Friday, April 18, 2014

The Peter of Scripture versus that of Rome

Although the the weight of Scriptural substantiation, or lack thereof, is not determinative of the veracity of Roman Catholic teaching, RCs will often attempt to defend her traditions of men by forcing ("wresting")  Scripture texts to “incontrovertibly” (as some claim) support them. 

After the  Catholic Eucharist, primary among these is the role of Peter,  in which the married (1Cot. 9:5) poor (money wise: Acts 3:5) humble pentecostal (in the real sense) leader among brethren, and preacher of justification by faith, (Acts 15:9) who relied on spiritual means, not the arm of man, is exalted to a demigod status as an exalted infallible pope reigning in Rome over all the churches — even as a Caesar using the sword of men when times permit . But which stands in stark contrast to the Peter of Scripture (as well as what even Catholic and other scholarship testifies to in the primitive church), and is an example of RC thinking "of men above that which is written" (1Cor. 4:6) -  though the Mary of Rome stands  in even greater contrast to the holy Mary of Scripture, who effectively reproves Catholic inventions.    

For now we will look at two primary texts invoked in support of the Roman conception of Peter. The principal one is Mt. 16:18, wherein there is a play on the word "rock" by the Lord, in which the immovable "Rock" upon which Christ would build His church is the confession that Christ was the Son of God, and thus by implication it is Christ himself. The verse at issue, v.18, cannot be divorced from that which preceded it, in which the identity of Jesus Christ is the main subject. In the next verse (17) that is what Jesus refers to in telling blessed Peter that “flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee,” and in v. 18 that truth is what the “this rock” refers to, with a distinction being made between the person of Peter and this rock. This is the only interpretation that is confirmed, as it must be, in the rest of the New Testament.
 
For in contrast to Peter, that the LORD Jesus is the Rock (“petra”) or "stone" (“lithos,” and which denotes a large rock in Mk. 16:4) upon which the church is built is one of the most abundantly confirmed doctrines in the Bible (petra: Rm. 9:33; 1Cor. 10:4; 1Pet. 2:8; cf. Lk. 6:48; 1Cor. 3:11; lithos: Mat. 21:42; Mk.12:10-11; Lk. 20:17-18; Act. 4:11; Rm. 9:33; Eph. 2:20; cf. Dt. 32:4, Is. 28:16) including by Peter himself. (1Pt. 2:4-8) Rome's current catechism attempts to have Peter himself as the rock as well, but also affirms: “On the rock of this faith confessed by St Peter, Christ build his Church,” (pt. 1, sec. 2, cp. 2, para. 424) which understanding some of the ancients concur with.

While men can argue about the significance of the difference between the Greek (the language the Holy Spirit chose to express the New Testament revelation in) words “Petros” (Peter, or stone in Jn. 1:42) and “petra” (rock) in Mt. 16:18, and what the LORD might have said in Aramaic (one can follow an examination here on that), among other things, I see the phrase “this stone” (“touton lithosis”), used to identify the cornerstone which is the foundation of the church, (Mt. 21:42) as only being used of Christ as regarding a person. (Mt. 21:44)

It is by the “rock of this faith” that the church not only exists but it gains its members. (1Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:13) And it is by the essential faith which Peter expressed that church overcomes: "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1Jn, 5:5; cf (1Jn. 2:13,14,25) And which Peter himself confirms: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world." (1 Pet 5:8-9

The second text is Luke 22:32, in which somehow the prayer of the Lord that the faith of the street-level leader among brethren would persevere, and strengthen his brethren, is asserted to mean, via extrapolative RC imagination, that Peter was the exalted infallible head whom all the church looked to as the first of a line of infallible popes ruling from Rome.

However, Israel and the seat of David was promised perpetuation, (Ps. 89:19--34; Lv. 10:11; Dt. 4:31; 17:8-13; Is. 41:10, etc.)  and its judges given binding and loosing power, with disobedience meaning  death, (Dt. 17:8-13) and the magisterium ordained to explain meanings and settle controversies. (2Chron. 17:8,9; 19:8-10Neh. 8:1-8; Mal 2:7; Mt. 23:2)  But which not mean or necessitate them possessing assuredly infallibility whenever they spoke universally on faith and morals, which gift Rome presumes she has and must have.

