The Heresy of Sola Scriptura
by Jeff Childers
This is the concluding part of a two-part letter being published by The Angelus consisting of 11 reasons why the doctrine of sola scriptura is heresy, that is, the heretical doctrine that all authority in religion exists in Scripture alone.
The original letter was written in reply to a challenge against the Catholic Church by "Jediah," a person adhering to the Church of Christ sect who had been recently successful in winning his wife away from the Jehovah's Witnesses to the same heretical Church. It was slightly edited for the magazine. The first installment (The Angelus, Aug. 2000) dealt with the first four of its eleven points: 1) sola scriptura contradicts itself because it is not taught in the Sacred Scriptures; 2) sola scriptura is an example of the logical fallacy of begging the question inasmuch as the canonical Scriptures themselves never identify what is and what is not Scripture; 3) the Sacred Scriptures teach that oral tradition is a source of revelation; and 4) the Sacred Scriptures show the Catholic system of authority. In this second installment, the author discusses five more points regarding the heresy in general and adds two more regarding how this doctrine is interpreted by the Catholic Church. We have clearly marked these final points throughout the letter by using bold-faced subtitles.
Readers should be aware that the Church of Christ is a radical protestant sect, the first purely American religious movement in history. It teaches that all other beliefs abuse, and add to, and pervert the Word of God, and damn themselves.
5) The Writings of the Earliest Christians Show the Catholic System of Authority
The apostles took the Word of God to the nations, spreading the Catholic Faith and establishing churches for the Catholic believers. All of these apostolic churches adhered to the same Faith: "Dearly beloved, taking all care to write unto you concerning your common salvation, I was under a necessity to write unto you: to beseech you to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3).
Of course, the apostles weren't alone. They laid their hands on men, empowering them to authoritatively teach the same Word. Indeed, the world was turned upside down by these men who spread this same gospel to all peoples.
The early Catholic leaders who had been taught and appointed by the apostles were determined to keep the Faith unchanged. Since they had known the holy apostles and seen them die for the Faith; since they themselves were in constant danger of dying for the Faith, they strove to preserve that Faith. When heretics arose, the early Christian leaders treated them harshly. They were extremely cautious to allow those who had fallen away to return to the Church.
Their faith was not based on Scripture alone. The generation of Christians who were taught and appointed by the apostles did not believe in sola scriptura. Often, they were divided over what was and was not Scripture, but in any case, they all believed in the authority of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
St. Clement I was a companion of St. Paul. From him Clement received the laying on of hands and the priesthood. St. Paul gives testimony to Clement's character: "And I entreat thee also, my sincere companion, help those women who have labored with me in the gospel, with Clement and the rest of my fellow laborers, whose names are in the book of life" (Phil. 4:3). Early testimony has it that Clement was ordained bishop by St. Peter in Rome. Several decades later, St. Clement became the fourth pope. In A.D. 97, Pope Clement wrote a letter to the Church of Corinth. Their many problems had continued after the death of St. Paul. In this particular instance, laymen of the Catholic Church in Corinth had thrown from office some of their validly ordained priests. At this time, the Apostle John was still alive, who in view of his writing of the Apocalypse, would have had an efficient network of information on the world churches. It is notable that St. John did not intervene. St. Clement did, however, speaking with authority intervene in the affairs of a foreign church. In his letter, St. Clement commands the Corinthians to obey him, demanding that they "learn what Christ has spoken through us." This is an early testimony to the acceptance of papal authority. St. Clement also expounds on the doctrine of apostolic succession:
Through the countryside and city they [the apostles ] preached; and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this a novelty: for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier. Indeed, scripture somewhere says: "I will set up their bishops in righteousness and their deacons in faith." ...Our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned, and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry. As for these, then, who were appointed by them, or who were afterwards appointed by other illustrious men with the consent of the whole Church, and who have ministered to the flock of Christ without blame, humbly, peaceably and with dignity, and who have for many years received the commendations of all, we consider it unjust that they be removed from the ministry. (First Letter to the Cornithians [42:1]; [44:1], written ca. A.D. 80)
In decrying the sin of the Corinthians, which is the same as the sin of Core of old [see Num. 16] and of all schismatics, this Letter of Pope Clement also shows that, as early as A.D. 80, Christians accepted the scriptural doctrine that the Holy Eucharist is a sacrifice [see also Mal. l:11]:
Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have offered its Sacrifices. Blessed are those presbyters [i.e., priests] who have already finished their course, and who have obtained a fruitful and perfect release; for they have now no fear that any shall transfer them from the place to which they are appointed, obtained a fruitful and perfect dissolution. (First Letter to the Corinthians [44:1])
The letter of St. Clement I to the Corinthians, otherwise known as I Clement, was considered inspired Scripture by many well into the fourth century. St. Clement was arrested by the Romans. Refusing to give up the Catholic Faith, a millstone was hung around his neck and he was thrown into the Tiber River.
