Thursday, June 28, 2007

Church That Calls Itself Catholic

This church that calls itself Catholic, what's it all about? It's a topic that has intrigued me for some time now. As many of you know, unity through Catholic and Protestant dialogue interests my husband as well. If you've ever been to Seth's blog, and the majority of you have, you know that Catholic ideas are discussed frequently there. My interest in the Catholic church goes back to pre-Seth days. Since most of you have only known me since I've been married to Seth, it might seem that I merely adopt the Catholic interests of my husband and call them grand. On the contrary, I enjoy thinking for myself, which leads me to my post today.

I should stop here and share with you my spiritual upbringing in regards to church and such. I was raised Church of Christ. My mother was raised Church of Christ, and if you've ever been raised Church of Christ, you know that it's considered a grievous sin to leave the Church of Christ. Strangely enough, we did. The elders of our congregation felt that our preacher taught too much on grace, and so he was asked to resign. He did, and a number of families left with him, one of those being ours, to start a new church: a non-denominational church. Our preacher could preach on grace as much as he desired, and we could have as many instruments as we wanted, and we all loved each other very much. But my mom's parents weren't so happy about it, and to this day, as gentle and loving as they are, they refuse to speak of God or church or Jesus with my family.

Our non-denom church was a happenin' place to be, until our preacher announced he no longer believed in hell and that the whole world would be saved. So most families left, my family being one of them. By this time I was in high school and had some best friends that went to the Baptist church. The big one that had everything to do, that took cool trips, and had the cool kids. So I told my parents I wanted to go there, to the Baptist church, with my friends, and my parents said OK.

At this Baptist church, I attended a Bible study on Tuesday nights led by a man I highly respect, that taught me the Catholic church was a cult. I didn't really believe it, but I also didn't challenge it. I was told the Catholic church worshipped Mary, and so that's why I should consider it a cult. I was led on mission trips to Mexico to witness to Catholics, because they couldn't be saved. "Why? I thought they believed that Jesus was the Son of God." Because, well, they're Catholic, they don't really know what they believe. That's what I was told. So I handed out my tracts, and I felt really spiritual.

And then I went to college and tried to interpret the Scripture on my own with some other friends. I studied and studied, hours and hours at a time, by myself and with my friends. We came up with some ideas we thought were really smart. We thought we could start our own church because we knew how to use a Strong's concordance. But we only invited certain people to our meetings. People that wouldn't question our studies. People that we felt were saved enough, that were called out enough. But we were wrong. And when I realized we were wrong, I didn't pick up my Bible for a very long time.

Along the way I read wonderful writers like Chesterton, St. Francis of Assisi, and Brennan Manning: Catholic writers, introduced to me by my brother (who, like me, isn't Catholic). My brother and I would share ideas and we'd read things to each other that were beautiful. These writers' love for Christ was strong and deep and full of adoration. Surely they were Christians....

And then I met Seth. And he knew these writers, too. We liked to talk about them, and did quite often, before we were dating. He had this other girlfriend at the time. (A story for another day.) He had Catholic friends and even tried to set me up with one. (Another story for another day.) I remember a lunch Seth and I shared together. We were discussing Chesterton's Orthodoxy, and were debating what Jesus meant when he prayed in John 17. The prayer goes like this: (v. 20-23)

"My prayer is not for them (Apostles) alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

So it's only natural I wonder about this church that was supposedly a cult, but seemed to love Jesus so very much. I wonder where many of their beliefs come from. Tradition, Mary, the Pope, the Eucharist, Purgatory. I wonder at the church history. That they claim an apostolic line succeeding from those like St. Peter who walked with our Lord. I've wondered for a long time now, but have known that learning all of this would take a great deal of effort, and I guess I wasn't ready to exert that effort.

I would like to learn more of what my Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ believe. I think I'll blog about it. It makes it easier for me to learn. So...if you want to learn along with me, or discuss, or question, or tell me what you know, please do. My intent is to start another blog and when I post, I'll direct anyone who's interested to link over. I'm looking forward to it, and I'd love your input. Thanks for enduring this long post.


Kat said...

Sounds interesting FancyPants. I grew up in a predominantly Catholic area and I still know relatively little about what Catholics do and don't believe. Like you, I was taught that Catholicism was a cult. I'd like to learn the truth.

KLK said...

