Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Recovering Catholics: Papal Problems

Second in the series, Recovering Catholics.

The Church Set Up:

Biblical Support?
The dogmas and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church teach that the institution of the papacy was first mandated by Biblical passages:
Matt.16:18-19: "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

Isaiah 22:20-22: "On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open." (shows a parallel to Matthew 16:18-20)

John 21:15-17: "..Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." He then said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." (Jesus) said to him, "Feed my sheep."

Luke 12:41: "Then Peter said, "Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?" And the Lord replied, "Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute (the) food allowance at the proper time?" (Feeding theme appears again here)

Luke 22:31-32: "Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers."

However, none of these explicitly point to Rome. The Coptic Gospel of Thomas (a non-Biblical source) points to Jerusalem: The disciples said to Jesus, "We know that you are going to leave us. Who will be our leader?" Jesus said to them, "No matter where you are you are to go to James the Just, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being."

Lots of arguments over this, and continuing since The Great Schism.

Great Schism
The Roman capital became recognized as a Christian center of exceptional importance; but there are only a few references of that time to recognition of the authoritative primacy of the Pope outside of Rome. The “Bishop of Rome” was considered first among equals in the early church capitals. There were five important centers in the early church: Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, and Constantinople. The bishops in these cities were known as Patriarchs, and their specific ecclesiastical territory, as a patriarchate.

The title of Pope was from the early third century an honorific designation used for any bishop in the West. In the East it was used only for the Bishop of Alexandria. From the 6th century, the imperial chancery of Constantinople normally reserved it for the Bishop of Rome.

Eventually, the attempt of one patriarch (the Bishop of Rome) to assume the position of Head (or Pope) of the Universal Church, gave rise to the great division or schism of the Church. The Western Church recognized the sole leadership of the Pope in Rome; the Eastern Churches continued to recognize the historic leadership of their particular patriarchs in the East. This became known as the Great Schism. Relations between East and West had long been embittered by political and ecclesiastical differences and theological disputes. Pope Leo IX and Michael Cerularius, Patriarch of Constantinople, heightened the conflict by suppressing Greek and Latin in their respective domains.

This lead to a disagreement on which was the original church. Here's a good way of thinking about it:

Which one is right?


Mystical Seeker said...

For what it's worth, I would suggest that neither of them is right, and that those two diagrams illustrate what the problem really is. In my view, the "original" church was from the beginning diverse, so instead of a single line that branches, a better diagram would start with multiple lines that branched off of a single point (which would be Jesus). From those original branches, there were merges, more splits, and most importantly lots of pruning as more authoritarian and centralized structures emerged.

Legitimacy for a lot of churches hangs on being the one true legitimate heir of an "original" tradition, so that's where this whole debate comes from. But I think all this business about which branch is the true heir is barking up the wrong tree (pun intended).

Regarding Peter and Rome, Uta Ranke-Heinemann, a free thinking Catholic scholar and theologian, has made a compelling argument that there is simply no evidence that Peter ever even made it to Rome, let alone was martyred there. Furthermore, we know that Peter was seriously criticized by Paul and labeled a hypocrite in Galatians, which suggests that Peter's authority was hardly universally recognized by all other early apostles. And the Catholic church has always had to come up with fanciful justifications to explain how James was the head of the Jerusalem church that was formed after Jesus died--a church of which Peter was also a part.

Interesting quote from John, by the way, but it is also interesting that for the most part it is not Peter, but some unnamed "beloved disciple" who is often described as Jesus's closes confidant. Again, though, I think that we have to ask what the real connection is between Peter and Rome, and in my view it isn't clear that there is any whatsoever.

Ultimately, I think that all these debates about what organization is the legitimate heir boil down to questions of power and institutional authority, and this seems to me to be counter to Jesus's subversive opposition to the institutionalized religious authority of his own time. Like the Who said, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

Luke said...

Mystical, you just kicked some ass and took some names! You're exactly right and that's where I stand on this issue... there IS NO ORTHODOXY! But a variety. Just because something survived doesn't make it the right one... who knows, the Marconians or Gnostics could have been right?! check out the post: http://toothface.blogspot.com/2008/02/new-testament-class.html

and i love this statement "I think that all these debates about what organization is the legitimate heir boil down to questions of power and institutional authority, and this seems to me to be counter to Jesus's subversive opposition to the institutionalized religious authority of his own time."

it's right on the freak'n money dude!

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm...when you say Orthodoxy I'm not sure if you mean

1. Orthodoxy as in what is original, true, and the right path
2. Orthodoxy as in churches in the Eastern Orthodox traditions

My opinion is that, if my first definition of Orthodoxy is correct, the first diagram would be correct in an oversimplified kind of way, although the solid, bold arrow that represents Orthodoxy continues to the end, suggesting that such a faith tradition still exists; ie a "true Christianity" as Jesus would have intended it (had he actually intended such a thing)

The second diagram apparently assumes that Roman Catholicism is, in fact, the original and sustaining church from which other Christian faith traditions deviate.

