Examining Newman’s “Development” Theory

On November 1, 2016, during the Solemnity of All Saints, Pope Francis further steered the Catholic ship towards New Age spirituality. In his speech, he called for the need “to confront the troubles and anxieties of our age with the spirit and love of Jesus” and since new situations require “fresh spiritual energy,” modern Christians need a new identity card.

With that, he added six “new beatitudes for saints of a new age” to those taught by Jesus. One of them says:

Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others discover him.

Seeing God in every person is straight out of New Age paganism. The downward spiral path Catholicism descends to each day is not shocking. When a truth is being sacrificed for a lie, a time will soon come when there are no more truths left.

In case you are wondering how effortlessly the pope could officially import Hinduism into his system, Newman’s development of doctrine theory provided the ground. This development hypothesis was introduced by John Henry Newman, a former Anglican who embraced Catholicism, in his 1845 work, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.

It stipulates that over the centuries, Catholic doctrines have become more detailed and explicit even though their essence or substance remained the same. That is, their doctrines evolve and develop – based on situations and the wisdom of Rome – like an acorn seed grows into a tree. This is a crucial aspect of modern Catholic apologetics and it needs to be deconstructed.

Before Cardinal Newman embraced Roman Catholicism, he had written some works attacking it, so not everyone was impressed with his conversion and subsequent work on doctrinal development. In fact, some Catholics received his book with suspicion and dismissed his theory as a threat to Catholic orthodoxy.

Although his hypothesis was crafted to explain the huge disparity between early church beliefs and Roman Catholicism in his time, it could also justify a departure from Catholic doctrines to modernist ideas.

This resulted in a controversy which made Pope Pius X issue an encyclical on September 4, 1907, to condemn “evolutionary” principles that may alter Rome’s dogmas. At the risk of losing their position, Rome’s clergy were made to swear an Oath Against Modernism:

I sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport. Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously.

Eventually, Newman’s hypothesis won the day among Rome’s hierarchy, and it became a ground for changing some doctrines at the Vatican II council. From then on, the theology of the early church fathers became subordinate to those of the Scholastics and theirs became subordinate to post-Vatican II theology.

Now, Catholics no longer had the insurmountable problem of trying to prove everything they believed and practiced came directly from the apostles. They could just invoke the “development” magic word and whittle Protestant criticisms.

It also divided Catholicism into 3 main camps:
(1) the Magisterium, Pope and scholars of Rome who embraced Newman’s theory,

(2) the popular, Internet Catholic apologists (largely former Protestants) who embrace this theory but disagree with the liberal scholarship of Rome’s magisterium

(3) the “Rad Trads” – various groups of Catholics who regard Newman as a closet heretic,; Vatican II as a deviation from orthodoxy and the popes from that point on as anti-popes.

But does Newman’s hypothesis really stand up to Biblical, historical, logical scrutiny and doctrinal purity? Let’s see.

1. Biblical scrutiny

A certain Catholic apologist appealed to six Bible passages as support:

a) Matthew 5:17 – This speaks of Jesus fulfilling (Gr: plero) the law and prophets. To parallel this fulfillment with development of unbiblical ideas centuries after Christ or after the Bible’s completion is outrageous.

b) Matthew 13:31-32 – This is a parable likening the kingdom of heaven to a tree springing up from a mustard seed. The illustration of the kingdom in vs 24-30 was also being repeated here. Nothing is said about doctrine.

c) John 14:26 – Here, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit will teach us and bring to our remembrance all that He taught. Do the Marian dogmas, purgatory or papal infallibility fall into this category? No.

d) John 16:13 – The Holy Spirit guides us to the truth. To assume Rome speaks by the Holy Spirit is circular reasoning since many of their “truths” contradict, distort and displace the plain teaching of the Bible. God is not the author of confusion.

e) 1 Corinthians 2:9-16 – This speaks of the things of the Spirit being revealed to the believer. In contrast to the cultic grid that whatever issues from Rome is from the Holy Spirit, these passages speak of each believer being personally led by the Holy Spirit to judge all things. This is private judgement and it grates against Catholicism.

f) Galatians 4:4 – speaks of the fullness of time when God sent forth Jesus. This appointed time is in line with Biblical prophecies (Is. 7:14, 9:6 etc). None of the proof text presented in support of this 19th century theory stands up on closer examination.

