Showing posts with label Early Church Fathers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Early Church Fathers. Show all posts

Monday, April 8, 2019

Is Judas in hell?

Revised 4/4/2024

In Dante's epic poem, Judas is depicted in the deepest pit of hell as the devil devours him. It brings to mind a common question: Is Judas in hell? The evidence says yes, barring a last-minute genuine repentance for which we do not have evidence.

Let's examine the words of the popes, theologians, and Early Church Fathers on the matter.

When Judas, his betrayer, saw that he was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood." They said, "What is that to us? See to it yourself." And throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)
Although the text says Judas repented, he obviously followed that by hanging himself. Thus, either he repented only momentarily but fell back into despair, or his repentance was not of the complete sort to which the Christian is called.
  • St. John Chrysostom suggests the repentance might have borne fruit, if the devil had not quickly lured him back into despair: 
    • "[T]he devil led him out of his repentance too soon, so that he should reap no fruit from thence." (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 85 on Matthew, 2.6, ca. 389 A.D.)
  • And elsewhere: 
    • "For this reason also the wicked one dragged Judas out of this world lest he should make a fair beginning, and so return by means of repentance to the point from which he fell." (St. John Chrysostom, Exhortation to Theodore, 1.9)
  • St. Leo suggests the same: 
    • "even [Judas] might have found salvation if he had not hastened to hang himself." (Pope St. Leo, Sermon 62.4, ca. 450 A.D.) 
  • St. Augustine deduces that Judas's repentance was not the sort that asked for pardon and mercy, for it produced no hope: 
    • For after [Judas] betrayed Him, and repented of it, if he prayed through Christ, he would ask for pardon; if he asked for pardon, he would have hope; if he had hope, he would hope for mercy; if he hoped for mercy, he would not have hanged himself in despair.... (Augustine, Exposition on Psalm 109. 8)
  • Cornelius Lapide, the 16th-17th century exegete, describes the falsity of the repentance:
    • Repented himself. Not with true and genuine repentance, for this includes the hope of pardon, which Judas had not; but with a forced, torturing, and despairing repentance, the fruit of an evil and remorseful conscience, like the torments of the lost.
  • The Navarre Bible Commentary
    • "Judas' remorse does not lead him to repent his sins and be converted." (The Navarre Bible, St. Matthew, on v.27:3-5, p. 174, 2005)
  • Haydock's Commentary similarly suggests Judas originally repented, but the devil talked him out of it, leading him to "eternal destruction": 
    • To his first repentance succeeded fell despair, which the devil pursued to his eternal destruction. If the unhappy man had sought true repentance, and observed due moderation in it, (by avoiding both extremes, presumption and despair) he might have heard a forgiving Master speaking to him these consoling words: I will not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may be converted and still live. Origen. (Haydock Commentary, Matthew 27, 1859)

Le Portement de Croix by Jean Fouquet, ca 1452-1460 (acquired from Wikimedia Commons)

  • On this verse, Lapide seems to suggest the words are more of a corrective warning: 
    • "For “far better is it not to exist at all, than to exist in evil. The punishment is foretold, that him whom shame had not conquered, the denunciation of punishment might correct,” says S. Jerome. He threatens him with the woe of damnation." (Lapide, Commentary on Matthew 26)
  • St. John Chrysostom likewise suggests the context is corrective: 
    • This He said to comfort His disciples, that they might not think that it was through weakness that He suffered; and at the same time for the correction of His betrayer. (St. John Chrysostom, quoted in Catena Aura on Matthew 26:20-25)
  • Remigius, the sixth century monk, interprets the words as "emphasis": 
  • Origen extends the meaning to refer to anyone who betrays Christ or his disciples: 

Let's take a short segue to look at a strange thought regarding Judas and his hanging. There is an interesting sentiment that Judas may have believed he could repent in the afterlife.
  • Origen says:
    • Or, perhaps, he desired to die before his Master on His way to death, and to meet Him with a disembodied spirit, that by confession and deprecation he might obtain mercy; and did not see that it is not fitting that a servant of God should dismiss himself from life, but should wait God's sentence. (Origen, quoted in Catena Aura, on Matthew 27:1-5, d.253 A.D.)
  • And Blessed Theophylact: 
    • [H]e hanged himself thinking to precede Jesus into hades and there to plead for his own salvation. (Bl. Theophylact, Commentary on Matthew 27, ca 1100)
Of course, if Judas did hang himself with the intent to plead with Christ in the afterlife, he failed to understand the nature of temporal life as the time of repentance, as Origen suggests above.

First, let's examine two texts from recent Popes, confirming the uncertainty of Judas's fate:
Even when Jesus says of Judas, the traitor, "It would be better for that man if he had never been born" (Mt 26:24), His words do not allude for certain to eternal damnation. (St. John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, p. 186, 1994) 
What is more, it darkens the mystery around his eternal fate, knowing that Judas "repented and brought back the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood'" (Mt 27: 3-4). Even though he went to hang himself (cf. Mt 27:5), it is not up to us to judge his gesture, substituting ourselves for the infinitely merciful and just God. (Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, Oct. 18, 2006)
Origen also suggests there was some inkling of hope in Judas's behavior:
[T]he instructions of Jesus had been able to produce some feeling of repentance in his mind, and were not altogether despised and loathed by this traitor. (Origen, Contra Celsium, 2.11)
St. John Chrysostom, although he believed the devil dragged Judas from life to prevent repentance, understood even Judas's sin was not beyond forgiveness:
For although it may seem a strange thing to say, I will not admit even that sin [of Judas] to be too great for the succour which is brought to us from repentance. (St. John Chrysostom, Exhortation to Theodore, 1.9)
The Church's maxim lex orandi lex credendi, we pray as we believe, is a strong indication Judas was damned because the traditional liturgy states, "Judas received the punishment of his guilt..."

Some might argue Judas was entirely possessed by the devil, and thus excused, however, this is not the understanding of the Church, nor does it account for his acknowledgement of guilt. Some might also argue he had gone mad. St. John Chrysostom (Homily 81, On Matthew, 3.4) and St. Leo I (Sermon 62.4) reference "madness," however, both refer to it in the sense of a madness of sin.

If we take the comments of Popes, theologians, and the Early Church Fathers as a totality, it seems the following might be 5 reasonable conclusions:
  1. Judas fell into grave sin in betraying Christ and handing him over to be condemned.
  2. When Judas repented by trying to return the silver, his repentance was fleeting or inauthentic.
  3. Judas's act of hanging indicates he did not trust in God's mercy and remained in a state of grave sin.
  4. His only remaining opportunity for repentance was his final moment during the hanging.*
  5. Conclusion: If Judas authentically repented in his final moment, he could possibly have found salvation, though tradition does not not lean toward this.
Certainly, if hypothetically Judas indeed repented in his final moment, his path is not a safe one to follow. None of us know their hour, and it is foolish to plan for a deathbed confession. Judas's example amplifies our need to repent and seek refuge in the sacrament of confession regularly, and especially when we commit a grave sin.

