Monday, July 20, 2009
Why the Christian Church needs a Pope
Let's skip over the Matt.16:18 verse, where Christ says He'll build His Church on the Rock. Majority of Protestants. Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, and Evangelicals will admit the Rock is Peter, according to the Greek. However all of them unamiously likewise say this is not a sufficiant proof text that Peter had a Pope-role in the Church. Indeed, he was the pre-eminent Apostle, the spokesman for the Apostles. Yet at the same time in Revelation, when the Thrones of the Apostles are mentioned, we do not see a special chair for Peter alone, who apparantly was the first Pope. Neither do we see a special pillar for Peter among the Pillars of the Apostles, which is strange if he is supposed to be the visible Head. But this is the problem we run into when we look at leadership in the Bible strictly as a heirarchy. Leadership on God's terms has no rank, but all are on the same level - i.e, we have countless pastors in the world who tend to us the sheep, yet at the very core of it all pastors are sheep as well in God's eyes. Yet the pastor has authority over the laymen, and can perform the Sacraments (in the Roman Catholic and East Orthodox Churches alone), but in Heaven's eyes, he himself is still a sheep. Of course, there must be some structure of order, for God does not create confusion, but is a God of order. So there must be a heirachy in the Church to keep it from falling into chaos. One need only look in the Old Testament for numerous examples of heirachy ordained by Yahweh Himself, so that His Laws be obeyed and His ordinances kept. And one need only look at the Evangelical communities and witness the jaw-dropping chaos and confusion which entails our brethren by Baptism. Logic alone should bring us to the conclusion that a heirachy in the Church - according to God's terms - is an absolute must. Consider the fact that the early Church called together Ecumenical Councils to blot out the rising heresies of the day; do you really think the Protestant denominations of today can do the same? Have they? Albeit, the secular Emperor, Constantine, called together the first Council, but it was Pope Sylvester that moved the emperor to do so - all the Bishops formed the Nicene Creed, agreeing on the correct doctrine to express infallibly. Suppose the Prime Minister, or the President, were to call all the denominations of the world together and demand from them an infallible statement on the Protestant Creed, one Statement, for one Protestant Church - what would be the results? If such a Creed could come about, they would have to set aside or at least throw out much of the Augsburg and Westminster Confessions, which when read are contradictory in places. Even the Eastern Orthodox have an Ecumenical Patriarch, and though he cannot call Councils for the Greek Church, he is a head of some sort - not a head that expresses jurisdiction over the Greek Church - but someone to look to for some kind of official word from the Church. And he is no Emperor. Neither were the Apostles emperors or kings, but they came together in technically the First General Council, which took place at Jerusalem, as found in Acts. They declared, professed, defined, proclaimed, and pronounced at this Council that mankind is saved by grace: "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us." Notice the remarkable language here. "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit AND to us," linking the descision of Almighty Yahweh the Holy Spirit with the descision of the Holy Apostles and bishops at the Council. It is not merely an opinion of the Apostles, but an infallible declaration which is first proclaimed in Heaven by God the Holy Spirit, and then spoken verbally by the Holy Apostles, viz., the Holy Spirit has spoken through the very mouths of the Apostles and bishops gathered here. This was to be the model for the Church on how to handle heresy - have the Protestants come together as one, and with infallible declaration produced a Creed which is the standard for all the denominations of the world which fall under Christianity, but are neither Catholic nor Orthodox? Not at all - instead, we have many creeds, two of them already mentioned, which not only disagree on points but contradict entirely. Why the need for Westminster if the Protestants already had Augsburg? You see, the fact is, there is no heirachy in the Protestant communities, and this is the cause of many thriving heresies which even in their eyes are not founded in Scripture. The Calvinist sees heresy in Pentacostalism; the Lutheran sees heresy in the Baptist doctrine of Communion, etc.
