Protestantism and cults

Protestantism and cults

In the term Protestant Christian denominations and sects one that had their starting point with Martin Luther in Germany in 1517. Luther began by denying indulgences, then the authority of the Pope, and finally ended up falling into all kinds of errors are included. This section describes the causes of reform and the most important denominations and sects emerged from it are studied.

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Talking with my evangelical friends about the Baptist Church

By José Miguel Arráiz

You can read it in SpanishEnglish and Portuguese.

Conversando

We reproduce excerpts of conversations between Catholics and Evangelicals from the book "Talking with my evangelical friends", very useful in helping our fellow Christians understand the Catholic faith.

Michael: Hi Joseph, we were sharing our last conversation with our friend Martha who is a member of the Baptist Church. She gave us very interesting comments that I would like you to hear. That is why we have invited her.

Joseph: With pleasure.

Martha: Glad to do so, friend.

Joseph: Me too, Martha, tell me.

Martha: Believe it or not, I basically agree with much of what you have commented to my friends.

Joseph: Regarding what?

Martha: I agree with you on several key points.

First, that Christ founded only one Church. This is clear from the Bible when it says: “That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church” (Matt 16,18). This verse of Scripture teaches the words of the Lord who also is the builder of the Church, as He said, “I will build my Church”. If Christ Himself built it, it is not a human institution, but a divine institution. Others, both men and women have built pseudo-churches. Their names are remembered in history: Luther, Calvin, Henry VIII, John Wesley, Joseph Smith, Alexander Campbell, Ellen White, and many others. They founded institutions made by men. But there is only one Church and only one Christ built.

If Jesus called “my Church” is leaving implied an intimate relationship between him and her (His Church). Looking forward through the centuries, He saw the confusion in the multiplication of pseudo churches[1].

Joseph: In this we fully agree then, right? Christ founded one Church and the Church has not ceased to exist since it was founded 2000 years ago.

Martha: Indeed. And I agree with you in your concept of inerrancy.

Note that the same text later (Matt 16,19) adds that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”, therefore the Church that Jesus built was not an inert body, weak, temporary, made by humans, that would cease to exist during the centuries of obscurantism, as my friends and I believe as some of our pseudo-historians have even argued; but a militant, victorious Church, sustained by grace to overcome all opposition, and to be triumphant until the end of time.

As a Baptist, I say and maintain that never during the twenty centuries that have passed, has this Church not existed, and never until the end of time will it cease to exist, according to the word of our Lord who founded it and spoke of it as His Church.

Joseph: Yes, we could not agree more on this.

Martha: I also agree with your notion of the visible Church. This is a matter of great importance, because there are those who argue that when Christ said, “I will build my Church”, he was not talking about the local and visible church, but the invisible universal Church comprised of all believers. Such an interpretation in my opinion is impossible. If that were taught in the Scriptures, how a universal and invisible Church could have been built centuries before this, or what the characters of the Old Testament, Enoch, Abraham, Jacob, David, the prophets? Were these not in it? How could one decide their grievances in a universal and invisible assembly that has never met?

It is clear that Christ was talking about the assembly or local and visible congregation. If there is a body as a universal and invisible Church, it will be never met, and never meet until the redeemed reach the heavenly home. And so I emphasize the word Church is never used in this sense, except metaphorically.

So when Christ was on earth, He instituted a visible Church, and organized with officers with authority to receive and exclude members. Many examples in the Bible are: “If he will not hear them: tell the Church. And if he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican.” (Matt 18,17). There is also talk of excommunication of incestuous in 1 Corinthians 5,1-8 and heretics in 1 Timothy 1,20 and 2 Timothy 2,17.

Joseph: Yes, we agree, I find it very interesting that you reached these conclusions by reading the Bible.

Martha: This is not only my conclusion; it has been the position Baptists have always held and explains very well the book, “Strange Baptism” by M. L. Moser, Jr[2], and also the book, “Trail of Blood” by J.M. Carroll[3].

