Felix Roma: The Role of Rome in the True Church

Leonello Spada, The Martyrdom of Saint Peter (17th c.)
Leonello Spada, The Martyrdom of Saint Peter (17th c.)

“O happy Rome, stained purple with the precious blood of so many princes!
You excel all the beauty of the world, not by your own glory,
but by the merits of the saints whose throats you cut with bloody swords.”

Aurea Luce, an early Latin hymn for the Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul

For today’s Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, a feast closely tied to the Church of Rome, I’ve got three mostly-unrelated Rome-themed mini-posts: on (I) the necessity of being united with the Roman Church, (II) the Roman Church not being the Seat of the Antichrist, and (III) an exciting new Rome-based Catholic podcast.

I. The Necessity and Indestructibility of the Roman Church

To begin, consider this question: In the first century, would you have considered it optional to be part of the visible Church headed by the Apostles, or no? To be part of that Church would require being in union with the Roman Church, headed by St. Peter and praised by St. Paul.

St. Peter wrote 1 Peter from Rome, which is why he includes this cryptic greeting: “She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings; and so does my son Mark” (1 Peter 5:13). “Babylon” was one of the names used by the early Christians to refer to the city of Rome (much more on that in Part II). So the Roman Church, at this time, had St. Peter at the helm, writing on their behalf.

Meanwhile, St. Paul had not yet arrived, but writes ahead, praising the the Roman Christians (Romans 1:7-10):

To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.

Indeed, St. Luke tells us that Paul and his companions eventually made it to Rome (Acts 28:14), and that Paul “lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and unhindered” (Acts 28:30-31). So not only were Peter and Paul in Rome, but so were two of the Evangelists: Mark (1 Peter 5:13) and Luke (Acts 28:14). The Church in that city was already world-famous in the Apostolic age for its faith.

So that’s the situation in the first century. What about the second century? St. Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of the Apostle John, refers to it as:

the Church which is beloved and enlightened by the will of Him that wills all things which are according to the love of Jesus Christ our God, which also presides in the place of the region of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honour, worthy of the highest happiness, worthy of praise, worthy of obtaining her every desire, worthy of being deemed holy, and which presides over love, is named from Christ, and from the Father, which I also salute in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father.

That’s from c. 107, while Ignatius is on his way to Rome to be martyred. Rome’s primacy is still well-established.

Towards of the end of the second century, St. Irenaeus of Lyons points to Apostolic Tradition and Apostolic Succession as the sure-fire way of avoiding heresy, explaining:

It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about.

But since it would be “very tedious” to list every bishop of every Church, Irenaeus deems it sufficient to show:

that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.

And then he does just what he promised to do: he lists every Bishop of Rome, from the time of Peter and Paul down to Pope Eleutherius (Irenaeus’ contemporary, the thirteenth pope, counting St. Peter), concluding:

In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.

A similar list is given in the fourth century, as part of St. Optatus of Milevis’ argument against the Donatists, although Optatus’ list goes all the way to Siricius (the thirty-eighth pope). Optatus also says:

So we have proved that the Catholic Church is the Church which is spread throughout the world. [….] You cannot then deny that you do know that upon Peter first in the City of Rome was bestowed the Episcopal Cathedra, on which sat Peter, the Head of all the Apostles (for which reason he was called Cephas), that, in this one Cathedra, unity should be preserved by all, lest the other Apostles might claim—-each for himself—-separate Cathedras, so that he who should set up a second Cathedra against the unique Cathedra would already be a schismatic and a sinner.

This is very similar to argument that St. John Chrysostom, perhaps the most famous of the Eastern Church Fathers, was making at around the same time. It comes in his exegesis of John 21:19, in which he answers the objection that St. James was Bishop of Jerusalem by saying that Peter was entrusted with the entire world:

“And when He had spoken this, He says, Follow Me.” Here again He alludes to his tender carefulness, and to his being very closely attached to Himself. And if any should say, “How then did James receive the chair at Jerusalem?” I would make this reply, that He appointed Peter teacher, not of the chair, but of the world.

Pope Siricius’ immediate predecessor was Pope Damasus, to whom St. Jerome wrote these words (in 376 A.D.):

Since the East, shattered as it is by the long-standing feuds, subsisting between its peoples, is bit by bit tearing into shreds the seamless vest of the Lord, […] I think it my duty to consult the chair of Peter, and to turn to a church whose faith has been praised by Paul. [….]

Yet, though your greatness terrifies me, your kindness attracts me. From the priest I demand the safe-keeping of the victim, from the shepherd the protection due to the sheep. Away with all that is overweening; let the state of Roman majesty withdraw. My words are spoken to the successor of the fisherman, to the disciple of the cross. As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is with the chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the rock on which the church is built! [Matthew 16:18] This is the house where alone the paschal lamb can be rightly eaten. [Exodus 12:22] This is the ark of Noah, and he who is not found in it shall perish when the flood prevails. [Genesis 7:23] But since by reason of my sins I have betaken myself to this desert which lies between Syria and the uncivilized waste, I cannot, owing to the great distance between us, always ask of your sanctity the holy thing of the Lord. Consequently I here follow the Egyptian confessors who share your faith, and anchor my frail craft under the shadow of their great argosies. I know nothing of Vitalis; I reject Meletius; I have nothing to do with Paulinus. He that gathers not with you scatters; [Matthew 12:30] he that is not of Christ is of Antichrist.

In the span of time that we’ve briefly considered here, a lot has changed: the New Testament was written, Christianity was persecuted, legalized, persecuted again, legalized again, and made the official religion of the Roman Empire. The First Council of Nicaea has met, the doctrines on the Trinity and the dual natures of Christ have been greatly clarified, and the Church continues to grow and spread.

But throughout this all, from the very beginning, we see a prominent place for the Church of Rome, revered for her faith and honored for her authority. And the early Christians spoke of union with this Church as critically important. Given this, if you’re going to claim that, one day, Rome slipped into error (even heresy and apostasy!), you need to seriously reckon with St. Edmund Campion’s questions:

When then did Rome lose this faith so highly celebrated? when did she cease to be what she was before? at what time, under what Pontiff, by what way, by what compulsion, by what increments, did a foreign religion come to pervade city and world? What outcries, what disturbances, what lamentations did it provoke? Were all mankind all over the rest of the world lulled to sleep, while Rome, Rome I say, was forging new Sacraments, a new Sacrifice, new religious dogma? Has there been found no historian, neither Greek nor Latin, neither far nor near, to fling out in his chronicles even an obscure hint of so remarkable a proceeding?

Enrique Simonet, The Beheading of Saint Paul (1887)
Enrique Simonet, The Beheading of Saint Paul (1887)

II. Is “Rome” the Antichrist?

We’ve just seen Saint Jerome claim that those who break from the pope are siding with division and the Antichrist rather than unity and Christ. But what to make of the Reformation, in which Martin Luther taught that the pope was the Antichrist? Should that view be taken seriously?

