COC #66: A Foundational Protestant Assumption in Regards to Marriage

Many Fundamentalists enjoy two of Christianity’s seven sacraments of grace: Baptism and Matrimony. Those who are baptized are part of the Christian Church, though not in full communion with her; and Catholicism affectionately recognizes their status as brothers and sisters in Christ. Their Marriages are real, too; legitimate priests are not needed to officiate their unions because it is the groom and bride who officiate the Sacrament, but a valid Marriage is performed before a minister. 

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COC #65: Attack: “Annulment Is Divorce”

There is one last popular attack that Rudd, to his credit, did not repeat in his essay: Fundamentalism’s allegation that “annulment is divorce.” I suspect Rudd knows his own sect is actually quite diverse on issues of divorce, and any accusation towards the Catholic Church brings attention to his own sect’s quiet acceptance of divorce and multiple “marriages”. However, there are many voices within his sect that indicatively represent the common Fundamentalist charge.

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COC #64: Attack: “Catholic Scandal Proves Catholicism False”

Most of this book has been about principles and theology; its subjects require some reasoned attention to determine the merits of the Protestant Church of Christ’s attacks on Catholic theology. The subject of scandal, however, is not theological; nor does it require a persuasive, gentle tone to convince people of good will that the Catholic Church is not the end-times monster; facts influence reasonable people. And so I will address people I more understand: those who accept objective facts and integrate those facts into their religion. And the acceptance of such facts are what separates Protestants from anti-Catholics; non-Catholic Christians from bigots.

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COC #60: Attack: “Pope Doesn’t Understand Purpose of Marriage”

Like Restorationism, Fundamentalism is a relatively modern Protestant movement, and it was developed within a larger Americanized construct of what Marriage ought to be. That is, Marriage and its more-Americanized (thus, more-secularized) purposes were woven into American Fundamentalism’s newly-formed fabric. 

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COC #59: The Church of Christ Understands Marriage

Non-Catholic Christians,

Most of this book has been specifically addressed to members of the Protestant Church of Christ. This chapter’s subject—Marriage (capitalized as a sacrament)—however, is understood by other types of Protestants the same way. And for me to best illustrate how the Catholic understanding is more reasonable, I will compare it to Fundamentalism, which overlaps the Protestant Church of Christ’s beliefs almost perfectly. And therefore, within this chapter, I will often refer to both groups—Restorationist and Fundamentalist—with the same overlapping (and more prominent) descriptor: Fundamentalist.

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COC #58: Baptism for Infants; Concluding Remarks

I have asked for you to evaluate which Faith is more reasonable. The Bible does not explicitly reveal the Church’s acceptance of Baptism for infants, but it does implicitly reveal the Church’s acceptance of the practice, and the historical record reveals that the whole of Christianity accepted it as orthodox.  

Within historical Christianity, as taught by Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and revealed by other historical documents, Baptism washes away an infant’s original sin, and it washes away both original sin and actual sin (volitional sin) for adults. The Protestant Church of Christ’s method washes away original sin even though the group does not realize it, and it also washes away the actual sin of its members who have attained the (biblically-absent, yet NI-forced) “age of accountability”.  

The Catholic Church of Christ believes her infants share in the New Covenant, and, by the faith of our infants’ parents, we joyfully carry them to Jesus—even if such faith might only be the size of a mustard seed.

COC #57: COC Objection to Baptism for Infants: “No History”

(3) The Protestant Church of Christ denies that the history of Christianity is Catholic.

Instead of considering history and how the Christian Church has always understood Baptism, many of your members decide that the paper trail of the Catholic Church’s presence throughout history does not reflect the true Church or Christ, but rather, an apostate organization; and your members are so certain of their prejudice that they sense no need to honestly consider the Catholic Church’s understanding of Baptism. In my experience, however, those who in fact honestly consider the merits of the Catholic position come to love the Catholic Church, but your group’s collective and unfounded hate for her prevents most of your members from experiencing the joy of finding out that one’s family is much, much larger. Therefore, any document other than the Bible that illustrates the Catholicity of the Christian Church from any century is either denied as a hoax or written off as irrelevant; and any interpretation of the Bible that supports the Catholic Church is labeled as heresy—deemed heresy by the authority your group has granted itself. So what argument can be made to convince you that you are wrong if you refuse to allow history (reality) to inform your opinions? 

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COC #56: COC Objection to Baptism for Infants: “No Original Sin”

(2) The Protestant Church of Christ objects to a concept of original sin.

The Protestant Church of Christ uses Ezekiel 18:20 as a proof-text, which reads: The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father. Ezekiel was not arguing against the idea of original sin; he was addressing sin in accordance to the Law—it was a legal point. So when balanced with the full corpus of Scripture, the historical (= Catholic) understanding is most reasonable, and your group’s theology is based on one verse that is forced to be incongruous with the remainder of Scripture.

