UPDATED: About that chair and that hat…

The following is a running email thread which is currently ongoing. If you’d like to be added to it, give me your email in the comments — I’ll just copy it and add it to our list, but I won’t publish the comment. You can also tell me whether I’m allowed to publish your contributions to this blog post.

So, about this hat…

Trent: …just what is the Lutheran exegesis of Matthew 16:13-19?


Jason, I remember you taking me in hand on my first Sunday at Zion Marshall my freshman year at Hillsdale and telling me that I was doing “exegetical gymnastics” when I defaulted to the “Peter’s confession is the rock” position. Fond memory.

So, Peter’s the Rock. So what? Why is he not the pope? Or, if he’s the pope, why is that not all that Rome says it is? I guess I’m wondering…is it Rome’s interpretation of the nature of the Office of the Keys that is the erratum here?

I’d love to have discussion with y’all about this if you’re willing to have it. Fr. Charles, please remember to Reply-all if you can — I don’t want others to miss your missives!

Aaron: Gary Wills says that Rome’s read of Matthew 16 is an anachronism.

BTW Sungenis is a nut. My hardcore papist friends can’t stand him because he drags their side down so badly. Also BS that Augustine as Sungenis contends believed in the primacy of Rome.

(Admin note: “Rome has spoken; the matter is settled.” When St. Augustine wrote this, he was basically saying, “OK, all the votes are in.” It was more like saying, “OK, Miami-Dade County sent in their returns, we can call the election now.”)

Eric: It’s bad exegesis to say that the rock is the confession rather than the confessor, since Jesus is clearly punning on his name, but I think it’s equally clear that Peter is called a rock, the foundation of the church, because of that confession and the subsequent role he had in building the church upon it. The problem with the Papist reading here is that what’s true of Peter is true also of the other Apostles. In Matt. 18, Jesus repeats what He told Peter about the keys, this time to all the Apostles. Then we have Eph. 2:20 and Rev. 21:14, which call the Apostles the foundation of the Church. Peter got special mention because 1) he was the first one to put the confession into words, 2) he was the leader of the group (#1 and #2 are related), and 3) because the pun worked for his name.

So is he the Pope? The real question is, is the Pope Peter? And the followup question, which is even harder for Roman Catholics to answer: when did Peter ever assert any kind of authority that looks anything like the claims that developed over the next fifteen centuries for the Bishop of Rome? It’s an awfully big leap from primus in paribus to Unam Sanctam.

Fr. Charles: Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope 25-29 is noteworthy. Here the “rock” is the confession St Peter made (TPPP 29) or the “rock” is the “ministry of the confession which Peter made” (TPPP 25).

The difficulty with the Roman position is this: Even if one stipulates that the “rock” is conceivably Peter – many non-Roman including Lutheran exegetes hold that opinion – it is still quite difficult to then conclude that each bishop of Rome is the successor of Peter in a unique sense such that the words addressed to Peter apply to all the bishops of Rome. There are even responsible Roman Catholic scholars who admit that one cannot even prove a monarchical episcopate at Rome until later in the 2nd century; it seems that until then the Roman Church was governed by a corporate body of presbyters/bishops. Another problem is that Peter is also viewed by Roman Catholics as founder of the See of Antioch: so the Roman Church keeps the Feast of the Chair of Peter at Antioch on Feb.18. Why then are not all the subsequent bishops of Antioch included in the words addressed to Peter?

Aaron: Wouldn’t  a good Roman apologist claim the “development of doctrine” as an explanation for the difference?

Fr. Charles: “Development of doctrine,” Romanly understood, plays a part. But as Dr Phillips notes, it’s quite a leap from primus in paribus to Unam Sanctam of Boniface VIII.

Eric: A big problem with “development of doctrine” on this question is that the monarchical papacy developed in the Latin church and nowhere else. How do you know that the Roman evolution is the correct one? The Pope says so. But how do you know that the Pope has the authority to make such a ruling? The Roman evolution says so. It’s a logical circle. It works well enough as a post-hoc justification for those who are already inside, but it’s pure assertion, and it doesn’t get the RC to a point where he can actually appeal to Scripture to establish his position. It’s purely defensive: “Yeah, I know Scripture doesn’t exactly say that, but here’s why we’re not worried about that.”

Trent: Eric (a.k.a. Dr. Phillips, dearest cousin, etc.),

Didn’t Peter’s own brother (St. Andrew) put the confession into words much sooner? I mean, not in direct response to a query by Our Lord, but an indication of faith, all the same:

“One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone)” (St. John i, 40-42).

And then Philip comes out with this:

“Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph'” (St. John i, 45).

And Nathanael with this:

“Nathanael answered and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!'” (St. John i, 49).

What’s special about St. Peter’s confession? It almost seems like Christ is saying to him, “Alright! You finally get it! Now I can use you to spread the Gospel.” Not a whole lot more. This doesn’t take away from St. Peter’s honor. Far from it — acknowledging the honor that is conferred by the blessing of Christ, i.e., Christ’s regard for Man/a man, is a greater recognition and honor than could be garnered for possessing an “indelible character.” As Fr. Charles has said, St. Peter is great on account of the great forgiveness he receives from Our Lord, not on account of anything else…

Jason: Greetings all from Afghanistan.

I’m a little rusty, but I’ll try to throw in my two cents briefly and hope you can sort it out.

Jesus could never have made more obvious statement than, “Your name is ‘Rock,’ on my ‘Rock’ I will build the Church…” That’s dummy-proof and I don’t think anyone on either side of the debate has a position that hangs on deciding or un-deciding that question. Is there really a question? “You are Rock, on my Rock…”

However, let’s keep in mind the position against which confessional Protestantism and the Eastern Orthodox are arguing:

Does “Rock” mean “the ultimate and infallible bishop of the Church catholic who possession both a primacy of honor and jurisdiction over all Christians which gives to him the authority to speak ex cathedra; the Rock is the bishop of all whose word is self-authenticating”? Put otherwise: “The word of the Rock is justified/proved by its origin from the Rock, even if that word seems to conflict with the historic and Biblical Gospel”?

…or, and secondly:

Does Christ’s designation of the “Rock” (St. Peter) as “Rock of the Church” mean that he possesses an authority in his office over the other apostles, such that there is a distinction of quality within the office of the Rock — some quality that does not belong to the other apostles and by extension, other bishoprics of the later Church?

I submit to you that a simple reading of the “Rock” passage does not bear, necessarily, the doctrinal claims of the later development of doctrine (circle), as Dr. Phillips has so aptly pointed out.

