Phil and others--
Jacques has again described where I'm at in some significant ways. I've really tried to lay to rest my defenses and "accomodate a competing narrative"--be open, really open, to hearing the other side of the story, as much as possible letting go of presuppositions and prejudices. I have been trying to hear from all sides--Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and yes, in a way Messianic Judaism--before coming to a conclusion, if a conclusion is possible. It's not easy to get into that state of openness or stepping into another side's shoes, and that state can be easily disturbed for me.
You have written:
“.. - it is a matter of perspective. The Orthodox argue that the bishop of Rome was given an honorary position of 'first among equals' which Rome, over time, sought to make first above all.”
“one could argue that the 4 Sees of Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem and Constantinople have been in communion since their establishment as Chief Sees of the Christian Church - Jerusalem being the oldest, even predating Rome, and that they have always been the Christian church in those areas.”
“Don’t you think it is telling that 4 out of the 5 Chief patriarchates fell on the Eastern Side of the argument and only 1 on the Western?”
Certainly, Jesus could have said to all the apostles: “My brothers, I have given you the keys of the Kingdom. Whatever you bind…etc.” But scripture indicates He didn’t.
Scripture tell us that Christ changed only Simon’s name to Peter (rock). He didn’t change all their names, nor all their names to rock (and upon this rock…).
He opted not for authority by committee, nor democracy, nor majority.
(There is a wisdom in that that even secular management realizes is significant).
So when in later church history some moved to maintain that the authority of the keys was merely ‘honorary’ as you have written. There was a contrary opinion based upon scripture. Still is today.
And 4 vs 1-- not necessarily a trump just due to majority. Majority of opinions does not in itself trump scriptural understanding of Christ’s intent.
Now, certainly some could say (even may have) that the decision to maintain Petrine authority as the Lord’s will, was based upon a need to control or a lust for political power and had nothing to do with the Lord’s will as presented to us in scripture. Some might say as you have, that “Rome, over time, sought to make first above all” (Petrine authority) -- implying that there was no validity – that it was Rome over time and not Christ from the start.
But is not that a judging of motivations? And do we not so often hear admonitions against judging – meaning really, passing judgment on motivations and not on facts?
In Acts we read that Paul, perhaps the sharper tack (an intellectual), confronted Peter with arguments concerning the Lord’s will on matters the church began to deal with. Paul did not run off and start his own church, did not consider Peter an ‘honorary’. Paul did not undue unity. And Peter, for his part, accepted the truths of Paul’s reasoning and the presence of the Lord’s will within it and did not dismiss Paul for the sake of his own sense of authority or need for power. So authority can and did work properly in the instances recorded in Acts at least.
Anyway, you have put your finger on a reality that exists. RCs, and there are many of us, with a smattering of intellectuals among them, believe that Petrine authority is supported by scripture. We don’t see any imperialism or motivations along power and control lines as the basis for church authority. We see Christ’s will in a central authority.
Certainly, one could insinuate or judge and many have, that a power play lurks behind it all. RCs might think it the accusers play. Certainly there are myriads of denominations that disagree with the RC church and if a majority of opinions is the basis of truth – that one can’t be right when so many others have differing thoughts -- then ….
And so the ‘emerging’ church continues to emerge and the rock remains a stumbling block.
Wisdom is docile the letter of James states.
Mary said “Be it done unto me according to they word”.
RCs believe the word is Petrine. It’s just a different form of orthodox, perhaps. LOL.
Good post, Pop, and thanks for the spirited discussion, Jacques and Ariel.
I haven't been advocating any "true church" position, for, as I stated above, that topic does not interest me. Opinions based on misinformation or inaccurate historical perspective does, however, and I don't really think it's up for grabs that what came to be called the Orthodox Church post-dates Catholic Christianity and its episcopal leadership in union with the Bishop of Rome. It's no accident that the early Church included Mt. 16:13-19 and John 21:15-18 in its scriptures. Note that these are two very different Christian communities, but these stories both recognize a priority of Petrine leadership and, by implication, that of the bishops of Rome who succeeded him. We have a complete listing of these "popes" (as they came to be called). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_popes and many other places (note, too, here, that the earliest Patriarchs came centuries later). Granted that the power and prestige of the papacy increased after the conversion of Constantine and the establishment of Christianity as the official Roman religion. But before that, the bishop of Rome held a place of prominence among the bishops, as is indicated by numerous early Christian writings, including those we recognize now as "Fathers of the Church." I own a copy of The Faith of the Early Fathers and can provide you and others with numerous quotes that indicate recognition of the bishop of Rome as leader of the Church. Amazon gives you a "sneak-peak" of that book, so see p. 421 of the Index for an example of the numerous quotes about the primacy of Peter and the bishop of Rome. If the Patriarchs later rejected this (and I've no desire to discuss the whys and what-fors), their position is surely not based on historical precedent.
