A Refutation of the Misrepresentations of the Writings of Augustine and William Webster by Roman Catholic, Stephen Ray
By William Webster
In his rebuttal, Stephen Ray charges that I have misrepresented the teaching of Augustine. In my original response to him, I refer to my book The Matthew 16 Controversy: Peter and the Rock, in which I cite Augustine as an example of a Church father who teaches that Peter held a position of primacy, but that he did not interpret that to mean a papal primacy because the fathers do not make the application of what they say about Peter to the bishops of Rome. I went on to say that the common mistake of Roman apologists is that they assume that because a Church father speaks in exalted terms of Peter that they have the bishops of Rome in mind in an exclusive sense. This is because these apologists assume that the early Church viewed the bishops of Rome alone as the successors of Peter.
In the minds of the Church fathers all the Apostles are equal. The exalted titles applied to Peter by many of them are also applied to the other Apostles. As I state in my book, The Matthew 16 Controversy:
Did the fathers view the bishops of Rome as being successors of Peter? Yes. Did they view the bishops of Rome as being the exclusive successors of Peter? No.
Steve Ray objects to this statement. He says on page 3 of the section on Augustine in his rebuttal:
This needs to be examined a bit more closely. Successors, yes. Exclusive successors? Yes and no. Obviously, since the Fathers accepted Apostolic succession…those that sat on Peter’s chair in Rome viewed themselves and were viewed by others as successors to Peter in an exclusive sense. But it is agreed that apostolic authority to bind and loose, forgive or retain sins was also a power granted to the bishops in the apostolic succession based on Matthew 18.
But such a view is not true to the facts as the following statements from John Chrysostom and Gaudentius and Theodoret demonstrate. Gaudentius and Chrysostom explicitly state that Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, and Flavian, the Bishop of Antioch, are successors of Peter and possess Peter’s chair:
I beseech our common father Ambrose, that, after the scanty dew of my discourse, he may pour abundantly into your hearts the mysteries of the divine writings. Let him speak from that Holy Spirit with which he is filled, and ‘from his belly shall flow rivers of living water;’ and, as a successor of Peter, he shall be the mouth of all the surrounding priests. For when the Lord Jesus asked of the apostles, ‘Whom do you say that I am?’ Peter alone replies, with the mouth of all believers, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ What reward did that confession at once receive? Blessedness indeed, and the most glorious power of the heavenly kingdom (Tract. 16, De Ordin. Ipsius. Cited by J. Waterworth S.J., A Commentary (London: Thomas Richardson, 1871), pp. 105-107).
In speaking of S. Peter, the recollection of another Peter has come to me (St. Flavian, his bishop), the common father and teacher, who has inherited his prowess, and also obtained his chair. For this is the one great privilege of our city, Antioch, that it received the leader of the apostles as its teacher in the beginning. For it was right that she who was first adorned with the name of Christians, before the whole world, should receive the first of the apostles as her pastor. But though we received him as teacher, we did not retain him to the end, but gave him up to royal Rome. Or rather we did retain him to the end, for though we do not retain the body of Peter, we do retain the faith of Peter, and retaining the faith of Peter we have Peter (On the Inscription of the Acts, II. Taken from Documents Illustrating Papal Authority (London: SPCK, 1952), E. Giles, Ed., p. 168. Cf. Chapman, Studies on the Early Papacy, p. 96).
Theodoret makes a similar statement about the see of Antioch when he states that Antioch possesses the throne of Peter:
Dioscurus, however, refuses to abide by these decisions; he is turning the see of the blessed Mark upside down; and these things he does though he perfectly well knows that the Antiochean metropolis possesses the throne of the great Peter, who was the teacher of the blessed Mark, and first and coryphaeus of the apostles (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume III, Theodoret, Epistle 86, To Flavianus, bishop of Constantinople, p. 281).
These statements make it clear that a Petrine succession was not the exclusive domain of the bishops of Rome contrary to the assertions of Mr. Ray. The fathers quoted above indicate that the bishops of Rome are not the exclusive successors of Peter nor are the exclusive possessors of the chair of Peter. The bishops are all successors of the Apostles as a college, each apostle possessing an equal status with one another. The bishops as equal successors of the apostles, all possess the keys and govern the Church as co-equals. This is clearly expressed by Isidore of Seville in these words:
So Peter first received the power of binding and loosing, and he first led people to faith by the power of his preaching. Still, the other apostles have been made equal with Peter in a fellowship of honor and power. They also, having been sent out into all the world, preached the Gospel. Having descended from these apostles, the bishops have succeeded them, and through all the world they have been established in the seats of the apostles (De Ecclesiasticus II.5, M.P.L., Vol. 83, Col. 781-782).
Did the fathers identify the person of Peter with the bishops of Rome? Yes. But it is quite clear that they identified the bishops in other sees with Peter as well.
Thus, when the Church fathers speak in exalted terms about Peter they are not referring to the bishops of Rome. No Church father makes that application in his writings. And they make it clear from their statements regarding the other Apostles, by their exegesis of Matthew 16 and by their practice that they did not view the bishops of Rome to possess a universal primacy of jurisdiction to rule the Church universally. I cite Augustine as a prime example of this. Now Steve Ray takes issue with the argument that because the fathers do not make the application of Peter’s exalted titles to the bishops of Rome that they are therefore not applying them to Rome. He says:
Who’s arguing from silence now Bill? Bill admits this is the only basis on which he draws his conclusion. Because he doesn’t find the exact terminology of Vatican I in the writings of St. Augustine, he assumes there is no special place for Peter and no special place for the Bishop of Rome.
As I mention above, my argument doesn’t rest on silence alone but on the father’s exegesis of Matthew 16 , their explicit statements about the other Apostles and their practice. Steve says I don’t find the explicit terminology of Vatican I in the writings of Augustine. He is absolutely correct. What you find is an explicit denial of the teaching of Vatican I in both his exegesis and his practice. In his exegesis of the rock of Matthew 16 Augustine states:
You are Peter, Rocky, and on this rock I shall build my Church, and the gates of the underworld will not conquer her. To you shall I give the keys of the kingdom. Whatever you bind on earth shall also be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall also be loosed in heaven’ (Mt 16:15–19). In Peter, Rocky, we see our attention drawn to the rock. Now the apostle Paul says about the former people, ‘They drank from the spiritual rock that was following them; but the rock was Christ’ (1 Cor 10:4). So this disciple is called Rocky from the rock, like Christian from Christ.
Why have I wanted to make this little introduction? In order to suggest to you that in Peter the Church is to be recognized. Christ, you see, built his Church not on a man but on Peter’s confession. What is Peter’s confession? ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ There’s the rock for you, there’s the foundation, there’s where the Church has been built, which the gates of the underworld cannot conquer (John Rotelle, O.S.A., Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle: New City Press, 1993), Sermons, Volume III/6, Sermon 229P.1, p. 327).
Here Augustine explicitly states that Peter is not the rock. His confession of faith is. He separates Peter’s confession from Peter’s person. The Church is not built upon his person for he says ‘Christ did not build his Church on a man but on Peter’s confession.’ If it is not built upon his person there is no papal office. The foundation is Peter’s confession which points to Christ as the true foundation. By being built upon Peter’s confession of faith, which points to Christ, one is built upon Christ, who is the ultimate rock. In his book, Upon This Rock, Steve Ray says:
Even if, for the sake of argument, Augustine had said that Peter was definitely not the rock in Matthew 16 (which, by the way, no Father ever said) (p. 232).
No father ever said Peter is not the rock, Steve? Obviously, from the above quote it is clear that Augustine did. In another place Steve Ray asks:
Can anyone claim that the Fathers attributed Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, “You are Peter [Rock] and upon this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16:18), to Peter’s confession alone and not to Peter himself? (p. 177, Footnote 58).
Yes, Steve, the above quotation from the leading theologian of the Western Church for the first 1200 years does. Steve Ray’s whole premise is completely shattered by these statements from Augustine. His exegesis is an explicit repudiation of the teaching of Vatican I and it is the consistent view expressed by him throughout his ministry. The following is a typical example of his exegesis which can be multiplied many times over:
Then He added, ‘and I say unto thee.’ As if He had said, ‘Because thou hast said unto Me, “Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God;” I also say unto thee, “Thou art Peter.” For before he was called Simon. Now this name of Peter was given him by the Lord, and in a figure, that he should signify the Church. For seeing that Christ is the rock (Petra), Peter is the Christian people. For the rock (Petra) is the original name. Therefore Peter is so called from the rock; not the rock from Peter; as Christ is not called Christ from the Christian, but the Christian from Christ. ‘Therefore,’ he saith, ‘Thou art Peter; and upon this Rock’ which Thou hast confessed, upon this rock which Thou hast acknowledged, saying, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, will I build My Church;’ that is upon Myself, the Son of the living God, ‘will I build My Church.’ I will build thee upon Myself, not Myself upon Thee (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume VI, St. Augustin, Sermon 26.1-4, pp. 340-341).
