The Church…Who Is Closer To The Truth?

PollToday’s poll is at once both easy and difficult. There are only three real answers. That’s the easy part. The hard part? Choosing the right answer. In our opinion, that takes a little thinking. Here’s what we are asking you: Which church tradition, in your opinion, (Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant) is most faithful to the historic Christian faith of the early church (the first 300 years)?

Easy now my fellow Protestants! Don’t jump to what may appear to be an obvious answer. Why, you ask? because we have lumped all protestant groups into one answer. This group included Baptists, Reformed, Charismatics, Pentecostals, Lutherans, non-denominational, Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, The Faith movements, Nazarene, COGIC etc. Even though the Anglicans are not really part of the official Protestant movement, we have included them here as well. So, it is not simply whatever protestant group you are a part of, which of course is the MOST faithful, that’s why you are a part of it. It’s the whole thing.

Further, we are not asking which tradition is most faithful to Luther or Calvin or the other Protestant trailblazers. The criterion is which group is more faithful to the version of Christianity that the early church embraced and took all over the world in the first 300 years of church history? Another way of looking at is to ask Which church tradition would the Apostles and the early church Fathers recognize as being most representative of the church they gave their lives to lead and strengthen?

So who has remained most faithful to the Early Church: The Protestants as a group, The Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church?

Take our other polls: What Do You Like MOST about the Church Service and What Do You Like LEAST about The Church Service? and too really make your opinion count for an upcoming post tell us Do You Think We spend Too Much Time Singing in Church?

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About Jim

Not For Itching Ears is a blog dedicated to discussing the American Evangelical church. It is a place for people to share their thoughts on a host of issues relating to this subject. Jim is available to speak at weekend services, and retreats at no cost to churches in Florida. Contact us for more information.

Posted on April 11, 2013, in Christianity, Early Church History and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. This poll is very interesting to me. Lumping protestant deneminations into one group for sake of comparison seems to ask protestants to set aside their differences long enough to take a stand against the others (if they can stand it). It seems to me that protestantism (in general) is the closest to the grass-roots concept of Christianity without all of the fineries (I doubt that the disciples and those in Acts had fancy robes, icons, cathedrals, etc.) I voted that way, but then I got to exploring around your blog a little more, and came across the post “Could the Doctrine of Total Depravity be totally Depraved?”, and I looked up the book “Reconsidering TULIP” that you reference in that post. Not being a Calvinist (but still being a protestant) I started looking into the Orthodox perspective that the author of that book is coming from. Orthodoxy seems that it could actually be a natural choice for this poll, because it references the original church fathers and their studies and teachings in the original Greek. However I tend to balk at the concept of Bishops, Eucarist, etc. Is there a scale where one extreme end is Calvinism and the other extreme end is Eastern Orthodoxy and/or Catholicism, and “regular” protestantism is the healthy balance in the middle? Maybe I’m not aware enough of the differences between Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism? Am I assuming too much when I assume that you’re referring to Eastern Orthodox? I have a lot to learn, that’s for sure.
    -Ben

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    • Hi Ben,

      There are variations in the Orthodox Church, but they are essentially the same.

      I lumped all the protestant groups together on purpose, to force each person who takes the poll to think about the bigger picture, not just the group they are a part of. From where I sit (granted I’m in the cheap seats) The protestant church seems to have the biggest mess, theologically speaking. In other words, when you look at what the Catholic and Orthodox churches believe and practice, it has pretty much been the same throughout the ages. We, in the protestant arm of the church, seem to be constantly changing what we believe and practice. There is no real body of doctrine that is unquestionable for us, hence the huge diversity of opinion in the Protestant church.

      This is true, undeniably so. Therefore, I think it is fair to ask the question: Is the protestant church, as a whole, more faithful to the teachings of the early church, and the New Testament than our brothers in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions? In my view, the answer too that quetsions is disturbing.

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    • Restless Pilgrim

      Lumping protestant deneminations into one group for sake of comparison seems to ask protestants to set aside their differences long enough to take a stand against the others (if they can stand it)

      It is a bit tough. Lutheran worship and theology is rather different from your local Pentecostal congregation. But then again, to list every Protestant denomination would require a far, far larger form.

