Response to Stephen Ray’s Rebuttal to the Writings of William

Examination of the Fundamentalist Roman Catholic Approach to History
and Its Teaching on Unanimous Consent and Authority as Represented
by Stephen Ray

William Webster

In this section I will be
interacting with Steve Ray’s comments from the section of his
rebuttal entitled: Historiography: Am I Guilty of Mangling
In particular I will be dealing with 7 major issues:

1) An Answer to the “Cut
n’ Paste” Allegation and His Complaint That I do not
Interact With His Book

2) The Difference Between
Primacy and Jurisdiction; The Church Councils and the Primacy
of Honor

3) Steve Ray’s Appeal
to the Doctrine of Development and His Misrepresentations of
the Teaching of Vatican I

4) The Teaching of the Council
of Trent and Vatican I on the ‘Unanimous Consent of the

5) Steve Ray’s View
of Historiography

6) My Personal Views of the
Meaning of Matthew 16:18

7) The Issue of Ultimate
Authority: The Seat of Moses and the Chair of Peter.

1) Explanation
of Cut n’ Paste Allegation and A Refutation of Steve Ray’s
Denial of Misrepresentation

This whole exchange with Steve
Ray was initiated from comments that I made to him in an email
about the primacy of Peter. He asked if I knew of any Church Father
who denied the primacy of Peter or of his successors. I replied
that no father denied that Peter had a primacy or that there was
a Petrine succession. But I went on to qualify what I meant by
this by stating that the Petrine primacy and succession were not
exclusively related to the bishops of Rome. They do not apply
the special titles they attribute to Peter to the bishops of Rome
and they often attribute the same titles of primacy to the other
apostles. In addition they view all the apostles as being successors
of Peter so Petrine succession is not the exclusive possession
of the bishops of Rome. Steve Ray related the first part of my
statement in the Introduction of his book, Upon This Rock, where
I state that no father denied a Petrine primacy. He then makes
the statement, “I wish Mr. Webster had been forthright about
this matter in his book.”

I decided to respond to this
allegation because it is patently false. I did so by providing
extensive quotations from my book, The Matthew 16 Controversy:
Peter and the Rock
, on Augustine and Chrysostom, to demonstrate
the falsity of the charge. Steve sarcastically refers to this
as ‘cut n’ paste’. Steve goes on and on in his
rebuttal hyow I am not interacting with his book. But the entire
section on Augustine and Chrysostom were given to interact specifically
with the statements in his Introduction. I explained that before
I gave the quotations and concluded the section by asking the
question, “How has what I have written differ in any way
from what I had written to Steve Ray in my email?” In his
rebuttal Steve says: “I certainly did not misrepresent (Bill).
Where does he tell his readers that no early Christians ever denied
the primacy of Peter or that it was successive? In his “rebuttal”
he wrote: ‘Of course they didn’t. As I mentioned in
my email they explicitly affirm it. My point was simply, why not
admit that clearly in his book? If Bill states that in his book
then he merely has to show me where it is explicitly stated and
my argument is empty.”

What I have demonstrated in
the book, and anyone reading the sections on Augustine and Chrysostom
will readily see this to be the case, is that they speak of a
primacy of Peter but do not interpret that primacy in a Roman
Catholic sense. He is referred to as the coryphaeus, chief of
the apostles, first in the church, but he is not the Rock of Matthew
16, his faith is. In my rebuttal to Steve Ray, I give the following
quote from my book, The Matthew 16 Controversy, affirming
the fact that the Fathers confirm a primacy for Peter but do not
interpret this in a Roman Catholic sense. It can be found on page
1 in Steve Ray’s rebuttal in the section on Augustine: “But
some object, Doesn’t Augustine accord a primacy to the Apostle
Peter? Does he not call Peter the first of the Apostles, holding
the chief place in the Apostleship? Don’t such statements
prove papal primacy? While it is true that Augustine has some
very exalted things to say about Peter, as do many of the fathers,
it does not follow that either he or they held to the Roman Catholic
view of papal primacy.” So I affirm that the fathers teach
that Peter has a primacy, but go on to say, as I said in my email,
that they do not interpret this in a Roman Catholic sense.

On pages 56 to 57 of The
Matthew 16 Controversy
I explicitly state that the fathers
viewed the bishops of Rome as being the successors of Peter. This
quotation is also found in my rebuttal to Steve Ray. It states:
“Did they (the fathers) view the bishops of Rome as being
the successors of Peter? Yes. Did they view the bishops of Rome
as being the exclusive successors of Peter? No. In the view of
Augustine and the early fathers all the bishops of the Church
in the East and West were successors of Peter. They all possess
the chair of Peter.”

There are your explicit statements,
Steve. Petrine primacy and succession but not exclusivity. Precisely
what I wrote to you in my email. How is this misleading or less
than forthright, Steve? As you say, “If Bill states that
in his book then he merely has to show me where it is explicitly
stated and my argument is empty.” The statements are provided
and your argument is empty. You have in fact misrepresented me
in your book.

2) The
Difference Between Primacy and Jurisdiction

In The Matthew 16 Controversy
I make a distinction between the concepts of primacy and jurisdiction
as employed by the fathers. I made the point that when Roman Catholic
apologists use the term ‘primacy’ what they have in
mind is a universal jurisdiction to rule the Church universal.
And by Petrine succession they mean this in an exclusive sense
as applied to the bishops of Rome. I then made the point that
the father’s interpretation of these terms is quite different.
They did not deny that Rome held a primacy but it was a primacy
of honor accorded to the Church that was the site of the martydom
of Peter and Paul and was situated in the capital of the Empire.
It was not a primacy of universal jurisdiction. I then state that
the fathers never denied that the Church of Rome had a right to
exercise authority. But that authority was limited in its jurisdiction.
Steve Ray then commented:

Limited in jurisdiction?
Bill seems to be whistling a different tune now. I don’t
think the readers of his book will come away with this impression
that there was a jurisdictions authority in Rome! Remember, readers,
that Bill admits this as you continue to read. I thought they
had NO jurisdiction! Only honor, remember Bill! So, you admit
they held a jurisdcitional authority – now it’s simply a
matter of degree.

I never said the bishop of
Rome had no jusrisdiction, Steve. I said he did not have
universal jurisdiction. I never said he had honor only,
but that the primacy was only of honor among the Church
universal. The second half of my book deals with the practice
of the early Church in which I deal with the Councils. I made
this statement:

‘As the consensus of
the above historians confirms, according to canon 6 of Nicaea,
Rome had a limited jurisdiction in the Church’
(The Matthew 16 Controversy,
p. 172)

One of the historians I quoted
was John Meyendorff who states:

Rome itself never either
exercised or claimed to exercise ‘patriarchal’ rights over the
entire West. Such ‘patriarchal’ jurisdiction of Rome
existed de facto over the so-called suburbicarian
dioceses, which covered a relatively large territory – ten provinces
– which were within the civil jurisdiction of the prefect of
Rome. The power of the pope upon this territory was, in every
way, comparable to the jurisdiction of the Eastern patriarchs
(John Meyendorff, Imperial
Unity and Christian Division
(Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s,
1989), p. 328. Found in The Matthew 16 Controversy, p.

I also quote from Church historian,
James McCue, who states:

Nicaea I, which took place
during Sylvester’s episcopate, is of interest…because
of canon 6. It invoked ancient customs in assigning Egypt, Libya,
and the Pentapolis to the bishop of Alexandria, affirming the
customary jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome, and asserting the
traditional authority of the bishop of Antioch and of the provincial
metropolitans. The canon does not fix the boundaries of Roman
regional power. But the expansion of the canon in Rufinus (345?–410)
seems to limit Rome’s authority to the suburbicarian sees.
This may reflect the actual jurisdictional situation at the end
of the fourth century…Nicaea presupposes a regional leadership
of Rome, but indicates nothing more. Thus one concludes that
down through the Council of Nicaea, a Roman universal primacy
of jurisdiction exists neither as a theoretical construction
nor as de facto practice awaiting theoretical interpretation
(Paul Empie and Austin
Murphy, Ed., Papal Primacy and the Universal Church (Augsburg:
Minneapolis, 1974), Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue V, pp.
72, 77. Found in The Matthew 16 Controversy, p. 165).

So, I never stated, Steve,
as you suggest, that a reader of my book would come away with
the impression that Rome had NO jurisdiction. This is yet another

I stated that the early Church
interpreted the primacy of Rome as a primacy of honor because
of its location in the captial of the empire and the site of the
martydom of Peter and Paul. Steve Ray denies this, claiming that
Rome had a primacy because it was the see of Peter and the bishops
of Rome were his exclusive successors. He charges that my statements
are a misrepresentation of the historical facts. He says:

It was seen as holding the
primacy because Peter was bishop there and the successive bishops
continued in the autoritative office…The argument that Rome
only held a primacy of honor is simply a case of prolepsis on
Bill’s part. Remember that word? This terminology of honor
is not from the first centuries but a distinction made by the
Orthodox churches relatively late in the patristic era. How can
Rome be said to have had only a primacy of honor if she was intervening
in the affairs of other Churches, confirming bishops, deposing
bishops (including the Patriarch of Constantinople), etc.? This
is nothing more than obfuscation.

There are two points that
need to be made regarding these false assertions:

1) The Councils themselves
speak of a primacy given to Rome, a primacy of honor, due to its
location in the capital and its being the site of the martydom
of Peter and Paul.

I Constantinople states:

Because it is new Rome, the
bishop of Constantinople is to enjoy the privileges of honour
after the bishop of Rome
Tanner S.J., Ed., Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils (Washington
D.C.: Georgetown University, 1990), Volume I, First Council of
Constantinople, Canons 2 and 3, pp. 31-32).

The Bishop of Constantinople
shall hold the first rank after the Bishop of Rome, because Constantinople
is New Rome
(Charles Joseph Hefele, A History of the
Councils of the Church
(Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1895),
Volume II, I Constantinople, Canon 3, p. 357).

Chalcedon states:

Following in every way the
decrees of the holy fathers and recognising the canon which has
recently been read out—the canon of the 150 most devout
bishops who assembled in the time of the great Theodosius of
pious memory, then emperor, in imperial Constantinople, new Rome—we
issue the same decree and resolution concerning the preorgatives
of the most holy church of the same Constantinople, new Rome.
The fathers rightly accorded prerogatives to the see of older
Rome, since that is an imperial city; and moved by the same purpose
the 150 most devout bishops apportioned equal prerogatives to
the most holy see of new Rome, reasonably judging that the city
which is honoured by the imperial power and senate and enjoying
privileges equalling older imperial Rome, should also be elevated
to her level in ecclesiastical affairs and take second place
after her
(Norman Tanner
S.J., Ed., Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils (Washington
D.C.: Georgetown University, 1990), Volume I, Council of Chalcedon,
Canon 28, pp. 99-100).

The following historians give
us an understanding of the decrees of these Councils:

On I Constantinople:

W.H.C. Frend:

Between 378 and 398 one senses
a major change in the manner in which papal authority was asserted.
The pope now spoke as the mouthpiece of the apostle Peter, as
the Apostolic See, superior to all others and even to church
councils. The churches in Gaul and Spain, but not North Africa,
were prepared to accept the situation. But as these claims were
being made, and perhaps even provoking them, the Second Ecumenical
Council in 381 had conferred on Constantinople equal status to
Rome ‘save in honour,’ ‘because Constantinople
is New Rome.’…Determined that the see of Constantinople
should not become the object of outside interference, particularly
from Egypt, canon 2 forbade ‘bishops outside a diocese to
enter on churches beyond their borders,’…Then, almost
as an afterthought, in an appendix to canon 2 it was asserted,
‘However the Bishop of Constantinople shall have the primacy
of honour after the Bishop of Rome, for Constantinople is New
Rome’ (canon 3). For the government at Constantinople the
reasoning was impeccable, Rome was one, whether on the Tiber
or the Bosporous, and its bishops were therefore coequal, but
Rome as the older city could claim precedence
(W.H.C. Frend, Reprinted from The Rise of
(Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), pp. 629, 639).

George Salmon:

One of the Constantinopolitan
canons forbids the bishops at the head of the great ecclesiastical
divisions to meddle out of their own provinces, or to throw the
Churches into confusion; but that according to the canons the
bishop of Alexandria should alone administer the affairs of Egypt,
the bishops of the East those of the East, and so on…What the
council would be willing to grant to the bishop of Rome appears
from what they granted to the bishop of Constantinople. They
did not give him any right to meddle out of his own province,
but they said that he should have precedency of honour…next
after the bishop of Rome, ‘because this city was new Rome’
(George Salmon, The
Infallibility of the Church
(London: Murray, 1914), p. 420,

John Meyendorff:

In the first years of his
reign, emperor Theodosius I (379–395) presided over the
liquidation of Arianism at the general council of the East—eventually
to be recognized as the ‘second ecumenical’ council—in
Constantinople (381). Canon 3 of that council gave the bishop
of Constantinople ‘an honorary seniority…after the bishop
of Rome, because that city is the New Rome.’ The text could
easily be interpreted as implying that the primacy of ‘old’
Rome had become obsolete after the transfer of the imperial capital
to Constantinople…The ancient tradition…recognized the bishop
of Rome as the ‘first bishop,’ or ‘primate’
of the universal episcopate. However, the council of Constantinople,
by attributing the second rank to the bishop of the new imperial
capital could also be understood as implying that the pope had
been honored for no other reason than the political position
of ‘older’ Rome. This interpretation of canon 3 will
be formally endorsed in 451 by the council of Chalcedon
(John Meyendorff, Imperial Unity
and Christian Division
(Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s, 1989),
pp. 61-62).

