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.
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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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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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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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.
The following outline shows that Jesus intended to create a holy, visible Church; complete with a prime minister, a hierarchy, binding authority, and perpetuity—the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
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