Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Scott Windsor's Apocryphal Papacy

In a thread at Beggars All, I made reference to a three-part series I wrote about Augustine. That series partly addresses the issue of whether Augustine believed in the papacy, but it also addresses other subjects. Scott Windsor said he would reply to that series, but he responded to the wrong one. Instead of responding to my series on Augustine, he replied to a different series, one that's about the papacy. (Both series can be found here.) Not only is Scott misfiring, but he isn't even aiming at the right target. I've decided to respond anyway.

In my series that Scott replied to, I said that different Catholics hold different views of the early history of the papacy. Near the beginning of his response to me, Scott replied:

You make vague claims about some Catholics see it this way while some others see it another way, but you don’t cite any specific groups of Catholics nor do you cite any sources.

Yet, when I cited Catholic scholars arguing for a view of the papacy different than Scott's, he made dismissive comments such as the following:

Fr. Schatz holds a view different and contrary to Vatican I, as Mr. Engwer already cited. I’m not impressed that one can find a Catholic priest who holds a liberal view on the papacy. Interestingly, in scanning for references on Fr. Schatz the only sites I found citing him were anti-Catholic sites. That should be a clue right there. But it is a common tactic for the anti-Catholic to dig up some obscure priest who goes against the grain, and then cite him as a “scholar.”...

Eno is not denying the Catholic concept of a papacy here! I realize that many Protestant apologists wish to latch on to every professing Catholic who SEEMS to support their non-contextual arguments, but to what end? I am not fully versed in Eno’s works, but I do know that some do not consider him to be “conservative enough.”...

Mr. La Due, with all due respect, is offering his opinions on the matter. I would disagree with him (and others I’m sure Mr. Engwer would like to trot out) in the statement that the “power of the keys” is “the power to bind and loose.”...

Again, this “Catholic” scholar, Robert Eno seems to be quite revisionist in his thoughts, IF this is a contextually accurate quote from The Rise of the Papacy....

It is not surprising that Kelly holds a “significantly different view” than Armstrong’s, Dave is not a revisionist liberal. I am not saying Joseph Kelly is a revisionist liberal (I am not familiar enough with his works to make such a judgment), however a quick search on Google shows that he’s quoted numerous times by non-Catholics with an anti-Catholic agenda. Now it could be that Kelly has been taken out of context and has not gone contrary to Catholicism, but without further research on Kelly himself, I cannot say for now. Suffice it to say, when a source is frequently cited by anti-Catholics, it is suspect.

Scott says that he's "not impressed that one can find a Catholic priest who holds a liberal view on the papacy", but earlier he acted as though he needed me to document that such views exist among Catholics. Why would he ask for documentation if he already knew of such Catholic sources and I went on to document examples later in my series?

Scott largely ignores what was said by the scholars I cited. In addition to making dismissive comments like the ones quoted above, he often mishandles his responses to their claims when he attempts a response. For example, I had cited Robert Eno's comment that "a plain recognition of Roman primacy or of a connection between Peter and the contemporary bishop of Rome seems remote from Origen’s thoughts" (The Rise Of The Papacy [Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, 1990], p. 43). Scott then quoted four passages from Origen and commented:

So, to say that a connection between the contemporary Bishop of Rome and Peter is “remote from Origen’s thoughts” seems to be quite an irresponsible statement.

But not a single one of Scott's Origen quotes even mentions the bishop of Rome. Robert Eno wasn't being irresponsible. Scott is being irresponsible.

He makes the following dismissive comment about the scholars I cited:

I’m really not going to spend anymore time on these commentaries. They do not speak for the Catholic Church.

Does Scott Windsor "speak for the Catholic Church"? The Catholic clergymen and scholars I cited have held higher ranks within Catholicism than Scott ever has. And how does the fact that those scholars "do not speak for the Catholic Church" answer the historical claims they made? Does a scholar have to "speak for the Catholic Church" in order to make a correct claim or use a valid argument?

