This post is the first in a series of posts that I’m doing about a book called “The Protestant’s Dilemma: How the Reformation’s Shocking Consequences Point to the Truth of Catholicism,” written by Devin Rose (which can be purchased from Amazon here). (For an explanation, please read my page about it before finishing this post, if you haven’t already.) The first chapter is about Divine Authority.
The author doesn’t waste any time here: the very first sentence of the chapter says this:
If Protestantism is true, Christ revoked the authority that he gave to the Church when he founded it.
I don’t think there’s any doubt, either by Catholics or Protestants, that Christ gave authority to His 12 while he was still walking the earth 2,000 years ago, and by extention, His Church. But what there is disagreement on is whether or not the Catholic Church (as we know it today) still has that authority.
A few quotes from the chapter:
The vast majority of Protestants believe that the visible Church did in fact lose God’s authority at some point in time; that Christ revoked it when corruption entered into its teachings. Many fundamentalist Protestants believe that the date when the Church became corrupted and lost God’s divine authorization was the year 313, when Constantine proclaimed the Edict of Milan, which ended the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire and began (they say) the mixture of pagan corruption with the true gospel.
But Protestants in general are usually not so exact in their dating estimates, and instead claim that corruption entered into the Church somewhere between the second and sixth centuries. The dates vary according to when a particular Protestant, in studying the historical evidence, discovers a doctrine or practice of the Church that he belives is heretical.
No matter the particular date given for the corruption, it is common Protestant wisdom that by the fifteenth century, the Catholic Church had devolved in to such a disaster of human traditions and theological errors that the only solution was a clean break: to make clear the difference between the true Church of the Bible and the corrupted impostor.
So the basis of the Protestant belief that the Catholic Church no longer holds Divine authority is simply that God revoked that authority when the Church became corrupted. But yet, they have not universally agreed upon a date and instance of when and how exactly She became corrupted in the first place. From the year 313 to the 15th century is quite a big gap of possibilities there, isn’t it? So if they haven’t even agreed upon this, then how are they so sure that God revoked the authority that he gave Her? Moving on to the next quote:
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says to his disciples: “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me” (10:16). Notice the direct line of authority: The Father sends the Son, and the Son sends the apostles with his authority, such that listening to them (and the men whom they in turn authorize) is equivalent to listening to Jesus and the Father.
Likewise, in order to make sense, the promises that Christ made to the Church must be understood as permanent; nowhere does Jesus say that at some point He would abandon His Church to let the gates of hell prevail against it (indeed He says the opposite) or that the authority He had given its leaders would be revoked.
Jesus said “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.” – St Matthew 16:18, RSV-CE. (Some versions say “the gates of hell” rather than “powers of death”). For those who aren’t aware, Peter was the first Pope. You can trace the line of Popes all the way back to Peter, and the Popes are also known as the Successors of Peter. I don’t see how anyone could read that verse as anything other than Jesus basically announcing that the Catholic Church is the true Church. And if that is the case, and if He gave Divine authority to His Church, then how is it that the Catholic Church doesn’t have the same authority today? Another quote:
Since Christ established a visible Church in the first century and gave it rightful authority, the burden of proof falls on Protestants to demonstrate that He revoked this authority universally from the Church at some point in time. What event can they point to that caused Christ to take away His authority, and which Church leaders were involved in it? Where is the historical evidence for the claim? (….) The fact is, no event or even century can be pinpointed that can carry the wight of such a momentous claim, so the fall back is the idea that false teachings crept slowly into the Church and eventually tainted the gospel beyond recognition.
Seems like a tall order to me. I don’t have any idea of a particular time and place where this would’ve happened. Does anybody else? Next quote:
There is another problem with the Protestant version of events. Realizing the problematic nature of asserting that Christ’s Church became corrupted, most Protestants will fall back to the claim that the true Church remained pure but was simply invisible. We know from history, however, that Christ founded a visible Church, and the members of His Church were unified together as His mystical Body, of which He is the head. A body is both visible and alive; if you found a severed hand, a foot, an arm, and a toe on the ground, you would not say, “here is a body,” but rather, “here are parts that were severed from a body.”
Why is this part so important? Because if there is no visible Church that still has authority, but rather, the authority now belongs to the scattered individuals in the invisible true church, then how can anyone be excommunicated if they are found to be heretics? Mr. Rose goes on to say this:
If the true Church is invisible, it becomes impossible to determine who has authority to excommunicate another. Christ directed the apostles on how and when to excommunicate someone from the Church (see Matt. 18:17), but what does this mean when the Church is invisible and spread out across numerous denominations? A Christian “excommunicated” from one church just goes to another down the street, both a part of the “invisible Church,” rendering these Biblical passages meaningless. Being excommunicated from the Church makes sense only if the Church is a visible unity that one can be cut off from.
This only covers a portion of the arguments that Mr. Rose makes in this one chapter alone; there’s so much more that I had to leave out. I highly recommend that you get and read the book for yourself.
Now, let the (friendly!) games begin…