Archive for the ‘Papacy’ Category

Papal Priorities: Biblical Study or Saint Veneration?

September 12, 2016

Roman Catholics often raise the topic of authority and claim that we need an infallible interpreter to interpret Scripture.  This, they say, means we need the papacy.  But what does the papacy actually do or care about?

When pressed, however, Roman Catholic apologists typically acknowledge that an allegedly infallible interpretation has been provided for fewer than 20 verses (see this document from Roman Catholic apologist and pilgrimage promoter Steve Ray).  Moreover, when you dig into the claims about those verses, most of the interpretations are actually the alleged interpretations of ecumenical councils, rather than popes.

On the other hand, the Roman Catholic church also teaches that infallibility is exercised in the designation of a deceased person as a “saint.”  How often is this alleged gift of infallibility exercised? John Paul II canonized 482 saints in 26 years (apparently a record number).  Benedict XVI canonized 45 saints in 7 years.  Francis has canonized 29 saints plus 812 companions of one of those, in his three years so far as pope.

I think it’s fair to say that papal priorities are revealed by papal actions. In this case, the priority of the papacy is clearly on the veneration of the deceased, rather than on the study and interpretation of Scripture.  In the lifetime of most of my readers, the popes have never once infallibly interpreted Scripture but have allegedly infallibly canonized saints literally hundreds of times.

Roman Catholic apologists may say we need the popes to understand the Scriptures, but Roman Catholic practice demonstrates that announcing saints for veneration is far more central to the actual papal role.

Humanly Speaking the Cross was a Failure

September 29, 2015

The pope wasn’t saying that Christ’s death was a failure. He was saying the same thing that both Roman Catholics and Protestants affirm, namely that the disciples were expecting a Messiah that would give military victory over the Romans. Instead, the Romans killed him. He looked like a failure to those who had only a human perspective on things. The pope was contrasting the divine perspective with the human perspective, when he said:

The cross shows us a different way of measuring success. Ours is to plant the seeds. God sees to the fruits of our labors. And if at times our efforts and works seem to fail and not produce fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus Christ and his life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, the failure of the cross.

This shouldn’t be any surprise, since others have said the same thing.

Roman Catholic expressions of this:
“It is love and loyalty which persist even where humanly speaking there seems to be no reason for it — just as the cross of Jesus was humanly speaking hopeless, but brought salvation and goodness.” A New Catechism: Catholic Faith for Adults, with Supplement

“Humanly speaking, a failure: a colossal, blatant failure. Yet when all seemed to be lost, all was in fact saved. ” Federico Suarez

Non-RC expressions of this:
“5. He was rejected and despised by the people among whom He labored. “He came to His own, and His own received Him not.” His work was, humanly speaking, a complete failure, and when He left the world He had but a handful of followers who had remained true to His teachings and person.” Albert Simpson

“With all reverence, let me say to you, humanly speaking, the day the Master died on the Cross it seemed a colossal failure.” D. L. Ferris

“That beautiful Iife promised so much, but the Cross shows how those promises, humanly speaking, ended in failure. The nation He came to teach rejected Him; the people He came to save crucified Him; a few Disciples only remained faithful to Him; and yet out of that ” failure” came the greatest success the world has ever known, the success which has regenerated mankind!” Alfred Mortimer

“Humanly speaking, his work had failed. ” Warren W. Wiersbe

“What enabled the disciples of Jesus to understand this enigmatic “message of the cross”? At first sight, we see in the cross the sign of a failure, humanly speaking. ” Taize

There are good reasons to be opposed to the papacy, but this isn’t one of them.


Garry Wills on the Title "Holy Father"

May 20, 2014

Garry Wills (self-identified Catholic, but rejecter of the papacy and transubstantiation), in “Why Priests?” has this interesting comment (p. 12):

