Healing the Scandal of Denominationalism

Old Covenant Judaism, by the time of Christ, was riddled with various sects. For example, the Jewish historian Josephus, writing at the close of the first century, describes five major factions: the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots and Sicarii.  Other factions existed as well, like the Herodians, the mortal enemies of the Sicarii.  And of course, there are the Samaritans, who weren’t recognized as Jews by most of the Jewish sects.  Again, these are just the divisions within ancient Judaism: it doesn’t include the disunity between Jews and Gentiles.

Into this divided and disorganized world comes Christ, who forms a new and united Church.  In John 10:14-16, Jesus says,

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.”
And a few chapters later, in John 17:20-23, He prays,
“I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.

Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world.”

Passages like these suggest that the Church is to be One.  But Catholics and Protestants typically understand these passages differently.  Catholics understand that there’s to be a single Church, and see the rise of denominationalism to be a gross scandal, and a grave wound to the Body of Christ.  In contrast, from what I can tell, most Protestants read these passages to simply mean that, whatever else may divide us, we’re at least united by our shared love of Christ.

This chart gets some of the details wrong,
but it helps show the scandal of denominationalism

While it’s true that Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants are united in some way by our shared Baptism and our shared love of Christ, this particular reading of the passage strikes me as rather flat.  The Oneness of the New Testament Church described in Scripture certainly seems to include doctrinal unity.  In Acts 4:32, we’re told that “All the believers were one in heart and mind.”  So they shared a common love for Christ and common beliefs. And in 2 Corinthians 13:11, St. Paul writes, “Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

Besides that, consider Galatians 2:11-14, in which St. Paul confronts St. Peter:
But when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And with him the rest of the Jews acted insincerely, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their insincerity. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

In treating the Gentile Christians like they were unclean, and inferior to the Jewish Christians, St. Peter refused to eat dinner with them.  That was scandalous and sinful.  But how much larger of a scandal is it that Protestant and Catholic Christians can’t share the sacred meal of Holy Communion together?

So no, denominationalism is a terrible scandal.  Jesus Christ calls us to more, and He’s prayed for more.  It’s a serious and ugly problem that needs to be solved.  I see essentially three ways that this scandal can be cured:

(1) We Can Sacrifice the Truth for the Sake of Unity.

This is the real danger of much of ecumenism.  Representatives of two (or more) denominations will sit down together, and squabble of how much of their statement of beliefs can be sacrificed for the sake of forced unity.    You’ll give up your beliefs forbidding infant Baptism, and in exchange, we’ll stop affirming that the pope is head of the Church on Earth — that sort of thing.  That’s a dishonest approach towards theology.  If Christianity is a religion of what’s true, and what’s revealed by God, we don’t have the leeway to compromise some of His revelation for convenience.

Contrast this approach with St. Paul’s instructions to his disciple Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-5,

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.

The problem with this first approach is that it does the exact opposite: once the Truth is out of season, we stop preaching it, and stop rebuking error, sacrificing sound teaching for the sake of those myths and false teachings promulgated by the popular teachers sought out by the flock.  St. Paul’s charge to Timothy invokes Christ, “who is to judge the living and the dead.”  We don’t want to show up to the Last Judgment having violated this charge.

(2) We Can Pretend Everything is Okay.

This is another trap that much of the modern ecumenical effort risks falling  into.  In it, we try to put a band-aid over the wound in the Body of Christ, and pretend it’s not there.  Maybe we’ll want to offer open Communion to groups that we think are dangerously wrong with their theology, and who have a very different view of the Eucharist and the Church than we do. This is another form of dishonesty, and it’s directly condemned in Scripture (Jeremiah 3:13-15):

“From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain;
prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.
They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious.
‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.
Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct?
No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush.
So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them,”
says the LORD.

So this second option is also condemned in some pretty strong language, this time by God Himself directly.

(3) We Can Become Truly United in One Faith and One Church.