We agree on what is true, visible and unfailing; that the Church was founded by Christ two thousand years ago. You think it’s the Catholic Church, and we believe that is the Baptist Church.

Joseph: But if Baptists emerged after the Protestant Reformation, how will it be possible that they were a visible and unfailing Church since the time of the apostles?

Martha: Yes, they were. There were always loyal churches for their faithfulness incurred the wrath of the devotees of the religion of the state, most of whom were not genuine Christians. These faithful churches were denied the name Christian, and they put many other names, so that sometimes they were called by one and sometimes by another; for example, “montanists”, “tertullianists”, “novatians”, “donatists”, “albigenses”, “cathars”, “paulicians”, “petrobrusians”,  “waldensians”, “anabaptists”, etc., but although he had other names, they were really true Baptists.

Joseph: Honestly, that does not make sense. Are you saying that all these groups, some older than others were Baptists?

Martha: Yes.

Joseph: But if these groups were really Baptists, it means that they kept the same faith and doctrine, as you hold now.

Martha: Indeed. Although we do not say that these groups have always been loyal in every way to the teachings of the New Testament, we believe that essentially they were.

Joseph: I say something. I have studied the history and doctrine of these groups and I assure you that not only were they not faithful to the teachings of the New Testament, but they did not even share the doctrines that Baptists considered essential. Go and check some of them and see for yourself.

Martha: Go ahead.

Joseph: Let’s start with the montanists. Its founder, a certain Montano, who lived in the mid-second century and claimed that Jesus had not taught everything, but he had promised His disciples a Paraclete with the task of completing his education.

Martha: True, Christ promised it.

Joseph: The problem is that he himself claimed to be the Paraclete and that the task of clarifying Christian teaching had been entrusted to him. Do you believe that?

Martha: I don’t, but if those who had fallen from the true faith should be baptized again.

Joseph: You are confused, they did not support that, but after baptism serious sins, such as apostasy and adultery were even unforgivable to receive the sacrament of penance. Also they rejected marriage and conjugal relations, and considered the birth of women as evil. I have understood that Baptists do not share those doctrines, or am I wrong?

Martha: I have no knowledge that the mountaineers believed that. I would need to research and verify this[4].

Joseph: Okay, let’s go now with the Tertullianists, which were founded by Tertullian, a noted Catholic ecclesiastical writer who lived in the middle of the second century and the beginning of third. Unfortunately, he ended up becoming mountaineer and then abandoned them to found his own sect. His doctrine we know today by their own writings[5]  where sticklers defend postulates, who like the Montanists, prohibit remarriage even for widowhood, and also denied the forgiveness of grave sins and establishes the obligation of fasting.

Martha: Yes, I agree that we do not share that sins after baptism have no forgiveness. The blood of Christ can grant forgiveness of all sins.

Joseph: So I do not see how you can argue that they were spiritual Baptists. If you have admitted that the true Church is visible, indestructible and imperishable, you must necessarily maintain the same doctrine and the same faith. If we are honest, modern Baptists condemned these doctrines as heretical.

Martha: As I was saying, as with the case of the Montanists, I did not know that they believed that.

Joseph: Of course, but all I’m saying here is that you can check on various sources of history, not only Catholics but Protestants, and even check in the writings that remain from those movements.

Now for the Novatians you think?

Martha: Forward ...

Joseph: The Novatians separated from the Church in the third century, and essentially shared all Catholic doctrines. This schism was caused by completely different differences to what we have with the Baptist causes. They denied that the Catholic Church had the authority to administer the forgiveness of sins to those who in times of persecution apostatized of the faith but were now repentant. They claimed that the Church was corrupt, being too lenient with sinners, and demanded that those who had drifted away from faith were re-baptized.

Martha: I precisely agreed that those who received an invalid baptism need rebaptism.

