Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Hauled Aboard the Ark – Conversion Story of Peter Kreeft
Coming Home ^ | October 31, 2011 | Dr. Peter Kreeft

Posted on 06/06/2013 3:50:50 PM PDT by NYer

Peter KreeftHauled Aboard the Ark

by Peter Kreeft

I was born into a loving, believing community, a Protestant “mother church” (the Reformed Church) which, though it had not for me the fullness of the faith, had strong and genuine piety. I believed, mainly because of the good example of my parents and my church. The faith of my parents, Sunday School teachers, ministers, and relatives made a real difference to their lives, a difference big enough to compensate for many shortcomings. “Love covers a multitude of sins.”

I was taught what C. S. Lewis calls “mere Christianity,” essentially the Bible. But no one reads the Bible as an extraterrestrial or an angel; our church community provides the colored glasses through which we read, and the framework, or horizon, or limits within which we understand. My “glasses” were of Dutch Reformed Calvinist construction, and my limiting framework stopped very far short of anything “Catholic!” The Catholic Church was regarded with utmost suspicion. In the world of the forties and fifties in which I grew up, that suspicion may have been equally reciprocated by most Catholics. Each group believed that most of the other groups were probably on the road to hell. Christian ecumenism and understanding has made astonishing strides since then.

Dutch Calvinists, like most conservative Protestants, sincerely believed that Catholic-ism was not only heresy but idolatry; that Catholics worshipped the Church, the Pope, Mary, saints, images, and who knows what else; that the Church had added some inane “traditions of men” to the Word of God, traditions and doctrines that obviously contradicted it (how could they not see this? I wondered); and, most important of all, that Catholics believed “another gospel;” another religion, that they didn’t even know how to get to Heaven: they tried to pile up brownie points with God with their good works, trying to work their way in instead of trusting in Jesus as their Savior. They never read the Bible, obviously.

I was never taught to hate Catholics, but to pity them and to fear their errors. I learned a serious concern for truth that to this day I find sadly missing in many Catholic circles. The typical Calvinist anti-Catholic attitude I knew was not so much prejudice, judgment with no concern for evidence, but judgment based on apparent and false evidence: sincere mistakes rather than dishonest rationalizations.

Though I thought it pagan rather than Christian, the richness and mystery of Catholicism fascinated me—the dimensions which avant-garde liturgists have been dismantling since the Silly Sixties. (When God saw that the Church in America lacked persecutions, he sent them liturgists.)

The first independent idea about religion I ever remember thinking was a question I asked my father, an elder in the church, a good and wise and holy man. I was amazed that he couldn’t answer it. “Why do we Calvinists have the whole truth and no one else? We’re so few. How could God leave the rest of the world in error? Especially the rest of the Christian churches?” Since no good answer seemed forthcoming, I then came to the explosive conclusion that the truth about God was more mysterious—more wonderfully and uncomfortably mysterious—than anything any of us could ever fully comprehend. (Calvinists would not deny that, but they do not usually teach it either. They are strong on God’s “sovereignty,” but weak on the richness of God’s mystery.) That conviction, that the truth is always infinitely more than anyone can have, has not diminished. Not even all the infallible creeds are a container for all that is God.

I also realized at a very young age, obscurely but strongly, that the truth about God had to be far simpler than I had been taught, as well as far more complex and mysterious. I remember surprising my father with this realization (which was certainly because of God’s grace rather than my intelligence, for I was only about eight, I think): “Dad, everything we learn in church and everything in the Bible comes down to just one thing, doesn’t it? There’s only one thing we have to worry about, isn’t there?” “Why, no, I don’t see that. There are many things. What do you mean?” “I mean that all God wants us to do—all the time—is to ask Him what He wants us to do, and then do it. That covers everything, doesn’t it? Instead of asking ourselves, ask God!” Surprised, my father replied, “You know, you’re right!”

After eight years of public elementary school, my parents offered me a choice between two high schools: public or Christian (Calvinist), and I chose the latter, even though it meant leaving old friends. Eastern Christian High School was run by a sister denomination, the Christian Reformed Church. Asking myself now why I made that choice, I cannot say. Providence often works in obscurity. I was not a remarkably religious kid, and loved the New York Giants baseball team with considerable more passion and less guilt than I loved God.

I won an essay contest in high school with a meditation on Dostoyevski’s story “The Grand Inquisitor;” interpreted as an anti-Catholic, anti-authoritarian cautionary tale. The Church, like Communism, seemed a great, dark, totalitarian threat.

