Friday, November 12, 2010

Arraignment of the Later Papacy

Calvin claims that the Romanists must agree with this logical statement: "what is not a church cannot be the mother of churches; he who is not a bishop cannot be the prince of bishops." A church is recognized by these two marks - the preaching of the Word and right administration of the sacraments. Calvin details the tasks of the bishop: "The first task of the bishop's office is to teach people from God's Word. The second and next is to administer the sacraments. The third is to admonish and exhort, also to correct those who sin and to keep the people under holy discipline." The pontiffs no longer performed these tasks, therefore they were not fulfulling their duties for the office of bishop. If they were not acting like a bishop, the question becomes can someone who is not performing the duties of a bishop be the prince of bishops? And, can a church headed by a bishop who is not fulfilling his duties still be a church and the head of all churches?

A king is king whether or not he fulfills his responsibilities as king. The church is different than an earthly kingdom. Bishops are called by Christ to perform certain functions. When a bishop ceases performing his duties, then he should be rebuked and eventually deposed from his position. Calvin plainly states, "I deny that their pontiff is the chief of bishops, since he is no bishop." He states that the gospel of Christ is surpressed within the Roman church because if it were to become the focus of the church the pontiff and other high-ranking officials in the church would lose their power. As these greedy people gained power, the gospel was more and more neglected in the Roman church. "Of old, Rome was indeed the mother of all churches; but after it began to become the see of Antichrist, it ceased to be what it once was."

Calvin uses the term "Antichrist" to reference the pope a number of times. Some may be shocked by this accusation. Calvin takes some time to explain why he feels just in using this term. Much of his reasoning comes from II Thessalonians 2. It is there that we read that the Antichrist will sit in God's temple (v4). The Antichrist will "deprive God of his honor in order to take it upon himself." Calvin also uses imagery from Daniel and Revelation to show the pontiff for who he really was. He concludes, "Since, therefore, it is clear that the Roman pontiff has shamelessly transferred to himself what belonged to God alone and especially to Christ, we should have no doubt that he is the leader and standard-bearer of that impious and hateful kingdom."

He then attacks the idea that the primacy must be tied to a location. He looks back at church history through the records of Eusebius. The church that was in Jerusalem was moved to Pella by God. If this could happen once, it can surely happen again. Calvin does not hold back when he attacks the pope and the Roman see when he writes, "Therefore, so to bind the honor of primacy to a place, that he who is Christ's most hateful enemy, the supreme foe of the gospel, the greatest waster and scatterer of the church, the cruelest slaughterer and butcher of all the saints, should be considered nonetheless Christ's vicar, Peter's successor, the first bishop of the church, merely because he occupies the see which was once the first see of all - this, indeed, is utterly ridiculous and stupid." Calvin then makes a declaration that the papacy is "directly contrary to church order." It gives the illusion of order, but in effect it destroys the order within the church.

Popes and cardinals throughout the ages have often held heretical beliefs that are total opposite of what they state they believe. How Calvin knows of this, I do not know. The editor of this translation has a footnote which is a quote from a letter that Erasmus wrote. In it Erasmus confirms that he has directly heard some of these blasphamies in Rome. Erasmus was a 16th century theologian who debated against Martin Luther, especially over the topic of free will. Calvin writes about the faith of these popes and cardinals, "This is the first article of that secret theology which reigns among them: there is no God. The second: everything written and taught about Christ is falsehood and deceit. The third: the doctrines of a life to come and of a final resurrection are mere fables."

The Roman church teaches that the pope cannot err in his faith. Calvin points out an example of where a pope believed one thing, then under pressure took up an opposite stance. Pope John XXII believed that souls are mortal and that they die along with the body until the day of resurrection. The University of Paris leaned on the king of France to force John XXII to change. The king forbade his subjects to communicate with John XXII until he recanted. The pope then recanted. This claim by the Roman church is based on Luke 22:32 where Christ said to Peter, "I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail." Since this was said to Peter, the Romanists claim that it applies to all the popes. In his humorous way, Calvin contends, "For if they wish to apply to Peter's successors everything that was said to Peter, it will follow that they are all Satans, since the Lord also said this to Peter: 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me' [Matthew 16:23]."

To limit the church to a place is placing limits on God. Calvin writes, "To bind Christ, the Spirit, and the church to a place, so that whoever may rule there, even if he be a devil, is still considered the vicar of Christ and head of the church because it was once Peter's see - this, I say, is not only impious and insulting to Christ, but extremely absurd and alien to common sense! ...Therefore, they no more become vicars of Christ because of the see which they occupy than an idol, when it is set in God's temple, is to be taken for God." He then points out how morally corrupt the Roman church leaders have become, so much so that if the Roman church was once the head, it is now no longer worthy of being "among the smallest toes of the church's feet."

