The Protestant’s Dilemma Book Summary

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Title: The Protestant’s Dilemma: How the Reformation’s Shocking Consequences Point to the Truth of Catholicism
Author: Devin Rose

TLDR: This book systematically analyzes Protestant doctrines, demonstrating how their logical consequences point back to the truth of Catholicism. Using historical evidence and biblical analysis, Rose challenges Protestant principles like sola scriptura and highlights inconsistencies in their interpretation of essential Christian doctrines. He ultimately argues that the authority entrusted to the Catholic Church provides a more coherent and reliable basis for Christian faith.

Part 1: The Church of Christ

1: Divine Authority

The chapter opens with the assertion that if Protestantism is true, Christ revoked the authority he bestowed upon the Church when he founded it. Rose argues that Christ explicitly established a visible, unified Church, granting it divine authority as seen in Matthew 10:1. However, Protestantism generally posits that this authority was lost at some point due to corruption entering the Church’s teachings.

Fundamentalist Protestants often cite the year 313 and Constantine’s Edict of Milan as the point of corruption, arguing that the subsequent integration of Christianity into the Roman Empire led to the intermingling of pagan practices with the true gospel. Other Protestants are less specific, generally suggesting that corruption took root between the 2nd and 6th centuries. John Calvin exemplifies this belief, depicting the Church as a victim of pervasive corruption with distorted doctrines, erroneous ceremonies, and widespread superstition.

To reconcile the perceived corruption with the Bible’s exalted depiction of the Church, Protestants distinguish between the historical institution (the corrupted Catholic Church) and the true, invisible Church composed of genuine believers. This invisible Church supposedly endured through the apostate centuries until the Reformation unearthed it.

Rose challenges this Protestant narrative by highlighting passages from Luke 10:16 and Acts 9:1-5 that emphasize the inseparable connection between Christ and his Church. He argues that persecuting the Church equates to persecuting Christ himself, demonstrating the enduring divine authority bestowed upon the Church.

Historical evidence shows the apostles and their successors, the bishops, exercising this authority, leading the Church through periods of persecution. Rose points to biblical passages and early Christian writings like those of Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch, solidifying the concept of apostolic succession and the continuous transmission of authority from the apostles to their successors.

He argues that the promises Christ made to the Church, such as the Church’s enduring nature and the protection from the gates of hell, must be understood as permanent. He debunks the myth that Constantine founded the Catholic Church, pointing out that the Edict of Milan merely legalized Christianity, granting it toleration within the Roman Empire. Furthermore, the Council of Nicaea, summoned by Constantine, confirmed the divinity of Christ and produced the Nicene Creed—hardly the actions of a corrupted, heretical Church.

Rose then draws a parallel between the Protestant and Mormon claims regarding the corruption of the Church. Both argue for a point in history when the Church lost its divine authority, with Mormons pinpointing the death of the apostles as the starting point of the “Great Apostasy.” He emphasizes the implausibility of the Mormon claim, arguing that if the Holy Spirit failed to lead the Church into all truth for over 1,700 years, it casts doubt on the Spirit’s efficacy and Christ’s ability to protect his Church.

He exposes the inconsistency in Protestant thought by demonstrating that their claim of corruption is essentially a delayed version of the Mormon narrative. Rose underscores the lack of historical evidence for a specific event that led to the Church’s universal corruption, highlighting the absence of biblical support for Christ revoking his authority from the Church.

The notion of a “true, invisible Church” is also problematic, argues Rose. Christ founded a visible, unified body – the Mystical Body of Christ. Drawing on the writings of Vincent of Lerins, Rose emphasizes the Church’s visible unity, which, through Christ’s authority, possesses the power to excommunicate members who deviate from the Faith. An invisible Church with no clear boundaries renders the act of excommunication meaningless.

Rose concludes that the burden of proof rests with Protestants to demonstrate historical evidence for Christ revoking his authority from the Church. He highlights the lack of a specific event or even a definitive time period that supports such a claim. The Protestant assertion that the Church was gradually corrupted over centuries is merely an attempt to sidestep the problem of providing concrete evidence.

2: The Papacy

This chapter tackles the issue of the papacy, arguing that if Protestantism is true, God must have eradicated the office of the papacy after centuries of its existence. Rose begins by establishing the historical fact of the papacy, tracing the lineage of popes back to Peter in the first century. However, Protestantism universally rejects papal authority, arguing that it is unnecessary and even detrimental to Christian faith.

Protestants believe that the Bible, being the unchanging, inerrant Word of God, provides sufficient guidance for Christians, rendering the pope superfluous. They view the pope as a fallible human being, subject to error and corruption, whereas the Bible serves as a “touchstone” to the apostles, ensuring the purity and veracity of Christian doctrine.

Rose counters this argument by highlighting the historical continuity of the papacy, emphasizing its integral role in the Church from the very beginning. He cites historical evidence, including early Christian writings, that support the claim that Peter established the church in Rome. Peter’s reference to “Babylon” as a codeword for Rome in his first epistle further strengthens this argument.

Rose then refutes the “touchstone” argument by drawing upon Ephesians 2:19-20, emphasizing that God built his Church not just on Scripture but also on the apostles and prophets, with Christ himself as the cornerstone. While acknowledging the potential for human fallibility, Rose argues that God protected these men from teaching error, as evidenced by the Protestant acceptance of their inspired writings (the Bible).

He proposes that God provided multiple “touchstones” to Christ: the apostles and their successors (the Magisterium), Apostolic Tradition, and Sacred Scripture. The rejection of the papacy, therefore, removes one of these vital touchstones, leaving the Protestant with a fragmented understanding of God’s revelation.

Rose delves into the historical evidence supporting Peter’s presence in Rome, referencing the writings of Irenaeus, who detailed the succession of Roman bishops starting from Peter. He further cites testimonies from other early Church fathers, including Ignatius of Antioch, Tertullian, Eusebius, Jerome, and John Chrysostom, substantiating Peter’s ministry and martyrdom in Rome.

Rose then explores the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, which condemned the heresy of monophysitism. He highlights the Patriarch of Constantinople’s plea to Pope Leo for intervention, showcasing the recognition of papal primacy even in the East. The Council’s pronouncements, attributing the condemnation of the heretical patriarch to Pope Leo and the apostle Peter, further exemplify the enduring papal authority.

Concluding the chapter, Rose underscores the Catholic Church’s unique position as the only Christian body that still convenes ecumenical councils. This practice, argues Rose, is a testament to the Church’s enduring connection to apostolic authority through the papacy, allowing it to speak authoritatively on matters of faith. The Protestant rejection of the papacy, therefore, leaves them without a definitive voice to settle doctrinal disputes and maintain unity within the Christian body.

3: Ecumenical Councils

This chapter focuses on the authority of ecumenical councils, arguing that if Protestantism is true, these councils somehow lost the universal teaching authority they previously held. Rose begins by acknowledging the historical practice of bishops gathering in councils during the early centuries of the Church to define true doctrines, condemn heresies, and issue binding decrees for all Christians. However, Protestantism contends that these councils lack intrinsic authority, deriving their significance only from their accurate interpretation of Scripture.

Protestants accept the first four ecumenical councils, addressing Trinitarian and Christological questions, only insofar as they align with scriptural truths. Even these early councils are often viewed with suspicion, as demonstrated by the reluctance of many Protestants to accept the title “Mother of God” for Mary, proclaimed at the Council of Ephesus. Martin Luther exemplifies this attitude, stating at the Diet of Worms that both popes and councils have erred and contradicted themselves, ultimately placing his trust in Scripture alone. The Westminster Confession of Faith echoes this sentiment, asserting the potential for error in all councils since the apostles’ times, advocating for the Bible as the sole authoritative rule of faith.

While rejecting the authority of most councils, some traditional Protestants, particularly Anglicans and Reformed communities, view the first four councils as authoritative. They argue that for a council to be truly ecumenical, it requires the presence of all five major patriarchs: Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem. However, due to later schisms, they argue that convening a truly ecumenical council is practically impossible in the present day.

Rose challenges the Protestant position by analyzing the Council of Jerusalem, described in Acts 15, as a model for later councils. This council addressed the question of circumcision for Gentile converts, settling the matter through the apostles’ God-given authority rather than relying solely on the Old Testament (the only “Scripture” available at the time). The council’s decision was declared with the authoritative formula: “It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us,” highlighting the presence of both divine guidance and human authority within the Church.

This council, argues Rose, demonstrates that the authority of councils is not solely dependent on their alignment with Scripture. Furthermore, the Protestant assertion that councils are authoritative only when they accurately represent scriptural truth raises a significant question: who possesses the authority to interpret Scripture and judge the accuracy of a council’s pronouncements?

The absence of a definitive interpretive authority within Protestantism leads to conflicting interpretations of Scripture, as seen in the divergent views on the Eucharist between Luther and Zwingli. Without a unifying interpretive principle, it becomes impossible to objectively assess whether a council aligns with Scripture, rendering the Protestant criterion for ecumenical councils ineffective.

Rose then addresses the “pentarchy” theory, which posits the presence of the five major patriarchs as a necessary condition for an ecumenical council. He demonstrates its flaws by pointing out that the first Council of Nicaea did not include a patriarch of Constantinople. He further highlights the councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon, where the patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria were condemned as heretics, revealing the limitations of the pentarchy model in handling schisms and identifying orthodoxy.

Rose argues that the pentarchy theory was a historical convenience employed by the Byzantine emperor, not a divinely ordained criterion for recognizing ecumenical councils. He proposes that the true criterion for a council’s ecumenical status is its approval by the pope, the successor of Peter, to whom Christ entrusted the “keys to the kingdom of heaven” and the power to “bind and loose” (Matt. 16:18-19). He cites historical examples of the deference shown to the pope by other patriarchs, highlighting Flavian of Constantinople’s plea to Pope Leo for intervention during the Council of Chalcedon. The Council’s own pronouncements, attributing the condemnation of Dioscorus, the Patriarch of Alexandria, to the authority of Pope Leo and Peter, further solidify the pope’s role as the ultimate guarantor of orthodoxy.

Rose concludes by emphasizing the Catholic Church’s unique position as the only Christian body that continues to convene ecumenical councils today. This practice, enabled by the Church’s recognition of papal primacy, enables the Church to discern and proclaim truth authoritatively, safeguarding the unity and integrity of Christian doctrine.

4: The Four Marks of the Church

This chapter explores the four marks of the Church as articulated in the Nicene Creed: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Rose argues that the Protestant Reformation required a reinterpretation of these marks to align them with the Reformers’ novel conception of the Church.

Protestants view the Church’s unity as a spiritual reality based on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in all believers. They do not perceive the Church as a unified, visible body but rather as an invisible collection of true believers, hoping for a future unification upon Christ’s return. Regarding holiness, they emphasize the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer, resulting in a legal declaration of holiness rather than an actual transformation. This understanding is extended to the Church as a whole, declaring it holy through the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Martin Luther exemplifies this Protestant interpretation, arguing that the Church is simply the “holy Christian people” who believe in Jesus, dismissing the traditional hierarchical structure and institutional authority of the Church. He argues that the terms “pope,” “bishops,” “priests,” and “monks” cannot be considered part of this holy people due to their perceived lack of faith and holy lives.