*There is a thought that Judas did not die by hanging, rather that he plunged from a cliff (cf. Acts 1:18), or that he hung himself and the rope broke, thus spilling him on the rock. But, for the purposes of this thought exercise, whether Judas's final moments came at the rope or on the rocks, the point remains the same—his last chance for repentance was his final moment.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Veneration of icons and graven images

In a 1980 sermon by Pastor John MacArthur, he stated:
Idolatry is worshiping the wrong god and worshiping the right God in the wrong way. ... I think idolatry is also worshiping symbols that may stand for God. Now we've all-been aware of what is known as the iconoclastic controversy from the word eikon in Greek which means "image." Throughout the history of the church, the church was in its early manifestation of Romanism wanting to put everything in statues and the Roman Church still does that. ... And you still have crucifixes and other images and saints and so forth that represent a certain kind of idolatry. And you say, "Well, we don't really worship the idols it's just that the representation is there." Yes, but the transition is so subtle.
MacArthur attempts to support his claim with two stories in Scripture. The first is when God commanded Moses to make a bronze serpent:
And the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live." So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. (Num. 21:8-9)
MacArthur does not believe this is an example condoning at least some use of a graven images. Rather, he believes all such imagery is forbidden because it could eventually degenerate into idolatry. As evidence, he cites another Biblical text:
And [Hezeki'ah] did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places, and broke the pillars, and cut down the Ashe'rah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had burned incense to it; it was called Nehush'tan. (2 King 18:3-4)
Even though God commanded Moses to forge the bronze serpent (cf. Num. 21:8-9), MacArthur draws the following conclusion because of 2 King 18:3-4:
[Hezeki'ah] treated it with disdain get rid of that little brass thing that they were all worshiping. In other words, something started out as a symbol and it became an idol. And that is always a danger of an icon, that man will twist the symbol into an idol. So, whether you're talking about worshiping a false god or worshiping the true God in a wrong way, or worshiping God to a wrong image, it is all forbidden in Scripture.
Thus, according to MacArthur, because the people had eventually named and began worshipping the bronze serpent as a "god" in itself, therefore any use of a forged icon is forbidden or "idolatry" as he says above of Catholic crucifixes or images of saints.

However, let us confront the obvious. Did God or did not God command Moses to forge the bronze serpent in the first place? Num. 21:8 says God indeed commanded Moses to forge the serpent. But it seems the people who found healing when they gazed upon the serpent misunderstood from whence their healing came. The power was God's and it is God who deserved their worship. However, they apparently believed the healing power came from the bronze object itself.

Now just because the people eventually treated the serpent as a "god," it does not follow that all forms of graven images are forbidden. The conclusion would be tantamount to saying because a hospital patient failed to properly use the medicine given to him by the doctor, that therefore all medicine must be forbidden because there are some who abuse it. Thus it was not the forging of the image that was sinful, nor the gazing upon it for healing according to God's own command, but the sin was to worship the object as a god. MacArthur thus goes too far in saying any icon is de facto forbidden.

As well, there are other examples in Scripture regarding "graven images." In another example, God commands Moses to forge gold cherubim angels to flank the ark of the covenant:
And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end; of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark; and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. (Ex. 25:18-21)
Likewise, other areas of the temple bore carvings of cherubim angels:
Over against the threshold the temple was paneled with wood round about, from the floor up to the windows (now the windows were covered), to the space above the door, even to the inner room, and on the outside. And on all the walls round about in the inner room and the nave were carved likenesses of cherubim and palm trees, a palm tree between cherub and cherub. ... The nave and the holy place had each a double door. The doors had two leaves apiece, two swinging leaves for each door. And on the doors of the nave were carved cherubim and palm trees, such as were carved on the walls; and there was a canopy of wood in front of the vestibule outside. (Ezek. 41:16b-18a, 23-25)
The author of Hebrews (traditionally thought to be Paul), also describes the ark:
Behind the second curtain stood a tent called the Holy of Holies, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, which contained a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. (Heb. 9:3-5a)
See also (1 King 6:29-32, 1 King 8:6-72 Chron. 3:7-14)

In Catholic theology, it is Christ himself in the new covenant who is the image of the living God.
Basing itself on the mystery of the incarnate Word, the seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea (787) justified against the iconoclasts the veneration of icons - of Christ, but also of the Mother of God, the angels, and all the saints. By becoming incarnate, the Son of God introduced a new "economy" of images. (CCC#2131)
The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, "the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype," and "whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it." The honor paid to sacred images is a "respectful veneration," not the adoration due to God alone: Religious worship is not directed to images in themselves, considered as mere things, but under their distinctive aspect as images leading us on to God incarnate. The movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is. (CCC#2132)
In Catholic apologetics, the analogy of the photograph of a loved one is often cited. Families keep pictures of loved ones, even those who are deceased, and they reflect or even venerate that person in their hearts without thinking that the photograph itself is a real person. Time and again, in magisterial texts on iconography, the Church is clear to reject the sin of those who worshipped the bronze serpent––that the object, the image, is not the target of focus.

Around the late sixth century, Pope Gregory I explained the parallel between an image and a depiction of God by way of human language. The incident he describes resembles the story of the bronze serpent which the people imprudently worshipped as a god:
[I]t has come to our ears that your Fraternity, seeing certain adorers of images, broke and threw down these same images in Churches. And we commend you indeed for your zeal against anything made with hands being an object of adoration; but we signify to you that you ought not to have broken these images. (Pope Gregory I to Serenus, &c, ca. 590-604 A.D.)
Here you see a parallel to the reaction of King Hezeki'ah who destroyed the bronze serpent when he saw the people worshipping the object as a god. But Pope Gregory continues:
For pictorial representation is made use of in Churches for this reason; that such as are ignorant of letters may at least read by looking at the walls what they cannot read in books. Your Fraternity therefore should have both preserved the images and prohibited the people from adoration of them, to the end that both those who are ignorant of letters might have wherewith to gather a knowledge of the history, and that the people might by no means sin by adoration of a pictorial representation. 
Another translation of Pope Gregory's letter reads:
...pictorial representations which had been made for the edification of an unlearned people in order that, though ignorant of letters, they might by turning their eyes to the story itself learn what had been done...
You see here Pope Gregory comparing written depictions of truths of the faith to drawn depictions of truths of the faith. Certainly, that there were some in Pope Gregory's time who fell into idolatry of images demonstrates the ancient mentality and tendencies to treat a created object as itself a "god." With this, perhaps Pope Gregory led the Church into maturity and paved the way for another saint in the following century to develop and help fortify the proper use of iconography in religious life. Whereas the ancient people improperly worshipped the bronze serpent, the cherubim statues over the ark remained a valid communication of the holy dwelling place of God (cf. Gen. 3:24)

Certainly, many paintings in antiquity utilized symbols and colors to represent various teachings within Scripture, such as the idea of a dove for the Holy Spirit (e.g. Luke 3:22). An illiterate Christian could, in a sense, "read" the icon and learn of the faith by the truths it depicts. So too, can a literate Christian reflect on icons and the truths depicted therein, such as Mary holding the child Jesus, calling us to mind the truths of the incarnation. It is this sort of veneration of saintly images that can help us focus and recall the truths of the faith, applying them to our very lives.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke of this matter during a 2009 General Audience on seventh century saint John Damascene:
John Damascene was also among the first to distinguish...between worship (latreia), and veneration (proskynesis): the first can only be offered to God, spiritual above all else, the second, on the other hand, can make use of an image to address the one whom the image represents. Obviously the Saint can in no way be identified with the material of which the icon is composed
In the last sentence, the Pope makes the clarification that was MacArthur's concern regarding the object itself degenerating into personification. But what may be more worth examining is his emphasis on the difference between (latreia) and (proskynesis), with the first "only offered to God."

