Why am I Catholic? Why am I not Protestant, or Adventist?
It’s a current trend to post why one remains Catholic. There are many reasons to remain Catholic, but I think mine are mostly historical.
I believe that the first century Christians developed into the second century Christians, who developed into the third century Christians, and then into the 4th century Christians. If we look at the extra-biblical writings from each period, and compare them to the Bible, I think they are a) consistent with the Bible, and b) Catholic. In the first century, we see clear Sunday observance. In the second century, we see clear Trinitarianism and the development of Marian theology and Eucharistic theology. By the fourth century, we see Catholic clergy who celebrate Mass in a liturgical setting, keeping Sunday, teaching confession, having monks and nuns, and claiming to have the authority to define what is and isn’t the true Christian faith, notably with two powerful examples – a) defining the Trinity and clarifying what was error and what was not, and b) setting the final Canon of Scripture, settling uncertainties and debates once and for all, choosing those books that they got their teaching from. All these things existed before, but being clarified as time goes by.
As time went by, teaching became clarified and better understood, as per John 16:13. We never see the original Church losing doctrine and then having to regain it, as groups like Adventism have. It all developed from small seeds into big trees.
We do not see Protestant theology, where it differs from Catholic theology, in this period, and unless we claim that an unknown group of people existed with these beliefs, but with no real historical record to support the claim, we’re stuck with a developing Christianity that is distinctly Catholic.
There are parallels with Adventism – in the beginning of the Catholic Church, and in the beginning of Adventism, the faith existed as seeds, and there were no clear and unambiguous decisions. The big difference here lies in the fact that Adventism existed with those seeds only because it had chopped down the trees that had already grown, as had Protestantism before it. Both abandoned truth that was already established. There is no real demonstrable evidence that there was a similar break between the first century Christians and the 4th century Christians – that, unlike Adventism, was not a process of abandoning truth and regaining it, but a process of natural development of understanding with time.
I can fully understand if Adventists, and Protestants, reject the above, because I doubt they believe that the Catholic Church is the modern successor to the early Christians. Many Adventists probably believe that some sort of break did occur, and some of the alleged first century proto-Adventists or proto-Protestants experienced a loss of truth and developed into Catholicism. But I don’t believe evidence for that exists; nor do I believe evidence for the continued existence of a group of “true Christians” of the proto-Adventist / proto-Protestant nature can be shown from historical evidence. Sure, there are all sorts of claims about trails of blood, Albigensians, Paulicians, etc., but really this is just an attempt to identify groups outside of the Catholic Church and assign them a status that their actual history and actual beliefs show cannot be assigned to them (e.g. the Albigensians were gnostics, denounced marriage, and believed in two Gods, one evil God of the Old Testament, and one good God of the New Testament.)
The vast majority of Christian historians trace the development of the Christian faith through the real Church with real historical evidence. Those who are Protestant tend to ignore the particularly Catholic aspects of these people, because they don’t understand how it can be. Those who are Catholic see their faith recorded in history from the start of Christianity.
Yes, we must acknowledge that no denomination is perfect, and nor is the Church. All contained sinners. Sinners abused the indulgence process and sold them inappropriately. There were corrupt popes, bishops, and priests. Yet all of this was the action of sinners, not Catholic theology, which was then what it was before and what it is today, albeit with clarifications that were needed from time to time. I must rest my faith in the Church that provided us with the Bible, because otherwise how would I know that there was any authority out there to clarify the truth? For me to know what God wants us to believe, I can either make it up, or I can trust that the Bible I have was guided in its compilation, in the centuries after it was written, by a reliable source guided to do so by the Holy Spirit. And if I choose the latter, the only group I can identify from reliable history is the 4th century Catholic Church. If I doubt them, then I end up at abandoning historical Christianity, abandoning Paul’s writings, abandoning the Gospel of John, because I’ve made up my own theology and judged the Bible by it.
“I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church.”
– St Augustine of Hippo, Against the Epistle of Manichaeus Called Fundamental, 5.6
Dear Catholic World: Why do YOU Remain a Catholic?, by Elizabeth Scalia, aka The Anchoress
Why I Am NOT Leaving the Catholic Church, by Tod Worner, aka A Catholic Thinker
Why I Remain Catholic? Is This A Trick Question?, by Frank Weathers