Regarding catholicity, Protestants leverage the term’s root meaning (“universal”) to assert that Christ’s Church is universal in scope, embracing all believers across denominations. They embrace a lowercase “c” catholicity, signifying a spiritual unity of believers rather than a visible, institutional one.

For apostolicity, many Protestant communities claim to be apostolic by teaching the same truths as the first-century apostles. They assert that their interpretations of the Bible are in line with the apostles’ teachings, thereby granting them “apostolic” status.

Rose challenges this Protestant interpretation by drawing upon Scriptural and early Christian writings to demonstrate the original meaning of the four marks. He argues that the Church’s unity signifies a visible, tangible unity, not just a spiritual association of disconnected believers. He cites Ephesians 4:1-6, where Paul calls for a unity grounded in “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all,” highlighting the necessity of doctrinal and institutional unity for true Christian communion.

Rose further contends that the Church’s holiness is not a mere legal declaration but a real transformation made possible by God’s grace. He cites Ephesians 5:25-27, where Paul describes Christ sanctifying and cleansing the Church, presenting it “in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” This passage, argues Rose, emphasizes the reality of God’s sanctifying grace actively purifying the Church, making it holy in truth.

Regarding catholicity, Rose explains that its full meaning extends beyond simple universality, encompassing the fullness of Christ’s body united with its head. He draws upon the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which describes the Church as catholic because Christ is present in her, granting her “the fullness of the means of salvation” through correct confession of faith, full sacramental life, and ordained ministry in apostolic succession. He further cites the letter of Ignatius of Antioch to the Smyrnaeans, highlighting the early Church’s understanding of catholicity as encompassing the ordained ministry and the sacraments.

Finally, Rose addresses apostolicity, arguing that it signifies more than just doctrinal agreement with the apostles’ teachings. He cites Ephesians 2:19-20, emphasizing the Church’s foundation on the apostles and prophets, with Christ as the cornerstone. He argues that true apostolicity requires participation in the apostles’ authority through apostolic succession, the transmission of authority from the apostles to their successors through the laying on of hands. This understanding, evidenced by the writings of Irenaeus in the 2nd century, connects apostolicity to the visible, hierarchical structure of the Church.

Rose concludes that the Protestant Reformation’s rejection of the Church’s traditional understanding of the four marks is a deliberate attempt to reinterpret historical doctrines to fit a novel theological system. He suggests that this act demonstrates the malleability of language and doctrine when subjected to subjective interpretation, potentially opening the door for further reinterpretations of other Christian truths.

5: Protestantism’s View of the Catholic Church

This chapter addresses the Protestant perception of the Catholic Church, arguing that if Protestantism is true, Catholics are at best in serious error and at worst, non-Christian cultists. Rose argues that Protestantism, due to its foundational principles, cannot reconcile with the array of Catholic practices, prayers, and teachings that go beyond the Bible.

Some fundamentalist Protestant groups explicitly identify the pope as the Antichrist and the Catholic Church as the “whore of Babylon,” drawing upon imagery from the Book of Revelation. This view stems from a rejection of various Catholic doctrines and practices, including the veneration of Mary, the sacrament of Confession, the belief in purgatory, and the authority of the pope and the Church hierarchy.

Other Protestants, including some Evangelicals, take a more conciliatory stance, viewing Catholicism as a mildly corrupted form of Christianity. John Armstrong, a Protestant author, exemplifies this view, expressing love and esteem for Catholics and the Catholic Church while simultaneously affirming his Protestant identity.

However, Rose argues that even those Protestants who hold a more positive view of Catholicism must ultimately condemn certain practices, particularly the Catholic veneration of the Eucharist. Since Protestants believe that the bread and wine remain merely symbols, they perceive Catholics kneeling before a consecrated host as committing the sin of idolatry.

Similarly, the Catholic veneration of Mary, particularly the doctrines of her Assumption and her Immaculate Conception, are viewed as stealing glory from God. The belief that Mary achieved sinlessness, a feat attributed only to Jesus in Protestant theology, is seen as undermining Christ’s unique role and diminishing God’s glory.

Rose contends that these distinctively Catholic beliefs stem from the Church’s recognition of Sacred Tradition as a source of divine revelation alongside Scripture. This concept of Tradition is fundamentally at odds with sola scriptura, the Protestant doctrine that elevates the Bible as the sole authoritative source of Christian truth. For Protestants, any teaching or practice not explicitly found in Scripture is considered a human tradition, subject to error and fallibility.

Rose then presents the Catholic perspective, arguing that Catholics are Christians in the fullest sense of the word. He debunks the accusation that the pope is the Antichrist by pointing out that the biblical definition of the Antichrist (1 John 2:22) is someone who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Recent popes, argues Rose, have consistently and emphatically proclaimed Jesus as Christ, refuting this fundamentalist claim.

He further clarifies that the Catholic veneration of Mary, while a point of contention for Protestants, is not worship. He notes that even the Protestant Reformers retained and defended certain Marian doctrines based on their scriptural foundation.

Throughout the book, Rose delves deeper into specific Catholic teachings, demonstrating their consistency with Scripture, Tradition, and reason. He emphasizes the Catholic Church’s unwavering commitment to preserving the ancient Faith, resisting the temptation to adopt theological novelties. He concludes that the Church’s fidelity to Christ’s teachings is evidenced by its steadfastness in the face of modern challenges and its enduring witness to the truth of Jesus Christ.

6: Doctrinal Reliability

This chapter tackles the question of doctrinal reliability, beginning with the Catholic Church’s claim to infallibility. Rose acknowledges the initial skepticism he felt as a Protestant toward this claim, believing it to be an arrogant assertion, given the inherent fallibility of all human institutions.

He argues that if Protestantism is true, Christians are left without a trustworthy guide to discern divine truth. Protestants readily acknowledge the sinfulness and fallibility of all people, including pastors and church leaders. Drawing upon Romans 3:23 and Isaiah 64:6, Rose highlights the biblical emphasis on human depravity and the inadequacy of human righteousness.

Given this universal fallibility, Protestants reject the possibility of any human institution possessing doctrinal infallibility. They view Protestant churches as more honest in acknowledging their fallibility, even when they offer conflicting interpretations of Scripture. Consequently, they argue that Christians must give their churches only qualified assent, recognizing the potential for error and the need to constantly evaluate their chosen denomination’s teachings.

Rose counters this argument by emphasizing the dual nature of the Church as both a human institution and a supernatural society with Christ at its head. He argues that if God did not protect the Church from error, the transmission of divine revelation would be unreliable. The potential for human fallibility, compounded over centuries, would inevitably lead to a distorted and fragmented understanding of Christian truth.

He points out the inadequacy of appealing to the Holy Spirit’s guidance alone, as the diverse interpretations within Protestantism demonstrate that the Spirit’s influence does not guarantee unity of belief. While the Spirit might infallibly guide individuals to truth, there is no consistent method within Protestantism for identifying this guidance.

Rose acknowledges the implicit acceptance of infallibility within Protestant thought through their belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. By inspiring fallible men to write the Bible, God ensured that the resulting text is free from error. However, Protestants lack a definitive, authoritative interpreter of Scripture, leading each individual to rely on their own fallible judgment and potentially resulting in a collection of fallible doctrines.

Rose describes his personal journey from rejecting to embracing the concept of Church infallibility. The key to his conversion was the realization that God could, through the power of the Holy Spirit, protect the Church from error, just as he protected the biblical writers. This realization, coupled with his exploration of other Catholic teachings, led him to embrace the Church’s claim to doctrinal reliability.

He concludes that the Protestant rejection of Church infallibility leaves Christians with a precarious foundation for their faith. Without the assurance that God has preserved the deposit of faith and guided his Church through the centuries, certainty about Christian truths becomes elusive. Protestants are left to sift through historical documents and attempt to piece together a fragmented puzzle of revelation, lacking a reliable guide to discern truth from error.

Part 2: The Bible and Tradition

7: Martin Luther and the Canon

This chapter delves into Martin Luther’s challenge to the biblical canon, arguing that if Protestantism is true, it is permissible to remove books from the New Testament based on personal judgment. Rose begins by establishing the historical development of the New Testament canon, a process spanning over three centuries, culminating in the firm establishment of a 27-book canon by the 5th century. However, in 1522, after his excommunication, Luther published his German New Testament, relegating four books—Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation—to an appendix, expressing doubt about their inspired status.

Luther rejected these books primarily on theological grounds, finding their teachings incompatible with his own doctrines, particularly sola fide. He criticized James for “ascribing justification to works,” claiming it contradicts Paul and the rest of Scripture. He dismissed Jude as a mere copy of 2 Peter, further questioning its authenticity due to its unique sayings. He also attacked Revelation, denying its apostolic authorship and divine inspiration.

While Luther leveraged the historical doubts surrounding these books to make his claims more palatable, his primary motive was theological. He readily accepted other books with similar historical uncertainties (2 Peter and 2 & 3 John) because they aligned with his beliefs. Luther’s approach, argues Rose, prioritizes individual theological judgment over established Church tradition and historical consensus regarding the canon.

Rose emphasizes that God guided the early Church to discern the New Testament canon, a process that was not based on individual whims but on communal discernment under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He criticizes Luther’s attempt to unilaterally alter a canon that had stood for over a thousand years, highlighting the inconsistency of selectively applying historical doubts to justify rejecting books based on personal theological preferences.

The significance of Luther’s actions, even though his revised New Testament canon was not universally adopted by Protestantism, lies in his willingness to challenge established Church authority and tradition. His approach, argues Rose, sets a precedent for future reinterpretations and potential alterations of the canon based on individual judgments.

Rose concludes that if Protestantism is true, there is no inherent reason why anyone today cannot follow Luther’s example and create their own personalized canon, selecting only the books that align with their individual beliefs. This principle of individual judgment, he argues, undermines the stability and authority of Scripture, leaving Christians with a fragmented and potentially unreliable foundation for their faith.

8: The Deuterocanonical Books

This chapter focuses on the Protestant rejection of the seven deuterocanonical books, arguing that if Protestantism is true, God allowed the early Church to include non-inspired books in the Bible for over 1,500 years. Rose outlines the two main reasons for this rejection: a problematic passage in 2 Maccabees advocating for prayers for the dead, and the desire of the Reformers to align their canon with the Hebrew Bible used by the Jews.

The reference to prayers for the dead in 2 Maccabees directly contradicted the Protestant rejection of purgatory, a core teaching of the Catholic Church. Luther and the Reformers viewed purgatory as an unbiblical invention that undermined the doctrine of sola fide. Consequently, they rejected everything associated with purgatory, including prayers for the dead, indulgences, and the communion of saints.

The Reformers argued that these seven books were absent from the Jewish Hebrew Bible, suggesting that their inclusion in the Christian canon was an error. They cited the alleged Council of Jamnia in 90 AD, where Jewish leaders supposedly rejected these books. They also pointed to the opinions of some Church Fathers and Jewish writers like Josephus and Philo who expressed doubts about the deuterocanonical books.

