It’s odd: I’d decided — and stated — long ago (at least six years ago) that if I ever became Christian, I would become Catholic.
I mentioned this to my father, who attends a small evangelical church after having attended the Worldwide Church of God for over thirty years (and sticking by the WCG through all its changes). I stated that Catholicism has the clearest historical links to the early church. “The early church was clearly much closer to Catholicism than Protestantism,” I contended.
It doesn’t seem like a radical statement. After all, it was the Catholic against whom the first Protestants were protesting. One doesn’t need to read the early church fathers and make doctrinal comparisons between their writings and today’s churches to make that simple observation.
He flatly denied it. In his mind, somewhere between the first century and 1517, the Catholic church arose from the “true church” and corrupted it.
I’ve thought it’s perhaps a lingering vestige of his acceptance of Herbert Armstrong’s theology in the Worldwide Church of God. Armstrong taught just that, suggesting that somewhere between the writing of the New Testament (which happened, according to him, almost immediately after the death of Jesus) and the emergence of a visible church some seventy years later (again, whence these painfully inaccurate dates?), a spiritual coup took place. The culprit, Armstrong taught, was Simon Magus.
At the time of that conversation, my father didn’t bring up any of the Simon Magus, and I generally left the issue alone. The conversation died, and that was that.
I wish I’d read Dave Armstrong (ironic — another Armstrong, this one with a sense of and knowledge about history):
Protestantism arose in 1517, and is a “Johnny-come-lately” in the history of Christianity (having introduced many doctrines previously accepted by no Christian group, or very few individuals). Therefore it cannot possibly be the “restoration” of “pure”, “primitive” Christianity, since this is ruled out by the fact of its novelties and absurdly late appearance. Christianity must have historic continuity or it is not Christianity. Protestantism is necessarily a “parasite” of Catholicism: historically and doctrinally speaking. (Biblical Evidence for Catholicism)
This is so plainly obvious that it’s difficult to see how any Protestant could contest it.
That complete lack of any real sense of history — church or otherwise — is one element of my WCG upbringing that thankfully doesn’t linger.