I was a Protestant for over a decade, and I prided myself in my knowledge of Protestant Systematic Theology, scriptural knowledge, and history. I was versed in the teachings of Luther and Calvin, and loved the principles of Calvinism. So why, after over ten years, did I decide to come home to the Catholic Church?
- As a Protestant, I believed that the Catholic Church was the Whore of Babylon, that the Pope was the man of sin. I would point to Revelation, telling Catholics that the Whore would teach great blasphemies, and believed that the Catholic Church did exactly the same thing.
I would link this to a great ‘separation’ from ‘true’ Christianity to the conversion of Emperor Constantine. As Protestants, we were taught that when Constantine converted to the Catholic Church, he brought all sorts of paganism with him, and that’s why the Church needed reforming. These teachings included instituting the Papacy, switching prayers to multiple gods with prayers to the Saints, and so on.
But my belief in the Church being the Whore, the Pope being the man of sin, was self refuting. I wrongly believed that the Catholic Church was founded by Constantine in the 300’s, but the Bible made it clear that this anti-Christ was already with us. They couldn’t be one and the same.
- I was shocked to find that many of the uniquely Catholic doctrines predated Constantine’s birth, let alone his conversion. The Church already believed in the Real Presence, what we could call the ‘core Catholic doctrine’, in the early 100’s AD. This doctrine was written about by second century Saints, like Ignatius of Antioch. If the primary doctrine of Catholicism was historical and scriptural, what else had I been wrong about?
- We were taught that Constantine instituted the Papacy, that it was a pagan notion that allowed the Emperor to control the Church via a proxy. But this really frustrated me, because anyone who studied the line of the Papacy could see that there were men in the office long before Constantine was even born; 29 in fact! These men were looked to in authority, for leadership, and doctrinal guidance. Some of the earliest doctrines of Christianity were authorized by the Pope, and while it’s true that no Church Council was called until 325 AD, certainly doctrines were being taught with authority from that man on St Peter’s chair.
- I had no historical understanding of what it meant that Jesus gave Peter the ‘Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.’ Protestants fail to understand the historical context. When a Roman governor was called away, he would give the city keys to his subordinate, showing that this man had authority while the governor was away. Those who heard Jesus tell Peter that He would give him ‘the keys to the kingdom of Heaven’ would’ve immediately had this image in mind. They would’ve recognized Peter as having received a special authority from Jesus to govern in His place.
Let’s not forget that Jesus spoke Aramaic, and there’s only one word for ‘rock’- Kepha. Most Protestants point out that the Greek says ‘upon this Petra’, which means stone, but this has to do with gendered nouns, not the meaning,
- “Binding” and “loosing” were rabbinical terms, meaning to “forbid” and “permit” with reference to the interpretation of the law, and secondarily to “condemn” or “acquit.” Thus, St. Peter was given the authority to determine the rules for doctrine and practice. Bishops also these powers (Mt 18:17-18; Jn 20:23), but Peter was the only apostle who received them singularly, by name (making him preeminent).
- As Protestants, I would often hear Protestant teachers quote the Church Fathers: St Augustine, Justin Martyr- men like these. But it seemed odd to me that we would quote men who clearly regarded the Catholic Church as the true Body of Jesus. These Fathers fought against heresy, including the rejection of Transubstantiation and separating oneself from the Universal Church. Why were we quoting these men who warned us against doing the things we had done?
- I was using Scripture to argue against the Church that had given me the Scripture. It was the Catholic Church who held multiple councils to discuss what was to be called inspired, and devised the Canon of Scripture. For example, for a book to be included in the New Testament, it had to be written by someone who knew Jesus, or someone who knew someone who knew Jesus. But that standard isn’t in the Scripture. This standard was given by the Church in order that the truth didn’t become a game of Chinese whispers.
- As a Protestant, I believed in ‘sola scriptura’, which is the doctrine that states that the Bible alone is the sole, infallible rule of faith. But this seemed to be self refuting. After all, who told me what was to be considered Scripture? Well, we know that the Church revealed the canon, but if the Church isn’t infallible, how can I trust that we have the correct books in the Bible? Where did the Bible make the claim to be the sole rule of faith and doctrine?
Then I would find myself discussing topics with other Protestants who disagreed with me on doctrine. How was I to convince a Jehovah’s Witness, for example, that his understanding of God was un-Biblical? If I used a verse to support my claims, he would use a verse to counter. How could I convince him that mine was the correct teaching?