While it’s no longer a common belief within Protestantism, this view was once widespread. It’s still held by some Protestants: for example, Michele Bachmann found herself in the midst of a mini-scandal when it was revealed that her denomination, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, still claims this, and you can also find it within some Evangelical and Fundamentalist circles.

Near the heart of this claim is a bit of very important exegesis. As GotQuestions points out, the theory that the pope is the Antichrist turns largely on Revelation 17:9:

The speculation about the Pope possibly being the Antichrist revolves primarily around Revelation 17:9. Describing the evil end-times system symbolized by a woman riding a beast, Revelation 17:9 declares, “This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits.” In ancient times, the city of Rome was known as “the city on seven hills” because there are seven prominent hills that surround the city. So, the thinking goes, we can know that it is somehow connected with Rome. So, if the evil end-times system is somehow associated with Rome – it does not take much thought to see a potential connection with the Roman Catholic Church, which is centered in Rome. Numerous passages in the Bible describe an “Antichrist” who will lead the anti-Christ movement in the end times (Daniel 9:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 13:5-8). So, if the end-times evil world system is centered in Rome and led by an individual – the Pope is a likely candidate.

While GotQuestions finds it “hard to believe that Pope Francis I is the Antichrist,” evangelicals like Dave Hunt (author of the aptly-named A Woman Rides the Beastwant to believe. Hunt goes from (a) saying that Revelation 17:9 proves that “Babylon” is Rome, to (b) concluding that Vatican City is Mystery Babylon (and the pope is the Antichrist):

Furthermore, she is a city built on seven hills. That specification eliminates ancient Babylon. Only one city has for more than 2000 years been known as the city on seven hills. That city is Rome. The Catholic Encyclopedia states: “It is within the city of Rome, called the city of seven hills, that the entire area of Vatican State proper is now confined.”1

There are, of course, other cities, such as Rio de Janeiro, that were also built on seven hills. Therefore, John provides at least seven more characteristics to limit the identification to Rome alone. We will examine each one in detail in subsequent chapters. However, as a preview of where we are going, we will list them now and discuss each one briefly. As we shall see, there is only one city on the earth which, in both historical and contemporary perspectives, passes every test John gives, including its identification as Mystery Babylon. That city is Rome, and more specifically, Vatican City.

Hunt is making a huge jump here: going from the Book of Revelation’s apparent condemnation of Imperial Rome, to saying that this “more specifically” means Vatican City… even though Vatican City (1) didn’t exist at the time Revelation was written, (2) isn’t the same city… or country, and (3) isn’t built on seven hills.

Hunt tries to bridge this gap by quoting a Catholic Encyclopedia entry for “Rome” saying that Vatican City exists within the ancient city of seven hills. It’s an incredibly convenient quotation, so much so that I looked it up, and found that it was entirely made up. Go read the encyclopedia entry for yourself: it’s available online. Here’s where he says it’s supposed to be.

Besides the fact that Hunt’s evidence is forged, there’s a deeper problem: it’s obviously false. You don’t need to take my word, or Hunt’s, or the Catholic Encyclopedia. You can just look at a map:

400px-Seven_Hills_of_Rome.svg

This map shows the seven hills of ancient Rome: Aventine, Caelian, Capitoline, Esquiline, Palatine, Quirinal, and Viminal. The city’s ancient limits, the Roman Walls, are shown in red. Outside of the ancient city, across the Tiber, is Vatican Hill. It’s not one of the seven hills.

For Hunt to make his “Rome = Antichrist” exegesis work, he has to add an eighth hill, and then say that this is the hill that Rev. 17:9 really means. In light of this, his statement that Revelation 17:9’s city of seven hills refers to “Rome, and more specifically, Vatican City” would be like me saying that “the Fab Four” refers to the Beatles, and “more specifically,” Mick Jagger. This is why he needs to rely on made-up evidence, because the actual evidence discredits his exegesis.

At the heart of this, and many of the “papal Antichrist” claims, there’s a categorical error. “Rome” is used to describe at least six distinct entities: the local Diocese of Rome (the cathedral of which is St. John Lateran’s, outside of the Vatican), the Latin Church (the Western half of the Catholic Church, as distinct from Eastern Catholicism), the Roman Catholic Church, Vatican City / the Holy See (technically a separate country from Italy), the City of Rome, and the ancient Roman Empire. The pope is the head of the first four of these, and for about a thousand years, also was in charge of the fifth.

Aurea Luce, the hymn I quoted earlier, reminds us that the Christians of Rome were largely killed by Roman authorities. Shortening that to say that “Rome” was persecuted by “Rome” renders the statement incoherent. But that’s just what Hunt has done: throwing all six of these entities together under the label “Rome,” so that Revelation 17:9’s condemnation of the Roman Empire gets treated as a condemnation of the Church of Rome, the very Church that Scripture praises (see Part I). That’s sloppy, conspiratorial exegesis.

III. A Roman Catholic Podcast

Interested in learning more about the Catholic faith? Whether you’re a Catholic who wants to know your faith better, or a non-Catholic interested in Catholicism, I’ve got a new recommendation for you: Catholic Bytes. While quite a few people, myself included, have worked on it, it’s principally the result of the hard work of three people: Fr. George Elliott (Tyler, Texas), Fr. Andrew Mattingly (Kansas City-St. Joseph), and Greg Gerhart (who will be ordained a deacon for the Diocese of Austin on July 11).

The first few episodes were released today: we’ve got Fr. Christopher Seith on striving for greatness, Fr. Richard Hinkley on the divine nature of the Liturgy, and Fr. Conrad Murphy on the miraculous appearance of Our Lady at Guadalupe.

The podcast is designed to be frequent (once or twice a week), short (under 10 minutes), clear (we’ve got multiple reviewers doing quality control), and orthodox. It’s also very Roman, in a certain way. As Fr. Elliott explained, “We make short (5 minute), dynamic podcasts given by different speakers from across Rome, to try to bring the great speakers that we encounter here back to our countries.”

So please, share in the embarassment of theological riches of the Roman Church! Check out the website, like us on Facebook, add us on Twitter, and of course, subscribe (by iTunes or RSS).

26 Comments

  1. A couple quick comments:

    “To begin, consider this question: In the first century, would you have considered it optional to be part of the visible Church headed by the Apostles, or no? To be part of that Church would require being in union with the Roman Church, headed by St. Peter and praised by St. Paul.”

    True, but where does the Scripture or the Early Church Fathers teach that the successors of the Apostles would be eternally preserved from error? It appears to me that the Apostolic Succession that Irenaeus spoke of lacks the sort of presupposition that Catholics ascribe to the institution today.

    “That’s from c. 107, while Ignatius is on his way to Rome to be martyred. Rome’s primacy is still well-established.”

    Nothing in what Ignatius wrote has anything remotely to do with primacy.

