FOR THOSE WHO CLAIM TO RELY ON THE BIBLE
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
The Good News
Of How God Enables Sinners to Escape,
Through Penitent Conversion to His Catholic Church,
The Fire of Hell’s Neverending Punishment;
Why No One in the Human Race
Can Find This Escape
COMPOSED NOVEMBER 1999 TO JUNE 2000. REVISED SUMMER 2001.
EDITED WITH ADDITIONS EARLY AUTUMN 2005 & SUMMER 2006.
+ + + + +
‘extra Ecclesiam nulla Salus’
+ + + + +
Latin for ‘outside the Church, no Salvation’.
Meaning, outside the One & Only Roman Catholic Church
that God alone founded, there is absolutely no possibility for any man
to be eternally saved from the Fiery Punishment of Hell or everlastingly
saved into the Wondrous Reward of Heaven. Which also means that
inside this Church, there is the possibility of Salvation…
for anyone who enters!
+ + + + +
How does the Catholic Church dare
to say this? In fact, why has She continually insisted on it
for the 20 centuries since Jesus Christ and His Apostles began Her? And
why have men nearly forgotten it, and how is it --- when reminded --- they
now almost always react blindly with kneejerk disbelief, ridicule,
prejudicial scorn, condemnation and even hatefully
+ + + + +
For an ‘advanced’ civilization which
supposedly prides itself on an ‘open-minded’ curiosity
about everything under the sun, why this close-minded rejection
before fairly investigating the evidence for the Church?
For a modern era in love with self-purported
‘tolerance’ of multitudinous assertions no matter how radical or adamant,
why this intolerant suppression of a stunning assertion
with endless repercussions beyond death?
+ + + + +
“And then that wicked one shall be revealed whom the Lord Jesus shall kill with the spirit of his mouth; and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming, him, whose coming is according to the working of Satan, in all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and in all seduction of iniquity to them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. Therefore God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying: that all may be judged who have not believed the truth, but have consented to iniquity.” (2 Thessalonians 2:8-11 DRC)
+ + + + +
Intended by the Author of This Book
for the Greater Glory of the Adorable Triune Catholic God,
for the Worship of
the Sacred Heart of King Jesus Christ of
for the Praise of the Immaculate Heart of Queen Mary, the Blessed Ever-
Virgin Mother of God,
unto the Protection & Propagation of the Holy Roman Catholic Church &
Her Most Precious Heavenly Dogmas,
under the Euphonious Patronage of St. Cecilia, the Eloquent Patronage
of St. Catherine
Ven. Mariana de Jesus Torres, Virgins &
+ + + + +
“Domine, non est exaltatum cor meum, neque
elati sunt oculi mei. Neque
ambulavi in magnis, neque in mirabilibus super me. Si non humiliter sentiebam, sed exaltavi animam meam; sicut ablactatus
est super matre sua, ita
retributio in anima mea. Speret
St. Francis Xavier, Patron of Catholic Missioners, and Ss. Catherine of Alexandria & Francis of Sales, Patrons of Catholic Philosophers & Apologists, respectively, may you be pleased to guide this arrow to its target, either unto eternal life or eternal death! “Now thanks be to God, who always maketh us to triumph in Christ Jesus, and manifesteth the odour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are the good odour of Christ unto God, in them that are saved, and in them that perish. To the one indeed the odour of death unto death: but to the others the odour of life unto life.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16b DRC)
St. Francis of Assisi, Humble Seraph of the Incarnate God, and St. Dominic the Preacher, Dogged Cherub of the Triune Deity, pray for your children that they may not fail the test but suffer the malice of the wicked gladly and so gain the Crown of Life!
+ + + + +
Part One of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus (Chapters 1-33)
+ + + + +
+ + + 1. Who This Book Is For + + +
My dear reader, I have written this book for those who respect the Bible. That is to say, for people who claim to believe what the Bible says. Should you not believe what the Bible says --- should you, indeed, have not the slightest curiosity about what its verses reveal --- then you will most likely think reading this is a waste of time. You are therefore duly warned.
More specifically, I have aimed this book at Evangelic Protestants. Yet what are Evangelic Protestants and where do they come from?
A priest named Martin Luther rebelled against the Catholic Church in 1517, leaving Her membership to start a new religion called ‘Protestantism’. Those Catholics who followed him into rebellion became known as Protestants since they protested the Church’s teachings. Then, in the late 1800s, when many had bought into Darwin’s ‘theory of evolution’ and the glittering promises of the ‘natural sciences’ --- and had rejected the rather troublesome religious ideas of creation, sin, miracles, hell and so forth --- ‘Evangelicism’ arose. Protestants who reacted against the skeptical apathy of older mainline Protestantism were the first Evangelics since they still cared enough to evangelize people, thinking it necessary to ‘save’ them into their ‘heaven’. They also still claimed to believe what the Bible says, purporting to live by it as a sort of ‘highest authority’, which is why I have crafted this book with the verses of Sacred Scripture uppermost in mind.
+ + + 2. Real Catholics vs. Pretend Catholics + + +
None of this is hidden away. Anyone can go to a library and discover it for himself in a history book or encyclopedia. The catch is… no library, book or encyclopedia bothers telling you the very next thing, that almost no one is truly Catholic anymore. Nearly everyone has denied the Catholic Church’s teachings and accepted the moral consequences of Darwinian evolution and materialistic science for society at large (even if some of them don’t believe in the theory of evolution or philosophic materialism). Nor are most who go by the title of ‘catholic’ any different. And they have no membership in the Catholic Church because of it.
Point in fact:
Can you, dear reader, come up with anyone aside from myself or from my comrades, calling himself ‘catholic’, who dares to say that there is absolutely no Salvation outside the Catholic Church for anybody anywhere, and that the men everyone thinks are Catholic Popes, bishops or priests are not really Catholic but are, instead, actually fakes and imposters?
No, you cannot. I know because my fellows and I have looked far and wide for several years. If such persons even exist yet, then they are very few, very obscure and probably are, or will become, our brothers in the Catholic Faith. Nevertheless, libraries that won’t tell you the truth about Catholicism today will, upon a serious study of their books and encyclopedias, show how just a few hundred years ago people who called themselves Catholics once all believed that there is no Salvation outside the Faith of their Church, and how men called Catholic Popes, along with their Catholic bishops & priests, once all taught --- and had taught since the first 300 years after Christ --- that anyone dying without membership in this Church of the Catholic Faith goes immediately to Hell forevermore. Nor did any of them believe in any way but in the same sense that real Catholics have always believed; accordingly, that all of those who die worshipping false gods, practicing false religions, or not believing in the existence of God, go to Hell.
And I ask you, dear reader:
Can such a drop-dead important teaching such as this, held unwaveringly for nearly two thousand years, be denied and the person doing the denying still be considered a real Catholic?
Of course not!
It’s like someone pretending to breathe underwater when everyone knows… there’s no staying alive outside of breathing air. So what if you’re a scuba diver? That’s not the point. The bottom line is that you’ve got to have air to breathe, and you’ve got to breathe to stay alive. Short of this you have no chance --- because men can’t breathe water.
The same goes for the Catholic Faith. As a person capable of reasoning adequately, you’ve got to hold all of the common teachings of the Catholic Church to be able to be inside of the Catholic Church. And one of these critical teachings is that there is no Salvation outside of the Catholic Church --- just as there is no staying alive outside of breathing air. Our Creator designed our bodies to breathe ordinary air in order to stay alive on earth for a certain time; and He designed our souls to be Roman Catholic in order to breathe sanctifying grace and so go to Heaven where a man may stay alive everlastingly.
+ + + 3. The Rules of the Game + + +
Still another analogy is this. Suppose you love baseball. And suppose tomorrow someone influential says:
“From now on baseball will be played on football fields. And, by the way, we’re updating the way it’s played to take into account how much people like football. From now on, there are no bases and you have to get to the goals at the ends of the field to score a run, and you have to throw the ball through these goals to get someone out.” Then he goes on to say, “Oh, and incidentally, it’s not the fault of the players and fans of other sports that they don’t know about, don’t understand, don’t love or don’t play baseball. So from now on it’s not fair to say these people don’t have anything to do with baseball. If they knew, understood, loved and played baseball like we do, then we know they’d be baseball players and fans, too. Just as long as they play or follow their sport sincerely --- whatever it is --- then, as far as we’re concerned, they’re playing or following baseball. It’s just that they don’t know that they are. Hence, they, too, can win the baseball championship. Oh, and one other thing… everybody wins, nobody loses. It doesn’t matter how you play or what you play. You always win. Unless, of course, you insist on playing baseball the old way.”
And I ask you now, dear reader:
Is that baseball?
Clearly not. The rules making baseball into baseball have been discarded. There aren’t even ‘bases’ in the game anymore, the very word that’s in the name of the game ‘baseball’! And no matter what you play, it’s considered baseball, and the players of these other games are said to be competing for the baseball championship. Only, in this ‘championship’, nobody loses. Everybody’s a baseball champion… even the losers!
Do you see the stupidity of it? In the real world, real baseball players and real baseball fans would be up in arms immediately. Nobody would even dare to try to pull off such a ridiculous stunt.
+ + + 4. A Grand Illusion + + +
What’s flabbergasting is that this is exactly what has been done to the concept of Catholicism. Practically everyone still calling himself ‘catholic’ has changed the rules of Catholicism entirely. You can be ‘catholic’, say such persons, and believe or do whatever you want --- i.e., just so long as it’s not what people calling themselves Catholic used to believe and do. Or, at a bare minimum, as long as it doesn’t involve that annoying belief about no one except Catholics getting saved. Because, surprisingly enough, even non-Catholics are (according to the new rules) ‘inside’ the Catholic Church since it isn’t their fault that they don’t know about, don’t understand, don’t love or don’t practice Catholicism. In fact, insist a lot of these ‘catholics’ nowadays, nobody fails to be a ‘good catholic’, not even those who aren’t Catholic. Everybody goes to Heaven, nobody goes to Hell. Everybody wins.
Stop for a moment and think, my dear reader. To proclaim the words we have just read in the paragraph above is the equivalent to saying the words we perused in the paragraphs, right before that, regarding baseball. To wit, baseball can now be played on football fields. There are no more bases in baseball, and runs and outs are made through the goalposts at the ends of the football field. Not only that, but players and fans from other sports --- such as basketball, soccer, tennis, polo, volleyball, hockey, ping pong, billiards, golf, etc. --- are actually playing baseball, too. They just don’t know it. And it’s not their fault that they don’t know it. So, we’ll say they’re in baseball as well. It’s the only fair thing to do; now they, too, can win the baseball championship. Indeed, everybody wins and nobody ever loses!
It is, in principle, the very same thing. And yet, would not a real baseball fan or real baseball player tell you in no uncertain terms that only an idiot could believe such a thing? Would not a real fan and a real player say to you with total conviction that there’s no winning a baseball game outside of a baseball diamond?
And would he not elaborate by telling you the most important thing is not that the baseball diamond be laid out fancy or built expensive, surrounded by a luxurious stadium? Rather, the crucial thing is that you can’t do away with bases, and you can’t make runs or outs into something else --- which is what getting rid of a baseball diamond amounts to --- and that the rules of baseball are unchangeable since it’s rules that make baseball what it is. And wouldn’t he add that it’s not ultimately his fault that others aren’t players or fans of baseball? Indeed, that baseball is broadcast all over the world today and it’s possible for anyone to hear about it, watch it, understand it, come to love it… even to play it? And that, playing it, anybody can be a champion provided he wants it enough and plays hard enough to win?