Let me take a brief detour to point out that sometimes older texts may use the English word "worship" even when a lesser sense than latreia is intended. For example, in the 1953 encyclical Fulgens Corona, Pope Pius XII wrote: "But let this holy city of Rome be the first to give the example, this city which from the earliest Christian era worshipped the heavenly mother, its patroness, with a special devotion." (Fulgens Corona, 34)

However, if we look earlier in the encyclical, the Pope clarifies this as distinct from the worship due to God alone:
Non-Catholics and reformers are therefore mistaken when because of this pretext they find fault with, or disapprove of, our devotion to the Virgin Mother of God, as if it took something from the worship due to God alone and to Jesus Christ. The contrary is true because any honor and veneration which we may give to our Heavenly Mother undoubtedly redounds to the glory of her Divine Son, not only because all graces and all gifts, even the highest, flow from Him as from their primary source, but also because "The glory of children are their fathers" (Prov. 17:6). (Fulgens Corona, 15) 
Catholics should be recognized for understanding God is the one deserving of "worship" in the sense of the first commandment. Those who impose the incorrect sense of the term "worship" on Catholic veneration of saints therefore commit the fallacy of equivocation. Saints can be revered (or "worshipped" depending on translation or alternate use of the term) in another sense because, as Pope Pius says above, they reflect the glory of God's grace. Veneration of saints is ultimately, in its final essence, praise for Christ.

This thought is espoused by St. John Damascene:
[J]ust as we do not worship the material of which the Gospels are made, nor the material of the Cross, but that which these typify. For wherein does the cross, that typifies the Lord, differ from a cross that does not do so? It is just the same also in the case of the Mother of the Lord. For the honour which we give to her is referred to Him Who was made of her incarnate. (St. John Damascene, On the Orthodox Faith, 4.16.c)
Worthy of mention in all this are the biblical examples of relics, which themselves are created objects belonging to various saints. For example:
And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet. (2 King 13:21)
Acts 19:12 So that even there were brought from his (Paul's) body to the sick, handkerchiefs and aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the wicked spirits went out of them.
Although relics differ from icons in that they are possessions of or physical parts of a saint, these resemble icons in that a material object involved in the exercise of religion certainly is not blanketly forbidden.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What does the Catholic Church teach on Predestination?

The late Father William Most, a theologian whose studies included emphasis on predestination, described predestination thusly:
Predestination is an arrangement of Providence to see someone gets either full membership in the Church, or gets to heaven.
In some schools of Christian thought, there exists the idea that God "predestines" some persons to heaven independent of that person's free will. There are also some who believe predestination to heaven is due to the person's free will independent of God's movement. Catholic teaching does not subscribe to either notion.

Throughout historical texts in Catholic tradition on predestination, these are two repeated characteristics:
  1. Man's free response first requires, and is ultimately dependent on, God's preceding grace.
  2. Man's response to God's grace of justification is free.

A number of councils throughout the centuries reflect the idea that man's free response to God, which leads him to justification, must be powered by prevenient or preceding grace. (See also the Catechism for various characteristics of grace, including as a share of supernatural life, the favor of God, etc.)
This vocation to eternal life is supernatural. It depends entirely on God's gratuitous initiative, for he alone can reveal and give himself. (CCC#1998)
The sin of the first man has so impaired and weakened free will that no one thereafter can either love God as he ought or believe in God or do good for God's sake, unless the grace of divine mercy has preceded him. (Council of Orange, 529 A.D.) 
[W]e speak of only one predestination of God, which pertains either to the gift of grace or to the retribution of justice. ... The freedom of will which we lost in the first man, we have received back through Christ our Lord; and we have free will for good, preceded and aided by grace, and we have free will for evil, abandoned by grace. Moreover, because freed by grace and by grace healed from corruption, we have free will. (Council of Quiersy, A.D. 853) 
The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace. (Council of Trent, Session 6, chapter 5)
[W]e are therefore said to be justified freely, because that none of those things which precede justification-whether faith or works-merit the grace itself of justification. For, if it be a grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the same Apostle says, grace is no more grace. (Council of Trent, Session 6, chapter 8)
In very strong terms, the Council of Trent emphasizes man's inability to receive the grace of justification without first receiving prevenient divine help:
Jesus Christ Himself continually infuses his virtue into the said justified,-as the head into the members, and the vine into the branches,-and this virtue always precedes and accompanies and follows their good works, which without it could not in any wise be pleasing and meritorious before God . . . God forbid that a Christian should either trust or glory in himself, and not in the Lord, whose bounty towards all men is so great, that He will have the things which are His own gifts be their merits. (Council of Trent, Session 6, chapter 16) 
If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema. (Council of Trent, Session 6, Canon 3)
Essentially, this means God makes the first move, the first "gratuitous initiative" as the Catechism says, in drawing man to Himself. Man can boast of no merit in warranting this divine act of love, to invite the fallen creature to communion. As Fr. Most put it:
[M}erits are not a condition [of predestination] precisely because nothing at all is needed from man in order that the Father's love may start and may continue, since it started and continues by its own force, that is, by the spontaneous unmerited goodness of the Father. (Fr. William Most, Grace, Predestination and the Salvific Will of God: New Answers to Old Questions, #288)

Some of the above quotes also refer to man's "free" response. The Catechism also reads thusly:
To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of "predestination," he includes in it each person's free response to his grace. (CCC#600a)
God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures' co-operation. This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God's greatness and goodness. For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus of co-operating in the accomplishment of his plan. (CCC#306)
If any one saith, that man's free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification; that it cannot refuse its consent, if it would, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive; let him be anathema. (Council of Trent, Session 6, Canon 6)

There are a number of Biblical texts and interpretations in Tradition that speak to both of these realities.  Here are just a few examples among many more:

God is the ultimate mover in the order of man's meritorious decisions:
[F]or God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Phil. 2:13)
O LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us, thou hast wrought for us all our works. (Is. 26:12)
Of the same Lord again it is said, It is God who works in you, even to will! (Phil. 2:13) 
It is certain that it is we that act when we act; but it is He who makes us act, by applying efficacious powers to our will, who has said, I will make you to walk in my statutes, and to observe my judgments, and to do them. (Ez. 36:27) ... It is He who causes us to act, to whom the human suppliant says, Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth. (St. Augustine, On Grace & Free Will, #32)
I counsel you to think the same. For since there are some who are so proud of their successes that they attribute all to themselves and nothing to Him that made them and gave them wisdom and supplied them with good; such are taught by this word that even to wish well needs help from God; or rather that even to choose what is right is divine and a gift of the mercy of God. For it is necessary both that we should be our own masters and also that our salvation should be of God. This is why He says not of him that wills; that is, not of him that wills only, nor of him that runs only, but also of God. That shows mercy. Next; since to will also is from God, he has attributed the whole to God with reason. (St. Gregory Nazianzus, Orations 37:13) 

Man is empowered to freely respond:
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8a)
Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. (2 Cor. 6:1)
It was [God] who created man in the beginning, and he left him in the power of his own inclination. If you will, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice. He has placed before you fire and water: stretch out your hand for whichever you wish. Before a man are life and death, and whichever he chooses will be given to him. (Sirach 15:14-17)
Therefore say to them, Thus says the LORD of hosts: Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. (Zech. 1:3)
For the coming into being at first was not in our own power; and in order that we may follow those things which please Him, choosing them by means of the rational faculties He has Himself endowed us with, He both persuades us and leads us to faith. (St. Justin Martyr, First Apology, 10)
But perhaps some one will say, If all that the Father gives, and whomsoever He shall draw, comes unto You, if none can come unto You except it be given him from above, then those to whom the Father gives not are free from any blame or charges. These are mere words and pretenses. For we require our own deliberate choice also, because whether we will be taught is a matter of choice, and also whether we will believe. (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 45 on John)
I counsel you to think the same. For since there are some who are so proud of their successes that they attribute all to themselves and nothing to Him that made them and gave them wisdom and supplied them with good; such are taught by this word that even to wish well needs help from God; or rather that even to choose what is right is divine and a gift of the mercy of God. For it is necessary both that we should be our own masters and also that our salvation should be of God. This is why He says not of him that wills; that is, not of him that wills only, nor of him that runs only, but also of God. That shows mercy. Next; since to will also is from God, he has attributed the whole to God with reason. (St. Gregory Nazianzus, Orations 37:13)
Notice the last quote from St. Gregory is included under both subheads. But it is important to note, as I'll discuss further below, that man's will is not something operating independent of God's grace or powers, lest we fall into the heresy of Pelagianism, which, as the Catholic Encyclopedia states, believes man can attain salvation minus grace.

