P (Roman Catholic): First Rebuttal


"Even if there were a spirit of Protestantism, no Protestant could write about it in the definitive way, for example, that Karl Adam writes about the spirit of Catholicism. Catholicism is 'there.' It has recognizable boundaries. It has discernible practices. It has infallible dogmas. There is no excuse for a Roman Catholic author to misrepresent the Roman Catholic faith, although few of them can represent it as magnificently as Karl Adam has done.

"But Protestantism is not 'there'; it is all over the place. It does not have recognizable boundaries; it is extremely difficult to know when an individual or a church has ceased to be Protestant, and whether all who claim the title either deserve or honor it. Protestantism does not have discernible practices; at least, the ones that can be discerned are so inconsistent that it is difficult if not impossible to find a unifying principle of interpretation. Nor does Protestantism have infallible dogmas; at most it has a body of shared convictions, but it also has sharp differences about convictions that are not shared." (Robert McAfee Brown, The Spirit of Protestantism [Oxford University Press, 1961], page ix)

Now we are onto our rebuttals. I thank J for his opening statement. The resolution I am defending is "The Roman Catholic Church is the true Church of Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures."  As before, the acronym TC will stand for true Church of Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures, and RCC will stand for the Roman Catholic Church.

After reading J's opening statement a number of times, I keep asking myself: what is the TC? If it's not the RCC, what Church is it? What Church was it? Where is it? Where was it? J does not attempt to answer that question directly. I hope he does fully in his first rebuttal. I accept the "burden of proof" in this debate and my position is the TC is the RCC. But does J have an alternative? I hope he will show me what that alternative is. The arguments and biblical evidence from my opening statement demonstrated the TC is a visible, concrete, locatable, identifiable, historical Church; a hierarchical Church; a sacramental Church; an infallible Church that did not believe in "Scripture alone"; and that Church was promised by Jesus Christ Himself to be indefectible or indestructible, to never fall away from the faith because of the presence of the Holy Spirit of truth in the Church (John 16:13; 14:16f; Matt 16:18f; 28:20; 1 Tim 3:15; Jude 3).

I also argued that the "men of God" (cf. 2 Tim 3:17) in Scripture are the successors to the apostles (cf. Acts 1:20; 1 Thess 2:6; 1 Tim 6:11) who are the early bishops of the visible Catholic Church (i.e. Timothy, Titus, and very clear in Clement of Rome; Ignatius of Antioch; Irenaeus; etc); these "men of God" are the high ecclesiastical authorities of the Church who we must submit to (Heb 13:7,17) according to Scripture. As I stated, nowhere in Scripture does God approve or allow men to appoint themselves leaders of the faith; one must in obedience to Scripture have reform, restoration, or change of received doctrines led by prophets or ranking ecclesiastical authorities, i.e. the "men of God" who are the successors of the apostles as well as the guardians and teachers of Scripture and the deposit of faith (2 Tim 3:16f; 1 Tim 6:20f; 2 Tim 1:13f).

Since Protestantism broke away from the visible Church from which they took their mission (cf. Matt 16:18f; 28:18ff), they cannot be the "men of God" that Scripture speaks about. Their breaking away means they are the "heretics" not the visible Church which sent them (John 20:21; Rom 10:14ff). This is not a debate about the history of the Protestant Reformation, but if J wants to argue the point, I will cover that briefly from my limited knowledge of the events (J as a "dispensationalist" believes the original Protestant Reformers got many things wrong as well). Neither can any of the early heretical sects (who also broke away from the Catholic Church) be the "men of God." Neither can the Anglicans since, as the Anglican convert John Chapman once remarked: "The divisibility of the Church is the cardinal doctrine of Anglicanism, and its most fundamental heresy." (For a full debate on the subject see Bishop Gore and the Catholic Claims [1905] by Dom John Chapman). Official or "formal" schism cannot be true of the TC (Matt 12:25; John 17:20-23; Acts 4:32; Rom 16:17ff; 1 Cor 1:10ff; 3:3f; 14:33; Gal 5:19ff; Philip 1:27; Titus 3:9f; etc). There can be only one true visible Church (Matt 16:18f; Eph 4:5; John 10). I suggested the Orthodox could be the true Church and they are accepted by the RCC as having a valid apostolic succession and priesthood (Holy Orders). The same cannot be said of any Protestant or other "Christian" sect existing today. In many cases the typical independent fundamentalist or evangelical church has an all too brief history.

