Question: Has the church of Our Lord always been “catholic?”
Question: Has the church of Our Lord always been “Catholic?”
Now, don’t accuse me of speaking out of both sides of my mouth. It is a matter of splitting a hair that needs to be split. There is a world of difference between little-‘c’ “catholic” and Big-‘C’ “Catholic.” Allow me to explain.
The word “catholic’ simply means “universal.” Or “worldwide.” The church—the TRUE church—is the joining together of all those who believe in and worship the Lord Jesus Christ and whom He has bought with His blood. Acts 20:28—“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” It is my intention to show, as faithfully to the truth as possible, that the assertion that “No other churches existed except the Roman Catholic Church until the Reformation” is a false assertion which is based on a faulty knowledge of history.
Let me make one other thing known: it is not my intention to “bash” individual members of the Roman system. I’m sure these people believe with all their heart that Rome is the seat of all power in the church, and that Mary is answering their prayers. Just like Mormons believe the Book of Mormon is from God Himself and that Joseph Smith was His prophet. Just like Muslims believe they are going to “Paradise” if their “good deeds” and alms outweigh their “bad things.” So please do keep that in mind.
The Roman Catholic Church has taken it upon herself to misappropriate the word ‘catholic’ and apply it to herself. So, whenever you read one of the Early Church Fathers (ECFs) use the Greek word καθολικός (katholikos, catholic, universal), Rome says, “See? They were Catholic” (BIG-‘C’). But here’s their problem: the ECFs were using καθολικός in the “universal” sense—NOT the “Romish” sense. Another word they have appropriated is “Tradition.” Any time they see the word “Tradition” used by Augustine or Gregory of Nyssa or Cyprian—they take it to mean the “Traditions” that Rome has adopted. Therefore, they tell their followers, “See? These men taught that people back then should follow the old traditions! ” This, too, is faulty reasoning. Because what Rome has done is take a word that looked back in time and applied it to things they have added to Scripture (more on sola scriptura may come at a later date, but not here). All that being said, let’s begin by looking back at the founding of Christ’s church.
If you ask Rome, they will tell you that the headship of the church was given to Peter, in Matthew 16:18, when Jesus told Simon Peter, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” However, in calling His disciples, Jesus never tells any of them that they will be the “visible head” of His church—unless you subscribe to the Romish misinterpretation of His words in Matthew 16:18. So when it all boils down, the validity of the Roman Catholic Church rests upon two things:
(1) The interpretation of a single verse of Scripture; and
(2) Whether or not one regards the ECFs as being of equal authority as Scripture.