I submit to you that the authority to bind and loose sins is given to all of the Apostles; that it is the greatest authority of the apostles and belongs to the whole Church in the same quality/kind as it belongs to Peter.

(Admin note: Christ speaking to all of the disciples, not just Peter — “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

“Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

“Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” [St. Matthew xviii, 15-20].)

Hence, any bishop of the Church could become a heretic by teaching falsely against the people of God (Ezekiel 34); in order to become a disloyal shepherd one usually must in fact have been a shepherd indeed; and Peter’s distinction as leader among the Apostles, which is obvious from the Acts narrative, does not change the fact that his position rests in the Gospel, which is the foundation of the Church (1 Cor. 3).

Further, given the interactions between Peter and Paul, it is all the more obvious that Peter’s status as Rock does not give to him some special position to self-authenticate doctrine that militates against the Gospel. And further, that any Apostle can publicly rebuke that teaching if it is wrong, as Paul did. ie. Any treatment that Peter received from the Church, when he risked falling into error, can certainly be duplicated in the later Church. The greater you make Peter, the more obvious it becomes that later bishops of Rome can be rebuked for error.

Hence, the point is moot. The question to ask is not: who is Peter, his doctrine will be right. Ultimately, we must still ask, what is the Gospel, according to the witness of the Scriptures and the catholic testimony of the whole Church, as was in fact the case at so many counsels.

I end on that point because the debate over the status of Peter is actually a  debate about doctrinal hermeneutics, right? Can we read the Scriptures to verify their meaning, or must we ultimately conform to what Peter says they mean, since he is the Rock — assuming of course the whole Roman development around that passage. If he is the “Rock” in the Roman sense, it is even more obvious that later bishops of Rome can be rebuked for error, since Peter, the Rock himself, was rebuked. If he is only the Rock in an historical sense and enjoys only a primacy of honor which depends upon his orthodoxy, then we are left in the same place.

Bottom line: Peter never claimed that he was correct because he was the Rock. Rome shouldn’t either.



…more as the conversation continues. Feel free to check back or add to the dialogue in the comments. If you opt for the latter, please indicate in your comment whether you’d permit me to transfer your comment to the body of the post. Thanks.



  1. I’m finding this hard to follow. In particular, I don’t see how your conclusions follow. For example, the fact that Paul could correct Peter doesn’t mean that Peter wasn’t the rock or that he couldn’t make infallible pronouncements. The Pope doesn’t have the authority to say whatever he wants and have it be true; and he can’t change or contradict the Gospel. And, since he’s human, he is quite capable of serious error. All of this the Catholic Church affirms. And yet, Jesus did appoint Peter to a special role as primary among all of the bishops. The Holy Spirit guarantees the teaching of the Papacy on matters of faith and morals (not everything that he might utter), just as the Holy Spirit guarantees the infallibility of scripture.

    So it appears that you’ve got it basically backwards. The Church does not assert that the Pope has authority because he is orthodox, as though we could evaluate his teaching and then decide if his authority is valid. His orthodoxy depends on his authority, which is given by the Holy Spirit. Much the same as with scripture, you don’t read the bible and decide it’s right after you agree with it. If there is disagreement, the fault is with you–with your interpretation.

    Or to put it another way, it is possible for a Pope to fall into heresy. But it is not possible for him to teach heresy. Agree or not, this is an important distinction that must be grappled with if you really want to engage the Catholic belief.

    • Hello Paul. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      The matter in question is precisely whether St. Peter and his successors possess any such charism that makes them able to make infallible ex cathedra pronouncements on faith and morals. You are quite correct when you note that “the fact that Paul could correct Peter doesn’t mean that Peter wasn’t the rock or that he couldn’t make infallible pronouncements.” I don’t think anyone would argue with you there. But that can be said about almost anything: there are plenty of things that don’t prove that Peter and his successors weren’t/aren’t infallible. We are, of course, discussing the reasons the Church has to contend that Peter and his successors were/are quite fallible on matters of faith and morals. Seriously, how else do you explain Galatians 2:11-13?

      Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.

      Don’t tell me that this was not a matter of faith and morals.

      I find this comment similarly tautological:

      And yet, Jesus did appoint Peter to a special role as primary among all of the bishops. The Holy Spirit guarantees the teaching of the Papacy on matters of faith and morals (not everything that he might utter), just as the Holy Spirit guarantees the infallibility of scripture.

      All of the interlocutors (and — in the interest of full disclosure — we are all confessional Lutherans, to a man) agree with you that Peter is the Rock to which Christ refers in St. Matthew 16:18. However, it does not follow that St. Peter possesses a different office than the other apostles, especially when one notes that the very same authority to bind and loose that Christ gives to St. Peter in St. Matthew 16:19 (“And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”) is given to all of the apostles in 18:18 (“Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”). Christ establishes one office — the distinction between St. Peter and the other apostles is one of degree, not kind, as Jason notes above. The only divinely-ordained office held by any pope ever is the same one held by your parish-priest: he’s a pastor. He might be a really good pastor. But the fact that he’s a bishop (of bishops, of other bishops) is by human institution. And there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s just that there’s nothing divine about it, either. Christ instituted one divine office, that of priest/pastor/presbyter. He gave it to all of the apostles. Peter’s high rank among the apostles was not passed down to the successors of the Roman See, though a special honor has always been duly accorded to the Roman church. It has behooved the Church for some priests to serve as bishops (επισκοποι or episkopoi, used interchangeably with πρεσβύτεροι or presbyteroi throughout the New Testament), but this distinction is by human, not divine, institution.

      “The Holy Spirit guarantees the teaching of the Papacy on matters of faith and morals (not everything that he might utter), just as the Holy Spirit guarantees the infallibility of scripture.”

      How do you know that this is so? You’re up the same creek as the Protestants with naught but your private judgment for a paddle.

      I’m utterly confused as to why you put such a statement forward as an argument. It’s a huge assumption from which follows the rest of your argument. I don’t feel like the onus is on one of my position to prove the negative at this point.

      • There’s another Paul in this conversation. The comments below are his. I shall just respond in brief to the comment which was addressed to mine.

        So, how does one know that the scripture is of true and without error? How does one know that it is inspired by God? Private judgment appears to be your answer. But I disagree with that. We know it is true because of the witness of the Church. It is a personal decision to accept this witness, but we acknowledge that it is God working through his Church, not our own clever reasoning that brings us to the truth about scripture. That is to say, none of come to the truth in a vacuum, but we are necessarily part of a community of believers.

