Papal Obsession: What’s in A Name?

One positive consequence of recent interactions with Roman Catholics like Brad Gregory, Christian Smith, the indefatigable Bryan Cross, and the stellar work of Francis Oakley is an awareness of just how complicated and fascinating the history of the papacy is. Eamon Duffy puts it this way in his new book on the papacy:

Thomas Hobbes famously remarked that the papacy was “not other than the ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned on the grave thereof.” The comment was certainly not intended as a compliment, but it encapsulated an important historical reality nonetheless. Through no particular initiative of their own, the Popes inherited the mantle of Empire in the West; the papacy became the conduit of Roman imperial values and symbolism into the European Middle Ages. In a time of profound historical instability at the end of antiquity and in the early Middle Ages, the see of Peter was a link to all that seemed most desirable in the ancient world, custodian of both its secular and its sacred values. The papacy embodied immemorial continuity and offered divine sanction for law and legitimacy. So popes crowned kings and emperors and, on occasion, attempted to depose them. Even in the eighth and ninth centuries papal authority stood high, although the papacy was the prisoner of local Roman politics and many of the popes themselves were the often unlearned sons of feuding local dynasties. (17-18)

Anyone with a historical awareness, with visions of Christianity having access to and reach within corridors of power, and with a desire for a church that has roots deeper than some denomination that emerged in the 1780s, would likely be drawn to membership with a church such as Rome presents. At the same time, a concern for the spiritual depths of Christianity has not always been at the forefront of the papacy’s ministry, unless maintaining supremacy in European politics and mediating the Roman Empire were crucial pieces of that spiritual service.

The historical and cultural depth of the Vatican gives almost every aspect of the papacy significance beyond surface impressions and as a result should stimulate the imagination of anyone who studies the past. The case of Gregory XVI, who became pope in 1831 and who is the subject of Owen Chadwick’s first chapter (A History of the Popes, 1830-1914), illustrates the point.

The most famous pope of the Middle Ages to assert papal power against emperors and kings was Pope Gregory VII, Hildebrand. Ever since the high Middle Ages popes were conscious that in Gregory VII they made an emperor to kneel in the snow at Canossa, that in Innocent III they acted as the international authority of Europe, that in Bonfiace VIII they asserted the ultimate secular power of the pope as well as his ultimate spiritual authority. They were also aware that these tremendous claims were not often recognized and sometimes were repudiated with contempt or with force. Gregory VII died in exile, Boniface sickened and died after being kidnapped and rescued. In the Counter-Reformation, when Spanish and afterwards French power became strong in Italy, they grew hesitant of using such names lest they remind Europe of the contrast between the past glories of the Holy See and the weakness of its present occupant. No one had chosen the name Boniface since 1389, when the see was divided by the Great Schism. Gregory XIII was a famous name of the Counter-Reformation and shortly afterwards there were two more Gregorys; one ruled for less than a year, the other for two years, yet they were important. Towards the end of the seventeenth century and early in the eighteen century there were three weighty popes who took the name Innocent. But in the eighteenth century they preferred to take gentler-sounding names, such as Clement (four of those), Pius, or Benedict. The coronation of Pius VI in 1775 stared the age of the Piuses — during the next 183 years there were only fifty-four years in which the pope was not named Pius. And when they were not called Pius they avoided high-and-mighty sounding names — with one exception. . . .

The name Gregory was a claim. This was a cardinal who reacted against the French Revolution and all that it stood for. He seems to have had Gregory VII in his mind; but also, while a cardinal, he did a lot for the Congregation de Propaganda Fide, and the last Gregory had founded the Congregation. When the French Revolution kidnapped the Pope, he published a cry of resistance to the revolution The Triumph of the Holy See and the Church against the Attacks of Innovators (1799).

Just when the papacy looked moribund, and many said that Pius VI was the last pope in the history of Europe, and no one could see how the institution could survive even in Italy, he published this book, which rejoiced in the coming victory of the Church over its enemies. . . .

