[Editor’s note: The one sending this comment read a Q & A at the site and took great exception to the article.  My reply is below. The original article is here ]

Comment:

I am in absolute disagreement with your article on the Roman Catholic Church being able to claim its roots back to Pentecost, and to Peter. The RC would have done better by claiming Paul as their originator due to the following scriptures; Romans 11:13, Galatians 2:8, 1 Timothy 2:7, and 2 Timothy 1:10-11. Secondly, there was no official RC Church for at least – 300 to 400 years after Christ ascension. It is a historical “fact” that the Government/rulers of Roman would have never allowed such a thing to represent Roman religion. It was not until Constantine that the government even begin to accept Christianity. Any church or person for that matter can claim some ancestry, knowing that we cannot speak to them anymore. This is what I am getting at, there is no real proof that any of these guys or so-called popes ever served in any position as a pope. Christ spoke of this when the disciples themselves asked “who was the greatest among them” – Luke 22:24-26. Jesus reply indicated that none of them would be serving in any position that we see popes of the RC serving in today or for past 1 thousand years of their existence. So, please do a little more research, and use scripture not false history that the RC has put together. We can all claim roots to someone else who may have truly existed, but those people are not here to tell us that they never heard of such a thing as the Roman Catholic Church. Why? Because it did not exist prior to Constantine. RC’s first Pope was most likely Leo, and certainly not Peter! May God bless you all.

Reply:

I understand your frustration with the Catholic Church.  There are a lot of problems with the doctrine and teaching of the Roman church, no doubt.  However, history is history, and history backs up what I say.  The fact that there is a clear and direct line of historical connection does not make them “right” but it is simple fact.  Let me explain (and please do not get mad at me, as I believe I am on your side 😊)

I do not know what church you affiliate with.  Let us assume that you are a Lutheran. Then we can say that this group started in roughly 1517 with the work of Martin Luther.  Or, let us say you are a Baptist.  Then we can say that this group started in the very early 1600s in England.  Or, let us say you are a Methodist.  Then we can say that your group started in the 1740s with the work of John Wesley.  Or let us say you are a Pentecostal.  Then we can say that your group began in LA in 1906 in California.  I can go on from there.

However, there are a few groups which simply cannot be treated this way.  The Greek Orthodox, the Coptic, the Roman and the Jacobite churches have a definite and continuous line of history back to the first century.  Again, please do not feel that I am supporting what they do or teach, but I am stating historical fact.  What year, and with whom can one say that the Orthodox Church was founded?  What year, what person and place can we say that the Catholic Church began?  The answer is that there is no year, person or place that can be identified as starting these groups.  They evolved, very slowly (even as they went in a bad direction) from the primitive church. What I said about the group we now call the Roman Catholic Church is undeniable true–that they trace back in an uninterrupted line of descent to the primitive church.

You mention Constantine.  His life and career was a very significant episode in the history of the church, but the Roman church had already been in place for nearly three hundred years at that time.   There had been bishops there for hundreds of years, and relatively little changed in the Roman church at that time.   At this time, the church in Constantinople took a great leap forward, and this church ultimately became the seat from which the Orthodox Church evolved, but, again, there is no single person or date or event that marks the foundation of the Orthodox or the Roman church.

People try to identify Leo or Gregory as founding the Roman Catholic Church, but this simply does not work as accurate history.  Leo was definitely NOT the first pope.  Neither was Gregory the first pope (for what it is worth, he would be a better candidate for the first “pope” if we were to assign one).  Both were more influential than their near contemporaries.  Both claimed preeminence for the Roman church, but so did those who came before them.  They may have taken it up a notch, but they did not create anything.  Neither of these men made fundamental change to the evolving power of the church in Rome.  These are the facts of history (and I have done my research). The church in Rome slowly but surely evolved from a single, independent church with much influence in the western part of the Roman empire in the third century, over the next several hundred years, into what we now call the Roman Catholic Church.  In other words, the church in Rome gradually evolved from a solid, biblical church of disciples of Jesus into what it is today.  There is literally no point in time that one can say it began, except when it was founded by Christians who went to Rome (and by the way, it was neither Paul nor Peter) in about AD 45.   There is no “first” pope because the institution of the papacy developed over several hundred years, beginning as a legitimate eldership, a biblical bishop, who very gradually accreted more power until, by the sixth or seventh century we have something a bit like the modern Roman Catholic Church and the papacy.

So, please understand that I am not at all supporting anything that the Roman Catholic Church is doing today.  I certainly am vehemently opposed to the papacy as anti-Christian, but I am simply describing the facts of history.

I have done my research, and I think you and I will agree on most points of criticism of the current Roman Catholic Church, but the facts of history are the facts of history.  The Roman Catholic Church (unlike the Anglican or the Presbyterian or the Church of Christ) evolved gradually from the primitive Christian Church into what it is today.   The Roman church did exist before Constantine but the Mennonites did not.  This is historical fact.  At that time it did not have a papacy or cardinals or an Inquisition or indulgences, but the Roman church did exist before Constantine, and it was, even at that time, evolving into what it is today.

I have written a book on this topic.  Would you be willing to read it?  It is “The Christian Story: Finding the Church in Church History”  It is a three part series, but the first two are the most relevant.  You can get a copy at www.ipibooks.com

 

John Oakes

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