On Chalcedon, regarding the
meaning of the 28th canon:

John Meyendorff:

The text makes two major
points. First—reflecting the desire of the government of
emperor Marcian and his wife Pulcheria to associate Rome and
Constantinople, as the two ‘imperial’ centers of the
Church against the pretensions of Alexandria—the text confirms
the decision of 381 to give ecclesiastical ‘New Rome’
the second place of honor after the ‘Old Rome.’ It
then goes further than the council of 381, by explicitly interpreting
the primacy of both Romes in purely empirical or political terms,
as determined by ‘the presence of the emperor and the Senate.’
The second point consists in formally establishing a ‘patriarchate’
of Constantinople (whose position, so far, had been purely honorary),
and giving its bishop the right to consecrate the metropolitans
in three imperial dioceses: Thrace, Pontus and Asia. The second
point was of a purely practical and administrative nature, but
the first consisted in a formal denial of the very basis of Leo’s
ecclesiology: the primacy of Rome was of a political nature,
established ‘by the Fathers,’ and not a divine institution,
or ‘chair of Peter.’…The canon endorsed the principle
of a purely political rationale for the existence of primacies:
the older Rome itself, it proclaimed, was granted privileges
‘by the fathers’ because it was the imperial capital,
not because it was founded by St. Peter. Logically, therefore,
the new capital, although it had no ‘apostolic’ foundation,
was entitled to the same status
Meyendorff, Imperial Unity and Christian Division (Crestwood:
St. Vladimir’s, 1989), pp. 175, 183).

In summary, Roman Catholic
historian, Yves Congar, points out that the Eastern Church never
acknowledged the primacy of Rome in a jurisdictional sense but
was willing to accord this see a primacy of honor:

The East never accepted the
regular jurisdiction of Rome, nor did it submit to the judgment
of Western bishops. Its appeals to Rome for help were not connected
with a recognition of the principle of Roman jurisdiction but
were based on the view that Rome had the same truth, the same
good. The East jealously protected its autonomous way of life.
Rome intervened to safeguard the observation of legal rules,
to maintain the orthodoxy of faith and to ensure communion between
the two parts of the church, the Roman see representing and personifying
the West…In according Rome a ‘primacy of honour’,
the East avoided basing this primacy on the succession and the
still living presence of the apostle Peter. A modus vivendi was
achieved which lasted, albeit with crises, down to the middle
of the eleventh century
(Yves Congar, Diversity and Communion
(Mystic: Twenty-Third, 1982), pp. 26-27).

2) The fact that Rome was
supposedly a Petrine See did not carry a great deal of influence
in the East. Roman Catholic historian, Francis Dvornick, states:

In the West there was only
one see—Rome—that could claim apostolic foundation…The
see of Rome was left as the only city of the West that could
boast apostolic origin: it had been founded by the first of the
Apostles, Peter. But the question of the apostolic character
of a see was viewed in quite different fashion in the East. There
had been many important sees in the East which had been founded
by an Apostle: this was the case for Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria
and Ephesus. Apart from these great sees, there was a large number
of less important ones in Asia Minor and in Greece which, according
to both authentic and apocryphal writings, had at least been
visited by an Apostle. For this reason the principle of apostolic
origin never took very deep root in the ecclesiastical organization
of the East and the principle of accomodation to the political
divisions of the Empire remained always preponderant. It is in
this light that we must examine Canon III of the Council of Constantinople,
in 381, which gave the Bishop of Constantinople the second rank
in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. For the Orientals this promotion
was altogether natural granted the change that had taken place
in the political organization of the Empire. The new capital
of the Empire, the residence of the Emperor, could not remain
subordinate to the metropolitan of the diocese of Thrace, Heracleia.
When Constantinople became the New Rome, it acquired the right
of occupying a place immediately after Rome, the ancient capital
of the Empire
Dvornik, Byzantium and the Roman Primacy (New York: Fordham
University, 1966), pp. 43-44).

John Meyendorff states:

Three Churches are mentioned
in Canon 6 (Nicaea) as enjoying presbeia: Rome, Alexandria, Antioch…Through
what particular merit did these three cities acquire the authority
which was now confirmed? Was it because of their apostolicity?
This did not seem to be the case, at least as far as Alexandria
was concerned. The tradition according to which the Church was
established there by St. Mark would have been, by itself, insufficient
for the Church of Alexandria to claim privileges similar to those
of Rome: a very large number of Eastern Churches could claim
a much more impressive apostolic foundation accredited by New
Testament writings. In particular, this was the case for Antioch
which was content with third place, after Rome and Alexandria.
Moreover—and this has been pointed out several times by
historians—a Church’s apostolic origin was a far too
common factor in the East to have had the importance it acquired
in the West where the Roman See was the only apostolic see and
the main center from which evangelization spread
(John Meyendorff, Orthodoxy and
(New York: Sheed & Ward, 1966), pp. 55-56).

When the Council of Nicaea,
in its famous Canon 6, vaguely mentioned the ‘ancient customs’
which recognized an exceptional prestige to the churches of Alexandria,
Antioch, and Rome, the selection of these particular churches
was determined not by their apostolic foundation, but by the
fact that they were located in the most important cities of the
empire. For if apostolicity were the criterion, as later Western
interpretations insist, the position of Alexandria, purported
to have been founded by a minor apostolic figure, Mark, could
not be greater than Antioch’s, where Peter’s presence
is attested by the New Testament
Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology (New York: Fordham University,
1974), pp. 99-100).

Philip Schaff sums up the
perspective of the Ecumenical Councils in these words:

Finally, in regard to the
four great ecumenical councils, the first of Nice, the first
of Constantinople, that of Ephesus, and that of Chalcedon: we
have already presented their position on this question in connection
with their legislation on the patriarchal system.583 We have
seen that they accord to the bishop of Rome a precedence of honor
among the five officially coequal patriarchs, and thus acknowledge
him primus inter pares, but, by that very concession, disallow
his claims to supremacy of jurisdiction, and to monarchical authority
over the entire church. The whole patriarchal system, in fact,
was not monarchy, but oligarchy. Hence the protest of the Roman
delegates and of Pope Leo against the decrees of the council
of Chalcedon in 451, which coincided with that of Constantinople
in 381. This protest was insufficient to annul the decree, and
in the East it made no lasting impression; for the subsequent
incidental concessions of Greek patriarchs and emperors, like
that of the usurper Phocas in 606, and even of the sixth ecumenical
council of Constantinople in 680, to the see of Rome, have no
general significance, but are distinctly traceable to special
circumstances and prejudices.
It is, therefore, an undeniable historical fact, that the greatest
dogmatic and legislative authorities of the ancient church bear
as decidedly against the specific papal claims of the Roman bishopric,
is in favor of its patriarchal rights and an honorary primacy
in the patriarchal oligarchy. The subsequent separation of the
Greek church from the Latin proves to this day, that she was
never willing to sacrifice her independence to Rome, or to depart
from the decrees of her own greatest councils
(Philip Schaff, History of the Christian
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1910), Volume III, p. 313).

There is no obfuscation here
Steve, just a straightforward presentation of the facts.

3) Vatican
I and the Doctrine of Development:

Steve Ray

to the Church’s teaching is exemplified by Bill Webster
who misrepresents the Council Fathers by redefining and misapplying
“unanimous consent”. First in redefining, he implies
that unanimous consent means that all the Fathers must have held
the same fully developed traditions and taught them clearly in
the same terms as used later in Vatican I.’

In his book,
Upon This Rock, Steve Ray states that the papacy was subject
to doctrinal development in the Church. He uses the metaphor of
the acorn and the oak. He states:

section on St. Cyprian also demonstrates his unwillingness to
represent fairly the process and necessity of doctrinal development
within the Church. As we have demonstrated earlier in this book:
the oak tree has grown and looks perceptibly different from the
fragile sprout that cracked the original acorn, yet the organic
essence and identity remain the same. Do the words of the very
first Christians contain the full-blown understanding of the
Papcy as expressed in Vatican I? No, they do not, as Webster
correctly observes. (Pg. 184).

Now, there is an implicit
admission in these statements. Steve is admitting to the fact
that the papacy was not there from the very beginning. It was
subject to a process of development and growth over time. In fact,
I have an entire section in my book, The Matthew 16 Controversy:
Peter and the Rock
, entitled The Papacy: A Process of Gradual
So how can Steve say that I do not acknowledge
the fact that the historical reality is that the papacy is indeed
subject to development? The problem is not whether there was development.
The problem lies in the fact that Vatican I says there was
no development.
In other words there was no acorn. It
was a full blown oak from the very beginning and was therefore
the practice of the Church from the very beginnning. Vatican I
reaffirmed the decree of the Council of Trent on the Unanimous
Consent of the Fathers. As Steve rightly points out this has to
do specifically with the interpretation of Scripture. It states
that it is unlawful to interpret Scripture in any way contrary
to the unanimous consent of the Fathers. Vatican I then proceeds
to set forth its teachings on papal primacy and infallibility
with the interpretation of Matthew 16:18, John 21:15-17 and Luke
22:32 as the basis for its teachings. And then it states that
the interpretations that it gives and the conclusions it draws
from these interpretations, in terms of the practice of the Church,
has been that which has EVER been taught in the Church and practiced
by it. Here is what Vatican I says:

Chapter I: Of the Institution
of the Apostolic Primacy in blessed Peter.

We therefore teach and declare
that, according to the testimony of the Gospel, the primacy of
jurisdiction over the universal Church of God was immediately
and directly promised and given to blessed Peter the Apostle
by Christ the Lord. For it was to Simon alone, to whom he had
already said: ‘Thou shalt be called Cephas,’ that the
Lord after the confession made by him, saying: ‘Thou art
the Christ, the Son of the living God,’ addressed these
solemn words: ‘Blessed art thou, Simon Bar–Jona, because
flesh and blood have not revealed it to thee, but my Father who
is in heaven. And I say to thee that thou art Peter; and upon
this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall
not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the
kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, it
shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose
on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.’ And it was
upon Simon alone that Jesus after his resurrection bestowed the
jurisdiction of chief pastor and ruler over all his fold in the
words: ‘Feed my lambs; feed my sheep.’
At open variance
with this clear doctrine of Holy Scripture as it has been
ever understood by the
Catholic Church
the perverse opinions of those who, while they distort the form
of government established by Christ the Lord in his Church, deny
that Peter in his single person, preferably to all the other
Apostles, whether taken separately or together, was endowed by
Christ with a true and proper primacy of jurisdiction; or of
those who assert that the same primacy was not bestowed immediately
and directly upon blessed Peter himself, but upon the Church,
and through the Church on Peter as her minister.
If any one, therefore, shall say that blessed Peter the Apostle
was not appointed the Prince of all the Apostles and the visible
Head of the whole Church militant; or that the same directly
and immediately received from the same our Lord Jesus Christ
a primacy of honor only, and not of true and proper jurisdiction:
let him be anathema.

Chapter II: On the Perpetuity
of the Primacy of blessed Peter in the Roman Pontiffs.

That which the Prince of
Shepherds and great Shepherd of the sheep, Jesus Christ our Lord,
established in the person of the blessed Apostle Peter to secure
the perpetual welfare and lasting good of the Church, must, by
the same institution, necessarily remain unceasingly in the Church;
which, being founded upon the Rock, will stand firm to the end
of the world. For none can doubt, and
it is known to all ages, that the holy and blessed Peter,
the Prince and Chief of the Apostles, the pillar of the faith
and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the
kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer
of mankind, and lives, presides, and judges, to this day and
always, in his successors the Bishops of the Holy See of Rome,
which was founded by him and consecrated by his blood. Whence,
whosoever succeeds to Peter in this See, does by the institution
of Christ himself obtain the Primacy of Peter over the whole
The disposition
made by Incarnate Truth therefore remains, and blessed Peter,
abiding through the strength of the Rock in the power that he
received, has not abandoned the direction of the Church.
Wherefore it has
at all times been necessary
that every particular Church—that
is to say, the faithful throughout the world—should agree
with the Roman Church, on account of the greater authority of
the princedom which this has received
; that all being associated in the unity of
that See whence the rights of communion spread to all, might
grow together as members of one Head in the compact unity of
the body.

then, any should deny that it is by institution of Christ the
Lord, or by divine right, that blessed Peter should have a perpetual
line of successors in the Primacy over the universal Church,
or that the Roman Pontiff is the successor of blessed Peter in
this primacy: let him be anathema.

Hence we teach and declare
that by the appointment of our Lord the Roman Church possesses
a superiority of ordinary power over all other churches, and
that this power of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, which is
truly episcopal, is immediate; to which all, of whatever right
and dignity, both pastors and faithful, both individually and
collectively, are bound, by their duty of hierarchial subordination
and true obedience, to submit not only in matters which belong
to faith and morals, but also in those which appertain to the
discipline and government of the Church throughout the world,
so that the Church of Christ may be one flock under one supreme
pastor through the preservation of unity both of communion and
of profession of the same faith with the Roman Pontiff.
This is the teaching
of Catholic truth, from which no one can deviate without loss
of faith and salvation
Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom (New York: Harper, 1877),
Dogmatic Decrees
of the Vatican Council
, Chapters I,II, III).

Notice here that Vatican I
states that its interpretation of Matthew 16 and John 21 has been
the interpretation that has ever been understood in the Church.
That is, from them very beginning. It further states that Peter
was given a primacy of jurisdiction from the very beginning by
Christ himself and that this primacy was passed on to Peter’s
successors, the bishops of Rome. This, it says, has been known
to all ages. In other words, there was no acorn. The papacy was
a full blown oak from the very beginning because it was established
by Christ himself. And then it states that this teaching is part
of the content of saving faith. To deviate from this teaching
is to incur the loss of salvation. This is an explicit affirmation
that outside the Church of Rome there is no salvation. Later on,
in its teaching on papal infallibility, Vatican I states:

For the Holy Spirit was not
promised to the successors of Peter, that by his revelation they
might make known new doctrine; but that by his assistance they
might inviolably keep and faithfully expound the revelation or
deposit of faith delivered through the Apostles. And, indeed,
all the venerable Fathers have embraced, and the holy orthodox
doctors have venerated and followed, their Apostolic doctrine;
knowing most fully that this See of holy Peter remains ever free
from all blemish of error according to the divine promise of
the Lord our Saviour made to the Prince of his disciples: ‘I
have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not, and, when thou
art converted, confirm thy brethren.’ This gift, then, of
truth and never–failing faith was conferred by heaven upon
Peter and his successors in his chair, that they might perform
their high office for the salvation of all…

Therefore faithfully adhering
tradition received
from the beginning of the Christian faith
, for the glory of God our Saviour,
the exaltation of the Christian religion, and the salvation of
Christian people, the sacred Council approving, we teach and
define that it is a dogma divinely revealed: that the Roman Pontiff,
when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when in discharge
of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, by virtue
of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding
faith and morals to be held by the universal Church, by the divine
assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, is possessed of
that infallibility with which the divine redeemer willed that
his Church should be endowed for defining doctrine regarding
faith or morals; and that therefore such definitions of the Roman
Pontiff are irreformable of themselves, and not from the consent
of the Church.
if any one—which may God avert—presume to contradict
this our definition: let him be anathema
Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom (New York: Harper, 1877),
Dogmatic Decrees of the Vatican Council, Chp. 4, pp. 266-71).