In not liking the way the modern world was going Gregory XVI was characteristic of the popes, with one possible exception, for the next 127 years. (1-3_

This messiness of Europe and the papacy’s place in it is what defenders of the popes and their infallibility generally leave out. Does history undermine spiritual authority? Critical biblical scholarship has long raised the issue of the humanity of the Bible in ways the complicate assertions of Scripture’s divine origin. Conceiving of and maintaining the papacy’s spiritual rights and gifts while paying attention to its tawdry political successes, setbacks, and ambitions is perhaps just as plausible as conservative Protestant defenses of the Bible’s inerrancy. But the problem for folks like the Callers is that we actually can see how they make the sausage. The papacy is an institution that left behind records, and combated other institutions that also left a paper trail. The authors of Scripture left no such traces. We don’t know how many drafts, for instance, Paul may have written before getting it just right to send a letter to the Christians at Rome. When the Callers don’t acknowledge the actual guts of the making of the papacy and insist only on the spiritual truths of the papacy, they appear to be in denial. They may simply be ignorant. But their claims for the papacy’s power, antiquity, and charism are decidedly partial.

But for the rest of us, the papacy is breathtaking in its preservation of an ancient order, despite all the changes between Rome in 70 and Paris in 2010, even if that order is now confined to 109 square acres.

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  1. MichaelTX
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    “… finding how I, or my ancestors…
    Sorry for the typo.

  2. George
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    @ Steve Martin:

    “… And our (Lutherans, some of us, anyway) communion railings are open to you. But yours are closed to us …”

    ???? First I’d heard of this. To which Lutheran “synod” does your church belong? I know of no “confessional” Lutherans who would knowingly allow this.

  3. Posted April 12, 2013 at 6:06 pm | Permalink


    The issue as to the faith is simply this: the faith, as in dogma, doctrine, and discipline is something given or handed on. The faith is not held hostage to the whims of individuals, whether they be clergy or laity, to determine as they see fit. Thus, the faith is something objective and not determined by popular vote. Pope Francis recently commented on this very thing during his reflection on the Saturday of the Octave of Easter

    Francis’ predecessor Benedict XVI made similar comments in his call for The Year of Faith

    Just prior to his election to the Chair of Peter, Benedict spoke about the dictatorship of relativism, referring not only to moral relativism but doctrinal relativism

    As a Catholic, my submission to the Pope and the Magisterium in regards to faith and morals is
    rooted not in Divine Command Theory, but in faith and reason. It is reasonable to believe that Jesus Christ established His Church and endowed it with His gift of infallibility based on the Scriptures themselves and the events of history. Which Church can lay claim to be the Church intended and established by Jesus Christ in history? I believe that Church to be the Church in which Peter and his successor governs, together with the successors of the Apostles, the Bishops, which is the Church which presides in love, to borrow that most beautiful phrase from the hand of St. Ignatius, the Church of Rome, the Mother Church of the Christian faithful.

    If you are inclined to read some beautiful reflections from Pope Benedict I would recommend his Dogma and Preaching in order to get a better sense of this understanding of the Faith as something given and not fabricated according to the whims of popular opinion.

  4. Posted April 12, 2013 at 6:10 pm | Permalink


    I should have added this wonderful reflection from today by Pope Francis

  5. Posted April 12, 2013 at 6:56 pm | Permalink


    We are ELCA…BUT…we virtually have nothing to do with them anymore. We have explored leaving, but our congregation is too small to absorb a split. For the time being we will rock along as we have for the last 10 years with almost no contact with the ELCA. (they have pretty much jettisoned God’s Word in favor of a left-wing political agenda.

    As far as the Lord’s Supper is concerned, we invite ALL baptized Christians who believe that the true body and blood are present in the meal.

    We don’t believe in fencing off the pure gospel from sinners who need it, more than what I just mentioned. If there’s a problem with some of their beliefs (who has it all right, anyway?) then we believe that the Lord is more than capable of handling whatever it is.

  6. Posted April 12, 2013 at 9:13 pm | Permalink


    We believe that Jesus built His Church on Peter’s confession of faith…not the man.

    It doesn’t show (we believe) much trust in the Word of God to do what It will do, if it depends on certain fingertips touching people to juice them up.

    The Word creates and sustains faith, in and of itself.

    It’s very liberating to trust in Christ and His Word alone, and not in anything that we do, say, feel, or think. I spent 35 years as a Roman Catholic and never had any assurance. I honestly don’t know how anyone can have in such a system that relies partly on God and partly on you.

    Thanks, Mike.

    That’s it for tonight. Gotta run. Nice talking with you, friend.

  7. David
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    Atta man Steve Martin

    I see you found Old Life my Lutheran brother. You sure make the rounds – from Old Adam Lives (great website) to Heidelblog. It sure is wonderful having a companion in law-gospel and a defense of Christ dying for sinners over at Creed Code Cult.