Rose challenges this Protestant narrative by delving into the historical development of the Old Testament canon. He explains that the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible used by Jews during Jesus’ time, included the deuterocanonical books. He emphasizes its importance as the most ancient translation, used extensively by rabbis and even quoted by the apostles in the New Testament. Its acceptance as authoritative by Greek-speaking Jews undermines the Protestant claim that the deuterocanonical books were universally rejected by Jewish tradition.

Rose further argues that there were multiple, conflicting Jewish canons during the time of Christ, making it implausible to claim a definitive Hebrew canon existed at that time. He notes that the Jews were still awaiting the arrival of the Messiah, rendering any attempt to finalize their canon premature.

He addresses the objection that books not originally written in Hebrew should be excluded from the Old Testament canon by highlighting the discovery of Hebrew manuscripts of Sirach and portions of Baruch. These findings, unknown during the Reformation, cast doubt on the claim that the deuterocanonical books were non-Hebrew additions to the canon.

Rose then challenges the authority of the alleged Council of Jamnia, pointing out that most scholars today doubt its existence. Even if it did occur, he argues, Jewish leaders would lack the authority to make decisions binding upon the Christian Church, as that authority had passed to the apostles and their successors.

He further criticizes the Protestant reliance on historical arguments to support their canon, noting that sola scriptura offers no biblical basis for using historical evidence to discern the canon. Such a criterion is extra-biblical, contradicting the principle of relying solely on Scripture.

Rose addresses the opinions of Church Fathers who expressed doubts about certain deuterocanonical books, pointing out that many of these same Fathers also quoted these books as Scripture. He highlights Jerome, a prominent biblical scholar, who initially favored the Hebrew canon but later accepted the deuterocanonical books, submitting his judgment to the wisdom of the Church.

He concludes that the Protestant rejection of the deuterocanonical books is based on a flawed understanding of the development of the Old Testament canon and a misplaced reliance on Jewish authorities. He argues that Christ, in establishing his Church, granted it the authority to discern the canon, guided by the Holy Spirit. The Protestant attempt to align their canon with the Hebrew Bible, therefore, represents a rejection of the Church’s authority and a reliance on extra-biblical principles.

9: A Self-Authenticating Bible?

This chapter explores the concept of a self-authenticating Bible, a theory proposed by John Calvin to address the problem of determining the canon of Scripture. This theory posits that true Christians, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, can intuitively discern the inspired nature of biblical books.

Calvin argued against the notion that Scripture derives its authority from the Church, claiming that God’s inspiration alone grants it authority. He further asserted that a Christian, through the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, can confidently identify inspired books, comparing it to the ease of distinguishing “white from black, sweet from bitter.”

Rose counters this theory by acknowledging the Church’s role as the custodian of Scripture, not its originator. He points out that no Christian group has ever claimed that the Church grants authority to Scripture; rather, the Church receives and transmits the inspired texts entrusted to it by God. Calvin’s argument against the Church, therefore, is a straw man.

Rose then challenges Calvin’s claim of self-authentication, arguing that while the Holy Spirit might indeed witness to the truth of Scripture within a believer’s heart, this subjective experience cannot serve as a reliable criterion for determining the canon. He highlights the practical difficulties of relying on individual discernment, posing questions about the discernment process for new Christians, the resolution of conflicting judgments, and the accessibility of truth for those seeking faith but not yet indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

He further argues that Calvin’s theory contradicts the historical evidence surrounding the development of the canon. The process of discerning the canon was not simple or immediate, involving centuries of debate and deliberation among Church Fathers. If the canon were self-evident, as Calvin claimed, there would have been no need for such a prolonged and contentious process. The fact that different Church Fathers proposed different canons, even with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, undermines the notion of self-authentication.

Rose concludes that Calvin’s theory of a self-authenticating Bible is an attempt to circumvent the problem of relying on Church authority while simultaneously providing a seemingly objective basis for determining the canon. However, this theory is ultimately subjective, impractical, and historically inaccurate. It fails to address the complex realities of the canon’s development and ultimately leaves Christians with no reliable guide for discerning the boundaries of Scripture.

10: Identifying the Canon

This chapter tackles the Protestant dilemma of identifying the canon of Scripture with certainty, arguing that if Protestantism is true, the Bible can only be considered a “fallible collection of infallible books.” Rose highlights the importance of this question for Protestants who hold to sola scriptura, as their entire theological system rests upon the assumption that the Bible is the sole, inerrant source of divine revelation.

He introduces R.C. Sproul, an influential Reformed Protestant leader, who coined the phrase “fallible collection of infallible books” to describe the Bible. This statement acknowledges that while the books themselves are inspired by God and therefore inerrant, the process by which the canon was determined was fallible and potentially subject to error.

Some Reformed Protestants, following Sproul’s lead, argue that it is sufficient to have a “reasonable” certainty about the canon. They point to the widespread acceptance of the same New Testament canon across Christian denominations as evidence of its authenticity, even if the process by which it was selected was fallible. They further argue that the Jews in the Old Covenant did not have an infallible Magisterium, yet they managed to discern divine revelation, suggesting that absolute certainty about the canon is unnecessary.

Rose argues that God, in his desire for all Christians to have a firm foundation for their faith, ensured conscience-binding certainty in the canon through the guidance of his Church. He criticizes Sproul’s approach as inconsistent, pointing out the logical contradiction of affirming the inerrancy of the books within the canon while simultaneously denying the inerrancy of the process that produced the canon.

He further critiques the attempt to derive certainty from multiple fallible sources, arguing that it is akin to hoping that multiple wrongs will somehow produce a right. He challenges the comparison to the Old Covenant, pointing out that the New Covenant, through Christ’s Church, offers a greater degree of certainty and assurance regarding divine revelation.

Rose concludes that Sproul’s approach to the canon is ultimately a fideistic leap, based on wishful thinking rather than sound reasoning. He argues that the Catholic belief in a Spirit-guided Church, entrusted with the authority to discern the canon, provides a more plausible and consistent explanation for the existence of a reliable and trustworthy Bible.

11: Sola Scriptura and Christian Unity

This chapter explores the tension between the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura and the lack of unity within Protestantism. Rose argues that if Protestantism is true, Protestants should be united in their interpretations of the Bible, given that they all draw their teachings from the same inerrant text and are supposedly guided by the same Holy Spirit.

Protestants often downplay their doctrinal differences, emphasizing their shared belief in essential doctrines such as the divinity of Christ, his death and resurrection for our sins, and the importance of faith. However, when pressed to define these “essential” doctrines, Rose argues, their unity quickly crumbles.

He uses the Lord’s Supper as an example, highlighting the divergent interpretations within Protestantism. Lutherans believe in Christ’s substantial presence “with” the bread and wine, Reformed Protestants hold to a spiritual presence, Baptists view it as purely symbolic, and some groups, based on their reading of Scripture, do not even celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

Rose points out the inconsistency of claiming unity while simultaneously holding to conflicting interpretations on a doctrine as central as the Eucharist. He notes that some Protestants defend their specific interpretation as the correct one, while others adopt a more relativistic approach, arguing that differing interpretations are acceptable and even contribute to a “Big Tent Christianity.”

Rose argues that sola scriptura has not led to unity but rather to endless divisions within Protestantism. He traces this disunity back to the Reformation, highlighting the disagreements between Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin on issues like the Eucharist, church governance, and the use of tradition. He further points to the rise of Anabaptism, which rejected infant baptism, the Trinity, and even private property based on their interpretation of Scripture.

The lack of a definitive interpretive authority within Protestantism, argues Rose, creates a fertile ground for doctrinal disputes and denominational splits. He highlights the ongoing divisions over issues like same-sex marriage and women’s ordination, demonstrating that even “essential” doctrines are subject to reinterpretation and dispute.

Rose concludes that the Protestant experiment, despite its reliance on the “clear” teachings of Scripture and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, has failed to achieve unity. The reality of Protestant history, marked by countless divisions and conflicting interpretations, demonstrates the inadequacy of sola scriptura as a unifying principle.

12: The Principle of Individual Judgment

This chapter analyzes the principle of individual judgment, a logical consequence of sola scriptura. Rose argues that if Protestantism is true, each Christian must ultimately decide for themselves what God’s revelation means, as there is no infallible authority within Protestantism to provide definitive interpretations of Scripture.

He highlights the interpretative challenges presented by Scripture, using two seemingly contradictory passages from 1 John as examples. In 1 John 1:8, John writes, “If we say, ‘We are without sin,’ we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” However, in 1 John 3:6, he states, “No one who remains in him [Jesus] sins; no one who sins has seen him or known him.”

These verses, taken literally, seem to contradict each other. Protestants, recognizing the inerrancy of Scripture, attempt to resolve this apparent contradiction through reinterpretation. They often insert additional words into the text, suggesting that John meant “persists in sinning” or “sins and doesn’t repent” in the second passage.

Rose points out that this reinterpretation, while providing a possible solution, goes beyond the plain meaning of the text and ultimately introduces human judgment into the interpretation of God’s Word. He then analyzes another challenging passage from 1 John 2:27, where John writes, “As for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, so that you do not need anyone to teach you. But his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not false.”

This verse, taken literally, suggests that Christians do not need human teachers or authorities, as the Holy Spirit directly instructs them. Some Quaker communities draw upon this passage to justify their leaderless worship services, relying solely on spontaneous promptings from the Spirit.

Most Protestants, while accepting the need for human leadership, still utilize this passage to assert a form of “sanctified intuition,” elevating their personal understanding of Scripture above the interpretations of their leaders. Rose questions the consistency of this approach, noting that other biblical passages encourage Christians to learn from wiser elders.

He acknowledges the Protestant practice of “using Scripture to interpret Scripture,” attempting to resolve unclear or seemingly contradictory passages by appealing to other verses. However, this method simply pushes the question of interpretation back to those other verses, creating a potentially endless cycle of interpretation.

Rose concludes that the Bible was not intended to be studied in isolation from Apostolic Tradition and the teaching authority of Christ’s Church. He argues that the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, provides a reliable framework for interpreting Scripture, ensuring a consistent and unified understanding of God’s revelation.

13: Interpretive Authority

This chapter addresses the lack of interpretive authority within Protestantism, arguing that if Protestantism is true, all Christians have are fallible opinions about infallible books. Rose emphasizes the absence of an authoritative interpreter of Scripture within Protestantism, a consequence of their rejection of any human authority above the Bible itself. This absence leads to the principle of private judgment, whereby each believer becomes the ultimate interpreter of Scripture, resulting in a diversity of interpretations and, consequently, a lack of unity.

Rose cites Alister McGrath, an Anglican scholar, who highlights the fundamental dilemma faced by the Reformation: the lack of a definitive authority to settle disputes over biblical interpretation. He points to the conflicting interpretations of the Eucharist offered by Luther and Zwingli, demonstrating the inability of Protestantism to resolve such disputes through a principled approach.

The absence of an authoritative interpreter of Scripture, argues Rose, renders the Protestant appeal to biblical inerrancy ineffective. While an inerrant text might be ideal, it does not solve the problem of human fallibility in interpreting that text. Unless the interpreter is also considered infallible, the question of determining the “right” meaning of Scripture remains unsettled.

