How do you answer the Roman Catholic who says...

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by Romans922, Sep 13, 2011.

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  1. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

    How do you answer the Roman Catholic who says that for the most part (Great Schism...) Roman Catholicism has held as one church for 2000 years, which testifies of its authenticity and truth; but Protestantism has so many different sects, split over little things, all the different denominations believe different things; how could all those denominations be true and authentically the Church?

    This question may be confusing, I hope it is not, but I don't know necessarily how to word it. Any help with how you would respond to the RC who is focused on protestants many denominations as a sign of a lack of truth or even their thought that why be a part of something that is greatly divided, when I can be part of a unified body?
  2. Pilgrim Standard

    Pilgrim Standard Puritan Board Sophomore

    I would study up on the difference between the Visible and Invisible church from scripture. The various uses of the word Church would be in mind. All the while my real motive and goal would be to subtly attempt to instill the doctrine of sola scriptura by only drawing my answers from the scriptures. Hopefully your friend could start to do likewise with questions... Go to the word of God.
  3. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Senior

    I would recommend, if you are serious about this, that you procure and read Charles Hodge's Discussions in Church Polity, particularly Part I, Preliminary Principles, with the first four chapters especially addressing the important question that you raise. This work, first published just after Hodge's death in 1878, was reprinted in 2001 by Westminister Publishing House (P.O. Box 125-H, Scarsdale, NY 10583). In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that I wrote an eleven page preface to the reprint.

    In fine, Hodge's argument is that the Church, while certainly visible throughout all the communions of Christendom, is essentially invisible, a body of believers constituted throughout the earth and found in a plethora of particular congregations. The Church is the communion of the saints and not to be identified with any particular visible church. Obviously much more could, and needs to be, said, and I would urge any here before combatting this to look carefully into it.

    If we identify the Church in its essence, which is a spiritual organism that manifests itself in a visible organization wherever it exists, with any particular visible church, we play into the hands of the Roman Catholic Church and its hard to extricate ourselves from such.

    Hodge would say that as to its perfection (and maturation), the Church manifests itself visibly in Presbyterian form. But Presbyterianism belongs to the well-being not the being of the church; Hodge argues that if one makes Presbyterianism to be of the essence of the Church (as some Presbyterians have and do), such a position ipso facto unchurches all who are not Presbyterian and Hodge, rightly, I believe, saw this as sectarian.

    It is definitionally sectarian to say that any branch of the visible Church exhausts the meaning of Church and that all outside of such are in no sense part of the true Church. This is Rome's position and it is the worst kind of sectarianism.

  4. athanatos

    athanatos Puritan Board Freshman

    Well, you can tell him it is just not true.

    Roman Catholicism is nowhere near as unified as most people think. Many churches, orders, and bishops have radically different views and often different practices. Many churches have different ideas of what Scripture even is, let alone how to interpret it. Furthermore, Modern Catholic thought is not the same as it was 400 years ago, nor 800 nor 1200, nor 1600... when it started to rise into something we recognize. That said, Catholic churches are also not without the flaw of having splits over little things. The Roman Catholics only recognize who is on their side right now.

    A great study would be on the popes. I am trying to remember the names, but basically they were having a serious dispute over polity, and popes becoming powerful and dangerous. So, they made a council to appoint popes. But the pope disagreed with setting one of those up. It went back and forth to the point of having TWO POPES, and TWO COUNCILS because they were so divided over it. It was pretty ridic.
  5. Fly Caster

    Fly Caster Puritan Board Sophomore

    I would answer with "Repent and believe the Gospel.";)
  6. JennyG

    JennyG Puritan Board Graduate

    I've been confronted with this one too.
    I say the unity of the Catholic church is mostly semantic - it's how they define themselves and hasn't much to do with reality. They are every bit as hopelessly divided under the surface, but they are still one church by definition.
    Rome has always prized visible unity way above truth. As long as "the faithful" call themselves catholics and are prepared to acknowledge the Pope's supremacy (even if only with their lips), just about anything goes. It's just the way their minds work. Here's from a Catholic women priests' website:

    Statement on Apostolic Succession

    The ordinations of Roman Catholic Womenpriests are valid because of our apostolic succession within the Roman Catholic Church. The principal consecrating Roman Catholic male bishop who ordained our first women bishops is a bishop with apostolic succession within the Roman Catholic Church in full communion with the pope. Therefore, our bishops validly ordain deacons, priests and bishops. Consequently, all qualified candidates, including baptized ministers and priests from other Christian traditions, who are presented to our bishops for ordination are ordained by the laying on of hands into apostolic succession in the Roman Catholic Church.