        Those of us who submit to Papal authority do indeed do so from the same conviction. It is the lived example of the Church through history and in our lives that compels us. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

        Lutherans accept as plausible that someone like Martin Luther could rise up after many centuries of Christianity with innovative ideas about Christianity. I find that absurd, because it requires accepting the idea that God had left the Church without access to the truth for most of its existence. It makes more sense to assert that, if Christianity is true, that God provided a sure foundation for the Church in the form or a reliable teaching office. What use is a flawless scripture if every man is left to his own means to interpret it differently?

        The best evidence for the papacy though, is the fruit of the papacy. Read the works of the popes. Look at the history of the papacy. It’s quite compelling. Even in cases where terrible sinners with evil designs ascended to the office of Pope, they were prevented one way or another from teaching errors.

        A short aside: the instance with St. Paul corrects St. Peter is not a case of St. Peter erring in his teaching faith and morals. He erred personally. It’s a common point of confusion: papal infallibility does not mean that Popes don’t sin, only that their teaching on faith and morals is preserved as free of error.

        If you really want to see the historical case, here’s one book I would recommend: http://www.amazon.com/Upon-This-Rock-Scripture-Apologetics/dp/0898707234

        • Hello again, Paul I (ha!)

          So, how does one know that the scripture is of true and without error? How does one know that it is inspired by God? Private judgment appears to be your answer. But I disagree with that. We know it is true because of the witness of the Church. It is a personal decision to accept this witness, but we acknowledge that it is God working through his Church, not our own clever reasoning that brings us to the truth about scripture. That is to say, none of come to the truth in a vacuum, but we are necessarily part of a community of believers.


          Those of us who submit to Papal authority do indeed do so from the same conviction. It is the lived example of the Church through history and in our lives that compels us…

          ..to cast your lot with Rome. Using your private judgment.

          Lutherans accept as plausible that someone like Martin Luther could rise up after many centuries of Christianity with innovative ideas about Christianity.

          Huh. If the “Lutherans” you describe do accept this preposterous straw-man thesis, then they’re sure not Lutheran. Lutherans contend that the medieval Church of Rome, due to its perverse understanding of the Office of the Keys, and, by extension, the entire Gospel, “[rose] up after many centuries of Christianity with innovative ideas” about the Faith, departing from the truth of the apostolic teaching. We believe that your denomination, which we will call “Modern Roman Catholicism”, was formed in 1563 when the Church of Rome accepted the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent.

          If Luther’s ideas were “innovative”, as you claim, why do we have Clement I, (to pick one example), one of two presbyters ordained by St. Peter (making things confusing right from the start), saying things like the following?

          All these, therefore were highly honored and made great, not for their own sake, or for their works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of his will. And we too, being called by his will in Jesus Christ, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men. (I Clement 32)

          So, we’re not justified by ourselves; we’re not justified by our own wisdom; we’re not justified by our understanding, or our godliness (in case the old Roman “not works of the law, but works of charity” argument tries to slip in through the back door), or our works which we have wrought in holiness of heart. Clement says that we’re justified by faith.

          So Clement I, ostensibly the second pope, would have been considered anathema by the Modern Church of Rome, which writes this in the sixth session of the Council of Trent:

          CANON XII – If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema.

          Who are the innovators?

          I find that absurd, because it requires accepting the idea that God had left the Church without access to the truth for most of its existence.

          Yes, that is a truly absurd proposition which no one here is making. Thankfully, the writings of holy apostles were preserved, by the grace of God. God certainly would not leave His Church without access to the truth. On this we most certainly agree.

          It makes more sense to assert that, if Christianity is true, that God provided a sure foundation for the Church in the form of a reliable teaching office. What use is a flawless scripture if every man is left to his own means to interpret it differently?

          Tell me, do you need the pope in order to understand the following Scripture?

          “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Romans iii, 21-28).

          I don’t.

          The best evidence for the papacy though, is the fruit of the papacy. Read the works of the popes. Look at the history of the papacy. It’s quite compelling. Even in cases where terrible sinners with evil designs ascended to the office of Pope, they were prevented one way or another from teaching errors.

          That is a complete and utter tautology. Do you not see that? “How do we know that the papal authority is real? Read what they’ve taught: they’ve never taught a single thing that they don’t approve.”

          Also, what “office of Pope”?

          A short aside: the instance with St. Paul corrects St. Peter is not a case of St. Peter erring in his teaching faith and morals. He erred personally. It’s a common point of confusion: papal infallibility does not mean that Popes don’t sin, only that their teaching on faith and morals is preserved as free of error.

          Again, you’re begging the question. The question is not, “When is the pope infallible?” but “Is the pope infallible?”

          Would love to read the book. I have read probably a half dozen like it already, though.

          • I don’t have much time to engage this discussion right now. I’ll just note that the quotation from Clement I is in no way contradictory to Catholic teaching–from Trent or in the present day. You’re accepting a rather weak strawman of the Catholic Church if you think there’s a contradiction. We do affirm the importance of faith in justification. What we do not accept is the notion that faith without works has any coherency or efficacy. Faith without works is dead (cf., James 2). So, Trent reiterates, contra Luther, that it is not enough merely to have confidence in God. One must actually live one’s faith. Clement is writing with this understanding–unless you would try to make him opposed to James.

            In any event, I appreciate hearing the Lutheran account. I now have a better understanding of where your’e coming from. Nonetheless, I marvel that you think Luther’s innovations are harmonious with Christian belief from prior centuries.

          • Dear Paul,

            First of all, I’m sorry if I’ve been uncharitable and overly pugnacious. I hope that we can continue this conversation in a mutually edifying way.

            Faith without works is dead, yes. But your works do not add to Christ’s work. His work is sufficient unto your salvation; your works are freely done out of thankfulness to God, not as part of justifying yourself before Him. On this the apostles agree. St. James notes that one sees evidence of a man’s being justified (i.e., his resting in God’s mercy in Christ per fidem) by his works.

            What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Genesis iv, 6). Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works in Psalm 32. Wouldn’t you agree, Paul?

            Affirming “the importance of faith in justification” isn’t enough, Paul. You pass over Clement’s “not bys” quite handily — “by faith” he clearly says; with equal clarity he says “not by” ourselves, our own wisdom, our understanding, our godliness, or our works. In this he agrees with St. Paul, who says that “a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” Apart from. That’s pretty clear.

            Now, as you mentioned, St. James seems to disagree with this; a closer reading, however, shows that he is not:

            But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe–and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

            Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

            For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

            Again, the question is whether one truly has faith. If one has faith, one is justified. If one does not, one is not. If one believes God, one is justified. If one does not believe God, does not take Him at His Word, as it were, he is not. Abraham believed God. How do we know? He was about to sacrifice his son Isaac. Many of us make the good confession now — but would we if our lives were threatened? Would we abandon this confession for that which we hold most dear? I think of this, and I tremble. Would I stand firm and be martyred, or would I apostasize?

