March 19, 2013

Humble Popes Don’t Exist

by Steve Meister

francisbusRoman Catholicism is installing Francis as pope today. And much has been made of his bus rides and apartment dwelling back home in Buenos Aires. (The fact that people are impressed by his studied avoidance of opulence actually speaks volumes about Roman Catholicism in general). But while the press fawns and Rome beams over his supposed humility, what should Bible-believing Protestants say? Probably something like this: “How great sin have you heaped up for yourself, when you cut yourself off from so many flocks! For it is yourself that you have cut off. Do not deceive yourself!”

Now that would probably not make the cut for a Christianity Today editorial, like A Pope for All Christians, but it is how Christians responded the first time a bishop in Rome made the incredibly arrogant claim that he was supreme pontiff.

Conflicting over Church Membership

Stephen, the bishop of Rome in the third century (d. A.D. 257), was actually the first guy to pull the “no, you kiss my ring” card. He did so during a conflict over church membership that was one of the most important debates in the early church – how to treat “lapsed” Christians. That is, how should churches receive Christians who had buckled in the face of Roman persecution, but who later wanted to rejoin the Church after the threat of persecution subsided.

Should the “lapsed” be permanently banned as apostates? Or accepted immediately as though no harm had been done? Perhaps the Church should create some kind of second-tier status for them? It was a tricky issue that resisted easy solutions. And it certainly wasn’t absent of passion, especially if it was your friends and family who had gone to the lions without wavering.

Once churches began to adopt differing approaches, the problems only multiplied. You can imagine the difficulties. How were the more “lenient” churches, those who immediately accepted lapsed Christians, to be treated by those who took a stronger stance? And how were other churches to view new converts in “lenient” churches? Was their baptism and Christian profession even valid? Some guys, like Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (d. 258), said no. While others, like Stephen of Rome, said yes.

Who Made You Bishop of Bishops?

Whatever our assessment of the immediate issue, Stephen’s method left much to be desired. Not content to reason through the disagreement, Stephen one-up’d everyone because he was, after all, bishop of Rome, the capital of the earth’s greatest empire! Ministering in Rome, Stephen felt he should pull more weight, so he effectively excommunicated the churches in North Africa and around the Mediterranean. Cyprian’s response to him is still instructive:

It remains that we should individually express our opinions on this same subject, judging no one, and removing no one from the right of communion if he should entertain a different opinion. For neither does any one of us set himself up as a bishop of bishops, or by tyrannical terror force his colleagues to the necessity of obeying, since every bishop, in the free use of his liberty and power, has the right of free judgment, and can no more be judged by another than he can himself judge another. But we are all awaiting the judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ who alone has the power both of preferring us in the government of His Church, and of judging of our actions (Cyprian, cited by Augustine in Writings Against the Manichaeans and Donatists).

In other words, Cyprian wanted to know who had died and made Stephen pope. No one has the prerogative to “set himself up as a bishop of bishops” and tyrannically force obedience upon others.

But even more to the point was Cyprian’s friend, Firmilian, bishop of Caesarea (d. 268), in  Against the Letter of Stephen (A.D. 256):

And this indeed you Africans are able to say against Stephen, that when you knew the truth you forsook the error of custom. But we join custom to truth, and to the Romans’ custom we oppose custom, but the custom of truth; holding from the beginning that which was delivered by Christ and the apostles…

For what strife and dissensions have you stirred up throughout the churches of the whole world! Moreover, how great sin have you heaped up for yourself, when you cut yourself off from so many flocks! For it is yourself that you have cut off. Do not deceive yourself, since he is really the schismatic who has made himself an apostate from the communion of ecclesiastical unity.

For while you think that all may be excommunicated by you, you have excommunicated yourself alone from all; and not even the precepts of an apostle have been able to mold you to the rule of truth and peace, although he warned, and said, ‘I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all’ [Eph 4:1-6].

Personally, I like Firmilian’s style – Scripture-quoting and straight to the point. Stephen opposed the truth delivered by Christ and the Apostles, something we call the New Testament! By violating it, Stephen had effectively excommunicated himself. And that’s still what every pope effectively accomplishes, including Francis.

Breaking Unity… in Humility?

Let’s be clear, Francis is not humble. He’s actually quite adorned with pride, especially today. Any leader who announces his own supremacy franciswaveand draws self-imposed boundaries around his own authority has flagrantly violated the peaceful unity of Christ’s body – a peace over which every Christian is accountable to stand guard (Eph 4:3). Firmilian was right, the papacy is an act of self-excommunication out of the Church. And it is impossible to do that humbly.

Dividing the Church is never a humble act. There is no humble way to break the unity of the Spirit (Eph 4:1-6). You can never exceed what has been written in Scripture with humility (1 Cor 4:6). It is impossible to humbly love first-place, like Diotrephes (3 John 3). So, irrespective of his bus route or his amiability at press conferences, Pope Francis along with each of his predecessors, is inexcusably arrogant. By definition, there can be no such thing as a humble pope.

Tomorrow, I’ll address why I think it is pastorally important to still say to the Pope: “It is yourself that you have cut off. Do not deceive yourself.”


Steve Meister

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Steve is the associate pastor of River City Grace Church, in Sacramento, CA.
  • S.Barth

    Wow! Do the writers of Cripplegate have nothing better to write about than the Catholic Church? Talk about arrogance. Rather than focusing on what other churches are doing wrong how about writing to the believer and what the scripture teaches us on how to live? It’s getting old guys.

    • What neither you, S. Barth, nor Brandon Vogt, seem to appreciate is that pastors are not only called to proclaim the truth to their flocks, but are also called to defend the flock from wolves and impostors. The latter duty is not nearly as pleasant as the former, but a true pastor shoulders that responsibility. You cannot justly call a man arrogant because he sees a wolf and calls out the alarm. The mere act is no evidence of arrogance. In our day, many Protestant pastors and people are simply unaware of the true character of Roman Catholicism. That puts an additional burden on men who do understand how Romanism has officially condemned the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to respond fully. To do less is as unloving a thing as a pastor could do. When you see a ravenous wolf circling the flock and you say nothing, are you loving? caring? fulfilling your calling? If people feel there is no danger, then they will not appreciate the man who calls out a warning, but, in the case of Rome and the Papacy, they would be greatly mistaken. To not understand how Rome has fatally corrupted the Gospel is to be seriously misinformed or ignorant of the facts. Our disagreement with Rome are not about things on which Christians can respectfully disagree. These things strike at the very heart of the Gospel. Thanks Pastor Meister for sounding out the alarm, even if it proves to be ungratefully received.

      • James, thanks for the reply. I agree with your first point, that pastors are called to both proclaim truth to *and* protect their flocks. And I admire your desire to protect people from dangerous teachings.