Joseph: Don’t you understand me? They did not insist on renaming because they believed that their baptism was invalid, nor because they refused the baptism of children, but because they considered certain serious sins as unforgivable[6]. Novatian had refused absolution to those who worshiped pagan gods during the chase to save their lives, and his followers spread his doctrine to all the sins that we consider "deadly" (idolatry, murder and adultery, or fornication). If you were to believe the same, you have to do a baptism every time that you commit a serious sin, which do not. Or do you have a rebaptism every time you sin?

Martha: Certainly not, because in the blood of Christ, I have gained the forgiveness of my sins forever, not only what I made but that I will commit.

Joseph: Well, without discussing that your affirmation is precise[7], it is clear that they did not believe the same as the Baptists. Besides that, many of them also forbade remarriage even in cases of widowhood, like the Montanists, and it is natural because they used much the works of Tertullian and Phrygia that were combined with the Montanists.

Let’s study another related group also mentioned, the Donatists.

Martha: Go ahead.

Joseph: Donatism was a schismatic movement of the fourth century, to see if we were also much more akin to Catholics to Baptists, because they shared almost all Catholic doctrines. His mistake was to believe that the Church was only composed of the good and the bad were excluded, so that in times of persecution, shunned the test of martyrdom, and those who were not willing to accept it arrived the case. Still, they belong to the Church, therefore the sacraments administered by Catholics lacked courage to these[8].

The Donatists they believed in the apostolic succession, unlike Baptists, and had validly ordained bishops. They also believed in the validity of the sacraments given by them, including the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, baptized children, something you reject emphatically as a heretical corruption of the Church. Besides that, you also believe that the Church is composed only of good, but recognize that in it there are also sinners and that sin is not irretrievably a section of the Church.

Martha: As you say, I’ll check.

Joseph: Let’s see the Cathars. It was a heretical movement of the X century who believed in a creative duality (God and Satan)[9]. Furthermore, they rejected the Old Testament, which in their opinion, recounted the facts of Satan and prince of this world. They believed that the Tables of the Law were given to Moses by the Devil, and that Jesus was the most prestigious of all the “sons of God” chosen and adopted immediately as his son so that outside the world with the mission “eon” to know and honor his name. There was therefore for them the obligation to venerate as his older brother in God.

And if that were not enough, they do not baptize adults or children, but had a single sacrament called the “Consolamentum” which was a kind of baptism, communion and last rites together and considered the baptism of the Spirit Santo[10].

Now, you tell me whether a group that does not share either with you or with us, the same faith in a Triune God, may be considered Baptist or even Christian.

Martha: Certainly not[11].

Joseph: Now for the Petrobrusians.

Martha: I understand that Pedro de Bruys, in the twelfth century and his followers were merciful Christians who refused to validly baptize children, because they could not believe the indispensable requirement to be baptized. He denied as a falsehood the transubstantiation and the efficacy of prayer for the dead, all doctrines that we share.

Joseph: It’s true, yes they had that in common with you, but only that those with more being apart.

Martha: For example...

Joseph: They rejected the Old Testament and the New Testament only accepts the Gospels. And only with that would you have to dismiss them as spiritual Baptists.

Also, they claimed that he had to burn the churches and replace stables. In addition, they preached the destruction of all the crosses because of the horror that true Christians must feel to remember the Lord’s Passion. They distinguished themselves by going through southern France pillaging temples and burning crosses, insulting the clergy and sowing discord everywhere they went. Pedro de Bruys was finally arrested and condemned to the stake in 1130.

Martha: I’ll check...

Joseph: Let’s study the Paulicians. They also accepted only the Old Testament and in the New. They were dualists and had a deep opposition between spirit and matter. For them, Christ had not had more than an apparent body, and Mary had been only the channel that had manifested itself. Subsequently they ceased to be priests and did not administer or baptism or the Eucharist.

Again, note that there are notable differences with the Baptists. You do not reject the Old Testament, or believe that there are two gods, much less that Christ had no real body.

Martha: It’s true, we do not believe that. Let me see if they really believed that.

Joseph: But if they thought were not spiritual Baptists.

Come up with the Waldensians.