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COC #55: COC Objection to Baptism for Infants: “No Faith”

There are theological obstacles members of the Protestant Church of Christ must hurdle for this chapter to take root—obstacles that are not anchored to the ancient Church, but rather, are merely theories that are relatively modern—some as young as plastic, yet presented by your group as the ancient Faith.

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COC #54: The Church of Christ Brings Its Children to Jesus

Non-Catholic Christians,

The scriptural passages, Repent and be baptized, every one of you (Acts 2:38), Rise and be baptized (Acts 22:16), and He who believes and is baptized will be saved (Mark 22:16) all have specific audiences: candidates for adult conversion. So is it not dishonest for the Protestant Church of Christ to teach that infants are ineligible candidates for Baptism when it utilizes scriptural passages as proofs that address adult conversion?  

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COC #53: More Irresponsible Arguments Against Valid Baptisms

Before I close this chapter, I think it is important to address a few of the Protestant Church of Christ’s arguments that provide constructive reinforcement for people who have erroneously accepted any of the four false premises as true. My intent is not to show who is right and who is not Catholic; what I wish to show is how your group creates a circular pattern of thinking between your false premises and your conclusions, and, of course, to illustrate how the Catholic Church of Christ remains unscathed by such arguments. 

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COC #52: False Premise #4 Regarding Baptism

False Premise #4: The Christian Church has always believed that immersion is the only acceptable mode for Baptism.

The Protestant Church of Christ’s fourth false premise is a common Protestant trait, which is to label any nonconforming example from history as “not true Christianity,” or not pertaining to the invisible “true Church” that exists within a community’s assumed ancient presence. The strategy always allows for a “true” form of Christianity to elusively exist somewhere within the shadows of history—a form that always adheres to any modern whim. So, for those of you who have considered my review of the last three false premises, and are entertaining the possibility, no matter how slight, that the Catholic Church has a more perfect grasp on the subjects of Baptism and Scripture, then the following should solidify your inkling. 

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COC #51: COC False Premise #3 Regarding Baptism

False Premise #3: Every Baptism in the Bible is by full immersion.

The New Testament does not describe a single example of a proper mode for Baptism. The New Testament, however, does refer to instructions about baptisms (Hebrews 6:2), but no instructions of any kind are found in the New Testament—such instructions are part of the Sacred Tradition of the Church, and you should ask yourself, “Where are the instructions if they are not in the Bible, and who guards them?” But the Protestant sects have divorced themselves from the Sacred Tradition; have chosen to engage in private interpretation of the historical Church’s Scriptures. But even if the modern rules of heresy were reasonable, a “Bible-only” Christian should notice that the Bible only supports the Catholic Church of Christ’s teachings, because the very word baptizo spans a spectrum of meaning that includes the Catholic Church’s spectrum of modal acceptance, as I illustrated by exposing false premise #2.

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COC #50: COC False Premise #2 Regarding Baptism

False Premise #2: The secular and Christian use of the Greek word from which the English word “baptism” is derived always refers to immersion (complete submersion) in a fluid.        

The Protestant Church of Christ’s second false premise is closely related to the first; each relies circularly on the other as support. Your erroneous assumption is that the Greek word from which the English word “baptism” is derived always refers to complete submersion in a fluid. 

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COC #49: COC False Premise #1 Regarding Baptism

False Premise #1: The secular Greek use of the word baptizo is intended to indicate a specific mode for a religious rite. 

True, the Greek word baptizo is the word from which the English word “baptism” is derived, but your group is incorrect when it teaches that the Greek word’s use is intended to communicate a specific mode for a Christian rite. It is a poor assumption to believe that an older word provides the conclusive illuminating exposition of a newer concept.  

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COC #48: The Church of Christ Recognizes Various Modes of Baptism

Non-Catholic Christians,

The Catholic Church of Christ believes the word “Baptism” (capitalized as a sacrament) represents a specific sacrament, and the Protestant Church of Christ believes the word—capitalized or not—represents a specific sacrament (so to speak) as well as a specific mode: immersion, and only immersion. The Catholic Church and the Protestant group agree that Baptism by immersion is valid, but the Catholic Church has always understood that Baptism is not relegated to its alleged pheno-linguistic parameters, but as a sacrament, includes pouring as a proper mode (often referred to as “sprinkling” by non-Catholics, but is in fact a pouring action when performed most properly).1    

It is with great pleasure that the Catholic Church of Christ recognizes the validity of your group’s “first” Baptisms (there are no “re-Baptisms”; cf. Ephesians 4:5), and they are valid because they are still within the scope of the Catholic Church’s teachings (the Church is the foundation and conduit of truth: cf. John 14:16-18,26; 16:13; Ephesians 3:10; 1 Timothy 3:15); with water, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and for the forgiveness of sins (regeneration). The difference, however, is that your group has deliberately narrowed its understanding of acceptable modes—an evolution that is tied to a new (= Protestant) belief that infants should not be baptized, which I will address in the next chapter.

