The Ditch Theory
This past year I was searching the internet for information about Catholicism/Protestantism, arguments both for and against, and I ran across an article titled, 'Why Protestants Convert'.
In this article was a paragraph that, as an old boss of mine used to say, really 'wrapped up my axles'. I was instantly aware; this was how I'd been thinking. Like, all my life. Also, I was instantly aware I had absolutely no argument back against this. In fact, I think I laughed out loud as I read it. As a poor, vulnerable Protestant, I was helpless in the face of this, sort of...rude exposure.
Our historical awareness of the Christian faith must rise above the popular Protestants tropes of the “Ditch Theory.” According to this error, the Apostles understood and practiced devotion to Christ in all of its purity and depth. Such fidelity to the apostolic tradition continued until Emperor Constantine elevated Christianity as the official religion of the empire, at which point the Church promptly fell into the ditch of compromise and heresy.
From Constantine through the Medieval Age, the gospel was immersed in unbiblical tradition and therefore largely misunderstood, apart from a small remnant of believers who somehow managed to get it right. Eventually, God empowered Martin Luther to confront these errors, which he initiated in 1517 when he nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the castle church door at Wittenberg. With Luther and the reform movements that followed, Christianity was elevated three quarters of the way out of the ditch. In this nearly-restored condition, biblical Christianity remained until the founding of one’s particular denomination or church, at which point pure, biblical faith was finally returned to its original condition. Hopefully, the absurdity of this view is apparent.
This had been my vague, non-verbalized position all my life. We (the Protestants) were right about all this, because, well, the Catholics just couldn't be right. Those two paragraphs pinned me to the mat. Had this been an MMA fight, I would have been furiously tapping out. I could not ignore this or dismiss it. I copied it to a Note in my iPhone and read it over and over again for several days. I had been, I realized, arrogant in my Protestant position. So snooty that I couldn't see something that now looked so plain and obvious.. I felt like Job (42:3) when he said,
'Surely I spoke of things I did not understand...'
Once I saw this, I couldn't unsee it, and it opened the door to truths and positions the church had taken in the centuries before Luther, Calvin, etc., all of which needed investigating. I learned a new term: 'Apostolic Tradition', which in turn opened other doors. Too many to list here, but this was yet another step away from Protestantism for me.