Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Someone on the Catholic Discussion Forum asserted his opinion and tradition against the papacy in the Catholic Church. I gave short, imperfect, and brief comments in the ten minutes I had free today. This is a thread on whether or not the office of the papacy with qualifications for successors is mentioned in scripture. My comments are in dark blue.

1. In order for the papacy or an earthly head of the church with successors to be true as a definer and protector of truth, it would logically have to be described from the beginning of the church in the apostolic period and not as a later development.

Why does this have to be true? Wouldn’t this claim then be imposed on all development of doctrine such as the canon of Scripture. In other words, for the truth of sola scriptura to be true, it would logically have to have been in existence from the first, which of course not the case. Further, in my book Upon this Rock I demonstrate quite conclusively that the concept of the Primacy of Peter in Rome was quite well understood and practiced in the early Church. By clicking on the link to my book one can also access hundreds of pages of discussion and documentation. For the very few documents that survived the first centuries, we have a very strong case for the primacy of Rome.

2. For the office of papacy to be true, it would need to be described with qualifications for successors, in the inspired writings among the gifts given by Christ for church unity when he ascended into heaven in Ephesians 4:7-16, yet the papacy is conspicuously absent.

How does he know it was NOT described with qualifications. We know that the Alexandrian Library in Egypt was massively stocked with books and documents that no longer exist. We unhappily lost much of what was written and practiced in the early Church. But, even saying that, does this fellow have any documentation from the early Church to affirm a 27 writing canon from the earliest years, or the word “Trinity”? He is very free with “it would logically have to be true” when he points at us but not so freely with his own position.

3. Such a fundamentally important central role as the papacy, in order to be true, would be a central repeated theme of writings by the first Christians: Luke, James, John, Paul, and Peter himself, yet there is not a single mention.

And where do we find these same men repeating the express doctrine of a New Testament canon or the clearly expressed theologies of the two natures of Christ or the three Persons in the hypostatic union of the Trinity? In fact, there are many things that are taken for granted today that were not expressly stated in the NT. Protestants live with this every day with their traditions. Reading the writers of the NT within the context makes it pretty clear about the papacy if someone takes the blinders off. By the way, none of these writers mention the Rapture, Sola Scriptura, the Trinity, faith alone, or any host of other Protestant traditions.

4. Although “head of the church” is a phrase, office, and title in scripture, only Christ and never Peter was ever referred to as such.

This would of course be true in that the NT is more expressly interested in establishing who Jesus was in the documents of Scripture. One does not have to find something expressly stated in order to find it believed and universally practiced. I would suggest Dave Armstrong’s book about proofs of the Papacy from the Bible. Jesus is the head of the Mystical Church and baptized believers are the members. But the Church is not just an amorphous invisible blob or some sort of non-descript brotherhood. It is a real organization of real people in the Body of Christ. The Church has an address! We are to have a visible unity as Jesus intended, not an invisible imaginary “unity.” Jesus left a shepherd, a head of the visible church as the source of unity and teaching. This can be substantiated in the NT unless one refuses to remove the blinders. Even Protestants have their pastors who function effectively as the “head of their church” though they would quickly claim that it is actually Jesus, but in reality, in the day-to-day the pastor effectively functions as the head or CEO.

5. Peter is not explicitly identified as the head of the church in the Jerusalem council in Acts.15; rather James makes the closing summary, although even James is not identified as sole head or bishop of the Jerusalem church.

James quotes Peter and the OT as the infallible source of theology on the matter. It doesn’t to say Peter was the head expressly as it was quite clear to those who attended and by the theological determination who was the head. James was the bishop of Jerusalem sitting in the chair that was vacated by Peter to become the teacher of the world as St. John Chrysostom says. Our friend makes too much of “explictely” and this can certainly and effectively be turned on him much more so than on us. His tradition falls far short if he wants to apply the same standard to himself. Too often Protestants judge Catholic practice by Protestant ideals. What happens if we judge Protestant practice by Catholic ideals?

6. Peter is never identified in scripture as the singular bishop of the Jerusalem diocese or of any diocese.

Peter alone was given the keys in Matthew 16 and singularly headed the Church in the book of Acts. It seems that there was a college of bishops that worked together with one at the lead. This is very likely regarding Peter. In Scripture no one is expressly stated as bishop of Jerusalem and yet anyone who knows history knows that this is what existed and from the earliest times.

7. If there was an infallible head of the church and voice of Christ on earth with successors after Peter, there are no claims, writings, or pronouncements from them until Victor blunders onto the scene with his error, even though the period was fraught with heresies, and the entire NT was written when the apostles and church were persecuted from the beginning.

Maybe our opponent has never heard of St. Clement? This guy really needs to read my book Upon this Rock which documents the primacy of Rome from the apostolic age.

If the church was intended to be built on none other than the pope or person of Peter, why is he not mentioned at all by one of the most important first Christians in the following passage speaking of who the church is built upon?  Ephesians 2:19-22 “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

In another place 1 Cor. Paul writes that it is Jesus that is the foundation, and does not mention Peter or any of the apostles. Does that mean that Paul is wrong in Ephesians or 1 Corinthians 3 and that John is wrong in Revelation? We see various “foundations” in various metaphors used by NT writers. Peter is the rock in Matthew, Jesus in 1 Cor., the apostles and prophets in Ephesians, and the 12 apostles in Rev. In one metaphor Jesus is the foundation and in others it is all the apostles. But one cannot dismiss Matthew where another metaphor — the one in which Jesus is not the foundation but the builder — and in this metaphor, Peter the Rock is the foundation and is given the keys of the kingdom.

