The Rock of My Existence

Greek icon of the Twelve Apostles (in the fron...
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Both Dr. Barber and Fr. Chaplin have weighed in on my previous post dealing with examining Matthew 16.17-19 through the Catholic hermeneutic. This was a class assignment and I admit that I chose this because I thought it would be easy. It isn’t.

My struggles are varied, but I  begin here with John, where Christ meets the Apostles, all of them,

Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (Joh 20:21-23 NLT)

Here is John’s version of Matthew 16.17-19, but the power is given equally to all the Apostles. Yet, even in John, Peter is singled out to ‘feed my sheep.’ We cannot deny that in the Gospels, Peter has a certain role which others did not.

But, I look at Cyprian who, in his treatise On Church Unity maintains that Peter stands for the whole of the Episcopate, that all the Bishops of the Church are equal and act as one:

4. If any one consider and examine these things, there is no need for lengthened discussion and arguments. There is easy proof for faith in a short summary of the truth. The Lord speaks to Peter, saying, “I say unto 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 unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mathew 16:18-19) And again to the same He says, after His resurrection, “Feed my sheep.” And although to all the apostles, after His resurrection, He gives an equal power, and says, “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you: Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they shall be remitted unto him; and whose soever sins ye retain, they shall be retained;” (John 20:21) yet, that He might set forth unity, He arranged by His authority the origin of that unity, as beginning from one. Assuredly the rest of the apostles were also the same as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honour and power; but the beginning proceeds from unity. Which one Church, also, the Holy Spirit in the Song of Songs designated in the person of our Lord, and says, “My dove, my spotless one, is but one. She is the only one of her mother, elect of her that bare her.” (Song of Songs 6:9) Does he who does not hold this unity of the Church think that he holds the faith? Does he who strives against and resists the Church trust that he is in the Church, when moreover the blessed Apostle Paul teaches the same thing, and sets forth the sacrament of unity, saying, “There is one body and one spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God?” (Ephesians 4:4)

One should note that had it not been for Rome in the West, then the West and Christianity in the West would have fallen during the Dark Ages.

I admit, my views on the early Christian voices have changed considerably, as have my views on the Roman Catholic Church – especially in the short time of the existence of this blog. I rather enjoy this fact. I enjoy the fact that I am no long an anti-Catholic bigot, but that I can admit that they in fact may be correct on the reading of Matthew 16.17-19. I encourage you to read the above linked posts and examine for yourselves if you are in the faith.


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One Reply to “The Rock of My Existence”

  1. Reading Diarmaid McCulloch’s “History of Christianity” does broaden the horizons somewhat. I had previously looked on the non-Chalcedonian churches as just another breakaway from the Nicene mainstream. However, it appears that they were a much larger and more widespread set of branches in the family tree than the usual Western readings of history would suggest. And most of the northern European hordes that brought down the Roman Empire in the 4th C were Aryan Christians, not pagans.

    Cyprian’s comment about the unity of the Church being expressed through its bishops is worth considering. The big question is which bishops. The situation was changed by Constantine’s making bishops into imperial civil servants and governors. I suggest that pre-Constantine, the episkopos was comparable to the present-day superintendency of British Methodism. Mr Wesley (a keen student of the primitive church) dismissed the historic episcopate as ‘a vain myth’; but our current relationship with the Church of England has reached an impasse because they Anglicans insist that we should take the historic episcopate into our system, while the Methodist people have voted at every evel to say they don’t want bishops. We already have our own: they’re called superintendents. I am one of the two Methodist bishops of Calderdale 😉 but I don’t bother with the purple shirt.

    The point is, if the churches would agree to work together by accepting each others leaders as bishops, it would make a much more visible sign of our unity, while not losing the treasures of our diversity. We were nearly there in 1983 in Britain, but General Synod fumbled it over the issue of women priests. So the saga continues, of churches working in close co-operation, while pouring resources into competing structures. And mission and witness are hindered by perceived disunity. Ho, hum…

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