I then went to Calvin College, the Christian Reformed college which has such a great influence for its small size and provincial locale (Grand Rapids, Michigan) because it takes both its faith and its scholarship very seriously. I registered as a pre-seminary student because, though I did not think I was personally “called” by God to be a clergyman, I thought I might “give it a try.” I was deeply impressed by the caption under a picture of Christ on the cross: “This is what I did for thee. What will you do for Me?”

But in college I quickly fell in love with English, and then Philosophy, and thus twice changed my major. Both subjects were widening my appreciation of the history of Western civilization and therefore of things Catholic. The first serious doubt about my anti-Catholic beliefs was planted in my mind by my roommate, who was becoming an Anglican: “Why don’t Protestants pray to saints? There’s nothing wrong in you asking me to pray for you, is there? Why not ask the dead, then, if we believe they’re alive with God in Heaven, part of the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ that surrounds us (Hebrews 12)?” It was the first serious question I had absolutely no answer to, and that bothered me. I attended Anglican liturgy with my roommate and was enthralled by the same things that captivated Tom Howard and many others: not just the aesthetic beauty but the full-ness, the solidity, the moreness of it all.

I remember a church service I went to while at Calvin, in the Wealthy Street Baptist Temple (fundamentalist). I had never heard such faith and conviction, such joy in the music, such love of Jesus. I needed to focus my aroused love of God on an object. But God is invisible, and we are not angels. There was no religious object in the church. It was a bare, Protestant church; images were “idols.” I suddenly understood why Protestants were so subjectivistic: their love of God had no visible object to focus it. The living water welling up from within had no material riverbed, no shores, to direct its flow to the far divine sea. It rushed back upon itself and became a pool of froth.

Then I caught sight of a Catholic spy in the Protestant camp: a gold cross atop the pole of the church flag. Adoring Christ required using that symbol. The alternative was the froth. My gratitude to the Catholic Church for this one relic, this remnant, of her riches, was immense. For this good Protestant water to flow, there had to be Catholic aqueducts. To change the metaphor, I had been told that reliance on external things was a “crutch!” I now realized that I was a cripple. And I thanked the Catholic “hospital” (that’s what the Church is) for responding to my needs.

Perhaps, I thought, these good Protestant people could worship like angels, but I could not. Then I realized that they couldn’t either. Their ears were using crutches but not their eyes. They used beautiful hymns, for which I would gladly exchange the new, flat, unmusical, wimpy “liturgical responses” no one sings in our masses—their audible imagery is their crutch. I think that in Heaven, Protestants will teach Catholics to sing and Catholics will teach Protestants to dance and sculpt.

I developed a strong intellectual and aesthetic love for things medieval: Gregorian chant, Gothic architecture, Thomistic philosophy, illuminated manuscripts, etc. I felt vaguely guilty about it, for that was the Catholic era. I thought I could separate these legitimate cultural forms from the “dangerous” Catholic essence, as the modern Church separated the essence from these discarded forms. Yet I saw a natural connection.

Then one summer, on the beach at Ocean Grove, New Jersey, I read St. John of the Cross. I did not understand much of it, but I knew, with undeniable certainty, that here was reality, something as massive and positive as a mountain range. I felt as if I had just come out of a small, comfortable cave, in which I had lived all my life, and found that there was an unsuspected world outside of incredible dimensions. Above all, the dimensions were those of holiness, goodness, purity of heart, obedience to the first and greatest commandment, willing God’s will, the one absolute I had discovered, at the age of eight. I was very far from saintly, but that did not prevent me from fascinated admiration from afar; the valley dweller appreciates the height of the mountain more than the dweller on the foothills. I read other Catholic saints and mystics, and discovered the same reality there, however different the style (even St. Thérèse “The Little Flower”!) I felt sure it was the same reality I had learned to love from my parents and teachers, only a far deeper version of it. It did not seem alien and other. It was not another religion but the adult version of my own.

Then in a church history class at Calvin a professor gave me a way to investigate the claims of the Catholic Church on my own. The essential claim is historical: that Christ founded the Catholic Church, that there is historical continuity. If that were true, I would have to be a Catholic out of obedience to my one absolute, the will of my Lord. The teacher explained the Protestant belief. He said that Catholics accuse we who are Protestants of going back only to Luther and Calvin; but this is not true; we go back to Christ. Christ had never intended a Catholic-style Church, but a Protestant-style one. The Catholic additions to the simple, Protestant-style New Testament church had grown up gradually in the Middle Ages like barnacles on the hull of a ship, and the Protestant Reformers had merely scraped off the barnacles, the alien, pagan accretions. The Catholics, on the other hand, believed that Christ established the Church Catholic from the start, and that the doctrines and practices that Protestants saw as barnacles were, in fact, the very living and inseparable parts of the planks and beams of the ship.

