The first part of this article tried to put denominational Christianity into proper perspective and suggested, above all, that Jesus created one, organized, visible, authoritative Church.
I also suggested that when we put aside our own cultural predispositions to denominational Christianity, that the one Church that Jesus founded seems to look like the Catholic Church as we know it today.Part two of this article explores this idea further by listing 9 objective observations we see in the Catholic Church that one would also expect to find in the Church Jesus founded.
- Apostolic succession – The Catholic Church is the only church that can trace its leadership directly back to the Apostles themselves in a direct line of authority.It is a matter of historical record that the line of popes is continuous from our current pope directly back to the apostle Peter, who was given the keys to the kingdom (Matt 16:19) by Jesus Christ himself.All present day bishops of the Catholic Church similarly trace their lineage back to the apostles. It is the only Church that could have possibly been founded by Jesus Christ.All other denominations were founded by some other man over a thousand years later, at least.
- The Bible is a Catholic book – I know that sounds scandalous to many non-Catholic Christians, but it’s true. There is no way around it. The Church existed before the Bible (Jesus founded a Church, not a book). The letters that eventually made up the canon of the Bible weren’t even finished being written until nearly the end of the 1st century. Further, nobody had an official, common canon of the New Testament until the end of the 4th century! The Church had already existed for almost 400 years without it. It was the pope and bishops of the Catholic Church, out of a growing need to clarify the confusion of which books were “inspired” and which were not, that finally discerned the official canon of the Bible. And it is that New Testament canon that all Christians use to this day. So, in other words, the authority of the Bible rests upon the authority of the Catholic Church to define its canon in the first place.
- It’s still here – As an organized institution, the Catholic Church has somehow survived longer than any such institution in the history of mankind. Despite the faults of its leaders (even downright corrupt ones at times) and the human members that make it up, the structure has remained stable and the original dogma uncorrupted for almost 2000 years. It saw both the rise and fall of the Roman Empire and the first landing on the moon.
- It’s consistent – It doesn’t change its beliefs based on what is popular or by which way the wind happens to be blowing in the present culture. The Truth certainly isn’t democratic, so why should we expect the true Church to be? While doctrine is constantly developing as the Body of Christ grows deeper in understanding God, the Catholic Church has never once contradicted old dogma with “new” dogma.
- It’s reasonable – The Catholic Church embraces both faith and reason. Both are necessary to approach the fullness of truth. Many “denominations” have put science and reason at odds with our Christian faith and have created a perception that Christianity is not reasonable. This could not be further from the Truth. Simply because something is beyond our reason does not mean it is unreasonable. Throughout history, the Catholic Church has been one of the biggest supporters of science, reason and the pursuit of truth in all of its forms. Even in our modern era this is true. In fact, the theory of the Big Bang was first introduced by a Catholic priest, Georges Lemaitre. That is a perfect example of the pursuit of science in harmony with the faith of the Church. Far from opposing the dogma of Christianity, science and reason have enriched it, giving a much deeper insight into the wonders of God revealed through scripture, the Church and our reasonable world.
- The Saints – some of the most “saintly” people to have ever walked the earth were Catholic. Being a Catholic, one doesn’t simply get the Bible and a bunch of dogma, they get to stand on the shoulders of 2000 years of the greatest theological minds and Christ-like people in the history of mankind. They get to share in the lives of those that have lived the virtues of the faith to heroic proportions.
- It’s universal and unified in its diversity – The Catholic Church is truly a universal Church. Not only is there something for everybody, but it includes people from every walk of life. It is arguably the most diverse institution in the world while at the same time being the most unified in its beliefs. For example, a Catholic can go to any mass in any country on any given day and still fully participate in the same celebrations as every other mass occurring on that day throughout the world – even if they don’t know the language.
- The earliest Christians were Catholic – Historical record didn’t disappear after the apostles died, only to return at a much later date. Study what the early Christians, the disciples of the apostles, went out and did. Read what they believed. Their beliefs were distinctly Catholic. They believed in the authority of the Church (they had no New Testament canon), baptizing infants, confessing one’s sins, losing one’s salvation through grave sin, and most especially the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It’s all there. These aren’t ideas that were invented by the Catholic Church at a later date. They have been there since the beginning.
- The Eucharist – The Catholic Church (along with the Orthodox Church) is the only church that claims to offer the actual body and blood of Christ (that the bread and wine completely change mysteriously into the body and blood of Jesus Christ) in communion. This is what Jesus did with His apostles and commanded them to do once He was gone (Luke 22:19). Where else can we fulfill what Jesus affirms when he says “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you; he who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life” (John 6:53)? You can only get that in the Catholic Church.
I’m sure I’ve missed some other good points, so feel free to share any additional thoughts you may have. But the main point of this article is to give encouragement to those that are seeking Jesus’ true Church. It absolutely exists. And it is findable.
Don’t be discouraged by the sea of “churches” out there. Don’t accept that Christianity is supposed to be denominational. Don’t assume that we must not be able to know the Truth, since there are so many “denominations” that disagree. Just take your faith and your reason and start looking. You’ll eventually find it.