Sometimes one will find critiques of these ideas of predestination in that if man's will plays a role, that God's sovereignty is somehow subordinated. Or some may ask, such as Reformed Christian R.C. Sproul who asks:
The question for advocates of prevenient grace is why some people cooperate with it and others don’t. ... The $64,000 question is, “Does the Bible teach such a doctrine of prevenient grace? If so, where?"
Sproul asks an intriguing question. Here is how St. Augustine answered:
For if two men, alike in physical and moral constitution, see the same corporal beauty, and one of them is excited by the sight to desire an illicit enjoyment while the other steadfastly maintains a modest restraint of his will, what do we suppose brings it about, that there is an evil will in the one and not in the other? What produces it in the man in whom it exists? ...This consent, then, this evil will which he presented to the evil suasive influence—what was the cause of it, we ask? For, not to delay on such a difficulty as this, if both are tempted equally and one yields and consents to the temptation while the other remains unmoved by it, what other account can we give of the matter than this, that the one is willing, the other unwilling, to fall away from chastity? And what causes this but their own wills, in cases at least such as we are supposing, where the temperament is identical? (St. Augustine, City of God, 12.6)
Above are a number of Scriptural examples to answer the latter question posed by Sproul as to where such an idea of prevenient grace exists in Scripture. As well, Catholics do not believe Scripture alone exhausts the Church's understanding of divine revelation. Above quotations from Tradition, which include Scriptural interpretations, consistently admit to a freedom in man's response as well.

If, as Scripture states, all man has is from God (cf. 1 Cor. 4:7), this would include the free will. And if, as St. Justin Martyr (for example) also expresses above, that the free will itself is God's gift, then to demand knowledge of what additional factor "caused" an individual's will to choose one way or another is to deny the very premise that God's gift––free will––is truly free. It is to deny the very generosity of God to supernaturalize, to capacitate, man's will with freedom and grace. It is to deny the power in the divine gift given.

Even if the mechanics of such a harmony between God's gift and man's free response are a mystery, the Church is subject to both teachings from divine revelation. The Church does not have some scientific explanation of how the Trinity or the hypostatic union are interrelated, yet Christians accept these truths because they are believed to be taught by the sources of revelation. Sproul believes theological doctrines are subject to divine revelation as well, although he believes divine revelation is bound in Scripture alone, and he presumably denies the passages presented above are evidence of man's free will.

In Father Most's treatment Grace, Predestination and the Salvific Will of God, he examines a couple schools of thought on how the two realities that predestination is ultimately a work of God's grace and yet man is not a passive participant in his free response.

Fr. Most himself leans toward a school of thought known as Thomism, which he develops in summary as follows:
Predestination is gratuitous: ...for even before God considers human merits, He predestines, and because the sole and total cause of predestination is the goodness and love of the Father which moves spontaneously without stimulus, merit, or condition. The absence of grave and persistent resistance in man is the mere absence of a cause that would call for reprobation: it is an ontological zero. (#290)
Essentially, Fr. Most teaches that God's grace appears to all men (e.g. Tit. 2:11), and man's initial "response" is the omission of resistance, which he identifies as an "ontological zero," meaning man does nothing, to enter a state of justification. In a related paragraph, he states:
On condition of this omission, the second stage follows, in which grace moves us further, so that we do make a decision: "It is God who . . . works in you both the will and the performance." Of course, we do actively cooperate with grace in the second stage. The entire process need not take more than one instant of time. (#82)
So, in summary of Fr. Most's position, the initial response is one of omission of resistance, followed by a positive response in grace.

Another school of thought which Fr. Most considers is known as Molinism, which he describes thusly:
For in Molinism, even though it is grace that gives the power to consent, and cooperates with man, the work of the man himself seems to be the chief thing in consent. But St. Paul says that: ". . . for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." These words at least seem to give a lesser role to man in the consent. Similarly, the Council of Orange says that "in every good work, we do not begin." (#329.2)
In reading about Molinism in Fr. Most's treatment and elsewhere, I am not at this time convinced by his conclusion that Molinism makes man "the chief thing in consent." According to Fr. Most, the Molinist believes "it is grace that gives the power to consent." This also emphasizes man's powerlessness to enter justification on his own merit. To me, that seems to place God in a chief position just as would a Thomist. I also see in this an emphasis on God's generosity and love, that He should be so loving as to bestow on His creatures such freedom. At any rate, Fr. Most does not come out and reject Molinism, rather, he favors the former.

Many of the Early Church Fathers, as mentioned above, seem to harmonize with the idea that man's response, his very will, is graced, something from God in the first place. For good measure, here is another quote from St. John Chrysostom:
Be not affrighted, you are not worsted; both the hearty desire and the accomplishment are a gift from Him: for where we have the will, thenceforward He will increase our will. For instance, I desire to do some good work: He has wrought the good work itself, and by means of it He has wrought also the will. Or he says this in the excess of his piety, as when he declares that our well-doings are gifts of grace.  As then, when he calls these gifts, he does not put us out of the pale of free will, but accords to us free will, so when he says, to work in us to will, he does not deprive us of free will, but he shows that by actually doing right we greatly increase our heartiness in willing. (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 8 on Philippians)
In other words, when God commands, He capacitates the hearer to respond. Yet the ability to respond is also His gift. I am reminded of the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30Luke 19:12-28). In the parable, the master bestows various amounts of money (called talents), which are his "property," to a number of servants. The servants who make use of the gift are rewarded. The servant who squanders the gift is sent wailing and gnashing his teeth, a figure of hell. The rewarded individuals in the story make use of that which is the "master's property." Because the master shared what was his, he empowered the servants to accomplish what they otherwise could not of their own accord.

So we have the two teachings of predestination in Catholic thought, that God is the ultimate initiator with grace and man is empowered to freely respond. How these necessarily interact is not a settled matter in the Church's understanding. Nor do any of the current schools of thought on how God's grace and man's will interact solve the "mystery" of the matter.

As Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) once said of another "mystery"–– of Christ's descent into hell:
In the Creed we say about Christ’s journey that he “descended into hell.” What happened then? Since we have no knowledge of the world of death, we can only imagine his triumph over death with the help of images which remain very inadequate.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The canon of scripture, Damasus, and the "Gelasian Decree"

In some non-Catholic circles, there exists an argument against Pope Damasus having decreed the canon of Scripture at a council in Rome, ca 382 A.D. Here is an example from the One Fold blog arguing against Catholic apologist John Martignoni:
What John is referring to when he says the “canon was set at the Council of Rome in 382 A.D,” is actually a list from the Gelasian Decree produced in the sixth century and sometimes falsely attributed to the council of Rome.
A similar claim is made by Protestant historian F.F. Bruce:
What is commonly called the Gelasian decree on books which are to be received and not received takes its name from Pope Gelasius (492-496). It gives a list of biblical books as they appeared in the Vulgate, with the Apocrypha [sic] interspersed among the others. In some manuscripts, indeed, it is attributed to Pope Damasus, as though it had been promulgated by him at the Council of Rome in 382. But actually it appears to have been a private compilation drawn up somewhere in Italy in the early sixth century. (Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, p. 97)
One of the apologetic reasons for claiming the 382 decree on the canon is false is because the text in question includes the longer Catholic canon with 7+ books1––what Bruce calls the "Apocrypha." Catholics today refer to these texts as the Deuterocanon. Those opposed to the authenticity of the 382 decree are apparently averse to admitting to the antiquity of the Catholic canon. Admittedly, this is peculiar, because One Fold, perhaps following the admission on page 97 of Bruce, admits that the longer Catholic canon was declared at Hippo (393) and Carthage (397), just a few years later anyway.
The first ecclesiastical councils to classify the canonical books were both held in North Africa — at Hippo Regius in 393 and at Carthage in 397 — but what these councils did was not to impose something new upon the Christian communities but to codify what was already the general practice of those communities. (ibid. 97)
It's worth noting that Bruce admits the longer Catholic canon was "already the general practice" of the early Christian communities.

Nevertheless, what of the authenticity of Pope Damasus proclaiming the longer canon in 382? Catholic historian William Jurgens writes as follows:
The first part of this decree has long been known as the Decree of Damasus, and concerns the Holy Spirit and the seven-fold gifts. The second part of the decree is more familiarly known as the opening part of the Gelasian Decree, in regard to the canon of Scripture: De libris recipiendis vel non recipiendis. It is now commonly held that the part of the Gelasian Decree dealing with the accepted canon of Scripture is an authentic work of the Council of Rome of 382 A.D. and that Gelasius edited it again at the end of the fifth century, adding to it the catalog of the rejected books, the apocrypha. It is now almost universally accepted that these parts one and two of the Decree of Damasus are authentic parts of the Acts of the Council of Rome of 382 A.D. (Jurgens, Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. 1, p. 404)
So, according to Jurgens, both Damasus and Gelasius included the canonical list, but Gelasius added additional forbidden texts. Whether this took place at the "end of the fifth" century or the "sixth" century, as Bruce asserts, they are apparently speaking of the same Gelasian text. The question is whether or not what Gelasius wrote in the 5th/6th century was an innovation from the 382 Decree of Damasus as One Fold and Bruce assert.

It seems to me, the Decree of Damasus in 382 at the council of Rome is the more historically sound. Here's why. In 1912, the author Ernst von Dobschütz, gave his historical rationale for doubting that Damasus made a decree on the canon at Rome in 382. He points out that in the Gelasian decree is a quotation from St. Augustine dating from 416. Therefore, he denies that any other part of the decree could have originally been from Damasus in 382. From this, he concludes that the entirety of Damasus' decree has "no historical value." We see, of course, that this is specious reasoning. After all, if Damasus declared a canonical list in 382, and Gelasius in the 5th/6th century added to that a quote from Augustine, that would not erase Damasus' original declaration.

All these dates and names can be confusing. But here's the apparent timeline:
  • 382 - Pope Damasus makes his decree on the larger Catholic canon
  • 416 - Augustine makes his comments.
  • 5th/6th century - Gelasius takes Damasus' decree, and edits it, adding to it the Augustinian quote and lists other apocryphal texts
If Gelasius added an Augustinian quote, it has no effect on what Damasus declared. Yet von Dobschütz concludes the entire Decree of Damasus is worthless. Bruce apparently echoes this historical view by calling into question the dating of the canonical list in Damasus' decree.

Another Protestant resource confirms Jurgens and the timeline I have posited above:
A council probably held at Rome in 382 under St. Damasus gave a complete list of the canonical books of both the Old Testament and the New Testament (also known as the 'Gelasian Decree' because it was reproduced by Gelasius in 495), which is identical with the list given at Trent. (The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2nd ed., p. 232)
Thus, we have sound evidence that the longer Catholic canon found acceptance from councils ancient and more recent including Rome (382), Hippo (393), Carthage (397), Nicea II (797), Florence (1442)Trent (1546) and Vatican I (1870). It is this canonical list that has found consistency throughout the centuries.

1For the text of the decree on the canon at the council at Rome (382), see Gary Michuta's Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger, page 126-127, or refer to the Latin text here.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

How to keyword search the Early Church Fathers

This post contains a helpful free method I use when trying to keyword search the Early Church Fathers without falling into websites that do not provide source material or that quote-mine. Some of you may have figured this out, but I will share all the same. Here is a sample: Peter keys
Substitute for the bold words "Peter keys" with whatever keywords you want. Then paste the whole line into Google's search field, and that's it!

The search will turn up pages at New Advent of Church Fathers and councils containing those keywords. Click here to see what the search results for the above looks like. Try your own keywords on various topics or even include a Church Father's name, such as "Chrysostom priest" to see texts of St. John Chrysostom containing the word "priest." The sky's the limit––baptism, Liturgy, purgatory, sacrifice, whatever you wish! This is not an exhaustive search, of course, as New Advent does not contain every single text from ECFs, but it is very useful all the same.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Attempt to discredit papacy uses false history

In January, in an article appearing on the Huffington Post, Christian blogger Ben Stevens claimed to produce 3 "major defeaters" of the papacy. In his own words, he defines a defeater thusly:

[A] defeater is a belief which, if true, necessarily invalidates some other belief (e.g. "Jesus was not raised from the dead" is a defeater for Christianity). These "defeaters" take aim at papal history.
So remember that definition, because he believes that his "3 major defeaters" each "invalidate" the Papacy in some "major" way. He also goes into some "minor" defeaters, but in the interest of brevity, and to demonstrate the pattern of error in his self-proclaimed "major defeaters" alone, I'll go through the 3 major ones.

In virtually all the early citations used to say that Peter led the church in Rome, Paul is listed as co-leader of the church (cf. Ignatius, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Lactantius, Cyril of Jerusalem and Athanasius). ... In all three letters to his disciples, Paul prescribes that there be multiple bishops (episkopoi) in every congregation. [This] is different from what papal historians might lead us to believe.
In response to this, let me first state the obvious miscalculation here. If I were to say the official leaders of the United States were once Woodrow Wilson and Thomas Marshall, would you be able to ascertain from that statement alone if one of them was higher up the hierarchy than the other? If I were to say the United States was founded by George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, could you determine if I thought one of them was President? The answer to both is no. That is, unless you knew your history, or unless you place some favor on who I list first.

Rome has had a history of a number of auxiliary bishops, which refutes Steven's claim that "papal historians" try to lead the public to some false sense of a single bishop only in any given major city.

But let's look at the individual Church Fathers Stevens cites. The reason he mentions Peter and Paul is because Catholics believe the Pope to be the successor of the Apostle Peter. Thus, according to Stevens, if the Early Church recognized Peter and Paul as leaders of the Roman Church, they must have thought them to be equal in authority, and a papacy deriving from Peter must apparently be a fiction. This is where Stevens derails historically and logically.