Scott repeatedly assumes his own interpretation of the Bible and the church fathers without arguing for it. He often does so even on disputed points and when the text neither states nor implies his conclusions. After ignoring the scholars I cited regarding Cyprian and the papacy, and after ignoring my arguments about Cyprian, he quoted some passages and asserted:

So, when we look at what St. Cyprian himself actually says, and avoid the anti-Catholic (and some modernist/liberal/revisionist Catholic) commentaries - it becomes quite clear what his position on the papacy is, and it is wholly in line with modern thinking on the papacy.

Scott doesn't give us any argument that would lead us to his conclusion about Cyprian. He ignores the counterarguments, quotes Cyprian, and assumes his own interpretation.

In my series on the papacy, I had cited Matthew 23:13 as an example of a passage that refers to people who have the power to open and shut or bind and loose. Scott replied:

This verse is speaking to the Scribes and Pharisees! It has nothing to do with St. Peter or the Apostles.

But a passage doesn't have to be about Peter or the apostles in order to be about the power to open and shut or bind and loose. That's why Catholics often cite Isaiah 22:22 as a passage that's relevant to our interpretation of Matthew 16, even though Isaiah 22 isn't about Peter or the apostles. If we want to know what it means for an individual to have the power to bind and loose, we don't limit ourselves to passages about the apostles.

I had mentioned that Peter is given his second name prior to the events of Matthew 16, as we see in John 1:42. Scott responded:

And as for John 1:42 referring to Simon as Peter allegedly before Matthew 16, the objective reader must note that John’s Gospel was written perhaps 60 years after the events recorded in Matthew 16! John knew Simon BarJonah as Peter, so it is no special surprise that he calls him “Peter” in the first chapter of his Gospel.

Does John 1:42 merely refer to what John thought sixty years later? No, it refers to what Jesus said. Jesus was calling Simon by his second name in that passage, even though the events of Matthew 16 hadn't occurred yet. Why does Scott keep failing to even understand the arguments he's supposed to be responding to?

He gives us the usual abuse of Acts 1:

When an “office” was vacated it had to be filled, as we saw even in the vacating of Judas’ office/bishoprick in Acts 1.

See my discussion of that passage and some other relevant New Testament material here.

Scott writes:

Except that Matthew 23 and Luke 11 do not make any reference to “keys,” and both Matthew 16 and Isaiah 22 do!

Keys are associated with binding and loosing and opening and shutting (Isaiah 22:22, Revelation 3:7, 9:1-2, 20:1-2), and that's what an actual key does (Judges 3:25), so separating the keys in Matthew 16:19 from the power of binding and loosing is contrary to the context of the rest of scripture. It goes without saying that if you have the keys, you can bind and loose (or open and shut). And if you can bind and loose (or open and shut), it goes without saying that you have the keys. These things are all part of the same imagery. Some passages mention one, some mention the other, and some mention both. Matthew 23 and Luke 11 are parallel passages. One refers to opening and shutting without referring to any keys (Matthew 23:13). The other does refer to a key (Luke 11:52). Similarly, Revelation 20:1-2 mentions binding just after mentioning a key, whereas verse 7 mentions releasing without mentioning the key. But the use of the key in verse 7 is implied. To try to separate the keys of Matthew 16:19 from the power of binding and loosing that all the disciples had (Matthew 18:18), then assume that the keys represent papal authority, is irrational and speculative.

If Scott is saying that Matthew 23 and Luke 11 don't use the plural "keys", whereas Matthew 16 and Isaiah 22 do, then he's mistaken. Isaiah uses the singular. And these passages don't have to be referring to the same keys in order to have some relevance to each other. Similar themes suggest some similarities in meaning.

I had pointed out that the recipient of the key in Isaiah 22:22 is a prime minister who's under the authority of a king. If Peter is to be paralleled to the prime minister, then who in the church should be paralleled to the king? God gives the key in Isaiah 22, and Jesus gives the keys in Matthew 16, so Jesus would be parallel to God rather than to the king. Who, then, is the king? A church leader with more authority than Peter? Scott responded:

Who said anything about a prime minister? God gives the key to the king in Isaiah and God gives the key(s) to Peter in Matthew.