I will cover a little about the Orthodox vs. Catholic differences at the end of this first rebuttal. What I want to do now is rebut J's entire opening statement.

J's main objection is that the Scriptures (or the earliest Church Fathers) do not teach all the later carefully defined and nuanced doctrines of the RCC, therefore the TC (whatever it was) cannot be the RCC. I shall answer his examples of "unbiblical teaching" shortly. It must be admitted however, that the same can be said of the Holy Trinity, the doctrine of Christ, and the 27-book New Testament canon. None of these beliefs (which J accepts) have explicit and unambiguous definitions until the later Councils of the visible Church (Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon, etc). There is no 27-book NT canon list in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd century. That must be admitted as historical fact. J can explain why he accepts those particular 27 books as his sole infallible authority via private interpretation (which is also not found in the OT or NT documents). As I've explained in my opening statement, "Sola Scriptura" as a doctrine itself was not practiced by Jesus, His apostles, or their immediate successors in the first century (see admission from James White in my opening statement), nor was it taught or practiced in the ante-Nicene Church (see the quote from Pelikan in my opening statement). J needs to produce a clear, unambiguous (or "perspicuous") biblical text on why we should follow "Sola Scriptura" (Scripture alone via private interpretation) today since that is apparently what he believes.

The Holy Trinity, the doctrine of Christ, the 27-book New Testament, and all the later carefully defined doctrines and dogmas of the only existing historical visible Church all stand or fall together. After the definitions have been made, logically to reject one is to reject them all; to accept one is to accept them all. There is no "picking and choosing" of doctrine in the TC or in the only continuous visible Church that succeeded that original apostolic Church. Now I will give some evidence or explanations for the Catholic doctrines that J believes are contradicted by the Scriptures. These are discussed in the order they appear in J's somewhat disorganized opening statement.

Prayers for the Dead

Here J says:

"Not only is such a practice absent from scripture, but it's even contradicted by a condemnation of any attempt to contact the physically deceased (Deuteronomy 18:10-12, Isaiah 8:19, 19:3). The language in these passages is too broad to not include prayers to the dead."

I disagree. The Deuteronomy chapter 18 passage (and others) concern consulting mediums or "conjuring" spirits, commonly called divination, sorcery or old-fashioned "witchcraft." That is not what Catholics (or Orthodox) do when praying for the dead or offering the Mass for our departed brothers in Christ. Catholics know the difference between the two (CCC 2115ff). The former (occultism or divination) does not recognize the one true God, while the latter (prayer for the deceased) recognizes the one God who cares for our souls (here and in the afterlife). The practice of praying for the dead was an early Jewish custom (2 Maccabees 12) and an early Christian practice (some commentaries suggest Onesiphorus is dead, 2 Tim 1:16-18). We also have this:

 "Standing by, I, Abercius, ordered this to be inscribed; truly, I was in my seventy-second year. May everyone who is in accord with this and who understands it PRAY FOR Abercius. Nor indeed, shall any man place another in my tomb." (EPITAPH OF ABERCIUS, Bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia Salutaris, 180 AD)

If ever there was an apostolic tradition (2 Thess 2:15; 2 Tim 2:2) passed on in the Church this is it since the practice is found in ALL the Fathers (explicitly from at least Tertullian forward). From St. John Chrysostom the great eastern Father:

"Not in vain was it decreed BY THE APOSTLES that in the awesome Mysteries remembrance should be made of the DEPARTED. They knew that here there was much gain for them, much benefit. For when the entire people stands with hands uplifted, a priestly assembly, and that awesome SACRIFICIAL VICTIM is laid out, how, when we are calling upon God, should we not succeed in their defense? But this is done for those who have DEPARTED in the faith, while even the catechumens are not reckoned as worthy of this consolation, but are deprived of every means of assistance except one. And what is that? We may give alms to the poor on their behalf." (Homilies on Philippians 3:4)

If not from the apostles, where in the world did this come from? Many other clear statements from the early Fathers and Saints could be brought forward.

Peter and the Papacy

This is a more complex topic and J spends a lot of time on it. However, it is not very relevant in a debate between an Evangelical (who does not believe in one universal visible Church) and a Catholic (who does). This is not a debate about the Papacy as such but the Church. The Papacy would be more relevant in a debate between an Orthodox Christian and Catholic who both believe in one visible Church. Until I can get J to acknowledge the universal visible Church, whether or not there is a visible head of that Church need not enter the discussion. Plus, J has already debated the subject with Mark Bonocore here. We don't need to re-hash all those arguments.

As for the quotations from Klaus Schatz, the Jesuit scholar, a little bit was left out. For example, part of that "increasing consensus" among biblical exegetes is that:

"Not only the three classical Petrine texts (Matt 16:13-19; Luke 22:31-34; John 21:15-17) but also many others, including especially the presentation of Peter as first witness to the resurrection (1 Cor 15:5) testify to Peter's position as leader of the Twelve and of the primitive community, a role conferred on him by Jesus and exercised by virtue of that commission." (Schatz, Papal Primacy [1996], page 1)

That is the "acorn" of the Papacy that J complains Catholics do not have (the acorn to oak analogy is also noted by Karl Adam): Peter is the Rock, the foundation upon which Christ built His Church, who was given the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matt 16:18-19; 18:18). I have looked up many scholars (mainly Protestant) in their commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew: M. Eugene Boring (Disciples of Christ), Francis Wright Beare (Reformed), Eduard Schweitzer (Reformed), R.T. France (Anglican Evangelical), Joachim Jeremias (Lutheran), George Arthur Buttrick (The Interpreter's Bible), Willoughby C. Allen (International Critical Commentary), Raymond Brown/John Reumann (Catholic/Lutheran dialogue on Peter). The "keys" and "binding/loosing" represent the following:

(A) The keys of the kingdom represent authoritative teaching, and Peter's role as holder of the keys is fulfilled now on earth as Christ's chief teacher;

(B) The keeper of the keys, according to the background of Matthew 16:19, has authority within the house as administrator and teacher (cf. Isaiah 22);

(C) The authority of the keys is likened to that of the teachers of the Law in Jesus' day, and the correct interpretation of the Law given by Jesus is accessible to the early community (the Church) through the tradition of Peter;

(D) The authority of the keys of the kingdom (Matt 16:19) are not different from the key of David (Isaiah 22:22; Rev 3:7), since Jesus controls and is in possession of both;

(E) Therefore, the keys (or "key" singular) represent FULL authorization, FULL authority, PLENARY authority, SUPREME authority;

(F) The keys of the kingdom are NOT to be understood as merely entrance keys (or "opening the door of faith" to the Gentiles), but rather to the bundle of keys carried by the chief steward who regulated the affairs of the entire household (cf. Isaiah 22), which in the New Covenant is Christ's universal Church (cf. Matt 16:18; 1 Tim 3:15);

(G) Peter, as holder of the keys, is not merely the "gatekeeper of heaven" or "doorkeeper" but is therefore the Chief Steward of the Kingdom of Heaven (the Church) on earth;

(H) Further, the power of the keys can represent baptismal or penitential discipline, excommunication, exclusion from the Eucharist, legislative powers or the power of governing the affairs of the Church;

