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.Continue reading
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.Continue reading
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.Continue reading
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.Continue reading
(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.
(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.Continue reading
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).Continue reading
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.Continue reading
(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.Continue reading
(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.Continue reading
(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.Continue reading
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.Continue reading
• 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.Continue reading
• 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.Continue reading
• 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.Continue reading
• 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.Continue reading
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.Continue reading
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.Continue reading
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?Continue reading
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.Continue reading
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.Continue reading
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).Continue reading
#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:Continue reading
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.
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.Continue reading
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?Continue reading
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)
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).Continue reading
(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).Continue reading
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.Continue reading