Rose acknowledges the common Protestant explanation for the diversity of interpretations: sin and human depravity lead even Spirit-guided Christians to misunderstand God’s Word. However, he points out that this explanation fails to account for the lack of a consistent method for discerning which interpretations are truly Spirit-led and which are merely the product of human error. The “arrow analogy” used by some Protestants, where the Holy Spirit corrects the archer’s aim in mid-flight, is, according to Rose, merely a descriptive metaphor, not a reliable interpretive principle.

He contrasts the Protestant approach with the Catholic understanding of the Magisterium, the Church’s divinely appointed teaching authority. He argues that Christ, in establishing his Church and giving authority to the apostles, provided a means for preserving and transmitting the truth of his revelation. This authority, passed on through apostolic succession, ensures a consistent and reliable interpretation of Scripture, safeguarding the unity and integrity of Christian doctrine.

Rose concludes that the Protestant rejection of an interpretive authority leaves Christians adrift in a sea of subjective opinions. While they might affirm the infallibility of Scripture, they ultimately rely on their own fallible judgments to determine its meaning. This approach, he argues, creates a circular argument, as the individual becomes both the interpreter and the judge of their own interpretations, leading to a precarious and unstable foundation for Christian faith.

14: Misinterpreting the Great Commission

This chapter examines the Protestant interpretation of the Great Commission, arguing that if Protestantism is true, today’s Protestant missionaries are misinterpreting Jesus’ command to evangelize all nations. Rose contrasts the widespread missionary activity within modern Protestantism with the almost complete absence of Protestant missions during the Reformation and for centuries afterward. He attributes this shift to a change in the Protestant understanding of the Great Commission, originally viewed as applying only to the apostles.

He points out that the early Reformers believed that the Great Commission, described in Matthew 28, applied only to the apostles and that their work had been sufficiently accomplished during the apostolic age. This belief stemmed from their conviction that Christ’s second coming was imminent and that God did not need human assistance to convert non-Christians.

Furthermore, Luther and Calvin viewed the primary “missionary” need as reforming Catholics, with Calvin arguing that evangelizing non-Christians was the responsibility of the Christian state, not the individual believer or the church. These beliefs, while seemingly at odds with the modern Protestant emphasis on missions, were consistent with their foundational principles of sola scriptura and their understanding of the imminent end times.

Rose cites Alister McGrath, who attributes this shift in interpretation to the inherent dynamism within Protestantism, where core biblical texts are constantly reinterpreted and redefined, leading to new understandings of the Protestant identity and mission. He argues that the early Reformers, by rejecting the Church’s interpretive authority and relying solely on their own interpretation of Scripture, established a novel tradition that persisted for centuries, influencing the Protestant understanding of the Great Commission.

Rose contrasts the Protestant inactivity with the vigorous missionary efforts of the Catholic Church, highlighting figures like St. Francis Xavier, who embarked on missions to Asia, spreading the gospel to previously unreached people groups. He emphasizes the Catholic Church’s consistent commitment to evangelization, rooted in its understanding of the Great Commission as a perpetual command for all Christians in every age.

He argues that the Catholic Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, has always understood the Great Commission as applying to all its members, transcending national boundaries, political philosophies, and historical circumstances. This consistent understanding, embodied in the Church’s teaching and practice, stands in stark contrast to the shifting interpretations within Protestantism.

Rose concludes that the Protestant dilemma regarding the Great Commission highlights the dangers of relying on individual interpretation of Scripture. Either the early Reformers, including Luther and Calvin, made a significant error in their understanding of this crucial passage, establishing a centuries-long precedent against missionary activity, or today’s Protestant missionaries are engaged in an unbiblical endeavor. This dilemma, he argues, underscores the need for an authoritative interpreter of Scripture to safeguard against doctrinal errors and ensure a faithful application of God’s Word.

15: The Closure of Public Revelation

This chapter explores the Protestant belief that public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle, arguing that if Protestantism is true, there is no principled reason for holding this belief. Rose acknowledges the widespread agreement among Christians that public revelation, the “deposit of faith” given by God for salvation, ceased with the apostles. However, he points out that this belief is not explicitly stated in Scripture, leaving Protestants in the awkward position of affirming sola scriptura while simultaneously embracing a non-biblical doctrine.

He highlights the Westminster Confession of Faith, which declares that the complete counsel of God is found in Scripture, adding that “nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.” This statement, while affirming the finality of Scripture, does not specify when public revelation ended.

Some Protestants attempt to find scriptural support for this belief by pointing to Revelation 22:18, which warns against adding to the words of the book. However, this verse clearly refers only to the Book of Revelation, not the entire Bible. Others cite Jude 3, where Jude writes, “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” They argue that this “faith” is coextensive with the books of the Bible and that its “once for all delivery” indicates the closure of public revelation.

Rose argues that these attempts to find scriptural support for the closure of public revelation are strained and ultimately unconvincing. He notes that the Book of Revelation was not the last book written, making Revelation 22:18 an inadequate proof text. Furthermore, Jude 3, while potentially referencing the deposit of faith, does not explicitly state that public revelation ceased with the apostles.

He points out that the probable dating of Jude, likely written before the death of all the apostles, further weakens this argument. Additionally, Jude’s status as Scripture was not universally accepted in the early Church, as evidenced by Luther’s own doubts about its authenticity.

Rose argues that the true source of the belief in the closure of public revelation is Sacred Tradition, the body of revealed truths passed down orally and preserved by the Church. He cites Dei Verbum, a document from the Second Vatican Council, which affirms that Christ perfected revelation through his words and deeds, culminating in his death, resurrection, and the sending of the Holy Spirit. This dispensation, as the “new and definitive covenant,” will never pass away, and Christians await no further public revelation before Christ’s return.

He acknowledges the Protestant caricature of Tradition as a unreliable game of Telephone, prone to distortion and corruption. However, he points out the inconsistency of rejecting Tradition in most instances while simultaneously accepting its testimony regarding the closure of public revelation.

Rose concludes that the Protestant reliance on the closure of public revelation, while essential for maintaining the coherence of sola scriptura, is ultimately a non-biblical doctrine. Their acceptance of this belief exposes a hidden dependence on Tradition, highlighting the inadequacy of sola scriptura as a complete and self-sufficient foundation for Christian faith.

16: The Role of History and Tradition

This chapter addresses the Protestant tendency to downplay the importance of history and tradition, arguing that if Protestantism is true, there is no inherent need for Christians to understand their own history or traditions. Rose attributes this attitude, particularly prevalent in Evangelicalism, to the influence of the Radical Reformers and the anti-traditionalism of the First and Second Great Awakenings.

He cites Mark Noll, an Evangelical historian, who describes the revivalist emphasis on individual experience and personal decision-making, often leading to a rejection of traditional learning and a dismissal of the insights of those who came before. Rose recounts Noll’s anecdote about two Kentucky revivalists who, when confronted with arguments from John Calvin, responded, “We are not personally acquainted with the writings of John Calvin, nor are we certain how nearly we agree with his views of divine truths; neither do we care.”

Rose argues that this dismissive attitude towards history and tradition persists within Evangelicalism, emphasizing the belief that the individual Christian, armed with the Bible and the Holy Spirit, can discern all necessary truth for themselves. He notes that this mentality is not limited to lay Christians but is also present among prominent Protestant apologists like William Webster, who dismissed the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas with a cursory summary, demonstrating a lack of appreciation for the insights of historical figures.

Rose contrasts this Protestant approach with the Catholic emphasis on learning from the wisdom of those who have gone before. He highlights the example of the Israelites in the Old Testament, who revered and learned from their forefathers, as recounted in Hebrews 11. He argues that if the Israelites, under the Old Covenant, found value in their historical tradition, how much more so should Christians, who have inherited a richer and more complete revelation, seek to learn from the saints and doctors of the Church?

He contends that a healthy understanding of history and tradition provides valuable context for interpreting Scripture, safeguards against repeating past errors, and offers a wealth of wisdom and spiritual insight. The Catholic Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, has preserved and transmitted this tradition through the centuries, ensuring a continuity of faith and a rich tapestry of spiritual experience.

Rose concludes that the Protestant tendency to disregard history and tradition is a consequence of their emphasis on individual judgment and their rejection of Church authority. This approach, while appealing in its simplicity, leaves Christians vulnerable to error, disconnected from the wisdom of the past, and unable to fully appreciate the richness and depth of the Christian tradition.

17: Doing What the Bible Says

This chapter addresses the Protestant claim to follow the Bible alone, arguing that if Protestantism is true, Christians must obey even the seemingly absurd commands of Scripture. However, Rose demonstrates that Protestants selectively apply biblical commands, utilizing extra-scriptural principles to determine which commands to follow literally and which to interpret figuratively or allegorically.

He provides examples of seemingly straightforward biblical commands that Protestants routinely ignore. In Luke 14:12-13, Jesus commands his followers to invite only the poor, maimed, lame, and blind to their feasts, excluding friends, relatives, and wealthy neighbors. In 1 Corinthians 11:5-6, Paul commands women to wear head coverings while praying or prophesying, threatening them with shaved heads if they refuse. In Luke 16:18 and Matthew 19:6, Jesus unequivocally forbids divorce and remarriage, declaring them adultery. And in Matthew 5:38-39, Jesus commands his followers to “turn the other cheek” when struck, seemingly advocating for passive submission to violence.

Rose argues that these commands, taken literally, create dilemmas for Protestants who claim to follow the Bible alone. He observes that most Protestants do not literally obey these commands, implicitly acknowledging the need for interpretive principles to discern the true meaning of Scripture. However, he points out that the Bible itself does not provide these principles, leaving Protestants to rely on extra-biblical sources, such as tradition, reason, or personal judgment.

He contrasts this Protestant approach with the Catholic understanding of the Church’s interpretive authority. The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, provides a consistent and reliable framework for understanding Scripture, distinguishing between literal commands, figurative language, and culturally conditioned practices. The Church, for example, teaches that Jesus’ command to invite only the poor to feasts is a hyperbolic exhortation to practice charity, not a literal requirement. Similarly, Paul’s instruction regarding head coverings is understood as a culturally specific practice, not a timeless moral obligation.

Regarding Jesus’ teachings on divorce and remarriage, the Church upholds the indissolubility of marriage, interpreting Christ’s words literally and prohibiting divorce except in cases of invalidity. And while encouraging Christians to practice forgiveness and love their enemies, the Church recognizes that Jesus’ command to “turn the other cheek” is not a blanket prohibition against self-defense but rather an exhortation to avoid vindictiveness and seek reconciliation.

Rose concludes that the Protestant dilemma regarding biblical commands demonstrates the inadequacy of sola scriptura as a practical guide for Christian living. The Bible, while containing God’s revealed Word, requires an authoritative interpreter to discern its true meaning and apply its teachings faithfully. The Catholic Church, through its divinely appointed Magisterium, provides this necessary interpretive framework, ensuring a consistent and reliable understanding of God’s will.