One of my friends from high school is Catholic and she blogs. She has a whole list of other Catholic bloggers. Her's is, you might pick-up some random knowledge there.

SandinaJ said...

I, too, would like to learn more about the Catholics. James and I have a roomate now that moved here from Georgia and he was born and raised Catholic. He is going to start coming to our (non-denom) church with us. I'm not sure he even knows much about his religion either. He was not an avid church goer, so when I ask him questions, he doesn't really know the answers. He went to church with us for the first time this past Sunday. The first time we prayed, he did that forehead, chest, shoulder, shoulder thing. He just did it that once and then quit each time we prayed after that. Anyway, he likes our church and is going to continue coming.

FancyPants said...

Kat, where did you grow up?

klk, thanks for the link!

San, a new your new house! Yessss. That's cool that your roommate is going to church with you. When he did that forehead-chest-shoulder-shoulder thing, I wonder if he felt the way I felt at a mass one time when I didn't know that I was supposed to stay silent on this one line of the Lord's prayer. I blurted it out...pretty darn loud. At which point, I'm pretty sure everyone around me knew I wasn't Catholic.

Chaotic Hammer said...

I totally and completely relate with everything about this post, Fancy.

I grew up being taught that the Catholics were somehow weird or bad. I had teaching from otherwise very knowledgeable Bible scholars who called it a cult or said Catholics are not Christians. I still remember hearing all the stuff about the secret conspiracies and stuff between the Vatican, the Jesuits, the Knights Templar, and on and on.

I especially remember the Chick Tracts, which had all kinds of juicy and horrible things to say.

But one of the women who led the youth group at a Charismatic church I was attending many years ago was raised Catholic, and still had good friends and acquaintances who were in the Church (though she herself no longer was). She opened my eyes about some fundamental misconceptions that I had about Catholics, and from that time on I've been wary of anti-Catholic stuff, and have been very open to the idea of unity and open dialogue.

I'm very interested to hear the answers to common questions about certain doctrines, and genuinely eager to acknowledge and embrace our Catholic brothers and sisters. I am aware of some of their teachings that I disagree with, but I also suspect that some things that I've been told they believe are just not true.

Most of my exposure to Catholics has been like Sandina's -- people who are Catholic in name only, but do not actively practice their faith and do not know much about it.

I'm looking forward to this and hoping it will be fruitful!

Bill Hensley said...

Great topic for discussion, FancyPants!

I got interested in learning more about Catholicism a few years ago after meeting several devout Catholics on a Christian message board. I can recommend a couple of books that were very helpful to me. The first one is Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences, by Norman Geisler. It is a very fair and detailed comparison of Protestant and Catholic doctrine.

If you are going to read up on Catholics, you really must get a book on church history, too. You can't understand Catholicism without understanding how the church evolved over the past two millennia. One book I enjoyed is Church History In Plain Language by Bruce Shelley. I don't think I really appreciated how long the church has been around until I read this 544 page book on church history, and found that even Jesus Christ got only a couple of pages! It's long, but it wasn't hard to read.

I don't agree with the people who say the Catholic Church is a cult, although I understand why they say that. One characteristic of a cult is that the members surrender all authority for interpretation of the Bible to the cult leader. Of course, Catholics have their doctrine of the infallibility of the pope. But there are a number of limitations on this doctrine. The pope is definitely not a Jim Jones type of leader.

After a lot of thought, my bottom line opinion on Catholicism is that if you believe everything the Catholic Church teaches, you will be saved...but you will also have bought into a number of major doctrinal errors. On the other hand, Catholics tend to be much more ignorant of what their church teaches than the average Protestant. For instance, they often don't understand the difference between worshipping the saints, which is not Catholic doctrine, and venerating the saints, which is. Especially in third world countries, there's been a lot of syncretism which contaminates Catholicism with pagan festivals and practices. Because of that, in many places their treatment of the saints and their statues is effectively idolatry and, yes, this is fertile ground for missions.

One more thought: both the books I recommended were written by Protestants and, although they are fair, they contain some things that Catholics would not agree with. You have to be especially careful with early church history. Catholic tradition on the history of the papacy doesn't align with what a secular or Protestant historian would say really happened. Catholics tend to project backward and assume that the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome was recognized and adhered to all the way back to the first century. Non-Catholic historians see a slow progression toward the modern papacy that wasn't complete until the sixth century or so.