2. Historical scrutiny

Many Catholics fondly quote Newman: “To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.” This implies that Catholic dogmas – though unknown in the early church – exist in “seed form” at that period, unlike Protestants who can’t trace back their doctrines in history.

But when one factors the lack of historical evidence for the papacy, Marian, indulgences, purgatory etc., this narrative wears thin. Even Newman made some detours on the historical argument:

“Here then I concede to the opponents of historical Christianity, that there are to be found, during the 1800 years through which it has lasted, certain apparent inconsistencies and alterations in its doctrine and its worship, such as irresistibly attract the attention of all who inquire into it” (An Essay, 9).

In his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, he said:
“No Catholic doctrine could be fully proved (or, for that matter, disproved) by historical evidence -‘in all cases there is a margin left for the exercise of faith in the word of the Church.’ Indeed, anyone ‘who believes the dogma of the Church only because he has reasoned them out of History, is scarcely a Catholic.”

Of course, this is the only way one can be Catholic or remain one – by blind “faith” in Rome’s authority, not by being deep in history. The main difference between the Catholic and the Protestant view of history is that while the latter appeals to history to show that many of the dogma foisted on Catholics today were made out of the cloth, the former reads back their modern dogmas into church history.

This is revisionism and until a Catholic takes this blinder off, he/she can’t consistently approach history. Interestingly, Newman noted this Catholic “double think” before his conversion:

“I am but showing how Romanists reconcile their abstract reference for Antiquity with their Romanism – with their creed and their notion of the Church’s infallibility in declaring it; how small their success is, and how great their unfairness is another question…they extol the Fathers as a whole, and disparage them individually; they call them one by one Doctors of the Church, yet they explain them away one by one their arguments, judgements, and testimony. They refuse to combine their separate and coincident statements; they take each by himself, and settle with the first before they go to the next” (Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church, 1838, 70-71).

This is an argument Newman never succeeded in refuting. When we point out to Catholics one or two church fathers who disagree with what Rome now says they must believe, they quickly dismiss them as “individually fallible.” They use denial as a shield to protect their minds from the reality that history is Rome’s enemy.

When Pope Pius IX defined the Immaculate Conception (1854) and Papal Infallibility (1870) which lacked historical precedents as dogmas, Catholic scholars began to dig into their bag of tricks to see how they could reconcile them with the prevalent concept that all Catholic doctrines were complete from the apostles. This was why Newman’s theory became a necessity. History was too dangerous to behold.

Since ancient Catholicity is determined by modern Romanism, whatever direction the pope today blows is where Catholics must follow. Perhaps in the next few years when Mary will be made co-redeemer or co-equal with the Trinity, then it would become so obvious that the margin of faith in Rome is too wide after all.

3. Logical scrutiny

Up until the 17th century, Rome claimed that all her doctrines came unchanged from the apostles. So the Catholic church just sprang up like Athena from Zeus’ skull! In the 19th century however, Darwinian theories became popular and Newman’s theory was in tune with the philosophical spirit of that time.

When Newman suggested that the deposit of faith left by Christ had evolved into the 19th century church, it was a shift from the Athenian to the Darwinian view of church history. But if the logic here is valid for Catholicism, it must also be valid for Protestantism.

If the Latin church developed into Roman Catholicism, we can also say that it further developed into Protestantism. Unless Catholics want to tell us that there is a fixed direction that development must always follow.

The development theory is predicated on the argument that several doctrines in the Bible underwent development e.g. the afterlife, the Messiah, Trinity, the Holy Spirit as a Divine Person, equality of Jews and Gentiles and the Deity of Christ. But it’s theologically invalid to parallel the canonical progression of revelation with extra-canonical development of doctrine.

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Article V elucidates the Evangelical position:

We affirm that God’s revelation in the Holy Scriptures was progressive. We deny that later revelation, which may fulfill earlier revelation, ever corrects or contradicts it. We further deny that any normative revelation has been given since the completion of the New Testament writings” (Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine, Inter-Varsity Press: England, 1999, 476).

Dr. William Witt, an Anglican scholar, points out that Newman commits a fallacy of equivocation or ambiguity by not distinguishing between two different kinds of development. The first type of development adds nothing to the original content of faith, but rather brings out its necessary implications (e.g the Deity of Christ, Trinity) which is what took place at the councils of Nicea, Chalcedon etc.

