We possess the prophetic message as something altogether reliable. Keep your attention closely fixed on it, as you would on a lamp shining in a dark place until the first streaks of dawn appear and the morning star rises in your hearts. First you must understand this: there is no prophecy contained in Scripture which is a personal interpretation. Prophecy has never been put forward by man’s willing it. It is rather that men impelled by the Holy Spirit have spoken under God’s influence. (2 Peter 1:19-21)
During his McGinley lecture on April 1, 2008, Cardinal Avery Dulles (1918-2008) said, “Very few new ideas, I suspect, are true. If I conceived a theological idea that had never occurred to anyone in the past, I would have every reason to think myself mistaken.”
This holy man reminded us that he willingly adheres to the testimony of Scripture and perennial Catholic tradition. Keep this in mind when someone tries to tell you about a spiritual secret or revelation, ancient or newly-revealed.
Every year, around this time of year, on the anniversary marking Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, Catholics often wonder what went wrong with Christendom at the Protestant Reformation—or what we call, the “Great Tragedy.”
The most pernicious and self-contradicting and indeed, injurious to both the individual adherent and the Church in general, is the Protestant notion known as restorationism. This is the belief that Christianity must be restored to the conditions of the purer, early apostolic Church.
Spoiler Alert: Catholics never left that tradition, ever.
The problem with restorationism is manifold. For a Protestant to assume that the Catholic Church is morally and doctrinally corrupt, he must therefore admit that God erred in bestowing His authority on the Church 2,000 years ago―1,500 years prior to the Protestant Reformation―when He made Peter the Church’s first pope. (John 21:15-17)
These are serious charges that places the individual Protestant at loggerheads with God―not an enviable situation as one places oneself in a position to judge His law. (James 4:11)
Thus, one must wonder, how Protestant reformers like Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Melanchthon, Bugenhagen, Oecolampadius, et. al., could simply ignore Scriptures to make their points? And how does this affect sola scriptura―the reliance of only the Bible? More importantly, why would God whisper one set of beliefs to one reformer and a different set of beliefs to another? If they are all referring to the One, True God, then He would never change His mind and send mixed messages. (Malachi 3:6, Psalm 89:34)
God simply can't be mistaken and demand worship from us. He can’t have made a mistake when He made Peter the first pope. (John 21:15-17) As God is omnipotent and omniscient, He would have known exactly what He was saying and He knew to whom He gave His authority―He cannot err. (Dan 4:35, Job 42:2, Pro 21:30, 1 Corinthians 10:22, Isa 43:13, Acts 5:39)
Christians can't willingly ignore Scriptures―doing so would be sinful. A sect cannot be the One, True, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church if it ignores said Scriptures. The idea that all previous revelations are corrupted and not to be trusted is a problem under which Protestantism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Islam all labor. They all believe that their sect, and theirs alone, is what God really wanted all along despite what He did and said in Scriptures. This mumbling, fumbling, doddering god has nothing in common with the One, True God Who speaks clearly, absolutely and resolutely never changes His mind. (Psalm 12:6, Psalm 18:2, Psalm 89:34, Leviticus 26:44, Jeremiah 14:21, Jeremiah 33:20–22.)
Further, even if these reformers were given explicit permission to ignore Scriptures for the sake of “defending” Scriptures, from whence did this cosmos-shaking revelation and permission come? God or some lesser being? Paul warns us specifically to ignore all new revelations even if they were to be given by an angel. (Galatians 1:8) Point of information, Mohammad insisted that the Archangel Gabriel told him told him he could have has many wives as he wanted. Joseph Smith got the same message from the unheard of angel “Moroni.” Jehovah’s Witnesses and William Branham also claimed to have received revelations from angels when starting their respective cults.
But a more important question is, if any of these sects is the “One, True, Apostolic Church” which God had “really” intended, why are all of these churches diminishing in numbers? According to the Fuller Institute, 4,000 Protestant churches close their doors every year compared to just over 1,000 new churches being built―that is, 11 Protestant denominations vanish everyday in the United States. We can thus conclude that these denominations weren’t really what God had in mind. How do we know? God specifically told us that even the Gates of Hell can never conquer His One True, Holy, Catholic Church (Matthew 16:18). Their extinction is clear proof that the founders of that sect, no matter how well-intentioned, were, at best, confused. (Deuteronomy 4:31, 1 Timothy 3:15, 1 Corinthians 12:28)
If there were 10,000 groups of Protestantism in the world―as they each claim to have the restorative truth, either through exegetical study or by divine revelation, they must then admit that 9,999 are completely wrong. Scriptures assures us there will be no denominations in the Church. (1 Corinthians 1:13) A transcendent, aseitious, eternal, imminent, immutable, impassible, ineffable, infinite, intimate, omnibenevolent, omnicompetent, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, spiritual and transcendent Supreme Being―a deity Who is the very embodiment of Logic and Love Itself―could not be so confused. (1Chr 28:20, Mal 3:6, Heb 13:8, 1 Timothy 4:6)
If all of these extinct belief systems had the same God-initiated message directing them to the truly restored, original Church, they would all agree with each other. (1 Corinthians 1:10, 1 Corinthians 11:18-19, Jude 19) We know this because the One, True God doesn’t mumble, hem-and-haw, dither, change His mind or is otherwise befuddled―He is Love and Logic Itself and if He got the basic scientific and mathematical laws of the universe right, it’s perfectly impossible to suggest that He’s somehow muddled about His own message of love which the Catholic Church has dutifully and infallibly taught for the past 2,000 years. (Matthew 16:18, Matthew 28:20, John 14:16, Ephesians 3:21, 2 Timothy 1:12-14, Ephesians 4:14, Titus 1:9)
Ours is the only Church which Jesus founded 2,000 years ago. (Matthew 16:18, Romans 12:5, Ephesians 4:4, Col 1:18) Our Church is guided by the Holy Spirit and therefore cannot teach error. (Luke 10:16, John 14:16-17, John 16:13; Acts 2:3-4, 1 Peter 1:12, 1 Timothy 3:15)
We can trust God to tell us the truth and not go back on His decision Why? Scripture tells us so, repeatedly. Other than His undying love for us, God also reminds us as to how trustworthy He is. He is the only Person we can explicitly trust. So, why would a completely trustworthy and omnicompetent Person allow “authentic” churches to dwindle and disappear? Why would a completely trustworthy and omnicompetent Person give different messages to different churches? Why would a completely trustworthy and omnicompetent Person want us to be divided when He specifically said we ought to be united? (1 Corinthians 1:10, Ephesians 4:11-13, Col 3:13-14, John 17:23, Psalm 133:1, 1 Peter 3:8, 1 John 4:12, Ephesians 4:3, Romans 12:16, Matthew 23:8, Philippians 2:1, Ephesians 1:10, 2 Chronicles 30:12, Ephesians 2:14, Romans 12:4, Galatians 3:26-28, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, Ephesians 4:16, Romans 6:5)