Jesus is telling his Followers not to be like the Sadducees and Pharisees who seek the “first places”:
Everything they do is done to impress people. They enlarge their tefillins and lengthen their tassels. They like the most important place at meals, and the chairs of honor in their synagogues, and to be cheered on the street, and to be called by people “Rabbi.” You, however, must not be addressed as “Rabbi,” since you have only one Teacher, and you are brothers to each other. Do not address any man on earth as father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven. And you must not be addressed as leaders, since you have only one Leader, the Messiah. The greater among you will be your servant. For whoever boosts himself up will be lowered, and whoever lowers himself down will be boosted up. (Mt. 23.5-12)
What could be more against this teaching than popes who adopt the title “Holy Father”?
Wills is exactly right.  While the “call no man father” command does not mean we can never in any way refer to other men as fathers, the kind of behavior it does prohibit is precisely the behavior of Roman Catholics, in elevating a single man above all others.
Wills continues (p. 12):

Thus the post-Gospel literature of the Jesus movement introduces people in administrative roles–Servants, Elders, Overseers. These are not charisms bestowed by the Spirit, but offices to which people are appointed by their fellow human beings–and once more the priesthood is missing from the list.

Wills is right again.  He goes on to explain what “Servants” (deacons), “Elders” (presbyters), and “Overseers” (bishops).  Wills notes that Paul, in his letters, uses the plural term “episkopoi” once (at Philippians 1:1).  Luke, in Acts, similarly reports Paul as using the plural term.
In Philippians 1:1, Paul and Timothy greet, as Wills explains (p. 13) “(1) God’s people, (2) the Overseers, (3) the Servants.”  These are the overseers, plural, for the church at Philippi.  Similarly, at Acts 20:28, Paul speaks to the overseers, again plural, of the church at Ephesus.
In two other cases, the singular form is used, but even there the occurs in conjunction with elders (presbyteroi plural) or board of elders (presbyterion – which implies a plurality of people).
I would, naturally, disagree with Wills’ suggestion (p. 14) that these possibly later singular usages point towards a development of the monarchical episcopate, such as argued-for by the letters of Ignatius.  Nevertheless, Wills historical points that Paul’s usage suggests that the leadership of the church is not a leadership by one, but by plurality of more or less equals.
Furthermore, Wills is right in noting the fundamental distinction and discontinuity between the apostles (whose gift was a charism of the Holy Spirit) and the elders/bishops that followed them, whose appointment was by men, even those who were appointed by the apostles themselves.  Even though these offices of deacon and elder are divinely authorized offices, they are divinely authorized in a different way from the apostolic office.
Significantly – both for Wills and us – none of this pointed to a priest or high priest over the local assembly.  The apostles themselves were not priests, and they did not even set up a human office of priest.
– TurretinFan

Clarifying the Rebuttal to the Necessity Argument for the Papacy

April 10, 2013

Scott Alt has posted a response to my earlier post, which mentioned the fact that the papacy is not necessary.  Mr. Alt’s primary error is confusing a rebuttal argument and a positive argument.  Mr. Alt misunderstood my post as something like the following argument:

1) If something is not necessary, it is not true;
2) The papacy is not necessary;

3) Therefore, the papacy is not true.

That argument is not correct, because (1) is false.  That was not my argument.

Rather my argument was a rebuttal to the often-heard allegation that the papacy must be true because it is necessary.  In other words, my actual argument was a response to this argument:

1) If the papacy is necessary, it must be true;
2) The papacy is necessary;
3) Therefore, the papacy must be true.
My rebuttal is that (2) is false.  The papacy is not necessary.  Therefore, as I said, “Any argument for the papacy … needs to come from some other quarter than from necessity.”
Mr. Alt makes a comparison to the U.S. presidency.  But no one argues that we have a president because that’s necessary.  They argue that we have a president because that’s what the U.S. constitution provides for.  We could have a parliamentarian form of government or a monarchy or any number of other forms of government.  A presidency is not necessary.  And indeed, Mr. Alt himself states “the point, rather, is what the Founders intended to give us.”
Then, Mr. Alt tries make an analogous argument for the papacy:

The papacy isn’t “necessary”; but the point isn’t what is “necessary,” but what Christ intended for His Church.  … The point is what God chooses, not what human beings feel they need.

This, however, is an assertion in search of an argument.  The argument it is looking for is not the kind rebutted in my post.  So far, so good.

But to extend Mr. Alt’s own analogy, we know that having a succession of presidents is what the founders wanted, because they left behind documents describing what they wanted, most significantly the Constitution.  By contrast, what Jesus and the apostles left behind as documentation of what they want is the New Testament, which makes no mention at all of any papacy (Roman or otherwise).