In addition to your erroneous assumption that the Bible is intended to provide a thorough exposition of a proper mode (the Scriptures do not, and cannot, claim to be a “sole authority” or thorough expounder of the subject), your group’s confusion seems to largely stem from four false premises. It goes without mentioning, though I must, that not all members of your group accept every false premise as true, but all members do accept some of them in varying degrees. I will show how your group’s premises are false and simultaneously show you how the Catholic Church of Christ’s position is more reasonable. 


      1 “Sprinkling”, as a mode, does not affect validity, only licitness (strict adherence to law). Catechism of the Catholic Church #1239: “Baptism is performed in the most expressive way by triple immersion in the baptismal water. However, from ancient times it has also been able to be conferred by pouring the water three times over the candidate’s head.” Code of Canon Law, 854: “Baptism is to be conferred either by immersion or by pouring.”  

COC #47: COC Objection #3: “Beware of Robes”

(3) The Protestant Church of Christ often objects to the Catholic Church’s use of vestments (robes), and believes that its use of vestments is an indication that it is a body that Christians should “beware of.”

This particular objection is more superficial, but it is popular, and often presented within the context of Matthew 23:9, so I will quickly address it.

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COC #46: COC Objection #2: “Pope Is Not Holy Father”

(2) The Protestant Church of Christ objects to the address of “Holy Father” for a pope.

As already proved, it is perfectly biblical for Christians to call their priests “father”. However, the address “holy” is a word the Protestant Church of Christ reserves for God alone, but is its reservation biblically substantiated?

We know Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man (Mark 6:20). The prophet Zechariah’s prophecy referred to holy prophets (Luke 1:70), and St. Luke’s narrative also referred to holy prophets (Acts 3:21). Did St. Peter mistakenly call the writers of Scripture the holy men of God (2 Peter 1:21 Douay-Rheims)? Was St. Peter not referring to men when he wrote about a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5 Revised Standard Version)? Was Sarah notone of the holy women who hoped in God (3:5)? And did St. Peter not encourage the Church to remember the predictions of the holy prophets (2 Peter 3:2)? (All emphases added.)

Clearly, the “Bible alone” does not reserve the address “holy” for God alone, but rather, suggests that there are indeed holy men and women. And therefore, since “father” is a biblical address for priests, the two words, added together, form an address that does not violate the Scriptures.

COC #45: COC Objection #1: “Call No Man Father”

(1) The Protestant Church of Christ objects to the Catholic Church’s practice of calling her priests “fathers”.  

The Protestant Church of Christ bases its objection not on the full corpus of Scripture, but on a single, isolated verse: And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven (Matthew 23:9). As with every objection I have addressed in this book thus far, I will illustrate how context and reason should diffuse your group’s objection and also redirect its judgment towards itself.  

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COC #44: The Church of Christ Understands Spiritual Fatherhood

Non-Catholic Christians,

Non-Catholic Christianity is like a shattered mirror; it reflects something that precedes it, but it might not reflect parts of the object at all. The image that is seen in the mirror is similar to the object, and those similarities are good, but it is not the full image of the object, and it certainly is not the actual object itself.  

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COC #43: Perfecting of the Saints

As already presented, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is a favored passage that proponents of “Bible-only” Christianity present as proof-text support for their Rule of Faith; and as such, the passage becomes instrumental for establishing the vehicle for attaining “spiritual completeness” (Pollard’s indicative assertion; see previous two posts). This concept of “spiritual completeness” is the perfecting that your groups strive for (or claim to have already obtained, depending on ecclesial sub-sect or individual belief).

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COC #42: Who Is the Man of God?

Most biblical uses of the phrase “man of God” are found in the Old Testament. The only other New Testament occurrence of the phrase is found in 1 Timothy: But as for you, man of God, shun all this; aim in righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness (6:11). St. Paul, again, was writing to St. Timothy and specifically called him, not the rank-and-file believer, man of God.

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COC #41: COC Proof for Sola Scriptura: 2 Timothy 3:16-17

(4) As a proof for sola Scriptura or “Bible-only” Christianity, the Protestant Church of Christ refers to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which reads:

All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

I know. You have been waiting for this! Your community thinks this is the silver bullet, the cleanup hitter, the biblical proof of all proofs! You interpret the passage as, “The Bible is all Scripture, and the Bible alone contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness.” You do not allow the “Bible only” to communicate what the passage means, you interpret it with an agenda that seeks out passages that might support your wish, and you then present your interpretation as what the Bible communicates. And as your most often-used proof for sola Scriptura or “Bible-only” Christianity, I will give it more attention than your others, but you now know what I ask of you: a reasonable approach to the passage and its context. Therefore, let us begin by addressing the full passage beginning from verse 14 through verse 17.

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COC #40: COC “Proof” for Sola Scriptura: Acts 17:11

(3) As a proof for “Bible-only” Christianity, the Protestant Church of Christ presents the Bereans from Acts 17:11 as an example of proper Christians who ranked Sacred Scripture over the Church’s oral teachings. The passage is presented as a proof-text, which reads:  

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11 NIV).