Here Vatican I is basing its
teaching of papal infallibility on the interpretation of Luke
22:32. A teaching or tradition which it says was received from
the very beginning of the Christian faith. The Council asserts
that the doctrine of papal infallibility is a divinely revealed
dogma and all who refuse to embrace it are placed under anathema.

The papal encyclical, Satis
, written by Pope Leo XIII in 1896, is a commentary
on and papal confirmation of the teachings of Vatican I. As to
the issue of doctrinal development, Leo makes it quite clear that
Vatican I leaves no room for such a concept in its teachings.
Leo states over and over again that the papacy was fully established
by Christ from the very beginning and that its has been the foundation
of the constitution of the Church and recognized as such from
the very start and throughout all ages. He further affirms that
Vatican I’s teaching has been the constant belief of every
age and and is therefore not a novel doctrine:

Wherefore, as appears from
what has been said, Christ instituted in the Church a living,
authoritative and permanent Magisterium, which by His own power
He strengthened, by the Spirit of truth He taught, and by miracles
confirmed. He willed and ordered, under the gravest penalties,
that its teachings should be received as if they were His own…Jesus
Christ, therefore, appointed Peter to be that head of the Church;
and He also determined that the authority instituted in perpetuity
for the salvation of all should be inherited by His successors,
in whom the same permanent authority of Peter himself should
continue. And so He made that remarkable promise to Peter and
to no one else: “Thou are Peter, and upon this rock I will
build my church” (Matt. xvi., 18)…It was necessary that
a government of this kind, since it belongs to the constitution
and formation of the Church, as its principal element – that
is as the principle of unity and the foundation of lasting stability
– should in no wise come to an end with St. Peter, but should
pass to his successors from one to another…When the Divine
founder decreed that the Church should be one in faith, in government,
and in communion, He chose Peter and his successors as the principle
and centre, as it were, of this unity…Indeed, Holy Writ attests
that the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven were given to Peter alone,
and that the power of binding and loosening was granted to the
Apostles and to Peter; but there is nothing to show that the
Apostles received supreme power without Peter, and against Peter.
Such power they certainly did not receive from Jesus Christ.
in the decree of the Vatican Council as to the nature and authority
of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, no newly conceived opinion
is set forth, but
the venerable and constant belief of every
(Sess. iv., cap.

The Roman Catholic Church,
itself, has officially stated that there was no development of
this doctrine in the early Church. After all, if the fullness
of the definition of papal primacy as defined by Vatican I was
instituted by Christ immediately upon Peter, as both Vatican I
and Leo XIII affirm, then there is no room for development. It
was instituted by Christ himself and was therefore present from
the very beginning and would have been recognized as such by the
Church as Vatican I states: ‘Whence, whosoever succeeds to
Peter in this See, does by the institution of Christ himself obtain
the Primacy of Peter over the whole Church’, a fact which
Vatican I says has been known to all ages leading to the practice
‘that it has at all times been necessary that every particular
Church—that is to say, the faithful throughout the world—should
agree with the Roman Church, on account of the greater authority
of the princedom which this has received.’ This documentation
completely demolishes Steve Ray’s theory of development.
He is at odds with the magisterium of his own Church. If he fails
to properly interpret the teachings of his own Church, what can
we expect of his handling of the writings of the Church fathers?
He must set forth a theory of development because of the historical
reality, but such a theory is at open variance with the clear
teaching of Vatican I and Leo XIII.

So when we analyze these papal
teachings in the light of history it is perfectly legitimate to
ask the question on two levels. As to the actual insitution of
the papacy, do we find the teachings of Vatican I expressed by
the fathers of the Church in their practice? And secondly, as
to the issue of interpretation, do we find a unanimous consent
of the fathers regarding Vatican I’s interpretation of Matthew
16:18, John 21:15-17 and Luke 22:32 that supports papal primacy
and infallibility? In both cases the answer is a decided no.

4) The
Unanimous Consent of the Fathers

Steve Ray states that I have
a complete misunderstanding of the Roman Catholic teaching of
the unanimous consent. This principle was first promulgated in
an authoritative sense by the Council of Trent and later reaffirmed
by Vatican I. The teaching states that it is unlawful to interpret
Scripture in any way contrary to the unanimous consent of the
fathers. Steve Ray says:

to the Church’s teaching is exemplified by Bill Webster
who misrepresents the Council Fathers by redefining and misapplying
‘unanimous consent.’ First, in redefining, he implies
that unanimous consent means that all the Fathers must have held
the same fully developed traditions and taught them clearly in
the same terms as used later in Vatican I…Second, he misapplies
the term, not simply to the interpretation of Scripture, as the
Council Fathers intended, but to tradition…The test given by
the Councils regarded only the interpretation of Scripture, whereas
Bill expands the test out of the documents context to all of
Catholic tradition
9 of Historography: Am I Guiltyof Mangling History?).

First of all, I am not misapplying
the concept of unanimous consent to apply it to Rome’s tradition
because much of its tradition is based on the interpretation of
Scripture. A case in point is the doctrine of the papacy. Secondly,
Steve is forced by the evidence of history to have to take refuge
in the theory of development relative to the doctrine of the papacy.
But he is at variance with the clear declarations of Vatican I.
As we have seen, it is Vatican I which claims a unanimous consent
in its particular interpretation of Scripture to support its teaching
on papal primacy, and unanimous consent as evidenced by a universal
practice. In this claim it denies that there was an historical
development of the papacy. The following are the comments from
my book, The Matthew 16 Controversy: Peter and the Rock,
on the whole issue of unanimous consent and its application to
the teachings of Vatican I:

Vatican I has claimed that
its papal teachings, based primarily on a particular interpretation
of Matthew 16:18, find support historically from what it calls
the ‘unanimous consent of the fathers.’ But the forgoing
historical evidence reveals that there is no patristic consensus
to support the Vatican I papal interpretation of Matthew 16:18–19.
The Roman Catholic Church’s appeal to the ‘universal
consent of the fathers’ to support its exegesis of Matthew
16 is fallacious. Such a consensus does not exist. The quotations
we have cited document the comments of the major fathers of the
patristic age from both the East and West up through the eighth
century. Their interpretation of Matthew 16:18 demonstrates that
the overwhelming majority view of the Church historically is
not that of the Roman Catholic Church today.
This whole issue of ‘unanimous consent’ has direct
bearing upon the Roman Church’s claims to authority and
to infalliblity as an interpreter of scripture. This is a principle
which was promulgated by the Council of Trent and later reaffirmed
by Vatican I. Trent states:

Furthermore, in order to
restrain petulant spirits, it decrees, that no one, relying on
his own skill, shall, in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining
to the edification of the Christian doctrine, wresting the sacred
Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred
Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church, whose
it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Holy
Scriptures, hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the
unanimous consent of the Fathers
Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent
, Fourth Session,
Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures. Cited by Philip Schaff,
The Creeds of Christendom (New York: Harper, 1877), Volume
II, p. 83).

What the Council is saying,
and Vatican I later reaffirmed, is that the Roman Catholic Church
alone has the right to interpret scripture and that its interpretation
is consistent with the overall interpretation (unanimous consent)
of the fathers. It is making the point that the teaching of the
Church has not changed over time—that there is a consensus
of interpretation that can be traced back through the fathers
to the apostles and ultimately to Christ himself. It is not suggesting
that there are two levels of authority in interpretation, that
of the fathers and that of the Church in a later age. Trent teaches
that the Church of the 16th century is consistent in its interpretation
with the fathers of earlier centuries. This is why it states
that the interpretation of scripture which is contrary to what
the Church holds or has held, or even contrary to the unanimous
consent of the fathers is unlawful. That this is the proper interpretation
of the Council’s teaching is seen from the Profession of
the Tridentine Faith, issued by Pius IV in 1564 which was required
of all priests. Regarding the scriptures all priests were to
take the following oath: ‘Neither will I ever take and interpret
them otherwise than according to the unanimous consent of the
Fathers.’ Historically the Church has always claimed patristic
consensus for its tradition as an affirmation of the continuity
of its teaching. Even Vatican I affirms this principle when it
states that its teachings on papal rule and infallibility have
been the practice of the Church from the very beginning.

The Council of Trent laid
down this principle of interpretation. It is not the Protestant
Church but the Roman Catholic which has enunciated it. This does
not mean that every single father has interpreted scripture in
precisely the same way but that there is an overall consensus
of meaning which the Church upholds. It should be evident then,
since this is a formal principle enunciated by Trent, that there
cannot be an authoritative interpretation of scripture that fundamentally
contradicts what has been clearly promulgated by the fathers.
This would be especially true of the fundamentals of the faith.
Vatican I states that papal rule and infallibility and submission
to it, must be embraced to obtain salvation. It then uses the
Petrine texts (Mt. 16, Lk. 22, Jn 21) as the basis for its teaching
and gives these passages a papal interpretation.
Vatican I teaches that the Church has held these particular views
from the very beginning. So it is only right to ask the question:
Is there a unanimous consent of the fathers in the interpretation
of Mt. 16, Lk. 22 and Jn. 21? Does it conform to that given by
Vatican I? Has the Church from the very beginning always believed
and practiced the views of Vatican I on papal rule and infallibility?
The answer to these questions is a decided No!
(The Matthew 16 Controversy: Peter and the
, pp. 143-145).

Steve Ray states that phrase
‘unanimous consent of the fathers’ specifically applies
to the interpretation of Scripture. This is correct. The Catholic
provides the following understanding of the meaning
of unanimous consent:

Pope Leo XIII, in his Encyclical
Providentissimus Deus, repeats the principles concerning
the authority of the Fathers laid down by the Vatican and Tridentine
Councils: “The Holy Fathers, ‘to whom, after the Apostles,
the Church owes its growth—who have planted, watered, built,
governed, and cherished it’ (Aug., C. Julian., 11, x, 37)—the
Holy Fathers, we say, are of supreme authority whenever they
all interpret in one and the same manner any text of the Bible,
as pertaining to the doctrine of faith or morals; for their unanimity
clearly evinces that such interpretation has come down from the
Apostles as a matter of Catholic faith.” Three conditions
are, therefore, required in order that the patristic authority
may be absolutely decisive: first, they must interpret texts
referring to matters of faith or morals; secondly, they must
speak as witnesses of Catholic tradition, not merely as private
theologians; thirdly, there must be a moral unanimity in their

Vatican I has given us its
interpretation of the Petrine passages and we are told that this
interpretation can be supported by the unanimous consent of the
fathers. But when we look at the interpretation of the fathers,
at what they have actually written, we find this not to be the
case. There is a unanimous consent. All of the above criteria
enumerated by The Catholic Encyclopedia are fulfilled in the interpretation
of the rock of Matthew 16 by the fathers, but it is not supportive
of the teaching of Vatican I, but rather of the Eastern Orthodox
perspective. The following is a listing of the comments of the
fathers of the Church in their interpretation of Matthew 16:18.
The reader can judge for himself if a unanimous consent is found
here supportive of Vatican I. For those interested a much fuller
documentation of the writings of the fathers can be found in The
Matthew 16 Controversy: Peter and the Rock
. The following
is simply a sampling:

Augustine: 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
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).

Faith, then,
is the foundation of the Church, for it was not said of Peter’s
flesh (His person), but of his faith, that ‘the gates of
hell shall not prevail against it …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
(Commentary in Luke
VI.98, CSEL 32.4).

Ambrosiaster: Paul writes about ecclesiastical
orders; here he is concerned with the foundation of the Church.
The prophets prepared, the apostles laid the foundations. Wherefore
the Lord says to Peter: ‘Upon this rock I shall build my
Church,’ that is, upon this confession of the catholic faith
I shall establish the faithful in life
(Commentary on Ephesians, M.P.L., Vol.
17, Col. 380).

Athanasius: For
this we must seek before all things, whether He is Son, and on
this point specially search the Scriptures;’ for this it
was, when the Apostles were questioned that Peter answered, saying,
‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’ …this
is the truth and the sovereign principle of our faith;…And
as He is a foundation, and we stones built upon Him,…the Church
is firmly established; it is founded on the rock, and the gates
of hell shall not prevail against it…And because this is the
faith of the Church, let them somehow understand that the Lord
sent out the Apostles and commanded them to make this the foundation
of the Church
Letters to Serapion of Thmuis
1.28. Cited by William Jurgens,
The Faith of the Early Fathers (Collegeville: Liturgical
Press, 1970), Volume I, p. 336).