This leaves one option, and it’s not one that Protestants are going to want to hear.  The Scriptural evidence points to the idea that God Himself will lead the Church.  Consider the Scriptural evidence:

  1. Christ built the Church Himself (Matthew 16:17-19);
  2. The Church is the Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:23-32);
  3. The Body of Christ is to be without division (1 Corinthians 12:25);
  4. Christ gave Peter (individually) the power to bind and loosen, and the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 16:17-19);
  5. He likewise gave the Church (collectively) the power to bind and loosen (Matthew 18:18), 
  6. Peter was given a special commission to care for the other Apostles (Luke 22:32), and was given a special commission in caring for all of Christ’s flock (John 21:15-17);
  7. Peter later went to Rome, referred to by the Jews as “Babylon” (1 Peter 5:13);
  8. The Church established by Christ included hand-picked Apostles (Mark 3:14)
  9. The men picked by God then appointed another generation of Church leaders (e.g., Acts 1:23-25; Acts 6:3-6; Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5).  
  10. The men they appointed were to continue this chain of Apostolic succession (2 Tim. 2:2)
  11. Christ protects the Church always (Matthew 28:20);
  12. Christ promised not to leave us orphans — which precludes the possibility of an Apostasy wiping the true Church off the map (John 14:18);
  13. The Holy Spirit protects the Church always (John 14:16);
  14. The Holy Spirit leads the Church into all truth (John 16:13; John 14:26);
  15. We, the laity, aren’t supposed to seek out whichever denomination suits us best (2 Timothy 4:3-4);
  16. Instead, we’re supposed to obey Church leaders (Hebrews 13:17-18), and look to them for the truth (1 Timothy 3:15);
  17. This Church was prophesied in the Old Testament as starting in time of the Roman Empire, and lasting forever (Daniel 2:44-45).  It was also prophesied to include a sacrificial priesthood similar to the Levitical priesthood of old (Isaiah 66:18-21).

All of that points towards the Catholic Church.  Many more passages could be marshaled in support as well, as well as the testimony of the earliest Christians.

Now, if the Catholic Church is Who She claims to be (the Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ, imparted with the ongoing protection of the Holy Spirit), the problem is solved quite neatly.  If all Christians unite under the Catholic Church, and listen to St. Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 3:15, rather than acting like those he criticizes in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, we get both unity and Truth.


One of the points that Christians often make in Christian-Jewish dialogues is that if Christ isn’t the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies, no one is.  The Tanakh contains a long list of Messianic prophesies that created a specific timeline.  For example, Daniel 2 is pretty clear that the Advent of the Messiah will occur three regime changes after the fall of the Babylonian Empire: that is, during the time of the Roman Empire.  Jesus Christ fits the timeline: no other contender does.  So it’s Jesus or nobody.

We have a similar situation here.  If Jesus called for total adherence to the Truth and a Oneness of the Church, Protestantism can’t be correct.  At its heart, it preaches that the Reformation was necessary: that Oneness of the Church had to be broken out of adherence to the Truth.  That’s the inherent catch-22 of Protesantism in a nutshell.  It’s Catholicism or nobody.


  1. Dear Joe,

    The problem with your point 1 is that the catholic church does compromise for the sake of unity. We only have to look to the ordinariate to see that in action.

    The question is only what the Catholic Church is willing to compromise on, i.e. where does it set the boundary between Truth which may not be compromised and other church practices which can be accepted for the sake of unity.

    The Catholic Church may place the papacy in the Truth category, but obviously the Orthodox and Anglicans do not.

    Therefore it’s no good saying ‘don’t you care about Truth?’ as if that ends the debate. The discussion simply moves on to what exactly falls into the category of ‘non-negotiables’. If we engage in this process, as those who organised the ordinariate had to do, then we are automatically ecumenists, despite protestations to the contrary.

    I think this process of determining what is non-negotiable Truth is a good and proper one, and it’s one that has been going on in the Catholic Church since its inception, in relation to other religions, and later other Christian groups.

    You must be careful when pursuing the rigidity of truth, that you do not fall prey to Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees:
    Matt 23:15

    Love covers over many sins. We love the same Lord. You would be welcome to share Holy Communion in our church at any time. All Christian denominations are welcome here.

    with love.

  2. Irenicism, where Catholic doctrine is clouded or reduced for the sake of compromise, is condemned by the Second Vatican Council as completely foreign to ecumenism.

    Pope John Paul II put it like this “Ecumenism cannot begin with indifference to the truth, rather it begins with a presentation of the truth, with respect for the intelligence and consciences of others”

    By the way, John 17 reminds us of another truth the Church has always taught. The unity of the true Church is to be a sign, even to unbelievers, of the credibility of Christ’s message. Of course, Christ’s High priestly prayer is perfectly efficacious, as evidenced by the miraculous unity His Church has known these past 2000 years.

  3. You can add Matthew 5.13-16 to your list. Talking to His disciples (5.1) (who will be/are His Church), He tells them clearly that He intends for the Church a visible (vv 14-16) agent of salvation (vv 13 and 16) for the world.