(I) The language of "binding" and "loosing" is Rabbinic terminology for authoritative teaching or a teaching function (or "Halakhic" pronouncements), denoting the authoritative declaration that an action is permitted or forbidden by the law of Moses, and the authority to pronounce judgment on unbelievers and promise forgiveness to believers;

(J) The "binding" and "loosing" refers to the Magisterium (the teaching authority of the early community, which Jesus was establishing through His apostles in His Church) to declare a commandment or teaching binding or not binding, forbidden or allowed, and God in heaven will ratify, seal, or confirm that decision made on earth (cf. Matthew 16:19; 18:18).

All of these statements are taken directly from the biblical scholars I listed above. That is more of the "acorn" of a Papacy we see that grew into the "oak" definition of Vatican Council I.

Further, Fr. Schatz wonders "are these the right questions" to be asking (i.e. whether a full-blown Papacy existed in the early Church). His answer is No, since "if we ask the questions in such a way as to evoke a negative answer, are we not precluding any serious theological investigation?" (page 3) So there is a little more to Schatz if one reads the context. As for other Catholic sources, there is the online Catholic Encyclopedia which is very emphatic:

"History bears complete testimony that from the very earliest times the Roman See has ever claimed the supreme headship, and that that headship has been freely acknowledged by the universal Church." (CE, volume 12, article "Pope", page 263)

Perhaps this is overstating the case but it should be noted there are Catholic scholars who argue and produce the evidence for an early Papacy as Peter's successor in the visible Church (Dom John Chapman is one excellent scholarly source). Steve Ray's wonderful book Upon This Rock (Ignatius, 1999) is also a very good defense of the primacy of Peter and the Papacy from Scripture.

Marian Doctrines

J says "...even Catholic scholars, such as John Meier, conclude that the Biblical evidence is against the idea that Mary was a perpetual virgin." But what John P. Meier (from A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, volume 1, [Doubleday, 1991]) actually says is that "the most probable opinion" is the "brothers and sisters" were Jesus' "siblings" (page 332), while at the same time noting that the NT evidence is quite inconclusive since modern (and ancient) scholars defend different views (see his full discussion, pages 316-332). Meier also notes that Luther and Calvin (also Zwingli, Wesley, etc) clearly held to the perpetual virginity and that mainline Protestants started disbelieving it "only with the rise of the Enlightenment" (page 319). In his next section he asks the "fascinating" question: "Was Jesus Married?" So much for Fr. Meier.

If one were a "historic Protestant" one should believe in Mary's perpetual virginity, as well as her unparalleled holiness. For example, Calvinist theologian Max Thurian in Mary, Mother of All Christians (1963) notes:

"A very ancient tradition of the Church affirms a perpetual virginity of Mary; and the Reformers of the sixteenth century themselves confessed 'Mariam semper virginem' [Mary ever-Virgin].....The entire tradition of the Church has held to the perpetual virginity of Mary as a sign of her dedication and of the fullness of God's gift of which she was the object. The Reformers themselves respected this belief....For Calvin and the other Reformers accept the traditional view that Mary had only one son, the Son of God, who had been to her the fullness of grace and joy....In regard to the Marian doctrine of the Reformers, we have already seen how UNANIMOUS they are in all that concerns Mary's holiness and perpetual virginity." (Thurian, pages 37-40, 89, 197)

Heinrich Bullinger, Cranmer's brother-in-law, Zwingli's successor said:

"What pre-eminence in the eyes of God the Virgin Mary had on account of her piety, her faith, her purity, her saintliness and all her virtues, so that she can hardly be compared with any of the other saints, but should by rights be rather elevated above all of them..."

French Reformed pastor Charles Drelincourt, who well represents the Reformed belief of the 17th century:

"We do not simply believe that God has favoured the holy and blessed Virgin more than all the Patriarchs and the Prophets, but also that He has exalted her above all Seraphim. The angels can only qualify as servants of the Son of God, the creatures and workmanship of his hands; but the holy Virgin is not only the servant and the creature but also the Mother of this great and living God."

