I figured it was only fitting to start with this question.
I understand that the Catholic church is the first church, but that in and of itself i do not think is enough of a reason to believe in it. With as much as the Catholic church has changed over the years it could not have always been correct in doctrine.
There are many things about the Catholic church that i do not understand and i am seeking a deeper understanding on the main points of Catholicism such as the sacraments, rosarie (spelling?), and the communion of the saints, ect...
Well, I’m going to try to keep this as short as I can. I won’t be covering the sacraments, rosary, communion of saints, etc. I couldn’t possibly do them justice in this post. I will though, cover your initial observation you made about the Catholic Church being first and changing over the years. I’m going to go out on limb and try something new and unique for a change. Hopefully it goes well.
One of the most difficult shifts for me coming into the Catholic Church was not the doctrines (that came later), but rather the world view and presuppositions/bias that come with it. Imagine belief like a lever (bare with me as I attempt to make a point), once pulled, moves everything else in a person’s life. Are you a Liberal? A doctor? A bigot? Or how about a serial killer? These are all merely species of belief in action. Your beliefs define your vision of the world; they are the very fabric of your behavior; they determine your emotional responses to other human beings. If you doubt this, consider your perception and experience with the world would suddenly change if you came to believe one of the following:
1. You only have two weeks to live
2. The orange juice in your fridge makes you invisible
3. You’ve just won the lottery
These are mere words, until you believe them. Once believed they become part of the very apparatus of your mind, determining and altering your desires, fears, interpretations, and behavior.
Now the same applies with how you approach the Bible and Christianity as a whole. Let me give you an example. It is a common held belief in non-Catholic Christian denominations that the People of God (the Church) are a people of a book (The Bible). Now approaching the Bible with such a thing in mind completely alters how you may interpret the very verses you read. Most verses dealing with men being given authority (like the Apostles and those who followed) will either be completely ignored or minimized. To take them too serious would lean to the understanding that the People of God aren’t just a people of a book, but also of a living authority.
This is just one example that can make or break a person. Obviously there are varying degrees in which people might place importance into a verse. But the underlying biases, presuppositions, world view, completely can change how you interpret verses in the Bible.
You’re probably thinking “Ok, Victor that’s sounds wonderful but what does that have to do with the Catholic Church as it relates to my questions?” Well, in my research and experience I have come to find out that everybody has a bias, presuppositions, beliefs, world view, etc. Once you come to realize this, then it’s not about eradicating it but instead coming to embrace one. Now you’re probably thinking “So you said all that just to tell me that both you and I have a bias, presuppositions, and all that? And that we shouldn’t get rid of it?” Hold your horses! Not done yet. What I’m saying is that the question has never been about eradicating your bias, presuppositions, world view, beliefs, etc. because as I showed above that not only can you not get rid of it, but having unhealthy biases/beliefs/presuppositions etc. can make the world of difference. The beauty of all this is that God left us with His own bias/presuppositions/world view to have it become the very apparatus of your mind. In the Catholic Church we call this Holy Tradition. It comes to us in written form (The Bible) and oral form (The Canon, councils, etc.). Both are crucial and this is undoubtedly how the early Christians formed their consciousness.
These men believed in such things as Mary being sinless, they had bishops, they believed in oral Tradition being protected by Holy Spirit, and a myriad of other beliefs. Now what do you think would happen if you cut off all these facts from a group of Christians? I’ll tell you what happens, you get 33,000 different denominations. So it’s never been just about it being first, but about it practically (with the exception of Eastern Orthodox) being alone in mirroring the very early Christians. Do you think your interpretation of the Bible would change if:
1. You knew early Christians baptized infants.
2. Christians didn’t have an assembled Bible until 397 AD.
3. Christians saw Mary as sinless.
This is just one of many. But I hope I got the point across. I’ll cover your other observation (Catholic Church changing) on my next post.