  4. Joe –

    I’ve come to the same conclusion as you as represented in your article. Either Christianity is a fairy tale or correctly taught by the Catholic Church and nobody else. It is all or nothing.

  5. Tess does touch on something very pertinent to the discussion: valid diversity within the Body of Christ. Without a clear, authoritative voice, distinguishing a hierarchy of Truths and making distinctions about that which is “non-negotiable” is ultimately futile (see the visible disunity of Christians). The management of legitimate diversity in the midst of the bond of unity is proper only to legitimate authority. It seems that attempts to understand such authority has produced two camps: one in which authority is based on what Christ granted to his apostles under the leadership of Peter or another where authority is mangled in some scheme that boils down to each individual being a pseudo-Peter. Only one approach is true, beautiful and good.

    The case of the Ordinariate is interesting. The Church is flexible in allowing a legitimate diversity in establishing a new rite, but also is firm in insisting the ordination of former-Anglican clergy. Seems to be a good example in what it takes to hold on to authentic unity while allowing legitimate diversity as determined by legitimate authority.

  6. Sweet Jesus does this stuff become wearisome. Since my days at the Newman Center we have been in dialogue over the same issues! That was 1971! I am sure the hierarchy is a bit OCD with this subject matter. For me, I am going to obey the 10 Commandments. Love Jesus,my wife, my children, my neighbors and make the world a more peaceful place. Call me when you all are done. Loving takes up all my time.

  7. Highland Cathedral: My take on the “non-denominational” movement is that it’s based in the same frustration that Joe expresses in his post: the Church is supposed to be visibly one but something isn’t right when looking at Christians as a whole today. Unfortunately, that movement ends up resulting in more de facto denominations as each new congregation is an island of its own doctrine and governance.

    SSSuperman: Your definition of love is a bit narrow. It risks being contorted into a “love the body at the risk of neglecting the soul” approach. You are quite right that we must love, but that looks like the coporal and spiritual works of mercy. Charitable and honest discussions about Christian unity are a work of love. If you choose not to care, that’s your loss.

  8. Joe, It seems to me that commentaries on Peter’s actions at this event give Peter such a bad time over it, and further with your describing it as “sin”. Surely at worst it can only be a matter of manners. Peter had already been having his meal with Paul’s group, so he was had no hang-up about eating with them. It seems to me quite a natural reaction for Peter to get up and go and greet his friends arriving from Jerusalem, and then to sit down with them to hear all the news. In fact I think Paul is being rather “precious” in his attack on Peter, who seems to be showing real hospitality in welcoming the new arrivals. For his part Paul should likewise have joined in welcoming them and not getting on his high-horse. I think it’s Paul who is the one showing bad manners. We have only Paul’s account of this confrontation, so we’re not privy to Peter’s reply, which possibly went along the lines of why all this hyperventilating, and had Paul taken his medication that day.

  9. Ok Joe, I’ll bite (and keep in mind, I agree with your view here, but want to play a little devil’s advocate).
    You only speak of Catholics and Protestants, as if there isn’t a third option – the Orthodox. What of them??

    Pax Christi,
    The Idler.

  10. Just a thought or two, por favor. When the “take it or leave it” proposition is an ultimatum, I find an arrogant, presumptive, and theological chimera that appears to be an “itch” that satisfies only adherents to the mirage. 2 Tim 4 is a double-edged sword.

    Moreover, “scandal” is a personal word to define outrage or an affront or dishonor. Why is the need for your version of UNITY so one sided and upside-down? If the post were a “let’s connect the dots” using your organizational chart as the pattern, no picture of reality would appear. I love how the RCC is the center-piece (artificial as it is) and proclaims blind allegiance. The real question (and scandal) is why are so few cradle Catholics not interested in your pomp? They must see the relics, icons, masses, purgatory, requirements to bow, kneel, kiss the ring, etc., are all to show Christ. NOT. Truth is not relative and the call for unanimity is not found even within your sacrosanct kingdom. The veneer that was so carefully pasted on the minds of many eventually decays with age. Scandal is RCC middle name on so many fronts over so long a time.

    Unity without Truth is pointless. An old saying was; “tie two dogs tails together and you have UNITY, but you do not have UNION.” Voila!!

    Even you reference to an older post about Calvinist Baptists, blah, blah, blah, is noteworthy but “who cares?” Infant baptism is not an option (whether as a covenant or regeneration). And your 3rd point with all the Scripture citing the church as the RCC–nothing in the texts follows that path.

