Does an unbroken history mean the Roman Catholic Church is true?

by Matt Slick

No, an unbroken history, even if that were true, does not mean that the Roman Catholic Church is the true church. The Catholic Church claims to have an unbroken lineage of apostolic authority dating back to Peter who was, allegedly, given the keys to the church (Matthew 16:19). But again, even if it was true that Catholicism can trace its collective lineage back to Peter, this does not mean the Roman Catholic Church is the true church. Furthermore, Matthew 16:19 says that Peter was given the keys of the kingdom of heaven--not the church--and that what he would bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever he loosed on earth will be loosed in heaven. What Catholics regularly overlook is that the same authority was given to the rest of the disciples in Matthew 18:18. So, if they want to trace their lineage back to Peter who supposedly has the authority to bind and loose, what does it say about the rest of the apostles who had that same authority? Furthermore, nowhere in Scripture do we find Peter exercising his authority above the other apostles. If anything, we find the reverse. Consider when Paul rebuked Peter . . .

Gal. 2:11-14, "But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13 The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, 'If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews'?"

Many groups claim to have apostolic succession from the early days, but it does not mean they are true. If a church is true, then it must be consistent with Scripture. The Scripture is the measure of the authority on how a church is to behave and what is to teach--not a lineage kept by tradition.

1 Timothy 3:15

1 Timothy 3:15, "but in case I am delayed, I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth."

We see in this verse that Paul the apostle wrote to Timothy so that "he would know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God." This means Paul was writing Scripture and instructing Christians on how to behave within the church. He was giving Scriptural orders to which the church is subject. We do not see in Scripture such authority given to a church because it can trace its lineage back to Peter. We do find the admonition of the word of God (as the above verse mentions) for the church to submit itself to Scripture. Therefore, we would conclude that a church is true if it agrees with Scripture--not if it claims to have a lineage back to early times.

Again, making such a claim doesn't mean it is so. And even if it were, this does not grant such a church apostolic authority--especially in light of the many teachings of the Roman Catholic Church which are clearly not found in Scripture: purgatory, indulgences, Mary's perpetual virginity, salvation by faith and works, etc.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.