The Continuity of the Catholic Church
Let me now consider the basic argument by which the supposed apostasy is defended. The critics of the Church point out, quite correctly, that some of the writers of the New Testament and even our Lord Himself foresaw apostasies and warned the Christian people about them. From these predictions the inference is drawn that a great apostasy was foreseen in which the Church herself was doomed to fall away from her God-given moorings. Let it be said quite frankly that this argument, in and by itself, does not deserve the slightest attention. The wished for conclusion does not follow from the premises. Unfortunately, however, the argument is offered to the world very seriously and is accepted as truth by thousands of loyal believers. For such reasons it calls for analysis and comment.
What was foreseen in the New Testament was that false teachers and prophets would come into the Christian flock and would lure many persons away from the faith. Special references are made to the last days of the world when these apostasies would reach their ultimate and most tragic proportions. It follows that "the great apostasy" which the critics of the Church like to envisage has not yet come, because obviously the signs of the end of the world, as described in the narratives, have not appeared. In other words, whatever "the great apostasy" is to be, it is still in the future.
But what kind of apostasies did the Holy Scriptures foretell? What were they to be? Apostasies by the Church or from the Church? There is only one possible answer. Nowhere is the slightest hint of a defection by the church; the only defections were to be from the Church.
As we are aware, some Christians in each generation lose their faith. Such misfortunes occurred even in our Lord's day. It is written that, immediately after He revealed the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist, "many of his disciples went back; and walked no more with him." Then, too, there was Judas. Did these defections spell the failure of Christ? The same question can be asked about apostasies from the Church and with precisely the same manner. It is to be remembered, let me repeat, that all the forecasts about the Church guaranty its permanency until the end of the world.
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