Catholic Truth Society Postal Course #5: The Christian Religion, by Father Herbert C Fincham

the Cross and CrownChrist’s Religion Will Be United, Holy, Universal

The whole Christian Religion is based on the one great fundamental fact of Christ’s Divinity. It is this that makes our religion unique and different from all others, without this we could not’claim to be any morethan perhaps the primus inter pares, the first amongst equals. From the fact that Christ is God we draw very important deductions. God is Truth, therefore the teaching of God Himself must be true and we must believe Him for He can neither deceive nor be deceived. Now, truth is consistent and one, two contradictory statements cannot both be true and, therefore. Truth Himself cannot have taught both. Jesus must have taught either that Baptism, for example, is necessary or that it is not necessary. He cannot have taught both. The same applies to all He taught. His religion must agree in Doctrine and Worship, by its consistency in truth. Again, God is Holy and therefore His teaching must be holy. There is only one true God for all mankind and, therefore, God’s own religion will be for the whole human race. It must be Catholic, which means universal.

Christ’s Religion Will Teach Christ’s Truth

Once it is granted that Christ is God, then, it must be admitted, that the teaching Christ came to reveal is something of such stupendous importance that God Himself came to teach it to us. Is it, then, conceivable that God would have been content to reveal it to a handful of men in one little corner of the world and at one point in the history of the world, and do nothing to preserve it so that future ages and all mankind might know it with the same certainty as those to whom He actually spoke?

Christ Guaranteed To Preserve This Truth

If it is objected that Christ could not guarantee its preservation, we reply that with God all things are possible and, in actual fact. He has ensured the perfect preservation of His doctrine by promising to be with His Church until the end of time, watching over and guiding her teaching so that she cannot err. “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it (My Church)” (Matthew 16:18). “Behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Matthew 28:20). “And I will ask the Father and He shall give you another Paraclete, that He may abide with you for ever … He will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you” (John 14:16-26). With such Divine guidance it is quite possible for God to preserve His teaching intact and incorrupt throughout the ages and, as it is possible, we may rightly claim that this mark of infallibility is one we must look for in the true Christian religion.

Christ’s Guarantee Was Given To His Church

It was to His apostles that Jesus Christ made these promises and commands to “Teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19), though in actual fact they did not teach the whole world, nor did they live until “the consummation of the world.” Therefore, as Christ is God and His promises must be fulfilled, these commands and promises cannot have been meant for the apostles personally but for what they represented. They were the first “officials” in Christ’s Church and so it was to His Church that He promised Divine, unerring guidance throughout the ages. However, the Church can only inherit this guidance in so far as she takes the place of those first representatives, the apostles, and so Christ’s Church must be able to trace her history and authority back to them. This is what we mean by apostolic.

We Must Look For A Church With These Marks

From what has been said, we can now see what characteristics or marks we would look for in the Church of Christ. She should be one, holy, catholic and apostolic, in the sense which we have considered. To these we may add another mark: Christ’s Church must claim to be infallible, for otherwise the promises of Christ’s guidance cannot be fulfilled in her.

The Catholic Church Has The Mark Of Unity

Going back to our fundamental principle that Christ is God, and that God is all-true and all-powerful, we conclude that somewhere in the world today a Church must exist with all these marks and characteristics. There is only one serious claimant for their fulfilment and that is the Church known throughout the centuries as the Catholic Church, which cannot include a number of religions or branches professing different and contradicting doctrines and practices, for this amounts to asserting that God has failed to preserve the integrity and oneness of His teaching in His Church. Such a “Church” would not have the first essential mark of oneness. Nor could such a “Church” claim the mark of infallibility, as the differing branches would contradict some of her “infallible” declarations.

The Catholic Church Has The Mark Of Universality

The Church that has always been known as the Catholic Church is truly universal, in all times and places, in every detail suited to all nations, tribes, colours and classes; and she alone can trace her history back to the apostles.

The Catholic Church Has The Mark Of Holiness

That her teaching is holy can be proved by the multitude of saints who, by following perfectly her guidance, have reached the height of holiness. Or we can prove it by examining her doctrines and practices and seeing how they all help and guide us on the path of sanctity. The fact that not all her children follow this path perfectly, and some even stray right away from it, in no way disproves her claim to be holy. Christ Himself foretold that His Church must gather both good and bad fishes in her net, and again both wheat and weeds must grow together until the harvest day (Matthew 13:28-30, 47-49). Among those whom He trained Himself as His first priests, one was a traitor, Judas. Hence sin may find its way in even amongst the highest in His Church and yet His Church will remain always essentially holy.

