John Henry Newman on Development of Papal Supremacy

John-Henry-Cardinal-NewmanWhen the Church, then, was thrown upon her own resources, first local disturbances gave exercise to Bishops, and next ecumenical disturbances gave exercise to Popes; and whether communion with the Pope was necessary for Catholicity would not and could not be debated till a suspension of that communion had actually occurred. It is not a greater difficulty that St. Ignatius does not write to the Asian Greeks about Popes, than that St. Paul does not write to the Corinthians about Bishops. And it is a less difficulty that the Papal supremacy was not formally acknowledged in the second century, than that there was no formal acknowledgment on the part of the Church of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity till the fourth. No doctrine is defined till it is violated.

And, in like manner, it was natural for Christians to direct their course in matters of doctrine by the guidance of mere floating, and, as it were, endemic tradition, while it was fresh and strong; but in proportion as it languished, or was broken in particular places, did it become necessary to fall back upon its special homes, first the Apostolic Sees, and then the See of St. Peter.

An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, Chapter IV, Section III, paragraph 4


7 thoughts on “John Henry Newman on Development of Papal Supremacy

  1. Must,

    You should know (if you don’t already) that John Henry Newman is not universally hailed as a hero of historical and theological reasoning (or scholarship…)–even within Roman Catholicism.

    That being said, there are problems with Newman’s claim here:

    “When the Church, then, was thrown upon her own resources, first local disturbances gave exercise to Bishops, and next ecumenical disturbances gave exercise to Popes.”

    This is actually not true. The Church dealt with heretics for the first three centuries of its existence without the use of Popes or ecumenical councils. Were the problems with the gnostic heresy simply local? Or where they ecumenical?

    Furthermore, the popes had not final authority over the first ecumenical councils. They did not convene them nor did their authority seem necessary to authenticate them. The Bishop of Rome was not necessary (or active) during the Council of Nicea, for instance.

    “…and whether communion with the Pope was necessary for Catholicity would not and could not be debated till a suspension of that communion had actually occurred.”

    This is misleading. Perhaps the papacy was never debated, but was it even taught? According to Roman Catholics, being under the authority of the Roman Bishop is the only way to be a faithful member of Christ’s covenant, and the only way to know that you are receiving doctrine that is free from error. Practically speaking, the Roman doctrine of the papacy is the most important teaching of the Roman Catholic Church (if the claims of Rome are correct). Given that the papacy is that important, why is it not in Scripture? Why did the early Church not talk about? Why do instructive materials for catechumen’s not mention? Why does the Didache not care about it? And why do ancient commentaries about Matthew 16:18 interpret the passage in a way that is contrary to how Vatican I interprets it (despite the fact that Vatican I claims to be teaching what the Church has always taught)?

    Even in the 16th Century, Erasmus said about Matthew 16:18:

    Latin: “Proinde miror esse, qui locum hunc detorqueant ad Romanum Pontificem.”

    English: So, it is to be wondered, those who twist this passage to the Roman Ponitff.

    The rest of Erasmus’ analysis is equally instructive. He goes on to quote various Church fathers and their interpretation of Matthew 16:18. I’d post the rest of Erasmus’ comments, by I lent out my copy of “Faith, Christ or Peter: Matthew 16-18 in Sixteenth Century Roman Catholic Exegesis” by John Bigane. I don’t know whether Bigane is (was?) Roman Catholic or Protestant. All I know is that he went to Marquette (Roman Catholic) and that his book was less that $15 when I bought it:

    I believe the following is the quote that Erasmus uses from Augustine:

    “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church. What means, Upon this rock I will build my Church? Upon this faith; upon this that has been said, You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Upon this rock, says He, I will build my Church. Mighty praise!”

    The comments that Gregory the Great makes are extremely interesting (looking into the context of these always helps):

    “And when thou desirest to put thyself above them by this proud title, and to tread down their name in comparison with thine, what else dos thou say but I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven? Are not all the bishops together clouds, who both rain the words of preaching, and glitter in the light of good works? And when your Fraternity despises them, and you would fain press them down under yourself, what else say you but what is said by the ancient foe, I will ascend above the heights of the clouds?”