And so you can see, dear reader, why I dare to tell you that so-called ‘catholics’ aren’t Catholic anymore. They’ve changed the rules. You can verify this for yourself by a serious study of the books and encyclopedias at any good public library. Because these so-called ‘catholics’ don’t think it’s necessary to be Catholic to go to Heaven. They think that in the practice of any religion at all someone can, at least potentially, receive Eternal Life. In the meantime, as a serious study of Catholicism demonstrates, real Catholics have said for 2000 years that there is no Salvation outside the Catholic Church, just as a real baseball fan from any point in time of the game’s history would tell you that there’s no winning a baseball game outside of a baseball diamond. That is to say, real Catholics have insisted unflinchingly for two millennia that a man cannot escape the Damnation of Hell apart from an actual, correct and purposeful practice of the Religion of the Roman Catholic Church --- end of sentence.
Realizing this, we are prepared to take the next step. We are ready to turn to the Bible and answer ‘the million dollar question’:
Exactly how is it real Catholics have the audacity to say this about their Church?
+ + + 5. What This Book Proves + + +
I intend to fully answer this. Nevertheless, I must warn you... the
answer is controversial. No one likes being told he is wrong, even if only
implicitly. No one likes being told he’s going to face the Eternal Wrath
of God if he doesn’t change the path he’s on. As a result, I
can’t cushion my words sufficiently to stay loyal to the Truth while not
antagonizing your ears. No matter how sweetly I might speak, no matter how
compassionately I might act, the Gospel of Catholic
As Jesus said to His Apostles, those disciples who believed and obeyed His every word and who taught their disciples to do the same, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own... If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (John 15:18-19a, 20b. Almost all scriptural quotes are from the phenomenally popular New International Version --- a.k.a. the ‘NIV’ --- which, having been translated by Evangelic scholars, is thus impossible for Evangelics to impugn, and of which I have the 1978 edition. Please note that all emphasis in any quote is mine unless otherwise stated.)
This is why I don’t softpedal. However charitably I might talk, the topic will irritate. Period. All I can do is to say it plainly, gently and firmly: be it the Gospel of Christ then it will stand on its own regardless of me. Whereas if I or another has innovated it, it will suffer eventual oblivion.
Let me, then, state it as simply as possible:
There is no Salvation outside the Catholic Church because God started the Roman Catholic Faith and this Faith alone, He Himself having proclaimed that there is Salvation in no other.
How can this be?
First, the Creator through His Son taught His Son’s Apostles everything they needed to believe and do, so as to attain His Favour and hence merit His Forgiveness for the Eternal Punishment due their sins.
Second, His Son’s Apostles taught their disciples the same and clarified it where necessary, having the gift of infallible Divine Authority by virtue of their mission and ministry from His Holy Spirit.
Third, each generation of those believers who remained apostolically orthodox in Faith and Practice (i.e., loyal to what has always been taught since the time of the Apostles) taught the generation following them to believe and do likewise, neither more nor less.
Fourth, this thread of orthodox generations has continued unbroken until our time, espousing what the Apostles taught, and is maintained in none other than the Roman Catholic Church, there being no other continuously unbroken transmission of teachings to even rival it.
Fifth, this unchanging thread of apostolic teaching is both overwhelmingly confirmed in the testimony of earliest generations of orthodox believers and in the testimony of those who came later, which we have to this day preserved in documents bearing their very words.
Sixth, this unbroken thread of apostolic teaching is similarly and clinchingly confirmed in the testimony of Sacred Scripture --- the Bible --- when rightly interpreted and harmoniously comprehended as an indivisible whole.
And, seventh, these written testimonies mirroring perfectly what the Roman Catholic Church proclaims while clashing horribly with what Protestants assert; and God having made no exceptions to holding the correct Faith whole and unmarred, as recorded in either Sacred Scripture or Sacred Teaching; it is therefore inescapable that Salvation is found exclusively within the One Church started by and always loyal to the entire collection of commandments given to us by the Almighty Creator.
That’s it in a nutshell, dear reader. It’s embarrassingly simple --- as most things are when reduced to their barest skeleton. Yet it’s true. Shall we then look more closely at each point in order to back it up?
+ + + 6. The First Point Upheld Scripturally + + +
As to the first, I think we can both agree that God’s Son taught His Apostles what to believe and do. The Apostle John told us, “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:16-17 NIV)
And John the Baptist said, “The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard... The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God... The Father loves the Son... Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (John 3:31b-32a, 33-34a, 35a, 36 NIV)
And the Apostle Paul declared, “My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3 NIV)
And Christ told His Apostles, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18b-20a NIV)
“...[T]eaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Jesus Christ, then, is the source of all that a true Christian must tenet and follow. Evangelics may quibble over my use of the phrases “...attain His Favour and… merit His Forgiveness...”, arguing that I (and hence the Church I represent) advocate a Salvation purely of ‘works’, but it is semantics we indulge. For what is God’s Favour if not His Forgiveness of sins so that men might enter Heaven? And how --- thinks the Evangelic --- does he achieve this if not by ‘believing’ the historical Protestant ‘gospel’? The act of belief therefore attains this Favour and merits consequent Forgiveness.
Ergo, we see how we may charge the Protestant himself with practicing a ‘gospel of works’. For a ‘work’ is merely what someone ‘does’. And what is ‘believing’ if not something we ‘do’? As the Jews asked, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” And Christ replied, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:28-29 NIV) Believing is thus a work. It is what conservative Evangelics do to the exclusion of all else in order to be ‘saved’; it is what they must accomplish (think they) on their part in order for the Creator to uphold His end of the deal. As a result, what Evangelics really mean to condemn when they castigate a ‘gospel of works’ is a Gospel which demands certain overt physical actions to please God. This, they suppose, is diabolic.
Still, serious disagreements to the side, we may safely say Evangelics and Catholics both agree that Jesus Christ is the source of everything Christians must do in order to save their souls. That is, dear reader, we may safely say this assuming you really are an Evangelic Protestant and really do listen to what the Bible says.
+ + + 7. The Second Point Upheld Scripturally + + +
Concerning the second point, then, both sides may also agree that Jesus’ Apostles taught the same, clarifying it where necessary; viz., that they accurately repeated what Jesus taught and cultivated His Teachings by using the infallible guidance of the Holy Spirit to guarantee that their words and decisions regarding Faith & Morals would be without error. For instance, speaking of the New Jerusalem --- which is the Church of Jesus Christ that comes to earth --- the Apostle John says, “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:14 NIV)
And the Apostle Paul notes to the church in
And Luke relates how the Apostle Peter told the 120 disciples, concerning Judas Iscariot’s betrayal and resulting suicide, “it is written in the book of Psalms... ‘May another take his place of leadership.’ (Psalm 109:8b) Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” And Luke goes on to tell us: “So they proposed two men... Then they prayed, ‘Lord... [s]how us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry...’ Then they drew lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:20a, d-23a, 24a, c-25a, 26 NIV)
And the Apostle John informs us how Jesus instructed the Eleven Apostles (Judas Iscariot causing them to be short of the full number of Twelve since he had left the Passover meal to betray Jesus), “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you... I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 14:26b-e, 16:12-13a NIV)
Indeed, an Evangelic Protestant congregation like the self-styled ‘Grace Community Church’ (GCC) --- a 10,000+ group consisting of many fallen-away Catholics, and where I trained for leadership in a Protestant seminary for over a year --- insists that the Apostles had to have possessed the gift of teaching infallibly lest the Christian Faith not have been established firmly, instead ending up derailed by falsehood from the very beginning. After all, if you can’t guarantee infallibility when it comes to religion, then how can you be sure you’re not making a big mistake that has neverending (or at least vastly uncomfortable while here on earth) repercussions? And why should anyone believe it, to the point of betting his very life on it? What if you’re wrong? Is it worth suffering or dying for? And yet the earliest Christians suffered and died in droves for the Faith, refusing to back down and worship mere idols!
You see, then, why infallibility --- that is to say, the impossibility of being in error about what you’re believing or teaching concerning religion --- is an utter necessity. Furthermore, it is here convenient to note that conservative Evangelics can easily agree with Roman Catholics about how Sacred Scripture --- particularly the New Testament, which was written by Apostles and men under the sanction of the Apostles --- very clearly teaches an exclusive path to Salvation.
+ + + 8. Some Verses on Salvation + + +
Now, I needn’t cite the Bible to prove this to you, dear reader. Presuming you’re loyal to something like what GCC teaches, you should already espouse it. Howbeit, I’ll quote a handful (out of literally hundreds) of verses in order to lay a solid ground for further exposition. To wit:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life... Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16, 18 NIV)
“Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven... He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.’” (Mark 16:14a, 15-16 NIV)
“Then Peter... said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the
people! ...It is by the name of Jesus Christ of
“As Jesus was sitting on the
“...I am writing you these instructions so that... you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:14b-15 NIV)
“Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as
he made his way to
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14 NIV)
“...Jesus said... ‘I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved... The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’” (John 10:7-9a, 10 NIV)
“A certain ruler asked him, ‘Good teacher, what must I do
to inherit eternal life?’... Jesus answered... ‘You know the
commandments... [yet] ...[y]ou still lack one thing.
Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in
heaven. Then come, follow me.’ When he heard this, he became very sad,
because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘How
hard it is for the rich to enter the
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:34b-37 NIV)
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. ...[T]he King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world...’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels...’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-34, 41, 46 NIV)
+ + + 9. More Verses about Salvation + + +
“And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in
me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large
millstone tied around his neck. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It
is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell,
where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown
into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for
you to enter the
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” (John 15:5-6 NIV)
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6 NIV)
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV)
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16b NIV)
“Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:19-22 NIV)
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16 NIV)
“Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven.” (Philippians 3:17-20a NIV)
“Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:16 NIV)
“We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly
so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you
has for each other is increasing. Therefore, among
God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the
persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God’s
judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the
“For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” (2 Thessalonians 2:7-15 NIV)
“He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars --- their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.’” (Revelation 21:6-8 NIV)
+ + + 10. Salvation Is Narrow & Exclusive + + +
Believe it or not, dear reader, I could go on ten times as long. And if you know Sacred Scripture well then you know this is true. The tiny amount above (in contrast to the horde I could quote were I to wish to overwhelm you and had the time) is sufficient to show how the writers of the Bible most definitely taught an exclusive path to Eternal Salvation. And if exclusive, hadn’t each of us better make sure that he’s on the right path? This is particularly plain from the words of Jesus Christ, Who I’ve quoted at some length. Indeed, the Bible records Jesus speaking more about sin and damnation than upon any other single subject!
Still, some of the verses aren’t immediately obvious. For example, 1 Timothy 3:14b-15 doesn’t jump out at the uninitiated as declaring an exclusive Gospel of Salvation. Nevertheless, upon careful reflection one suspects that if “God’s household” --- which is the “church of the living God” --- is the “pillar and foundation of the truth”, then one certainly can’t be standing on this Saving Truth (recollect the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Thessalonians 2:10b where he notes how those who die eternally “perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved”) if one doesn’t stand upon its foundation within God’s Household, His Church!
Moreover, this passage dovetails exquisitely with Luke 13:22-28 where Jesus, replying as to whether “only a few people” are going to “be saved”, exhorts them to “[m]ake every effort to enter through the narrow door...” The reference to a narrow door vividly illustrates the extreme precision of Salvation’s access (for there is but a single entrance accommodating only a few at a time, not a gaping portal admitting crowds en masse simultaneously from every direction), yet hot on the heels of this admonition Jesus says: “Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door to us.’”
Voilá! This is clearly the House of Salvation that He’s talking about and God is its Owner, or else Jesus’ rejoinder makes absolutely no sense in regard to the question which elicited it. Furthermore, the reference to this special House rapidly reminds us of 1 Timothy where the Apostle Paul informs his protégé “how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is... the pillar and foundation of the truth.” Sacred Scripture here comes harmoniously full circle. It must, for both conservative Evangelics and real Catholics insist that the Bible is an inerrant testimony authored by the Creator. Hence, all of Sacred Scripture must hold together as if composed with but one plot and one theme --- no matter how huge or sprawling or complex it at times seems.
