When did the Roman Catholic Church begin?

Derek Thomas & W. Robert Godfrey
1 Min Read

GODFREY: Luther and Melanchthon said that the Roman Catholic Church began around 600 with Pope Gregory the Great. They called him “the Pied Piper leading the church astray.”

The development of the Roman Catholic Church to where it is today is a long process of slow and subtle changes. For many centuries, the church in Rome got many things right and provided valuable leadership in the worldwide church. However, it gradually allowed its own traditions to have more authority than the Word of God, and those traditions then fed off traditions. It is often a problem in churches that tradition heads authority rather than the Word of God.

THOMAS: Do you think that the seeds of the Roman Catholic Church lie in Augustine’s doctrine of the church?

GODFREY: By Augustine’s day in the early fifth century, there were already significant seeds of a Romanizing ecclesiology, but most of that Augustine inherited rather than created. In Augustine and what he inherited, there is a tension between what would later become Roman Catholicism and what would later become Protestantism. You could argue that Protestants follow part of Augustine and make it more consistent, and Roman Catholics follow another part of Augustine and make it more consistent.

THOMAS: Wasn’t it B.B. Warfield who talked about the triumph of Augustine’s doctrine of grace over his doctrine of the church?


This is a transcript of Derek Thomas' and W. Robert Godfrey's answers given during our If the Foundations Are Destroyed: Escondido 2022 Conference and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email ask@ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.