            All this is to say that St. James is clearly defending the correct doctrine of justification (by grace alone, through faith alone, taught perhaps most perspicuously by St. Paul) against antinomian perversions of the same. So, too, when St. Paul says that not the hearers of the law only, but the doers of the law, will be saved. It’s a huge error to say that one is saved by one’s doing of the law, but those who hear the Word of God and believe it will certainly walk in newness of life. Indeed, to such the Law has a third use, beyond that of curb and mirror: to the faithful it is also a guide, helping them to lead godly lives here in time. If they do not, but instead persist in sin, one might well wonder if they have received the grace of God in vain. To paraphrase Luther, man is saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. For faith always issues forth in good works, or it is not faith. Paul Kretzmann (sorry to add another Paul to the mix — two commenters, one apostle, and now a Scripture commentator!) has this gloss of the above portion from St. James’s epistle:

            In bringing examples from the Old Testament to illustrate his argument, the apostle first refers to an incident in the life of Abraham: Was not Abraham, our father, justified by works when he sacrificed his son Isaac upon the altar? Gen. 22, 9. Abraham had received the command from God to take his only son, Isaac, to make a three days’ journey with him to a certain mountain, and there to offer him up as a sacrifice upon an altar to be built by him. The fact that Abraham carried out the commandment of God without remonstrance was a proof of his faith, Heb. 11, 17; in other words, his work in sacrificing his son was evidence that justifying, saving faith was living in his heart. It follows, then: Thou seest that his faith was manifested as being one with his works, and that out of works faith was completed. Abraham’s faith was active in his works, in all the matters connected with this sacrifice, the two being thus joined in their efficacy, and his faith receiving its final, definite proof by his works. That is, anyone seeing Abraham perform this work as he was commanded to do by the Lord could not doubt for as much as a minute that true faith lived in his heart.

            That this is the argument of the writer is shown in the next verse: And there was fulfilled the scripture which says, Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to Him for righteousness, and he was called a friend of God. The order to be observed in estimating faith is this: Abraham performed the very difficult task which was assigned to him; this work he could perform only by faith; by virtue of this saving faith the righteousness of the Messiah was imputed to him, or, his faith was accounted to him for righteousness, Gen. 15, 6; Rom. 4, 3. Moreover, on the strength of this evidence of faith the Old Testament ascribed to Abraham the honoring title of the friend of God, 2 Chron. 20, 7; Is. 41, 8. From this standpoint, also, the conclusion is correct: You see that out of works a man is justified, and not out of faith alone. Good works are not necessary to earn salvation, but they are necessary for evidence as to the existence of faith in the heart of a man; for where they are to be found, there one may conclude that true faith lives in the heart, and so the works indirectly justify a person.

            How can you see that a man is justified? By his works. If his works are good, one has cause to believe that he has faith, i.e., trusts Christ to forgive his sins and bring him to everlasting life (trust which is credited to him as righteousness, according to St. Paul); if his works are evil, one has reason to doubt that such, i.e., any, faith exists.

            As an aside: If this were to be cleared up any more, we’d have to read the text in Greek. Unfortunately, I don’t know Greek. I am but a lowly Latinist. Since Greek is the original language of St. James’s epistle, I’m no more enlightened reading Jerome’s Sacra Vulgata than I am King James’s (or Dhoay-Rheims’s) translation of the same. I do know, however, that a better understanding of Greek’s “middle voice” often is helpful in sorting out these seemingly contradictory passages of Scripture.

            We seem to have gotten rather far afield from the original topic, which is whether the pope has the authority that Rome thinks he has. I actually checked back into the comments to clarify something from my earlier comment but was distracted by this newer one. I feel like I’ve quite forgotten what it was…

          • One last thing. Well, not really a last thing. Just another thing:

            Nonetheless, I marvel that you think Luther’s innovations are harmonious with Christian belief from prior centuries.

            You do know that Lutherans are not followers of the teachings of Martin Luther, right? Lutherans are Christians (we would say we’re Catholic Christians) who put the Unaltered Augsburg Confession on the same level as the Nicene Creed (doctrinally, not liturgically, mind you…it would take forever to say as part of the Order of the Mass). To this we would append the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (written by Phillip Melanchthon after the Papal Confutation rejected the Augsburg Confession), the Smalcald Articles (a reiteration of the content of the Augsburg Confession prepared by Martin Luther to bring to an ecumenical council if one were held), The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope (by Melanchthon), and the Formula of Concord (a shorter version called the Epitome and a longer version called the Solid Declaration). Dr. Luther’s Large and Small Catechisms are included, rounding out what are collectively known as the Lutheran Confessions. All are bound together into the Book of Concord, a rather tome-like volume more or less comparable to the Catechism of the Catholic Church in its exhaustiveness.

            After the Council of Trent formalized the conclusions of the Papal Confutation and promulgated them as dogma with the backing of the pope, yet another rejoinder by orthodox Lutheranism was made, this time by a man named Martin Chemnitz. Martin Chemitz is known in the Lutheran churches as alter Martinus, “the second Martin.” Si Martinus non fuisset, Martinus vix stetisset — “If Martin [Chemnitz] had not come along, [the work of ] Martin [Luther] would have barely survived.” The father of Lutheran scholastic theology, Chemnitz took every single one of the canons and decrees of the Council of Trent and refuted them from Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Among other things, he showed how the supposedly “irreformable” decrees of the Roman magisterium in particular have not, in fact, spoken with one accord throughout the history of the Church. There is no greater teacher of the Church Fathers to be found than Chemnitz. When Ignatius of Loyola founded the Jesuits with the express purpose of reconverting the Protestant lands (a battle which was to be fought largely in and through the universities), Rome did not bank on (nor, in fairness, know of) the rigor of the Lutheran scholastic theologians, Chemnitz and (later on) Johann Gerhard chief among them. Basically, the Jesuits were clubbed in the cradle by the Lutherans, who destroyed them in the universities; they never really got off the ground the way they wanted to. If the Lutherans had not been so highly persecuted by the infernal Reformed elector-princes of the Palatinate (a major reason why the Lutherans fled from many of the German principates, first to England after the Hanoverian accession, and then to America), we would likely be looking at a very different theological map of Europe. But the Reformed — in all of their iconoclastic inglory — did the papacy’s dirty work in an historic instance of bitter irony: what Rome could not accomplish in the scholarly disputatio, the Reformed accomplished through state fiat. Just to give you an idea of the heft of Chemnitz’s work — and if you should ever be interested in obtaining a copy — the English translation of the Examen by Theodore J. Tappert spans four volumes and close to 4000 pages and is available from Concordia Publishing House in St. Louis, the publishing arm of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.

