I was asked by a Catholic visitor to listen to a series of audio recordings of a catholic apologist making the case for the authority of the Catholic pope. I agreed to listen to the first one and told him I would give my response in a new post. The audio can be found here, and my response below.
Okay, so I listed to the first audio file and I was immediately taken back to the time I went through S.E.R.E. training in the Navy. S.E.A.R. stands for Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape. I spent a week in the woods of Maine, in November, learning to survive and evade hostile enemy forces. I spent the last three days of the course as a P.O.W. The first night of P.O.W. experience I was blindfolded and lead to a facility where I was placed in a small cell and forced to sit all night in a particular position that quickly became uncomfortable. They checked on me regularly to make sure I didn’t move from that position. While I sat there, severely sleep deprived, they played propaganda recordings throughout the entire night that continually told of American bombs hitting hospitals and civilian communities. Intertwined with that were several assertions about the American forces that were purely fabricated. And there was evidence reported by them that was taken out of context in order to make their cause appear justified.
Although I was sitting comfortably on my couch as I listened to that Catholic apologist on the audio, it felt almost as uncomfortable as that nigh in the cell. Before listening to the audio I predicted that it would be pure propaganda and I was right. The reason I knew this is because I am quite familiar with Catholic indoctrination and I know what things they are going to point to in Scripture and history and, more importantly, what things they will leave out.
The apologist on the audio attempts to make the case for the person of Peter being the rock upon which Christ builds His church, and that he was given authority over the whole church, and that he setup his authority in Rome as the first Catholic pope. The message makes these four assertions in particular:
1) Peter is the rock Jesus was referring to in Matthew 16 upon which He said He would build His church, as opposed to the rock being Peter’s confession or Christ Himself.
2) Peter was given the keys to the kingdom of heaven which is the authority of Christ, opposed to all the apostles receiving the keys and the same authority.
3) Peter was in Rome and set up the papacy there.
4) And proof that Peter passed on his authority in Rome is evidenced in early church writings which demonstrate Rome’s exercise of authority.
Since there is a lot to cover here, I will begin by answering only the first assertion in this post.
The first assertion: Peter is the rock Jesus was referring to in Matthew 16 upon which He said He would build His church, as opposed to the rock being Peter’s confession or being Christ Himself.
Besides Matthew 16, the audio pointed to other New Testament references as circumstantial evidence of Peter’s supremacy, such as how many times he is mentioned in the New Testament, and how Jesus told him to feed His sheep, etc. I am sure the indoctrinated listen to things like this and nod their heads in affirmation and smile with amazement thinking, “how could anyone oppose such evidence.” Well, if the “anyone” happens to be scripturally challenged and easily persuaded by one-sided circumstantial evidence, then I suppose they are right. But for the “anyone” that studies Scripture and strives for relationship with Christ, the absence of any mention of the most relevant counterevidence will have them shrieking, “Are you kidding me?!”
The counterevidence of which I speak is found in Ephesians chapter 2, verses 19 through 22.
“Therefore, then, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom all the building fitly framed together grows into a holy temple in the Lord: in whom you also are built together for a dwelling-place of God in Spirit.”
The apologist on the recording never mentioned these verses, yet they are more relevant to their claim than any other portion of Scripture. Here we see the Apostle Paul describing the foundation of the church as the apostles, prophets, and Christ. The apostles were Christ’s witnesses who testified to the fulfillment of the prophets’ visions, which also testified of Christ. So Paul is saying that the foundation upon which the church of Christ is built is Christ Jesus through the preaching of the Gospel, which is the testimony of the apostles and prophets. The same apostle told the Corinthians that no other foundation can be laid other than the one he laid, which is Christ Jesus.
So if Jesus made Peter the foundation of the church, why didn’t Paul tell that to the Ephesians or the Corinthians? Why instead did he tell them that Christ is the foundation? If we interpret Matthew 16 as the Catholics do we have a huge disconnect between these portions of Scripture and that disconnect is the reason the Catholic apologist deceitfully never mentioned Ephesians chapter 2. So if we interpret Matthew 16 in the context of the whole of the New Testament, rather than a few select verses, we will come to understand that Peter is not THE foundation of the church, but A foundation in harmony with the other apostles.
If we look to John’s vision of New Jerusalem in Revelation 21, we see it is described as a bride adorned for her husband. The city is a description of true Israel, the church of God; its gates are the 12 tribes of Israel and its foundations are the 12 apostles of Christ. The Catholic apologist did mention John’s vision, but only to the extent of demonstrating that Peter could be the foundation because the vision of the city depicts the apostles as foundations. To anyone familiar with the New Testament the mention of New Jerusalem and its 12 foundations should have immediately brought to mind Ephesians 2. And the fact that the apologist didn’t go there should have immediately brought suspicion.
