Students of Protestantism often assume that the 16th century Reformation restored doctrine to how things used to be in the Early Church. Often they mistakenly conclude that Christians in the first few centuries held to the Reformers' doctrines of "faith alone" or "Scripture alone."
Research on the Early Church challenges such assumptions. In fact, not a single Christian between the Apostles and the next thousand years or so believed in these doctrines. Not only did the early Christians not hold to Luther's doctrines, they believed doctrines that sharply clashed with Luther's "faith-alone" theology of the 16th century.
What we find is that the early Christians vociferously defended Church authority, believing the Church and Scripture went hand in hand, and that Jesus had promised the Holy Spirit would guide His Church into "all the truth." (Jn 16:13).
The early Christians vociferously defended the true Church as the one in union with the direct successor of St. Peter, to whom Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom (Mt 16:19). The bishop who held this ongoing chief office was said to sit in the "Chair of Peter." Peter was directly succeeded by Linus, who was directly succeeded by Anacletus, who was directly succeeded by Clement of Rome, who . . . was directly succeeded by Pope Joh Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and then Pope Francis, the 266th pope.
On Baptism, evangelical Protestants are taught the sacrament does not remove any sin from the soul. They are taught it is merely a sign. However, the Early Church unanimously taught that Baptism was indeed regenerative, removing original sin, as well as personal sin. Catholics continue to believe that babies receive the free gift of salvation, becoming a child of God, when they are baptized and washed clean of original sin. Only mortal sin can separate them from eternity with Christ.
BIBLE: Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)
The early Christians were very aware that being "born of water and the Spirit" was a reference to Baptism. They knew the Bible was telling them that one could not enter heaven unless they were baptized.
BIBLE: Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name (Acts 22:16)
BIBLE: Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (1 Pet 3:21)
St. Augustine echoes the early Church belief that sins are forgiven in Baptism: "There are three ways in which sins are forgiven: in baptism, in prayer, and in the greater humility of penance; yet God does not forgive sins except to the baptized" (Sermons to Catechumens on the Creed 7:15 395 A.D. ).
Regarding the Eucharist, evangelical Protestants are taught the Bible's instruction to "eat" Christ's "flesh" are not literal. But, a perusal of early Christian writings reveals that the Early Church did assume a literal interpretation. In fact, all Christians from the Apostles to the 16th century took a literal interpretation. The Early Church Fathers were unanimous on teaching the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine. The early Christians accepted the literal message about the necessity of eating Christ's flesh for one's salvation in the Gospel of John (Jn 6:35-71). They accepted the literal definition of "is" when the Lord held up the host and said "This is my Body" (Mt 26:26). The early Christians celebrated the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass.
In St. Ignatius of Antioch, the third bishop of Antioch, wrote: "They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins
In 151 A.D., Church Father Justin Martyr wrote the Eucharist "is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus"
In 405 A.D., St. Augustine wrote: "Christ was carried in his own hands when, referring to his own body, he said, ‘This is my body’ [Matt. 26:26]. For he carried that body in his hands" (Explanations of the Psalms 33:1:10 [ 405 A.D.]).
Most Christians today do believe in the literal presence of the real Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. (but not evangelical Protestants)
Evangelicals know that Reformation theology states one cannot lose one's salvation (i.e. lose justifying grace once one has received it). So, naturally, they are surprised to find that not a single Christian believed this doctrine in the Early Church or at any time prior to the 16th century. In fact, the early Church Fathers agreed that serious sins (mortal sins) would result in a loss of God's grace. They all believed justification could be received, and then lost.
St. Augustine ponders the enigma of two men who are justified, yet one perseveres until the end and one loses his justification: Of "two pious men, why to the one should be given perseverance unto the end, and to the other it should not be given, God’s judgments are even more unsearchable. . . . had not both been called and followed him that called them? And had not both become, from wicked men, justified men, and both been renewed by the laver of regeneration?" (The Gift of Perseverance 9:21 [428 A.D.]).
Fortunately, as St. Ignatius of Antioch pointed out, those who fall still have the possibility of repenting and rising again: "And pray without ceasing in behalf of other men; for there is hope of the repentance, that they may attain to God. For cannot he that falls arise again, and he may attain to God?" (Letter to the Ephesians 10 [A.D. 110]).