Scott needs to read Isaiah 22 more carefully. Eliakim isn't a king. He's in a lower office that's often referred to as that of a prime minister or steward (John Oswalt, The Book Of Isaiah: Chapters 1-39 [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1986], pp. 418, 422).

I had pointed out that 1 Corinthians 12:28 refers to apostles, not Peter or a papacy, as the first rank in the church. Scott replied:

First off, yes - all the Apostles were bishops! All of them shared a responsibility and authority, just as every bishop to this day shares. It is not as though Cephas was made a king and the rest were princes, no! They were all bishops! The office of the bishop is the highest in the Church. Each bishop is essentially the “pope” of his jurisdiction. The Bishop of Rome has fundamental jurisdiction over Rome itself, but also a jurisdiction of unity which extends to all the jurisdictions of the world.

But 1 Corinthians 12:28 doesn't mention "bishops" as the highest rank. And if the bishop of Rome has authority over all other bishops, then why should we think that the highest rank belongs to all bishops? Scott isn't explaining 1 Corinthians 12:28. Rather, he's explaining his own ecclesiology, which is something different.

Scott writes:

Pope Clement clearly speaks to the need of successors to the office of the bishop, and he himself is named by other ECFs as the third in succession from St. Peter as the Bishop of Rome, Epiphanius writes in the latter half of the fourth century

Epiphanius' testimony is problematic for Catholicism, for reasons I've explained elsewhere.

Scott continues:

The “keys” are given ONLY to Peter. Keys are a symbol of authority, and the keys are given to ONE. The “power” to bind and loose is another issue, and even here - Peter is given this authority alone (Matt. 16:18-19) whereas the rest of the bishops are given this authority as a group (Matt. 18:18).

I've already explained why it's erroneous to separate the keys from the binding and loosing. At this point, I'll add that the church fathers repeatedly contradicted Scott on this issue. Tertullian commented that ""For though you think heaven still shut, remember that the Lord left here to Peter and through him to the Church, the keys of it, which every one who has been here put to the question, and also made confession, will carry with him." (Scorpiace, 10) Origen said that all Christians possess the keys (Commentary On Matthew, 12:10). John Chrysostom said that the apostle John possessed the keys (Homilies On The Gospel Of John, 1:2).

Scott goes on:

So again, this letter of Firmilian to Pope Stephen is NOT a denial of the papacy, as Mr. Engwer falsely asserts, it expresses his frustration in Pope Stephen’s “folly” and “defaming” of the papacy.

He's referring to Firmilian's comments recorded in Cyprian's Letter 74. Scott assumes that Firmilian believed in a papacy, but he doesn't demonstrate it.

I suggest that people read Firmilian's letter for themselves. Note that he refers to how the Roman Christians "vainly pretend the authority of the apostles" (74:6). He refers to how the Roman bishop Stephen "boasts of the place of his episcopate, and contends that he holds the succession from Peter" (74:17). Speaking to Stephen, Firmilian says, "while you think that all may be excommunicated by you, you have excommunicated yourself alone from all" (74:24). It doesn't seem that Firmilian agreed with the claims the Romans and Stephen were making. Yet, Scott suggests that Firmilian not only didn't oppose the papacy, but even believed in it. Where's his evidence?

He writes:

The first 15 popes were all martyred (into the 3rd century) and several others after that too.

The historian Philip Schaff commented:

"Irenaeus recognizes among the Roman bishops from Clement to Eleutherus (177), all of whom he mentions by name, only one martyr, to wit, Telesphorus...So Eusebius, H. E. V. 6. From this we must judge of the value of the Roman Catholic tradition on this point. It is so remote from the time in question as to be utterly unworthy of credit." (History Of The Christian Church, 2:4, n. 225)

As Schaff notes, Irenaeus refers to the Roman bishop Telesphorus as a martyr without making any such comment about the other Roman bishops he names in the surrounding context (Against Heresies, 3:3:3).

