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Serving Up Circular Reasoning:

This Rock Continues to Suffer from the Peter Syndrome

 


James White, Th.D.

In February of 2000, Catholic writer Stephen O’Reilly attempted to provide a response to a small section of my book, The Roman Catholic Controversy. We responded to this attempt (click here) and demonstrated the fundamental circularity of Roman Catholic apologetics: that is, any person who reads widely in their attempts to substantiate Papal primacy know that they must begin with what they intend to prove. In this particular This Rock article, the attempt was made to get around the witness of the early Church. Now, in the July/August 2000 issue, another short article appears (pp. 32-35) that deals with an even smaller section of my book, this time in an attempt to deflect a very small portion of a much larger, very compelling argument. To see this new article in its proper context, however, requires looking at the argument O’Reilly is attempting to refute.

The New Testament’s Witness

When one reads the New Testament as a whole document, based in its own context, its own historical setting, and its own language (a task I would argue is impossible for the faithful Roman Catholic exegete), the idea of a papacy centered upon Peter and "successors" in Rome does not suggest itself as an even remote element of New Testament belief. The very small handful of passages upon which Rome depends for her allegedly infallible authority do not, when taken together with the rest of the Scriptures, lead one to the absolute necessity of belief in a Papacy. Hence, Roman Catholic apologists are forced to engage in eisegesis, the reading into the text of concepts utterly foreign to the original author and audience. They do this first in obedience to their true ultimate authority (Rome, sola ecclesia) and secondly by utilizing disparate, inconsistent methods of interpretation. That is, they use one style of interpretation when dealing with the passages in which they are told, by Rome, to find Petrine primacy. But, when facing passages that would, using the same standards, undercut that primacy, or, indicate the primacy of someone else (Paul, or John, for example), all of a sudden that method of interpretation is dismissed and another is used in its place. But, if Protestants then use that means of interpretation in the Petrine passages, they cry "foul." It is circular all around.

This was the point I was making in The Roman Catholic Controversy beginning on page 107, and it is a small number of sentences in this section that are examined by Steven O’Reilly. To get the entire context, here is what I wrote:

Before addressing the few passages adduced by defenders of the Papacy, we must step back and ask the first and most necessary question: Does the New Testament as a whole lead us to believe that Peter was considered the head of the Church? Was Peter viewed as the Vicar of Christ on earth? Did Christians think of him as the Holy Father? Did the other Apostles recognize Peter as their head and leader? Do they direct people to obedience to Peter as the Pope? Does the New Testament lead us to believe that there was an office of Pope to which all Christians looked for guidance, and upon which the Church’s unity itself was founded? And do we find in the words, actions, and writings of Peter himself evidence that he interpreted Jesus’ words at Matthew 16:18-19 in the way modern Roman Catholics do?

We begin our very brief New Testament survey by recognizing those truths that are not in dispute. Peter’s name is prominent in the Gospel accounts. He is clearly the leading disciple. His name occurs more often than any other, and is almost always first in any listing given, which may simply reflect his being the oldest, or the first called. He is impetuous, and is often the first person to open his mouth, sometimes with God’s blessing, sometimes to his detriment.

For example, immediately after receiving the revelation from the Father concerning the identity of Jesus Christ in Matthew 16, Peter demonstrates his great fallibility by standing in the way of God’s very plan of salvation, for when the Lord Jesus begins to speak to His disciples concerning His coming death, Peter takes Him aside and begins to rebuke the Lord! Jesus’ response to Peter shows that Peter was not thinking through his statements before making them.

The same thing happens on the Mount of Transfiguration. Luke records for us in the 9th chapter of his gospel that Peter again spoke up in the presence of the glory of God, and of Moses and Elijah, and said, "Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah." Luke is kind to report for us at this point that Peter did not realize what he was saying (v. 33). If speaking up in the presence of Moses, Elijah, the transfigured Christ, and the glory of the Father, without knowing what you are saying, is not indicative of impetuosity, I don’t know what is.

And so no one disputes that Peter takes a prominent role in the Gospel accounts. However, to leap from prominence to primacy is wholly unwarranted on two very important accounts. First, the Gospels themselves deny that any of the apostles were in a position of primacy. Secondly, the rest of the New Testament shows that Peter did not actually end up taking any supposed position of primacy.