The Protestant Church of Christ refers to its own commentary about Acts 17:11, not the actual text, to argue for “Bible-only” Christianity. The commentary is that the Bereans were noble because they examined the Scriptures, and therefore, somehow, presumably, they must have been “Bible-only” Christians. Your group understands this verse as a lesson that teaches how Christians should always weigh teachings against Scripture, and if any teaching is not validated by one’s private interpretation of the Bible then that teaching is false, thereby establishing a higher rank of authority for Scripture than the Apostles’ teachings (and of course, places one’s private interpretation of the Scriptures over the Scriptures themselves). But that is not what the passage reveals, and it becomes clear when we back up and examine its context. 

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COC #39: COC “Proof” for Sola Scriptura: “Scripture OR Tradition”

(2) As a proof for “Bible-only” Christianity, the Protestant Church of Christ refers to New Testament passages that include any negative portrayal of “tradition” in order to suggest an “either/or” (Scripture/Tradition) dichotomy of authority.

The Protestant Church of Christ perceives Catholic Sacred Tradition as an unbiblical rival to Sacred Scripture. Therefore, you (its members) begin not with openness to any established tradition, but rather, a scriptural quest for proof that traditions (foreign to your own) are suspicious invention of fallen men.

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COC #38: “Proof” for Sola Scriptura: 1 Corinthians 4:6

(1) The Protestant Church of Christ argues that St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians supports sola Scriptura or “Bible-only” Christianity. The utilized passage reads:

I have applied all this to myself and Apol’los for your benefit, brethren, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another (1 Corinthians 4:6).

It is not this verse that the Protestant Church of Christ actually refers to as a proof, but only a few words within this verse: . . . not to go beyond what is written . . . , and then it re-presents the proof-fragment as a full teaching: “Do not go beyond what is written in the Bible.” There are several problems with your proof. First, nearly all New Testament references to what is written refer to the Old Testament Scriptures (just as it is in this particular case). If St. Paul meant that no Christian is to go beyond what is written in a true “Bible-only” fashion, then this very letter that St. Paul was writing should not be considered as Scripture, yet you quote it as such.    

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COC #37: COC Proof-Text Arguments for Sola Scriptura

As a Catholic Christian, I am aware that the Christian Church pre-dates the Bible, that the Apostles preached the gospel prior to any New Testament autograph, and that Jesus perpetuated His message into all generations by establishing a primitive institutional body for which to carry His lantern; but members of the Protestant Church of Christ, I have found, have largely never thought about such facts. The Church and her Sacred Tradition is the message of God, is the word of God; and her Scriptures are the word of God as well. Both are message. Both are authoritative. Both are the word of God.

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COC #36: COC Perspicuity Proof: 2 Timothy 3:16 with 1 Timothy 5:18

• 2 Timothy 3:16 with 1 Timothy 5:18 read:

All scripture is inspired by God . . . , [and] . . . for the scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

The Protestant Church of Christ combines these two passages, and presents them as meaning, “The Protestant Old Testament and the now-formed New Testament are all Scripture, and therefore, all that should be in the Bible is what we have in our own Bibles.” This meaning is, of course, circular (the Bible establishes the Bible), but it also implies St. Paul somehow knew that some (not all) of his own letters would become Scripture, and that he knew all of the other writings that are now in the New Testament—even writings that had not yet been written—would become Scripture. And since St. Paul, here, is quoting from both the Old Testament and what would become part of the New Testament, your apologists conclude that the nascent Church would resemble modern “Bible-only” communities.

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COC #35: COC Perspicuity Proof: 2 Timothy 3:16 with 2 Peter 1:21 (NIV)

• 2 Timothy 3:16 with 2 Peter 1:21 (New International Version) read: 

All scripture is inspired by God . . . , [and] . . . prophets . . . spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

I will explain St. Paul’s passage more in depth later in this chapter when I illustrate how he does not support the Protestant Church of Christ’s belief in “Bible-only” Christianity. But for now, I will show you how your group wrongly uses this passage as a proof for its theory that the New Testament is self-authenticating and independent of Catholic inspiration and authority.

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COC #34: COC Perspicuity Proof: 1 John 1:1-4

• 1 John 1:1-4 reads:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with the Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete.

Though you deny it, St. John was Catholic; so even if this verse, in any way, could provide an argument for a self-authenticating canon, it is impossible for the passage to provide support for a canon that is not dependent on the Catholic Church. And one can read the passage as many times as she would like, but she would not find any support whatsoever for a self-authenticating canon. Professional Protestant Church of Christ anti-Catholic blogger and preacher Scott J. Shifferd indicatively explained how your group uses the passage.4 On his website, Shifferd chose a Bible version that translates the last sentence of the passage as These things we write to you (which is fine). He explained that St. John’s use of the words These things we write to you are understood by your group as an indication that all the apostolic writings are Scripture. Shifferd’s problem, of course, is that the passage communicates nothing of the sort. But the passage is not what is important to Shifferd or others who must argue against the Catholic Church’s construction of the Christian canon and for their theory of a self-authenticating canon. In other words, Shifferd and your apologists want the world to ignore the circular logic that your group promotes: that “the Bible says what the Bible is,” or, “St. John’s writings are inspired because St. John’s writings say they are inspired.” Should we not all, then, become Mormon? After all, the Book of Mormon actually claims inspiration for itself! But the Restorationist Mormons actually have a better argument than your Restorationist community, because 1 John 1:1-4 does not, in any way, claim that it is inspired or that any apostolic writing is inspired. 

