Skip to comments.When was it?
Posted on 01/27/2014 7:57:57 PM PST by matthewrobertolson
For Protestantism to make much sense, the Church must have, at some point, abandoned the truth and become apostate. Otherwise, Protestantism has no license to exist. But when was this "Great Apostasy"? Protestants offer varying opinions, but none of them hold up to scrutiny.
Was it right after the deaths of the Apostles?
A view most supported by Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses is that, after the Apostles, the Church quickly fell into apostasy. This would be a massive blow at both God's promise to guard His Church (Joshua 1:5; Matthew 16:18) and all of the doctrine mentioned hereafter. But if this were true, would not one of the disciples of the Apostles have spoken out? We have writings from many of them, including Pope St. Clement I, St. Barnabas, St. Polycarp, and St. Ignatius of Antioch. None of them mention a "Great Apostasy". But even if we indulge the other side and admit the possibility that even these men fell away, we still have early documents and creeds (like the Didache) that were probably formulated under the authority of the Apostles. Because Christians continued to be in accord with these extra-Biblical teachings, we know that they must have been in accord with the true Church.
Was it at the time of Constantine?
A semi-popular view is that Constantine corrupted Christianity by encouraging "pagan" elements and demanding a decision from the First Council of Nicaea. This is the view that I come into contact with most often, but it is also the most problematic. If the Church became apostate by 337 (the year of Constantine's death), then the Biblical canon which only really started to be compiled by St. Athanasius in 367 may be wrong: we would have no assurance of its infallibility. Also, on top of that, all later theology would be necessarily nulled.
Was it during the Middle Ages?
The possibility of an apostasy in Medieval times seems far-fetched, too. This theory revolves, primarily, around hatred for some "bad" popes. Rather than focusing on doctrinal issues, proponents of this theory typically resort to character defamation. Many attack the Crusades, which tamed a fanatic Islam, and such. But in this period, literacy rates increased, art flourished, the university system developed, laws were better-codified, and the Bible became more accessible to lay people [1, 2]. The only seemingly objectionable doctrinal development was Pope Boniface VIII's declaration, "Outside of the Church, there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins", but even this originates with St. Cyprian! The teaching relates to: 1) the fact that baptism (whether by water, blood, or desire) brings one into the Church (even if done within a Protestant community), because the sacrament was entrusted to Her and She allows anyone with the right intent to perform it, and 2) the importance of conscience and the dangers of apostasy. Nothing worthy of damnation here!
Was it just before the Reformation?
The idea of a restoration being needed just before the Reformation also seems improbable. This common idea is based on the "selling" of indulgences [1, 2, 3] (Martin Luther attacks the practice multiple times in his Ninety-Five Theses), but is mostly due to a misunderstanding. Again, the Protestant understanding usually relies on the assault of characters: people like Johann Tetzel are demonized -- perhaps rightfully -- for abusing the system. But this abuse was not a doctrinal problem of the Church; rather, it was a disciplinary problem of men. Indulgences simply remove the temporal punishment due for past sin -- they are not a "Get out of Hell free" card -- and even when they were "sold," they required some sort of penance. Indulgences only have a salvatory effectiveness (remittance of time in Purgatory) if the recipient is already destined for Heaven. So, it would seem that the fuss is all about nothing.
In conclusion, I see none of these options as likely.
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I think most protestants would settle on the actions of the Medici popes that proved the fatality in infallibility. The Word could not be corrupted. Men could.
Unfortunately, this led to a lot of division in Christianity in interpretation from the Amish to Baptists. This has somewhat weakened Christianity’s political power. An unfortunate side effect.
For Matthew to have a column today, first he must invent a straw man to rail against...
1. the whole idea of praying to “saints” instead of to God directly.
2. the just flat out creepy way they are obsessed with Mary
3. the apparent primacy of church tradition over biblical teachings.
4. the apparent disdain for the intelligence of their congregation to discern truth on their own through a study of the scriptures.
***This has somewhat weakened Christianitys political power. An unfortunate side effect.***
Jesus said His Kingdom is not of this world. Why are Christians so interested in Earthly power?
“This has somewhat weakened Christianitys political power. “
Anyone wanting to gain political power could join Islam. Now that is a take-no-prisoner style powerful religion.
After seeing what happens in countries where Christianity is sidelined, from Egypt to the Soviet Union, I’m not sure why this isn’t obvious to you.
Add to that, a vow of celibacy and a vow of poverty being in direct conflict with “be fruitful and multiply”.
If you wanted a society based on Islamic theology, yes. It has actually been remarkable in terms of staying power and expansion.
Unfortunately, those who want the Christian ethic to be one that is dominant in society have a harder job than Muslims do. Islam after all, does not have a left wing trying to destroy it.
“I think most protestants would settle on the actions of the Medici popes that proved the fatality in infallibility.”
Possibly, if they’re stupid. Nothing the Medici popes did have anything to do with papal infallibility.
For your ping lists.
Well a few things come to mind, the sale of indulgences, the doctrine of Papal infallibility and the assertion of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome over the other Bishops such as the Bishop of Constantinople (The Patriarch), the Bishop of Antioch etc.
here are my complaints about your comaplints:
“1. the whole idea of praying to saints instead of to God directly.”