Which leads me to another question: Does catholicism mean Roman Catholicism or the way it is used by protestants within the Nicene Creed... "catholic and apostolic church" - suggesting unity.

My head is spinning. I can't wait to come to LTS!

Luke said...

haha! yeah, it'd be Orthodox as in Greek, Eastern Orthodox traditions vs. the Roman Catholic tradition... both claim to be the FIRST and TRUE orthodoxy (note the small 'o'). So which one is right? if they both claim it, one has to be wrong.... who is the original and sustaining church?

just read Mystical's post here at the top for the best and quickest breakdown possible! RAWK!

Cody said...

"who knows, the Marconians or Gnostics could have been right?!"

So God's not been guiding the Church toward the truth?

You're walking on theological thin ice.

Luke said...

"So God's not been guiding the Church toward the truth?

You're walking on theological thin ice." Cody

is there such a thing as theological thick ice? who is the original and sustaining church?

Jesus said "Anyone who believes in me" (John 11:26) Jesus did not then proceed and lay forth all the doctrine that one must obey.

Sam said...

One should really read Calvin's Institutes, Book IV, chapters 4-7 (and then continuing on through chapter 11, really) to truly understand what happened in the primitive church, and how Rome consolidated power. To understand how this consolidation continued through the 1940's, one should read a book called Hitler's Pope by John Cornwell. This well-documented and objective book describes how Pius XII took a page out of the Nazis' book, and used it to further centralize the power of the Roman Church.

Cody said...

"is there such a thing as theological thick ice?"

No, we are always in danger of falling into heresy.

"who is the original and sustaining church?"

I would say that neither of your graphs is correct insofar as they portray two traditions as deviant from the original Church. The Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Protestants are all products of the early church, even if we tend to listen to different voices in that conversation. We proddies like to listen to Paul through Augustine. The Orthodox like Chrysostom and Athanasius. The Romanists have Aquinas and others. Ideally, ecumenically, the traditions can and should live together in a spirit of mutual enrichment and correction. The time for hitting each other over the head with claims of being the 'true church' with 'pure doctrine' is over -- as are demands that others drop their own traditions and conform to ours. Protestants do this to Catholics and vice versa.

I understand orthodoxy to be a heterogeneous thing, and thank goodness for that. But even if we can't say that orthodoxy is x, y, or z, I do think we can say that orthodoxy is NOT a, b, or c. There are some things that are entirely outside the pale of what's acceptable Christian teaching and theology. Denial of the divinity of Jesus Christ would fall in that category, as well as non-Trinitarianism. The two heresies you mentioned were excluded for very good reasons.

In a way, I think the Church already distinguishes heresy from acceptable diversity in the same way pornography is treated: 'I'll know it when I see it'. Witness the way Mormonism and the teachings of the Jehovah's witnesses are almost universally regarded and excluded as heresy. Those of the Baptists: not so much.

If we're making book suggestions, I'd really recommend Heresies and How to Avoid Them: Why It Matters What Christians Believe, edited by Ben Quash and Michael Ward. At least the introduction and the conclusion. Also The Principle of Protestantism by Philip Schaff is interesting if you're looking for a historical perspective.

Luke said...

"the traditions can and should live together in a spirit of mutual enrichment and correction."

you betcha! i completely agree with your comment! what i'm attempting to say when i bring the marcions and gnostics is that the historically earliest argument is flawed. If "First" makes one ORTHODOX the those two groups are ORTHODOX! that theory holds no water as there has always been a diversity in the body of Christ, which you point out wonderfully by saying "I understand orthodoxy to be a heterogeneous thing, and thank goodness for that." and also point out the problems with those two belief systems and why they aren't followed any more.

i completely agree! Right now i'm reading William Herzog's Prophet and Teacher, intro to the Historical Jesus and John Dominic Crossan's The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant but will definately check those books out!

thanks for reading and how's NY?

Luke said...

hey Sam! thanks for the reading suggestions.. i'm looking forward to reading some of Calvin's work as he and Hobbes were my fav. comic strip growing up ;-)

the next post i'll need a review as i (well actually a book called Charts of Church History by Robert C. Walton) and would like to see if the comparasion between the Reformed Theology and the Roman Catholic Theology holds water, check back next Tuesday!

it's amazing, doing this class, to see how the Roman church has become a mirror of the Roman Empire and how it grabbed power and consolodated it into one man... but instead of Ceasar, it was the Pope.