Why do some Protestants have a distorted view of Christian history while Orthodox and Catholics have realistic view of history


#1

I posted a similar question like this before but it was left unanswered by our Non-Catholic Christian friends.

When it comes to true authentic Christian history, I have seen that Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Church’s point of view of history remains accurate. These two churches maintain that Jesus Christ establish a One Church.

The Catholic Church maintain that Jesus build his Church upon Peter as the Prince of the Apostles. While the Orthodox Church maintain that Rome, Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople are equal in authority. The split came in 1054 AD between Western and Eastern Christianity.

However, some Protestants (not all; please note not all Protestants) claim that the Church departed from the truth. They come up with theories when this departure of the truth took place. These theories aren’t even back up by historical evidence. Perhaps, they want to discredit the Catholic Church or even the Orthodox Church.

I do think that there should be a need for Protestants to take a more open minded view of historical Christianity and not view it with Protestant lenses. It’s as if they are afraid what history will remain?

Some Protestant historians with good scholarly word have admit that the Catholic Church played an important role in Church history dispite. Protestants like Joseph Barber Lightfoot.

Catholics are often called by their Protestant brothers and sisters to read the Bible. I say yes we should. We, Catholics on the other hand, would like to see Protestants read the Early Church Fathers, especially the Apostolic Fathers (St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Polycarp, St. Clement of Rome, St. Papias, (Bishops who were taught by the Apostles themselves), and the Early Church Fathers.

These early Leaders of Christ’s Church defended the Divinity of Jesus Christ against heresies. You may disagree with our doctrines and beliefs, but don’t be deceived by men who distort Christian history like reading “Trail of Blood.” Look at Christian history by reflecting at the events of those times.


#2

Why do some Protestants have a distorted view of Christian history while Orthodox and Catholics have realistic view of history?

Because their churches weren’t there when it happened so they can’t understand it correctly.


#3

I think those who have this distorted view are the ones that really don’t care to know about Christian history. They take what is told to them as fact without putting the time and effort into researching it themselves. This lack of critical thinking on their part makes some of the statements invalid, imho.


#4

Because their ministers are given an abbreviated version of the ECF and early Church history, only what might fit their teachings.

The ministers would hardly encourage their people to study history since those that properly study the ECF for themselves generally become Catholics.


#5

I was evangelical Protestant for over 40 years before converting to Catholicism in 2004.

In the evangelical churches, the primary focus of the worship service is the preaching of the Word of God by a pastor.

Teaching and preaching is front and center in any evangelical service or meeting. Although many evangelical churches have increased the amount of time in a worship service that is devoted to praise and worship, the focus on preaching and teaching has remained. If the preaching/teaching doesn’t happen in the worship service due to praise and worship, it will happen during the church cell group meetings.

Because of this, evangelicals tend to develop very close and trusting relationships with their pastors. Evangelicals tend to value pastors who have a good education, often with advanced graduate degrees. Many of the pastors have extensive personal libraries decorating their offices, and they use many references to books to prove that their teaching about the Bible is correct.

The idea that the pastor could be “wrong” is quite disturbing to evangelicals. Sinful, yes–they accept that pastors sin (although if the sin is big enough, like Ted Haggard, well, that’s a different story!). But because of the trust that they place in the pastor, evangelicals have kind of a “blind spot” when it comes to textual criticism of their pastor’s sermons.

Simply put, evangelicals trust their pastors and teachers.

And that, IMO, is the reason that evangelical Christians don’t bother to research church history. Because they trust their pastors and teachers, they think that the pastors and teachers would tell them if there was “more” history to learn. If there is a discrepancy between Catholic history and Protestant history, it MUST be the Catholics who are wrong, because Pastor So and So is totally trustworthy, educated, and filled with the Spirit.

However–sometimes the Protestant pastor does or says something that destroys trust. That’s what happened to me and my family. All my life, I loved and trusted evangelical pastors in my churches. Then when the pastors at my Evangelical Free Church convened a tribunal, tried and condemned my husband and me, kicked us out of the church, and shunned us–well, that destroyed my trust.

It was then that I realized that if they were wrong about me and my husband, then they might just be wrong about other things, like various doctrines, history, etc.

My husband and I had been attending a Catholic apologetics class, and had been holding onto our beliefs that the Catholics had it all wrong because we trusted our childhood pastors. But after the ousting, we didn’t trust them anymore, and we were able to see WITH CLEAR EYES and no biases that the Catholic version of history and Bible interpretation was accurate.

Think of it this way–does a child trust their parents, or strangers? As long as the parents are loving and kind, the child will trust them, even if they lead the child into evil. (e.g., Hitler Youth). It is only when the parents betray trust that the child will no longer accept what the parents say–and in some cases, the child will STILL cling to the parents’ teachings because it is their security net.