        You claim that “To not understand how Rome has fatally corrupted the Gospel is to be seriously misinformed or ignorant of the facts.” Can you please explain which facts you’re talking about? How has Rome “fatally corrupted” the Gospel and, more importantly, how do you know what the Gospel is and isn’t? Thanks!

          • Roger, I don’t have time right now to watch the whole message, but perhaps you can summarize it here in the comment box?

            Are you claiming that the Catholic Church has “fatally corrupted” the Gospel most especially because it denies we’re saved by “faith alone”?

          • Dave

            Brandon: Isn’t it a bit ironic how you “don’t have time right now to watch” a linked video that someone suggests to you but you do have time to post several more long-winded responses that later follow? Furthermore, in one of your last posts you also link out to other articles you suggest to others to read? You don’t come across as being teachable nor sincere in your willingness to truly dialogue with Protestants who clearly disagree with your Catholic dogmas. Just sayin’.

          • Dave, I don’t see the irony. Watching and absorbing a lengthy video, and trying to determine what main points you wanted me to glean, requires more time and energy than taking ten minutes to respond in a comment box. Also, the articles I linked to were only offered as sources of deeper exploration. I made the main points myself and didn’t insinuate that reading the articles was necessary to my understanding my position.

            You, on the other hand, simply pointed me to a video without any argument of your own. That’s why I asked you to summarize the main point you’re trying to make in the comment box, which you’ve still failed to do.

            Finally, you claim I’m not sincere in my willingness to truly dialogue with those who disagree. Yet this is confusing precisely because that’s exactly what I’m doing–even in this very reply!

            If you yourself are sincerely interested in dialogue, I again ask you to respond to my earlier, yet still unanswered question:

            Are you claiming that the Catholic Church has “fatally corrupted” the Gospel most especially because it denies we’re saved by “faith alone”?

          • Dave

            Brandon: First, correction-I didn’t originally point you to any video, Roger did. This just proves that you really don’t read other people’s posts thoughtfully and are more concerned with your own agenda.

            Second, an honest and sincere question for you: In your own estimation, how many Protestants have you knowingly convinced and persuaded to be enlightened by your Catholic-slanted views on matters such as these? I see your posts on several evangelical/reformed sites from time to time and just wonder what the personal payoff is for you to troll/frequently read such sites that you adamantly disagree with. I’ve often wondered if you’ve ever objectively convinced another Protestant (through blogs and social media) that the Catholic church is entirely correct in all of their doctrines and propaganda… in other words, has anyone EVER replied back to you in a manner stating: “Wow Brandon, thanks for enlightening me, I now plan to renounce the SOLAS and the reformation altogether and join Catholicism now that you have set me straight.”

            Finally, after reading dozens of posts from you and connecting the dots, I’ve come to the conclusion that you are a zealous proponent and apologist for the Catholic church… we all get it loud and clear. But for most (if not all) of us on these reformed/evangelical blogs, we are already thoroughly convinced by the Scriptures alone and in our own hearts as well of reformation doctrines and principles and will not be swayed by any contrary papal/Catholic dogma. Here we stand (no matter what Brandon says), we can do no other.

          • Dave,

            First, since you interjected the dialogue between Roger and I, I assumed it was Roger. My mistake! (However, I did correct my post before your most recent reply.)

            Second, I’ve seen *several* Protestants enter the Catholic Church after interacting with me and other Catholics online. I’m Example A. I was Protestant for the first 22 years of my life until I began interacting with Catholics on social media and blog comment boxes. After much study and discussion, I came to see the fatal flaws in Protestantism and the undeniable truth claims of the Catholic Church. Most importantly, if you’re interested, I came to see that the fundamental pillars of Protestant theology–“sola Scriptura” and “sola fide”–are unbiblical and, the former especially, internally inconsistent.

            (Note: You say you’re convinced “by the Scriptures alone”. Please show me where in the Bible this view is promoted. If you cannot, this remains a devastating blow to your belief system.)

            In particular response to your question, I’ve had scores of Protestants email me after comments I’ve made on a Reformed blog, most looking for more dialogue or resources.

            I agree with you that it’s highly unlikely anyone will convert to Catholicism because of a single blog comment, especially on a Protestant blog. But part of my aim online is to correct the many egregious distortions about the Catholic Church so that people will have one less roadblock to conversion. Most converts to Catholicism will confirm that moving from Protestantism to the Catholic faith is a long and weighty process. Yet that doesn’t preclude helping potential converts along the way.

            Finally, you’re right that I’m a “zealous proponent and apologist” for my faith. I’d hope you describe yourself the same way, albeit for your particular stream of Protestantism. Yet let me ask you this: If *you* really believe that Catholics misunderstand the Gospel and are therefore in danger of hell, the real question is why wouldn’t *you* comment on Catholic blogs and try to win them to the Truth?

            The rest of your last paragraph is especially worrisome. You basically say, “I’m wholeheartedly convinced by “sola Scriptura” and *nothing* you can say will change my mind.” (see this statement: “Here we stand (no matter what Brandon says).”)

            However, I don’t think someone sincerely interested in the Truth, and not just holding tight to a particular ideology, would make such an audacious claim. I’m personally open to being wrong about Catholicism and welcome arguments against it. I’ve wrestled with both Protestantism and Catholicism, taking both on their own terms, and have obviously concluded that Catholicism makes the strongest case to be the Church Christ established. But I welcome alternative views and always consider them in turn. You, however, seem to be closed to any alternative views simply because they don’t jive with your ideology.

            But what if you’re wrong? What if there’s evidence you either haven’t considered or claims you’ve misunderstood? Closing yourself off to conversation removes the possibility of correcting any of these problems.

          • Michael Coughlin

            In that case, Brandon, I would suggest you stand before God someday and profess to Him the good works you did in addition to His Son’s sacrifice, and we will stand before Him and proclaim only His son’s Goodness and none of our own and He will sort out the Heaven and Hell thing.

            In the meantime, why would a guy like you waste time with people who don’t agree? Are you hoping to convert us to the true faith, or are you just argumentative?

            Just wondering, seriously, about your motivation.

      • S. Barth

        Wrong James, I do appreciate what pastors are called to do. But if, in fact what you are stating is that it is their job to proclaim truth to their flocks, then there is no need to write about the Catholic church. They are not your flock and they do not follow you. I am not going to argue with you or go in circles about right or wrong. I am simply going to leave it with if you want to reach the unsaved then judging them is not the way to do it. I married into a Catholic family and I have seen first-hand what your so called “proclamation of Truth” can do and it certainly isn’t helping them find Jesus.

        • Thanks, S. Barth. I’m guessing we have some deeper differences here over what Roman Catholicism represents and how we are to approach things. Tomorrow, I’ll attempt to address why I think there is very much a need to write about Roman Catholicism.