    It would be entirely more natural and sensible for these women to leave Rome and form an organisation of their own, but catholics don't think like that. once a catholic always a catholic, unless the Holy Spirit steps in, as he did in the case of some of our dear brothers and sisters here.
    When it comes to practising homosexuals, Rome seems to be a magnet. Officially though, they are invisible.
  7. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    As was stated above, the visible/invisible church distinction is a good place to start.

    In that sense, the many Christian communions are united in Christ, by Christ and in that context, even the more significant doctrinal differences are not the focal point.

    That will probably entree to discussion about a true church, which, among other things, holds a biblical gospel, and to the supreme authority of Scripture for Christian faith and practice.

    This might get to the point, what does it mean to be unified, not splintered around a belief that certain (approved) works are required to earn or keep salvation....
  8. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    I believe, and I could be wrong here, that the Reformers when posed with this question turned to Israel in the OT. When the people became corrupt God would preserve himself a "remnant" of covenant people and remove his hand from the rest resulting in judgment. So God nevers abandons his covenant people but his visible expression of people can move and change due to judgment on a particuler visible part of that people.

    His invisible church never changes but his visible church can due to faithfullness being abandoned. This is not works rightoussness I am refering to but being faithful visible churchs to Christ. The PC (USA) at one time was a faithful church of Christ but when they slid into heresy God removed himself a "remnant" from them who were faithful, the PCA and OPC. So it should be a lesson to us all that we should always in churchs strive and pray that we will be faithful to what God has commanded his church to be, lest we be judged and abandoned by God.

    So in a nut shell the one visible people of God in the OT doesn't exist. They try to say that they are just the exstension of that but if this one visible people doesn't exist than their claim is wrong. Also since so much judgment was spilled on Israel anyway, When have they admited to being judged by God, since cleary in the OT the people of God were judged all the time? I have never heard a RC even admit that God can and has judged their church for some reason.
  9. rookie

    rookie Puritan Board Sophomore

    Could I suggest a few things as well.

    The Catholic church has made the error in claiming that most of their popes were infallible, and even at some points in time, they had more than one pope at a time. No man is infallible. But they put the pope on the same level as God...

    And if you can get your hands on it, there is a fantastic book on the history of the Catholic Church called "Babylon the Mystery Religion"

    After reading that book, there were a couple of chapters, that prevented me from sleeping.
  10. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    Thank you for this. It is also available digitally here: Discussions in church polity : from the contributions to the "Princeton Review" : Hodge, Charles, 1797-1878 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive
  11. Hebrew Student

    Hebrew Student Puritan Board Freshman


    First, I would say that the Great Schism cannot be written off as a "for the most part" minor division. I have spoken to Eastern Orthodox, and they do not view the pope and the papacy in such endearing terms. Some of the most devastating critiques of the papacy come from the Eastern Orthodox. Furthermore, the Eastern Orthodox will use that exact same argument themselves. They will argue that <i>they</i> are the one true church, and they put <i>Rome</i> as one of the branches that broke off of <i>them</i> along with Protestantism.

    However, it gets even worse when you consider other Christian sects that broke off even before the Great Schism. Consider, for example, the Syrian Orthodox Church. What is fascinating about this group is that they use the argument from Petrine primacy. In fact, they say that they have a stronger argument than Rome does, because they can actually prove from scripture that Peter actually was in Antioch.

    There are other churches that claim this kind of unified, unbroken succession back to the apostles as well: The Coptic Orthodox and the Armenian Orthodox are two other examples that could be cited. The reality is that the theological diversity between churches that claim some element of apostolic succession is far greater than the diversity between say the PCA and the Church of the Nazarene.

    However, even worse is the objection, "Why should I accept Rome as this one true, unbroken church and not the Syrian Orthodox, the Coptic Orthodox, the Armenian Orthodox, the Greek Orthodox, or the Russian Orthodox?" Why should I accept Rome's claim for unbroken succession, and reject the claim of these groups?