            All this is to say, Paul, you probably don’t know what Lutheran theology is. You do not write as one who has bothered to read any but the barest selections of Luther, or the Lutheran Confessions. In good Roman Catholic fashion, you have already decided that these are erroneous without even reading them, as they have been rejected by the Roman Magisterium. I would challenge you to at least read the Augsburg Confession and the Apology. You can read them in triplicate, article by article, with the Papal Confutation in between at this fine online version of the Book of Concord. If you do this, would will see that Luther was not the innovator. The medieval Roman Church, held in thrall under the papacy, was in serious error, having strayed far, far away from the Scripture and true catholic tradition. Luther was instrumental in reforming the Church, though he was certainly not alone. Rome’s excommunication of Luther was null and void; or, rather, the fact that the pope, qua Bishop of Rome, put Luther (and the churches of the Augsburg Confession) out of communion with the Church of Rome does not mean that they were put out of communion with Christ, the only Head of the Church. No, we are still in communion with Christ, even if, sadly and tragically, we are not in communion with Rome. Why? Because the pope doesn’t have the authority to do that…

            …and now we’re back to where we were.

            In the interest of full disclosure, I was an RC-inquirer when I was an undergrad. I thought as seriously about swimming the Tiber as I ever will. I have read the Baltimore CCC. I’ve read Aquinas, Newman, Rahner, and Wojtyła. I’m decently well-versed in the Church Fathers, but I’m trying to get better on that front.

          • Nonetheless, I marvel that you think Luther’s innovations are harmonious with Christian belief from prior centuries.

            Here are some marvelous examples of Christian belief from prior centuries, with which Lutheran teaching is indeed harmonious. I have been reading St. John Chrysostom lately, and here is what he has to say:

            Suppose someone should be caught in the act of adultery and the foulest crimes and then be thrown into prison. Suppose, next, that judgment was going to be passed against him and that he would be condemned. Suppose that just at that moment a letter should come from the Emperor setting free from any accounting or examination all those detained in prison. If the prisoner should refuse to take advantage of the pardon, remain obstinate and choose to be brought to trial, to give an account, and to undergo punishment, he will not be able thereafter to avail himself of the Emperor’s favor. For when he made himself accountable to the court, examination, and sentence, he chose of his own accord to deprive himself of the imperial gift. This is what happened in the case of the Jews. Look how it is. All human nature was taken in the foulest evils. “All have sinned,” says Paul. They were locked, as it were, in a prison by the curse of their transgression of the Law. The sentence of the judge was going to be passed against them. A letter from the King came down from heaven. Rather, the King himself came. Without examination, without exacting an account, he set all men free from the chains of their sins. All, then, who run to Christ are saved by his grace and profit from his gift. But those who wish to find justification from the Law will also fall from grace. They will not be able to enjoy the King’s loving-kindness because they are striving to gain salvation by their own efforts; they will draw down on themselves the curse of the Law because by the works of the Law no flesh will find justification. (Discourses Against Judaizing Christians, Discourse I:6-II:1)

            What does this mean? That he has justified our race not by right actions, not by toils, not by barter and exchange, but by grace alone. Paul, too, made this clear when he said: “But now the justice of God has been made manifest apart from the Law.” But the justice of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ and not through any labor and suffering. (Discourses Against Judaising Christians, Discourse VII:2)

            “To declare His righteousness.” What is declaring of righteousness? Like the declaring of His riches, not only for Him to be rich Himself, but also to make others rich, or of life, not only that He is Himself living, but also that He makes the dead to live; and of His power, not only that He is Himself powerful, but also that He makes the feeble powerful. So also is the declaring of His righteousness not only that He is Himself righteous, but that He doth also make them that are filled with the putrefying sores (katasapentai) of sin suddenly righteous. And it is to explain this, viz. what is “declaring,” that he has added, “That He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Doubt not then: for it is not of works, but of faith: and shun not the righteousness of God, for it is a blessing in two ways; because it is easy, and also open to all men. And be not abashed and shamefaced. For if He Himself openly declareth (endeiknutai) Himself to do so, and He, so to say, findeth a delight and a pride therein, how comest thou to be dejected and to hide thy face at what thy Master glorieth in? But what is the “law of faith?” It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God’s power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only. (Homily on Romans 3:19ff.)

            They said that he who adhered to faith alone was cursed; but he, Paul, shows that he who adhered to faith alone is blessed. (First Corinthians, Homily 20, PG 61.164)

            For you believe the faith; why then do you add other things, as if faith were not sufficient to justify? You make yourselves captive, and you subject yourself to the law. (Epistle to Titus, Homily 3, PG 62.651)

            For good measure, here’s the Angelic Doctor on the subject of justification:

            “But the Apostle seems to be speaking about morals, because he adds that the law was set forth because of sin, and the law consists of moral precepts. The proper use of these precepts is that man not attribute to them more than what is contained in them. The law was given so that sin might be recognized. As Romans 7:7 says, “Unless the law were saying, ‘Do not covet,’ (which the Decalogue says), I would not have known about covetousness. In the precepts, therefore, there is no hope of justification, but only by faith. As Romans 3:28 says, “We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law.”

            Thomas Aquinas, “Epistola I Ad Timotheum”, “Lectio III” in *Opera Omnia*, Volume 21: *Commentarii in Epistolam Ad Corinthios 1 In Caeteras Omnes Epistolas S. Pauli.* Paris: Apud Ludovicum Vives, Bibliopolam Editorem, 1876, page 456.

            Notice the “onlys” and the “not bys”? They completely oppose your contention that faith alone is insufficient.

            This is not intended to be an exhaustive presentation of all that the Church Fathers ever said about the subject of justification by faith alone. I could provide more. However, it is demonstrative of the fact that the Lutheran teaching of justification by faith alone was not an historical innovation. It was drawn from the Scriptures, taught by the Fathers, obscured and perverted by the Church of Rome, and recovered by Luther and others. So, again, it’s quite harmonious with Christian belief from prior centuries.