    The RCC is not evil nor without precedence as a protector of cultural and history over the ages. Nor is it kicked to the curb because not everyone feels obliged to accept big “T” or little “t” as equal to Scripture. Why would any group (except left-wing Episcopal/Anglicans/Protestants) feel such an urgency to unite? Catholicism is in trouble. New Evangelism and the act to recover the strays is primary.

    Denominational groups often form due to polity. Do all agree? Never. Does this mean that the Body of Christ is split? Not exactly because many of these groups are not true believers anyway. The wheat and the tares will be separated by our Lord in due time. Just keep cranking out your apologists who dazzle all with their Latin and philosophy, continue pouring money in an attempt to return your aging flock to the fold, and be sure to never concede anything so we all know who has the final say.

    Physician, heal thyself—first.

  11. Lagniappe, regarding the idea of “Physician, heal thyself – first,” that’s contrary to the whole spirit of the Gospel. Do we wait to evangelize until all the Baptized Christians are living perfect lives? If the Apostles took your approach, Christianity would have died out within a generation. We always face the dual problem of reaching those outside the Church, and fortifying those within. Fortunately, one hand washes the other, as converts help build up the faith of cradle Catholics, and zealous Catholics help draw in converts. It’s not either-or; it’s both-and.

    In any case, you criticize what you impute to be my vision of unity. Fair enough: what do you propose as an alternative? (a) Do you believe that the Church Christ created and entrusted to the Apostles was supposed to have competing denominations proclaiming different doctrines? (b) If not, how do you propose we solve the problem of denominationalism, without sacrificing the fullness of the Truth?



  12. Idler, good question, and admittedly a weakness in this post. There are reasons why Orthodoxy doesn’t really work as an alternative, but they’re not easily summarized in a comment. First off, let’s admit up front that the Orthodox can present a fairly coherent version of Christian history in a way that Protestants can’t. Namely, they’ll claim that Christ created the Orthodox Church, the pope broke off in 1054 to form the Catholic Church, and then Protestants broke off from the Catholic Church. I think that this view of history is wrong, but it’s at least plausible, in a way that something like “Jesus Christ founded His Church so that it would go into near-immediate apostasy, only to be resurrected by a sixteenth century monk” isn’t.

    But related to the post above, there are two reasons that I think Orthodoxy fails as a viable alternative. First, it eventually creates the same problem of having to choose between schism and heresy. From a Protestant perspective, you would seemingly have to say that at a certain point in history, God desired Christians to go into schism from the institutional Church. From an Orthodox perspective, you would seemingly have to say that at a certain point in history, God desired Christians to reject the primus, and go into schism from the Coryphaeus. Even if you don’t recognize the pope as having the ability to settle theological disputes outside the West, this would mean that in 1054, either (a) Christians in the West should have broken away from the pope, or (b) God wanted a separate Church in the West than in the East. So it’s the same schism v. heresy argument.

    Second, you would apparently have to say that God desired the dissolution of the Church’s ongoing authority to respond to heresy. Here’s what I mean. In the early Church, disputes could be resolved definitively through Ecumenical Councils. This was true even after the Oriental Orthodox broke off, after Chalcedon in 451 A.D. – there were another three Ecumenical Councils that the Eastern Orthodox recognize. So the Eastern Orthodox admit that the absence of the Oriental Orthodox didn’t impair the ability of the Church to hold Ecumenical Councils.

    But look at Orthodoxy since the Great Schism. Not only is there no shared understanding of what makes a Council “Ecumenical” (and thus, no consensus even on which Councils were Ecumenical), but there’s a broad consensus that there have been no Ecumenical Councils since 1054. In fact, it’s not clear that there’s any bishop or body within Orthodoxy capable of calling a Council – or at least, one that would be universally recognized as Ecumenical.

    On the Catholic side of the aisle, we’ve had fourteen Ecumenical Councils since the Great Schism, and the absence of the Eastern Orthodox no more impairs their validity than does the absence of the Oriental Orthodox. So the Catholic answer is (a) coherent, and (b) pragmatic. Orthodox polemics allege that the papacy undermines conciliar authority, but the history has been the exact opposite: it’s only through the papacy that we can distinguish between Ecumenical and Robber Councils in the first place.



  13. Bill, I’ll think about adding a few more. It was sort of an “off the top of my head” list – it started out at 10, because I, too, like round numbers. But then I got a little carried away. I like Chrysostomos’ suggestion – count that as my #18.