Too, even if some of the cited passages don’t appear to bluntly proclaim a narrow salvific path in and of themselves, let us recall how exclusiveness is simply a matter of distinction. I.e., to exclude a thing one must merely take what otherwise looks whole and draw a line to distinguish one part from another. This is rudimentary, but, as to how ‘narrow’ or not it is, one need only look at how carefully and strictly the boundary is defined.
Indeed, this is exactly what we see portrayed in the verses I quoted. Even the ones less blunt make it utterly clear how there’s a difference between --- as an ancient Christian writer of the 1st century put it --- the way of life and the way of death. One is the path to Eternal Reward; the other the road to Everlasting Destruction. In other words, there is Heaven and there is Hell. By this single distinction alone we see that not every path leads to Salvation --- for how is it the Bible warns about Hellish Destruction if no path could ever lead to its torment?
Yet the passages taken in totality go farther, much farther. For what does Jesus warn us? That the path to Life is narrow, and only a few attain it, while in contrast there is a broad road to Destruction, to which many go. (Matthew 7:13-14) And the Apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear how Destruction awaits those who do not believe and do not follow the narrow route of Truth. But to those who believe and persevere, Eternal Life is the reward. (2 Thessalonians 1:3-10, 2:7-15)
Of course, Evangelics differ tremendously with Catholics over what, precisely, is to be believed and followed. That’s why I’ve troubled to write this book --- that you, dear reader, might eventually see exactly what it is Jesus taught and commanded. Yet, as I noted at the beginning of Chapter 8 near the start of my comments on the second point about why the Roman Catholic Church is God’s exclusive means to His Salvation, the verses I have just cited will be “a solid ground for further exposition.”
+ + + 11. The Third Point Upheld Scripturally + + +
Moving on to the third point, Evangelics have a harder time acknowledging that the Faith of Christ and His Apostles was handed down successfully from generation to generation by those who remained apostolically orthodox --- i.e., by those who remained consummately loyal to what Christ and His Apostles had taught must be believed and must be obeyed. This is because they’re in a bit of a quandary. Their spiritual forebears broke from the Catholic Church in the 1500s over what they said were the Church’s heinous corruptions of the Faith. In short, they claimed that the Faith had not been handed on successfully, that many of the Church’s teachings were wrong.
Yet if this is the case, then they’re left explaining how it is that what the Apostle Paul called God’s Household, the Church of the Living God, and Pillar and Foundation of the Truth (1 Timothy 3:14b-15 once more, see above), could have suffered collapse of its Pillar and decimation of its Foundation by abandoning this Truth and embracing hellish lies! For did not Christ Himself state, “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it”? (Matthew 16:18b NIV) ‘Hades’, as the NIV footnotes, is “hell”, the translators using the Greek word the New Testament writers chose for talking about the place of Everlasting Punishment. And Hell, as any staunch Evangelic or real Catholic attests, is where the Devil rules over those souls who are damned with him forever.
And what does Jesus tell us about this Devil?
“To the Jews who had believed him,” but took umbrage at His implying they were still slaves to sin and not the Children of God, He said: “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! ...He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:31a, 42b-45, 47 NIV)
If, then, the Devil is a “murderer from the beginning”, being “a liar and the father of lies”, “not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him”, what is he opposed to? The Truth. And if the Church is the Pillar and Foundation of the Truth, would he not delight in crushing it into smithereens by causing Her to officially proclaim lies and falsehoods? Yet how could his domain, Hell, ever accomplish this when his unconquerable foe, Jesus Christ, told the Apostle Peter “...I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it”? Do you understand, my dear reader? How could the Church fail to accurately uphold the Truth of Her Founder when this Founder, Jesus Christ, has guaranteed otherwise? How could the Filthy Pit of Hell --- the Devil and all his lies --- vanquish the Unblemished Pillar & Foundation of the Truth which Christ Himself built and promised would never be overcome?
+ + + 12. Good Traditions, Bad Traditions + + +
This brings me to comment on how Evangelics often reproach the Catholic Church for having adopted ‘traditions of men’ over the ‘Word of God’. By this they mean that Catholics over the centuries came to believe ‘manmade propositions’ which destroyed ‘gospel simplicity’ and amounted to apostasy, and that they did this primarily by rejecting Sacred Scripture as a ‘highest authority’ in matters of religion. Nevertheless, in one of our numerous quotes above what does God through the Apostle Paul inerrantly tell us?
“So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or letter.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15 NIV)
There it is! Right there in the Bible an apostle is telling the Thessalonian church to uphold both the teachings he gave them in “letter” (what Catholics call ‘Sacred Scripture’) and by “word of mouth” (what Catholics term ‘Sacred Tradition’ or ‘Sacred Teaching’). Indeed, to add insult to injury, the NIV acknowledges in a footnote that the word ‘teachings’ is legitimately rendered ‘traditions’. Which makes perfect sense since that’s what the Greek here translated --- ‘paradoseis’ --- means: ‘traditions’. It’s merely less distasteful, and perhaps less confusing, for Evangelic ears (the NIV’s primary audience) to hear it construed as ‘teachings’.
Yet a ‘teaching’ passed on through the generations is just a ‘tradition’ and vice versa. Moreover, it’s how that most popular of Protestant Bibles (until the NIV dethroned it), the KJV (King James Version), translated it in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, confirming what Catholic translators of the passage have known all along. The issue is not, as Evangelics would have it, that all traditions are wrong and condemned by God, but that manmade traditions may be wrong. In other words, there’s a difference between a tradition from God and a tradition of men. The former is always sacred and unalterable; the latter is perhaps helpful or perhaps foolish, depending on whether or not it fails to uphold, or even conflicts with, God’s Commandments.
But the reason Evangelics can’t discern this is because they reactionarily oppose all things uniquely Catholic and thus recognize only those parts of Sacred Scripture that they think support their position. I.e., they see where Christ castigates the Jewish leaders for transgressing the Commands of God to practice their traditions of men in Mark 7:8. Yet if this supports their stance, then why is the Greek term Mark chooses to represent Christ’s original language when condemning the Jewish leaders (‘paradosin’) the very same Greek word, grammatically declined to fit the sentence properly, that the Apostle Paul uses to exhort the Thessalonians (‘paradoseis’)? To go further, why does Christ bother to distinguish the “traditions” He condemns in Mark’s Gospel with the immediately trailing phrase “of men”? Obviously, there can sometimes be a huge difference between traditions or teachings from God and traditions or teachings of men!
All this to say that the idea the Faith survived undistorted from apostolic times through generations of orthodox (literally, ‘straight-talking’) believers is credible. In fact, it’s not only credible but totally, unavoidably and indisputably necessary --- elsewise, inerrant Sacred Scripture is errant when speaking of the inconquerable solidity of the Church’s Truth.
+ + + 13. The Fourth Point Upheld Reasonably + + +
Which leads us to the fourth point:
That this succession of orthodox believers has continued unbroken until our time and is maintained in none other than the Roman Catholic Church.
Here Evangelics either gasp, guffaw or grind their teeth. However,
if biblical verses promise that the Truth of the Faith survives intact and
unvanquished, then how can this possibility be unthinkable? Unfortunately, this
is where the Evangelics’ quandary gets the best of them. Because their
spiritual ancestors, the first Protestants, accused the Church of distorting
the Faith of old. Yet how did Protestants know this? They couldn’t turn
to an unbroken sequence of generations of Protestants to prove their contention.
They had no continuous teaching or tradition to uphold their thesis, since
Protestants hadn’t existed until the 1500s! No, they had merely personal
reinterpretation of certain passages of Sacred Scripture and an undying disdain
for the Faith into which they were born --- a Faith later aptly styled Roman
Catholicism to differentiate it from a new-fangled Protestantism that still
claimed to be ‘catholic’, but that mocked the authority of Catholic
Some Protestants saw the weakness in this position (usually Baptists) and thus claimed that ‘real christians’ (read: Protestants or, more specifically, Baptists) had existed underground during the Catholic Church’s so-called ‘domination’ of Christianity from roughly AD 500 to 1500. Nonetheless, if this is the case then where is the historical documentation to prove it, and where are the innumerable details one would expect Baptists to remember, if only by word of mouth? The fact is, they can provide neither continuous historical documentation nor an unbroken oral lineage of people, places and events. This is in stark contrast to Catholics, who can do both --- but more on that later in this book.
The thing I want you to recognize right now, dear reader, at this juncture, is simply how eminently plausible it is to suppose that a Church which cannot be overcome by the lies, falsehoods and heresies of Hell could, in actual fact, be the Catholic Church. Still, you needn’t swallow this whole to entertain the possibility for a moment. All you’ve got to do is see how the Bible says that the Church, and the Truth which rests upon this Church’s Foundation, will never fail under the mendacious attacks of Hell.
As a result, it’s implausible imagining the Church publicly faltered, falling prey to heresy for over 1000 years, only to be reconstituted by Martin Luther’s revolution. And it is also implausible, conversely, that the real Church went totally underground (meaning that it became unknown and hence invisible to those around them) while unable to produce a consistent mass of evidence, either verbal or written, to later prove it had survived unbroken for a long time. Because remember --- the Church of the first three centuries was cruelly persecuted by the Roman Empire for Her Faith, yet Her members not only stood up to this wicked empire in a bold and public fashion, She even produced abundant oral and scribal testimonies which we have with us to this day regarding Her doctrines, practices and deeds. Why haven’t the pre-Martin Luther, ‘proto-Protestant Baptists’ of a hypothetical medieval ‘underground church’ that came much later done the same?
+ + + 14. The Fifth Point Upheld Historically + + +
Which brings us to the fifth point, that successful generational transmission of the orthodox apostolic Faith, and its exact concurrence with the Faith of Catholic Rome, is overwhelmingly confirmed by the written testimonies of Christians throughout the past two millennia until this day. Indeed, the evidence is so pervasive as to be impossible to communicate in a brief time; in fact, it’s so brobdingnagian, so huge, as to be impossible to adequately communicate in a long time, either! Notwithstanding, let’s glance at a few examples to get a good idea of what there is to find. We do this with two aims.
One, to see how apostolically orthodox Christians held the same Faith across the centuries and generations from the time of Christ and His Apostles. And, two, how this unchanging Faith is the same Faith as that of Roman Catholics, having little to do with what Protestants dare to proclaim God taught and commanded.
Now, a good place to begin is the Doctrine of the Papacy. I.e., with the Supreme Authority of the Pope over the Church. This was where I started my initial, arduous, two-and-a-half year conversion to Catholicism. My reasoning was thus:
If Catholics have it right about their top man, that the legitimate Bishop of Rome holds God-Given Infallible Authority to instruct all true Christians on what is to be believed and how it is to be practiced, then it’s worthwhile investigating their many other dogmas as well. Whereas, if they’re wrong about the Pope, then why waste time poking around at other teachings except to indulge idle curiosity? Yet should they be right, it is therefore vital to one’s eternal fate before God to examine everything they teach.
Furthermore, how best to validate their papal contentions --- or any of their dogmas --- save by discovering what orthodox Christians down through the generations have proclaimed? Put alternatively, should we find few or no past straight-talking (i.e., ‘orthodox’, the meaning of this Greek-derived word) Christian writers echoing Catholic teaching and plenty of them bluntly contradicting it, we have little historical cause to believe in the divine origin of the Papacy or the Catholic Church. Albeit, should we find none of them contradicting the Papacy after a pope has taught a particular dogma and nothing but affirmation wherever they do speak of the Papacy, then how can we not suspect that the Pope and all of his authority originates with God?