So please don’t condemn evangelical Protestants who don’t accept Catholic teachings about history and theology. Try to remember that it’s all about trust and loyalty–the evangelical Protestant cannot accept the possibility that their beloved pastor/teacher might be wrong. Unfortunately, something will have to happen to knock the pastor/teacher off the pedastal before the Protestant will be willing to listen to other teachings. And that’s not necessarily going to work, either. Sometimes when trust is destroyed, the victim no longer trusts ANYONE!

So in the end, it will be the Holy Spirit, Who is completely trustworthy, Who will have to teach the Protestant the truth. Pray to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to work to convert Protestants.


#6

I would have to think, protestants say the same thing about us!


#7

Cat, praise God!

for me it seems you just can’t make progress using scripture, history, doctrine, etc. no matter what you say, an excuse can be conjured up. i do better with simple parables that relate to the person to make a point. consider if the roles were reversed. you’d need to meet each other on level ground to make a point. 4-8 hours later, it’s only by the grace of God that they may or may not accept it.

when all else fails, i bite my tongue and pray.


#8

Cat, God bless you and thank you for that powervul testimony.


#9

I too agree that Jesus established one church. The argument with protestants isn’t usually whether or not Jesus did. However, the question is whether or not God intended this “one church” to become a religious organization (of any kind), rather than a simple gathering together of the faithful, all eager to deepen their knowledge of God.

Really though, your post leaves me with a single question – which church is correct? Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox? Both claim to be right, with the other group being heretical in some way (hence the reasoning for the schism between the two). Both trace their lineage to the “apostolic church”, and both exist to this very day. So, which one is right?

Roman Catholics would say that Rome has primacy based on Peter’s “reign” there.

Eastern Orthodox posters would likely say that Rome fell into heresy, and that this should be obvious because all of the other patriarchates of the church recognized this and broke with Rome.

If Christ intended the church to be a single organizational entity, then we must determine how we can know which of these two churches are right (if either of them are at all – for we know that there were other schisms in church history as well; perhaps one of those was the one true church).

Did God ordain Peter to lead the church (and presumably, allow his successors the same authority), with the promise of infallibility?

On the other hand, would God allow four out of the five major Christian leaders of the day fall into schism? If so, that’s a horrible failing for an organization who claims to be totally united.


#10

Why do some Protestants have a distorted view of Christian history while Orthodox and Catholics have realistic view of history?

An anti-catholic would reverse the question.

Why do Catholics and Orthodox have a distorted view of christian history while Protestants have a realistic view of history?


#11

Why do some Protestants have a distorted view of Christian history while Orthodox and Catholics have realistic view of history.

Cat’s answer was spot on.

Adding to it, from a Protestant point of view church history is not very important. First, they believe that God’s revelation stopped with the death of the last Apostle (which would be John, the gospel writer). God left us with the Bible, so that’s what Protestants study and teach from. They study and teach the Bible.

Second, history is always a mix of people doing good and people bad, and it will always continue to be so. Given that the church is made up of people, a Protestant does not see any signficant difference between studying church history and studying secular history. It’s all people sometimes doing good and sometimes doing bad. For a Protestant the only measuring rod by which we can objectively discern the good from the bad is the Bible, so they focus on that. They keep their eyes on the measuring rod, the Bible, and apply it to today’s deeds, rather than past deeds. They don’t see much benefit in spending time analyzing the past behavior of people when there is so much to analyze from today.


#12

Actually, I think this is more than a “Protestant” phenomenon. It’s also an American one. And the reasons are the same.

In my experience, Americans in general don’t have a very good appreciation for history. The American view of history is extremely self centered. Basically, everything before 1776 is ancient history. Anything of historical significance after that is only significant in as far as America participated. Americans are very independent and isolationist in general. Their attitude toward strife in other parts of the world is “What does it have to do with me?” Remember how hard it was to get America involved in either world war? It just wasn’t our problem. Only when we were attacked could we be convinced to get involved. And still Americans fight hard against participation in any conflict in any other part of the world no matter what the reason is. You can bet that even if Bush had uncovered evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction most Americans wouldn’t have cared until they were actually used against us.

Much of Protestantism is the same. America has a very independent and isolationist population and Protestantism is the same, especially in the Evangelical sectors. Evangelicalism is so independent that to many of them a sign of the true Church is that they are completely independent from each other. They are so isolationist that for some the only times they associate with other Churches is to invite such and such a church to their Christmas play or go to certain events together. They call this “Fellowship”. They choose a church by asking “What am I getting out of it?” Their entire faith is summed up by asking “Do I have a personal relationship with Jesus?” It is really all about the individual.