  • Seriously. I wonder if Steve senses the irony of pridefully chiding the humility of others.

    • Chris

      Oh the irony of this prideful chiding of someone else’s pride in their humble chiding of the humility of others.

      • Well played, Chris 🙂 Yet your joke can only be funny if it was first true of the original article.

        Steve is categorically rejecting the possibility that *any* pope can ever be humble. Do you agree?

        • Chris

          Do you consider Francis to be a humble man? If so, why? What is it that makes him humble? Is it the fact that he rode a bus to work? Is it the fact that he chose to reject the opulence afforded his predecessors and colleagues? (What does that say about the machine of Roman Catholicism that his ‘humility’ is accentuated by his divergence from what is considered the norm in Catholicism?) I’m sorry, but riding a bus does not a humble man make.

          • Yes, I consider Pope Francis to be a humble man, but not *only* because he rode a bus or rejected opulence, though both actions are indicative. He’s humble precisely because of his complete submission to God and his life of remarkable charity, especially to the poor.

            We can of course only gauge humility by someone’s outward actions (we have no insights into their interior motivations.) And Francis’ life, both before and after his election to the papacy, is marked by signs of outward humility.

          • Chris

            Did you even know he existed before last week?

          • Yes, I’ve been following Cardinal Bergoglio for several years. He’s been a major Church figure for some time. In the 2005 conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Bergoglio was the runner-up.

            Yet even if one did *not* know about Cardinal Bergoglio/Pope Francis until recently, that says nothing about whether he’s a humble man or not. In just a few hours, and a handful of articles, you can arrive at that obvious conclusion.

          • elainebitt

            “He’s humble precisely because of his complete submission to God […]”

            Just how exactly you can come to such conclusion? Only if you were God you could use such word as “complete”. You can’t know Francis’ heart motives. Only God can.
            “for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Sam. 16:7

            “[…] and his life of remarkable charity, especially to the poor.”

            My bible says that works are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). But that’s my bible, which is THE Word of God. Not yours.

  • One more comment. Steve, you say: “Let’s be clear, Francis is not humble.” I’m shocked you feel confident enough to make such an assessment, but that’s for another day.

    You then say, “He’s actually quite adorned with pride, especially today. Any leader who announces his own supremacy and draws self-imposed boundaries around his own authority has flagrantly violated the peaceful unity of Christ’s body.”

    I assume you’re just honestly confused about Catholicism and not intentionally misrepresenting it. But your statement betrays a basic confusion. No pope “announces his own supremacy” nor draws “self-imposed boundaries.” The very act of being installed implies something happening *to you*, not something you do on your own, and thus not “self-imposed.”

    Catholics believe that God leads his Church to choose a pope, and then God invests that pope with the authority of Christ (in other words, precisely what Christ did with St. Peter while still on earth.) The pope is elected through a Spirit-driven process. He doesn’t elect himself nor impose anything upon himself. He must assent to the papacy but it is in fact *imposed* on him by God through the conclave.

    Also, any “boundaries” of the papacy–and I’m not sure what you’re referring to by that term–are never self-instituted by any pope. They were ordained by Christ in his commissioning of Peter to be the head of the apostles, the rock on which he built his Church (cf. Matthew 16). Any “boundaries” to the papacy are ordained by God, not man. Claiming the pope draws “self-imposed boundaries” around his authority would be like claiming the President of the United States draws “self-imposed boundaries” around his office.

    • Eric Davis


      Thanks for stopping by C-gate. It’s good to have an outspoken Catholic weigh in. Here is where some evangelicals see biblical, God-centered humility and Roman Catholic teaching as incompatible.

      First, humility is incompatible w/ a system that pronounces anathema on those who adhere to justification by faith alone in Christ alone. In cursing those who hold to it, they do a few things: 1) They elevate the nature and works of man to such a level that can assist Christ in atoning for all of one’s sins. 2) They denigrate the finished work of Christ to such a level that it is insufficient to pronounce any sinner totally justified before God by faith alone in him. There is no other way around that. To elevate human nature and works to such a level, and bring God down to that level, is terrible pride; the utmost of arrogance. That is one reason why adhering to Roman Catholic teaching cannot be humble.

      Second, and along those lines, humility is incompatible w/ a system that elevates Mary to the level of co-redemptrix. Again, this brings a depraved and sinful individual, like all humanity, up to a level of assisting in redemption. In doing so, it brings Christ down, inevitably. Mary called Christ her Savior b/c she knew that she needed redemption herself and would not have had the pride to presume she could add anything to it.

      Third, humility is incompatible w/ a system that has martyred so many Christians in the name of Christ. One would be hard-pressed to say that the martyring of individuals like William Tyndale and John Rogers, for their work in translating Scripture, came from a system that is humble. The same could be said of the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, or of John Huss, or Ridley and Latimer, and the 300 or so martyred under Bloody Mary, and so on. It’s difficult for one to assert that these wide-spread acts (and the reasons for which they were carried out) of atrocity have come from a system that is humble.

      Fourth, humility is incompatible w/ an individual who adheres to a system that pronounces anathema on those who reject papal authority and succession. Not only does the pope assume titles intended for God alone (i.e. Matt 23:9, Eph 1:22-23), but subscribes to teaching that condemns those who think otherwise.

      There is more that could be said on this issue, but I hope that helps.

      So biblical humility is less about bus-rides and willful poverty as it is proper thinking about oneself in reference to Jesus Christ and his finished work of redemption. As soon as I compromise his work by deeming it insufficient in and of itself to declare me forever, perfectly, positionally righteous before God, I have totally failed to be humble. Again, reason being, b/c I have elevated myself to a level that Scripture says I cannot be, while denigrating Christ and his finished work on the cross, likewise. Thanks Brandon. I’m glad you stopped by the blog.

      • Eric, thanks for the warm and thoughtful reply! I don’t have time to respond to your entire message, but I’d like to comment on some of its major contours:

        First, you say “First, humility is incompatible w/ a system that pronounces anathema on those who adhere to justification by faith alone in Christ alone.” I’d say two things in reply. One, humility simply means a proper view of how things truly are. It is not humble for LeBron James to say he’s not really that great of a basketball player–that’s false humility. Likewise, it’s not prideful for the Church to say that someone is “anathema,” meaning that they are outside the Church, if they willfully reject one of the central teachings of the Gospel. So your first assumption that “humility” is incompatible with pronouncing someone “anathema” is incorrect.

        Also, it’s clear you misunderstand what “anathema” even means in Catholic thought. It’s not a “curse”. It’s no indictment on a person’s soul. And it does not damn someone to Hell. It’s a canonical, medicinal measure taken to win someone *back* to the true Church. Read more about how “anathemas” work here –>

        (It should also be noted that only Catholics can be anathematized; it doesn’t even apply to Protestants.)