Early in his ministry Augustine stated that the rock was Peter but he soon changed his opinion and throughout his long and illustrious career he restates the thoughts recorded above. Over and over again throughout his ministry Augustine states that the rock is Christ or Peter’s confession and that it is not Peter the person. Now Steve Ray attempts to circumvent the obvious facts by appealing to Augustine’s Retractations and his affirmation of the teaching of Ambrose. In the Retractations, Augustine corrects the opinion he previously held that Peter was the rock and gives the opinion that he held to throughout his ministry. He then states the reader can decide which interpretation is best, the rock is Peter or the rock is Christ. But it is clear which interpretation Augustine favors and thinks is the correct one. Steve Ray then asserts that Augustine never denied that the rock was Peter was a legitimate interpretation. And he implies by this a full agreement with the interpretation of Vatican I. He cites Augustine’s allusion to Ambrose in his Retractations. On page 2 of his rebuttal in his section on Ambrose Steve Ray states:
Bill says that St. Ambrose doesn’t teach that Peter himself is the foundation. Yet, how did St. Ambrose’s star student and prodigy, St. Augustine understand Ambrose’s teaching? Why should I care how Eno or Bill interpret St. Ambrose when we have a commentary by St. Augustine himself. In a passage in this book, I said about the Apostle Peter: ‘On him as on a rock the Church was built.’ This idea is also expressed in song by the voice of many in the verses of the most blessed Ambrose where he says about the crowing of the cock: ‘At its crowing he, this rock of the Church, washed away his his guilt.’ Unfortunately, when Bill refers to an examination of his other statements’ he fails to to tell us about the song composed by St. Ambrose, the singing of that song by ‘many voices’ and the way that St. Ambrose’s own student understood this teaching.’
Mr Ray would have us believe that when Ambrose teaches that Peter is the rock and that many voices sing this hymn in the Church that this must mean he is confirming a Roman Catholic interpretation of the rock and Peter. Nothing could be further from the truth. When Ambrose teaches that Peter is the rock he is referring to Peter as the one who confessed the deity of Christ and he plainly states that Peter is the rock only in the sense that he has made a right confession of faith. When Ambrose states that ‘where Peter is there is the Church’, he interprets that to mean where Peter’s confession of faith is, there is the Church. Ambrose, like Augustine, separates Peter’s person from Peter’s confession in the sense that the Church is built on Peter only in the sense that it is built on his faith. In his interpretation of the rock passage Ambrose makes this quite clear:
He, then, who before was silent, to teach us that we ought not to repeat the words of the impious, this one, I say, when he heard, ‘But who do you say I am,’ immediately, not unmindful of his station, exercised his primacy, that is, the primacy of confession, not of honor; the primacy of belief, not of rank.
This, then, is Peter, who has replied for the rest of the Apostles; rather, before the rest of men. And so he is called the foundation, because he knows how to preserve not only his own but the common foundation…Faith, then, is the foundation of the Church, for it was not said of Peter’s flesh, but of his faith, that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ But his confession of faith conquered hell. And this confession did not shut out one heresy, for, since the Church like a good ship is often buffeted by many waves, the foundation of the Church should prevail against all heresies (The Fathers of the Church (Washington D.C., Catholic University, 1963), Saint Ambrose, Theological and Dogmatic Works, The Sacrament of the Incarnation of Our Lord IV.32-V.34, pp. 230-231).
The foundation of justice therefore is faith, for the hearts of the just dwell on faith, and the just man that accuses himself builds justice on faith, for his justice becomes plain when he confesses the truth. So the Lord saith through Isaiah: “Behold, I lay a stone for a foundation in Sion.” This means Christ as the foundation of the Church. For Christ is the object of faith to all; but the Church is as it were the outward form of justice, she is the common right of all. For all in common she prays, for all in common she works, in the temptations of all she is tried. So he who denies himself is indeed a just man, is indeed worthy of Christ. For this reason Paul has made Christ to be the foundation, so that we may build upon Him the works of justice, whilst faith is the foundation. In our works, then, if they are evil, there appears unrighteousness; if they are good, justice (On the Duties of the Clergy, Chapter 29.142).
Note that he states that faith is the foundation of the church, not Peter’s flesh or his person. In another passage Ambrose gives an interpretation of the rock which is very reminiscent of Origen:
Peter therefore did not wait for the opinion of the people, but produced his own, saying, ‘Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God’: Who ever is, began not to be, nor ceases to be. Great is the grace of Christ, who has imparted almost all His own names to His disciples. ‘I am,’ said He, ‘the light of the world,’ and yet with that very name in which He glories, He favored His disciples, saying, ‘Ye are the light of the world.’ ‘I am the living bread’; and ‘we all are one bread’ (1 Cor. x.17)…Christ is the rock, for ‘they drank of the same spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ’ (1 Cor. x.4); also He denied not to His disciple the grace of this name; that he should be Peter, because he has from the rock (petra) the solidity of constancy, the firmness of faith. Make an effort, therefore, to be a rock! Do not seek the rock outside of yourself, but within yourself! Your rock is your deed, your rock is your mind. Upon this rock your house is built. Your rock is your faith, and faith is the foundation of the Church. If you are a rock, you will be in the Church, because the Church is on a rock. If you are in the Church the gates of hell will not prevail against you…He who has conquered the flesh is a foundation of the Church; and if he cannot equal Peter, he can imitate him (Commentary in Luke VI.98, CSEL 32.4).
Again, Ambrose is emphasizing that faith is the foundation of the Church, the rock of the Church, that upon which the Church is built. It is not the person of Peter. Ambrose makes the point that Paul was equal to Peter in all respects:
Nor was Paul inferior to Peter, though the latter was the foundation of the Church, and the former a wise builder knowing how to make firm the footsteps of the nations who believed; Paul was not, I say, unworthy of the fellowship of the apostles, but is easily comparable with the first, and second to none. For he who knows not that he is inferior makes himself equal (On the Holy Spirit, Book 2.158).
The Church can be said to be built on Peter and to have Peter as the foundation in that it is built on his faith. But Ambrose did not believe in a papal office because, like Augustine, he states that the Church is not built on Peter’s person. Patristic and Medieval scholar, Karlfried Froehlich sums up the teaching of Ambrose and other Eastern exegetes in these words:
Most of the Eastern exegetes, especially after the doctrinal controversies of the fourth century, read v. 18 as the culmination of vv. 16-17: ‘upon this rock’ meant ‘upon the orthodox faith which you have just confessed.’ Introduced in the West by Ambrose and the translation of the Antiochene exegetes, this Petra=fides equation maintained an important place alongside the christological alternative, or as its more precise explanation: the rock of the church was Christ who was the content of Peter’s confession (Karlfried Froehlich, Saint Peter, Papal Primacy, and Exegetical Tradition, 1150-1300, p. 12. Taken from The Religious Roles of the Papacy: Ideals and Realities, 1150-1300, ed. Christopher Ryan, Papers in Medieval Studies 8 (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1989).
The concept of the Church being built on Peter by its being built on his faith and not his person is expressed in a patristic comment from the early centuries. It has been falsely attributed to Victor of Antioch but scholars are now convinced it comes either from Origen, Chrysostom or Cyril of Alexandria:
And to Simon He gave the name Peter (Mark iii.16). Lest any may think the apostles were chosen by chance or at random, the Evangelist gives the names of each in order. And he says that ‘to Simon He gave the name Peter,’ that the name may anticipate the event itself; because as Christ the Lord was about to build His Church on Peter, that is, on the unbroken and sound doctrine of Peter, and his unshaken faith, therefore in prophetic spirit does He call him Peter (In Ev. Marc. chap. 3. Cited by J. Waterworth S.J., A Commentary (London: Thomas Richardson, 1871), pp. 133-134).
To sing about Peter as the rock when the emphasis is on his confession of faith, which is precisely how Ambrose and Augustine understood it, is a perfectly legitimate understanding of the Matthew 16 passage. So to enlist the statement of Augustine from his Retractations in favor of Ambrose’s statement as support of a Roman Catholic interpretation is completely illegitimate. We need to understand what Ambrose meant by the terms he used and his exegesis of the rock of Matthew 16 tells us precisely what that meaning was.
Augustine and Ambrose both state that the rock is not Peter’s person but his confession of faith. It is faith which points to Christ which is the foundation of the Church.
In Augustine’s view Peter is a symbolic representative of the Church. While he holds a primacy it is not a primacy of jurisdiction but of honor. As W.H.C. Frend states in referring to Augustine’s view of Peter:
His (Peter’s) primacy was simply a matter of personal privilege and not an office (The Early Church (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982), p. 222).
Here is how Augustine defines what he means when he says that Peter is the first of the Apostles:
As you know, all of you who know the holy scriptures, among the disciples whom the Lord chose while present in the flesh, Peter was the first to be chosen. Paul on the other hand was not chosen among them, nor with them, but a long time afterward, though not for all that unequal to them. So Peter is the first of the apostles, Paul the last; while God, whose servants these two are, whose heralds, whose preachers these two are, is the first and the last (Rv 22:13). Peter first among the apostles, Paul last among the apostles; God both first and last, before whom nothing and after whom nothing. So God who has presented himself as eternally the first and the last, himself joined together the first and the last apostles in martyrdom (John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Sermons III/8 (Hyde Park: New City, 1994), Sermon 299.2, p. 229).
The blessed apostles Peter and Paul were called at different times, and crowned on the same day. The Lord called Peter before all the others, Paul after all the others; Peter the first of the apostles, Paul the last; they were led to martydom on one and the same day by the First and the Last (John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Sermons III/8 (Hyde Park: New City, 1994), Sermon 299C.1, p. 250).
Note here that Augustine states that Peter is the first and Paul is the last. This has to do with the priority of time, not with official position. He also states that Paul and Peter are equals. The Abbe Guettee, a convert to Orthodoxy from Roman Catholicism, in commenting on Augustine’s view of Peter and his primacy states:
He (Augustine)calls Peter the first (primus) as he calls Paul the last, (novissimus,) which conveys only an idea of time. And that this was indeed St. Augustine’s idea, appears from the fact that in this same text, so much abused by Romanists, because in it Augustine grants Peter the primacy, he distinctly asserts that Peter and Paul, the first and the last, were equal in the honour of the apostleship. Therefore, according to St. Augustine, Peter received only the high favour of being called first to the Apostleship. This distinction with which the Lord honoured him, is his glory, but gave him no authority (Abbe Guettee, The Papacy (Blanco: New Sarov, 1866), p. 176).