In support of the first point I call our attention to Luke 22:24-30. In this passage we are told that even as the disciple band walked toward the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of Christ’s betrayal, the disciples got into an argument about who among them would be considered the greatest. One might note in passing that this comes right on the heels of the establishment of the Lord’s Supper. Might the argument have arisen because John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, had been leaning on the Lord’s breast immediately prior to this? Indeed, if the course of history had been different, and political and geographical factors had turned out to favor a church established by the Apostle John rather than one claiming Peter as its founder, we might be debating if the fact that only John is described as the "disciple whom Jesus loved" does not establish Johannine primacy rather than Petrine. Be that as it may, it does not seem, then, in light of the recurring arguments about who would be the greatest, that the disciples understood the words of Matthew 16 to establish Peter as the foundation of the Church, the first Pope, the Vicar of Christ on earth, for if that were really Christ’s meaning, the argument would for all practical purposes be over. And, we should find the Lord rebuking the remaining disciples, and informing them that He had already chosen Peter as the first Pope, the head of the Church, the prince of the Apostles. But we do not hear this. Instead, He treats all the disciples alike, and speaks of conferring upon them all, not upon Peter alone, a kingdom so that they might judge the twelve tribes of Israel. Indeed, immediately after this we find the Lord specifically praying for Peter’s faith, for Peter, more than any of the other disciples, would dishonor his Lord that evening in betrayal.

The second reason that leaping from Peter’s prominence in the Gospel accounts to the Roman concept of primacy is improper and illogical is due to the fact that the rest of the New Testament does not even begin to show us a hint of Peter’s supposed supremacy. Let us look at some of this evidence briefly (107-109).

This section appeared immediately prior to the examination of the key passages upon which the Roman system has based its claims regarding Petrine primacy, and from this basis, Papal privilege. It would seem logical that any attempt to respond to this material would take into consideration the entirety of what is being said: that is, that the response would focus upon demonstrating a pan-canonical, "New Testament-as-a-whole" testimony to the Roman position. But Steven O’Reilly knows that no such argument can be mustered, so instead he chose to focus upon a very small portion of the argument. And in the process, he proved yet again how Rome’s defenders can turn the slightest amount of plausibility into the frightening certitude of Papal power. Let us examine his efforts in the hopes that those who have ears will hear. Since the text of Luke 22 will be vital, it would be good to review it:

(Luke 22:24-30) And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. [25] And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.' [26] "But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. [27] "For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves. [28] "You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; [29] and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you [30] that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

The Response

O’Reilly subtitled his reply, "More Objections to Peter’s Primacy Shot Down." Obviously, Catholic Answers, ensconced safely behind the high walls of their offices in San Diego, feels that their audience is probably not going to be aware of the refutation of O’Reilly’s previous attempt in the February This Rock magazine. This might explain the use of the phrase "Shot Down."

O’Reilly begins by citing Luke 22:23-27, and then summarizing my argument as follows:

From this passage, White produces three objections to the Petrine primacy. (1) The apostles would not have argued among themselves if they had understood that Christ had already bestowed the primacy upon Peter. (2) The Lord would have rebuked the apostles for failing to recognize this primacy. (3) Jesus would have taken the occasion to remind the apostles of this primacy.

He then examines each of these three assertions. However, as anyone can see from reading the citation provided above, this is, at best, a very partial summary of my assertion. Beyond this, the single most important element of the argument that O’Reilly does not (and cannot) handle is this: he who asserts must prove. O’Reilly, like all faithful sons of Rome, must begin with his conclusion: even his summary assumes something he has yet to prove from the text: the entire idea of a "primacy." Remember, prominence does not equal primacy. No one argues that Peter is not vitally important in the gospel accounts. No one argues that he does not fill the role of leader of the disciple band during the ministry of Jesus, along with James and John. But given the massive theological construct based upon the idea of Petrine primacy, mere prominence does not mean primacy. Rome makes the positive assertion, yet, just as in the battle over sola scriptura, she refuses to hold up the burden of proof (in that case, by showing us the "tradition" she insists came from the Apostles, in this case, making a positive case for Rome’s concept of primacy).