Seeing that heirachy is needed, how are we to understand in what sense God's views it? One need only listen to Christ's words, "The greatest among you shall be the least...The servant is not greater than his master..." - but above all, His own example, when He said "I did not come to be served, but I came to serve." For this reason, the Pope is called Servant of the Servants of God. His role is the greatest among all; not in the sense as a king is greater than his subject, but in the sense where Christ said, "My Father is greater than I." - J. 10:29. The Arians and Jeovah's Witnesses apostasies declare that this verse means Christ is lesser than God, but this is far from the truth. The word "great" does not denote nature, but rank. Remember, at this point, Christ had already emptied Himself of all His divinity, but still was "very God from very God."
Let's contrast this with Hebrews 1:4, "(Jesus) being so much better than the angels.."
Notice the verse says He is "better" than the angels, not "greater". The Greek word here is κρείττων, which denotes nature. But in John 10:29, the Greek word for "greater" is μέγας, which denotes...
1) great 1a) of the external form or sensible appearance of things (or of persons) 1a1) in particular, of space and its dimensions, as respects 1a1a) mass and weight: great 1a1b) compass and extent: large, spacious 1a1c) measure and height: long 1a1d) stature and age: great, old 1b) of number and quantity: numerous, large, abundant 1c) of age: the elder
To put it simply, this particular Greek word implies position, not nature. Jesus, when He was a man, was "made a little lower than the angels", and therefore looked to the Father for guidance, since His Father was in a higher position than Christ. But Christ was still 100% God, never less than God, continually Yahweh the Son. The Father did not lord over Christ as a tyrant, but served Him just as Christ served the Father. In Hebrews Christ is called "better" than the angels, which most certainly denotes nature. Why is He better? Because He created them. The Father did not create Jesus Christ because Jesus Christ was continually with the Father, "eternally begotten." Do you see the difference?
The Pope is greater than any man in this sense: as the Father is no more and no less than the Son, so the Pope is no more and no less than his flock. Christ looked to the Father; we look the Pope as the Church's Pastor, the Leuitenant-General of Christ. He confesses his sins at every Mass, why? Because he's a sinner like us. He confides in his bishops, why? Because despite the gift of infallibilty, the Pope must recognize the tradition of his predesesors, that in the Council of his fellow pastors there is wisdom. By theory, he can infallibly declare dogma by himself - but never has any pope infallibly declared something which was not already believed 'unofficially' by the Church.
The Roman Church, as the Greek Church will testify, has always been the Church which holds the Primacy of Honor. Why? Because Peter set up his See there and died there. St. Paul too preached the Gospel there, and for this reason St. Irenaeus encouraged the masses to flock to Rome for guidance on doctrinal matters, since in his mind this particular Church could not err. She is the Mother of Churches in the sense that she nurtures them doctrinally. Jerusalem is the Mother of Churches in the sense that this is where the first Christians sprang from. It was the Roman Church that decided what was orthodoxy and what was heresy. Concerning the Eastern heresies, St. Jerome said to the Roman Bishop "To whom shall I go save the See of Peter?" As history clearly shows, the Roman Church was and still is by the Orthodox considered a See of Primacy. The Orthodox see this Primacy as one of Honor, not jurisdiction, but history reveals that the orthodoxy of the popes were from earliest times recieved by the Eastern bishops. To this day there remains 22 Eastern Catholic churches in communion with the Roman Bishop, Benedict 16th.