Two other important figures are SS. Polycarp of Smyrna and Ignatius of Antioch. Both were disciples of the Apostle John and received their ministries from him. St. Polycarp was the Bishop of Smyrna, a church for which our Lord Jesus Christ had nothing but praise [see Apoc. 2:8-11]. St. Polycarp is known for his intolerance of heresy.
In A.D. 155, at the age of 86, he was arrested and publicly burned at the stake for being a Catholic. Not wanting to kill an old man, the appointed executioner offered to spare his life if he would renounce Christ. The bishop replied: "For 86 years I have served Jesus, and he has never wronged me in any way. How then can I deny my very King and Savior?" The Church of Smyrna, confident that "the victor shall not be harmed by the second death," gathered up the remains of St. Polycarp and venerated them as the relics of a saint. One of Polycarp's disciples was St. Irenaeus of Lyons, about whom we'll speak in a moment.
The other of St. John's disciples was Ignatius. After studying under the apostle, Ignatius was appointed to the Church of Antioch. It was at this very church that "the disciples were first called Christians." A close friend of Polycarp, St. Ignatius ruled as Bishop of Antioch for many years.
During that time, he wrote several letters to churches admonishing them to keep the Faith. In his writings, he does not claim authority over other churches, but insists that the faithful follow their own bishops, priests, and deacons. In 107, he was arrested and sent to Rome, where, refusing to renounce his faith, he was fed to wild animals.
From his writings, much can be learned about the bishop's character. He was not a man consumed with power or greed, nor did he allow changes to the Faith. In his letter to the Romans, he writes:
Only pray for me that God would give me both inward and outward strength [in the face of execution], that I may not only say, but will; nor be only called a Christian, but be found one....Let fire and the cross; let the companies of wild beasts; let the breakings of bones and the tearing of members; let the shattering of the whole body and all the wicked torments of the devil come upon me; only let me enjoy Jesus Christ. All the ends of the world, and the kingdoms of it, will profit me nothing: I would rather die for Jesus Christ than rule to the utmost ends of the earth. Him I seek who died for us; him I desire that rose again for us. This is the gain that is laid up for me.
Through his many letters, Jediah, we gain a great insight into what the early Church, which had to fight to the death for the Faith, believed and practiced. We hear in the voice of St. Ignatius the voice of St. John, and in the voice of St. John, the voice of our Blessed Lord, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Ghost, as one God forever and ever. Amen.
St. Ignatius gives evidence, in his letter to the Roman Church, of papal primacy. He refers to the Church of Rome as "presiding in love" over the entire Church.1 In his letter to the Trallian Church, he acknowledges the three-tiered hierarchy [i.e., bishop, priest, deacon] and apostolic succession: "In like manner, let us reverence the deacons as Jesus Christ, and the bishop as the Father, and the presbyters as the Sanhedrin of God and college of the apostles. Without these, there is no Church."2 Later in the same letter, St. Ignatius offers this exhortation:
Continue inseparable from Jesus Christ our God, and from your bishop, and from the commands of the apostles. He that is within the altar is pure, but he that is without, that is, he that does anything without the bishop, the presbyters, and the deacons, is not pure in conscience.3
Writing to the Magnesians, St. Ignatius again affirms that the bishops and presbyters inherit apostolic authority.