    1. Craig,

      Regarding Ignatius and primacy, I’d argue that the “presiding in charity” language that he uses (although a bit unclear in the translation I chose, sorry: it’s rendered “presiding over love”) is a model for Church leadership, and is particularly tied to Roman-Petrine primacy. Pope Francis and Vatican II say the same thing. Christ certainly appears to teach this, as well (Luke 22:25-32; John 21:15-17).

      But having said that, my argument in this post doesn’t turn on that. I’m arguing for something more modest: the the Roman Church has been, from the time of the Apostles, (a) prominent and (b) famously orthodox. This is true whether or not they possess any authority to settle disputes.

      Here, the need to be in union with them doesn’t flow from their authority, but from their orthodoxy (I’d argue that it also flows from their authority, but this argument doesn’t rely on that).

      So if you grant (a) and (b), and that it was necessary, at the time of the Apostles, to be in union with this Church, the burden seems to be on you to show when this changed. You say that Scripture doesn’t say that the successors of the Apostles will be preserved from error, and you quibble over what it means for the Holy Spirit to preserve the Church in “all truth” (which, on face, certainly sounds like the very thing you’re denying is in Scripture).

      But even if you were right — even if the Roman Church theoretically could fall into heresy — when did she? And are we to believe that nobody noticed? That’s why Campion’s questions are key:

      “When then did Rome lose this faith so highly celebrated? when did she cease to be what she was before? at what time, under what Pontiff, by what way, by what compulsion, by what increments, did a foreign religion come to pervade city and world? What outcries, what disturbances, what lamentations did it provoke? Were all mankind all over the rest of the world lulled to sleep, while Rome, Rome I say, was forging new Sacraments, a new Sacrifice, new religious dogma? Has there been found no historian, neither Greek nor Latin, neither far nor near, to fling out in his chronicles even an obscure hint of so remarkable a proceeding?”

      The standard Protestant history goes something like “the Apostles founded a pure Church, it fell into heresy in (mumble, mumble), and then Luther restored and reformed the Church in the sixteenth century.” But that middle step, the failure of Christ’s Church generally — and the Roman Church specifically — that it’s hard to pin most Protestants on. But obviously, it’s critical to the whole notion of Reformed Christianity.

      I.X.,

      Joe

      1. “But having said that, my argument in this post doesn’t turn on that. I’m arguing for something more modest: the the Roman Church has been, from the time of the Apostles, (a) prominent and (b) famously orthodox. This is true whether or not they possess any authority to settle disputes.”

        I do not think anyone would seriously deny A or B, even famous Protestant apologists like James White. We would not recognize CHristianity today if it were not for the Roman Church of old.

        “So if you grant (a) and (b), and that it was necessary, at the time of the Apostles, to be in union with this Church, the burden seems to be on you to show when this changed.”

        Perhaps but that is not the point of your post really. The burden was on you to show that the modern view of Rome’s primacy always existed. If we are content with saying that it was Rome’s ancient orthodoxy that serves for us as a model, then the burden of proof is on you to show that this orthodoxy is guaranteed eternally, and thereby must always serves us as a model for an equivalent period of time. Because that has not been shown to me, I do not see why I would have to seriously answer why it would be a big deal to believe that Rome 2,000 years later does not teach what Rome used to teach.

        “You say that Scripture doesn’t say that the successors of the Apostles will be preserved from error, and you quibble over what it means for the Holy Spirit to preserve the Church in “all truth” (which, on face, certainly sounds like the very thing you’re denying is in Scripture).”

        Not really, because even the RCC teaches that the RCC got things that are not dogma wrong, which would also appear to do injustice to the words “all truth.” I would say that the position of both of us is that the Holy Spirit has led us into all truth, but He does not guarantee at every point that any many has in of himself got everything right. However, because the Scripture lives on and men by grace are given knowledge sufficient for salvation, the Holy Spirit is true to His promise.

        “But even if you were right — even if the Roman Church theoretically could fall into heresy — when did she?”

        Again, I don’t see why answering this question is even necessary given the circumstances of what your claims were initially, and what my response to those claims were. However, I’ll in good faith answer the question and say that the more serious that sacredotalism specifically became, the more far away from correct teaching Rome devolved. I do not view it as a single flashpoint in history, and even today, Rome in their doctrines if you want to interpret it a certain way is totally true. For example, baptism is needed for salvation according to Rome (and Lutheranism and EO, etc.) Yet, all these churches teach that apart from faith, the sacrament has no power. So, at the base of it, faith still saves and the one who receives the sacrament with gratitude, trusting in Christ, is not believing any heresy.

        “The standard Protestant history goes something like “the Apostles founded a pure Church, it fell into heresy in (mumble, mumble), and then Luther restored and reformed the Church in the sixteenth century.” But that middle step, the failure of Christ’s Church generally — and the Roman Church specifically — that it’s hard to pin most Protestants on. But obviously, it’s critical to the whole notion of Reformed Christianity.”

        It comes from us not knowing enough medieval history, in my honest opinion. I find that if you read snippets from Bede you cannot find a thing he taught wrong. When you start reading Aquinas, he will speak of faith alone but will also defend the sacraments (ironically, him and Augustine are the chief defenders of sacramentalism.) So, the best I can understand is at some point the sacramentalism took so much precedence over faith that by the Council of Trent, no one batted an eyelash when they said that those who believed that we saved saved by faith alone are anathema, even though Aquinas used the term in his Epistle to the Romans as did many others throughout church history.

  2. Hi Craig,

    I am not sure if you read what Joe wrote carefully enough. Look at the bold sections. This has plenty to do with the primacy of Rome. Please read it again. It’s pretty open.

    ” the CHURCH which is beloved and enlightened….which also resides in the place of the region of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honor,….”

    That’s pretty clear that he’s talking about the Church in Rome, which is beloved and honored. It is a stretch to say this has nothing to do with primacy. Is he just talking just to talk? I think saying it has nothing remotely to do with primacy is at best incorrect. As far as Church Father writings, I am at present, not equipped to address that.

    As far as being preserved from error:

    John 16:13

    Matthew 28:16-20

    Both of these passages, I believe, adequately dispel your notion that there is nothing in scripture saying His apostles will be preserved from error. In Mt 28, Christ is talking specifically to the 11 an this time, but the apostles none the less, and unless I am mistaken it is so in John as well.

    I love seeing your posts Craig.

    God bless.

    Tom

    1. Ignatius: ” the CHURCH which is beloved and enlightened….which also resides in the place of the region of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honor,….”

      Tom: “That’s pretty clear that he’s talking about the Church in Rome, which is beloved and honored. It is a stretch to say this has nothing to do with primacy.”

      I think it is a stretch that it is about primacy. There is no mention of the concept. Ignatius calls the church worthy and honorable. These are compliments, something that Paul does not shy away from paying certain churches like Philippi and Thessolinica. I just simply do not see the idea being expressed, you are inferring it from the compliments because it meets a presupposition of yours.