Martha: Of the Waldensians who rejected infant baptism, confession of sins to the priest, transubstantiation, the cult of saints, rejected purgatory and indulgences. You can say that virtually the same Catholic doctrines that Baptists reject today.

Joseph: They did not accept the concept of transubstantiation, but believed that the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist was working in the mouth of the person who received it worthily. They also believed in the sacrament of penance, but believed it was holiness, and not the management, sufficient and necessary for the valid celebration of the sacraments condition, so confessed and absolved among themselves, and not to priests duly ordered. The Waldensians also rejected the possession of land, and marriage that did not have the sole purpose of procreation.

It is true that they rejected infant baptism, the veneration of saints, the doctrine of purgatory and indulgences, but it is somewhat simplistic to consider ancestors spiritual Baptists so, see we all Protestant denominations reject many of those points and why don’t they consider Baptists?[12].

The only group that could be recognized as a point of origin of the Baptists are the Anabaptists, but we are already talking about the sixteenth century, and yet there are still many differences with Baptists today.

What I am trying to make you understand is that while you realize certain features that must have the true Church, 1) Unit and perpetual Visibility, 2) Catholicity, 3) Holiness and indefectibility, 4) Apostolicity, and that has led you to find your trace in history, the solution is not to search these groups, many of which have been embedded in gnostic and Manichean tendencies that make it even impossible to consider them as Christians.

Martha:  The option that you propose is sought in the Catholic Church, and that is still unlikely, because it cannot be a Church that has fallen into idolatry and apostasy.

Joseph: Consider that you may have acquired prejudices that do not allow you to recognize it as the true Church, but that you have to study the Catholic Church and its doctrine objectively and sincerely, and make sure it’s really all you think it is.

According to the venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: “No more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they believe is the Catholic Church.”

NOTES

[1] The arguments for this conversation were taken from the book, The Strange Baptism, from M. L. Moser Jr. (Arkansas Baptist Central Church from 1965 to 1990), in the translated edition by W. M. Nevins. Also from the book, “The trail of blood”, published in 1931 by Baptist minister, J.W. Porter.

[2]  M. L. Moser Jr.  was a Baptist minister in the Arkansas Baptist Central Church from 1965 to 1990. The minister defends the hypothesis sustained by Baptists, because of the landmarkism, raised in 1851, in southern United States, where it is established that is possible to find a visible Baptist church during history, connecting with the New Testament church.

[3] The original book that it is referenced is “The trail of blood”, published in 1931 by Baptist minister, J. W. Porter.

[4] There is a trend that can be considered as majority within the Baptists, that after investigating thoroughly history and the doctrines for this primitive heretic movements, Baptists have separated from the position Martha defends in this dialogue. Baptist minister and historian, Justo Anderson, in the first volume of this book titled: “Historia de los Bautistas” (History of the Baptists), edited by Casa Bautista de Publicaciones, he recognizes: “A careful analysis of Montanists demonstrates that is a mistake consider them as a starting point for Baptist denominations. As Troeltsch says, they were the first «sect – type» within Christianism. At the beginning, they did not deviate from faith, but started a morbid stress for morality and practical discipline or a Pentecostal puritanism. For a Baptist member, the more serious slip was the substitution of the continued prophecy by the final revelation in Christ… Much of what it’s been said of Montanists, is also applied to Novatians and Donatists” (Traslated from Justo Anderson, Historia de la Iglesia Bautista, Vol I, Casa Bautista de Publicaciones, Colombia 2006, p.130)

[5] Among them De Fuga en Persecutione, De Monogamia, De ieiunio adversus psychicos, De Puditia, De virginibus velandis.  These are all for free, available at www.tertullian.org.