Aphraates: Faith…is like a building that
is built up of many pieces of workmanship and so its edifice
rises to the top. And know, my beloved, that in the foundations
of the building stones are laid, and so resting upon stones the
whole edifice rises until it is perfected. Thus also the true
Stone, our Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation of all faith.
And on Him, on (this) Stone faith is based. And resting on faith
all the structure rises until it is completed. For it is the
foundation that is the beginning of all the building. For when
anyone is brought nigh unto faith, it is laid for him upon the
Stone, that is our Lord Jesus Christ. And His building cannot
be shaken by the waves, nor can it be injured by the winds. By
the stormy blasts it does not fall, because its structure is
reared upon the rock of the true Stone. And in that I have called
Christ the Stone, I have not spoken my own thought, but the Prophets
beforehand called Him the Stone.
And now hear concerning faith that is based upon the Stone, and
concerning the structure that is reared up upon the Stone…So
also let the man, who becomes a house, yea, a dwelling place,
for Christ take heed to what is needed for the service of Christ,
Who lodges in him, and with what things he may please Him. For
first he builds his building on the Stone, which is Christ. On
Him, on the Stone, is faith built…All these things doth the
faith demand that is based on the rock of the true Stone, that
is Christ.And if perchance thou shouldest say: If Christ is set
for the foundation, how does Christ also dwell in the building
when it is completed? For both these things did the blessed Apostle
say. For he said: ‘I as a wise architect have laid the foundation.’
And there he defined the foundation and made it clear, for he
said as follows: ‘No man can lay other foundation than that
which is laid, which is Christ Jesus’…And therefore that
word is accomplished, that Christ dwells in men, namely, in those
who believe on Him, and He is the foundation on which is reared
up the whole building
Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1956), Vol XIII, Aphrahat, Select Demonstrations,
Demonstration I.2-6,13,19).

the Great:
the house of God, located on the peaks of the mountains, is the
Church according to the opinion of the Apostle. For he says that
one must know ‘how to behave in the household of God.’
Now the foundations of this Church are on the holy mountains,
since it is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.
One of these mountains was indeed Peter, upon which rock the
Lord promised to build his Church. Truly indeed and by highest
right are sublime and elevated souls, souls which raise themselves
above earthly things, called ‘mountains.’ The soul
of the blessed Peter was called a lofty rock because he had a
strong mooring in the faith and bore constantly and bravely the
blows inflicted by temptations. All, therefore, who have acquired
an understanding of the godhead—on account of the breadth
of mind and of those actions which proceed from it—are the
peaks of mountains, and upon them the house of God is built
(Commentary on the Prophet Isaiah,
Cap. II.66, M.P.G., Vol. 30, Col. 233).

of Seleucia:

In obedience the tongue of Peter sought employment and though
ignorant of doctrine, supplied a response: ‘You are Christ,
Son of the living God.’..Now Christ called this confession
a rock, and he named the one who confessed it ‘Peter,’
perceiving the appellation which was suitable to the author of
this confession. For this is the solemn rock of religion, this
the basis of salvation, this the wall of faith and the foundation
of truth: ‘For no other foundation can anyone lay than that
which is laid, which is Christ Jesus
XXV.4, M.P.G., Vol. 85, Col. 296-297).

Bede: You are Peter and on this rock from
which you have taken your name, that is, on myself, I will build
my Church, upon that perfection of faith which you confessed
I will build my Church by whose society of confession should
anyone deviate although in himself he seems to do great things
he does not belong to the building of my Church…Metaphorically
it is said to him on this rock, that is, the Saviour which you
confessed, the Church is to be built, who granted participation
to the faithful confessor of his name
(Homily 23, M.S.L., Vol. 186, Col. 108).

Cassiodorus: ‘It will not be moved’
is said about the Church to which alone that promise has been
given: ‘You are Peter and upon this rock I shall build my
Church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.’
For the Church cannot be moved because it is known to have been
founded on that most solid rock, namely, Christ the Lord….From
this ‘foundation,’ Christ is rightly inferred, who
is an immovable foundation and an inviolable rock. Concerning
this the Apostle says: ‘For no other foundation can any
man lay than that which is already laid, which is Christ Jesus’
(1 Cor. 3.11)
in the Psalms
, Psalm 45.5, M.P.L., Vol. 70, Col. 330).

He added this, ‘And I say unto thee, Thou art Peter, and
upon this rock I will build my Church; that is, on the faith
of his confession…For Christ added nothing more to Peter, but
as though his faith were perfect, said, upon this confession
He would build the Church; but in the other case He did nothing
like this, but the contrary…I have preached Christ, I have
delivered unto you the foundation.‘For other foundation
can no man lay than that which is laid.’ Upon this then
let us build, and as a foundation let us cleave to it, as a branch
to a vine; and let there be no interval between us and Christ
(Philip Schaff, Nicene
and Post-Nicene Fathers
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume
XIV, Saint Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of John,
Homily XXI.1, pp. 72-73; Volume XII, Saint Chrysostom, Homilies
on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians,
1 Corinthians,
Homily VIII.7, p. 47).

Cyprian: The Lord saith unto Peter, I say
unto thee, (saith He,) that thou art Peter, and upon this rock
I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail
against it. And 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 (Matt. 16:18-19). To him again, after His
resurrection, He says, Feed My sheep. Upon him being one He builds
His Church; and although He gives to all the Apostles an equal
power, and says, As My Father sent Me, even so I send you; receive
ye the Holy Ghost: whosoever sins ye remit, they shall be remitted
to him, and whosoever sins ye shall retain, they shall be retained
(John 20:21);—yet in order to manifest unity, He has by
His own authority so placed the source of the same unity, as
to begin from one. Certainly the other Apostles also were what
Peter was, endued with an equal fellowship both of honour and
power; but a commencement is made from unity, that the Church
may be set before as one; which one Church, in the Son of Songs,
doth the Holy Spirit design and name in the Person of our Lord:
My dove, My spotless one, is but one; she is the only one of
her mother, elect of her that bare her
(A Library of
the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church
(Oxford: Parker,
1842), Cyprian, On the Unity of the Church 3-4, pp. 133-135)

of Alexandria:

But why do we say that they are ‘foundations of the earth’?
For Christ is the foundation and unshakable base of all things…But
the next foundations, those nearer to us, can be understood to
be the apostles and evangelists, those eyewitnesses and ministers
of the word who have arisen for the strengthening of the faith.
For when we recognize that their own traditions must be followed,
we serve a faith which is true and does not deviate from Christ.
For when he wisely and blamelessly confessed his faith to Jesus
saying, ‘You are Christ, Son of the living God,’ Jesus
said to divine Peter: ‘You are Peter and upon this rock
I will build my Church.’ Now by the word ‘rock’,
Jesus indicated, I think, the immoveable faith of the disciple…And
I tell you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my
Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’
The surname, I believe, calls nothing other than the unshakable
and very firm faith of the disciple ‘a rock,’ upon
which the Church was founded and made firm and remains continually
impregnable even with respect to the very gates of Hell
(Commentary on Isaiah IV.2,
M.P.G., Vol. 70, Col. 940; Dialogue on the Trinity IV,
M.P.G., Vol. 75, Col. 866).

the Blind:
powerful is Peter’s faith and his confession that Christ
is the only-begotten God, the word, the true Son of God, and
not merely a creature. Though he saw God on earth clothed in
flesh and blood, Peter did not doubt, for he was willing to receive
what ‘flesh and blood have not revealed to you.’ Moreover
he recognized the consubstantial and coeternal branch of God,
thereby glorifying that uncreated root, that root without beginning
which had revealed the truth to him. Peter believedthat Christ
was one and the same deity with the Father; and so he was called
blessed by him who alone is the blessed Lord. Upon this rock
the Church was built, the Church which the gates of hell—that
is, the arguments of heretics—will not overcome
(De Trinitate Liber Primus
I.30, M.P.G., Vol. 39, col. 416).

This is, first
of all, because he confessed that ‘Christ’ is ‘the
Son of the living God,’ and was told, ‘On this rock
of sure faith will I build my church’—for he plainly
confessed that Christ is true Son
Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis
(Leiden: Brill, 1994),
Books II and III, Haer. 59.7,6-8,3, p. 108-109).

Eusebius: Yet you will not in any way err
from the scope of the truth if you suppose that ‘the world’
is actually the Church of God, and that its ‘foundation’
is in the first place, that unspeakably solid rock on which it
is founded, as Scripture says: ‘Upon this rock I will build
my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’;
and elsewhere: ‘The rock, moreover, was Christ.’ For,
as the Apostle indicates with these words: ‘No other foundation
can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus.’
Then, too, after the Savior himself, you may rightly judge the
foundations of the Church to be the words of the prophets and
apostles, in accordance with the statement of the Apostle: ‘Built
upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Christ
Jesus himself being the cornerstone
on the Psalms
, M.P.G., Vol. 23, Col. 173, 176).

of Nyssa:
warmth of our praises does not extend to Simon insofar as he
was a catcher of fish; rather it extends to his firm faith, which
is at the same time the foundation of the whole Church
on St. Stephen,
Vol. 46, Col. 733).

of Poitiers:

A belief that the Son of God is Son in name only, and not in
nature, is not the faith of the Gospels and of the Apostles…whence
I ask, was it that the blessed Simon Bar–Jona confessed
to Him, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God?…And
this is the rock of confession whereon the Church is built…that
Christ must be not only named, but believed, the Son of God.
This faith is that which is the foundation of the Church; through
this faith the gates of hell cannot prevail against her. This
is the faith which has the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatsoever
this faith shall have loosed or bound on earth shall be loosed
or bound in heaven…The very reason why he is blessed is that
he confessed the Son of God. This is the Father’s revelation,
this the foundation of the Church, this the assurance of her
permanence. Hence has she the keys of the kingdom of heaven,
hence judgment in heaven and judgment on earth….Thus our one
immovable foundation, our one blissful rock of faith, is the
confession from Peter’s mouth, Thou art the Son of the living
(Philip Schaff and
Henry Wace, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1955), On The Trinity, Book VI.36,37; Book II.23).

of Pelusium:

Christ, who searcheth the hearts, did not ask His disciples,
‘Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’ Because
He did not know the varying opinion of men concerning Himself,
but was desirous, of teaching all that same confession which
Peter, inspired by Him, laid as the basis and foundation, on
which the Lord built His Church
235. Cited by C. DeLisle Shortt, Who Was the First Bishop
of Rome
(Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1935), p. 110).

of Seville:
bears the character of the Church, which has the power to forgive
sins and to lead men from Hades to the heavenly kingdom…All
the apostles also bear the type of the whole Church, since they
also have received a like power of forgiving sins. They bear
also the character of the patriarchs, who by the word of preaching
spiritually brought forth God’s people in the whole world…The
wise man who built his house upon the rock signifies the faithful
teacher, who has established the foundations of his doctrine
and life upon Christ…Moreover, Christ is called a ‘foundation’
because faith is established in him, and because the catholic
Church is built upon him
in the New Testament
, M.P.L., Vol. 83, Col. 117-118, Numbers
135, 136, 148; Etym. VII.2, M.P.L., Vol. 82, Col. 267.41).

of Nisbis:
is composed and compacted of many things. It is like a building,
because it is constructed and completed in much hope. You are
not ignorant that large stones are placed in the foundations
of a building, and then all that is built thereon has the stones
joined together, and so raised till the completion of the work.
So, of all our faith, our Lord Jesus Christ is the firm and true
foundation; and upon this rock our faith is established. Therefore,
when any one has come to faith, he is set upon a firm rock, which
is our Lord Jesus Christ. And, calling Christ a rock, I say nothing
of my own, for the prophets have before called Him a rock
(Sermon 1 de Fide i.13. Cited
by J. Waterworth, A Commentary (London: Thomas Richardson,
1871), pp. 39-40).

Jerome: The one foundation which the apostolic
architect laid is our Lord Jesus Christ. Upon this stable and
firm foundation, which has itself been laid on solid ground,
the Church of Christ is built…For the Church was founded upon
a rock…upon this rock the Lord established his Church; and
the apostle Peter received his name from this rock (Mt. 16.18)…She,
that with a firm root is founded upon the rock, Christ, the Catholic
Church, is the one dove; she stands the perfect one, and near
to His right hand, and has nothing sinister in her…The rock
is Christ, Who gave to His apostles, that they also should be
called rocks, ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will
build My Church
on Matthew
7.25, M.P.L., Vol. 26, Col. 51; Epistle 65.15,
Ad Principiam. Cited by J. Waterworth S.J., A Comentary
(London: Thomas Richardson, 1871), p. 109; Commentary on Amos
vi.12-13. Cited by J. Waterworth S.J., A Comentary (London:
Thomas Richardson, 1871), p. 112-113).

of Damascus:

And Peter, fired by a burning zeal and prompted by the Holy Spirit
replied: ‘You are Christ, Son of the living God.’ Oh
blessed mouth! Perfectly, blessed lips! Oh theological soul!
Mind filled by God and made worthy by divine instruction! Oh
divine organ through which Peter spoke! Rightly are you blessed,
Simon son of Jonah…because neither flesh nor blood nor human
mind, but my Father in heaven has revealed this divine and mysterious
truth to you. For no one knows the Son, save he who is known
by him…This is that firm and immovable faith upon which, as
upon the rock whose surname you bear, the Church is founded.
Against this the gates of hell, the mouths of heretics, the machines
of demons—for they will attack—will not prevail. They
will take up arms but they will not conquer
(Homily on the Transfiguration, M.P.G.,
Vol. 96, Col. 554-555).

of Ancyra:
moreover, a man of the Lord is meant, the first to be compared
to gold would be Cephas, whose name is interpreted ‘rock.’
This is the highest of the apostles, Peter, also called Cephas,
who furnished in his confession of faith the foundation for the
building of the Church
in Canticle of Canticles
, M.P.G., Vol. 87 (ii), Col. 1693).