        Second, regarding Mary as co-redemptorix, it should be noted that this has never been professed as Catholic doctrine. Again, you seem to be confused when you propose the Catholic “system” does so. Yet even though it hasn’t been formally defined, the title is not problematic. The prefix “co-” in this case does not insinuate “equal.” It simply means “with.” Mary worked *with* Christ for the redemption of the world by her great “fiat”, her “Yes” to God to bring Jesus to earth. Her cooperation was necessary for the Incarnation and thus our redemption. In that sense, she is “co-redemptorix.”

        Third, you attribute the sinful actions of a handful of Catholics to the Catholic “system.” Yet this is no indictment against Catholicism. That the Catholic Church is filled with sinful people will evil inclinations is no surprise–every Protestant community is full of them, too. This argument, therefore, is irrelevant to whether the claims of Catholicism are true. One could easily trot out the murderous North Irish Protestants as evidence against Protestantism, but that argument would be equally illogical. If you disagree, please show me what official teachings in the Catholic “system” promote murder as you insinuate.

        Next, you say “[B]iblical humility is less about bus-rides and willful poverty as it is proper thinking about oneself in reference to Jesus Christ and his finished work of redemption.” I agree completely and every pope would as well. That you assume Catholics would disagree is honestly confusing. A cursory glance at official Church teachings, or the writings of Pope Benedict XVI, or the new Pope Francis, would reveal an unwavering humility in reference to Jesus Christ.

        Finally, your whole argument seems to boil down to this: you believe your understanding of justification is correct, and therefore anyone who disagrees is not humble. The problem, of course, is that’s not a discussion about humility; that’s a discussion about theology. And you assume your theology is correct.

        While not doubting that Christ’s redemption is insufficient, nor that Catholics “elevate human works..and bring God down”, I disagree with Protestant formulations of justification.

        You say Catholics misunderstand justification because “1) They elevate the nature and works of man to such a level that can assist Christ in atoning for all of one’s sins.” and “2) They denigrate the finished work of Christ to such a level that it is insufficient to pronounce any sinner totally justified before God by faith alone in him.”

        The first is a simple distortion of Catholic doctrine. This is not what Catholics believe, so beating it down is nothing less than defeating a straw man. It’s a false dichotomy. The choice is not between “the works of man” and “Christ’s atonement” for Catholics see the two interlinked–it’s precisely because of Christ’s atonement that we do any good works that are efficacious for salvation.

        The second is an unblblical principle. Nowhere in Scripture do we read that man is justified by *faith alone*. In fact the phrase “faith alone” appears only one time in the Bible, in the book of James, and there it’s explicitly condemned. I challenge you to provide biblical evidence for this second claim.

        I know that’s a lot, and I don’t expect you to respond to each point individually nor will I take your silence as an inability to answer them; I only provide food for thought. If you’d like to learn more about what the Catholic Church *actually* teaches about justification, I’d love to continue this discussion through email ( Or, you might consider reading this short article:

        Grace and peace!

        • Thanks for your copious comments, Brandon. I’m glad you stopped-by. Ironically, you write a lot for a guy with so little time on your hands.

          To your first comment, there is no end to the evidence of my arrogance and pride – this is why I am so grateful and desperate for the righteousness that comes by faith in Christ (Phil 3:9). But while new
          exhibits of my pride are presented every day, this post and my understanding of Roman Catholicism truly are not among them.

          I believe the post, especially the latter portion, speaks for itself – you cannot violate the unity of the Church, institutionally and systemically, and be humble – that’s akin to being a kind axe-murderer. Now, I’m sure Frank is very personable and since he’s an Italian who grew up in Latin America, I’ll bet he even has great taste in coffee – a virtue to be extolled, indeed! We’d probably enjoy cupping some of Latin America’s finest together. But unless we were discussing how he’s planning to abolish an institution that never should have existed and was decidedly not instituted by Christ, I would repeat the substance of this post to his face.

          Being so zealous, I was surprised that you have not seemed to interact with either Cyprian or Firmilian’s response to Stephen. Don’t you find their statements quite embarrassing to your position that Jesus dubbed Peter the first pope in Matt 16? Cyprian, whose opinions Roman Catholics usually cite quite positively, responded that no one has the prerogative to be “a bishop of bishops.”
          And Firmilian rebuked Stephen for violating what “was delivered by Christ and the apostles” and refusing “the precepts of an apostle.”

          If Jesus did make Peter the first pope just a little over 200 years earlier, why did they respond in this way?

          • Steve, thanks for the reply! I of course agree that “you cannot violate the unity of the Church, institutionally and systemically, and be humble.” But I strongly disagree with your unspoken premise, namely that the Pope has violated the unity of the Church.

            Ironically, the pope *represents* the visible unity of the Church. This is one of the most basic reasons why Jesus established a Church “on” one person. Peter was commissioned by Christ precisely to maintain this unity, both among his fellow apostles and the greater universal Church.

            It’s Protestantism that lacks any objective source of unity, hence the sad fracture of Protestant communities into tens of thousands of disparate churches.

            Finally, regarding the quotes from Cyprian and Firmilian, we must understand a crucial and obvious fact: individual Church Fathers are fallible. The Catholic Church has never endorsed everything that every Church Father says. Most Fathers, even while getting most issues right, were off on other issues (this includes even St. Augustine.) In this particular case, it’s not clear from either of these two statements that either Cyprian or Firmilian rejects papal authority. But even if they did, the overwhelming support among other Church Fathers, and the magisterium of the Church, swings the other way. Simply quoting one or two Church Fathers who disagree about one particular Catholic teaching does not, by necessity, disprove that Catholic teaching (just as one modern bishop disagreeing with the Church’s teaching on contraception doesn’t invalidate the teaching.)

            However, if you’re still set on using Cyprian’s statement to disprove papal authority, I’d challenge you to propose some principled way to determine when Cyprian is *right* theologically and when he’s wrong. In other words, to what objective measure do you appeal to know when Cyprian is correct? Cyprian believed in the Real Presence of the Eucharist and in the ministerial priesthood. He was a Catholic bishop after all. So if you assume he’s right in denouncing papal authority, by what measure is he wrong on those other issues?

            As a final note, I’ll point out that the translation of the Cyprian passage you included above has been questioned by many scholars, particularly the phrase “bishop of bishops.”

          • Thanks, Brandon. Jesus established a Church on Himself (1 Cor 3:11), with His Word given by His Apostles (Eph 2:20), and not any one person. And that is actually the very objective source of unity for Protestants as well as the principled way we determine who is right and who is wrong – the Bible.