  2. I have a penchant for starting these conversations and then not contributing at all. Huh. In this instance it’s a combination of a lack of time and lack of knowledge by comparison. I did have a great conversation about all of this with George (the as-yet silent member of this thread), and he brought up how Rome’s method of Scriptural exegesis is really neither fish nor fowl (how apropos, really), i.e., neither historical-grammatical nor straight traditionalist, but rather either when it suits them, i.e., when one (and not the other) must needs be employed to retroactively vindicate an absurd papal claim. Perhaps he can weigh in…

    Pr. Scott Murray had this to say about this subject in his daily “Memorial Moment” yesterday:

    Squabbles about the status of St. Peter abound. Was he the first pope or not? Did he have direct successors? Did those successors retain apostolic authority directly from Peter? And on and on. But with all due respect to Peter and those who have made a cottage industry of such squabbles, this discussion is not germane to the practice of our Christian faith. Few of us are likely to meet the pope or receive absolution from him. His status is not significant to the average Christian. The rubber hits the road when we are in need of the certainty of salvation that is central to our Christian faith and life. How can we know the Word of a gracious God? That is the question.

    This is not some theoretical question over which we may squabble without conclusion, as happens in squabbles about papal status. We need to know what our status is before God. This is no simple thing, especially in the dark night of the soul when our sins loom before us with devouring ferocity. We need to have a clear Word from God that puts a full stop to the accusing voice of our sins. Christ our Lord placed the authority of the keys in the hands of our pastors when he tells Peter, “whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:19). He gives these things not to Peter, but to the church, which Peter represents in His person.

    People think that they have only heard the voice of a man when they have received holy absolution of their sins, but they have heard the Word of God as surely as Christ Himself has spoken and commanded to the church to see to the absolution of her children. She does this on the lips of the properly called ministers of the Word. So we should not doubt but believe firmly that when our pastor speaks to us we are hearing the voice of God. This is not because Peter has said so, but because Christ Himself has commanded it. What needless agony we experience by carrying our own sin when we do not off load it at the invitation of Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. How silly of us to bear a crushing load, when our pastor can speak it away in the name of Christ. Peter’s ministry is the forgiveness of sins, as Christ has commanded.

    He goes on to excerpt this excellent bit from a sermon of Dr. Luther’s preached on St. Peter and St. Paul’s Day:

    It is not necessary for the ordinary man to dispute much about the power of St. Peter or the pope. What is more important is to know how one should use the power of St. Peter for salvation. It is true that the keys were given to St. Peter; but not to him personally, but rather to the person of the Christian church. They were actually given to me and to you for the comfort of our consciences. St. Peter, or a priest, is a servant of the keys. The church is the woman and bride, whom he should serve with the power of the keys; just as we see in daily use that the sacrament is administered to all who desire it of the priests.

    Now, in order that we may understand how to use the key in a saving manner, I have said above that if one desires to be good and is made receptive to grace through the forgiveness of what we can do by our own ability, then it is important to know whether one has received God’s grace or not. For one must know how one stands with God, if the conscience is to be joyful and be able to stand. For when a person doubts this and does not steadfastly believe that he has a gracious God, then he actually does not have a gracious God. As he believes, so he has. Therefore no one can know that he is in grace and that God is gracious toward him except through faith. If he believes it, he is saved. If he does not believe it, he is damned. For this confidence and good conscience is the real, basically good faith, which the grace of God works in us.

    This, you see, is what the keys do for you. This is what the priests were ordained for. When you feel your heart wavering or doubting whether you are in grace in God’s eyes, then it is high time that you go to the priest and ask for the absolution of your sin, and thus seek the power and the comfort of the keys. So when the priest makes a judgment and absolves you, that is as much as to say: Your sins have been forgiven; you have a gracious God. This is a comforting statement and it is the Word of God, who has bound himself to loose in heaven the one whom the priest looses (Mt 16:19).

    See to it then, that you never doubt that this is so, and you should rather die many times than doubt the priest’s judgment, for it is Christ’s and God’s judgment.

    Thanks, all. Any additional thoughts? Please continue if there is more to be said.

  3. This from Hilary (Hilarius) of Poitiers (c. 300 – c. 368):

    “What then is this truth, which the Father now reveals to Peter, which receives the praise of a blessed confession? It cannot have been that the names ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ were novel to him. He had heard them often. Yet he speaks words which the tongue of man had never framed before: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Mt 16:16). For though Christ, while dwelling in the body, had declared Himself to be the Son of God, yet now for the first time the Apostle’s faith had recognized in Him the presence of the divine nature. Peter is praised not merely for his tribute of adoration, but for his recognition of the mysterious truth; for confessing not Christ only, but Christ the Son of God. It would clearly have sufficed for a payment of reverence, had he said, ‘You are the Christ,’ and nothing more. But it would have been a hollow confession, had Peter only hailed Him as Christ, without confessing Him the Son of God. And so his words “You are”declare that what is asserted of Him is strictly and exactly true to His nature. Next, the Father’s utterance, ‘This is My Son,’ had revealed to Peter that he must confess ‘You are the Son of God,’ for in the words ‘This is,’ God the Revealer points Him out, and the response, ‘You are,’ is the believer’s welcome to the truth.

    “This is the rock of confession on which the Church is built. But the perceptive faculties of flesh and blood cannot attain to the recognition and confession of this truth. It is a mystery, divinely revealed, that Christ must be not only named, but believed, the Son of God. Was it only the divine name; was it not rather the divine nature that was revealed to Peter? If it were the name, he had heard it often from the Lord, proclaiming Himself the Son of God. What honor, then, did he deserve for announcing the name? No, it was not the name; it was the nature, for the name had been repeatedly proclaimed.

    “This faith is the foundation of the Church. Through this faith the gates of hell cannot prevail against her. This is the faith which has the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever this faith shall have loosed or bound on earth shall be loosed or bound in heaven. This faith is the Father’s gift by revelation; even the knowledge that we must not imagine a false Christ, a creature made out of nothing, but must confess Him the Son of God, truly possessed of the divine nature” (On the Trinity,, 6.36-37).

  4. Hi all,

    Sorry to show up late to the party, and Trent, thanks for sending the blog my way. Here are my two Roman cents.

    First of all, I agree with all of you that the statement re: the rock is, taken by itself, not particularly helpful to either the Roman position or anyone else’s. While I think the best reading of the passage is that Peter (rather than the confession) is the rock, this doesn’t tell us very much about 1) whether St. Peter’s unique status (whether that status is characterized as a difference in degree or a difference in kind) passes to his successors, and (assuming the answer to the previous question is that his status does pass to successors) 2) what the authority of St. Peter’s successors is. I’ll take these up one at a time.

