One of the biggest problems Protestants have with the Roman Catholic Church is the requirement for obedience. One God, one Son, one Spirit, one Church. Christ did not create a fragmented Church. That was a creation of man. For almost 1600 years there was only one Church. Not until several members of the Catholic clergy (Luther, Calvin, etc) began to preach heresies did the Protestant reformation begin. Below are several scripture passages that define the authority of the Church. The most important point to understand is that obedience to the Church IS obedience to God.
“But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15
Of particular interest here is that Paul calls the Church the pillar and foundation of truth. Of course the scripture is important, but it is the Church that leads us. To resist the Church is to resist truth. When someone sets themselves up to interpret the scripture outside Church teaching, they are setting themselves above the Church. The next scripture passage explains the importance of obedience to the authority, which includes the Church.
“Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves.” Romans 13:1-2
This passage should be frightening to those who do not submit to the Authority of the Church. When Christ founded the Church and commissioned its leaders, he granted them the authority necessary to fulfill its mission. So when we, in an independent spirit, decide that we can do it without the Church, we are in fact bringing judgment upon ourselves. One of the greatest gifts of God was freewill. The only question is how will you use it. This next passage also tells us about obedience to the Church.
“Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17
“Then Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.‘ ” Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus commanded the Apostles to go forth and teach, not go forth and distribute Bibles and let the people figure it out for themselves. Every time I think about the fundamentalist approach to faith, I think about the widely used phrase “lost sheep.” How frightening it must be to be handed a Bible and expected to understand it. The odd thing about it is that few fundamentalist are actually fundamentalist. They expect you to agree with their version of the Bible. So in essence, you are actually following the “teaching” of a Church founded by man (Luther, Calvin, Henry VIII) instead of the Church created and commissioned by Christ.
“so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the principalities and authorities in the heavens.” Ephesians 3:10
Faith is made know to all through the Church. Its as simple as that.
“We belong to God, and anyone who knows God listens to us, while anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit.” 1 John 4:6
Anyone who does not belong to God does not listen to us? That is a very powerful statement. This is how we know the spirit of truth and deceit? What does this say about those who founded the Protestant movement and perpetuates it today? At what point do we realize the problems with the Protestant movement? No man can find salvation on his own through the Bible. There is not a “to do” list for salvation. There is so much more to Faith that what is in the Bible.
“When you read this you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to human beings in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” Ephesians 3:4-6
There is no reason to believe that the truth will be revealed to each individual. If that were the case, would not the same be revealed to all? The Holy Spirit reveals the truth to the Bishops of the Church, modern day successors to the Apostles.
“So we are sending Judas and Silas who will also convey this same message by word of mouth: ‘It is the decision of the holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.'” And so they were sent on their journey. Upon their arrival in Antioch they called the assembly together and delivered the letter. ” Acts 15:27-30
This is a good example of the Church interpreting the truth and faith to a community. The Church did not allow each community to interpret what was right on their own. The “Jerusalem Council” council above was the first recorded Church Council. The last was Vatican II. The Church has, and always will, be tasked to be the voice of truth to mankind placed in context with the current time and place. Just as the Jerusalem Council dealt with the question of conversion to Christianity, today’s Church deals with questions of genetic engineering, contraception, and other issues of this time and place. Sometimes in our arrogance, we assume that we are the purveyors of the truth. The spirit of independence that built this country can sometimes be the very reason for our downfall in the sense of the Faith. We can be independent in a social sense, but we must always be dependent in a spiritual sense.