Church teachings change, right? Hey, the Catholic Church modernized with Vatican II, so it’s bound to happen again, especially since Pope Francis is so progressive. Right, eh?
Wrong. The Church teachings that change are non-dogmatic traditions like wearing chapel veils or not eating meat on Fridays. Doctrine develops slowly over time, which means that the teachings on the Truth expand and never contradict previous doctrines.
Many people seem to think that just because Western culture is rapidly changing, that Catholic dogma will eventually give in and conform to the whims of secularism. This isn’t a new phenomenon: from the very beginnings, people have been claiming that the Church would change its doctrine. Here are a 10 times the people thought the Catholic Church would change, and it didn’t.
1. Jesus as a human being, 1st & 2nd Century
Gnosticism was a belief system that, while borrowing from whatever religion was predominant, taught that the material world is evil and that the goal is for the soul to escape the material world. When Christianity first began to spread, gnostics latched onto the new formed religion to spread their ideas about salvation.
2. False prophesy, 2nd century
Soon after converting, a man named Montanus began prophesying. He claimed to be a mouthpiece for the Holy Spirit. His following died out quickly.
3. God as three persons, 3rd century
Early in the third century, a group of people called Monarchians believed that God is made up of only one distinct person and that the distinct persons of the Trinity are merely modes that God uses.
4. Christ’s divinity, 4th century
Arius, maybe the most famous heretic of the early Church if only because the story of St. Nicholas punching him during the First Council of Nicea resurfaces every Advent, came up with a heresy so influential that it is specifically refuted in the Nicene Creed. He spread the idea that Jesus was just a creation of God and not consubstantial with God, like Him in any way, nor equal to Him in dignity.
5. Original Sin, 5th century
St. Augustine of Hippo spent much of his time as a bishop refuting the claims of heretic Pelagius, who claimed that people are born without original sin and that we can go to heaven without the need of God’s grace. His idea was that sinfulness comes from the bad example of others, whereas righteousness comes from the good example of those who follow the example of Christ.
6. The Mother of God, 5th century
Not long after Pelagius came Nestorius who denied Mary the title of Theotokos, claiming that she is only the mother of Jesus’ human nature, inevitably splitting Him into two separate persons (one human and one divine) and making it so that Mary is only mother to one of them.
7. Hypostatic Union challenged
Nestorianism caused such a strong reaction among its opponents that some fell into believing the opposite extreme: that Jesus has only one nature, mixing both human and divine elements. This denied that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. Of course, we know how that turned out. No change here.
8. Iconography and art, 8th century
For years, some Christians believed that artwork depicting Christ and the saints went against the First Commandment, but it wasn’t until Byzantine emperor Leo III outlawed it that anything was done about it. Not only did Leo III destroy many pieces of artwork, but he wrote a letter to Pope Gregory II insisting that he follow suit.
9. The Reformation, 16th century
Beginning with Martin Luther’s ninety-five theses, closely followed by John Calvin, King Henry VIII and many others, the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s hoped both to reform the Church of corrupt or seemingly corrupt practices and to change teachings on authority. Corruption was largely removed, but Christian dogma didn’t.
10. God’s Grace is challenged, 17th century
Over a hundred years after the beginning of the Reformation, French bishop Cornelius Jansen (a.k.a. Jansenius) claimed that God’s grace was only given to those who would be saved and that some of God’s commandments are impossible to follow. Remember that change? Nope.