I agree wholeheartedly with evangelical scholar Timothy George who says, "The massive consensus of thoughtful Christian interpretation of the Word down the ages (and on most matters of importance there is such a thing) is not likely to be wrong" ("What We Mean When We Say It’s True," Christianity Today, Oct 23, 1995, 19). There is a lively sense among Evangelical Protestants that theirs is the central position of historical Christianity and that the doctrines that they espouse represent that Christian consensus down through the centuries. It is the thrust of this essay to show that this is far from true. Rather, it may be rigorously demonstrated that the Reformation represented not a return to primitive and "pure" Christianity but a radical break with 1500 years of Christian consensus on myriad issues. As John Henry Newman says:
And this one thing at least is certain; whatever history teaches, whatever it omits, whatever it exaggerates or extenuates, whatever it says and unsays, at least the Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If ever there were a safe truth, it is this ("An Essay on the Development of Doctrine," in Conscience, Consensus, and the Development of Doctrine. New York: Doubleday, 1992, 50).
The format of this essay is straightforward. I will introduce several doctrines central to the Reformation debates. I will cite the testimony of Protestant scholars acknowledging that the Catholic position was the one espoused in the ancient Church and throughout much of the 1500 years before the Reformation. Then I will provide the reader with representative citations of primary sources from the early Church showing that our ancestors in the faith were unquestionably Catholics, not Protestants, in their doctrine.
[There has been much grousing by Protestant apologists about the use of Protestant scholarship by Catholic apologists. It should go without saying that the Protestant scholars being cited in support of some specific piece in a full-orbed apology do not follow the Catholic to the same conclusions. If they did, they would be Catholic too. Nevertheless, "hostile witnesses" are called upon to testify in courts of law every day in this country and around the world. That their testimony is being used in a way that is not to their particular liking is not the point. This is a perfectly valid technique and I suspect that part of the reason it elicits so much protest is that it can be used so effectively by the Catholic.]
It seems obvious to many that it was impossible for the Christians of the first three Christian centuries to hold to the doctrine of sola Scripture since they did not even know for sure which books belonged in the Bible, nor did most Christians have access to the entire New Testament as it would eventually be defined. Reformed scholar Louis Berkhof notes of these early centuries, "The canon of the New Testament was not yet fixed, and this explains why these early Fathers so often quote oral tradition rather than the written word" (The History of Christian Doctrines. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1937, 39).
The earliest Christian writers did not (indeed, could not) appeal exclusively to the written Word but rather appealed to the body of sacred Tradition, both written and oral, that had been handed on to them from the Apostles. Note the manner in which Irenaeus, writing around A.D. 180, refutes the Gnostic heretics of his day:
But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the successions of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles. . . . It comes to this, therefore, that these men do now consent neither to Scripture nor to tradition (Against Heresies 3.1.2).
St. Athanasius has often been forced into the service of sola Scriptura by Protestant apologists, but he has this to say about the necessity of Tradition in the Church:
But what is also to the point, let us note that the very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning was preached by the Apostles and preserved by the fathers. On this the church was founded; and if anyone departs from this, he neither is, nor any longer ought to be called, a Christian (Ad Serapion 1,28).
[B]ut do you, remaining on the foundation of the Apostles, and holding fast the traditions of the fathers, pray that now at length all strife and rivalry may cease and the futile questions of the heretics may be condemned (De Synodis 54).
We have also this testimony of Church father Basil the Great, a clear statement of the Catholic view:
Of the dogmas and kerygmas preserved in the Church, some we possess from written teaching and others we receive from the tradition of the Apostles, handed on to us in mystery. In respect to piety both are of the same force (From the Holy Spirit 27, 66).
And finally we find St. Augustine expressing his views on the relationship of Scripture, Tradition, and the Church:
To be sure, although on this matter, we cannot quote a clear example taken from the canonical Scriptures, at any rate, on this question, we are following the true thought of Scriptures when we observe what has appeared good to the universal Church which the authority of these same Scriptures recommends to you (C. Cresconius I:33).