Augustine speaks of Peter as being a representative of the Church so that what was spoken to Peter and granted to Peter was not spoken and granted to him alone, but to him as the representative of the universal Church:
Before his passion the Lord Jesus, as you know, chose those disciples of his, whom he called apostles. Among these it was only Peter who almost everywhere was given the privilege of representing the whole Church. It was in the person of the whole Church, which he alone represented, that he was privileged to hear, ‘To you will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven’ (Mt 16:19). After all, it isn’t just one man that received these keys, but the Church in its unity. So this is the reason for Peter’s acknowledged pre–eminence, that he stood for the Church’s universality and unity, when he was told, ‘To you I am entrusting,’ what has in fact been entrusted to all.
I mean, to show you that it is the Church which has received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, listen to what the Lord says in another place to all his apostles: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit;’ and straightway, ‘Whose sins you forgive, they will be forgiven them; whose sins you retain, they will be retained’ (Jn 20:22-23). This refers to the keys, about which it is said, ‘whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven’ (Mt 16:19). But that was said to Peter. To show you that Peter at that time stood for the universal Church, listen to what is said to him, what is said to all the faithful, the saints: ‘If your brother sins against you, correct him between you and himself alone. If he does not listen to you, bring with you one or two; for it is written, By the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every matter be settled. If he does not even listen to them, refer him to the Church; if he does not even listen to her, let him be to you as a heathen and a tax collector. Amen amen I tell you, that whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ (Mt 16:18). It is the dove that binds, the dove that looses, the building built upon the rock that binds and looses (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume VI, St. Augustin, Sermon 26.1-4, pp. 340-341).
In this passage Augustine states that the pre-eminence or primacy of Peter is due to the fact that he represents the Church universal. When Christ bequethed the power of binding and loosing to Peter he was bequeathing this power to the entire Church. Augustine then ties together Matthew 16 and Matthew 18 exegetically to demonstrate that what had been entrusted to Peter had in fact been entrusted to all. There are no distinctions between the Apostles in the mind of Augustine. They are all on an equal footing. The following quotations demonstrate how often the theme of Peter’s being a symbolic representative of the Church universal recurs in the writings of Augustine:
Its clear, you see, from many places in scripture that Peter can stand for, or represent, the Church; above all from that place where it says, To you will I hand over the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall also be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Mt. 16:19). Did Peter receive these keys, and Paul not receive them? Did Peter receive them, and John and James and the other apostles not receive them? Or are the keys not to be found in the Church, where sins are being forgiven every day? But because Peter symbolically stood for the Church, what was given to him alone was given to the whole Church. So Peter represented the Church; the Church is the body of Christ (John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle: New City, 1992), Sermons, III/5, Sermon 149.6-7, p. 21).
And this Church, symbolized in its generality, was personified in the Apostle Peter, on account of the primacy of his apostleship. For, as regards his proper personality, he was by nature one man, by grace one Christian, by still more abounding grace one, and yet also, the first apostle; but when it was said to him, ‘I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.
For, as regards his proper personality, he was by nature one man, by grace one Christian, by still more abounding grace one, and yet also, the first apostle; but when it was said to him, ‘I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven,’ he represented the universal Church, which in this world is shaken by divers temptations, that come upon it like torrents of rain, floods and tempests, and falleth not, because it is founded upon a rock (petra), from which Peter received his name. For petra (rock) is not derived from Peter, but Peter from petra; just as Christ is not called so from the Christian, but the Christian from Christ. For on this very account the Lord said, ‘On this rock will I build my Church,’ because Peter had said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ On this rock, therefore, He said, which thou hast confessed, I will build my Church. For the Rock (Petra) was Christ; and on this foundation was Peter himself built. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus. The Church, therefore, which is founded in Christ received from Him the keys of the kingdom of heaven in the person of Peter, that is to say, the power of binding and loosing sins. For what the Church is essentially in Christ, such representatively is Peter in the rock (petra); and in this representation Christ is to be understood as the Rock, Peter as the Church (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume VII, St. Augustin, On the Gospel of John, Tractate 124.5).
For not without cause among all the Apostles doth Peter sustain the person of this Church Catholic; for unto this Church were the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven given, when they were given unto Peter: and when it is said unto him, it is said unto all, Lovest thou Me? Feed My sheep (A Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church (Oxford: Parker, 1847), Seventeen Short Treatises of S. Augustine, De Agone Christiano (The Christian Conflict) 32, p. 184).
One wicked man represents the whole body of the wicked; in the same way as Peter, the whole body of the good, yea, the body of the Church, but in respect to the good. For if in Peter’s case there were no sacramental symbol of the Church, the Lord would not have said to him, ‘I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.’ If this was said only to Peter, it gives no ground of action to the Church. But if such is the case also in the Church, that what is bound on earth is bound in heaven, and what is loosed on earth is loosed in heaven—for when the Church excommunicates, the excommunicated person is bound in heaven; when one is reconciled by the Church, the person so reconciled is loosed in heaven—if such, then, is the case in the Church, Peter, in receiving the keys, represented the holy Church (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume VII, St. Augustine, On The Gospel of St. John, Tractate 50.12, p. 282).
Peter was the only one that answered, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God;’ and to whom it was said, ‘I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,’ as if he alone received the power of binding and loosing: seeing, then, that one spake in behalf of all, and received the latter along with all, as if personifying the unity itself; therefore one stands for all, because there is unity in all (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume VII, St. Augustin, Homilies on the Gospel of St. John, Tractate 118.4, p. 431).
The theme of symbolic representation is applied by Augustine to Christ’s commission to Peter to feed his sheep in John 21. Augustine interprets this commission to Peter as representative of a commission to all shepherds and pastors in the Church. It is not a commission given to Peter alone. When Christ speaks to Peter he is speaking to the universal Church. Peter is viewed as symbolically representing the Church and its shepherds:
So let us love him, let there be nothing dearer to us than he. So do you imagine that the Lord is not questioning us? Was Peter the only one who qualified to be questioned, and didn’t we? When that reading is read, every single Christian is being questioned in his heart. So when you hear the Lord saying ‘Peter, do you love me?’ think of it as a mirror, and observe yourself there. I mean, what else was Peter doing but standing for the Church? So when the Lord was questioning Peter, he was questioning us, he was questioning the Church. I mean, to show you that Peter stood for the Church, call to mind that place in the gospel, ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the underworld shall not conquer her; to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven’ (Mt 16:18-19). One man receives them; you see, he explained himself what the keys of the kingdom mean: ‘What you all bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and what you all loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ (Mt 18:18). If it was said to Peter alone, Peter alone did this; he passed away, and went away; so who binds, who looses? I make bold to say, we too have these keys. And what am I to say? That it is only we who bind, only we who loose? No, you also bind, you also loose. Anybody who’s bound, you see, is barred from your society; and when he’s barred from your society, he’s bound by you; and when he’s reconciled he’s loosed by you, because you too plead with God for him.
We all love Christ, you see, we are his members; and when he entrusts the sheep to the shepherds, the whole number of shepherds is reduced to the body of one shepherd. Just to show you that the whole number of shepherds is reduced to the one body of the one shepherd, certainly Peter’s a shepherd, undoubtedly a pastor; Paul’s a shepherd, yes, clearly a pastor; John’s a shepherd, James a shepherd, Andrew a shepherd, and the other apostles are shepherds. All holy bishops are shepherds, pastors, yes, clearly so. And how can this be true: And there will be one flock and one shepherd (Jn 10:16)? Then if there will be one flock and one shepherd is true, the innumerable number of shepherds or pastors must be reduced to the body of the one shepherd or pastor (John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle: New City, 1993), Sermons, Volume III/6, Sermon 229N.1-3, pp. 320-321).
What now on this occasion? The Lord questions him, as you heard when the gospel was read, and says to him, Simon son ofJohn, do you love me more than these? He answered and said, Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. And again the Lord asked this question, and a third time he asked this question. And every time in reply he affirmed his love, he entrusted him with the care of his flock. Every time, you see, that Peter said I love you, the Lord Jesus said to him, Feed my lambs, feed my sheep (Jn. 21:15-17). the one man Peter represents the unity of all the shepherds or pastors of the Church—but of the good ones, who know how to feed Christ’s flock for Christ, not for themselves (John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Sermons III/4 (Hyde Park: New City, 1994), Sermon 147.2, p. 448).
So he is a pastor, a shepherd, to whom you entrusted your sheep, with the task of feeding them. You yourself appointed him, he’s a shepherd. Let’s see now if he’s a good one. We find out in this very exchange of question and answer. You inquired whether he loved you, he answered, I do. You saw into his heart, that he answered truthfully. So isn’t he good, seeing that he loves so great a good? …So he was both a shepherd and a good shepherd; nothing to compare, of course, with the authority and goodness of the shepherd of shepherds, the pastor of pastors; but all the same he too was both a pastor and a good one, and the others like him were good pastors.