I thought this made the Catholic claim empirically testable, and I wanted to test it because I was worried by this time about my dangerous interest in things Catholic. Half of me wanted to discover it was the true Church (that was the more adventurous half); the other half wanted to prove it false (that was the comfortable half). My adventurous half rejoiced when I discovered in the early Church such Catholic elements as the centrality of the Eucharist, the Real Presence, prayers to saints, devotion to Mary, an insistence on visible unity, and apostolic succession. Furthermore, the Church Fathers just “smelled” more Catholic than Protestant, especially St. Augustine, my personal favorite and a hero to most Protestants too. It seemed very obvious that if Augustine or Jerome or Ignatius of Antioch or Anthony of the Desert, or Justin Martyr, or Clement of Alexandria, or Athanasius were alive today they would be Catholics, not Protestants.

The issue of the Church’s historical roots was crucial to me, for the thing I had found in the Catholic Church and in no Protestant church was simply this: the massive historical fact that there she is, majestic and unsinkable. It was the same old seaworthy ship, the Noah’s ark that Jesus had commissioned. It was like discovering not an accurate picture of the ark, or even a real relic of its wood, but the whole ark itself, still sailing unscathed on the seas of history! It was like a fairy tale come true, like a “myth become fact;” to use C. S. Lewis’ formula for the Incarnation.

The parallel between Christ and Church, Incarnation and Church history, goes still further. I thought, just as Jesus made a claim about His identity that forces us into one of only two camps, His enemies or His worshippers, those who call Him liar and those who call Him Lord; so the Catholic Church’s claim to be the one true Church, the Church Christ founded, forces us to say either that this is the most arrogant, blasphemous and wicked claim imaginable, if it is not true, or else that she is just what she claims to be. Just as Jesus stood out as the absolute exception to all other human teachers in claiming to be more than human and more than a teacher, so the Catholic Church stood out above all other denominations in claiming to be not merely a denomination, but the Body of Christ incarnate, infallible, one, and holy, presenting the really present Christ in her Eucharist. I could never rest in a comfortable, respectable ecumenical halfway house of measured admiration from a distance. I had to shout either “Crucify her!” or “Hosanna!” if I could not love and believe her, honesty forced me to despise and fight her.

But I could not despise her. The beauty and sanctity and wisdom of her, like that of Christ, prevented me from calling her liar or lunatic, just as it prevented me from calling Christ that. But simple logic offered then one and only one other option: this must be the Church my Lord provided for me—my Lord, for me. So she had better become my Church if He is my Lord.

There were many strands in the rope that hauled me aboard the ark, though this one—the Church’s claim to be the one Church historically founded by Christ—was the central and deciding one. The book that more than any other decided it for me was Ronald Knox’s The Belief of Catholics. He and Chesterton “spoke with authority, and not as the scribes!” Even C. S. Lewis, the darling of Protestant Evangelicals, “smelled” Catholic most of the time. A recent book by a Calvinist author I went to high school with, John Beversluis, mercilessly tries to tear all Lewis’ arguments to shreds; but Lewis is left without a scratch and Beversluis comes out looking like an atheist. Lewis is the only author I ever have read whom I thought I could completely trust and completely understand. But he believed in Purgatory, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, and not Total Depravity. He was no Calvinist. In fact, he was a medieval.

William Harry Jellema, the greatest teacher I ever knew, though a Calvinist, showed me what I can only call the Catholic vision of the history of philosophy, embracing the Greek and medieval tradition and the view of reason it assumed, a thick rather than a thin one. Technically this was “realism” (Aquinas) as vs. “nominalism” (Ockham and Luther). Commonsensically, it meant wisdom rather than mere logical consistency, insight rather than mere calculation. I saw Protestant theology as infected with shallow nominalism and Descartes’ narrow scientificization of reason.

A second and related difference is that Catholics, like their Greek and medieval teachers, still believed that reason was essentially reliable, not utterly untrustworthy because fallen. We make mistakes in using it, yes. There are “noetic effects of sin,” yes. But the instrument is reliable. Only our misuse of it is not.

This is connected with a third difference. For Catholics, reason is not just subjective but objective; reason is not our artificial little man-made rules for our own subjective thought processes or intersubjective communications, but a window on the world. And not just the material world, but form, order, objective truth. Reason was from God. All truth was God’s truth. When Plato or Socrates knew the truth, the logos, they knew Christ, unless John lies in chapter 1 of his gospel. I gave a chapel speech at Calvin calling Socrates a “common-grace Christian” and unwittingly scandalized the powers that be. They still remember it, 30 years later.

