The Catholic Church holds that the community of Churches that Jesus started through His Apostles (the ones we read about in the Bible) subsists in Her today. Moreover, the Catholic Church holds that what She teaches today on faith and morals is what She has always taught – that, inasmuch as the Deposit of Faith has been further expounded upon over the centuries, there has been nothing new added since the time of the Apostles.
If this all true, then we should be able to make note of all the Catholic Church is today, in all of Her offices and all of Her peculiar teachings on faith and morals, and get into a time machine, and stop every few hundred or so years to check and see if the Catholic Church of the 21st century resembles the Churches from whence She came. For, if the Catholic Church of the 21st century does not resemble the Church from which She claims subsist in Her, then it logically follows that She is a fraud, but if we see that She hasn’t changed in faith in morals from the time of Her birth, then it logically follows that there is no reason to deny her.
Ok, the time machine is all gassed up on green energy, so let’s get in and go waaayyyyy back.
Going back just 500 years to 1500 A.D. we would be coming in at the heels of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), St. Bonaventure (1217-1274), St. Albertus Magnus (Albert the Great) (1200-1280) and other scholastic writers and philosophers of the age; all of who were clearly Catholic. The Catholic Church, as a global community with her heart in Rome, would be seen in this age just as she is today – very visible, thriving, and full of sinners and saints alike. Essentially, it would be the very same Roman Catholic Church that we see in the world today with all of its peculiar doctrines, but with no Protestant churches anywhere to be found. Indeed, there were heretical groups; Satan never stops trying to stir up division and dissention, but almost every heretic would still have called himself a Catholic.
Going another 500 years back in our time machine to The Early Middle-Ages, we’d be in the early second millennium – and guess what? It’s the very same Catholic Church, with the very same faith teachings and even the same moral teachings on homosexuality, marriage, and abortion. Around 1000 A.D., the Catholic Church was not in the Americas yet, but it was found to be active, visible, and influential throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. It had a Pope (Latin for Father) in Rome, the seven sacraments, other sacramentals, the Mass, belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, devotion to Mary, belief that Baptism cleanses us of humanities ‘Original Sin’, and all of those other peculiar teachings only found in the Catholic Church today.
If we still had enough green energy left in our Time Machine and went back to the fourth century (600 A.D. (Post Augustinian Age) to 200 A.D. (Pre-Council of Nicaea Age), we would see the Catholic Church finally coming above ground in Rome after nearly three hundred years of persecution, but still complete with a Pope as the Bishop of the Church of Rome, local bishops, monks, and celibate priests. In this age, the saints who we would encounter would be the likes of Saint Hippolytus (170?-235?), Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope St. Cornelius (died 253), St. Cyprian of Carthage (200?-258) and others; all fully orthodox in their Catholic faith and all of whom would be 100% comfortable in the Catholic Church of the 21st century. We would be able to read the original letters of Pope St. Clement I of Rome (died 101?), Origen (185?-254) and Tertullian (160?-220?), and it would be our portion to see Satan actively trying to divide the Church with the Manichean, anti-Trinitarian, and Neo-Platonism heresies and the Novatian attempt at schism.
If you were still in doubt of our claim to be the only Church that the Christ established through His Apostles, then go back another one hundred years to the second century (End of the Apostolic Age – 199 A.D. to 100 A.D.). There you will see the Church, as a small mustard tree, still in conflict with paganism, lots of persecution of saintly martyrs by Roman Emperors, Jews, heretics and attacks by heathen philosophers. From the writers of the age – St. Ignatius of Antioch, Papias, St. Irenaeus, Pope St. Victor I (died 199), St. Polycarp (69?-155?), St. Justin Martyr (100?-165?) and others – you’d learn that the Catholic Church does still teach about the Real Presence of the Christ in the Eucharist, devotion to the Mother of God, Purgatory, the primacy of Peter through the See of Rome, Apostolic Succession, and all those other peculiar teachings even without a canonized Bible. Moreover, you would see the Catholic Church being called the ‘Catholic Church’ and combating the Gnostic and Montanist heresies.
Should we to go back any further, we would be at the end of the age of the Apostles. Those who were eyewitnesses to the life of Christ would be dying and there would be an effort by many to record the good news of what they saw and heard. The martyrdom of St. Stephen, St. Peter establishing his See at Rome, the persecution by the Jews, Nero and Domitian, the destruction of Jerusalem and St. John the Apostle exiled to the island of Patmos where he probably recorded his Heavenly vision. In a few years, all of the Churches that we read about in the letters of John, Paul and Luke will be calling themselves ‘Catholic Churches’ and a member of the One global Catholic community in harmony with the Catholic Church of Rome.