    God Bless,
  12. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    All they have to do is look at church history. If anyone seriously believes that the church after Constantine resembled in any way the church before Constantine, than they have clearly not studied church history.
  13. louis_jp

    louis_jp Puritan Board Freshman

    See here for one response: The 33,000 Denominations Myth

    The same source lists Roman Catholicism as 5th on the all-time murder list with about 5 million killed. Also with about 242 "denominations" of their own.

    They focus on administrative unity, because they believe their physical church is an ongoing incarnation of Christ on earth with the pople at its head. See here for more: Mystici Corporis Christi

    That underlying assumption will probably have to be addressed. Beyond that, unity is obviously no guarantee of truth.
  14. cajunhillbilly53

    cajunhillbilly53 Puritan Board Freshman

    Ralph Woodrow says his book on Roman Catholicism is not accurate see Ralph Woodrow Evangelistic Association. Having studied the developement of the church throughout history I can say a lot of the claims against Roman Catholicism is just not true. So be sure to get your facts straight before making wild claims. However I do say their view of justification is their downfall. Plus as others have said the Roman church is not as monolithic as they claim. Jesuits argue with Augustinains over predistination. Etc etc. They do have certain doctrines that all Catholics agree on, but there is diversity in the church as well.
  15. Apologist4Him

    Apologist4Him Puritan Board Freshman

    Brother Andrew,

    The following is a cut and paste of one of my posts at Christian forums closely related to the question:

    "Other articles on this subject:

    Sola Scriptura by A.A. Hodge

    What is Sola Scriptura? by Joe Mizzi

    The Protestant Rule of Faith by Charles Hodge (2 parts)

    Sola Scriptura by John Samson *excellent article, explains what it is NOT*

    Is Sola Scriptura a Protestant Concoction? by Greg Bahnsen

    Series of Audio Lectures by William Webster relating to Sola Scriptura

    80+ items on Sola Scriptura

    *for debates, James White is usually a good source, he has also written a book called "Scripture Alone" on the topic*

    Sola Scriptura is the primary dividing line between Roman Catholics and Protestants. It is the primary difference between the three major divisions in Christianity, namely Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox. Why do Protestants hold so firmly to Sola Scriptura? One of the answers is because of the reasons behind the Protestant Reformation Martin Luther is so famously recognized for. At the heart of Sola Scriptura is the issue of authority, specifically ultimate authority or final authority. For example, say two recognized Church authorities disagree, where do we go to settle the disagreement and who or what has the final say? Protestants will agree, we go to the Bible, as it alone binds our conscience. Non-Protestants will balk because they say it is a matter of (private) interpretation (for us, and the reason there are so many denominations, not to mention religious freedom), but this is not how we view it, for we know the source of true interpretation does not begin with man, but with God the Holy Spirit, and is confirmed in our minds and hearts, even binding on the conscience."

    To add a little more into what I had posted, Protestants may have disagreements, but Sola Scriptura is a tie that binds us. Worded carefully, I would say the overwhelming vast majority of Protestants can and do agree on a very basic simple level of primary doctrine (the Trinity for example). In a one on one personal discussion with a Roman Catholic asking that loaded question, I would probably start out by acknowledging some agreements and connections to Protestants, and there are many. For example, without going into long drawn out details, the connections between St. Augustine and Reformed Christianity are strong and many. I might also chip away slowly and gently at their view of authority with questions like "do you know of any times in Catholic Church history where two Church authorities expressed disagreement in important matters?" Personally, I've found RCC to be difficult to express disagreements with. Quite often when discussing SolA Scriptura, they attack the strawman of SolO Scriptura, and will not give a genuine hearing to the real deal.
  16. cajunhillbilly53

    cajunhillbilly53 Puritan Board Freshman

    True, the RCC attacks solo scriptura not the original understanding of sola scriptura. We do not deny a place for chruch Tradition, but we always insist that Tradition needs to be under Scripture as the FINAL authority.
  17. J. Dean

    J. Dean Puritan Board Junior

    A false teaching preserved for centuries is still a false teaching.

    That Rome has remained "united"-which is questionable in and of itself, Vatican I vs Vatican II among other things-does not make it true. Buddhism can claim the same level of "unity" within its sphere for a long span of time, and it's still a false religion.
  18. Dearly Bought

    Dearly Bought Puritan Board Junior

    "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."
    (1 Corinthians 11:19, AV)
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