Do you get my drift, dear reader? Protestants deny the lawful existence of an authoritative Pope, as well as all uniquely Catholic teachings, on the basis of a particular interpretation of Sacred Scripture (or, leastwise, this is what they claim to base it on). Nonetheless, if their stance finds no support in the testimonies of Christians throughout the centuries, then why is their interpretation to be believed? And if the Catholic teaching finds nothing but affirmation in the same perpetual testimony, then how is it anything but hugely reasonable to trust the Roman Catholic Church? In other words, how can we today some 2000 years later know better than they did then, centuries upon centuries closer to the time of Jesus and His Apostles? Stated even more bluntly, how can we today know better than the collective, unbroken, sequential, and overwhelmingly harmonious testimony of orthodox Christians from apostolic times till now?
+ + + 15. Where to Find the Evidence + + +
That grasped, let’s examine a few of the testimonies of earlier believers on the existence, nature, purpose and behaviour of the Bishop of Rome. Yet since even modestly knowledgeable Evangelic Protestants would never allege that the Pope didn’t exist until the 1500s, let’s not deal with testimony after that point. Indeed, since such modestly informed Evangelics generally have at least a vague notion, in their prejudices, that the Papacy had ‘arisen full-blown’ by the 7th century AD, then we won’t bother with witnesses after that point, either. We will instead challengingly and efficiently restrict ourselves to the first 450 years of Christianity. What have Christians in this period to say about the Roman Bishop?
Before we go on, however, bear in mind that you may yourself check everything
I cite by referring to independent records of the documents in question. For
instance, The Early Church Fathers is
an enormous 38-volume collection of writings from the first 800 years of
Christianity. Initially pressed in
Another source, quite a bit more widespread (many public libraries
have an old copy) and vastly more affordable, is The Apostolic Fathers. 1891 marked its maiden release in
Yet another source is Eusebius of Caesarea’s History of the Church. Eusebius wrote at the beginning of the 4th century, but his tremendous strength is that he cites carefully --- and frequently quotes at great length --- earlier writers of whom we would often know nothing about were his record not in our hands. In this way he narrates a fascinating in-depth look at earliest Church history, taking us from the time of Christ all the way up till Emperor Constantine halted the persecution against Christian believers. His tome is readily found in around half of good public libraries, and a somewhat abridged but highly readable version was published by Barnes & Noble Books in 1995, based on a Penguin Books, Ltd., edition from 1965. The translator was G.A. Williamson. Incidentally, both his History of the Church and the individual compositions of The Apostolic Fathers are included in the 38-volume collection of The Early Church Fathers.
Moreover, each of the preceding can now be accessed (albeit only in older versions within the public domain) on the Internet. E.g., www.ccel.org and www.newadvent.org both carry essentially the same versions, although the former site is Protestant while the latter styles itself as ‘catholic’. Many other websites abound. Too, the preceding publications to which I will refer in the following pages are products of non-Catholic academia, Protestantism having dominated the scholarship until recently --- thus, no reader of Protestant leanings can pretend that the evidence has been ‘tampered with’ on behalf of Catholicism. Still, scholars purporting to be ‘catholic’ have now caught up via such generally excellent sets as The Fathers of the Church by the Catholic University of America Press and Ancient Christian Writers by the Newman Press. More often accurate due to their lack of many Protestant biases, they are harder to come by without a Catholic seminary or very large university nearby. As well, they are not in the public domain and thus not obtainable on the World Wide Web. Fortunately for us, though, the Protestant translations are quite adequate for our purposes. Shall we, then, jump into the fray?
+ + 16. The Council of
An interesting meeting took place at
“We received directions at the hands of the most blessed and apostolic bishop of the Roman city, which is the head of all the churches... This instruction we must carry out.” (Extracts from the Acts of the Chalcedonian Council, Session 1, Paragraph 1)
Later, as the council dug deeper into various heresies that threatened the orthodoxy of the One True Faith, they heard read aloud and translated to them a lengthy exposition on correct apostolic belief from the current Roman Bishop, Pope Leo. At its conclusion the bishops cried out:
“This is the faith of the fathers, this is the faith of the Apostles. So we all believe, thus the orthodox believe. Anathema to him who does not thus believe. Peter has spoken thus through Leo. So taught the Apostles. Piously and truly did Leo teach… anathema to him who does not so believe. This is the true faith. Those of us who are orthodox thus believe. This is the faith of the fathers.” (Extracts from the Acts of the Chalcedonian Council, Session 2, Paragraph 50)
This pair of quotes informs us of two things:
One, the bishops of the council accepted the Authority of the Pope. And, two, they acclaimed his teaching as sound orthodox doctrine descending directly from Peter, the Apostles and all their forefathers in the Faith.
How do we know they accepted papal authority? Because Paschasinus’ declaration as proxy of Leo was accepted, the Pope’s instructions carried out, and his words not only recorded for posterity in the Acts of the Chalcedonian Council but done so without any rebuttal or record of protest. This is especially significant since this was a meeting overwhelmingly dominated by eastern bishops.
If you study Church history, dear reader, you find that the local churches of the orientals (all those east of Italy and Libya) tended within a few hundred years after Christ to chafe at the Pope’s supervision since, allured by the error of worldly thinking, they began presuming that ecclesial power follows political patronage. Hence, when Constantine split his Empire in two near the beginning of the 4th century and removed its primary capitol to the newly-christened Constantinople (later known as the ‘Rome of the East’), the Latin-tongued West started looking more and more backwardly irrelevant to powerful, sophisticated, Greek-speaking easterners. As a matter of fact, a mere four centuries later these bishops’ successors would formally break union with the West and its Pope, a severance still in effect --- after various flip flops --- since AD 1472 for most easterners calling themselves ‘christians’. Nonetheless, the bishops at Chalcedon in the mid-4th century set aside their incipient bias to not only hear Paschasinus out, submitting to the papal instructions he brought, but to listen to the Roman Bishop’s lengthy doctrinal exposition and to commend it as thoroughly orthodox. Indeed, to talk as if it came from the Apostle Peter himself!
Curiously, the Acts of the Chalcedonian Council was of old written in Greek and
shows absolutely no sign of having been translated from Latin. Most Italians of
that time --- circa AD 450 --- knowing only the Roman tongue, and the meeting
at Chalcedon attended by bishops for whom Greek was
their natural language (the handful of western bishops being the sole native
speakers of Latin there), it’s a logical conclusion that an easterner
acting in the capacity of an archival secretary recorded the council’s
speeches and events. And this strengthens all the more the impact of Paschasinus’ papal instructions and the
bishops’ enthusiasm for Pope Leo’s defense of the Christian Faith.
For why would a more ‘culturally advanced’ man of the near Orient
have recorded the Pope’s directions without rebuttal, either from his own
pen or as a witness to the protests of that vast majority of about 625 eastern
bishops, and why would he note their enthusiastic acclamation for papal teaching as if Leo uttered the very words
of the Apostle Peter? More saliently, why do so-called eastern
‘orthodox’ adherents --- who are nothing but schismatics and rebels
--- nevertheless accept
+ + + 17. Sozomen the Palestinian re a Trinitarian Rift + + +
But enough about
“The bishop of Rome, on learning that this question was agitated with great acrimony, and that it of course was augmented daily by controversies, wrote to the churches of the East and urged them to receive the doctrine upheld by the Western clergy; namely, that the three Persons of the Trinity are of the same substance and of equal dignity. The question having been thus decided by the Roman churches, peace was restored and the inquiry appeared to have an end.” (Sozomen’s History of the Church, Book 6, Chapter 22)
This quote is important for it tells us three things:
One, the churches of the West were considered “Roman”
churches, i.e., churches betoken to the leadership of the Church of Rome. Two,
the question being “decided by the Roman churches” thus means that
the Church of Rome decided the controversy not only for the churches of the
West, but for the churches of the East, too. And, three, the bishop being the
point man over a church, leading it in every way, to say that the Church of
Rome decided the question thereby automatically involves the Bishop of the
Church of Rome --- the Pope. Indeed, it is the “bishop of
Additionally, we must take into account Sozomen’s
Palestinian origin. In other words, he was an easterner. Once again we find an eastern man, disposed by his
culture to chafe against western leadership, giving us not just a record of
Roman governance, but speaking of it calmly without the slightest hint of
condemnation or resentment. More than that! Because, being from
Think about it.
He lived within a hundred miles from
+ + 18. Jerome’s
Astonishing Statements from
The implications are vivid. Sozomen tacitly acknowledged the Pope’s leadership. Yet enough about him. Let us look nearby at another man of the East (specifically, from the Balkans) named Jerome. Jerome was an early Christian scholar, translator, priest and monk. In an epistle to Pope Damasus I around AD 376 or 377, what did he add to the question of ancient papal authority?
“As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is with the chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the rock on which the church is built! (Matthew 16:18) This is the house where alone the paschal lamb can be rightly eaten. (Exodus 12:22) This is the ark of Noah, and he who is not found in it shall perish when the flood prevails… (Genesis 7:23) He that gathers not with you scatters (Matthew 12:30); he that is not of Christ is of Antichrist.” (Jerome’s Letters 15:2)
I have hardly to comment on the ramifications of this passage. Not only does Jerome exalt the Papacy and emphasize the necessity of humble union (the word “communicate” in his letter comes from ‘communion’, meaning ‘a union’ or ‘sharing in common’) under the Authority of this Papacy, but he also speaks starkly of a “house” --- a house which is “the church” and “is built” on “the chair of Peter” --- “where alone the paschal lamb can be rightly eaten” (i.e., the Holy Eucharist of Jesus’ Flesh partaken of, what Evangelics call ‘the Lord’s Supper’ or ‘Communion’) and outside of which a person “shall perish when the flood prevails.”
Amazing! For Evangelics at least hazily know how Roman Catholics say Peter was the Chief of the Apostles, and of how Catholics insist, too, that their Pope is Peter’s Successor. So Jerome’s talk of the Roman Bishop occupying this “chair of Peter” is as clear as day… he recognized the Pope’s Pre-eminent Authority amongst all Christians! Yet need we more convincing that this was Jerome’s position over 1600 years ago? Then let us examine another letter to Pope Damasus a few months later, imploring his decision on a schism dividing Jerome’s local church.
“The church is
rent into three factions, and each of these is eager to seize me for its
own… I meantime keep crying: ‘He who clings to the chair of Peter
is accepted by
Why would Jerome “implore”
the Bishop of Rome to “tell”
him “with whom I am to communicate” (i.e., who he’s to
be united to and share in common with religiously) if the Pope has no business
poking his nose into other local churches’ affairs? Do you see? Jerome
was then living in the
Once more we’re confronted by the puzzling behaviour of a man
not apt, purely in human terms and by the worldly thinking of political or
cultural power, to swallow
+ + + 19. Optatus on the Donatist Schism + + +
Yet enough of Jerome. Let us jump to
the environs of
“So we have proved that the Catholic Church is the Church
which is spread throughout the world. We must now mention its Adornments, and
see where are its five Endowments… amongst which the [Chair] is first;
and, since the second Endowment… cannot be added unless a Bishop has sat
on the [Chair], we must see who was the first to sit on the [Chair], and where
he sat. If you do not know this, learn. If you do know, blush. Ignorance cannot
be attributed to you --- it follows that you know. For one who knows, to err is
sin... You cannot then deny that you do know that upon Peter first in the City
of Rome was bestowed the Episcopal [Chair], on which sat Peter, the Head of all
the Apostles (for which reason he was called Cephas
(John 1:42)), that, in this one [Chair], unity should be preserved by all, lest
the other Apostles might claim --- each for himself --- separate [Chairs], so
that he who should set up a second [Chair] against the unique [Chair] would
already be a schismatic and a sinner… Now do you show the origin of your
[Chair], you who wish to claim the
This is stark and stunning. In AD 367 a man --- an eastern
bishop, no less! --- was explaining in vivid terms how no one could think
himself within the Church, or even “claim the Holy Church” for
himself, if he didn’t accept the leadership of the Roman Bishop. This is
why Optatus mentions that “upon Peter first in
the City of
But what is an “Episcopal [Chair]” --- so reminiscent
of Jerome’s “chair of Peter” mentioned in the previous
chapter --- and how is it linked to Simon’s new moniker?