Where did the early Christians get the idea that one could fall from grace? From the Bible!
BIBLE: You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace (Gal 5:4)
BIBLE: Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off. (Rom. 11:22)
BIBLE: Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Cor 10:11-12)
The Bible tell us some sins are deadly and some are not. If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal. (1 Jn 5:16-17)
Many evangelical Protestants lack familiarity with the doctrines of apostolic succession (all bishops of the Church must be successors of the College of Apostles) and Petrine succession (the head bishop of the Church must be a direct successor of St. Peter), so it comes as a surprise that apostolic and Petrine succession were major and non-negotiable doctrines of the Early Church.
The early Christians, by definition, were in union with the Chair of Peter. St. Jerome, for example, declared "I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but your blessedness [Pope Damasus I], that is, with the chair of Peter (Against the Luciferians 23 [383 A.D.]).
This Chair of Peter has continued for almost 2,000 years, with Pope Benedict XVI being the current occupant of the Chair. Protestants cut themselves off from communion with this Chair in the 16th century. But now that the ancient concerns Luther had in the 16th century have long been eradicated in the Church, we hope Protestants will come back.
ANOINTING OF THE SICK
Catholics have always anointed the seriously ill or injured with oil if a person's life could be in danger. We call this sacrament, which involves anointing and special prayers, the Anointing of the Sick or Extreme Unction. Some may wonder why the Reformers in the 16th century eliminated this sacrament. The Reformers’ new theology held that no sacrament could be remotely connected to forgiveness. They had no choice except to get rid of this holy Sacrament called Anointing of the Sick. The Bible shows Christians should anoint their sick, that it is connected to forgiveness, and the sacrament can heal people spiritually and even physically at times.
BIBLE: So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them (Mk 6:12-13)
BIBLE Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. (James 5:14-15)
Confirmation, which involves being sealed with the Holy Spirit, has always been a Sacrament of the Catholic Church. Some of the Protestant Churches eliminated it in the 16th century, while others completely changed its meaning and its true spiritual effect. But the Bible clearly shows apostles confirming people with the Holy Spirit with the laying on of hands as a separate action from Baptism. In the early Church, many people got baptized and confirmed on the same day since they were already adults when they entered the Christian community.
BIBLE: Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Sama'ria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17)
BIBLE: On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. (Acts 19:5-6)
BIBLE: But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has commissioned us; he has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee (2 Cor 1:21-22)
Opponents of "relics" often use the word "medieval" and “superstitious” as modifiers to scare people away. As a result, many students of Protestantism mistakenly infer that relics were not a part of Christianity until medieval times. Many seem surprised when they learn that the Early Church had just as much respect for relics (body parts, tiny pieces of bone, or clothes or things that touched a holy saint) as the Catholic Church has today.
Even in 156 A.D., Christians of Smyrna reverently took up the relics of their bishop Polycarp after he was martyred. According to the ancient writings: We took up his bones, which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together. [The Martyrdom of Polycarp]
In 419 A.D., St. Augustine testifies that even in his time, miracles were still being worked by God through the relics of saints. In his famous City of God, he wrote: For even now miracles are wrought in the name of Christ, whether by his sacraments or by the prayers or relics of his saints
The relics of St. Januarius, a bishop and martyr of the early 4th century, were known by the Early Church to be responsible for many miracles, including the halting of eruptions of Mt. Vesuvious. Christians always preserved the relics of the holiest saints and placed them in churches for Christians to venerate. That includes the relics of St. John the Baptist, the relics of St. Stephen (the first Christian martyr), the relics of St. Peter and Paul, the relics of St. Brigid of Ireland (died 525 A.D.), St. Nicholas (bishop of Myra),
Even the Christians who learned straight from the Apostles did this. Therefore, to characterize relics as "medieval" is an unfair technique for creating bias against relics.
In 386 A.D., St Ambrose (bishop of Milan and mentor of St. Augustine) was told in a dream where to excavate and find the relics of St. Gervasius and St. Protasius. The next bishop of Milan placed the relics of St. Ambrose in the same church with Saints G & P. Many miracles occurred while the relics of St. Monica (mother of St. Augustine) were being brought to Rome. You may have seen the news reports that in 2004, the relics of St. Augustine were brought to Rome for veneration
The Catholic Church today has the same attitude toward relics that the Early Church had. In the words of St. Jerome: "We do not worship, we do not adore, for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the Creator, but we venerate the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore Him whose martyrs they are." (Letter to Riparius, 420 A.D.)