      “As far as being preserved from error:

      John 16:13

      Matthew 28:16-20

      Both of these passages, I believe, adequately dispel your notion that there is nothing in scripture saying His apostles will be preserved from error. In Mt 28, Christ is talking specifically to the 11 an this time, but the apostles none the less, and unless I am mistaken it is so in John as well.”

      Again, the issue of presuppositions comes in. Christ said that He would guide the Apostles into all truth (John 16:13). We may take this to mean that this not only applied to the Apostles, but all of those Christians that would proceed after them (Matt 28:20). I do not deny these things.

      The issue then is what constitutes all truth and through whom it will always be propagated. It cannot be the Apostles at all times and on every point, as we know that some Apostles devolved into Judaizing for a time (Gal 1-2) which Paul had to rebuke them for. So, not every single thing an APostle ever said or did was Gospel truth.

      Being that this is the case, the same must certainly be true of the Apostles’ successors, and their successors’ successors. There is no guarentee that everything they say is true. It is interesting to note that when Irenaeus argued for Apostolic Succession, it was upon the notion that Apostolic Churches were in agreement on key issues and doctrines. He never say that by virtue of succeeding from an Apostle, these same churches will always be right. If that be the case, the majority of those Apostolic Churches have left Rome and become Eastern (and one Asian) Orthodox. So, Rome would have to admit that APostolic Succession could not preserve the majority of the Apostolic CHurches from error.

      My opinion is that God led the Apostles, and thereby us, into all truth by superintending their writing of the Scriptures and guiding His CHurch by His Holy Spirit subsequently. Hence, though the Church carries its own authority as being guided by the Spirit, the Scriptures remain the only real unadulterated APostolic authority that persists into the present.

      God bless,
      Craig

      1. Craig,

        I read over the primacy issue again, and I think the presupposition (sp?) issue goes both ways. Although I do find it hard to believe he is not making a specific point calling out the Church of Rome and praising it. For one to say I have a presupposition on what it means can easy be directed at the opposing view.

        Secondly, although I don’t have time to delve into it…..I have to go to work, I think it’s important that you don’t mistake what the Catholic claim on infallibility is. We don’t think every successor will always be right. Or even that some groups will not leave the Church. I am curious how you are so confident that the Scriptures are infallible. I know why I am….the Holy Spirit acting through the Church. But under your view, the scriptures could be argued to be in potential error themselves. We would have know idea which books are in the Bible without her guidance. Some still refuse the canonized Scripture.

        Have to go,

        God bless!

        1. One quick clarification….”we don’t claim every successor will always be right”. I meant every apostolic successor is not protected in every aspect of their lives.

          1. Being that I have the privilege of writing on a Catholic website, I hope those of you here can read my response from an intellectual standpoint. I am not trying to bash Catholicism, I am just explaining how I wrap my mind around the subject.

            Tom writes: “Secondly, although I don’t have time to delve into it…..I have to go to work, I think it’s important that you don’t mistake what the Catholic claim on infallibility is. We don’t think every successor will always be right. Or even that some groups will not leave the Church.”

            I understand. I really don’t want to sound flippant, but here is the best I can understand how Catholic ecclesiology works out. The Catholic claim is that whatever the Bishop of Rome, and the Bishops that concur with him, say is infallible when they agree with it. Whenever any of these Bishops say, do, or teach something that the modern Catholic Church does not agree with, then they are as men fallible. Therefore, Catholic apologists can defend the infallibility of present teachings of the church and yet very easily shrug off so many Bishops that have taught contrary things throughout history as fallible.

            So, let’s review our responses to one another on this specific point. I wrote, “[W]here does the Scripture or the Early Church Fathers teach that the successors of the Apostles would be eternally preserved from error?”

            You responded, “As far as being preserved from error: John 16:13 and Matthew 28:16-20. Both of these passages, I believe, adequately dispel your notion that there is nothing in scripture saying His apostles will be preserved from error.”

            I responded, “It cannot be the Apostles at all times and on every point, as we know that some Apostles devolved into Judaizing for a time (Gal 1-2) which Paul had to rebuke them for…Being that this is the case, the same must certainly be true of the Apostles’ successors, and their successors’ successors. There is no guarentee that everything they say is true.”

            Your response to this has been, “We don’t claim every successor will always be right.”

            So, you essentially backtracked from initially saying that you dispelled my notion to saying, “Well yeah, every successor is not right on all points.”

            My response to this is that of course I agree. So, if certain successors taught the primacy of Rome or that there is no salvation outside of a church in communion with Rome, I can very easily say that it is very possible that the Bishops who succeed previous Bishops are wrong on such points. In order to prove me wrong, you would have to point to the authority inherent in the Catholic Church, an authority which you just admitted is questionable as there is no guarantee that simply because they succeeded ultimately from the Apostles that what the church teaches today is correct on every point.

            Of course, I am a Protestant that believes in Sola Scriptura and you don’t, so I know you would disagree with my view of authority. I just hope that you can see that I have given serious consideration to the authority that belies the Catholic Church, and because it appears to me relatively shaky, I personally have problems accepting it.

            “I am curious how you are so confident that the Scriptures are infallible.”

            Very good question. The first and most important reason is probably identical why you find the RCC infallible. I am convinced that the Holy Spirit has revealed the truth of the Scriptures to me. So, the premise I work upon is that it has been revealed to me and it is not empirically provable in any sense.

            The second reason revolves around my historical investigation of the matter. Being convinced that God revealed the truth in the Scriptures, I went and read the church fathers to see if they appeared to share the same conviction. What I found was that certain fathers that perhaps wrote before all the Scripture was even complete (i.e. Clement) already recognized NT Scripture. This to me was historical verification of what I already knew.

            Further, the testimony of the Holy Spirit in His Church, which has experienced several schisms where there are completing claims to authority on several matters, but universal agreement concerning the God-breathed nature of Scripture, is testimony that they are right concerning the Scripture due to universal agreement and probably wrong about the things which the Church universally cannot get behind.

          2. Craig,

            An important note on the Judaizer thing: St. Peter wasn’t in error, doctrinally. He knew the truth — he was the one, after all, to whom the special revelation concerning the Gentiles came in Acts 10. It was Peter who opened the doors of the Church to the Gentiles for the first time. The problem in Galatia was that his conduct didn’t live up to the Gospel that he knew to be true. And that’s exactly what St. Paul says in his rebuke: that Peter knows better (Gal. 2:16).

            Apostles, like popes, are sinful men; but this fact doesn’t mean that they are heretics. The Catholic position is that the Apostles personally had the fullness of the faith, even if, as fallen men, they sometimes didn’t live up to the fullness of its message. Would you agree with this?

            I.X.,

            Joe

            P.S. Infallbility isn’t quite like you’re describing it.