Instead, O’Reilly assumes the reality of this "primacy," and then attempts to place the Protestant on the defensive, as if we have to prove a case against primacy. If there was a clear presentation of the concept, such would be a proper argument. For example, the Bible plainly teaches the deity of Christ in Titus 2:13, 2 Peter 1:1, Romans 9:5, John 1:1, etc. So, it is quite proper to challenge the person who would deny the deity of Christ to make a biblical case, since surely the Christian is able to present such a tremendously strong case for the existence of this doctrine in Scripture. But the Roman Catholic, limited to stretched, forced, weak interpretations of a handful of isolated passages, is in no position to assume what has yet to be demonstrated. Sadly, this kind of argumentation is often very effective, though for the lover of truth, it is utterly without merit.

When we keep this in mind, we see that the responses offered by O’Reilly fall far short of convincing argumentation. And that is understandable: he is writing for the already convinced who are not likely to recognize the error of the position since they already embrace as a presupposition the element he cannot defend. So all he has to do for the convinced Catholic is argue plausibly. In fact, for many in our culture, plausibility is all that is needed. Emotion can fill in where the facts and logic are missing.

The Silly Disciples

The first response is in answer to the assertion, "The apostles would not have argued if they had understood there to be a primacy." His response is, "Even if White’s observation were true, it would not prove the Lord, notwithstanding the apostles’ lack of understanding, didn’t intend his declaration to Peter to establish a primacy." Note that O’Reilly, rather than drawing from this incident positive proof of the existence of what is up for debate instead offers the weak argument, "Well, that doesn’t prove that it can’t be that way!" Remember, we are looking for indication in the text of the truthfulness of the Roman claims, not an excuse for how it might be that despite these words the Roman position still could be true. He goes on to say that the apostles often misunderstood things, which is of course true. In John chapter 2 we are told that they did not understand what Jesus meant about raising the temple of His body until after the resurrection (John 2:22). But this was because the Holy Spirit revealed the truth of this to them only after that blessed event. We are never told that Peter’s primacy is, likewise, a Spirit-borne revelation that awaited a future time to be understood. In fact, the entire idea of primacy is contrary to the thrust of the passage, as we will see later on.

O’Reilly then gives us another example of Roman Catholic exegesis: when defending the Papal interpretation of Luke 22, cite Matthew 16; when defending the Papal interpretation of Matthew 16, cite Luke 22. But here we have the interesting addition that in reference to Matthew 16, "It is difficult to imagine how the apostles or anyone else could have comprehended sufficiently what the Lord intended at the time he spoke these words." Such is quite true, since the later Roman interpretation of Matthew 16, and the theology built upon it, is a-contextual (as we have noted in print and in other articles discussing this passage, the focus never shifts from the identity and mission of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 16, let alone does it turn Peter into a prime minister/pope). So are we to believe that the Apostles only later sat back and said, "Ah, remember what the Lord said to Peter? That’s when He made Peter a pope!" This is not exegesis, it is wishful thinking.

At this point we encounter a statement that I truthfully do not understand. O’Reilly seems to show some confusion as to the chronology of the synoptic gospels. He writes, "Indeed, the later dispute in Luke 22--‘later’ if we assume this Lucan passage follows Matthew 16 temporally, which is not certain--demonstrates the apostles misunderstood the nature of his kingdom." There is no question that the incident in Matthew 16, taking place in Caesarea Philippi, is chronologically prior to the betrayal of Christ and the Garden of Gethsemane, so unless O’Reilly is referring to some theory of Matthew being written first, and Luke later (which still makes no sense), I have no idea what the point is.

After this statement we are told that the apostles did not fully understand the import of Matthew 16 until the descent of the Holy Spirit. Then "the Lord’s intention became clear." That is a nice sentiment. But what is the evidence provided to back it up? No evidence is given. It is a bare assertion without argumentation or documentation. Where in the New Testament are we told that the Spirit’s coming enlightened the apostles’ understanding of the incident in Matthew 16? Such an assertion finds no support anywhere, yet, it is vital to the position O’Reilly attempts to defend.