In the New Testament there is no qualitative distinction made between the Word of God passed on in writing and the Word passed on orally in the Church (cf. 1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 3:6; 2 Thess 2:15; 1 Pet 1:25). The view of ancient Christianity was always that God’s Word comes to us both through sacred Scripture and sacred Tradition and that both of these are guarded against all distortion and heresy in the Catholic Church.
It is true too that the early Church held to the 73 book canon used to this day in the Catholic Church, not the smaller 66 book canon adopted by Protestants at the Reformation. Let me cite two authoritative Protestant reference works:
It should be observed that the Old Testament thus admitted as authoritative in the Church was somewhat bulkier and more comprehensive than the twenty-two, or twenty-four, books of the Hebrew Bible of Palestinian Judaism. . . . It always included, though with varying degrees of recognition, the so-called Apocrypha, or deutero-canonical books (J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines. 2nd ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1960, 53).
Down to the 4th century, the Church generally accepted all the Books of the Septuagint as canonical. Greek and Latin writers alike (e.g., Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian) cite both classes of Books without distinction. . . . With few exceptions [St. Jerome and St. Hilary] . . . Western writers (esp. Augustine) continued to consider all as equally canonical . . . At the Reformation, Protestant leaders, ignoring the traditional acceptance of all of the Books of the Septuagint in the early Church . . . refused the status of inspired Scripture [to the Apocrypha] (F. L. Cross, and E. A. Livingstone, eds. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983, 70-71).
It is a historical fact that the consensus of the early Church was to accept the deutero-canonical books (i.e. the "Apocrypha") as inspired Scripture. In fact, the first really serious opposition to these books came at the Reformation, when certain individuals removed them from the Bible in opposition to the Christian consensus of the previous 1500 years, primarily because they did not agree with certain doctrines found there.
The second pillar of the Reformation along with sola Scriptura was the doctrine of sola fide, that we are justified by faith alone and that no human effort can have any bearing whatsoever with respect to one’s salvation. It follows from this that the Christian sacraments must be rejected since these are held to be outward actions that communicate God’s saving grace. But did the early Church hold this Reformation view? Reformed scholar Louis Berkhof summarizes the position of the earliest Christians on the nature of grace and the efficacy of the sacraments:
In some cases the death of Christ is represented as procuring for men the grace of repentance and as opening the way for a new obedience, rather than as the ground of man's justification. This moralistic strain is, perhaps, the weakest point in the teachings of the Apostolic Fathers [men thought to have known the Apostles personally]. . . . The sacraments are represented as the means by which the blessings of salvation are communicated to man. Baptism begets the new life and secures the forgiveness of all sins or of past sins only (Hermas and II Clement); and the Lord's Supper is the means of communicating to man a blessed immortality or eternal life. . . . Man is said to be justified by faith, but the relation of faith to justification and the new life is not clearly understood. . . . Faith is simply the first step in the way of life, on which the moral development of the individual depends. But after the forgiveness of sins is once granted in baptism and apprehended by faith, man next merits this blessing by his good works, which became a second and independent principle alongside of faith (Berkhof, History, 40-41; emphasis mine).
Just a few paragraphs earlier Berkhof had praised these same Church Fathers as being "essentially faithful to Scripture." How can this be if they misunderstood the nature of grace, did not hold to justification by faith alone, and believed in the objective efficacy of the sacraments? Were these not the very doctrines upon which the Reformation was based? Aren’t these the very principles on which the Catholic Church was declared hopelessly unbiblical by the Reformers? It seems that Berkhof cannot quite bring himself to admit that the very disciples of the Apostles were already Catholics.
