Catholics would view the changes over time moving from the first to the second periods as development rather than deviation from the original proper state of affairs. But I think what is clear is that there were, in fact, important changes over time, and the real question is how to characterize them – good or bad, proper or improper, justified by a Church with the infallible authority to announce them, or possibly errors by a fallible human institution?




I think we need to be clear about the difference between change and growth.

Water is still water though it has changed to ice.

A Church dogma is still the same dogma though its interpretation, understanding, and application has grown.

Both of these examples are completely different from changing the nature of things.

If water changes to wine then its nature has changed.

If one dogma changes into a different dogma then its nature has changed.

Church dogma has not changed in nature over the centuries within the Church. The Reformation, however, changed the nature of dogma outside the Church.


Your contribution has several merits in my opinion. One of them is that a remarkably clear interpretative alternative is presented (development vs deviation). Somewhere we could also work about what kind of changes we should focus on: whether mainly organizational or doctrinal, and the relations between them.
Another possible item could be the changes during the so called “third age”, as seen in the traditions stemming from what is generally called Protestant Reformation, or the changes over time non catholic western Christians see within their own denomination.

What I consider most important here, anyway, is that so far we appear to have hints about two versions of the “three ages vision” of Church History.

In Daniel’s post deviation took place during the IV century.
You, CThomas, state implicitly that deviation had already begun by AD 100, give or take a few years, since you consider the monarchical episcopacy as its starting point.

Let me call them version A and Version B of the theory.
Version B is of course a much stronger statement, for it amounts to believing that the deviation process was set in motion by nobody else than those church leaders who had received Jesus’ message directly from the Apostles themselves.


It never did…




Read the Didache, the writings of the early Church Fathers and study the history of the Church and you will come to agree with Cardinal Newman (1801-1890) who said, “to become steeped in history is to cease to be Protestant.” In other words the Catholic Church has not changed or veered off from its original course it is still the Church that Jesus started through the Apostles.


Herein lies the problem. Palladio, you’re starting with the assumption that the Roman Catholic Church is right, and thus you state that the evidence will prove this. So long as you try to build your house (that is, your faith) from the top down, rather than the bottom up, you will never understand the Protestant mindset. That, by the way, is a sad thing, that you would be so blind as to totally ignore any possibility that your views are incorrect.

Amen! That’s absolutely right, in my opinion. This, however, comes back to the Roman Catholic claim that church dogmas have not changed since the foundation of the church. This assertion is clung to, regardless of any proof that may be shown, and thus is makes Roman Catholics seem like fools in some cases, because they refuse to even consider the possibility that there were fundamental changes in the church.


No: I make no such assumption. I read Greek (and Latin). I read the modern languages necessary to follow the scholarship. I study the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Ph. D.): no question, Protestantism is a mistake from conception to execution, with no historical or theological claim to being the church Christ himself founded in Peter and the apostles. I did all the necessary reading while a committed agnostic. Reading which brought me back to the RCC.

The Protestant mindset is an accident of history, ordained by outlaws and renegades and supported by power-hungry princes: I understand it, then and now, all too well. It cannot be distinguished from selfishness, the town hall, or the playboy channel.

In England, it is still state-supported, and its immoralities everywhere are legion: birth control, abortion, homosexual ministers and gay marriage are just some of the more obvious failures of Protestantism which nobody with decency or a conscience could begin to be attracted to.

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