If Protestantism is True Book Summary

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Title: If Protestantism is True
Author: Devin Rose

TLDR: A former atheist turned Evangelical Protestant details his journey to Catholicism, challenging Protestant doctrines through history, scripture, and logic, ultimately arguing that the Reformation was an unjustified schism and the Catholic Church holds the fullness of truth.

Chapter 1: A Search for Truth

This chapter narrates Rose’s personal experience of conversion. Starting with a staunchly atheistic worldview, Rose recounts his struggles with anxiety and depression, leading him to a point of despair. Realizing the hopelessness of his atheism, he decides to “try” believing in God as a last resort. Through prayer and Bible reading, he slowly experiences a change in his heart, leading him to embrace Christianity and be baptized in a Baptist church. This marked the beginning of his spiritual journey, one that would lead him to question his newly acquired Protestant beliefs.

Chapter 2: A Call to Honest Self-Examination

Having embraced Evangelical Protestantism, Rose realizes the difficulty of questioning one’s own beliefs. He acknowledges the “inertia” associated with ingrained principles and the strong influence of family, friends, and community on religious affiliation. This chapter emphasizes the importance of recognizing inherent bias stemming from one’s Christian tradition when examining challenging arguments. Rose uses examples of individuals from different Christian traditions experiencing discomfort in unfamiliar worship services to illustrate how our pre-conceived notions can influence our judgment.

He then addresses the question of whether truth is accessible to all, acknowledging the difficulty of discerning valid arguments. Rose posits that God, being the God of truth, desires us to know the truth and provides divine help in our search. He concludes that, while intellectual capacity might influence the speed of understanding, even those with less intelligence can discern truth by examining opposing arguments and identifying unaddressed challenges.

Chapter 3: The Catholic Church in History

This chapter presents historical arguments for the Catholic Church’s claim to be the same Church founded by Christ. Rose begins with ecumenical councils, tracing their origin to the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, where the Apostles settled the question of circumcision for Gentile converts. He highlights the authority of the Apostles and their successors, the bishops, in making binding decisions regarding matters of faith.

Rose then discusses the Council of Nicaea (325 AD), convened to address the Arian heresy that denied Christ’s divinity. He emphasizes the Council’s dogmatic declaration of Christ’s divinity and consubstantiality with the Father. He argues that the Church, led by the Holy Spirit, possesses the authority to interpret Scripture and define truth, evidenced by the Church’s response to the Arian heresy throughout the centuries.

The next section examines the papacy, highlighting its historical continuity from the first century. Rose cites Augustine, a Church Father revered by both Catholics and Protestants, who affirmed the authority of the bishop of Rome and his successors. He questions why, if Protestantism is true, God would allow the papacy to exist for 1500 years only to eradicate it during the Reformation.

Finally, Rose delves into the concept of divine authority within the Church. He references biblical passages where Christ bestows authority upon his Apostles and argues that this authority was intended to be transmitted to their successors. He critiques the Protestant view that the Church lost this authority due to corruption, challenging Protestants to provide historical evidence for this claim. Rose concludes that the burden of proof lies on Protestants to demonstrate when and why Christ revoked the authority he initially bestowed upon his Church.

Chapter 4: Reformation: Schism or Branches?

This chapter tackles the central question of whether the Protestant Reformation was a legitimate reform movement within Christianity or a heretical schism. Rose delves into the history of heresies and schisms, citing early Church Fathers like Irenaeus who condemned schisms as detrimental to the unity of the Church. He argues that the Reformers, despite initially seeking reform within the Church, ultimately rejected the Church’s authority, leading to a schism. He highlights the example of Martin Luther, who, after being excommunicated, continued to teach his own interpretations as divine truth.

Rose then explores the Reformers’ beliefs on Mary’s perpetual virginity and the title “Mother of God.” He presents quotes from both Luther and Calvin affirming these Marian doctrines, demonstrating that their rejection of these doctrines by many Protestants today is inconsistent with the Reformers’ own understanding.

The chapter then addresses Martin Luther’s personal flaws, including his anti-Semitic writings and endorsement of polygamy. Rose argues that, given the centrality of Luther to Protestantism, his personal failings cast a shadow on the movement’s claims of restoring the Church to its original purity.

Rose concludes by explaining the Catholic Church’s current perspective on Protestants. He cites the Decree on Ecumenism, which acknowledges that Protestants born into their communities are not responsible for the original schism. He emphasizes the Church’s recognition of the Holy Spirit working through Protestant communities and its desire for unity among all Christians.