Mr. Alt has some comments on the “unbroken succession” claim, but as I’ve already pointed out, that claim is meaningless.  Apparently, Mr. Alt finds it “sophomoric” to point out when Rome makes meaningless claims, but so be it.

Mr. Alt asks “does TF really mean for us to believe that when there’s a sede vacante the slate is wiped clean and the Church has to start over again as if it were 33 A.D.?” Obviously, that is not what I mean for him to believe.  I mean for him to believe that the Roman system of ecclesiology is not the system of ecclesiology that Jesus and the apostles appointed.  In fact, it hardly has any resemblance to it.  I also mean for him to believe that Rome’s claim to “unbroken succession” is not simply flawed, it’s meaningless.

Mr. Alt tries to turn the tables by pointing out that the elders in Reformed churches are not necessary, in the sense that Christ could have established things differently.  The difference, of course, is that Jesus through the apostles actually established churches in which there is oversight by elders.  Jesus through the apostles did not establish a papacy.

Mr. Alt concludes:

Really, those on the Reformed side need to come up with better arguments.  Any argument against the papacy must be made on the basis of what Christ did or did not intend, not on any subjective, earth-bound idea about what’s “necessary.”

Actually, it is the advocates for the papacy that need better arguments.  Strictly speaking, those who want to advocate for a papacy need to make the argument for the papacy.  We can limit ourselves to rebuttal arguments – arguments that demonstrate the flaws in the various and sundry arguments for the papacy.  We do not need to provide a definitive disproof of the papacy (although that has been done as well).  Most importantly, not every post needs to be such a definitive disproof – it can simply be a rebuttal to a specific pro-papal argument.


Vatican Vacancy and Papal Necessity

April 9, 2013

For a brief time earlier this year, there was no pope – no bishop of Rome for the Roman Catholics. The “Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church” (Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone held this office at that time) was in charge of Vatican City and Gandalf Castle and the few other “temporal powers” that still exist. Yet there was no “visible head” or “earthly head” or the like.  There was a break, of sorts, in the supposedly “unbroken succession”! (see more on this point)

And more fundamentally, life went on.  Life would have gone on had the cardinals not picked a successor.  The bishop of Rome is really not necessary for anyone.  People who had questions about the meaning of Scripture found answers.  The Bible is no more or less clear today than it was during that time.

The Roman Catholic Church couldn’t exist as such without a pope for the long run, because of various administrative tasks that fall to the pope (like appointing new bishops and elevating new cardinals).  But those tasks are not tasks that are really necessary for the bishop of Rome to be doing.

What’s the point?  Simply that the papacy isn’t necessary.  It wasn’t necessary in the time of the apostles and it is not necessary now.  Any argument for the papacy, therefore, needs to come from some other quarter than from necessity.


Candida Moss on Bishops and the Bishop of Rome in the Early Church

April 7, 2013

In The Myth of Persecution, Dr. Candida Moss (professor of New Testament at Notre Dame) makes two interesting comments regarding the early church and the papacy. First, at page 227, she states:

According to the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, bishops can trace their line in an unending succession all the way back to the earliest days of the Jesus movement. The most famous example of this is the pope in Roman Catholicism, who is believed to be a direct spiritual descendant of the apostle Peter. Yet recent archaeological and historical studies of the church before the conversion of Constantine have shown that bishops were not very powerful and that the church was thoroughly disorganized.

I assume she means “unbroken” rather than “unending” (but compare my previous comments).  Moreover, she’s right about the lack of power of the bishops and the lack of organization.  Part of that, though, is the environment of persecution and hostility that Dr. Moss is reluctant to acknowledge existed.