‘Episcopal’ simply means ‘pertaining to a bishop’, the
Greek for ‘bishop’ (‘episkopos’),
in turn, literally translating as ‘an overseer’, ‘a
superintendent’ or ‘an inspector’; and “[Chair]”
is what an ancient man often called a ‘throne’ in which a leader
sat, and from which he ruled like a mighty, unmovable rock. I.e.,
Moreover, it is “in this one [Chair]” or ‘throne’ of Peter “that… unity should be preserved by all...” Why? Because by aligning themselves obediently under the rule of the Roman Bishop, all real Christians everywhere would be able to know, without dangerous and splintering disputation, what it is they must believe and what it is they must do in order to obey God and so enter into and remain within His Heavenly Kingdom on earth, saving their souls. Hence, only in submission to the legitimate Pope would true Christians maintain unity with one another, thereby proving themselves to be Christ’s disciples. (John 13:34-35, 17:20-23)
Yet what did Optatus say next? An astonishing thing to Protestant ears. For, in explaining why Peter was elevated in authority over the rest of his fellow disciples, Optatus states plainly and even warns explicitly, “lest the other Apostles might claim --- each for himself --- separate [Chairs], so that he who should set up a second [Chair] against the unique [Chair] would already be a schismatic and a sinner.”
Whew! Inerrantly authoritative though they were, not even the other Twelve Apostles can “claim --- each for himself --- separate [Chairs]”. For what reason? Because Peter was “Head of all the Apostles” and consequently no apostle other than Peter could individually behave as if he, and he alone, were in charge. And to “set up a second [Chair] against the unique [Chair]” --- in other words, to arrogantly pretend to be an independent authority not subject to the Authority of Peter or to the Authority of Peter’s Successors --- would make one “a schismatic and a sinner.”
+ + + 20. Act Like an Egyptian + + +
Let us realize, too, how Optatus was
bishop of the small Egyptian
No, again we’re faced with the distasteful (thinks the Evangelic) yet muscular evidence that an ancient Middle Eastern Christian treats the Pope with the kind of deference we find in devout Roman Catholics, according the Pope the kind of authority that real Catholics have claimed for him all along. Would it not then be both commendable and sensible, dear reader, to consider imitating this ancient Egyptian bishop’s actions?
Incidentally, I bracketed the terms ‘chair’ or ‘chairs’ in the quote from Optatus above because the translator of the passage took the original Greek words and, wherever Optatus spoke of a ‘chair’ or ‘chairs’, merely lifted the Greek for ‘chair’ (‘cathedra’) wholesale into the English translation. Hence, where I have quoted “Episcopal [Chair]” or “[Chairs]” the translator literally wrote “Episcopal Cathedra” or “Cathedras”. The translator being a Catholic amidst a nation of Anglicans (namely, England, where these particular Protestants until recently still had a very strong influence upon their fellow citizens and still retained many Catholic words and practices) --- and the sanctuary that a Catholic bishop sits in, and thus rules from, being called a ‘cathedral’ from the ancient Greek for ‘chair’ (as well as the seat or throne that he sits upon being called by both Catholics and Anglicans in English a ‘cathedra’) --- he knew the word “Cathedra” in the text would strike his readers as impressive support for Roman Catholicism.
Meanwhile, the Greek-derived “Cathedra” being exactly equivalent in original meaning to “[Chair]” in English --- and ‘cathedra’ a word far less familiar to most Americans today --- I have rendered the translation as the latter. Proof of the justice of my choice can be found in a scholarly Protestant work, where it defines ‘cathedra’ as a “seat, chair” [A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament, published in 1971 by United Bible Societies, entry for ‘cathedra’ as spelled with Greek characters on page 89], and in the etymological notes of a good dictionary, which reveals the words ‘cathedral’ and ‘cathedra’ to have come straight from the Greek word ‘cathedra’ via first Latin, then Old French, and finally Middle English, before arriving in the parlance of our Modern English. [Webster’s New World Dictionary, 2nd College Edition as published in 1972, entries with etymology for ‘cathedra’ and ‘cathedral’ on page 224.]
But why have I relied on the text of a Catholic translator? Did I
not say at the end of Chapter 15 that “the Protestant translations are
quite adequate for our purposes”? Are then, after all, Protestant
renderings of ancient Christian writings sometimes excessively deficient? For our purposes here in general, no. The problem in this
specific case, however, is not deficiency of translation per se, but non-existence
of translation, period. That is
to say, there is no Protestant translation available that I have ever
been able to find when it comes to Optatus’
text. Consequently, I’ve done the next best thing: use a Catholic
translation that is available… though, in and of itself, is still
a thing quite rare and difficult to get one’s hands on. Nonetheless, Optatus’ testimony is too priceless to ignore,
rounding out the uniform position of the ancient patriarchates towards
+ + + 21. The Council of Sardica + + +
Yet enough about Optatus. Shall we pass
on to the Council of Sardica roughly two-and-a-half
decades previous? Now called
“But if perchance sentence be given against a bishop in any matter and he supposes his case to be not unsound but good, in order that the question may be reopened, let us… honour the memory of Peter the Apostle, and let those who gave judgment write to Julius, the bishop of Rome, so that, if necessary, the case may be retried by the bishops of the neighbouring provinces and let him appoint arbiters…” (Canon 3 from Canons of the Synod of Sardica, Greek-based text)
Julius was, of course, the name of the man who was Pope at that time, and the bishops at the Council of Sardica obviously conceded him the authority to re-open the case of a bishop ruled against by his fellow bishops in an ecclesial dispute or scandal. Moreover, they, like so many others before and after them, cited the Apostle Peter as grounds for this papal distinction.
How could they do this? Because Peter, as we’ve already
noted, ended his Apostolic Reign in the City of
“…[I]f any bishop be deposed by the
sentence of these neighbouring bishops, and assert that he has fresh matter in
defence, a new bishop be not settled in his see, unless the bishop of
There we have it. They unabashedly taught that the Roman Bishop not only has the privilege to render a judgment both final and either affirming or superseding the judgment already given, but that a bishop ought not to be replaced until such final judgment has been rendered by the Pope.
Because if the Pope finds that the original judgment was wrong or
unjust, then it would not be right for such a bishop to continue deposed in the
meantime --- just as lower courts in the
+ + + 22. Cyprian’s Stunning Declarations + + +
But enough about Sardica. Having examined
several examples from the mid-5th to the mid-4th
centuries, establishing forcefully the position of the Papacy in these nascent
times amongst Christians everywhere, let us now skip a hundred years earlier to
peruse the writings of a man called Cyprian in northern
Cyprian was bishop of
“Cyprian to Cornelius... greeting... [W]e decided... that letters should be sent you by all who were placed anywhere in the province... that so the whole of our colleagues might decidedly approve of and maintain both you and your communion, that is as well to the unity of the Catholic Church as to its charity.” (Cyprian’s Letters 44:1a, 3b)
A little while later he assures a fellow bishop named Antonianus, who had recently resolved nagging doubts about the validity of Cornelius’ papal election, that Pope Cornelius had received his pledge of fidelity, too.
“Cyprian to Antonianus... greeting... You wrote, moreover, for me to transmit a copy of those same letters to Cornelius… so that he might lay aside all anxiety, and know at once that you held communion with him, that is, with the Catholic Church.” (Cyprian’s Letters 51:1a, c)
These two quotes demonstrate a remarkable reality. Viz., that unity with Cornelius, the Pope at that time, was equivalent to unity with the Catholic Church. How so? Because, as Optatus pointed out a century later, Peter’s Successor in Rome is the Head of the Church everywhere --- not just head of the Roman Church --- and in harmonious relations with him is found the unity and charity (i.e., ‘divine love’) of the entire Church, which is the Body over which the Head rules. Yet do we doubt Cyprian meant this by these passages? Then let us glance at another:
“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…’ (Matthew 16:18) And again to the same He says, after His resurrection, ‘Feed my sheep.’ (John 21:17f) And although to all the apostles, after His resurrection, He gives an equal power… yet, that He might set forth unity, He arranged by His authority the origin of that unity, as beginning from one… 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?” (Cyprian’s The Unity of the Catholic Church, Chapter 4)
Incidentally, note how Cyprian’s book, from which we have just quoted, is entitled The Unity of the Catholic Church. Note also how he mentioned the Catholic Church in both of the quotes from his letters. And we reiterate for the sake of minds unwilling to see, asking: what kind of Church is it? A Catholic Church… not a Presbyterian ‘church’ or an Episcopal ‘church’ or a Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Nazarene, Assemblies of God, Pentecostal, Vineyard, Congregational or any other kind of false church --- including the self-styled ‘nondenominational’ type so popular amongst Charismatic and Evangelic adherents nowadays --- but a Catholic Church. That certainly blows out of the water the idea that Catholicism didn’t exist until much later, this coming from a man who wrote in the middle of the third century and vaunted the Roman Bishop!
+ + + 23. A 3rd Century African Exalts the Papacy + + +
And, should this declaration of how loyalty to the Papacy is necessary for Church membership not be enough, let us pry once more into Cyprian’s personal correspondence where, together with much Godly commentary, he apprises Pope Cornelius of two dangerously heretical men. Men who had dared to oppose their rightful bishop and appointed for themselves false leaders outside of God’s lawful Church. What did Cyprian observe?
“[T]he Lord Himself… said, ‘Will ye also go away?’ …Nevertheless, Peter, upon whom by the same Lord the Church had been built (Matthew 16:18), speaking one for all, and answering with the voice of the Church, says, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life; and we believe, and are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God:’ (John 6:67-69) signifying… that those who departed from Christ perished by their own fault, yet that the Church which believes on Christ, and holds that which it has once learned, never departs from Him at all, and that those are the Church who remain in the house of God; but that, on the other hand, they are not the plantation planted by God the Father, whom we see not to be established with the stability of wheat, but… set up outside for themselves --- outside the Church, and opposed to the Church, a conventicle of their abandoned faction… unwilling to entreat and to satisfy God. After such things as these, moreover, they still dare --- a false bishop having been appointed for them by heretics --- to set sail and to bear letters from schismatic and profane persons to the throne of Peter, and to the chief church whence priestly unity takes its source; and not to consider that these were the Romans whose faith was praised in the preaching of the apostle (Romans 1:8, 15:14, 16:19a), to whom faithlessness could have no access.” (Cyprian’s Letters 54:7b, 14b)
So we see that Cyprian the African bishop, like Optatus the Egyptian bishop (and an African, too), manifestly exalted the Central Authority of Peter, and that this Throne of Peter and source of all Church Unity is most definitely the Church of Rome whose Bishop is Head over the Whole Church, i.e., over all real Christians everywhere who are, by virtue of their orthodox Christianity, therefore members of this One Church via their various local churches throughout the world. For what does Cyprian note just above? The “schismatic and profane persons” who had gotten a “false bishop” from “heretics” dared to “set sail and to bear letters... to the throne of Peter...” That is to say, they dared to pretend that they were quite orthodox and were merely delivering routine notification to the Pope that a new bishop had been duly chosen to lead the Faithful over a church in their particular area of the evangelized world. And where is this “throne of Peter” located? It is in “the chief church whence priestly unity takes its source”, the Church of “the Romans whose faith was praised in the preaching of the apostle” --- see Romans 1:8, 15:14 & 16:19a --- “to whom faithlessness could have no access”.
The stunning thing for Evangelics about Cyprian’s statements
is that he wrote these passages in the early AD 250s; and he wrote not as an
obscure ‘non-person’, but rather as what was, in some ways at that
time, the bishop of the second most important church in the West after
Hence, we have incontrovertible evidence that the Supremacy of the Roman Bishop was firmly believed in and pragmatically acted out in every way one could reasonably expect as early as the mid-3rd century --- not just way far earlier than most Evangelics could have imagined, who foggily suppose papal authority didn’t really ‘crystallize’ until the AD 500s, but even before Emperor Constantine turned the world upside-down by halting persecution of Christianity and awarding its leaders with positions of wealth, security and power! Still, perhaps this is insufficient to sway your persistent skepticism, my dear reader.
