Hi, guys —
I am a former Protestant who has been growing in his Catholic faith over the past five years.
I have been trying my best every day to pray the Rosary and grow in my devotion to Mary, having read books by St. Louis de Montfort that so encourage this Christocentric practice.
Now, I am coming up on a block. I have recently spoken with a few old, well-meaning Protestant friends who have rekindled my doubts. I have turned to the Fathers and I do see a general development of Mariology over the centuries. There is nothing explicit, of course, in the first few centuries, except the doctrine of Mary as the New Eve, ever-Virgin, and Mother of God. Other doctrines like her Immaculate Conception, Assumption, and universal Mediation will develop later.
I can't help but wonder:
- Are these innovations?
- I understand Church dogma is the Deposit of Faith, left to us by the Apostles but why, then, were doctrines like the Immaculate Conception so hotly debated during the Middle Ages?
What I realize is that, it all comes down to epistemology.
- Do we believe that the Church can err in her doctrinal developments or is she protected from error?
I can't push out of my mind the allegations of serious Protestants accusing us of idolatry, especially when I'm hard-pressed to find doctrines, in the first few centuries, that are today binding on us like the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption.
So often we logically explain how consistent doctrines like the Immaculate Conception and Assumption are necessary conclusions of Mary's being the Mother of God but that's not the point.
- I understand they make sense logically, but are they historical?
It's not enough for me to know they make sense and stand on their own. I want to know if it is what the Early Church believed. I only see a few vague references from a few Fathers.
I hope my question is not too long, nor sounds antagonizing.
I see the good things that come in my life from Marian devotion. (You will know them by their fruits.) but I don't understand why I can't get over this block now.
Any help you can give is greatly appreciated.
Best to you,
Are these Johnny-come-lately teachings that were not held by the Early Church Fathers? }
It is a fair question to look at whether a doctrine is historical, but that being said, many doctrines of the faith, particularly regarding Christ Himself, were not explicit in the Earliest Church. There were many questions that went unresolved, errors that arose, and often doctrines were not formulated until such time as a particular need demanded, such as refuting a heresy that, up to that point, had not been promulgated. History alone is not enough to answer the question.
That said, there is legitimate development of doctrine that is absent in the full, or explicit, sense in the Early Church. For the early Christians, issues concerning the Trinity and Christology hadn't been worked out in detail and I'm sure they would have loved to have the clarity that later generations of Christians had in the Creed and other teachings.
So the solution is not simply epistemological but ecclesiastical. If the Church is not inerrant on the critical matters of faith then the whole faith is a house of cards.
- There is no authentic Canon of Scripture, and
- no voice of Christ authorized to teach in His Name.
The absence or lack of material dealing with these Marian questions in no way diminishes their authenticity — and this we hold because of our adherence to the Magisterium of the Church.
The Protestants who trouble you with these historical details themselves would be at a loss to prove the Canon of Scripture without an infallible Church — developed deep into several centuries of Christian history. So, a first century Christian would have no idea what the Canon of Scripture is and particularly what the New Testament is. There were variations of Scriptures proliferating about but it was the Church who sorted it out. The Marian issues only arose at a later time but still the Church was the one entrusted by Christ to sort it out and give us what we really can hold on to.
There will continue to be sorting out in the centuries to come, provided the world is still in one piece. Doubt creeps in us all, but faith can overcome all. Stick to these big truths and you will eventually come to admire the wisdom of Christ in His Church.
Let me just add a bit to what Bob has said.
As Catholic Christian our total hope and salvation is in Our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ and Him alone.
As Bob implied, the Early Church died for this and, over time, numerous heresies arose over
- the number of Persons, natures, and wills, Jesus had, as well as
- the Trinity.
Until the Church defined and solemnly declared these Christian basics it would be hard for Her to move on.
Protestants take this stuff for granted but no Protestant founded the Catholic Church, only Jesus did on St. Peter and his successors. (Matthew 16:13-19; 1 Timothy 3:15)
Some will erroneously say Transubstantiation was an invention of the thirteenth century. This is garbage. All the Apostles and Early Church Fathers believed in this teaching though, at the time, there was no specific term called Transubstantiation because there was no necessity to formally define it until there was confusion among the faithful being persuaded by heretics to believe something different than what the Church taught on this Supreme Teaching.
This is true about other so-called inventions they bring up in dialogue.
Let me challenge any non-Catholic Christian you dialogue with. Check out my web site on the Early Church Fathers at:
See what they said in the first through the eighth century then compare that with what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says today.
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I hope this helps,