Thursday, February 4, 2010

How old is the Church?

I once again find myself occupied with home projects and other domestic matters and have had little time this week to devote to writing. Next week should be less hectic.

For now I will post a piece that has circulated on the internet for many years, the author of which is unknown. It has been variously attributed, but most of the websites I visited in a brief search reported that the author remains anonymous.

The text is little more than a straight-forward list of several major Christian denominations and a brief description of their founding – when, where, and by whom. It is a handy reference guide and apologetics tool as it illustrates the fact that only the Catholic Church can claim a true lineage dating back to Christ Himself. Perhaps in future posts I may refer back to this list and explore each of the denominations listed (and each split with Rome) and how the various Christian sects differ from the Apostolic Church. This may prove a useful jumping-off point for further study.

Versions of this list vary slightly, with some including more detailed information or encompassing more denominations. Some lists include the Orthodox Churches and Judaism (as I have below) rather than only Protestant sects. Most lists build up to the Catholic Church as the grand finale – but I chose to organize the list chronologically, placing the Jewish faith first and next the Catholic Church. I felt that this gave a better sense of connectedness to God’s Revelation in the Old and New Covenants, and demonstrated the growing separation caused by the subsequent schisms within Christianity down through history.

However one chooses to organize this information, the conclusion is the same: The Catholic Church possesses the fullness of divine Revelation, and only the Catholic Church can claim to be the true Church established by God Himself in Jesus Christ.

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How Old Is Your Church?

If you are Jewish, Abraham became the first Jew when God promised him: "I will make you a great nation..." Your religion was founded by God in the Jewish calendar year 2049 (1711 BC), over 3700 years ago. God revealed Himself to the Jews through the Prophets and promised to send a Messiah. Jesus Christ, a Jew from the House of David, came to this world as His only begotten Son in fulfillment of the Scriptures.

If you are Catholic, you know that your religion was founded in the year AD 33 by Jesus Christ the Son of God, the promised Jewish Messiah, and it is still the same Church today. Christ gave to Simon Peter the “keys to the kingdom” (Mat 16:18-19) and made Peter shepherd of Jesus’ flock (John 21:15-17). Jesus entrusted to Peter and the other Apostles the governance of the Church. As the Apostles died, their authority was passed on to chosen men, bishops of the Church, and that authority remains with the pope (the successor to Peter) and the bishops in union with him.

If you are a member of one of the Orthodox Eastern Churches your church separated from the Catholic Church in 1054 in the Eastern Schism. Although imperfect, the communion between the Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church is so profound "that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord's Eucharist" (Pope Paul VI, quoted in CCC para 838).

If you are a Lutheran, your religion was founded by Martin Luther, an ex- monk of the Catholic Church, in the year 1517.

If you belong to the Church of England, your religion was founded by King Henry VIII in the year 1534 because the Pope would not grant him a divorce with the right to remarry.

If you are a Presbyterian, your religion was founded by John Knox in Scotland in the year 1560.

If you are a Protestant Episcopalian, your religion was an offshoot of the Church of England founded by Samuel Seabury in the American colonies in the 17th century.

If you are a Congregationalist, your religion was originated by Robert Brown in Holland in 1582.

If you are a Methodist, your religion was launched by John and Charles Wesley in England in 1744.

If you are a Unitarian, Theophilus Lindley founded your church in London in 1774.

If you are a Mormon (Latter Day Saints), Joseph Smith started your religion in Palmyra, N.Y., in 1829.

If you are a Baptist, you owe the tenets of your religion to John Smyth, who launched it in Amsterdam in 1605.

If you are of the Dutch Reformed church, you recognize Michaelis Jones as founder, because he originated your religion in New York in 1628.

If you worship with the Salvation Army, your sect began with William Booth in London in 1865.

If you are a Christian Scientist, you look to 1879 as the year in which your religion was born and to Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy as its founder.

If you belong to one of the religious organizations known as 'Church of the Nazarene," "Pentecostal Gospel." "Holiness Church," "Pilgrim Holiness Church," "Jehovah's Witnesses," your religion is one of the hundreds of new sects founded by men within the past century.

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