Chapter 5: The Canon of Scripture

This chapter focuses on the fundamental issue of the canon of Scripture – the list of books that make up the Bible. Rose argues that the canon’s determination is crucial for Protestant sola Scriptura, as it determines the very foundation of their faith. He highlights the difference between the Catholic canon of 73 books and the Protestant canon of 66 books, questioning the basis for excluding the seven deuterocanonical books.

Rose provides a brief history of the canon, showing that different canonical lists existed in the early Church until a consensus emerged in the late fourth century, solidifying the Catholic canon. He explains that the Reformers later rejected these books, primarily based on their opposition to prayers for the dead, a practice supported in 2 Maccabees.

He critiques the Protestant argument that the deuterocanonical books should be excluded because they were not part of the Hebrew Bible used by Jews at the time of Jesus. Rose points out that the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament used by early Christians, contained these books and was considered authoritative. He also challenges the authority of the Jewish council at Jamnia in determining the Christian canon.

Rose then examines Martin Luther’s rejection of four New Testament books (Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation), showing that Luther based his decision on theological disagreements rather than historical evidence. He argues that Luther’s willingness to challenge the New Testament canon undermines the Protestant claim of relying solely on Scripture.

The chapter then delves into John Calvin’s theory of the self-authenticating canon, which proposes that the inspiration of biblical books is self-evident to any true Christian. Rose argues that this theory contradicts historical evidence, pointing to the diverse canonical lists proposed by early Church Fathers. He critiques the subjectivity and impracticality of Calvin’s approach, highlighting the lack of any consistent Protestant principle for determining the canon.

Rose concludes by arguing that the Protestant reliance on sola Scriptura is undermined by their inability to establish a definitive canon. He emphasizes that, regardless of historical arguments, ultimately faith in an authority is required to determine which books are truly inspired by God.

Chapter 6: The Reformers’ Legacy: Protestantism Today

This chapter examines the current state of Protestantism, highlighting the unintended consequences of the Reformation. Rose acknowledges the positive contributions of Protestantism, such as its missionary efforts and various ministries. However, he argues that the lack of a unifying authority has led to doctrinal chaos and endless divisions within Protestantism.

He discusses the vast number of Protestant denominations, each with its own unique set of beliefs, often contradicting one another on fundamental issues. Rose points out that this doctrinal diversity directly contradicts the Reformers’ initial desire to restore Christian unity. He argues that the principle of sola Scriptura, coupled with the rejection of any authoritative interpreter, inevitably leads to this fragmentation.

Rose then explores the challenges faced by mainline Protestant denominations, particularly regarding issues of sexuality. He highlights the growing acceptance of same-sex relationships and the changing stance on same-sex “marriage” within denominations like the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Episcopal Church. He argues that these shifts demonstrate the instability of relying solely on individual interpretation of Scripture in a rapidly changing cultural landscape.

He further critiques the Protestant acceptance of contraception, sterilization, abortion, and divorce, practices that were once universally condemned by Christians. Rose argues that these changes reflect a departure from the traditional Christian understanding of marriage as a sacrament and a devaluation of human life. He contrasts these shifts with the Catholic Church’s unwavering stance on these moral issues, attributing it to the Church’s fidelity to Scripture and Tradition guided by the Holy Spirit.

The chapter concludes by discussing the rise of “niche” churches and the decline of denominational loyalty within Protestantism. Rose argues that the consumerist mentality prevalent in Western culture has infiltrated the religious landscape, leading individuals to choose churches based on personal preference rather than doctrinal fidelity. He contrasts this approach with the Catholic understanding of the Church as a visible, unified body established by Christ, urging Protestants to seek the Church that holds the fullness of truth rather than one that merely caters to their individual preferences.

Chapter 7: Protestant Objections to the Catholic Church

This chapter addresses common Protestant objections to the Catholic Church, debunking popular misconceptions. Rose begins by examining the accusation that the Church manipulated historical texts throughout history to favor its own teachings. He argues that this claim is historically unfounded, pointing to the abundance of writings from both heretics and non-Christians that contradict the Church’s alleged control over historical narratives.