The Marian doctrines (Mother of God or Theotokos, Immaculate Conception, Assumption, Queenship, Mediatrix/Co-Redemptrix) are not spelled out in explicit detail in the Scriptures. There are books arguing from Scripture using the various Marian "types" (Thurian's study above, and modern scholars such as Hahn's Hail, Holy Queen or Catholic For A Reason II, for historical material see the three volume Mariology edited by Juniper Carol, or Mary and the Fathers of the Church by Luigi Gambero). However, this is not a debate about Mary. This is a debate about the TC. If that Church is the RCC, then it would follow all those doctrines and dogmas are true. I don't want to put the "cart before the horse" and argue for the Marian doctrines from Scripture and by that show the RCC is the true Church. No, I am arguing the RCC is the TC from the nature, authority, and promises made to the original apostolic visible Church, and therefore all her dogmas are true. I only have 5000 words so I can't spend all of them defending the Marian doctrines from Scripture or the early Church.

The Gospel and Salvation

J here says: "What gospel did Jesus and the apostles preach? Was it the Roman Catholic gospel of salvation through a New Law of seven sacraments, meriting grace, and such? No, instead Paul cites Genesis 15:6 as an example of how all people are saved..." The Catholic has no need to deny Genesis 15:6 refers to Abraham believing God and crediting that faith to him as righteousness (Romans 4; James 2). However, salvation also includes such things as the Eucharist (John 6:51ff) and Baptism (Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21; Rom 6:3ff). This is not either/or but both/and. Both faith and the sacraments are part of the "working out" of salvation (Phil 2:12-13) according to the Scriptures, and Catholics, Orthodox, and even many Protestants hold to that. Again, this is not a debate about the details of the Gospel (or justification/salvation), but the Church, the TC.

Confession/Reconciliation

Again, this is another doctrinal side issue J brings up. I want to know what he believes is the TC. That is what this debate is about: the nature of the Church. As for confession of sins privately to a priest, we have a whole biblical book about that: Leviticus. For more I quote Mark Bonocore in a response to an Evangelical from A's Apologetics:

Indeed, according to the Bible, it is THE CHURCH that received the Holy Spirit (John 14-16; 20:21ff; 1 Cor 12), and it is THE CHURCH that is commissioned to Baptize all nations for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; Matt 28:19; Mark 16:16). So, if you cannot be Baptized without the Church, how can you return to God in repentance without the Church?

Once again, you apparently do not believe that the Church is the Body of Christ. In this, you assume that your sins only affect you and God. Yet, that's not the case at all. When I sin, I not only sin against God and myself, but against the entire Body of Christ -- the Church. And this is clear in Scripture: 1 Cor 12:26. Thus, if I sin against God, I also sin against His Church. And, since the Church is holy, spotless, and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27), when I sin (mortally) I cut myself off from the Church. I, therefore, need to be reconciled to God WITHIN HIS CHURCH, or I am not reconciled to God at all. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

1440. Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason conversion entails both God's forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (cf. Vatican II LG 11).

It was the apostles who were given that initial "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor 5:18ff; John 20:21ff; cf. 1 John 1:7-9; James 5:14ff) and this was passed on to their successors in the visible Church, the early bishops and presbyters/priests. The exact form of the sacrament has changed, but it was there from the beginning. I'm saving my words for the next section. For a full historical treatment, see A History of Penance by Oscar Watkins.

What is the Church?