+ + + 24. Pope Victor & the Easter Controversy + + +
So enough about Cyprian. Let us jump another 60 years previous to a man named Victor who was Bishop of Rome in the AD 190s. What did he do, and how does it impact our examination?
Eusebius of Caesarea (whom we mentioned in Chapter 15 concerning
his book, the History of the Church)
was bishop of the city incorporated in his name, the title of which honored the
memory of the first Caesar (i.e., emperor) of the
Significantly for us, though, he goes into some detail about Pope
Victor and an ‘Easter controversy’. You see, the vast majority of
Christians at this time --- circa AD 190 --- always celebrated Easter on a
Sunday, just as both Roman Catholics and Evangelic Protestants do today.
However, the local churches of Asia Minor (modern day
Eventually the rest of the world’s local churches took frowning notice of this peculiar practice and, convening bishops together regionally all across the reach of Christendom, each convention unanimously declared that Easter should be observed on a Sunday and on Sunday alone --- which, while sometimes ending up near to the date of Passover, nevertheless stood in complete independence from it. The Roman Bishop, Victor, highly approved of this decision and sent a letter to the Asian churches, requesting that they follow suit and threatening severe repercussions should they not. Whereupon the bishop of Ephesus and leading churchman of Asia Minor, Polycrates, responded by explaining carefully why he and his fellow Christians there were compelled by apostolic custom to continue celebrating the Resurrection as they had always done. It was at this point that a crucial thing happened. Eusebius paints the picture bluntly for us:
“Thereupon Victor, head of the Roman church, attempted at one stroke to cut off from the common unity all the Asian dioceses, together with the neighboring churches, on the ground of heterodoxy, and pilloried them in letters in which he announced the total excommunication of all his fellow Christians there.” (Eusebius’ History of the Church, Book 5, 24:9)
The paucity of Protestants conversant with early Church history sometimes cite this incident to ‘shame’ Catholics because, as Eusebius proceeds to tell us in the passage immediately following the quote above, certain bishops “sternly rebuked” Victor for his divisive action. How could he be a Pope, they smirk, when his own bishops reprimanded him? Unfortunately for Protestants, however, their derision masks an incredible naiveté toward the precariousness of their own position.
+ + + 25. Routine Papal Behaviour in AD 190 + + +
To wit, what does Eusebius’ quote demonstrate? It shows us
that as long ago as AD 190 the Bishop of Rome was acting exactly like a latter
day Pope, exercising supreme power to excommunicate (literally, to ‘cast
out’ of the ‘communion’ --- i.e., ‘unity’ or
‘common religious sharing’ --- of the Church) those souls who
pertinaciously refuse to believe in or practice the Faith as he, the leading
representative of Christ on earth, is duty-bound to safeguard and uphold.
Moreover, this is a perfect example of papal power in that the Christians
excommunicated were not within his local
Do you understand the implication, my dear reader? Eusebius --- a
remarkably thorough historian by ancient standards, who cites sources
meticulously and exposits events laboriously (too laboriously for modern minds
to handle) --- makes no mention of
any of hundreds of other bishops attempting to do the same. Yet he makes it plain that no bishop outside
The answer is obvious. For Eusebius does not tell us that the bishops rebuked Victor for doing what he could not do --- rather, they rebuked him for doing what he ought not to do. In other words, their beef was not with his God-Given Authority as the Successor to Peter to excommunicate someone from the Universal Church wherever he might be in the world; their concern was that he damaged Christian charity by penalizing their brothers for a custom which was neither critical to the Faith nor yet injurious to its Practice.
This is further proved by what occurred just before Pope Victor
excommunicated the local churches of
Funny how his name crops up, is it not? Yet not to the one who
comprehends the documented facts: Victor was Pope, and being Pope means
defending the Faith everywhere. To Victor’s mind, however wrong he
might have been in the particular circumstances being examined, the Asian
churches were harming the Faith. As a result, he acted sweepingly to protect the
Lastly, who persuaded Victor to relent and what was his name? Bishop Irenaeus of
Moreover, why should any of Victor’s peers care what he did? If Victor hadn’t the authority to act thusly, why should they even take any notice of him? Surely they wouldn’t waste their efforts pleading and negotiating! Would they not, at most, merely inform him that he’s way off base and doesn’t have the power to excommunicate an entire province some 1000 miles distant from his local church? Indeed, would they not be inclined to ignore him altogether as a delusional crackpot? Instead, as we see, they did not contradict his privilege to excommunicate distant churches, instead taking that privilege’s misuse seriously, and so “pleaded and negotiated” with him to act more charitably, having “sternly rebuked” him for rashly severing the Church’s unity.
+ + + 26. Irenaeus Drops the Catholic Bomb + + +
But enough about Victor. Shall we take a closer peek at the just-mentioned Irenaeus? For the man most definitely taught the Roman Church’s Supremacy. How can we know this? Consider what Irenaeus has to say in a mammoth work he composed against the multitudinous heresies prevalent in his time:
“For the Lord of all gave to His apostles the power of the
Gospel, through whom also we have known the truth, that is, the doctrine of the
Son of God; to whom also did the Lord declare: ‘He that heareth you,
heareth Me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me, and Him that sent Me.’ (Luke 10:16) We
have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those
through whom the Gospel has come down to us... [T]hey... were invested with
power from on high... and... departed to the ends of the earth, preaching the
glad tidings of the good things from God to us... Peter and Paul were preaching
“These have all declared to us that there is one God, Creator of heaven and earth, announced by the law and the prophets; and one Christ the Son of God. If anyone does not agree to these truths, he despises the companions of the Lord... and stands self-condemned, resisting and opposing his own salvation, as is the case with all heretics... It comes to this, therefore, that these men do now consent neither to Scripture nor to tradition... Wherefore they must be opposed at all points, if perchance, by cutting off their retreat, we may succeed in turning them back to the truth...
“It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and… the succession of these men to our own times… [T]o whom they were also committing the Churches… whom also they were leaving behind as their successors, delivering up their own place of government to these men…
“Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner… assemble in unauthorized meetings… by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also… the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those… who exist everywhere…
“Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man… in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account are we bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the thing pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary… to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches?” (Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book 3, Preface, 1:1,2, 2:2,3, 3:1,2, 4:1)
Jaw dropping, is it not? It astonished me, too, when I began to soberly investigate the testimonies of earliest Christians. Indeed, much to my amusement after the shock wore off, I learned that this is probably the most notorious of all passages from early Christian writers amongst the few Protestants who study these things. Because how can they read something like this and then pretend that the Catholic Church made up all its ideas about the Authority of the Pope long, long, long afterwards, at the start of the medieval era? For Irenaeus composed this refutation against heresies around AD 180, well over a century before Christianity was legalized and imperial persecutions ended, and a mere 150 years or so after Jesus ascended into Heaven!
But it gets worse than this, for a Protestant. Because both Irenaeus himself and Eusebius of Caesarea, the Church
historian, tell us that Irenaeus was the disciple of
a bishop of
Not only that, but this Irenaeus was a man
who had no personal vested interest in the issue. For who was he? He was not
himself the Bishop of Rome; he was simply the bishop of what is today called
+ + + 27. And the Explosion Is Bigger Than Expected + + +
To top it off --- and without complicating this chapter further by going into the ancient languages of Latin or Greek that Irenaeus wrote in, or into which his text was translated early on --- we have another Protestant rendering of Irenaeus’ jaw dropping words into English which suggests that some academic fudging toward the side of Protestantism occurred in the version quoted just above. Viz., Irenaeus’ utterance regarding the pre-eminence of the Roman Church where he is translated above as saying:
“It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and… the succession of these men to our own times… [T]o whom they were also committing the Churches… whom also they were leaving behind as their successors, delivering up their own place of government to these men…
“Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner… assemble in unauthorized meetings… by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also… the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those… who exist everywhere…” (Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book 3, 3:2)
However, Protestant scholar Henry Bettenson in his Documents of the Christian Church, from Section 7:5b on pages 68-69 of the 2nd edition of his work published by Oxford University Press in 1963, puts Irenaeus’ actual words thusly:
“Those that wish to discern the truth may observe the apostolic tradition made manifest in every church throughout the world. We can enumerate those who were appointed bishops in the churches by the Apostles, and their successors down to our own day… to whom they entrusted the churches… and to whom they handed over their own office of authority.
“But as it would be very tedious, in a book of this sort, to enumerate the successions in all the churches, we confound all those who in any way… hold unauthorized meetings. This we do by pointing to the apostolic tradition and the faith that is preached to men, which has come down to us through the successions of bishops; the tradition and creed of the greatest, the most ancient church, the church known to all men, which was founded and set up at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul. For with this church, because of its position of leadership and authority, must needs agree every church, that is, the faithful everywhere; for in her the apostolic tradition has always been preserved by the faithful from all parts.” (Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book 3, 3:2 [entitled 3:1 by Bettenson])
You’ll notice, dear reader, how the Protestant scholars in the former quoted version avoid translating the first underlined phrase in the superlative. I.e., they prefer to give the ancient text’s words as “the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church…” instead of “the greatest, the most ancient church, the church known to all men…” as Bettenson makes clear, in the latter quoted version, is the gist of what Irenaeus actually said.
Additionally, you’ll mark how the Protestant scholars in the former quoted version try to make it look, in the second underlined clause, as if the Church of Rome’s pre-eminent teaching authority is almost irrelevant due to the apostolic wealth of the other churches, and due to an implied ‘consent’ from them for Rome to do what she does. I.e., they insist on translating the ancient text’s words as “inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those… who exist everywhere…” instead of “for in her the apostolic tradition has always been preserved by the faithful from all parts…” as Bettenson shows us, in the latter quoted version, is closer to what Irenaeus really said.
You’ll also observe how the Protestant scholars in the former quoted version move (and change the wording of) the italicized clause from between the underlined phrases to before the underlined phrases, thereby amplifying the subtle denigration of Rome’s teaching authority by insinuating, again, that it is only equivalent to, comes from and relies on the common apostolic faith of all churches everywhere. Meanwhile, Bettenson’s latter quoted version --- while in no way perfect --- nevertheless avoids these stealthy slights and renders the words of the ancient text more honestly. Which in turn drives Irenaeus’ point home the more sharply. Namely, that every true Christian must assent to what the Bishop of the Roman Church authoritatively teaches is the Saving Truth of the Apostolic Faith of Jesus Christ.
+ + + 28. Ignatius’ Incredible Respect for the Romans + + +
Yet enough about Irenaeus. Shall we glance still earlier, at the very turn of the 2nd century, circa AD 107? At a martyr named Ignatius of Antioch?