    Highland Cathedral, Non-denominationalism is an attempt to boil Christianity down to a handful of “core” doctrines that everyone must believe, a sort of bare minimum Mere Christianity. But what we’re quickly discovering is that we can’t even agree what the bare minimum should be. So the experiment has largely failed, and resulted in non-denominationalism becoming (ironically) just another denomination.

    Tess, my question is the same as Brian’s, and I think that Fr. Andrew has a good answer. There are negotiables and non-negotiables, and the Church is the only reliable place to look for which things are which (see my comment to Highland Cathedral, above).

    But let me be really, really clear here. Some Protestants refer to negotiable and non-negotiable doctrines From a Catholic perspective, that’s crazy. If a doctrine is worth anything, it’s because it’s a statement of what is true. And by definition, truth is non-negotiable. We don’t have the right or authority to compromise on any doctrine, no matter how small. “We aren’t the authors of the Truth, or even the editors: we’re just the mail carriers,” as Peter Kreeft is fond of saying.

    On the other hand, things like liturgical style aren’t generally questions of truth. So, for example, the ordinariate creates a situation in which converts can believe the truths that Catholics believe, while worshipping in a separate style. That doesn’t compromise truth in the slightest, as far as I can tell.

    Ozzie Brian, I think you’re misreading the passage. Imagine a Catholic bishop today segregating a Church between blacks and whites, because he was afraid to stand up to segregationists. So this isn’t about Peter being welcoming, or wanting to spend time with the visitors from Jerusalem. This is about Peter, who was personally told by God not to treat the Gentiles as unclean in Acts 10:28, refusing to sit with Gentiles because the Jewish Christians thought that they were unclean and second-class Christians. It was an offense against their dignity as Christians, and we know from God-breathed Scripture that Peter was in the wrong here.



    P.S. What the commenter above (“Uknown” at November 26, 2011 1:11 PM) is referring to is this language from Unitatis Redintegratio: “Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false irenicism, in which the purity of Catholic doctrine suffers loss and its genuine and certain meaning is clouded.”
    I do want to point out that it’s false irenicism that’s condemned – I mention this just so Tess doesn’t think I was being a jerk when I called her irenic. 🙂

  14. At some level, it’s important to respect that denominations that diverge from the Roman Catholic Church are referencing the same bible to draw their doctrinal conclusions. That there are so many tells us something about that reality.

    Taking a “my way or the highway approach” should probably be reserved for those matters that completely and totally define us as Christians. Beyond that we may want to be a bit more charitable with each other.

  15. fx kelli,

    The issues of concern here are of those “matters that completely and totally define us as Christians” (i.e. the deposit of faith).

    However, to back up a bit, your statement leads to another issue. Who has the authority to decide what defines us as Christians?

  16. @ Joe: “I think that [the Orthodox] view of history is wrong, but it’s at least plausible, in a way that something like ‘Jesus Christ founded His Church so that it would go into near-immediate apostasy, only to be resurrected by a sixteenth century monk’ isn’t.”

    Beautiful line, Joe! I wish I’d thought of it!

    @ Brian:
    No getting away from the issue of authority, is there? Even setting a “bare minimum Mere Christianity” takes a willingness to accept human authority that flies in the face of “primacy of the individual conscience” so prized by dissidents, Protestants and New Atheists.

  17. Saint Thomas Aquinas states in his Summa that there are six kinds of sin against the Holy Ghost:

    despair, presumption, impenitence, obstinacy, resisting the known truth, envy of our brother’s spiritual good. [Summa Theologica > Second Part of the Second Part > Question 14 (Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost) ]

    Protestants teach presumption of salvation even after mortal sin and usually before Baptism. How will God pardon a sin if the believer does not even know why to ask?

    Sins against the Holy Ghost are unforgivable. Will a Protestant ask God for forgiveness with perfect contrition if they believe God will not let it affect their salvation?

  18. haha, it is, it is; I love it when you hold Protestants’ feet to the fire. There are so many well-meaning Protestants out there that sometimes I begin to doubt whether the argument is as compelling as I thought, and then you remind me again that it is.

  19. @ Tess
    LET THEM EAT OUR HOLY COMMUNION! That is sacrilage and a grave sin.
    1 Corinthians Chapter 11-:27-30 Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. [28] But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. [29] For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord. (Protestants don’t discern his body) [30] Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you, and many sleep.