The Lord’s Rebuke

The next point addressed comes from my assertion that surely, if the Lord Jesus had intended Matthew 16 to establish Petrine primacy (indeed, Roman Catholic apologists, going without a single, solitary soul in support of their position in the "tradition" of the Church, interpret Isaiah 22 as being connected to Matthew 16, and as a result, see this passage establishing Peter as prime minister of the kingdom--how strange that such an action would leave the apostles utterly clueless as to who their leader was to be!), the Lord would have corrected the other apostles who were arguing that they, in fact, would be greatest. Here the vicious circularity of the position becomes most evident, for not only is the concept of primacy assumed yet again, but the Lord’s rebuke of the disciples is taken as evidence that a primacy most surely must exist! O’Reilly writes,

This objection is more easily turned back on the objector. It is evident the apostles’ themselves presupposed one among them ought to be considered "greatest," the "leader," or "first." The argument, after all, was over who was the greatest, not whether there was a greatest.

It is difficult to know how to respond to such an assertion, given the context of the passage. It seems so self-evident, to the person who interprets Scripture in its own context and is not under the authority of Rome’s alleged infallible authority, that Jesus is rebuking the very idea that is foundational to the Papacy. This attitude of seeking prominence and authority was rebuked by the Lord many times during His earthly ministry. Mark records one such incident:

(Mark 9:33-37) They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, "What were you discussing on the way?" [34] But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. [35] Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." [36] Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, [37] "Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me."

Surely no one would suggest that there is anything more here in the words "last" and "servant of all" than what is obvious: the very same attitude of humility of mind that Paul refers to in Philippians 2:

You must have the same mindset among yourselves that was in Christ Jesus,
Who, although He eternally existed in the very form of God,
Did not consider that equality He had with God the Father something to be held on to at all costs,
But instead He made Himself nothing,
By taking on the very form of a slave,
By being made in human likeness.
And having entered into human existence,
He humbled Himself
By becoming obedient to the point of death,
Even the death one dies on a cross!
Because of this, God the Father exalted Him to the highest place,
And bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
So that at the mention of the exalted name of Jesus
Everyone who is in heaven, on earth, and under the earth,
Bows the knee,
And every tongue confesses:
"Jesus Christ is Lord!"
All to the glory of God the Father! 

But the fundamental problem with the assumption made by O’Reilly is that it makes the terms "greatest" and "leader" concrete when they are categorical. That is, in all situations, whether we speak of the Church as a whole, or a local body of believers, a Bible study, whatever it might be: seeking to promote oneself outside the parameters of service and humility is anti-Christian. This is the message of the Lord to the Apostles, and the message of Paul to the Philippians as well. It is simply a part of the Christian faith. The error of the apostles is just as O’Reilly says: they assumed someone would be the greatest among them in a position of power and authority. Jesus rebuked their error, and by extension, since he has now repeated it in defense of the Papacy, that of O’Reilly as well: to be a leader in the Christian Church is to be a servant (not "the" servant, leader, etc.). Servanthood is the essence of Christian leadership in any context, and to think that Jesus is, in this passage, even hinting at some kind of supreme position of authority for Peter or his alleged successors in the bishops of Rome is utterly without merit. Despite this obvious reality, O’Reilly says,

Nowhere does the Lord make such a rebuke. White’s argument reduces Christ’s words to nonsense, as it requires Jesus to deny the very thing he was asserting: "Let the greater among you--of which, by the way, there is none--become the youngest, and the leader as one who serves."

The truth is, the Lord’s response presupposes a primacy, as is adduced by his calling the leader "as one who serves."

Such circular reasoning is difficult to refute, as O’Reilly is so obviously inserting the entire concept of primacy into a passage that has no basis for it. The humorous attempt to avoid the fact that there is no singular, concrete "office" of leader being discussed, but instead the general exhortation to service and humility for all Christians falls flat. Yet, he is so dedicated to sola ecclesia that he is able to blithely insert the concept of papal primacy into a passage that is rebuking the very idea of grasping for authority, and he makes it "work" with the comforting assurance that this is how "primacy is to be exercised in the Church." Well, the fact that Roman pontiffs have given the greatest number of illustrations of the rejection of the very attitude of humility that Jesus teaches here might weigh heavily upon the honest mind. When one has toured the Vatican Treasures Exhibit as I have, and gawked at golden tiaras and the like, it makes the blithe reference to "this is how primacy is to be exercised in the Church" very hollow indeed. When Mr. O’Reilly gets around to showing us this primacy, we might be able to intelligently debate it.

Thus far we have seen that both attempts to avoid the weight of the passage have failed, and the best we have been offered is the unsubstantiated eisegetical insertion of "primacy" into a passage that speaks so clearly to just the opposite. There is one final response to be examined.

