It’s true that we owe the Church our obedience, and we as Catholics are obligated to accept Her dogmas and moral teachings even if we don’t understand them, or they don’t make sense to us (although, of course, it’s good for us to TRY to make sense of them and understand).
Therefore, we shouldn’t have our faith shaken just because someone pokes holes in a certain teaching, because we submit to the teaching by faith, not by the ‘sight’ of airtight arguments.
But here’s the thing that seems to be important, because it seems to be the thing upon which that faith rests.
Namely, we have faith in the Church’s teachings, even IF they don’t make sense to us, because we believe that the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ, that the Church–because She speaks upon Christ’s authority–has the words of eternal life. So the question is: Why do we believe THAT?
Discussing that is the point of this thread. Let’s refrain from defending or getting into any other doctrine, here, because the point is that, once a person has faith that the Catholic Church is the Church Jesus founded, and that a person needs more than just “scripture alone,” the doctrines can fall into place by faith (even though, of course, faith seeks understanding, and shouldn’t stop there). So here, I just hope to get a discussion going on why you believe that Catholicism’s basic premise, that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ and is Infallible, is true in the first place. If a Protestant or Orthodox Christian were to ask you why, of the three branches of Christianity, you believe that this is the true one, what would you say? If someone asked you why you believe that Christians should ideally all submit to the teaching authority of this Church, how would you answer?
The only philosophically rigorous way to answer that question is to back way up. We must ask and answer at least these questions (in this order):
*]Why do we believe in God (any sort of God)
*]Why do we believe that God cannot be unitarian?
*]Why do we believe that God exists in Trinity?
*]Why do we believe that the Son is one of the three divine persons?
*]Why do we believe that God is responsible for creation?
*]Why do we believe that God established the Jewish faith?
*]Why do we believe that the Son became incarnate as Jewish man (aka, Jesus)?
*]Why do we believe Jesus established a Church on earth?
*]Why do we believe that Jesus empowered that Church with authority?
And THEN we can START TO ask why we believe the Catholic Church is the same Church that Jesus established and empowered.
But you gotta establish all of that other stuff first, because it is all dependent. We can’t just answer your question in isolation (without making assumptions).
And answering those questions would far exceed the 6000 character limit of a post (it would probably take dozens of 6000 character posts).
You’re gonna have to tell us what assumptions you are willing to accept.
Sorry, I should have been clearer. Here, I am willing to go ahead and accept that we’ve gotten to the point where we believe Christianity, insofar as Bible-Believing Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox basically agree on its definition (Trinitarianism, Christ’s divinity and humanity, etc.) is true. So this discussion can already presuppose every assumption that would lead somebody to the point of believing in Christianity, as it is commonly understood; the discussion comes in at the point of this: “Okay, so now why should that person, when faced with the three main branches of Christianity, believe Catholicism is the true one?”
I believe the Truth that the Holy Catholic Church is one true Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ during His ministry because of this:
“Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven” (The Holy Gospel According to Saint Matthew, Chapter 16, Verse 18, emphasis mine).
This is one of my favorite topics in apologetics. One time I thought I would like to make a series of videos directed to the major denominations and schismatic groups within Christianity: a video for Lutherans explaining how we can know that Lutheranism is not the true Church, a video for Methodists doing the same thing, one for Anglicans and Episcopalians, one for Baptists, one for evangelicals, one for Wesleyans, one for the Orthodox, etc. Each video would bring up points of departure from the biblical record in that particular denomination or schismatic group.
Let’s look at Lutheranism for an example.
If we examine Lutheranism, there are several reasons why it cannot be the true Church. One is: Lutheranism was created in 1517 A.D. at the earliest. The true Church was created in ~30 A.D.
There are also dozens of instances where Lutherans have changed their doctrines over the years. A true Church could not change its teachings.
The earliest example of a changed doctrine in Lutheranism that I’m aware of concerns free will. Martin Luther’s book Bondage of the Will had done his best to make sure that, in his church, free will would be rejected. But shortly after his death, the 1554 Examination of Ordinands was published by Philip Melancthon, and it included a section insisting on free will. Other Lutherans vehemently opposed this change of doctrine, but Melancthon won the day, and his book was used to examine future Lutheran leaders. Ever since then, Lutherans have believed in free will as a core part of their doctrine, exactly contrary to Martin Luther’s wishes.