So too, with respect to the nature of justification, evangelical Protestant scholar Alister McGrath, in his historical study of justification, notes that:
The essential feature of the Reformation doctrines of justification is that a deliberate and systematic distinction is made between justification and regeneration. Although it must be emphasised that this distinction is purely notional, in that it is impossible to separate the two within the context of the ordo salutis, the essential point is that a notional distinction is made where none had been acknowledged before in the history of Christian doctrine. A fundamental discontinuity was introduced into western theological tradition where none had ever existed, or ever been contemplated, before. The Reformation understanding of the nature of justification—as opposed to its mode—must therefore be regarded as a geniune theological novum (Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, the Beginnings to the Reformation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, 186-7; emphasis mine).
In other words, nobody prior to the Reformation held to the Reformers’ view of strictly imputed righteousness and forensic justification. The most central doctrine of the Reformers was brand new, a "theological novum," something unheard of in the previous fifteen centuries of Church history.
The doctrine of "eternal security" held by a great many evangelical Protestants is of quite recent invention and has failed to capture the allegiance of the vast majority of Christians, as admitted by Louis Berkhof, a defender of the doctrine:
This doctrine was first explictly taught by Augustine, though he was not as consistent on this point as might have been expected of him as a strict predestinarian. . . . He held that the elect could not so fall away as to be finally lost, but at the same time considered it possible that some who were endowed with new life and true faith could fall from grace completely and at last suffer eternal damnation. The Church of Rome with its Semi-Pelagianism, including the doctrine of free will, denied the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints and made their perseverance dependent on the uncertain obedience of man. The Reformers restored this doctrine to its rightful place. The Lutheran Church, however, makes it uncertain again by making it contingent on man’s continued activity of faith, and by assuming that true believers can fall completely from grace. It is only in the Calvinistic Churches that the doctrine is maintained in a form in which it affords absolute assurance. . . . The Arminians rejected this view and made the perseverance of believers dependent on their will to believe and on their good works. . . . The Wesleyan Arminians followed suit as did several of the sects. The Reformed or Calvinistic Churches stand practically alone in giving a negative answer to the question, whether a Christian can completely fall from the state of grace and be finally lost (Systematic Theology, 4th rev. ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1941, 545; emphasis mine).
Note that the Catholic Church has not "abandoned" the doctrine of perseverance of the saints but continues to hold the distinction formulated by St. Augustine between the elect who certainly persevere to salvation and those who may be truly regenerate and yet fall away. However, the Church notes that Scripture gives the individual Christian no way to know infallibly whether he or she is numbered among the elect. The Church certainly upholds the free will of human beings since to deny this would nullify the teaching of virtually all of Holy Scripture. Also, Berkhof errs in accusing the Catholic Church of semi-Pelagianism; the Church has formally condemned semi-Pelagianism, and has explicitly and infallibly defined her adherence to sola gratia (salvation by grace alone) at Session 6 of the Council of Trent.
But while Evangelicals sometimes appeal to a "consensus of the faithful" in order to bolster certain of their doctrines, those who hold to the Reformed doctrine of "eternal security" are, according to this criterion, clearly outside the pale of historic orthodox Christianity.
The Lord’s Supper
Far from being a medieval invention, the view that the Eucharist is the New Covenant sacrifice is not only thoroughly biblical but is the unanimous position of the early Church. As J. N. D. Kelly says, "the eucharist was regarded as the distinctively Christian sacrifice from the closing decade of the first century, if not earlier" (Early Christian Doctrines, 196).
So too the early Church believed firmly and consistently that the bread and wine actually become the Body and Blood of our Lord. This represents a natural reading of such passages as Matt 26:26ff., John 6:50-58, and 1 Cor 11:23ff., and is reflected in the teaching of those men who were taught by the Apostles themselves. So Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of both Peter and John, writes against Gnostic heretics of his day:
They even abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they will not admit that the Eucharist is the self-same body of our Savior Jesus Christ, which flesh suffered for our sins and which the Father in His goodness raised up again (Epistle to the Smyrneans, 7, 8).
Justin Martyr, writing around A.D. 155, describes the early Christian belief about the Lord’s Supper this way:
And this food is called among us Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but he who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed in the bath for the forgiveness of sins and to regeneration, and who so lives as Christ has directed. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of his word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh (First Apology, 1:62).