Even Jesus never gave us scripture, He gave us a Church that He would build, govern, and guide. Then, after this, the Scripture was imparted via the Church.
It turns out that the Bible wasn’t the sole rule of doctrine. The Bible calls the Church the pillar of truth, calls a man the Rock upon which the Church is built, tells us that the Ethiopian eunuch couldn’t understand the scripture until it was taught to him authoritatively. The Scripture had always been understood by the faithful because they trusted the authority that was teaching them: the Church!
- The Reformers couldn’t agree on hardly anything. The Bible tells us that God is not an author of confusion, but this is just what the Reformation led to. Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli, two of the earliest Reformers, had a debate on the nature of the Eucharist. Zwingli believed the Eucharist to by a symbol that represented Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, where as Luther believed it to be the Presence of Jesus under the from of bread and wine. Luther believed that the taking of Communion was essential in our salvation, but Zwingli thought this was ‘superstition’, and pagan mystery.
Luther and Calvin also disagreed on Predestination. This has led to Calvinists believing in ‘double predestination’: that God predestines men to Heaven AND Hell.
If these men were truly being used by a united Trinity, why were they so divided? If either of these men were wrong on the nature and purpose of the Eucharist, could they be wrong on salvation itself? How was I to trust them?
- We know that Jesus founded His Church, but it’s overlooked that He only founded one. He never intended the Church to have multiple fractures, churches contradicting each other on doctrine, and such. In fact, Jesus prayed that the Church remain one, as He and the Father are one. He then made it abundantly clear that a way to recognize a false church was to look at its disunity, that a ‘house divided will not stand.’ We see Protestants disagree on the Trinity, the nature of Jesus, the role of the Church, the nature and purpose of the Communion, which books were from God, and so much more. Since unity was given as evidence from Jesus as to who was in the truth, I was forced to look to the Catholic Church as being solely whole, one, and distinct.
- Protestantism leads to subjectivism, which leads to dissent. Because Protestants consider the Bible alone to be infallible, they accept that there are many ways to interpret the Scriptures. This inevitably leads to ‘this verse means this to me’, or ‘I understand the verse to mean this.’ In of itself, that can be harmless; after all, certain passages move different people in different ways. But what about passages that reveal a doctrinal truth? Take the verses where Jesus lays claims to divinity; because those verses aren’t direct, they can be interpreted multiple ways. This leads back to the issue of correction: if one person has misunderstood Scripture, how do you claim a superiority to him, when Scripture is your standard?
This is, obviously, why Protestantism has fractured so much. Nobody claimed authority to tell Charles Taze Russell, or Joseph Smith, that they were wrong. It simply became a back-and-forth tirade, with both sides saying ‘well, the Bible says this!’
- Protestantism is, in a way, selfish. One of the key questions you will hear from Protestants is ‘do you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?’ The more I heard my Pastor ask this, the more I wonder where it meant. You see, Jesus is Lord over all mankind, whether we acknowledge it or not (Matthew 22:44). Jesus’ Lordship isn’t based on our acknowledgement of it, and we don’t get to elect Him as such. He is Lord by the merit of His divinity, so this idea that our acknowledgement somehow changes that is odd. The question could be asked as ‘do you live as if Jesus is Lord?’, but why would Jesus being my ‘personal Savior’ have anything to do with that? Yes, Jesus saved/saves me personally, He knows me by name, when I lay down and when I rise up etc. But the idea that I must clearly acknowledge, and declare this in order to be saved? Well, that’s just silly. I just found it to be an irritating question, and again it leads to this subjectivism that causes dissent.
- The need of a Reformation would point to an ignorant God. Imagine, Jesus founds His Church in 33 AD. Very early on, the Church practices prayers to the Saints, Eucharistic adoration, such things like this. Then in 1517, God notices all this stuff that has happened, and wonders what’s gone wrong. In order to Reform the Church, God raises a lowly German Priest to correct these errors. Only, this Priest doesn’t fix these supposed ‘errors’, He breaks away and starts a whole new Church! This leads to the following questions:
- Why wasn’t God aware of these errors to begin with? This would allow God to fix these errors as they came up
- Why did God wait several hundred, if not thousand years, to start to fix these errors?
- What happened to Christians who died after these supposed ‘errors’ came to be believed, but before the Church was ‘reformed’? Were they saved?
- If Christians were saved as a pert of this erroneous Church, why the need of reformation? If no Christian was saved in all this time, had the Holy Spirit failed in ‘guiding us to all truth’?