But the rock of which Jesus said He will build His church goes further than declaring Peter a foundation, because He said it in response to Peter’s confession. So even when Matthew 16 is considered in isolation there remains a debate as to the subject of Jesus’ words. The Catholic apologist in the audio asserted that it is illogical to think that Jesus was referring to Peter’s confession and not Peter himself. He also asserted that there are numerous early church references to Peter being the rock, but never said if there were any to Peter’s confession being the rock. Most of the examples he gave came from the fourth and fifth centuries, a time when the permeation of Roman leaven was well underway. The few earlier references, however, were simply mere mentions of Peter as the rock upon which Christ built His church with no mention of the context in which it was said.
The late second century theologian, Origen, for example, said in a homily, “Peter, upon whom the church of Christ is built…”This is supposed to be proof positive for the Catholic point of view. But when the apologists provides this information in support of his claims and omits Origen’s well known and comprehensive commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, it is proof positive that he deliberately does not want Catholics to know the truth about what he really believed. And the truth is that the evidence from Origen’s commentary affirms that the church in his time understood the rock upon which the church is built to be Peter’s confession, which was a revelation from God shared by all the apostles. Here it is in context:
“But if you suppose that upon that one Peter only the whole church is built by God, what would you say about John the son of thunder or each one of the Apostles? Shall we otherwise dare to say, that against Peter in particular the gates of Hades shall not prevail, but that they shall prevail against the other Apostles and the perfect? Does not the saying previously made, The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it, hold in regard to all and in the case of each of them? And also the saying, upon this rock I will build My church? Are the keys of the kingdom of heaven given by the Lord to Peter only, and will no other of the blessed receive them? But if this promise, I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, be common to the others, how shall not all the things previously spoken of, and the things which are subjoined as having been addressed to Peter, be common to them? For in this place these words seem to be addressed as to Peter only, Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, etc.; but in the Gospel of John the Savior having given the Holy Spirit unto the disciples by breathing upon them said, Receive the Holy Spirit, etc. Many then will say to the Savior, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God; but not all who say this will say it to Him, as not at all having learned it by the revelation of flesh and blood but by the Father in heaven Himself taking away the veil that lay upon their heart, in order that after this with unveiled face reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord they may speak through the Spirit of God saying concerning Him, Lord Jesus, and to Him, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And if any one says this to Him, not by flesh and blood revealing it unto Him but through the Father in heaven, he will obtain the things that were spoken according to the letter of the Gospel to that Peter, but, as the spirit of the Gospel teaches, to everyone who becomes such as that Peter was. For all bear the surname of rock who are the imitators of Christ, that is, of the spiritual rock which followed those who are being saved, that they may drink from it the spiritual draught. But these bear the surname of the rock just as Christ does. But also as members of Christ deriving their surname from Him they are called Christians, and from the rock, Peters. And taking occasion from these things you will say that the righteous bear the surname of Christ who is Righteousness, and the wise of Christ who is Wisdom. And so in regard to all His other names, you will apply them by way of surname to the saints; and to all such the saying of the Savior might be spoken, You are Peter, etc., down to the words, prevail against it. But what is the it? Is it the rock upon which Christ builds the church, or is it the church? For the phrase is ambiguous. Or is it as if the rock and the church were one and the same? This I think to be true; for neither against the rock on which Christ builds the church, nor against the church will the gates of Hades prevail; just as the way of a serpent upon a rock, according to what is written in the Proverbs, cannot be found. Now, if the gates of Hades prevail against any one, such an one cannot be a rock upon which Christ builds the church, nor the church built by Jesus upon the rock; for the rock is inaccessible to the serpent, and it is stronger than the gates of Hades which are opposing it, so that because of its strength the gates of Hades do not prevail against it; but the church, as a building of Christ who built His own house wisely upon the rock, is incapable of admitting the gates of Hades which prevail against every man who is outside the rock and the church, but have no power against it.” (Origen; Commentary on Matthew 12:11)
Wow, it puts that nine-word excerpt from his homily in perspective, doesn’t it? The fact that Origen’s commentary, which is the most comprehensive commentary on Matthew 16 from the ante-Nicene church, was not mentioned in the audio is very telling as to the dishonesty of the people presenting the information. Likewise, the omission of Ephesians 2:19-22, which is a description of the foundation upon which Christ’s church is built, is an indication that their intended audience is either not familiar with Scripture or under the influence of those who tell them they cannot understand it on their own. Either way it is a shame.
The apologist also brought up 1 Timothy 3:16: “If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” This is where he went off talking about infallibility and such, but I want to bring this into the topic of the church’s foundation because a second century bishop named, Irenaeus, in the western church of Lyons, used the premise of this verse to describe the foundation of the church.
“It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the pillar and ground of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh. ” (Against Heresies 3:11:8; emphasis added)
Irenaeus brings us right back to Ephesians 2 saying that the Gospels – the four Gospel accounts – are the foundation of the church and the source of truth. Therefore, according to Irenaeus, the pillar and ground of truth is the church built upon the foundation of the Gospel of Christ. Paul’s statement to Timothy was not intended to be a license to make infallible proclamations; it was meant to remind us that it is our duty and obligation to preach the Gospel of Christ.