Monday, September 27, 2010

Papacy Part 1 - Response to Engwer

Was The Papacy Established By Christ? (Part 1)

By Jason Engwer and

A Response by Scott Windsor

For those who don't have much familiarity with the dispute between Protestants and Catholics over the doctrine of the papacy, I want to post two introductory articles on the subject today and tomorrow. The first article, this one, will be about the Biblical evidence, and tomorrow's article will be about the early post-Biblical evidence.

Roman Catholicism claims the papacy as its foundation. According to the Catholic Church, the doctrine of the papacy was understood and universally accepted as early as the time of Peter:

"At open variance with this clear doctrine of Holy Scripture as it has been ever understood by the Catholic Church are the perverse opinions of those who, while they distort the form of government established by Christ the Lord in his Church, deny that Peter in his single person, preferably to all the other Apostles, whether taken separately or together, was endowed by Christ with a true and proper primacy of jurisdiction; or of those who assert that the same primacy was not bestowed immediately and directly upon blessed Peter himself, but upon the Church, and through the Church on Peter as her minister....For none can doubt, and it is known to all ages, that the holy and blessed Peter, the Prince and Chief of the Apostles, the pillar of the faith and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer of mankind, and lives presides and judges, to this day and always, in his successors the Bishops of the Holy See of Rome" (First Vatican Council, session 4, chapters 1-2)

OK, thus far Mr. Engwer has established that Vatican I taught the papacy was from the beginning.

Different Catholics interpret these claims of the First Vatican Council in different ways. Some Catholics will argue that the concept of the papacy that was understood and accepted in the earliest generations involved universal jurisdiction, so that the differences between how modern Catholics and the most ancient Catholics viewed Peter and the bishops of Rome would be minor. Other Catholics claim, instead, that the earliest Christians wouldn't have associated a concept like universal jurisdiction with Peter and the earliest Roman bishops, and they maintain that the modern view of the papacy developed more gradually. Some Catholics even go as far as to claim that there's no need to show that a concept like universal jurisdiction was intended by Jesus and the apostles. They may argue for the papacy on the basis of philosophical speculation or personal preference, or they may claim that no argument is needed for the doctrine.

Which Catholics, Mr. Engwer?  Who are “they?”  No one reading this objectively should be accepting the pseudo-science method of your “sources.”  You make vague claims about some Catholics see it this way while some others see it another way, but you don’t cite any specific groups of Catholics nor do you cite any sources.  This is invalid argumentation to the max!  Your first premise here must be rejected by the rational reader.

Catholics who take that last sort of approach are abandoning the battlefield without admitting defeat. Any belief could be maintained on such a basis. If we're going to accept the papacy just because it seems to produce more denominational unity than other systems of church government, because our parents were Catholic, or for some other such inconclusive reason, then we have no publicly verifiable case to make for the doctrine. My intention in these posts is to address some of the popular arguments of those who attempt to make a more objective case for the papacy.

Building upon a faulty premise - so we’re still nowhere with Mr. Engwer’s argument.

Those who argue that a seed form of the papacy existed early on, one that wasn't initially associated with universal jurisdiction, would need to demonstrate that such a seed form of the doctrine did exist. And they would need to demonstrate that the concept of universal jurisdiction would eventually develop from that seed. It wouldn't be enough to show that the development of universal jurisdiction is possible. We don't believe that something is true just because it's possible. If we're supposed to accept a papacy with universal jurisdiction on some other basis, such as the alleged authority of the Catholic hierarchy that teaches the concept, then an objective case will have to be made for the supposed authority of that hierarchy.

And again, we’re continuing building on a faulty premise and introducing an uncited arugment of “it’s possible” as if Catholicism is based upon a “possible” argument, and not upon the very words of Jesus Christ Himself when He declared, “Thou art Peter (Cephas, Rock) and upon this Rock (Cephas) I will build my Church.”  Matthew 16:18.  I use the name “Cephas” here for in several other places the Aramaic name (and Jesus was likely speaking in Aramaic when in private with His Jewish Apostles, as is the case in Matthew 16) is left untranslated, even in the Greek writings (John 1:42; 1 Cor. 1:12; 1 Cor. 3:22; 1 Cor. 9:5; 1 Cor. 15:5 and Gal. 2:9).    Now, if we couple this with overwhelming evidence from the Early Church Fathers (ECFs), which for the sake of brevity in this article, I’ll simply provide a link to another with many quotes and citations for the rational reader to consider:
...we can clearly see that Mr. Engwer’s accusation of a much later development is wholly inaccurate.

