The Catholic Church is quick to point to Peter as the primary Apostle, and thus the Roman See (even though there is no Biblical evidence whatsoever that Peter was a Bishop over Rome) is authoritative over other Apostolic Sees. However, as Protestants the only question we can ask about this is “Does this line up with what Scripture Presents?”
Lets pretend for a minute that we grant to the Catholics that Peter was a Bishop overseeing the Roman Church, and that the apostolic Sees that descend from him would share the same level of authority in relation to other Apostolic Sees. Where does that leave Rome?
Well, lets look at the best descriptive passage we have of the broad governance of the Church in the 1st Century. That passage comes in Acts 15. In this passage we see that the Church as a whole gathered to discuss what the Church’s official position would be in relation to the Judaizer controversy.
Let’s grant to the Catholics for a second that this is essentially the same format that was used at the Council of Nicaea and the following Eccumenical Councils, that those present were primarily Bishops over loosely autonomous regions.
I think we must ask, based on this council, who is the leader of the Early Church? Rome would have you believe that it is Peter. Here are the primary reasons they give.
In vs 7, Peter stands and addresses the whole gathering after there is much debate. He gives testimony regarding the fact that he himself had preached to the Gentiles, and that they believed and their inclusion in the Church was confirmed by the fact that they received the Holy Spirit. The Catholics view this as a sort of declarative stance where Peter speaks in a nacent “Ex Cathedra” fashion.
In vs 12 we see that after Peter speaks “all the assembly fell silent.” They take this to be the crowd being silenced by the authority of Peter as the leader of the Church.
In vs 14 they say that James cites Peter’s words as being on the same level of authority as the Prophets.
Now… this isn’t a terrible argument if those three verses was all that is included in the passage. However, let me poke some holes.
In verse 7, Peter stands up and addresses the council… however he does so by giving testimony, not by proclaiming a judgement. he asks questions, he recounts the story. He doesn’t declare or decide ANYTHING in this context.
in vs 12, the assembly does fall silent… but they do not fall silent in response to Peter’s authority… they fall silent in order to listen to Paul and Barnabas. The first “And” in vs 12 is the Greek δὲ (de), which is a disjunctive conjunction. This is used to show a contract between what happens before the de and after. However, the second “And” is the Greek καὶ (kai) which is a coordinating conjunction. This shows that the “Falling Silent” is separated as a disjuncted idea from Peter’s speech, and joined to “Listening to Barnabas and Paul” as a coordinated idea. They didn’t fall silent in response to Peter, they fell silent to listen to Paul.
Paul then gives basically the same testimony as Peter.
Next, it is clear that the Apostles consider Peter’s words to be on par with the Prophets. However, Peter also considered Paul’s words to be on par with the Scriptures… Paul cites Luke’s gospel as Scripture… this is not a unique phenomena with Peter. Furthermore… The text doesn’t even say “Peter” or “Simon” it says “Simeon.” No where except here and 2 Peter 1:1 (a text that most critical scholars question in terms of being legitimately Petrine in origin… and that has alternate manuscript evidence that actually says Simon instead) does the New Testament anywhere refer to Peter as Simeon. In fact, if we look at Accts 13, there was an associate at Antioch named Simeon who was considered a Prophet who was also a close associate of Paul and Barnabas while he was there? Is it possible that it is actually THIS Simeon rather than Peter who was speaking? Finally it seems to me that rather than simply rest in Peter’s authority to declare this doctrinal truth… James actually adjudicates and judges Peter’s statement in light of Scripture, which agree with Peter. That is to say that Peter has not only the correctly reasoned approach, but he has Scriptural support. If ANYONE doesn’t need Scriptural Support, it’s Peter… but even here the Bible is what determines truth vs opinion.
Finally, and this is the deathstroke for Petrine supremacy… James delivers his judgement. Not Peter… James. Why would James deliver his judgement over matters to which Peter testified (alongside Paul, Barnabas, and others) if Peter was the leader of the Church. Should it not be Peter presiding over the council and providing his judgement?
No my friends… it clearly appears from Acts 15 that James is the leader of the fledgling Church, and that in this disputer Peter (if it even is Peter), Paul, Barnabas, and others simply provide testimony that is ultimately judged by the only normative authority… Scripture.
Relativism is the view that there are no absolute or objective truths, and that a fact is only true relative to the context. However, this position is inherently self refuting, allow me to demonstrate.
A) It is true that no truths are absolute.
B) If no truths are absolute, there exists a context in which statement A is not true.
C) In the context which statement A is not true, absolute truth exists.
D) If any context exists in which absolute truth exists, then in all contexts absolute truth must exist (viz. the definition of Absolute Truth).
E) Therefore, it is not true that no truths are absolute.
Materialism, broadly defined as the belief that only that which is physical (matter and energy) exists, is inherently a self-defeating position, and I can demonstrate this with a simple syllogism.
Major Premise) Only that which is material exists
Minor Premise) The statement “Only that which is material exists” is not material
Therefore) The statement “Only that which is material exists” does not exist
Therefore) Materialism is false
Hello, I am a resident of the greater Boston Area. I heard what you did today, and I will be honest with you, my initial reaction to your heinous crime was disgust, anger, and hatred. That’s because just like you, I’m a sinner who desperately needs a savior. As my wife and I rushed home to the relative (perhaps illusory) safety of our apartment my mind began to think of all of the people who you hurt, some of whom you killed. Men, women… children. People who were just trying to celebrate a day where we overthrew those who were oppressing us to give way to freedom, ironically… probably the same kind of sentiments that are going to end up driving your reasons for doing this. I became angrier and angrier.