Sorry to be so long-winded. I wasn't kidding when I said I was interested in this topic, I guess.

operamom said...

interesting blog. and for the are a very great mind.

FancyPants said...

It seems that many of us have similar backgrounds. I think this will be a good thing.

C-Ham: I'm finding that some of the things I've been told aren't true, and I'm finding that in some cases, those things I've been told are true enough, but not so threatening as one might suspect after just a quick glance with no prior knowledge.

OpMom: Thank you for the compliment. I hope your very great mind will learn along side with me.

Bill, thank you for the book recommendations. Excellent! 544 pages, huh?

Catholic tradition on the history of the papacy doesn't align with what a secular or Protestant historian would say really happened.

Definitely want to look into this.

So, if anybody else has books, articles, sources they think would be relevant, give 'em up. C'mon.

Amy said...

I also was surrounded by people who did not believe Catholics were really Christians growing up, though I never heard them called a cult before. Actually, it was more like, "well some Catholics are Christians and some aren't, but most aren't."

I no longer really think that. So I'm interested in learning from your blog.

Susanne said...

I think it's very sad that so many churches evidently teach people that Catholicism is a cult. I grew up in a Baptist church in the Deep South, and I never heard such a thing. Of course I guess that could be because our city didn't have a large percentage of Catholics. I agree with Bill that the Catholic church has some doctrinal errors. For example, I just can't read the Bible and come to the conclusion that it's okay to put church tradition on the same level as the God-inspired Bible. I have a problem going through a priest instead of going straight to God with my prayers (see book of Hebrews). But a cult? I don't think so. You can believe that Mary remained a virgin her whole life (even though the Bible never says so) and confess sins to a priest and still be a Christian. I know plenty of Catholics who are Christians, and some are even evangelicals. The main reasons I'm a Protestant are because of what I wrote above concerning church tradition, and the fact that I don't want to have to follow something dictated by a pope; the only authority I want to be under is God Himself. But, like you, I do want to learn more about the beliefs of our Catholic brothers and sisters. There are many things that I do like about the Catholic church (reference, music, pro-life, etc.). I'll look forward to reading the discussions on your blog!!

truevyne said...

My husband is Catholic. Err, well, depending on who is asking. If he's asked by another Catholic attending Catholic church, he adds, "I'm a non-practicing Catholic"- we attend a evangelical free church just now. I was advised by my Church o' Christ (instrumental) pastor's wife not to date much less marry a Catholic as they were certainly not Christian. Buck agreed to be dunked and join my church in order to marry me, but his family priest, the bald Father Harry, also presided over our wedding. It's been an interesting journey for us learning from one another. I am interested in this conversation you are beginning as I have been called to be a "bridge" between all Christian denominations.

kddub said...

I went to a catholic church for awhile, but I did not learn much. It could've been that I was in Spain, and that everything was in Latin and spanish.

I look forward to learning from you.

FancyPants said...

Truevyne, so you grew up CoC, too, huh? What was your favorite hymn? Well, tell your non-practicing Catholic husband that he is welcome to add his two cents to this whole thing, too. I'd be glad to hear his perspective, and of course yours as well.

KD, right....the Latin and Spanish might make a pretty boring mass....

(I think that before Vatican II, all masses had to be in Latin. Is that right? I don't know but that sounds right. Anyway, I'm glad they changed the rules on that.)

truevyne said...

Remember my CoC was instrumental, but my favorite hymn was "Wonderful the Matchless Grace of Jesus". Do you know that one? It was surprisingly peppy in spite of they lyrics.

FancyPants said...

Did it go something like this?"

Wonderful the matchless grace (the matchless grace of Jesus) of Jeeee-sus

Something something some...the rolling sea (the rolling sea)

I could totally be making that up, but it's what came into my mind.

That's crazy that your CoC was instrumental. I've heard they're doing that now, but when I was growing up, never. My favorite group of all time when I was little was Acapella. That's the only one that ever came to my church. I had a poster of them and everything. I saw them, like, 5 times because we moved alot, and at every new CoC church, they came for concert again.

MamasBoy said...