If there had been a papacy in the first century that was recognized as a distinct office, we would expect it to be mentioned in much the same way that offices such as bishop and deacon are mentioned. We wouldn't expect Roman Catholics to have to go to passages like Matthew 16 and John 21 to find alleged references to a papacy if such an office of universal jurisdiction existed and was recognized during the New Testament era. Instead, we would expect explicit and frequent references to the office, such as in the pastoral epistles and other passages on church government.

While going to Scripture one would think is sufficient to present the case to another who maintains the (false) concept of sola scriptura, we DO have reference in the first century, or early second century at the latest in St. Ignatius - who was a disciple of the Apostle John:
+ St. Ignatius of Antioch (c. AD 98-117):
"Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the Church that has found mercy in the transcendent Majesty of the Most High and... which presides in the chief place of the Roman territory, a church worthy of God, worthy of honor... presiding in love, maintaining the law of Christ, and bearer of the Father's name: her do I therefore salute... who imperturbably enjoy the full measure of God's grace and have every foreign stain filtered out of them."
(Letter to the Romans, preface)
So again, Mr. Engwer builds upon his faulty premise and perhaps in ignorance (though I doubt it) of St. Ignatius, states there is no early reference to the position of St. Peter’s seat and how it was the “chief place... presiding in love... maintaining the law of Christ...”  I repeat, the rational reader can see through Mr. Engwer’s smokescreen.

So, how about Matthew 16 and John 21?

He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:15-19 KJV)
So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.  (John 21:15-18 KJV)

So in Matthew 16 we have Jesus giving St. Peter, alone, the authority bind and loose, PLUS the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven!  In John 21 was see Jesus confirming what He earlier said, and again speaking to St. Peter, alone, He tells him to “feed My sheep.”  I realize that Mr. Engwer does not see this as pastoral authority being given to St. Peter, alone, here (while the other Apostles were present) but that is how Catholics can, have and always will see it - and our argument to this end is quite valid, whether or not Mr. Engwer agrees.

That's what we see with the offices of bishop and deacon. Not only are the offices mentioned (Acts 20:17, Philippians 1:1), but we also see repeated references to their appointment (Acts 14:23, Ephesians 4:11, Titus 1:5), their qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-9), their discipline (1 Timothy 5:19-20), their responsibilities (Ephesians 4:12-13, Titus 1:10-11, James 5:14, 1 Peter 5:1-3), their reward (1 Timothy 5:17-18, 1 Peter 5:4), their rank (1 Corinthians 12:28), the submission due them (1 Timothy 2:11-12), etc. If there was an office that was to have jurisdictional primacy and infallibility throughout church history, an office that could be called the foundation of the church, wouldn't we expect it to be mentioned explicitly and often? But it isn't mentioned at all, even when the early sources are discussing Peter or the Roman church. In the New Testament, which covers about the first 60 years of church history (the prophecies in Revelation and elsewhere cover much more), there isn't a single Roman bishop mentioned or named, nor are there any admonitions to submit to the papacy or any references to appointing Popes, determining whether he's exercising his infallibility, appealing to him to settle disputes, etc. When speaking about the post-apostolic future, the apostles are concerned with bishops and teachers in general (Acts 20:28-31, 2 Timothy 2:2) and submission to scripture (2 Timothy 3:15-17, 2 Peter 3:1-2, Revelation 22:18-19), but don't say a word about any papacy.

So now Mr. Engwer, while not accepting the words of his Savior, is making an argument from silence.  By his logic, since the word “Trinity” is not used for nearly 300 years of Church history, then we should reject that too.  With such logic, we have just eroded one of the foundations of orthodox Christianity.  The rational reader can see that while Jesus Christ Himself establishes St. Peter before and differently than the rest of the Apostles/Bishops (comparing Matthew 16:18-19 with Matthew 18:18) and the glowing account St. John’s disciple, St. Ignatius gives, that Mr. Engwer’s arguments have been, thus far, totally off based and must be rejected.  Only one with a biased anti-Catholic (and bigoted) view could possibly maintain there was any truth to Mr. Engwer’s opening thesis.