There’s no “instead”. We pray to God. We also ask the saints to pray to God for us.
“2. the just flat out creepy way they are obsessed with Mary”
Your complaint is flat out creepy and nonsensical.
“3. the apparent primacy of church tradition over biblical teachings.”
You apparently have no clue about how scripture IS tradition in written form or how tradition and scripture work together. There is no primacy of Church tradition over Biblical teachings.
“4. the apparent disdain for the intelligence of their congregation to discern truth on their own through a study of the scriptures.”
There is no such disdain and there are plenty of opportunities for scripture study in the Catholic Church.
I think you should learn more before you complain again.
“Well a few things come to mind,”
I doubt there’s much “mind” involved in what was posted:
“the sale of indulgences,”
Never approved of by the Church.
“the doctrine of Papal infallibility”
Which you can’t probably correctly identify or explain.
“and the assertion of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome over the other Bishops such as the Bishop of Constantinople (The Patriarch), the Bishop of Antioch etc.”
Except for the fact that that was the way it was - as demonstrated by the eastern Churches.
Things such as Islam are why Christians need Earthly power. I can’t decide if you think something along the lines of God will save you from them or you would not be in need of saving if Islam held all current Judea-Christian political power? At first I thought that was a trollish post but after reading some of your other postings I am very curious of what makes you tick.
“We have writings from many of them, including Pope St. Clement I, St. Barnabas, St. Polycarp, and St. Ignatius of Antioch.”
From Clemens Romanus, the alleged “Pope” you mention, on Sola Fide, Predestination, and the immutability of God’s will:
Whosoever will candidly consider each particular, will recognise the greatness of the gifts which were given by him. For from him have sprung the priests and all the Levites who minister at the altar of God. From him also [was descended] our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh. Romans 9:5 From him [arose] kings, princes, and rulers of the race of Judah. Nor are his other tribes in small glory, inasmuch as God had promised, Your seed shall be as the stars of heaven. All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1st Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 32. We are Justified Not by Our Own Works, But by Faith.)
“Let us consider, then, brethren, of what matter we were madewho and what manner of beings we came into the world, as it were out of a sepulchre, and from utter darkness. He who made us and fashioned us, having prepared His bountiful gifts for us before we were born, introduced us into His world. Since, therefore, we receive all these things from Him, we ought for everything to give Him thanks; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Ibid., Chapter 38. Let the Members of the Church Submit Themselves, and No One Exalt Himself Above Another.)
“By the word of His might He established all things, and by His word He can overthrow them. Who shall say unto Him, What have you done? Or, Who shall resist the power of His strength? When, and as He pleases, He will do all things, and none of the things determined by Him shall pass away.” (Ibid., Chapter 27. In the Hope of the Resurrection, Let Us Cleave to the Omnipotent and Omniscient God.)
Ignatius on predestination and final perseverence:
Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which is at Ephesus, in Asia, deservedly most happy, being blessed in the greatness and fullness of God the Father, and predestinated before the beginning of time, that it should be always for an enduring and unchangeable glory, being united and elected through the true passion by the will of the Father, and Jesus Christ, our God: Abundant happiness through Jesus Christ, and His undefiled grace. (Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Ephesians, Ch. 0)
Seeing, then, all things have an end, these two things are simultaneously set before us death and life; and every one shall go unto his own place. For as there are two kinds of coins, the one of God, the other of the world, and each of these has its special character stamped upon it, [so is it also here.] The unbelieving are of this world; but the believing have, in love, the character of God the Father by Jesus Christ, by whom, if we are not in readiness to die into His passion, His life is not in us. (Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Magnesians, Ch. 5)
Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which has obtained mercy, through the majesty of the Most High Father, and Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son; the Church which is beloved and enlightened by the will of Him that wills all things (Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Romans. Ch. 0)
I give you these instructions, beloved, assured that you also hold the same opinions [as I do]. But I guard you beforehand from those beasts in the shape of men, whom you must not only not receive, but, if it be possible, not even meet with; only you must pray to God for them, if by any means they may be brought to repentance, which, however, will be very difficult. Yet Jesus Christ, who is our true life, has the power of [effecting] this. (Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Ch. 4)
Flee, therefore, those evil offshoots [of Satan], which produce death-bearing fruit, whereof if any one tastes, he instantly dies. For these men are not the planting of the Father. For if they were, they would appear as branches of the cross, and their fruit would be incorruptible. (Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Trallians, Ch. 11)
The real question is, when did the Romish church apostatize from the faith?
No source again......sad.
“Add to that, a vow of celibacy and a vow of poverty being in direct conflict with be fruitful and multiply.”
Celibacy of the clergy in no way stopped Catholics from becoming one seventh of the world’s population. Birth Control is a problem. Celibacy is not. A vow of poverty in no way conflicts with “be fruitful and multiply”. Plenty of poor people are fruitful and multiply. Do you believe Christ and Paul’s celibacy conflicted with “be fruitful and multiply”?
Great post. You put out exactly what I would have said, but in a much better way!