ST. IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH (ca 110 A.D.) - There's not a significant amount of mention of Peter and Paul in Ignatius' works. He does have a more submissive tone in his letter to the Romans than he does to other cities. He writes in that letter that the Church at Rome is "presiding over the brotherhood of love." Elsewhere in his letter, he writes:

I do not, as Peter and Paul, issue commandments unto you. They were apostles; I am but a condemned man.
Please note, Ignatius doesn't tell us anything about a hierarchical order or otherwise when referencing Peter and Paul. Stevens eisegetes equality into Ignatius' words even though no such qualifier exists. Ignatius merely says they were Apostles teaching in Rome, which is, of course, true, and which any good Catholic history book will describe. One thing you will notice in Ignatius' and others' early references to Peter and Paul in Rome is the order of Peter first. In studying other ECFs giving more detail, we can see this was so due to Peter's superior hierarchical rank. At any rate, Ignatius can hardly be considered a deal-breaker to support Stevens' claim.

ST. IRENAEUS (ca. 170 A.D.) - Irenaeus, like Ignatius, mentions Peter and Paul (in that order) in his texts without specifically naming a leader nor identify any equality in authority, even though Stevens reads the latter into his work. Irenaeus writes quite loftily of the office of Rome itself, consistent with Catholic theology:

...that very great and very ancient and universally known Church, which was founded and established at Rome, by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul: we point I say, to the tradition which this Church has from the Apostles, and to her faith proclaimed to men which comes down to our time through the succession of her bishops, and so we put to shame . . . all who assemble in unauthorized meetings. For with this Church, because of its superior authority, every Church must agree — that is the faithful everywhere — in communion with which Church the tradition of the Apostles has been always preserved by those who are everywhere. ... The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. (Against Heresies, 3.3.2-3)
Notice a couple things in Irenaeus' writing. He lists Peter first in the Church he says has "superior authority" in relation to "every Church." And he establishes a singular "episcopate" flowing from this foundation. Even if one were to grant Stevens (hypothetically of course, since to do so would be incorrect) that Peter and Paul were equally authoritative cofounders of Rome, Irenaeus describes a singular bishop's office flowing from that foundation. The idea of a Papacy, therefore, would not be so much discredited as supported!

TERTULLIAN (ca 210 A.D.) - Tertullian mentions Peter and Paul a few times. For instance, he refers to both of them suffering martyrdom in Rome (Prescription Against Heretics, 36). And he mentions again their bloody sacrifice in Rome (Against Marcion, 4.5). In another place, he mentions Peter alone as having ordained Clement (Prescription Against Heretics, 32).

For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter. In exactly the same way the other churches likewise exhibit (their several worthies), whom, as having been appointed to their episcopal places by apostles, they regard as transmitters of the apostolic seed.
If we refer back to Irenaeus, we see that Clement became the bishop of that superior episcopate. Though Tertullian does not specifically elevate Peter here, he does consistently mention him first when paired with Paul, and he verifies the Catholic concept of apostolic succession and a singular Roman office.

In another work (On Modesty, 21), Tertullian criticizes the Roman bishop, Pope Callistus, over the qualities of Peter passed on to successors. He admits the Pope sits "in the person of Peter," though he denies the power of the keys belonging to Peter alone. He writes:

If, because the Lord has said to Peter, Upon this rock will I build My Church, to you have I given the keys of the heavenly kingdom; or, Whatsoever you shall have bound or loosed in earth, shall be bound or loosed in the heavens, you therefore presume that the power of binding and loosing has derived to you, that is, to every Church akin to Peter, what sort of man are you, subverting and wholly changing the manifest intention of the Lord.
The skeptic of the papacy will note only Tertullian's opposition to the Pope in this text. Yet notice at least two other things from this work. Tertullian freely admits that the episcopate traces back to Peter. No mention of Paul is made here, repudiating Stevens' claim that Tertullian placed Peter and Paul as authoritative equals in Rome. Secondly, notice that in Tertullian's counter to the idea of Peter passing his "keys" onto his successors, Tertullian is revealing the argument presented by the other side. For more on this issue, see Mark Bonocore's The Title Pontifex Maximus.

LACTANTIUS (ca. 305 A.D.) - I was able to find a single mention of Peter and Paul in Lactantius' writings. It reads:

But He also opened to them all things which were about to happen, which Peter and Paul preached at Rome. (Lactantius, Divine Institutes, 4.21, ca 305 A.D.)
There is nothing, as Stevens' claims, in this example about diluted authority between the two men, although, once again, Peter is mentioned first, lending closer to the Catholic assertion.

ST. CYRIL OF JERUSALEM (ca. 360 A.D.) - This is probably Stevens' worst example of someone who supposedly claimed Peter and Paul had equal authority in Rome. I'll let Cyril's words speak for themselves.
And when they all became silent (for the matter was too high for man to learn), Peter, the foremost of the Apostles and chief herald of the Church, neither aided by cunning invention, nor persuaded by human reasoning, but enlightened in his mind from the Father, says to Him, You are the Christ, not only so, but the Son of the living God. (Catechetical Lectures, 11.3)

As the delusion was extending, Peter and Paul, a noble pair, chief rulers of the Church, arrived and set the error right. ... For Peter was there, who carries the keys of heaven: and nothing wonderful, for Paul was there , who was caught up to the third heaven, and into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful far a man to utter. (Catechetical Lectures, 6.15)

In the power of the same Holy Spirit Peter also, the chief of the Apostles and the bearer of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, healed Æneas the paralytic in the Name of Christ at Lydda, which is now Diospolis, and at Joppa raised from the dead Tabitha rich in good works. (Catechetical Lectures, 17.27)
Needless to say, Cyril of Jerusalem is a terrible example for Stevens to use to dilute Peter's authority.

ST. ATHANASIUS (ca 350 A.D.) - Athanasius makes statements similar to other ECFs regarding the historicity that Peter and Paul both were martyred in Rome:

And Peter, who had hid himself for fear of the Jews, and the Apostle Paul who was let down in a basket, and fled, when they were told, 'You must bear witness at Rome ,' deferred not the journey; yea, rather, they departed rejoicing ; the one as hastening to meet his friends, received his death with exultation; and the other shrunk not from the time when it came, but gloried in it, saying, 'For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. (Athanasius, Apologia de Fuga, 18)
In this example, as invariably consistent as other ECFs mentioning the two Apostles in tandem, Peter is listed first.

In the incident versus the Arians in the fourth century, Athanasius was a central figure in quelling the heresy that denied the eternal consubstantiality of the Son Jesus with the Father God. In more than one work, Athanasius quotes from the Pope:
"For what we have received from the blessed Apostle Peter, that I signify to you; and I should not have written this, as deeming that these things were manifest unto all men, had not these proceedings so disturbed us." ... Thus wrote the Council of Rome by Julius, Bishop of Rome. (Athanasius, Defense Against the Arians, quoting from Pope Julius' Letter, I.35.b, ca. 360 A.D.)
You see above, Athanasius quotes what the Pope had written about how what he "signified" came "from the blessed Apostle Peter." There is no objection from Athanasius along with this citation. Rather, Athanasius is using the letter as evidence for his position in his battle against the Arians. This supports the notion that Peter was the head of Rome through which the authority of the episcopate was passed.