I exhort you that ye study to do all things in a divine concord: Your bishop presiding in the place of God, your presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and your deacons, most dear to me, being entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ.4
Knowing that vile heresies were spreading, St. Ignatius offers a solemn warning in his letter to the Church of Philadelphia. In that letter, he affirms that the only sure test of truth is unity with the bishops of the Church.
Be not deceived, brethren; if anyone follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. If anyone walks after any other opinion, he agrees not with the passion of Christ. Wherefore let it be your endeavor to partake all of the same Holy Eucharist. For there is but one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the unity of his blood, one altar, as also there is one bishop, together with his presbytery, and the deacons, my fellow servants, that whatsoever ye do, ye may do it according to the will of God.5
In his letter to the Church of Smyrna, over which St. Polycarp presided as bishop, St. Ignatius makes this statement: "Wheresoever the bishop shall appear, there let the people also be: as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church."6
The last of many other possible early Christian leaders I'd like to quote for you is St. Irenaeus of Lyons, a student of St. Polycarp (who, in turn, was the student of St. John the Apostle). He took it upon himself to combat all of the false teachings of his time. Toward the end of the second century, he wrote his famous work, Against Heresies: Detection and Overthrow of the Knowledge Falsely So Called. Consider the following passage from that influential document:
When [heretics] are refuted out of the Scriptures, they betake themselves to accusing the Scriptures themselves as if there were something amiss with them and they carried not authority, because the Scriptures, they say, contain diverse utterances and because truth cannot be found in them....
Yet when we appeal again to that tradition which is derived from the apostles and which is safeguarded in the churches through the succession of presbyters, they then are adversaries of tradition, claiming to be wiser not only than the presbyters but even the apostles, and to have discovered the truth undefiled....
Those that wish to discern the truth may observe the apostolic tradition made manifest in every church throughout the world. We can enumerate those who were appointed bishops in the churches by the apostles, and their successors down to our own day, who never taught, and never knew, absurdities such as these men produce. For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries which they taught the perfect in private and in secret they would rather have committed them to those to whom they entrusted the churches. For they wished those men to be perfect and unblamable whom they left and their successors and to whom they handed over their office of authority....
This we do by pointing to the apostolic tradition and the faith that is preached to men, which has come down to us through the successions of bishops; the tradition and creed of the greatest, the most ancient church, the church known to all men, which was founded and set up at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul. For with this church, because of its position of leadership and authority, must needs agree every church, that is, the faithful everywhere, for in her the apostolic tradition has always been preserved by the faithful from all parts.
So, you see that we have the Catholic Church spread throughout the world at the very outset. There is no proof in the historical record for your theory of apostasy and restoration. Unless every church in the world fell away in the exact same way at the exact same time, and this centuries before mass communication, your theory falls apart.
6) The Legitimate Practices of the Jews Developed and the Scriptures Were Not Viewed as an Exclusive Guide
The Catholic Church teaches a true development of doctrine and practices. All of the truth was revealed to the apostles, but as the centuries progress the Church grows in wisdom and gains insight and understanding. While we may express the Faith in different ways, none of those ways touches the unchanging essentials of the Faith, which is always one and the same.
You object to the development of doctrine and practice, arguing that we should take the Bible as our standard and guide. The Christian should, you would say, limit his beliefs to those of the Bible and limit his religious practices to those of the Bible. This aversion to the development of doctrine and practice is unscriptural. The Jews had Sacred Scripture which they were bound to follow. However, as time progressed the Jews' understanding grew and their doctrines and practices developed.