    First, re: whether St. Peter’s status passes to his successors, it seems to me that this question involves a particular application of the doctrine of apostolic succession. The apostolic office seems to be one that was not limited to the original twelve, but is, in some sense, a permanent institution. (I’m speaking here of the apostles’ roles as the first pastors, or bishops–pick your terminology. I’m absolutely willing to concede that the apostles may have additionally borne a special office that was unique to the original twelve, but it seems they also bore an office that was capable of passing to successors, as I discuss below.) The apostles themselves acknowledged the possibility of succession by their election of Matthias to take the place of Judas. If the apostolic office was incapable of succession, then Judas’s vacant office could not have been filled by Matthias. I won’t keep going here about apostolic succession, because frankly I don’t know enough about Lutheran doctrine to know whether I’m preaching to the choir on this one. Trent et al., do you believe in apostolic succession of some sort?

    If you grant apostolic succession, the question then becomes whether St. Peter’s special status was something unique to him as a person or whether it attached to his successor bishops of Rome. Here, it seems to me (and I’m definitely just a layman when it comes to theology and church history, so please correct me if I’m wrong) that the great body of Christianity, both Roman and not, both historical and present day, acknowledge *something* special about St. Peter’s successor bishops in the Roman see. St. Ignatius referred to the bishop of Rome as “presiding in charity.” Eastern Orthodox obviously do not accede to the full Roman claims regarding papal authority, but they agree that the Pope is the first among equals. (Judging on the use of the formula above, I’m guessing most of the Lutherans commenting here would agree with that formulation?) I’m not arguing that the earliest body of believers, or any branch of Christianity today other than the Roman Catholic Church, adheres to as full a sense of papal authority as the Pope himself advocates. I’m just pointing out that most everyone agrees there’s something special about the bishop of Rome. Unless someone can point me to another theological basis for this widely-held position, it would seem to suggest rather strongly that Peter’s successors as Roman bishops do succeed to his unique status, whatever that status may be.

    Which, of course, leaves us with the money question: what is that status? This is, to my mind, an incredibly difficult question to answer, were one forced to rely only on Scripture and early sacred tradition. But I don’t think we have to. Instead, let’s focus on the fact that, as the vast bulk of historic and present-day Christians would admit, the Pope is at least entitled to the first place among equals. This formulation does not by its terms indicate that the Pope cannot err when speaking ex cathedra on a given issue. It would seem quite odd, though, if, given the formulation, the Pope ceased to be associated with a branch of Christianity that is, by and large, orthodox.

    Perhaps an example is the best way to talk about this. Imagine (and granting, as discussed above, that St. Peter’s unique status passes to his successors) that the Pope suddenly renounces Christianity altogether and becomes a militant atheist who dedicates his life to drawing others away from the faith. The entire college of cardinals is swayed by the atheist Pope’s powerful rhetoric, and they all become militant atheists as well. Out of sheer spite, the college of cardinals does not dissolve, but continues to create new atheist cardinals as members of the college die, and the college continues to elect new atheist popes after the first atheist Pope dies. This continues for some thousand years. The Church, while continuing to maintain that the Pope is entitled to the first place among the bishops (or pastors–again, choose your terminology), naturally disagrees with everything the Pope teaches and does. (For the record, I don’t think this scenario could ever happen, but it’s useful to prove a point.)

    The point is this: if your reaction on reading the above was that it would be silly for the Church to continue to maintain that the Pope is “first among equals” if the Pope in fact were directly opposed to the entire body of the Church and Christian truth, you would be correct. The formula at that point would be completely devoid of meaning. (And, if my scenario ever were to occur–which it won’t–then it would be dispositive evidence that the formula was wrong from the start.) What this means is that there is in the concept of “first among equals” some idea that the Pope will remain a part of orthodox Christianity. If he ceases so to be, it’s simply meaningless to profess to accord him the first place among equals in an institution of which he is no longer a member in good standing.

    All of that is to say that the fact that the Pope, whom all acknowledge to be the “first among equals,” is, and has been for centuries, in communion and association with a particular branch of Christianity but not with others, is a pretty powerful indicator that the branch with which the Pope has continued to be in communion and association is orthodox, or at the very least bears more of a residuum of orthodoxy than the other branches. If the Catholic Church is as full of errors as many non-Catholics believe, then what does it mean to say that the Pope, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, is the “first among equals”? Rather, he would seem to be the first among heretics.

    Put another way, what theory of “first among equals,” and what theory of the “rock passage” (again, assuming that St. Peter’s successor does inherit his unique status), allows for the Pope to be in consistent, long-term, serious doctrinal error of a sort that endangers the souls of his flock? I can’t think of any.

    I want to respond to one particular objection made above, which is that we can’t attribute more authority to the successors of St. Peter than St. Peter himself possessed. This is, of course, correct. But it doesn’t change the outcome of the discussion. In the passage cited above, in which Paul rebuked Peter, Peter had not spoken ex cathedra on associating with Gentiles; rather, he was himself refusing to associate with Gentiles. (Indeed, Peter had already espoused the precise opposite doctrinal position, in Acts ch. 10, so he was simply failing to practice what he preached–literally.) I don’t know any Catholics who maintain that popes always act the way they should. Nor is such a doctrine necessary to maintain the Roman claims of papal authority. So this passage doesn’t support the argument that St. Peter didn’t have as full an authority as is presently argued for by the Roman Catholic Church, and I’m unaware of any other passages of Scripture to the contrary.

    Anyway, sorry to write a veritable Tome of Leo. (Yes, pun intended.) Thoughts?

  5. I don’t think you can argue as if “first among equals” is an honor accorded to the papacy at the present time. What Eastern Orthodox and Lutherans and some Anglicans actually say is that they would be willing to accept the Pope as “first among equals” if he were to correct the doctrinal errors of the Roman Catholic Church — among which would be his claim to unique and Christ-like authority.

    If “first among equals” is a matter of the human structuring of the Church (de iure humano), as Lutherans believe, there would first have to exist a unified human church structure that included both the Pope and the Lutherans as members, before the Lutherans could speak of the Pope as “first among equals” in anything but the past tense or the subjunctive mood.

  6. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for your comments.

    As this post is getting long, I’m going to just summarize some bullet point objections to this argument, but try to avoid lengthy elaboration, while still being clear and fair.

    The following are flatly stated observations about the above argument:

    1) There is no exegesis that expands upon or adds to the previous posts. Hence, there is no biblical argumentation that advances the discussion beyond previous conclusions.

    2) The argument assumes that the historic “first among equals” designation remains to the present day, in exactly the same way.