            You see, Catholicism has only external uniformity, but no actual unity. In fact, it’s even been called the “Hinduism of Christianity,” since it so consistently appropriates the native paganism of wherever it’s transplanted and then differs within itself just as
            much. Though Protestant traditions have numerous external differences, we are actually wonderfully united in the biblical Gospel – that we are assured of salvation from God’s just wrath for our sin by faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ, apart from any personal merit, which in the end is all rubbish (Phil 3:1-11).

            I am really thankful for the final paragraph of your comment, Brandon, it’s actually very Protestant – for “to what objective measure do you appeal to know when Cyprian is correct?” is usually our line. The vicious circle of Roman Catholic apologetics is that while it argues that authoritative tradition establishes its faith and practice, it has no consistent way to discern amongst the many conflicts in its “tradition” – conflicts that are much deeper and wider than you suggest. All Roman Catholicism can do is keep begging the question or argue that tradition has developed and grown (which most do), but that only contradicts the most basic premise of Catholicism, that it’s based on tradition given by the Apostles.

            If you have the time, of course, I would take a look at the helpful and
            accessible treatments of this issue in a recent edition of Modern Reformation on “Is the Reformation Over?” -

          • Bart

            Brandon, as somebody pretty fairly entrenched in the Protestant family serving oversees, I just wanted to say that I have been utterly impressed and grateful for your interaction here.

            Thank you for your humility and courage in even entering this foray in the first place. If you were apart of our community here in Venezuela I am convinced that the Catholic/Protestant divide wouldn’t be quite so dividing.

          • Thanks for the kind words, Bart!

        • Eric

          Hi Brandon,

          I was part of the Catholic Church for the first 25 years of my life prior to leaving. I’m intrigued by your responses not so much for their length as for their content, in that several things you list as misunderstandings of Catholicism were my understanding based on the understanding of the church officials (priests, nuns) who taught me and seemed certain of their position.

          One thing the church hierarchy would not deny is that non-Catholics need to be brought back into the fold of the one, true church established by Christ – that we are lost and without salvation. This leads me to a few questions:

          1. If I believe that I am saved solely by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:1-10) and His finished work, and thus engage in good works not to be saved but because of the salvation I have already been given (producing ‘fruit’ that genuine faith does – which James speaks of) while continuing to repent of my sin, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and having been baptized then what exactly is the ‘lost ness’ I need saving from? Biblically, what else is it that I lack that only the Catholic Church can provide?

          2. Isaiah, Jeremiah, David, Abraham, Rahab, Paul and many others were willing to be used by God to play a role in His plan of redeeming mankind that unfolds throughout all of Scripture. The reasoning for not assigning any of them the title of ‘co- redeemers?’ ( I don’t know how long you’ve been Catholic but if you are making an effort to convince others that Mary is not held by many Catholics with as much or more esteem than Christ Himself then perhaps you want to get around a little more).

          3. As to the content of this blog post, I can’t speak to the new pope’s humility among men, but I question His humility before God who makes it so clear in His Word (determined to be’His Word’ well before any councils affirmed it as such) that so much of the Catholic system He has just agreed to accept the role of overseeing is unbiblical ( before you give the request to outline examples, you and I both know there are a multitude of sites and individuals who have done that quite well and that the examples are many – I have no doubt you are aware of some of them and have no doubt, since I at one time was adamant to do so myself, that you cannot refute all of them).

          • Eric, thanks for your comment! I’m so sorry you received bad catechesis growing up. Unfortunately, this is a significant problem in the Church even today, though big strides have been made over the last 5-10 years.

            Let me respond to your second paragraph, and then your three points. You first posit that the Catholic Church teaches that “non-Catholics need to be brought back into the fold of the one, true church established by Christ – that we are lost and without salvation.” This is technically true, though I’d want to clarify what you mean by “brought back into” and “one, true church.” We can discuss this further if you’re interested but it’s worth pointing out the Catholic Church *does not* teach that formal membership in the Roman Catholic Church is a necessary requirement for salvation. People outside the Church, especially, but not limited to, our Protestant brothers and sisters, may still attain salvation even without formally becoming Catholic. On the other hand, plenty of self-identifying Catholics have not submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ nor accepted his gift of salvation. They’re in great danger of not being saved, and thus prove that formal membership in the Church is no guarantee of salvation.

            With all that said, on to your points:

            1. You’re missing the fullness of truth and the graces God wills to give you in order to help you “work out your salvation” and “finish the race” as St. Paul says. You’re lacking the graces of at least four sacraments (Confession, Confirmation, Anointing, and Holy Orders), though perhaps more depending on your view of the Eucharist. Assuming you don’t share the Catholic view of what you call “the Lord’s Supper”, you’re lacking the Real Presence of Christ himself which he wills to give you in the Eucharist so that you can inherit eternal life (cf. John 6). You’re lacking the sure teachings of the Church on the moral and spiritual life. Most of all, you’re lacking the Church that Jesus established in favor of a community that broke off several centuries ago.

            Regardless of all this, the question you should be asking is not “what am I lacking?” but “Is the Catholic Church true? Is it really the Church that Jesus established?” If it is, joining should be the obvious conclusion regardless of what you gain.

            2. It’s true that in a certain sense, each of those figures played a role in Christ’s redemption. So it’s right to say they are “co-redeemers.” However, since Mary played a central and definitive role in Christ’s redemption, namely giving birth to the Son of God, she’s given that title more commonly than the OT figures you cited.

            Your parenthetical note, even if true, does not refute the claims of Catholicism. The Catholic Church is very clear in her official teachings that God alone is to be worshiped, and that no creature deserves equal adoration. That some members fail to live this out is no indictment against the teaching itself. You wouldn’t say a particular medicine is ineffective after studying people who don’t take it, would you?

            3. This is a very curious comment. First, you make some pretty big assertions, namely that God “makes it so clear in His Word” that the Catholic system is unbiblical, then that “His Word” was determined well before any councils affirmed it, and *then* instead of providing specific evidence to back up your assertions you caution me not to ask for any. However, I can’t help but avoid asking a few clarifying questions:

            A) When you say, “His Word” are you referring to the Bible?
            B) Where in “His Word” does God say the Catholic system is unbiblical? If there are several examples, provide just the most obvious one.
            C) If by “His Word” you’re referring to the Bible, are you suggesting that the books of the Bible were determined *before* any Church councils? If so, what specific year were the biblical books determined?

            Again, I appreciate the comments and I hope I’ve cleared up some of your lingering misconceptions. I also hope one day you come home to the Catholic Church–we need you!

          • DelawareMom

            Well said. You go!