The only person who almost kept me Protestant was Kierkegaard. Not Calvin or Luther. Their denial of free will made human choice a sham game of predestined dice. Kierkegaard offered a brilliant, consistent alternative to Catholicism, but such a quirkily individualistic one, such a pessimistic and antirational one, that he was incompletely human. He could hold a candle to Augustine and Aquinas, I thought—the only Protestant thinker I ever found who could—but he was only the rebel in the ark, while they were the family, Noah’s sons.

But if Catholic dogma contradicted Scripture or itself at any point, I could not believe it. I explored all the cases of claimed contradiction and found each to he a Protestant misunderstanding. No matter how morally bad the Church had gotten in the Renaissance, it never taught heresy. I was impressed with its very hypocrisy: even when it didn’t raise its practice to its preaching, it never lowered its preaching to its practice. Hypocrisy, someone said, is the tribute vice pays to virtue.

I was impressed by the argument that “the Church wrote the Bible:” Christianity was preached by the Church before the New Testament was written—that is simply a historical fact. It is also a fact that the apostles wrote the New Testament and the Church canonized it, deciding which books were divinely inspired. I knew, from logic and common sense, that a cause can never be less than its effect. You can’t give what you don’t have. If the Church has no divine inspiration and no infallibility, no divine authority, then neither can the New Testament. Protestantism logically entails Modernism. I had to be either a Catholic or a Modernist. That decided it; that was like saying I had to be either a patriot or a traitor.

One afternoon I knelt alone in my room and prayed God would decide for me, for I am good at thinking but bad at acting, like Hamlet. Unexpectedly, I seemed to sense my heroes Augustine and Aquinas and thousands of other saints and sages calling out to me from the great ark, “Come aboard! We are really here. We still live. Join us. Here is the Body of Christ.” I said Yes. My intellect and feelings had long been conquered; the will is the last to surrender.

One crucial issue remained to be resolved: Justification by Faith, the central bone of contention of the Reformation. Luther was obviously right here: the doctrine is dearly taught in Romans and Galatians. If the Catholic Church teaches “another gospel” of salvation by works, then it teaches fundamental heresy. I found here however another case of misunderstanding. I read Aquinas’ Summa on grace, and the decrees of the Council of Trent, and found them just as strong on grace as Luther or Calvin. I was overjoyed to find that the Catholic Church had read the Bible too! At Heaven’s gate our entrance ticket, according to Scripture and Church dogma, is not our good works or our sincerity, but our faith, which glues us to Jesus. He saves us; we do not save ourselves. But I find, incredibly, that 9 out of 10 Catholics do not know this, the absolutely central, core, essential dogma of Christianity. Protestants are right: most Catholics do in fact believe a whole other religion. Well over 90% of students I have polled who have had 12 years of catechism classes, even Catholic high schools, say they expect to go to Heaven because they tried, or did their best, or had compassionate feelings to everyone, or were sincere. They hardly ever mention Jesus. Asked why they hope to be saved, they mention almost anything except the Savior. Who taught them? Who wrote their textbooks? These teachers have stolen from our precious children the most valuable thing in the world, the “pearl of great price;’ their faith. Jesus had some rather terrifying warnings about such things something about millstones.

Catholicism taught that we are saved by faith, by grace, by Christ, however few Catholics understood this. And Protestants taught that true faith necessarily produces good works. The fundamental issue of the Reformation is an argument between the roots and the blossoms on the same flower.

But though Luther did not neglect good works, he connected them to faith by only a thin and unreliable thread: human gratitude. In response to God’s great gift of salvation, which we accept by faith, we do good works out of gratitude, he taught. But gratitude is only a feeling, and dependent on the self. The Catholic connection between faith and works is a far stronger and more reliable one. I found it in C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, the best introduction to Christianity I have ever read. It is the ontological reality of we, supernatural life, sanctifying grace, God’s own life in the soul, which is received by faith and then itself produces good works. God comes in one end and out the other: the very same thing that comes in by faith (the life of God) goes out as works, through our free cooperation.

I was also dissatisfied with Luther’s teaching that justification was a legal fiction on God’s part rather than a real event in us; that God looks on the Christian in Christ, sees only Christ’s righteousness, and legally counts or imputes Christ’s righteousness as ours. I thought it had to be as Catholicism says, that God actually imparts Christ to us, in baptism and through faith (these two are usually together in the New Testament). Here I found the fundamentalists, especially the Baptists, more philosophically sound than the Calvinists and Lutherans. For me, their language, however sloganish and satirizable, is more accurate when they speak of “Receiving Christ as your personal Savior.”