          3. “An important note on the Judaizer thing: St. Peter wasn’t in error, doctrinally. He knew the truth — he was the one, after all, to whom the special revelation concerning the Gentiles came in Acts 10….And that’s exactly what St. Paul says in his rebuke: that Peter knows better (Gal. 2:16).”

            My reply was that “some Apostles devolved into Judaizing.” Galatians 2:12 says that the presence of “certain men from James” resulted in Peter and Barnabas eating separately from the gentiles. Paul said they were of “the party of the circumcision” (Gal 2:12). Being that Peter was entrusted “with the Gospel…to the circumcised” (Gal 2:7), even if he did not agree with such men on every point we know the following.

            For one, James and other Apostles were in favor of a teaching which Paul considered accursed. That’s the meat of my point when I said that Apostles, for a time, taught incorrect doctrine. Hence, there is no guarantee that those who succeed from them are immune from the same. Second, even if Peter never taught their doctrine (and we have some reason to believe in Acts 15 that he did not), he was at this period under their sway which is why Paul reacted so strongly to how Peter reacted to merely eating. Hence, there is no guarantee that a successor of Peter in Rome could be doctrinally correct in of himself, but otherwise allow the propagation and show tacit support for false doctrines.

            Key word in all of this is “guarantee.” None of this is positive evidence that Rome has or will ever teach anything wrong. My point is that in Peter himself we saw his permitting of false teachers to hold sway and specifically with James and his party, the actual teaching of false doctrine. James eventually relents and endorses orthodoxy (Acts 15) but Galatians preserves for us an instructive episode that occurred some time around 20 years after Paul’s baptism…so at this point, Peter and presumably James would have been teaching for two decades, so the Church was not brand new at this point.

            “The Catholic position is that the Apostles personally had the fullness of the faith, even if, as fallen men, they sometimes didn’t live up to the fullness of its message. Would you agree with this?”

            Of course I agree with this, though I also believe there were periods where the Apostles taught r believed wrongly as we can see of James and certain episodes before the death of Christ, when Christ had to correct them a dozen times. This is demonstrably true in the Scripture and again I do not see in the early church the teaching that the Apostles were on every point eternally preserved from teaching error.

            “P.S. Infallbility isn’t quite like you’re describing it.”

            Perhaps, but the way it appears to be explained and defended for all practical purposes, it really does seem so. I am aware that the RCC does not on the face of it claim that’s how their view infallibility.

            God bless,
            Craig

          4. Just to prove I’m not crazy in my interpretation of the event that we’re debating in Galatians, I just got a copy of Augustine’s Commentary on Galatians yesterday and found out that he concurs with me (or if anything comes on stronger than I have in my exegesis).

            Augustine writes:

            Now when Peter came to Antioch he was rebuked by Paul not for observing the Jewish custom in which he had been born and raised (although among the Gentiles he did not observe it), but for wanting to impose it on the Gentiles. Peter did this after seeing certain people who had come from James.(15:6).

          5. Craig,

            Are you understanding Augustine to be of the impression that the Apostles didn’t know the Gospel?

            Both of us agree that, in Galatians, Peter is functionally imposing Jewish practices on Gentiles (by segregating the two to avoid scandalizing members of James’ party). But to go from this to say that Peter and James actually taught heresy after Pentecost is a huge leap, and it undermines Christianity. If we can’t believe in the preaching of the Apostles, we’re sunk.

            This is sort of an extreme form of the standard Protestant privileging of the written word over the proclaimed word. The Biblical model assumes the word is proclaimed, not written: “faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (Romans 10:17); and even the written word is to be proclaimed in the Church: “Blessed is he who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written therein; for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3). And a great deal of the written word is transcription or summary of the word that was proclaimed (e.g., most of the Book of Acts). The notion that God would inspire the Apostles when writing but not when preaching is incompatible with all of this.

            If Peter isn’t inspired in his preaching when he gets upon Pentecost, how do those words somehow “become inspired” when they’re written down in Acts 2? So either the Apostles’ preaching is inspired, or our faith is not on solid ground.

          6. Joe,

            I am not sure how to intelligently respond to your assertion that by restating what the Bible says, and what Augustine interpreted the same passage to mean, “undermines Christianity.” Nowhere am I asserting “that the Apostles didn’t know the Gospel” either here or at any time on your website after numerous replies. If anything, you appear to be accusing me of essentially teaching outright heresy (“the Apostles didn’t know the Gospel”) even though it is not something I ever said, in order to not actually address the substantiated, legitimate points I did make.

            I do not appreciate such argumentation, and it is your website and you may do what you please, but I would ask for the respect of actually addressing the points I did make.

            My reply was that “some Apostles devolved into Judaizing.” My evidence for this is that Galatians 2:12 says that the presence of “certain men from James” were of “the party of the circumcision” (Gal 2:12), a Judaizing faction which Paul considered accursed.

            Augustine concurs with this analysis: “Now when Peter came to Antioch he was rebuked by Paul…for wanting to impose it [the Jewish Law] on the Gentiles. Peter did this after seeing certain people who had come from James…Peter feared these people who still thought that salvation was based on Jewish observances; in consequence, he separated himself from the Gentiles and pretended to agree that they should have to bear those slavish burdens…” (15:6-7).

            Victorinus concurs and writes even more sternly about the same verse: “Paul alone did not reprimand him; rather, after Peter had been reprimanded by everyone, Paul criticized and accused him, because he had been reprimanded. In the judgement of the congregation Peter sinned and was therefore accused.”

            So, when I wrote in my reply that “even if Peter never taught their [the Judaizer’s] doctrine…he was at this period under their sway,” I would be in full agreement with both Augustine and Victorinus. Do you deny this?

            “Both of us agree that, in Galatians, Peter is functionally imposing Jewish practices on Gentiles (by segregating the two to avoid scandalizing members of James’ party). But to go from this to say that Peter and James actually taught heresy after Pentecost is a huge leap, and it undermines Christianity.”

            It appears that you agree that Peter was indeed imposing Jewish practices wrongly. If you read my reply, you would have noticed that I specifically said that I do not believe that Peter even taught the heresy, even though he wrongly supported it (akin to Pope Liberius under the pains of torture signing an Arian Creed, but never teaching Arianism.)

            However, you would be wrong to say that no Apostle has never taught heresy. The Judaizers in Galatians 2 were Apostles in good standing with James, who was the Bishop of Jerusalem. Paul called similar men Apostles in 2 Cor 11:5. Do you deny this?

            So, I would think that Biblically you cannot support the notion that every single time an Apostle attempted to teach doctrine, let alone rule correctly (as Peter did not by permitting the teaching of the Judaizers), the Apostles did so without error. Because Galatians 2 contradicts this, unless you would argue that the men coming from James were not actually Apostles, and in fact, James did not teach what those men that came from him taught.

