Today, we continue our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. The Catholic apologist continues his six-part section on church hierarchy and authority with this chapter devoted to countering alleged Protestant assertions that the church is not the worldly-minded religious institution headquartered on the banks of the Tiber River in Rome, but is any place where “Where Two or Three Are Gathered.”
Broussard writes that Protestants mistakenly cite Matthew 18:20 as a rebuttal to Rome’s claim that it is THE visible, institutional church founded by Jesus:
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Broussard accuses Protestants of having a stunted understanding of the church as just a spiritual entity rather than that of the church being both a spiritual and a structural (institutional/hierarchical) entity that he claims Christ intended. Broussard cites the preceding passage, Matthew 18:15-19, to show that Jesus had an institutional church in mind when He gave instructions for disciplining unrepentant members. A church of a strictly spiritual nature does not have the organizational ability to discipline anyone.
Broussard attempts to win his argument with a straw man fallacy. Protestants certainly do recognize the structure of the local church as it is presented in Scripture. In numerous passages of the New Testament we see mentioned the offices of pastor, elder, and deacon for leadership and administration of the local church. See here. These offices can be found (perhaps under different names) in Gospel-preaching, local Christian churches.
What Protestants object to is Rome’s claim to be THE monolithic institution divinely authorized by Jesus Christ. A few relevant thoughts come to mind:
- After the Roman emperors legalized Christianity and shortly afterwards adopted it as the state religion, its clergy began assimilating many of the beliefs and practices of its former pagan competitor. Simple faith in Jesus Christ as Savior was replaced with grandiose and complex legalism, ritualism, and sacramentalism, all administered by an increasingly privileged and authoritarian clerical class.
- As the early bishops of Rome consolidated their power in competition with the other centers of the early church, they patterned their ascendant institution after the imperial Caesars. The acquisition of wealth and political control – and the elimination of rivals – were the key drivers. Jesus commanded His apostles NOT to create the very type of hierarchy that the RCC instituted. See Matthew 20:25-28.
- Roman Catholics cannot imagine the comparatively “structureless” mulit-denominational Protestant movement as being legitimate. For a millennium, Catholic clerics taught that membership in their religious institution was tantamount to salvation. However, adhering to standard Catholic theology – salvation by sacramental grace and merit – has never led anyone to salvation in Christ Jesus. It’s precisely in the noncentralized, patchwork quilt of evangelical Christianity that the Holy Spirit has done His salvific work using God’s Holy Word.
Important: Broussard makes great claims for the Roman Catholic church being the visible institution authorized by Jesus Christ and headed by the pope, the alleged “Vicar of Christ.” However, beneath the elaborate and grandiose organizational structure with its veneer of monolithic unity is actually great discord. Conservative and traditionalist Catholics are appalled by the doctrine-bending reforms of the current progressive pope. Many conservative Catholics accuse pope Francis of “spreading confusion” within the church and some even denounce him as a heretic. When Broussard makes these claims for Catholicism’s authority, is he referring to the progressive, doctrine-defying Catholicism of pope Francis or is he referring to the conservative, doctrinaire Catholicism of cardinals Burke and Sarah? We’ve examined four of Broussard’s six chapters on church authority and so far he’s dishonestly failed to mention the current crisis within his church regarding papal authority and pope Francis.
Next up: “All Are One in Christ”
RCC fast facts:
The number of Catholic cardinals, bishops, and priests:
214 cardinals, 5839 bishops, and 415,000 priests.
The number of people who work at the Vatican, the RCC’s worldwide headquarters:
The total number of clergy employed by the RCC worldwide:
The total number of Catholic parishes and members:
223,000 parishes and 1.3 billion Catholics.
The amount of land owned by the RCC:
Estimated at 177 million acres, or 277,000 square miles (Texas is 262,000 square miles.
The amount of the RCC’s annual spending worldwide:
Estimated at $170 billion
The number of times the genuine Gospel is preached in Catholic churches on a given Sunday?