A report released in 2005 by an organization called the Bible Literacy Project suggested that young Americans know very little about the Bible. That probably did not come as much of a shock. And while the report has importance, but then first things first, another fair number of Americans do not see why teenagers need to know anything at all about the Bible. And some of these same people may profess to be Christians.
Where did the Roman Catholic Church come from?
Simply put, the Roman Catholic Church had its beginning at some point beyond the founding of the church in Rome. I don’t mean to be flippant or to say apostasy overtook that first assembly. But I am saying that the apostasy of the generations that came after those first Christians was not all that far removed in time from the establishment of the true church there. Some date the beginning of the Roman Catholic Church to the coronation of Boniface III in 606. Some date it to the Edict of Theodosius in 380. I am far less generous with time. If no one is watching, departures will soon come along the same path as did the truth. One has typically followed the other in short order. Look at what has happened to the appeal to truth during our own lifetimes. And read your Bibles. It took the Israelis exactly forty days to go from worshiping the one true God and to fashioning an idol and falling down to worship. About three to five years from its founding, the Corinthian church was being chastised for heading off at full speed toward false teachings and divisions. During his lifetime Paul was constantly fighting against false apostles. Now how could it be that a question might arise as to who was and was not an apostle of Christ, while those very men named by Jesus were yet alive? Need I say more?
So while we are greeted generally with silence in the three centuries beyond the founding of the church of Rome, we can find where the seeds for apostasy had been sown early on.
What follows here is far too short and lacking in any serious detail, but understand this. The scriptures teach us that Diotrephes stood against the Apostles of God. You can also now stand against the Apostles though they are long ago dead and gone, as easily as they could be withstood while alive and in person. Though you may hold the Word of God in your hand, and read it every day; you may still stand outside the truth of the Scriptures too. And beyond the first century such things became all the more common. Some men out of the elders in the church of Rome had already elevated themselves; and there are clear references to single overseers those who would later be called the Bishop or in cities the Metropolitans, to distinguish them from the rest of the overseers, if any others remained. I have referred to some of these documents previously on this site. These special men eventually became the source of authority within the church of Rome and were appealed to in place of the Word of God. During this same time frame, a continuing argument arose over misunderstandings of the work of the Holy Spirit. And to this day these things remain widely misunderstood.
Men arose who insisted that the powers of the Holy Spirit (though in the scriptures given only to the apostles and to those upon whom they chose to pass His gifts) were to be held by those in service to assemblies as elders, deacons, prophets and evangelists. Before the end of the second century it was taught that all Christians had some form of the Spirit of God moving as a presence within them.
This came to view in the false teachings of a man named Montanus, along with his principal disciples Priscilla and Maximilla. He taught that he was the Paraclete (Greek for wind or spirit) or that he was the embodiment of the Holy Spirit on earth. Some say he taught that he was God Almighty. What he did in fact teach is that every Christian was a priest on earth and filled with the Holy Spirit. Allegedly, these three performed miracles and prophesied. They proclaimed the nearness of the age of the Holy Spirit and of the beginning of the millennial reign in Pepuza, a town in Phryghia, where they alleged the New Jerusalem would soon come down out of heaven. Obviously, the outcome of this rebellion was more division and rebellion. Tertullian later wrote that the Montanists did a service to the Devil at Rome by driving away prophesy and bringing in heresy. I would suggest that, according to the Word of God, all prophesy had already been completed and heresy was nearing a full bloom. The fight was over the continuous presence and revelations of the Holy Spirit as being always present in both Christians and within their assemblies. That led to a fight as to who has right on their side and who will be in charge. Sound familiar?
The end result served to perpetuate the positions of power of the elites within the church at Rome; as neither side had anything to do with the truth or with the Word of God. And as this spread to other areas, Rome was sought out for theological aid, and appealed to for might of support. Rome was still the seat of the Great Empire, and so that church must be the seat of knowledge. Wars are fought over such things; and in this heresy and the response to it – many were slaughtered in the name of God. And may the best man (or is it the strongest man?) win. Certainly these appeals and these things never lead back to the truth. Rather they lead to more division and uncertainty. In all times heresy and false teaching strictly depends upon a willful ignorance of God’s Word.
I’m out of time to continue with this for now; but I will post some more historical particulars on where the apostasy in the Roman church came out of and what it led to, in my next outing.