Second, at pages 230-31, she states:

The picture we get from Eusebius is that Irenaeus, the keen fighter of heretics and chronographer of episcopal traditions, was a friend of the martyrs and was recommended for the rank of bishop by the martyrs themselves. By the time this letter reached Rome, its authors would have been dead already and moved from the category of confessors to that of martyrs. It is interesting that these Christians were writing to the Bishop of Rome, because this assumes that the Bishop of Rome had influence and perhaps even authority over ancient France in a manner similar to the pope’s influence and authority over the church today. This is a charming picture of order and harmony in which martyrs defer to and support the bishops. Eusebius is able to establish, quite concretely, the lineage of episcopacy in Gaul and to justify its origins.
This romantic picture of harmony and hierarchy is anachronistic. In the late second century the bishop of Rome had nothing like the power that the pope has today. The famous passage from Matthew in which Jesus promises Peter, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (16:18), which is today used to legitimize the papacy, was never quoted in full in any Christian literature until the third-century writer Tertullian. Even then Tertullian does not cite the passage in order to demonstrate the authority of the Bishop of Rome over the entire church. If the imprisoned confessors in Gaul wrote to the bishop of Rome, it was because they had strong ties to Rome, Rome was a center of finance and commerce, and the bishop of Rome was an important figure there. It was not because they were asking the head of the church for guidance. For many centuries bishops struggled to find their footing as authority figures in the church. They found themselves at odds with confessors, monks, and those who controlled the shines of saints in their regions. The picture that Eusebius gives us is incorrect, but it does valuable work in supporting church hierarchy and unity.

These are pretty much the same things we’ve been saying to Roman Catholics, but it as at least nice to see them being said by a professor at a major Roman Catholic university.  Dr. Moss mentions going to mass in her book, but I cannot recall her ever specifying whether she is Roman Catholic.

– TurretinFan

Benedict XVI to Resign for "Health" Reasons

February 11, 2013

Benedict XVI is an octogenarian, so it is not in the least surprising if he has serious medical concerns. On the other hand, as many people are pointing out, a pope hasn’t resigned the papacy since 1415, when Pope Gregory XII “resigned” to end the Western Schism (his resignation was basically forced by the Council of Constance – for a voluntary resignation, one would need to go back to Celestine V in 1294, or to the resignation of Benedict IX who was a “disgrace to the Chair of Peter“). Nevertheless, confirmed news reports indicate that Benedict XVI will be resigning shortly (link to a report).

Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy has been involved in a number of different scandals, including the so-called “Vatileaks” scandal, in which various allegations of corruption were made and various aspects of the sex-abuse scandal, including allegations that Bendedict XVI had (prior to becoming pope) discouraged Irish bishops from reporting abuse to the police. The most recent major scandal in the U.S. was Archbishop Gomez’s decision unilaterally to impose what amounts to discipline on Cardinal Mahoney, his hierarchical superior.

The health issue may be a real and even a primary motivation for Benedict XVI’s remarkable resignation – but this breakdown in the hierarchy is a more obvious reason. One would expect that the princes of the church would be disciplined by the pope himself, not by their local archbishop. Nevertheless, it is hard to know how much of the iceberg lies beneath the surface.

Benedict XVI will not get to pick his successor. However, his suggestions may carry weight amongst the cardinals who participate in the papal enclave. There are currently 199 Cardinals, of which only 79 are eligible to vote (a cardinal cannot vote after he reaches a certain age). The oldest living cardinal is Paul Augustin Mayer, born May 23, 1911 (101 years old), and the youngest is Peter Erdö, born June 25, 1952 (60 years old).

If I had to guess who the new pope will be, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone is the top name, followed by Cardinal William Joseph Levada. If I had to guess who Benedict XVI would like to see as the next pope, Cardinal Walter Kasper seems like a possibility. And don’t forget, Cardinals Law and Mahoney are both eligible to be elected by the other cardinals as the next pope. I don’t think that’s remotely likely to happen, but it’s worth noting that they maintain their current ecclesiastical rank (see the full list here).

Others have other favorites:

So, who are the current favorites? Three names are most prominent: Cardinal Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan; Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; and Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa.

Cardinal Scola, 70, is highly esteemed by the pontiff, who moved him from the Patriarchate of Venice to Milan, one of the largest and most important sees in Europe. He is a brilliant, if at times recondite, theologian, a major supporter of the New Evangelization and a leader in Catholic-Islamic dialogue. His election could be hampered by internal divisions among the Italian cardinals.

Cardinal Ouellet, 68, is a Sulpician and served as archbishop of Quebec from 2002 to 2010 before taking over as head of the powerful Vatican office that oversees the appointment of the world’s bishops. Critics point to the lamentable state of the Church in Quebec during his tenure and wonder if he would be able to reinvigorate the faith in the West.