During Gregory's day, cardinals were nothing but bishops. In fact, at one time cardinals were less than bishops, however, over time they became more powerful than bishops. Deacons in the Roman church were once assistants to the bishops, but "now their lot is so changed that they have become the cousins of kings and emperors." Calvin's whole point in demonstrating these changes is that the Roman see as it was in his day is very different from the historical church.

Tomorrow's reading: 4.8.1-4.8.9

Friday, November 5, 2010

Increasing Papal Power and Its Opponents

In 607 AD, Boniface III became the pope. He died that same year. He made several significant contributions to the Roman church during his brief time. He forbid any popes from discussing their successors and he decreed that discussion of the next pope could not start until three days after the burial of the previous. But his most significant contribution was because of his relationship with emperor Phocas, he was able to have the emperor decree that the Roman see was the head of the entire church. This power grew over the next 100 years. Pepin and Pope Zacharias worked together in order to give the pope headship over all bishops.

The power of the Roman see continued to strengthen, and according to Calvin this was "partly due to the bishops' ignorance, partly to their sloth." Calvin states that this decay continued until the time of Bernard of Clairvaux who lived in the 12th century. He preached that the church was pastures of devils rather than sheep, full of ambitious men. "Few pay attention to the mouth of the lawgiver; all, to his hands. And not without reason! For those hands do all the pope's business." Bernard goes on to declare that the pope does evil things to prove that he has power, not righteousness.

Calvin begins looking at the more recent popes to his own era and how corrupted they have generally become. They claim for themselves that they are the universal bishop of the whole world, the supreme head of the church. Calvin writes, "But the pontiffs themselves, when they speak of their authority, with great arrogance declare that the power to command is in their hands while with others rests the necessity to obey; that all their pronouncements are to be so received as if confirmed by Peter's divine voice; that provincial synods, because they do not have the pope present, have no force; that they themselves have power to ordain clergy for any church whatsoever; and to summon to their see those ordained elsewhere." The arrogance of the popes is demonstrated in two quotes that Calvin used from Gratian. He wrote, "God willed that other men's bases be settled by men, but he has without question reserved the boshop of this see to his own judgment." Gratian also wrote, "The subjects' deeds are judged by us but ours by God alone."

Apparently, multiple popes used forged documents from previous bishops to support their claims of the power of the office of pope. Gratian manufactured documents which he attributed to Athanasius, but he was not the only one. There was such corruption in the church and these popes were desperately trying anything to extend and keep their power. Calvin writes, "But it was fitting that these Antichrists be carried to the point of madness and blindness, so that to all persons of sound mind who will only open their eyes the wickedness of these men should be obvious." He sites more examples from Gregory IX and more. Calvin notes the proposterous claims by the Roman church, "that the pope cannot err; that the pope is above councils; that the pope is the universal bishop of all churches and the supreme head of the church on earth."

Gregory and Cyprian both condemned statement which the later popes claimed. Cyprian wrote, "None of us says he is the bishop of bishops, or by tyrannical terror compels his colleagues to obey him." Also, "Let none be called the prince of priests or the first bishop." Gregory wrote, "Peter was the chief member in the body: John, Andrew, and James were heads of particular groups of people. Yet all members of the church are under one Head." The Head of the church is Christ alone.

Calvin states, "For it (the Roman church) is a hundred times more corrupt than it was in the times of Gregory and Bernard, though even then it greatly displeased those holy men." Gregory often spoke out about the Roman see in his day. Thinking it could not get much worse, he wrote about the troubles of the Roman church, "I have come into the depths of the sea." Calvin wonders if the administration at the time of Gregory was a "sea," then what was it like during Calvin's own day.

Tomorrow's reading: 4.7.23-4.7.30

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Roman See's Desire for Power

In about 359 AD, Constantinople became the capital of the Roman empire. This caused disruption in the church because the sees of Rome and Constantinople both wanted to be the head of the church. Leo I (5th century) was very interested in claiming power for himself. Calvin writes about him, "For that man was as immoderately fond of glory and dominion as he was learned and eloquent." He declared that if any conflicts arise within the church, they should come to him for a ruling. By doing this, Leo basically stated that he is the supreme authority within the church.

