Whenever I hear the expressions ‘Primitive Church’ or ‘Primitive Christian’ I always have a vision of Wilma and Fred Flintstone occupying a pew or at any rate something involving cave dwellers wielding clubs while dressed in animal skins. Which, it appears, is something of a misapprehension on my part. ‘Primitive’ in this context means ‘early’ or ‘first.’ The Primitive Church is simply the Christian community as it existed in it beginnings, fresh from the events surrounding Jesus in Galilee and Judaea, guided by the Apostles. It is considered by many to be the gold standard against which contemporary Christianity should be judged usually to its considerable disadvantage. There are two particular currents of thought which make use of this critical tool largely for the purposes of disparaging Catholicism.
The ecclesial Christian communities of the Reformation (Protestants for short) since the emergence of their various tendencies have united in the criticism that the Catholic Church distorted, obscured, deviated from, and added alien elements to, the original faith of the Primitive Christians. By thus corrupting the religion they at some point, usually arbitrarily selected by the critics, became definitively degenerate or actually apostate. The Protestant aim from the beginning and in each subsequent schism, split or formation of a brand new sect has always been to return to the faith and practice of the Primitive Church. Quite how they reconcile this with their dogmatic assertion that Scripture Alone is the sure basis of Christianity I’ve never quite understood because if there is one thing about which we can be certain regarding the first Christians it is that they did not possess the New Testament and therefore could neither use it in their liturgies nor seek within its pages for the doctrines of their faith.
The currently more influential critique emerges from the secularists, the atheists and the liberal theologians. It amounts to this: Jesus was misunderstood by His contemporaries, friend and foe alike. These misunderstandings were incorporated into the Bible and the Christian Church (which subsists in the Catholic Church) has busied itself ever since in emphasising the misunderstandings and downplaying the authentic fragments which we possess. Click here to read more