    How you been doing Mr Martin? Please tell Pa. Mark Anderson I send my thanks for his demons and such. I’m glad you fled from Rome to Wittenberg my friend.

    David Beilstein

  8. David
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 11:31 pm | Permalink


    Send Pa. Mark Anderson my regards for his sermons – not demons! Auto spell is a killer and can make one look foolish. I know D.G.Hart probably enjoys having your voice on here in the comment box on a regular basis.


  9. Posted April 13, 2013 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    Hello David,

    Good to hear from you brother.

    Pastor Mark will be very happy to hear that you are enjoying the sermons.

    Thank you, so much.

    When one finally tastes the real freedom (as you know) of Christ…one can never again go back into bondage. We’d rather die first.

    His blessings be upon you, David.

  10. Posted April 13, 2013 at 12:59 am | Permalink


    Bryan, where have you acknowledged that the spiritual claims of the papacy were bound up with its political ambitions? Have you once considered that the notion of Petrine succession might be a device to shore up power and authority against rival authorities?

    Those are questions; they do not refute or falsify anything we have said, or specify some place where we have denied or refused to acknowledge some historical event or historical document.

    If European politics were considered as a possible justification for papal audacity, I am not sure you or the other Callers would be quite so quick to convert to that narrative.

    Again, that doesn’t falsify a single thing we have said, or refute any argument we have made. It is mere speculation.

    You’re not telling the whole truth.

    No one can tell the *whole* truth, if by “whole truth* is meant every truth there is, because we are finite creatures. But that does not make every claim false, or every argument unsound. If you think some truth falsifies a claim we have made, or refutes an argument we have laid out, then you’ll need to show how it does so.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  11. Posted April 13, 2013 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    Darryl — The Magisterium du Jour now is Francis. Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

  12. Posted April 13, 2013 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    Darryl — the key to Bryan’s thinking is that, at Caesarea Phillipi, Jesus handed full (Vatican 1-style) papal authority directly to Peter; which fully instituted the Roman Catholic Church at that moment (and that somehow the text of Matthew was a mere ratification of this event). Peter then handed this full papal authority to either Linus or Clement (depending upon whom you talk to), and the handing-off of full papal power has not had an interruption (or if there was an interruption, this full papal power resided in some Platonic form somewhere to be handed off) from one to another to the next and now to Francis. Whether or not the individual who held the full papal power was ambitious or greedy or power-hungry or profligate — not a part of the invisible church in any way — this did nothing to diminish the full papal power in the visible church.

    To counter the question of “what if a bad pope made a bad dogma”, the “Alias Smith and Jones” defense suffices: for all the banks they robbed and whores they bedded and people they killed, they never “taught” anything”. This was “the gates of hell not prevailing”, this was God’s divine protection of the church.

    In all of this, absolutely no recourse to Scripture is necessary. “The whole truth” is not necessary because we are finite creatures. With his statement about “falsification”, Bryan rests his case. You cannot prove a universal negative (and his own claims are thusly stated — infallibility only in certain, undefined cases — so it is a moving universal negative at that), he rests himself upon a logical argument that can never be falsified.

  13. Posted April 13, 2013 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    Michael, how you read Peter (which is different from an apostolic elder based church that you see Paul argue for in his pastoral epistles) into John 14:23 is a case of seeing what you want to see (or maybe a function of the papacy restricting the laity’s access to Scripture — sorry for that shot which is true and not cheap).

  14. Posted April 13, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Bryan, if you don’t tell the whole truth when you know the whole truth you are either in denial or falsifying. Also, if you are going to be a spokesman for an institution, it is incumbent on you not to misrepresent the institution. And if you know something about an institution but don’t reveal it, then you do misrepresent.

    So why is it you present only a partial view of the papacy?

  15. Posted April 13, 2013 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    John, if Bryan were living at a time when the papacy still banned books, and he didn’t have access to historians like Chadwick and Duffy, he might get a pass. But again, the papacy changed on restricting access to books.

  16. Posted April 13, 2013 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Bryan, one more thought, it’s actually worse than you think. The history of the papacy not only raises questions about your claims about the papacy but also about the papacy’s own claims. When you begin to see that the papacy’s spiritual claims have as much to do with protecting political authority as with pastoral concern, you start a process by which claims of infallible authority die a death of a thousand qualifications — such that infallibility has been invoked on only two occasions.