The second type is the new development that does not proceed from the articulation of Biblical teaching e.g Marian dogmas, papacy, penance. The first is legitimate while the second is illegitimate.

Newman gave a sort of disclaimer: “the one essential question is whether the recognized organ of teaching, the Church herself, acting through Pope or Council as the oracle of heaven, has ever contradicted her own enunciations. If so, the hypothesis which I am advocating is at once shattered” (An Essay, 121).

Since the popes and councils have contradicted themselves and still do. Newman’s hypothesis is irreversibly shattered into pieces.

4. Doctrinal purity

Another chief flaw of Newman’s theory is how provides a cover for doctrinal errors and corruptions. The proponent himself said that the Montanist and Novatian heresies were “raw materials” for the church and conceded to Catholicism’s adoption of pagan worship:

“The use of temples, and these dedicated to the particular saints and ornamented on occasions … incense, lamps and candles, votive offerings on recovery from illness, holy water; asylums, holy days and seasons, images at a later date, processions, sacerdotal vestments, the tonsure … are all of pagan origin, and sanctified by their adoption into the Church” (An Essay, 373).

On page 355 he says: “feeling also that these usages had originally come from primitive revelations and from the instinct of nature … were moreover possessed of the very archetypes, of which paganism attempted the shadows; the rulers of the Church from early times were prepared should the occasion arise, to adopt, to imitate, or sanction the existing rites and customs of the populace as well as the philosophy of the educated class.”

Rehashing the same excuse, Karl Keating wrote in Catholicism and Fundamentalism: “We should expect true religion to be fulfillment of, but not a complete contradiction of, mankind’s earlier stabs at religious truth…on the positive side, ancient religions were remote preparations for Christ’s coming…”

With “development” on her sleeve, Rome has no qualms adopting pagan or cultic religions today. This is why Pope Francis peddles New Age doctrines like a hustler and no whimper is raised from all the Internet Catholic apologists.

But God warned His people “be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same. You must not worship the LORD your God in their way” (Deut. 12:30-31).

The Christian Faith has been “once for all delivered” to us and it’s our duty to contend against any attempt of false teachers to re-tailor, add to or subtract from it (Jude 3). The word translated “delivered” in this verse is what Greek grammarians call an aorist passive participle indicting an act was completed in the past with no continuing element.

This leaves no room for a new faith or body of truth from a pope, organization or guru. God and His Word do not change.

Was the Early Church Catholic?

“The Catholic church is the only Church around for 2,000 years!” To a Catholic, this is the strongest proof that he is in the ‘true Church of Christ.’

All that a Catholic needs to shut down his mind to your arguments is to chant this magic word. Once he mouths this line, he disconnects his brain from any form of critical thinking and dismisses evidence from the Bible or history exposing his belief system as a fraud.

There’s no doubt that history is the game changer. Rome too is aware of this, so she either denies history or re-writes it to suit her ways. As a result, there is a big difference between how the Catholic religion and Bible Christianity both approach history.

While we take history as it is, a Catholic theologian describes Rome’s style:

We think first of developed forms for which we need to find historical justification. The developed forms come first and the historical justification comes second” (Kilan McDonnell, Journal of Ecumenical Studies 7:213).

This is called revisionism. If a Catholic, for example, attempts to prove that the Assumption of Mary was taught from the early days of the church, he would take this doctrine (as defined in 1950) and read it into certain isolated words from the early church fathers.

To them, ancient “Catholicity” is whatever modern Romanism demands it to be. They interpret past beliefs based on the present. This is classic anachronism or Orwellian double-think, which attempts to re-write historical documents to match the constantly changing party line.

Up until the 17th century, the Roman “church” taught that all her doctrines and practices came from the apostles and have never changed from that time. They want us to believe Romanism just sprang up like Athena from Zeus’ skull!

However, very few modern Catholic scholars adhere to such peroration. What they hold to is Newman’s “development” theory, that the understanding and concept of Catholic doctrines have changed over time.

Such a lame excuse was cooked up to explain the huge disconnect between the beliefs of the early church and modern Roman Catholicism.

Catholic or Roman Catholic?

Many Catholics try to prove their church was “the first church established by Christ” by quoting the words of Ignatius of Antioch (75-110 AD) who wrote that “even as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic church.”

The Pavlovian programming Rome utilizes makes Catholics think Ignatius was referring to their church here.