One example is the synagogue. In the time of Christ, every city with a Jewish population had a synagogue, where the people would meet on the Sabbath for liturgical services. But if you search the Jewish Scriptures, Jediah, you won't find any authority for synagogue worship. Worship, according to the Old Testament, is supposed to be in Jerusalem. Yet Jesus and the apostles met in synagogues without qualm. Why? Because as the years progressed, the Jews developed a legitimate unscriptural practice.
Another example is the Jewish leadership. Jews of Christ's time were led by the Sanhedrin. Under the Sanhedrin were elders, i.e., priests, scribes, and Pharisees. Jesus affirmed their authority, stating that they had inherited it from Moses. However, with the exception of the Levitical priests, the Hebrew Bible does not speak of such authority figures or of Mosaic succession.
You object to the Catholic Church establishing Holy Days of Obligation that are not in the Bible. However, the Jews established numerous such days. One of them is Hanukkah, or the Feast of Dedication, commemorating a miracle from the Maccabean revolt and foretelling the Messias yet to come. The Hebrew Bible never mentions the feast, yet Jesus celebrated it [see Jn. 10:22ff.]. In fact, it was while celebrating the Feast of Dedication that our Lord stated, "I and the Father are one."
Even within the Scriptures, the Jewish faith was in a constant state of development. The Jews went from slavery to the leadership of priests and judges to kings to prophets to warlords. Early parts of the Bible seem more fatalistic, with little evidence that they understood resurrection and eternity. By the end of the Old Testament times, in II Maccabees, they had come to believe in resurrection, eternity, and purgatory.
"Okay," you might say, "the Jewish faith and practice developed. But once Jesus came and preached the full truth, there was to be no further development."
You will add, "We have in the New Testament, especially in Acts, a pattern of what the Church should be. We need to imitate that pattern, without perverting it in the name of development."
What you'll find, however, is that the Catholic Church in the New Testament is in a constant state of development, too.
7) The Infant Catholic Church in the Book of Acts is in a Constant State of Refinement
To demonstrate that the New Testament Church is intended to refine, let me refer to a paper I wrote:
The Sacred Scripture closes with a stern warning: "For I testify to every one that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book: If any man shall add to these things, God shall add unto him the plagues written in this book. And if any many shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from these things that are written in this book" (Apoc. 22:18-19).
This passage is used by the Church of Christ to forbid the teaching and practice of anything not found in the Bible. But the warnings of Apocalypse do not claim to speak for the rest of the Bible, and in any case do not deal with specific practices of the Catholic Church. It is an anti-Roman message to persecuted Christians encoded so that the Romans, through whose hands it had to pass, would not likely understand it. To use this passage to condemn any Church practices not found in the Scripture is taking it far out of context.
What the Church of Christ considers the Great Apostasy, that is, the so-called falling away from the true Faith of the apostles which made the Catholic Church out of the original Lord's Church, is traced to the origins of Catholic practices. A chronological chart prepared by Eldred Stevens lists the Apostasy in this order: holy water, intercession of saints, penance, cross and crucifix, relics, Catholic Church [i.e., a new title for a new Church—Ed.], infant baptism, incense, Agnus Dei, daily Mass, blessing cemeteries, veneration of images, Purgatory, the office of archbishop, the celebration of the Ascension of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Transubstantiation, etc.7
For adherents to the Church of Christ, any refinement of their imaginary New Testament Church is considered apostasy. Rather than believing in the Catholic Church which progresses truly and without contradiction under the guidance of the Holy Ghost who preserves her from error in gaining insight into the "faith once [and for all] delivered to the saints," the Church of Christ claims that the Church should remain exactly as it was in the Bible.
One can either have a Church which "flowers" or a "constant" Church. The Holy Scriptures do not give a picture of a constant Church. Even during the roughly three decades of the history of the Catholic Church contained in the Bible, the Church is advancing. Beginning in A.D. 30, the Church consisted of all Jews who continued Jewish worship in the Temple.