Ignatius was bishop of the local church in the city which adorns
Yet it gets more interesting. Because early Christian testimony
reveals that Ignatius of Antioch knew the Apostle John, having been consecrated
a bishop by him, and --- per one old report --- having apparently assisted him,
along with five other handpicked men under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,
in composing the Gospel which bears the beloved disciple’s name. And this
Ignatius was so desirous of spiritual perfection that he purposely prayed for
the privilege of martyrdom so as to imitate his Lord in everything… even
facing death for the sake of the One True Faith. Accordingly, he bore witness
to the Gospel before Emperor Trajan and received his
wish: he was to be fed to the beasts in an arena at
Nearing the end of a long, valiant life, then, and eager to guard
the apostolic teaching from any heresy, schism or imperfection, he wrote seven
beautiful, moving letters to local churches along the way as he went piously to
Except for one. In the letter he wrote to the Church of Rome he takes a remarkably different tone. He instead says things like, “Ignatius... to the church... which also presides in the place of the district of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of blessing, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, and presiding over love, observing the law of Christ... You have never envied anyone; you taught others. And my wish is that those instructions which you issue when teaching disciples will remain in force... I do not give you orders like Peter and Paul: they were apostles, I am a convict...” (Ignatius’ Letter to the Romans, Introduction & 3:1, 4:3a)
The contrast is most dramatic when one reads assiduously each of the
other letters. To the other churches he teaches repeatedly on three main
themes: to the Church of Rome he dares teach nothing, saying, “You have never
envied anyone; you taught others. And my wish is that those
instructions which you issue when teaching disciples will remain in
force.” To the other churches he admonishes and exhorts: to
‘Preside’. As a dictionary informs us, this verb means
“to be in the position of authority in an assembly... to have or exercise
control or authority...” [Webster’s New World Dictionary, 2nd
College Edition as published in 1972 by The World Publishing Co. in
So what Ignatius of Antioch is telling us is that the Church of Rome sits superior first and foremost before all the other local churches of the world in power and authority --- and his extremely obeisant tone toward them merely reinforces it! Too, let us remember that ancient man thought of a chair as a place from which a leader rules: a throne, as it were. So to use a Greek word that means, literally, to be seated first in superiority before all who are assembled with you for a common purpose, is to say that the Roman Church sits upon a Throne over every other single church as assembled throughout the world.
+ + 29.
“But what about the Bishop of Rome?” protests an Evangelic, mayhap. “Ignatius says nothing about the Roman Bishop ruling over Christianity at large...”
Yet this is a red herring. For what does Ignatius make absolutely vivid in every other letter where he unabashedly instructs the local churches?
“It is proper, therefore, in every way to glorify Jesus Christ, who has glorified you, so that you, joined together in a united obedience and subject to the bishop and the [priests], may be sanctified in every respect... Thus it is proper for you to act together in harmony with the mind of the bishop. For your [priests… are] attuned to the bishop as strings to a lyre... Let us, therefore, be careful not to oppose the bishop, in order that we may be obedient to God... For everyone whom the Master of the house sends to manage his own house we must welcome as we would the one who sent him. It is obvious, therefore, that we must regard the bishop as the Lord himself.” (Ignatius’ Letter to the Ephesians 2:2b-c, 4:1a-b, 5:3b, 6:1b-c)
Elsewhere Ignatius says:
“I urge you, therefore --- yet not I, but the love of Jesus Christ --- to partake only of Christian food, and keep away from every strange plant, which is heresy. These people, while pretending to be trustworthy, mix Jesus Christ with poison --- like those who administer a deadly drug with honeyed wine, which the unsuspecting victim accepts without fear, and so with fatal pleasure drinks down death. Therefore be on your guard against such people. And you will be, provided that you are not puffed up with pride and that you cling inseparably to Jesus Christ and to the bishop and to the commandments of the apostles. The one who is within the sanctuary is clean, but the one who is outside the sanctuary is not clean. That is, whoever does anything without bishop and [priests] and deacons does not have a clean conscience.” (Ignatius’ Letter to the Trallians 6:1-7:2)
And again Ignatius warns:
“For all those who belong to God and to Jesus Christ are with
the bishop, and all those who repent and enter into the unity of the Church
will belong to God, that they may be living in accordance with Jesus Christ. Do
not be misled, my brothers: if anyone follows a schismatic, he will not inherit
Yet elsewhere Ignatius proclaims:
“...[L]et everyone respect the deacons as Jesus Christ, just as they should respect the bishop, who is a model of the Father, and the [priests] as God’s council and as the band of the apostles. Without these no group can be called a church.” (Ignatius’ Letter to the Trallians 3:1)
And he also declares:
“Flee from divisions, as the beginning of evils. You must all follow the bishop, as Jesus Christ followed the Father, and follow the [priests] as you would the apostles; respect the deacons as the commandment of God. Let no one do anything that has to do with the church without the bishop... Wherever the bishop appears, there let the congregation be; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the [C]atholic [C]hurch.” (Ignatius’ Letter to the Smyrnaeans 8:1a-c, 2a)
We see, then, how Ignatius most definitely upheld the ultimate rule of a bishop over a church --- and these are but five tiny quotes from four of six letters that emphasize the final rule of a bishop repeatedly, amongst many other doctrines which make it plain that there is a stark dividing line between unwavering orthodoxy’s Reward of Heaven, and schism, heresy or infidelity’s Damnation of Hell. And if it is a bishop who leads a local church, and the Church of Rome presides and rules over every other local church in the world, then who may we suppose has authority over all true Christians everywhere they may live?
The Bishop of the Roman Church, naturally!
Put alternatively, if the realm governed by the Roman Church is the entire assembly of local Christian churches wherever these churches may be, then the Head of the Church of Rome --- the Pope --- must rule the individual members of all of these local churches throughout the world no matter where in the world they reside.
The kicker, though, is that Ignatius of Antioch wrote these things no later than around AD 110. Thus, hardly 40 years after the deaths of the Apostles Peter & Paul at the deranged hands of Emperor Nero, and barely 5 years after the death of the last of the living apostles, John --- if that, since it’s entirely possible Ignatius wrote as early as AD 100 and that the Apostle John lived as late as AD 102 --- we have an intimate of Jesus’ first disciples telling us incredibly Catholic things about the leaders of the Church, and especially about the man who is Bishop of Rome!
+ + + 30. Concerning Priests & the Catholic Church + + +
Incidentally, my dear reader, you will have noted how the word “[priests]” is constantly bracketed in the quotes above. This is because the scholars took the Greek for ‘priests’ in the texts above, grammatically declined to fit the sentences properly, and imported the word nearly whole into English as ‘presbytery’. Yet despite academic precedence for this, the ploy is a ruse. Because the word that the Protestant scholars render ‘presbytery’ in the letters of Ignatius is the Greek term ‘presbyterion’ (sometimes transliterated as ‘presbuterion’). [Greek Dictionary of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, entry number 4244 on page 80. See also Michael W. Holmes’ The Apostolic Fathers --- I’ve already given the pertinent details back in chapter 15 --- where the exact same word, grammatically declined as appropriate, is present throughout the Greek text of Ignatius’ letters, alongside the English text translated therefrom.]
Meanwhile, consult a good Webster’s Dictionary with etymological notes --- in which they give you the history of a word’s origin and how it changed spelling over the centuries --- and you will find that ‘presbyterion’ (Greek plural) derives from ‘presbyteros’ (Greek singular), and you will be told to see the entry for ‘priest’. [Webster’s New World Dictionary, 2nd College Edition, entry with etymology for ‘presbytery’ on page 1124.] Doing so, you will then find that the word ‘priest’ came from Middle English ‘prest’, which in turn came from Latin’s ‘presbyter’ via Old English ‘preost’. And from where did the Latin ‘presbyter’ originate? From the Greek word ‘presbyteros’ --- the very word in the Greek singular from which the word ‘presbyterion’ in the Greek plural derives, which is also the very word, declined grammatically for the particular sentence it inhabits, that Ignatius uses so respectfully and repeatedly in his letters to describe the men who are next in authority in a local church just under the bishop! [Webster’s New World Dictionary, entry with etymology for ‘priest’ on page 1128.]
The term ‘presbytery’ willfully obscures the stark Catholicity of Ignatius’ letters, as the words ‘priests’ and ‘bishop’ and ‘deacons’ used together in the same passages make plain --- words obviously referring to the titles of those men that make up a Catholic Hierarchy. ‘Presbytery’, then, is a stratagem to hide this truth; the truth that, as long ago as the beginning of the 2nd century AD, the third most important leader of Christianity (remember his position as patriarch of Antioch), appointed by the Apostle Peter (who had himself been bishop of Antioch at the beginning of the local church there) to oversee the Antiochene Christians, was teaching and admonishing about the structure and authority of a Church that is unavoidably, inarguably and most definitely Catholic in its make-up!
And this is reinforced the more by his mention of the “[C]atholic [C]hurch” in the passage above from his Letter to the Smyrnaeans. For what kind of “[C]hurch” is it?
A “[C]atholic [C]hurch”!
But perhaps you wish to fault me, dear reader, for taking the liberty to capitalize the initial letters to the words contained in the phrase ‘Catholic Church’. “Ignatius didn’t do this,” a clever reader might protest. “The Apostolic Fathers says ‘catholic church’ without the capitalization you insist on.” To which I say, “You fall on your own sword.” Because here again the Protestant translators take their own liberties with Ignatius’ text --- liberties often unjustifiable --- and not just with the translation of his text, but with the Greek original of his text itself. How so?
In the Greek texts provided by Mr. Holmes’ The Apostolic Fathers you will see many capitalized words. For instance, the words at the beginning of every chapter, words that are the proper names of people and places, or words relating to the Creator, such as ‘Jesus’, ‘Christ’, ‘God’ and the like. Nonetheless, did Ignatius capitalize the first letters of any of these words in his original manuscripts, as opposed to leaving the rest of the words’ letters in lowercase size?
The answer is no. Earliest Greek
manuscripts of the first millennium were written in a form known as
‘uncial’. And, as an Evangelic Protestant textbook informs us,
uncial means that the manuscripts were written in all capital letters,
each letter completely separate from the letters adjoining it (i.e.,
non-cursive), and without breaks between either words or sentences (all letters
running together in the text, even void of spaces between one word and the next
or one sentence and the next). [Norman L. Geisler
& William E. Nix’s A General Introduction to the Bible, printed by
Moody Press in
Hence, Ignatius of Antioch wrote his epistles without distinct capitalization of any of his words, period. Therefore, when the Protestant translators dare to employ capitalization of the first letters of certain words (as distinct from use of the lowercase in the rest of the words’ letters) in Ignatius’ texts, whether of the English rendering or the Greek original, they do so regardless of what Ignatius himself did and consequently as an innovation that Ignatius can in no way be responsible for.
Why then do they choose to capitalize words like ‘God’, ‘Jesus’ or ‘Christ’ while refusing to capitalize the title of ‘Catholic Church’? Because their prejudices demand it --- as they as much as reveal in a footnote to this phrase. They pay the honor of lip service to words associated with the Almighty Creator, capitalizing these words since they want to believe that they follow Him correctly and thus are ‘devout’. Whereas, when it comes to this Almighty Creator’s Church, Protestant scholars (and most Protestants in general) most definitely and most adamantly do not want to believe that it is a Church which is Catholic and naught else. Even though the third most important leader of Christianity at the very start of the 2nd century, a disciple of the Apostles Peter & John, proves it was Catholic 1900 years ago… and hardly 70 years after Jesus walked upon this earth!
+ + + 31. What Clement Had to Say + + +
Yet enough of Ignatius. Shall we go
still one more step back, to
Circa AD 96, after a brutal persecution by the Emperor Domitian, he wrote an epistle to the local
Understand that this letter from Clement was written after nearly every one of the Twelve Apostles had died for the True Faith, including the Apostle Paul --- pretty much only John survives in Ephesus. To most Evangelics’ minds, then, there is no one left except the Apostle John who has the authority to compel obedience from any Christian, no matter where in the world they may reside, concerning what to believe or what to do. Notwithstanding, hear what Clement, the Roman Bishop, says to the geographically distant Corinthian church:
“Because of the sudden and repeated misfortunes and reverses which have happened to us, brothers, we acknowledge that we have been somewhat slow in giving attention to the matters in dispute among you, dear friends, especially the detestable and unholy schism, so alien and strange to those chosen by God, which a few reckless and arrogant persons have kindled to such a pitch of insanity that your good name, once so renowned and loved by all, has been greatly reviled...
“You, therefore, who laid the foundation of the revolt, must submit to the [priests] and accept discipline leading to repentance, bending the knees of your heart. Learn how to subordinate yourselves, laying aside the arrogant and proud stubbornness of your tongue. For it is better for you to be found small but included in the flock of Christ than to have preeminent reputation and yet be excluded from this hope...