Craig Keener, citing Jaroslav Pelikan, comments that "most scholars, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, concur that Peter died in Rome but doubt that Mt 16:18 intended the authority later claimed by the papacy (Pelikan 1980: 60)" (A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew [Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999], n. 74 on p. 425).

Why should we be interested in an out of context quote from Craig Keener, a professor at a Baptist seminary?  Even if we accept the quote as contextually accurate, we’re given more pseudo-science with vague comments of “most scholars...” without citing a single one besides this out of context quote from Pelikan.  Why am I not impressed?  I hope the rational reader following along is not either.

The Roman Catholic scholar Klaus Schatz comments:
"There appears at the present time to be increasing consensus among Catholic and non-Catholic exegetes regarding the Petrine office in the New Testament….The further question whether there was any notion of an enduring office beyond Peter’s lifetime, if posed in purely historical terms, should probably be answered in the negative. That is, if we ask whether the historical Jesus, in commissioning Peter, expected him to have successors, or whether the author of the Gospel of Matthew, writing after Peter’s death, was aware that Peter and his commission survived in the leaders of the Roman community who succeeded him, the answer in both cases is probably 'no.'…If we ask in addition whether the primitive Church was aware, after Peter’s death, that his authority had passed to the next bishop of Rome, or in other words that the head of the community at Rome was now the successor of Peter, the Church’s rock and hence the subject of the promise in Matthew 16:18-19, the question, put in those terms, must certainly be given a negative answer." (Papal Primacy [Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1996], pp. 1-2)

Fr. Schatz holds a view different and contrary to Vatican I, as Mr. Engwer already cited.  I’m not impressed that one can find a Catholic priest who holds a liberal view on the papacy.  Interestingly, in scanning for references on Fr. Schatz the only sites I found citing him were anti-Catholic sites.  That should be a clue right there.  But it is a common tactic for the anti-Catholic to dig up some obscure priest who goes against the grain, and then cite him as a “scholar.”

What's said of Peter in Matthew 16 and John 21 is said of other people in other passages. Other people are rocks upon whom the church is built (Ephesians 2:20), other people have the keys of the kingdom that let them bind and loose and open and shut (Matthew 18:18, 23:13), and other people are shepherds of the church (Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:2). Just as Peter is given a second name, so are other people (Mark 3:17). Peter is called "Peter" prior to the events of Matthew 16 (John 1:42), and we can't know whether he was given the name as a result of Matthew 16 or, instead, Jesus' choice of imagery in Matthew 16 was shaped by a name Peter was already given for another reason.

For one who just previously argued against arguing for “the possible” it seems quite inconsistent of Mr. Engwer to start arguing from the same sort of premise.  Just a bit of a double-standard here?  That being said, Engwer here has essentially conceded that the Catholic position is at least as strong as the Protestant position!  And, in his own words he “can’t know” if the Catholic claims are stronger than his or not.  Well, he can know, but chooses to ignore the evidence which supports the Catholic Church.  However, let us look at the verses Mr. Engwer has cited (but not quoted) here:

And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; (Ephesians 2:20)

Catholicism does not deny that the Church is built upon the 12 foundations of the Apostles, nor do we reject the prophets which came before them.  This passage takes nothing away from the
primacy of St. Peter.

Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  (Matthew 18:18 KJV)

Yes, Jesus is speaking to the Apostles, as a group here.  He gives to them a similar authority, as a group, as He gave to Peter alone in Matthew 16:18-19, however there’s no mention of “the keys” here!  St. Peter’s authority was not only first (primacy) but special (the keys).  If you continue in Matthew 18 you also see that Jesus continues the “group” authority, “where two or more of YOU are gathered...” etc.  While Matthew 16 points us to the primacy of St. Peter’s see and his authority, Matthew 18 points us to the authority of the Bishops as a group, such as in an ecumenical council.  Matthew 18 does not detract from the Catholic position, it supports it!

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.  (Matthew 23:13 KJV)

This verse is speaking to the Scribes and Pharisees!  It has nothing to do with St. Peter or the Apostles.  The inclusion of this verse in Engwer’s argument is nothing more than a red herring and must be rejected as such.

