COC #5: Responses to Three Anticipated Objections

(1) Defense of pattern theology  

The Protestant Church of Christ’s defense of pattern theology is incapable of satisfying any query as to its communion with the early Church; patternism presupposes a body (not a collection of books) that must first establish any perceived pattern. So instead of providing evidence for its presence throughout history, scriptural verses removed from their ecclesial context are presented as red herrings to defend a pragmatic use of your theory (that patternism conjures authenticity), and not the facts of the topic at hand (origins and sequence). 

Members of your group present verses both Catholics and Protestants can agree upon to support some practicalities of particular nuances (discipleship/holy living) of pattern theology (i.e. Beloved, do not imitate evil, but imitate good . . . 3 John 11a); and they find apparent patterns where they want to find them, such as by discovering how the word “elder” appears in the Bible and that its presence somehow justifies the ordination/installment of congregationally elected shepherds (men who are not approved by apostolic leadership), as only one example.

Of course, Christians should maintain good conduct (1 Peter 2:12), and St. Paul taught we should be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1,2), but St. Paul also submitted to a greater pastor to ensure that his message of salvation was orthodox—that he was not running in vain (Galatians 2:2); a pattern the Protestant Church of Christ tends to wriggle around. When critically considered, the ecclesiological premise of Restorationist patternism is selective and self-defeating; it omits overt patterns that undermine the purpose of the premise (the eradication of Catholic authority), and it shines a light on its very definition: impersonation. After all, if your leaders accepted the pattern of St. Paul’s installment as an elder, they too would seek the already-established Church, would understand that the Church ordains its leaders, and would not create new and detached ecclesial communities.

Pattern theology, though beneficial in some instances, is wholly insufficient in defending the origin of either the authentic or impostor Church. And as such, because the Protestant Church of Christ has no other option, it is incapable of using its own foundational principles to support its claimed ancient existence. In other words, sola Scriptura and patternism fail to establish your communities’ legitimacy; the true Church of Christ existed before it created the Bible: the raw material needed before Americans could begin the impersonation process.

(2) Defense by syllogism  

You believe your community is the true Church, so therefore, your Church is the first Church; or, the true (and therefore first) Church exists where the pattern is practiced, and since you practice the pattern, you are the true (and therefore first) Church.

As with the first objection, the syllogism continues to rely on the perils of selective enforcement of patternism; your use of the syllogism abuses the Bible as a costume to mask latter-day bodies from their utter absence throughout the first eighteen centuries of Christian history. Additionally, any person within your group who, by her own private interpretation of the Scriptures, proclaims she is practicing the proper pattern implicates herself as an extra-biblical voice of truth—is relying on a fallible opinion on most important matters, which again raises the question: Who does she think she is? Does stumbling upon a proper invisible interpretation of a book somehow create the visible structure established by Christ Jesus? 

(3) Defense by Apostasy theory

The Protestant Church of Christ is a product, of which there are many, of the American Restoration period (2nd Great Awakening). Although your group’s identifiers (theological, historical, archaeological, etc.) are present only at this relatively late time, you maintain your group somehow existed prior to the Catholic Church of Christ. In other words, you assert that the true Church ceased to exist, was smothered by Catholicism, and then restored by men who, after many centuries, properly cracked the Bible code and practiced the proper pattern—a pattern determined by the only means available to them: private interpretation of the Scriptures.

Rather than derailment by details of apostasy (addressed in Chapter 4), I ask that you focus on an important ramification that a conjoined “Bible-only” and Apostasy theory might cause. For if the Scriptures are indeed required for the true Church’s latter-day incarnation (the logical mandate of any such “Great” or “Near-Great” Apostasy and Restoration theory), then truly the Church cannot precede the Scriptures. But if your group’s latter-day incarnation is based solely on Scripture while its former life was not, then the inconsistency reveals a most self-evident conclusion: the Protestant Church of Christ is not the same Church to which Jesus promised, I am with you always (Matthew 28:20), and to which St. Paul offered: to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever (Ephesians 3:21). In other words, if your church would not exist if the New Testament were never written, then your church did not exist before the New Testament was written.