Sunday, May 04, 2008

Scripture and the Pope: Part 3

Here is Part 3 in my debate with Amy on the authority and infallibility of Peter (and his successors) as it is found in Scripture. Also see Parts 1 and 2.

Pax Christi,
- - - - - - - - - -
Though my digestion of your post is incomplete, and I have no hope of addressing everything you have written, I will do my best to reply. My reply is very incomplete. Thank you, in advance, for putting up with the length of this.
The length doesn't bother me at all. I try to be as concise as possible, but sometimes you just have to write a lot in order to defend a position, and I'm okay with that.

Some of your post matches up with what I have learned my entire life in studying the Bible.
Some things you have written, I hold as truth, the first of them being that,“All things pale in comparison to Jesus.”
Second, I also agree with your view that people’s names hold great importance.
Good to know.

Thirdly, your point on keys and authority pointing back to the Davidic kingdom ("Among these was a prime minister who was second in authority only to the king [cf. Gen 41:39-43; Esther 3:1-2]. In Isaiah we see that the transfer of this authority from one prime minister to another is symbolized by the handing on of 'the key of the house'") I agree with, though I am not completely familiar with it in depth. However, I do not think this necessitates that Peter must then be considered second in authority under Christ.
I need more from you as to why you think that the handing on of the keys does not grant Peter the authority that I have described. It's very clear that the Root of Jesse continued the tradition of Davidic kingdoms when He gave the keys to Peter. What else could this possibly mean?

I have always believed that Jesus was referring to Peter's confession "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" And that this confession was the "rock" upon which Christ would build His kingdom; using Peter's new name as a play on words to point to Himself.
This makes the name-change utter nonsense. Basically, you have Jesus saying, "Simon, I'm going to change your name to ROCK, but you're not going to be the rock or anything, I just think 'Peter' has a nice ring to it." Why would Jesus change Simon's name to Rock if he did not intend to make him the actual rock?

It's like I said before, a name change means a change in mission and purpose. Abram's name was changed to Abraham b/c he would become the father of many nations. Jacob's name was changed to Israel b/c his descendants will "strive with God and man and prevail" (Gen 32:28). But, you would have Simon's name changed to Peter (which means "Rock") without him actually being the Rock of the Church? It just doesn't make any sense.

Certainly we would both agree that Christ being the Son of the living God is the rock upon which his kingdom is built. I do not believe the person Peter or his descendants are more foundational to the Kingdom than Christ’s being the Son of God is, however valuable they may be.
I agree with that. But, that doesn't mean that Peter can't also be the Rock.

For one, a metaphor in the bible need not be applied to only one individual. In 1 Cor. 3:11 Jesus is called the only foundation of the Church, and yet in Eph. 2:20, the apostles and prophets are called the foundation of the Church. Similarly, in 1 Peter 2:25, Jesus is called the Shepherd of the flock, but in Acts 20:28 (NASB), the apostles are called the shepherds of the flock. In 1 Tim 6:15, Jesus is called "the king of kings," but this title is also given to Ar-ta-xerx'es in Ezra 7:12 and to Nebuchadrez'zar in Ezek 26:7. Even Jesus and Lucifer are both called the "morning star" (Isa 14:12; Rev 22:16, NASB). So, just b/c Jesus is the rock (cf. 1 Co 10:4), that does not mean that Peter can't be the rock, especially since Jesus went so far as to change Peter's name to Rock!

Essentially, two people can have the same title, they would just differ in how they typify whatever they are compared to. Jesus is "the rock" in the sense that he is the supreme head of the church, and a stumbling block to those who don't believe. Peter is "the rock" in the sense that he is the earthly foundation of Christ's Church. It is still Christ's church, it's just that Peter is His representative.

When Peter speaks truth given to him by the Father, Jesus speaks to him of opening heaven based on this truth. This truth is that Jesus is the Son of the Living God. I have always been taught that what is “bound and loosed” is not new proclamations of truth by a church leader, but souls. “The keys of the kingdom” refers to the Gospel. The Gospel being, Christ, the Son of God has come to bear your sins and clothe you in His righteousness.
From what I can tell, none of this can be derived either from the context of the passage or from what biblical scholarship reveals about the meaning of "binding and loosing" and the "keys of the kingdom." So, I will need some major proof for your claims here.

Where in Mt 16:16-19 does it say that Peter "opened up heaven" based on the truth that was revealed to him by the Father? What do you mean when you say that "binding and loosing" refers to souls? Where's your proof that "binding and loosing" refers to the Gospel? An expanse of Biblical scholarship says something quite different. You really need to read this post (particularly, points #3 and 5).

A few verses later, Peter speaks lies from Satan as he tries to stand between Christ and His cross. Jesus rebukes Peter and identifies the source of Peter’s lie as Satan.
There's many different ways to look at the passage and none of them refute the infallibility of Peter (and his successors). First, the passage in question:

Mt 16:21-23 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you." 23 But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men."

