Author: Edgar Jacinto
The Catholic Church, referring to the One, Holy, Apostolic, Roman Catholic Church, has been teaching, through her teaching office, her scriptural accounts and her holy tradition, that her founder is no other than Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God. This can be logically demonstrated through enormous ecclesiastical historical records of early Christianity to include canonical and related scriptural accounts. The founding of the Church of Christ which is actually the Catholic Church, irrespective of the theological interpretation of the church, either as a movement or a community or as an institution or a society with a structural hierarchy, is not much challenged among believers in the Philippines.
However, the various anti-Catholic sects in this country have persistently argued that Jesus Christ never established the Catholic Church. This is purposely to support their argument that the Catholic Church is not the true Church of God founded by Jesus Christ.
To support this ridiculous argument, these sects argue that the original Church is distinct and different from the Catholic Church which is allegedly an apostate institution. In fact, most of them are inclined to believe that Christ indeed established His church in Jerusalem way back in 33 A.D. as also preached by the Catholic Church. Of course, there may be varying presentations on the period and circumstances which unfolded the founding of the church but essentially the founding of Christ’s church in the early Christian period is generally acceptable to them.
Allegations on Who Founded the Catholic Church
Surprisingly, these sects, though targeting the Catholic Church as a common enemy of their faith, exhibit different and contradicting arguments as to when, how and who initiated the emergence of the Catholic Church as an alleged heretical organization coming out of the true Church of Christ. The following are some of the fanciful arguments of the various anti-Catholic sects in the Philippine religious spectrum:
Founded by a Pagan Emperor?
First, some argue that the Catholic Church was founded by Emperor Constantine the Great, a pagan emperor. Allegedly, this emperor established the Roman Catholic Church, made himself its first pope and rendered it as the official religion of the whole empire. They argue further that the emperor convened councils to define the significant dogmas of the Catholic Church to include the Council of Nicea which greatly spelled the Divinity of Christ among the Christian fold. They concluded that the emperor converted early Christianity into a Romanist Paganistic Christianity which the Vatican is said to be now propagating in the whole world. On the contrary, these arguments are historically incorrect and misleading. The Roman Empire was gradually converted to Christianity rather than the Christianity being transformed as a paganistic movement. The empire carried the cross of Christianity, adapted its religious teachings, modified its rituals and traditions in consonance with Christianity and revolutionized the moral standards of the empire. In return, the emperor accorded due security and safety to Christianity and considerable freedom in the exercise of this new religion. The efforts of the emperor in the councils of the church were meant to safeguard it from violence and never to interfere in essence in the church definition and proclamation of its faith.
Founded by Satan?
Second, others point to Satan or the Demon as the founder of the Catholic Church. This argument is the weakest propaganda offensive of the anti-Catholics for there can be no literal and explicit biblical and historical support which can be utilized to label the Catholic Church of such anti-Christ overtones. Nevertheless, this is a very prevalent and dominant attack of the fundamentalists against the Catholics. These sects have been brainwashed to accuse that the Catholic Church is an instrument of the Anti-Christ, Satan or the Demon. It is allegedly its handiwork. This is very abundant in the writings of the Witnesses of Jehovah, Seventh Day Adventist, Church of Christ, Pentecostals and Baptists. Local Born-Again Christians and non-Catholic charismatic groups have been easily infected by this propaganda campaign against the Catholic Church. In various debates and dialogues with these anti-Catholic sects, they arrogantly, maliciously and satirically accuse the Catholic Church to be the invention and the instrument of Satan in his struggle to deceive the faithful and embattle the Christ Jesus outside and within His living and militant church. A variant of this argument is espoused by some sects which believe that the bad spirits tempted the church leaders and believers to discreetly defect from the original teachings and to gradually transform the original church into becoming an apostate church by amalgamating pagan and demonic teachings and traditions. In debates, this is their common propaganda offensive. They will have all the elbow room to attack every Catholic teaching in order to prove it to be demonic and to somehow conclude in the process of their argumentation that the church is heretical. The problem with this argument is that this is fallacious and can never withstand academic scrutiny. The purpose of this argument is to simply attack in a shotgun approach with all the pandemonium of hearsays and fanciful stories, unsupported biblical interpretations and all other rhetorical styles just to gain public attention, sympathy and support. They will never stick to any discussion on a single controversy but will merely jump from one attack to another to gain propaganda mileage simply because they lack deeper biblical and logical support for their arguments inasmuch as most of them are not properly schooled on scriptural studies, historical analysis and philosophical tools for debates and argumentation.
Founded by Saint Ignatius?
Third, there are those who accuse St Ignatius of Antioch as the inventor of the Catholic Church. Just because early records show that St Ignatius was allegedly the first to literally use the word catholic to describe the early Christian church, this did not mean that he invented the church. What he invented, if that may be appropriate, is the coining of the word catholic to the Christian Church, not the invention or the founding of the church which he named. How can St Ignatius describe the church to be catholic if the church has never been in existence before he named it as catholic? Historical records can attest that the Catholic Church has been in existence even before St Ignatius wrote his letters regarding the early church.
