Monday, November 22, 2010

Tying up some loose ends from yesterday: "The one true church"

Andrew asked: John I have a slightly off topic question for you. It is my belief that while Roman Catholicism itself is a non-christian religion, there is enough light there, mostly through the scripture, that there are probably individual Roman Catholics (many perhaps?) who do understand the gospel and are themselves, Christians. Where do you come down on this? I am interested in your view because of your having been a self-described "devout Roman Catholic".

Andrew, I believe there is one church. I believe the Westminster Larger Confession came very close -- very, very close -- to accurately describing this one true church in biblical terms:
Q. 63. What are the special privileges of the visible church?
A. The visible church hath the privilege of being under God’s special care and government; of being protected and preserved in all ages, notwithstanding the opposition of all enemies; and of enjoying the communion of saints, the ordinary means of salvation, and offers of grace by Christ to all the members of it in the ministry of the gospel, testifying, that whosoever believes in him shall be saved, and excluding none that will come unto him.

Q. 64. What is the invisible church?
A. The invisible church is the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one under Christ the head.

Q. 65. What special benefits do the members of the invisible church enjoy by Christ?
A. The members of the invisible church by Christ enjoy union and communion with him in grace and glory.

Q. 66. What is that union which the elect have with Christ?
A. The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace, whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband; which is done in their effectual calling.
So yes, I believe that Christ calls even Roman Catholics, and gives them union and communion with him in grace and glory. But in doing so, he ignores and defies Rome's methods and decrees.

Dr. William Witt, an Anglican who I've cited regarding Newman and Development, has not left that communion, but rather has decided to stay put where he is. And while I do not see myself becoming Anglican, he expresses some sentiments that I think we can largely agree with. Here is what he says:
So why not leave? I can only give my own reasons.

So, first. Leave for what? Rome or Orthodoxy would be the obvious choices. At least they are the ones that are usually offered. When as a young man I left the Evangelical denomination in which I was raised, I became an Anglican because I believed that the Reformation was a reforming movement in the Western Catholic Church, and I was convinced that Anglicanism had come closest to getting that job done right. For the Roman Catholics, Vatican II was successful just to the extent that it incorporated many of the changes that had taken place at some time or another in Anglican history. Liturgy in the vernacular? Check. Communion in both kinds? Check. Renewed emphasis on Scripture? Check. In good critical translations? Check. Religious liberty? Check. Focus on salvation by grace alone and reconsideration of justification by faith? Check. Married clergy? Well . . . Vatican II didn’t do everything.

[JB note: These are for the most part merely externals, which provide cosmetic changes but do not change the heart and core of Roman Catholicism. And the focus on "grace alone" is not really a focus on grace, but it is a call back to the works-oriented process described here, which really is just a sacramental treadmill.]

At the same time, one thing has not changed. As I have always understood it, one only has two choices about the Roman Catholic Church. One either must become a Roman Catholic, or one can not. There is no maybe about becoming Catholic. To become a Catholic, one is required to accept all of that Church’s claims, including its claims about itself. If one accepts those claims, then one has no choice but to convert. But if one does not, one also has no choice. In that case, one cannot become Roman Catholic. And the Roman Catholic Church itself says that one cannot.

I am unable to bring myself to believe Rome’s claims....

[JB note: This became true for me, too. The more I came to know about Rome's claims, through what I've called "having been a devout Catholic," the more strongly I heard the voice of the Spirit who made me uneasy with these claims. And one of the reasons I do not worry about those who are converting to Rome now ... if they are genuine believers, they are, or will soon be experiencing a kind of buyer's remorse.]

Well, then? What about Orthodoxy? I want to claim the Greek Fathers for my own, of course—Athanasius, Cyril, the Cappadocians. I am even excited about learning from such lesser known lights as Leontius of Byzantium and Maximus the Confessor. And I recognize that the Eastern Church never accepted the authority of the bishop of Rome in the way in which Rome came to understand it. And I think they were right in that.

However, as with Rome, there are a number of things that Orthodoxy demands that I cannot quite bring myself to accept. Some are doctrinal niceties, for example, the somewhat abstruse distinction between the divine essence and energies. Or the doctrine of the filioque. I think the Western view is correct on both points. But at bottom, as I said above, I became Anglican because I believed Anglicanism was a reforming movement in the Western Church, and I am a Western Christian.

Mine is the tradition of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, but also of Hooker, and Luther, and Barth. A Western Orthodoxy that was able to embrace and incorporate this Western tradition (including the Reformers) as well as its own would be an Orthodoxy that I would find attractive, perhaps irresistible. But, to the contrary, Orthodoxy often seems rather to be suspicious of this entire Western tradition, including Augustine, and all who followed him. And, of course, such a Western Orthodoxy would look a lot like . . . historical Anglicanism.

As for leaving Anglicanism for another Reformation Church . . . what would be the point? All of the mainline Protestant churches are struggling with the same issue as is Anglicanism. The Episcopal Church is just ahead of the parade. The non-sacramental free church Evangelicals alone have stood their ground, and I admire them tremendously. But I left that tradition for a reason.

Finally, there is another reason. And that is that I am not willing to make this decision as an individual. Many years ago, I left one denomination as an individual, and joined another. I do not regret that choice, but since making it, I am committed to those who have become my companions. I have discovered true companions along the Christian journey in the Episcopal Church, and I do not intend to desert them. You dance with the one that brought you.

...the last thing confessing Christians in all the churches need is once again to draw lines in the sand against one another, to refuse to recognize Christ’s face in those who affirm the same Scriptures and confess the same Creeds. I can only regard the voices of those who ask me to leave Anglicanism for either Rome or Orthodoxy or some other Reformation Church as asking me to deny that the face of Christ can be seen in this Church.
While I'm not totally in agreement with this vision, I like this attitude very much.

Viisaus said: I believe what we need is a combination of truly Protestant and truly Catholic feeling, in the proper sense of both of these words.

We need to be ever ready to energetically PROTEST against the evils of this world, avoiding adulterous friendship with the world (James 4:4) and its easygoing ecumenical ways. Courage to protest even against highly influential notions like the Darwinian evolution, and also protesting against the moral and doctrinal corruption of our church leadership - against both to those who add to and take away from Biblical articles of faith.

We also need a truly CATHOLIC, universal sense of solidarity with all true Bible-faithful Christians around the world - to whichever church or congregation of faithful they might belong to, excepting only those who stubbornly cling to and defend obviously rotten outfits (like the RCC). This will prevent us from becoming a small vindictive Pharisee-separatist sect.


Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"And while I do not see myself becoming Anglican"


While I deeply appreciate the theological contributions of some past and current Anglican believers, by and large, Anglicanism is in trouble. Big trouble.

Dr. Witt is a decent fellow. But he holds to (at least) one theological aberration that cannot be casually looked away: He affirms Women's Ordination.

John Bugay said...

While I deeply appreciate the theological contributions of some past and current Anglican believers, by and large, Anglicanism is in trouble.

Some of the sharpest writers I have read include Anglicans from the 19th and 20th century. (I can't name too many names. R.P.C. Hanson comes to mind. And then there's J.I. Packer. Is Stott Anglican?)

Yes, they are in trouble, but many of us are in trouble, in more ways than one.

He affirms Women's Ordination.

I did not see that. He is also a big fan of Barth; but Barth is such a big topic, it is hard to know just what that means (And he says lots of good things as well).

Both of these seem to be kind of far down on my scale of "things we really need to fight hard about."

Ken said...

John Stott is Anglican, retired, now in a some kind of assisted living/nursing home, as he is getting very old.

Other "high church Anglicans" call Packer and Stott, "basically Evangelical Presbyterians" (like R. C. Sproul) - that is what other Anglicans told me in discussion on this issue of the true church and RCC claims.

Although Packer confused us all by his signing the ECT, (he seems to have signed both "for" and "against" documents in the whole controversy over the years) and Stott confused us all by his "tentatively entertaining the possibility of Annihilation" (that those condemned to hell will eventually "cease to exist).

Details on the Stott/Annihilationism controversy are in Piper's book, Let the Nations Be Glad, an excellent book on the biblical basis for missions.

Otherwise, they (Packer and Stott) are some of the few Anglicans left that hold to a biblical Christianity in the western/European world.

Africa and Asia is a different story. they have not succumbed to the false doctrines and practices of the Episcopal USA church and the Archbishop of Canterbury confusion (same sex "marriage", women as ordained ministers; ok for Muslims and Islam can have separate Sharia law in western democracy.)

Packer recently left the official Anglican church and joined the communion of Anglicans in Africa, who are more biblical. (look for the story at Justin Taylor's blog, as I recall.)

Some of the best answers to the claims of Rome are from Anglicans from times past - Whitaker, Goode, George Salmon, etc.

John Bugay said...

Thanks Ken. Yeah, these are the guys I mean ... Whitaker, Goode, George Salmon ...

