I received a short, terse comment in response to my blog piece, The Dying Church. I started what I thought would be a simple response and it got a bit crazy (and way long) so I decided it would be best posted as a separate blog to this gentleman.
Here is my response:
Thank you for your comment. It is the kind of comment I would have made 20 years ago when I was Protestant. However, such a comment reflects a lack of consideration of several issues:
1. There a numerous (quite a few, actually) denominations who all would say the same thing. They will say that their teachings come directly from the Bible alone (i.e., no “Holy Tradition” or “Traditions of Men.”) and that the Holy Spirit has clearly led them to believe what they believe from the Bible. Problem is that they all have different views of major doctrines in the Bible, such as baptism, the deity of Christ the Church, etc. How can this be if all of them believe in the Bible alone and are guided by the Holy Spirit? Is the Holy Spirit schizophrenic?
2. Those denominations which use phrases such as “the Bible alone” or “sola scriptura” did not exist in the first century of the Christian faith. In fact, they didn’t come around for 15 centuries later. Evangelicalism developed 20 centuries after the Apostles. How then can you say that this is truth when it wasn’t taught for 20 centuries?
3. The teachings of Protestantism deny what the first Christian pastors taught – such as infant baptism, baptism for the remission of sins, the Eucharist as the true Body and Blood of Christ, the necessity of the Sacraments the priesthood and the existence of bishops, etc. Where do you think that the very first Christians learned these ideas if not directly from the Apostles? Yet you and many other Protestants will deny that the Bible teaches these doctrines, and will do so by ignoring the Greek and using eisegesis rather than looking to what the early Christians believed.
4. The Bible must be interpreted. If it was perspicuous, as Protestants claim it is (meaning, clear and easy to understand), there would not be a multitude of different Protestant interpretations of it, would there? Of course, then the question comes up, WHO is authorized to interpret the Sacred Scriptures properly? For instance, who gave Luther the authority to change the apostolic teaching on the Eucharist? Who gave Calvin the right to interpret the Greek word “logisomai” differently from what had been understood since the beginning? Of course, I will say that this applies to the Roman Catholic Church as well. From where did the Frankish bishops of the Latin Church get the permission to change the Creed, especially when there existed an anathema against anyone who would dare do such a thing? Where was the Holy Spirit when the Latin translators misinterpreted the Greek word “metanoia” (which means “repent”) and made it say “do penance?”
My advice, sir, if you wish to know what the Bible says, look to the one Church which has zealously guarded the Scriptures from innovations over the centuries – the Holy Orthodox Church. People make fun of Orthodoxy because it is “stuck in antiquity” but when it comes to the very things that Christ taught to the Apostles and they taught to the first Christians, being stuck in time is an excellent thing.
5. How did the first Christians “stick with the Bible” when there were no Scriptures to tell them about this new faith, called “The Way” and later on, Christianity? Do you realize that all they had were the Hebrew Scriptures, which would only tell them how to practice a dying religion, Judaism? This is why the epistles of St. Paul are simply filled with instruction in this new faith – no one knew how to properly practice it and there were no Scriptures that taught what to do. All they had were the words of the Apostles which were being transmitted orally.
6. Referring back to points one and two, when the heretic Arius presented his doctrines at the Council of Nicea, he used the Bible only. Were you aware that Arius – a heretic – was the first to practice “sola scriptura?” And how was he rebuked and the true faith – i.e., that Jesus the Christ is God, one eternally with the Father – established forever by the council? It was by the use of HOLY TRADITION.
In other words, the bishops (and I take a bit of creative liberty in my writing here) most likely said at the summation of the council, “Arius, that is all very interesting and clever, but here’s your problem, dude. From the very beginning, this is not what has been taught about Christ. We teach what has been faithfully handed down to us over the last four centuries, and what you are teaching is not it!”
End of discussion. Mike drop. You cannot invent something new that contradicts that which goes all the way back to the beginning and then claim that you are right and the Apostles and Christ Himself are wrong.