    “Certainly Peter, the first of the apostles, himself a member of the holy and universal Church, Paul, Andrew, John–what were they but heads of particular communities? And yet all were members under one Head. And (to bind all together in a short girth of speech) the saints before the law, the saints under the law, the saints under grace, all these making up the Lord’s Body, were constituted as members of the Church, and not one of them has wished himself to be called universal. Now let your holiness acknowledge to what extent you swell within yourself in desiring to be called by that name by which no one presumed to be called who was truly holy.”

    In a letter to Eulogius he says:

    “…in the preface of the epistle which you have addressed to myself who forbade it, you have thought it fit to make use of a proud appellation, calling me Universal Pope. But I beg your sweet Holiness to do this no more, since what is given to another beyond what reason demands is subtracted from yourself…. For if your Holiness calls me Universal Pope, you deny that you are yourself what you call me universally. But far be this from us. Away with words that inflate vanity and wound charity.”

    “It is not a greater difficulty that St. Ignatius does not write to the Asian Greeks about Popes, than that St. Paul does not write to the Corinthians about Bishops.”

    If you assume a two-source of dogma view AND Newman’s innovative theory of development, such difficulties can be brushed away, yes…

    “And it is a less difficulty that the Papal supremacy was not formally acknowledged in the second century, than that there was no formal acknowledgment on the part of the Church of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity till the fourth. No doctrine is defined till it is violated.”

    Newman’s discussion of the papacy and the Trinity is problematic:

    1) The Trinity is taught in Scripture-issues of Scriptural clarity aside, we agree on this.
    2) Papal dogmas (such as universal papal authority and papal infallibility) are not (despite Scot Hahn’s revisionary arguments).
    3) Newman claims that something is only doctrinally binding if it is formally declared by the Church. I don’t see why I should buy that claim.

    • It’s not surprising Newman is not accepted by some scholars. Scholars are always disagreeing with other scholars, even within Catholicism (more evidence that it’s not a crazy tyrannizing institution some make it out to be). Disagreement is business as usual among scholars do. It’s just what they do. So what? Maybe you could share your list of authoritative scholars with “better” acceptance and accomplishments than Newman? Does John Bigane?

      On ecumenical disturbances: With or without a pope, history is clear that the ecumenical disturbances were settled by an authoritative, institutional Church using councils. Who still holds such authority today for Christendom? Does your branch of Lutheranism?

      On papal authority: Your comment and appeals to “Where is it in the Didache?” and “Where are the instructional materials?” etc, suggests that you’re looking for a fully formed and developed church. But Jesus Himself didn’t even talk about the Church like that. He said it was like a seed planted that grew into a tree. Does a tree look anything like the seed from which it came? No. But the internal substance (the DNA) is still there.

      Was papal authority taught in the early church? In a way it was, though maybe not in the clear-cut way us modern individualistic Americans would approve of. We’re looking at the seed and expecting to see the tree.

      –Peter is clearly the leader in the early church. The lists of the disciples always puts Peter first and when the disciples are grouped together Peter is still often named. It was Peter that Satan wanted to sift like wheat and Jesus prayed for him so that he could strengthen his brethren. It was to Peter that Jesus charged 3 times to tend and feed His sheep. Peter oversaw the replacement of Judas Iscariot (the first apostolic succession?). Peter preached the gospel at Pentecost. Ananias and Sapphira did not lie to Peter but to the Holy Spirit. Peter was given the vision that Gentiles would receive the gospel too. Peter made the decision at the Council in Jerusalem in Acts 15. It even seems Peter’s approval was needed for Paul’s writings to be considered authoritative.

      A few examples outside Scripture:

