And I really wasn’t up to arguing with him in a hospital room. However, here’s what I’d have liked to have said (I took his little tract and plan on looking up his church to email them or something).
1. Jesus established 1 Church. He did not establish a “Bible.” He promised a Church, and all historical indications point to the identity of that one Church. The Apostolic Fathers point to that one Church, and writings from before 100 AD, before the death of the last Apostle, present both the teaching of the Eucharist and the teaching that the Bishop of Rome was looked to as the leader of all bishops.
2. While the Bible itself refers to “Scripture,” and the early Church fathers refer to “Scripture,” there was no consensus of what constituted “Scripture” until *after* 400 AD. Prior to this, different Fathers and Synods offered their own “canons” of Scripture, but the word “canon” itself means “measuring stick,” and those books were determined as Scripture because they matched up to what the Church taught as orthodox theology, not the opposite. Indeed, some books now considered Scripture–Esther, Hebrews, and Revelation, for example–were not included in some early lists. Some early lists included books that we don’t consider Scripture, such as the Protoevangelium of James or the “Gospel of Marcion” (which Marcion misidentifies as Luke). Some of the writings of Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, and Polycarp of Smyrna, as well as the Didache, were considered prior to 400 as having equal weight to the writings of the Apostles, and they were often read interchangeably with the Pauline and Apostolic Epistles in the Divine Liturgy. It was the Church that gave us the Bible.
3. There were lots of people who claimed to follow Christ in the early Church who were deemed by the Church to be heretics, and therefore not Christians. All of these people based their arguments on “Scripture”: Antinomianists (whose belief is held by some proponents of eternal security), Audianists, Circumcellions, Donatists (who constitute the other group of eternal security believers), Ebionists (modern day “Messianic Judaism”), Euchites/Messalians, Luciferians, Marcionists, Millennialists, Montanists, Pelagianists, Arians, Gnostics, Adoptionists, Apollinarists, Docetists, Macedonians, Melchisedechians, Monarchianists, Monophysites, Monothelites, Nestorians, Patripassianists, Psilanthropists, and Sabellianists, among others *ALL* said they were following “What the Scriptures teach.” Each of these groups, now regarded as heretics, claimed to be following the Bible and could point to where their beliefs were presumably demonstrated in Scripture. As noted in a few cases, many of the beliefs held by many of these groups can be found in Protestant denominations these days, but most of them are groups whose beliefs would be considered heretical by any Protestant, as well as by Catholics.
Again, the standard of heresy was not “What the Bible teaches,” but what the Church taught. Today, over 30,000 distinct “denominations” spreading from the tree of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and Tudor have 30,000 different views of what it means to believe in “sola Scriptura.”
4. So, prior to 400, the standard of Christian Truth was the Church, not the Bible. There was disagreement until that point about what “the Scriptures” were, specifically. There was one Christian Church, whose See was in Rome, and those deemed heretics could not even call themselves Christians.
The Nestorian schism after the Council of Ephesus in 431 was the first time an entire geographical church broke off en masse.
Then the Council of Chalcedon in 451 was the next one, and the first time the break off groups called themselves “Orthodox” as opposed to the “Catholic” Church (which also claimed to be “orthodox”).
Then in the 11th Century, the “Eastern Orthodox” broke off from Rome.
Yet for each of these splits, some Christians remained loyal to Rome. The geographic Church of Rome has remained intact in the sense that, with the exception of a relatively small sect with dubious history, there is no “Roman Orthodox Church”. Alexandria and Antioch, which broke off in the 451 schism, each have three “Patriarchs”–one in the “Oriental Orthodox” Church (451) , one in the “Eastern Orthodox” Church (11th Century), and one in the Catholic Church.
The Maronites have never separated from Rome. So in all the schisms, the only Church that at all reflects the Unity Christ promised the Church would have is the Catholic Church.
5. Then, all of a sudden, in the 1500s, four guys with huge sin issues of their own decide to claim that the worldly corruption of the Church warrants their separating themselves from it. Luther, Calvin and Zwingli all come up with their own conflicting notions of “sola Scriptura” and various new doctrines derived from it–doctrines which were either novel at the time or condemned previously as heretical. They could not even agree among themselves.
Then came Edwards, Whitefield, Miller, the Wesleys, Mason, the Spurlings, Parham, Moody, Eddy, Russell, Adler, Campbell, Darby, Laws, Hodge, McPherson, Jones, Durham, Woodbridge, Graham, Copeland, Bakker, Roberts, and so many others. . . .
Every Protestant denomination can trace its origins to a single individual or a small group of individuals *breaking off* from some other Christian group. The only Christian “denomination” that goes all the way back from Christ, historically, is the Catholic Church.
6. More importantly, since doctrine is so important to Evangelicals, the Catholic Church has taught basically the same doctrine, with some development, for 2000 years and based its decisions about what to count as “the Bible” on those doctrines. Meanwhile, the majority of “Pentecostal/Holiness” or “Evangelical/Fundamentalist” denominations teach ideas like “the Rapture” that were unheard of before the 1800s. How can these doctrines claim to be authentic interpretations of Scripture or authentic versions of Christianity when they were totally unheard of for the first 1800 years of Christianity?????