Athanasius, quoting another Pope, shows again that the episcopate flowed through Peter:

The eunuch accordingly went to Rome, and first proposed to Liberius to subscribe against Athanasius ... But the Bishop endeavoured to convince him, reasoning with him thus: "How is it possible for me to do this against Athanasius? How can we condemn a man, whom not one Council only, but a second assembled from all parts of the world, has fairly acquitted, and whom the Church of the Romans dismissed in peace? Who will approve of our conduct, if we reject in his absence one, whose presence among us we gladly welcomed, and admitted him to our communion? This is no Ecclesiastical Canon; nor have we had transmitted to us any such tradition from the Fathers, who in their turn received from the great and blessed Apostle Peter." (Athanasius, quoting Pope Liberius, History of the Arians, V.36)1
Again, Athanasius quotes a Pope claiming succession back to Peter with no objection or comment on the matter. One might claim that these previous two quotes are arguments from silence, which to a certain extent may be true, although he does quote the Petrine sentiment explicitly. However, Stevens' claim that Athanasius equalized Peter and Paul's authority in Rome appears entirely devoid even of such semi-silent evidence.

But that's not all from Athanasius. In his commentary on the Psalms, Athanasius writes: "For Peter also is the leader in the praxis/practice for Christ..." For my part, I was able to find the Greek of this excerpt (at line 00874 in this PDF). I had a university Greek professor provide my translation above. Other translations, such as at, have listed the interpretation of his words as "The Chief, Peter."

This, too, damages Stevens' claim to deny the unique leadership position Peter held amidst the Apostles.

Remember, Stevens claimed that the above ECFs made claims about the equality of Peter and Paul's authority in Rome, and yet not a single one supports his assertion. This is supposed to be one of his deal-breakers, one of his "major defeaters" against the Catholic idea of a papacy. Granted, Stevens did not provide any citations from these ECFs to support his claim, so if there is something he was able to locate that I was not, I am open to reviewing those quotations. In the meantime, not only do all these ECFs consistently list Peter first when mentioned with Paul, but on many occasions, they explicitly speak to Peter's headship.

Even though Stevens listed several ECFs, he also said "virtually all the early citations" regarding Peter's authority list Paul as a "co-leader," which Stevens uses to deny Peter as head. The range of ECFs he named spans from approximately 110 A.D. – 350 A.D. Here's a sampling from that range of what Stevens calls "virtually all" the ECFs who did not consider Peter the leader:

ST. CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA (ca 195 A.D.) - St. Clement explicitly contradicts Stevens' claim:

On hearing these words, the blessed Peter, the chosen, the pre-eminent, the first among the disciples, for whom alone with Himself the Savior paid the tribute, quickly grasped and understood their meaning. And what does he say? "Behold, we have left all and have followed you!" (Clement of Alexandria, Homily on Mark 10:17-31 "Who is the rich man that is saved?")

ORIGEN (ca 230 A.D.) - Origen, and subsequently Cyprian below, echo the same sentiment that Peter is the foundation of the Church:
"Peter, upon whom is built the Church of Christ, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail, left only one epistle of acknowledged genuinity. Let us concede also a second, which however is doubtful." (Origen, Commentaries on John 5,3)

"Look upon the great foundation of the Church, that most solid of rocks, upon whom Christ built the Church! And what does the Lord say to him? 'O you of little faith,' He says, 'why did you doubt!'" (Origen, Homilies on Exodus 5,4)
ST. CYPRIAN (ca 250 A.D.) - On the nature of unity in the Church, Cyprian writes:

If any one consider and examine these things, there is no need for lengthened discussion and arguments. There is easy proof for faith in a short summary of the truth. The Lord speaks to Peter, saying, I say unto you, that you are Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matt. 16:18) And I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. And again to the same He says, after His resurrection, Feed my sheep. And although to all the apostles, after His resurrection, He gives an equal power, and says, As the Father has sent me, even so send I you: Receive the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins you remit, they shall be remitted unto him; and whose soever sins you retain, they shall be retained; John 20:21 yet, that He might set forth unity, He arranged by His authority the origin of that unity, as beginning from one. Assuredly the rest of the apostles were also the same as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honour and power; but the beginning proceeds from unity. Which one Church, also, the Holy Spirit in the Song of Songs designated in the person of our Lord, and says, My dove, my spotless one, is but one. She is the only one of her mother, elect of her that bare her. Song of Songs 6:9 Does he who does not hold this unity of the Church think that he holds the faith? (Cyprian, Treatise 1.4)
Above, Cyprian admits to a "like" power among all the Apostles, but he raises Peter up as the source of unity. The excerpt ends with him saying that one who does not hold to the "unity" beginning with Peter in Matt. 16:18, cannot be said to hold to the faith.

Cyprian repeats this teaching in an Epistle:

For first of all the Lord gave that power to Peter, upon whom He built the Church, and whence He appointed and showed the source of unity— the power, namely, that whatsoever he loosed on earth should be loosed in heaven. (Cyprian, Epistle 72.7, ca 250 A.D.)
In another work, Cyprian confirms that succession in Rome proceeded through Peter.

And [Cornelius] was made bishop by very many of our colleagues who were then present in the city of Rome ... Cornelius was made bishop ... when the place of Fabian, that is, when the place of Peter and the degree of the sacerdotal throne was vacant; which being occupied by the will of God, and established by the consent of all of us, whosoever now wishes to become a bishop, must needs be made from without; and he cannot have the ordination of the Church who does not hold the unity of the Church. (Cyprian, Epistle 51.8)
COUNCIL OF SARDICA (344 A.D.) - The council at Sardica debunks Stevens' claim both against the idea of Roman primacy and also that Peter was not the leader from whom succession flowed in Rome:

But if judgment have gone against a bishop in any cause, and he think that he has a good case, in order that the question may be reopened, let us, if it be your pleasure, honour the memory of St. Peter the Apostle, and let those who tried the case write to Julius, the bishop of Rome, and if he shall judge that the case should be retried, let that be done, and let him appoint judges; but if he shall find that the case is of such a sort that the former decision need not be disturbed, what he has decreed shall be confirmed. Is this the pleasure of all? The synod answered, It is our pleasure. (Council of Sardica, canon 3)
There are many other early Church writings that confirm Peter's position as leader of the Apostles and the original occupant of the chair in Rome, not Paul even though he was a revered Apostle himself.

From this sampling, I hope it is clear that Stevens' "major defeater #1" has been, itself, defeated.

Even though the founding of the papacy (if historical) would be the second most important event in all of history (after the Christ event itself), it has no place in the apostolic preaching (in Acts) or even in the writings of the apostolic fathers. The good news, if the papal narrative holds true, would have to be that Christ has come and that, in Peter, Christ remains. But there is not a trace or hint of this Petrine emphasis in the apostolic preaching. Nowhere do we hear it preached that "a human representative of Christ on earth will graciously continue on as Christ directs him." How could such a monumental component of the story be left out if in fact it was truly a part of the story?
The above is similar to the average atheist's challenge against God. Do a Google search sometime for phrases like: "If God is real why doesn't he show himself??" The challenger comes up with a criteria after the fact that they supposedly require before they submit to a belief. The problem is, the challenger ignores the extant evidence while coming up with some criteria for which he claims there is no evidence, and then parades that criteria as the ultimate rule.

That being said, Stevens' demands are actually met in the course of history. He simply does not acknowledge it, or perhaps has some degree of blindness, as we saw in the response to his "major defeater #1."