Cyprian, writing well before the rise of Emperor Constantine (at whose hand Roman Catholicism was instigated, according to many fundamentalists), says of the Eucharist:
For if Jesus Christ our Lord and God is Himself the chief priest of God the Father, and has first offered Himself a sacrifice to the Father, and has commanded this to be done in commemoration of Himself, certainly that priest truly discharges the office of Christ, who imitates that which Christ did; and he then offers a true and full sacrifice in the Church to God the Father, when he proceeds to offer it according to what he sees Christ Himself to have offered. . . . The Lord’s Passion is the sacrifice which we offer (Epistle 63).
And even St. Augustine, hailed by both Luther and Calvin as a kind of "proto-Protestant" had this to say about the Eucharist:
Christ is both Priest, offering Himself, and Himself the Victim. He willed that the sacramental sign of this should be the daily sacrifice of the Church (City of God 10,20).
He took flesh from the flesh of Mary . . . and gave us the same flesh to be eaten unto salvation. But no one eats that flesh unless first he adores it . . . we do sin by not adoring (Psalms 98,9).
The reader is encouraged to look up the following additional primary sources from the early Church:
1 Clement 44; Ignatius of Antioch Epistle to the Ephesians 20; Justin Martyr First Apology 1,62 and 67; Irenaeus Against Heresies 4,17,5; 4,18,2 and 5; Clement of Alexandria Paedagogus 2,2,29,4-20,1; Stromata 1,19,96; Tertullian De Orat. 19; Cyprian Epistle 63; Athanasius To the Newly Baptized; Basil the Great Epistle 93; Cyril of Jerusalem Mystagogical Catecheses 4:1,3; 23,8; Hilary of Poitiers The Trinity 8,14; Ambose of Milan De Sacramentis IV,5-16; Cyril of Alexandria Commentary on Matthew 26:27; Augustine Homilies on John 11,3; Psalms 98,9; City of God 10,20.
See also Steve Ray’s excellent work Crossing the Tiber (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997) for a fine survey of patristic teaching on the Eucharist.
The first recorded instance of any Christian explicitly holding to the purely symbolic interpretation of the Eucharist is Berengarius of Tours, who died in A.D. 1088. It was only at the Reformation that large groups of Christians broke with the continuous witness and universal Christian consensus and opted for a purely symbolic view of the Eucharist.
The early Christians unanimously believed what was taught by the Apostles and is indeed present in the New Testament, namely that by God’s grace water baptism brings about the forgiveness of sins and spiritual regeneration by the Holy Spirit (John 3:5; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom 6:3-4; Col 2:12-13; Titus 3:5). Even anti-Catholic apologist William Webster had to admit in his book The Church of Rome at the Bar of History that baptismal regeneration represents the unanimous view of ancient Christianity (Westminster, MD: Banner of Truth Press, 1995, 123). This may be illustrated by actual quotes from our Christian ancestors. Justin Martyr writes this about baptism in A.D. 155:
As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, and instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we pray and fast with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father . . . and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, ‘Unless you are born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.’" (First Apology, 61).
Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp who was himself a disciple of the Apostle John says this:
For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as new-born babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.’" (Irenaeus, Fragment 34).
The reader is encouraged to look up the following additional primary sources from the early Church:
Epistle of Barnabas 11; Justin Martyr First Apology 1,66; Irenaeus Against Heresies 3,17,1; 2,22,4; 1,21,1; Clement of Alexandria Stromata 3,12,87; Paedagogus 1,6,26; Tertullian On Baptism; Cyprian Epistle 64; Methodius The Banquet of the Ten Virgins 8,6-7; Basil the Great On the Spirit 10; the Nicene Creed, "We believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins"; Cyril of Jerusalem Mystagogical Catecheses 2,5-7; Ambrose The Mysteries 2-3; Jerome Homilies on St. John: Chapter 3:5.