And they were persevering in the doctrine of the apostles, and in the communication of the breaking of the bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders also and signs were done by the apostles in Jerusalem, and there was great fear in all. And all that believed, were together, and had all things in common. Their possessions and good they sold, and divided them to all, according as every one had need. And continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they took their meat with gladness and simplicity of heart; praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord increased daily together such as should be saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
It is not until four years later that the office of deacon is created.
And the saying was liked by all the multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles; and they praying, imposed hands upon them. (Acts 6:5-6).
Only in A.D. 35 are any congregations started outside of Jerusalem. They, too, are all Jews, worshipping with Jews in the synagogues: "And at that time there was raised a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all dispersed through the countries of Judea, and Samaria, except the apostles" (Acts 8:1).
In A.D. 41, Gentiles are allowed into the Catholic Church, but only on condition they conform to the Law of Moses: "Then Peter answered: Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Ghost, as well as we?" (Acts 10:47).
In A.D. 49, a council of the Catholic Church was held with Paul, Barnabas, the apostles, and the priests in attendance. At this Council of Jerusalem it was determined that the Law of Moses need not be imposed upon on Gentile converts: "For which cause I judge that they, who from among the Gentiles are converted to God, are not to be disquieted....For it hath seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us, to lay no further burden upon you than these necessary things... (Acts 1:5).
Christians continued to worship in the Jewish Temple [see II Thessalonians 2:4] until its destruction in A.D. 70. It was not until A.D. 84 that Christianity and Judaism made their final split, with Christians being excommunicated from the synagogues. If the Church is to remain constant to the pattern of Scripture, which pattern shall it be? If we may not progress, which point in the Catholic Church's New Testament progression shall we arbitrarily choose as a cutoff point? Should we glean from each period what we choose and establish that as New Testament Christianity? Or do we trust the voice of the Church of the living God to progress without changing the true teachings of Christ and the apostles?8
In a letter I sent to another gentleman some time ago, I addressed a particular aspect of development: changing the rules. This is probably a sore point with you. Before my conversion to the Catholic Church, my mentor in the Church of Christ used to lure prospective converts with a pamphlet titled, "Why Does My Church Keep Changing the Rules?" First of all, rules and doctrines are not the same thing. Doctrine is unchanging. We may develop in our understanding of doctrines, but they never change in any essential way. Rules—disciplines—however, may change as the Church sees fit. Yes, there are examples in Holy Scripture of "rule changing." One is from St. Paul: "Otherwise, what shall they do that are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not again at all? Why are they then baptized for them?" (I Cor. 15:29).
The Church has always taught as her most important dogma that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. According to the above reference, it seems that, based on the dogma of the Resurrection, friends of persons (at least in Corinth) who desired to become Christians but had died before they could be baptized were allowed to undergo a symbolical baptism to show that the dead were counted as Christians. This practice, apparently given scriptural approval, was soon dropped by the Catholic Church for fear of misunderstanding. It was proper that it do so, don't you think? Even though appearing to have scriptural approval, it was proper for the Catholic Church to use its authority to stop this practice, don't you think? Today, as far as I know, only the psuedo-Christian Mormons follow this practice, authoritatively changed by the Catholic Church.
Another example is the dietary restrictions placed on the Church by the Council of Jerusalem (A.D. 49): "That you abstain from things sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled... (Acts 15:29).
Finally, there is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in the context of a common meal known as the agape, or "love feast."