Founded by a Council?
Fourth, some sects insist that the Catholic Church was only established when a council declared that the Catholic Church must be officially named as the One, Holy, Roman, Catholic, Apostolic Church, thereby marking the alleged birth of the Roman Catholic Church. Again, this is a ridiculous argument since before that council the Catholic Church has already been in existence. It does not necessarily follow that when an entity declares to have a new name, a new entity is created distinct from its original existence. The essence of a being or an entity does not change just because it receives a new name. In natural phenomena, a typhoon does not exist only when it receives a new name when it enters a certain territory inasmuch as it is already a typhoon even before it received a new name. A newly discovered organism which is given a new scientific name cannot be construed to have not existed prior its discovery and giving of a new name. The Catholic Church, since its very existence has been accorded numerous names; but, its existence has never been construed to have been obliterated and reconstituted as it receives a new name as it transcends every generation, culture and change. It has survived amidst difficulties and emerged renewed and significant to every generation to truly serve as the prophet of God in this ever-changing world.
Warning on these Accusations
Those who accuse the Catholic Church to have branched out from the original church will expectedly claim to be the living descendants of the original church. As such, they claim to possess the orthodox teachings and traditions of church established by Christ. To a certain extent, some extreme fundamentalist groups even claim that their generation of believers could be traced as underground groups of believers who survived the alleged persecution mounted against them by the Catholic Church. It is speculated to some extent that some of the local preachers and believers espoused these arguments to include that of some of the Anabaptists and some Adventists groups. Unfortunately, documentation of their arguments is too scarce inasmuch as their debaters seem to be very shadowy in their argumentation to hide their real doctrinal positions to escape scrutiny and dissection of their arguments. They may try to modify their argumentation but in essence they will concede in some angles that their generation of believers can be traced back to the early church.
Those who accuse that the Catholic Church is the apostate transformation of the original church of Christ, will claim that their sect leader was prophesized and ordained by God to re-establish the true Church of Christ which was destroyed by the devil through the apostate Catholic Church.
Most of the locally established sects in the Philippines belong to this group. Their founders are equipped with biblical verses which they use as the alleged prophesies for their authority to establish a new church in the Philippines or in any part of the globe. Some of their founders even fancifully claim to be an angel, an apostle, Christ himself, a direct messenger of Christ or a direct messenger of the Heavenly Father.
No matter how fanciful, magical, superstitious or heretical their invented stories are, this is their seemingly expected argument in order to circumvent their syllogism so as to justify the existence of their sect as an alternative to the Catholic Church.
These sects could easily choose any name, title or designation to the early church as depicted in the Bible to be their alleged authoritative name of their church. It is easy to understand why some of these sects labeled themselves as Church of Christ, Churches of Christ, Church of God, Church of the Living God, Church of the First Born, Church on the Rock, Church of the Gentiles, Apostolic Church, Church of God, Church of God Pillar and Bulwark of Truth, Church of the Latter-Day Saints and many other bible-copied descriptions, names or labeling of the early church.
Since the name of their church can be read in the bible simply because they copied their name from the bible, they will fallaciously argue that their church is the true church as their name is bible-based.
Unfortunately, if they have the same basic argument that their church name can be read in the bible, this does not guarantee that if they can find their name in the bible, they already belong to the true church.
Since only one church can be the true church of Christ, it is statistically impossible that one of them is the true church. The greater possibility is that they are merely pirating the names of the true church as depicted in the bible. In all angles, not one of them can be the true church of Christ.
Warning on these Accusations
It is then impossible to demonstrate that the Catholic Church was never founded by Jesus Christ because these anti-Catholics shall have the difficult task of pointing who established the Catholic Church if Christ has nothing to do with its institution.
For those who posit that the church which Christ established defected into heresy and apostasy, they will be faced with the sacrilegious questioning and even doubting the divine institution of the church of Christ. If the church which Christ established truly defected into heresy and apostasy, are we inclined to believe that Christ is not powerful enough to build a truly strong church founded on a rock which can never be defeated by the forces of evil? If Christ failed in his mission to build a strong church, how can we possibly accept that the new sect leaders in this century and of this country, can emerge to be more powerful than Christ for being able to re-build the church which Christ failed to establish in perpetuity? Are we talking of new Christs in this century or anti-Christs to that effect as foretold in the prophecies of the New Testament that false prophets and messiahs shall come to deceive many?
Logically, it will be safe to conclude that Christ truly founded a strong church which shall never be destroyed and can never be replaced or rebuild by the numerous sect leaders in this century. This church which is catholic in essence since its establishment, as to its doctrine and believers, prophetically become truly catholic as time goes on as the world now can see.