            Further, I would think that traditionally you also cannot find support for the notion that at every point the Apostles never taught error. Victornius had no problem relating that the teaching originated from James himself: “For the brother of the Lord, James, who is the progenitor of the Symmachians, was the first at Jerusalem to maintain that this was to be taken upon himself: both to preach Christ and to live like the Jews, doing all the things which the Law of the Jews teaches—meaning the things which the Jews understood were to be observed for themselves.”

            “The notion that God would inspire the Apostles when writing but not when preaching is incompatible with all of this…If Peter isn’t inspired in his preaching when he gets upon Pentecost, how do those words somehow “become inspired” when they’re written down in Acts 2? So either the Apostles’ preaching is inspired, or our faith is not on solid ground.”

            Let me condense all of the evidence I have presented on top of the Orthodox opinions I have historically presented on this website consistently. First, every Orthodox doctrine originates with the Apostles. No correct doctrine has arisen from any other source at any other point afterwards, otherwise one would be teaching progressive, post-Apostolic revelation.

            Second, the Apostles that by the Spirit disseminated these doctrines did not at all times live according to them. This is something we have both agreed to so far.

            Third, there is reason to believe that there were Apostles (specifically James and certain men allied with him) that were for a period, convinced of a false doctrine (Judaizing) and disseminated this doctrine. Galatians 2 literally says this and Marius Victorinus concurs with this specifically as he includes James by name. Augustine appears to agree as well, as he did not say that these men were teaching something that James wasn’t.

            Lastly, because of the third point, to teach that a man that succeeds a man that succeeds an Apostle cannot teach doctrinal error is itself an errant teaching. This is because there were Apostles that for a time did teach error. Therefore, the argument via Apostolic Succession has to be more limited: that the successors of the Apostles can teach error for a time, but the teaching will not persist as it didn’t with the Apostles.

            Our faith is indeed on solid ground when we follow Apostolic teaching. We do not have the teachings of the Judaizers handed down to us, because they were repudiated by some of the Apostles who were allied with their very party (namely Peter and James). When we build our Church from the doctrines of the Apostles that were not repudiated, we are on solid ground. When we build our church from any other foundation, then we are not.

          7. Craig,

            Thanks for outlining your conclusions: it makes it much easier to follow your argument. I agree with (1) and (2), disagree with (3) and (4). Since (4) relies on (3), I’ll just focus on that. But before I get to my response, a quick point on what I understand you to be saying. You said:

            “Nowhere am I asserting “that the Apostles didn’t know the Gospel” either here or at any time on your website after numerous replies. If anything, you appear to be accusing me of essentially teaching outright heresy (“the Apostles didn’t know the Gospel”) even though it is not something I ever said, in order to not actually address the substantiated, legitimate points I did make.”

            This is lame. You’re essentially accusing me of dishonesty, and intentionally straw-manning your position. When have I ever done this to you, or any of the commenters on this site? It’s possible I’m misunderstanding you (or that you fail to see the implications of your own position), but I’m not lying about your position because I’m too afraid to take it on or something. At this point, you know me well enough to know this.

            So why do I think your position equates to saying that the Apostles didn’t know the Gospel? Because you say things like: ” there is reason to believe that there were Apostles (specifically James and certain men allied with him) that were for a period, convinced of a false doctrine (Judaizing) and disseminated this doctrine.” And a bit later, you say, “However, you would be wrong to say that no Apostle has never taught heresy. The Judaizers in Galatians 2 were Apostles in good standing with James, who was the Bishop of Jerusalem. Paul called similar men Apostles in 2 Cor 11:5. Do you deny this?”

            Two things. First, to clarify, am I reading you right? It sounds like you’re accusing the Apostle James of being a heretic. Second, yes, I certainly do deny it.

            As you’ve said, 2 Cor. 11 deals with these men, and if you read it closely, you’ll see that while Paul mockingly refers to them as “super-Apostles,” they’re not literally Apostles. That’s why he says (2 Cor. 11:13), “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.” So no, they’re not “Apostles in good standing.” Quite the opposite.

            Paul also accuses these men of preaching “a different gospel” and proclaiming “another Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4). Do you think that this is true of the Apostle James? That James preached a different Gospel and taught another Jesus from the other Apostles (or at least Paul)? All you’ve raised to accuse James of heresy is that these heretics came from “the party of James,” as if this means that he agreed with them on all points. And if you’re going to say that James taught heresy, was it because he was lying about the Gospel, or mistaken? And if the latter, why are you objecting to my understanding that your position would entail that the Apostles didn’t know the fullness of the Gospel?

          8. The practicing/preaching distinction is absolutely critical. In Matthew 23:1-3, Jesus speaks of the Pharisee’s preaching as binding, but not their praxis: “Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.”

            So the earliest Christian disciples, while still under Jewish authority, were expected to “practice and observe whatever they [the Pharisees] tell you.” Your argument wouldn’t even have the Christians practicing and observing everything the Apostles told them, even though the Apostles were guided by the Holy Spirit in a special way.

            To say that the Apostles taught heresy would mean that a Christian trying to live out Apostolic Christianity couldn’t count on the preaching of the Apostles as a reliable indicator. And what could they check the heresy of the Apostles against? How could they know when the Apostles were orthodox and when they were heretics? This is what I mean about it being “game over” for orthodox Christianity. Even if you want to specially plead sola Scriptura, the New Testament Scriptures hadn’t been written yet.

            To approach it from a slightly different direction, Ephesians 219-22 says, “So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” To say that the Apostles were sometimes heretics is to say that the foundation of the house of God is an unreliable one.

            I don’t think that you’re seriously acknowledging or handling this insoluble problem. Instead, you’re just claiming that “Galatians 2 literally says this.” That’s false, and the falsehood is due to your conflating of doctrine and praxis. You say “that there were Apostles (specifically James and certain men allied with him) that were for a period, convinced of a false doctrine (Judaizing) and disseminated this doctrine.”

            Galatians 2 doesn’t explicitly say that James was guilty of this. But even if had, you’re wrongly assuming that it means the teaching of Judaizing rather than its practice. There’s nothing that would have precluded one of the Apostles from being, say, an adulterer. But the Holy Spirit did prevent the Apostles from, e.g., teaching that adultery was okay. Replace “adultery” with “Judaizing,” and you’ve got your answer.

            We know that it’s possible for an Apostle to cave, on the level of practice, and permit (even practice) Judaizing even though they know it to be contrary to true doctrine. St. Peter is exactly in that position (as you acknowledge, I believe), and Galatians 2 is actually explicit on that point, in several places.

            So to summarize: if you’re going to say that the Apostles knew and preached the fullness of the truth, but sometimes acted (even in their official capacities) in ways inconsistent with this truth, we’ve got no problem. This would extend as far as them not disciplining heretic, and even acquiescing to certain of their unjust demands.