In several early church writings, the word ‘catholic’ (spelled in lower case except in modern Catholic literature) from the Greek word catholikos, was used. It means ‘universal’ and was used to differentiate between true believers who made up the universal church from those outside. This is different from the term ‘Roman Catholic’ which includes the idea of papal authority, purgatory, indulgences etc. Therefore, the early church was not ‘Roman Catholic.’

In fact, the word ‘catholic’ has been used before and after Romanism gained its hold. For instance, that someone uses the term “orthodox” doesn’t mean he’s referring to Eastern Orthodox Church.

The same applies to the word “catholic.” The Nicene creed confessed by the Orthodox church (and even the Mormon Church) includes the term “the catholic church.” The 1615 Irish Articles of Religion uses the term ‘catholic church.’

Even the 1646 Westminster Confession of Faith speaks of the “catholic or universal church.” Yet no one would say these churches are under the pope of Rome, because the term ‘catholic’ means ‘universal’.

Catholics can’t just hijack the word and misdefine it to suit their religious institution. Their church can’t be “universal” and “Roman.” That is a paradox.

From the Bible itself, it’s clear that in the first century there was not a single “authoritarian” church in Rome to which all churches looked up to. Rather, the churches in Rome were house-churches led by simple Christians.

“Some details in the NT point indisputedly in the direction of house churches presided over by patrons and patronesses, including references to ‘the church in the house’ of particular patrons. The model of a house church presupposes a patron or patroness who owns or rents the space used by the Christian community. A number of such persons are mentioned in the Pauline letters, including Phoebe, Erastors, Crispus, Stephanos, Gaius, Appia, and Philemon and his wife, Nympha” (Robert Jewett, Romans, MN: Fortress Press, 2007, 64-65).

Professor of Biblical studies, William Lane wrote: “In Romans 16:3-15, Paul shows an awareness of the existence of several house churches in Rome, one of which was associated with the Jewish Christian leaders Aquila and Priscilla…” He concluded that “there is no evidence for a common meeting of the Christians in Rome, let alone a single church structure” (Judaism and Christianity in First Century Rome, ed. by Donfried K. and Richardson P., 1998, 208-10).

There are some key beliefs that set Romanism apart from other communions. They are: the papacy, purgatory, transubstantiation, Marian dogmas and the concept of extra-biblical revelatory “traditions.” History shows that the early church didn’t hold on to these beliefs.

By “early church” I mean the church of the first 3 centuries (or “the Nicene Church”). There is not one single person at the council of Nicea  that held on to the definitive beliefs that Catholics today hold.

Of course, the Roman church may trace its ecclesiastical genealogy back to this period, but to trace its doctrines back to the Nicene church is impossible. Continuity in genealogy doesn’t imply a continuity of teaching or truth.

Before I proceed:

(a) The reliable record of what the early church believed is in the New Testament. The teachings of the early church leaders (whether they were Christians or not) is not an infallible authority and can only be accepted as true on the basis of their harmony with Scripture.

(b) Many Catholics have a stultifying habit of “copying and pasting” isolated quotes from early church fathers to prove their beliefs without regard to historical or literary contexts. This is intellectual dishonesty and it’s self-defeating.

We don’t have to re-cast the church fathers as Protestants. We can just let them be who they are even though we don’t agree with everything they taught.

(c) The early church was not Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox. The challenge is not for Rome’s apologists to find some areas of agreement with the Nicene church (we can find the same), but rather to find all its major beliefs in early church history. That is the focus of this piece.

I. The Papacy

The myth that Peter is the first pope has been debunked here.

In early writings such as The Shepherd of Hermas, which is the most detailed account of the church’s organization, there is not a single testimony suggesting the unique position of a bishop as the general leader of the entire Christian community.

The Matthew 16:18 “You are Peter…” passage used as support of the papacy is absent from The Didache, the writings of Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp and the fragment of Piapas.

The first reference to the confession of Peter in Matt. 16:18 was vaguely mentioned by Justin Martyr (c. 160) in his Dialogue with the Jew Tryphon but his interpretation opposes that of Roman Catholicism (Migne, S. G., 571).

The few fathers from that period (like Tertullian) also gave a spiritual, metaphoric interpretation to the text which indicates that they didn’t consider a special priviledge attached to Peter (or alleged successors) over the rest.