None of what I have just written is a matter of some kind of selective history being written by "winners." There is no "competing narrative," as though Orthodox Christianity came first and popes later. Narratives based on historical misinformation or misunderstandings only serve to obfuscate the truth, and I'm afraid there's quite a bit of that out there these days. Yes, sure, the Orthodox can trace their history to the Apostles, as can all Christians: that's where it began. But there is significant discontinuity between that early tradition and what later emerged among the Orthodox, Anglicans, Protestants, etc., moreso in the latter than the former. If one wishes to believe that the Orthodox or Protestants got it right and the Catholic tradition is wrong, that's one thing. But to suggest that the Orthodox hold priority because they came first is another matter, as there is overwhelming historical data to suggest that this venerable stream in Christianity arose and strengthened long after the primacy of the bishop of Rome had become established.
Thanks for the update on your journey, Jacques, and for the link to your blog. I will check it out soon. "Existential Christianity" . . . Hmmm . . .
What a great experience for you and your family to be having in S. Korea. That will surely leave you all with a broadened perspective on things.
Originally Christianity was considered a Jewish sect and you had to be Jewish to be a Christian. Paul came along and said that Jesus was a gift to everybody and that you did not have to be Jewish to be a Christian. Paul was actually the first Protestant.
Sorry Tuck, but the first Gentile converts recorded in Acts came in response to preaching by Peter (see Acts 10). Then in Acts 11, Peter defended the practice of preaching to and baptizing Gentiles. Paul's role was to advocate for Gentile converts being spared the duties of Jewish Law, especially circumcision by the males. This dispute was resolved at the Council of Jerusalem (see Acts 15). Paul did make preaching to the Gentiles a priority, however, which is why he's known as the Apostle to the Gentiles.
And there you have it...I'd actually almost forgotten about those interpretations of Matthew and John. As you know Protestants and Orthodox Christians have a different understanding of what those passages refer to. When I was considering Catholicism I agreed that those passages certainly make a compelling case for Petrine leadership as well as succession. But in the end I was not convinced. But let me be clear that I'm not saying it isn't true...just that my flesh and blood has not revealed any more to me and that I am honestly open to God's Spirit revealing it to me in time.
Who knows...maybe after another 10 years of study I will be Roman Catholic...but maybe not. I do know I need to follow the light I have been given and do so with as much conviction, faith and humility as I can. At this time it places me in the existentialist camp - but who knows where the Spirit desires me to end up and I trust that God knows what He is doing with me.
Thanks for the conversation all...I enjoyed it
Phil and all--
Several months ago I can across a great prayer for Christian unity from a RC man. It started out praying for unity "in Your time, and in Your way...I give Your Holy Spirit absolute permission to move."
I took that prayer to heart, and in something of a commitment-making, vow-like way, have been praying it..."I give Your Holy Spirit absolute permission to move" in me in this regard---to move past my defenses, my tendency to argue rather than listen, my ability to construct plausible narratives that tell me what I'm already comfortable with hearing, my ability to ferret-out information that supports my arguments. I give Him permission, absolute permission that I will not take back, because I trust that the truth from Him is always the best thing if not the most comfortable thing.
That permission includes a willingness to "accomodate a competing narrative". What I meant by that is sort of laying down my presuppositions--in my case, the presuppostion that the Reformation was necessary, though unfortunate--and allowing an open space in the front of my body to exist, more or less over my heart, the place that shuts down or puts up shutters when I argue defensively without listening...when I argue because I won't let go of something that I mistakenly think I need to survive.
And then from that willingness to "live dangerously in the hands of God" instead of thinking it's my job to defend and preserve myself, I can start to really listen.
So I've been listening to what the RC believes is the story behind its existence.
Among the things I've been reading are the writings of the Early Church Fathers--ccel.org has a pretty comprehensive list available of letters starting with Polycarp and Clement of Rome, but moving on from there chronologically with many more. They have the letters in their entirety, and they're free.
Phil, that's part of what I've been reading, and listening to with an open mind. As I said in an earlier post, I can see where the RC gets its position. I can see why you believe as you do.
Having said all that, I still find myself moving further away than when I started, from believing the RCC is..what can I say here?...that I'm considerably farther from believing the RCC claims than I originally was.
Phil, Pop-pop, and others--
So,yes, I can respect your convictions about the RCC.