POPES, BISHOPS, PRIESTS, & APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION:
The great thing about the Catholic Church is that our priests and Bishops can trace their ordination all the way back to those who the Apostles themselves first ordained through the imposition of laying hands. No non-Catholic Church on the face of the earth can make this same claim. In fact, in many cases, especially with the older Catholic communities the priest and Bishops can produce a physical paper trail that will show the names of those who ordained them, and who ordained those who ordained them, and who ordained those who ordained who ordained those who ordained them and so forth all the way back to the early centuries.
What does it mean that the ordained priests and bishops in the Catholic Church can legitimately trace their ordination back to the actual Apostles? Well it means that the Catholic Church is THE Church of the Apostles themselves. It means that the Apostles started the Catholic Church. It means that the Catholic Church is the only Apostolic Church. No other church can call itself Apostolic if the Apostles didn’t start it. No other person can rightfully call themselves a priest or bishop if they cannot link their ordination back to the Apostles.
There is no greater evidence of the perpetual existence of the Catholic Church and the succession of Apostles than what we find at the Catholic Church of Rome. For nearly 2,000 years there has been a Bishop of the Church of Rome. God has protected this Church against every heresy, barbarian, monarchy, government, and sinner who held position in the Church. Indeed the Catholic Church at Rome continues to exist and grow in spite of us. It is the definite work of God.
Wikipedia (the online encyclopedia) hosts an accurate list of men who have occupied the office of Bishop of Rome for the past nearly two millennium:
THE NAMES OF MEN WHO START STUFF:
The last proof here is simple. It starts with a question: “Give me the name of the man or men who started the Catholic Church”; and please don’t say Constantine, because if you do then you probably want to leave my blog right now, because there is no fiction here for you to read.
On the contrary, here are the facts – For every Protestant church that has ever existed we could name its founder, but no such name can ever be found for the Catholic Church, unless that name is Christ Jesus who started the Catholic Church through His Apostles. For example:
- Lutherans – Martin Luther, 1517
- Anabaptists – Various Movements of Men, circa 1519 (Europe)
- Church of England, Anglicanism/Episcopalianism – Henry VIII, 1534
- Calvinism; Dutch Reformed – Jean Calvin, 1536
- Presbyterians – John Knox, 1560
- Puritans – Various Movement of Men, circa 1570 (England)
- Congregationalists – Robert Brown, 1582
- Baptists – John Smith, 1605
- Quakers – George Fox, 1654
- Shakers – Ann Lee, 1741
- Methodists – John Wesley, 1744
- Unitarians – Theophilus Lindsey, 1774
- Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Joseph Smith, Jr. 1830
- Churches of Christ, Christian Church – Campbell and Stone, 1832
- Adventists – William Miller, 1846
- Jehovah’s Witnesses – Charles Taze Russell, 1852
- Salvation Army – Rev. General William Booth and Catherine Booth, 1865
- Christian Science – Mary Baker Eddy, 1879
- Unity School of Christianity – Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, 1889
- Pentecostals – Charles Parham, 1900
- Worldwide Church of God – Herbert W. Armstrong, 1934
- Calvary Chapel – Chuck Smith, 1965
I challenge anyone to prove the name of the founder of the Catholic Church other than Christ Jesus. There being none, the questions that follows is, ‘Why belong to a Church that was started by some man or woman that was not an Apostle of Christ Jesus?’ ‘Why cheat yourself of your inheritance by belonging to something less than what Christ gifted to you?’ ‘Why follow the teachings of men from 500 years ago, whom we know not whether they are in Heaven or Hell, when you can follow the authentic teachings of the Apostles found in the Catholic Church?”
This is my last the three ‘Historical Proofs’ of the Catholic Church – next section will offer the three ‘Theological Proofs’.
6 PART SERIES ON THE ‘PROOFS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH’:
- Prima Sequitur
- A Visible Reality
- Time Travel, Guys Named Peter, and Folks who Wanna Be Starting Something
- The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is the New Covenant Seder/Passover Meal
- It all Stands or Falls on John 6
- It Has Been Proven to Work