“Accept our advice and you will have nothing to regret. For as God lives, and the Lord Jesus Christ lives, and the Holy Spirit... so surely will the one who with humility and constant gentleness has kept without regret the ordinances and commandments given by God be enrolled and included among the number of those who are saved through Jesus Christ...
“But if certain people should disobey what has been said by him through us, let them understand that they will entangle themselves in no small sin and danger. We, however, will be innocent of this sin, and will ask... that the Creator of the universe may keep intact the specified number of his elect throughout the whole world...
“Therefore it is right for us, having studied so many and such great examples, to bow the neck and, adopting the attitude of obedience, to submit to those who are the leaders of our souls... For you will give us great joy and gladness, if you obey what we have written through the Holy Spirit... We have also sent trustworthy and prudent men who from youth to old age have lived blameless lives among us, who will be witnesses between you and us. This we have done in order that you might know that our only concern has been, and still is, that you should attain peace without delay...
“Now send back to us without delay our messengers... so that they may report as soon as possible the peace and concord which we have prayed for and desire, that we too may all the more quickly rejoice over your good order.” (Clement’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians 1:1, 57:1-2, 58:2a, 59:1-2a, 63:1a, 2a, 3-4, 65:1a, c-d)
Several things jump out at the attentive reader of these passages:
One, Clement orders the Corinthian church to submit to their God-given leaders. Two, he warns them of the consequences should they disobey him. Three, he describes his great joy should they comply with his instructions. And, four, he sends representatives to make sure the Corinthians heal the schism in their church, these men then expected to bring back a successful report to him.
+ + + 32. Ancient Pope Behaving… Just Like a Pope! + + +
Now, I don’t know about you, dear reader, but that sounds to
me --- loud and clear in the first century nearly two millennia ago --- like
a Pope. Ponder it carefully. Once again
And why does Clement use strong, imperative phrases like “you... must submit to the [priests]” (the same thing applies here that we discovered regarding the term “[priests]” in Ignatius’ letters, by the way) or “accept... and you will have nothing to regret” or “if certain people should disobey... us... they will entangle themselves in... sin and danger” or “bow the neck... adopting... obedience” or “you will give us great joy... if you obey what we have written”?
Does that sound like a timid or toothless mediator?
Does it not sound imperious and authoritative?
And how is it that with the Apostle John still living he himself didn’t take the lead to resolve the schism in the Corinthian church? Evangelics would expect something like that, just as the Apostle Paul was the one to discipline the Corinthians when they first split some 40 years before. So why did the Bishop of Rome write them in AD 96 instead of John, the last living of the Twelve Apostles, who clearly had the sole authority --- thinks an Evangelic --- to poke around in their business, whereas an equal (supposes the Evangelic) such as the Roman Church should have respected their ‘independence’? Is it not odd that history records John doing nothing while the Roman Bishop goes out of his way to solve the problem and as if he had a right to do so?
And why is it the letter speaks continually of “we” or “us” instead of ‘I’ or ‘me’, despite all early Christian writers being utterly unanimous that it was Pope Clement who wrote personally to Corinth and not some collective committee like a group of congressmen in the U.S. Legislature trying to hammer out a workable bill? Is it not curious how his use of the plural pronouns perfectly parallels the practice of other Roman Bishops in their official correspondence from earliest centuries all the way up until our own times? Indeed, that this first-person plurality is identical to the royal ‘we’ or ‘us’ used for thousands of years by monarchs to express the prerogative of both their command and their headship --- and thus their representation --- of the aggregate subjects who constitute the body they lead?
A command and headship, by the way, that he clearly invokes. For notice how he says near the end of the passage quoted above, “Therefore it is right for us… to bow the neck and, adopting the attitude of obedience, to submit to those who are the leaders of our souls...” (Clement’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians 63:1a) Clement expects the Corinthians to be obedient and to submit to their leaders! Ergo, he must have considered himself their leader (and they must have, too, for Eusebius of Caesarea assures us in his History of the Church that they complied) since he elsewhere speaks of both the consequences for disobeying him and the consequences for obeying him. To wit, where he also says, “For as God lives, and the Lord Jesus Christ lives, and the Holy Spirit... if certain people should disobey what has been said by him through us, let them understand that they will entangle themselves in no small sin and danger…”, and, “For you will give us great joy and gladness, if you obey what we have written through the Holy Spirit...” (Clement’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians 58:2b, 59:1, 63:2a)
Do you comprehend what you are reading? Clement, who lived in the very first century AD, who was a friend of the Twelve Apostles and who was appointed by them as a priest to lead souls into the Eternal Safety of a Blessed Heaven, dares to say that God the Holy Spirit speaks through him. For he declares, “what has been said by him through us” and “what we have written through the Holy Spirit…” Which means he also has the audacity to say that what he states here in this letter to the Corinthian Catholics as Head of the Roman Church cannot be wrong --- for can God, can the Holy Spirit (Who is the Spirit of Truth, as Jesus says in John 14:26 & 15:26), speak what is wrong or mistaken? Patently not. Ergo, in declaring that the Spirit of Truth speaks through him, Pope Clement claims for himself as well what all Popes have claimed across the centuries for nearly 2000 years for themselves… that they, the leading representatives of Christ on earth, can speak infallibly from the Chair of the Apostle Peter, preserved by the Holy Spirit from any error in matters of Faith and Morals when doing so!
That this is so is confirmed in Eusebius’ History of the
Church, by the way. Accordingly, where Eusebius of Caesarea introduces a
quote from a bishop named Dionysius, who ruled the local
“In the same letter he refers to Clement’s Epistle to the Corinthians, proving that from the very first it had been customary to read it in church. He says:
“‘Today being the Lord’s Day, we kept it as a holy day and read your epistle, which we shall read frequently for its valuable advice like the earlier epistle which Clement wrote on your behalf.’” (Eusebius’ History of the Church, Book 4, 23:11)
Elsewhere Eusebius says regarding Clement’s letter:
“Clement has left us one recognized epistle, long and
wonderful, which he composed in the name of the church at
As Michael W. Holmes informs us on pages 25-26 of his The Apostolic Fathers (I gave the relevant bibliographical details back in Chapter 15), many early Christian writers cited Clement’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians as part of Sacred Scripture, and several ancient canons, or lists, of biblical books included it as part of the New Testament. Eusebius’ words above are proof of this. For what does he say? That “in many churches this epistle was read aloud to the assembled worshippers in early days, as it is in our own.” Additionally, introducing Dionysius’ letter, he says, “In the same letter he refers to Clement’s Epistle to the Corinthians, proving that from the very first it had been customary to read it in church.” Meanwhile, Dionysius notes, “Today being the Lord’s Day, we kept it as a holy day and read your epistle, which we shall read frequently for its valuable advice like the earlier epistle which Clement wrote on your behalf.”
Amazing, is it not? Because, dear reader, conservative Evangelics easily admit that the Bible is inerrant. Therefore, if many early Christians treated Clement’s letter like Sacred Scripture, frequently and customarily reading passages from it on Sundays when they gathered for worship --- just as they normally did with passages from the Bible --- then what are we to conclude except that they considered Clement’s letter to be inerrant, too? Moreover, and adding salt to the Evangelic’s wound, Dionysius’ testimony reveals how the Corinthians treated the letter they had received from the Roman Bishop of their time (whose name was Soter), circa AD 170, in a sort of league with Sacred Scripture, reading it aloud on Sunday during worship, and thus like it had inerrancy, also!
In other words, ancient Christians of the first and second centuries were acting like the official teachings of a Pope are infallible, being free of any doctrinal or moral error.
Do you see, my dear reader? All the way back in the AD 90s, barely 60 years after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Bishop of the Roman Church was acting and talking just like Popes have done until recent times! No other church wrote to Corinth or pried into its business; no other church bothered to see what was going on in an ‘independent’ church far away in Corinth amongst hundreds of other local churches (for the Christian Faith had spread quickly, as we may know simply from reading the New Testament); no other church dared to use the imperious verbs of ‘submit’, ‘obey’ or the like.
+ + + 33. The Body of Christ + + +
“Let us, therefore, serve as soldiers, brothers, with all earnestness under... orders. Let us consider the soldiers who serve under our commanders, how precisely, how readily, how obediently they execute orders. Not all are prefects or tribunes or centurions or captains of fifty and so forth, but each in his own rank executes the orders given by the emperor and commanders. The great cannot exist without the small, nor the small without the great. There is a certain blending in everything, and therein lies the advantage. Let us take our body as an example. The head without the feet is nothing; likewise, the feet without the head are nothing. Even the smallest parts of our body are necessary and useful to the whole body, yet all the members work together and unite in mutual subjection, that the whole body may be saved.” (Clement’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians 37:1-5)
“...[T]hat the whole body may be saved.” Therein lies the reason for why the Church is hierarchical, my dear reader. That is to say, here is the reason why the Church is a monarchy and not a so-called ‘democracy’ or some other form of mildly mitigated but ultimately unwieldy anarchy. Because a body does not split into halves or fractions, severed parts lying all over the place, and try to pretend that it’s still alive or can function properly. No. The body must be connected, and it must be connected visibly because it is a physical thing and physical things of normal size are always visible and thus always necessarily obvious to the physical eye. Moreover, each of its parts must cooperate with all other parts in “mutual subjection” to one another since every part --- whether greater or smaller --- depends on the other parts both to survive and to successfully accomplish what they are designed to do, the head commanding the whole and the different parts being hierarchically commanded by the lesser leaders of the body, on down the line till we get to the least part which leads no one but only follows. Yet even this smallest part is needed by the greatest!
So we see that Clement takes the Apostle Paul’s own lecture to the Corinthians on the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-31), expounding on it via the allegory of an army of soldiers. And for what is an army known? For being arranged and ordered according to commanding officers. What does this inescapably imply? That the idea of a Pope --- a man who leads everyone overall in the Army of God --- is utterly sensible and thoroughly Godly. As a matter of fact, that this is the only way “the whole body may be saved.”
Why? Is not Jesus the Sole Head over His Body, protests the Evangelic? Responds the real Catholic: Jesus is the Sole Invisible Head of His Visible Body here on earth. In other words, Christ is not here on earth presently in His Human Body, able to be seen without the eyes of the True Faith and thus continually available to command and lead true Christians by his bodily voice and bodily actions. Rather, His Human, Physical & Readily Visible Body is in Heaven seated at the right hand of His Father for the time being. (Mark 14:62, Acts 7:55-56, Romans 8:34)
Yet just as an Emperor didn’t often go into actual battle, sending instead a supreme commander to represent him and lead the troops while he stayed in Rome; and just as the U.S. President --- who is the Commander-in-Chief of America’s military --- does not normally micromanage a war on the battlefield, but has his top military officer in charge of everything act on his behalf; so, too, does Jesus at this juncture of the Church’s history choose not to be on earth as a typical man in His Human, Physical & Visible Body to govern His true followers directly. To the contrary, He purposely operates through a steward and a manager, his top military commander --- the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, His visible representative on earth.
Hence do we comprehend the Headship of the Papacy. Hence do we understand Pope Clement’s example of an army as the Body of Christ, His One & Only Catholic Church. Hence do we realize that earliest Christians most definitely taught the Supremacy of Peter’s Successor to oversee, superintend and inspect all real Christians --- Roman Catholics --- throughout the world.
+ + + + +
Part Two of Extra Eccelsiam Nulla Salus (Chapters 34-53)
Part Three of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus (Chapters 54-72)
+ + +
Pilate’s query met:
if you have come to this webpage directly from a search
engine or other website, then, when done viewing this webpage
--- and assuming you wish to view more of this website’s pages ---
please type the website’s address (as given above right before this
note) into the address bar at the top of your browser and hit the
‘enter’ button on the keyboard of your computer.
Please go here about use of the writings
on this website.
© 2008 by Paul Doughton.
All rights reserved.