      –Clement I, possibly while the apostle John was still alive, meddled in the affairs of Corinth so that some say it was the first “papal aggression.”
      –Ignatius of Antioch did not feel qualified to tell the Roman Church what to do, even though he was very authoritative over the other churches.
      –Irenaeus said all churches must agree with the Roman Church because of its pre-eminent authority.
      –Irenaeus went to Rome for help during the Montanist controversy.
      –Clement of Alexandria called Peter “the chosen, the pre-eminent, the first of the disciples” (“Rich Man”, 21)
      –During his orthodox period, Tertullian called Peter the rock on which the church was built and who held the keys of the kingdom (“Against Heretics”, 22).
      –Even Cyprian of Carthage, who many appeal to for anti-Rome rhetoric, said the “throne of Peter” was where “priestly unity takes its source” (Letter 54, 14) and that communion with the bishop of Rome was communion with the Catholic Church (Letter 51, 1).
      –Canon 6 of the Council of Nicaea seems to have made an appeal to the customs of the Bishop of Rome as authoritative. Why single him out as opposed to any other bishop?
      –Athanasius appealed to Rome when he was in trouble and quoted a letter of Pope Julius to his opponents, “Are you ignorant that the custom has been for word to be written first to us, and then for a just decision to be passed from this place?” (“Defense Against the Arians”, chap. 2). Athanasius’ opponents then “condemned themselves for what they had done, and going up to Rome, confessed their crime, declared themselves penitent, and sought forgiveness” and said they would not depart from the judgement of Julius (chap. 4).
      –Hilary of Poitiers said Peter was “set to be the foundation-stone of the Church, and received the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (“On the Trinity” 6, 20).
      –Basil the Great appealed to the bishop of Rome so that he may exercise “personal authority” over difficulties and “correct the unruly among us here” (Letter 69). Basil and Athanasius were in the East. Why not appeal to Constantinople? Why Rome?
      –Basil also appealed to Pope Damasus calling “right honourable father” and “your mercifulness”; said a visit from him was the “only possible solution of our difficulties” and said he is not making novel requests but only what has been customary (Letter 70).
      –Jerome, the guy we all love because of his compiling and translation of the Bible, said the East was shattered and it was his duty to “consult the chair of Peter, and to turn to the church whose faith has been praised by Paul”, that the chair of Peter is the rock on which the Church is built, that it is the only place where the paschal lamb may be rightly eaten, that it is the ark of Noah and all outside will perish (Letter 15), that he accepts only those who cling to the chair of Peter (Letter 16), said Peter was chosen head so there would be no schism (“Against Joviniaus, I, 26), and called Peter the “chief of the Apostles” on whom “the Lord’s Church was firmly founded” (Against the Pelagians, I, 14).
      –John Chrysostom called Peter “the chosen one of the Apostles, the mouth of the disciples, the leader of the band”, said that Jesus gave Peter the chief authority, that is why Paul went to “enquire of him rather than the others”, that Jesus commanded him to “preside over your brethren”, that Jesus appointed Peter teacher of the world (Homily 88), that “to a mortal man He entrusted the authority over all things in Heaven, giving him the keys (Homily 54), and that Peter had the same power individually as the apostles did collectively (Homily III).
      –Augustine gave Peter a special prerogative over the succession of heretics by calling Peter the rock on which the Church was built and that no Donatist was in that succession (Letter 53).
      –At the Council of Ephesus in 431, Philip, the legate of Rome, said it was known in all ages that Peter was prince and head of the Apostles, pillar of the faith, foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom, had the power to bind and loose, and who lives on in his successors. Cyril of Alexandria called for the council to carry into effect the decision of Pope Celestine against Nestorius.
      –The last council of Carthage in 419 sent the list of Scriptural books to Rome for its approval.

      With Peter’s clear leadership and how seriously the early church took apostolic succession, it’s not a stretch to see how Peter’s successor is leader over the others.

      I find it interesting how Rome was always around, involved in the problems, and constantly being appealed to, by both orthodox and heretics. Though they paint it as one of honor and not authority, even the Eastern Orthodox admit that Rome had a primacy and admit that Rome was the center of orthodoxy. EO Bishop Kallistos Ware in his book “The Orthodox Church” (writing as Timothy Ware) said, “…on the whole, during the first eight centuries of the Church’s history the Roman see was noted for the purity of its faith: other Patriarchates wavered during the great doctrinal disputes, but Rome for the most part stood firm. When hard pressed in the struggle against heretics, people felt that they could turn with confidence to the Pope. Not only the Bishop of Rome, but every bishop is appointed by God to be a teacher of the faith; yet because the see of Rome had in practice taught the faith with an outstanding loyalty to the truth, it was above all to Rome that everyone appealed for guidance in the early centuries of the Church.”

      Is all of this enough to “prove” papal authority? Probably not, especially to those of us who question authority. It’s far easier to appeal to my interpretation of the Bible and have no higher authority to tell me I’m wrong (even though the early church didn’t do that either). If someone does, we leave that church and find a new one (or start a new one). But the early evidence is still telling. If the early church saw Rome as the rock of orthodoxy, at what point did Rome lose it?

