Saturday, June 14, 2014

You're Welcome, Protestants!

On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit delivered twelve identical copies of the Bible (66 books) to the Apostles and explained some of the less clear parts of it, such as changing the day of worship to Sunday, and the Holy Trinity.

Or so one might think that's how Protestants view Church history. The Bear gets somewhat annoyed at the smug ingratitude of hundreds of different sects that despise the Catholic Church, but are happy to benefit from all the heavy lifting the Church did in the first centuries.

The Holy Trinity is implicit in scripture, but it took men of spiritual depth and towering intellects to define the dogma. The very canon of scripture that is relied upon by Protestants (except where they have mutilated it) was arrived at only by negotiating a minefield of bogus texts, each of which was held dear by some.

They believe, if they think of it at all, that the Church started off as just "Christians," very much like today's evangelicals. These early Christians sorted out everything, and gave their blood in martyrdom.

Later, after Constantine legitimized Christianity in the Roman Empire, a malignant growth called the Catholic Church took over, gradually accumulating worldly power and driving true Christians underground. For long dark centuries Christians preserved the faith undefiled despite the Catholic Church's compromises with paganism, and, later, inquisitions. The Orthodox broke away in the 11th Century, and the pure genius of Martin Luther illumined the world in the 16th Century.

Of course, to anyone who is historically literate, the above is nonsense. The Catholic Church is recognizable early on, if one takes as its hallmarks the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome, baptism of infants and the Real Presence.

Death Drawing of Martin Luther
As for Martin Luther, it appears he lacked a true vocation, and invented a novel religion where sin did not matter and heaven was assured to suit his own disordered morality. The story of Martin Luther bravely posting his 95 theses on the church door, each blow of the hammer a devastating rebuttal to the pretensions of popery is just silly. The Church patiently tried to help Luther come back to reason, but he grew more and more insulting even as his behavior became more outrageous. German powers found him useful, however, and the so-called "Reformation" tore Christianity apart, leaving Christendom riven and the Protestant world with a deformed version of the faith.

Once a staffer on Campus Crusade for Christ, Peter E. Gillquist, decided to return to the earliest form of Christianity he could discover, on the theory that the closer to the source, the purer the water. The more research he did, the more the early Church looked like the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. After forming the Orthodox Evangelical Church, he eventually led his whole flock into the Antiochian Orthodox Church.

Catholic superstar Dr. Scott Hahn's conversion followed a similar road, as did Cardinal Newman's. Protestants study history at the risk of finding the true Church. The Bear believes it was Newman who said something very like: it is impossible to be historically well-educated and remain Protestant.

All historically-informed roads lead to Rome, even if some travelers take a left turn to the East.

As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Trinity, take a moment to reflect that Christianity came with a label "some assembly required." It wasn't easy, and it wasn't always pretty. The Bear is sure you know the story about jolly St. Nicholas punching Arius in the nose at the First Council of Nicea.

The West owes a huge debt to the Catholic Church, and all the things Protestants take for granted, they got from Rome.

2 comments:

  1. Newman wrote, in the Apologia Pro Vita Sua "there is no medium, in true philosophy, between Atheism and Catholicity, and that a perfectly consistent mind, under those circumstances in which it finds itself here below must embrace either the one or the other".

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  2. Yes, I don't see how you can get away from the Church and all the Church decided and developed. If you go back to the Bible, the Church decided what books make up the Bible. The Church taught us about the nature of Christ, the Holy Trinity and a thousand other things. A principled Protestant would have to eliminate everything tainted by the Whore of Babylon (as some of them call the Church) and start with... what? No, I think you're right: the choice is between atheism and Catholicism. The health-and-wealth gospel megachurch with a rock band and hot coffee in the parking lot is rather far from Christianity as it would be recognized by any of the Apostles. (They might have been taken aback by drums at Mass, too, but the Bear considers such novelties to be an aberration.)

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