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers (bishops), to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. (Acts 20:28 KJV).

Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; (1 Peter 5:2 KJV)

Yes, the rest of the Apostles are bishops too and commissioned with a similar authority in that respect as St. Peter was.  These statements take nothing from the Catholic position.  And as for John 1:42 referring to Simon as Peter allegedly before Matthew 16, the objective reader must note that John’s Gospel was written perhaps 60 years after the events recorded in Matthew 16!  John knew Simon BarJonah as Peter, so it is no special surprise that he calls him “Peter” in the first chapter of his Gospel.

Peter is singled out in Matthew 16 and John 21, but his being singled out doesn't suggest jurisdictional primacy.

Not in the paradigm of the anti-Catholic who refuses to accept any evidence for St. Peter’s primacy.  For the objective reader though, it demonstrates that something special was in mind for St. Peter.

We could speculate that Peter is singled out in these passages because he's supposed to fulfill the roles in these passages in a greater way than other people, but such a speculation can't be proven.

Other than the FACT that this is precisely how history played out!

Other people are singled out in other passages, but we don't conclude that those people were Popes.

No citations, just more pseudo-science which the rational reader must reject.

Even if Peter was singled out because he was to fulfill these roles (rock and shepherd) in a greater way than anybody else, he wouldn't need to be a Pope in order to fulfill these roles in a greater way than other people. And he wouldn't need to have successors in that role.

To use that logic, 1) Accepting that Peter was singled out; 2) To fulfill special roles; 3) in a greater way than anybody else; and then to conclude that “greater role” is not the role we now call “pope” is ridiculous argumentation.  To assume it would not need to have successors is to assume the end of the Church!  When an “office” was vacated it had to be filled, as we saw even in the vacating of Judas’ office/bishoprick in Acts 1.

So, if Peter isn't singled out in Matthew 16 and John 21 because he was being made a Pope, then why was he singled out?

In Matthew 16, he's probably singled out because he singles himself out. He's the one who answered Jesus' question. Similarly, John and James are singled out in Mark 10:35-40 because they were the ones who initiated the discussion with Jesus, not because they were being given some sort of primacy.

In John 21, Peter probably is singled out because he was the one in need of restoration. Peter was the one who denied Jesus three times and thus needed to reaffirm his love for Jesus three times. Since the other apostles didn't deny Jesus as Peter did, it would make no sense for Jesus to approach them the way He approached Peter. Similarly, Jesus treats Thomas (John 20:26-29), John (John 21:20-23), and Paul (Acts 9:1-15) differently than He treats the other apostles. But nobody would assume that Thomas, John, or Paul therefore has jurisdictional primacy or that such a primacy was passed on to a succession of bishops.

More hypocritical arguments for the “possible.”  

Catholics sometimes argue for a papacy by interpreting Matthew 16 in light of Isaiah 22:20-22.

Well, since Mr. Engwer is not providing quotes, allow me.  Matthew 16 has already been quoted above, so let’s look at Isaiah 22:

20 And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah:
21 And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.
22 And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. (KJV)

But whatever relevance Isaiah 22 would have to Matthew 16, it would have relevance for Matthew 23, Luke 11, and other passages that use such imagery as well.

Except that Matthew 23 and Luke 11 do not make any reference to “keys,” and both Matthew 16 and Isaiah 22 do!  That being said, I don’t believe I have ever used Isaiah 22 in support of the Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16 - however, the language is similar and I can see why some may, and perhaps I will in the future.

And any Catholic appeal to Isaiah 22 would have to be a partial appeal, not a complete parallel, since a complete parallel wouldn't favor the claims of Roman Catholicism. God is the one who gives the key in Isaiah 22, so an exact parallel would put Jesus in the place of God, not in the place of the king. So, if Jesus is God and Peter is the prime minister, then who is the king?

Who said anything about a prime minister?  God gives the key to the king in Isaiah and God gives the key(s) to Peter in Matthew.  God gives the keys in both instances.  The symbolism of the “king” in Isaiah is not lost in the jurisdictional authority of Peter.