[6] The Baptists historians used to mistakenly relate diverse conflicts about baptism as a support to their disapproval of children baptism. Justo Anderson about this writes: “The opposition to re – baptism, was originated in the primitive church, that declares it in a very clear way: «One Lord, one faith, one baptism» (Eph 4,5). Nonetheless, around the year 250, Bishop Cyprian of Carthage, Northern Africa, insisted in re – baptizing the Schismatic and heretics that presented themselves to be members of his Church”. (Traslated from Justo Anderson, Historia de la Iglesia Bautista, Vol I, Casa Bautista de Publicaciones, Colombia 2006, p.12). It is true that Saint Cyprian of Carthage did have a conflict with the Pope, because he pretended to baptize heretics again, but he did not deny children baptism as valid, but he defended that need, just as he leaves constancy in his owns writings (See Cyprian of Carthage, A fido about children Baptism, Ep 58)

[7] The Baptists profess the doctrine of “Once Saved, always saved”, that is also heretic because it denies that men can fall from God’s grace even if the man commits mortal sin and dies with no repent. This doctrine is paradoxically opposite to the Novatians.

[8] The Donatists were characterized by an exaggerated fanaticism that led them to pursue Catholics violently, killing them, burning their altars, throwing to dogs consecrated species and not because they did not believe in the real presence of Christ in Eucharistic, one thing you do not believe, but because they only permitted as consecrated their species. They even made collective suicide. The Schism was suffocated by having Donato exiled and Donato’s bishops ousted, but during the reign of Juliano, the apostate, it took a greater power, but divisions among them caused them even to murder themselves. In the Carthage council, their doctrine was stricken, ratified after this judgement by Pope Honorio in 411. They ended up disappearing with the Vandals invasion that pursued equally Donatists and Catholics.

[9] The Chatars predicated salvation by ascetic and a strict reluctance of material world, perceived by them as demonic. It postulates the existence of two Manichaeism principles of good and evil, that are equally Light and Darkness, the Spirit and Material. However, the Everything and Nothing, are two aspects of the same principle, that because of the tendency of Nothing to be Something, generate an unlimited multitude of eternal beings, sons of principle God. On top of this unlimited multitude of God’s sons, they have the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ. They were not considered God (Trinity), but they were thought that they effectively came from Him, being the Father, the only Absolute God, while the Son and the Holy Spirit do not participate in omnipotence. For more details, you may consult in Spanish the H. Masson book, Manual de Herejías. Rialp Editions SA.

[10] The “Consolamentum” was administered to adults (considered more faithful that converted in “Parfait” or “perfects”, as they maintained celibate and vegetarian) and to those that were moribund. The ones that received “consolatum” did another rite known as “Endura”, in which they fasted to die, considering this as a mystical death.

[11] Justo Anderson on this respect admits: “The other dissident’s groups, the BOGOMILOS from the Balkans, and the Chatars (Albigeans) from southern France, were a historical continuation of Paulicians. Some say that Baptists raised from their successors. However, as Vedder says: «The Paulicians, Chatars, Bogomiles, Albigensians, were, somewhat Christians…although their dualists theories were antichristian and are separated to those that profess to be guided by the word of God». Really, IT WOULD BE HARD TO NAME IN ALL CHRISTIAN HISTORY GROUPS THAT HAD LESS IN COMMON WITH BAPTISTS THAN THEM.” (Traslated from Justo Anderson, Historia de la Iglesia Bautista, Vol I, Casa Bautista de Publicaciones, Colombia 2006, p.142)

[12] Baptist historian Justo Anderson recognizes on this: “THE WALDENSIANS HAD LITTLE IN COMMON WITH BAPTISTS. The same can be said in respect to Hussites. Even though those groups rejected children baptism and practiced the re – baptism, they had a lot in their doctrine that modern Baptists would not accept.

I agree with Doctor Vedder, when he says: «It is unquestionable that for 4 entire centuries before Reformation, there were Christians groups with various names, defamed by Roman Church as heretics, that professed approximately … faith and practice of modern Baptists. This is quite different than proving the substantial identity of these sects with modern Baptists. One thing is to prove that various sects did give testimony, one or the other, or that truth sustained by one modern denomination, and another quite distinct is to identify all or some of these sects with any modern corporation.”

(Traslated from Justo Anderson, Historia de la Iglesia Bautista, Vol I, Casa Bautista de Publicaciones, Colombia 2006, p.147-148)

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