And what does a close examination of Peter and his role in Scripture reveal? Peter was a Spirit-filled miracle-working preacher and a street-level pastor/leader among many apostles, and who exercised a general pastoral role. (1Pt. 1:1) Yet who never claimed to be anything more than "a servant," "an apostle," "an elder," (2Pt. 1:1; 1Pt. 5:1) nor is he described as being more than one of the pillars, with James being listed first. (Gal. 2:9)

Peter was the first to use the "keys" for both Jews and Gentiles, that manifestly being the gospel as by faith in it souls are translated into the kingdom of Christ. (Col 1:13)

Yet the primary evangelist and church planter is the apostle Paul, who preached Christ as being the Son of God immediately after his conversion and the laying on hands by "a certain disciple, Ananais. (Acts 9:10-20) And who theologically received the gospel of grace by direct revelation. (Gal. 1:12)

Only after 3 years does he meet specifically with the eyewitness-leader Peter, and he also sees James, (Gal. 1:18,19) and then goes about preaching for 14 years before presenting his message as a matter of course to "them which were of reputation," "who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person), "who seemed to be pillars." (Galatians 2:2,6.9)

All of which upholds the principle of leadership and accountability to such, yet not as providing apostleship or infallibly determining authenticity, but confirming what was already possessed. Nor does the language there does support  the status afforded the Roman papacy, directing all souls to look to Peter as its exalted head. 

While the Roman pope stands above all other bishops in both actions, dress and ascribed powers, Paul presents Peter as just one of them who appeared to be pillars, and does not even list Peter first among the three, and makes it clear it made no difference to him what they seemed to be, as God looks at the heart and sees what men in position really are. 
 
This is no exalted Roman pope sitting above all the bishops, and the recipient of such powers and superlatives such as, 

 “The Pope’s authority is unlimited, incalculable; it can strike, as Innocent III says, wherever sin is; it can punish every one; it allows no appeal and is itself Sovereign Caprice; for the Pope carries, according to the expression of Boniface VIII, all rights in the Shrine of his breast. As he has now become infallible, he can by the use of the little word, 'orbi,' (which means that he turns himself round to the whole Church) make every rule, every doctrine, every demand, into a certain and incontestable article of Faith. No right can stand against him, no personal or corporate liberty; or as the Canonists put it -- 'The tribunal of God and of the pope is one and the same.'” - Ignaz von Dollinger, in “A Letter Addressed to the Archbishop of Munich”, 1871 (quoted in The Acton Newman Relations (Fordham University Press), by MacDougall, pp. 119 120 and here.

It is Peter who first provides brief  key testimony and sound counsel in Act 15, affirming the evangelical gospel, "purifying their hearts by faith," before baptism. And who briefly urges this counsel to be accepted versus the gospel of the Judaizers. Yet it is James who provides the (approx. 175 word) conclusive decree on what is to be believed and done. 

And after this chapter Peter is no more heard of in the rest of Acts, as the focus then shifts to Paul, who specifically records of Peter that he was married, as were the rest of the apostles, (1Cor. 9:5) but who fails to even mention Peter in Romans, despite mentioning 26 names. (Rm. 16)

Moreover, while obedience is enjoined to pastoral leadership in general, (Heb. 13:17) and which was the case to Peter as the lead pastor in the first church (Acts 5), yet normally righteous Peter uniquely is singled out as a leader to be disobeyed in Gal. 2 due to hypocrisy, and in therein he is just one of the 3 who "seemed to be pillars," and is listed second to James as one. 

And in all the church epistles and the rest of the the NT, Peter is never singled out as an object of  universal obedience as the head of all the churches, nor is such obedience to him as the universal head commended or the failure to do so faulted, nor mentioned as solution to their problem, even in the Lord's critique to all the churches in Rv. 2,3. Not once is even prayer specifically for him exhorted (though he was prayed for, as others were). And which conspicuous omission, along with the manner of Petrine leadership that is recorded, is incongruous in the light of the Roman construance of Peter's leadership.