Part 3: The Sacraments and Salvation

18: The Communion of Saints

This chapter delves into the Protestant rejection of the communion of saints, arguing that if Protestantism is true, seeking the prayers of saints in heaven is a form of idolatry. Rose begins by establishing the Protestant understanding of prayer: while it is acceptable to request prayers from fellow Christians on earth, asking for the prayers of those who have died is strictly forbidden.

Protestants base this belief on biblical prohibitions against necromancy and the absence of direct biblical testimony to communication between Christians on earth and those in heaven. They view death as a complete separation, cutting off any possibility of interaction until Christ’s return and the resurrection of the dead.

Furthermore, Protestant objections to Catholic devotion to saints stem from several concerns. They believe that honoring the saints steals glory from God, that some Catholics elevate veneration to worship, and that the use of relics (bones, clothing, etc.) is morbid and superstitious. Martin Luther, while acknowledging the value of honoring Mary, expressed concern that certain monks had taken it too far, inventing lies and misusing Scripture to promote their own agendas. Modern Protestants echo these fears, rejecting any form of veneration of the saints.

Rose counters these objections by outlining the Catholic doctrine of the communion of saints, which encompasses the spiritual unity of all Christians, both living and dead. He argues that this doctrine is rooted in Scripture, drawing upon passages that describe the Church as “the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19) and emphasize the unity of all believers as the mystical body of Christ.

He refutes the Protestant argument that death severs communion by citing the account of the Transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-8, where Moses and Elijah, both deceased, appear conversing with Jesus. This event, argues Rose, demonstrates the ongoing reality of communion between those on earth and those in heaven, as made possible by God.

He further strengthens his argument by referencing Jesus’ refutation of the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection. In Luke 20:37-38, Jesus cites Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush, where God identifies himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus concludes, “He is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive,” emphasizing the ongoing existence of those who have died in God’s friendship.

Rose argues that the communion of saints is a spiritual family that transcends death, united through Christ’s victory over death. Just as Christians pray for each other on earth, so too can they receive grace from the prayers of the saints in heaven and pray for those being purified in purgatory.

Addressing the issue of veneration, Rose clarifies that the Catholic Church condemns the worship of anyone or anything other than God. Veneration of the saints, he explains, is not worship but rather a form of honor and respect for those who have faithfully followed Christ. By recognizing the good deeds and holy lives of the saints as products of God’s grace, Catholics give ultimate glory to God.

Regarding relics, Rose acknowledges his initial revulsion as a Protestant but attributes this feeling to Protestant bias. He points to Old Testament examples, such as the raising of a dead man through contact with Elisha’s bones (2 Kings 13:21), and New Testament passages like Acts 19:11-12, where handkerchiefs and aprons touched by Paul were used for healing. These biblical precedents, he argues, demonstrate the legitimacy of venerating relics as channels of God’s grace.

Rose concludes that the Protestant rejection of the communion of saints is based on a flawed understanding of death and a misplaced fear of idolatry. The Catholic doctrine, rooted in Scripture and Tradition, affirms the ongoing unity of all Christians in Christ, both living and dead, enabling them to participate in a rich and dynamic exchange of prayer and grace.

19: Baptismal Regeneration

This chapter explores the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, the belief that through baptism, individuals are justified, united to Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Rose highlights the Church’s consistent teaching on this doctrine from the earliest centuries, contrasting it with the wide-ranging and divergent beliefs about baptism within Protestantism.

He traces the Protestant spectrum on baptism back to the Reformers, beginning with Ulrich Zwingli, who viewed baptism as merely a symbolic representation of God’s covenant with humanity. This symbolic understanding, consistent with Zwingli’s figurative interpretation of the Eucharist, marked a departure from Luther, who affirmed baptismal regeneration.

For many Protestants, particularly Evangelicals, baptism is an outward expression of an inward conversion experience. They believe that the Holy Spirit enters the believer at the moment of conversion, when they accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Baptism, therefore, is simply a public declaration of faith and a sign of obedience to Christ’s command.

Luther and Calvin, while rejecting the Catholic understanding of sacraments, still viewed baptism as more than a mere symbol, connecting it directly to justification. Calvin taught that baptism was the normative means of salvation, asserting that neglecting baptism leads to exclusion from salvation. However, he qualified this teaching by claiming that an unrepentant or insincere recipient would not experience regeneration through baptism.

Luther, drawing upon Matthew 28, viewed baptism as a sacrament instituted by Christ, communicating God’s grace to the recipient. He taught that faith was not a prerequisite for baptism but rather a consequence of it, arguing that baptism was the cause of faith, not simply a symbol of it. He defended infant baptism against the Anabaptists, who rejected the practice as unbiblical, asserting that God bestows salvation and new life through this sacrament.

Rose counters the various Protestant interpretations by presenting the Catholic understanding, supported by Scriptural and early Christian writings. He cites Justin Martyr’s description of baptism in the 2nd century, where he explains that Christians are brought to water and “regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated.” Justin connects this regeneration to Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in John 3:3-5, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

Rose argues that Justin’s interpretation, aligning “born of water” with baptism, is consistent with the understanding of numerous Church Fathers. He further points to the Nicene Creed, affirmed by most Protestants, which explicitly states, “We confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” This statement, argues Rose, directly contradicts the Protestant notion of baptism as a mere symbolic act, highlighting their inconsistency in affirming the Creed while rejecting its plain meaning.

Rose then presents various Scriptural passages supporting baptismal regeneration, including 1 Peter 3:20-21, where Peter compares baptism to the ark that saved Noah and his family, stating that “baptism now saves you.” He also cites Acts 2:38, where Peter commands the crowds at Pentecost to “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins,” and Acts 22:16, where Paul encourages a new convert to “Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.”

Rose concludes that the Protestant rejection of baptismal regeneration represents a departure from the Church’s consistent teaching, grounded in Scripture and Tradition. He argues that the various Protestant interpretations, ranging from symbolic ritual to optional ordinance, demonstrate the confusion and disunity resulting from their reliance on private judgment. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, through its divinely guided Magisterium, affirms the power and efficacy of baptism as a sacrament instituted by Christ for the forgiveness of sins and the bestowal of new life.

20: Infant Baptism

This chapter explores the divisive issue of infant baptism within Protestantism, arguing that if Protestantism is true, there is no clear answer to the question of whether infants should be baptized. This lack of clarity, Rose argues, not only divides churches but also potentially jeopardizes the salvation of millions of souls.

He highlights the contrast between the Catholic Church’s unwavering support for infant baptism, based on Scripture and Tradition, and the conflicting views within Protestantism. The Anabaptists, rejecting all traditions not explicitly found in Scripture, condemned infant baptism as unbiblical, advocating for “believer’s baptism.” They argued that since the New Testament does not explicitly mention baptizing infants, the practice is invalid.

The magisterial Reformers—Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin—while disagreeing with the Anabaptists on many other issues, sided with them on the need to rely on the Bible alone. However, they rejected the Anabaptist rejection of infant baptism, drawing upon their understanding of the Church’s tradition and the writings of the Church Fathers to support their position. They believed that infant baptism, while not explicitly commanded in Scripture, was a legitimate practice consistent with the broader biblical narrative and the historical witness of the Church.

This division within Protestantism persists to this day, with some denominations, primarily Baptists, Evangelicals, and Pentecostals, rejecting infant baptism, while others, including Lutherans, Anglicans, and Presbyterians, upholding the practice.

Rose challenges the Protestant rejection of infant baptism by highlighting various scriptural passages that suggest the inclusion of infants and children in the early Church’s baptismal practice. He points to Acts 2:38-39, where Peter, after commanding the crowds to repent and be baptized, states, “For the promise is to you and to your children,” implying the inclusion of children in the covenant community established through baptism. He further cites instances of entire households being baptized in Acts 16:33 and 1 Corinthians 1:16, arguing that these households would have included infants and children.

Rose then explores the witness of the Church Fathers, citing Hippolytus’ instructions in the early 3rd century: “Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them.” He further quotes Cyprian of Carthage, who in the mid-3rd century, defended infant baptism against those who wished to delay it, arguing that “the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born.”

Rose highlights Martin Luther’s strong defense of infant baptism, rooted in his sacramental understanding of the rite. Luther believed that God communicated grace through baptism, bestowing faith and salvation upon the recipient. He argued that if infant baptism were invalid, then the vast majority of Christians throughout history, baptized as infants, would have never received the Holy Spirit or the virtues of faith, hope, and love. This, he argued, would render the Church’s history meaningless and undermine the very foundation of Christian faith.

Rose concludes that the Protestant dilemma regarding infant baptism underscores the limitations of sola scriptura. The Bible, while affirming the importance of baptism, does not provide explicit instructions regarding the age of the recipient. This ambiguity, coupled with the lack of a definitive interpretive authority within Protestantism, has led to ongoing division and confusion. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, relying on Scripture, Tradition, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, confidently affirms the validity and necessity of infant baptism, ensuring the salvation of all who receive this sacrament, regardless of age.

21: Sanctification and Purgatory

This chapter addresses the Protestant understanding of sanctification and its implications for the afterlife. Rose argues that if Protestantism is true, God must perform a miraculous act of sanctification at death to make wretched sinners instantly fit for heaven, contradicting biblical teachings on the necessity of purity of heart for entering God’s presence.

He begins by highlighting the biblical emphasis on purity of heart as a prerequisite for seeing God. Psalm 24 asks, “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place?” The answer: “He who has clean hands and a pure heart.” Similarly, Jesus states in Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Rose then outlines the Protestant understanding of salvation, typically divided into justification and sanctification. Justification, a one-time event, occurs when an individual accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior, receiving the imputed righteousness of Christ and forgiveness of sins. Sanctification is an ongoing process whereby the Holy Spirit guides the believer to become more like Jesus.

However, Protestants maintain that even justified Christians remain impure in heart, their good works tainted by their inherent sinfulness. The Westminster Larger Catechism states that the imperfection of sanctification arises from the “remnants of sin abiding in every part” of the believer, leading to “perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit.”

Consequently, even the best works of a Christian are “imperfect and defiled in the sight of God.” This belief stems from the Protestant doctrine of imputed righteousness, which asserts that Christians are not actually made holy in justification but merely declared so. The classic Protestant image of the Christian as a dunghill covered in snow, attributed to Luther, illustrates this concept of a hidden inner corruption despite outward appearances.

Rose challenges this Protestant understanding by presenting the Catholic teaching on sanctification, which emphasizes the real transformation of the believer through God’s grace. He argues that justification is not a legal fiction but an inward transformation whereby God infuses sanctifying grace into the soul, cleansing the heart and making the individual truly holy.

While concupiscence, the tendency to sin, remains present, it does not negate or defile the good works performed by Christians in God’s grace. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that with justification, “faith, hope, and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to the divine will is granted us.” This understanding of sanctification, argues Rose, is more consistent with biblical teachings on the power of God’s grace to transform the human heart.

Rose then addresses the Catholic doctrine of purgatory, a state of purification after death for those who die in God’s friendship but are not yet fully sanctified. He argues that purgatory is a logical consequence of the belief that Christians can truly become holy through God’s grace, providing an opportunity for those who have not achieved perfect holiness in this life to be cleansed and prepared for heaven.