        • Eric Davis


          Thanks for the response. I appreciate your willingness to interact around doctrine. A few things in response to what you wrote:

          First, you mentioned that my “first assumption that “humility” is incompatible with pronouncing someone “anathema” is incorrect.” I was not saying that merely pronouncing anathema is a lack of humility, but that pronouncing anathema on those who adhere to justification by faith alone in Christ alone is. The reason being is not b/c of a pronouncement, but b/c of a theological reality. Again, the issue boils down to where Protestants and Rome disagree upon the role works play in justification. Rome asserts that works are efficacious. My assertion that such a belief lacks humility is based on the idea that to say that our works are meritorious in salvation is really the root of pride. It violates the biblical teaching of justification by faith alone.

          On a sidenote, along the lines of what constitutes humility, you wrote, “that’s not a discussion about humility; that’s a discussion about theology.” I would say that is a false dichotomy b/c one’s theology, assuming they believe it, is the basis for humility. Again, if I believe that, as a depraved sinner, my works are meritorious in salvation, then I am radically proud and even unregenerate. My humility, in some sense, is dependent upon my theology.

          Also, you wrote that I “misunderstand what ‘anathema’ even means in Catholic thought. It’s not a ‘curse’. It’s no indictment on a person’s soul. And it does not damn someone to Hell. It’s a canonical, medicinal measure taken to win someone *back* to the
          true Church…It should also be noted that only Catholics can be anathematized; it doesn’t even apply to Protestants.”

          I understand that, at this time, Rome teaches that “ceremonial form of excommunication known as anathema” no longer exists. However, the doctrines from Trent have in no way changed.

          And, along those lines, you would have been hard-pressed to tell Paul III, Julius III, and Pius IV, and the boys, that the anathema’s in Trent were not a “curse” on Protestants, but merely a “medicinal measure taken to win someone back to the true Church,” or that they do not “apply to Protestants.” On the contrary, Trent was a Rome’s response to the Reformation. It was a council convened to declare and condemn the supposed heresies of the Reformation. In the meantime, they were chasing many labeled as “heretics” around Europe and burning them precisely for being heretics. Such actions were more than a medicinal measure.

          Now, Trent labeled those who adhere to justification by faith alone in Christ alone, “heretics and schismatics” who have “vain and
          ungodly confidence” (Session 6, Chpt 9). Further, Trent states, “whosoever does not faithfully and firmly accept cannot be justified.” In other words, whoever does not accept Rome’s view of justification cannot be justified, meaning they cannot be saved, meaning they are condemned to hell. So whether Rome has altered the meaning of “anathema” in Trent, those statements, nevertheless, declare a condemnation to hell.

          So its like that the “anathemas” in Session 6 meant likewise. Furthermore, the word anathema means “cursed”
          or “condemned.” Rome may have changed the meaning of their anathema’s since Trent, but as mentioned above, only in ceremony and not in doctrine.

          If the authorial intent of Rome w/ the anathemas in Trent no longer is condemned to hell, then they ought to amend Trent, substituting “anathema” w/ something that means “medicinal measure and one can be justified and go to heaven,” or something, so as to be more clear.

          Furthermore, Rome will need to amend Session 6 to say something other than “whosoever does not faithfully and firmly accept cannot be justified” because that can only mean condemned to hell, again, since those who are not declared righteous before God will pay for their sins for eternity in hell.

          Further, you mention that, “it’s precisely because of Christ’s atonement that we do any good works that are efficacious for salvation,” and, “Nowhere in Scripture do we read that man is justified by *faith alone*.” So here we are at the heart of the matter.

          A few things: Biblically speaking, when Protestants assert “faith alone,” they do not mean something like, “justification will NOT be accompanied by works.” Instead, “faith alone” means that the benefits of Christ’s righteousness are accessed by faith, and nothing else. In other words, works are not efficacious for salvation. That is the thrust of the entire gospel. Works are not meritorious for justification. Works are the fruit of justification, but not efficacious for it.

          What James condemns in Jas 2 is the idea that an individual who is justified will not have accompanying works. He is saying, in effect, “There is no such thing as genuine salvation w/o accompanying works,” or fruit of the Spirit. He is not saying that works are meritorious for justification, but that they evidence it, and nothing more.

          This is where Rome and Protestantism differ. And there is no more important issue than this, for Paul said, “…if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed” (Gal 1:8), where the Greek word there translated, “accursed,” is that from which we get the transliterated “anathema,” which means “condemned to hell.” Therein lies the great concern. Rome teaches another gospel; one in which works are efficacious for justification, and therefore, a gospel that is no gospel and condemned.

          Further, you mentioned, “In fact the phrase “faith alone” appears only one time in the Bible, in the book of James, and there it’s explicitly condemned. I challenge you to provide biblical evidence for this second claim.”

          The biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone is that glorious truth woven throughout Scripture. Here are a few passages that
          overwhelmingly demonstrate that justification is by faith alone, apart from any idea that works are efficacious: Genesis 15:6, Romans 3:24, 3:26, 3:28, 4:2-8, 4:16, Galatians 2:16, 2:21, 3:10-14, Ephesians 2:8-9.

          Lastly, you mention that the martyring of many Christians over the years is “no indictment against Catholicism,” then cite sinful actions of Protestants. No one denies the sinful actions of Protestants throughout history. Sins of Protestants, including my own, are sad and unfortunate…but thankfully the righteousness of Christ covers them all, assuming one trusts in Christ. Even so, Protestants mourn over those shameful acts committed.

          But the difference between those actions of Protestants and Rome is that those of Rome occurred under the magisterial authority… and there has been no bull or official declaration from Rome (that magisterial authority) confessing and condemning themselves for each of those specific atrocities. Such a thing is necessary. Christians still await Rome to confess and condemn themselves for the burning and martyring of such faithful, Christian men.

          Thanks again, Brandon. I appreciate your willingness to interact.

          • Sorry, Eric. Didn’t mean to insert my reply ahead of yours – it’s very helpful. Thanks, brother.

          • Eric, thanks again! Unfortunately, there’s simply no way I can respond to each of your points in this format. I’ll let this be my last comment. Feel free to have the final word:

            1. Regarding “anathemas”, when I said they don’t apply to Protestants I meant they don’t apply to Protestants *today*. This was in response to your claim that the Catholic Church “pronounces” (i.e. in the present) “anathemas” on those who disagree with her views on justification. Since “anathemas” only apply to Catholics who have denied central Church teachings, they are irrelevant to modern Protestants who *never were* Catholics. Of course, the “anathemas” issued after Trent *were* appropriate to the Protestant reformers since they *were* Catholic before leaving the Church. It was the Church’s intention to warn reformers of the serious dangers of their actions and draw them back to the Truth.

            2. In your view, it seems, the original question of humility hinges on the proper definition of justification. Regarding that, I strongly disagree with your claim that “the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone is that glorious truth woven throughout Scripture.” I don’t think the Protestant view of “faith alone” is promoted *anywhere* in Scripture.