Origen: And if we too have said like Peter,
‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,’ not
as if flesh and blood had revealed it unto us, but by light from
the Father in heaven having shone in our heart, we become a Peter,
and to us there might be said by the Word, ‘Thou art Peter,’
etc. For a rock is every disciple of Christ of whom those drank
who drank of the spiritual rock which followed them, and upon
every such rock is built every word of the church, and the polity
in accordance with it; for in each of the perfect, who have the
combination of words and deeds and thoughts which fill up the
blessedness, is the church built by God.
But if you suppose that upon the one Peter only the whole church
is built by God, what would you say about John the son of thunder
or each one of the Apostles? Shall we otherwise dare to say,
that against Peter in particular the gates of Hades shall not
prevail, but that they shall prevail against the other Apostles
and the perfect? Does not the saying previously made, ‘The
gates of Hades shall not prevail against it,’ hold in regard
to all and in the case of each of them? And also the saying,
‘Upon this rock I will build My church’? Are the keys
of the kingdom of heaven given by the Lord to Peter only, and
will no other of the blessed receive them?
(Allan Menzies, The Ante-Nicene
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1951), Origen’s
Commentary on Matthew
, Chapters 10-11).

of Helenopolis:

‘You, however, who do you say I am?’ Not all responded,
but Peter only, interpreting the mind of all: ‘You are Christ,
Son of the living God.’ The Saviour, approving the correctness
of this response, spoke, saying: ‘You are Peter, and upon
this rock’—that is, upon this confession—‘I
shall build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail
against it
on the Life of John Chrysostom
, M.P.G., Vol. 47, Col. 68).

is one response of all upon which the Church is founded and against
which the gates of hell will not prevail…Such a great faith
does not arise except from the revelation of God the Father and
inspiration of the Holy Spirit so that anyone that has faith,
like firm stone, is called Peter…It should be noted that anyone
of the faithful is rock as far as he is an imitator of Christ
and is light as far as he is illuminated by light and by this
the Church of Christ is founded upon those as far as they are
strengthened by Christ. So not on Peter alone but on all the
apostles and the successors of the apostles the Church of God
is built. But these mountains are first built on the mountain
Christ is elevated above all mountains and hills…This is indeed
the true and inviolable faith given to Peter from God the Father,
which affirms that if there had not always been a son there would
not always have been a Father, upon which faith the whole Church
is both founded and remains firm, believing that God is the Son
of God
on Matthew
, M.P.L., Vol. 120, Col. 561; Commentary on
, M.S. L., Vol. 120, Col. 555f).

of Emesa:
this faith the Church of God has been founded. With this expectation,
upon this rock the Lord God placed the foundations of the Church.
When then the Lord Christ was going to Jerusalem, He asked the
disciples, saying, ‘Whom do men say that the Son of Man
is?’ The apostles say, ‘Some Elias, others Jeremias,
or one of the prophets.’ And He says, but you, that is,
My elect, you who have followed Me for three years, and have
seen My power, and miracles, and beheld Me walking on the sea,
who have shared My table, ‘Whom do you say that I am?’
Instantly, the Coryphaeus of the apostles, the mouth of the disciples,
Peter, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God
(Homily of the Nativity. Cited
by J. Waterworth S.J., A Commentary (London: Thomas Richardson,
1871), p. 148).

Tertullian: If, because the Lord has said to
Peter, ‘Upon this rock I will build My Church,’ ‘to
thee have I given the keys of the heavenly kingdom;’ or,
‘Whatsoever thou shalt have bound or loosed in earth, shall
be bound or loosed in the heavens,’ you therefore presume
that the power of binding and loosing has derived to you, that
is, to every Church akin to Peter, what sort of man are you,
subverting and wholly changing the manifest intention of the
Lord, conferring (as that intention did) this (gift) personally
upon Peter? ‘On thee,’ He says, ‘will I build
My Church;’ and, ‘I will give to thee the keys,’
not to the Church; and, ‘Whatsoever thou shalt have loosed
or bound,’ not what ‘they shall have loosed or bound.’
For so withal the result teaches. In (Peter) himself the Church
was reared; that is, through (Peter) himself; (Peter) himself
essayed the key; you see what (key): ‘Men of Israel, let
what I say sink into your ears: Jesus the Nazarene, a man destined
by God for you,’ and so forth. (Peter) himself, therefore,
was the first to unbar, in Christ’s baptism, the entrance
to the heavenly kingdom, in which (kingdom) are ‘loosed’
the sins that were beforetime ‘bound;’ and those which
have not been ‘loosed’ are ‘bound,’ in accordance
with true salvation…
Roberts and James Donaldson, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1951), Volume IV, Tertullian, On Modesty
21, p. 99).

Theodoret: Let
no one then foolishly suppose that the Christ is any other than
the only begotten Son. Let us not imagine ourselves wiser than
the gift of the Spirit. Let us hear the words of the great Peter,
‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Let
us hear the Lord Christ confirming this confession, for ‘On
this rock,’ He says, ‘I will build my church and the
gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.’ Wherefore too
the wise Paul, most excellent master builder of the churches,
fixed no other foundation than this. ‘I,’ he says,
‘as a wise master builder have laid the foundation, and
another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he
buildeth thereon. For other foundation can no man lay than that
is laid, which is Jesus Christ.’…Wherefore our Lord Jesus
Christ permitted the first of the apostles, whose confession
He had fixed as a kind of groundwork and foundation of the Church,
to waver to and fro, and to deny Him, and then raised him up
again…Surely he is calling pious faith and true confession
a ‘rock.’ For when the Lord asked his disciples who
the people said he was, blessed Peter spoke up, saying ‘You
are Christ, the Son of the living God.’ To which the Lord
answered: ‘Truly, truly I say to you, you are Peter and
upon this rock I shall build my Church, and the gates of hell
shall not prevail against it.’
Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1956), Volume III, Theodoret, Epistle 146, To
John the Economus
, p. 318; Epistle 77, To Eulalius,
p. 273; Commentary on Canticle of Canticles II.14, M.P.G.,
Vol. 81, Col. 108).

I have provided the interpretations
of 29 Church fathers in the above listing. Of those 29, one will
find 18 that are translations from the original Greek or Latin
that until now, as far as I can determine, have not been translated
into English. These are translations from Ambrose, Ambrosiaister,
Basil the Great, Basil of Seleucia, Bede, Cassiodorus, Cyril of
Alexandria, Didymus the Blind, Eusebius, Gregory of Nyssa, Isisdore
of Seville, James of Nisbis, Jerome, John of Damascus, Nilus of
Ancyra, Palladius of Helenopolis, Paschasius Radbertus and Theodoret.
This is something one will not find in the writings of Steve Ray.
In the above provided quotations we are dealing with the actual
interpretation provided by the fathers of the rock of Matthew
16. It is clear from their statements that they do not give an
interpretation that is supportive of Vatican I. There is a unanimous
consent, but it is a consent that is antithetical to a Roman interpretation
and ecclesiology. And an examination of the interpretations of
the fathers relative to Luke 22:32 yields the following conclusion:
there is not one Church father who interprets that passage as
an affirmation of papal infallibility. The doctrine is not even
implied. Brian Tierney, the world renowned Roman Catholic medieval
scholar gives the following analysis of the medieval interpretation
of Luke 22 which was grounded in the patristic interpretation.
He demonstrates that the doctrine of papal infallibility was unknown
in the patristic and medieval ages:

The scriptural text most
commonly cited in favor of papal infallibility is Luke 22.32.
There is no lack of patristic commentary on the text. None of
the Fathers interpreted it as meaning that Peter’s successors
were infallible. No convincing argument has ever been put forward
explaining why they should not have stated that the text implied
a doctrine of papal infallibility if that is what they understood
it to mean. Again, it is difficult for us to know exactly what
men of the sixth and seventh centuries understood by formulas
like those of Hormisdas and Agatho. But we do know that the general
council which accepted Agatho’s formula also anathematized
Agatho’s predecessor, Pope Honorius, on the ground that
he ‘followed the views of the heretic Sergius and confirmed
his impious dogmas.’ Agatho’s successor, Pope Leo II,
in confirming the decrees of the council, added that Honorius
‘did not illuminate the apostolic see by teaching the apostolic
tradition but, by an act of treachery strove to subvert its immaculate
faith.’ Whatever the council fathers may have meant by the
formula they accepted concerning the unfailing faith of the apostolic
see, their meaning can have had little connection with the modern
doctrine of papal infallibility
Tierney, Origins of Papal Infallibility (Leiden: Brill,
1972), pp. 11-13).

Luis Bermejo is a Spanish
Jesuit who has taught theology at the Pontifical Athenaeum at
Puna, India for the last thirty years. In a recently published
book (1992), he makes the following compelling argument in confirmation
of Brian Tierney’s historical research:

To my knowledge, nobody seems
to have challenged Tierney’s contention that the entire
first millenium is entirely silent on papal infallibility and
that, therefore, Vatican I’s contention concerning the early
roots of the doctrine is difficult to maintain. Practically the
only objection of some substance raised against Tierney seems
to be his interpretation of the twelfth century decretists: is
the future dogma of Vatican I implicitly contained in them? Even
after granting for the sake of argument that it is—something
that Tierney does not concede in any way—the formidable
obstacle of the first millenium remains untouched. In my opinion
his critics have fired their guns on a secondary target (the
medieval decretists and theologians)leaving the disturbing silence
of the first millenium out of consideration. Nobody seems to
have been able to adduce any documentary proof to show that this
long silence was illusory, that the doctrine was—at least
implicitly—already known and held in the early centuries.
It is not easy to see how a given doctrine can be maintained
to be of apostolic origin when a thousand years of tradition
do not echo it in any way
Bermejo, Infallibility on Trial (Westminster: Christian
Classics, 1992), pp. 164-165).

Yves Congar readily acknowledges
that the early Church fathers are not supportive of the teaching
of Vatican I and that a consensus of the fathers is nonexistent
regarding its dogmas. Not only that, but as far as the Eastern
Church is concerned, there was a positive opposition to the teaching.
I have already mentioned him above but his statements bear repeating:

The East never accepted the
regular jurisdiction of Rome, nor did it submit to the judgment
of Western bishops. Its appeals to Rome for help were not connected
with a recognition of the principle of Roman jurisdiction but
were based on the view that Rome had the same truth, the same
good. The East jealously protected its autonomous way of life.
Rome intervened to safeguard the observation of legal rules,
to maintain the orthodoxy of faith and to ensure communion between
the two parts of the church, the Roman see representing and personifying
the West…In according Rome a ‘primacy of honour’,
the East avoided basing this primacy on the succession and the
still living presence of the apostle Peter. A modus vivendi was
achieved which lasted, albeit with crises, down to the middle
of the eleventh century
Congar, Diversity and Communion (Mystic: Twenty-Third,
1982), pp. 26-27).

Congar is relating an historical
reality here. He is saying that the historical facts reveal that
the ecclesiology of the Eastern Church, in its practice, was antithetical
to that of Rome. He says: ‘The East never accepted the regular
jurisdiction of Rome, nor did it submit to the judgment of Western
bishops.’ Here we have the consensus of practice. In addition
he states that from an exegetical standpoint, the East did not
interpret the Petrine passages in conformity with the teaching
of Vatican I on papal primacy. He states:

Many of the Eastern Fathers
who are rightly acknowledged to be the greatest and most representative
and are, moreover, so considered by the universal Church, do
not offer us any more evidence of the primacy. Their writings
show that they recognized the primacy of the Apostle Peter, that
they regarded the See of Rome as the prima sedes playing a major
part in the Catholic communion—we are recalling, for example,
the writings of St. John Chrysostom and of St. Basil who addressed
himself to Rome in the midst of the difficulties of the schism
of Antioch—but they provide us with no theological statement
on the universal primacy of Rome by divine right. The same can
be said of St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Basil,
St. John Chrysostom, St. John Damascene
(Yves Congar, After Nine Hundred Years
(New York: Fordham University, 1959), pp. 61-62).

It does sometimes happen
that some Fathers understood a passage in a way which does not
agree with later Church teaching. One example: the interpretation
of Peter’s confession in Matthew 16:16–19. Except at
Rome, this passage was not applied by the Fathers to the papal
primacy; they worked out an exegesis at the level of their own
ecclesiological thought, more anthropological and spiritual than
(Yves Congar,
Tradition and Traditions (New York: Macmillan, 1966),
p. 398).

Here Congar is explicitly
stating that the Eastern Church does not teach papal primacy in
their interpretation of the rock of Matthew 16. In other, words,
in both their practice and their exegesis of Scripture, the Eastern
Church is not in agreement with Roman Catholic ecclesiology of
papal primacy. So here we have a patristic consensus of both practice
and interpretation. Steve Ray objects to my quotations from Yves
Congar suggesting that I have taken his statements out of context
and have imposed a meaning on them that is alien to Congar’s
thought. But Congar is stating facts here which he does not modify
in the least in any of his other writings or in comments that
go before or after the statements as they appear above. There
is nothing that Congar could say that could change the historical
reality of those facts.

But what Congar does do is
provide a theory of Church history which is truly novel. Novel
in the sense that it is completely foreign to the perspective
of the theologians of Trent and Vatican I who speak of the unanimous
consent of the fathers. These two Councils claim that there is
a clear continuity between their teaching and the history of the
ancient Church which preceeded them. A continuity which can be
documented by the explicit teaching of the Church fathers in their
interpretation of Scripture and in their practice. As we have
seen, Vatican I teaches that the papacy was full blown from the
very beginning. But in light of the historical facts, Yves Congar
devises a completely novel approach to understanding and interpreting
Church history. This view can be referred to as living tradition.
What this view basically teaches is that we must assume that because
the Church today teaches a certain truth and because the Church
is indwelt by the Spirit of God and is therefore infallible and
cannot err, there must be an organic continuity between the Church
of an earlier age and the Church of the present because the same
Spirit indwelt both. This means that the Church of a preceeding
age must have believed the same truths as taught explicitly today,
even though there may be no documentation of that belief and even
though the actual documentation of the teaching of the fathers
may seem to be contradictory. Steve Ray provides the following
statements from Congar’s work, Tradition and Traditions,
from Appendix D, pp. 18-19 of his rebuttal:

In every age the consensus
of the faithful, still more the agreement of those who are commissioned
to teach them, has been regarded as a guarantee of truth: not
because of some mystique of universal suffrage, but because of
the Gospel principle that unanimity and fellowship in Christian
matters requires, and also indicates, the intervention of the
Holy Spirit. From the time when the patristic argument first
began to be used in dogmatic controversies—it first appeared
in the second century and gained general currency in the fourth—theologians
have tried to establish agreement among qualified witnesses of
the faith, and have tried to prove from this agreement that such
was in fact the Church’s belief. As a matter of fact, a
few testimonies sufficed, even that of one single man if his
particular situation or the consideration accorded him by the
Church were such as to give to what he said the value of coming
from a quasi-personification of the whole Church at that time.
The decisive factor was not mere quantity but the representative
quality of the testimony: “Non numerentur, sedponderentur!”