For every one taketh before his own supper to eat. And one indeed is hungry and another is drunk. What, have you not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the church of God; and put them to shame that have not? What shall I say to you? Do I praise you? In this I praise you not. (I Cor. 11:20-22)
Additionally, St. Jude uses a series of metaphors comparing the shameless behavior of heretics with the unacceptable conduct of those abusing the agape before reception of Holy Communion.9
Woe unto them for they have gone the way of Cain....These are spots in their banquets, feasting together without fear, feeding themselves, clouds without water, which are carried about by winds, trees of the autumn, unfruitful, twice dead, plucked up by the roots. (Jude 3:11-12)
God did not intend His Church, Jediah, to stay frozen in time. Instead, it was supposed to grow and flourish and develop. The Catholic Church is like a full-grown plant which looks nothing like its seed but is essentially the same. Everything the Church believes was contained essentially in the first kernel of truth:
Another parable he proposed unto them, saying: The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field. Which is the least indeed of all seeds; but when it is grown up, it is greater than all herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come, and dwell in the branches thereof. (Mt. 13:31-32)
8) The Bible Prophesies the Rise and Growth of the Catholic Church
The theory of Apostasy and Restoration adhered to by members of the Church of Christ sect is further debunked, Jediah, by the fact that the Sacred Scriptures foretell the rise and growth of the Catholic Church. All those sectors of Protestant thought, such as Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Islam, which adhere to some variation of the Apostasy-Restoration Theory can be classed into two mutually exclusive schools of thought. I don't know which one is the favorite of your Church of Christ, but one will be preferred over the other.
The first school of thought is the "Total Apostasy" school. Those believing in Total Apostasy accept that the true Church entirely ceased to exist on the earth for a period of time. David J. Riggs advocated this idea:
Some claim that a Church must be able to authentically trace its history back to Christ in order to be the true Church. However, we do not need a continual succession back to the original Church for that same Church to exist today. We need only to plant the word of God in the hearts of individuals. Those who believe and obey the word constitute the Church in any given locality.10
The second school of thought is the "Faithful Remnant" school. Those who teach this assert that a small remnant of true Christians existed underground in a continuous succession from the time of Christ. One advocate of this theory is Florida College's Brent Hunter:
During all these changes [in Christian doctrine and practice—Ed.], most of the people in the Church simply went along with the departures from the New Testament teaching and allowed the innovations and human ideas. Some remained faithful, fought against the apostasy and were excommunicated (or worse).
Mr. Hunter neglects to offer any evidence to back up this claim. Why is it, Jediah, that such statements against the Catholic Church are not substantiated? Historically, in fact, the Catholic Church founded by Christ has never ceased to exist, no matter how obscure it may have become at times in history. The Church applies these verses to herself (footnote 13):
But in the days of those kingdoms the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, and his kingdom shall not be delivered up to another people, and it shall break in pieces, and shall consume all these kingdoms, and itself shall stand forever. (Dan. 2:44)
[God's] voice then moved the earth; but Noe He promiseth, saying, "Yet once more, and I will move not only the earth, but heaven also [a quote from Deut. 4:24]. And in that he saith, "Yet once more," He signifieth the translation of the moveable things as made, that those things may remain which are immoveable. Therefore receiving an immoveable kingdom [i.e., the Catholic Church—Ed.], we have grace [meaning in the original Greek, "let us be grateful"—Ed.]; whereby let us serve, pleasing God, with fear and reverence. For our God is a consuming fire. (Heb. 12:26-29)
While there are basically only two interpretations of your Apostacy-Restoration Theory, either the Church founded by Christ entirely fell away for a period of time, or it remained underground in a small faithful remnant, the Biblical picture eliminates both possibilities. Scripture portrays the Church as destined to grow in splendor. The Church is to have as subjects all nations of the world. The kings of the earth are to belong to her ranks. She is to stand as a beacon for all the world to see, not exist in historical obscurity.