See also Steve Ray’s excellent work Crossing the Tiber (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997) for a fine survey of patristic teaching on baptism.
In the late 1960s the world held its breath as Pope Paul VI worked on his encyclical letter on artificial contraception, Humanae Vitae. The Catholic Church had up to this point consistently affirmed its opposition to artificial birth control; now many even within the Church were calling for its reversal.
It is a historical fact that the entire body of Christians, from the first century to the beginning of the twentieth century, had been united with the Catholic Church in this view. This was true even of all Protestant Christian bodies until 1930 when the Anglican communion, at its annual Lambeth Conference, broke down and allowed contraception. Since then all Protestant denominations have followed suit. This represented a break with 1900 years of complete (not just Roman Catholic) Christian consensus. As Protestant writer Charles Provan states in his excellent book, The Bible and Birth Control:
We will go one better, and state that we have not found one orthodox theologian to defend Birth Control before the 1900’s. NOT ONE! On the other hand, we have found that many highly regarded Protestant theologians were enthusiastically opposed to it, all the way back to the very beginning of the Reformation (The Bible and Birth Control. Monongahela, PA: Zimmer Printing, 1989, 63; emphasis his. Note that, as Provan’s book demonstrates, an anti-contraception position can be vigorously supported from the Bible itself).
Pope Paul VI published Humanae Vitae in 1968 and, to the shock and dismay of the world, he stood firm on Christian principles and upheld the Catholic Church’s teaching on artificial birth control. In that encyclical he predicted the consequences if individuals and societies capitulated to the contraceptive mentality—increased sexual promiscuity, the devaluation of women, a general lowering of moral standards, and coercive government policies directed at personal reproduction. History has, tragically, proved him all too right.
As we have seen above, Christian history presents great difficulties to the non-Catholic Christian. Indeed, as John Henry Newman says, "To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant" (Development of Doctrine, 50). Dave Armstrong notes that this lack of historical foundation often give rise to virulent anti-Catholic sentiments:
For all the Protestant Founders, anti-Catholicism (in its most emotional and vitriolic sense) was almost logically necessary. For if they acknowledged Catholicism as Christian, then the idea of breaking away from the universal Christian Church would have been ridiculous and unthinkable. Therefore, the Catholic Church had to be demonized—called "Antichrist," "whore of Babylon," etc. (the widespread corruption of that time did not help the Church to counter these images). This "solution," though, was fraught with its own problems, for Church history in no way squares with the Protestant conception of things. The monumental difficulty left for Protestantism to grapple with was, "Where was the Church for 1500 years?," or else, "When did the true Church defect from truth?" Many Protestants, past and present, felt compelled to identify with bizarre (to greater and lesser degrees) heretical sects such as the Montanists, Albigensians, Waldenses, Hussites, or Wycliffites in order to preserve some semblance of an organized body of Christians . . . through the centuries, i.e., a "church." But a close scrutiny of the nature and scope of these sects quickly make farcical the assertion that they were proto-Protestants. Likewise, if there was a defection or apostasy of the Catholic Church, this would have been an event of such magnitude and immensity that it would put a lie to Jesus' promise that "the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church." Likewise, the rationalization and evasion of an "invisible church" will simply not square with Scripture. When all is said and done in this regard, Protestantism is left with an irresolvable dilemma. The course it usually takes is "invisibility" and anti-Catholicism, with a vague and misty legend of the institutional Church having died either during the time of Constantine (early 4th century) or the Crusades and Inquisition (Middle Ages). The average, garden-variety Protestant, meanwhile, knows very little Church history, and doesn't care to know, thinking it entirely irrelevant (with perhaps also an underlying fear of what might be found there). The fact that most Protestants have not thought these issues through and sincerely believe that they are isolated from the "history of the Holy Spirit's working with men," so to speak, does not lessen their responsibility to at least acknowledge the obvious (Protestantism: Developmental and Conceptual Errors. n.p., 1994, 99).