He then critiques the Protestant argument that the Church is fallible because no person or institution is infallible. Rose concedes the reality of human sin and corruption within the Church, but he argues that the Church’s teachings on faith and morals are protected from error by the Holy Spirit. He cites his own experience of coming to believe in the Church’s infallibility as a liberating realization.

Rose then debunks the myth that the Catholic Church suppressed vernacular translations of the Bible to keep control over the laity. He presents historical evidence showing that the Bible was translated into various languages in the early Church, including Jerome’s landmark translation into Latin (the Vulgate) around 400 AD. He argues that the Church’s use of Latin as a common language facilitated communication among Christians across different cultures.

He further addresses the charge that the Catholic Church confines God by defining doctrines and dogmas. Rose counters this argument by explaining that the Church’s doctrines are not intended to exhaustively define God but rather to protect the faithful from error and guide them towards truth. He emphasizes that dogma acts as a signpost pointing towards the infinite mystery of God, rather than a box that limits him.

Rose then critiques the claim that the Catholic Church does not produce “good fruit,” demonstrating its alleged falsehood. He argues that judging the Church based on poorly formed ex-Catholics who have left the Church is a flawed approach. He contrasts these negative examples with the lives of countless faithful Catholics, including saints like Mother Teresa, who exemplify the true fruits of the Catholic faith.

He also addresses the claim that the early Church resembled modern Protestantism, with loosely connected churches lacking a central authority. Rose counters this by citing early Christian writings, such as those of Ignatius of Antioch and Irenaeus, which clearly demonstrate the Church’s visible unity and hierarchical structure from the beginning.

Finally, Rose refutes the accusation that the Catholic Church has invented doctrines throughout history. He explains that the Church is conservative in its definition of dogma, often doing so in response to heresies that challenge the truths of the Faith. He emphasizes that the Church does not proactively define every aspect of God but rather clarifies essential truths and protects against error.

Chapter 8: The Sacraments

This chapter delves into the sacraments, highlighting the differences between Catholic and Protestant understandings. Rose begins by defining the sacraments as outward signs of inward grace instituted by Christ. He affirms that the sacraments are ordinarily necessary for salvation, while acknowledging that God can work outside of the sacraments in extraordinary ways. He then explains how Protestantism, following Luther, rejects five of the seven sacraments, retaining only baptism and the Eucharist (though with significantly different interpretations).

Rose focuses first on the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, presenting evidence from early Christian writings that clearly support this teaching. He cites Justin Martyr and the Nicene Creed, arguing that the Protestant rejection of baptismal regeneration contradicts both Scripture and the historical witness of the Church.

He then examines the Protestant rejection of marriage as a sacrament. He demonstrates that Protestants, while rejecting the term “sacrament,” still believe that God works inward grace through the outward signs of marriage. Rose argues that this understanding essentially affirms the sacramental nature of marriage, challenging Protestants to explain why they reject other sacraments that similarly involve outward signs of inward grace.

Rose then addresses the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, citing biblical passages from James and Mark that support this practice. He critiques Luther and Calvin’s rejections of this sacrament, arguing that their reasoning is based on flawed interpretations of Scripture and disregard for the historical practice of the Church.

He then explores the Eucharist, highlighting the diverse and conflicting Protestant views on Christ’s presence in the bread and wine. He recounts the disagreement between Luther and Zwingli, showing that the lack of an authoritative interpreter within Protestantism leads to irreconcilable differences even on this fundamental issue. Rose argues that the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, which teaches that the bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Christ, aligns with the biblical witness and the teachings of the early Church.

Rose concludes by discussing the sacrament of Confession. He cites biblical support for confession to a priest and presents the teachings of early Church Fathers like Ambrose, who affirmed this practice. He refutes the common Protestant objection that only God can forgive sins, arguing that God can choose to work through human instruments like priests to communicate his grace. Rose emphasizes the importance of both private confession to God and sacramental confession to a priest for the spiritual well-being of Christians.

Chapter 9: Tradition

This chapter explores the concept of Tradition within Catholicism and contrasts it with the Protestant understanding of tradition. Rose begins by explaining the difference between traditions (lowercase t) – changeable customs and practices – and sacred Tradition – the deposit of Faith given by Christ to the Church. He emphasizes that sacred Tradition encompasses both Scripture and unwritten Tradition, both of which are essential for understanding God’s revelation.