So why is it that you draw the attention of good shepherds to the idea of one shepherd? For what other reason could it be, but that in the one shepherd you are teaching the lesson of unity? And the Lord explains the matter more clearly through my ministry, as he reminds your graces from the gospel and says, “Listen to what I have drawn attention to: I am the good shepherd, I said; because all the others, all the good shepherds are my members, parts of me; one head, one body, one Christ. So both the shepherd of the shepherds, and the shepherds of the shepherd, and the sheep with the shepherds under the shepherd, are one. All this is only what the apostle says: Just as the body is one and has many parts, but all the parts of the body, though they are many, form one body, so too is Christ (1 Cor 12:12). If, then, so too is Christ, it was quite right for Christ, who contains all the good shepherds in himself, to draw attention to one by saying, I am the good shepherd. I am, I am one person, with me all in the unity are one. Anyone who feeds the sheep outside me feeds them against me. Anyone who does not gather with me scatters (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume VII, St. Augustin, Homilies on the Gospel of John, Tractate 123.5, pp. 445-446).
Quite rightly too did the Lord after his resurrection entrust his sheep to Peter to be fed. It’s not, you see, that he alone among the disciples was fit to feed the Lord’s sheep; but when Christ speaks to one man, unity is being commended to us. And he first speaks to Peter, because Peter is the first among the apostles (John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle: New City Press, 1994), Sermons, Volume III/8, Sermon 295.4, p. 199).
So the Lord entrusted his sheep to us bishops, because he entrusted them to Peter; if, that is, we are worthy with any part of us, even with the tips of our toes, to tread the dust of Peter’s footsteps, the Lord entrusted his sheep to us. You are his sheep, we are sheep along with you, because we are Christians. I have already said, we are fed and we feed (John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle: New City Press, 1994), Sermons, Volume III/8, Sermon 296.13, p. 211).
But when he declared his love once, and again, and a third time, the Lord entrusted him with his sheep. Do you love me? He said. Lord, you know that I love you. Feed my lambs. This once, and again, and a third time, as though the only way Peter could show his love for Christ would be by being a faithful shepherd and pastor under the prince of all pastors…(John Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (Brooklyn: New City Press, 1992), Sermons, Volume III/4, Sermon 147A.1-2, pp. 451-452).
According to Augustine, when Christ entrusted the sheep to Peter he was not making him the supreme ruler of the Church. He and all the shepherds of the Church are under Christ, the chief shepherd. There is only one head, Christ, and all the Apostles are of equal status under Christ as the chief shepherd. In addition, when Christ entrusted his sheep to Peter he was not entrusting the other Apostles to him, but the converts who would be the fruit of his preaching. The Apostles are equally shepherds with Peter.
Therefore, the logic of Augustine and of the fathers as a whole is as follows:
1) Peter holds a primacy, but it is not a primacy of jurisdiction.
2) Peter is not the rock but his confession of Christ or Christ himself and therefore the Church is not built on Peter personally but on his confession of faith which points to Christ.
3 All the Apostles are equal.
4) Peter is a symbolic representative of the Church as a whole. What was spoken to Peter and granted to him by Christ was spoken and granted to all the Apostles equally and through them to the Church universal.
5) All the bishops are successors of Peter because they are the successors of the Apostles, all of whom were equal.
6) All the bishops sit on the chair of Peter.
7) Therefore, the exalted titles applied to Peter do not apply to the bishops of Rome because the fathers never make that application in their writings.
So my arguments is not primarily an argument from silence.
Steve Ray objects to my interpretation of Augustine on two levels. He takes issue with my conclusions about Augustine’s interpretation of the rock of Matthew 16 and he states that the practice of Augustine contradicts the conclusions I draw of his ecclesiology. Let’s examine these issues.
Steve Ray states that the fathers interpret the rock with a variety of applications: Peter, Peter’s confession and Christ. He objects to the conclusion that when the fathers interpret the rock to be Peter’s confession or Christ that this precludes their understanding that the rock could also be Peter. He cites the Catechism of the Catholic Church as an example of how one can interpret the rock as Peter’s confession and also of Peter himself in a Roman Catholic sense without its being contradictory. He states:
How does this authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church explain Peter and Matthew 16? Are we to conclude that IF it affirms that anything but Peter is the rock foundation of the Church we should all throw in our towels?…Let’s read paragraph 424 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit and drawn by the Father, we believe in Jesus and confess: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ On the rock of this faith confessed by St. Peter, Christ built his Church.’ But notice how the Church is confused and nonplussed that she contradicts herself in the very same book! (I’m writing with tongue in cheek)! In paragraph 552 of the Catechism we read: ‘Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve; Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Our Lord then declared to him: ‘You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.’ Christ, the ‘living stone,’ thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. because of the faith that he confessed Peter will remain the unshakable rock of the Church.’ This sounds amazingly Patristic and I wonder if we are reading St. Augustine into modern church teaching. No, can’t be. That would be anachronism in reverse, prolepsis going backwards. St. Augustine describes the rock as Peter, as his confession, as his faith, and as Christ – all four! Which is it?…St. Augustine does not accept Bill’s exclusive and unnecessary dichotomies.
Excuse me, Steve, but Augustine is the one who established the dichotomies! It is he who states in his exegesis of the rock of Matthew 16 that the Church is not built on Peter’s person but on his confession. He explicitly denies that Peter is the rock. He does not endorse all four interpretations, just two of them (Peter’s confession and Peter’s faith mean the same thing). The CCC gives us an interpretation. It states that the rock is Peter’s confession of faith and also the person of Peter by which it means the Roman Catholic understanding. It tells us what the various interpretations are that are acceptable. Augustine does the same as do all the fathers. Augustine clearly and straightforwardly tells us what he considers to be the legitimate interpretations of the rock of Matthew 16 and he likewise tells us what it doesn’t mean. He can state that the rock is Peter’s confession and also Christ without it being contradictory. But he denies that it is Peter.
Steve Ray is suggesting that because the CCC and also John Paul II can interpret the rock to mean Peter’s confession this does not exclude their being able to also interpret the rock to mean Peter personally (in terms of the Roman Catholic/Vatican I understanding). He suggests that this is how we should view the various interpretations given by the fathers, such as Augustine. Just because they say that the rock is Peter’s confession and they do not state that the rock is Peter, this does not mean that they reject the interpretation of Peter as the rock (in terms of the Roman Catholic/Vatican I understanding). It simply means they haven’t explicitly stated it. Such reasoning is fallacious. The fathers give specific meaning to their interpretation. When the CCC teaches that the rock is Peter’s confession and Peter’s person it specifically states this in its interpretation. The fathers do the same. They specify what they mean. The vast majority do not interpret the rock to be Peter and the very few who do, do not give a Vatican I papal interpretation to their meaning. But according to Steve Ray, we are supposed to conclude that just as the CCC and John Paul II can interpret the rock to be Christ, and as Peter’s confession, and still affirm the Vatican I interpretation of the Petrine foundation of the Church, that we are to conclude the same about Augustine. The problem with such an assumption is that Augustine does not leave us with that option. He repudiates the concept of the person of Peter as being the foundation of the Church in the sense that Vatican I, the CCC and John Paul would mean it.While it is legitimate to say that John Paul II and the CCC interpret the rock passage in these various ways, it is not legitimate to say it for Augustine. He has expressed himself very clearly. The rock is not Peter but his confession of faith or it is Christ himself. If John Paul II explicitly stated that the rock was not Peter’s confession, it would be dishonest of me to suggest that he did. The same principle applies to Augustine and the rest of the fathers. They do not interpret the rock in pro-papal terms. The vast majority interpret it to be Peter’s confession or Christ. This is clearly revealed from the documentation provided in the Introductory article where I deal with the subject of unanimous consent. One will find there the comments of 29 major Church fathers on the rock of Matthew 16:18.
After I had listed numerous passages in which Augustine affirms a primacy of Peter and his explanation of the meaning of the rock of Matthew 16 Steve Ray writes:
Bill implies that I am unaware of these passages or that I have purposely hid them from my readers. Not so. I have been quite forthright in presenting such passages in my book as Bill is aware (e.g. St. Augustine’s Retractations, p. 231 in Upon This Rock).
I wasn’t implying that Steve was unaware of these passages or that was purposefully hiding them from his readers. The reason for the listing of them was to counter the charges he made in the Introduction to his book. But the assertion that Steve has been forthright in presenting Augustine’s true views and that he has given a thorough documentation of Augustine’s teaching is simply not true. The only passage he presents that deals with Augustine’s actual exegesis of the rock of Matthew 16 is his Retractations. Apart from this there is nothing. The passage from Augustine’s Sermonn 229 where he states that Christ did not build his Church on a man but on Peter’s confession of faith, is completely missing from Steve’s book. Where are the quotes that express Augustine’s view that Peter is a symbolic representative of the Church? They are completely missing. Why is that? He knew about these quotes because he had my book at least a year and a half before his was published. I have provided 26 pages of nothing but quotes from Augustine’s writings to provide a thorough documentation of his teaching. Steve Ray has not done this.
Steve Ray says:
Bill only deals with the way St. Augustine interprets Mt. 16 in this “rebuttal” but my book goes into the actual practice of papal primacy. One’s actions speak as loud or louder than words.
I couldn’t agree more about one’s actions but I would remind the reader that Steve Ray neglects to inform his readers that approximately one half of my book, The Matthew 16 Controversy, is dedicated to the practice of the Church fathers in their relationship to the Bishops of Rome.