I'm also thinking of some of the guys from the Reformation, like Bilney, Tyndale, Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, and in our time, someone like Frank Ramirez.

Tim Enloe said...

You dance with the one who brought you.

This is a wise saying, and I appreciate Witt's remarks on conversion, being a convert myself. I, too, left one way of thinking as an individual and joined another. To make another such move, for the same reasons (which is what most of these convert apologists demand that one do) would be merely to perpetuate the old immaturity rather than to "man up," so to speak, face the problems in one's communion, and live with those with whom one lives. You don't trade your family for another one because the going gets tough. Neither should you change churches because there are problems Reformed problems are pretty bad, these days, but the answer is not to jump ship looking for greener grass. The answer is to stay and fight for what is right, and even if you lose the fight, to love those who beat you - because they are, after all, your family.

Anonymous said...

I want to pick up on that portion of Dr. William Witt's wits when we witness written as well:

Many years ago, I left one denomination as an individual, and joined another. I do not regret that choice, but since making it, I am committed to those who have become my companions. I have discovered true companions along the Christian journey in the Episcopal Church, and I do not intend to desert them. You dance with the one that brought you.

I find that hard to swallow although there is some truth to it.

First, it seems arguable to me that this wit of Witt would not stand but wither under the windy Winds of His Will.

For substance read these words of Wisdom from Acts 14:

Act 14:1 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed.
Act 14:2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.
Act 14:3 So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
Act 14:4 But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles.

In that tussle, some sided with one group of "true" companions and some sided with the "new group of True Companions".

Here is an example, I assert, where we see one group leave their group of origin, the predominate worldly philosophy of the age for Judaism; and then leave Judaism for True Biblical Christianity.

On that basis alone, I find it hard to accept Witt's wit in his writings cited above.

Remember, there really was something special about the Hebrews from God's point of view that captures the true nature of His Eternal Purpose reflected by Christ's True Companions, His Church cut out of every generation.

What was it and still is?

These people were a hard headed, strong willed and very courageous zealous people prone to idolatries. They still are! This was the nature of this brood of vipers selected by God to make plain salvation through Jesus Christ:

Gen 11:23 And Serug lived after he fathered Nahor 200 years and had other sons and daughters.
Gen 11:24 When Nahor had lived 29 years, he fathered Terah.
Gen 11:25 And Nahor lived after he fathered Terah 119 years and had other sons and daughters.
Gen 11:26 When Terah had lived 70 years, he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
Gen 11:27 Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot.
Gen 11:28 Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his kindred,
in Ur of the Chaldeans.

From this group of idolatrous heathens God took from and excised out of the world's population, a man.

1Co 15:19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
1Co 15:20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
1Co 15:21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
1Co 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
1Co 15:23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

He was a Hebrew. The word "hebrew" comes from the root word that means one who crosses over.

Our only True Companion is Christ. He alone crossed over for His People. Each of us is conjoined to this true group of people!

Christ is building His True Companionship, that holy habitation of the Most High cut out of every generation. Jesus only uses those God gives Him to build with making this "fellowship"/True Companionship among men.

We are the "gift" of Eternal Life given to Christ. The Father gives us to Him like a father gives his virgin daughter to her "new" head!

John Bugay said...

Hi Natamllc, you said: Here is an example, I assert, where we see one group leave their group of origin, the predominate worldly philosophy of the age for Judaism; and then leave Judaism for True Biblical Christianity. On that basis alone, I find it hard to accept Witt's wit in his writings cited above.

I am not sure this is the same type of progression. Have you ever read the 39 articles? There is some very fine stuff in there.

As I noted in the post, I would not choose to be Anglican. On the surface, it's pretty much the same type of liturgy as the (pre Vatican II) Roman liturgy. And I do understand why someone might be attracted to that (again, on the surface).

The flip side of something like that, I guess would be the kind of things some of the WSCal folks espouse. I like their theology better than just about anybody else's I've seen, but they sometimes tend to write negatively about broader evangelicalism. I really wish they wouldn't do this.

I'm Reformed an I am so out of a conviction that the Reformed Faith most closely aligns with the Scriptures. But I also understand why someone would think that other Protestant traditions would be more closely aligned with the Scriptures.

We are the "gift" of Eternal Life given to Christ.

We are also his inheritance: that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe …

Viisaus said...

"Have you ever read the 39 articles? There is some very fine stuff in there."

Could be, but that not ALL what Anglicanism is about, even in its best days before the modern apostasy.

A British 18th-century PM William Pitt the Elder (Earl of Chatham) once famously quipped:

p. 307

"That Noble Lord had gone so far as to tell the House of Peers, in reply to an accusation of Dr. Drummond, Archbishop of York, of the pastors of the dissenters being 'men of close ambition.' 'They are so, my Lords; and their ambition is to keep close to the college of fishermen, not of cardinals; to the doctrine of inspired apostles, not to the degrees of interested and aspiring bishops. They contend for a spiritual creed and spiritual worship. We have a Calvinistic creed, a popish liturgy, and an Arminian clergy.' Thus his lordship selected the worst names of other religions to apply to our church and liturgy."

It has been alternatively cited thus:

"William Pitt's famous epigram that the Church of England has a "Popish liturgy, Erastian clergy, and Calvinistic articles."".

And here is Reformed Baptist preacher C.H. Spurgeon's no-hold-barred critique of the aforementioned Anglican "popish liturgy", the Book of Common Prayer:

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Dr. Witt: "I have discovered true companions along the Christian journey in the Episcopal Church, and I do not intend to desert them. You dance with the one that brought you."

Suppose a Mormon-turned-Christian wrote the following:

"I have discovered true companions along the Christian journey in the Mormon Church, and I do not intend to desert them. You dance with the one that brought you."

Or suppose a Catholic-turned-Christian wrote the following:

"I have discovered true companions along the Christian journey in the Catholic Church, and I do not intend to desert them. You dance with the one that brought you."

I see no difference in the responses between Witt and the Mormon-turned-Christian and the Catholic-turned-Christian.

Viisaus said...

Even John Cosin, a very high-church Caroline Restoration-era theologian, could see the elementary difference that separated non-Anglican Protestant churches (like the Huguenots, with whom he communicated while being a royalist exile in France) from the RCC - an institution that was minting new articles of faith:

pp. xxvi-xxviii

"Even before this Dr. Cosin had stated his opinion on communicating with the foreign Churches, in a letter which he addressed to Mr. Watson, then attending at the prince's court in Jersey.*

"They are here," he says, "so exceeding uncharitable, and somewhat worse, that I know not how any man (who understands himself, and makes a conscience of what he does) can enter into any communion with them in those doctrines and practices which they hold necessary to salvation; and wherein they make their essential note of difference, their religion and their Church, to consist.

And that I may answer your demand in brief (for they say you are all to come hither), it is far less safe to join with these men (viz. the Romanists), that alter the CREDENDA, the vitals of religion, than with those that meddle only with the AGENDA and rules of religion, if they meddle no further; and where it is not in our power to help it, there is no doubt but in these things God will accept the will for the deed, if that will (without our assent or approbation to the contrary) be preserved entire: though in the meanwhile we suffer a little for it, oppression must not make us leave our own Church. They of Geneva are to blame in many things, and defective in some; they shall never have my approbation of their doings, nor let them have yours: yet I do not see that they have set up any new articles of faith, under pain of damnation to all the world that will not receive them for such articles; and you know whose case that is."

In conformity with the opinion expressed in this extract, it was his custom to communicate with the members of the Charenton. And in the letter printed by Heylyn, and addressed to Mr. Warren from Paris, April 6, 1658, Dr. Cosin states that he never refused to join with Protestants either there or elsewhere, in all things wherein they join with the Church of England."

Andrew said...

"Buyers remorse". I have experienced that. I swam the Tiber at one point, but was on my way back before I had a chance to dry off. My thinking was just like Witt's. I saw that to be a Roman Catholic I had to be "all in". When I realized that I couldn't do that, nor reconcile what I knew with what Rome claimed, I had to leave. Thank you for a thoughtful answer and an interesting article. John, I derive a lot of benefit from reading your posts.

steelikat said...

Gene Veith's blog has an article "who split the church?" which I recommend checking out, because it's a good question and he hit the nail on the head with his answer.

BTW, the answer isn't "who cares? it's a good thing that 'the church' is split."

Michael Gormley said...

For centuries in the Christian world, all were united in one faith, the Catholic Church.

Then came along the "reformation" and splits in the Body of Christ. With it came many changes in teaching by the various Christian sects. Some of these teachings, especially in the 20th century, seem to be poll driven, just like our very own civil government.

Their "teachings" are based on public opinion, not on truth. The "teaching" of the day among some of these non-Catholic sects seems to be based on the policy. I must remind you that private opinions do not change the truth one iota.

However, the "Pillar and Foundation of Truth", the Catholic Church (1Timothy 3:15), is unmoving in this respect. She and she alone stands up against the world in teaching the truth, as commanded by Jesus Christ Himself.