Some church official with more authority than Peter? What about Isaiah 22:25? Should we assume that Popes can "break off and fall", and that the keys of Matthew 16 can eventually pass to God Himself (Revelation 3:7) rather than to a human successor? If Catholics only want to make a general appeal to Isaiah 22, without making an exact parallel, then how can they claim that papal authority is implied by the parallel? Why can't the Isaiah 22 background convey a general theme of authority without that authority being of a papal nature?

Again, let me save the reader from having to look this up:
In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall; and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off: for the LORD hath spoken it.  (Isaiah 22:25 KJV)
So, IF we take verses 20-22 as support for Matthew 16:18-19, then the reading of verse 25 would be related to “that day” or the “last day” when God Himself will remove the burden from the papacy and now His People (the Church) will be with Him in Heaven, so there will be no need for a pope anymore.  Now to answer Mr. Engwer’s question, “Why can’t the Isaiah 22 background convey a general theme of authority without being of a papal nature?”  Well, certainly one “can” read it that way, but again we have Mr. Engwer arguing for “the possible” which he himself has criticised.  Still, if it is a “general theme of authority,” why would it NOT apply to the authority of the Church Jesus Christ built?!  Yes, one day ALL earthly authority, even divinely instituted authority will be for naught.  That too is the best case FOR using Isaiah 22 in support for the Catholic position on Matthew 16 - for God Himself puts (or nails) this person in place and that person (or office as we see it) remains in place until “that day” when He removes the nail.

Paul refers to "apostles" (plural) as the highest rank in the church (1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 2:20), and he names Peter second among three reputed pillars of the church (Galatians 2:9). The most natural reading of the Biblical evidence is to see Peter as a highly reputed pillar of the church who had equal rank, equal jurisdiction, with the other apostles. He could be said to have had some types of primacy in some contexts, and the same could be said of other apostles and early church leaders, but there's no reason to think that papal authority was one of those types of primacy or that such authority was passed on exclusively to a succession of Roman bishops.

First off, yes - all the Apostles were bishops!  All of them shared a responsibility and authority, just as every bishop to this day shares.  It is not as though Cephas was made a king and the rest were princes, no!  They were all bishops!  The office of the bishop is the highest in the Church.  Each bishop is essentially the “pope” of his jurisdiction.  The Bishop of Rome has fundamental jurisdiction over Rome itself, but also a jurisdiction of unity which extends to all the jurisdictions of the world.  The Bishop of Phoenix does not answer to the Archbishop of New York, nor vice versa.  Likewise, the Bishop of Phoenix does not answer to the Bishop of Rome in his daily oversight of the Diocese of Phoenix.  However, should there be a dispute between the Bishop of Phoenix and the Archbishop of New York, which cannot be resolved between them, they can turn to the Bishop of Rome for moderation, guidance and resolution.

There is no papacy in the New Testament. It's not there explicitly or implicitly. This "clear doctrine of Holy Scripture" that the First Vatican Council refers to isn't even Biblical, much less clearly Biblical. Roman Catholics assume that a papacy is implied in some New Testament passages, but that assumption can't be proven and is unlikely.

Well, Mr. Engwer is begging the question here in his conclusion.  First off, we’ve seen that he’s not even presented a single valid argument in all of “Part 1” of this essay on the papacy, so he’s based this conclusion on what?  Secondly, to say the concept of the papacy is “not there explicitly or implicity” is simply a bigoted view - since it clearly IS there from the Catholic perspective.  The inability to consider this perspective is nothing short of bigotry.  He sort of lends an ear saying “Roman Catholics assume that a papacy is implied...” but, and again with no valid arguments, goes on to negate the possibility.  

I’ll save my concluding thoughts for when I’ve gone through this whole “three-parter.”



  1. Thank you for your reply, Jason. I will be getting to that one after I reply to the series you initially intended.

  2. I will add, the INITIAL discussion was St. Augustine and how he didn't utilize sola scriptura (a point you pretty much concede in the series I'm reading now, but more on that later). THEN the combox thread moved to St. Augustine and the Papacy. Thus, when we were directed to a page with dozens of links on it, my attention went to the series on "The Papacy."

    So, I've already responded to the more on-topic Papacy series, and now I am working on the "Augustine and Roman Catholicism" (which wasn't really the topic of the initial combox discussion).

    In JMJ,

  3. I'm wrapping up my response to the Augustine series, but here's a preliminary response to Augustine and Roman Catholicism:

    Click here.



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