Friday, August 13, 2021

The Goods Of The Throne And The Goods Of The Footstool

"O my heart, my haughty heart! Dost thou well to be discontent, when God has given thee the whole tree, with all the clusters of comfort growing on it, because he suffers the wind to blow down a few leaves? Christians have two kinds of goods; the goods of the throne and the goods of the footstool; immoveables and moveables. If God has secured those, never let my heart be troubled at the loss of these: indeed, if he had cut off his love, or discovenanted my soul, I had reason to be cast down; but this he hath not done, nor can he do it." (John Flavel, Keeping The Heart [Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2019], 42)

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

A High View Of Fiction And A Low View Of Life

If you're so moved by fictional characters accomplishing things that are supposed to be great in fictional books and movies, what are you trying to accomplish in your life?

Sunday, August 08, 2021

The Widespread Absence Of A Papacy

One of the reasons for rejecting the papacy is the lack of justification for it. There are apparent contradictions of the concept of the papacy in some New Testament documents and other early sources, but the lack of evidence for the office would be enough reason to not accept it, even if such contradictions didn't exist.

However, Protestants often focus on too narrow a range of contexts in which the papacy is absent in the early sources. A lot of attention is given to passages about Peter in the gospels and Acts and material about church government in the early sources, for example, but we ought to think more broadly about where a papacy could have been mentioned if it existed. A papacy wouldn't have to be mentioned at every conceivable opportunity. But the larger the number and variety of contexts in which a papacy could have been mentioned, but wasn't, the more likely it is that the office didn't exist. What I want to do in this post is provide a few examples of contexts that are often neglected.

The apostles sometimes discussed their upcoming death, what was being done to preserve their teachings, and how Christians should conduct themselves going forward (e.g., Acts 20:17-38, 2 Timothy 3:10-4:8, 2 Peter 1:12-21). If the papacy was considered the foundation of the church, the infallible center of Christian unity throughout church history, the absence of any mention of such a resource in passages like these is significant.

Another group of relevant contexts is the imagery used to refer to relevant entities, such as what imagery is used to refer to the apostles or the church. We get twelve thrones without Peter's throne being differentiated (Matthew 19:28), three pillars without Peter's being differentiated (Galatians 2:9), twelve foundation stones without Peter's being differentiated (Ephesians 2:20, Revelation 21:14), etc.

The early Christians often interact with the objections of their opponents. The gospels respond to the charge that Jesus performed miracles by the power of Satan, Paul responds to his critics in his letters, Justin Martyr wrote a response to Jewish arguments against Christianity, Origen wrote a response to Celsus' anti-Christian treatise, and so on. See here regarding the lack of reference to a papacy in such contexts.

It's important for Protestants (and other opponents of the papacy) to bring up considerations like these, since the absence of early references to a papacy becomes more significant when the absence occurs across a broader range of contexts. If only two pages of early Christian literature were extant, the absence of a papacy (or whatever other concept) would be much less significant than its absence across two million pages. The number of pages matters (assuming the usual diversity of topics you'd get with an increase in such a page number).

One of the reasons why it's become so popular for Catholics to argue for the papacy by an appeal to something like typology or Old Testament precedent is that there's such a lack of evidence in the New Testament and the early patristic literature. So, there's a turn to other sources to try to find what isn't present where we'd most expect to see it.