      So yeah, in a way the papacy was taught in the early church, at least by their actions. All of this also fits Newman’s theory of development. I can see how the substance of the seed is there while the tree is still growing. Like a newborn child, the muscles don’t know what is controlling them, nor does the head fully understand its power over the body. Only time brings the maturity needed for the body and head to truly operate as one.

      It makes sense and is grounded in history.

  2. Must,

    A few comments on Newman–I’m personally not impressed with him as a historian. For example, he charges Calvin with denying the divine Sonship of Christ. This claim is demonstrably false. Newman, instead of being slanderous, could have picked up the Institutes or Calvin’s commentary. You might think this a small thing, but charging someone with heresy is a serious matter.

    John Bigane is (or was, I think he might be dead) most likely a Roman Catholic scholar. He is dealing with one question–exegesis of Matthew 16:18–during a specific time period the 16th Century. Well worth your time. Careful, restrained, historical theology.

    If you really want to study the history of the Reformation–anything by Richard Muller.


    Acts 15


    Introduction (1-6): May the gentiles be saved without circumcision? Council time.
    Part I (7-11): After much disputing, Peter speaks–the gentiles are saved by faith.
    Part II (12): Paul and Barnabas declare the mighty works of God
    Part III (13-21) James speaks: He reviews what has been said and states that this agrees with the prophets. James declares his conclusion-“Wherefore my sentence is…” James articulates plan of action.
    Conclusion (rest): James’ sentence is accepted.

    Peter, as far as we know, had neither the first nor the last word. James declared the sentence.

    This is mere speculation: I do wonder though, if the presentation of the speakers is meant to be chiastic. If so, (12) would be central and the main speakers would be Paul and Barnabas, who declared the works of God, making the God and His Works the central focus of the decision.

    Now, the thrust of your pro-papal argument works if you accept two things–(1) tradition as a source of dogma and (2) Newman’s theory of development. I reject both.

    Clement of Rome

    Seriously? The letter doesn’t even include Clement’s name in the text. The text is introduced:

    “The church of God which sojourns at Rome, to the church of God sojourning at Corinth.”

    Papal agression? Come on. The Church in Rome writes a letter to the Church in Corinth with pastoral advice, and we see the seeds of the papacy? Universal papal jurisdiction or papal infallibility are nowhere to be seen here.


    Not sure where you are getting this. He does give the Church in Rome “advice.” Regardless, we see nothing of papal supremacy or infallibility here.


    I think you are thinking about the following passage:

    “Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.”

    – We don’t follow Rome because of Her authority. We follow Rome, “inasmuch as the tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.” Also, Irenaeus could have made the same argument with a different Church as a model. But, the Church of Rome was “universally known” and thus his argument about apostolic succession would be easy to substantiate.
    Cyprian of Carthage:

    You said: –”Even Cyprian of Carthage, who many appeal to for anti-Rome rhetoric, said the “throne of Peter” was where “priestly unity takes its source” (Letter 54, 14) and that communion with the bishop of Rome was communion with the Catholic Church (Letter 51, 1).”

    On the Unity of the Church:

    “The Lord speaks to Peter, saying, “I say unto thee, that thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” And again to the same He says, after His resurrection, “Feed nay sheep.” And although to all the apostles, after His resurrection, He gives an equal power, and says, “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you: Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they shall be remitted unto him; and whose soever sins ye retain, they shall be retained;” 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.””

    -The Apostles have the same authority as Peter.


    “Our Lord, whose precepts and admonitions we ought to observe, describing the honour of a bishop and the order of His Church, speaks in the Gospel, and says to Peter: “I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Thence, through the changes of times and successions, the ordering of bishops and the plan of the Church flow onwards; so that the Church is founded upon the bishops, and every act of the Church is controlled by these same rulers. Since this, then, is founded on the divine law, I marvel that some, with daring temerity, have chosen to write to me as if they wrote in the name of the Church; when the Church is established in the bishop and the clergy, and all who stand fast in the faith. For far be it from the mercy of God and His uncontrolled might to suffer the number of the lapsed to be called the Church; since it is written, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” For we indeed desire that all may be made alive; and we pray that, by our supplications and groans, they may be restored to their original state. But if certain lapsed ones claim to be the Church, and if the Church be among them and in them, what is left but for us to ask of these very persons that they would deign to admit us into the Church? Therefore it behoves them to be submissive and quiet and modest, as those who ought to appease God, in remembrance of their sin, and not to write letters in the name of the Church, when they should rather be aware that they are writing to the Church.”

