To Be Deep in History Made Me Catholic

As Catholics, a key quote we like to throw around to demonstrate the error of Protestantism is by St. John Henry Cardinal Newman: “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.”

Yes, everyone is familiar with this quote to a degree.

You may have heard it floating around or even at a debate. But why is this even important?

My Dilemma

During my conversion process to Catholic Christianity, I took this verse as a challenge.

“Ok, Cardinal Newman. You said the early church will somehow stop my beliefs. Well, so be it. I’m ready!”

Boy, did I not see the conversion around the corner.

My biggest grievance with “Roman” Catholicism had to be the lack of historical continuity. From the New Testament to the present day, I didn’t see the link. So, I started where any amateur history buff would: the early church fathers.

Investigating Sources

I read quotes from the 2nd century to the 7th century from various Eastern and Western theologians that were stunning.

For example, I didn’t see the 19th century fully defined dogma for the Immaculate Conception, but at its earliest/developmental stages, I saw countless quotes in ancient traces.

For instance, St. Ephraim the Syrian, Doctor of the Church, stated:

“You alone and your Mother are more beautiful than any others, for there is neither blemish in you nor any stains upon your Mother. Who of my children can compare in beauty to these?” (Nisibene Hymns 27:8 [A. D. 361]).

Although we wouldn’t get an official definition and declaration until 1854, we can see traces of the Immaculate Conception with the sentence “neither blemish in you nor any stains upon your Mother.” This is because she was without blemish or stain because of her full gift of grace from God!

This sort of early development didn’t bother me because many beliefs, like original sin and Trinity, were definitely present in the early centuries or Sacred Scripture but took time to formulate into a fine definition by the Church in her infancy stage.

Biblical Support

Moreover, this quote from St. Ephraim the Syrian would support the biblical understanding of the greeting to Mary in Luke 1:28.

The deeper investigation of the text reveals the translation “full of grace” to be the Greek past present tense kecharitōmenē which according to Fr. Charles Grondin, ‘The action of giving grace has already occurred. It was not something that was about to happen to her but something that has already been accomplished.

Maturity of the Church

In recent years, Trent Horn, Catholic Answers staff apologist, wrote a book called Why We’re Catholic. He describes the Church today not resembling the past similar to a baby photo:

“How can today’s Catholic Church with all of its traditions and rituals be the same humble Church we read about in the New Testament?” It’s a good question, but it’s sort of like asking, “How can that fully grown man be the same little boy whose diaper had to be changed decades earlier?” In both cases, the body being described grew and developed over time without becoming a different kind of being. “

That resonated with me. When I viewed the Catholic Church, I wasn’t looking at an extremely new institution but one that maintained its core while maturing.

Final Thoughts

Since I opened myself completely to God’s direction without reservation, when I examined early church theologians, Catholicism made total sense.

It’s fascinating how St. John Henry Newman’s quote applied to me and my conversion.

Now, if more people would allow the Fathers to diminish their understanding of Christianity, perhaps more converts would be In Rome.

Follow me: @Menny_Thoughts
My podcast: @Priestly_Passion

9 comments

  1. I have a question on this which may sound daring to you. Why did being deep in history you not make Jewish instead of Catholic? If you went back before the splitting off of Protestantism from Catholicism, why not go a step further and go back before the splitting off of Christianity from Judaism?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello

      Thanks for the comment

      I appreciate Judaism being somewhat of a close relative. This religion shares closeness in proximity compared to any other religion.

      I have numerous objections toward Judaism. Some basic while some are major (granted I know there are at least 3 major branches of Judaism so they’re not monolithic.)

      Rejects Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God.

      Nature of God

      Sabbath day

      I don’t subscribe to obligatory food laws.

      What about the Scriptures? Revelation extends beyond the Torah.

      With that said, I couldn’t even consider examining the historical evidence that’s not even in line with the New Testament authors. Fact is, when one reads the New Testament it is apparent something new is created from the Jewish system. History is against Judaism because it rejects its fulfilled form (Christianity) by the messiah who took all these Jewish things and fulfilled them (Passover, ceremonial, food, civil laws). So sure, I could’ve gone back further to Judaism but would it had been historically true to place faith in the system ? I don’t think so.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When I read the title and the first words of this post before accessing the full article, my mind went to how the Roman Catholic Church had been challenged by the Reformation that formed Protestantism. We had been exposed as awful sinners, considering the clerical corruption that sparked the Reformation, and we even violently reacted about it, considering all those wars with Protestants later on, but somehow, we’re still around and kicking, so much that we can even dare to try forming a more genuine friendship with the people we made enemies out of. And somehow, even as history seems like it’s mostly composed of depressing stuff, we can still see the face of God through it as well. Certainly, knowing history is an essential, but that is only a pointless task if we don’t bother also knowing how to use it to better know and spread the Loving Truth that is God Almighty, yeah?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, history is just a form of knowing God though nature/the world. However, the Catechism says that nature alone is not sufficient for belief in God so that’s when faith comes. Faith is that part we have that pleases good.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The growing child analogy is certainly insightful but, in consideration of the liturgical and doctrinal decimation wrought in the church since Vatican II, it gave me a forceful reminder of the truth contained in article one of “Declaration of the truths relating to some of the most common errors in the life of the Church of our time” issued by Cardinal Leo Burke and five fellow prelates on 31 May last year:
    The right meaning of the expressions ‘living tradition,’ ‘living Magisterium,’ ‘hermeneutic of continuity,’ and ‘development of doctrine’ includes the truth that whatever new insights may be expressed regarding the deposit of faith, nevertheless they cannot be contrary to what the Church has always proposed in the same dogma, in the same sense, and in the same meaning (Full text)

    Like

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