Wow, you have a lot of ecumenically minded/open minded people who read your blog. Perhaps I should have grown up in the deep south like Susanne, since the friends I had at Calvary Chapel/AG/Vineyard churches I attended in the Pacific Northwest had very strong ant-Catholic roots and ideas. By anti-Catholic, I don't just mean they disagreed strongly, but they strongly condemned Catholics as nonChristian for things they don't believe and regularly misrepresented Catholic ideas in these condemnations, indicating ignorant prejudice. Some misunderstandings are normal among groups that don't interact much, but the prevalence of this int he Protestant groups I grew up in was breathtaking. I never thought the deep south would be better in that regard. :-)

Regarding the latin mass, yes all latin-rite masses used to be in latin. Thus, no matter what country you were in you one could follow and understand the mass at a latin-rite church. Other eastern rites used the Greek and Aramaic (and many still do).


I find your experience intriguing. I didn't think the Catholic Church blessed marriages unless the couple agreed to raise the kids Catholic.


I appreciate the overall charitable tone of your comment. I just wanted to make one clarification.

B: "Catholics tend to project backward and assume that the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome was recognized and adhered to all the way back to the first century. Non-Catholic historians see a slow progression toward the modern papacy that wasn't complete until the sixth century or so."

MB: Actually, what Catholics believe would be a combination of the two ideas articulated above. Catholics believe that the bishop of Rome did exercise a special authority even going back to the first century, however this was not expressed or articulated the same way it is today.

Doctrine develops and it is important to separate legitimate developments from false developments. One can see examples of the development of doctrine in the church's ideas on the Trinity and canon and in the OT in the expression of belief in the resurrection. While Moses and his contemporaries didn't express belief in the resurrection with the same clarity that later Jews would, the idea was clearly held in seed form by those in the early Jewish community. It was to this seed form of belief that Jesus appealed when discussing the resurrection with members of the Jewish community who did not hold the Prophets and later works to be canonical. When one looks at the evidence Jesus used to support the resurrection, however, one finds that it is just as strong/convincing to an open minded person as Biblical evidence for Mary's immaculate conception. There is also stronger Biblical evidence for the papacy than what Jesus presented for the resurrection.


Edmund C. said...


May God richly bless you in your quest to learn more about Catholicism. I'd suggest, if you really want to know what Catholics believe, that the best source is the "Catechism." It's online here or you can find a copy at your local bookstore. I'm quite busy, but drop me a line at my blog, or ask my friend MamasBoy (who sent me this way), if you want to dig deeper and need some direction.

I grew up Presbyterian, then went through non-denominational and Baptist churches on my way to the Catholic Church. It's a whole different world, but my faith in Jesus Christ is deeper and stronger now than it's ever been.

FancyPants said...


Hello! Thank you for your kind comment and for meandering over this way. I hope you will have time for more dialogue as the weeks progress and we learn more of the Catholic church.

I am encouraged because the Catechism you link is actually the Catechism I have been reading online. In dialogue over at my husband's blog, Mamasboy hooked me up with some excellent sources. Please feel free to do the same.

I am also glad to hear of your strengthened faith in Jesus Christ. As I have made my way through various Christian denominations myself, God has likewise used the path to strengthen my faith in Christ. My husband and I currently attend a moderate Baptist church for which I am thankful. God has been good to bring us to such a loving congregation and pastor that models and extends the love of Christ to us continually.


Thank you to you as well for joining us. I would like to address your comment, but will wait to hear from Bill, if he wishes to respond.

Bill Hensley said...


Thanks for correcting me on the Catholic view of the development of the papacy. The comparison to the doctrine of the resurrection was very interesting. However, the canon is now complete, and it seems to me that scriptural support for the papacy is still weak.'s probably best not to get into a big debate about that. I suspect what fancypants wants to do is simply help us understand what Catholics really believe and dispell many of the misconceptions among Protestants. I think that's a great idea and I'm glad you're here to help.

One thing that's really misunderstood is the doctrine of papal infallibility. What I understand is that this applies only to "ex cathedra" statements: those times when the pope is speaking intentionally and formally to resolve specific doctrinal questions. It doesn't at all mean that the pope is never wrong about anything, much less that he isn't a sinner like the rest of us. How would you explain it?

FancyPants said...

Actually, I'm all for a good debate... as long as we're repectful of each other, and I'm confident we will be. I think it helps us learn, helps me anyway. So go for it. I imagine we'll get to the papacy in a more detailed manner, so either now or then.

truevyne said...

Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus. (matchless grace of Jesus)
Greater far than all my sin and shame. (my sin and shame) Wooonn derful, Gracccc, All sufficient for me (for even me).

Rolling sea, I think is in the second verse. It's not like I remember the whole thing, and you didn't mention your fav.

I decided that if I can't remember most of the lyrics I should not call it my fav, so I'm going for "Turn your eyes upon Jesus" or "The wondrous cross" now.

I think my CoC and your CoC broke from one another over instruments. Yes??

FancyPants said...


OK, so let me make sure I'm getting what you're saying. You're saying that this instance here (which can also be found in Matt. and Luke) is one between Jesus and the Saducees, who didn't believe in resurrection from the dead because Moses and his contemporaries did not clearly state the doctrine in the earlier books of the OT cannon. (I assume the Pentateuch?) But Jesus uses Scripture from those books, the evidence not being a direct or a completely clear proof of resurrection, to reason its validity. "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." Jesus is claiming God is God over the patriarchs, who were physically dead at the time, but living spiritually....thus a resurrection.

So this doctrine could be likened to that of the Trinity. Developed over time, through tradition, with "seeds" being shown through Scripture. And you say the same could be true of Mary and the Papacy?

Stephen and Haley said...

Amber - I appreciated your post on so many levels! One because I can relate to you as someone who has been interested in learning more about our Catholic brothers and sisters, two because I am married to someone who is VERY interested in such things, but also because you made me laugh alot with several of your comments!

I wanted to tell you that we went to mass at the Cistercian Abbey in Los Colinas last Sunday morning. It was pretty awesome. Stephen has a friend who is a monk there and we sat and chatted with him afterward - very enlightening! I would encourage you to visit if you get a chance. The monks chant in latin - breathtaking!!

Too much for me to write in one post, but I will have to fill you in soon! Stephen is contemplating a post about it on our blog, so you will have to check it out.

FancyPants said...

Hi Hales! I'm so glad you're here. We miss you guys.

I'd love to go to mass there. I hope Stephen does blog about it, and I hope both of you will add your vast knowledge to the discussion here. Does your monk friend use the internet? (Sorry, that sounds rude, but I really don't know if they do. =-) I've seen various nun blogs here and there, and I have to admit I always chuckle when I see them because I don't expect it.) If he does, tell him we'd love to hear from him as well.

Oh yeah, and what's up with having to have a passcode to enter Stephen's Hand-Me-Down-Theology blog! C'mon Stephen, share the love brother. =-)

MamasBoy said...

Lots to respond to. I hope this isn't too long.

BH:"However, the canon is now complete, and it seems to me that scriptural support for the papacy is still weak."
MB: You are correct that the NT canon is now complete (and agreed on by Protestants, Orthodox and Catholics). However, my point is not that it is *now* complete, but that it developed over time and wasn't set in stone even by the year 300. That's a long time for something so foundational to be debated, even at the periphery.

Regarding evidence for the papacy being weak, I would submit that it is at least as strong as the evidence for the resurrection in the OT, especially in the books accepted by the scribes and sadducees in Jesus day. The only place that the kingdom of God and Church are mentioned by Jesus together is in the handing of the keys of the kingdom to Peter. The keys were a reference to the position of steward of the house in the Davidic kingdom. Now, you may say that that evidence is weak, however, I don't think that opinion is self evident. We read Scripture through the lens of our interpretive tradition.

I must say, Bill, that you have given one of the better definitions of Papal infallibility that I've heard from a Protestant (top 95%+). It is much more accurate than what I would have written in my full-bore Protestant days. In addition, where lacking, you are to be commended for not making stuff up. I am truly impressed at your willingness to let Catholics define their own theology for themselves.

One thing that is unclear to me in your definition is that the pope must be intending to formally define something for the entire church, and not to address a particular local concern regarding faith or morals. As Vatican I said, "We teach and define that it is a dogma Divinely revealed that the Roman pontiff when he speaks ex cathedra, that is when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, by the Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals, and that therefore such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves and not from the consent of the Church irreformable."

Papal infallibility has nothing to do with a pope's actions. The pope can also be wrong in his ideas and statements. He can be wrong on faith and morals. He can even be wrong on faith and morals when speaking generally and not addressing a specific local situation. He can also be wrong when formally addressing a local concern. In many ways, the doctrine of papal infallibility is a *limit* on the authority of the pope.


