That assertion would prompt guffaws throughout the Presbyterian and Reformed world and yet Roman Catholic apologists continue to make such a claim with even higher stakes: “the Roman Catholic Church is the church Jesus founded.”
Who actually looks at history this way? To think that the OPC was a gleam in the eye of John Calvin is risible if only because Orthodox Presbyterianism comes so much later and after so many different historical developments than the Reformed churches of Geneva. Someone could spot similarities in worship, polity, and theology between Geneva and the OPC. But the OPC is only a development from something that started in 1522 in Zurich even before Calvin was a Protestant convert.
It’s like saying the United States of President Obama is the nation that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams founded. Neither the Left nor the Right in the United States thinks that way. As if a nation that now extends across the entire continent, has a population 100 times greater than 1789, and possesses the largest economy and military in the world is the United States Jefferson and Adams founded.
So how close does Roman Catholicism come to Jesus? For starters, Jesus never made it to Europe. The churches with which Jesus had the greatest familiarity and presence were those of Jerusalem. Which is why Tertullian did not ask, “what hath Rome to do with Athens” (and a good thing he didn’t since Thomists may have followed Aristotle more than Peter and Paul).
If the writings of the apostles are any indication, you know the ones we typically call “the word of God,” the early church had no episcopacy. The first body to make authoritative rulings for believers was the Council of — wait for it — Jerusalem and that body showed no deference to the pastors of Rome. The theology of Paul, a big block of NT teaching, went out of its way to stress faith over observance of the law, a major point that split western Christianity and isolated Rome from the apostles according to those most zealous to protect apostolic teaching (as opposed to papal prerogative). Meanwhile, the worship of the early church was simple and according to Paul the Lord’s Supper was a not a sacrifice but a fellowship meal (just like the Passover). And worship was not in Latin, a point sure to upset the Latin-Rite proponents.
So the early records of Christianity lean much more in the direction of the Eastern churches being the original Christians. In fact, were it not for the Eastern Church and their first Christian emperor, western Christians would not have Trinitarian orthodoxy.
It may be high time to remember that Boston Americans, not the New York Yankees, won the first World Series.