Cardinal Bagnasco, 69, is very well known among the Italian and European Cardinals and has a reputation for intellectual heft. He is also president of the influential Italian Bishops’ Conference.



Titles of Jesus: Archon of the Kings of the Earth

February 1, 2013

Jesus is described in numerous ways in the book of Revelation.  One of the titles mentioned in the salutation of John and Jesus’ letter to the seven churches is “The Archon of the Kings of the Earth” (Greek: “ὁ ἄρχων τῶν βασιλέων τῆς γῆς”), which the King James Version translates as “the prince of the kings of the earth.”

This title of head over all of the kings of the earth is something that the Roman bishop desires.  Boniface VIII is an example of the desire of popes to have supreme temporal authority.  His Unam Sanctam, which proclaims a false gospel of submission to the Roman bishop (as discussed here) is sometimes dismissed from consideration on the basis that its reference to rulers being required to submit to Rome is not meant universally.  In fact, the rulers are merely the minor premise, with the general principle being the major premise.  But the problem is more acute.  The very title of Archon of the Kings of the Earth belongs to Jesus Christ.  Boniface VIII can wear his double tiara and John XXII his triple tiara, but that’s just jewelry – the truth is that it is Christ who is Archon.

True ministers of the gospel (as some ancient bishops in Rome were), are ministers of God, just as also the temporal rulers are ministers (in a different sense) of God.  But the kingdom of heaven is not set up like Gentile kingdoms on earth.  There are lords many and kings many, but while we have overseers, we are all brethren and have one Lord, Jesus Christ.

I think this title is sometimes overlooked by my brethren who want to maintain a rigid separation of church and state.  With this title, though, Jesus is claiming all temporal to be his.  Thus, all the kings of the Earth ought to obey his revealed will and ought to order their kingdoms accordingly.

It’s a marvelous title.  It emphasizes the supremacy of Jesus even while we acknowledge that Jesus first coming was not to establish an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly kingdom.  Nevertheless, the kings of the earth should beware.  Jesus Christ their Archon is coming again in judgment.  They ought to consider that warning and be ready against his coming.


Darryl Hart and a Heretical Pope

January 29, 2013

Darryl Hart points out how Pope John XXII (c. 1244 – 1334) was forced by the Parisian Faculty of Theology to recant his heretical views regarding the Beatific Vision (link). It’s an example of the messiness of the medieval papacy and particularly its relationship to France and the French theologians.

The work from which Hart quotes is “The Mortgage of the Past,” by Francis Oakley. That same work documents a number of issues that the folks at Called to Communion (a Roman communion blog) are unlikely to feature. For example, endnote 50 at page 269 highlights the fact that previous generations (i.e. before Vatican I) have been more open to the idea that the pope may fall into heresy:

Decretum, D. 40. c. 6; ed. Friedberg, 1879-81. 1:146. Tierney, 1964, 119, notes that even the high papalist decretist Alanus Anglicus [fl. A.D. 1190-1215] conceded that deposition would be called for in the case of papal heresy. The more moderate decretist Huguccio [of Pisa] went further, and envisaged any notorious papal crime as cause sufficient for the imposition of that penalty. For a full synoptic treatment of the origin and destiny of such notions, see Oakley, 2003b.

Oakley endorses the idea that “no other pope was as important for edging papal monarch toward absolutism” as Innoncent III (A.D. 1198-1216), quoting Kenneth Pennington, The Pope and the Bishops: the Papal Monarchy in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984), p. 58.

– TurretinFan

Response to Cursilista Regarding Church History

December 26, 2011

Cursilista wrote:

The one thing that bugs me is that the question I would ask is for a protestant explanation of how did Christianity move forward through time after Christ died. 

We have a pretty clear answer to that.  Read the book of Acts.  It says zero about a Roman-centered Christianity.  Rome is part of Paul’s mission field, it’s not the locus of a papacy.  We see churches being planted all over the world, wherever Paul and other missionaries go.

Cursilista continued:

Give an explanation of what form of organization did Christianity take that survived since the time of Christ to today. 

The form of the organization was initially elders in every city (Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:), accompanied by deacons (Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:). The terms bishop and elder were originally synonymous.