Though my doubts were all resolved and the choice was made in 1959, my senior year at Calvin, actual membership came a year later, at Yale. My parents were horrified, and only gradually came to realize I had not lost my head or my soul, that Catholics were Christians, not pagans. It was very difficult, for I am a shy and soft-hearted sort, and almost nothing is worse for me than to hurt people I love. I think that I hurt almost as much as they did. But God marvelously binds up wounds.

I have been happy as a Catholic for many years now. The honeymoon faded, of course, but the marriage has deepened. Like all converts I ever have heard of, I was hauled aboard not by those Catholics who try to “sell” the church by conforming it to the spirit of the times by saying Catholics are just like everyone else, but by those who joyfully held out the ancient and orthodox faith in all its fullness and prophetic challenge to the world. The minimalists, who reduce miracles to myths, dogmas to opinions, laws to values, and the Body of Christ to a psycho-social club, have always elicited wrath, pity, or boredom from me. So has political partisanship masquerading as religion. I am happy as a child to follow Christ’s vicar on earth everywhere he leads. What he loves, I love; what he leaves, I leave; where he leads, I follow. For the Lord we both adore said to Peter his predecessor, “Who hears you, hears Me.” That is why I am a Catholic: because I am a Christian.

Source: “Hauled Aboard the Ark – The Spiritual Journey of Peter Kreeft” excerpt from The Spiritual Journeys published by the Daughters of St. Paul. Used with permission of the author.

TOPICS: Catholic; Ecumenism; Theology
KEYWORDS: bornagain; christianconversion; christianity; convert; kreeft; peterkreeft
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-4041-6061-66 next last
Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and at the King’s College (Empire State Building), in New York City. He is a regular contributor to several Christian publications, is in wide demand as a speaker at conferences, and is the author of over 63 books including: Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Christianity for Modern Pagans and Fundamentals of the Faith.
1 posted on 06/06/2013 3:50:50 PM PDT by NYer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; SumProVita; ...


2 posted on 06/06/2013 3:51:11 PM PDT by NYer ( "Run from places of sin as from the plague."--St John Climacus)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer

Thanks for posting.

Some of my own thoughts:

When I am standing at that judgment throne, will the God of the universe know me or not? Jesus said that it didn’t depend on what I preach/teach/prophecy or what miracles I have performed — it depends whether He knows me — not whether I know Him. Humbling to the core.

On that judgment day, perhaps instead of blowing our own horns about our own spiritual accomplishments in front of God, perhaps if we threw ourselves on his mercy at even that last moment, He would have mercy on us, as He did with the thief on the cross.

3 posted on 06/06/2013 4:35:07 PM PDT by Kay
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer

Thanks for posting this fabulous essay.

Too bad he isn’t the President of Boston College.

4 posted on 06/06/2013 4:50:18 PM PDT by victim soul
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: NYer

Very interesting article! I quite enjoyed it!

5 posted on 06/06/2013 5:00:58 PM PDT by Shery (in APO Land)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer

“What do you mean?” “I mean that all God wants us to do—all the time—is to ask Him what He wants us to do, and then do it. That covers everything, doesn’t it? Instead of asking ourselves, ask God!” Surprised, my father replied, “You know, you’re right!””

Of course this is what Christians believe. We just deny the Pelagian and semi-Pelagian view that man is working for his own salvation. We pray, like Augustine, saying “Grant what Thou commandest, and command what Thou dost desire.” In other words, we believe the scripture that it is God who “works in us both to will and to do” of His good pleasure.

As a result of this, we deny the vanity of man which thinks that he can add one jot or tittle to the work of God on our souls. We affirm, with Paul, that salvation comes not by him that runneth or him that willeth, but of God who sheweth mercy; that salvation is the free gift of God on an undeserving sinner, and that our righteousness is not earned, but is imputed by faith in Jesus Christ. That’s all. There’s nothing nefarious about this. Evidently the author wasn’t content with the idea that he is unable to earn his way to heaven.

6 posted on 06/06/2013 5:23:49 PM PDT by Greetings_Puny_Humans
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Kreeft lays out concisely his route to Christ’s true church, based in the three-legged stool of scripture, the magisterium, and Sacred Tradition, 2000 years and counting.

7 posted on 06/06/2013 6:05:48 PM PDT by raygunfan
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: raygunfan

Does the RCC have a 2,000 year tradition that there is a Pope in Rome who is head over the entire church? Even in the days when the alleged supremacy of Peter came into vogue, not even the Bishop in Rome believed he was the only man who was the successor of Peter.