Unanimous patristic consent
as a reliable locus theologicus is classical in Catholic theology;
it has often been declared such by the magisterium and its value
in scriptural interpretation has been especially stressed.

Application of the principle
is difficult, at least at a certain level. [It is here where
Bill is no surgeon. Rather than understanding the concept in
its complexities, he swings the axe and slashes through the whole
concept with the precision of wood chopper, not a surgeon or
theologian.] In regard to individual texts of Scripture total
patristic consensus is rare. In fact, a complete consensus is
unnecessary: quite often, that which is appealed to as sufficient
for dogmatic points does not go beyond what is encountered in
the interpretation of many texts. But it does sometimes happen
that some Fathers understood a passage in a way which does not
agree with later Church teaching. One example: the interpretation
of Peter’s confession in Matthew 16.16-18. Except at Rome,
this passage was not applied by the Fathers to the papal primacy;
they worked out an exegesis at the level of their own ecclesiological
thought, more anthropological and spiritual than juridical.

This instance, selected from
a number of similar ones, shows first that the Fathers cannot
be isolated from the Church and its life. They are great, but
the Church surpasses them in age, as also by the breadth and
richness of its experience. It is the Church, not the Fathers,
the consensus of the Church in submission to its Saviour which
is the sufficient rule of our Christianity. This instance shows
too that we may not, at the doctrinal as distinct from the purely
historical level, take the witnesses of Tradition in a purely
material sense: they are to be weighed and valued. The plain
material fact of agreement or disagreement, however extensive,
does not allow us to speak of a consensus Patrum at the properly
dogmatic level, for the authors studied in theology are only
“Fathers” in the theological sense if they have in
some way begotten the Church which follows them. Now, it may
be, that the seed which will be most fruitful in the future is
not the most clearly so at present, and that the lifelines of
faith may not pass through the great doctors in a given instance.
Historical documentation is at the factual level; it must leave
room or a judgement made not in the light of the documentary
evidence alone, but of the Church’s faith. We shall come
back, in the next chapter, to this problem which we have already,
in fact, encountered: that is, the question of the precise distinction
to be made between material (historical) and formal (dogmatic)

It can, however, be seen
that as regards the explanation of a particular text, or a particular
article of doctrine, the theological weight of the consensus
Patrum is subject to so many conditions that it cannot be easily
assessed. Students and devotees of the Fathers—among whom
I should wish to number myself—might well feel disappointed
if they had no other guidance. But, for a start, there are the
foundations of faith, the articles on which the whole structure
rests; there are the directions, meanings and spiritual climate
in which the content and implications of our covenant relation,
as attested in Scripture, have been lived, developed, specified
and defended. As far as the reading of Scripture is concerned,
there has been built up in that way something more valuable than
an interpretative exegetical consensus on some individual verse,
I mean the total framework, inside which and starting from which
all Catholic reading of written revelation has been formed and
educated. This is the most important element, the essential contribution
of the Fathers to the formation of an exegetical Tradition.

When we see the Fathers in
this way, as those who have formed the milieu of the Church’s
historical growth (see the next chapter), we find that they are
unanimous, we are at the heart of their real consensus. We have
seen that Tradition is for a Christian almost what the educational
milieu is for man in general; the child needs to form its own
conclusions in a milieu which provides him with security; it
is fundamentally the role of the consensus of the Fathers to
provide such an element in the Church
(Tradition and Traditions (New York: Macmillan Company, 1966),
pp. 397-400).

The problem with Congar’s
theory is that it is undermined by the historical reality and
is a view that would have been rejected by the theologians of
Trent and Vatican I. When these councils spoke of a ‘unanimous
consent of the fathers’, they were referring specifically
to the interpretation of Scripture. An interpretation which, in
their minds, could be documented. If, as Trent and Vatican I claim,
there is a unanimous consent of the fathers, why should the consensus
be difficult at a practical, documentary level? Congar
admits that this is what the Church has historically claimed,
that it is classical in Roman Catholic theology, and yet he says,
practically speaking, it doesn’t exist. As Congar says: ‘In
regard to individual texts of Scripture total patristic consensus
is rare.’ This is why it is difficult. It is difficult because
you have the claim on the one hand and the historical reality
on the other which does not support the claim. And he uses the
Matthew 16 passage as an example: ‘It does sometimes happen
that some Fathers understood a passage in a way which does not
agree with later Church teaching. One example: the interpretation
of Peter’s confession in Matthew 16.16-18. Except at Rome,
this passage was not applied by the Fathers to the papal primacy;
they worked out an exegesis at the level of their own ecclesiological
thought, more anthropological and spiritual than juridical.’
Notice here the explicit dichotomy. The Church of the patristic
age interpreted this passage in a way that did not agree with
the teaching of a later age. In other words the teaching of Vatican
I is not in agreement with the fathers of the patristic age because
they did not teach papal primacy.

But, according to Congar,
the problem is really not a problem because it can be circumvented
by a different understanding of consensus. The Fathers must be
interpreted in light of present day teaching. Congar says: ‘The
Fathers cannot be isolated from the Church and its life.’
And by the Church and its life, he means the Church as it is today.
He says: ‘It is the Church, not the Fathers, the consensus
of the Church in submission to its Saviour which is the sufficient
rule of our Christianity.’ In other words, what matters is
what the Church teaches NOW. That is the criterion of truth and
Tradition because the Chruch is living and Tradition is living.
He continues:

This instance shows too that
we may not, at the doctrinal as distinct from the purely historical
level, take the witnesses of Tradition in a purely material sense:
they are to be weighed and valued. The plain material fact of
agreement or disagreement, however extensive, does not allow
us to speak of a consensus Patrum at the properly dogmatic level,
for the authors studied in theology are only “Fathers”
in the theological sense if they have in some way begotten the
Church which follows them. Now, it may be, that the seed which
will be most fruitful in the future is not the most clearly so
at present, and that the lifelines of faith may not pass through
the great doctors in a given instance. Historical documentation
is at the factual level; it must leave room or a judgement made
not in the light of the documentary evidence alone, but of the
Church’s faith.

Now please note carefully
the last two sentences of that paragraph. Congar postulates that
in the future the Church could be teaching doctrines which are
completely unheard of today and which will therefore not be able
to be documented historically. As he puts it: ‘The lifelines
of faith may not pass through the great doctors in a given instance.’
Historical documentation must leave room for judgment that is
not restricted to documentary evidence alone but transcends the
historical record in light of the present day Church’s faith.
In other words, the truth of ecclesiastical history must be viewed
through the lens of whatever the faith of the Church is at the
present moment. Needless to say, such a theory is completely antithetical
to the teaching of Trent and Vatican I on unanimous consent because
by unanimous consent these councils are teaching that their doctrines
are in continuity with the Church historically and that continuity
can be verified by the documentary evidence, by what Congar calls
material Tradition. The theory, however, of unanimous consent
has been proven to be bankrupt historically and therefore a new
theory has replaced it, the theory of development and the living
presence of the Holy Spirit which produces a living Tradition.
This is a clever way of avoiding the embarrassment of having to
face an obvious contradiction between facts and claims.
This in effect cuts the Church off from any kind of continuity
as far as real documentation is concerned and allows the Church
to conveniently disregard the witness of history in favor of a
dynamic evolving teaching authority. History in effect becomes
almost irrelevant and all talk of the unanimous consent of the
fathers merely a relic of history. Consent is now interpreted
to mean a milieu, a nebulous concept devoid of any real substantive
meaning. Congar can then declare a victory for consensus by stating
that the consensus of milieu demonstrates that the fathers are
unanimous. But if the milieu of the Fathers, which can only be
discerned by their practice and explicit teaching, is antithetical
to the teachings of Vatican I, how can one actually assert that
there is a milieu of unanimity that is consistent with Vatican
I? This is nonsensical. The historical record clearly reveals
that there is no unanimous consent of the Fathers, in interpretation,
practice or milieu that supports the teaching of Vatican I.

This brings us to the place
where one’s faith is placed blindly in the institution of
the Church. It was Ignatius of Loyola who wrote:

That we may be altogether
of the same mind and in conformity with the Church herself, if
she shall have defined anything to be black which to our eyes
appears to be white, we ought in like manner to pronounce it
(St. Ignatius Loyola,
Rules for Thinking with the Church, Rule 13, (cited from:
Documents of the Christian Church, pp. 364-365, ed. Henry

This kind of blind submission,
which is in effect intellectual suicide, should cause any thinking
person to balk. It is based on the presupposition that the Church
is infallible and cannot err. But the presupposition is faulty.
Historically, the Roman Church has clearly proven that it can
and has erred and is therefore quite fallible.

R.P. C. Hanson makes some
very intersting comments with respect to the Roman Catholic promulgation
of dogma and its appeal to history and the development of doctrine
as proposed by Yves Congar. He looks at this specifically from
the perspective of Rome’s teaching of the Assumption of Mary
but the principles enunciated here apply to all aspects of Roman
Catholic Tardition including the papacy:

A good test of the accuracy
and trustworthiness of the Roman Catholic rule of faith is provided
by a consideration of the doctrine of the Assumption of the Blessed
Virgin Mary. How do theories of the development of Christian
doctrine explain the emergence of what is supposed to be, not
an idea, but an historical fact? Historical facts do not develop,
they are subject to the laws of historical evidence. The historical
evidence for the corporeal Assumption of Mary into Heaven is
fully and fairly stated for us in the Catholic Encyclopedia,
under the article, ‘The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin
’ (by F. G. Holweck, of St Louis). In this article
we are told that the day, year, and manner of St Mary’s
death is unknown. Epiphanius (403) says he knows nothing about
it. We do not hear of the tomb of Mary at Jerusalem for the first
six centuries. The sources for the belief in the assumption of
her body into Heaven are summarized in this article. The list
begins with the treatise De Obitu S. Dominae, attributed
to St John but in reality written in the fourth or fifth century,
a book De Transitu Virginis, falsely ascribed to Melito
of Sardis, and a spurious letter attributed to Dionysius the
Areopagite. In genuine writings the people who first mention
the Assumption are Gregory, Bishop of Tours (573-594), St Andrew
of Crete (about 680), St Modestus of Jerusalem (about 614), and
St John of Damascus (fl. 730-760). The last attributes to the
bishop of Jerusalem at the Council of Chalcedon (451), the declaration
that, ‘Mary died in the presence of the apostles, but that
her tomb, when opened at the request of St Thomas, was found
empty, where from the apostles concluded that the body was taken
up to Heaven!

In November 1950 Pope Pius
XII declared officially that the Corporeal Assumption of the
Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven was a defined dogma, part of
the Catholic faith, as much part of it as the doctrine of our
Lord’s divinity or as his atonement for our sins. He did
not take the trouble to call a General Council beforehand, though
he consulted all the bishops of his church before he made his
declaration. His definition of this dogma was made in such a
manner that all Roman Catholic theologians must recognize it
as infallible, at any rate until another Pope appears who declares
(infallibly) that this decision was not, after all, infallible,
for, as we have seen, the latest fashion in doctrine is always,
according to the Roman theory, the most trustworthy. Pius XII
required all Roman Catholics to believe this on pain of losing
their salvation. This they have not found very difficult because
most of them believed it already, being well schooled in the
art (to use Lewis Carroll’s words) of ‘believing six
impossible things before breakfast’; but he also expected
the faithful to believe, and the church historians to show, that
this dogma always was, in some form or other, believed in the
Church from the very earliest times, and was known all along
to be an original part of the Christian faith. This has proved
a far more difficult task, and though the mass of the faithful
may believe this fantastic theory, the church historians have
found it a hopeless business to produce any reputable evidence
at all for it. They have had to fall back on the lamest of lame
explanations, that as this doctrine is found in the church about
A.D. 450, and as the Roman Catholic Church now believes it to
be de fide, therefore it must have been believed from the very

(‘Our belief in the
corporeal assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary rests exclusively
on the foundation that this is what the Church teaches’
(H. Volk, Das neue Mariendogma
(1951), p. 25)
; ‘The
fact that the Apostolic Church accepts the doctrine guarantees
its apostolicity and its character as revelation’ (ibid,
p. 72).

Such a line of argument reveals
the utter bankruptcy of their case; it is equivalent to a declaration
that the Roman church does not care whether her beliefs have
any connection with the historical origins of Christianity or
not. To Roman Catholics this latest dogma looks like an example
of Papal infallibility; to Protestants it is a prime example
of Papal irresponsibility. As long as the Roman church plays
fast and loose with historical Christianity like this, it is
the unavoidable duty before God and man of Protestants to protest,
to witness against her to a soberer, purer, more responsible
version of Christianity.

To anybody who does not deliberately
shut his eyes to historical evidence, to. anybody to whom the
words ‘ancient and unswerving tradition’ are not a
mere catch-phrase rolled off the tongue on suitable occasions,
the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a belief which was
quite unknown at least before A.D. 400 anywhere; which was obviously
invented by over-credulous minds; for which evidence had to be
manufactured. As evidence for the genuineness of a doctrine or
an idea this would be utterly unsatisfactory, but when we are
expected to accept it as evidence for an historical fact, analogous
to the Resurrection of our Lord, it becomes absurd. The doctrine
of development cannot help here. The ‘living idea of Mary
in the mind of the Church’ cannot help here. The Pope’s
declaration of the Assumption as a defined dogma could not in
the least alter the fact that the Corporeal Assumption of the
Blessed Virgin Mary did not take place, any more than the House
of Commons could alter history by passing a bill declaring that
Oliver Cromwell ended his days by making a Flight to the moon.
Yet these are the sort of grounds upon which Roman Catholics
are expected to believe a doctrine whereon their salvation is
supposed to depend.

