Early Church / Christian History...
It's disappointing that in the Christian community there are two versions of Church / Christian history which means one is the truth and the other is not. That means that the one that is not true is a lie. Yep, I said it. There is a truth believed by Christians and there is a lie believed by Christians because both versions cannot be TRUE.
My old view may have been a lie, but I really didn't share my view all that often that I can recall. It was just something that I thought but didn't debate anyone on. Honestly, I guess that I really didn't see it as all that important. But that was my mistake to not realize how important early Church / Christian history really is.
That's probably how a lot of Christians are. They are just happy where they are and don't really care about diving in to see if what they believe about the early Church was true or not.
My Old Version...
There was a time back in 2016 before I started my Catholic journey that I really didn't think much about the early church or early Christian history.
It basically went something like this: Jesus and the apostle's spread the Gospel. However, after Jesus ascended to heaven and the apostle's died, the early Church / Christians just kind of got by. But at some point the church went into apostasy and what's known as the dark ages with true Christians somehow keeping the truth alive. ( Note: I actually never investigated it all too deep for myself. ) Then, there came a great renewal, but I really didn't know much about the reformation or Martin Luther other than some basics. Fast forward to 1903 when the Pentecostal church I was raised in started. I knew that story pretty well back in the 1970's and 80's. Although I identified more as Baptist as an adult, I don't recall ever looking much into Baptist history. If I did, it never really clicked with me.
A Popular Version...
My journey has taught me that one of several similar views of Church History goes something like this: After Christ ascended to heaven and the apostle's died, that early Christians were "not" Catholic, that the Catholic Church was founded by Constantine in the 300's, the Catholic Church took Christian beliefs so far off track ( apostasy ) that the true Christians operated separately from the Catholic Church and not as one unified visible Church, then in the 1500's the reformers really opened up the door with the 5 solas: The Bible Alone, Faith Alone, Christ Alone, Glory To God Alone and Grace Alone. This set the foundation for the last 500 years. As long as it's Christ centered with the ALONE doctrine of the reformers and Christians agree on the essentials, it's all good or is it?
The True Version...
Wow! It's amazing discovering something that you never knew before and then realizing that it's the truth: Either the Catholic version is TRUE and I need to be a part of it "or" It's a lie and I don't need anything to do with it. I've decided to live the TRUTH and not a LIE.
Jesus founded a visible Church. Jesus wanted unity. Jesus gave the apostle's authority. Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom. Jesus chose Peter to be his first successor. Peter and the apostle's operated as ONE after the resurrection of Christ. It was ONE Christian Church, One Christian Faith, One Message of Christ. If anytime anything else popped up, the apostle's stood up against it ( heresy ) with the authority given to them by Christ. The apostle's began to install other men of God in positions of authority as seen in the New Testament. However, beyond the New Testament, there is proof the succession and leadership continued as mentioned in the writings of the early Church Fathers. There is proof that the early Church operated a certain way in the early 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries and beyond. There is proof the word Catholic was used for the first time just after the year 100. There is proof that there was a succession of leaders ( Popes ) after Peter as listed in the early 2nd century. The writings of the early Church Fathers show that they, like the apostle's, stood against heresy. There have been many great men of God stand firm in the Catholic Christian faith with never ending succession that started with Jesus and the apostle's.
The above is a very short version of what can be proven through more in depth study. It was so apparent the more I dove in. It all made more sense than the Protestant view of it all.
In the end, do I want to be a part of "THE" Church ( Visible ) that Christ founded or "A" church that a man founded because that man didn't see eye to eye with another church or in Luther's case he didn't agree with the Catholic Church on all points but Luther did on some.
Authority Makes Sense...
So I established some basis for authority above under history. No Christian would deny the authority of Christ. And I would hope that most ( if not all ) Christian's would agree that Jesus gave the apostle's authority which is quite apparent in scripture. But what gets me is the thinking that the authority would somehow stop after the apostle's.
It makes 100% logical sense that someone would succeed Peter. That person was Linus (67-76) then Anacletus (Cletus) (76-88) then Clement I (88-97) then Evaristus (97-105) and through the centuries until today with Francis and there will be successors after Francis until Christ returns.
In addition to the successors of the Bishop of Rome ( Pope ), Paul passed on authority to Timothy and we know Timothy ordained men based on Paul's instructions. The apostle John had a disciple named Polycarp. Yes, there are names, like Polycarp, not mentioned in the Bible that can be found through early history of men, like Polycarp, who actually knew the apostle John. Polycarp was the Bishop of Smyrna which means he had authority. It makes logical sense that Polycarp would ordain other men of God in his lifetime especially as a Bishop.
The other piece of all of this that makes sense is the teaching authority of the church ( The Magisterium ). Again, no Christian would deny what can clearly be seen in the New Testament with the apostle's speaking with authority and settling issues. It would only make logical sense that Jesus who founded ONE Church would still have a teaching authority in place.
To me, the Church as an authority is far better than every man for himself and so many different churches using private interpretation of scripture.
Truth Is Truth - Once Discovered - Truth Cannot Be Ignored...
If someone doesn't know the truth, should he or she be held accountable?
If someone discovers the truth and chooses to reject it, should he or she be held accountable?
The truth can be hard to accept when believing something else all of your life. My Catholic journey has "not" been easy. I have questioned a lot of things. I have hit road blocks. I have almost given up. However, I came to the conclusion that what I have discovered in the Catholic Church is TRUTH or it is isn't. If it's TRUE, I cannot ignore it. If it's a lie, then I cannot be a part of it.
Either Jesus founded the Catholic Church or he didn't.
Either Peter was the first Pope or he wasn't.
Either the Church is the protector of "Sacred Scripture" and "Sacred Tradition" or it isn't.
Either the Church has authority or it doesn't.
Either Church history as presented by the Catholic Church is true or it isn't.
Either the Church is ONE or it isn't.
Either the Church is HOLY or it isn't.
Either the Church is CATHOLIC or it isn't.
Either the Church is APOSTOLIC or it isn't.
I'm glad that I discovered the TRUTH of the Catholic Church. I still serve the same Jesus Christ. Jesus is still my Savior. To be honest, my love for Jesus, my love for others and my Christian faith have grown STRONGER through my Catholic journey.
History = Catholic
Authority = Catholic
Truth = Catholic
Anyone who leaves the Catholic Church has either never known the full truth of the Catholic Church or they are choosing to reject the truth or likely letting self get in the way. Anyone who is not a part of the Catholic Church either doesn't see the truth or sees it and rejects it due to stigma, family, friends, etc. There may be other reasons in both cases, but truth is truth no matter what.
I don't know where you are in your Christian walk. If you have read this far, you must be serious about your faith. I encourage you to seek the truth and be careful with all the anti-Catholicism. Don't be fooled by people who claim to know the Catholic faith even if they are an ex-Catholic.
I have spent hundreds of hours on my Catholic journey. I have not accepted things by blind faith nor have I bought into all the anti-Catholic views. I wanted to find the answers for myself and that cannot be done by reading nothing but anti-Catholic views. It's important to see the Catholic response, research it and validate it. It's also important to pray along the way.
Please join me in a prayer for unity:
Lord Jesus Christ,
At your Last Supper you prayed to the Father that all should be one.
Send your Holy Spirit upon all who bear your name and seek to serve you.
Strengthen our faith in you, and lead us to love one another in humility.
May we who have been reborn in one baptism be united in one faith under one Shepherd.
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