In his actual practice Augustine manifested an anti-papal ecclesiology as did the North African Church generally. This is seen in his dealings with pope Zosimus over two specific issues, one doctrinal and the other disciplinary and in the Donatist controversy. The first controversy with pope Zosimus has to do with the Pelagian controversy and the second with the case involving the presbyter Apiarius. One will not find even a single mention of these controversies in Steve Ray’s book. Again, I am forced to ask the question, why not? Could it be that the disclosure of these facts completely undermines his position? The following description of those controversies is taken from The Matthew 16 Controversy:
Augustine, the North African Church and Pope Zosimus
Pope Zosimus reigned from 417 to 418 A.D. During the Pelagian controversy, Zosimus, in an encyclical letter—therefore speaking authoritatively on a matter related to faith and morals—rebuked Augustine and the North African Church for their official condemnation of Pelagius. He declared Pelagius and his main disciple Caelestius orthodox in their teaching and demanded that the North African Church change its views towards them and submit to his judgment and authority. This was done in opposition to the opinion and authoritative judgment of Pope Innocent I, Zosimus’ predecessor as bishop of Rome. The North African Church refused to submit to this ‘infallible’ pope, demonstrating that the early Church did not believe that the popes were infallible. This is the view, in particular, of Augustine, the premier Church father of the first four centuries and leader of the North African Church. Hefele, the Roman Catholic historian, relates the following background to the controversy:
In the beginning of 417 he (Innocent) sent answers to those bishops who had assembled at Carthage and those who had met at Milve…He fully agreed with the sentence passed upon Caelestius and Pelagius by the Carthaginian bishops, praised the Africans for their discernment, confirmed the sentence of excommunication pronounced upon Caelestius, threatened with the same punishment all their adherents, and found in the work of Pelagius many blasphemies and censurable doctrines.
Innocent’s successor, Zosimus, who in the commencement of his reign in 417 was deceived by the ambiguous confession of faith of Pelagius and Caelestius, adopted another line. He had not long entered upon his office when Caelestius…gave him a confession of faith…Zosimus immediately assembled a Roman Synod, at which Caelestius in general terms condemned what Pope Innocent had already condemned…He so influenced the Pope in his favour, that, in a letter to the African bishops, he declared Caelestius to be orthodox, blamed their former conduct, and represented Heros and Lazarus, Caelestius’ chief opponents, as very wicked men, whom he had punished with excommunication and deposition.
Shortly after this Zosimus also received the confession of faith which Pelagius had already addressed, together with a letter, to Pope Innocent I. Zosimus…at once addressed a second letter to the Africans, to the effect that Pelagius, like Caelestius, had most completely justified himself, and that both recognised the necessity of grace. Heros and Lazarus, on the contrary, were bad men, and the Africans were much to blame for having suffered themselves to be influenced by such contemptible slanderers (Charles Joseph Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church (Edinburgh: Clark, 1895), Volume II, pp. 456-457).
J.E. Merdinger, who did doctoral studies under W.H.C. Frend, makes these comments:
Augustine…could see through the entire charade. The pope had neglected to inquire rigorously into the Pelagian’s (Caelestius) understanding of grace.; he had been content to accept superficial responses…A second letter from Zosimus to the Africans, Postquam a nobis written in September 417, did nothing to dispel Augustine’s worries. Pelagius had written to the pope once again, thoroughly convincing him of his orhtodoxy, and Zosimus had ordered Pelagius’ letters to be read aloud at the papal court in order that everyone could be apprised of his orthodoxy. To the Africans Zosimus ebulliently exclaimed: ‘Would that some of you, dearest brethren, could have been present at the reading of the letters. What was the joy of the holy men who were present; what was the admiration of each of them! Some of them could scarcely restrain themselves from tears and weeping that such men of absolutely correct faith could have been suspected. Was there a single place in which the grace of God or his aid was omitted?’ At the end of his letter, however, the pope lambasted the Africans as ‘whirlwinds’ and ‘storms of the church’ and accused them of judging Pelagius and Caelestius wholly unfairly (J.E. Merdinger, Rome and the African Church in the Time of Augustine (New Haven: Yale University, 1997), p. 128).
The African bishops warned Zosimus that he was being misled by Pelagius and Caelestius and appealed to him to uphold the official judgment rendered by his predecessor Innocent. He wrote back saying that he had given the whole affair his thorough consideration and all further consideration of the matter must cease. He demanded submission to his decree. As Merdinger observes:
In Quamuis patrum written in March 418, he deliberately flaunted his apostolic authority and claimed that no one should should dispute his judgment…’So great is our authority that no decision of ours can be subjected to review.’…Such is the authority of Peter and the venerable decrees of the church that all questions concerning human and divine laws, as well as all disciplinary matters, must be referred to Rome for ultimate resolution. This was high–flown language indeed and, as far as the Africans were concerned, totally unacceptable (J.E. Merdinger, Rome and the African Church in the Time of Augustine (New Haven: Yale University, 1997), p. 129).
The North Africans then assembled a general synod of their own with some 200 bishops present in which they passed a number of canons specifically condemning the teachings of Pelagius. This was done in defiance of the express decrees of Zosimus. As a result of their opposition and the fact that the emperor had sided with the judgment of the North African bishops, Pope Zosimus reversed his position and rejected the Pelagian heresy. Here is how Philip Schaff describes the incident:
The Africans were too sure of their cause, to yield submission to so weak a judgment, which, moreover, was in manifest conflict with that of Innocent. In a council at Carthage, in 417 or 418, they protested, respectfully but decidedly, against the decision of Zosimus, and gave him to understand that he was allowing himself to be greatly deceived by the indefinite explanations of Coelestius. In a general African council held at Carthage in 418, the bishops, over two hundred in number, defined their opposition to the Pelagian errors, in eight (or nine) Canons, which are entirely conformable to the Augustinian view.
These things produced a change in the opinions of Zosimus, and about the middle of the year 418, he issued an encyclical letter to all the bishops of both East and West, pronouncing the anathema upon Pelagius and Coelestius…and declaring his concurrence with the decisions of the council of Carthage in the doctrine of the corruption of human nature, of baptism, and of grace. Whoever refused to subscribe the encyclical, was to be deposed, banished from his church, and deprived of his property (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1910), Volume Three, p. 798-799).
Robert Eno adds these thoughts:
The one theological controversy of note that originated and ended in the West was Pelagianism. Here Pope Innocent accepted and confirmed the African condemnation issuing from the Councils of Carthage and Milevis (416). He said specifically that since all the theological points had been explained by the Africans, ‘no testimony is added here by us.’ Whether Innocent in fact accepted all the presuppositions of the African viewpoint is debated, but the fact that his successor Zosimus apparently was considering reversing the condemnation does not help the view that the Roman condemnation was considered infallible (Paul Empie and Austin Murphy, Ed., Teaching Authority & Infallibility in the Church (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1978). Robert Eno, Some Elements in the Pre-History of Papal Infallibility, p. 249).
The incident with Zosimus is not a case of a pope expressing a private opinion, becoming better informed, and then changing his mind. This pope not only reversed the judgment of a previous pope, but officially contradicted himself. He retracts what he had authoritatively announced in an encyclical letter on an issue of major doctrinal importance. This is an authoritative declaration addressed to all the North African bishops demanding their submission to his decrees. Did Augustine and the North African bishops comply with this papal decree? No! They withstood Zosimus to his face, resolutely refusing to submit to his error, demonstrating from their actions that they considered the pope neither infallible nor the supreme ruler of the Church. In practice, the North Africans are repudiating the assertions of Vatican I. But what about the famous statement of Augustine—in the Pelagian incident—to which Roman apologists often refer: ‘Rome has spoken, the case is closed.’
Roman Catholic historian Robert Eno helps us to understand the proper interpretation of Augustine’s statement:
It was at this point that the famous words of Augustine were uttered (as misquoted): Roma locuta est; causa finita est. Actually he said (sermo 131): ‘Already two councils on this question have been sent to the apostolic see; and replies have also come from there. The case is closed; would that the error might sometime be finished as well.’ But, beyond any quibbling over precise words, the greater irony is the use of this ‘quotation’ in later centuries. We have all heard it used in the following sense: Rome has made its decision. All further discussions must cease (Robert Eno, The Rise of the Papacy (Wilmington: Glazier, 1990), p. 73).
Please note that Eno gives the same quote used by Roman apologists but as Eno points out it is actually a misquote. The conclusions drawn do not reflect what Augustine really said. Eno speaks of the irony of using this misquotation. He says sarcastically: ‘We have all heard it used in the following sense: Rome has made its decision. All further discussion must cease.’ Employed in this way, says Eno, it is a wrong application. And this is the judgment of a Roman Catholic historian, not a Protestant.
Johann Joseph Ignaz von Dollinger was one of the most renowned historians in the Roman Catholic Church of the last century. He taught Church history for 47 years as a Roman Catholic. He gives the following comments on Augustine’s statement:
The Pelagian system was in his eyes so manifestly and deadly an error (aperta pernicies), that there seemed to him no need even of a Synod to condemn it. The two African Synods, and the Pope’s assent to their decrees, appeared to him more than enough, and so the matter might be regarded as at an end. That a Roman judgment in itself was not conclusive, but that a ‘Concilium plenarium’ was necessary for that purpose, he had himself emphatically maintained: and the conduct of Pope Zosimus could only confirm his opinion (Janus (Johann Joseph Ignaz von Dollinger), The Pope and the Council (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1870), p. 58).
The reaction of Augustine and the North African bishops to Zosimus is proof that the all too common ‘spin’ put on Augustine’s words was not his intent. This becomes even clearer from the letter written by Augustine and the North African bishops to Pope Celestine, the successor of Zosimus. They explicity deny that the bishop of Rome has authority in himself to be the final judge of any theological issue. As the Orthodox historian John Meyendorff explains:
Writing to pope Celestine in 420, the Africans proclaimed what amounted to a formal denial of any ‘divine’ privilege of Rome. ‘Who will believe,’ they stated, ‘that our God could inspire justice in the inquiries of one man only (i.e. the pope) and refuse it to innumerable bishops gathered in council?’ (John Meyendorff, Imperial Unity and Christian Division (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s, 1989), p. 65).