However, as my wife and I sat on our bed and prayed for the people of this city, I found my prayers moving in a direction that I did not expect. I began to pray for you. I began to pray that you would be brought to justice under the law, and I still pray that you will be. However, as I prayed I found my eyes welling up with tears. Not because of the tragedy of what you have done… but because of the tragedy that you are. I found my anger and hatred for you giving way to pity and concern. For as I said before, I need a savior just as desperately as you. The difference is that I have found mine.
Here is the instruction he gave his followers concerning people like you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44)
You see, you will be facing a lot of hatred and anger, and honestly you deserve every bit of it. If you were strapped into a chair and a bomb was set off next to you, it would not be an unjust response to your malice and hatred. We’re in that together. Although my sin hasn’t hurt as many people in my whole life as yours did today, it is no less severe than yours. Although my sin is not typically out of hatred for my fellow man, it is out of my inborn hatred and tendency to war against my Creator… just like yours. Our sin is not really all that different. And rather than hate you and seek for your harm, I am choosing right now in this moment to do what my Savior did for me… I am choosing to love you and forgive you. Not because you deserve it, not because you have earned it… precisely the opposite. I am choosing to forgive you because the grace of Christ that forgave me while I was still his enemy has welled up in me so much that it cannot but flow over onto you.
So please, I beg of you, turn to Christ. He is your absolute only hope. The anger in your heart cannot bring you satisfaction, the new government (or lack of government) will not bring you peace, whatever religious fanaticism you may be acting on will not save you. Only Christ can do that.
I forgive you, and I pray that Christ will make the forgiveness that I am confessing with my mouth and mind a reality in my heart and soul. Please, let his kindness move you to repentance. You are not so far that his hand cannot reach out and save you.
I sincerely hope that you read this, and I sincerely hope that someday I can count you as my brother or sister in Christ. I long for the day when your evil deeds and ways are a painful memory that God will use to bring glory to his name. I wait expectantly for the day that you will look into the eyes of those whom you have hurt and beg for forgiveness, and I pray that forgiveness will come.
I know it may be difficult to believe that forgiveness is possible, but right here and right now there is one person who has forgiven you. Turn your life to Christ and you can instantly and eternally make that four.
Do not delay, none of us are promised tomorrow… as you so potently demonstrated for all of us today. Turn to Christ and do not let this tragedy beget more tragedy.
Alright, bear with me on this one… it’s a thought in motion.
I’ve been reading a lot of Karl Barth lately. Reformed folks… don’t panic! I still believe that the Bible is the Word of God, I’m not a universalist, and it was originally Karl Barth who lead me to Reformed theology, I sincerely doubt that it will be Karl Barth who leads me away from it. Why reading Barth has led me to this post should become clear in a bit. Continue reading
I was recently challenged as I thought about apologetics and was reading 1 Peter. I was reading chapter 3 where the famous verse 15 gives us the apologetic mandate.
but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, (ESV)
At first blush, this seems to support the standard model of apologetics. Broadly defined, apologetics is the discipline of rationally defending the Christian faith. Typically this discipline is concerned with proving the veracity of the Bible, defending the reasonableness of the resurrection, and things of the like. However, as I read chapter 3, I began to wonder if this really lines up with what Peter is saying.
I asked a group of apologists “what is the reason for the hope we have?” The answer from the few who responded was basically “Jesus.” I cannot help but agree… Jesus is the reason for the hope we have. So it got me thinking, when we do apologetics it is often wrapped up in defending a particular aspect of Christian faith. More than once an apologist has been told that their arguments only support theism in general, but not Christianity specifically.
Let us take a look at the whole context of the so-called apologetic mandate.
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. (13-22, ESV)
The context of this passage is persecution. Peter is saying that when people persecute you because of the good work that you do in Christ, that you should be ready to explain to them why you have the hope you do. In the face of persecution, the hope that we have is that the punishment of the body is temporal and fleeting and that our bodies will ultimately be raised imperishable.
This scene, a person explaining that they have hope in their God in the face of immediate persecution and suffering, should remind us of three young Israelites who were standing up to an idolatrous king. Our apologia should look like theirs. When faced with persecution they did not give a long scientific explanation on how the universe could only have been created by YHWH, nor did they draft an ontological argument for the existence of a maximally great being. They didn’t even seek to prove that the Law they were obeying was reliable. They simply looked the king in the eye and said “Our God will save us.”
Now, I’m not saying that defending the Bible from critique, or proving the reasonableness of the Christian faith is bad. However, often times our apologia stops short of actually giving a reason for the hope we have. Simply put, our hope is not found in the Kalam Cosmological Argument or the latest archaeological find that proves that Samson existed. To put it in the words of one of my favorite hymns.
My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
Next time you find yourself giving a reason for the hope you have, don’t stop short. Peter is not simply telling us to defend the faith, he is telling us to preach the Gospel. When someone persecutes you, preach the Gospel. When someone says that the Christian faith is irrational, preach the Gospel. When someone says that there are irreconcilable contradictions in the Bible, preach the Gospel.