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COC #33: COC Perspicuity Proof: 2 Peter 3:15-16

• 2 Peter 3:15-16 reads: 

So also our beloved Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.

Let us not be unstable, but rather, admit St. Peter was not establishing any sacred Table of Contents. St. Peter was the Pope. He was Catholic, so it is intellectually dishonest for a person to use St. Peter’s Letter as any sort of proof for the Catholic Church’s non-involvement with the canon’s formation. But your group does not acknowledge this historical fact, hopes its hearers are equally ignorant, and proceeds to interpret the passage to their own destruction. Your group twiststhe passage from what it reads to an interpretation that means, “All of St. Paul’s letters are inspired.” And since your already-established Bible contains letters written by St. Paul, your group convinces itself that a large portion of the New Testament is authenticated by the use of St. Peter’s Letter.

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COC #32: COC Arguments for Perspicuity of Scripture

When pressed on matters of Bible origins and the Protestant Church of Christ’s only purported available source of revelation (the “Bible only”), your group must avoid the history of the canon’s formation; your group’s self-perceived legitimacy would be at risk if the Catholic Church were shown to be intrinsically connected with the Bible’s development. Your group is a “Bible-only” group, and your group insists it is the nascent Church, so your group must (or should, rather) insist the nascent Church was a “Bible-only” Church. As such, your group does not approach the Bible as Christians normally approach it (within Liturgy); it approaches the Bible with the assumption that the “Bible only” is the only source of religious truth, and therefore, the Bible must in some way establish for itself that the Bible is the full, complete, unspoiled, and self-authenticating written word of God.

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COC #31: On Rule of Faith

Catholics admit that Jesus established an authoritative Church, that the Church wrote and compiled the New Testament writings, that she added them to the Old Testament, and then called the entire library of Sacred Scripture the Bible. Catholics admit that the word of God is not only present in the Sacred Scriptures, but is also present in that same Sacred Tradition—oral teachings and authoritative leadership—He established. The subject of this admittance is what is called the Christian Rule of Faith. 

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COC #30: The Church of Christ Is Guided by the Word of God

Non-Catholic Christians,

The Protestant Church of Christ holds in its collective mind a conviction that the Catholic Church either intentionally violates Scripture or is oblivious to it. She does not and is not. Any Catholic dogmatic—not individualistic—violation your group perceives is rooted in its own poor understanding of the Scriptures and Christianity. So, as you read this chapter, please continue to ask yourself the kind of question I have raised several times throughout this book: Why do you believe your interpretation of the Bible is more credible than the Catholic Church’s interpretation of the Bible?  

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COC #29: Concluding Remarks Regarding Apostasy and Restoration

Is the Church not the household of God (1 Timothy 3:15)—the house Christ built? Is Christ not more powerful than Satan (cf. 1 John 4:4)? No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods (Mark 3:27), but Satan plundered your theoretical strong man’s house! The Catholic Church’s Strong Man guards His household. It is true that Satan can conquer individual Christians who choose to indulge in mortal sin, and who apostasize themselves from His household (cf. Romans 11:22, Galatians 5:4, 1 John 5:16-17); but Jesus promised the visible, identifiable, and authoritative Church He would not leave her as an orphan (cf. John 16:16-18), but would be with her until the end of the world (Matthew 20:28 King James Version). 

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COC #28: More Irresponsible “Proofs” for Catholicism’s Apostasy

The Scriptures do teach that many people will fall away, but they never indicate that there would be a Great or near-Great Apostasy. Many of your preferred proof-texts in fact teach that “many (not all, not most) will fall away”, which is exactly what the Catholic Church of Christ has consistently taught. Before my concluding remarks, I will quickly address the secondary passages your group uses to support its interpretation of the primary passages I have already reviewed.

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COC #26: Argument: “2 Thessalonians 2:3 Proves Apostasy”

Your ministers counter the overflowing character of the gospel not with the “Bible only”, but with an anti-Catholic agenda, and then distort a passage to justify their theology, and then gather portions of other passages to prove a seemingly thought-out theology—a seemingly “biblical” apologia for the Great Apostasy (or near-Great Apostasy) theory.  

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COC #25: A Comparative Reflection on the Word “Apostasy”

Consider a sacramental reflection on the word “apostasy”, and how it relates to the full understanding of what “falling away” might mean—how it might reveal which Church, Catholic or “Protestant/Restored”, is more legitimate. The “falling away” (apostasy) is derived from the Greek word apostasai—a rather unique sounding word when transliterated (not translated) into English, and one that carries no historical connotations to remind its modern Protestant readers that a pre-apostate body existed. (St. Paul’s original audience certainly understood that the visible, institutional, and authoritative body of the Church existed.) In English, “apostasy” conjures, in the Protestant mind, a falling from an invisible mystical truth—infidelity to a theory—not a falling away from a visible body that is indeed the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15).