American Lutheranism changed from believing in male-only pastors to believing in female pastors in 1970. A true Church could not change its teachings. In a somewhat similar way, Martin Luther created the doctrine that spouses can marry other people after one of them commits adultery. The true Church cannot create doctrines, but Luther thought he could because he supposedly Found divorce+remarriage in the Bible. That particular change in doctrine has become much worse since the secularization of the West, because modern Lutherans no longer have a doctrine preventing no-fault divorce + remarriage. The true Church cannot lose doctrines.
Similar points can be made about other denominations.
Baptists and Evangelicals, for example, do not have the triple degrees of orders known as deacons, priests, and bishops. But the Bible mentions all three many times:
Deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8-13 and Philippians 1:1
Priests in Titus 1:5, Acts 14:23, Acts 15:6, 1 Timothy 5:17, 1 Peter 5:1, and James 5:14
Bishops in 1 Timothy 3:2-6, Philippians 1:1, and Acts 20:28
How come the “Bible churches” don’t follow the “Bible’s orders”? I once asked a Baptist why his church didn’t have bishops, and he said: We don’t need them because we have Jesus. So I asked: But aren’t there bishops in the Bible? And he said: Yes, but sometimes God changes things. So I asked: How do you know what to change and what to keep? And he said: We use the Bible to figure that out. So I asked: Does the Bible say somewhere that we should stop having bishops? And he said: No, but we don’t need bishops because we have Jesus.
So, apparently, under the Baptist model, we are supposed to use the Bible to figure out what to change and what to keep the same, except when we want to change something that the Bible doesn’t say to change. Then we’re supposed to just declare that we don’t need it, and we’re good.
I think a great series of videos could be made pointing out places where each church, other than Catholicism, created doctrines, dropped doctrines, changed doctrines, not to mention when each non-Catholic church began and how it departs from the Biblical model.
For example, in Acts and the Epistles it is very clear that the Church had a headquarters because all the churches had to contribute money back to Jerusalem and all the Apostles gathered there for a council in ~50 A.D. to make decisions for the whole Church, and even St. Paul had to report to Jerusalem in order to be accepted as a missionary. (Galatians 1:18-19 and Galatians 2:1, 9)
Modern “Bible churches” don’t have a headquarters where decisions can be made for the whole Church and which has to approve of new leaders. Why don’t they follow the biblical model on this one point?
Moreover, the Book of Acts is pretty clear that St. Peter was the leader of the whole Church. But no church except Catholicism follows that biblical model. Why is that?
Pointing out areas where heretical groups differ from the biblical model is a traditional way of proving Catholicism. It’s a branch of ecclesiology that deals with the Marks of the Church. I think that if you study up on those, you can find lots of good reasons for believing that Catholicism is the only true Church, and other groups are pretenders.
OK, now I need you to tell me why you believe that “Bible-Believing Protestants” are one of “three” “branches” of Christianity?
Both (Latin) Catholics and Orthodox are “Bible-believing,” but neither are protestant. The protestant faith was invented in the Fifteenth Century. The (Latin) Catholic and Orthodox Church both have valid Apostolic origin (and both rightly claim the title “Catholic”).
Why do you consider this a three-way race, and not a two-way race? Why do you include protestants at all?
History. Certainly “churches” with beliefs based on Scripture alone cannot be serious contenders, as they often disagree, having no source other than private interpretation/opinion for those beliefs. But a visible Church with a historical legacy all the way to the beginning of Christianity, with true apostolic sucession, that spun off of no other church, with a faith based directly on the teachings of Jesus, a faith that preceded the NT writings, that has its source in Tradition, IOW, along with Scripture, is ultimately the only logical choice for any serious seeker.
The reason I used the term “Bible-believing” was not to suggest that Protestants are Bible-believing as opposed to us and the Orthodox (remember, I’m Catholic myself, and believe everything the Church teaches, believe in the Bible, etc.), but rather was to have SOME standard of what it means to be Christian, since some “Christians” hardly seem to even believe the Bible.
As for “Why do you include Protestants at all?” let’s back up a second, because I think that I’m gonna have to give a context for my being interested in these answers, in order to answer that.
I am a convert to Catholicism. Many of my loved ones are Protestant. Some of them, especially one particularly close relative, find many of Catholicism’s doctrines illogical, and I sometimes find myself getting sucked into debate over those doctrines. Now, as I have said, my basic presupposition, with which most Protestants would agree, is that once you DO believe in something as containing Divine Revelation (be it the Bible, the Church teachings, whatever) you can believe its individual doctrines and teachings by faith, so that you don’t have to be capable of defending every individual dogma in order to be justified in believing it.