Eventually, a monarchical episcopate emerged, in which one of the elders became designated as “the” bishop.  Later, certain bishops gained a preeminence over others, particularly in cities that were important in the Roman empire.  I could go on, and recite the tale of the development of a variety of different organizational forms that have existed from ancient times down to modern times, but suffice to say that there have been a significant number of different organizational forms that have existed, both in ancient times and – of course – in modern times.

Cursilista continued:

Christ said that his church would not be overcome by the gates of hell. Satan would not prevail over his church, therefore Christ’s church had to have existed since his death to current time and will continue to exist forever. 

This is a non sequitur, premised on a misunderstanding of what Christ said. 

First of all, the organizational form of the apostolic era church (with a plurality of elders accompanied by deacons in every city) was quite not carefully maintained.  Even historians within the Roman communion (such as Robert Eno and Francis Sullivan) acknowledge this fact. 

Second, the apostasy of individual churches (even very many of them) does not entail victory of Satan over Christ’s church.  Recall that during the time of the Old Testament, it seemed to God’s prophet Elisha that he was the last follower of God on earth, but God replied that there were 7000 others.  Thus, even if for a few years – or even a few hundred years – there were only 7000 scattered followers of Christ, it would be Satan’s error to think he had the victory over the church.

We need not, however, assume that apostasy was so complete that there were only 7000 believers.  Certainly there were many errors that crept into the churches, even from a very early time.  Nevertheless, salvation is not obtained by having perfect doctrines or perfect practices, but rather by trusting in Christ alone for salvation.

Third, the reference to the gates of hell is a reference to death, not Satan.  Recall that Wisdom 16:13 states: “For thou hast power of life and death: thou leadest to the gates of hell, and bringest up again.”  The promise that Jesus is making in Matthew 16 is not some kind of victory in spiritual defense against Satan (after all, in warfare gates are themselves defensive not offensive) but rather victory over death: resurrection.  The “church” that Christ is talking about here is all believers.  As Christ explains: “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.  And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.  … No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.  … Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:39, 40, 44, and 54)

Cursilista continued: 

So name that church, name the leaders of that church, show a succession of those leaders, there is a 2000 yr. span of time which has to be accounted for. 

This request proceeds from the faulty premises identified above.  Christ does not promise that every apostle would be faithful, much less that those who came after them would be faithful.  The head of Christ’s church is one: Christ, as it is written: “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,” (Ephesians 1:22), “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.”  (Ephesians 5:23), “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” (Colossians 1:18).

It is true that Christ died, but Christ was raised again on the third day and continues to live even until this day.  So, the two thousand year time span is fully accounted for.

Moreover, while Christ is bodily absent from us, he has provided us with both the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit.  Thus, we can learn what we need to believe to be saved from them.  The churches are an aid to that, but they are (and must be) subordinate to both.

Cursilista wrote:

What churches did the Apostles start. They should still be around today. 

Why would one assume such a thing?  Look at the letters to the seven churches in Revelation (sorry, Rome didn’t make that list).  There is no promise to those churches, which were started in the apostolic era that they would endure forever, or that they would endure without apostasy.  Indeed, can you find those seven churches now?

Cursilista continued:

For 1500 years, my only knowledge of such a Christian church is the Catholic Church. 

There are other churches that claim an ancient lineage.  The Eastern Orthodox churches are the most visible alternative, but there are others as well – such as the Copts in Egypt and the Ethiopian Orthodox.  The fact that a church claims an ancient lineage does not demonstrate that the church teaches what the apostles taught.  We can know what the apostles taught from the Scriptures, and we can compare the teachings of churches like Rome to those teachings to see whether they have maintained or departed from the apostolic faith.

Moreover, Rome’s claims to being ancient are easily challenged.  Events like the Council of Constance or the move from election by the people of Rome to election by the Cardinals suggest that the modern papacy is disconnected from the older Roman bishoprics.  The fact that men have obtained the papacy by simony similarly negate the idea that somehow the Roman bishopric has been maintained against Satan’s attacks.  Do we even need to mention mention men like Julius III and Alexander VI who occupied the papacy but demonstrated by their way of life that they were not Christians?

Cursilista wrote:

The protestant reformation took place in the early 1500’s. 