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COC #24: On Apostasy and Restoration

Non-Catholic Christians,

If the Protestant Church of Christ is following a pattern, it resembles that of the heretics—all of whom lifted themselves over the Scriptures as self-appointed arbiters of scriptural interpretation, and over the Church by claiming such authority; who then defined new orthodoxy, and called it old. The early proto-Protestant heretics of antiquity, with whom you would largely, but not fully, disagree with doctrinally, were at least as credible as your restorers. Why should we not believe that they, and not you, represent the Lord’s Church? And less credible than the first heretics were the original Protestants of the sixteenth century, who too believed they were restoring what had gone into apostasy; but you do not follow Luther, Calvin, or Zwingli. No, you follow men who followed such men; the Protestant Church of Christ is the progeny of disgruntled Presbyterian ministers who, for no reason, believed they could, by their own power, resurrect the mystical body of Christ from a supposed blasphemous death, which could never occur. In other words, there was no “Great Apostasy” and there was no “Restoration”; but there is a real Church of Christ that teaches, and actually believes: to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 3:21).   

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COC #23: Response to Anticipated Objections Regarding Leaders’ Powers

Your ministers argue against the Catholic Church’s powers of binding and loosing by teaching that the local congregation contains some form of power (“marking”, banishing, excommunicating; any term that is used to dispel a member from fellowship). Your group’s primary scriptural support is derived from Matthew 18:15-18, which reads:

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COC 22: More Irresponsible Proof Texts Against Hierarchy

#4 (and following): The remaining lesser proofs that Wharton and the Protestant Church of Christ provide are presented in the same manner as #3, which is a posited theory followed by a referenced verse without quoted text. In other words, commentary (not Scripture) is presented as the word of God, such as (in Wharton’s words):

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COC #21: Argument #3: “Acts 6 Disproves Hierarchy”

#3: Representative of how the Protestant Church of Christ utilizes Scripture to argue for its positions, Wharton referred to a Bible passage to prove strict local church autonomy without supplying its actual corresponding text (more examples forthcoming). He wrote, “The local church selected her own ministers (Acts 6:1-6).” Wharton’s practice is common; Protestant Church of Christ ministers posit a preference/theory, allude to a passage from the Bible, and the act of referencing (not quoting) a passage somehow provides ample credibility for the preference; or the citation is intended to imply that the text reads as such, when really, it does not. If a writer summarizes her belief of what a Bible passage means, then the reference should include “cf.” (confer/compare); it is less than forthright to provide a citation to Scripture when it is not Scripture that is quoted. The passage at hand, which is a product of the hierarchy, of course, supports its creator, and not a model that in fact teaches, “The local church selected her own ministers.” The passage, not Protestant commentary, reads:

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COC #19: Argument #1: “Acts 20 Disproves Hierarchy”

#1: The Protestant Church of Christ presents St. Paul’s address to the elders of the church at Ephesus as proof for local church autonomy—in essence, proof that there is no Christian hierarchy tying the Church together; and therefore, all churches are autonomous and without external influence. Wharton quotes Scripture to suggest the scope of an elder’s oversight is limited to his local church: 

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COC #18: Local Churches Are Planted by, and Obedient to, the Hierarchy

The Christian ecclesial hierarchy is found even within the smallest local church (parish); every properly ordained priest (elder) is able to trace his pedigree back to the Apostles, and therefore Christ. Priests are ordained by their bishops; not all priests are bishops, but all bishops are priests—just as it is reflected in the New Testament.  

Every detailed ecclesial (governmental) description in the New Testament reflects the already-existing Catholic paradigm, and I will show you how your group’s best arguments fail to prove autonomous local church structures because they all presuppose the Catholic hierarchy. Your arguments are few, and so your best arguments are fewer. Edward Wharton’s book, The Church of Christ, with one and one half pages, presents what I have found to be your group’s most-used (indicative) and best arguments,14 all of which I will present to you, and I will show how a reasonable reading of his arguments’ scriptural material undermines your group’s forced conclusion.