The Achilles Heal of the Papacy Theory (yeah, right :-)
If indeed Peter was the head of the church with successors as the voice of Christ and the basis of unity, where is this voice during the turbulent years of persecution and heresy before Constantine? Someone will say, “They went to their deaths as martyrs.” But so did the apostles, yet we have their writings well-preserved for us. Where are the writings of the popes from 60 AD to 325 AD? (Clement’s letter is not from him as a singular bishop but from the church of Rome to the church of Corinth, not to the singular bishop of Corinth.) We have something recorded ABOUT some of the other alleged popes but not a single written word FROM them. But correct me if I am mistaken. I would find their writings most interesting.

First, 1 Clement WAS writtten by St. Clement as both Catholic and Protestants agree, and also mentioned as such by those who refer to the letter in the first centuries. Like I said, I gave pages and pages of documentation from the early Church. Just because one doesn’t read history or do their research does not mean it does not exist. I would also suggest that this friend read the Treatise on the Development of Doctrine by Cardinal Newman. The papacy can be demonstrated from the first centuries, but we also accept the concept of the development of doctrine (as must the Protestant, especially with the canon and their sola scriptura) which puts everything in its proper place. I am proud to be a Catholic rooted in Scripture and the early Church!


Another great day. Perfect weather and excited pilgrims. We started early this morning walking the Stations of the Cross and then touching the top of Calvary. The perfect sequence was to celebrate Mass at the Tomb of Christ and to enter and touch the place where he lay.

Everybody was in tears and overwhelmed with the whole experience.

Then we went to the Paternoster where Jesus taught his disciples to pray the OUR FATHER and where he ascended into heaven.

Everyone had the afternoon off to go exploring, praying, napping, or whatever they decided to do. At 5:00 PM we had the most wonderful Holy Shroud Exhibit. Then dinner and a free evening.

All is well and and all the pilgrims are doing well, excited and enjoying themselves. Many of them have been in tears throughout the trip.


Is DOGMA an Oppressive Catholic Word?

by Steve Ray on May 13, 2014

When I was an Evangelical Protestant, I thought DOGMA was a dirty word. It had bad connotations. It represented unbiblical teaching forced down people’s throats by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. They invented new doctrines not found in the Bible and then called them dogmas and told Christians if they didn’t believe them — well, they would go to hell.

So, is DOGMA a bad word? Are they teachings and traditions created by men to control people and to force them to believe things not in the Bible? Where did the word come from? What does DOGMA mean?

You may be surprised to find out the the word DOGMA was not coined by the medieval Church. Nor was it created to defend alleged corrupt politics of the Catholic hierarchy.

Actually, one of the first usages of the word DOGMA is in the Bible!

DOGMA comes from a Greek word meaning decree or decision. It’s actually used five times in the New Testament. It is used of the decree of Caesar Augustus and the ordinances of the Mosaic Law. It is also used to describe the decrees of the Jerusalem Council in 49 AD which is written about in Acts 15.

There was a crisis in the early Church. The apostles and elders (priests) got together in Jerusalem for a council. The Holy Spirit worked together with the Council to make a decision. Acts 15:28 says, “It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…“  The decision was put into a letter (like an encyclical) and sent to all the churches, even those founded by St. Paul. It was binding on them all.

This Council of Jerusalem was the prototype of all future Church Councils, the latest of which was Vatican II.  This letter is mentioned in Acts 16:4 where the word DOGMA is used. Here is what is says:

As [Paul, Silas, and Timothy] went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions (dogma) which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem.

The Council of Jerusalem in AD 49 (Acts 15) made doctrinal decisions regarding faith and morals and they were delivered by letter to the churches. The content of the Apostles’ letter was DOGMA, something defining doctrine and practice.  It was authoritative — from the Church Council AND the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28).

Surprising? DOGMA is not a word invented by devious Catholic hierarchy.  It is a biblical word used to describe the decisions and decrees made by the Church Council in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit and the Apostles made a determination or ruling which was binding on all the churches. This decree was actually DOGMA.

From that point on the Church has used the Greek word DOGMA to describe a teaching which the Holy Spirit together with the Apostles/Bishops of the Church define as a truth that the faithful are required to believe. The magisterium of the Church today has received the authority to define and explain dogmas today. Dogmas are not invented doctrines; they are the interpretation and development of truth which is contained in the original deposit of faith given to the Church by Jesus and the Apostles.

DOGMA is defined by the Catechism: The Church’s Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes, in a definitive way, truths having a necessary connection with these. . . . Dogmas are lights along the path of faith; they illuminate it and make it secure” (CCC 88-89).

So, DOGMA is a good word, one that explains the work of the Church to define and assist us — the faithful — to know the truth and gain eternal life. Blessed be God for DOGMA!

But, we’ve used two other words that often seem mysterious to the average person — like ominous clouds hanging over the horizon — HIERARCHY and MAGISTERIUM.  Don’t they sound like medieval tyrants controlling your every move and oppressing the people? Darn right they do, if you don’t know what they really mean and how the words came into our language.

HIERARCHY comes from two Greek words: hier- holy, and archy – rule of, or government. Therefore, a holy government or the rule of holy men.

MAGISTERIUM comes from two Latin words: -ium – office of, and magisterius – teacher, master (as schoolmaster, or magistrate). Therefore, it is an “office of teachers” who have the blessed authority and ability to instruct, decide and protect the faithful.

So, all of these words refer to marvelous gifts from God — gifts that help the Christian know the truth, be certain of their faith, and avoid error. Those from my old Evangelical tradition would do well to understand and embrace these terms and the Church that possesses them.

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