He cites 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, where Paul describes the testing of each Christian’s works by fire. Those whose works survive will receive a reward, while those whose works are burned up will suffer loss, “though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” Rose interprets this passage as a reference to purgatory, a state of purification where Christians are “saved through fire.”

Rose concludes that the Protestant rejection of purgatory, coupled with their belief in the inherent impurity of Christians, creates a theological dilemma. If Christians remain fundamentally corrupted even after justification, and there is no intermediate state of purification after death, then the only way they can enter God’s presence is through a miraculous act of instantaneous sanctification at the moment of death. This “magic wand” theory, argues Rose, contradicts biblical teachings on the necessity of purity of heart and undermines the reality of sanctification as an ongoing process of transformation.

22: Marriage as a Sacrament

This chapter explores the Protestant rejection of marriage as a sacrament, arguing that if Protestantism is true, marriage is not an outward sign of an inward grace wrought by God, despite the tendency of some Protestants to view it as such.

Rose outlines the history of Protestant thought on marriage, beginning with Luther’s rejection of its sacramental nature. Luther, emphasizing the distinction between the earthly and heavenly realms, viewed marriage as a secular contract enforced by civil authorities, albeit one with spiritual value due to its divine purpose. Calvin, initially agreeing with Luther, later developed a covenantal understanding of marriage, viewing it as a covenant between the spouses and God, though still denying its sacramental status.

Anglicanism, while also rejecting marriage as a sacrament, retained a strong sense of its divine origin. The traditional Anglican wedding ceremony highlights marriage as “an honourable estate, instituted of God,” signifying the mystical union between Christ and the Church. It further emphasizes the indissolubility of marriage, recognizing God as the one who “knitting them together, didst teach that it should never be lawful to put asunder those whom thou by Matrimony hadst made one.”

Modern Protestants generally view marriage with high esteem, recognizing its goodness and its reflection of Christ’s relationship with his Church. Following Calvin, many embrace a covenantal understanding, although this covenant is often seen as dissoluble for various reasons.

Rose argues that this emphasis on dissolubility undermines the Protestant claim to a quasi-sacramental view of marriage. While acknowledging marriage’s divine origin and its spiritual significance, they ultimately deny its sacramental indissolubility, allowing for divorce and remarriage, thereby reducing it to a temporary human contract.

Rose then presents the Catholic understanding of marriage as a sacrament, an outward sign of God’s inward grace, instituted by Christ for the salvation of the spouses. He draws upon Genesis 2:24, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh,” and Mark 10, where Jesus reaffirms this teaching, emphasizing the indissolubility of marriage.

The outward signs of the wedding ceremony, vows, and consummation signify the inward grace that unites the couple as one flesh. This union, established by God, is indissoluble, even if the couple separates or obtains a civil divorce. The Catholic Church, therefore, recognizes that a valid marriage between baptized persons cannot be dissolved, prohibiting remarriage while the original spouse is still alive.

Rose contrasts the Catholic view with the Protestant practice of readily granting divorce and remarriage, demonstrating their inconsistent understanding of marriage. While Protestant churches might extol the virtues of marriage and its spiritual significance, their willingness to dissolve the union contradicts their claims to a covenantal or quasi-sacramental understanding.

He concludes that the Catholic Church, through its sacramental theology of marriage, upholds the fullness of God’s design for this sacred union. The Church recognizes marriage as an outward sign of God’s grace, uniting the couple as one flesh and reflecting the mystical union between Christ and his Church. This understanding, rooted in Scripture and Tradition, provides a firm foundation for the indissolubility of marriage and a robust defense against the corrosive effects of contemporary views on marriage and sexuality.

23: Anointing of the Sick

This chapter addresses the Protestant rejection of the anointing of the sick as a sacrament, despite its clear biblical foundation. Rose highlights the sacrament’s core elements: a priest or bishop anoints the sick person with blessed oil, praying for the Holy Spirit to heal their body and soul.

He outlines the Reformers’ divergent reasons for rejecting this sacrament. Martin Luther argued that its inefficacy in consistently producing physical healing proved it was not a true sacrament. He also dismissed the book of James, which provides scriptural support for the anointing, as non-inspired. John Calvin, on the other hand, adopted a dispensationalist approach, arguing that God no longer performs miracles through his ministers, rendering the sacrament obsolete.

Most Protestant churches today do not practice the anointing of the sick, claiming that it is an optional practice at best, since Christ did not explicitly command its use as he did for baptism and the Eucharist.

Rose counters these objections by emphasizing the sacrament’s primary focus on spiritual healing, particularly for those nearing death. He corrects Luther’s misunderstanding of the sacrament’s purpose, pointing out that its efficacy is not measured solely by physical recovery but rather by the spiritual grace it imparts, preparing the soul for its encounter with God.

Rose then addresses Luther’s claim that the Gospels do not mention the anointing of the sick, citing Mark 6:13, where Jesus sends out the apostles, and they “anoint with oil many that were sick, and healed them.” He further presents James 5:14-15 as clear biblical evidence for the sacrament: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”

Rose argues that this biblical witness, combined with the Church’s consistent practice from the earliest centuries, demonstrates that the anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ and intended to be a perpetual sacrament. He criticizes Calvin’s dispensationalist theory as arbitrary and unsupported by Scripture or Tradition, highlighting the inconsistency of selectively applying this theory to reject certain sacraments while accepting others.

He quotes St. John Chrysostom, who affirmed the sacrament’s importance and its connection to the priesthood: “Our priests have received the power not of treating with the leprosy of the body, but with spiritual uncleanness; not of declaring cleansed, but of actually cleansing…Priests accomplish this not only by teaching and admonishing, but also by the help of prayer.” Chrysostom emphasizes the priest’s role in mediating God’s forgiveness and healing grace through the anointing of the sick.

Rose concludes by highlighting the absurdity of the Protestant rejection of this sacrament. If Protestantism is true, he argues, countless Christians throughout history have participated in a meaningless and futile ritual, wrongly believing that God forgives sins and bestows healing grace through the anointing. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, faithful to Scripture and Tradition, continues to administer this sacrament, offering spiritual comfort and God’s healing grace to the sick and dying.

24: The Eucharist

This chapter tackles the divisive issue of the Eucharist within Christianity, arguing that if Protestantism is true, the meaning and significance of the Eucharist are ultimately unknowable. Rose begins by outlining the Catholic belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the doctrine that the bread and wine truly become Christ’s body and blood. He then contrasts this belief with the diverse and often contradictory views within Protestantism.

Luther, while rejecting the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, affirmed a “sacramental union,” where Christ is present “with” or “beside” the bread and wine. Zwingli, taking a more radical approach, declared the Eucharist a purely symbolic act, signifying Christ’s body. Calvin attempted to steer a middle path, emphasizing the spiritual communication of Christ in the Eucharist but ultimately rejecting the Real Presence.

These differing interpretations, argues Rose, highlight the fundamental dilemma within Protestantism: the lack of a definitive authority to interpret Scripture and settle doctrinal disputes. He recounts the failed attempt by Luther and Zwingli to reach an agreement on the Eucharist, demonstrating the inability of sola scriptura to produce unity on such a central doctrine.

Rose then explores the implications of each Reformer’s position. Luther’s “sacramental union,” while closer to the Catholic understanding, ultimately falls short of affirming the true transformation of the bread and wine. Zwingli’s symbolic view, embraced by most Evangelicals today, reduces the Eucharist to a mere memorial meal, stripping it of its power and efficacy. Calvin’s “spiritual communication,” while acknowledging a deeper significance, remains vague and ultimately leaves the nature of Christ’s presence undefined.

Rose then presents the Catholic perspective, arguing that the Church’s teaching on the Real Presence is consistent with Scripture and the witness of the early Church. He focuses on John 6, the “Bread of Life” discourse, where Jesus declares, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51).

Rose argues that Jesus’ use of the graphic verb trogo (to gnaw) in verses 53-58, intensifying the imagery of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, indicates a literal rather than a metaphorical meaning. He further highlights the disciples’ reaction to Jesus’ teaching, leaving en masse because they found his words too difficult to accept. If Jesus had merely been speaking metaphorically, argues Rose, he would have clarified his meaning and prevented this mass exodus.

He then explores the testimonies of early Christians, demonstrating their unwavering belief in the Real Presence. Ignatius of Antioch, writing in the early 2nd century, condemned those who “abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ.” Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origen, and Cyprian of Carthage all affirmed the Real Presence in their writings, demonstrating the Church’s consistent understanding from the apostolic age.

Rose concludes that the Protestant dilemma regarding the Eucharist highlights the dangers of relying on private interpretation of Scripture. The Reformers, each claiming to have discovered the true meaning of Jesus’ words, produced conflicting and contradictory doctrines, leaving their followers with no clear basis for discerning the truth. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, through its divinely appointed Magisterium, preserves and transmits the ancient faith, affirming the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and offering the fullness of God’s grace through this sacrament.

25: Confession

This chapter delves into the Protestant rejection of sacramental confession, the practice of confessing sins to a priest for forgiveness. Rose argues that if Protestantism is true, the power to forgive sins that Jesus granted to the apostles disappeared with their deaths.

He begins by outlining the Protestant belief that God forgives sins directly, without the need for human intermediaries. They point to the tearing of the temple veil at Christ’s death, signifying the removal of the barrier between God and humanity, as evidence for this direct access to God. Furthermore, they argue that the Bible does not explicitly describe the Catholic practice of confession, viewing it as a later corruption of the Church.

Luther initially retained confession, along with baptism and the Eucharist, but ultimately rejected it due to its dependence on the ordained priesthood, a distinction he sought to abolish with his doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers.” Protestantism, following Luther’s lead, universally rejected sacramental confession.

Rose notes that this sacrament, perhaps more than any other, incenses Protestants, who view it as unbiblical and even blasphemous. They argue that since only God can forgive sins, seeking forgiveness from a human priest is a misplaced act of faith. They attempt to reinterpret passages like John 20:21-23, where Jesus tells his apostles, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; whose sins you retain, they are retained,” as referring to the proclamation of the gospel, not the sacramental forgiveness of sins.

Similarly, they interpret passages where Jesus grants the apostles the power to “bind and loose” (Matthew 16:19, 18:18) as referring to the declaration of God’s judgment, not the actual power to forgive sins. Other Protestants, acknowledging the difficulty of reinterpreting these passages, argue that while God did grant the apostles this power, it died with them, another example of a dispensationalist approach to Scripture.

Rose challenges these Protestant interpretations by presenting the Catholic understanding of confession, rooted in Scripture and Tradition. He argues that while God alone can forgive sins, he chooses to work through human instruments to bestow his grace, as he did through the Incarnation, when God himself became man.

He argues that John 20:21-23 should be taken at face value, affirming the power that Jesus granted to his apostles to forgive sins. He rejects the Protestant attempts to reinterpret this passage, arguing that they are forced and inconsistent with the plain meaning of the text. He further emphasizes the lack of biblical support for the claim that this power disappeared with the apostles, pointing out that neither Scripture nor common sense suggests such a limitation.