According to the Catechism, the Roman Bishop is:

882 ... the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.”402 “For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.”403

883 “The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head.” As such, this college has “supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff.”404

It was this same idea of “General Father” or a ‘Universal Bishop” that Gregory condemned in the then Bishop of Constantinople who had taken the title Universal Bishop:

“What then, dearest brother, will you say in that terrible scrutiny of the coming judgment, if you covet to be called in the world not only father, but even general father? Let, then, the bad suggestion of evil men be guarded against; let all instigation to offense be fled from. It must needs be (indeed) that offenses come; nevertheless, woe to that man by whom the offense comes Matthew 18:7. Lo, by reason of this execrable title of pride the Church is rent asunder, the hearts of all the brethren are provoked to offense. What! Has it escaped your memory how the Truth says, Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a mill stone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea (Ib. 5:6)? But it is written, Charity seeks not her own 1 Corinthians 13:4. Lo, your Fraternity arrogates to itself even what is not its own. Again it is written, In honour preferring one another Romans 12:10. And you attempt to take the honour away from all which you desire unlawfully to usurp to yourself singularly. Where, dearest brother, is that which is written, Have peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord Hebrews 12:14? Where is that which is written, Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God Matthew 5:9?”

Some Catholics can read this letter and say that Gregory only condemned the title, but not the power they claim he still possessed. However, there are other instances where Gregory could have embraced his power as “universal” Bishop of the entire church. While at this time the idea of the “Primacy of Peter” was in vogue, yet this same primacy was not translated to a supremacy over the entire church. And, in fact, there wasn’t just one person who held the “throne” of Peter; according to Gregory, it was held by one Apostolic see ruled by divine authority by THREE separate Bishops, which is that of Antioch, Alexandria and Rome. Here is the letter in full, but first I am going to quote the RCC abuse of it:

The link to the whole letter first

Now here are the Roman quotations of this letter, wherein they assert that Gregory is a champion of the Primacy of Rome. Take special note of the clever use of ellipses:

Pope Gregory I

“Your most sweet holiness, [Bishop Eulogius of Alexandria], has spoken much in your letter to me about the chair of Saint Peter, prince of the apostles, saying that he himself now sits on it in the persons of his successors. And indeed I acknowledge myself to be unworthy . . . I gladly accepted all that has been said, in that he has spoken to me about Peter’s chair, who occupies Peter’s chair. And, though special honor to myself in no wise delights me . . . who can be ignorant that holy Church has been made firm in the solidity of the prince of the apostles, who derived his name from the firmness of his mind, so as to be called Peter from petra. And to him it is said by the voice of the Truth, ‘To you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven’ [Matt. 16:19]. And again it is said to him, ‘And when you are converted, strengthen your brethren’ [Luke 22:32]. And once more, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me? Feed my sheep’ [John 21:17]” (Letters 40 [A.D. 597]).

“Who does not know that the holy Church is founded on the solidity of the Chief Apostle, whose name expressed his firmness, being called Peter from Petra (Rock)?...Though there were many Apostles, only the See of the Prince of the Apostles...received supreme authority in virtue of its very principate.” (Letter to the Patriarch Eulogius of Alexandria, Ep. 7)

I provide their versions of the quotations only to highlight for you the parts they omit. And, really, there is no reason for them to omit them. The lines they remove are small sentences, and then they continue quoting right after they finish. It’s quite an embarrassing display!

In this letter, Gregory is specifically attributing to the Bishops of Alexandra and Antioch the “Chair of Peter” and its authority that they bestowed upon him. In the first quotation, the Romans omit the sentence which says: “And, though special honour to myself in no wise delights me, [they omit here] yet I greatly rejoiced because you, most holy ones, have given to yourselves what you have bestowed upon me. [They rebegin here]” After telling them about the “special honor” that is respectively given to both parties, Gregory immediately goes into a discussion on what that special honor is... which is the authority of Peter they all enjoy:

“Wherefore though there are many apostles, yet with regard to the principality itself the See of the Prince of the apostles alone has grown strong in authority, which in three places is the See of one. For he himself exalted the See in which he deigned even to rest and end the present life. He himself adorned the See to which he sent his disciple as evangelist. He himself established the See in which, though he was to leave it, he sat for seven years. Since then it is the See of one, and one See, over which by Divine authority three bishops now preside, whatever good I hear of you, this I impute to myself. If you believe anything good of me, impute this to your merits, since we are one in Him Who says, That they all may be one, as You, Father, art in me, and I in you that they also may be one in us John 17:21.”

Notice how different this reads when one does not omit what the Romans omit! Gregory declares that the See of Peter is one see... but in THREE places, over which THREE Bishops preside, which is Rome, Antioch and Alexandria, the latter of which he was now writing to.