When the Arian controversy came up in the 4th century, the bishop of Rome couldn’t settle the matter. Why? Because no one believed the bishop of Rome was the universal head of the Church. He was the bishop of the greatest see in the West, but not the head of the Church.

The fact that a council had to be called to settle the matter – without the authority of a Pope – proves there was no Papal system at the time. Rome has tried to revise this historical fact by claiming (400 yrs later) that the bishop of Rome (pope Sylvester) convened over the council of Nicaea. But history is not on their side.

“Religious partisanship has in the past led some scholars to suggest that Sylvester, bishop of Rome, convoked the council of Nicea, but modern Roman Catholic Scholars honourably dismiss this idea” (R. P. Hansen, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God, Edinburgh: 1997, 154).

Catholic historian, Joseph Kelly, wrote that: “The second ecumenical council, Constantinople I was called in 381, met, decided the issues, and adjourned without informing the pope, Damasus I (366-384), that a council was being held” (The Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church, Liturgical Press: Minnesota, 2009, 5)

Another Catholic historian admits:
“In all the early writings of the hierarchy there is no mention of a special role for the Bishop of Rome, nor yet the special name ‘Pope’ … Of the eighty or so heresies in the first six centuries, not one refers to the authority of the Bishop of Rome, not one is settled by the Bishop of Rome … No one attacks the [supreme] authority of the Roman pontiff, because no one has heard of it” (Peter de Rosa, Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy, 1988, 205-06).

Roman Catholicism today realizes it didn’t have the past position it claims for itself, so it has tried hard to revise history by making up fraudulent documents like the Donation of Constantine and the false Isidorean Decretals as evidence of papal supremacy. These documents remain false.

2. Purgatory

The origin of purgatory has been addressed here. The concepts of purgation and merit led to the doctrine of purgatory and later the “treasury of merits.” These also gave rise to indulgences.

No one in the Nicene church ever spoke of purgatory, let alone the treasury of merits or indulgences.

Purgatory, treasury of merits and indulgences are held together by Rome’s dogmatic authority – an authority that Rome didn’t have in the early church. Besides, Rome’s belief about salvation (soteriology) from which these 3 concepts sprang up lack early historical support. Two centuries before the council of Nicaea, Clement of Rome wrote:

“They all therefore were glorified and magnified, not through themselves or their own works or the righteous doing which they wrought but through His will. And so we, having been called through His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified through ourselves or through our own wisdom or understanding or piety or works which we wrought in holiness of heart, but through faith whereby the Almighty God justified all men that have been from the beginning…” (Clement of Rome, 32)

This contradicts the modern dogma of Romanism. Jason Engwer points out that in earliest patristic works, deceased Believers are mentioned as being in heaven and not purgatory. This is seen in the works of Clement of Rome (1 Clement, 5-6, 44).

The same is true of Polycarp in his Epistle to the Philippians and in a document written by the church of Smyrna after his martyrdom (Martyrdom of Polycarp, 19).

Other sources refer to all believers going to Heaven or a heavenly region of Hades that doesn’t have suffering associated with purgatory. For example, Justin Martyr (Dialogue with Trypho, 5), Athenagoras (A Plea for the Christians, 31), Irenaeus (Against Heresies, 5:5:1), Hippolytus (Against Plato, 1-2), Cyprian (Treatises, 7) etc.

That Tertullian advocated prayers for the dead doesn’t logically follow that he taught purgatory. Church historian, Philip Schaff explained:

“The ante-Nicene idea of the middle state of the pious excludes, or at all events ignores, the idea of penal suffering, which is an essential part of the Catholic conception of purgatory. It represents the condition of the pious as one of the comparable happiness, inferior only to the perfect happiness after the resurrection. Whatever and wherever Paradise may be, it belongs to the heavenly world; while purgatory is supposed to be a middle region between heaven and hell, and to border on the latter” (History of the Christian Church, 156).

3. Transubstantiation

The early church didn’t believe in transubstantiation. What the Nicene church believed about the “real presence” is not relevant to what Romanism made a dogma a thousand years later. Nowhere in their writings would you find them setting aside consecrated hosts in a tabernacle or monstrance for worship.

Even Catholic sources admit that the early church had no altar and use of tabernacles didn’t develop for at least 600 years after the council of Nicaea! The reason: transubstantiation didn’t come up until that time.

Catholics love to quote Tertullian: “We take anxious care lest something of our Cup or Bread should fall upon the ground.” But there is a sleight of hand Catholic trick here.