In so doing, she comes under great criticism by many who have found worldly things to be their real god. How then, can the "Pillar of Truth" teach nothing but the truth?

"Have I then become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" (Galatians 4:16)

John Bugay said...

Michael Gormley, your comments here are not based on any correspondence with reality.

For example, you say: For centuries in the Christian world, all were united in one faith, the Catholic Church. Then came along the "reformation" and splits in the Body of Christ.

This is simply not true. There were massive splits in the fifth century over Christology; the scope of the "Nestorian" church was far greater geographically, and almost as weighty (if not moreso) prior to the year 1000; yet two things have happened:

(a) This church was largely decimated by the expansion of Islam and other earthly kingdoms

And (b) no less an authority (for you) than John Paul II signed a Christological agreement in 1994 that said, in effect, "Oops, you Nestorians weren't heretics after all." But there was no corresponding, "Gee, sorry we hung you guys out to dry and left you prey for all the bad guys in the world."

That split was the most massive of all the rifts within Christianity, yet your paradigm just completely ignores it.

[And this is not even to mention the split in 1054].

With it came many changes in teaching by the various Christian sects. Some of these teachings, especially in the 20th century, seem to be poll driven, just like our very own civil government.

Their "teachings" are based on public opinion, not on truth. The "teaching" of the day among some of these non-Catholic sects seems to be based on the policy.

You show here that you have no idea what the Reformation was about, or the firm theological basis from which the Reformers worked.

In fact, the Reformers, looking "at the sources," looking ad fontes at the early church, recognized very clearly that the Roman church of their era had in fact deviated sharply from what the early church was and believed.

However, the "Pillar and Foundation of Truth", the Catholic Church (1Timothy 3:15), is unmoving in this respect. She and she alone stands up against the world in teaching the truth, as commanded by Jesus Christ Himself.

Even though Rome uses this verse as a proof-text for itself, what is actually being discussed in this verse, by Paul, is that the behavior of the local church -- in public -- is what supports the Gospel message that they were preaching. That is, James was right: you are justified before men by the deeds that you do.

How do you then hold to the set of doctrines that allow that a pope can be the most miserable scum of the earth -- "Pope" Alexander VI had 10 children by three different women, and he bribed his way into office -- and yet, such behavior is excused by you and yours on the ground that (a) he was a placeholder in the "unbroken succession" and he never issued forth any teaching.

Such a doctrine is precisely the opposite of what 1 Tim 3:15 teaches.

It is you and the Roman communion, sir, that is the enemey of the truth.

It was rather Roman "dogma" that evolved to permit the worldliness and the concupiscence of the popes.

Michael Gormley said...

"Pope" Alexander VI had 10 children by three different women, and he bribed his way into office..

Dear John,
Old-fashioned Catholic triumphalism can be another form of apologist pride. Triumphalism confuses the Church as the beginning (or seed) of the kingdom of God on earth, with the fullness of the kingdom in the age to come.

Consequently, triumphalist Catholics downplay or ignore real mistakes of Catholic leaders in history, lest the Church on earth be seen as anything less than the spotless, heavenly Bride of Christ.

"Pope Alexander VI had four children," the anti-Catholic accuser asserts (to take an example from Frank Sheed).

The triumphalist replies, "No, only three were ever proved," or, "So what? Henry VIII had six wives"-as if non-Catholic foibles absolve Catholic sins.

Here reading some early twentieth-century apologetics can help an apologist's humility-that is, if he is disposed to learn.

Many Catholic apologists of the last century took immense pleasure in gloating over Protestant disunity, in contrast to Catholicism' s then-monolithic unity.

"Ask a Protestant clergyman a question, and you get one answer. Ask another the same question, and you get a different answer," one writer declared.

"But ask any Catholic priest a question and you get the same answer, no matter whom you ask. That is the difference between the Protestant churches and the Catholic Church." Q.E.D.:

Protestantism is false, Catholicism true.

John Bugay said...

Michael Gormley -- I'm not relying on early 20th century anti-Catholics; I'm relying on current historians for my background about Alexander VI and others.

The truth is, your system excuses his behavior in order to retain an unbroken system. Your system does not teach truth in this most important matter.

Your whole system is false

"But ask any Catholic priest a question and you get the same answer, no matter whom you ask. That is the difference between the Protestant churches and the Catholic Church." Q.E.D.:

Protestantism is false, Catholicism true.

The Scriptures are true. And if you think that unity around your false doctrines is some sort of logical proof, you may want to consider all the hand-wringing that is going on in supposedly "unified" Roman Catholic circles over the pope's recent statement about condoms:

We have a whole section at this blog, "Blueprint for Anarchy," that documents conflicts among supposedly "unified" Roman Catholics.

If this is the best that you can do, I truly pity you. You are incredibly deceived.

Michael Gormley said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
zipper778 said...

Michaell Gormley, while I haven't spoken to many Roman Catholic priests about Roman Catholic theology (although I have spoken to three), I have spoken to many Roman Catholics and the one thing that I've found is that this "unity" is superficial at best. Some Roman Catholics have told me that they don't believe in purgatory because it doesn't show God's grace, love, and mercy. Others have told me that only Jesus Christ is the All Holy One even though Roman Catholicism teaches otherwise. And contraception, man opinions on that are all over the map, especially with the pope's latest comments. Ben M even told me that there is no need for an unbroken succession of popes, that if Benedict XVI was the first pope since Peter, it would still be legitimate. That right there is an admission that Christianity doesn't need the pope, but that it needs our Lord Jesus Christ.

So Michael, Roman Catholicism goes all over the place even to going as far as Vatican II saying that none-Roman Catholics can be saved. Compare that with Trent's teachings.

And for the record, it's understandable that someone makes mistakes. We're all guilty of that, but the Holy Spirit moves even the worst of us. The apostles were nobody's before Christ called them. That's one of the reasons the Pharisee's hated them so much.

Btw Michael, your latest question to John is funny. Maybe you don't know about John, but there are many different reasons not to accept Roman Catholicism such as the Scriptures, history, and reason just to name a few. Not just because of childhood problems, lol.

John Bugay said...

Michael Gormley, I'm feeling fine. Check out the pretty smile in my photograph. I'll answer personal questions you may have, but not in the accusatory way that you ask them.

Michael Gormley said...

...that if Benedict XVI was the first pope since Peter, it would still be legitimate.

Dear zipper778,
Tell The Truth Or Suffer The Consequences!

Holy Scripture is very clear that each one of us is obligated to search for the truth and to abide by it. I am appalled at the number of people who completely ignore these dire warnings from the Bible, or are ignorant of the fact that they are there.

Many non-Catholics repeat outright lies about the Catholic Church and take what they have heard or have been taught as truth, without bothering to find out if these things are true or not.

When they do this, not only are they calumnizing the Catholic Church, but they are calumnizing its founder, Jesus Christ Himself.

After reading this file, not one person can ever again plead innocence of what Scripture has to say about spreading the truth, and about not spreading malicious lies.

Anyone who professes to follow Holy Scripture to the letter, must follow ALL of what it says. They cannot keep the parts they like and reject what they do not like.

Here are some verses which obligate each and every one of us to search for the truth...

"This is good and agreeable in the sight of GOD our Savior, who wishes ALL MEN TO BE SAVED AND TO COME TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH." (1Timothy 2:4)

"Sanctify them in the truth. Thy Word is truth." (John 17:17)


That verse by itself should deter any GOD loving person from spreading malicious lies... But there is much more to come. Read on...

Turretinfan said...

It is interesting to see a servant of a church whose power is built on lies (the donation of Constantine, for example) lecturing us on lies.

But yes, we must speak the truth (our friend of the Roman persuasion is right about this despite his loyalty to Rome). The truth, however, is that Rome cannot give a meaningful account of her claim to unbroken chain of succession - no standard by which we could say that the succession had been broken.


zipper778 said...

Michael, maybe you didn't read what I said or perhaps you don't know who Ben M is, but what I said was completely honest. Ben M is a Roman Catholic who visits this blog often and I asked him how long it would take inbetween popes for the "unbroken chain" to become broken and that is how he explained it to me. So if you have a grievance with me then it is actually with another Roman Catholic. Here is the link to the blog where he said it:

So if you want to use the "shoot the messenger" strategy, then you're actually "shooting" another Roman Catholic.

Also, maybe you should consider taking the Bible more seriously yourself. There are many rituals that Roman Catholicism wants you to perform even though the Bible speaks against them. Don't follow something blindly.

Michael Gormley said...

The truth, however, is that Rome cannot give a meaningful account of her claim to unbroken chain of succession - no standard by which we could say that the succession had been broken.

Dear Turretinfan,

The Pope and Bishops (CCC 880–883)

Jesus gave Peter special authority among the apostles (John 21:15–17) and signified this by changing his name from Simon to Peter, which means "rock" (John 1:42). He said Peter was to be the rock on which he would build his Church (Matthew 16:18).

In Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, Simon’s new name was Kepha (which means a massive rock). Later this name was translated into Greek as Petros (John 1:42) and into English as Peter.

Christ gave Peter alone the "keys of the kingdom" (Matthew 16:19) and promised that Peter’s decisions would be binding in heaven. He also gave similar power to the other apostles (Matthew 18:18), but only Peter was given the keys, symbols of his authority to rule the Church on earth in Jesus’ absence.

Christ, the Good Shepherd, called Peter to be the chief shepherd of his Church (John 21:15–17). He gave Peter the task of strengthening the other apostles in their faith, ensuring that they taught only what was true (Luke 22:31–32). Peter led the Church in proclaiming the gospel and making decisions (Acts 2:1– 41, 15:7–12).

Early Christian writings tell us that Peter’s successors, the bishops of Rome (who from the earliest times have been called by the affectionate title of "pope," which means "papa"), continued to exercise Peter’s ministry in the Church.

The pope is the successor to Peter as bishop of Rome. The world’s other bishops are successors to the apostles in general.

John Bugay said...

Michael Gormley: You may want to look at these posts which discuss the very issue of the Aramaic:

The appeal to a hypothetical Aramaic saying is not decisive. Caragounis contends that if an Aramaic word lay behind the Greek petra, it was probably tnra (compare the Syriac version). According to Caragounis, each of the two words in the word-play has a separate referent and a separate meaning (Caragounis, 90). The word-play (Petros, petra) has two foci, similarity and dissimilarity. ”Petros has given utterance to a petra, but the petra is not Petros.” The similarity is “in the sound and general sense.” The dissimilarity is in the meaning of specific reference. Petros, a man’s nickname, refers to a stone; petra refers to bedrock, the content of his confession (Caragounis, 109). The assertion “you are Peter” is a solemn affirmation formula to introduce what follows: “As surely as you are [called] Petros, on this rock of what you have just said I will build my church” (Caragounis, 108-113).

Following on what Garland pointed out, Everett Ferguson, in his “The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today” (Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), also affirms that in the Syriac language, which is a later form of Aramaic, does indeed make the “kepha/tnra” distinction in existing Syriac translations of the Gospel of Matthew:

The difficulties of applying the rock to Peter come in the text of Matthew 16 itself.

(1) The wording does not naturally lend itself to this interpretation. On the surface level there is the change from the second person of direct address (“You are Peter”) to the third person of indirect address (“on this rock”). If the author of Matthew had wanted to say that Jesus intended to build the church on Peter, there were certainly less ambiguous ways of doing it.

(2) The Greek text of Matthew and some strands of the Syriac tradition (pertinent here because Syriac is a later form of Aramaic) make a distinction between the words for Peter and the Rock. They seem to understand a different referent for Jesus’ words.

(3) Aramaic perhaps could have made a distinction, as Syriac did, either by different words or by the distinction between masculine and feminine (preserved in Greek by different endings).

(4) At any rate, if Jesus used the same word with the same sense in both cases, the wordplay is lost. There is no wordplay if the same word is used twice with the same meaning [“kepha/kepha”]. A play on words requires similarities of sound, different meanings of the same word (possible here if Jesus used the same word, once for Peter and once for another “rock”), or different words with the same idea (again possible here if Jesus used two different expressions represented by different but similar words in Greek). The difference in Greek and some Syriac texts indicate that a wordplay was intended here.

(5) Nowhere else in the New Testament or earliest Christian texts is Peter understood as the foundation stone of the church. Where Matthew uses rock elsewhere in a symbolic sense, the reference is to the teachings of Jesus (Matt 7:24).

Michael Gormley said...

Dear John,

Private interpretation of Scriptures can be exceedingly harmful to self and others. This has divided Christianity into hundreds if not tens of thousands of segments.

Too many individuals claim their position is right and are unwilling to freely discuss the position taken or to be submissive to moral authorities.

Holding to a personal position, or one of heretical source, places one's eternal soul in jeopardy. Such people often become instruments that lead others to perdition.

Turretinfan said...

Mr. Gormley,

You both invite and condemn private interpretation. Don't you find that odd?

But you've completely missed the point when it comes to the issue of succession. I've provided a more detailed post on this subject (link to post).


John Bugay said...

I have not at all ventured into "private interpretation." What I've done here is to provide exegesis which tells us what the actual words actually mean.

We are not among those who, when our eyes tell us "white," are inclined to believe something is "black," just because Rome says so. We search the Scriptures, because therein are the words of eternal life.

As far as being "submissive to moral sources," I am a member of a church whose heritage is in the Reformation (which really only sought to correct the moral and doctrinal outrages of that era), and I have taken membership vows which, among other things, bind me to be submissive to teachings and disciplines of my church elders.

zipper778 said...

Michael, let me ask you two simple questions, and please answer them.

How do you define the papal "unbroken chain"? Would it take a day, a week, a month or something else inbetween popes to make the chain unbroken?

zipper778 said...

I'm sorry, my last question said this:

Would it take a day, a week, a month or something else inbetween popes to make the chain unbroken?

I meant for it to say this:

Would it take a day, a week, a month or something else inbetween popes to make the chain broken?

Michael Gormley said...

Dear Turretinfan & zipper778,

Protestants are often ready to admit the fact that Peter is the Rock and that the keys of succession are given to him to imply an office that will be filled by successors.

For instance, one of the top evangelical New Testament scholars in the world, R.T. France says this in his commentary on Matthew, "Verses 17 through 19 are addressed to Peter and have been regarded by some as a late addition to support an early claim to the primacy of the Bishop of Rome.

Whether or not they give any such support, there is no textual evidence for their addition to the gospel after its original composition, and the strongly Semitic or Jewish character of the language throughout these verses point to a relatively early origin in a Palestinian environment."

What is France saying? Well, many scholars have suggested that Jesus could not have given this gift to Peter. Jesus could not have given this original saying.

Why? Because many scholars don't believe that Jesus foresaw the building of the Church. They think that all of these sayings of Jesus concerning the Church were added later by the Church to support whatever had happened to the Church.

Dr. France says, "That's just not tenable." When you study this you realize that all of the evidence in the text shows that this is one of the original sayings of Jesus. He goes on to say, "Jesus' beatitude of Peter or His blessing is given to Peter alone. The other disciples may have shared his insight but Peter, characteristically expressed it. Matthew often illustrates Peter's place at the head of the disciples' group. He was the spokesman, the pioneer, the natural leader."

He goes on to talk about how Peter is referenced to the Rock.

France says, "It describes not so much Peter's character, that is the Rock. He did not prove to be rock-like in terms of stability or reliability but rather the name Rock or Peter points to his function as the foundation stone of Jesus' Church."

Michael Gormley said...

Dear Turretinfan & zipper778, (continued)

This is a non-Catholic. This is an Evangelical Protestant who has absolutely no interest in supporting the Church's claims but he says, "The term Peter, Rock, points to Simon and not his character because he could be very unstable, but rather his official function as the foundation stone of Jesus' Church. The word-play is unmistakable." He says, "It is only Protestant over-reaction to the Roman Catholic claim, of course, which has no foundation in the text, that what is here said of Peter applies also to the later Bishops of Rome."

In other words France is saying, "We can't apply this to the Popes, the later Bishops of Rome."

I'll overthrow that opinion in a few minutes, I think, but France is very candid in saying, "Look, it's only because we Protestants have over-reacted to the Catholic Church that we are not frank and sincere in admitting the fact that Peter is the Rock. He is the foundation stone upon which Jesus is going to build the Church."

One of the greatest Protestant Biblical scholars of the century supports this -- W. F. Albright, in his Anchor Bible Commentary on Matthew. I opened it up. I was surprised to see, "Peter as the Rock will be the foundation of the future community, the church. Jesus here uses Aramaic and so only the Aramaic word which would serve His purpose. In view of the background in verse 19, one must dismiss as confessional interpretation any attempt to see this rock as the faith or the confession of Peter."

In other words, Professor Albright is admitting as a Protestant that there is a bias in Protestant anti-Catholic interpreters who try to make Jesus' reference to the rock point only to Peter's faith or confession.

"To deny the pre-eminent position of Peter," Albright says, "among the disciples or in the early Christian community is a denial of the evidence.

The interest in Peter's failures and vacillations does not detract from this pre- eminence, rather it emphasizes it.

Had Peter been a lesser figure, his behavior would have been of far less consequence. Precisely because Peter is pre-eminent and is the foundation stone of the Church that his mistakes are in a sense so important, but his mistakes never correspond to his teachings as the Prince of the Apostles."
We will see."

Michael Gormley said...

John Bugay said...
I am a member of a church whose heritage is in the Reformation..

Dear John,

The Regrettable Reformation!

More correctly, it is called "The Protestant Revolt" since it did not "Reform" anything.

"Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it." (Psalms 127:1)

Surely, the reformers had to have been aware of this verse. Why then, did they all ignore it?

The very founder of the "Reformation", Martin Luther, was the "regrettable" one, as he surveyed the damage that his rebellion against authority had caused.

His writings show that he lamented his deed when he penned the following remarks...

"This one will not hear of Baptism, and that one denies the sacrament, another puts a world between this and the last day: some teach that Christ is not God, some say this, some say that:

there are as many sects and creeds as there are heads. No yokel is so rude but when he has dreams and fancies, he thinks himself inspired by the Holy Ghost and must be a prophet."

De Wette III, 61. quoted in O'Hare, THE FACTS ABOUT LUTHER, 208.

James Swan said...

Mr. Gormley,

It takes guts to positively post O'Hare snippets on this blog.

Luther comments elsewhere:

There is no other place in the world where there are so many sects, schisms, and errors as in the papal church. For the papacy, because it builds the church upon a city and person, has become the head and fountain of all sects which have followed it and have characterized Christian life in terms of eating and drinking, clothes and shoes, tonsures and hair, city and place, day and hour. For the spirituality and holiness of the papal church lives by such things, as was said above.  This order fasts at this time, another order fasts at another time; this one does not eat meat, the other one does not eat eggs; this one wears black, the other one white; this one is Carthusian,  the other Benedictine;  and so they continue to create innumerable sects and habits, while faith and true Christian life go to pieces. All this is the result of the blindness which desires to see rather than believe the Christian church and to seek devout Christian life not in faith but in works, of which St. Paul writes so much in Colossians [2]. These things have invaded the church and blindness has confirmed the government of the pope.” [LW 39:221].

John Bugay said...

Michael Gormley: I believe the selections that I cited from Caragounis this morning adequately address what you've cited from Albright -- that, yes, if there were an Aramaic original, it could have said "Kepha/kepha".

But in fact, in the earliest Syriac translations of the Gospel of Matthew, [and note that Syriac is a form of Aramaic] the Aramaic words were not "thou art Kepha and on this kepha I will build my church"; the translation is "thou art Kepha, and on this tnra I will build my church."

Unlike the "Aramaic original," these translations actually exist. So there is manuscript evidence that Albright was not correct.

As for France, his scholarship seems to be a bit out of touch. He does note that "if" Jesus was speaking in Aramaic, then it's possible the verbiage would have been "Kepha/kepha" but he does not address the Syriac. He also fails to mention more current scholarship that has found that "Petros" was [contrary to Roman Catholic claims] an existing proper name in Christ's day.

[And so what if there is a "Protestant over-reaction" to Roman Catholic claims? Protestants, in my opinion, are far too deferential to "Roman Catholic claims." The papacy had caused great evil in the world; we ought rather to take a sledge hammer to it and resist it with all our might. And if it can't stand in the face of exegesis and history, that is because, as I've said, it is built on a foundation of sinking sand.]

One thing you fail to note about France's commentary is that all of this is "beside the point, since there is nothing in this passage about any successors to Peter. It is Simon Peter himself, in his historical role, who is the foundation rock. Any Any link between the personal role of Peter and the subsequent papacy is a matter of later ecclesiology, not of exegesis of this passage." (France pg. 622)

And this statement of his is borne out by later historical study.[next].

John Bugay said...

What follows is the conclusion of Peter Lampe's extensive work, "From Paul to Valentinus," chapter 41, pages 397 ff:

Thesis: The fractionation in Rome favored a collegial presbyterial system of governance and prevented for a long time, until the second half of the second century, the development of a monarchical episcopacy in the city. Victor (c. 189-99) was the first who, after faint-hearted attempts by Eleutherus (c. 175-89), Soter (c. 166-75), and Anicetus (c. 155-66), energetically stepped forward as monarchical bishop and (at times, only because he was incited from the outside) attempted to place the different groups in the city under his supervision or, where that was not possible, to draw a line by means of excommunication. Before the second half of the second century there was in Rome no monarchical episcopacy for the circles mutually bound in fellowship.

You may want to check out the rest of the link:

Lampe provides detailed evidence for this thesis from Scripture, from the Apostolic Fathers, from the Greek Language, and from other sources of literature. Here are a couple of examples:

It is important to note that Hermas’s “minister of external affairs” is not a monarchical bishop. In the next sentence, Hermas describes how he circulates his little book within the city. He makes it known “to this city together with the presbyters who preside over the church” (emphasis added). A plurality of presbyters leads Roman Christianity. This Christianity, conscious of a spiritual fellowship within the city, is summed up under the concept of “ecclesia,” but that changes nothing in regard to the plurality of those presiding over it. In Vis. 3. 9.7, Hermas also calls them (Greek proegoumenoi or protokathedipitai – leaders or chief seats).

Hermas knows to report the human side of the presiders: they quarrel about status and honor (Vis. 3.9.7-10; Sim. 8.7.4-6). What are proteia? Are the presbyters wrangling” for first place within their own ranks, for the place of primus inter pares? Whatever the answer may be, Hermas – in the first half of the second century – never mentions the success of such efforts, the actual existence of a single leader. Instead he speaks of (Greek, leaders or chiefs), all in the plural (Vis. 2.4.2f.; 2.2.6; 3.1.8).

Correspondingly, we find in Paul’s and Ignatius’s letters to the Romans nothing of a Roman monarchical leader, even though Ignatius knew of a monarchical bishop’s office from his experience in the east. (Note: whether the monarchical episcopacy was established everywhere in the east is, however, questionable. Ignatius, Phil. 7- (cf. Magn. 6-8) presupposes Christians who do not wish to be under a bishop. In Ancyra around 190 C.E. there was still no bishop presiding but only a group of presbyters; anonymous, in Eusebius, Ecc. Hist. 5.16.5). In the year 144 Marcion, at the Roman synod meeting that he initiated (see above, chap. 40), also saw himself facing “presbyters and teachers” and not a monarchical bishop.


John Bugay said...

First Clement presupposes the same presbyterial governance: hagoumenoi (1:3), proeoumenoi (21.6) presbuteroi (44.5, 47.6, 54.2, 57.1) episkopoi, (42:4f=Isa 60:17; LXX). As in Hermas (Vis. 3.5.1; Sim. 9.27.1; cf. 9.31.5f.), the word “bishop” is in the plural. And First Clement 44:5 clarifies who exercises episkope: the presbuteroi! A number of them, who simultaneously had episkope in Corinth, were dismissed by the Corinthians. In 47:6, 57:1 the dismissed men are called presbuteroi. In short, by presbuteroi and episkopoi 1 Clem designates the same persons. The two terms are interchangeable, as in Hermas (Vis. 3.5.1).

“Bishops” are presbyters with a special function. With what function are they entrusted? Hermas in Mand. 8.20., Vis. 3.9.2, Sim. 1.8 uses the verb episkeptesthai not in relation to an office but referring to all Christians in the sense of “to care for the needy, to visit them. (Hermas) Sim.9.27.2.f. portrays the official “bishops” correspondingly as those who care for (diakonia) the needy and the widows. In this work they are supported by the deacons (Sim. 9.26.2). Our comparison of episkeptesthai and episkopoi shows that Hermas with the functional term “episkopos” still clearly associates episkeptesthai and its social-diaconal content. The wordkplay episkopoi--eskepasan in Sim.9.27.2 demonstrates the same.

John Bugay said...

Michael Gormley -- you note that the Reformation "did not 'Reform' anything."

On the contrary, Reformers took what parts of the church that they could and thoroughly reformed those portions according to the Biblical gospel.

On the other hand, the Roman church dug in its heels and retained all of the evil and heretical doctrines it had adopted over the long centuries.

The Reformation was a great moment of the fresh air of the uninhibited Gospel going forth into the world. Millions of people were freed from the tyranny of the Roman church.

And, as James Swan has noted (prior to my avalanche of responses to you), your use of the O'Hare quote -- rather your misuse of it -- ought to give you pause. Because what you have just done is the very thing that caused the Roman church to survive the Reformation -- it spread lies and untruths, and where that was not effective enough, it burned books, and where that was not effective enough, it resorted to treachery and inquisition and murder.

That is the heritage that you defend.

Ben m said...

It takes guts to positively post O'Hare snippets on this blog.

Now there’s an understatement if there ever was one! ;)

Millions of people were freed from the tyranny of the Roman church.

John, aren’t you being a bit hypocritical here? Protestants are hardly in a position to be talking about “tyranny” since they practically invented the term!

Or have you already forgotten what life was like for the inmates in Calvin’s theocracy? Or those other dreadful aspects of the dictator Calvin’s repressive regime ?

Have you forgotten this frightful tyrant of souls wrote that all Catholics who didn’t bow to their Protestant dictators, none of whom had right or authority to punish, "deserve to be repressed by the sword"?

And what about Luther’s bloodthirsty words ?

