Thursday, February 4, 2021

Is unbroken history necessary for true Church?

Assorted retorts from yahoo boards and elsewhere: Is unbroken history necessary for true Church? · The Answer Led to an Off Topic Debate · Great Bishop of Geneva!: Refuting CARM and Matt Slick

Does an unbroken history mean the Roman Catholic Church is true?


Hans-Georg Lundahl
just now
Catholicism · Catholic convert, reading many Catechisms
There are five confessions claiming with some realism (plus Ruckmanites, totally without historic realism) an unbroken history.

Roman Catholicism.
Eastern Orthodoxy.

Of these, Copts and Armenians are sometimes together known as “Monophysites” but are not in communion with each other any more than both RC and EO “Chalcedonians” are so. Assyrians are also known as Nestorians.

After Ephesus condemning Nestorius, whom Assyrians consider a Church Father, and Chalcedon condemning “Monophysites” (rejected independently by Copts and by Armenians) there is one more split that is more or less symmetric, namely between Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox in 1054.

With such a symmetric split, both sides can with some realism pretend they are the side that continue what went on before.

All Protestantisms and Neo-Manichaeans, on the other hand, come from very assymetric splits against usually Roman Catholics, rarely Eastern Orthodox (as Bogumils) and Armenians (as Tondrakians). These assymetric splits, it is very clear that even if Protestants or Neo-Manichaeans claim to revert to original Christianity, they have no realistic claim of continuing it with an unbroken history. Albigensians and more recently Ruckmanites came with very spurious claims to that. Albigensians being Neo-Manichaeans of the Middle Ages, and Ruckmanites being Baptist Protestants.

Now, such and such a Church claiming an unbroken history may indeed be on the wrong side of a (near) symmetric split and therefore not be the true Church, but coming from an assymetric split and not at all having any claim to an unbroken history guarantees you are not the true Church. Unbroken history is not a sufficient, but a minimal claim to be the true Church.

Roman Catholicism has four rivals in this respect.

Protestantism most definitely isn’t Apostolic Christianity, because it doesn’t claim unbroken history, or when it does, like Ruckmanites, it cannot back it up and trace an unbroken presence since any (near) symmetric split.

Why is unbroken history a necessary criterium for the Church? Note, I say necessary, not sufficient, but why is it necessary? Matthew 28:20. Christ was speaking to the very visible leaders of the very original and very visible Church He had Himself founded. He promised to be with them all days, not of just their lifetimes, but to the consummation of all time.

This doesn’t give a clear preference for one of the five over the others, but it does give a totally unambiguous preference for these five over all and any Protestantism.

The alternatives are not:

  • “Catholicism is true because it has unbroken history”
  • or “Protestantism is true despite not having unbroken history.”

The alternatives are:

  • Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Copts, Armenians or Assyrians are the True Church as having unbroken history;
  • Ruckmanites are the true Church despite immense improbability historically of them having unbroken history;
  • or, as no Church has unbroken history, Christianity is not true, Jesus either didn’t make or could not keep the promise in Matthew 28:20.

In each of these cases, a Protestantism claiming any kind of actual Restoration (Reformation, Joseph Smith revelation, Ellen White revelation, Churches of God or Russellians coming to a better understanding of Scripture) and therefore claiming any kind of break or even low point in doctrine needing to be restored from and this centuries earlier, loses.

The page you link to rounds off with a kind of vindication for Protestantism:

"the many teachings of the Roman Catholic Church which are clearly not found in Scripture:
  • purgatory,
  • indulgences,
  • Mary’s perpetual virginity,
  • salvation by faith and works, etc."

Unfortunately for the criticism, all four of these are in some form present in all of the five that can be the true Church. So, if any of these is not true, Christianity is false. Least obvious here is “purgatory”. One Greek Orthodox “defender of Orthodoxy” (against Roman Catholicism - they are Photius, Palamas and this one), namely Mark of Ephesus, went out of his way to deny purgatory. But this does not mean Mark of Ephesus considered all Christians go to Heaven if they don’t go to Hell. He believed both in soul sleep and in prayers for the dead, whether this be retroactively for a deceased person’s having had a good death in Christ, or for relief from possible nightmares in the soul sleep … which is much closer to purgatory than to the Protestant concept. Tondrakians prefigured Luther in their protest against indulgences, as Armenians have an indulgenced animals sacrifice (with meat given to the poor and the rite reminiscent of OT sacrifices).

All the five believe in perpetual Virginity of Mary and in works being necessary for salvation (except for that of infants dying after baptism before personal sins).

And “clearly not found in Scripture” would be more damning if “sola Scriptura” clearly were found in Scripture, which it isn’t, or weren’t contradicted in Scripture which it is.

I may get one other day into whether the page is right in denying unbroken history to Catholicism, but the question here was just if it would, if true mean it were the true Church.

I actually didn't wait till another day ...

Great Bishop of Geneva!: Refuting CARM and Matt Slick

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