Today, we continue our series examining and responding to Catholic apologist and philosopher, Peter Kreeft’s book, “Forty Reasons I Am A Catholic” (2018). Thanks for joining me.
Claim #4: “I am a Catholic because the Catholic religion is from God, not just from man”
Kreeft opens this chapter by asserting the Roman Catholic church’s claim that it is the ONLY divinely authorized church. Is such uniqueness unprecedented? Kreeft points to the Jews as God’s chosen people. History has confirmed the uniqueness of the Jews by their survival in the face of unparalleled hatred and persecution. Kreeft then points to Jesus Christ as the unique God-Man. Kreeft argues that, just as the Jews and Jesus Christ were distinct in their position/roles, the Roman Catholic church is “the one true, authoritative, visible Church that Christ Himself founded and authorized to teach His truth, in His name, with His infallible authority” (p. 18).
It’s certainly true that the Israelites (later, the Jews) were God’s chosen people and that Jesus Christ was/is the unique God-Man. By presenting these divinely-authorized examples as validations/confirmations of Catholicism’s claims to authority, Kreeft is employing some philosophical sleight of hand in the manner of if A=C, and B=C, then D=C.
The early church was persecuted throughout the Roman Empire until 313 when Constantine legalized Christianity. In 380, Theodosius I signed a decree making Christianity the religion of the state. The young church became increasingly institutionalized and conformed to the Roman imperial model. The church’s hierarchy developed according to the Roman political pattern.
“But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant.'” – Matthew 20:25-26
Pagan religions were outlawed and their practitioners were persecuted. However, elements of Roman pagan religion were borrowed and adapted. The simple yet sublime Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone proclaimed by God in His Word was gradually transformed into a false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit, tightly controlled by the increasingly powerful prelates and their priests. See historian, Alistair Kee’s “Constantine Versus Christ: The Triumph of Ideology” (see here) for how the early church spiraled into formalism and corruption following Emperor Constantine’s patronage. Rather than clinging to Sacred Scripture as its sole guide, the evolving Roman church produced tradition after anti-Biblical tradition. The church’s magisterium (the pope and his bishops) declared itself and its traditions on par with Scripture, both eventually superceding Scripture.
“In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” – Matthew 15:9
Divine authority is not found in a worldly religious institution, but is found in God’s unchanging Word. Genuine Christians gather in local churches that teach the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Christians the world over are members of the Body of Christ, the truly “catholic” (universal) church. Jesus Christ is our Head and the Holy Spirit is our Guide. It’s messy. It’s not organized like the RCC. But within the patchwork quilt of evangelical Christianity is where the Holy Spirit works, not in the worldly grandeur of Roman Catholicism, a faux church with its faux gospel.
Mr. Kreeft, I am NOT a Catholic because the Catholic religion is NOT from God. It’s a counterfeit Christianity created by men. It’s understandable that Kreeft doesn’t address the current conflict within the RCC between pope Francis and his progressive allies and conservative and traditionalist prelates and priests. I would ask Kreeft if pope Francis’ Catholicism is the one that’s divinely authorized or is it the conservative Catholicism of cardinals Burke, Müller, and Sarah? The two are not the same. Why does Kreeft even quibble about the alleged authority of the RCC since it officially proclaims that all religionists and even atheists may also merit their salvation?
As in his previous three chapters, Kreeft does not base any of his arguments on Scripture.
Next week: Claim # 5: I am a Catholic because of the unprecedented historical fact that the church has never once lowered her standards, never changed her teaching