      I doubt that the disciples and those in Acts had fancy robes, icons, cathedrals, etc.

      It’s rather hard to build Cathedrals when you’re an illegal religion. However, upon legalization, if I’m a stone worker and I’ve been commissioned to build a church, I’m going to build the best and most inspiring building I can to draw people into worship, inscribed with the words “Ad majorem dei gloriam”.

      But with regards to the other “fancy” things, we do see them appearing fairly early on in Church history. For example, Tertullian references Christian art in the 2nd Century and during the later persecutions the Romans confiscated fancy patens and chalices which were owned by the congregations.

      Also, I would suggest that you’ve got to be careful with this, Judas made similar complaints when expensive things were given to the honour of the Lord (John 12)…

      >Maybe I’m not aware enough of the differences between Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism?

      Really it just boils down to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome and the meaning of “First among equals”. In terms of theology, the East and West are extremely compatible.

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  2. It’s hard to deny that Eastern Orthodox and Catholics are consistent. Consistency is extremely appealing, but it is not as important as truth. I acknowledge that it can be indicative of truth, especially if it can be traced back as far as the beginning of Christianity. The real question regarding the Orthodox and Catholic churches is whether confirmable authenticity outweighs accumulated and questionable tradition. Regarding consistency, I’ve had long conversations in the past with a Muslim coworker, and he was pointing to the appealing consistency of Islam… even to the point where many modern American Muslim converts learn the Koran in the poetic-sounding original Arabic. I began wondering why most Americans (including myself) can’t quote a single verse from the Bible in its original language. It would be cool, but is it necessary? As I see it, the reason why Protestants are so divided is because there is a pursuit of excellence involved, along with independent thinking. Especially in the western mindset it is difficult to base anything (let alone our faith) on the decrees of some distant person in charge, especially when we have the Bible itself along with books and educated people in our midst to explain it.
    A lot of what it tends to come down to for me is… When I read the Gospels and Acts, I see very little (if any) extravagence. I see down-to-earth people living out a grass-roots faith. This causes me to have just as much of a problem with money-minded “mega-churches” as with gold ornaments and shiny robes. Perhaps a humble protestant-esque approach based on Orthodox theology with the seriousness and consistency of Catholicism minus the church government… but it seems messy regardless.
    -Ben

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    • Hey Ben,

      A few thoughts:

      > As I see it, the reason why Protestants are so divided is because there is a pursuit of excellence involved, along with independent thinking

      Really? I wouldn’t point to the disagreement between Luther and Zwingli as a “pursuit of excellence”. It was a clash brought about by two mutually exclusive interpretations of the text “This is my Body”

      Surely it’s just a natural outworking of Sola Scriptura, effectively making each person their own Pope?

      >Especially in the western mindset it is difficult to base anything (let alone our faith) on the decrees of some distant person in charge…

      I would say that this is a real problem, particularly since we find the Church of Scripture as one which can speak with authority, as witnessed by the Council of Jerusalem.

      …especially when we have the Bible itself along with books and educated people in our midst to explain it.

      The problem with this is that there are lots of educated people who explain the Bible in mutually exclusive ways (such as Luther and Zwingli above). Rather than receiving the Faith from the Church, people now pick their church based on their faith.

      >A lot of what it tends to come down to for me is… When I read the Gospels and Acts, I see very little (if any) extravagence. I see down-to-earth people living out a grass-roots faith.

      Wouldn’t we expect the First Century Church, given its nascent state, likely be more primitive than the Church in subsequent centuries, especially after it no longer becomes illegal? I would say I see a Church that has begun organizing itself (introduction of the office of Deacon, monetary collections for far off cities…).

      God bless,

      David.

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  3. Restless Pilgrim

    While brushing my teeth I was thinking about this question and thought I’d add the point that the Eastern Church (both Eastern Orthodox and Catholic) definitely get gold stars for preserving their ancient liturgy better than the Western Church.

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