Furthermore, for Peter the "more sure word of prophecy" is Scripture, (2Pt. 1:19-21) while there is zero mention of any apostolic successors, like for the martyred James, (Acts 12:1,2) besides for Judas who was to maintain the original 12, ( Rv. 21:14) and thus only one was elected, and who was elected by the non-political, non-Roman OT method of casting lots, (Josh. 18:6; Prov. 16:33) not voting. (Acts 1:15ff)

Thus the Roman papacy is not seen, and Peter, who taught that the heart was purified by faith, a faith that is confessed in baptism, (Acts 10:43,47; 15:7-9) is not shown as being the infallible exalted head to whom all the churches looked to, while there is no mention of any successor for him or manifest preparation for such.

This does not mean a centralized magisterium is not the ideal, and if we can find men like Peter evangelicals would themselves see him as an true pastor. But Rome is not even in the running for such in the light of what manner of the apostles were, upon which the church was built, Jesus Christ being the rock. (Eph. 2:20;1Cor. 3:11)

But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:2

But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, (2 Corinthians 6:4-7

Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. (2 Corinthians 12:12

It was under this manner of manifest apostles, in word, virtue and overt and abundant demonstrations of attestive supernatural power, that the primitive church had its degree of unity: 

"And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles." "And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.." (Acts 2:46) (Acts 2:43) "Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them." (Acts 15:12)

And the greater the claims, then the greater the correspondent attestation must be, yet Rome claims for herself things which even the apostles did not, and which she utterly fails of warrant for, including via historical descent.

Nor do RCs manifest the essential unity of the Spirit resulting from a shared manifestly transformative evangelical conversion, Christ in them and they in Christ, (cf. Jn. 17:21-23) but due to the degree evangelicals realize such across denominational lines, and because of a common consent and greater unity in basic beliefs than the fruit of Catholicism (though both are decline in the West), they have been conunted as the greatest threat by both liberals and Rome. 
 
But all of this reality RCs must simply reject out of hand, due to their cultic devotion to their church-god. And thus the issue is that of interpretative authority. One can argue Scripture with RCs till the cows come home on the meaning of Scripture texts, but as RCs are bound to defend Rome, and Scripture can only support Rome and never contradict her, and as it cannot be the RC basis for assurance (unless evangelicals are right and the infallible magisterium is not what provides that), then the real issue is the logic that sees promises of Divine guidance and the presence as meaning a perpetual infallible magisterium. 

RCs see texts such as Mt. 16:18 and Jn. 14:16 as promising a perpetual infallible authoritative magisterium, under the premise that such is necessary for determination and preservation of Truth, and which they see being fulfilled in Rome being the historical instrument and steward of Scripture. Thus they see Rome as being that perpetual infallible authoritative magisterium, and indeed she defines herself as being so and worthy of implicit assent of faith. And it is upon this premise of assured infallibility that RCs have assurance, and judge all dissenters from Rome as being heretics. 

But such an ecclesiastical magisterium was not how writings and men of God were established as being so in Scripture, nor is that what is promised. Instead, both men and writings of God were established as being so without a perpetual infallible magisterium.  And thus the abundant appeal to such by the Lord and His apostles, and thus the church began with common people following an itinerant Preacher in dissent from those who were the stewards of Scripture, and inheritors of Divine (conditional) promises of God's presence and preservation, (Lv. 10:11; Dt. 4:31; 17:8-13; Num. 23:19,23; Is. 41:10, Ps. 89:33,34; Mal. 3:6; Rm. 3:2; 9:4) and who could claim historical descent, sitting in the seat of Moses. (Mt. 23:2) But who presumed of themselves an assured veracity above that which is written (cf. 1Cor. 4:6) teaching traditions of men as doctrines of Scripture, and thus the Lord reproved them by the latter. (Mk. 7:2-16)  
 
And in contrast to Rome, the Lord and His established their truth claims upon the basis of Scriptural substantiation in word and in power, (Mt. 22:23-45; Lk. 24:27,44; Jn. 5:36,39, 14:11; Acts 17:2,11; Rm. 15:19; Acts 2:14-35; 4:33; 5:12; 15:6-21;17:2,11; 18:28; 28:23; Rm. 15:19; 2Cor. 12:12, etc.) as it alone is the supreme material standard for obedience and testing truth claims, as is abundantly evidenced

And which in principal forces the church (us) to continually manifest itself as the church of the living God, versus the institutionalized version of Catholicism and much of Protestantism. Not that I think I am giving great witness to the resurrection either, but as a former weekly mass-going RC what I do know is the profound contrast between Biblical regeneration and that of Roman ritualism.