7. You are laboring under a false pretense. Nowhere in the Bible itself does the Bible claim it and it alone should be used as the sole criteria of the faith and true doctrine. In fact, the Bible speaks against this. Look at the following verses:
Mark 2:13 And he went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them.
Mark 4:2 And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine,
Mark 10:1 And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again.
Luke 4:31 And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days.
John 8:2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
Do you see that? We have whole hours and days when Jesus taught the disciples and the multitudes and His words are not recorded. Do you honestly think that only that which the four writers of the Gospels remembered and put to papyrus are all that is needed for our lives? What if during one of these private sessions, Jesus took His confused and bewildered disciples aside and taught the how the Eucharist would work, clearing the fog from their understanding? What if He told them, “Just as infant males were circumcised into the Covenant of God in the old way, in the new way, you will baptize not only infant males, but also female babies, for the New Covenant in my blood will be more expansive than the Old Covenant.”
You don’t know that, do you? Neither do I, but I will guarantee you this: when the stones started flying, when the sharp knives came out, when the lions entered the arena, if this was all a massive joke or a play for power in the world, you would have seen mass renunciations of what was being taught back then. These people died for the truth they had been taught, and for you or any Fundamentalist to make the absurd claim that they changed the truth and subverted the Gospel is a horrendous insult to the integrity and intelligence of these men.
Wouldn’t you love to know what Jesus taught in those private sessions? I sure would, but I will guarantee you this – it wasn’t any of the distinctives of modern Fundamentalism or Evangelicalism because if it was, the Apostles would have taught those things to the Church and we would have a historic record of them.
8. You do realize, I hope, that by the time of the Council of Carthage, where the Sacred Scriptures were finally compiled into a completed canon, there were literally hundreds of epistles and gospels floating around, all claiming to have divine authority and an accurate representation of what Christ taught. Some of them were so absurd that they were rejected out of hand by the council, but some had to be labored over by prayer and discussion.
For instance, the Epistle of Clement, Bishop of Rome, to the Corinthian church, was considered so valuable that a portion of it was read in that Church every Sunday, yet it did not make the cut. How could these people have even been true Christians if they read such a spurious epistle and heeded its teachings? Didn’t they know that they weren’t being sola scriptura?
And ultimately, it was the Church, one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, consisting of bishops from the Greek East and the Latin West who decided what was truth and would be Scripture. In short, you read a CATHOLIC BOOK and you trust your very soul to what it teaches, don’t you? How can you do that when it was Catholics who decided what was true and what was not. If they were just half the heretics that Fundamentalism teaches they are, surely they got a bunch of things wrong in compiling the Canon of Scripture.
Which leads me to my final and parting statement: Don’t be afraid to challenge what you believe now by going back into history and reading what took place then. I know exactly what you are afraid of. I would bet that you have been taught that all Catholics (and by extension, Orthodox) are on their way to hell because they believe a false and pagan religion invented by Emperor Constantine. I know this because that was exactly what I heard for 25 years – first as a Bob Jones Fundamentalist and than as a Presbyterian Calvinist. There is nothing you could say that I haven’t heard and believed. Fear of hell and ignorance of history kept me in the dark for all those years. It was only when I began to study the history of the Christian faith (and I DO NOT mean THE TRAIL OF BLOOD or any other biased Protestant publication) and saw that A.) my beliefs did not match what was taught by the first Christians and B.) much of what I had read, such as Alexander Hislop’s book ROMAN CATHOLICISM, and those deceitful and horrid tracts by Jack Chick, was based on egregious lies, that my eyes began to open and I began to realize I had been deceived.
I wish you well, sir. I hope you will find the deep joys of the apostolic faith and if you do, I urge you to find an Orthodox parish and join them.
I hope that if you do, I may be graced to some day join you.
Cordially in Christ, the only Savior of the world,