MamasBoy said...


Regarding your questions asking me to clarify, I should issue this disclaimer. I have never read anyone else make this comparison with the Jewish idea of the resurrection. From what I've read, it makes sense, but this is me thinking here and my thought is under development right now with you and your readers as guinea pigs. My guess is that either somebody else has addressed this already better than I could or there is a fatal flaw in my logic rendering it useless. I'm not that bright, so one of those has to be the case. With that disclaimer, I will proceed.

FP: "Jesus is claiming God is God over the patriarchs, who were physically dead at the time, but living spiritually....thus a resurrection."
Yes, but at this point I want to point out that Christians believe in a bodily resurrection, which is a further development of the general concept. The only OT passage that clearly states belief in a bodily resurrection is one that Jews do not hold to today.

FP commenting on MB: "So this doctrine could be likened to that of the Trinity. Developed over time, through tradition, with "seeds" being shown through Scripture. And you say the same could be true of Mary and the Papacy?"
Well, yes and no. For Judaism before Christ, the Scriptures and tradition were developing simultaneously and seem to feed off of one another. Catholics, Orhtodox and many/most Protestants believe in a closed canon, so I don't think an exact parallel can be made. This much is clear, later OT Scriptures are much clearer on the topic than earlier, and nowhere is belief in a bodily resurrection as clear as in 2 Maccabees 7. Post-exhilic literature is also much clearer on the concept of resurrection overall.

There are quite a few OT verses that could be interpreted as referring to the lack of an afterlife. (Isaiah 38:18; Psalm 30:9 Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Genesis 3:19; Psalms 6:5; 115:17) As the Scriptures say, "5: For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward; but the memory of them is lost... Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going." and again, "For in death there is no remembrance of thee; in Sheol who can give thee praise?"

So, going back to Jesus debate with the saduccees, Jesus took a particular view of Scripture that was by no means indisputable. However, I do find it interesting that when Jesus disputed with the Saduccees who rejected the later prophets, etc, he went back to the Torah to find the seed of belief on the resurrection, no matter how obscure it might be. He did not look to the later works that he accepted as Scripture and which speak of the resurrection more clearly (like Daniel 12:2 and Nehemiah 9:5). I interpret this as Jesus meeting the scribes with evidence from sources they will acknowledge (the Pentateuch), instead of relying on later post-exhilic revelation which incorporates the clarity that doctrinal development brings.

I'm sorry of that background viewpoint is obtuse and rambling. Quite often, I'm a poor communicator. I've also been working 60-80 hour weeks recently, so that doesn't help.

So, with the idea of clarity on the idea of the resurrection coming over time in Jewish thought and the idea being debated fiercely up until the destruction of the temple when the saduccees died off, I would submit that the Trinity, Papacy and Mary are similar.

They all have their roots in Scripture (e.g., in the giving of the keys to Peter, the idea of Mary being the second Eve and John's writing on Jesus as the eternal logos). However, nobody today is going to express belief in these concepts in the same way that people back in the first century expressed those ideas. Regarding the Trinity, that's why Arianism was so attractive to people, even many bishops. Precision and clarity are the process of development (and often controversy). Regarding the papacy, that's why Catholics can point to the Scriptures and church history being true to the papacy, without being exactly the same. In Scriptures and Church history we find things that area clearly incompatible with Protestant ecclesiology, but at the same time are not modern day expressions of the concept of the papacy, though they are not incompatible and contain the concept in early seed form/expression.

"The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.’ . . . On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was [i.e., apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all [the apostles] are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?" (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; 1st edition [A.D. 251]).

"Be it known to you, my lord, that Simon [Peter], who, for the sake of the true faith, and the most sure foundation of his doctrine, was set apart to be the foundation of the Church, and for this end was by Jesus himself, with his truthful mouth, named Peter" (Letter of Clement to James 2 [A.D. 221]).

FYI: for those who are keeping track, 221 and 251 AD are well before Constantine, well before Nicea and well before the books of Revelation and Hebrews won out over the Shepherd of Hermas and the Didache as canonical (to name only a few disputed books).


Bill Hensley said...

MB, thanks for the long and thoughtful response and for your kind words. I think it is a shame that Catholic doctrine is so misrepresented by most Protestants. Now mind you, I still disagree with a lot of it, but at least we owe each other the courtesy of getting our facts right! I appreciate your patience in explaining it.