So while the Romans insist that the Primacy of Peter refers to the Bishop of Rome, Gregory applies the Primacy of Peter to ALL the major Bishops of the See. They are, in effect, ALL the Church of Peter, and possess his chair and authority.

And Gregory, of course, isn’t alone in this. Theodoret references the same belief when he places the “throne of Peter” under the Bishop of Antioch:

“Dioscorus, however, refuses to abide by these decisions; he is turning the See of the blessed Mark upside down; and these things he does though he perfectly well knows that the Antiochene (of Antioch) metropolis possesses the throne of the great Peter, who was teacher of the blessed Mark, and first and coryphæus (head of the choir) of the chorus of the apostles.” Theodoret - Letter LXXXVI - To Flavianus, Bishop of Constantinople.

So while you may have particular people saying that the Roman Bishop has authority, or has the chair of Peter, yet these same accolades are given to multiple Bishops, all said to have the “throne” or authority of “Peter.” Furthermore, this authority, at best, consisted only as a place of honor, and not one that the various Christian churches across the world took as the “final say” on matters of doctrine or canonicity (just ask the Eastern Orthodox, the other guys who claim to be THE Holy and Apostolic Church of God on Earth).

Thus, the RCC is built upon various fictions and assumptions; superficial edifices which collapse with the least bit of inspection. This is what happens when you embrace unverifiable traditions by men, instead of the verifiable scripture handed down by the Apostles directly.

8 posted on 06/06/2013 6:22:42 PM PDT by Greetings_Puny_Humans
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: raygunfan

Right you are. Some people are very misled.

9 posted on 06/06/2013 6:35:41 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Greetings_Puny_Humans

Not you again, your cut and paste elephant-hurling posts from anti-catholic sites, oh goody, sorry, i will stick with history.....mind you, not your personal opinion revisionist anti-catholic history, but actual history.

Thanx for ‘your’ input though.

10 posted on 06/06/2013 6:36:57 PM PDT by raygunfan
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: raygunfan

“Not you again, your cut and paste elephant-hurling posts from anti-catholic sites,”

I am my own anti-Catholic website! A sad thing the revisionists of the RCC can’t defend their own theology and alleged history when under examination.

11 posted on 06/06/2013 6:38:59 PM PDT by Greetings_Puny_Humans
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: Greetings_Puny_Humans

Under ‘examination’ from your revisionist point of view, where you can make history say anything you want, just like sola scriptura, make it say ANY ‘CHRISTIAN’ belief that only you can verify.......sorry, no need to defend strawmen arguments refuted time and time again

12 posted on 06/06/2013 6:43:15 PM PDT by raygunfan
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: NYer
Here's a cute ark story.





1.      Don’t miss the boat.

2.      Remember that we are all in the same boat.

3.      Plan ahead.  It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.

4.      Stay fit.  When you’re 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.

5.      Don’t listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.

6.      Build your future on high ground.

7.      For safety’s sake, travel in pairs.

8.      Speed isn’t always an advantage.  The snails were on board with the cheetahs.

9.      When you’re stressed, float awhile.

10.  Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.

11.  No matter the storm, when you are with God, there’s always a rainbow waiting. . .

13 posted on 06/06/2013 6:46:27 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: raygunfan

Second or third time I’ve seen it on a thread.

14 posted on 06/06/2013 6:47:29 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: raygunfan

“Under ‘examination’ from your revisionist point of view,”

“J. Gresham Machen said, in his 1915 lecture “History and Faith,” that “The student of the New Testament should be primarily an historian.”

And in fact, thanks to the last few centuries’ worth of historical criticism, and a couple of “historical Jesus” quests, both the life of Jesus and the history of the New Testament have undergone a thorough historical examination, and in the process, have only had their historical reliability enhanced.

On the other hand, what we’ve been told about the early papacy has fallen away like chaff. Instead of boasts about the papacy being “instituted by Christ” and “immediately and directly” given to Peter and “perpetual successors,” now, Joseph Ratzinger has stepped back and said that the papacy “goes back to the Lord and was developed faithfully in the nascent church.” (Ratzinger, “Called to Communion,” page 72.)

How was it “faithfully developed”?

In the first place, some Catholics will say that it is no contradiction that this “immediate” and “perpetual” power nevertheless had to “develop.” But I am writing to individuals who, able to read and think, will easily be able to see the disjunction at this point.

Eamon Duffy, who was President of Magdalene College at Cambridge, and a church historian, wrote the following summary (”Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes”)

Irenaeus thought that the Church had been ‘founded and organised at Rome by the two glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul,’ and that its faith had been reliably passed down to posterity by an unbroken succession of bishops, the first of them chosen and consecrated by the Apostles themselves. He named the bishops who had succeeded the Apostles, in the process providing us with the earliest surviving list of the popes — Linus, Anacletus, Clement, Evaristus, Alexander, Sixtus, and so on down to Irenaeus’ contemporary and friend Eleutherius, Bishop of Rome from AD 174 to 189.