By contrast, the 6th century pope Gregory I (or Gregory the Great) did not bestow upon himself these high honors. The Roman empire had been torn apart after the death of Constantine. His sons each received parts of the empire. This caused confusion within the church as well, so everyone within the church looked to the Roman church for leadership. Calvin writes about the power of the Roman see at the time, "But the Roman see was held in such reverence that it could by its authority subdue and repress the wicked and obstinate who could not be kept within their duty by their own colleagues." Gregory was not proud and did not take advantage of his position. In fact, he made a point in stating that all are equal. He expected other bishops to hold him accountable when he erred. When Gregory did act as judge, he did so only after being directed by the emperor and not under his own volition.

Calvin writes, "This, then, was the entire power of the Roman bishop, to take a stand against obstinate and unrestrained prelates where there was need of some extraordinary remedy - and that to help, not to hinder, the other bishops. He therefore assumes no more power over others than he elsewhere yields to all over himself, when he admits that he is ready to be corrected by all, to be amended by all." Gregory became unhappy with his position. He felt that he was weighed down too much by administrative obligations and did not get to feed his flock as well as he wished. I am sure that there are many pastors today who get lost in the administrative duties of their roles and are unable to fulfill their calling to pastor their congregations.

After the capital moved to Constantinople, the bishops of Rome feared more and more that the primacy of the Roman see would be lost. There were false documents drafted in an effort to keep the primacy in place. Pope Innocent was afraid during his day that the primacy would move, therefore "he promulgated a contrary law in which he states that it is unnecessary for ecclesiastical metropolitan sees to be changed whenever imperial metropolitan cities are changed."

Pope Leo was quite upset with the move of the Roman capital. He protested any idea of the primacy of the church moving. After two councils, Leo still protested the decision that the bishop of Constantinople would be second behind the bishop of Rome. Calvin contends what it should have been the bishop of Constantinople who protested being second to Leo than the other way around.

Calvin addresses the title of "universal patriarch" or "universal pope." He uses the bishop of Constantinople, John the Faster, who was bishop during the time of Gregory the Great. John claimed that he was "the universal patriarch" and wanted people to respect this title. Gregory opposed John taking this title for himself. But, he also denied the similar title "universal pope" for himself. Eulogious, bishop of Alexandria had referred to Gregory by this title. Gregory responded by saying, "See here by calling me 'universal pope' in the preface to the letter you have sent me, you have taken care to inscribe a word of proud address that I have forbidden. I beg your holiness not to do this henceforth, because when more is given to another than reason requires, it is withdrawn from you. I consider it no honor to see the honor of my brethren diminished. For my honor is the honor of the church universal, and the life and vigor of my brethren. But if your holiness calls me 'universal pope,' that is to deny to yourself what you attribute wholly to me." Gregory saw this title not as much a title elevating him to a higher position, but as lessening those around him. He truly seemed to be content with his position and did not have aspirations to gain power over his colleagues.

Tomorrow's reading: 4.7.17-4.7.30

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

False Claims of Authority by the Roman See

The Roman see did not initially have any authority over the other churches throughout the world. However, they were able to gain power through help from the emperors and deceit and other means until they held the highest place of authority within the church. Calvin insists that ever since the beginning of the church, the Roman see has sought to gain control over all other churches. Calvin points to an early example of Rome's quest for dominance in the story of Athanasius. He was the chief opponent against Arius and his herecies. Athanasius appealed to Rome because the eastern churches were divided. Rome was all too happy to accept this appeal because it gave them the final decision like our Supreme Court. It became the seat of final appeal throughout the church which gave Rome authority over other churches.

Calvin lists four categories of church power. There are (1) the ordination of bishops, (2) the calling of councils, (3) the hearing of appeals or juristiction, and (4) motions of chastisement or censures. In the early church, only when a church that was under the Roman patriarch was required to have a Roman bishop ordain any new bishops. Over time, Roman bishops began attending all ordinations throughout Italy. Eventually this practice became perceived as Rome giving its blessing to the ordination, demonstrating Rome's authority over these other churches which were outside Rome's jurisdiction.

Early in the church's history, bishops were able to admonish or censure each other equally. Calvin points out that Irenaus rebuked Victor because he was causing a great disturbance in the church over an unimportant issue. This equality among bishops was important so that no one bishop or see could commit heresies with no consequence. Once this equality no longer existed, then the Roman see was accountable to no one.

Bishops in the early church whad the authority to call provincial synods, but only the emperor could call a universal council. For instance, it was Constantine who called the Council of Nicaea and not the bishop of Rome. If it had been the bishop of Rome who had called this early council, only the bishops in his province would have come and other bishops would have been very upset with this assumption of authority by Rome. Calvin states, "We do not deny that the bishop of Rome was one of the chief bishops, but we refuse to accept what the Romanists now contend - that he had dominion over all."