I shouldn't have said ex cathedra statements have to be "intentional". I admit to having a poor grasp of how you can tell which statements of the pope are ex cathedra. Maybe you could explain the criteria to me.

Your argument about the resurrection is interesting but I don't think it is relevant. The fact is that Jesus, being God, spoke infallibly whenever he opened his mouth. He didn't need the authority of the OT to proclaim the resurrection, though of course he pointed his listeners to OT passages that prefigured his statements.

There were certainly doctrines that were not clear when the Scriptures were not yet complete, but what matters now is what the full and finished revelation says. In the completed Bible there is no doubt about the resurrection, even though you can find passages that seem to be at odds with it. There is also no doubt about the Trinity, even though it is not directly stated in the Bible. There is a huge body of scripture that establishes both of these doctrines. I don't think the papacy and the various doctrines about Mary are remotely as well supported in Scripture.

For instance, I understand that the key passage for the concept of the papacy is Matthew 16:19-20. "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome 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." (NIV)

What I don't understand is how this is seen as establishing an office, rather than describing Peter's individual role in founding the church. Perhaps you could explain?

FancyPants said...

MB: You were clear. I just wanted to make sure I was tracking with you and grasping your main idea well enough.

Susanne said...

Bill said: "What I don't understand is how this is seen as establishing an office, rather than describing Peter's individual role in founding the church. Perhaps you could explain?"
I have that same question. When I've read the passages where Jesus states that He will build His church upon Peter, I always thought of Peter as the founder of the Church, but I never understood the jump to a continual line of popes. I always thought that if Jesus really meant to establish a papal succession that He would have elaborated more on the subject instead of just mentioning it?? Maybe someone could help us understand that.

Maybe at some point we could also discuss the confession of sin to a priest. I think that confession of sin is a good thing, as long as you're also confessing your sin directly to God. I don't believe that a priest or anyone else can do that for you. God wants each of us to communicate with Him, not just a select few people. I'm on vacation right now and don't have a Bible handy, but Paul wrote a whole section in Hebrews about how we no longer need a high priest or mediator other than Christ.

Of course, I think my views on this are skewed because so many of the Catholics I've been friends with (in college, in particular) were non-practicing or non-devout Catholics. For instance, I could tell that they were uncomfortable with praying to God. They would go to a priest to confess their sin, and that would make them feel better. There was no real communion with God in their lives. Of course, many of my college friends of other Christian faiths were also not devout and not comfortable with prayer. Only since I went out into the work force did I encounter Catholics who were prayer warriors, knew their Bible better than me, and were strong witnesses for Christ. So I'm really enjoying what I'm learning through this blog and others. I liked what you said, Mamasboy, about letting Catholics speak for themselves. I shouldn't judge Catholicism by friends who claim to be Catholics because I know I would hate for someone to judge Protestantism by some Protestants I know! Thanks, Fancy, for initiating this discussion. It's so helpful to understand the beliefs of others.

Also (I know my post is getting way too long...sorry!), I want to say to all Catholics that we (Protestants) do not hate Mary! I was horrified when, in college, a Catholic friend went to church with me and told me that she was pleasantly surprised that we didn't have a picture of Mary on the floor. Someone had told her that Baptists had a picture of Mary on the floor of their churches so that they could walk on her. Can you imagine??!! I've never heard a sermon in all my years as a Baptist where the preacher bashed Mary. We just don't mention her much beyond honoring her for being chosen to be Christ's mother because the Bible does not mention her much either. It's not that we don't honor her...we do think she was a pretty amazing woman to be God's chosen vessel. We just don't see much point in adding to what the Bible says about her. We don't mention Mary much in our churches because, although she was a great woman and chosen by God, our salvation does not hinge on our belief in her. The way I interpret the New Testament is that the importance of Mary ends at Christ's birth. If this were not so, wouldn't she be mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament (other than at the cross)? It's not that we hate Mary; we just don't see her relevance when it comes to salvation.

FancyPants said...


It's not that we hate Mary; we just don't see her relevance when it comes to salvation.