Rome Has Spoken, The Case Is Closed
As mentioned above the famous dictum attributed to Augustine: Roma locuta est, causa finita est, is a complete fabrication. He never said this. The only part of the sentence which he did say is causa finita est (the case is closed). Roman apologists nevertheless continue to misrepresent this eminent Church father by falsely attributing this statement to him. Steve Ray, for example, does so when he states:
Because the papal councils under Pope Innocent I had condemned Pelagius, St. Augustine spoke the famous words attributed to him, “Rome has spoken, the matter is settled” (Upon This Rock, p. 229, Footnote #180).
This is a blatant misrepresentation. Steve Ray says, Augustine spoke these famous words. No he didn’t. Steve Ray does refer us to another reference where he quotes from the writings of Bernard Otten who says: ‘It is true, the oft quoted phrase: ‘Roma locuta est, causa finita est,’ is not found verbally in any writings of Augustine; but its equivalents occur again and again. And this is all that is required to make him a staunch supporter of Papal infallibility’ (Upon This Rock, Footnote #187, p. 233). On the one hand Steve Ray says Augustine spoke these words and then he gives a quote where it is admitted the words never originated with Augustine. This is patently contradictory. In this quote Otten suggests that even though Augustine never spoke the precise words nevertheless the intent is there in his writings. Otten says its equivalents occur again and again. That also is a complete misrepresentation. Its equivalents do not occur again and again. Nowhere in the writings of Augustine or in his practice does one find belief in the bishop of Rome as the ultimate criterion of orthodoxy or that his judgment was the final authority in any controversy. The above controversy with pope Zosimus and Pelagius prove this beyond any shadow of doubt. The Abbe Guettee makes the point that in the Pelagian controversy the sentence of the bishop of Rome was not final authority. He gives the following summary of the controversy with Zosimus and the attitude of Augustine and the North African bishops:
Beside all this, another proof that even at Rome as well as elsewhere in the church, the sentence of Innocent I was not regarded as terminating the case is found in the fact that, after his sentence, the case was reexamined at Rome itself by Zosimus, the successor of Innocent, by the several churches in a great number of synods; and finally by the Ecumanical Council of Ephesus which judged the case and confirmed the sentence given at Rome and in all other places where it had been examined.
When we are told how Pope Innocent I happened to be called upon to give an opinion in the case of Pelagius, we see very clearly that the Romish theologians have misapplied the text.
The African bishops had condemned the errors of Pelagius in two councils, without a thought of Rome or its doctrine. The Pelagians then set up, to oppose them, the alleged faith of Rome, which they said harmonized with their own. Then the African bishops wrote to Innocent, to ask him whether the assertion of the Pelagians was true. They were the rather moved to this that the Pelagians had great influence at Rome. They did not write to the Pope to ask of him a sentence that should guide them, but that they might silence those who claimed that heresy was maintained at Rome. Innocent condemned it, and therefore Augustine says: “You pretended that Rome was for you; Rome condemns you; you have also been condemned by all the other churches; hence the case is finished.” Instead of asking a decision from Rome, the African bishops pointed out to the Pope the course he should pursue in this affair (Abbe Guettee, The Papacy (Blanco: New Sarov, 1866) pp. 180-181).
The next incident that is illustrative of Augustine’s practice and that of the North African Church is the case of the presbyter, Apiarius. The following comments are taken from The Matthew 16 Controversy:
The Case of Apiarius
The lack of historical precedent for the papal teachings of Vatican I is further illustrated by another incident which occurred between the North African Church and Zosimus. A certain presbyter by the name of Apiarius, had been rightly deposed by a bishop who was a friend of Augustine. Apiarius appealed to Rome over the authority of the North African Church seeking a reversal of its decision. Pope Zosimus sided with Apiarius and judged that he should be reinstated. But the North African Church resolutely refused to submit to this imposition by the bishop of Rome. Zosimus appealed to the canons of the Sardican Synod held in 342 A.D. but claimed that they were actually part of the canons of Nicaea. The North African Church could not find the canons in their copy of Nicaea. They were willing to submit to the ruling of the bishop of Rome if it could be proved that the canons were genuinely part of the Nicene Council. When it was finally determined that they were not from Nicaea, the North Africans rejected these canons as giving the bishop of Rome any authority to interfere in the sphere of their own jurisdiction. Significantly, in 424 A.D., at a Synod in Carthage, the Church passed decrees of its own forbidding all appeals in Church controversies to other sees apart from their own. In their thinking, there was no higher authority or court of appeal than the local bishop, except for the authority of a general Council. If papal supremacy were the common belief, teaching and practice of the Church, the North African bishops and Augustine would certainly have responded in submission and obedience and would not have prohibited appeals to any other see but their own. They were willing to obey a general Council but not the bishop of Rome. George Salmon comments:
Apiarius…was an African presbyter, excommunicated for misconduct by his bishop. He went to Rome, and prevailed on Pope Zosimus to take up his cause with some warmth. The pope’s interference and the claims on which it was founded were the subject of discussions in at least three African synods. Zosimus…founded his right to interfere on the Sardican canons…but which he quoted as Nicene. The African prelates, in council assembled, declared that there was no such canon in their copy of the Nicene code; and they begged the pope to write to Constantinople and Alexandria, requesting that the Greek copies there might be collated, in order to ascertain whether the disputed canons had really been passed at Nicaea.
The result of the mission appears from the final letter of the African bishops. In this, after giving a short account of what had been done, they request that the pope will not in future receive persons excommunicated by their synods, this being contrary to the canons of Nicaea. They protest against appeals to foreign tribunals; they deny the pope’s right to send legates to exercise jurisdiction in his name, which they say is not authorized by any canon of the Fathers, and they request that the pope will not send any agent or nuncio to interfere with them in any business for fear the Church should suffer through pride and ambition (George Salmon, The Infallibility of the Church (London: John Murray, 1914), pp. 414-415).
After documenting the rejection of pope Zosimus’ judgments by Augustine and the North African bishops in the controversies over Pelagius and Apiarius, W.H.C. Frend makes this observation:
Such was the practical implementation of the papal claims. In both East and West the decision of a council rather than the fiat of the Pope was the supreme instance of Church government. Against the Africans led by men like Augustine and Aurelius the popes were powerless. In the East they were confronted by a theory of Church government which had a place for episcopal authority, but none for Roman Primacy. “Since when do the Orientals accept dictates from the West?” the question addressed to Pope Julius still had its relevance (W.H.C. Frend, The Early Church (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982), p. 223).
Augustine, the Donatists and Church Councils
On page 7 of the section on Augustine, Steve Ray emphasizes Augustine’s citing of the historical succession of the bishops of Rome from Peter. This is set before us a proof that Augustine was a proponent of papal primacy. He writes:
But when the real world came knocking and the heretics were banging on the door what did Augustine write – to what did he appeal? The following passage is from Augustine’s Letter 53,2:
For if the lineal succession of bishops is to be taken into account, with how much more certainty and benefit to the Church do we reckon back till we reach Peter himself, to whom, as bearing in a figure the whole Church, the Lord said: “Upon this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!” The successor of Peter was Linus, and his successors in unbroken continuity were these: — Clement, Anacletus, Evaristus, Alexander, Sixtus, Telesphorus, Iginus, Anicetus, Pius, Soter, Eleutherius, Victor, Zephirinus, Calixtus, Urbanus, Pontianus, Antherus, Fabianus, Cornelius, Lucius, Stephanus, Xystus, Dionysius, Felix, Eutychianus, Gaius, Marcellinus, Marcellus, Eusebius, Miltiades, Sylvester, Marcus, Julius, Liberius, Damasus, and Siricius, whose successor is the present Bishop Anastasius. In this order of succession no Donatist bishop is found (Letters of Augustine 53,2, NPNF, Ist Series, Vol. 1, p. 298).
If Peter is only a figurative representative of the Church why does St. Augustine then resort to this historical succession back to Peter, the person in Rome? What made this list authoritative? Is not the linear and real succession of authority passed down from Peter through this line of ordained bishops? Why not trace the succession of the bishops of Hippo or Carthage?
Augustine cites Rome and the succession of Roman bishops from Peter because Rome was the only Western Apostolic see. He refers to Rome and its succession as proof of the continuity of the true Church and what could legitimately be called Catholic, the criterion being succession from the apostles. He is seeking to prove that the bishop of Rome was descended in direct line from the Apostles and that the Donatists boast of catholicity was illegitimate. He is not expressing a view of papal primacy in these statements. His view of catholicity is that the Church is founded upon the apostolic sees, plural, and that communion with the Church universal is the test of catholicity, not communion with Rome alone. Rome is just one example of an apostolidc see, the only one in the West. Augustine states:
You cannot deny that you see what we call heresies and schisms, that is, many cut off from the root of the Christian society, which by means of the Apostolic Sees, and the successions of bishops, is spread abroad in an indisputably world-wide diffusion, claiming the name of Christians (NPNF, Series 1, Volume 1, Letter 232.3, p. 586).
In this respect the testimony of the Catholic Church is conspicuous, as supported by a succession of bishops from the original seats of the apostles up to the present time, and by the consent of so many nations (NPNF, Series 1, Volume 4, Reply Faustus the Manichaen, Book 11.2, p. 178).
The Church founded by Christ Himself, and maintained through the apostles and their successors in an unbroken connection all over the world to the present day (NPNF, Series 1, Volume 4, Reply Faustus the Manichaen, Book 28.2, pg. 325).