Preserved Smith (a Protestant) was certainly right in saying:

“If any one still harbors the traditional prejudice that the early Protestants were more liberal, he must be undeceived. Save for a few splendid sayings of Luther, confined to the early years when he was powerless, there is hardly anything to be found among the leading reformers in favor of freedom of conscience. As soon as they had the power to persecute they did.Source

Now I wouldn’t even bring these up but that we always hear only exaggerated claims about the Catholic Inquisition and how bad it was, yet never a word about the documented Protestant cruelties and abominations! The truth is, the real history of the Reformation has been long neglected in the popular mind. We desperately need to have an objective assessment of those times, one that includes calm and rational discussion of excesses on both sides.


zipper778 said...

Michael, you didn't even address my questions. I didn't even ask what your fallible interpretation of Matt. 16:18 was and I wasn't even challenging the "succession" of popes, I simply wanted to know what the definition of "unbroken chain" was. This is why it's hard for us Protestants to discuss things with Roman Catholics sometimes.

Ben M, you are correct, both sides had their extremes and whoever said that they were the only infallible rule was wrong (again both sides). I have no problem acknowledging the fact that Calvin and others had dictatorship urges, but to be honest, the papal dictorship is not blown out of proportion.

John Bugay said...

Ben, the times were what they were, fore centuries, before there was one Protestant. And guess who shaped those centuries? The Reformere were merely men of their times, and they were living in an extremely hostile environment, and in large part responding to hostility with means they had at hand.

Ben m said...

John, my exasperating friend, ;)

All I can do is invite you to contrast the persecuting spirit of say, the “reforming” Calvinists with that of a true and gentle reformer, one who effected true and real reform .

And notice too that St. Charles Borromeo understood that all true reform of others must first begin with reform of oneself, quite unlike Luther and his followers!

And what a world of difference kindness, love and sanctity make!


Michael Gormley said...

zipper778 said...
Would it take a day, a week, a month or something else inbetween popes to make the chain broken?

Dear zipper778,
The first few centuries are tough to establish this with because the primacy of the Church at Rome had not come to the fore completely.

Also, you will find "splits" in the entire 14th century, when the papacy "moved" to Avignon for nearly 100 years, and there were 2-3 "popes" claiming the papacy at one time.

The essence of the "unbroken chain" comment is not meant to mean that there literally has never been a moment when a Catholic Pope is sitting, that would be silly, for what are we to call it every time a Pope dies and there are a few weeks before the new one is elected?

The point is that the message of the Gospel lives on through the Church unbroken, and the representative of that message is the office of the Papacy, which leads the Church.

While there may be many bad messengers, seeming to "break the chain", the message is still there.

The Unbroken Line of Popes
Tracing All The Way Back To St. Peter...

* St. Peter (32-67), Matthew 16:18
* St. Linus (67-76), 2Timothy 4:21
* St. Anacletus (Cletus) (76-88)
* St. Clement I (88-97), Philippians 4:3
* St. Evaristus (97-105)
* St. Alexander I (105-115)
* St. Sixtus I (115-125)
* St. Telesphorus (125-136)
* St. Hyginus (136-140)
* St. Pius I (140-155)

Read more > > >

John Bugay said...

Ben, I don't know that I am your friend. If I seem "exasperating," it is more likely because you have no response to some of the information I've presented here.

James Swan has more than documented the misuse of some of the things Luther said; while I don't know the background of the link that you presented, I'll know that it's a legitimate complaint when James says it's legitimate.

As For Calvin, here is how his biographer describes him:

He was a man of order and of peace who was born into a world of conflict. A conservative by nature, by upgringing, by conviction, his ideas became among the most revolutionary in Europe. The order, aristocratic in tendency, which he prized and which he devoted his life to establishing, became one of the platforms for democtacy in succeeding centuries. (T.H.L. Parker, 1975)

Here is where Borromeo falls into the Reformation scheme:

[Regarding Pope Pius IV]: Having three children to recall his earlier indiscretions, he had not since those days acquired outstanding spiritual gifts. Observers found his personality somewhat unattractive and lacking in dignity; ... It seems all the more remarkable that Pius made his brief pontificate one of the most important in the history of [the papacy]. Like his predecessors he soon gratified the pleas for his offices and revenues, yet in the eyes of history he amply atoned by raising to the cardinalate his famous nephew Charles Borromeo, then only twenty-two years of age. Of vastly milder temperament than his predecessor, Pius IV nevertheless proved himself capable of ruthless action against wrongdoers and heretics. Aided by its vices and crimes, he smashed the Caraffa faction and had its leaders, including Cardinal Carlo Caraffa, condemned and executed.
So before you lift a finger to talk about Servetus, remember Pius IV.
("The Counter Reformation," A.G. Dickens).

This blog is devoted to the Reformation, and over time, Lord willing, we'll get into the details of all of this history.

John Bugay said...

Michael Gormley, the list that you provided is largely fictionalized. As I've cited above, there was not a "monarchical bishop" in Rome until probably the 160's.

Hermas, author of "Shepherd of Hermas," wrote in that city, and in multiple places, he described the plurality of elders in that city who fought among themselves; I've documented that here:

Now, therefore, I say to you [tois – plural] who lead the church and occupy the seats of honor: do not be like the sorcerers. For the sorcerers carry their drugs in bottles, but you carry your drug and poison in your heart. You are calloused and do not want to cleanse your hearts and to mix your wisdom together in a clean heart, in order that you may have mercy from the great King. Watch out, therefore, children, lest these divisions of yours [among you elders] deprive you of your life. How is it that you desire to instruct God’s elect, while you yourselves have no instruction? Instruct one another, therefore, and have peace among yourselves, in order that I too may stand joyfully before the Father and give an account on behalf of all of you to your Lord.” (Vis 3.9)

That's just one example, on the ground, a living, first-hand description of the leadership of the churches at Rome in that era, of why we say that your "list" is fictionalized.

zipper778 said...

Thank you Michael for answering my question. I'm simply trying to figure out why Roman Catholicism brags about an "unbroken chain" in the papacy even though the chain is broken in many places.

Turretinfan said...

The whole "unbroken chain" thing is silly.

But what is even more silly is Mr. Gormley criticizing private judgment and then turning around and citing the judgment of "Protestants"!

What a marvelous absence of scruples!


John Bugay said...

Ben M insinuated that Luther argued “for divorce or even extramarital relations in certain situations”.

Here is what Luther actually said:

6.26 As to divorce, it is still a moot question whether it be allowable. For my part I so greatly detest divorce that I should prefer bigamy to it, but whether it be allowable, I do not venture to decide. Christ Himself, the Chief Pastor, says in Matthew 5:32, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, Matthew excepting for the cause of fornication, maketh her commit adultery; and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery." Christ, then, permits divorce, but for the cause of fornication only. The pope must, therefore, be in error whenever he grants a divorce for any other cause, and no one should feel safe who has obtained a dispensation by this temerity (not authority) of the pope. Yet it is a still greater wonder to me, why they compel a man to remain unmarried after being separated from his wife, and why they will not permit him to remarry. For if Christ permits divorce for the cause of fornication and compels no one to remain unmarried, and if Paul would rather have one marry than burn, (1 Corinthians 7:9) then He certainly seems to permit a man to marry another woman in the stead of the one who has been put away. Would to God this matter were thoroughly threshed out and derided, so that counsel might be given in the infinite perils of those who, without any fault of their own, are nowadays compelled to remain unmarried, that is, of those whose wives or husbands have run away and deserted them, to come back perhaps after ten years, perhaps never. This matter troubles and distresses me; I meet cases of it every day, whether it happen by the special malice of Satan or because of our neglect of the word of God.

James Swan said...

Ben M said... And what about Luther’s bloodthirsty words ?

Ah, the Ben M link game is on.

Luther's Statement Concerning Roman Catholic Authorities: "Why do we not rather assault them with arms and wash our hands in their blood?" (Part One)

Luther's Statement Concerning Roman Catholic Authorities: "Why do we not rather assault them with arms and wash our hands in their blood?" (Part Two)

James Swan said...

Forgot one:

Luther's Statement Concerning Roman Catholic Authorities: "Why do we not rather assault them with arms and wash our hands in their blood?" (Part Three)

James Swan said...

Ben M insinuated that Luther argued “for divorce or even extramarital relations in certain situations”

Luther was strongly against divorce- to the extent he'd prefer bigamy to it. I've written a number of blog entries on this.

This is just one of Ben's rabbit trails- He'll indeed keep you busy if you let him.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi John Bugay,

Here's a bit of news from Archbishop Dolan:

"The new president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said Monday the biggest task ahead for the clergy is to stem the mass exodus of Roman Catholics. New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who was elected last week, cited studies that said one-third of Americans born and baptized Catholics have left the fold in recent years.

However, to stop the mass transfer to other religions or sects, Dolan admitted the clergy must first set its house on order.