Rose argues that Christ, as evidenced by John 16:12-13, taught things to the Apostles that were not explicitly recorded in Scripture. He asserts that these truths are preserved within the living Tradition of the Church, safeguarded by the Holy Spirit. Rose then uses the example of Mary’s perpetual virginity, a doctrine not explicitly stated in Scripture, but universally believed by the early Church, to illustrate the importance of unwritten Tradition.

He further explores the concept of closed public revelation, a belief accepted by both Catholics and Protestants, despite lacking explicit biblical support. Rose argues that this doctrine, which declares that God’s public revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle, is rooted in sacred Tradition. He points out the inconsistency of Protestants accepting this extra-biblical teaching while simultaneously rejecting other truths found in Tradition.

Rose then examines John’s Third Letter, highlighting the passage where John mentions having “much to write” but preferring to speak face-to-face with the church. He argues that this passage indicates the importance of oral tradition and the Apostles’ confidence in the Church’s ability to preserve truth outside of written Scripture.

The chapter then critiques the Evangelical Protestant tendency to dismiss the contributions of early Church Fathers and prioritize individual interpretation over the wisdom of tradition. Rose argues that this approach leads to a fragmented understanding of the faith and ignores the rich heritage of Christian thought throughout history.

He concludes by discussing the Catholic doctrine of the communion of saints, which emphasizes the spiritual connection between the faithful on earth, the souls in purgatory, and the saints in Heaven. He contrasts this with the Protestant rejection of praying for the dead and purgatory, arguing that these beliefs are rooted in Scripture and the Church’s long-held practice.

Chapter 10: The Scriptures

This chapter addresses the Protestant reliance on sola Scriptura, exploring the challenges of biblical interpretation and the need for an authoritative interpreter. Rose begins by presenting seemingly contradictory passages from 1 John, demonstrating the complexities of biblical interpretation and the need for an interpretive framework. He argues that, while “using Scripture to interpret Scripture” is a helpful principle, it ultimately requires a pre-existing understanding of which verses are more foundational and how to interpret them.

Rose then critiques the Protestant assertion that the Scriptures are perspicuous (clear) and can be understood by any faithful Christian. He cites a passage from 2 Peter that explicitly states that some of Paul’s writings are “hard to understand.” He argues that the diverse interpretations of Scripture within Protestantism, even on fundamental issues like justification and predestination, demonstrate the fallacy of the perspicuity of Scripture.

He then explains the Catholic approach to biblical interpretation, which emphasizes reading Scripture within the “living tradition of the whole Church” and paying attention to the analogy of faith. Rose argues that, since the Church played a vital role in both writing and discerning the canon of Scripture, it logically follows that the Church also possesses the authority to interpret Scripture.

The chapter then addresses the Protestant claim that the Great Commission in Matthew 28 applies to all Christians, motivating their missionary efforts. Rose demonstrates that this interpretation is a relatively recent development within Protestantism and that the early Reformers understood the Great Commission as applying only to the Apostles.

Rose concludes by warning against interpreting the Bible with a modern, scientifically literal mind. He provides examples of passages where a strict literal interpretation leads to misunderstandings and contradictions. He emphasizes the need for a nuanced approach to biblical interpretation that takes into account historical context, literary genre, and the Church’s understanding of Scripture.

Conclusion: To Find the Truth, Follow the Trail of Authority

The final chapter summarizes the book’s central argument: the need for an authority within Christianity to preserve and transmit the truths of the Faith. Rose challenges Protestants to defend the Reformers’ actions and explain why their schism from the Catholic Church was justified. He emphasizes that the fullness of truth can be found, urging Christians to seek the Church established by Christ with divinely appointed leaders.

Rose reiterates the importance of authority in interpreting Scripture, arguing that the lack of an authoritative interpreter within Protestantism has led to endless divisions and doctrinal chaos. He encourages readers to approach the question of authority with humility and prayer, trusting in God’s guidance to lead them to the fullness of truth.

In closing, Rose emphasizes the simplicity and appeal of the Protestant concept of sola Scriptura, but argues that it ultimately contradicts God’s intention for his Church. He contends that God, in his wisdom, established a visible Church with a hierarchical structure and divinely appointed leaders to safeguard and transmit the truths of the Faith. Rose urges all Christians to seek unity within the Church that Christ founded, recognizing the authority he established and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in preserving the truth throughout history.

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Note: While content aims to align with Catholic teachings, any inconsistencies or errors are unintended. For precise understanding, always refer to authoritative sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Always double-check any quotes for word-for-word accuracy with the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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