However, if I make that defense, then the logical question to come is: “But why do you believe that the Catholic Church is the Rule of Faith?”
So see, the reason Protestantism is included here is because the sorts of situations I’m dealing with would be those in which Protestantism is already presupposed to be Christian. I for my part, as a Catholic, can’t dispute that, because the Catechism does indeed acknowledge that they “deserve to be called Christians.” Therefore, rather than arguing over whether or not they’re even Christian at all, my job–insofar as defending the Faith goes–is to argue why even those who are already Christians (and not only those who aren’t Christian at all) ought to accept and submit to the authority of the Catholic Church, and why I am accordingly justified in doing so myself.
(Yes, as a convert I have my own reasons and beliefs on the matter, as one would probably expect me to, I’m just interested in hearing what others have to say, so that I can get the fullest picture possible)
As for all the answers so far, thanks everyone. They’re all very interesting! I know that one cannot make converts with arguments, necessarily, but think of this thread as a place where a Catholic could come, also, to bolster his own confidence if other Christian groups try to chip away at it. That’s why I figure it can’t hurt to have as many sound answers as possible!
The question is, though, if faced with Christians from the other two branches (Orthodoxy or Protestantism) we may be confronted with the question: “Why do you believe the Catholic Church IS God’s instrument, and not the Orthodox Church, or the Scriptures alone?”
When I look around at all the Churches on earth today, the one that looks most like the Kingdom of God described in the Bible is the Catholic Church.
The more I learn about ancient history, the culture and society of the authors, speakers and their audience, the more I come to believe that the Catholic Church is that kingdom described in the Bible, most especially the Kingdom parables in Matthew 13.
The Catholic Church has the Prime Minister - the Pope - the one upon whom the Key of David rests.
The Catholic Church has the Gebirah - the queen mother - who intercedes with the king on behalf of the people.
The Catholic Church has bowls of incense described in the Book of Revelation, which are the prayers of the faithful rising before God.
The Catholic Church has confession and anointing with oil as described in the Epistle of James.
The Catholic Church has deacons and bishops just like those described in the first verse of the letter to the Philippians as well as 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
The Catholic Church has the white robed army of virgins described in the Book of Revelation - all they holy monks and nuns and active religious.
The Catholic Church prays without ceasing. Other Churches offer worship and prayer only some days. The Catholic Church prays and worships without ceasing.
The Catholic Church has the bread which came down from heaven, the true food which gives eternal life.
Jewish prophets stated that when the Messiah came all sacrifice would end with the exception of the “Thank offering.” The word Eucharist means “Thanksgiving.” Malachi 1: 11 prophesied that this perfect sacrifice would be offered from the rising of the sun to it’s setting, exactly as the Catholic Church does it.
The list goes on and on and on and on and on… The Catholic Church is the most Biblical Church.
If someone were to have an opportunity to invite anyone at all to their sunday service, who would they invite? Somebody important and holy. We have him, Jesus Christ, every sunday on our altar. A talk could never take the place of Jesus no matter how emotional and moving it might be.
Second, knowing the truth, coming to us thru 2,000 years. It would be hard to know what is true after 2000 years, unless there is a trail of the legacy of truth that can be followed thru time, from Jesus til now. Just as the legacy of truth can be followed thru 2,000 years from Abraham to Jesus.
However, if I make that defense, then the logical question to come is: “But why do you believe that the Catholic Church is the Rule of Faith?”
OK, so you’re approaching it like you have two choices:
*]Convince them that the Catholic Church is the true Church which teaches with divine authority, so whatever the Church says must be true.
*]OR convince them that the Church is right about a particular doctrine.
I think your chances of success are far more likely with Door #2.
*]Jn 5:19 the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
*]Jn 6:37,38 “I have come from heaven not to do my own Will, but the Will of the One who sent Me.”
*]Jn 12:49 For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.
*]Jn 12:50 whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say."
*]Jn 14:10 The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.
*]Jn 14:31 I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
*]Lk 22:42 Not my will but yours be done
[/LIST]AND we are here to love and imitate Jesus. By definition then, we do that by our obedience to Him, as He was obedient to His Father. John 14:15 we are to do whatever he tells us to do John 2:5
That means we are to belong to the ONLY Church Jesus established and gave all His promises to (for our benefit), AND we remain in it because Jesus condemns division from His Church. His Church is the Church He builds with Peter at the helm. There is only ONE that qualifies.