And to the individual, history simply does not matter. It has nothing to do with them. Sure the average protestant know the names of a few protestant historical figures and martyrs. I remember having a great admiration for Jan Hus. And the average protestant will know about a few of the more negative periods of the Church’s history, just enough to make it look bad. (Inquisition, Borgia Popes, etc.)

But all in all, where Catholicism is very community oriented, Protestantism is very individual oriented.
Catholics tend to at least have some sense of their Church as a worldwide organization, one that spans the centuries. For the average Evangelical, their church may go back 50 years if they’re lucky and generally has very few associations with other Churches.


#13

Cat, thanks for the insight. A few things that struck me were:

This is interesting because one of the common Protestant criticisms of Catholics is that they trust the Catholic Church rather than the Bible. But they apparently tend do the same thing with their individual pastors. It seems directly opposite to their claim that each man should interpret scripture for himself with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

If its not too personal, what did you do to get kicked out of your former church? Coming from a Catholic mindset where all members of the Church have a right to the sacraments, this seems very odd. To get excommunicated from the Catholic Church you basically need to publicly and obstinately attack Her - even those who are not properly disposed to receive communion have a right (and an obligation) to participate at Mass. I find the idea of getting kicked out of a church because you disagree with the pastor to be mind boggling.


#14

Actually, a great many protestants believe that God is continually revealing truth to each of us via the holy spirit. Some are blind, yes, but many believe God has more to show us than we each currently understand.

The problem isn’t that protestants don’t believe God is still working in his church – the problem is that they don’t agree with Roman Catholics on how this is happening. It’s a matter of not accepting the authority of Rome. Roman Catholics do – Protestants don’t. Each group sees history as supporting their position, and often is guilty of seeing what they want to see, and ignoring what they don’t. Have you ever really tried to be critical of your own faith? Most think they have, but really haven’t. The poor understanding most have of denominations outside their own is proof of this.

In every group, you have individuals who blindly accept what they’re taught – it’s like a forum post I read here recently which said (quite seriously), that if the pope declared that one must eat peanuts to be saved, he’d go buy lots of peanuts. That’s the same kind of faith protestants are accused of having in their church…and to an extent it’s true. But you can’t stereotype all protestants based on the actions of a few, just as I don’t stereotype and think that all Roman Catholics would go buy lots of peanuts in the above example.

Second, history is always a mix of people doing good and people bad, and it will always continue to be so. Given that the church is made up of people, a Protestant does not see any signficant difference between studying church history and studying secular history. It’s all people sometimes doing good and sometimes doing bad.

I don’t quite understand what you’re saying. History is simply a study of the past. When you study the past, you will learn things. That doesn’t mean one must think they’re good. Your argument is still based on the view that the Roman Catholic Church has endured since 33AD (or thereabout) to the current day with no substantial change or alteration in its teachings. I look at history, and I see a lot of change.

In the first few centuries of the church, you don’t see…

  • Lots of Marian devotion
  • Papal infallibility
  • A single magisterium which is totally united in teaching
  • Confessions to priests (in the current sense of the practice)

The list goes on, but generally speaking, I have seen many changes in the Roman Catholic Church as compared to the post-apostolic-era church of the first or second century.

For a Protestant the only measuring rod by which we can objectively discern the good from the bad is the Bible, so they focus on that. They keep their eyes on the measuring rod, the Bible, and apply it to today’s deeds, rather than past deeds.

Yes, there are many protestants who nearly worship the Bible, but I’d still say that most understand the reason for its importance – it records the actions and mind of God (to a degree), and as such is a great tool for learning about him. The leading of individuals by the holy spirit is not discouraged in most protestant churches I’ve been in, except where it seems to contradict what is already understood of God. For instance, if someone came in and told me they honestly believed that God wanted us to forcibly convert non-believers, I’d believe that such a revelation was not from God (perhaps from Satan; perhaps simply from the mind of the individual).

Which past deeds is it that you refer to that protestants apparently ignore?

They don’t see much benefit in spending time analyzing the past behavior of people when there is so much to analyze from today.

The ultimate goal of any person should be to become closer to our creator. Anything that doesn’t accomplish that is a waste. What sort of analysis of the past are you suggesting that would help with this?

Oh, and please don’t say “you need to study the past and understand that the Holy Roman Catholic Church is right”. Without the papacy, there’s no superiority you can claim over the Eastern Orthodox, and I do not agree with the foundation of the papacy.


#15

Both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church date their origins at the time of the Apostles.

Before the Schism there were five major Patriarchiates, or Major Churches:

  1. Rome.
  2. Antioch.
  3. Jerusalem.
  4. Alexandria.
  5. Constantinople.

In 1054 AD, Rome separated from the 5 Patriarchates due to cultural, language, and theological issues.

