Recently I’ve been enjoying an amiable debate with a Roman Catholic from Lebanon (via Twitter). We keep coming back to the question of the early church – I insist that we Reformation Christians are the recovered, ancient church, and of course he insists that Rome has always been the chief authority over all other churches. Here’s a snippet from our exchange:
Answering a Specific Objection
The Voices of the Early Church Fathers
According to [the Council of] Trent (1546-1563), then, there is the written and unwritten word of God which together comprise the fullness of God’s revelation to man. The Roman Catholic Church claims to possess both, emphatically stating that this was the belief and practice of the Church in the beginning and throughout the ages of the Church historically. It was supposedly during the Reformation that this teaching was radically altered as 1500 years of Church practice was suddenly eradicated and a false dichotomy introduced between Scripture and the Church.1
indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.
1. William Webster, Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith: An Historical Defense of the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura, Vol. II (Battle Ground, WA: Christian Resources, Inc., 2001), 17.
2. Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians, chap. 12, ccel.org.
3. Webster, Scripture, 22.
5. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, book III, chap. 1, par. 1, in Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, ccel.org.
6. Ibid, par. 2.
7. Ibid., chap. 2, par. 1.
9. Ibid., chap. 5, par. 1.
10. Tertullian, Against Marcion: The Prescription Against Heretics, chap. 14, in Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3, ccel.org.
11. Ibid., chap. 19; cf. 21-22.