Monday, May 12, 2008

The Fallacy in Apostasy

Basically, what Fundamentalists, Mormons, Iglesia Ni Kristo, etc. insist on is that the present Roman Catholic Church (RCC) can not be the same Church that Christ founded at Pentecost, due to its many unbiblical teachings and practises. They maintain that the RCC apostasized sometime after the death of the last apostle, or after Nero’s reign, and that a small group of true Christians, the forerunners of the 16th century Reformists or the founding time of their church , surreptitiously maintained the tradition. They are under pain to explain that commission was continued all throughout the centuries before the reformation, in order to be consistent with the scriptures wherein Jesus says “I am with you always to the end of age” . My fundamentalist friend states thus: "The great commission was handed over to all of Christ's disciples through all generations (Matt 28:19-20), to spread the gospel and make disciples. Because Christians were martyred, many held bible studies secretly in dungeons to spread the word. RCC forced scriptures by reading them in Latin and explaining in English, paving the need of the reformation. Christ never operated by "chronos", the moment by moment elapsing of time. He is never bound by that. Rather He works by "cairos", significant moments in time."

The above position is invariably taken up by those who insist that the Roman Catholic Church has apostasized. I have taken a few points here, in my spirited email discussion with that fundamentalist, to show that such a position is untenable:

The early Christians were persecuted starting with Nero’s reign in AD 67 up to Diocletian in AD 303. It was during this period that the Christians met “secretly in dungeons” (catacombs you mean) to escape persecution. After this period, Christians practiced their faith openly. The Edict of Milan proclaimed religious toleration in AD 313, officially removing all obstacles to the practice of Christianity and other religions. It also declared unequivocally that the co-authors of the regulations wanted no action taken against the non-Christian cults. While religious tolerance was initially expressed, the successors of Constantine also gave rise to the convergence of church and state, where ecclesiastical tribunals sometimes merged with civil tribunals, in the prosecution of heretics. There were at various times Pelagians, Arians, Donatists, Amish, Cathars, Mennonites, Unitarians, Waldensians, etc., who were indeed subject to pressure, imprisonment, exile and sometimes death, but these pressures came nowhere near the massive persecution of the Christians in the first 300 years. The medieval inquisition against Catharists started only in 1184, while for the Roman inquisition, in 1542. The Spanish and the Portuguese inquisitions of the 15th century, were largely state affairs. All throughout, there was no known expurgation movements against any known group whose banner was Sola Fide/Faith only. It was only in the 16th century that this doctrine emerged with the Reformists, and thereby declared anathema by the Council of Trent in 1547. For over 15,000 years prior to the reformation there was only the Roman Catholic Church.

The point is that an objective analysis of historical data reveals that the 5-Solas doctrine never figured in any significant, observable instance in religious doctrine of the pre-Reformation era. Martin Luther himself used to be an Augustinian monk. The obvious conclusion being you can not observe something that does not exist. Facts and historical data are clearly on the side of this argument. Facing all odds, even willing to face death for preaching the Good News, doesn’t square with hiding in dungeons for over a thousand years. Anyway, dungeons are located in the underground of castles, coliseums, mainly used for imprisonment and torture. Where did you get this idea? Catacombs, probably. But ancient catacombs were ornamented with religious figures and paintings. I doubt if early reformists would have wanted to go anywhere near that for their bible studies.

They are bound to get noticed one way or the other. And what is there to hide for? There are many supposed heretics who stood out all those years (mentioned above) in spite of the severe repressions. All the while, the Roman Catholic Church certainly figured out prominently, and admittedly at times, regretably. Though Christ promised a Helper and His guidance always, He never promised to fill His church with impeccable people. Yet it is to the credit of the Church with the spirits guidance that even with the temporal excesses of the Church, heresy was never propagated out of the RCC. And what is this about “chronos” , “cairos”, “significant moments in time”? Let’s just pity the poor lost souls who were born at the wrong time? I thought fundamentalists insist on literal sense, so when Christ said “I will be with you always”, *always* should mean just that – *always*. This must be a very difficult reality for fundamentalists to come to terms with, because of their conviction that as RCC conveys a false gospel, and so it can not be the Church that Christ founded and protected all these years. That is just circular reasoning. Ok, you will say the bible says so: *all* Scriptures are profitable for doctrine, reproof…”, literally likewise, “all” does not mean “*only *”.Without even going into discussions of doctrine, it is really only the Roman Catholic Church, that has a historically defensible claim to an unbroken line of succession and tradition, from year 33 upto the present. The only true Church that gives credence to Jesus’ Great Commission: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

I used to be fascinated with Sir Conan Doyle’s books in early high school, and it now comes back to me: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

- WillyJ

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