         14 Wharton, 85-87.

COC #16: The Church of Christ Is Apostolic

Jesus did not build His Church so that it would last a single generation. He promised He would be with her until the end of time; with you always (Matthew 28:20), so that he who receives you [the Apostles] receives me (Matthew 10:40; cf. Luke 10:16; John 13:20). Legitimate clergy via maintenance of the hierarchy through apostolic succession is the manner in which Jesus intended to perpetuate His Church, which you must admit to on some level; for without Catholic apostolic succession, the world would not have the Bible as you know it today. Additionally, the worldwide Church would not have doctrine, for it is not the Bible that declares doctrine but a living Church. Even the popular Protestant proof-text which is used as a catch-all basket for Protestantism’s particular premises regarding the supremacy of Scripture—All scripture is God-breathed . . . (2 Timothy 3:16 New International Version)—is included in the Bible because, and only because, of Catholic apostolic succession. Succession’s fruit is the visible body that, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, determined which writings would become Christian Scripture—Scripture that, along with the books of the Old Testament, would become useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness

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COC #15: Keys Are Forgiveness

As shown, Christ Jesus is our Messianic King, and He is at the top of the Church’s hierarchy. The King chose St. Peter as Royal Steward. The other Apostles, including St. Paul, were subordinate to St. Peter, yet held authority within the Church (cf. Matthew 18:17-20). This primitive hierarchy is reflected in the Scriptures, and as a reflection, it represents what was already present: the hierarchical structure that in fact created the Bible, which is the product your community parses to argue against the hierarchy.

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COC #14: What Are The Keys?

The most powerful position under the king was that of the royal steward—the prime minister. King Solomon instituted the office in 1 Kings 4:6 when he appointed Ahi’shar (Ahi’shar was in charge of the palace), and Isaiah provides a more thorough description of the office. Now that you have re-read Matthew 16:19, please read what Jesus was referencing, and what Jesus’ audience would have recognized as the structural paradigm of the new kingdom—of the true Church of Christ:

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COC #13: St. Peter Was First

St. Peter’s position and importance is clearer than any other Apostle. Every major group of New Testament texts is acquainted with the subject of St. Peter—illuminating his universal (catholic) significance. St. Peter’s marathon lists of “firsts” overflow the New Testament, not because of random chance among several writers, but deliberate recognition of his primacy. St. Peter is given Christ’s flock to shepherd (cf. John 21:17), headed the meeting to appoint the first apostolic successor (cf. Acts 1:13-26), preached at Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:14), received the first converts (cf. Acts 2:41), performed the first miracle after Pentecost (cf. Acts 3:6-7), presided over the first ecclesial punishment (cf. Acts 5:1-11), excommunicated the first heretic (cf. Acts 8:21), presided over the first council (cf. Acts 15:7-12), and it is St. Peter who spoke for the Apostles (cf. Matthew 18:21, Mark 8:29, John, 6:68-69). This is not an exhaustive summary, but it does raise some questions: Why was so much responsibility and authority given to one person? And why did his duties, as presented in these passages, provide a rough job description of every pope throughout history, yet attract reflexive repugnance from the Catholic Church’s Protestants today?  

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COC #12: The Church of Christ Is Hierarchical

The Protestant Church of Christ also calls itself the Churches (or “churches”; lowercase “c”) of Christ. The names grant the group flexibility. “Church” (singular) communicates unity, and “Churches” (plural) communicates the autonomous nature of each local congregation. It makes sense; the Catholic Church has used the same names for centuries, but the Catholic Church’s use of the words does not indicate autonomy, but rather, unity even amongst its individual assemblies.

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COC #11: Matthew 16’s Passage Structure

If the Protestant Church of Christ would mind what it advertises as a principle—to “speak where the Bible speaks, and to be silent where the Bible is silent”—then your community would be built on St. Peter. The Catholic Church’s paradigm is precisely what the text communicates, as it only can, because the text is a product of the Catholic Church of Christ (the Church pre-dates the Bible). Structure, proximity, grammar, and intent, connect its three parts; and St. Matthew’s passage communicates an intent that is clearly supported by St. John’s Gospel. Jesus said, You [Peter] shall be called Cephas (John 1:42). Jesus did not say, “Your confession shall be called cephas (rock).” Nor did He say, “Any person’s confession of faith shall be called cephas (rock).” And therefore, St. Matthew’s passage ceases to be cryptic in any respect, and best understood when read in its fullness. St. Peter’s “confession of faith” provides a three-part context. It begins with Jesus’ response to St. Peter’s words, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

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COC #10: Objection #4: “Greek Supports Protestant Paradigm”

As heirs of the Protestant model, your group expects Christians to disregard the logic and structure of the passage, and instead, become distracted and preoccupied with a language that Jesus was not speaking: Greek. I referred to this distraction earlier in this chapter, and prefer to give it the near-footnote’s amount of attention that its red herring nature deserves, but for thoroughness and worthwhile comparative value I must illustrate how your group’s exegesis of Matthew 16:18 and its understanding of “rock” has little to do with the text, but agenda. The Greek does not harm the Catholic Church of Christ; it proves without a doubt the Church is built on St. Peter.   

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COC #9: Objection #3: “Jesus is the ONLY Rock and Foundation”

(3) The Protestant Church of Christ argues that Jesus is the rock and foundation of the Church, and therefore, nobody or nothing else can be rock and foundation.  

The argument quickly falls apart because it conflicts with your group’s argument that the rock Jesus was referring to in Matthew 16:18 is St. Peter’s “confession of faith”, or the “confession of faith” of any individual, as shown in objection #1; and it conflicts with your group’s argument that the rock is Jesus Himself (see objection #2). In other words, your objections to the Catholic Church of Christ, as it is built on rock, have thus far invalidated themselves because they contradict your other objections.