  17. AB
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Just a personal sharing,you generous gents in this latest set of comments, this 12+ year OPC dude, coming in from an fundamentalist church upbringing, was ‘enlightened,’ via WCF 1.5. More important than my Genesis to Revelation papers be infallible, is that they are the Word of God. Not only is 1.5 beautifully written, but it speaks truth. I’m just sharing, because it actually meant something importantto me as a teenager, coming into contact with that language for the first time. I am thankful for your labors, even I’d I only ever talk about golf…

  18. AB
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink


    So if I can sum up, labor on. Bye for now.

  19. Posted April 13, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Tom Riello, you said above, As a Catholic, my submission to the Pope and the Magisterium in regards to faith and morals is
    rooted not in Divine Command Theory, but in faith and reason. It is reasonable to believe that Jesus Christ established His Church and endowed it with His gift of infallibility based on the Scriptures themselves and the events of history.

    If you want to talk about “the events of history”, then you must take into account such analyses which disclaim the possibility that Peter had anything at all like a “successor” — in fact your “submission” is actually rooted in an assumption of “divine command” as stated in Vatican 1, in the section “On the permanence of the primacy of blessed Peter in the Roman pontiffs”.

    “The events of history” that you hold dear relate that there were multiple house churches, and no such thing as a “bishop” in Rome until the middle or late second century. Another “event of history”, that is, the publication of the Shepherd of Hermas, relates that the multiple presbyters of the city fought among themselves as to who was greatest.

    Such “events of history” are conveniently discounted by you and yours, in favor of the much less plausible notion that Peter somehow handed his “primacy” (which he himself never acknowledged, placing himself instead among the “fellow presbyters”).

    Your “submission” is in fact based not on “reason” but “faith in the divine command”.

    Which Church can lay claim to be the Church intended and established by Jesus Christ in history?

    The invisible church which adheres to the gospel. “My kingdom is not of this world” Jesus said. That means, “my kingdom is not visible here” — “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

    Rome’s claims throughout history to be the master of this process is blasphemy.

    “I believe that Church to be the Church in which Peter and his successor governs, together with the successors of the Apostles, the Bishops, which is the Church which presides in love, to borrow that most beautiful phrase from the hand of St. Ignatius, the Church of Rome, the Mother Church of the Christian faithful.”

    Ignatius himself, whom, it has been suggested, is “the successor of Peter” at Antioch, had no conception that there was any “primacy” — Peter and Paul were the apostles who “commanded” — if anyone had any idea of a “succession”, it certainly wasn’t Ignatius.

    that most beautiful phrase from the hand of St. Ignatius, the Church of Rome, the Mother Church of the Christian faithful.

    Ignatius never called the church of Rome “mother church”. The church, he called “mother of the saints”, but he was writing to the Symernians. Your attempt to equate the church of Rome with this church is dishonest.

    In his letter to the Romans, it is said that church “hath the presidency in the country of the region of the Romans” — it was regarded as having some leadership in its own region — that is the most that can be taken from his language.

    “…the Faith as something given and not fabricated according to the whims of popular opinion.”

    The Roman Catholic faith is fabricated according to the whims of popes and bishops who place themselves far above where Ignatius, the champion of “the bishop”, ever placed himself.

  20. mark mcculley
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    sm: As far as the Lord’s Supper is concerned, we invite ALL baptized Christians who believe that the true body and blood are present in the meal. We don’t believe in fencing off the pure gospel from sinners who need it, more than what I just mentioned.

    mark: Good thing I don’t equate fencing your sacrament from me with fencing the gospel from me. Not only do I believe that regeneration by instrumental water is a false gospel, but I also deny the ubiquity of the humanity of the risen Christ. If Christ is not with us except in the terms of the Lutheran confession, then Christ is not with us. But Christ IS WITH US, and also absent from us, which is why Christians wait for His coming. WHO shows the Lord’s death until He comes?

    It is also a false gospel to teach that Christ died for all sinners and then to deny that God by Christ’s Spirit gives all for whom Christ died faith in the gospel. But it is this same false gospel which Lutherans have in common with the pope: “objective” reconciliation for everybody, but real perishing for many sinners whom they claim God loves. I don’t know if Steve’s church is inviting baptised Romanists, but they are most certainly uninviting those of who think we are the ones remembering and showing….

