Thursday, June 12, 2008
Early Christians And the Catholic Church
This morning I am responding to what I've found to be some common beliefs held by non-Catholics regarding early Christianity. Who these early Christians were and what they believed and how they grew in their faith. Some of these things I believed when I was a Baptist, prior to my research into Christian history and eventual conversion to the Catholic faith. I hope the documents quoted help shed some light on this topic and clarify some misconceptions of the Early Christians. As always, all comments are welcome.
Ona writes: "I can tell you really care about your church but you are being taught falsehoods. There was no Catholic church before Constantine. He founded your church and mixed Christian with pagan beliefs which later became many of your Catholic doctrines. Prior to Constantine there were just believers, no leaders or popes- everyone was equal and the Holy Spirit guided them. That is how things were in the New Testament part of the bible (no popes or priests, just believers full of the Holy Spirit) and that is how it should still be today. Everyone can read the bible, we don't need priests or bishops or popes. Just read your bible that's all you need."
My response: Thanks for sharing your views Ona. I will address each of them, but since you didn't elaborate on what Catholic doctrines specifically you believe were founded by Constantine (mixed with paganism) I can't address that at this time. I would be happy to return to this subject if you would clarify which doctrines you are referring to. Now about your other comments. You claim Constantine founded the Catholic church, that is not true. Constantine wasn't Catholic until he was on his deathbed. He was never a pope, nor even a priest. I will add quotes to show there were leaders and popes prior to Constantine so please note the dates of these documents.
Ignatius of Antioch
"Let no one do anything of concern to the Church without the bishop. Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop or by one whom he ordains [i.e., a presbyter]. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church" (Letter to the Smyrneans 8:2 [A.D. 110]).
The Martyrdom of Polycarp
"And of the elect, he was one indeed, the wonderful martyr Polycarp, who in our days was an apostolic and prophetic teacher, bishop of the Catholic Church in Smyrna. For every word which came forth from his mouth was fulfilled and will be fulfilled" (Martyrdom of Polycarp 16:2 [A.D. 155]).
The Muratorian Canon
"Besides these [letters of Paul] there is one to Philemon, and one to Titus, and two to Timothy, in affection and love, but nevertheless regarded as holy in the Catholic Church, in the ordering of churchly discipline. There is also one [letter] to the Laodiceans and another to the Alexandrians, forged under the name of Paul, in regard to the heresy of Marcion, and there are several others which cannot be received by the Church, for it is not suitable that gall be mixed with honey. The epistle of Jude, indeed, and the two ascribed to John are received by the Catholic Church (Muratorian fragment [A.D. 177]).
"Where was [the heretic] Marcion, that ship master of Pontus, the zealous student of Stoicism? Where was Valentinus, the disciple of Platonism? For it is evident that those men lived not so long ago—in the reign of Antonius for the most part—and that they at first were believers in the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in the church of Rome under the episcopate of the blessed Eleutherius, until on account of their ever restless curiosity, with which they even infected the brethren, they were more than once expelled" (Demurrer Against the Heretics 30 [A.D. 200]).
Next you claim there were no leaders/priests/bishops in the bible. But that is just not true either, as we can see from these scriptures:
Ph.1:1 "Paul and Timothy, servants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the BISHOPS AND DEACONS,"
1 Tim.3:1 "Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being a BISHOP, he desires a noble task."
Titus 1:7 "Since a BISHOP is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless- not overbearing, no quick tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain."
You say all we need is the bible, but that's not true either. Let's back things up to the time when there were no bibles (remember Jesus didn't hand out bibles- He sent out men to teach His Word). If a bible is all that is needed what did people do for all the years before there was a bible? Look at the scriptures I gave above, they didn't have bibles they had priests and bishops and deacons guiding them. That's the Catholic Church. And even after the first bibles were printed, many people were illiterate and could not read, not to mention the exorbitant price to own such a bible. If a bible was all that was needed, why didn't Jesus hand them out instead of telling men to teach the Word? What you are preaching is "Sola Scriptura" (bible alone) and it is not biblical at all. Now here is another thing to consider, there were numerous writings about Christ and the Early Church how do you know what writings belong in the bible? The bible it's self does not list what books or verses belong in it. If the bible can't answer that question, then you need more than the bible. You need an outside source. That source is the Church that Jesus Christ founded. The Catholic Church. The Catholic Church, guided by the Holy Spirit went through all those writings and determined which writings were biblical and inspired by God. That is how we have our bibles today.