Please, though, consider returning the respect. If people such as I don't end up believing the same as you, please don't put it down to listening to misinformation, or having heartburn against the RCC, or being negatively biased, or whatever.
I'm saying that with respect.
I say that in compliment of Ariel's words.
Our world fights wars because people argue about who's God/Faith is the right/real God/Faith.
Color (explain) it as one will, that's the spirit of oneupmansship. Sad...when it happens...even on small scales. Harmful.
Phil and Pop-pop--
And I'm not saying you necessarily are (putting it down to...whatever). It kind of seems that way to me, but this is a tough subject to talk about. And probably I have more toes to feel might be being stepped on than open space around me when it comes to getting into disagreements with two men about such a subject.
Why is that, Jacques? And what specific claims are you referring to? My major point has been that the Catholic tradition of bishops leading the church in union with the bishop of Rome preceded the Orthodox tradition historically. Surely we can agree on that, no? That's not up for grabs; it's historical fact. I mean, you can acknowledge that and still say you find yourself drawn more to the Orthodox tradition, or Lutheranism, or whatever. I don't have a problem with that.
Ariel, Sovereign and others: I am all for Christian unity and showing respect for other traditions. In fact, the reason I got more involved in this particular discussion was because it seemed to me that the Catholic tradition was being unfairly judged and broadsided, then my objections to this were being confronted as ill-informed or biased, with misinformed conflations between historical fact and subjective opinion being expressed in the process. Now I am being somewhat confronted by you both for putting people down, not listening, and accusing them of misinformation because people don't believe the same as me. I do not accept this feedback as I am quite sure that I did no such thing; your feedback doesn't fit. I'm also not seeing evidence that you have read and considered what I have written, for I'm sure that I have paid no disrespect to any tradition and have not discounted anyone's "opinions." As I stated earlier, however, there is a difference between opinions and facts, and no good comes from conflating the two. I have tried to show how this was taking place. Do you think it's important to do this kind of work? If so, then why confront me? Why not participate in discussion the issues on the floor, instead? If not, then why participate in the discussion? What are you hoping to contribute or accomplish?
(Yes, I am annoyed, which doesn't happen often, I might add. I have tried to offer honest, depthful engagement concerning a topic of importance, as opinions based on misinformation and factual inaccuracy usually lead to bias of some kind. This takes a considerable amount of time and energy, which I do not mind doing as such discussions here are a priority. If pointing out misinformation offends sensibilities, then what does that say? And if I myself am misinformed, or am conflating fact and opinion, then let that be shown. And, no, such discussions are not for everyone, I realize, which is why we have many, many more others that one can participate in instead.)
No, dear Sovereign, I do not accept this. By Catholic "color" I refer to something I am proud of in a healthy sense, like my family. Some things in life are worth standing up for, and doing so is not "oneupmanship." Please do not judge me so harshly.
Hey Phil, your question from the quote above should have been directed at Ariel since it was her post not mine
But while I'm at it
I took a look at the table of contents from the the book you recommended and would actually be interested in reading it. I'm open to my mind being changed on the issues we are discussing.
Also, I meant no offense by questioning the reliability of the Roman Catholic historical claims. I suppose the reason I feel the Orthodox vs. Catholic issue is still up for debate is because I've probably read far more E. Orthodox literature on the subject...and perhaps this has given me a blind spot or a bias on the historical claims of the Orthodox church- I'll need to read more .
I'm certainly not trying to perpetuate bad history. But until now I've simply considered the stuff I've read to be historically credible. I mean it is one of the primary positions of the entire Orthodox church. I agree, they may be wrong and simply perpetuating this false history because it serves their purposes...but at this time I don't know that for sure. I do however respect your opinion and I am going to look into this again. As I said in the last post, I've enjoyed the dialog and it certainly wasn't my intention for it to turn ugly.
Much Love in the Lord Jesus.
When I said, "Color (explain) it as one will, that's the spirit of oneupmanship...," I was referreing to my prior comment re. our world fighting wars because of arguments about who's God is the right God.
This is true.
I was not making an accusation, just an observation in regards to this discussion. I am sorry if my words offended you, Phil. I was cheering the positive message in Ariel's words and pointing at what the negative leads to in our world.
Recently, I came accross some texts that were written by Paul VI and the Partiarch of Constantinople at the time when they took away the anathemas. The partiarch reminded the Gospel of John, and called the East "Andrew, the first called", and the West "Peter, the first in love". The problem seemed to be that Constantinople patriarch doesn't represent the whole Eastern tradition (e.g. Russia). The
Eastern Greek orthodox tradition until 11th century accepted the pope as the "first" in the Church. I think they interpret the "union of the bishops with the pope" differently than Roman Catholics. Anyway, there is no serious doctrinal difference between the traditions, the sacraments are honored by both sides, perhaps the patriarchs would be willing to honor the Pope as being "the first bishop". But 1000 years of mutual hostility isn't easily forgotten.