History also shows how certain Popes abused their authority, and lorded over the Church like tyrants, just as Israel's kings lorded over the people like monsters. It seems that whatever God ordains Satan tries to supress by corrupting those in such positions. Despite their hideous actions, these Popes were the Heads of the Church, they were God's Pastors, not His Prophet's, but Pastors, and they had to be obeyed to whatever degree that did not go against Christ's words. It is little known to non-Catholics that Catholics are obliged to resist any Pope who does not teach, nor practice, the Christian doctrine. For example, when Pope John Paul 2 allowed the Buddah idol be set upon the Holy Altar at an Interfaith Prayers meeting. As great and beautiful as this man was, he being a sinner could at any time fall into error by trying to do good - in this case, meet with other religious faiths and hope to dialogue. In his eagerness to bring them to Christ, he erred in practice, by allowing a demonic idol be set upon the Holy Altar. Any Catholic can remain a good Catholic and still disagree entirly with Pope John Paul 2's action here. He was rightly resisted by anyone who saw this as going too far. This must not be confused with total rebellion from the Pope, for this too is a sin since he is the rightful Pastor of the Church - but, it is not a sin to those who out of ignorance [in the positive sense] of his role in the Church, do not see him as the Pastor, but instead see him as Antichrist. Of course, I speak of the Protestants. Some Protestants today see him as Antichrist not because they hate God, but out of zeal for God and because of the past sins of the Popes, they cannot see how such a man of so great authority can in any way lead the Church of Christ. This is execused, but it cannot be excusable to Catholics who know perfectly well the role of the Pope, and how he represents Christ in a pastoral way. In all Protestant writings, you will not find statements against the Pope to this extent:
"The Pope must not be adhered to because he is the Deputy of the Jew-God...The Pope is a God-pushing fundametalist...", etc.
Instead, you'll find words to this extent:
"The Popes have led people away from Christ and have set themselves up in Christ's place, as though they were God, and have devoured the flock..."
So you see how Protestants are against the Pope, or more accuratly, they are against what they think the Pope is, because of their love for God. This is why it is the duty of every Catholic to minister not only to Protestants, but to all people of every religion and nation, why we believe what we believe. Christ said He alone is the Way, Truth, and the Life; there is no other religion that can bring men to God. Indeed, outside the Church there is no salvation.
The Pope is needed for tue unity of the Church. Spiritually Christ unites all Christians. For this reason we call Protestants and non-Catholic believers "seperated brethren", even though their religious systems contain heterodox beliefs. Visibly Christ unites us with the Pope. There is one Church, there is one Head Jesus Christ, the King from David, who has left His House in the hands of His steward, the Pope (Is. 22:20). Directly, this verse refers to Christ who is the Chief-Steward and holds the Key (singular); indirectly it refers to the Pope, who holds the keys (plural), which obviously are not the Master Key, which Christ alone has. With the keys the Pope has, he binds and loose that which Christ has already bound and loosed by His lone Key in heaven. The Church, all the Bishops, have the heys indirectly, but the Pope has them directly. The Church, the laymen, have the keys even more indirectly, since "where two or more are gathered in My name I am there also." We bind and loose by prayer, not doctrinal matters, but spiritual matters which involve our personal lives.
No one is bound to like the Pope. He could be the most miserable brutish man on the planet, compared to him Hitler could be a choir-boy. Thankfully, Benedict 16th is far from this description. But if he were a monster, we would still be bound to respect his authority, his position as the Pastor. Any Protestant understands respecting the pastor's role even though the man himself might be a jerk. In the army one can hate the General as a man, but still one is bound to respect his uniform and obey him concerning war-matters. We are bound to obey the Pope when he speaks infallibly concerning Faith and Morals, or when he speaks or practices things which do not contradict God's laws nor the Tradition of the Church. Were Benedict 16th to say Jehovah's Witnesses were true Christians, we would have perfect right to resist that and disagree entirly with him. Examples of this nature can be found throughout Church history too.
If for no other reason, the Pope is needed because the Church needs a Pastor. Every local church has a pastor...it only stands to reason. Christ is our Head, but our Head is not physically here for now, and so the King has left His steward to mind the place till He returns. When He returns, He will be the visible Head of the Church. The Pope will no longer be needed in that particular role. But by then, we wouldn't need any sheperds in general, I think. After all, the Good Shepherd is omnipresent, even physically. When He returns, we will see Unity as is never seen on the earth before.
Until then, let us look to the Pope as a visible sign of unity, the true Pastor of the Church.
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