Rose then presents the witness of the early Church, citing St. Ambrose, who wrote in the 4th century, “Consider, too, the point that he who has received the Holy Ghost has also received the power of forgiving and of retaining sin.” He further references Hippolytus, Tertullian, Origen, and other early Christians who affirmed the practice of sacramental confession.

Rose clarifies that confession is God’s ordinary means of bestowing the grace of forgiveness, not the only means. He acknowledges that God can and does forgive sins outside of this sacrament, but he argues that Protestants, by rejecting confession, miss out on the assurance and peace that comes from knowing that their sins have been forgiven through Christ’s appointed ministers.

He concludes that the Catholic understanding of confession is more consistent with Scripture, Tradition, and the Church’s historical practice. He argues that the Protestant rejection of this sacrament, while seemingly motivated by a desire to uphold God’s sole authority to forgive sins, ultimately diminishes the power of God’s grace by limiting its channels. The Catholic Church, through its divinely appointed priesthood, offers a tangible and effective means for experiencing God’s forgiveness and reconciliation, bringing peace and healing to repentant sinners.

26: Holy Orders and Apostolic Succession

This chapter addresses the Protestant rejection of holy orders and apostolic succession, the belief that Christ’s authority is transmitted through an unbroken line of ordained bishops from the apostles to the present day. Rose argues that if Protestantism is true, anyone who accurately interprets and teaches from the Bible possesses authority in Christ’s Church.

He begins by outlining Luther’s rejection of holy orders as a sacrament, stemming from his rejection of any distinction between clergy and laity. Luther, under the banner of the “priesthood of all believers,” argued that all Christians are priests by virtue of their baptism, rendering the ordained priesthood unnecessary. This rejection of holy orders led to the rejection of apostolic succession, the means by which the Church claims to preserve and transmit Christ’s authority through the laying on of hands.

To justify their break from the Catholic Church and their establishment of new churches, the Reformers posited the concept of “apostolicity” as the basis for authority. This doctrine asserts that authority is granted by God to anyone who teaches the true gospel, as revealed in Scripture. This principle broke the Catholic Church’s claim to apostolic authority, opening up leadership to anyone who believed their interpretation of the Bible was correct.

Rose argues that the Reformers, while motivated by a desire to purify the Church and return to a more biblical understanding of authority, ultimately created a theological vacuum. He challenges the Protestant notion of apostolicity by asking the critical question: who determines which interpretations of Scripture are “accurate” and which teachers are truly proclaiming the “true gospel”?

He explores the writings of early Christians to demonstrate the Church’s consistent belief in apostolic succession as the means for transmitting divine authority. Augustine, in the 4th century, wrote, “

“For if the lineal succession of bishops is to be taken into account, with how much more certainty and benefit to the Church do we reckon back till we reach Peter himself, to whom, as bearing in a figure the whole Church, the Lord said: ‘Upon this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!'”

St. Clement, a close successor to Peter, wrote in the first century, “Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect foreknowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry.”

These testimonies, along with countless others, demonstrate the early Church’s unwavering conviction that Christ’s authority was passed on through an unbroken line of bishops, tracing back to the apostles. Rose argues that this understanding of apostolic succession is consistent with Scripture, particularly passages like 1 Timothy 4:14, where Paul instructs Timothy, “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the council of elders laid their hands upon you.”

Rose counters the Protestant argument that clerical immorality in the Catholic Church invalidates its claim to apostolic succession by pointing out that sinfulness among Church leaders does not negate the transmission of God-given authority. He argues that the apostles themselves were sinners, yet they possessed the authority to lead the Church and forgive sins. Furthermore, he challenges the notion that the Church’s teachings became corrupted, arguing that the Protestant claim of corruption simply begs the question of who has the authority to judge the truth of Christian doctrine.

He concludes that the Catholic Church, through its unbroken line of bishops in apostolic succession, offers a tangible and reliable means for accessing Christ’s authority. Protestantism, on the other hand, lacking this succession, relies on a subjective and inconsistent principle of apostolicity, leaving individual Christians to determine for themselves who possesses true authority within the Church.

27: Sexual Morality

This chapter addresses the changing landscape of sexual morality within Protestantism, arguing that if Protestantism is true, sexual morality is culturally conditioned and therefore subject to change. Rose highlights the recent acceptance of homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage by many Protestant denominations, a radical departure from the traditional Christian understanding of sexuality.

He traces this shift to the Protestant acceptance of contraception in the early 20th century, a move that separated the procreative and unitive aspects of marriage, paving the way for the acceptance of non-procreative sexual relationships. Once the link between marriage and procreation was severed, Protestants had no principled basis for objecting to same-sex unions, which could also offer companionship and emotional intimacy.

Rose further points to the growing acceptance of premarital sex among young Evangelicals, a trend that has led some Protestant leaders to encourage the use of contraception outside of marriage. He cites Mark Driscoll, a prominent Evangelical pastor, who defended various forms of contraception, including sterilization, as “options for Christian couples to consider.”

This shift in Protestant sexual morality, argues Rose, stems from a rejection of natural law and an embrace of nominalism, the belief that there is no inherent meaning or purpose in the created order. Protestants, relying on sola scriptura, often adopt a minimalist approach to sexual ethics, permitting any sexual behavior not explicitly condemned in the Bible.

Rose contrasts this Protestant approach with the Catholic understanding of sexual morality, grounded in natural law, Scripture, and Tradition. He argues that the Bible, interpreted through the lens of the Church’s teaching, supports the traditional norms of sexual morality, including the prohibition of homosexual acts, contraception, and premarital sex.

He cites 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, where Paul states that “neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts…will inherit the kingdom of God,” and Matthew 5:28, where Jesus teaches that even lustful thoughts are sinful. Rose argues that these passages, along with the consistent witness of the Church throughout history, demonstrate the immorality of these actions.

Rose then explores the reasons behind the Catholic Church’s teachings on sexuality. He argues that the sexual act, within the context of marriage, is ordered toward both unity and procreation, reflecting the love and life-giving power of God. Homosexual acts, contraception, and premarital sex all violate this natural order, separating the unitive and procreative aspects of sexuality and introducing an element of selfishness and self-gratification.

He concludes that the Catholic Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, has preserved the true understanding of God’s design for human sexuality. Protestantism, on the other hand, lacking this guidance and relying on individual interpretations of Scripture, has succumbed to the shifting sands of cultural opinion, abandoning traditional moral norms and undermining the sanctity of marriage and family life.

Part 4: Christian History and Practice

28: Other Moral Issues

This chapter examines the Protestant shift on other moral issues, arguing that if Protestantism is true, Christian moral teachings are subject to change based on majority vote. Rose highlights the reversals within many Protestant denominations regarding abortion and the indissolubility of marriage, demonstrating the influence of cultural trends and the democratic model adopted by many Protestant churches.

He traces the Protestant acceptance of abortion to the late 1960s and early 1970s, a period marked by significant social upheaval and the rise of the feminist movement. Prior to this period, all Protestant denominations condemned abortion as evil. However, as public opinion shifted, so too did the teachings of many Protestant churches.

The Episcopal Church, in 1967, approved abortion in certain situations, and other denominations followed suit, including the Presbyterian Church USA, the Lutheran Church in America, the United Methodists, the United Church of Christ, the Disciples of Christ, and even the Southern Baptist Convention.

Rose notes that some Protestants attempt to find biblical justification for abortion by arguing that life does not begin at conception. They cite Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood,” and Genesis 2:7, which describes God breathing life into Adam, as evidence that life begins at the moment of breath, not conception.

He challenges these interpretations, arguing that they are strained and inconsistent with the broader biblical narrative. He points out that the Leviticus passage refers to the sacrificial system, not the beginning of human life, and that the Genesis account describes the creation of the first human, not the beginning of individual human life.

Rose then explores the Protestant shift on divorce and remarriage, a trend that began with the Reformation itself. Luther, breaking his vows as a priest and marrying a former nun, challenged the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. Henry VIII, seeking a divorce from his wife, ignited the English Reformation, ultimately leading to the Anglican Church’s acceptance of divorce and remarriage.

While Protestants maintained a high view of marriage for centuries, the modern emphasis on personal fulfillment and individual happiness has eroded their commitment to its permanence. Divorce, once considered a last resort, is now readily accepted as a solution to marital difficulties.

Rose argues that this shift stems from the Protestant rejection of marriage as a sacrament, weakening their theological understanding of its nature and purpose. Without the firm foundation of sacramental indissolubility, Protestant churches have become vulnerable to the cultural pressures promoting divorce and remarriage.

He contrasts this Protestant trend with the Catholic Church’s unwavering teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, grounded in Christ’s words in Matthew 19:8-9, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery.”

Rose concludes that the Catholic Church, through its divinely appointed Magisterium, has preserved the true understanding of God’s design for marriage and human life. Protestantism, on the other hand, lacking this guidance and relying on individual interpretations of Scripture, has succumbed to the shifting winds of cultural opinion, abandoning traditional moral norms and jeopardizing the stability of marriage and family life.

29: The Disintegration of Mainline Protestantism

This chapter addresses the decline of mainline Protestant denominations and the rise of “niche” churches, arguing that if Protestantism is true, there is nothing wrong with choosing a church based on personal preferences rather than doctrinal truth.

Rose highlights the growing trend of “ecclesial consumerism,” where individuals select churches based on their perceived “fit” with their lifestyle, tastes, and interests. He cites examples like the Powerhouse Church, the Cactus Cowboy Church, and the Mosaic community, which emphasize unique styles of worship, community activities, and targeted demographics.

This consumerist approach, argues Rose, stems from the fading denominational loyalty within Protestantism. Younger generations, less bound by tradition and more focused on personal experience, are increasingly choosing churches that cater to their individual needs and preferences.

Rose argues that this mentality is consistent with the Protestant principle of individual judgment and their rejection of a single, visible Church possessing the fullness of truth. If all churches are simply different expressions of the invisible Church, each offering a unique blend of truth and error, then choosing a church becomes a matter of personal preference, similar to selecting a restaurant or a consumer product.

He contrasts this Protestant approach with the Catholic understanding of the Church as a visible, unified body established by Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit. Catholics believe that there is only one true Church, outside of which there is no salvation. Choosing a church, therefore, is not about finding the best “fit” but rather about conforming to God’s will and seeking unity with Christ’s body.

Rose concludes that the Protestant embrace of ecclesial consumerism has contributed to the fragmentation and decline of mainline denominations, undermining the Church’s witness to the world. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, through its unwavering commitment to the truth and its recognition of its own divine authority, offers a stable and reliable foundation for Christian faith, transcending individual preferences and cultural trends.

30: Pastoral Authority

This chapter explores the question of pastoral authority within Protestantism, arguing that if Protestantism is true, it is impossible to determine with certainty which leaders, if any, possess true authority. Rose begins by highlighting the inherent tension within Protestantism between God’s ultimate authority and the subordinate authority granted to human leaders, such as pastors and elders.

He notes that while Protestants acknowledge the need for human leadership within the Church, they ultimately subject this authority to individual judgment. When a conflict arises between a pastor’s teaching and a believer’s personal understanding of Scripture, the believer is obligated to follow their own conscience, even if it means leaving their church or starting their own.