I'm not sure, but I think that Byzantine Empire also changed the matter, because the Emperor as "the descendent of the Apostles" took the position that in the West was taken by the Popes, and the partiarchs and bishops of the East were subjects of the Emperor. I don't think the Emperors had any right to such claims to religious authority, but it surely changed the structure of the Eastern Church and perhaps separated it more from Rome. These are just my reflections, I don't have any sound knowledge about it.
When it comes to the union with Protestants, I'm really pessimistic. The differences are in the doctrine, and they are not easily overcome. Of course, "with God anything is possible" and so on, but from the historical, human point of view I cannot see any possibility of the union between the Roman Church and the Protestants.
No problem, Kristi, though I hope you can see why I thought you were directing your remarks to me.
And Jacques, yes, for sure: the Catholics and Orthodox do share a common history, with the eventual divergence seeming (imo) to stem more from cultural than theological differences. It would seem that disagreement about the Holy Spirit shouldn't be a "deal-breaker." With Mt., I have hope for re-unification one day, and I think it more likely than ever as cultural identities become more "globalized." I don't have any hope for re-unification between Catholics and Protestants; the rift seems to grow wider every decade.
Ariel, I'm not sure what I've said to communicate disrespect or lack of listening, but I surely did not mean to. It's not easy in a text-only medium to do left-brain hashing out of issues without coming across as cold and insensitive, especially by an old, hardened debater like me. If there are any points in the discussion where you felt disregarded or misunderstood, please do bring them up and I'll try harder to hear what you're saying. It would also be helpful to me if you'd recognize some of the points I've made.
Tuck, you started this thread and have popped in and out several times. Pop engaged you about the scripture/purgatory point you made sometime back, and I also took you seriously in your point about Paul and the Gentiles. It would help if you'd acknowledge these exchanges and maybe even engage in a follow-up. Otherwise, it comes across as a kind of hit-and-run trolling.
OK, I'm busy with a workshop all day. Y'all be good now.
Thanks for what you just posted.
I meant to be saying last night, with the above post, that I realize I might be feeling squished and stepped on much due to my own issues with seeing that a good "be quiet and listen" authoritativeness can morph into a "just shut up" authoritarianism.
I would like talk about this more. I need to write things out beforehand on this stuff so I can be clearer.
I thought I did acknowledge what you said, Phil, about the early church structure. I'll try to be clearer on that...where I see that too, and where I might differ and why.
And to clarify again, Phil I'm not saying you were trying to be authoritarian rather than trying to be authoritative. I just meant it felt a bit that way to me, and I recognized in last night's post that can be due to my own issues.
I believe that God is asking me to pray for Unity in the church also. The prayer I pray is based on John 17:20-26. The division we see in the church is ego based. The Spirit of God has the power to change that supernaturally. Only God can do this. I challenge everyone to pray for Unity this week.
Praying To Saints
by Martha of Ireland found at InternetMonk.com
I will start a new thread.
All I did was ask Pop-pop for a Bible scripture and Pop-pop gave me a bible scripture. I can't find that scripture in my Bible but Pop-pop knows more about that stuff than I do and if Pop-pop says it is there then it is there. I didn't want to argue about it.
About Paul, not having to come under Jewish law means that one does not have to be Jewish. There was a conflict about that back then. You guys were discussing religious history. Because of Paul, Christians do not have to be Jewish and come under Jewish law.
Phil I am not here to belittle the Catholic Church, if anything I am upset at the Protestants. I think and feel that a lot of them are chasing people away from Jesus. I am not happy about that.
Thanks for popping in, Tuck. It really does help when someone's response to a post is acknowledged.
The passage pop shared is in the "Catholic Bible," so that might be the problem. The Catholic version has several Old Testament books that are not included in the Protestant bible. The New Testaments are identical, however.
You stated: About Paul, not having to come under Jewish law means that one does not have to be Jewish. There was a conflict about that back then. You guys were discussing religious history. Because of Paul, Christians do not have to be Jewish and come under Jewish law.
I don't think you saw my response yesterday, which is posted as follows:
So it was the Council of Jerusalem, not Paul, that finally removed the question of Christians practicing Jewish Law. Had the Council ruled against what Paul was suggesting, who knows how things would have gone. At any rate, it doesn't follow that Paul was the first Protestant, which was also part of your post. This all happened very early in Christian history before there was much of a tradition to be in protest against.
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