    Anyway, on the side, the fast before the Eucharist is required too.
    1 Cor ch11:34 [34] If any man be hungry, let him eat at home; that you come not together unto judgment. And the rest I will set in order, when I come.

  20. Hello

    I am the one who created the denomination chart you referenced above. I’d like to know which “details” you feel are “wrong”? Perhaps I can explain my research and/or consult additional resources that you reference?

    Also, my point in creating that chart on truthforsaints.com along with historical and denominational profile information is to communicate unity among the body of Christ. Although we worship in different houses (as did the early new testament churches) we still hold to the essentials of the Christian Faith: The Trinity, The Deity of Christ, etc.

    However, I will say that as a former Catholic of 24 years, the idea of “unity” at the expense of “truth” is a bankrupt idea. I still have family and friends who are Catholic and I still am very fond of the Catholic church but have moved on to a more scriptural approach to corporate worship.

    I noticed a post above from someone demanding to know such ‘truths’ that have been compromised. Here is my primary differences with the Catholic faith and why I choose to worship in a different house.

    1. Infallibility of the Pope/Church
    This is big for me as this item has itself spurned some of the most difficult and unscriptural practices of my former faith.

    2. The practice of praying to the dead as intercessors between myself and God Almighty (i.e. Mary, Saint Christopher etc)

    3. Salvation by grace + works. Whereas the mistake of misinterpreting James “Show me your faith, I’ll show you my works” is at the heart of this bad doctrine. Ultimately, the Scriptures are replete with evidences that works come from true faith and “faith without works is dead” however, it does not say that salvation is predicated on “true” works but rather “true” faith.

    4. To a lesser extent “transubstantiation” This errant doctrine has been OVER dramatized by some Protestant preachers as a “Slap in the face of God!”, a statement I wholeheartedly disagree with. As Catholics, we were simply taught that by faith the bread and wine literally became the body and blood of Christ and we were to partake in that Holy Communion to share in Him. My issue here is, this practice is in error, Jesus said, “Do this in memory of Me” he didn’t say “Do this so you could take part in Me”. No, I believe to take part in Him, Jesus said in John 3:3 “You must be born again or you will not see the Kingdom of God” and in verse 16 of the same chapter: “Whosoever believes in (Greek: clings to) Him (Jesus) shall have eternal life”

    I’m glad you are making use of the denomination chart. Please let me know about the question I posed above.

    Thank You


  21. Andrew,

    There are certainly more capable hands than mine to address your issues, all common ones, and I think you can find many answers on this very blog, but just two questions…

    1)Why are your interpretations right?

    Particularly with regard to transubstation, what does the early church say…

    and 2) what is your understanding of infallibility, its use, application, and lack of scriptural basis?

    In Christ

  22. 1) They aren’t “my” interpretations…it is just sound interpretation based on good hermeneutics. What was the central message of the author? Who was he addressing? How does work contextually with what the author is writing? And from a larger “Sola Scriptura” position: how consistent is the passage with other more clear passages on the subject in other passages of Scripture.

    “what does the early church say…”

    The early church isn’t the final authority with regards to Biblical doctrine. The extant texts are (albeit with a proper interpretation). This of course is where your theology diverges from mine in that you hold the authority of the councils as highly as you do Scripture (if you are a good Roman Catholic as I used to be). But those councils are simply a series of gatherings with Bishops and Arch Bishops in an effort to gain a consensus for issues facing the church during their time. They were NOT the final authority for how to live our lives according to Scripture.

    2) Again – a divergence from Scripture by way of attributing infallibility to the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church while stripping Scripture of that property. Shameful, but the RC Church has painted itself into a doctrinal corner and can’t return to the truth because they have so emphatically stated the infallibility of a man and a man-made structural hierarchy that despite the horrific examples of flaw and fallibility – the Roman Catholic church still insists that we “pay no mind to the man behind the curtain!”

    Look, here is the point, you are fallible, I am fallible, the church is fallible both visible (those who ‘gather’ in the name of Christ) and invisible (those who “are” in the name of Christ and are sealed by the Holy Spirit). What is infallible is the Word of God given in its original language to its original messenger. I do not hold to the infallibility of copyists (Jerome, Erasmus, etc.) nor the infallibility of translations (Latin Vulgate, Textus Receptus, KJV, NIV, NAS, etc). I do hold to the infallibility of the Word as it was delivered originally and therefore make it an endeavor to properly interpret Scripture based on its original languages and extant manuscripts.

    Thanks Cary


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