    – Cyprian takes Matthew 16:18 to be about the ordaining of bishops–not the papacy.

    Every Bishop is Peter and occupies Peter’s chair. Cyprian’s practice bears this out. This is not compatible to the papacy dogmatically declared by Vatican I.



    “Remember, in this man Peter, the rock. He’s the one, you see, who on being questioned by the Lord about who the disciples said he was, replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ On hearing this, Jesus said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jona, because flesh and blood did not reveal it to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you’…’You are Peter, Rocky, and on this rock I shall build my Church, and the gates of the underworld will not conquer her. To you shall I give the keys of the kingdom. Whatever you bind on earth shall also be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall also be loosed in heaven’ (Mt 16:15-19). In Peter, Rocky, we see our attention drawn to the rock. Now the apostle Paul says about the former people, ‘They drank from the spiritual rock that was following them; but the rock was Christ’ (1 Cor 10:4). So this disciple is called Rocky from the rock, like Christian from Christ. Why have I wanted to make this little introduction? In order to suggest to you that in Peter the Church is to be recognized. Christ, you see, built his Church not on a man but on Peter’s confession. What is Peter’s confession? ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ There’s the rock for you, there’s the foundation, there’s where the Church has been built, which the gates of the underworld cannot conquer.”

    – Peter is not the rock. The Church is not built on Peter.

    Also, I really don’t think that the letter you cited proves, shows, or indicates Vatican I papal supremacy in any way.

    “For the Son of thunder, the beloved of Christ, the pillar of the Churches throughout the world, who holds the keys of heaven, who drank the cup of Christ, and was baptized with His baptism, who lay upon his Master’s bosom, with much confidence, this man now comes forward to us now; not as an actor of a play, not as hiding his head with a mask, (for he hath another sort of words to speak), nor mounting a platform, nor striking the stage with his foot, nor dressed out with apparel of gold, but he enters wearing a robe of inconceivable beauty.”

    On Acts 15

    “No word speaks John here, no word the other Apostles, but held their peace, for James was invested with the chief rule, and think it no hardship.”


    “It is not the case that there is one church at Rome and another in all the world beside. Gaul and Britain, Africa and Persia, India and the East worship one Christ and observe one rule of truth. If you ask for authority, the world outweighs its capital.3943 Wherever there is a bishop, whether it be at Rome or at Engubium, whether it be at Constantinople or at Rhegium, whether it be at Alexandria or at Zoan, his dignity is one and his priesthood is one. Neither the command of wealth nor the lowliness of poverty makes him more a bishop or less a bishop. All alike are successors of the apostles.”


    There is more that I think needs to be considered, but that’s it for now.

    • Jonathan. I hope you had a wonderful Easter celebration. I also have a quick request before I get started: Would you mind telling me which branch of Lutheranism you belong to? I’d like to look more into that faith.

      I looked for Newman’s “charge” against Calvin and found something close in his Essay. Newman didn’t “charge” Calvin with “heresy” and “denying the divine Sonship of Christ.” Rather he said Calvin “seems” to have denied Jesus’ “Eternal Sonship.” I don’t know what part of Calvin’s writings Newman was referring to, but even today it’s a debate among some Calvinists whether Jesus’ sonship was eternal or incarnational (i.e. began with his birth on earth).

      As for the “serious matter” of charging someone of heresy, the Calvinists I’ve known are some of the quickest to charge people with “heresy” but are a bit thin-skinned when others suggest in turn.

      On Clement and “papal aggression”: I was simply relating that some non-Catholics have made this claim. This is further evidence that even non-Catholics can see the power of the papacy very early in Church history.

      On Ignatius: I get this from the “sense” of the letter. The humility with which he gives advice to Rome is different from the authoritative manner with which he speaks to the other churches.