Is Peter Treated Differently?

In my discussion of the passage, I had indicated that Peter is treated just like the other apostles in the following passage:

(Luke 22:28-30) "You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; [29] and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you [30] that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Upon reminding them of the reality of Christian service, He recognizes their special service to Him and speaks of the position they will hold in the kingdom. There are twelve thrones, not one larger throne and eleven smaller ones. There is equality in the matter of authority and judgment among the disciples at this point. When Jesus speaks of eating and drinking at His table, He speaks to all the disciples. Surely if Jesus had spoken these words only to Peter, we would have volumes of Roman Catholic works based upon the passage as irrefutable proof of Petrine primacy. So why doesn’t the reverse hold true? If Jesus said, "I grant you (singular) that you (singular) may eat and drink..." we would never hear the end of how this "proves" the Roman position.

But O’Reilly ignores this passage, and attempts to make it look like I am in error when I say that Peter is not treated differently. Ignoring the context of my statement and the passage, he writes,

However, a closer examination reveals Jesus did not "treat all the disciples alike." In fact, he did the very thing White says he did not do: He reminded the apostles of Peter’s primacy. While Jesus assuaged the jealousies that gave rise to the dispute by assuring the apostles that each would have authority within his kingdom..., he proceeded to single out Peter from the other apostles.

I immediately have to ask, which is it? Did the apostles have to wait for the Holy Spirit to understand Peter’s primacy, as O’Reilly seemed to indicate before, or does Jesus now "remind" them of it? Which is it? If they knew of it, but didn’t understand Matthew 16, then how did they know of it? The ubiquitous "primacy" seems to have a life of its own, utterly independent of the text of Scripture itself. And, of course, that’s the whole problem. O’Reilly does not derive primacy from the text of Scripture: it is handed to him on a papal platter, and he then must read it into the text.

It is quite true that, after speaking of ruling and reigning, Jesus turns to Peter. However, he turns to Peter not to single him out as one holding the mythical primacy. No, if Peter has a primacy here, it is primacy in denial. It is primacy in falling from being the most vocal, outspoken leader of the apostolic band, first in claiming allegiance and faithfulness in Christ, to the thrice-denying coward of the night of Christ’s arrest. But so firmly entrenched is the eisegetical concept of Petrine primacy in O’Reilly’s thinking that he dismisses the clear meaning of the text in favor of the conclusion that, not surprisingly, he is instructed to "discover" by his true and highest source of authority: Rome. The wild leaps that follow are perfectly understandable to anyone familiar with the role of Roman authority in alleged "biblical interpretation," but for those who are not, it is educational to attempt to follow the reasoning presented. The key passage is as follows:

(Luke 22:31-32) "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; [32] but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers."

The precious promise of this verse has nothing to do with a papacy that would not develop for centuries yet to come, in a place thousands of miles away. It has everything to do with the power of God to keep His own, even in the midst of despair. In a manner reminiscent of the story of Job where Satan has to ask God’s permission to test Job, here Jesus says that Satan has asked for all the disciples (the Greek pronoun used in the verse 31, uJma'", is plural) so that he might "sift" them. That is, Satan desires to test the disciples just as he tested Job. Jesus warns Peter that he, more than anyone else, stands in danger. Evidently, Peter’s quick tongue and rash impetuosity placed him in a greater position of danger than any of the rest. So Jesus provides a promise with the warning: the Lord of glory Himself has prayed for Peter so that his faith would not fail--not because of anything special about Peter, but because of the providential power of Christ Himself. And even though Peter would have to "turn," his repentance is as certain as the words of Christ.

Think of the promise these words carried for Peter as he wept in the darkness of his soul during those long hours when the Lord Jesus lay in the grave! Jesus knew Peter would turn away. But He likewise knew that God’s purpose would be fulfilled and that Peter would "turn again." He would not only be restored (as Jesus did in John 21), but he would again have a position of ministry in edifying and strengthening his brothers. How these words must have provided a refuge for the soul when all else seemed lost. Paul knew this truth as well. He wrote to Timothy and said: "If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself" (2 Timothy 2:13).