            But if you’re going to say that someone who heard and believed the Gospel proclaimed by the Apostle James was receiving a different Gospel and another Christ than someone hearing the Apostle Paul, then Christianity is in serious trouble.

            I.X.,

            Joe

          9. Ultimately I don’t know your motivations and it was wrong for me to impugn them, I should have gave you the benefit of the doubt. I would rather presume that I just have not done a good job explaining myself. Let me apologize for that. I’ll try to do a better job.

            I’d just ask that you would consider how you would feel if I said that your contention was something that impugned Apostolic teaching. It is my belief that I am not impugning any true Apostle, or their teachings.

            Let me condense your objections against what I have said to one sentence of mine: “However, you would be wrong to say that no Apostle has never taught heresy. ”

            Essentially, this is where you and I differ. So, even when the Scripture would appear to say that James actively supported teachers of a specific doctrine, you suppose that James was ignorant of what they were doing or lax in stopping them. This is because you consider it unacceptable that James could have entertained any false doctrines for any extended periods of time.

            You are entitled to your opinion on this, but this is why I cited both Augustine and Victorinus in their exegesis of Galatians to show that I am not making any claims that orthodox teachers have not made before. Victorinus specifically taught the James was teaching the false doctrine. So, you can no more call me a heretic than Victorinus.

            So, if you are able to accept that it is a possible and acceptable exegesis, then we can actually discuss whether there are grounds for it. However, if you philosophically cannot accept it on any grounds, even if Orthodox church fathers appeared to have no problem with some of their number teaching the notion, then there is no point in me detailing my exegesis because you will not even consider it.

            “Second, yes, I certainly do deny it. As you’ve said, 2 Cor. 11 deals with these men, and if you read it closely, you’ll see that while Paul mockingly refers to them as “super-Apostles,” they’re not literally Apostles. That’s why he says (2 Cor. 11:13), “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.” So no, they’re not “Apostles in good standing.” Quite the opposite.”

            Let me respond to this in points:

            1. Being an Apostle is a spiritual gift. The Scripture states, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers” (Eph 4:11). Therefore, just because someone saw the resurrected Savior and taught in His name false doctrines, that does not make one a true Apostle–even if other Apostles esteem such men as Apostles, which surely Peter did that he acceded to them…which surely James did that he gave them a hearing…which surely most people did that Paul found it necessary to point out that though these men appeared to be Apostles, they were indeed false Apostles.

            2. Your view is that any of these men that met Apostolic criteria other than orthodoxy could have not later repented and become orthodox, and hence legitimate apostles. If any of these false Apostles repented and started to preach the true Gospel, wouldn’t any one of them be a true Apostle by virtue of having seen the resurrected Christ, having sanction of the Church, and preaching Christ name? So, it would appear the only real thing that separates a true from a false Apostle with all other things being equal is adherence to the Gospel.

            Third, in light of the previous two points I contend that Apostolic teaching does not hinge on the Apostles as men, but on the Apostles being faithful to what Christ Himself and the Spirit taught them. So, if James for a time strayed, that does not rock the foundations of anything…because the purity of Apostolic teaching does not hinge upon the consistency of the Apostle himself.

            “Do you think that this is true of the Apostle James?”

            In short, for a time yes, I think that is what Paul was saying. Whenever James did this, he was not disseminating true Apostolic teaching, just like the Pope does not speak infallibly unless he speaks ex cathedra.

            “And if you’re going to say that James taught heresy, was it because he was lying about the Gospel, or mistaken? And if the latter, why are you objecting to my understanding that your position would entail that the Apostles didn’t know the fullness of the Gospel?”

            He was mistaken. I object to your contention because just because an Apostle screws up for a few years, that does not mean ALL the Apostles didn’t know the fullness of the Gospel. It means one or a few screwed up.

            Even John the Baptist, who explicitly taught Christ’s coming and knew it was he that had to be baptized, later had doubts and sent his disciples to ask Christ whether he really was the Christ. In fact, I would like to know where you would base your contention that all the Apostles at every point after the day of Pentecost never botched doctrine, and not even one ever fell away for a time or differed? I don’t think the Bible or anyone in the early church teaches that.

            God bless,

            Craig

          10. “The practicing/preaching distinction is absolutely critical…So the earliest Christian disciples, while still under Jewish authority, were expected to ‘practice and observe whatever they [the Pharisees] tell you.’ Your argument wouldn’t even have the Christians practicing and observing everything the Apostles told them, even though the Apostles were guided by the Holy Spirit in a special way.”

            I think you are very wrong about this. First, you are misunderstanding Christ. The Pharisees taught about the washing of hands before eating. Surely Christ was not telling the disciples to listen to the Pharisees on this point, though you appear to be saying that the Christians had to listen to everything the Pharisees say.

            We know this is the case because Christ specifically rejected it. Second, it appears to mental leap that if an Apostle was ever wrong, then we are to reject their teaching wholesale. Rather, the very example you cite actually works against your position.

            The Pharisees were wrong about things that Christ specifically rejected, yet as a general rule of thumb Christ wanted the Jewish Christians to observe “all of their teachings.” In the same way, the heterodox opinions among at least a few “Apostles” pertaining to Judaizing are something that the Holy Spirit would have us reject, yet as a rule of thumb we are to observe all Apostolic teachings. Christ understood that Jewish Christians can follow Pharaiscal teachings while not on every point when the Pharisees themselves taught against the Law unbeknownst to themselves. In the same way, we are expected to follow Apostolic teaching without accepting when unbeknownst to some of them they were contradicting themselves. to be clear, they did not contradict themselves in the Scriptures as they were superintended by God in their writing of it.

            “To say that the Apostles taught heresy would mean that a Christian trying to live out Apostolic Christianity couldn’t count on the preaching of the Apostles as a reliable indicator.”

            Again, I seriously take offense to your contention that I am saying ALL the Apostles taught heresy. That is certainly not the case, I cannot say it any clearer than that. However, just as the Pharisees were a reliable indicator for Jewish practice even when they got specific Jewish practices wrong, the Apostles were an even more reliable indicator, even when much fewer of them did anything hypocritical.

            I don’t think there was anything special about the Apostles as men. They were just men. When they taught doctrine in accordance with the Spirit, which we have unadulterated in their very Scriptures, we have pure Apostolic doctrine…even if the men in their daily lives did not always live by it, support it, and in rare instances even teach it.

            “How could they know when the Apostles were orthodox and when they were heretics?”

            I suppose as Paul did…proving from the only Scriptures they have (Old Testament) that the other supposed Apostles were wrong. It is quite striking that Paul pretty much did not even cite the words of Christ Himself very often, but rather exegeted Old Testament Scriptures in accordance with the teaching of the Spirit (or Christ Himself telling him via revelation).

            In short, you compare Scripture with Scripture. The fact that nothing in the Bible ascribed to an Apostle contradicts the rest of the Scripture verifies that it is true, God-breathed Apostolic teaching.