      On Irenaeus: What you described is the standard Protestant explanation of Irenaeus’ words, but I’m not convinced of it. No one uses just any example, even if it’s a well-known example, and calls it a “pre-eminent authority” that all “must” agree with. We don’t talk like that about “examples.”

      On Cyprian’s first quote: Yes. Even Roman Catholicism recognizes the power of all the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops, because of Matthew 18:18. But even here Cyprian calls Peter “the origin of unity.” Unity stems from Peter. Whoever is with Peter is with the Church.

      On Cyprian’s second quote: If Cyprian is right and “through the changes of times and successions, the ordering of bishops and the plan of the Church flow onwards; so that the Church is founded upon the bishops, and every act of the Church is controlled by these same rulers”, where does Lutheranism and sola scriptura fit? Does Lutheranism still hold the apostolic succession of bishops? This quote benefits a case for Eastern Orthodoxy or Catholicism, not Protestantism.

      On the Augustine quote: Even Catholics can hold that Peter’s faith is the Rock just like Peter himself is the rock. Many things in Catholic theology are a “both/and.” We Protestants tend to think in terms of “either/or.” I don’t think it a problem that Peter’s faith is the rock because one must profess that faith in order to be a Christian at all. But that doesn’t negate Peter being the rock upon which the Church is built. Even the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” refers to the “Rock” of Matthew 16 as Peter in one place (CCC 552) and his faith (CCC 424) in another.

      Also, in his “Retractions”, Augustine leaves it up to the reader to decide whether the rock was Peter himself or his faith. So even Augustine considered it a valid opinion to believe Peter was the rock.

      On Chrysostom: This does not negate the several citations I gave from Chrysostom.

      On Jerome: This also does not negate the several citations I gave from Jerome. And yes, all the bishops, as “successors to the apostles”, are a really big deal. Am I with the apostolic succession of bishops? Are you?

  3. Must,

    Easter was great. Hope yours was too!

    I’m Anglican, so, thanks to the efforts of the monstrously godless Henry VIII, we got apostolic succession.

    ~ Newman ~

    Newman does not bring a formal charge against Calvin. He uses tentative language and provides no citation whatsoever. One can get an idea of Calvin’s understanding of the Sonship of Christ from the Institutes and his commentaries. There is no need to insinuate that Calvin was a heretic. Newman is neither being careful, charitable, nor scholarly.

    Too bad the Calvinist you know are like that. Shame on them. They should know better. Newman should have known better too. Especially as a professional theologian putting something into print.

    (Could you point me to Calvinist authors who take the incarnational sonship view? John Macarthur used to take that view, I know he’s rejected, I don’t know of anyone else though).

    ~ Clement ~

    I believe this is pushing everything way too far. I’d be interested in knowing who sees this as the first “papal aggression.” Historians? Theologians? Apologists?



    I guess it all depends on why Rome is called “pre-eminently supreme.” I think Irenaeus believed Rome was supreme because of the faithfulness of the Church there. Thus, I don’t believe Rome was faithful because it was “pre-eminently supreme.” In my reading, this explains why Irenaeus says that we follow Rome “…inasmuch as the tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.”

    However you read Cyprian, you can’t interpret his comments as giving the bishop of Rome authority over the other bishops. They have equal power. You can argue that the bishop of Rome is in “in charge of unity.”

    I understand that if Augustine had only stated that the rock is Peter’s confession, his view would be reconcilable with Rome. You are right that in the Retractiones he seems kind of indifferent (which does not lend credence to the pro-papal view). However, at one point he did say (as quoted above): “Christ, you see, built his Church not on a man but on Peter’s confession.”

    -The Son of Thunder is the Pillar of the Churches.
    – James is invested with the chief rule.
    – Peter has chief authority.

    Chrysostom could be used for establishing the supremacy of three different apostles.


    The quote I provided indicates an equality amongst the successors of the Apostles. I think the following quote does the same:

    “But you say, the Church was founded upon Peter: although elsewhere the same is attributed to all the Apostles, and they all receive the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and the strength of the Church depends upon them all alike, yet one among the twelve is chosen so that when a head has been appointed, there may be no occasion for schism.”

    I think Jerome’s view is the same as Cyprian’s view. All of the Apostles are equal in authority. They are all given the keys of the kingdom. Who has the keys of the kingdom according to Rome?