Where did the Early Church get the idea that God could work through the relics of his saints? The Word of God!
BIBLE: And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them (Acts 19:11-12)
BIBLE: so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and pallets, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed (Acts 5:15-16)
BIBLE: So Eli'sha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Eli'sha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Eli'sha, he revived, and stood on his feet (2 Kings 13:20-21)
It is notable that the phrase "faith alone" appears in the Bible only one time, teaching the opposite of Luther’s theology. The Bible says: "Justification is by works and not by faith alone." (James 2:24).
It is also notable that the common phrase “confess straight to God and not to men” is neither historically nor Biblically supported.. The Bible In the Gospel of John, Jesus instills in His representatives (who are men) His awesome power to forgive sins. (See John 20:23) This bestowing of the power to forgive or to withhold forgiveness occurs during one of those few sacred moments where Jesus actually breathes the Holy Spirit into his Apostles.
Jesus really did build a Church on Peter and promised it truthful guidance by the Holy Spirit. He intended this Church to guide all of his flock and most importantly, to give us the personal gift of Himself through the sacraments.
All of your ancestors were part of this Church. Jesus Himself assures us that this Church will still be here when Christ comes again. Even though some of our members may sin, we have a promise from Jesus that our Church will still proclaiming truthful doctrines (Jn 16:13). We have an assurance that when we receive Communion in our Catholic Church, we allow the living God to enter us, transform us, and make us more Christ-like. It is hard for devout Catholics to imagine not having this personal encounter with our Savior. We can hardly live without Him.
John 6:56: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him"
John 16:13: "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth"
Mt 16:16-18: And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Mt 18:18: "Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven"
Those who accept the Protestant perspective must logically accept that the original, true Church ceased to be the true Church at some point in time. But wouldn’t this imply that Jesus did not tell the truth?
Jesus promised that not even the powers of hell could prevail against His church (Mt 16:17). When his Church spoke, it would be Christ himself speaking (Lk 10:16).
He also promised to be with the teaching mission until the end of the age. Jesus said: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." (Mt 28:20)
Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (The Lutheran-Catholic Agreement!)
Stuff on Peter, Petra, Petros,
and the Papacy
Protestant scholars on Peter, Petra and Petros
More on Peter,
"Petra" and "Petros"
"Petra" "Petros" and
"Peter" Peter the Rock
Pebble Argument Goes Down Peter,
Aramaic and Greek Scott Hahn on the Papacy
Suggested reading: The
Salvation Controversy by Jimmy Akin, Born
Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic by David Currie, Rome
Sweet Home by Scott and Kimberly Hahn
Back to www.stillcatholic.com
Vatican Website Vatican Radio Pope Francis twitter Jesus Christ EWTN Catechism of the Catholic Church Bible (NAB-RE) Bible (RSV-CE) Catholic Encyclopedia St Pauls Publishing (St Pauls facebook) U.S. bishops National Catholic Bioethics Center Live Christian Radio (K-LOVE) Catholic Answers Catholic Answers Forums National Catholic Register ZENIT (Pope News) Catholic News Agency Catholic News Service Catholic World News Our Sunday Visitor Catholic Information Network www.MassTimes.org Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology Dr. Scott Hahn Jimmy Akin Mark Shea Patrick Madrid Amy Welborn Purgatory Heaven Hell Lent San Juan Catholic Seminars Catholic Reformation Natural Family Planning Today’s Mass Readings Doctors of the Catholic Church Real Presence Association Eucharist Catholic Resources How to Say the Rosary The Seven Sacraments “The Confessions” by St. Augustine “City of God” by St. Augustine G.K. Chesteron “Summa Theologica” by St. Thomas Aquinas The Existence of God Catholic Blogs Catholic Culture Scripture Catholic Biblical Evidence for Catholicism Catholic Apologetics Network Fathers of the Church The 21 Ecumenical Councils Saint Peter Saint Augustine Pope John Paul II Pope Benedict XVI Pope Francis Saints Mother Teresa of Calcutta St. Padre Pio Famous Catholics www.ThousandMiracles.com