Consider the words of the Prophet Isaias:
And there shall come a redeemer to Sion, and to them that return from iniquity in Jacob, with the Lord. This is my covenant with them, with the Lord: My spirit that is in thee, and my words that I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, not out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, with the Lord, from henceforth and forever. [The Church makes use of the following verses for the Epistle of the Mass on the Feast of Epiphany, for she sees in them symbols of her universality. —Ed.] Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For behold darkness shall cover the earth, and a mist the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thy eyes round about, and see: all these are gathered together, they are come to thee: thy sons shall come from afar, and thy daughters shall rise up at thy side. Then shall thou see, and abound, and thy heart shall wonder and be enlarged, when the multitude of the sea shall be converted to thee, the strength of the Gentiles shall come to thee....The least shall become a thousand, and a little one a most strong nation: I the Lord will suddenly do this thing in its time. (Is. 59:20-21; 60:1-5, 22)
The passage cited by Mr. Hunter (see Dan. 2:44 above) to establish his thesis that the Church for a period remained in historical obscurity, constantly persecuted by the authorities of an apostate Church which sold out to pagan Rome, actually portrays the Catholic Church crushing the nations, and Rome in particular. The Catholic Church turned the world's largest pagan empire into a Christian empire, eventually conquering the pagan establishment which for so long persecuted the Catholic Church founded by the Messias.
Daniel also foretells the rise of the Messias and the Church:
I beheld, therefore, in the vision of the night, and lo, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and he came even to the ancient of days: and they presented him before him. And he gave him power, and glory, and a kingdom: and all peoples, tribes, and tongues shall serve him: his power is an everlasting power that shall not be taken away: and his kingdom that shall not be destroyed. [The reason that our Lord Jesus Christ is prophesied as "the son of man" is to contrast Him with the worldly kingdoms opposed to God, symbolized as brute beasts, with the glorified people of God, symbolized by human form, that will build His kingdom on earth. In the New Testament, our Lord made the title "Son of Man" His most characteristic way of referring to Himself, as the One in whom and through whom salvation would be realized.—Ed.] These four great beasts are four kingdoms [symbolically Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome—Ed.], which shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the most high God shall take the kingdom: and they shall possess the kingdom for ever and ever. (Dan. 7:13-14, 17-18).
It is not just Christ who reigns forever, but his servants on the earth. How vast is their dominion?
And that the kingdom, and power, and the greatness of the kingdom, under the whole heaven, may be given to the people of the saints of the most High: whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all kings shall serve him, and shall obey him. (Dan. 7:27).
This, too, can only be fulfilled by the Catholic Church which, in the height of her glory, judged all of Christendom, and not in a nonexistent or historically obscure faithful remnant.
Prophecy abounds with this kind of stuff, Jediah, which has no other application than to the Catholic Church of All Time. If the Church founded by Christ fell away so far so that men became unsure of what to do, all would be lost. Our Lord keeps His promises and this is our assurance: "You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house....Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill" (Mt. 5:14-15, 17).
9) Sola Scriptura Was Not Believed by Anybody until the Reformation; It Is a Tradition of Man Condemned by Our Lord
Legitimate development of doctrine is only that development which is guided by the Holy Ghost, which is not in contradiction with itself, and which is a natural expansion of understanding. Doctrines which individuals make up from time to time, which represent substantial breaks with the Christian tradition, are heresies. From the aspect of winning your wife away from the Jehovah's Witnesses to your own Church of Christ heresies, Jediah, you are at least familiar with the phenomenon. Many of the doctrines of the Jehovah's Witness are heresies. On this, we would agree. Their doctrines were invented by particular men at particular times which were essential breaks with Catholic Tradition. It is heresy to teach that Jesus Christ is not co-equal to God the Father, that He is really St. Michael, that there is no spiritual soul, and that there is not hell.
Sola fide, that is, that "only faith" saves us, is heresy. On this the Catholic Church and the Church of Christ agree. The idea that one is saved by "faith alone" was invented by Martin Luther, an apostate Catholic, and represents a substantial contradiction of and break with Christian tradition. It is not a legitimate development of doctrine.
Applying the same principle, sola scriptura is heresy as well. Nobody ever taught it during the first 1500 years since Christ founded the Catholic Church. It, too, was invented by Luther. In fact, its origin is rather embarrassing. Luther was called by the Church to answer for his bizarre teachings on salvation by faith. He was confident that he could find support in the teachings of the popes and councils. When the authorities of the Catholic Church demonstrated that the popes and councils did not support him, he invented sola scripture to save face. By inventing sola scriptura, Luther caused a substantial break with Christian tradition. If a doctrine was never taught until the 1500's, we can be confident it is not part of the apostolic depositum fidei. Luther did the Sacred Scriptures a grave disservice by calling on them to play a role which they were never intended to play. We should reject sola scriptura, Jediah, as an invention, a heresy, and a tradition of man.