All the essential claims of the modern papacy, it might seem, are contained in this Gospel saying about the Rock, and in Irenaeus’ account of the apostolic pedigree of the early bishops of Rome. Yet matters are not so simple. The popes trace their commission from Christ through Peter, yet for Irenaeus the authority of the Church at Rome came from its foundation by two Apostles, not one, Peter and Paul, not Peter alone. The tradition that Peter and Paul had been put to death at the hands of Nero in Rome about the year ad 64 was universally accepted in the second century, and by the end of that century pilgrims to Rome were being shown the ‘trophies’ of the Apostles, their tombs or cenotaphs, Peter’s on the Vatical Hill, and Paul’s on the Via Ostiensis, outside the walls on the road to the coast. Yet on all of this the New Testament is silent. Later legend would fill out the details of Peter’s life and death in Rome — his struggles with the magician and father of heresy, Simon Magus, his miracles, his attempted escape from persecution in Rome, a flight from which he was turned back by a reproachful vision by Christ (the ‘Quo Vadis’ legend), and finally his crucifixion upside down in the Vatican Circus at the time of the Emperor Nero. These stories were to be accepted as sober history by some of the greatest minds of the early Church — Origen, Ambrose, Augustine. But they are pious romance, not history, and the fact is that we have no reliable accounts either of Peter’s later life or the manner or place of his death. Neither Peter nor Paul founded the Church at Rome, for there were Christians in the city before either of the Apostles set foot there. Nor can we assume, as Irenaeus did, that the Apostles established there a succession of bishops to carry on their work in the city, for all the indications are that there was no single bishop at Rome for almost a century after the deaths of the Apostles. In fact, wherever we turn, the solid outlines of the Petrine succession at Rome seem to blur and dissolve. (Duffy, pg 2.)
In a world where history affirms the life of Christ, the testimony of his resurrection, and in which the New Testament has been affirmed as reliable history, and the movements of Paul and the events in his life pinned down to the very year they happened, this same study of history has washed away the underpinnings of the historical papacy.

In fact, the city of Rome was very geographically diverse, and throughout the first half of the second century, the Roman church was led by a network of presbyters in a network of house churches. These presbyters fought among themselves as to who was greatest. I’ve quoted Hermas from “The Shepherd of Hermas as saying, “They had a certain jealousy of one another over questions of preeminence and about some kind of distinction. But they are all fools to be jealous of one another regarding preeminence.”

The rest at:

15 posted on 06/06/2013 6:51:10 PM PDT by Greetings_Puny_Humans
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: Salvation; raygunfan

“Second or third time I’ve seen it on a thread.”

Strange! I’ve posted it to you, in various threads, probably dozens of times, though in various forms. It’s not once been actually answered by anyone.

16 posted on 06/06/2013 6:58:33 PM PDT by Greetings_Puny_Humans
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: Greetings_Puny_Humans
The author of this dated piece says:

Furthermore, the Church Fathers just “smelled” more Catholic than Protestant, especially St. Augustine, my personal favorite and a hero to most Protestants too. It seemed very obvious that if Augustine or Jerome or Ignatius of Antioch or Anthony of the Desert, or Justin Martyr, or Clement of Alexandria, or Athanasius were alive today they would be Catholics, not Protestants.

After reading some of the writings of these early Christians, I seriously DOUBT they would be Roman Catholics today - in fact, they wouldn't even recognize the church that claims them as members.

17 posted on 06/06/2013 7:48:24 PM PDT by boatbums (God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: raygunfan; Greetings_Puny_Humans
Not you again, your cut and paste elephant-hurling posts from anti-catholic sites, oh goody, sorry, i will stick with history.....mind you, not your personal opinion revisionist anti-catholic history, but actual history. Thanx for ‘your’ input though.

Are you denying the words of Gregory that GPH posted? If the only "input" you have to give is that of castigating someone for posting the writings of those your church claimed for herself, you ought to just save yourself the trouble of posting - you add nothing to the conversation.

18 posted on 06/06/2013 7:53:43 PM PDT by boatbums (God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: NYer

How many times are you going to post this kind of stuff? Is it time for the “Let’s You and Him Fight” game again???

19 posted on 06/06/2013 7:55:01 PM PDT by boatbums (God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

Second or third time I’ve seen THIS thread.

20 posted on 06/06/2013 7:56:13 PM PDT by boatbums (God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-4041-6061-66 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson