Thursday, February 14, 2013

Connecting the Dots Between the Early Church and Catholicism, Part I

Many Protestants think the Catholic church began with Constantine and the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. However, Catholics claim that their church goes all the way back to Jesus giving Peter the Keys to His Kingdom in Matthew 16:18. And this is not an insignificant Christian disagreement.

I have been at a loss to show inquirers how the Catholic Church was the church Christ started. For Orthodox and Catholics it is somehow so assumed, that it would be like my children asking me to prove I am married to their father. Our marriage license, I hope, is back in our storage in Texas as well as wedding photos. It will take a great deal of time, travel, expense and digging for me to prove without a doubt that I am legally married to my husband. (Especially if my kids wouldn’t accept a current copy of an old document.)

That is kind of how I feel about my Protestant brethren’s question. But it is a very valid question that needs to be answered. Yet, I have found few resources that are condensed, in one small volume that I can hand to them that would be convincing. So I will attempt try a short and longer version of connecting the dots from the first century church to the fifth century church (as this is the period when Protestants believe that the church picked up pagan ideas and corrupted the church, thus taking away its authority.)

What dots?

Physical Dots: First we need a physical line of successors: Peter appoints a leader to pass on the faith after he dies and then that guy appoints a leader and so on. That’s a simple task.

Authority Dots: Secondly, we need find out through early church sources who the members saw as authoritative and what the church leaders taught about authority. Did the church see Peter’s successors as having the same authority Peter did? Was there a centralized authority in Rome?

Doctrinal Dots: What did the early church teach? Can we link the early church to the Catholic Church today through doctrines?

Here’s why this is vital to understand. If the Protestants are correct and the church was seeped in paganism to the point of irrevocably corrupting it and God abandon His church before the time of Constantine and a new church formed calling itself Catholic, then we must rationally question the canon of scripture, the Trinity doctrine, the doctrines surrounding the Divinity of Christ. For it was after Constantine that the Bible was compiled and declared infallible. It was the Catholic church (then corrupted as Protestants claim) that met in councils and decided dogmas, doctrines and disciples that even Protestants go by today.

Therefore, if there is sufficient evidence that the earliest church believed much the same things as the church of Constantine and this is what it believes today and it saw Peter’s successors as having authority and there was a centralized authority in the bishops and Rome in particular, then we have, in a sense, connected Peter with whoever the new pope is going to be. Of course, this is not exhaustive but a superficial look into the subject. But it is eye-opening for those who believe that the early church looked more like Protestantism than Catholicism.

If you can trust the first century Christians and show that they were very connected by authority and doctrine to the fourth and fifth century Christians, we can have full faith that the church when it created the New Testament and compiled the Bible. Its Councils were sound. That same Holy Spirit was guiding them as a group, as a Body, throughout the centuries.

You don’t want to read a book and I don’t have time to write one. But here’s a start. First I will show you a quick chart of evidence by half century and then I will source the evidence from the early church fathers below it. If you have any to add let me know. 

1 comment:

Stephen Korsman said...

This is something I've been thinking of compiling for a while. A significant proportion of people exposed to this will simply push forward (closer to now) the date for the establishment of the Evil Catholic Papal Church to avoid anything good (Trinity, Athanasius, Augustine, etc) from being a Catholic thing. The rest of the quotes will be considered to be quirks of good Christian writers, or, for some, evidence that Catholics have tampered with the documents.