How can we possibly trust
as a sure guide to Christian truth a Church which plays about
with historical evidence like this? How can we regard either
the Roman church or its Pope as infallible if these are the fruits
of infallibility? And if this is the sort of flimsy evidence
that is presented to us as sufficient for belief in the Assumption
of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we cannot but suspect that the same
insecurity attaches to belief in her Immaculate Conception, and
to all the peculiar doctrines of the Roman church
(The Church of Rome (Greenwich:
Seabury, 1960), pp. 84-87).

This leads us to a consideration
Steve’s Ray comments on the topic of historiography and the
interpretation of history.

5) Steve
Ray’s View of Historiography

Steve Ray makes some very
interesting observations about how one is to interpret history
in the section, Historiography: Am I Guilty of Mangling History?
I found the comments of Fr. Stanley Jaki to be of particular interest.
He spoke about the necessity for having a ‘notion of history.’
In referring to his personal belief in the hsitorical reality
of papal infallibility Fr. Jaki comments: ‘Much the same
is true about the early record concerning infallibility. It clearly
contains the thing, that is, the reality of the infallibility
of the Bishop of Rome, though not the expression of itself. But
to perceive things beneath the words as far as history is concerned,
one must have a notion of history such as the one formulated by
Newman.’ He then goes on to say this about adopting such
an attitude toward historical study: ‘To such an approach
to history it will be objected that it prejudges history, that
it forces one in advance to decide what to look for in history,
to the detriment of a critical scholarship by Newman.’ This
objection is absolutely valid. One’s presuppositions about
history become the ultimate criterion for how one judges the historical
record. If I am absolutely convinced that papal infallibility
is true and that Vatican I is right when it says this teaching
has been true from the very inception of the Church, then this
will become my ‘notion of history’ and I will go to
great lengths to read this concpet beneath the words even though
it is nowhere explicitly stated. Never mind that an ecumenical
council (III Constantinople) officially condemned a bishop of
Rome for heresy.

Steve Ray says: ‘So,
yes, I look at history from a Catholic perspective inherited from
the Jews, the Apostles and the Fathers. In studying history the
proper ‘historiography’ is surely the province of Catholics.’
First of all Steve, you view history from a Roman and not a Catholic
perspective, which is anything but patristic and apostolic. Secondly,
this statement is a bit arrogant, don’t you think? The Orthodox
Church doesn’t have a right to claim the province in the
sphere of history, Steve? Why is it, Steve, that the Orthodox,
who have far greater knowledge of their own history than any Roman
Catholic, have always and still to this day aggressively oppose
your ‘historiography’ and the presuppositions which
undergird it? You don’t deal with history objectively Steve,
you manipulate it to promote an agenda. A perfect example is the
quote you you give on page 8 of the section on Historiography.
You state: ‘Papal primacy was taught in the Councils by the
Council Fathers from early times. For example, in the Ecumenical
Council of Ephesus in 431 we read: ‘No one doubts, but rather
it has been known to all generations, that the holy and most blessed
Peter, chief and head of the Apostles, the pillar of the faith,
the foundation stone of the Catholic Church, received the keys
of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ the Savior and Redeemer
of the human race, and that the power of binding and loosing sins
was given to him, who up to this moment always lives in his successors,
and judges.’ You then ask the question: ‘Does this sound
like the words of Vatican I? Absolutely, because Vatican I was
based on the teachings of the Fathers, both patristic and council

So, to use your words, this
is a statement ‘taught in the Council by the Council Fathers’
at Ephesus. This is a bit much, Steve. You are ommitting some
very significant information.This is not a teaching of the Council.
This statement was simply part of the Acts of the Council, not
an official decree. It is a statement made by Philip, the papal
legate, as part of a speech he made in Session III of the Council.
He is simply stating his personal opinion and undoubtedly the
opinion of pope Coelestine. The way you phrase it you make it
appear that this statement was decreed by the Council Fathers
and was an official teaching of the Council. Nothing could be
further from the truth. But Roman Catholic apologists make much
of the fact that there was no objection to Philip’s statements
from those present at the Council and they conclude, therefore,
that the Council Fathers must have agreed with him. But actually,
there is a way for the Orthodox to accept Philip’s statements
by interpreting his words through an Orthodox ecclesiology. All
the appelations given to Peter are no different from those ascribed
to him by many of the Eastern Fathers. They all agreed that Peter
received the keys and the power of binding and loosing. They all
agreed that the bishops of Rome were the successors of Peter and
that they judged. But it was not true of them in an exclusive
sense. It was likewise true for all bishops. All were considered
to be successors of the apostles, Peter included, and all judged.
This was not something they believed to be the exclusive domain
of the bishop of Rome. John Chrysostom expresses this for example,
when referring to Flavian, who Chrysostom considered to be the
rightful Bishop of Antioch, though he was opposed by Rome:

Since I have mentioned Peter,
another Peter comes to me, our common Father and Teacher; who
being his successor in virtue has also inherited his seat, for
this too is one of the privileges of our city, that it received
at the beginning for its teacher the first of the Apostles. For
fitting it was that the city which before the whole world encircled
her brows with the name of Christian, should receive as Pastor
the first of the Apostles. But though we received him for our
teacher, we did not keep him to the end, but gave him up to royal
Rome. For we have not indeed the body of Peter, but we keep the
faith of Peter as himself, and having the faith of Peter, we
have Peter
(On the
Inscription of the Acts,
II.6. Taken from Edward Denny, Papalism
(Rivingtons: London, 1912), p. 91).

Chrysostom states that Flavian
is a successor of Peter and possesses his chair, a chair that
Antioch possessed before Rome. In Chrysostom’s view, Rome
and Antioch are on an equal footing. They are both Petrine sees
and the bishops who are the rightful occupants of those sees are
direct successors of Peter. Gaudentius of Brescia expresses a
similar view in his comments on Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan:

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
16, De Ordin. Ipsius. PL 20, 958. Cited by J. Waterworth
S.J., A Commentary (London: Thomas Richardson, 1871), pp. 105-107).

This was the common view of
the Fathers of the Church and how they would have interpreted
Philip’s words. But to state that Philip’s comments,
with the papal interpretation that was in Philip’s mind in
terms of exclusivity, was a teaching endorsed by the Council of
Ephesus, and to further neglect to inform your reader that these
comments were simply part of the overall Acts of the Council and
made by a papal legate and not by the Council itself is to manipulate
the facts of history, Steve. You are distorting the facts to promote
a papalist agenda.

6) My Personal
View of Matthew 16

Steve asked me to explain
my own personal view of the rock of Matthew 16. My personal view
is that the Rock and foundation of the Church is Jesus Christ
the Lord, the Son of God. This exegesis of the rock as being Christ
who is the foundation of the Church as the One upon whom the Church
would be built finds support from both the Old and New Testaments.
In the Old Testament we find the Lord himself described as the
rock, the one sure foundation of security and salvation. For example:

Ps. 62:5-6: My soul, wait
in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him. He only is
my rock and my salvation My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.

Ps. 18:l-2: I love Thee,
O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and
my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge.

Ps. 89:26: He will cry to
Me, ‘Thou art my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation.’

Over and over again in the
Old Testament it is God himself who is referred to as the rock-as
the one and only source and foundation and refuge for salvation
and deliverance.

In the familiar prophecy in
Daniel 2:31-44 we read of the stone which strikes the kingdoms
of the world and then itself stands for ever. The Jews saw the
stone as the person of the Messiah. Obviously it represents that
which is divine for it is described as a stone ‘cut out without

The word ‘foundation’
is another important word, parallel with the word rock, and it
is also used in reference to the person of the Lord himself. In
the Old Testament, the word in a literal sense refers to the foundation
upon which a building rests. For example in Ezra 3:10 it says,
‘Now when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple
of the Lord the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets …
to praise the Lord.’ This word is important for it is used
in a key passage in the Old Testament that is appropriated by
the New Testament apostles as speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Isaiah 28:16 we read:

Therefore thus says the Lord
God, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion, a stone, a tested stone,
a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who
believes in it will not be disturbed.’

Notice the threefold description
here. The stone or rock is not only a cornerstone, but a foundation.
And this is the very passage which Peter used with reference to
the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 2:4-8). Peter also, along with Paul,
applies to Christ the descriptions of the Messiah in Isaiah 8:13
and Psalm 118:22 as the rejected stone, the stone of stumbling
and rock of offence. In Acts 4:11-12 he says:

He is the stone which was
rejected by you, the builders, but which became the very cornerstone.
And there is salvation in no-one else, for there is no other
name -under heaven that has been given among men, by which we
must be saved.

So here we see the terms stone
and cornerstone being identified with the salvation which is in
Jesus Christ alone. Paul reemphasizes this in three other passages.
In Ephesians 2:20 he states that the Church is built upon the
foundation of Christ as the cornerstone, and in I Corinthians
10:4 he states specifically that the rock is Christ. In I Corinthians
3:11 he says, ‘For no man can lay a foundation other than
the one which is laid-which is Jesus Christ.’

To whom then do the Scriptures,
both Old Testament and New Testament, consistently point as the
rock, the stone, the cornerstone and the foundation upon which
the Church would be built? Jesus Christ the Lord, the Son of the
living God, he alone is the rock of our salvation.

These facts then give the
broader context in which to interpret Christ’s words to Peter
in Matthew 16. Peter does not refer to himself as the rock, but
to Christ (1 Pet. 2:4-8), and the broader context of the scriptural
teaching on the rock justifies our interpreting the rock of Matthew
16 as referring to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ as opposed
to Peter. But, in addition to this, there are other considerations
in Matthew 16 which do not support the Roman Catholic interpretation.
There is absolutely nothing in this passage which speaks of successors
to Peter and the passing on of his personal prerogatives to them.
The keys, rather than signifying the establishment of the institution
of the papacy and supreme authority to rule the Church and the
world, are representative of the authority to exercise discipline
in the Church and to proclaim the gospel, declaring the free forgiveness
of sins in the Lord Jesus Christ. Such a declaration opens the
kingdom of God to men or, if they reject the message, closes it
to them. The keys are not the possession of a single individual,
for exactly the same authority which Christ promises to Peter
he also grants to the other apostles in Matthew 18:18 and John
20:22-23. They are all given authority to bind or loose by declaring
the forgiveness of sins through Christ. They are all equals under
the authority of one head, the Lord Jesus. The authority they
are given is a delegated, declarative authority, which is in Christ’s
name and comes from him who alone possesses the supreme authority
to rule the Church. Thus the rock is Peter’s confession of
faith which points to the person and work of Jesus Christ, or
ultimately to Christ himself as the rock.

I also believe that it is
possible to interpret the rock to mean the person of Peter in
a subordinate sense, as Scripture itself explains. What is being
emphasized in the Matthew 16 passage is Peter’s confession
of faith in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God. Thus when Christ
states that He will build His Church on Peter He means Peter’s
confession of faith in the Divinity and Messiahship of Jesus.
Jesus Christ is not establishing a papal office in Matthew 16.
There is not one word about a papal office or successors. Ephesians
2:20 is a companion verse to Matthew 16 which helps us to understand
its proper meaning. Here Paul tells us that the Church is built
upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus
Himself being the cornerstone. The word ‘built upon’
is the Greek word oikodomeo and is precisely the same word as
used in Matthew 16 in reference to Peter. So the term and the
concept is not exclusive to Peter. It encompasses ALL the apostles
equally as well as the prophets of the Old Testament. How is the
Church built upon the apostles and prophets? Through their teaching
and in particular their proclamation of the gospel which sets
forth Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Son of God, in other words,
His person and work.

Ephesians 1:13-14 reveals
how this takes place: ‘In Him you also, after listening to
the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, having also
believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.’
When the apostolic message and teaching of the gospel is preached
and men believe it, they are spiritually united to Christ and
the Church is built, the kingdom of God is extended. Therefore
the Church is built upon the apostles and prophets in that it
is built upon their teaching which has been incorporated for us
in Scripture. The apostles were all equals. Peter is but one of
the foundations and the Chruch is built upon him in the sense
that it is built upon his right confession of faith which points
to Christ as the true foundation.

So it is possible to believe
that Peter is the rock wihtout having to conclude that this leads
to a Roman Catholic ecclesiology. It most assuredly does not.
Peter is a rock of Faith which points to Christ. The Chruch is
built upon him and all the apostles when it is built upon their
confession and teaching of the person and work of Jesus Christ,
the Messiah and Son of God. He is the way, the truth and the life
and the only way to God. He has accomplished a work of atonement
in which he has paid the full penalty for sin and has fully satisified
the righteous demands of God’s Law against sin in his once
for all death on the cross. God demands perfection if we are to
be accepted by him. If we transgress his law the penalty is eternal
death. As our substitute, Jesus has fully satisfied the demands
of the law of God on our behalf. He has lived a perfect life under
the law for us. He never sinned. And He has completely propitiated
(satisfied) God’s justice by bearing our sin and suffering
the peanlty of the law, the penalty of death, in our place. And
he has been raised from the dead and is now the living Lord who
is offered to man as the all sufficient source of salvation. It
is not a Church that saves us but a person. And all who come to
him in true repentance (turning from sin) and who commit their
lives to him in faith alone, forsaking all works and trusting
him alone as Savior and submitting one’s life to him as Lord,
will receive, as a gift, the imputed righteousness of Jesus which
will justify them for all eternity. In order to go to heaven we
must have a perfect righteousness. Jesus has accomplished that
for us by perfectly fulfilling the righteous demands of the law.
His perfect righteousness is given to us as a gift and we are
fully justified before God. In addition, those who come to Christ
for salvation will be delivered from an eternal hell and will
receive the gift of eternal life; they will be born again and
will become a new creation, indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God,
and will come to know God in a personal way; they will be set
free from bondage to sin and will be empowered to live a life
of obedience and holiness before God; they will be adopted into
the family of God and made his children; and when they die they
will be with their Lord in heaven for all eternity. This is a
salvation which is eternal and can never be lost. The person,
once saved, will never face the judgment of God because Jesus
has paid the full penalty for sin and promises that all who truly
know him and are his true followers will never perish. Hear the
words of Jesus: ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them,
and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they
shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.
My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and
no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand’
(Jn. 10:27-29). ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears
My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does
not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life’
(Jn. 5:24).