Finally we get to the topic of our debate. This is how J answers the question "What is the Church?" (he asks the right question, but does not answer it):

<< If the church established by Jesus Christ isn't the Roman Catholic Church, then what is it? There have been a lot of interpretations of the word "church" down through the centuries...But discussing what the church is can clarify what it isn't. Catholics often cite passages mentioning the term "church" when the passage cannot refer or isn't necessarily referring to the Roman Catholic denomination....The word "church" means something like "assembly", and it conveys a broad concept that originated before the time of Christ. What's described in Matthew 18:17 could be applied to a wide variety of ancient and modern institutions, not just the Roman Catholic Church...He [Paul] cannot possibly be referring to a denominational structure such as the Roman Catholic Church, which would include unbelievers....Revelation 19:7-9 refers to the church being in Heaven, which excludes the possibility of some earthly denomination with church offices and a mixture of believers and unbelievers....While there are some uncertainties and disputes about what "church" means in some contexts, what's most significant in the context of this debate is the absence of the Roman Catholic Church in the Bible. Not only is it absent, but many of its characteristics and doctrines are even contradicted by scripture. >>

After reading this, I am still scratching my head wondering: what is the TC if it is not the RCC?  What is J's alternative? The alternative appears to be: "Well, we just know it is not the RCC, that's for sure." But how does one know that in light of the evidence I have already provided? It is simply false to say there have been "many interpretations" of the Church down through the centuries or that the true Church can be any number of "ancient and modern institutions." Again: the TC is a visible, identifiable, hierarchical, sacramental, infallible Church. That narrows down the "number of churches" I have to search for today to find the original apostolic Church. Considering all these attributes, it narrows down to basically two: the RCC and the Orthodox Church(es). While Catholics believe in the "Church Triumphant" (the Church in heaven, Heb 12:22ff; Rev 19:7ff), the Kingdom parables indeed show that the "Church Militant" on earth (the kingdom of heaven/God) has "believers and unbelievers" and it is up to the Judge (Jesus) in the end to sort out the wheat from the tares or weeds (cf. Matt 13:24-30, 36-43, 47-50; 18:15-35; 21:33-43; 25:31-46; etc). So the true universal visible Church does not consist merely of the "elect" or "saved Christians"; rather, she contains baptized Christians who are in various stages of holiness and sanctification.

J's constant refrain in his opening statement goes like this:

<< But the Catholic who is more knowledgeable will have to give an explanation for accepting as apostolic a doctrine that can't be historically traced back to the apostles....What's of most importance to them today may become something of least importance when they're asked for evidence from the past for what they believe....Or do we, instead, examine the context, consider alternate interpretations, and seek the probable meaning of the text? If we don't have enough evidence to reach a conclusion, don't we admit it? Don't we adjust the strength of our conclusion according to the strength of the evidence? ... Similarly, Catholics cite passages about the Christian church as evidence for Catholicism when other interpretations are possible and more likely.... The more knowledgeable a Catholic is, the less a debate like this one will be about historical evidence.... Let's just go by the evidence we have, and leave the philosophical preferences to God.... etc >>

J seems to base his faith not on submission to any authority from God as the Scripture teaches us (Matt 28:18-20; Luke 10:16; 1 Thess 2:13; Heb 13:7,17; Rom 10:17; etc) but on his own perceived "probabilities" or "knowledge" or even biblical or historical "evidence" or his own "conclusions" about doctrine. Is true Christianity about submission to an authority established by God, or is it about submitting to our own private preferences for doctrine? Where is the ignorant, the simple, the illiterate believer to go to learn the truth? From the Bible alone? What if the person cannot read? What about those who lived before Bibles were accessible (i.e. before the printing press)? Who is going to teach these people to believe all the things Jesus taught the apostles to pass on as doctrine (Matt 28:20; Rom 10:14ff; 2 Thess 2:15; 2 Tim 2:2)? Is it going to be someone who bases their own faith on "probabilities" or superior "knowledge" or "evidence"; someone who is not even sure if what they believe is true? Is that true Christianity according to the Scriptures? Is true Christianity a "pick and choose" kind of Christianity? Has it ever been? No. To quote the Anglican JND Kelly on the nature of the early Church:

"What these early Fathers were envisaging was almost always the empirical, visible society; they had little or no inkling of the distinction which was later to become important [in the 16th century] between a visible and an invisible Church." (Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, page 191)

And from the popular Catholic writer Philip Hughes on the history of that empirical visible Catholic Church:

"To begin with the last point, it is a safe statement that from the moment when history first shows us the Church of Christ as an institution, the exclusive right of the Church to state with finality what should be believed as Christ's teaching is manifestly taken for granted. To bring out a theory of belief, or to propose a change in morals which conflicts with what the Church universally holds is, from the very beginning, to put oneself fatally in the wrong...The universal belief that the Church of Christ, in its day-to-day business of teaching the doctrine of Christ, is divinely preserved from teaching erroneously, entailed the consequence that (to use a modern terminology) the General Council is considered infallible in its decisions about belief. If the official teachers as a body are infallible as they teach, scattered about the world in their hundreds of sees, they do not lose the promised, divine, preserving guidance once they have come together in a General Council. And once General Councils have taken place we begin to meet explicit statements of this truth. The councils themselves are explicitly conscious of it when, making their statement of the truth denied by the innovator, they bluntly say of those who will not accept their decision, Let him be anathema....Nowhere in these early centuries, in fact, do we find any member of the Church questioning the truth as the General Councils have defined it. What they teach as the truth is taken to be as true as though it were a statement of Scripture itself."  (Philip Hughes, from his introduction to The Church in Crisis)

Found online here http://www.christusrex.org/www1/CDHN/coun1.html

Neither the Scriptures (cf. Acts 15; 1 Thess 2:13) nor the early Catholic Church (the early Fathers, Saints, and Councils) teach any such kind of Christianity as J is proposing. The early Christians were submitting to a real locatable, identifiable, and infallible Church authority, not to so-called "evidence" or "conclusions" (whether "probable" or not). These "probabilities" on the contradictory doctrines of Protestantism is indeed what J is left with when he rejects the RCC.

I now want to cover briefly the differences between the Orthodox and Catholic Church which as I have shown are the only two reasonable candidates that fulfill the descriptions of the TC.

Orthodoxy vs. Catholicism

From Dave Armstrong:

Orthodox Christianity possesses the seven sacraments, valid ordination, the Real Presence, a reverential understanding of Sacred Tradition, apostolic succession, a profound piety, a great history of contemplative and monastic spirituality, a robust veneration of Mary and the saints, and many other truly Christian attributes.

It is my position that the TC is the RCC and she is superior to (Eastern or Greek) Orthodoxy for various reasons:

(1) The Nicene Creed, adhered to by most Christians, contains the phrase, "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church"; from a Catholic ecclesiological perspective, Orthodoxy -- strictly speaking -- is not "one" Church, but a conglomerate of at least seventeen, each with separate governance; a Catholic would respectfully reply that none of these "autocephalous" churches can speak with the doctrinal definitiveness which existed in the Church before 1054, and which indeed still resides in the papacy and magisterium of the Catholic Church;

(2) Catholics assert that Orthodoxy's rejection of the papacy is inconsistent with the nature of the Church through the centuries -- Catholics point to biblical Petrine evidences and the actual wielding of authority by renowned popes such as St. Leo the Great (440-61) and St. Gregory the Great (590-604), honored as saints even by the Orthodox;

(3) Orthodoxy (and Eastern Catholic Christianity, from roughly the second half of the first millennium) has been plagued with caesaropapism, which, in effect (in terms of exercised power and de facto jurisdiction, if not actual Orthodox doctrinal teaching), places the state above the church;

(4) Orthodoxy accepts the first seven Ecumenical Councils (up to the Second Council of Nicaea in 787), but no more -- from a Catholic perspective, this appears incoherent and implausible;

(5) Likewise, Orthodoxy accepts the doctrinal development which occurred in the first eight centuries of the Church, but then allows little thereafter.

 I look forward to J's rebuttals.

P

5000+ words approx

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