10) The Church of Christ Has No Historical Connection to the Church Established in Jerusalem in A.D. 33
You believe that the Church of Christ is the one true Church. Scriptures already cited demonstrate that the true Church must remain alive and active all throughout history. If you study history, you will find that the Church of Christ only exists because a Baptist preacher, Alexander Campbell, and a Presbyterian preacher, Barton Warren Stone, merged their small splinter groups into a new Church. That new group, the Disciples of Christ, has split several times. Today's Disciples of Christ, Christian Church, and Church of Christ all have a common origin in the Restoration Movement. What you won't find is any logical connection between this product of the Restoration Movement and the Church established by Christ. I challenge you to offer evidence that the Church of Christ can be traced back to the first century.
11) The Church of Christ Teaches Sola Scriptura Only Because It Is a Protestant Sect and Not the Catholic Church of Scripture
Why does the Church of Christ teach sola scriptura? Because it was born out of a 300-year-old Calvinist tradition. Her founders rejected some Calvinist doctrines and kept others. There are 20,000 plus denominations claiming to follow the Bible alone. The Church of Christ preserves itself by acting as if its interpretation of the Scriptures was Scripture itself. It is, however, no less a denomination, no less a part of the embarrassing division within Christianity, than any other sect.
It doesn't matter that the Church of Christ wasn't intended to be just another sect. Campbell envisioned he was working toward the ultimate unity of all Christians.
I have no idea of adding to the catalogue of new sects. This game has been played too long. I labor to see sectarianism abolished, and all Christians of every name united upon the one foundation on which the apostolic Church was founded. To bring Baptists and Paedo-baptists to this is my supreme end.11
Campbell failed. His new church, like scores of new churches before it, split and divided and split again. Today, even within the Church of Christ, there are churches which are arch-conservative and anathematize everyone, churches which are semi-conservative and anathematize liberals, churches which are liberal, churches which are ultra-liberal, and churches which are no different from the common Evangelical Protestant church of the likes of Max Lucado.
Why did he fail? Because he did not build his new church on the Rock which is St. Peter. St. Paul says:
According to the grace of God that is given to me, as a wise architect, I have laid the foundation; and another buildeth thereon, but let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus. (I Cor. 3:10-11)
Alexander Campbell built his house upon the unsteady sand of his own personal interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures only. Our Lord Jesus Christ, Wisdom Itself, built His house upon a Rock.
And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed are thou, Simon Bar Jona [Peter]: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou are Peter; and upon this rock [i.e., Christ declares Peter to be "the Rock" upon which the Catholic Church was to be built: Christ Himself being the principal foundation and founder of the same.—Ed.] I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it [i.e., securing it against all storms and floods like the wise builder of Mt. 7:24-25—Ed.].
1. St. Ignatius (of Antioch) to the Romans 1:1.
2. Ibid. to the Trallians 1:8-9.
3. Ibid. 2:4-5.
4. St. Ignatius (of Antioch) to the Magnesians 2:4-5.
5. Ibid. to the Philadelphians 1:9-12.
6. Eldred Stevens and Eric Beevers, The Stevens-Beevers Debate on the New Testament and Roman Catholicism (Nashville: Williams, 1953).
7. Jeff Childers, "The Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Christ," unpublished paper (1997).
8. Ibid. Letter to Mr. Jack Meier, April 24, 1998.
9. David J. Riggs, "Succession Necessary?" Catholicism Examined, Vol. 1, No. 6, June, 1984.
10. David McClister and Brent Hunter, "Where Did All the Denomination Come From?"
11. Alexander Campbell, Christian Baptist, Vol. III, No.7, February 6, 1826.