            “Even if you want to specially plead sola Scriptura, the New Testament Scriptures hadn’t been written yet.”

            The whole Old Testament was, and that appeared to be Paul’s ace in his sleeve.

            “I don’t think that you’re seriously acknowledging or handling this insoluble problem.”

            I disagree with this, I think rather you have a philosophical vantage point that differs from some church fathers which renders you unable to even entertain the notion.

            “Galatians 2 doesn’t explicitly say that James was guilty of this.”

            It doesn’t explicitly say he wasn’t. What does it say? That men came from James.

            It would be safe to say, according to the conventions of language, that men coming from James taught James’ doctrine. What if I were to say, “Men coming from Calvin taught X doctrine,” wouldn’t you naturally expect that they taught Calvinistic doctrine? It’s common sense.

            Now, you reject this, but ultimately your argument is, “Well, it would seem likely that men coming from James taught James’ doctrine, but in this instance they didn’t.” So you essentially admit that you presume the least likely of two possibilities. I do not think this is a good exegesis, though I admit it is a possible exegesis.

            “But the Holy Spirit did prevent the Apostles from, e.g., teaching that adultery was okay. Replace “adultery” with “Judaizing,” and you’ve got your answer.”

            I do not want to sound mean, but that does not make sense to me. Your argument is that while an APostle could have committed adultery (certainly with their eyes), they would never teach that it is okay to commit adultery. Then you say, in the same way an Apostle could have committed the sin of Judaizing, but not taught Judaizing.

            I do not think your argument logically holds up. Judaizing IS the sin of TEACHING Judaizied Christianity, which is not Christianity at all but rather accursed doctrine. Therefore, it is impossible to partake in Judaizing and not commit the sin of teaching their doctrines. They are one of the same.

            “We know that it’s possible for an Apostle to cave, on the level of practice, and permit (even practice) Judaizing even though they know it to be contrary to true doctrine.”

            Most likely this was Peter’s sin, though linguistically I honestly don’t think James’ can be reduced to this.

            “But if you’re going to say that someone who heard and believed the Gospel proclaimed by the Apostle James was receiving a different Gospel and another Christ than someone hearing the Apostle Paul, then Christianity is in serious trouble.”

            I would disagree. I think even a brother of the Lord could have rejected Christ in His life in the flesh, accepted the resurrected Savior, grown arrogant and entertained false notions, only to later recant and correct the error.

            We even have examples from Catholic history of different doctrines being taught. St. Gregory the Great rejected Deuterocanonical books for example, something that the Catholic Church later taught against. Was the earlier Pope “anathema?”

            Innocent III wrote, “Eve was produced without sin, but she brought forth in sin; Mary was produced in sin, but she brought forth without sin.” Teaching that now would be anathema.

            Now, a Catholic would argue that perhaps some of these things were written when they were bishops rather than Pope. But, James was not a Pope. So, why couldn’t James as a bishop, like these men, teach something that is recognized today as anathema?

            The church did not even rule on Judaizing until Acts 15 so even if James taught wrong doctrine before that council, isn’t it the modern Catholic understanding that before a council rules on something, that one can teach something that is later anathematized, without being anathema?

            God bless,

            Craig

          11. I would like to rescind my contention that James agreed with the people “from” him in Gal 2 based upon textual grounds. I came across the following in Acts 15:24:

            “we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you.”

            Hence, they received no instruction from James.

            My apologies again,
            Craig

      2. Hi Craig,

        Just a quick remark on St. Ignatius and primacy.

        The basic line of thinking pursued here concerns the phrase ‘presides over love.’ Catholic scholars (and some others) argue that the term for ‘love’ here — agape — refers to the communion existing in the Church itself and between the churches. Scholars say that St. Ignatius uses the same term in other letters to refer specifically to Eucharistic communion. So, the argument goes, St. Ignatius is connecting the presidency of the Church of Rome to the ecclesial communion at the heart of the Church.

        To be clear, none of these scholars would argue that St. Ignatius is speaking with juridical terminology, but many would argue that St. Ignatius is describing the underlying reality of unity and communion in the Church from which canon law arises.

        So that’s a brief form of the line of thought connecting primacy and St. Ignatius.

        Hope that helps.
        Peace,
        Shane

        1. I view that a tad tenuous to say the least. Of course it is workable if the notion is actually true, but just because it is workable it does not really prove the point seen in the OP.

          1. Craig,

            Thanks for the response.

            On the one hand, the language St. Ignatius uses here does not spell out Roman primacy in detail: it’s really just a phrase and high praise. On the other hand, if the phrase ‘the Church who presides over love’ does not suggest some sort of primacy to the Church of Rome, what does it mean? I suppose its meaning could be entirely lost to a modern reader today, but if one were to argue in that manner, they would have to do a lot of work to show that it definitely doesn’t mean that the Church of Rome, at the time of St. Ignatius, realized a form of primacy or presidency.

            Still I would say that there is a pretty clear witness to Roman primacy of some kind if one considers the whole scope of evidence from the early church.

            Peace,
            Shane

          2. “On the other hand, if the phrase ‘the Church who presides over love’ does not suggest some sort of primacy to the Church of Rome, what does it mean?”

            I presume it is a complement concerning over how they preside over their own congregation local to Rome.

  3. Love the podcast concept. Visited the website but was not able to listen to or download any of the files. Got a page not found error on the attempt to download. Google error 429. Server problem?

  4. One of the most interesting publicationon on this subject is a series of lectures, given by George Edmundson, called the “Church in Rome in the First Century”

    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edmundson/church.toc.html

    It provies the background material that illuminates a number of passeges in the Gospels & Acts.

    It’s a bit long, over 100 pages which I printed out & had bound, but well worth the effort.

    In the process, I added a number of maps, architectural recontruction drawing & archeological finds. Including a fresco of St. Peter, and a bronze medallian, from the 2nd century, illustrating St’s Peter & Paul.

  5. Hi Joe,

    Thanks for the post.

    I do not find the Protestant approach to Rome persuasive, but the Orthodox can make a better case. How would you respond to them?

    The Orthodox would affirm that Rome had a primacy in the early church, but they would disagree that it amounts to the fullness of what the Catholic Church claims today. Just to take an example: Patriarch Photios very much believed that Rome could function as a court of appeal, and such appeal was even exercised in his time; but neither he, nor really Orthodox leaders over the next several hundred years, believed that the Bishop of Rome had the right to interfere in the internal affairs of other churches without having received proper appeal.

    The Orthodox sometimes base this right of appeal in the canons of the Council of Sardica, as well as custom, and the history of the early Church bears testimony to its use. But the Orthodox do not see any canonical description or explanation of the Pope’s prerogative to intervene in internal affairs of the churches of his own accord.

    So how would you respond to the Orthodox on this point? And, connected with this point, what limits do you see placed on the Pope’s exercise of primacy?

    Thanks.
    Peace,
    Shnae

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