And the apostle Paul says:
‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are
in Christ Jesus…What then shall we say to these things? If God
is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son,
but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him
freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s
elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns?
Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is
at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will
separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress,
or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just
as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death
all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him
who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things
to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created
thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which
is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:1, 31-39).

7) The
Issue of Ultimate Authority: The Seat of Moses and the Chair of

The issues involved in this
dicussion are far reaching to say the least, Ultimately they have
to do with the eternal destinies of men and women. The Church
of Rome, and Roman apologists, would have us believe that the
Roman Church, through its bishop, is infallible, and a sure guide
to truth and salvation. According to Rome, to stand against this
Church is to stand opposed to God’s ordained authority on
earth. By its teaching on the papacy, Rome is calling men to an
implicit faith in the Church and its authority and submission
to its teachings. Rome states that rejection of any teaching officially
defined as dogma results in the loss of faith and salvation. There
is an interesting comparison given by Roman apologists as a defense
of its teaching on authority which suggests there is a continuity
between God’s established authority in both the Old and New
Testaments. This is, we are told, the parallel between Moses and
Peter. The theory suggests that just as Moses received a chair
and was established as an infallible guide to Israel, and just
as their were successors to that chair, so it is with Peter and
his chair and his successors. Just as the Jews were instructed
by Jesus to be submissive to those who have succeeded Moses in
his chair, so those in the New Testament dispensation are to submit
themselves to the successors of Peter in his chair, who are also
infallible. In his book, Upon This Rock, Steve Ray offers
the following explanation of this principle:

Now that we have analyzed
the royal aspect of Israel and Judah, is there anything to be
discovered from the priestly and scribal side of Jewish society
that can shed light on the issue of succession? Let us again
look back to the Pentateuch, this time at Moses. “On the
morrow Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about
Moses from morning till evening…. And Moses said to his father-in-law,
‘Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they
have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between a man and
his neighbor, and I make them know the statutes of God and his
decisions” (Ex 18:13, 15-16; emphasis added). Moses was
the official teacher of Israel—the lawgiver, interpreter,
and judge. Like Peter, Moses also had a direct revelation from
God while standing at a huge rock, Mount Sinai. Moses was infallible
in his teaching and judgments. He sat from morning until night,
judging the people and interpreting the law of God. His teaching
authority (symbolized by the “seat of Moses”) continued
through the centuries, through succession, and was still prominent
in the synagogues almost two thousand years later. This is prominently
mentioned in the Gospels. Matthew tells us, “Then said Jesus,
to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the
Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever
they tell you’” (Mt 23:1-3). Moses sat in his seat,
and in Jesus’ time the scribes and Pharisees continue to
sit in Moses’ seat…

The continuity between the
Jews of the Old Testament and the Christians of the New Testament
is quite pronounced, but it is certainly what we should expect
if the covenants and revelation of God have one source and purpose.
Moses and Peter both had revelations, and God appointed both
to “seats” of authority. Both spoke God’s inspired
words. Moses and Peter each had a “seat” (kathedra,
in the Greek). Both Old and New Testament communities held to
two aspects of one revelation: Scripture and tradition. Neither
had the truncated concept of sola Scriptura. Both Israel and
the Church had a recognized teaching authority; both believed
God’s people were governed by a hierarchy. Both had a hierarchy
before they had a “book”, and both “books”
(Old and New Testaments) were recognized and collected into authoritative
canons through the hands of the respective hierarchies. Both
viewed the authoritative teaching office as being one of succession,
in other words, the offices would always be filled, never left
vacant. “Moses’ seat” continued with successors
through two thousand years, acknowledged by the Lord Jesus himself,
and now the “chair of Peter” is approaching its two
thousandth year, and the office has been filled by 264 Popes
(Upon This Rock, pp. 292-294).

In explaining the meaning
of Mt 23:1-3 Steve Ray offers the following documentation:

The Church was born from
Jewish roots and culture. The “seat of Moses” in the
synagogue became the “seat of the bishops” in the early
churches. “Sitting on ‘Moses’ seat’ referred
to a place of dignity and the right to interpret the Mosaic law.
The scribes were the successors and the heirs of Moses’
authority and were rightfully looked to for pronouncements upon
his teaching….Jesus does not appear to challenge this right”
(Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Walter A. Elwell [Grand Rapids,
Mich.: Baker Book House, 1988], 2:1498). Notice the mention of
“successors”, “right to interpret”, and “heirs
of authority”. Evangelical commentator D. A. Carson writes,
“Moreover, ‘to sit on X’s seat’ often means
‘to succeed X’ (Exod 11:5; 12:29; 1 Kings 1:35, 46;
2:12; 16: 11; 2 Kings 15:12; Ps 13 2:12; cf. Jos. Antiq. VII,
353 [xiv.5]; XVIII, 2 [i. 1]. This would imply that the ‘teachers
of the law’ are Moses’ legal successors, possessing
all his authority—a view the scribes themselves held….
Panta hosa (‘everything’) is a strong expression and
cannot be limited to ‘that teaching of the law that is in
Jesus’ view a faithful interpretation of it’; they
cover everything the leaders teach, including the oral tradition
as well”(Gaebelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary,
8:472)—Carson later dismisses the whole passage by relegating
it to irony, which even James White rejects (Roman Catholic Controversy,
100). The Jewish people understood the authority of the “seat
of Moses”. And the first Christians, being Jewish, clearly
understood that the bishops succeeded the apostles in the Church,
carrying on their authority just as the teachers of Israel succeeded
Moses and carried on his authority (see St. Marcarius later in
this study). Jesus had earlier transferred the rabbinic authority
from the Jewish leaders to the apostles (Mt 16:19; 18:18). The
Church through her apostles and bishops became the new voice
of God, and they ruled and shepherded the flock, defined doctrine,
interpreted Scripture, and preserved the apostolic teaching and
tradition. This fact is very helpful in ascertaining the early
Christians’ understanding of the authority and succession
of bishops and the primacy of Rome.

From a Roman Catholic perspective
the application of this theory is obvious. What Jesus said to
the Jews of his day about the scribes who sat on the seat of Moses
applies to men of our own day with respect to the Church of Rome:
Do whatever they tell you. We are informed in the above quote
by D.A. Carson, which Steve Ray quotes approvingly, that Jesus’
instruction means that the people were to obey everything
taught by the religious authorities. They are supposedly the successors
of Moses and carry his authority. In like manner, men are to obey
everything the Roman Church teaches as a successor of Peter,
whose bishop teaches with his authority. Now this is an interesting
theory. There is just one problem. If it is applied in the way
Roman apologists suggest, then Jesus is teaching that the Jews
should reject him as the Messiah and should reject his teachings
because the Jewish religious leaders, who sat on Moses’ seat,
did precisely that. And they taught others to do so. To them,
Jesus was possessed by Satan himself. He was a deceiver of the
nation. Their interpretations of Scripture were corrected by Jesus
as being fallacious and he condemned the teaching of their Tradition
because it invalidated Scripture. Clearly, just because these
religious leaders sat on Moses’ seat did not mean they were
infallible or were to be blindly followed. The same applies to
Rome and, in fact, the same errors of which the Judaism of Jesus’
day was guilty have been repeated by Roman Catholicism. The only
true parallel between Catholicism and Judaism is not between Peter
and Moses but between the corruption of Judaism over time and
the corruption of the Church over time into what we know today
as Roman Catholicism. These comments from The Chruch of Rome
at the Bar of History
will serve as a conclusion to this segment:

The Roman Catholic Church
makes certain claims for its tradition which it says can be validated
by Scripture and the facts of history. It states that it alone
is the one true Church which has faithfully preserved the apostolic
teaching of the gospel received from Jesus Christ, either orally
or in writing. The case we have sought to set out in these pages
is that these ~issertions are false. When the Lord Jesus began
to preach and teach the Word of God he was opposed by the religious
leaders of the Church of his day, who claimed that he did not
follow the Jewish tradition. Jesus’ response was to condemn
their tradition because much of its teaching invalidated the
Word of God. Tragically, just as traditional practices corrupted
and superseded God’s Word in the minds of the Jewish people
before Jesus was born, the same thing happened in his Church
after he ascended into heaven.

In The Life and Times
of Jesus the Messiah
, Alfred Edersheim documents the development
of a body of tradition within Judaism known as the ‘tradition
of the elders’. He points out that the Jews possessed the
Scriptures in the Old Testament, but they also believed there
had been an oral tradition given hy God to Moses which was faithfully
passed down through the Jewish fathers. And over time a body
of scriptural interpretation by the most revered fathers and
rabbis developed which became as authoritative as Scripture itself.
The Old Testament, within Judaism, was acknowledged to be authoritative
and inspired, but for all practical purposes the real authority
in the life of the nation was its tradition.

The parallel in the development
of a tradition within the Roman Catholic Church is astonishing.
Scripture is acknowledged to be inspired and authoritative but,
as with Judaism, it is argued that God’s Word has been supplemented
by an oral tradition handed down by the apostles from Christ,
faithfully preserved by the Fathers and bishops, and eventually
viewed as equally authoritative as the Scriptures themselves.
Although the claim is made that Rome’s tradition is apostolic,
it is, in reality a tradition which has embraced many of the
same corruptions which characterized the Jewish tradition.

The New Testament is full
of warnings against traditionalism, sacramentalism, legalism,
asceticism and human philosophy, for these were the specific
errors of Judaism. Yet the Church failed to heed these warnings
and began to repeat the same errors:

The Jews adhered to a body
of tradition which invalidated the Word of God. Likewise, the
Roman Catholic Church promotes a tradition, the teachings of
which also invalidate the Word of God.

The Jews taught sacramentalism
by teaching that circumcision was a rite which guaranteed the
individual’s inheritance as part of the Jewish nation. Similarly,
the Roman Catholic Church embraced sacramentalism in its teaching
that a man is saved through baptism and being a part of the Roman
Catholic Church.

The Jews taught legalism
through their identification of repentance with penance, good
works and asceticism to merit God’s forgiveness and favour,
as is clear from Christ’s many criticisms of the religious
leaders. In the same way, Rome promotes legalism through its
identification of repentance with penance, good works and asceticism.

Christ condemned the practice
of mechanical praying, that is, simply repeating the same words
over and over again in a set form, a practice he described as
vain or meaningless repetition. The Roman Catholic Church has
repeated this error in its promotion of the rosary and other
form prayers.

The Jewish leadership was
condemned by Christ for its spirit of greed in using the temple
and spiritual duties to enrich themselves and the treasury. The
papacy’s historic use of indulgences for its own enrichment
is a direct parallel.

Judaisers taught that one
must become a Jew to experience salvation. The Roman Catholic
Church teaches that one must become a Roman Catholic to be saved.

The parallels are only too
plain. In effect, in the name of Christ the Roman Catholic Church
has perverted the gospel of Christ…

The claims to apostolic authority
and catholicity are undermined by the Roman Catholic tradition.
Such claims cannot be supported by alleged apostolic succession
and papal authority; they have to be proved by conformity to
apostolic teaching as recorded in Scripture. Truth, and especially
the truth of the gospel, is the foundation and absolute essential
to the nature of the true Church. In its breadth this gospel
transcends all denominational and visible church organizations.

It is, then, at the point
of truth, both biblical and historical, that the Roman Catholic
Church’s claim to be truly apostolic and catholic is found
to bee spurious. While it affirms much teaching that is certainly
catholic and apostolic, it undermines the truth by adding teachings
which contradict the Scriptures and the truth of the gospel.
The Roman system is no more the friend of Christ than was Judaism…

The tradition of Roman Catholicism
simply is not true, either biblically or historically. The Church
of Rome responds to this judgment by appealing to papal infallibility
as a guarantee of the impossibility of such a defection. But
the theory of infallibility is equally opposed by the facts of
history and the truth of Scripture. As Scripture itself warns,
Gentile churches are no more promised preservation from unbelief
and error than were theJews: ‘they were broken off for their
unbelief, and you stand only by your faith. Do not be conceited,
but fear’ (Rom. 11:20). No such words would have been necessary
if the Roman interpretation of Scripture that Christ would grant
the Church infallibility and immunity from error were true. The
facts of history prove it is not true. The Roman Catholic Church
has erred in its teaching and cloaking itself in a humanly engineered
shroud of infallibility will not change that reality. The tragic
results of such a teaching are that it insulates those who accept
it from being able to hear the voice of the Spirit of God who
desires to bring the Church to repentance. The same thing happened
to the Jews in Jesus’ day. Their false presuppositions regarding
their religious status and their relationship to God led them
to refuse to listen to the Son of God as he criticised their
tradition. And like the Jews, the Roman Church is leading multitudes
astray by its false teaching.

Christ called the Jews of
his day back to the final authority of the Word of God and to
an abandonment of those traditional teachings which had invalidated
Scripture for so long. For Christ, Scripture is the ultimate
authority, and he is still calling men back to a submission to
the final authority of Scripture and its message of salvation…Scripture
teaches us that Christianity is Christ, not a Church. It is knowing
Christ, being submitted to Christ, committed to Christ, trusting
in Christ, serving Christ, worshipping Christ, obeying Christ,
loving Christ, walking with Christ, and following Christ—exclusively.

In the issues of authority
and salvation we are pointed by Scripture to Christ as the only
rock and head of the Church; to Christ as the only mediator,
sacrifice and priest; to Christ as the only Saviour; to Christ
alone who is received by faith alone. Christianity is Christ!
(The Church of Rome
At The Bar Of History
, pp. 145-152).