Friday, January 1, 2010

Papal Infallibility Had Its Origins In Hyperpreterist Mentality

Well if that title doesn’t get attention I don’t know what will.  But I didn’t use it just for shock value nor do I think it misrepresents hyperpreterism.
I have been in the process of reviewing a book by Keith Mathison called, The Shape of Sola Scriptura.  I am reviewing this book for a couple of reasons.
1. I want to understand more about the concepts of Sola Scriptura, since it was my misunderstanding of that concept that allowed me to be duped into hyperpreterism & remain there for 15 years. I also believe most, if not all hyperpreterists suffer from an incorrect concept of Sola Scriptura — which comes out more as private interpretation.
2. I want to eventually do a verse-by-verse commentary of the Bible (perhaps starting this June) & want to start by understanding how to read the Bible.  For so long, people on all sides have said, “We are just saying what the Bible says”, yet then the real issue is who can say what the Bible says?  Applying some convoluted “logic” or favorite “hermeneutic” isn’t enough.  It is no wonder we have over 38,000 denominations — a fact hyperpreterists often use to claim all of the Church is wrong.  There MUST be a more God-honoring way to approach the Bible than to just read a text & claim your interpretation is the best if not the only interpretation.  I have to believe a Sovereign God has left us with a better method, otherwise each man WILL “lean on his own understanding” & claim it is as good as the next man’s.

So, I wanted to share a little bit of the review of The Shape of Sola Scriptura, especially how it relates to hyperpreterism’s premise of themselves being the “recoverers” of some lost “truth”.  Pay attention to the Franciscans & how their beliefs so resemble EVERY heretical group in history & how it was actually & ironically their beliefs that gave us the concept of Papal Infallibility.
In this same way, it is the erroneous & shortsighted beliefs of hyperpreterism — which to some people may seem innocent enough — that I believe will give the Church some of its most vile doctrines in the future (if the Church embraces any of what hyperpreterism claims).
We begin this part of the review of The Shape of Sola Scriptura at a very crucial marker — The Papacy of Roman Catholicism.  So much tension resides around the claim of the Papacy & its impact on modern Christianity, it is important that we fully understand it.  The first issue is the lineage/history of the concept of a Papacy or Pope ruled Church.  Mathison jumps right into the issue with this quote:
“Although Rome traces the origins of the papacy to the Apostle Peter, the historical evidence indicates that there was no monarchical bishop in Rome until sometime between A.D. 140-150.” (pg 51)
Mathison goes on to cite how various other bishops outside of Rome viewed the Roman bishop, which clearly was not with any specific authoritative deference.  Mathison indicates that it was not until the rule of the Roman bishop, Leo I A.D. 440-461 before the position of Roman bishop really took on any resemblance to what we think of as a Pope (pg 51-52)
Further, Mathison relates that as the Eastern/Constantinople part of the Christian/Roman empire began to settle, the Western Roman part was in constant conflict as the various regional kingdoms vied for power.  This unique situation in the West pushed the Roman Bishop into a more important role of mediator — but perhaps it was an artificial role, in that each king/leader sought to use the Church to legitimize themselves.  To claim to have the blessing of God & give to the Roman bishop that sole authority would have been advantageous to the king/leader.  But as well, the Papacy often “played off one party against another” for its own benefit. As the secular powers were weakened more & more, the Papacy was in position to fill the void. (pgs 52-53)
Further, the erosion of communication & community between the East & West Church left the West/Latin Church to fend for itself.  Eventually, the East & West Church would be in open conflict & by the time of Leo IX’s papacy (1049-54), the East & West Church conflict had peaked & marked the supposed 1054 break of East from West — declining further during the Crusades. (pg 55)  It was probably that arrogant claim of the Papacy & its attempt to exert authority it did not rightfully have, that destroyed whatever unity the visible geo-political Church had.
According to Mathison, the first Roman bishop to emphasize the title of “vicar of Christ” was Pope Innocent III (A.D. 1198-1216).  It is difficult to say when the Roman Church ceased to represent Christianity & instead had become a new religion with a Christian veneer, but most historians would say that at least by the time of Pope Innocent III, the Roman Church had taken on, fully its present character.  I know some Christians will claim the Roman Catholic Church was NEVER really Christian. (pg 56)
The more I read about how the concept of the Papacy was developed, both purposely & due to situations surrounding the existence of the Roman Church, I almost feel sad & pity what has happened to create such an anti-Christian environment.  By the time we reach the era of the Reformation (1300-1500s), the Papacy had degenerated into a political machine no less corrupt than many of our modern political machines. Nepotism, buying positions, including bishoprics over entire regions.  It was against this Papacy which the Reformers preached, not against historic Christianity.  Many modern wanna-be Luthers will often rail against historic Christianity & call for full revolt.  The Reformers would not & did not join such sentiments (more on that in later parts). (pg 57)
It is interesting to understand that not all of the Roman Catholic government originally went along with what is now considered a hallmark of Roman Catholicism; Papal Infallibility.  As a matter of fact, Mathison notes that theologians & “canon lawyers” had originally said:
“they did not know of any magisterium conferred on Peter with the power of the keys; they believed in matters of faith a general council was greater than a pope; they did not maintain that papal pronouncements were irreformable - ex see” (pg 58)
This reminds me of the political tension that purposely exists within various government structures; such as between senate & president or parliament & prime minister.
Mathison brings out a very, very interesting aspect of the development of the Papacy when he relates to us the contention of the Franciscan monks who advocated that their concept of “apostolic poverty” was not merely a good way of life or even the best way of life but that is was an essential aspect of the perfect way of life Christ taught His apostles.  But it is really this next quote that is intriguing:
“Many of them claimed St. Francis was the first Christian to correctly understand the gospel since the time of the Apostles and that Franciscans were the only members of the Church leading truly Christian lives” (pg 59)
I am seeing more & more a repeating pattern with cults & heresies — they all claim that the historic Church has somehow failed & that instead they & they alone recover or maintain the only “true” Church.  But this quote is also connected to the concept of Papal Infallibility because it was a member from this order that was one of the first to advocate papal infallibility in an attempt to safe-guard his order from being overturned by theologians & canon lawyers (since popes were traditionally friendly to the Franciscan order). (pg 59)
The concept, though at first seemed to strengthen the position of pope, had to be amended because as put forth, it did not allow future popes to recind pronouncements of former popes. So, against the wishes of the Franciscans, Pope John XXII in 1322 issued a decree redefining Papal Infallibility.  The Franciscans eventually & ironically declared that Pope John XXII was a heretic. (pg 60)
During this ongoing dispute between the Pope & the Franciscans, the concept of The Petrine Keys (based on Matt 16:18-19) was developed.  The irony in it all is that it was NOT the Papacy that was pushing this concept, but instead it was the Franciscans.  The Pope originally considered the idea to be a “pernicious novelty”. (pg 61)

Mathison even states:

“The doctrine of papal infallibility was not declared official Roman Catholic dogma until Vatican I in 1870, but its origins can be traced to this obscure thirteenth-century battle between radical Franciscans and the papacy.” (pg 61)

Again, it cannot be stated more adamantly that whenever a group claims that all of historic Christianity except for themselves has been wrong, that no good thing can come of such a claim.  Whether it be the origin of the concept of Papal Infallibility (which no doubt was eventually embraced by those who originally rejected it, when it suited their purposes), or whether this individualistic & disdaining view of Christianity rears its head in some modern day heresy.  Disconnecting from historic Christianity has ALWAYS led to cultic ends.

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