This principle of individual judgment, argues Rose, undermines the very concept of pastoral authority. If a leader’s authority is contingent upon their followers’ approval, then it is not true authority but merely a form of consensus-based leadership.

Rose contrasts this Protestant approach with the Catholic understanding of authority, grounded in apostolic succession. The Church teaches that Christ, in establishing his Church, granted his apostles divine authority to lead and teach. This authority, passed on through an unbroken line of bishops, ensures a continuity of leadership and a reliable transmission of God’s truth.

Catholics believe that submitting to the rightful authority of the Church is equivalent to submitting to God himself. This understanding of authority, argues Rose, provides a firm foundation for church unity and protects against the fragmentation and instability that plagues Protestantism.

He concludes that the Protestant dilemma regarding pastoral authority stems from their rejection of apostolic succession and their embrace of individual judgment. This approach, while seemingly empowering individuals, ultimately undermines the Church’s structure and authority, leaving Christians adrift in a sea of conflicting interpretations and competing claims to leadership. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, through its divinely ordained hierarchy and its commitment to the truth, offers a stable and reliable guide for Christian life, ensuring a continuity of faith and a unified witness to the world.

31: The Missing Saints

This chapter addresses the Protestant tendency to dismiss the saints of the Catholic Church, arguing that if Protestantism is true, most of Christianity’s saints believed in a corrupted gospel. Rose begins by expressing his own frustration as a Protestant in discovering the heroic lives and writings of Catholic saints, only to find their beliefs fundamentally at odds with his own.

He uses St. Augustine as an example, highlighting his profound influence on Western Christianity and his apparent agreement with certain Protestant doctrines, such as the importance of Scripture and the reality of human sinfulness. However, upon closer examination, Augustine’s writings reveal his unwavering commitment to Catholic teachings on papal authority, the sacraments, purgatory, and the role of Tradition.

Rose argues that this “saintly paradox” applies to countless other Catholic saints, including Athanasius, Cyprian, Thomas Aquinas, and Francis of Assisi. These men and women, while exemplifying Christian piety and devotion, embraced doctrines that Protestants consider erroneous or even heretical.

He further notes the Protestant distinction between “saints” as described in Scripture, referring to all living Christians, and the Catholic use of the term to designate individuals recognized for their exceptional holiness and closeness to God. This distinction, argues Rose, reflects the Protestant tendency to downplay the role of historical figures and their reluctance to acknowledge the potential for holiness within the Catholic Church.

Rose challenges this Protestant dismissal of Catholic saints by arguing that their holiness is not a product of their mistaken beliefs but rather a testament to the truth of the Catholic faith. He argues that these saints, through their participation in the Church’s sacraments, their devotion to Mary, and their submission to the Church’s authority, received the fullness of God’s grace, enabling them to live lives of exceptional virtue and achieve a deep union with Christ.

He concludes that the Catholic Church, through its recognition and veneration of saints, offers a rich tapestry of inspiration and guidance for Christian living. Protestants, on the other hand, by rejecting these saints and their teachings, deprive themselves of a valuable source of wisdom and spiritual insight, further isolating themselves from the fullness of the Christian tradition.

32: Martin Luther’s Virtue

This chapter tackles the problematic aspects of Martin Luther’s character, arguing that if Protestantism is true, one would not expect the father of the Reformation to have been an anti-Semite and a supporter of polygamy. Rose challenges the idealized image of Luther often presented within Protestantism, highlighting his flawed humanity and his inconsistent application of biblical principles.

He begins by outlining the popular Protestant narrative of Luther as a courageous hero who rediscovered the truth of justification by faith and bravely challenged the corrupt Catholic Church. This narrative emphasizes Luther’s struggles with guilt and his eventual liberation through his study of Scripture, leading to his efforts to reform the Church and restore the true gospel.

However, Rose argues that this heroic portrayal overlooks the darker aspects of Luther’s character. He cites Luther’s vehemently anti-Semitic writings, particularly his 1543 treatise “On the Jews and Their Lies,” where he advocates for the persecution and expulsion of Jews. These writings, argues Rose, reveal a deep-seated hatred and prejudice that contradict the Christian virtue of love for neighbor.

Rose further explores Luther’s views on marriage, pointing out that he, while claiming to uphold the authority of Scripture, endorsed the practice of polygamy. He cites Luther’s statement, “I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture,” demonstrating his willingness to reinterpret biblical teachings to align with his own opinions.

Rose argues that these inconsistencies and flaws in Luther’s character pose a significant challenge for Protestants who view him as a spiritual hero and a champion of biblical truth. He concludes that the Catholic Church, recognizing the inherent sinfulness of all humanity, does not require its leaders to be perfect or even exceptionally virtuous. Protestantism, on the other hand, by placing Luther on a pedestal and attributing divine inspiration to his teachings, must grapple with the unsettling reality of his flawed humanity.

33: Ongoing Reform

This chapter addresses the principle of ongoing reform within Protestantism, arguing that if Protestantism is true, nothing can stop a new “Reformation” from overturning traditional Protestant doctrines. Rose highlights the inherent dynamism within Protestantism, driven by the individual interpretation of Scripture and the rejection of a definitive interpretive authority.

He begins by noting that few Protestants today fully embrace the doctrines of Luther, Calvin, or any other Reformer. Instead, they selectively adopt aspects of their teachings while rejecting others, a process guided by their own understanding of Scripture. This approach, argues Rose, makes every Protestant a potential reformer, constantly reevaluating and revising their beliefs based on their ongoing engagement with the Bible.

Rose then explores the implications of this principle, posing the question: what happens when other Protestants, using their own interpretations of Scripture, arrive at “reformed” doctrines that contradict traditional Protestant teachings? He cites the example of John Shelby Spong, a retired Episcopal bishop, who advocates for a “new Reformation” that rejects core Christian doctrines like theism, the virgin birth, and the inerrancy of Scripture.

Spong, following Luther’s example of challenging traditional doctrines, presents his own “twelve theses” for debate, arguing that traditional Christianity is outdated and requires a radical overhaul to remain relevant in the modern world. While many Protestants would vehemently disagree with Spong’s conclusions, Rose argues that they have no principled basis for rejecting his right to reinterpret Scripture and propose his own reforms.

He further highlights the example of Gary Hall, the Dean of the (Episcopal) National Cathedral, who describes himself as a “non-theistic Christian,” demonstrating the fluidity of belief within Protestantism and the potential for even the most fundamental doctrines to be reinterpreted or abandoned.

Rose contrasts this Protestant dynamism with the Catholic Church’s unwavering commitment to the deposit of faith, the body of revealed truth entrusted to the Church by Christ. The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, proclaims its teachings with authority, safeguarding them against substantial revision or reversal. This doctrinal stability, argues Rose, provides a secure foundation for Christian faith and ensures a continuity of belief across generations.

He concludes that the Protestant embrace of ongoing reform, while seemingly motivated by a desire for biblical fidelity, ultimately undermines the stability and authority of Christian doctrine. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, through its divinely appointed Magisterium and its unwavering commitment to the truth, offers a reliable and trustworthy guide for Christian life, preserving the integrity of the faith and protecting it against the shifting sands of cultural opinion.

34: The Corruption of Celibacy

This chapter addresses the Protestant rejection of celibacy as a discipline for clergy and religious, arguing that if Protestantism is true, the ancient practice of celibacy represents a corruption of the Church from its earliest days. Rose begins by outlining the Reformers’ rejection of celibacy, stemming from their rejection of the distinction between clergy and laity and their emphasis on the “priesthood of all believers.”

Luther, breaking his own vows as a priest and marrying a former nun, encouraged other clergy to do the same, viewing marriage as a natural and God-given desire for all Christians, including those in ordained ministry. Protestantism, following Luther’s lead, universally rejected mandatory celibacy for clergy and effectively abolished the consecrated life of religious brothers and sisters.

Rose challenges this Protestant rejection by presenting the biblical and historical support for celibacy as a vocation within the Church. He cites Matthew 19:1-12, where Jesus, after affirming the indissolubility of marriage, speaks of “eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Rose argues that this passage, while not explicitly commanding celibacy, clearly acknowledges it as a legitimate and even praiseworthy choice for those called to serve God in a unique way.

He further explores the writings of early Christians, demonstrating their high regard for celibacy. Gregory Nazianzen, in the 4th century, wrote, “Marriage is honorable; but I cannot say that it is more lofty than virginity; for virginity were no great thing if it were not better than a good thing…A mother she is not, but a Bride of Christ she is.” This understanding of celibacy as a higher calling, dedicated to serving Christ and the Church, permeates the writings of the Church Fathers.

Rose also highlights St. Paul’s commendation of celibacy in 1 Corinthians 7, where he writes, “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:7-9).

Rose argues that the Protestant rejection of celibacy is not rooted in Scripture but rather in a reaction against perceived abuses within the Catholic Church. Luther, reacting to the corruption and worldliness of some clergy, overreacted by abolishing a practice with a strong biblical and historical foundation. Protestantism, following Luther’s lead, has deprived itself of a valuable vocation within the Church, one that has produced countless saints and contributed immeasurably to the Church’s mission throughout history.

He concludes that the Catholic Church, through its recognition of celibacy as a divinely ordained calling, upholds the fullness of God’s design for human life and service within the Church. Protestantism, on the other hand, by rejecting this vocation and reducing marriage to a mere secular contract, has diminished the potential for holiness and weakened its witness to the world.

Follow the Trail of Authority

In the concluding chapter, Rose summarizes the central argument of the book: the Protestant Reformation was unjustified because it was based on a flawed understanding of authority. He calls upon Protestants to critically examine their own beliefs and to consider the consequences of rejecting the Catholic Church’s claims to authority.

He reiterates the key difference between Catholicism and Protestantism regarding the source of authority. Protestants believe that the Bible alone is the infallible rule of faith, with each individual possessing the right and responsibility to interpret it for themselves. Catholics, on the other hand, believe that Christ established his Church with divine authority, entrusted to the apostles and their successors, the bishops, to teach and interpret God’s revelation.

Rose argues that the Protestant principle of individual judgment has led to the fragmentation and instability that characterizes Protestant history. The lack of a definitive interpretive authority has resulted in countless divisions and conflicting interpretations of Scripture, undermining the Church’s unity and weakening its witness to the world.

He concludes by encouraging readers to “follow the trail of authority,” seeking the true source of God’s guidance and the fullness of his revelation. He argues that the Catholic Church, through its unbroken line of apostolic succession, its faithful preservation of Sacred Tradition, and its unwavering commitment to the truth, offers a reliable and trustworthy path to salvation and a firm foundation for Christian life.


“The Protestant’s Dilemma” presents a powerful challenge to Protestant assumptions about the nature of the Church, the Bible, and the source of authority. Rose, through his meticulous analysis of Scripture, history, and logic, demonstrates the inconsistencies and untenable conclusions that flow from core Protestant principles. He invites Protestants to engage in a genuine search for truth, following the trail of authority back to its source in Christ and his Church.

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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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