This quote, properly translated, reads: “We feel pained should any wine or bread, even though our own, be cast upon the ground.” The full context of the passage shows he wasn’t speaking of the Eucharist there.

Others cite Ignatius of Antioch: “They abstain from the eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the eucharist to be the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ…” (Romans 7:3)

There is nothing about transubstantiation in these words. Who are “they?” he was talking about? Why do they not confess the eucharist to be the flesh of Christ? And what did Ignatius mean by “Eucharist and prayer?” It is when the whole passage is read that one can understand what he was really writing about.

Ignatius was writing against the Docetists (a Gnostic sect who denied the physical incarnation of Christ). They did not confess the Eucharist because they didn’t believe Jesus truly suffered or had a real human body. This was why they didn’t participate in the Lord’s Supper.

Catholic apologists decontextualise patristic works on this topic and read into them a kind of Aristotelian dogma of accidents and substance which was made up in the 13th century. This woefully consistent practice of misrepresentations to support transubstantiation has been addressed in another post.

Catholic scholar, Joseph Kelly admits that a spiritual view of the real presence was believed by early theologians in contrast to the views of later theologians who had “a more material understanding of the real presence” (p. 5).

If transubstantiation wasn’t part of the faith of a church, then it wasn’t the Roman Catholic Church.

4. Marian Dogmas

The perpetual virginity, “Mother of God,” Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary beliefs were made official later in the centuries. They all lack any early historical support.

The Encyclopedia Britannica says that during the first centuries of the church there was no emphasis on Mary whatsoever (15:459).

Early church writings had more positive titles for the original apostles like apostle John than for Mary (e.g Against Heresies V:18:2, Polycrates Letter etc). Second century writings also addressed her as Mary without the additional descriptions Rome have attached later (e.g Ignatius to Ephesians, 7; 18).

Regarding the devotion to Mary, the Catholic Encyclopedia (1912, Vol XV) admits:

“Seeing that this doctrine is not contained, at least explicitly in the earlier forms of the Apostles’ Creed, there is perhaps no ground for surprise if we do not meet with any clear traces of the cultus of the Blessed Virgin in the first Christian centuries … Further it is quite likely that the mention of the Blessed Virgin in the intercessions of the diptychs of the liturgy goes back to the days before the Council of Nicaea, but we have no definite evidence upon the point, and the same must be said of any form of direct invocation, even for purpose of private devotion.”

5. The Authority of Traditions

Since the Roman concept of Papal authority was not in place in the Nicene church, the concept of “Sacred Tradition” as unwritten Scriptures was absent as well. The early fathers made references to “traditions,” but what they meant by it differs from what Rome today define them as.

What they meant by traditions were the different ecclesiastical customs and practices (such as dates of feasts) believed to be handed down from the Apostles, which didn’t involve doctrines of the faith. And they didn’t view them as binding as inspired Scripture.

Church historian, J.N.D. Kelly stated:
“The clearest token of the prestige enjoyed by Scripture is the fact that almost the entire theological effort of the Fathers, whether their aims were polemical or constructive, was expended upon by what amounted to the exposition of the Bible… for any doctrine to win acceptance, it had first to establish its Scriptural basis” (Early Christian Doctrines, Harper and Row, 1978, 42, 46).

Their views of Scripture, traditions and authority were far removed from anything a modern Catholic would wish to present. For example:

Basil of Caesarea: “The hearers taught in the Scriptures ought to test what is said by teachers and accept what agrees with the Scriptures but reject that which is foreign” (Moralia 72:1).

Irenaeus: “We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith” (Against Heresies III:1:1).

Hippolytus: “There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source …Whatever things, then, the Holy Scriptures declare at these let us look; and whatever things they teach, these let us learn” (Against the Heresy of One Noetus, 9).

Athanasius: “The holy and inspired Scriptures are sufficient of themselves for the preaching of the Truth” (Contra Gentes 1:1).

From all presented so far, we can conclude that “to be deep in history is to cease to be a historically consistent Catholic.” There is no “acorn” seed developing into their “oak.” What we find are rather apple and mustard seeds (or even an evil seed).

Catholics are caught in two traps. One, their blind submission to Rome prevents them from an objective view of church history. Two, the destructive pride of belonging to “the oldest and largest, one true Church” keeps them in Rome’s chains.