            You list several Bible verses, which I’m familiar with, yet none explicit affirm your view of justification. The verses from Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians, for instance, all condemn justification based on “works of the law” (i.e. the Mosaic law), but not “works” in general. Nowhere does Paul suggest that *no* works can be meritorious toward salvation. Indeed, he encourages us to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Other passages, like Jesus’ own words at the end of Matthew 25 suggest that salvation depend in part on our actions. Catholics agree with this, but hold that *no* good works are possible without the grace of Christ–therefore Christ *is* completely responsible for justification even though we cooperate with his grace through our actions.

            For an excellent overview of the the Catholic view on justification, I suggest you and others read this article, titled “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?”:


            It examines each of the verses you mentioned in context, specifically those in Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians, and shows how they affirm the Catholic view.

            3. In your last paragraph, you confidently say that “there has been no bull or official declaration from Rome (that magisterial authority) confessing and condemning themselves for each of those specific atrocities.” There are several problems with this. First, I’m not sure if you understand what the magisterium actually is. It exists to teach in Christ’s name on topics of faith and morals. Thus there is no categorical possibility of a “magisterial apology”. That’s like demanding a “magisterial documentary”; it’s a categorical mistake for that’s not what the magisterium *does.*

            Second, what I *think* you’re asking for–an apology from Church leaders regarding the sins of the past–has actually been issued *several* times throughout history, most recently and significantly by Pope John Paul II. Wikipedia has an excellent summary of the over 100 apologies he made as pope:


            Perhaps that’s the sort of humble admission you’re looking for.

            Grace and peace!

          • Eric Davis


            Once again, I have to thank you for being willing to interact here and jump in the ring, especially w/ some of us rascally Protestants. I have appreciated your competency in discussion.

            But we are at a stand-still w/ this comment you made: “I strongly disagree with your claim that “the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone is that glorious truth woven throughout Scripture.” I don’t think the Protestant view of “faith alone” is promoted *anywhere* in Scripture. You list several Bible verses [Genesis 15:6, Romans 3:24, 3:26, 3:28, 4:2-8, 4:16, Galatians 2:16, 2:21, 3:10-14, Ephesians 2:8-9], which I’m familiar with, yet none explicit affirm your view of justification. The verses from Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians, for instance, all condemn justification based on “works of the law” (i.e. the Mosaic law), but not “works” in general.”

            How one can hold to the idea that works are efficacious in justification from an honest exegesis of these passages, and others like it…well, it’s very perplexing to me. But that’s the age-old issue between Protestants and Rome, right? Just about everything we’ve disagreed on hinges, in some way, on the issue of justification. But really, that is the main issue here.

            We could discuss your understanding of works vs. works of the law…and whether they are 2 separate categories, or not (which I do not believe that they are). But the issue is how one is in right standing w/ God; the most important issue for us all. I have, and always will, struggle to see how that righteous standing as a “gift of God..not by works” can be merited… or how works can be efficacious in God’s forensic declaration of a sinner as righteous by faith… or how salvific grace, again, as the gift of God, can be contributed to by fallen, depraved man. Those 2 concepts are diametrically opposed to one another, and simply not taught in Scripture. That righteousness as the gift of God, accessed by faith in the finished, all-sufficient Person and work of Christ alone, is everything Paul, for example, was teaching and defending against those who supposed that their works (as in Galatia, for example) were efficacious for their righteous standing before God.

            To oppose that truth is to affirm a “different gospel which is really not another,” and therefore, to be condemned (Gal 1:6-9). That gospel of Rome is contradictory to the biblical gospel (see this article for a helpful understanding: Therefore, based on that issue alone, apart from debates around the papacy, Mary, the Mass, Roman Catholicism stands condemned as an unsavable system and an entirely unchristian religion altogether. Despite Roman Catholicism being peppered w/ Christian terms like the Trinity, for example, as soon as one denies justification by faith alone in Christ alone, they have denied it all.

            For the moment one affirms works as efficacious in justification, they fall into the category of those who “not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they [do] not subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (Rom 10:3). There is no worse place to be. It’s a place of condemnation and outside of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

            But it need not be that way “for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” And “if you confess w/ your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved; for w/ the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness and w/ the mouth he confesses resulting in salvation.”

            Thanks again Brandon

  • Well, let’s just hope this pope doesn’t turn out to be the garden-variety killing kind that history has known so many of…

    • Rational, thanks for the comment! Am I right that you believe there have been “so many” popes through history who have killed people? Even more, do you maintain that murder is a “garden-variety” quality of popes? If so, please list the names of popes guilty of killing and show how they are so common throughout history as to be “garden-variety.”

      (It should be noted that popes, like any men, are sinful. The Catholic Church doesn’t believe in papal impeccability, or the inability to sin.)

  • S. Barth

    Wow! I rarely comment on posts or blogs and have never done so on Cripplegate, but to delete someone’s comment is really sad. Very disappointing and makes me have even less respect for your thoughts.

  • hamoncan

    Hmmm, is it possible for a humble man to hold an arrogant office? Just thinking aloud…

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  • Stop Abusing Good Pastors

    great post

  • pgepps

    Always find it interesting how Protestants will pick up any heresy and use it as a club to bash the Catholic faith. Donatism wasn’t just condemned by a pope; it was condemned by the whole Church. Stephen may or may not have been prudent in his tactics, and Cyprian makes a very sympathetic target, but you’ll go a long way for any vision of orthodoxy that would argue God wanted the Donatists to prevail.

    And it is poppycock to say that a man cannot be given authority by divine right and yet use it humbly. We shall see whether Francis does; nothing in the faith says he must be perfect in all ways. What we do confidently believe is that through his ministry, however perfect or imperfect, the Church will continue to weather the storms of this world; the gates of Hell shall not prevail.

    • Pgepps, would you agree that King David “given authority by divine right”? And what about Peter?

  • Borodemos

    Hello, folks. I would like to state here that the problem is that we are arguing with one, Brandon, whose main source of authority is not the bible, but the Pope. In order to have such theological discussions we must all submit to the fact that our authority is God, His Word. When one is set, as mediator between God and man, as authoritative as pope, then we have found the core issue there. That is not evangel, the gospel, that is heresy. We’ve the tendency to go off into lesser discussions and leave those of greatest importance. Let us not seek the ascendency in definitions of humility and doctrines, but let us affirm Christ, and His gospel, by His authority, His Word. Let us look to our hearts and examine ourselves. What is our goal in such discussions? If its other than a sincere concern for perversion of truth, thus perverting others

    • Andy C

      so you’re saying we need to argue with the pope?

  • Borodemos

    (Sorry, posted too soon) then we err. Some posts by both sides were erroneous such as anathema being only catholic, anathema is first and foremost, Greek for curse, then excommunication, which originates in The Bible as being instituted by Christ. Anathema is not a means of bringing one back to the church it’s a done deal-one is out of the church. Church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17) is a means of restoration.