The patristic scholar J.N.D. Kelly wrote of Telesphorus, "he is the only 2nd-cent. pope whose martyrdom is reliably attested" (Oxford Dictionary Of Popes [New York: Oxford University Press, 1996], p. 9).

It seems that what Scott is referring to is a late, unhistorical tradition. He seems to believe a lot of late, unhistorical traditions about the papacy.

Scott goes on to make some nonsensical comments about conciliarism. He admits that conciliarism is inconsistent with his beliefs and has been condemned by Roman Catholicism. Yet, he says that it was acceptable for church leaders to "experiment" with it. He writes:

However, it [conciliarism] was still a movement which required papal approval to take root - which it got for a while - and the system was eventually brought back to the original structure and conciliarism was condemned....

The problem, again, which Mr. Engwer has is the fact that the pope consented to the alleged conciliarism of the day....The only way any form of conciliarism has “worked” was under the blessing of the sitting pope....

Modern Catholics need not worry about this papal approved conciliarism for again, since it was approved by the papacy - it is not a system superior to the papacy.

Since conciliarism denies the view of papal authority Scott is advocating, is he saying that its contradiction of his view had "papal approval" and "the blessing of the sitting pope"? If a papacy with authority over councils was a concept always understood and believed by the church, as the First Vatican Council suggested, then why would Christians, and even church leaders, have been supporting a system that contradicted that concept?

Scott seems to think that if a Pope went along with conciliarism, or if a council advocating conciliarism tried to coordinate its efforts with a Pope, then conciliarism must be consistent with papal authority over councils. But how does Scott's conclusion follow? Papal cooperation doesn't prove papal supremacy. The conciliarists in question were denying papal supremacy. Pointing to their cooperation with Popes doesn't change that fact.

Scott writes:

After going through “all (Engwer’s) 6000 words of the papacy entries” (which is actually 4814 words, but who’s counting?) and demonstrating either their lack of applicability, contextuality, and outright validity, perhaps it is Mr. Schultz’ reading comprehension skills which suggest some needed improvement?...It would seem that Mr. Schultz’ agreement with Mr. Engwer has clouded his objectivity - or perhaps Mr. Schultz has not even fully read all 4814 words from Mr. Engwer for himself?

Scott makes those comments after having replied to the wrong series of posts. I had directed readers to the correct series by name, I described some of the contents of that series, and Matthew Schultz did the same. Matthew even quoted part of what I wrote in the series. Yet, Scott misinterpreted all of that information and replied to the wrong posts. I suspect that a similar methodology has led him to his belief in the papacy.


  1. It sounds like this struggle to impart meaning onto a key has become a symbol of idolatry.

  2. I will get to your response after I finish responding to the series you had intended. I admit you posted a more accurate title to the series you intended, but we were discussing the papacy at the time, which the series I responded to is about and that series jumped out more.

    As to the comment:
    It sounds like this struggle to impart meaning onto a key has become a symbol of idolatry.

    There is no "idolatry" in Catholicism and such bigoted comments will simply be ignored in the future.

  3. CathApol said: "There is no "idolatry" in Catholicism and such bigoted comments will simply be ignored in the future.

    No offense was intended. I'm sorry.

    Idolatry is the act of loving something more than God.

    If the power to bind and to loose was given to Jesus foremost (who earned the right to have this power by virtue of his obedience onto death), but is claimed by mere man, that implies a form of idolatry.

    Without excluding the possibility that Jesus shared this power, what merit has man in his own right to have influence over the gates of hell (or heaven)?

  4. CathApol said:
    "There is no "idolatry" in Catholicism and such bigoted comments will simply be ignored in the future.

    Well, that's not entirely accurate...

  5. No offense was intended. I'm sorry.

    Apology accepted.

    Idolatry is the act of loving something more than God.

    And I assure you, I love nothing more than God.


  6. ...though Mary is a close 2nd.

  7. Rho,
    Mary may be second, but it's not even close.


  8. I have been delayed in responding because I have been involved in a debate on Free Will. That debate should be wrapping up tonight.