    Hebrews 13:20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever…

  21. Posted April 13, 2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Ames library sale last night had the largest philosophy & religion section I have ever seen (in the high hundreds if not thousands). Clearly a local Catholic or Catholics died or moved into a nursing home. Picked up a few good titles on church history, Aquinas, Francis of Assisi, etc. Also got an early edition of Edward Young’s (Westminster Seminary) introduction to the Old Testament. Half-price tomorrow and everything’s free on Monday.

  22. Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink


    When I wrote, “to borrow that most beautiful phrase from St. Ignatius”, I was referring to “church that presides in love”, which, as you know, he did write in reference to the Church in Rome. I apologize for not being as clear as I should have been.

    John, I would also recommend to you, and anyone else who might be reading, to take a look at James Hitchcock’s new book History of the Catholic Church. I would also encourage you to take a look at Warren Carroll’s A History of Christendom series. It would also help to pick up Diane Moczar’s Seven Lies About Catholic History. So many other wonderful titles could be added to my suggestions, for example Thomas Woods’ How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization. I think the one many of the readers here would especially like is Taylor Marshall’s Eternal City: Rome and the Origins of Catholic Christianity, because Taylor has a deep appreciation and knowledge of the Reformed conception of Covenant, and he beautifully weaves his theological formation together with a masterful grasp of the Church’s history.

    You might ask, why so many book suggestions? Because these authors in their respective fields are and were scholars of the first rate, and they don’t gloss over the history and they are much superior to my feeble attempts to duplicate their already excellent work.

  23. Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink


    Bryan, if you don’t tell the whole truth when you know the whole truth you are either in denial or falsifying.

    That, of course, is a false dilemma. A third alternative is that a person simply does not have the time to write down every truth he knows about x. A fourth alternative is that many truths about x are not relevant to the truth he intends to communicate about x.

    Also, if you are going to be a spokesman for an institution, it is incumbent on you not to misrepresent the institution.

    Of course. That’s true whether or not one is speaking *for* an institution. But it is not true that not saying x about y entails misrepresenting y. (Otherwise you would be guilty of the same thing, for not having exhaustively written out everything you know about presbyterianism, or about growing mushrooms, or about space exploration.) It takes more than not saying x about y (while knowing x to be true of y) to misrepresent y.

    And if you know something about an institution but don’t reveal it, then you do misrepresent.

    Again, that’s simply not true. To avoid misrepresenting something, one need not state everything one knows about it. Rather, one must not present it as something contrary to what it is. And nothing we have said presents the Catholic Church as contrary to what it is, nor have you shown that we have done so.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  24. Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    The Catholic apologist has a tough task in that he has to defend the entire history of his church. The Protestant apologist has a much easier task in that he only has to defend his church as it exists today. Protestants can handle past instances of unfaithfulness and corruption — that’s why they are Protestants. Catholics, because of what they claim their church to be, has to embrace and reconcile it all. I don’t envy them. The only way to do it is to interpret history selectively, thus Hart’s criticisms of Cross and CTC.

  25. Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:19 am | Permalink


    The history of the papacy not only raises questions about your claims about the papacy but also about the papacy’s own claims. When you begin to see that the papacy’s spiritual claims have as much to do with protecting political authority as with pastoral concern, you start a process by which claims of infallible authority die a death of a thousand qualifications …

    Feel free to lay out the argument. Hand-waving is easy, but not helpful.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  26. Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    One of these days Hart will ask the right question in the right way and Cross will have to engage and answer. Or maybe not.

    In a video game aren’t you only allowed to use the cloak of invisibility a limited number of times?

  27. Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:24 am | Permalink


    How do you account for so many of your Popes being less than faithful Christians? Or would you say they have all been faithful Christians?

  28. AB
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Holmes needs his moriarty…

    Don’t leave Olts, Bryan, until we get to the bottom of these things. You’ve been going for a while now. Unless of course you need a vacation, then just remember to set your out of office responder. We’re going to solve. Oh, and by the way, can you tell me what YOU will do, when the roman magisterial authority admits it is fallible? You do know that’s the first step to all this, right? Would you start working on your putting or tee shots, first? I mean it – stay around.

  29. Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Mark M.,

    You don’t believe that God baptizes anyone, in water and the Word?


    But millions of us do. “Those of you who have been baptized have put on Christ.” Gal. 4:4

  30. Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    To be more precise and not reduce it to soundbites, here is why we invite ALL baptized Christians who believe Christ to be truly present in the meal to come and receive His meal:

    It’s not cut and dried. But we do have our reasons.

  31. David
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    I was under the impression Called To Communion had their own Internet digs? But whenever I peruse the beauty that is Old Life (and it’s mission to protect the unfettered Holy Gospel by recovering the Reformed Confessions & the Reformed Church) I constantly see a load of papists in the comment box. Interaction is perhaps good – but jeepers, you Roman Catholic’s sure do invite yourselves over without second thought.

    It is shocking to see how busy Bryan Cross’ keyboarding skills have become – from CTC to CCC to Old Life. Talk about getting around. It takes some guts, Bryan, but then again, it requires a lot of patience I’m sure dealing with us TR’s – constantly looking down our nose at evangelicals and Roman Catholics, uh?


  32. AB
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    You are right, Erik, the RC apologist must rewrite history as a part of their current apology. Being fallible means we could someday lose to the RC’s, though, my sense is we have been gaining since the start of this over 500 years ago. Being a member of a fallible church also has the advantage of living in the real world. I know that steak tastes good, cipher…

  33. AB
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    *Cypher. That last sentence was to my RC apologists hanging out with us today. I receive no answer, I go little off the rails. Call me fallible…

  34. sean
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink


    I know you imagine that making sure your arguments are impenetrably coherent is what’s important. But, If you want to base at least a portion of your faith claims on making assertions about the historical record and then wittingly or unwittingly leaving out or de-emphasizing aspects of the historical record not in your favor, it draws into question the integrity of the claim. It also, doesn’t help to make scriptural claims and then bail out of the scriptural discussion by claiming the “lexicon and tradition”. Now, I’m no historian or exegete by trade but I know people who do it for a living, and your arguments aren’t as coherent as you’d hope to portray and seeing as your the one running an ecumenical site/recruitment center making the claims, you might want to stop schoolmarming folks who don’t craft perfect syllogisms and start engaging the substance of the polemic. Unless your goal is not to present the claims of the church with integrity, but merely to win an argument or best an opponent on the ground of your choosing and training. I’m better than a lot of people at what I’ve been trained for and paid to do and what I get to spend the prime hours of my day doing, so what.

    Maybe you could take their assertions and imperfectly crafted arguments and say; “here’s a better way to say this, and here’s what you seem to be trying to get at, right? O.K. so, I hear you saying this, right? O.K. as an RC here’s how I’d answer that, and here’s how the church answers that objection” At this point this is a matter of historical record; “a”, and based on “a” and with the additional contingencies of “b”, “c”, “d”, I/church come to this conclusion or faith claim.” This is essentially what Jeff tried to get you to do at one point and the response he got was; “It’s not my job to make an argument against the church”. Well, that’s fine, maybe it’s not your job, but then your the one leaving the hole, and creating the environment of suspicion and skepticism you then accuse others of as wrongly/falsely approaching the claims of Rome.

  35. Bob S
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    As alluded to by many, Bryan and Rome’s problem is simply that the history of the popes is not an open book, like uhm, an infallible, sufficient and perspicuous book if we could find one, so any appeal to that history might necessarily include an authoritative interpreter such as .. . . Walter Duranty for the NYT on Stalin’s show trials in the ’40’s?
    Again, it’s hard to be on the same page when we are talking about tradition or history as compared to something a little more objective like . . . the Rosetta Stone?

    Neither is Bryan interested in putting forth arguments, sean.
    All he’s got to do is keep saying “you’re wrong” and sit pat. No syllogisms or succinct arguments will be forthcoming. “The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”? That’s nothing but performative handwaving.

  36. Posted April 13, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Sean – you’re the one running an ecumenical site/recruitment center

  37. Posted April 13, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Bryan, burying your head in the sand is not easy, nor is it an argument.

  38. MichaelTX
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    I’ve gotten a bit behind in following you guys discussion. I’m a married guy and a father of four kiddos under the age of eight. So, doing the best I can on last weekend to finish up the taxes and such. I don’t know how you do it so regularly.

    Anyway regarding your 7:32 am post to me. The basic point I was relating to was in some of my other posts with you on here, which if my comprehension of those ideas aren’t grasped it won’t make much sense. Basically, I see in no viable way the promise in John 14 and so many other commands and promises of Christ can apply to us, being they weren’t given to us but to the ones sent, is by being in communion with the ones sent. This is how I understand the Church of the scriptures to function and why what Christ said to the disciples in Luke 10 when they were sent out to tell the good news of the kingdom. I just can’t disregard it as an understanding of how we recieve the promises to the Church.