    These are too many authors at the same time! Good talk though.

    • You’re Anglican? That is very interesting. The way you talked about Lutheranism I assumed you were Lutheran. I’m sorry for assuming. There is a soft spot in my heart for Anglicanism. They were the first to introduce me to liturgy and early church history. Reciting the Nicene Creed every week introduced me to the Council of Nicaea and Athanasius. Plus I enjoyed reading C.S. Lewis. Unfortunately, I also enjoy G.K. Chesterton and he left Anglicanism. Since then I’ve also discovered others like Newman and Robert Hugh Benson who also gave their testimonies for leaving. Sure, there are always testimonies for all sides. But for our choices we have to choose who we believe make the most sense.

      As a preference, I prefer Anglicanism to other forms of Protestantism. However, when deciding what true Christianity is, the issues within it are the same issues facing all Protestants; and that is the issue of authority. I read “Anglicanism: A Very Short Introduction” by Mark Chapman and the issue of authority throughout Anglicanism’s history constantly came up. When disagreements arise, even on what seem like obvious moral issues, who has the final say? Anglicanism is splitting apart just as much as anyone because Canterbury can’t make a ruling for everyone without becoming a pope, which is the very thing we’re all protesting against.

      Again, I apologize for misunderstanding.

      You asked what Calvinists I found who believe in the incarnational sonship: Not being Calvinist I’m not up to speed on Calvinist authors who are considered “good” scholars, though even that is usually in the eye of the beholder. My initial searches had found Dr. Walter Martin, a name I recognized because my dad always recommended his book “Kingdom of the Cults.” And, like you also mentioned, I found that John Macarthur has just recently changed his view. They do seem to be the minority, but I find the dispute interesting. Isn’t that what will happen when each generation has to re-invent the wheel, so to speak? Isn’t it what will happen when we question the authority of the Councils of the church? If we can’t trust the decision of Councils, debates that took hundreds of years to decide must now be re-figured out by each individual who has only a lifetime within which to do it. I’m just not smart enough to do that.

      It seems Protestants are with the Eastern Orthodox in accepting the first few Councils but not subsequent ones because they became “corrupt.” I was left asking, “Why?” Councils are authoritative or not. By picking-and-choosing which ones we accept as authoritative means we really don’t consider them authoritative.

      You also asked about authors who talked about Clement’s papal aggression: J.B. Lightfoot is a name I’ve seen around and he says so here when he said, “It may perhaps seem strange to describe this noble remonstrance as the first step towards papal aggression. And yet undoubtedly this is the case.”

      Philip Schaff doesn’t use the term “aggression” but also recognizes the rise of Roman superiority starting with Clement here.

      Schaff said,

      “The first example of the exercise of a sort of papal authority is found towards the close of the first century in the letter of the Roman bishop Clement (d. 102) to the bereaved and distracted church of Corinth…. The Roman church here, without being asked (as far as appears), gives advice, with superior administrative wisdom, to an important church in the East dispatches messengers to her, and exhorts her to order and unity in a tone of calm dignity and authority, as the organ of God and the Holy Spirit. This is all the more surprising if St. John, as is probable, was then still living in Ephesus, which was nearer to Corinth than Rome.”

      I hope this clarifies some of what I said. And I agree; it was a good conversation. I was probably only disagreeing about 50% of the time. The other 50% was playing “devil’s advocate.”

      • Must,

        Your confusion is understandable. My blog is titled after Luther’s great hymn and I’ve read some the works of some Lutheran theologians.

        The issue of authority is important. If we are unwilling to submit to the commands of God in Scripture, we will also be unwilling to submit to other human authorities. This is why the majority of Roman Catholics routinely disregard official Roman Catholic sexual ethics.

        Protestants and Orthodox have a different understanding of authority. Protestants believe that the creeds have authority because they preach what is written in Scripture.

        Anglicanism has problems not because of her ecclesial structure, but because in certain matters it has decided to set itself above Scripture. The problem is not a lack of authority. The problem is the sinfulness of man.

        Thanks for the comments on the divine Sonship issue.

        I was actually thinking about Philip Schaff’s treatment of the Clement issue you cited him. I think the entire paragraph should lead one to be suspicious of anyone using Clement as a seed of the Vatican I papacy.

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