He says a Papacy has no place in the book of Acts. Before I provide evidence of Peter's primacy from the book of Acts, let me point out something of which Stevens indicates no knowledge or perhaps for which he has no respect. That is the doctrine of development. The books of the very Bible Stevens cites as his historical evidence had not been identified with clarity for a few hundred years following their penning. The most consistent canon began around 382 at the synod at Rome. Stevens does not seem to submit the canon of Scripture through the same gauntlet as he does the papacy, demanding evidence of the latter from the book of Acts, but not the former. Surely, Stevens considers the identification of the books of Scripture to be vitally important if they are to be a measure of other doctrines. Yet we have no such list from an Apostle. I could easily play the role of devil's advocate against his belief and demand he show me the canon of Scripture by using only the book of Acts. I could say as he did of the Papacy, "Surely such an 'important event in all of history' would be articulated by Jesus and the Apostles!" Of course, my demand would be just as specious as his demand to produce the fully developed doctrine of the papacy from the book of Acts.

Scripture itself identifies the Apostles and prophets as a foundation (Eph. 2:19-20), not as the end all, exhaustive communicators of all that will be understood by the Church in one shot. This is historically evident in the Church's behavior in discerning not only the canon of Scripture, but in understanding other widely held Christian doctrines such as the Trinity (formulated at Nicea in 325 A.D.) or the hypostatic union of the Incarnation (formulated at Chalcedon in 451 A.D.). Yet for the papacy, Stevens demands his own full blown 21st century definition from the 1st century book of Acts. But I digress.

In the book of Acts, it is Peter who assembles the Church leaders to choose a successor for Judas (Acts 1:15). It is Peter who first speaks after the Holy Spirit descends upon the Church at Pentecost (Acts 2:14). It is Peter who performs the first Apostolic miracle (Acts 3:6-7). Peter is the first to speak at the council of Jerusalem, resolving the first doctrinal conflict in the Church (Acts 15:7ff). The historical record shows James to have been the first bishop of Jerusalem (e.g. St. John Chrysostom, commentary on John 21:19, ca. 390 A.D.)––all the more significant that Peter stood and made the first pronouncement in his fellow Apostle's jurisdiction.

These are just a few examples from Acts regarding Peter's leadership. Other New Testament examples are quite common in Catholic apologetics. I won't give a lengthy treatment here since such examples are easy to find. Suffice it to say, Jesus changed Peter's name to "Rock," (Matt. 16:18) a term normally reserved in Scripture for God. The significance of that has been downplayed in occasions in history, particularly among those who attempt to discredit the papacy. But the symmetry of the passage demands Peter's himself to be called "Rock" by Christ. Peter starts with "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matt. 16:17) Notice he identifies Jesus' persona, followed by His identity in relation to his father. Jesus replies, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church." (Matt. 16:18-19) Notice how Jesus returns the symmetry by identifying Peter's persona (as Rock) and his identity in relation to his father "Jona." An abundance of well-known Protestant scholars admit to the necessity of this interpretation. Sometimes, you will find a historical Christian identifying Peter's confession of faith as the Rock. The Church has no problem with that understanding as can be seen in CCC#424. However, the Church does not posit a false dichotomy by saying if the Rock is Peter's confession, it therefore cannot be Peter himself. No, rather the Church, historically and today, acknowledges also Peter himself as the Rock (CCC#552) consistent with the structure of the Matthean text.

Another strong verse demonstrating Peter's primacy amongst the Apostles is in Luke. Notice the tense of the Greek terms in parentheses below:

"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you (plural), that he might sift you (plural) like wheat, but I have prayed for you (singular) that your (singular) faith may not fail; and when you (singular) have turned again, strengthen your (singular) brethren." (Luke 22:31-32)
You have at least two elements of the idea of the papacy here. Peter is certainly charged with oversight of the other disciples, to be strength for them. As well, Jesus makes a personal prayer here for Peter's faith, the seed of the doctrine of Papal Infallibility (which is a charism, given by the Holy Spirit, protecting the Pope from teaching error on the faith when several teaching conditions are met).

There is a plethora of other evidence from Scripture speaking to Peter's primacy, including that from Matthew to Revelation, Peter is mentioned some 155 times versus a combined total of 130 for the other Apostles. Not only that, but the idea of Roman primacy was well-recognized in the first few centuries as articulated above, and even more forcefully in the 4th century and beyond. Even a 2008 joint statement by Catholics and Orthodox acknowledges the Petrine origin of the Roman see, and it's identity as the "prima sedes." The historical record belies Stevens' claim to belittle Peter's leadership in Rome and Roman primacy.

For more Scriptural info, see such pages as my debate on the Papacy from 2008,, tracts on the papacy,'s articles on the papacy, Dave Armstrong's Biblical apologetics for the papacy, and many other sites detailing what is a plethora of Petrine primacy in the Scriptures.

I must consider Stevens' "major defeater #2" the second of two failed attempts to discredit the papacy.

The medieval schism and Council of Constance not only severed what link there might have been to Petrine succession but, in fact, ground the true authority of all churches in Jesus Christ alone. In the papacy's darkest hour, the line of leaders which (is supposed to have) descended from Peter himself was broken, and the leaders of the church announced in their resolution to the schism that "everyone is subject to this ruling, even the pope. We draw our authority from Jesus Christ Himself." This is, in its essence, a Protestant understanding of authority, and it undercuts the whole Petrine office.
I must first point out Stevens' admission in the first sentence referring to "what link there might have been to Petrine succession" when his first "major defeater" denies that one existed through Peter alone, calling instead for the equation of authority in Rome between Peter and Paul. Whether this is subconscious evidence from Stevens that his first "major defeater" is not all that major, I cannot say.

At any rate, Stevens strangely places the utmost authority in the Council of Constance and, perhaps inadvertently, places his authority in the Council that penned the quotation in question while simultaneously claiming to place his authority only in Jesus Christ. Catholic thought believes the papacy draws its authority from none other than Christ, yet Stevens behaves as if he is unaware that such is Catholic teaching. Still, this point only speaks to Stevens' personal inconsistencies in analysis.

Stevens leaves out an important element in the Council of Constance –– the council submitted to Pope Gregory XII's demand that he formally convoke the council himself, thus placing it in some sense under his authority, certifying it in logical advancement. The council submitted. Once he convoked the council himself, Gregory then voluntarily abdicated so as to end the confusion of who was the authentic Pope by letting the council pick his successor. The historical record does not admit to the confusion claimed by Stevens that succession was broken. For the Church then recognized Martin V in 1417, preserving the succession of Popes that Stevens claims was broken. Those from the very council in which Stevens placed so much authority to make his point acknowledged the existence of Martin V as true Pope!

For more details and source material on this historical episode, see my earlier blog post Were there 3 popes at the same time?

And thus, Stevens' "major defeater #3" can neither be considered a defeater of the papacy.

1Sometimes, you will see among anti-Catholics the claim against the dogma of Papal Infallibility on the grounds that Pope Liberius caved in to the Arian Heresy and supposedly formally taught Arianism. However, if we read through paragraphs 36-41 of part V of his History of the Arians, we see even Athanasius defending the Pope at that time. Paragraph 41 culminates with: "But Liberius after he had been in banishment two years gave way, and from fear of threatened death subscribed." Not only was Liberius under known duress and threat of death at the time, he could not reasonably be considered to have met all the criteria for the protection of Papal Infallibility to have occurred and did not teach heresy for the faithful to hold as a function of his Petrine see. This is especially evidenced by the likes of a bishop like Athanasius detailing the external threats begetting Liberius' submission.