Q. Christ established the catholic church (small “c”), not the Catholic church. Does the “Church” since the time of the Council of Carthage on look like the church of Christ? No.
A. There was no ecumenical Council of Carthage. There were local bishop’s councils in Carthage, Africa. The first of these was held nearly a hundred years before the Bible was canonized. If, as you say the Church established by Christ was already lost to history, then how can you trust the canon of the New Testament? This same Catholic, universal Christian Church closed the canon of scripture in the early 400′s. Who Decided the Books of the Bible? This was a major factor in my entering the Catholic Church. I could find no way to accept the authority of the Canon of Scripture while at the very same time saying that the Church, the bishops, the council, the Popes who decided the canon and closed it, were supposedly apostate already. How can Protestants trust the canon and not trust the people who made the decision by the power of God?
But of course, I do believe that Hell has not overcome the Church established by Christ, just as He promised in Matt. 16:18 so I believe it has existed continuously since it was founded by Him.
Q. Purgatory was not taught until the 4th century and was not formally recognized until the 16th century.
Q. If the Catholic church is governed by “infallible” men, then how can the church traditions and doctrines change?
A. Catholic Doctrine does NOT change. Please see this POST. What doctrine do you think has changed? Over time we as we study scripture and teachings of the Fathers, our understanding deepens and develops. But all of our doctrines remain. And the Tradition of the Church with a capital “T” does not change either. Our practices and disciplines can and do change. Like eating fish on Friday. And no pope has taught error to the whole church. Please see my post
Q. How could Popes be excommunicated if they are infallible.
A. Easy. There might even be popes in Hell. I hope you will read the above post but to be brief, infallibility refers to the fact that God protects His Church by ensuring that the pope, whenever he teaches on Faith and Morals to the Whole Church will never teach error. God will prevent this. The Pope is not perfectly sinless. Neither is every word from his mouth infallible. He only exercises God’s empowering infallibility when he teaches on faith and morals to the whole church.
Q. God is the only infallible One. He is the same today as he was yesterday, and will remain the same for all of eternity.
A. God is certainly infallible but He is able to produce infallibility in a man to accomplish His purposes. For instance, sacred scripture is all written by men who, we both believe, were used by God to teach infallibly in the written word even though they were sinners.
Q. I thank you for such a kind intelligent debate!
A. You are most welcome.