Catholics don't necessarily attribute salvation to belief in Mary. The doctine of Mary is important to them, but not as a Redeemer. She aided in the plan of salvation through complete obedience to God's will. She is the mother of God the Son, chosen by the Son himself. Mary...full of grace...But she did have a choice...and here it gets complicated so I'll save the rest for my post. =-)

FancyPants said...

Hmmm. I should clarify...

Catholics don't necessarily attribute salvation to belief in Mary as Redeemer. Jesus Christ is Redeemer. But, consequently, belief in Jesus Christ as Redeemer includes the belief in Mary as part of the plan. Born of a woman into humanity. Jesus is one person in two natures, divine and human. Human made possible through Mary's obedience.

MamasBoy said...

MB: Bill, I'm wondering why you don't think the analogy of doctrine of the resurrection or the Trinity are relevant to developments regarding the papacy and Mary? Is it because you believe that all revelation has ceased and doctrine can no longer develop? Do you think that people's concepts of the Trinity didn't develop after Scripture the apostles or their disciple's penned the last words of Scripture? Do you think that the OT and NT are fundamentally different so that there can be valid development of doctrine in the OT era, but not in the NT era?

I view evangelical ideas of the Trinity as dogmatic interpretations of Scripture. I also think that saying there is loads of evidence for the Trinity but not for the papacy or Marian doctrine does an injustice not only to the wealth of scriptural support for the papacy and marian doctrine but to the heretics like Arius. I really don't think the doctrine of the Trinity is as obvious as most people think. Is the Son really just as much God as the Father? most evangelicals can't imagine it otherwise today, because we view Scripture through the lens of Nicea and the from the vantage point our interpretive traditions. The Arian interpretive tradition pretty much died out over a millenia ago. Below are a couple verses that can be taken to support Arian views of Jesus. (I also think some people hold semi-Arian views of Jesus without realizing it, but that is a discussion for another day.)

Verses to make you wonder if there wasn't something to Arius' mantra, "There was a time when the son was not."...
Col. 1:15—Son is the first-born of all creation;
Jn. 14:28—“The Father is greater than I”;
Jn. 17:3—“know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
Hebrews 1:5 -- Jesus had a beginning

taken from,%2520Christology%2520Handout.doc+arian+scriptures&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=4&gl=us

If you are interested in Protestant interpretations of the Arian controversy, John Piper and Chris Hall of the Evangelical Theological Society have both written articles that deal with it somewhat indirectly. I've yet to find a Protestant paper that tackles Arianism and only Arianism, so if you find a good one, let me know. Unfortunately, the ETS doesn't have the 2006 journal articles up yet in pdf form, so you will need to read it at findarticles dot com. Both groups are decidedly Protestant, so this isn't a Catholic perspective. The ETS even jettisoned their president and even withdrew his membership in their society this spring when he became Catholic.

I would assert that the dogmatic interpretation of the Trinity that many hold today is no more defensible based on Scripture alone than the idea that Peter's successor has special authority/distinction and the idea that Mary is the second Eve. Personally, I think it is inconsistent to hold to the decision of the council of Nicea on the Trinity as dogmatically as many evangelicals do (e.g., Walter Martin and Hank Hanegraff calling oneness pentecostals unChristian) and yet reject the episcopacy that gave us the Nicene creed.

BH: "What I don't understand is how this is seen as establishing an office, rather than describing Peter's individual role in founding the church. Perhaps you could explain?"

MB: You've connected the papacy with apostolic succession. I don't have time to do more than touch on either right now, but the keys of the kingdom were a reference to the keys of David (Revelation 3:7 and Isaiah 22:22). They were worn by the steward of the house as a symbol of his authority. The steward of the house was the title of the office of the guy who basically ran the kingdom when the king was away. The last I checked, our King Jesus hadn't returned, yet. The steward of the house was a position that didn't die when the person died. It wasn't invalidated when the person was bad. In fact, it upset God when the person holding the office wasn't worthy and he promised in Isaiah 22 to remove such a person (Shebna) and replace him with someone who would faithfully carry out the required duties (Eliakim).

The pope is the bishop of Rome. The position of bishop did not die with the apostles. They passed their authority on to their successors and expected their successors to do the same. In the case of some churches who were founded by a missionary who moved on, this succession happened while the person was still alive (II Tim 2:2). It often happened when the apostle/bishop was martyred.

Bill, again, thank you the respect you have conveyed in the midst of sincere disagreement. I hope I have conveyed the same respect in my reply.