While exerting efforts to prevent the exodus, the archbishop maintained Roman Catholic Church officials would not be gagged on controversial social issues such as abortion, gay marriages and immigration."

Read more:

Michael Gormley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Gormley said...

John Bugay said...
The papacy had caused great evil in the world; we ought rather to take a sledge hammer to it and resist it with all our might..

Dear Jack,
The Catholic Church has existed for nearly 2,000 years, despite constant opposition from the world. This is testimony to the Church's divine origin.

It must be more than a merely human organization, especially considering that its human members—even some of its leaders—have been unwise, corrupt, or prone to heresy.

Any merely human organization with such members would have collapsed early on. The fact that the Catholic Church is today the most vigorous church in the world (and the largest, with about a billion members) is testimony not to the cleverness of the Church's leaders, but to the protection of the Holy Spirit.

Michael Gormley said...

zipper778 said...
Thank you Michael for answering my question.


John Bugay said...

Michael Gormley: My name is John, not Jack. As for the "2000 years," I'm exploring some of that history, and I'll invite you to join us for that exploration. It's not pretty for your side. Start at the main site.

As for "vigor," you may want to note the news story posted just above your comment: 1/3 of Catholics in recent years have left the Roman Catholic church. That's on top of other mass exoduses that have also been reported here.

Michael Gormley said...

1/3 of Catholics in recent years have left the Roman Catholic..

Dear John,

Tens of Thousands to Join Church at Easter
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Thursday, April 01, 2010
WASHINGTON (CNS)—Tens of thousands of new Catholics, including an 89-year-old former atheist, will join the church at the Easter Vigil, April 3.

Those seeking baptism, called catechumens, and those already baptized who will be brought into full communion with the Catholic Church, called candidates, have reached the church through a variety of paths. Some have been led by family and friends, while others were motivated by powerful or painful personal experiences.

Jean Henry of Easton, Md., was raised a Methodist and "drifted" into the Episcopal Church, but rejected Christianity more than four decades ago after a major spat in the women's guild.

"I tried to heal it but I could not," Henry told The Dialog, newspaper of the Diocese of Wilmington, Del., which includes Maryland's Eastern Shore. "I thought I had a good, strong faith, but it was too shallow."

Henry, who turns 90 April 16, said she "started out agnostic and went on to become an atheist because I never do things by halves. If I was going to doubt, I was going to doubt all the way."

But she found that "this life is hell if you're an atheist," she said. "I had gotten to the point where life didn't seem worth living. I'm not suicidal, so I'm not saying that, but why be here if you're an atheist?"

She reached that point shortly before she turned 89 last year. But she also found hope and new life through what she considers "an intervention by God."

"It was as if all of this atheism was gathered up on both shoulders as if it were a loose garment, and it simply fell onto the floor," recalled Henry, who will become Catholic at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Easton.

Michael Gormley said...

1/3 of Catholics in recent years have left the Roman Catholic.. (continued)

"I sort of figuratively stepped out of it. Since that garment of atheism fell off of me, I have never thought of it, questioned it, had one argument in my head about it."

As she was preparing to become Catholic, Henry said she believes "the true story is the strength and persistence of God's faith. I was in his arms all the time, but I was too stupid, too stubborn, too focused to realize that was always there, every minute."

Now she realizes all she has to do is accept God's love.

"There's not much fuss or feathers here because I feel I'm home," she said.

Across the country in Portland, Ore., Brad Wright, a 42-year-old teacher, was brought to the Catholic faith by substituting in Catholic school classrooms. When he saw students going to Mass and really enjoying it, he decided he wanted that for himself.

"It's the community," said Wright, who will be baptized at Christ the King Parish in Milwaukie.

Karl Hellberg, a 41-year-old special agent with the National Marine Fisheries Service, is another of the approximately 900 people joining the church this year in the Portland Archdiocese.

"I feel like I have (been) guided by divine providence through my life, through all the things that happened to me," said Hellberg, who will become Catholic at St. Mary, Star of the Sea Parish in Astoria.

According to the 2010 edition of a yearbook published by the National Council of Churches, in the United States and Canada membership numbers have gone up 1.49 percent for the Catholic Church—the country's largest denomination with more than 68 million members.

This vitality is especially notable in the South and Southwest of the United States.

In Texas, the Diocese of Dallas will welcome more than 3,000 new Catholics into the church this Easter.

The Archdiocese of San Antonio reports more than 1,100 new members, including nearly 340 children. The Diocese of Fort Worth will welcome approximately 1,000 catechumens and candidates, and the Diocese of Victoria will welcome 132 new Catholics from 14 parishes.

The Archdiocese of Atlanta reported that more than 1,800 people will join the Catholic Church at Easter. This is the largest group of new Catholics registered in Atlanta in any year on record.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta presided over the Rite of Election and Call to Continued Conversion, when catechumens and candidates are formally presented to the local bishop, at a ceremony conducted in 11 languages at the Atlanta Civic Center.

The nation's largest archdiocese, Los Angeles, reported that nearly 2,400 catechumens and candidates will be received into the church on Easter.

The Archdiocese of Seattle will welcome 682 catechumens and 479 candidates, for a total of 1,161 people.

In other areas of the country, the Archdiocese of Detroit will welcome 1,225 people. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati reported a combined number of 1,049 catechumens and candidates.

The Archdiocese of Denver said it expects 1,102 new Catholics, and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis reported 182 catechumens and 515 candidates.

Michael Gormley said...

1/3 of Catholics in recent years have left the Roman Catholic.. (continued)

In the Diocese of Arlington, Va., an estimated 1,100 people will be brought into the church. The Archdiocese of Washington, which includes the District of Columbia and part of Maryland, will receive approximately 1,150 people, as well 18 students from St. Augustine School, the oldest African-American school in the district.

The Diocese of Nashville, Tenn., will welcome 400 new members. The Diocese of South Bend-Fort Wayne, Ind., will welcome 193 catechumens and 276 candidates, for a total of 469 people; and the Diocese of Allentown, Pa., will welcome 486 new Catholics.

Definite numbers won't be known until the fall parish censuses are completed. Although most catechumens and candidates are formally received into the church at Easter, some may join the church at other times during the year.

"When you make new members, it's a witness to the whole church," said Providence Sister Jeremy Gallet, director of worship for the Portland Archdiocese and organizer of the rites of election. She added that those joining the church "realize how much bigger this is than themselves."
Contributing to this roundup were Gary Morton in Easton and Ed Langlois in Portland.

John Bugay said...

Michael -- First, this is not a place where you can publish your articles whole-hock. I know that you're trying to make your case, but if you're going to print something like this, summarize it and leave a link.

Second, "10,000" is not a very impressive number, given (a) the numbers just from the book of Acts alone, (b) the size of the US population, (c) that you have a whole "convert" industry (i.e., EWTN et. al.) out there begging for converts, and (d) the fact that millions are going the other way.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi John,

Fr.Joseph Sirba, a parish priest in the Duluth Diocese, Minnesota wrote the following in US Catholics leaving the Church in droves: what can be done?

"In fact, massive Catholic losses have been hidden by the large number of Catholic immigrants. Of the present 23.9% of adults who call themselves Catholic, about 23% of that number (or 12,368,250) are immigrants, mostly Hispanic.

Massive losses of native-born Catholics have not only been significant but in fact staggering, so much so, that those who conducted the survey wrote in their analysis, 'Catholicism has lost more people to other religions or to no religion at all than any other single religious group.'

10.1% of the adult population in the United States now consists of people who have left the Catholic Church for another religion or for no religion. To put it another way, one out of every 10 people in the United States (or 22,725,000) is an ex-Catholic.

These are individuals who were baptised and raised Catholic but who now no longer identify themselves as Catholic.

Further, if one excludes immigrants and converts from the calculations, the Catholic Church has lost to other religions or to no religion at all, 35.4% or more than one-third of the 64,131,750 of its native born members to other religions or to no religion. This amounts to almost 7 out of every 20 adults who were baptised as Catholics.

So where has the 10.1% of the population which has left the Catholic Church gone? What has happened to these 22,750,000 people who have left?

Over six-and-a-half million former Catholics have joined Evangelical Protestant Churches while unaffiliated accounts for almost ten million former Catholics. Recall that unaffiliated includes atheists, agnostics, secular people and religious people who belong to no organised religion."

Ben m said...

Ben M insinuated that Luther argued “for divorce or even extramarital relations in certain situations”.

Here's what Luther says in his Table Talk:

Cases of Conscience Pertaining to Marriage. December, 1532. No. 414

"Cases for the consolation of consciences belong in confession and not in books. A certain man took a wife, and after bearing several children she contracted syphilis and was unable to fulfill her marital obligation. Thereupon the husband, troubled by the flesh, denied himself beyond his ability to sustain the burden of chastity.