In the Roman see's quest to be over the entire church, there were examples where forged documents and epistles were used to prove their power. For instance at the Second Council of Milevis, documents were introduced which were supposedly from the Council of Nicaea but were really changed documents from the Synod of Sardica. There are other examples used by Calvin where the Roman pontiff tried to pass off false documents which "proved" his dominion over all the church.

Again, Calvin looks at another case which showed that the Roman pontiff did not originally have control over all the church. In this particular case, the bishop of Carthage had been accused and found guilty of some heresy. He appealed to Emperor Constantine. Constantine then had the bishop of Rome plus other bishops from Italy, Gaul, and Spain to hear the case. The man was again found guilty then he appealed to Constantine again. Constantine judged the case himself and overturned what the bishops had decided. This shows that the Roman see did not have all power over the entire church, but really the emperor held even higher authority. Calvin writes, "It is Constantine, who, they boast, devoted not only all his effort, but almost all the resources of his entire empire to enhancing the prestige of the Roman see. We therefore see how far the Roman pontiff then was from that supreme dominion which he declares to have been given him by Christ over all churches, and which he falsely asserts that he held in all ages by the consent of the whole world."

Tomorrow's reading: 4.7.11-4.7.18

Friday, October 29, 2010

Rejection of the Primacy and Titles for the Pope

It was not until 325 AD during the Council of Nicaea that there was any primacy assigned to the Roman see. Julius, the bishop of the Roman see, was not present at this council, but his representatives were given a fourth place rank at the council. Calvin then asks the question, "if Julius had been recognized as the head of the church, why were his delegates relegated to fourth place?" Even 124 years later at the Second Council of Ephesus, the patriarch of Alexandria was over the council, not the patriarch of Rome. This indicates to us that the patriarch of Rome did not hold first place over all other bishops.

At the Council of Chalcedon, the emperor allowed the representatives of Rome to have the highest seat. Leo had requested this position. His reasoning was that the bishops from the East had caused unnecessary conflict at the Council of Ephesus. After this council, the Roman representatives did not hold the top chair at the following councils.

The early church did not recognize the primacy of the bishop of Rome or the Roman see. Cyprian, who was the 3rd century bishop of Carthage, called Cornelius, the bishop of Rome, "brother," "fellow bishop," and "colleague." He gave no indication in his letters that Cornelius held any higher position than any other bishop. At the Council of Carthage, it was decided that no one should ever be called "prince of priests" or "first bishop." The bishop of Rome could be referred to as "bishop of the prime see." Jerome, the 4th-5th century translator of the Bible into Latin, spoke out against the idea of the authority of one bishop over all others.

The late 6th century Gregory the Great was opposed to the title "universal bishop" or "ecumenical bishop." He thought that this was profane, sacrilegious, and the precursor of Antichrist. He said, "The whole church falls from its condition if anyone who is called 'universal' falls." Gregory was highly critical of anyone wishing to gain this or any similar title. He wrote, "No one ever wished to be called by such a name; no one seized upon this presumptuous title lest, by snatching to himself in the pontifical rank the glory of uniqueness, he should seem to deny it to all his brethren."

Tomorrow's reading: 4.7.5-4.7.10

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Peter in Rome

The Romanists have always defended their position that Peter was bishop of Rome for many years. Eusebius wrote in his history that Peter was over the Roman church for 25 years. Gregory on the other hand said seven years. Based on other facts, Calvin thinks it was a very short time that Peter was in Rome. We know that the time between Jesus' death and the end of Nero's reign was about 37 years. Peter was killed while Nero was still in power. We also know that Peter was in Jerusalem for 20 years after Jesus' death. We also know that he went to Antioch for a period of time. That leaves little time for him to be in Rome, certainly not 25 years. Calvin also notes that Paul is silent about Peter being in Rome even though he names other Christians who are there in his epistle to the Romans. Why would he ignore the bishop of Rome, especially if it were Peter?

Paul went to rome as a prisoner. Luke records in Acts that he was received by the believers in Rome, but again there is no mention of Peter. From Rome Paul wrote to other churches, and even though he sent greetings from the believers in Rome, no mention of Peter being one of them. The Romanists also argue that there is a direct succession from Peter, even though there is not agreement on who the next is. Some say it was Clement and others claim that it was Linus. Calvin writes, "I do not quarrel with the notion that he (Peter) died there, but I cannot be persuaded that he was a bishop, especially for a long time." Calvin does mention here that Paul's ministry is somewhat more significant to us since he was sent to the Gentiles while Peter was sent to the Jews. There is no real evidence in Scripture that Peter was ever the bishop of the Roman church.