The Catholic Church Has The Mark Of Authority

The unity or oneness of the Catholic Church has always been observed by men, sometimes with scorn, calling her hide-bound and intolerant, sometimes with commendation or admiration. It springs from her claim to teach with the infallible certainty of Christ Himself so that His words to His disciples are fulfilled also in her: “He that heareth you, heareth Me, and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me” (Luke 10:16). Of itself, however, this “speaking as one having authority” would not be enough to keep men united, without a visible onion of structure or organization. To ensure this Christ appointed a Vicar to stand in His place as Visible Head on earth of His Church, while He Himself is, of course, the true and absolute Head.

Infallibility Ensures Unity

The outward manifestation of the unity of the Church is most observable in her unity of teaching. Unlike other claimants to the title of “Church of Christ,” all the priests of the Catholic Church teach the same doctrine and all the faithful are perfectly united in their belief. Thus a convert could pass from one instructor to another in the Catholic Church without fear of being taught some different or contradictory doctrine by each. The only possible guarantee of this is that all Catholics accept and believe the infallibility of the Church of Christ. It is from her, and her alone, that they know they can learn “all things whatsoever Christ commanded” (Matthew 28:20), and this is the foundation and guarantee of their certainty of the truth of their religion.

Christ Wills All The Believe His Church

Christ could not allow His Church to lead His followers into falsehood and spiritual disaster. Having satisfied ourselves of her authority and infallible reliability as our guide to religious truth, it would be both unreasonable and sinful for us to doubt or disbelieve her teaching, and it would be utter foolishness not to study her doctrine to the best of our ability, for on our understanding of it our salvation must depend.

Had Christ given no guarantee of infallibility to His Church, He could not have imposed any obligation on us to believe her teaching, for it would be incredibly unjust to threaten us with damnation for refusing to believe what might be untrue. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16). For this reason in the early centuries the Church did not consider it necessary to teach her converts all her doctrine until after they were baptized. She taught them enough to establish her claim to infallible authority as the teacher of Christ’s doctrine, and, therefore, their grave obligation to accept her teaching without question or doubt. Then they made their act of faith in her authority and were baptized; after which they were told all that Christ had entrusted His Church to teach and accepted it simply on her word.

Belief In The Church Accepts All Her Teaching

Nowadays we give the full instruction first, but there must be the same conviction of the infallible truth of the Church’s word, so that we do not have to prove each doctrine separately to convince ourselves of its truth. We know it is true as soon as we know that it is the Church’s teaching; and we know that everything the Church teaches is true even before we have studied it ourselves.

The Church Has Authority To Define Doctrine

From time to time the Church may “define” a doctrine and tell us that we are bound to believe it as part of the infallible faith of the Church of Christ. This does not mean that she teaches something new or changes her former teaching, bui that what is now “defined” was always implicit, though not perhaps at first evident, in the doctrine entrusted to her by Christ, and its emergence, or its clearer statement, is part of the growth which we would expect in a living organism. Our Lord compares His Church to the mustard seed which He plants in the world and which will grow into a great tree (Matthew 13:31). It is not merely a dead ethical code or list of revealed truths, but a living organism that grows and develops without changing its essential nature.

Must Share The Christ-Life In His Church

Again, Jesus compares His Church to a vine in which He is the vine and His followers the branches (John 15:1-7), and Saint Paul calls it a Body of which Christ is the Head and we the members. It is this essential unity with Christ, who is Truth itself, that guarantees and makes unquestionable the infallible truth of His Church. It is His will to gather together all His followers into this one, holy, catholic, apostolic and infallible Church. “And other sheep I have that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd” (John 10:16).

Good Faith May Unite A Soul To This Christ-Life

Thus the Church of Christ is the union of all the faithful under one head. Outside this Church there is no salvation for those who deliberately and of their own fault refuse to enter the one fold of Christ. Such “despise the Church and therefore despise Christ”; “He that despiseth you, despiseth Me” (Luke 10:16). They are like the Jews who refused to follow Christ, of whom He said: “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin: but now they have no excuse for their sin” (John 15:22). On the other hand Jesus does admit that He has other sheep not in His fold, and such are they who through no fault of their own are outside the Church. It may be that their upbringing in ignorance and bigotry makes them haters of the true Church of Christ, and yet, all unconsciously, because of their good faith and sincere striving to serve God rightly, they belong to the Church of God by implicit desire. If they could be convinced that the Catholic Church is the Church of Christ they would certainly join her because they love Christ and desire to do His Holy will in all things.

MLA Citation

  • Father Herbert C Fincham. “The Christian Religion”. The Catholic Postal Course, 1951. CatholicSaints.Info. 5 April 2016. Web. 21 October 2016. <>