Now, one way to interpret this is to say that Jesus was actually calling Peter "Satan." Assuming He was, I don't think that Jesus meant to equate Peter with the father of lies or to say that Peter was demon-possessed. "Satan" here is simply a transliteration of the Greek word Satana'ß (or "satanas"), which means "adversary (one who opposes another in purpose or act)." It is true that Peter was trying to keep Jesus from going to Jersualem, which was Jesus' purpose, so Jesus may have used this word to describe Peter. But, this doesn't make Peter an evil, horrible person. It's just that, in this one instance, Peter proved somewhat adversarial.

But, we have to keep in mind, first, that it was most likely out of love and respect for Jesus that Peter didn't want him to go. Peter just couldn't imagine such inevitable pain and torture befalling his Lord and Savior! It's hard for me to imagine too, which is why I don't judge Peter too harshly for what he did here. Also, Jesus obviously didn't write Peter off b/c of this incident because He confirmed Peter's role in the Church later when He gave Peter the task of feeding and tending His sheep and when He prayed specifically for Peter's faith, that it would not fail.

Of course, another way to interpret this passage is to say that Jesus was actually talking to Satan. The devil, or his demons, would certainly have an interest in keeping Jesus from fulfilling His mission, and perhaps they were able to tempt Peter to say what he said. Note that the devil is very skilled at taking something good, like Peter's religious fervor or zeal for Jesus, and turning it into something bad. So, it could very well have been that Jesus looked passed Peter and spoke directly to the source. Again, I don't think Peter meant any harm here.

No matter how you interpret it, Peter's ability to speak infallibly is not compromised. It's not like Peter was giving any authoritative teaching when he tried to compel Jesus not to go. He wasn't defining a matter of doctrine or morals. I don't think Peter even sinned in this instance. The most we can accuse Peter of here is shortsightedness, of not completely understanding why Jesus had to do what He had to do....and I just don't think we should lynch him for that.

The central discussion of this passage is Christ; Who He is "the Son of God" and what He came to do "take up His cross" And then what He will do in the end "come in the glory of His Father with His angels.." to judge.
I can agree with that. But, I don't necessarily think that means that Peter isn't the rock. If anything, what it shows is that Jesus is the source of Peter's authority, and I have no problem with that.

With that said, I am not saying that it is unbiblical for an organization of churches to have a single authority over them (though most passages on the subject describe a plurality of elders.) Only that there is just one mediator between God and man, and that is Christ. (1 Tim. 2:5) As I have studied, it is not just that Christ takes precedence, but that there is just Christ between God and man.
I'm not putting Peter between God and man. I never said Peter was the new mediator. Peter can exercise Christ's authority on earth without interfering in Christ's mediatorship in any way. After all, when we speak of the mediatorship of Christ we are referring to the way in which Jesus reconciles man with God via his atoning act of redemption. Papal infallibility has nothing to do with that.

I appreciate that you have graciously granted that there have been Popes who have fallen, failed and spoken heresy. There are many evangelical leaders who have disqualified themselves as tragically.
Just to clarify, if a pope has ever spoken heresy it has been in his private judgments, NOT in his authoritative pronouncements.

You wrote:
“The pope will sin. Morally speaking, he may turn his back on God altogether. He may even hold private opinions that are heretical. But, he will never teach heresy in an authoritative capacity.”
When I say the following, I’m not referring to a one time sin, which we are all prone to daily. Matthew 18:15-20 Jesus is clear about a person who does the above, that they are to be confronted by one or two people in the church, then by the whole church and then they are to be removed from fellowship. And again Jesus says to all His disciples, “What you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, what you loose shall be loosed in heaven.” Certainly this man could never be qualified to be a leader again, even if he repents and is restored to fellowship (Matt. 18: 15-20; 1Tim. 5:19,20 ;1 Tim 3, 2 Tim. 3:8; 1 Cor. 9:27).
Do you believe the Pope is above this? I do not believe any church leader I have ever known is above this, no matter how much I admire them.
But, don't forget that Peter did not remain obstinant in his sin like the "brother" in this example. Our Lord saw the sorrow that Peter felt over what he had done (cf. Lk 22:60-62) and He forgave Peter when He allowed Peter to reverse his thrice denial with a thrice affirmation of his love. So, there is certainly no need to treat Peter "as a Gentile and a tax collector."

You also have to keep in mind that if you are going to place someone as the earthly head of your Church then it obviously follows that no one person or group of persons will have the authority to cut him off from fellowship or excommunicate him. That's just the nature of the leadership that Jesus established. But, that doesn't mean that the pope is above reproach. St. Catherine of Sienna traveled to France and told Pope Gregory XI "to his face" (a la St. Paul) that he needed to leave Avignon and return to Rome. Several other saints have done the same. If he is a humble man, the pope will accept the council of holy men and women of the Church and reform his ways. If not, well, he like all men will be judged by the Lord when his day comes.

