"WHAT IS A PRESBYTERIAN?"
Rev. John Sutherland Bonnell
Fifth Ave. Presbyterian Church
New York City, N. Y.
Sir:---I have marveled at the lack of religious doctrinal and historical discernment on the part of Protestant Ministers ever since I was blest with the understanding of things Christian, which led me to the Baptismal Font of the Catholic Church.
This lack of proper perception is plainly evidenced in the re-print of your What Is a Presbyterian? from LOOK magazine. For instance, you say therein that "Most Presbyterians accept the creeds of the early undivided Christian Church---the Nicene and Apostles Creed." That being so, how can you claim that "Presbyterians believe the Scriptures (privately interpreted) to be the ONLY infallible rule of faith and practice"?
Surely you ought to know, considering that you assume to be a teacher of Christian history, that the acceptation of the Nicene Creed means the acceptation of an infallible Creed that was formulated before the existence of the Christian Bible, by the 316 Bishops of "the early undivided Christian Church," the Catholic Church, in Council assembled in Asia Minor. Pope Sylvester (the 33rd occupant of the Chair of Peter) was represented therein by two legates, being unable to attend personally on account of age. The Nicene Creed was largely the product of St. Eusebius, who became Bishop of the Vercelli division of the Church under the jurisdiction of the Pope. This Council of Nicea was assembled by Pope Sylvester in the year 325 A. D., to counteract the Arian heresy; just as Pope Paul Third assembled the Bishops of the Catholic Church in the Council of Trent during the year 1545, to counteract the Protestant heresy.
Surely you ought to know, though your What Is a Presbyterian? gives no evidence of it, that the Apostles Creed is a compilation of traditional Christian teachings ascribed by the Catholic Church to the Apostles. Evidently Presbyterians are not as wise as were the Lutherans, whose realization of the fact that the words "I believe in the Holy CATHOLIC Church," that they used to utter as do Presbyterians, refers to the Church under the universal jurisdiction of the occupant of the Chair of Peter. Hence they substituted the word "Christian" for Catholic in the Creed,---"I believe in the Holy CHRISTIAN church." You were evidently not taught in the Princeton Theological Seminary that Rome it was that inserted the word Catholic in the Apostles Creed during the fourth century, in order to make plain the fact that the Apostles considered the Church under the jurisdiction of Pope Peter to be "The Holy Church" that Christ established.
If "Presbyterians believe the Scriptures to be the only infallible rule of faith and practice," then how is it, as you say, that only "a majority of Presbyterians believe in the Virgin Birth?" How is it that there are Presbyterians who do not "believe in the resurrection of the body of Christ," which are basic teachings recorded in Holy Scripture? If infallibility, which means freedom from error, were a Protestant church virtue, there would not be hundreds of differing Protestant sects based upon the unsound principle of private (instead of Christ-instituted authoritative) interpretation of Scripture. They are united on one thing only, opposition to the Church that Christ established, the Catholic Church, the Church that gave the Bible to the world, the book that Presbyterians misinterpret.
Scripture is infallible, says the Catholic Church, in the sense of being free from doctrinal error. She holds that only God is essentially infallible, as He cannot deceive or be deceived. Christ, Who is God, bestowed a limited infallible power upon Peter, and the succeeding occupants of the Chair of Peter, which is exercised when defining matters of faith and morals.
St. Matthew 16:18 records the fact of Peter being selected as the Rock-Foundation of the Church that Christ established: St. John 21-15-17 records the fact that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, selected Peter to feed His sheep (the Christian flock): St. Matthew 16:19 records Christ giving His "Keys," His delegated authority, to Peter; therefore St. Ambrose (340-397 A. D.), Bishop of the Catholic Church in Milan, said "Where Peter is there is the Church." St. John 14:16-17 records the fact that Christ promised the "Paraclete," the "Spirit of Truth," which was to abide "forever" in the Church that Christ established.
Peter was not to live forever, though the power delegated to him, by Christ, was to endure until the consummation of the world. Therefore St. Ireneus, Martyr, Bishop of the Catholic Church in Lyons said:---"To this Church (in Rome), on account of the superior headship, every other (Church) must have recourse, that is the Faithful in all countries. They, therefore, having founded and instructed this Church (in Rome), committed the administration to Linus. To him succeeded Anacletus; then in third place, Clement. To Clement succeeded Evaristus, to him Alexander; then Sixtus, who was followed by Telesphorus, Hyginus, Pius, and Anicetus. But Soter having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius, the twelfth from the Apostles, now governs the Church" (Adv. Her. L iii, c. iii. p. 175). If Bishop Ireneus were to record the occupants of the Chair of Peter today, he would no doubt list Pope Pius as the 257th successor of Peter in "the undivided Christian Church," the Church that formulated the Nicene and Apostles Creeds, and the Canon of Sacred Scripture that your Protestant Sect misinterprets.
In face of the above recorded facts, "the Westminster Confession of Faith," drawn up by the English Parliament in the year 1643, "which (as you say) is recognized as the Creed of the English-speaking Presbyterians," insultingly declared that "there is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ (Who is its heavenly head); nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be the head thereof, but is the anti-Christ, that man of sin, the son of perdition, that exalted himself in the Church against Christ and all that is called God."
The "early undivided Christian Church" was, and has since remained the Church under the universal jurisdiction of the occupant of the Chair of Peter. Surely it could not be your 16th century Presbyterian church, which owes its existence largely to John Knox, the religious Benedict Arnold, violator of the solemn vows taken when ordained in the Catholic Church; whose opposition to the Catholic Church prompted him to call upon the English to assassinate Queen Mary. The Catholic Church is doctrinally and organizationally undivided, thanks to the Holy Spirit indwelling, despite the endeavor of the gates of Hell to prevail against her in the form of the "Westminster Confession of faith," and other Protestant misinterpretations of Holy Scripture.
May this evaluation of your What Is a Presbyterian? bring upon you the blessing of proper Christian discernment.