But when one comes to the text with traditions, the entire meaning of a passage can be overturned. And this is what happens here. Rather than seeing the contextual meaning of the Lord’s words in light of the soon denial of Peter, and the precious promise they contain, papal tradition forces O’Reilly to offer a most unique alternative "interpretation." Of course, Roman Catholics have read into this passage everything but the kitchen sink over the years, including an implicit affirmation of Papal Infallibility (Peter’s faith not failing meaning that the Popes would always teach in accordance with the truth). O’Reilly discovers a unique authority in the passage, for in it he says Jesus confers "upon him [Peter] alone the role of strengthening the brethren, including the other apostles." This "strengthening" is then said to be "the essence of the type of primacy" he has already asserted is found in the previous passage (but which we saw was not), so that "Peter, made strengthener of all--servant of all--by God himself, is to be the ‘leader’--the ‘greatest’--among the apostles."

No argumentation is provided to support these assertions. Upon what basis, for example, are we to conclude that the exhortation to strengthen the brethren is unique to Peter? As common as is the assertion amongst Roman apologists, one would think that some argument would have been developed to explain why a simple exhortation to do what any of the brethren are to do is somehow to be turned into a unique office or capacity of Peter alone. But no reason can be given for interpreting this promise of a future ministry for Peter (despite his fall) as an institution of some unique papal prerogative. Outside of wishful thinking, there is no reason to find in these words such a concept. And it is wishful thinking that fills the rest of the article:

The same Simon whose faith won him the name "rock" (Matthew 16:18)--and upon whom the Lord promised to build his Church, against which hell will not prevail--received divine protection of his faith for the purpose of strengthening the brethren.

Simon’s faith won him the title "rock"? Really? Where does the Bible teach this? It doesn’t. In fact, Peter’s own confession of faith is said to have come from God Himself. And where does Jesus say that He has prayed for Peter’s faith so that he might strengthen the brethren? Jesus said He had prayed for Peter so that His faith would not fail, and, when he, Peter, had turned back, then he was to strengthen the brethren (i.e., return to a position of ministry amongst the rest, not over the rest). It is yet another unfounded leap to make the strengthening of the brethren both a unique office as well as the purpose behind the events of Peter’s fall.

Patching the Leaks in the Boat

O’Reilly realizes that there are lots of problems with his position. So he attempts to respond to some of my own comments in The Roman Catholic Controversy. He notes that I had pointed out the obvious: that the passage speaks of Peter’s coming fall and denial, and Jesus’ special attention to Peter is in light of this soon coming event. He attempts to respond by identifying the observation as "hardly compelling." "Clearly, the Lord’s prayer was not for Peter only, but was intended as a gift to the brethren (i.e., the rest of the Church) who were to benefit from Peter’s unfailing faith." What evidence is offered for this sweeping statement? Seemingly, the word "clearly" is supposed to be enough. Yet, as we have seen, this concept comes to O’Reilly not from the exegesis of Scripture in context, but from the consistent application of sola ecclesia, the Roman Church’s role as ultimate authority in all things, including the interpretation of Scripture. O’Reilly’s constant eisegetical errors are explicable only as we recognize the over-riding authority of Rome in his thinking--and in the thinking of all other Roman Catholic controversialists who attempt to interact with the text of Scripture.

The only other arguments offered in the rest of the article are the dubious testimonies of later Popes to their own self-professed authority, followed by a summary re-statement of the arguments we have already refuted above.

Dodging the Flack and Hitting the Target

The greatest danger that faced Allied pilots flying over Europe in World War II did not come from enemy fighters but from "flak," the deadly fire mainly of the German 88mm canon. As the B-17’s weaved through the sky, the German gunners would zero in with radar-guidance, and many a good man lost his life in the frigid air 30,000 feet above Europe.

Mr. O’Reilly undoubtedly feels like one of those German gunners, except he has manned his anti-aircraft battery outside the gates of the Vatican. He claims to have "shot down" yet another of my objections, yet, in reality, all he has done is demonstrate again and again the role of sola ecclesia in determining what Roman Catholic authors will see in the text of Scripture. This current article not only ignores the main thrust of the section it attempts to rebut, but even then, it utterly fails to interact meaningfully on an exegetical level with the text under consideration. If I was a B-17 pilot, I not only made it by Mr. O’Reilly’s battery, but I dropped my bombs directly on target. Of course, the Reformers did that centuries ago, and the target (papal authority) was wiped off the face of the map. Sadly, many continue to defend a target that, for those who love the truth, was destroyed a long time ago.


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