"It is asked, Ought he to be allowed a second wife? I reply that one or the other of two things must happen: either he commits adultery or he takes a second wife. It is my advice that he take a second wife; however, he should not abandon his first wife but should provided for her sufficiently to enable to her to support her life....

"In such cases in which the conscience was troubled I have often offered counsel not according to the pope but according to my office, according to the gospel. Nevertheless, I warned the persons involved not to make this judgment of mine public.

"I said to them, 'Keep this to yourselves. If you can’t keep it secret, take the consequences.'” Source pp. 65-66.

John Bugay said...

Ben M -- James Swan has written extensively on this topic. See here, for example:

Most often, Luther detractors point out Luther’s involvement in the bigamy of Phillip of Hesse. Of course, Luther got himself into a mess here, and there were political factors at play- however, not to the extent that St. Thomas More suggests. Luther scholar Roland Bainton gave a concise overview of the situation:

“There are several incidents over which one would rather draw the veil, but precisely because they are so often exploited to his discredit they are not to be left unrecorded. The most notorious was his attitude toward the bigamy of the landgrave, Philip of Hesse. This prince had been given in marriage with no regard to his own affections—that is, for purely political reasons—at the age of nineteen to the daughter of Duke George. Philip, unable to combine romance with marriage, found his satisfaction promiscuously on the outside. After his conversion his conscience so troubled him that he dared not present himself at the Lord s Table. He believed that if he could have one partner to whom he was genuinely attached he would be able to keep himself within the bounds of matrimony. There were several ways in which his difficulty could have been solved. If he had remained a Catholic, he might have been able to secure an annulment on the grounds of some defect in the marriage; but since he had become a Lutheran, he could expect no consideration from the pope. Nor would Luther permit recourse to the Catholic device. A second solution would have been divorce and re-marriage. A great many Protestant bodies in the present day would countenance this method, particularly since Philip had been subjected in his youth to a loveless match. But Luther at this point interpreted the Gospels rigidly and held to the word of Christ as reported by Matthew that divorce is permissible only for adultery. But Luther did feel that there should be some remedy, and he discovered it by a reversion to the mores of the Old Testament patriarchs, who had practiced bigamy and even polygamy without any manifestation of divine displeasure. Philip was given the assurance that he might in good conscience take a second wife. Since, however, to do so would be against the law of the land, he should keep the union a secret. This the new bride's mother declined to do; and then Luther counseled a lie on the ground that his advice had been given as in the confessional, and to guard the secrete of the confessional a lie is justified. But the secret was out, and the disavowal was ineffective. Luther's final comment was that if anyone thereafter should practice bigamy, let the Devil give him a bath in the abyss of hell."(Here I Stand, 292-293).

Note Luther’s final comment, “that if anyone thereafter should practice bigamy, let the Devil give him a bath in the abyss of hell.” A profound aspect of the Bible is its commitment to telling us about the sins of the human condition; even in those characters considered the greatest of God’s people. David was described as “a man after God’s own heart,” yet within his life one finds adultery and murder. Jesus called Peter “blessed,” yet not long after, Peter denied that he even knew him. Examples could be multiplied, and could go beyond the pages of Scripture into the halls of church history. God’s people struggle with sin, and sometimes take great falls. Such is the case of Martin Luther and his involvement with Hesses' bigamy.

Compare this, however, with the fact that the CCC says of homosexuals that they should "gradually but resolutely" approach perfection in chastity (CCC 2359).

Double standard on your part?

Ben m said...

“Luther's final comment was that if anyone thereafter should practice bigamy, let the Devil give him a bath in the abyss of hell.” - Here I Stand, Roland Bainton.

John, that sort of talk is so typical of Luther!

I mean, here's a man caught red handed. His hypocrisy laid bare. His immorality exposed before the whole world! And what does he do? Repent? Express deep remorse and shame? On the contrary,there's not an ounce of remorse in his words. He actually increases his guilt by feigning contempt for the very behavior he himself had secretly counseled for years (and would have undoubtedly continued doing so had he not been caught!). And then he has the audacity to call for punishment of such deeds - not for himself mind you - but only for others!

Little wonder then that, as Denifle informs us, the cry was heard in Luther’s day over the “whoredom and adulteries” found among many of Luther’s followers! Very sad.

Btw, it would’ve been nice if Bainton had given the source and context of Luther’s “abyss of hell” statement (must I supply everything?). ;)

A profound aspect of the Bible is its commitment to telling us about the sins of the human condition; even in those characters considered the greatest of God’s people. David was described as “a man after God’s own heart,” yet within his life one finds adultery and murder. Jesus called Peter “blessed,” yet not long after, Peter denied that he even knew him. Examples could be multiplied, and could go beyond the pages of Scripture into the halls of church history. God’s people struggle with sin, and sometimes take great falls. Such is the case of Martin Luther and his involvement with Hesses' bigamy.

So John, do you extend this same charitable sentiment to Catholics, and especially to the Popes, who “sometimes take great falls”?

William Witt said...

I'm a bit late joining this conversation. I had not noticed it at first, and it has been a busy semester where I teach. Since my name has come up, I thought it important to clarify a particular misunderstanding that has come up repeatedly when people misread what I had written in the post on my blog which is cited here:

Many years ago, I left one denomination as an individual, and joined another. I do not regret that choice, but since making it, I am committed to those who have become my companions. I have discovered true companions along the Christian journey in the Episcopal Church, and I do not intend to desert them. You dance with the one that brought you.

That quote was from a post I wrote entitled "Why Not Leave?" That particular paragraph has been cited numerous times by various people as if I were arguing against leaving the Episcopal Church, or, presumably, any church, even if it were heretical or had become apostate. And so it seems to be interpreted here--making comparison between the Episcopal Church and Mormonism.

If one reads the entire post, it is clear that I was addressing the question not of leaving the Episcopal Church, but of leaving Anglicanism, and that I was assuming that the orthodox in the Episcopal Church would need to take action together.

That, in fact, has happened, and I am no longer an Episcopalian, but an Anglican in the new Anglican Church of North America. I did leave the Episcopal Church. I did not leave Anglicanism.

That first post should not be read without reading what I wrote a few years years later as "Why Not Leave? A Followup"

By all means, disagree with me. And feel free to explain why you would never consider being an Anglican. But please criticize me for positions I actually hold.

William Witt

John Bugay said...

Hi Dr. Witt, thanks for checking back here. I hope you're having a good vacation, and I'd like to wish you a Happy New Year.

Thanks, too, for bringing our attention to your follow up post, which I did not see. You wrote:

The hope that I expressed in the post was for a “renewed orthodoxy” that might well consist of Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, and free church Evangelicals. I anticipated that we might well be meeting in storefronts, and sharing each other’s buildings, and that there might be a rapprochement between these “remnant Reformation Churches” with Rome and Orthodoxy.

Writing here as I do, I too have some hope that the various branches of Protestantism would come to appreciate the common heritage that they share in the Reformation, and like you, I do think that such a thing is very possible. I think the speed of communication enabled by the Internet, too, will have something like the effect that the printing press had at the time of the Reformation.

But I'd go one step further and suggest that much of the writing I do here is explicitly for the purpose of stating that (a) the papacy is the #1 problem that Christianity faces as a whole, and (b) if the papacy were to admit some things that all but the most radical Roman Catholics now know and admit, the program that you suggest would be far less complicated.

steelikat said...

John Bugay,

Last sentence Another nail on it's head.

William Witt said...

Certainly, the papacy is the most formidable obstacle to reconciliation between Rome and every other church, since Rome insists that the papacy is the source of not only ecclesial unity, but also epistemological certainty, a thesis which every Roman Catholic, and every convert to Roman Catholicism, is bound to accept.

And, of course, no other church, including the Eastern Orthodox churches, accepts this premise, or has ever accepted it.

Theologically, Rome has painted itself into a corner here. Dropping papal infallibility could open the door to reconsidering numerous issues that divide Rome from every other church in Christendom. However, given the epistemological freight that has been attached to papal infallibility, dropping it would require some serious rethinking. I have been told by numerous Roman apologists that the infallible magisterium is the only epistemological ground on which one can be certain of just about anything, and without the pope the church is left with nothing but the subjective whims of individual private judgment. It is an audacious (I would say "ridiculous") claim, but, once made, difficult to take back.

John Bugay said...

Steelikat: thanks and Happy New Year :-)

Dr. Witt -- I know that they are in a corner, but officially, and also from a Christian perspective, I think, the only way out of that corner, the honorable thing, is to bite the bullet and accept whatever consequences that come from an admission that the popes have bitten off more than they ought to have -- that they, having been invited to a banquet, took the seat of honor when they ought not to have done that.

(They require the specific "confession" of every sin as part of penance, but are unwilling to take that very step themselves, having only made weak apologies "for the sins of the children of the Church". That is genuine cowardice.)

(I've written about that here, in response to a Touchstone article in which he said that such a step might be too harsh).

I really don't think that's the case, and in fact I think it would have the effect of opening up a lot of doors.