The significance of Augustine’s appeal to the succession list is given by historian F.W. Puller:
St. Augustine’s argument may be thus paraphrased: You Donatists are a comparatively new body; we Catholics can trace up the succession of our bishops to the very apostles themselves, and in particular in the great apostolical see of the West we can give the whole line of names reaching up to the primate apostle, the rock of the Church. This is exactly the argument which St. Augustine does use in his epistle to Generosus (Ep. liii, Opp. ed. Ben., 1688, 11, 120,121). In that case there was a special reason for dwelling on the succession of names reaching to the apostles, because the Donatist priest, to whom the saint is replying had been boasting to Generosus of the succession of Donatist bishops in the Donatist see of Cirta. But S. Augustine, while tracing the line of Roman bishops up to S. Peter, avoids any identification of them with the “rock.” S. Peter, he says, was called the “rock” because he symbolized “the whole Church” (F.W. Puller, The Primitive Saints and the See of Rome (London: Longmans, Green, 1893), pp.99-100).
Contrary to Mr. Ray’s assertion, the above succession list from Augustine does not prove that he appealed to the bishops of Rome when heresy came knocking on the door as if the bishop of Rome were the final judge of all controversies or that he believed that the bishop of Rome held supreme jurisdictional authority over the Church. While Augustine does cite the sucession of Roman bishops back to Peter, it needs to be emphasized that he does not believe that communion with the Church of Rome was the exclsuive criterion for unity but, rather, communion with the catholic church at large as represented by all the apostolic sees, Rome being but one. This is clearly demonstrated in his writings for he makes mention of the other apostolic sees in the same context in which he mentions the see of Peter. In his apologetic against the Donatists, he appeals to the necessity for communion with the universal Church, not simply with Rome. In writing against the Donatist, Petilian, he states:
However, if all men throughout all the world were of the character which you most vainly charge them with, what has the chair done to you of the Roman Church, in which Peter sat, and which Anastasius fills to-day; or the chair of the Church of Jerusalem, in which James once sat, and in which John sits today, with which we are united in catholic unity, and from which you have severed yourselves by your mad fury? (NPNF, Series1, Volume 4, The Letters of Petilian the Donatist, Book II, Chapter 53, pg. 561).
Augustine believed that Councils held a higher authority than the Bishop of Rome. I cited the statements of W.H.C. Frend to this regard in my book. Frend states:
Augustine…rejected the idea that ‘the power of the keys’ had been entrusted to Peter alone. His primacy was simply a matter of personal privilege and not an office. Similarly, he never reproached the Donatists for not being in communion with Rome, but with lack of communion with the apostolic Sees as a whole. His view of Church government was that less important questions should be settled by provincial councils, greater matters at general councils (W.H.C. Frend, The Early Church (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1965), p. 222).
Steve Ray takes issue with these statements from Frend. He says:
Earlier we established the fact that St. Augustine did reproach the Donatists based on not being in communion with Rome and the successors of Peter…Maybe Dr. Frend just forgot that passage. Did St. Augustine trust in councils to settle issues? Of course, the same as the Church does today. And the Councils in the early centuries were not hesitant to proclaim “Peter has spoken through Leo” (bishop of Rome).
No, Steve, Dr. Frend did not forget that passage. He is quite aware of what it says. He is also aware of the fact that the passage you cite is not a reproach to the Donatists for not being in communion with Rome independent of the other sees of the Church. You are implying that Augustine’s perspective in listing the succession list applies to Rome alone. It doesn’t as we have demonstrated. Dr. Frend is quite correct in his assessment. Steve says:
Councils in the early centuries were not hesitant to proclaim “Peter has spoken through Leo (bishop of Rome).”
Yes, Steve, and the Councils in earlier centuries were also not hesitant to decree: “Satan has spoken through Honorius (bishop of Rome)” (III Constantinople).
In addition, Augustine did view Councils to be the ultimate authority in the Church and not the bishop of Rome. He said that the Donatists that even after a decision had been rendered by a council presided over by the bishop of Rome, they would have recourse to a plenary council of the universal church which could override the judgment of the bishop of Rome and his colleagues. Augustine states:
If, however, you repudiate the Acts of a proconsul, submit yourselves to the Acts of the Church. These have all been read over to you in their order. Perhaps you will say that Melchiades, bishop of the Roman Church, along with the other bishops beyond the sea who acted as his colleagues, had no right to usurp the place of judge in a matter which had been already settled by seventy African bishops, over whom the bishop of Tigisis as Primate presided. But what will you say if he in fact did not usurp this place? For the Emperor, being appealed to, sent bishops to sit with him as judges, with authority to decide the whole matter in the way which seemed to them just…And yet what a decision was finally pronounced by the blessed Melchiades himself; how equitable, how complete, how prudent, and how fitted to make peace!…They chose, therefore, as it is reported, to bring their dispute with Caecilianus before the foreign churches, in order to secure one of two things, either of which they were prepared to accept: if, on the one hand, by any amount of craft, they succeeded in making good the false accusation, they would abundantly satisfy their lust of revenge; if, however, they failed, they might remain as stubborn as before, but would now have, as it were, some excuse for it, in alleging that they had suffered at the hands of an unjust tribunal, — the common outcry of all worthless litigants, though they have been defeated by the clearest light of truth, — as if it might not have been said, and most justly said, to them: “Well, let us suppose that those bishops who decided the case at Rome were not good judges; there still remained a plenary Council of the universal Church, in which these judges themselves might be put on their defense; so that, if they were convicted of mistake, their decisions might be reversed.” (NPNF, Series 1, Volume 1, Letter 43.14, 16, 19).
The point that Augustine is making is that if the Donatists were dissatisfied with the judgment of the bishop of Rome, they could appeal to a general council. If the judgment of a bishop of Rome were final then Augustine would never have made the above statements. Abbe Guettee states:
He says to the Donatists, that after having been condemned by the council of Rome, they had one resource left—an appeal to the plenary or ecumenical council. It thus appears that he did not regard the sentence of the Pope, even given in council, as final and without appeal (The Papacy (Blanco: New Sarov, 1866), p. 180).
With regard to Cyprian’s conflict with Stephen, the bishop of Rome, over the rebaptism controversy, Augustine states that Cyprian was not wrong in opposing Stephen because a general council had not decided on the matter. Even though Stephen had rendered a judgment as the bishop of Rome this was not the final and authoritative judgment as far as Augustine was concerned.
There are great proofs of this existing on the part of the blessed martyr Cyprian, in his letters,—to come at last to him of whose authority they carnally flatter themselves they are possessed, whilst by his love they are spiritually overthrown. For at that time, before the consent of the whole Church had declared authoritatively, by the decree of a plenary Council, what practice should be followed in this matter, it seemed to him, in common with about eighty of his fellow bishops of the African churches, that every man who had been baptized outside the communion of the Catholic Church should, on joining the Church, be baptized anew (NPNF series, First Series, Volume 4, On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Book 1, Chapter 18.28).
The deciding factor to determine the baptismal controversy was not the decree of the bishop of Rome but a general council of the Church. This is further affirmed by these additional comments from Augustine:
“Wherefore, if Peter, on doing this, is corrected by his later colleague Paul, and is yet preserved by the bond of peace and unity till he is promoted to martyrdom, how much more readily and constantly should we prefer, either to the authority of a single bishop, or to the Council of a single province, the rule that has been established by the statutes of the universal Church? For this same Cyprian, in urging his view of the question, was still anxious to remain in the unity of peace even with those who differed from him on this point, as is shown by his own opening address at the beginning of the very Council which is quoted by the Donatists…But who can fail to be aware that the sacred canon of Scripture, both of the Old and New Testament, is confined within its own limits, and that it stands so absolutely in a superior position to all later letters of the bishops, that about it we can hold no manner of doubt or disputation whether what is confessedly contained in it is right and true; but that all the letters of bishops which have been written, or are being written, since the closing of the canon, are liable to be refuted if there be anything contained in them which strays from the truth, either by the discourse of some one who happens to be wiser in the matter than themselves, or by the weightier authority and more learned experience of other bishops, by the authority of Councils; and further, that the Councils themselves, which are held in the several districts and provinces, must yield, beyond all possibility of doubt, to the authority of plenary Councils which are formed for the whole Christian world; and that even of the plenary Councils, the earlier are often corrected by those which follow them, when, by some actual experiment, things are brought to light which were before concealed, and that is known which previously lay hid, and this without any whirlwind of sacrilegious pride, without any puffing of the neck through arrogance, without any strife of envious hatred, simply with holy humility, catholic peace, and Christian charity?” (NPNF series, First Series, Volume 4, On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Book 2, Chapter 1.2, 3.4).
“Nor should we ourselves venture to assert anything of the kind, were we not supported by the unanimous authority of the whole Church, to which he himself would unquestionably have yielded, if at that time the truth of this question had been placed beyond dispute by the investigation and decree of a plenary Council. For if he quotes Peter as an example for his allowing himself quietly and peacefully to be corrected by one junior colleague, how much more readily would he himself, with the Council of his province, have yielded to the authority of the whole world, when the truth had been thus brought to light? For, indeed, so holy and peaceful a soul would have been most ready to assent to the arguments of any single person who could prove to him the truth; and perhaps he even did so, though we have no knowledge of the fact. For it was neither possible that all the proceedings which took place between the bishops at that time should have been committed to writing, nor are we acquainted with all that was so committed. For how could a matter which was involved in such mists of disputation even have been brought to the full illumination and authoritative decision of a plenary Council, had it not first been known to be discussed for some considerable time in the various districts of the world, with many discussions and comparisons of the views of the bishop on every side?” (NPNF series, First Series, Volume 4, On Baptism, Book 2, Chapter 4.5).
