Irenaeus of Lyons on self-made churches—non-denom and house?

Irenaeus of Lyon, from Wikipedia

Irenaeus of Lyon, from Wikipedia

“Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church,—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, [looking upon them] either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory. For all these have fallen from the truth.” (Against Heresies, Volume IV, chapter 26, paragraph 2; A.D. 180s)


Robert Hugh Benson on the “simplicity” of the New Testament

When faced with the difficulties of properly interpreting Scripture, friends and family often fall back on a statement like, “Well the Gospel is simple and we’re given that straight. So as long as you have this, you’re good.”

This is the “fundamentalist” mindset; we accept the fundamentals of the faith and everything else is up for a debate. Even if the “basics” are all you need, what are those specifically? I wrote about this earlier here.

I just finished reading “Paradoxes of Catholicism” by Robert Hugh Benson and he had a section talking about this sort of thinking. (Emphasis is mine.)

RobertHughBensonNow much of it is so false that it needs no refutation. It is, for example, entirely false that New Testament theology is simple. It is far more true to say that, compared with the systematized theology of the Church, it is bewilderingly complex and puzzling, and how complex and puzzling it is, is indicated by the hundreds of creeds which Protestants have made out of it, each creed claiming, respectively, to be its one and only proper interpretation. Men have only come to think it “simple” in modern days by desperately eliminating from it every element on which all Protestants are not agreed. The residuum is indeed “simple.” Only it is not the New Testament theology! Dogmas such as that of the Blessed Trinity, of the Procession of the Holy Ghost, of the nature of grace and of sin–these, whether as held by orthodox or unorthodox, are at any rate not simple, and it is merely untrue to say that Christ made no statements on these points, however they may be understood. Further, it is merely untrue to say that Protestant theology is “simple”; it is every whit as elaborate as Catholic theology and considerably more complex in those points in which Protestant divines are not agreed. The controversies on Justification in which such men as Calvin and Luther, with their disciples, continually engaged are fully as complicated as any disputations on Grace between Jesuits and Dominicans.


Disclaimer – This blog post is just that: a blog post with my personal thoughts. I am not a Catholic apologist or theologian. What I say here is not official doctrine of the Catholic Church. I am still learning and am susceptible to error. Don’t take anything here as Gospel. Don’t be stupid. Do your own research and learn for yourself what the Church teaches.

Catholics: if my understanding of Catholic doctrine needs adjustment, please point out my error.

G.K. Chesterton on Catholicism and Sola Scriptura


Catholicism, in a sense little understood, stands outside a quarrel like that of Darwinism at Dayton. It stands outside it because it stands all around it, as a house stands all around two incongruous pieces of furniture. It is no sectarian boast to say it is before and after and beyond all these things in all directions. It is impartial in a fight between the Fundamentalist and the theory of the Origin of Species, because it goes back to an origin before that Origin; because it is more fundamental than Fundamentalism. It knows where the Bible came from. It also knows where most of the theories of Evolution go to. It knows there were many other Gospels besides the Four Gospels, and that the others were only eliminated by the authority of the Catholic Church. It knows there are many other evolutionary theories besides the Darwinian theory; and that the latter is quite likely to be eliminated by later science. It does not, in the conventional phrase, accept the conclusions of science, for the simple reason that science has not concluded. To conclude is to shut up; and the man of science is not at all likely to shut up. It does not, in the conventional phrase, believe what the Bible says, for the simple reason that the Bible does not say anything. You cannot put a book in the witness-box and ask it what it really means. The Fundamentalist controversy itself destroys Fundamentalism. The Bible by itself cannot be a basis of agreement when it is a cause of disagreement; it cannot be the common ground of Christians when some take it allegorically and some literally. The Catholic refers it to something that can say something, to the living, consistent, and continuous mind of which I have spoken; the highest mind of man guided by God.



I find it very difficult to take some of the Protestant propositions even seriously. What is any man who has been in the real outer world, for instance, to make of the everlasting cry that Catholic traditions are condemned by the Bible? It indicates a jumble of topsy-turvy tests and tail-foremost arguments, of which I never could at any time see the sense.

The ordinary sensible sceptic or pagan is standing in the street (in the supreme character of the man in the street) and he sees a procession go by of the priests of some strange cult, carrying their object of worship under a canopy, some of them wearing high head-dresses and carrying symbolical staffs, others carrying scrolls and sacred records, others carrying sacred images and lighted candles before them, others sacred relics in caskets or cases, and so on.

I can understand the spectator saying, “This is all hocus-pocus”; I can even understand him, in moments of irritation, breaking up the procession, throwing down the images, tearing up the scrolls, dancing on the priests and anything else that might express that general view. I can understand his saying, “Your croziers are bosh, your candles are bosh, your statues and scrolls and relics and all the rest of it are bosh.”

But in what conceivable frame of mind does he rush in to select one particular scroll of the scriptures of this one particular group (a scroll which had always belonged to them and been a part of their hocus-pocus, if it was hocus-pocus); why in the world should the man in the street say that one particular scroll was not bosh, but was the one and only truth by which all the other things were to be condemned? Why should it not be as superstitious to worship the scrolls as the statues, of that one particular procession? Why should it not be as reasonable to preserve the statues as the scrolls, by the tenets of that particular creed?

To say to the priests, “Your statues and scrolls are condemned by our common sense,” is sensible. To say, “Your statues are condemned by your scrolls, and we are going to worship one part of your procession and wreck the rest,” is not sensible from any standpoint, least of all that of the man in the street.