That’s a typical sociological date.  However, of course, at the time Luther was treated as being a continuation of what Huss (1369-1415) and Wycliffe (1328-1384) had started before him, in terms of opposing Rome.  And we could back even prior to Wycliffe to the Waldensians, who trace their roots to Peter Waldo (1140-1218).  Of course, this is only in the West.  An East-West division occurred in 1054.  So, while the Protestant Reformation was a very notable and important event, it’s more of a continuation of lots of people disagreeing with the bishop of Rome, and the bishop of Rome (at least from the 11th century) acting as an autocrat (see the power struggle between Emperor Henry IV and the pope of his day, for example).

Cursilista continued:

The protestants need to fill in a 1500 yr. gap as to what was Christ’s church, other than the catholic church, here on earth for those 1500 yrs. If they cannot, then, they have to admit that the Catholic church is the church that was established by Christ. If Christ said he church would endure forever then, either his church started at Pentecost and continues to today or Jesus waited 1500 yrs. to start his church during the protestant reformation. The later proposition is hard to believe.

Mostly, this is already addressed above.  The faulty presupposition behind this argument is that Christ came to establish a single denomination.  Instead, the rock upon which Christ’s church is built is a confession of faith in Christ alone (“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God”).  That is to say, “the church” is whoever trusts in Christ alone for salvation.  It’s not an organization with a headquarters in Rome, ruled by men in fancy clothes who sit on thrones.

Cursilista again:

Also in this debate, my two cents would be to ask the question and make this supposition . Is god a god of order or disorder. In order to organize men, there needs to be a committee and a head of that committee that controls the debate with authority. 

Cursilista assumes too much. In the Old Testament era, there was no pope, yet the same God ruled his people then.  Now, we have Christ as the head of our church, and we have his official word, the Scriptures, to guide and rule us.  That, however, is not enough for some, it seems.

Cursilista wrote:

When Jesus left this earth , he left his church in the hands of the apostles, humans, his committee, to organize and keep intact all of his teachings. 

Actually, when Jesus left, he sent the Holy Spirit who inspired the apostles and evangelists to write Holy Scripture. 

Cursilista continued:

Some of those teachings were not written down, so the bible says, because, all that Jesus taught his apostles couldn’t be written down, it would fill up the earth with books. 

Cursilista may have misunderstood the verse in question, but let us suppose that not all of Jesus’ teachings were included in the Bible.  If so, how could we reliably know what those other teachings were?  We would have to examine the historical record to see what else the apostles were teaching, beside those things that were included in Scripture.  But when we examine the historical record, we don’t see the distinctively Roman teachings (like papal infallibility, the bodily assumption of Mary, or the immaculate conception) being taught in the earliest period.

Moreover, the distinctively Roman dogmas are not that hard to put into book form.  So, it is not the case that these were simply not included because the amount of dogma was too much for the New Testament to fit it all.  Indeed, certain Roman advocates attempt to allege that Rome’s distinctive dogmas actually are found in Scripture.

On top of that, we see that the early Christians plainly did not hold to things like papal infallibility.  While many people say nice things about Rome, and many people even seek the wisdom or authority of the bishop of Rome at various times in the patristic era, where does anyone argue that the bishop of Rome is infallible?  It’s absurd to think that such a doctrine is apostolic or from Christ himself, yet we see people try to argue that today.

Cursilista again:

Therefore, The apostles with someone as the , lets call it chairman of the board of the committee, was the governing authority of the faith. 

The book of Acts does not reflect this.  On the contrary, the seeming “chairman” of the council described in Acts 15 is James, not Peter (who was living in Antioch or Samaria at that time, not Rome), and certainly not Linus (who is not even mentioned).  Likewise, as noted above, Rome’s own historians dispute the idea the Roman papacy is something that was from the beginning.

Cursilista concluded: 

How else would the faith survive intact if not for some form of human organizational body in place to keep the teachings intact and without error or human interpretation to twist the teachings to cultural changes as time went by.

The answer should be obvious: Holy Scripture and the Holy Spirit preserve and persuade us of the apostolic faith.  There is no promise all believers will have beliefs totally free from error.  But our faith does not depend an organization of men or a particular denomination of believers.


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