    For salvation/justification by faith alone a mere study of Ephesians 2:1-10 will offer great clarity.

    When others here seem to taunt one another and try to trump one another via intellectual ascendency, well there is another error I seek to point out. I am also guilty of doing such things many times, but I’ve read most all of the posts here and see a mix of pride in both parties.

    • Borodemos, thanks for the comment! I appreciate your concerns. However, your comment is a classic example of “beating a straw man.” You define the word “anathema” in a way that is decidedly different from what the Catholic Church means when it uses the word, and then critique your made-up definition.

      As I mentioned before, when the Catholic Church uses the word “anathema” it doesn’t mean to curse, condemn, or damn someone to hell. It refers to a formal *exclusion* from the Church which, hopefully, is meant to help one realize his error, repent, and return to the Church.

      This is precisely how St. Paul uses the Greek work “anathema” in the New Testament. For example, in Romans 9:3 he says: “For I wished myself to be *anathema* from Christ, for my brethren, who are my kinsmen according to the flesh.” If St. Paul used “anathema” the way you assume, namely to mean a curse, condemnation, or eternal damnation, that verse would not make sense. Instead, like the Catholic Church, what he means by “anathema” is “separated.”

      If you’re interested in what the Catholic Church *actually* means by the word “anathema”, as opposed to what you accuse of her teaching, this entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia provides an excellent historical overview:

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  • danallison

    Fundamentalists of every shade love to do this: “We are more obedient to God than you are.” Subtext — We’re better than you and God likes us more.

  • Michael Coughlin

    Thanks for standing up for the faith, Steve.

  • Michael
  • Borodemos

    Brandon Vogt, how are you? Thanks for your interest in my post. I must say though, that I am a speaker of the Greek language, and to say that the word Anathema does not mean what I have written for you is exactly what the catholic assembly is guilty of doing. This is not something they do only with the word anathema, it is something they do with many scriptures in the Bible; it’s the equivalent of saying that the word boy means girl. I would not say that it is by any means logical to say that a word which has been defined by the speakers of the language, and universally accepted as meaning such, to mean something other than what it actually does.

    Please don’t cite that the word has come to mean something else as well, because this is a word that was written in the first century, meaning exactly what I’ve cited here, not a word that is to be recently understood in some “new light”. If it now, which it apparently does, have an alternative meaning, it’s not applicable to the Word of God. I do not Believe it’s necessary for me to cite Revelation and the scripture explicitly stating to not add or take away from what is written. I have however referenced my dictionary, and I have seen that 16th-century ecclesiastical Latin has determined the word to mean something other than what it originally meant. There is proof positive of what I have stated in the beginning. This proof is that the catholic assembly whose official language was Latin has changed the original Greek meaning.

    So, to sum up what I said it is not that there needs to be a change of my understanding of the word anathema, it is the catholic assembly that needs to recognize that the word anathema is exactly what it is defined to mean, In the language that God sovereignly determined to write His revelation in. God of course chose wisely, He of course knew the exact time that The New Testament should be written, that the canonical books, 66 to be precise, should be written at the time they were written, in the language they were written in. His timing, and choice is, and always was perfect.

    I also must state that I don’t understand why you have not answered to the portion of my previous comments regarding authority. Truly, this is the reason why we will continue to differ it seems, because it is not by any argument I can make to you, it is entirely dependent on the Spirit of God and His sovereign election of His chosen ones that will bring about salvation, not by mere words of men. I do not believe any catholic truly adhering to catholic doctrine to be saved, it’s non-biblical to state so.

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  • Steve

    Why is it that just about every heretical wolf I’ve ever engaged online in these comment threads (whether they be catholic, mormon, or JWs) heavily use *stars* and “quotations” to communicate? All these *stars* and “quotations” are beginning to cause me to contemplate as to the possibility that perhaps most of these wolves are demon possessed so therefore that is why we see this common thread. I’m open to correction. So, to summarize – false gospel propagation + heavy usage of *stars* and “quotations” = satanic.

    • I can’t tell if you’re being serious or sarcastic, but if the former then all I can say is: “*Wow.*”

  • Jonathan Anderson

    I love the Cyprian and Firmilian quotes. This may be old news for you, Steve, but here’s a quote from a ‘Pope’ who infallibly (according to Vatican I) declared that the papacy itself was Anti-Christ! (And, this is 150 years after Leo claimed Roman supremacy, as well.)

    Gregory I (Gregory the Great-late 6th century) said: Now I confidently say that whosoever calls himself, or desires to be called, Universal Priest, is in his elation the precursor of Antichrist, because he proudly puts himself above all others. Nor is it by dissimilar pride that he is led into error; for, as that perverse one wishes to appear as above all men, so whosoever this one is who covets being called sole priest, he extols himself above all other priests. But, since the Truth says, Every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled (Luke 14:11; 18:14), I know that every kind of elation is the sooner burst as it is the more inflated. Let then your Piety charge those who have fallen into an example of pride not to generate any offense by the appellation of a frivolous name.

    (Letter to Maricius Augustus; Book 7, Epistle 33, in Schaff’s Post-Nicene Fathers, volume 12)

    • That’s very helpful. Thanks, Jonathan. Reinforces the much, much later development of the papal claims than Roman Catholicism would have you believe.
      R.C. Sproul’s quite right – yes, Rome has changed, it keeps getting worse!

    • Jonathan, in order for your critique to hold true, you assume (without reason) that Pope St. Gregory the Great was referring to the office of the papacy when he said “Universal Priest.” This is a huge leap, and a flawed one at that. Nowhere did St. Gregory claim or imply that the “papacy itself was Anti-Christ.” The fact that he himself was pope should automatically provoke skepticism around your wild claim for it would require someone to *call themselves* the anti-Christ.

      Also, even if your interpretation was true, it was not made “infallibly” as you claim. Papal infalliblity does not mean that everything a pope says, even in personal correspondance, is immune from error. So even if St. Gregory *did* write a letter to Maricius decrying himself as “the Anti-Christ”, that would have no bearing on official Catholic teaching.

      Both errors–your misunderstanding of St. Gregory’s words and your misconception about papal infallibility–debunk your claims.

      If you’re truly interested in what St. Gregory meant, here’s some helpful background:

      • Jonathan Anderson

        Brandon, I certainly never intended to imply that Gregory thought he himself was the anti-Christ. I’m honestly not sure why you thought I said that. Gregory was actually the Bishop of Rome, making the point that a bishop who claimed universal authority or pastoral responsibility over souls under the care of another overseer or elder is arrogant. Gregory seems to be convinced that there is no authority beyond the local congregation. To put yourself over the elder of other souls is arrogant according to Gregory. I think Gregory is right in line with 1Pet 5:1-4.

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