My next question is: Do you know of any proclamations of a Pope, present or past, that have been considered Ex Cathedra (infallible or authoritative) that contradict direct teachings of Scripture?
I know of NONE.

Pax Christi,


  1. Dang.

    I will pray, search the scriptures,reread your post and
    try my best to reply.

    thanks again for devoting so much time to this.

  2. No problem. I know this is a lot to think about. I also realize that you are at a slight disadvantage, since you're having to think about some of these issues for the first time, whereas I've been in several debates about Peter and the papacy. I don't expect you to have all the answers. I just want to show you that the authority and infallibility of the pope rests on a very sound, Scriptural foundation. If you have any questions, just let me know.

    Pax Christi,

  3. Thank you for the gracious comment above. I'm relieved that I do not have to have all the answers, but I have been brought into the family of the One who does, by the blood of His Son, Jesus, first in my heart.

    Here is my feeble first attempt.

    You said, “This makes the name-change utter nonsense.”

    Somewhere between “Pope” and utter nonsense, is my view of name changes in the Bible. Jesus does not deliver the name change at this point, only makes reference to it. As if he said, “Peter, just like your name means Rock, upon the Rock of what you just said (You are the Son of God) I will build my kingdom.” Kind of like, “Amy (cute girl in the profile pic), Just like your name means beloved, so this smart, Phatcatholic guy loves you.”

    I agree with what you said here:
    “the changing of Simon's name to Peter indicates a change in mission and purpose. Biblical names also tend to reflect a person's fundamental or identifying characteristic.” Absolutely. And up to this point, his mission and purpose was to see Jesus set up His earthly kingdom ASAP. This is clear by how he fought the idea that Jesus was headed to the cross. Jesus meant that Peter was to be foundational in taking the news of His substitutionary atonement to the ends of the known world, build the first church and die for his faith in Christ.

    When Jesus changed Peters name, I believe it was a change in position before God and specified role on earth. I believe he was a chosen apostle, privileged to walk with Jesus, to be one of the three on the Mount of Transfiguration and get a glimpse of Christ's unveiled glory, A witness of the death of Christ and also the resurrected Christ, honored and chosen, not by his own merits, to be a writer of scripture, and a founder of the church.

    "Simon, I'm going to change your name to ROCK, but you're not going to be the rock or anything, I just think 'Peter' has a nice ring to it."

    This cracked me up. I can appreciate the sarcasm. Some names do have a great ring to them for example “spanky” that’s got a definite standout quality. (not exactly what we’re talking about here)

    I believe there is much more to a name change than the ring, especially if God-in-human-flesh assigns it. I just do not see from this passage that “Rock” has to mean the head of the entire church. Rock means solid, firm ground, foundation, a starting place, unmovable, stability. I do not think that there is any connotation in the passage at all to say that Peter’s descendants will be able to speak infallible words to the church.

    Rather, “Rock” is something of a reflection of one of God’s attributes. Like: Abiel:God is my father, Daniel: God is Judge, Abiram: My Father is exalted, Elizabeth: Loved of God. I know that Peter does not mean “God is my Rock”, but God is referred to as a rock many times in scripture.

    Peter certainly was foundational in starting the earliest church. The rock being the foundation makes more sense than a man who will speak infallible words and so will his sons (or relatives) I guess Popes don't have sons.

    There is no mention of his descendants or his future words at all, only that what he just said, was true and was delivered to him by God the Father. His immediate future words were delivered to him by Satan.

    Where in the rest of scripture is any other apostle or disciple told to subject themselves to Peter’s or anyone else’s infallible words, excepting that which is scripture itself?

    The Key of knowledge:
    Yes, the key is referenced as that which opens knowledge (Luke 11:52). There is also a key that opens heaven (Matt. 16:19), a key that opens the bottomless pit (Revelation 9:1), a key that opens death and Hades (Rev. 1:18), a key of the house of David (Rev. 3:7). Keys open things. In this case the key opens heaven and is given by Jesus and we know the only key that opens heaven is Christ; even so, only for those who have faith in Him. (You wouldn't say there is another key to open heaven, would you?)

    Peter has in his possession the keys to heaven, which is the truth that the Father revealed to him when he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

    I concur, there was a handing off authority to Joseph by Pharaoh and to Haman by the King of Persia. And the Gospel is an amazing thing for Jesus to hand off to Peter for him to guard and take to the world, but I do not see how that is infallible future words by his sons to many generations after him.

    That is all I can address for now, I know that I didn’t do it justice. My brain hurts, but I am happy. I look forward to more mental and spiritual stimulation.

    Until then, I love this verse found in Psalm 103. "The Lord has established His throne in the heavens and His sovereignty rules over all"


  4. We have to understand that ex cathedra is the "extraordinary" form (the Magisterium being the "ordinary") of infallibility and it has happened only twice in Church history:

    1854 - Pope Pius IX
    1950 - Pope Pius XII

    So it's not like every Pope is speaking "from the Chair" each weekend.


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