Why doesn’t Augustine just assert that the bishop of Rome had spoken and the case was therefore closed in this issue with Cyprian and Stephen. If the theory of papal primacy were true for the early Church why would Augustine speak of the need for the decision of a general council once the bishop of Rome had spoken. We are told ad nauseam that Augustine believed that once the bishop of Rome had spoken the case was closed (Roma locuta est, causa finita est). The above statements prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Augustines’s view of ecclesiology is precisely what W.H.C. Frend says it was:
His view of Church government was that less important questions should be settled by provincial councils, greater matters at general councils (W.H.C. Frend, The Early Church (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1965), p. 222).
The conclusion we come to in light of the facts regarding Augustine’s ecclesiology demonstrated by his exegesis and his practice is that in his mind, and for the North African Bishops as a whole, the highest authority and court of appeal is not the Bishop of Rome but a plenary and general council. As we have seen with the Pelagian Controversy, Augustine and the North African bishops did not view the decree of the bishop of Rome to be the final judgment and binding on the universal Church. When Zosimus, the bishop of Rome, overturned the decision of the North African Church and that of his predecessor, Pope Innocent I, the North Africans opposed Zosimus and refused to submit to his decrees. So much for Roma locuta est, causa finita est.
The foregoing documentation of Augustine’s exegesis and practice demonstrates decisively that he is no proponent of a Vatican I papal ecclesiology. Steve Ray’s conclusions cannot be supported by a full disclosure of the facts. But this of course is the problem with Steve Ray’s book, Upon This Rock. There is no full disclosure of the facts regarding Augustine, but a wholesale omission of them.
In the opening page of his rebuttal Steve Ray quotes from the Protestant historian George Salmon. The quote reads:
You see, then, that the fact that Christ is called the rock, and that on Him the Church is built, is no hindrance to Peter’s being , in a different sense, called rock, and being said to be the foundation of the Church; so that I consider there is no ground for the fear entertained by some, in ancient and in modern times, that, by applying the words personally to Peter, we should infringe on the honour due to Christ alone.
In reading this quote, what would one immediately conclude was Salmon’s meaning? Would one not be led to the conclusion that he is not opposed to the Roman Catholic interpretation of Peter as the rock and foundation of the Church? I believe that is precisely what one would conclude and is precisely Mr. Ray’s intent. This is typical of Roman Catholic misuse of quotations as will become apparent from a more detailed analysis of what George Salmon actually has to say. On pages 3 and 4 of the section on Augustine in his rebuttal, Steve Ray says:
Along with Bill, we are now going to embark upon a list of quotes from St. Augustine that are supposed to prove that he did not believe as Catholics do today. It simply proves no such thing as George Salmon, the famous anti-Catholic will tell us later…After these quotes we will take a look at a quote from George Salmon, a darling of anti-Catholics, which will explain why this list provided by Bill is really a red herring or smoke screen, whichever you prefer….By the way, I use the WHOLE Salmon quote in my book whereas Bill cuts off Salmon’s damaging conclusion – the end of the quote in his book…If the full quote is used, it leaves Bill’s argument floundering like a one-legged man crossing a skating rink.
On page 14 of the section on Augustine Steve Ray makes mention of George Salmon again and quotes the same passage from him. I had quoted Salmon on the meaning of the rock and Steve Ray complains that I had not given the complete quote. On the quote that I provide Steve Ray says:
What Salmon says here is very good and I wish it would be read carefully by his fellow opponents of the Papacy, but Bill failed to finish the quote and what he left out is even better.
Salmon speaks of how Christ is the true foundation of the Church but he goes on to state that it is possible to view all the apostles as being foundation stones as they were used of God in the establishing of the Church. It is at this point that he makes the satement that he does about Peter as quoted above.
Now Steve Ray began his critique of my citations from Salmon by saying that he was going to provide what I had left out from Salmon demonstrating that there are various ways to understand the rock in the New Testament and we should not preclude one in favor of another. The implication here is that George Salmon sees various applications of the rock and does not preclude one in favor of another. After all, the rock is Christ, all the Apostles and Peter personally. So we are to conclude, from Salmon himself, that it is perfectly legitimate to embrace the Roman Catholic understanding of Peter as the rock. Right, Steve? Is that what Salmon says. Absolutely not! For you see, Mr. Ray is the one who has failed to give the complete quote from Salmon and has in fact twisted and distorted what he actually says. George Salmon does precisely what Steve Ray says he doesn’t do; he precludes certain meanings of the rock over others. In other words he rejects the Roman Catholic understanding of Peter as the rock as a legitimate interpretation. The following is what he goes on to say:
If there be no such fear, the context inclines us to look on our Lord’s words as conferring on Peter a special reward for his confession. For that confession was really the birth of the Christian Church…Was it possible that this could be the Messiah? This crisis was the date of Peter’s confessionj. Our Lord saw His disciples’ faith struggling into birth, and judged that it was time to give it the confirmation of His own assurance that they had judged rightly. By His questions He encouraged them to put into words the belief which was forcing itself on them all, but to which Peter first dared to give profession. In that profession he claimed the distinguishing doctrine of the Christian Church. Up to that time the Apostles had preached repentance. They had been commissioned to announce that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. But thenceforward the religion they preached was one whose main article was faith in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, the Saviour…And so in that first profession of faith in Christ, imperfect though it was, and though it was shown immediately afterwards how much as to the true character of the Messiah remained to be learned, was contained of the pledge of every future profession of faith which the Church then founded has since been able to put forth…
I own it seems to me the most obvious and natural way of understanding our Lord’s words to take them as conferring a personal honour in reward for that confession. Thy name I have called Rock: and on thee and on this confession of thine will I found my Church…
It was not only in this first recognition of the true character of our Lord that Peter was foremost. Jesus fulfilled His promise to him by honouring him with the foremost place in each of the successive steps by which the Church was developed. It was through St. Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost that the first addition was made to the number of the disciples whom our Lord Himself had collected, when on one day there were added to the Church 3000 souls; and it was by Peter’s mission to Cornelius that the first step was made to the admission of Gentiles to the Church: thus causing it to overlap the narrow barriers of Judaism and to embrace all the families of the earth. Thus the words of our Lord were fulfilled in that Peter was honoured by being the foremost among the human agents by which the Church was founded. But I need only say that this was an honour in which it was impossible he could have a successor. We might just as well speak of Adam’s having a successor in the honour of being the first man, as of Peter’s having a successor in the place which he occupied in founding the Christian Church.
I have said that the Romanist interpretation of the text we have been considering is refuted by the fact that many eminent Fathers do not understand the rock as meaning St. Peter. You will now see, that even if they did, as I do myself, the Romanist consequences would not follow. If Peter were the foundation of the Church in any other sense than I have explained, it would have shaken immediately afterwards when our Lord said unto him: ‘Get thee behind me, Satan,’ and tottered to its base when he denied his Lord (The Infallibility of the Church, (London: John Murray, 1914), pp. 339-341).
Steve Ray says:
By the way, I use the WHOLE Salmon quote in my book whereas Bill cuts off Salmon’s damaging conclusion – the end of the quote in his book.
No, Steve Ray did not give the whole quote from Salmon. He has in fact omitted his conclusion. A conclusion that is damaging to his whole premise. I did not misrepresent George Salmon in my quotes from his book. Steve Ray, however, has done so. He gives the false impression that Salmon agrees with Rome. He purposefully omits the quotes where Salmon clearly explains himself. Mr. Ray is guilty of distorting the statements of this historian in order to promote an agenda. Steve Ray says that my documentation of Augustine’s position is proven to be false from the quote by George Salmon. He says:
Along with Bill, we are now going to embark upon a list of quotes from St. Augustine that are supposed to prove that he did not believe as Catholics do today. It simply proves no such thing as George Salmon, the famous anti-Catholic will tell us later…After these quotes we will take a look at a quote from George Salmon, a darling of anti-Catholics, which will explain why this list provided by Bill is really a red herring or smoke screen, whichever you prefer.
First of all, as we have seen Augustine’s own interpretation of Mattherw 16 is clear demonstration that he did not believe as Catholics do today. Secondly, the quote from George Salmon completely supports my conclusions about Augustine’s ecclesiology. Salmon rejects the interpretation of Peter as the rock as Catholics believe today, just as Augustine did. George Salmon, that ‘famous anti-Catholic’ does not tell us that Augustine believed as Catholics do today. He completely rejects the Roman Catholic interpretation. The list I provide is no red herring or smokescreen, as the quote from Salmon clearly demonstrates. The documentation I provide from Augustine’s writings and his practice give clear evidence that he did not believe in the Vatican I teaching of papal primacy or papal infallibility. But one can learn an important lesson from the example of Steve Ray’s distortion of George Salmon’s writings. This is a perfect illustration of the methods he employs throughout his book with regard to the writings of the Church fathers and the facts of history. We have seen this in his handling of Augustine. In his book, Upon This Rock, Steve omits completely major portions of Augustine’s writings where he gives his exegesis of the rock of Matthew 16. In addition, he neglects to give any documentation of Augustine’s actual practice. And, finally, he consistently distorts Augustine’s writings, imposing concepts upon them that are foreign to his thought. Ray would have his readers conclude that Augustine believed as Catholics do today. That is simply not the case. I would recommend that any interested party simply compare the documentation on Augustine provided in The Matthew 16 Controversy with that which is provided by Steve Ray in Upon This Rock. The discrepancies will be obvious.