If you want a detailed account of the Schism Wikipedia has a resource on it.

The true Church however, is the Catholic Church. Jesus established His Church upon Simon Peter. Peter handed down his office to his successors Linus down to the present. Peter was the leader of the Apostle after the Ascension of Our Lord.

Roman Catholics would say that Rome has primacy based on Peter’s “reign” there.

Eastern Orthodox posters would likely say that Rome fell into heresy, and that this should be obvious because all of the other patriarchates of the church recognized this and broke with Rome.

If Christ intended the church to be a single organizational entity, then we must determine how we can know which of these two churches are right (if either of them are at all – for we know that there were other schisms in church history as well; perhaps one of those was the one true church).

Did God ordain Peter to lead the church (and presumably, allow his successors the same authority), with the promise of infallibility?

On the other hand, would God allow four out of the five major Christian leaders of the day fall into schism? If so, that’s a horrible failing for an organization who claims to be totally united.

The Schism was the result of sins of mankind. Even in the ancient Church, some Christians were not faithful as they ought. I believe God punished them by spliting the East and West. Then the Rome was sake by the Barbarians… not to mention the Eastern Christians were sack by the Muslim conquerors, not to mention the Crusades.

Roman Church also suffer for its sinful acts. The end result, the Reformation… though I think humanity failed on their part to react responsibly. Instead of reconciling, they break apart. We see this in the East-West Schism, and in the Protestant Reformation. This also continues within the 33,000 different Protestant denomination.

Had our forefathers were to act more Christlike. I think the Schism and the Reformation would not have happened.


#16

Thanks for posting all of those links. Not being Catholic or Protestant, I wasn’t going to read this thread. I just clicked on the wrong thread, and was intrigued by the first post. By following the link on St. Papias (the only one I’d never heard of), I found a link to actual, translated of course, documents of early christians on the web. I figure I’ve got enough to read to get me through the next year now.

I have to be honest, I don’t think I’m going to read these and become Catholic, but I am interested in how Catholicism and Christianity grew up.


#17

The intend is not to convert. I leave that to the Holy Spirit. The idea of having Non-Catholic Christian Protestants to have some idea about how the Church was in the early days, and in those days, the Church was Catholic.


#18

I wasn’t suggesting it was.

I’m confused… do you not want me to read the links?


#19

Well you could. I also recommend some reading material from Amazon written by Mike Aquilina. He is a Catholic historian. His books are Non-Catholic friendly and are easy to read.

amazon.com/Fathers-Church-Expanded-Mike-Aquilina/dp/159276245X/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/103-6914379-7031868?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1192839516&sr=8-1 -The Fathers of the Church.

amazon.com/Mass-Early-Christians-Mike-Aquilina/dp/1592763200/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b/103-6914379-7031868 - The Early Mass of Early Christians.

amazon.com/Fathers-Church-Introduction-Christian-Teachers/dp/0879736895/ref=sr_1_8/103-6914379-7031868?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1192839653&sr=1-8 The Fathers of the Church-Introduction.

And of Course a writing from Pope Benedict XVI

amazon.com/Apostles-Pope-Benedict-XVI/dp/1592764053/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2/103-6914379-7031868?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1192839739&sr=1-2 The Apostles.

I have not read the Apostle yet but they are very good interesting reading materials.


#20

Yes! Remember that once Luther separated from the One Church, the separation had to be not only justified, but maintained and increased. Thus, “modernism” was born in revisionist history and private interpretation of scripture. Such innovative ideas as OSAS, SS and SF sprang up literally out of nowhere. Generation after generation of Protestants have been raised on these man-made traditions which maintain that the Catholic Church is the WOB, the Anti-christ etc. etc. etc. Is it any wonder that bigotry and prejudice have flourished in such an environment?

I find it of interest that the Catholic Church always bears the brunt of the attacks. Notice how the nearly identical Orthodox churches do not have to defend their beliefs, their traditions, their history, their Apostolic succession? Curious. It’s almost like those who attack the Catholic Church know, at some level of their consciousness, that it IS the true church. That also appears to explain the anger and vehemence of some of those attacks-always posed as innocent “questions”.

The Catholic Church is constantly harrangued over the Spanish Inquisition, but what we are witnessing bears more resemblance to a “Protestant Inquisition” Oh, but there have been no deaths in the Protestant version, you say? Well, leading a soul away from the One True Church and Christ in the Eucharist is little different to my eyes.

But, truth wills out. Thee is nothing hidden that will not be brought to light. These forums are replete with the testimonies of converted Protestants to whom the Holy Spirit has revealed the fullness of truth. Praise God in Heaven! Let the Church be One as it was One.

Christ’s peace be always with you.


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