There are some Protestant scholars who very forthrightly acknowledge this lack of historical support for Protestantism. Dr. James McGoldrick, professor of Church history at Cedarville College, associated with the very conservative General Association of Regular Baptists, has written a book-length study of the attempts by Baptists specifically and evangelicals in general—often presented in such sensational and virulently anti-Catholic pamphlets as the enormously popular Trail of Blood—to trace a lineage of Evangelicalism back through Church history. McGoldrick enumerates nine tenets of doctrine to identify Baptists, a list which would also apply to American Evangelicalism in general:
1. Sola Scriptura;
2. A Trinitarian understanding of one God revealed in three fully divine persons;
3. The complete deity and full humanity of Christ, the virgin-born Son of God, who was crucified for sinners, but rose bodily from the grave;
4. The universal sinfulness of mankind and man’s alienation from God because of sin;
5. Justification by faith alone;
6. The doctrine of an "invisible" church;
7. Only two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper;
8. The separation of church and state as divinely ordained but distinct spheres of authority;
9. The second coming of Christ.
(From J. E. McGoldrick, Baptist Successionism: A Crucial Question in Baptist History. ATLA Monograph Series, No. 32. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1994, 7-8)
Certainly points 2, 3, 4, 8, and 9 are fully Catholic positions; indeed they were first defined by the Catholic Church in her early encounters with heretics and Protestant Christians merely follow Catholic teaching on these points. But McGoldrick’s conclusion, after surveying all possible contenders throughout Church history is as follows:
[A]lthough . . . groups in ancient and medieval times sometimes promoted doctrines and practices agreeable to modern Baptists, when judged by standards now acknowledged as baptistic, not one of them merits recognition as a Baptist church. Baptists arose in the seventeenth century in Holland and England (Baptism Successionism, 2; emphasis mine).
In other words there is no lineage of Christians which one can trace back through Church history who believed as modern evangelical Protestants. Rather, Christians have always been distinctively Catholic in their doctrine and worship and the Protestant Reformation was not a return to a lost "pure Christianity" but was in many areas something entirely new. In light of this historical fact we recall the words of John Henry Newman:
So much must the Protestant grant, that if such a system of doctrine as he would now introduce ever existed in early times, it has been clean swept away as if by a deluge, suddenly, silently, and without memorial; by a deluge coming in a night, and utterly soaking, rotting, heaving up, and hurrying off every vestige of what it found in the Church, before cock-crowing: so that ‘when they arose in the morning’ her true seed ‘were all dead corpses’—Nay dead and buried—and without gravestone. ‘The waters went over them; there was not one of them left; they sunk like lead in the mighty waters.’ Strange antitype, indeed, to the early fortunes of Israel!—then the enemy was drowned, and ‘Israel saw them dead upon the sea shore.’ But now, it would seem, water proceeded as a flood ‘out of the serpent’s mouth,’ and covered all the witnesses, so that not even their dead bodies lay in the streets of the great city.’ Let him take which of his doctrines he will, his peculiar view of self-righteousness, of formality, of superstition; his notion of faith, or of spirituality in religious worship; his denial of the virtue of the sacraments, or of the ministerial commission, or of the visible Church; or his doctrine of the divine efficacy of the Scriptures as the one appointed instrument of religious teaching; and let him consider how far antiquity, as it has come down to us, will countenance him in it. No; he must allow that the alleged deluge has done its work; yes, and has in turn disappeared itself; it has been swallowed up by the earth, mercilessly as itself was merciless (Development of Doctrine, 51).
This is a view that a Catholic Christian can never take. For the Church established by our Lord Jesus Christ received His most solemn promise that He would never leave her nor forsake her. He promised to be with her always, even to the end of the world. He promised to send the Holy Spirit to lead her into all truth and He called her the "pillar and foundation of the truth." There is a Church that can trace her existence all the way back to her founding by Jesus Christ. This Church has taught the same doctrine, without contradiction or error, for 2000 years. The witness of Scripture and history is that this is the Church established by our Lord and no other. It is the Catholic Church.