    “Whoever listens to you listens to Me. Whoever rejects you rejects Me. And whoever rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”

    Hart, I am just relaying my mind and why my convictions are where they are. I care how you think, too. Which is why I’m around here.

    Thanks again, Mike

  39. Posted April 13, 2013 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    Daryl —

    I’m glad you are going there with the papacy argument and trying to stay focused on history rather than philosophy. Because the historical evidence is precisely in accord with what one would see with a gradually emerging organization and precisely the opposite of what one would have seen with these structures having been in place since 33 CE. The name calling about every historian, ignoring the issue and pulling in references from several centuries later doesn’t change that.

    The example you made on CtC about the 2 saints picking different popes during the Avignon Papacy was terrific. Great piece of evidence about what happened in real time.

  40. Posted April 13, 2013 at 8:34 pm | Permalink


    Do you have the CTC link?

  41. MichaelTX
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    I’ve personally been really enjoying my chattin over here at oldlife, and was invited over here by a regular poster. Hart has seemed to welcome my chatting and I appreciate the basic welcome I have recieved.
    Thanks again all.

    Steve I do hope to be able to continue on a few things we have touched on,but sadly I don’t have time now.

  42. David
    Posted April 14, 2013 at 4:14 am | Permalink


    I think it was obvious I was being sarcastic in a friendly way. I have no large issue with Roman Catholics visiting Old Life on a regular basis – it’s good for Roman Catholics to visit Old Life. Just like in manner areas, I’d recommend Protestants perusing First Things. Last time I checked, First Thing is not a Presbyterian publication.

    I think my point was (looking back with some humour) Michael, there was a time when Roman Catholics could of cared less about this site.

    One wonders what changed?

    The battle continues – but that does not mean I have personal animus toward Roman Catholics. It does not mean I intend to be priggish. Quite the opposite. If unclear Michael, allow me to clarify – though it’s Dr Hart’s digs – Roman Catholics!



  43. Posted April 14, 2013 at 4:28 am | Permalink

    Tom Riello – I have a comment on Warren Carrol’s “History of Christendom, Vol 1”. It was written in 1985, and yet the source it uses for the ancient papacy is E.G. Weltin, “The Popes Through History” (The Newman Press, 1964). Weltin in turn relies on Eusebius’s history for dates – a thing that modern historians know better than to do.

    It is true that we know much of what we know about early church history from Eusebius, and Timothy Barnes, “Constantine and Eusebius” writes about the accomplishment of Eusebius in compiling his many sources, along with what is literally a blind spot in Eusebius’s thinking with respect to dates. But after an analysis of Eusebius’s sources (and method for deriving his historical dates), here is what Barnes says:

    These facts must be taken into account by any modern scholar who wishes to use the Canons as a historical source. Although in the Canons Eusebius names a source only on rare occasions, the chronological and historical traditions which he reproduces can often be identified. Hence very few dates in the Canons can be taken by themselves and made the basis for chronological deductions: even when a date is unambiguously and consistently attested in the surviving derivatives (a rare event), it must be correlated with other relevant evidence to determine what tradition Eusebius reports or whether he had any precise evidence at all. For everything [every date he gives] before the middle of the third century Eusebius perforce uses written sources, which often lacked precise daytes, and he can sometimes be convicted of error on points where exact evidence was available. It is imprudent, therefore, to base any historical arguments on the exact dates which the Chronicle offers; the modern scholar should show his respect for Eusebius’ achievement not by repeating his sometimes erroneous dates by applying his intelligence (as Eusebius did) to the substantive problems.

    Barnes is citing sources on this – noting that Eusebius relied uncritically on the work of Julius Africanus as early as “the very first scholarly study of the Chronicle” by Scaliger (1606) – providing incorrect dates – known and understood prior to 1900 and clearly established as early as the 1920’s. With that said, Carrol was either irresponsible or worse, writing in 1985, in permitting Eusebius’s historical account of the early bishops of Rome to pass uncritically into his record.

    That doesn’t stop the partisan and uncritical Roman Catholic, however, from passing along in the context of a “higher education” setting, information that is clearly discredited, for partisan purposes. That is not only irresponsible, it is far, far worse. Christendom College is becoming responsible for creating a whole generation of unknowing fundamentalist Roman Catholics.

  44. Posted April 14, 2013 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    Tom Riello — this kind of thing is bad enough, but you also feed the very thing you may think you’re trying to end, by giving vocal atheists like Richard Carrier, in his chapter “Christianity’s Success was Not Incredible” in “The End of Christianity” (ed. John Loftus, Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books ©2011), opportunities to mock Christ. The criticisms of these individuals don’t have any teeth in the New Testament, but what they actually laugh at is the notion [prevalent among you CTC Roman Catholics] of a “story” that “could be changed to suit any audience, from the subversively humiliated hero to the triumphant divine dignitary who’s always in charge and needs no help. There’s certainly nothing supernatural about rewriting history to market your product” (pg 57).

    You may think you’re winning converts to the “one true Church”, but in reality, you’re perpetuating stereotypes of “stupid, working-class hicks” that Carrier laughs at — and by extension, you give scandal to the cause of Christ not for your thoughtfulness, but for your head-in-the-sand commitment to something that’s been discredited in every way. “You don’t need evidence, you just need faith”, he mocks.

  45. Posted April 14, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Eric —

    Bryan answers three posts later with a “even saints are fallible” and it doesn’t count even though lots of people on both sides thought it did. I would have figured after 700 years they would have come up with a better answer.

  46. Posted April 14, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Hi Tom,

    You wrote, The issue as to the faith is simply this: the faith, as in dogma, doctrine, and discipline is something given or handed on. The faith is not held hostage to the whims of individuals, whether they be clergy or laity, to determine as they see fit.

    I fully agree. And that’s why I am deeply suspicious of a doctrinal development that is based upon an unwritten tradition. As Irenaeus observed, If there were a secret tradition, the apostles would have told us and manifested it to the world (Adv Haer 3.1). The tradition would not take the form of “Psst! The Bishop of Rome has the charism of infallibility! Pass it on!”

    What I’m saying is that Catholics (rightly) observe that we may not alter God’s truth to suit our own whims. But they carve out an exception for the magisterium on the grounds of the charism of infallibility.

    But Scripture does not teach such a charism, passed on by “apostolic succession” or any other means. All arguments that get there are grounded in a selective use and interpretation of the apostolic fathers — which is contrary to reason.

    But as I mentioned above, the most basic problem is that the magisterial teaching contradicts Scripture at several points. This leaves a lay person in this position: Do I obey God’s Word, or do I obey the magisterium?

    On the one hand, the magisterium has claimed the ability to rightly understand God’s Word at all times. This should normally be dispositive. On the other, the magisterium is definitely encouraging and commanding something contrary to Scripture — namely, bowing to statues of Jesus.

    If one is given a direct command from a superior that contradicts a direct command from HIS superior, it is clear which should be obeyed: the arch-superior must be obeyed. Claims from the intermediate superior that “you have the wrong interpretation” are beside the point. The issue of interpretation at that point is between the subordinate and the arch-superior.

  47. MichaelTX
    Posted April 14, 2013 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    Truly sorry I took you in an unintended way. I guess being rigidity recieved and at times miss a bit of good fun ribbing.

    To your thought about what in the world is changing in Catholics. I can’t really speak to the heart of others, but me as a relatively recent mover into the Catholic Church can say I never tried to truly understand the whys of the Catholic “particulars” of the Faith from a Catholic perspective. I don’t believe I ever would have except for the love of the truth and a passion for the Word ignited in me by the Spirit.
    So, I guess I’d say the Spirit is doing some moving and He’s kicking some Catholics in the pants and convicting them with truth through the scriptures and moving others in to communion with them, but that is just my thoughts on the subject.
    Peace, Mike

  48. MichaelTX
    Posted April 14, 2013 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Typo: I guess I fear being rigidly recieved…

  49. B
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Permalink
  50. Joel
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    Was this analogy written by a Roman Catholic defending the infallibility of the Roman magisterium in light of the schism with the East, or was it written by a Protestant defending the idea of sola scriptura in light of multiple interpretations by different denominations?

    “When laws are passed, there may be some uncertainties in the application to particular cases. And people may disagree on those applications; presumably that is what leads to most appellate law. That doesn’t mean that the legal system as a whole or even the particular law in question fails to function, nor does such disagreement thereby eliminate the possibility of regulation. By your reasoning, the fact that there is interpretive disagreement means that there is anarchy, which is absurd.”

    The answer can be found in a link posted in one of the comments.

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