The Continuity of the Catholic Church
Further assurance of continuity is seen in the full and universal publicity which is given to all definitions of faith. Consider the Apostles' Creed, for instance, which in content dates back to the first century. It testifies to a practice of the Church, from the time of the Apostles onward, a practice by which a profession of faith was required from adults before they were baptized. A formal creed was thus adopted for universal use. Here again there was nothing new. All the doctrinal elements found in the Apostles' Creed had already appeared by the end of the first century in the numerous formulas of faith which are contained in early Christian literature. One more pertinent fact: For centuries the Apostles' Creed has been recited daily by Christian people and clergy throughout the world. With such open and continuous expressions of the Creed, how could it be changed? Who would have dared change any part of it?
Incidentally, I cannot turn away from the Apostles' Creed without calling attention to its opening statement: "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth." This is the Christian reaffirmation of the revelation announced in the first chapter of Genesis. It is clear and irrefutable proof that the earliest Christians believed in the fact of creation, as the Hebrew faithful had done before them. Of equal importance is that all later Christians, Protestants and Catholics alike, have professed faith in the same fact, all until the Mormon denominations appeared in the nineteenth century. These latter are committed to a belief in the eternity of matter and the denial of creation. For creation by Almighty God, they substitute the mere organisation of pre-existing matter. And yet, the spokesmen for these same denominations do not hesitate to accuse the Catholic Church of misrepresenting the Gospel of early Christianity.
It is complained, however, that the Church has made innovations by adopting two other creeds, the Nicean and the Athanasian. Each of these, it is alleged, goes beyond what the Apostles taught. The refutation is only a matter of history.
These later Creeds, the one from the fourth and the other from the fifth century, merely add explanatory and clarifying phrases to the Apostles' Creed. Please note that the Nicean Creed is recited every Sunday in every Catholic Church and mission in Christendom; it has been recited publicly ever since it was first declared. The Athanasian Creed is part of the priest's "office" and is contained in the "Manual of Prayers" used by the laity. The preservation of the creeds in the liturgy of the Church and in the devotions of the Catholic people is evidence that the doctrines they express have not been and cannot be changed.
It would be wholly impossible in these few pages, or indeed in many volumes, to discuss and defend all the Catholic doctrines which have been the object of attack. The list is interminable. I call attention to a few only, with the reminder that they are typical of the others, typical in that the critical arguments follow more or less closely the same general pattern. Concerning a particular subject, critics declare that the Catholic Church fell into error by substituting a new and false doctrine for the one taught by our Lord. They declare that as the result of this error God withdrew His blessing and approval from the Church, creating the need for a new organisation. To fill this need, they continue, God chose the leaders of their organisation and instructed them how to restore the Gospel of Christ to its original purity.
Such critics find texts of the Scriptures which, in their opinion, are misunderstood by the Catholic Church and for which they offer the correct explanations. They forget that the books of the Bible were put together by the Catholic Church. Is it likely, I ask, that she would select the Scriptures, guaranteeing them to be inspired, and at the same time teach doctrines contrary to their contents?
Who is in the better position to interpret the Scriptures - the Catholic Church, which has had unbroken contact with the generation which identified the books of the Bible and put them together, or someone who came on the scene a thousand or more years later? From a merely human point of view, the advantage is all with the Catholic Church.
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