    3) The argument doesn’t attempt to state the kind of primacy enjoyed by the Roman See, which is the substance of the debate.

    4) The argument constructs a hypothetical analogy in order to promote what is ultimately the same tautological claim made by our previous RC interlocutor, to wit, that the Papacy is orthodox because it is the papacy, since the opposite notion would be unthinkable.

    5) The argument uses equivocal terminology regarding “apostolic succession” — with full disclosure admittedly — but then assumes the RC understanding of the term.

    6) The argument makes a distinction between Peter and Peter’s Confession that is assumed, not proven, and probably not necessary.

    7) The argument applies further anachronism by saying that Peter was not speaking ex cathedra when he took up with Judaizers publicly, in his office as Apostle, even though the Latin term and it’s doctrine hadn’t been invented or articulated in the very Greek and Aramaic Church of the NT — i.e., it’s an anachronism and thus can’t be used to deny the Biblical claim.

    8) The argument does no exegesis — admittedly, I’m just saying this again, because it’s so important. We aren’t going to make progress towards anything by simply asserting doctrinal formulae such as “first among equals” and “ex cathedra”, and “early sacred tradition.” Dogmatic phraseology assumes exegesis, and hence is best used for intra-ecclesial discussion (i.e., among Roman Catholics, or among Lutherans). It isn’t so useful for this kind of inter-ecclesial discussion.

    Best regards to you. Trent says you’re doing well, and I”m very glad to hear it.



    PS. Please excuse my attempt at brevity; this is a bit “dashed-off” in haste.

  7. Paul’s response is good, but fails to address two key points that I notice:

    (1) Lutherans do not deny the “primacy of the Pope” (i.e. that if he sits with all other bishops, he gets the most important chair, etc.) but we insist that this is by human right. It is therefore no guarantee of his orthodoxy.

    (2) We do not deny that the RCC is the true church, for how else could the Antichrist appear therein? 2 Thess 2:3-4 is essential here:

    Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

    Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

    This passage shows that (A) the antichrist will appear in the church – indeed, the cathedra is even implied in that he “sitteth in the temple of God” – and (B) it is the very doctrine of papal infallibility (even ex cathedra) that makes the pope fulfill this prophecy, namely, because he pretends to be “as God … shewing himself that he is God.” Dr. Luther was not the first within the Church (as we are still within it) to identify the Roman bishop as an antichrist. The 13th c. Franciscans, for example, have a pretty well documented record on that too.

    Otherwise, I agree with the comments made previously concerning the interpretation of Peter as Rock. I would only add that it seems strange to me that we (Lutherans in general) can insist so vehemently upon the fixed referent of “this” in the Verba (namely, the bread), while being so obtuse in what seems to be an even clearer passage. Certainly, though, his confession, the apostolic office and “the keys” are also related.

    More could be said on apostolic succession, and what seems to be a necessity of ordination by someone who already holds the Office and beyond that the right of bishops by human convention (i.e., canon law) to ordain. But there again you run against the problem that the pope declares the authority of canon law (not to be iure humano, but) to derive from the twin authoritative pillars of God’s word and whatever happens to waft ex cathedra. Apologies for the toilet humour!

    That must be at least two cents by now.


    Admin note: This piece here will prove enlightening for any non-Lutheran wondering about the Confessional Lutheran understanding of “apostolic succession.”

  8. Paul,

    Yes, thanks for joining the discussion.

    Your entire argument is more or less an instance of synecdoche; thus treating one small part treats the whole, more or less.

    To whit:

    First, re: whether St. Peter’s status passes to his successors, it seems to me that this question involves a particular application of the doctrine of apostolic succession. The apostolic office seems to be one that was not limited to the original twelve, but is, in some sense, a permanent institution. (I’m speaking here of the apostles’ roles as the first pastors, or bishops–pick your terminology. I’m absolutely willing to concede that the apostles may have additionally borne a special office that was unique to the original twelve, but it seems they also bore an office that was capable of passing to successors, as I discuss below.),

    Christ does indeed establish an, that is to say, one Office that continues to the present day (and unto ages of ages!): the Office of the Keys. Whatever other authority a churchman wields, this is the only office he fills by divine right. What is the Office of the Keys? Well, we Lutherans would contend that it is this:

    The Office of the Keys is the special authority which Christ has given to His Church on earth: to forgive the sins of the penitent sinners, but to retain the sins of the impenitent as long as they do not repent.

    Where is this written?

    The evangelist writes, John 20:22-23: “Jesus breathed on His disciples and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; and if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’”

    Somehow Rome gets the idea that the Office of the Keys is only granted in its fullness to Peter; from his authority qua Cephas-come-Peter, the Rock of the Church, the other apostles derive theirs. From ordination by a bishop, priests get a little smidgen of the office, but not the whole thing. The Pope, because he has the whole thing in toto gets to promulgate (drumroll, please….) CANON LAW; ergo, the left hand feeds the right hand: the left conjures myriad laws for the faithful to fall afoul of (and thereby sin), and the right grants and withholds forgivenesses (all of which falls easily into a category under the metonym “indulgence”) to the faithful, keeping their consciences in thrall. Grace is given in snippets (yea, through infusions) for the purpose of energizing the faithful to greater and more holy works, works which will justify them before the Vicar of Christ on earth and his bishops. And God. But I repeat myself!

    Yet this authority is completely and utterly specious. Waving the magic wand and crying “Development of Doctrine!” is of no assistance on this point. Development from what? This “authority” is not granted by Christ. Far from it — it is a perversion of Christ’s mercy.

    As for the continuation of the apostolic office: do there remain to this day eyewitnesses of Christ and His resurrection and ascension? This might be a good place to start. St. John the Apostle writes the following at the beginning of his first catholic epistle: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life — the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us — that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.”

    Can any successor to the apostolic office write this, and write with the authority that comes from being a witness, yea, a disciple, of Christ, from receiving His Body and Blood from His own hands, from being an eyewitness to His resurrection and ascension, and personally sent and commissioned by Him to be a minister of His Gospel to the nations? There’s a reason why the canon (homologoumena) of the New Testament contains only those books whose apostolic authorship is unquestioned. Why? Because they were the eyewitnesses of Christ. There are no others. The Office of the Keys can be described as “apostolic” if by that one means that it comes to us from the apostles. But the Pope is not an apostle. By divine right, he’s a pastor — just like my pastor. By human right, he’s a bishop — just like my pastor, who oversees other pastors, at our parish! By human right, he’s a bishop of bishops. But he can no more pronounce authoritatively on anything concerning “faith and morals” than he can authoritatively come up with a new primary color.

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