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COC #8: Objection #2: “Jesus Called Himself Rock”

Your members often interpret, And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church . . . (Matthew 16:18), as “And I tell you, you are Peter, but on myself, I will build my church.” Would it not be awkward for Jesus to confuse St. Peter by calling him rock (Cephas), and then change subjects to a different rock (cephas), and then expect St. Peter to think that Jesus was referring to Himself? Was Jesus giving Himself the keys? Was Jesus assigning binding and loosing powers to Himself? And of course, how is the rock Jesus was referring to actually be Himself, when, as your ministers also teach, was St. Peter’s “confession of faith”? (See objection #1)    

COC #7: Objection #1: “Rock Is Confession”

Your members ordinarily first object to the Catholic Church of Christ’s self-understanding of what Jesus’ spoken words mean by arguing from the written words of a different language as written by that same Catholic Church—by divorcing the text from its creator or insisting that Jesus would build His Church on a subject He never once called rock; but apparently attempted to confuse future Greek interpreters by calling St. Peter rock, and then proclaiming to build His church upon that very subject. The language offers no wriggle room for Protestants to argue against the historical interpretation (and therefore, practice) of what could possibly be the simplest passage in all of the New Testament to understand: I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. And therefore, your communities, like much of the remainder of Protestantism, jettisons the clear pro-Catholic implication of the single verse and focuses attention on other verses that, presumably, present obstacles for the Catholic Church of Christ’s position.

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COC #6: The Church of Christ Is Built on Rock

Non-Catholic Christians,

Did Jesus try to confuse people when He used a word rich with paternal authority when He named Simon Bar-Jona “Rock”? For Abraham, too, was called a “rock”:  

Hearken to me, you who pursue deliverance, you who seek the LORD; look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were digged. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you (Isaiah 51:1-2).  

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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). 

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COC #4: The Church of Christ Pre-Dates the Bible

Non-Catholic Christians,

How impossible it is for any “Bible-only” community to be the true Church of Christ! Can you not understand that the ontological priority of a sacred library of books must be a sacred body with the authority to have recognized and labeled it as such, that an inerrant text requires an inerrant author, that the Spirit who aided the writing is the same Spirit who aids interpretation—that you would have no reason to believe the books that comprise the New Testament are inspired if it were not for the authority of a God-intended Sacred Tradition?

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COC #3: Church Beginnings, Concluding Remarks

Members of the Protestant Church of Christ,

There is a powerful delusion that thrives within your community. The delusion is that your members appeal to the Scriptures as their only source of authority. I will show throughout the remainder of this book how the Catholic Church is not only more biblical than any Protestant/Restorationist group, but that the Catholic Church is the Church of the New Testament; and that the Protestant Church of Christ does not surrender to the “Bible only”, but to its own wisdom. This first chapter illustrates how prolific the delusion is, and provides an example of how the delusion does not lend itself to the discovery of truth, but to the avoidance of Catholicism.

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COC #2: When Did the Church Begin?

A Personal Introduction and an Example of the Richness of Catholic Theology

Non-Catholic Christians,

One force that pushed my conversion towards Catholicism from non-Catholic, Stone-Campbellite Christianity was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s theology, who is already our former pope. Of course, such interest antagonized my low-church Fundamentalist sensibilities. Though he haunted me, I enjoyed every moment, and am now attempting to illustrate the richness of Catholic theology by focusing on only one question: When did the Church begin?  

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COC #1: Introduction: Churches of Christ

I have had hundreds of conversations with Restorationists who insist they are not Protestant. True, they are not Protestant (proper); their communities were created after the sixteenth century, but they are certainly Protestant (as an adjective). They were born out of Protestantism, they adopted the Protestant-developed canon of Scripture, and they absorbed Protestant-developed beliefs. For clarity and not disparagement, throughout this book I will refer to the Catholic Church by one of her ancient names: The Church of Christ, and I will refer to Restorationist groups that have assumed her ancient name for themselves as the Protestant Church(es) of Christ.

This book is written in letter form. In style, I am addressing members of the Protestant Church of Christ, but this book is also ideal for Catholic Christians who are targeted for conversion. I had to decide which protests—which differences—to address, so I chose subjects that are, in my experience, more often brought up by Restorationists when they attack Catholicism: subjects I believe are intrinsic to the most important principles non-Catholic Christians rarely consider. Therefore, unfortunately, there are many additional subjects I cannot include in a single manageably-sized book. I simply cannot write about every particular attack; subjects like the Eucharist, our veneration of Mary, canon formation, purgatory, prayers, and on and on. Perhaps I will add a volume in the future. This is a start. It should be sufficient to encourage any theologically-curious member of the Protestant Church of Christ to realize that the real Church of Christ is Catholic. And more importantly, this book provides Catholics with Stone-Campbell Restorationists’ best and most indicative attacks; and shows how Catholic Christianity is always more reasonable, more biblical, more Christian, more plausibly true.