Disclaimer – This blog post is just that: a blog post with my personal thoughts. I am not a Catholic apologist or theologian. What I say here is not official doctrine of the Catholic Church. I am still learning and am susceptible to error. Don’t take anything here as Gospel. Don’t be stupid. Do your own research and learn for yourself what the Church teaches.

Catholics: if my understanding of Catholic doctrine needs adjustment, please point out my error.

Are Protestant Apologists Ushering People into the Roman Catholic Church? Part II

This is a continuation of the discourse from the last post about a Protestant apologist named Charlie Campbell and how people like him are one of the reasons I’ll probably be entering the Roman Catholic Church soon.

Alongside bad history, Charlie Campbell, in his attempts to set up “ah-ha!” moments in our minds against the RCC, also employed questionable hermeneutics.

In the first place, Protestants can’t help themselves; they must prove themselves from the Bible, even when the best arguments are elsewhere. But using the Bible as “proof” gets sketchy since the Bible can be, and constantly is, interpreted in many different ways. G.K. Chesterton said,

“The Fundamentalist controversy itself destroys Fundamentalism. The Bible by itself cannot be a basis of agreement when it is a cause of disagreement; it cannot be the common ground of Christians when some take it allegorically and some literally.”

Any use of Scripture will be rife with alternate opinions and therefore I don’t believe any “ah-ha!” Scripture exists for any side of the debate. But allow me to show why I think Campbell’s opinions are questionable, at best.


Campbell started giving his own view of salvation. He said, “The Bible over and over again teaches that salvation is by grace alone through faith in Christ alone and not the result of any effort or work of man.”

Now the topic of salvation gets a little foggy because it involves defining what is meant by the words “faith”, “grace”, and “works.” But I’m guessing Campbell hasn’t put that much thought into that so I’ll just offer a few other Scriptures that suggest other than what Campbell boldly declares.

He might have missed when the Bible says baptism saves (Mark 16:16, John 3:5, Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21). Or maybe he missed when the Bible says works and effort saves (James 2:24, John 15:4, Phil. 2:12, 1 Cor. 9:27, Rom. 2:6-8). Or maybe when Jesus said unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood there is no life in us (John 6:53).

After this statement Campbell uses verses talking about faith and ignored any part of Scripture suggesting something other than what his theology allows. Actually dealing with those issues would make the topic of salvation more complex than he is willing to admit and it softens the blow of his “ah-ha!” (Actually, he probably doesn’t even know such passages exist.)

Sinless-ness of Mary:

Talking about Mary’s sinless-ness, Campbell used Romans 3:10; “There is no one righteous, not even one.” But that verse is poetry quoting Psalms 14:3. Why take it literally? Biblical books written as history, and therefore should be taken more literally than poetry, called Joseph a “righteous man” (Matthew 1:19), said Zechariah and Elizabeth were both “righteous in the sight of God” (Luke 1:5-6), and called Simeon “righteous and devout” (Luke 2:25). Hebrews 7:2 called Melchizedek the “king of righteousness.” So maybe there’s a bit more to “righteousness” than people like Campbell insinuate. Romans 3:10 is certainly not an “ah-ha!” verse against Mary’s sinless-ness.

Campbell also appealed to Luke 2:22-24 saying, “You don’t go and give sacrifices in the Temple if you’re not a sinner.” But Mary was simply fulfilling the Law that required a purification process for women who gave birth, which included offering two doves if a lamb could not be afforded (Leviticus 12).

Campbell quoted Luke 1:47 where Mary said, “And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” As if Catholics don’t believe Mary needed a savior? The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The ‘splendor of an entirely unique holiness’ by which Mary is ‘enriched from the first instant of her conception’ comes wholly from Christ: she is ‘redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son’” (para. 492) and “By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long” (para.493).

RCC teaching is that Mary needed a savior too, therefore this argument against the RCC is moot. Her Immaculate Conception was a free gift with no merit on her part. She is redeemed “by reason of the merits of her Son.” Her salvation anticipated Christ’s sacrifice, but His sacrifice was still needed. (Scott Hahn explains the Catholic view of Mary in Scripture with this and other talks on Mary).

Now Campbell and others can disagree with Catholic interpretations of Scripture, but it still comes down to a matter of opinion. The “ah-ha!” reasons don’t exist, as if Scripture is so “clear” on beliefs we already hold and couldn’t possibly be seen in a different light.


Considering that I just posted about loving attitudes, perhaps my words have been too harsh in these last two posts about Charlie Campbell. “Crises of faith” are very emotional times. When I look for answers from people who make this stuff their living and still find their answers completely inadequate, frustrations naturally grow. Like others, Charlie Campbell clearly didn’t study the history of the church, and not even his hermeneutics have any conclusive content.

So what is this Faith that leaves critics no recourse but to use falsehoods as facts and odd argumentation as game-changers? For those of us who don’t want false-front defenses, should we not conclude that the Faith they reject in such bizarre ways might actually be right? If illegitimate arguments are necessary to reject the RCC, does it not suggest the RCC is actually legitimate?

Now I agree with Campbell that Irenaeus is a trustworthy source, which is exactly why I am probably entering into the Roman Catholic Church soon. Protestants (especially American Evangelicals) should beware which early church fathers they claim are reliable sources because it will open a whole can of worms they probably don’t want to deal with. I know it did for me. It’s also what made John Henry Newman convert after saying, “To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant” (An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine).

The people who accept DVD’s like this one are those who are comfortable in their Protestantism, want reasons to stay out of Catholicism, but who have no intention of looking into the reasons themselves. And yet Catholics are the crazy ones for “blindly” following men.

What is this Faith that cannot be proven wrong and too often seems right? What are people like me supposed to do?