The Romanists claim that there must be one head of the church in order to maintain unity. We believe that this head is Christ alone and not a mortal man. Calvin observes three reasons why particular honor was given to the church in Rome. The first is because some maintain that Peter started the church there. The second is because it was a very modern city of the time where many educated people lived. These early believers would have been skilled in doctrine an other disciplines more than anywhere else. Finally, other churches had dissension among themselves, but Rome remained clamer and whole. These other churches would then appeal to Rome with their disputes.

Scripture teaches that the church should be unified, however no supreme church or universal bishop is ever mentioned. Cyprian wrote on the subject of the universal church, "The episcopate is one, a 'whole' of which a part is held by each bishop. And the church is one, which is spread abroad dar and wide into a multitude by an increase of fruitfulness. As there are many rays of the sun, but one light; and many branches of a tree, but one strong trunk grounded in its tenacious root; and since from one spring flow many streams, although a goodly number seem outpoured from their bounty and superabundance, still at the source unity abides undivided... So also the church, bathed in the light of the Lord, extends its rays over the whole earth: yet there is one light diffused everywhere. Nor is the unity of the body severed; it spreads its branches through the whole earth; it pours forth its overflowing streams; yet there is one head and one source." This one source is Christ alone, not any bishop (even Peter).

Tomorrow's reading: 4.7.1-4.7.6

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Arguements Against the Primacy of Peter and Rome

Peter was given special rank above the other disciples. Even though Calvin does not mention it, there is some thought that he may of been older and that is why he was given this position. Just because Peter was put in this position among the apostles it does not make this position universal and for all perpetuity according to Calvin. He was chief among the disciples, but there were only a few of them. And this position did not give him power over the other disciples. Calvin compares his position to that of a consul in a senate or the chairman of a committee (which all presbyterians can relate). He writes, "in any assembly, even though all are equal in power, one should be the moderator, as it were, to whom the others look." The papists claim that hierarchical examples stem from nature as an example for the church. They point to cranes and bees who have leaders. Calvin argues that this is nonsense and not applicable to the church. Anyway, bees and cranes to not elect the heads of their groups like the church does. The papists also point to examples from literature, such as works by Homer. Once again, it makes no sense to pattern the church after literature instead of God's Word!

Christ alone is the sole head of the church. There is no other head according to Scripture. Ephesians 4:15-16 reads, "but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." He is the head and the church is the body. The romanists consider this a non-issue because they claim that the pope is Christ's vicegerent on earth. Calvin responds to this by writing, "...since Scripture attests that Christ is Head and claims this honor for him alone, it ought not to be transferred to anyone else except whom Christ himself has appointed his own vicar." Supporting passages include Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Colossians 1:18 and 2:10.

Scripture does not mention anywhere that after Christ there should be a human monarch over the church. Calvin writes, "By his ascension Christ took away from us his visible presence; yet he ascended to fill all things. Now, therefore, the church still has, and always will have, him present... The Lord (he [Paul] says) is in us all, according to the measure of grace which he has bestowed upon each member." We recently discussed Ephesians 4:11 where Paul writes that some are appointed as apostles, teachers, evangelists, etc. No where does Paul state that anyone is appointed by Christ to be supreme pontiff.

The idea of the supremacy of a location is counter to the teachings of Scripture. For Christ was in Jerusalem, and He did not claim power for that city. He writes, " this reasoning the Israelites of old ought to have established the primate's see in the desert, where Moses the supreme teacher and prince of prophets, had carried out his ministry and died." Tying the head of the church to a particular location is not Scriptural nor is it logical.

If the location does matter, then why isn't the head city Antioch instead of Rome? Peter was the leader of the church in Antioch before moving to Rome. Therefore, according to their own logic, the papists should have Antioch as their capital. Calvin brings up three legal arguments against transferring power to Rome from Antioch. First, if this power is personal, then it belongs to the person (Peter) and not to the place (Rome). Secondly, if it is real, then it cannot be removed by the departure of a person. If it is mixed, "then it will not be a simple consideration of place unless the person corresponds." It is apparent then that Rome cannot claim primacy for itself.

There is not logic in their ranking of other cities. Calvin claims that it would make the most logical sense if Rome is the capital city of the church, then Antioch should at least be in second place, but it does not. Peter may have held first place among the apostles, but James and John were up there with him. Since they were the leaders of the churches in Jerusalem and Ephesus, why are they not considered second and third? Calvin tells us that among the churches established by the patriarchs, Jerusalem holds last place. Alexandria, founded by Mark (who was a disciple and not an apostle), is second in the Roman church, and holds a higher rank than the other "apostolic" sees.

Tomorrow's reading: 4.6.14-4.6.17
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