Through the years many have taken in hand the effort to address whether or not there is biblical sanction to the papacy as taught by the Roman Catholic Church. I recently located an article where such an effort was made to justify its biblical origin. The effort by the Catholic writer is an effort to address two myths on the topic, the first presented here.
September 21, 2015 (www.catholic.com)
Refuting Papal Myths “The Papacy is Unbiblical and Unhistorical”
As Pope Francis travels through the United States during his visit to the World Congress of Families in Pennsylvania, expect critics of all stripes to be denouncing him and his office. That’s why this week we will be publishing a series of posts that refute these pernicious myths about the office of the Papacy as well as those who have held that office.
Myth #1 The papacy is not found in the Bible.
It’s true the word papacy is not in the Bible, but neither are the words Trinity or Bible found there. This argument assumes that all Christian doctrine is explicitly described in the Bible, even though this teaching itself is not found in Scripture. Catholics believe, on the other hand, that divine revelation comes from God’s word given to us in written form (Sacred Scripture) and oral form (Sacred Tradition), both of which testify to the existence of the papacy.
To acknowledge that a word pertaining to Christian doctrine is not in the Bible is rather significant. To compare that lack of mention with two other words is to be somewhat expected, and I would say it is a reasonable approach. The two words that are used as a point of comparison, however, fail to live up to the intended desire. Those two words are “trinity” and “Bible.”
It is worth our time to consider these three words, papacy, trinity and Bible.
The word “papacy” is a word that describe a system of ecclesiastical church government, wherein the pope is the supreme head of the particular religious institution so governed. Britannica.com says this with regard to the papacy, “the pope (Latin papa, from Greek pappas, “father”), who presides over the central government of the Roman Catholic Church, the largest of the three major branches of Christianity.”
In a context where the Lord is speaking firmly against the religious leaders of His day, He says this: “But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ” (Matthew 23:8-10, NKJV, underscoring added, RT). Compare what the Lord said with regard to the word “father” in relation to how the Catholic Church uses the word.
What about the word “Bible”? Is the word “Bible” found in the Bible? This seems to be a strange comparison to me. The word “Bible” simply refers to a collection of sacred writings in one “bound” volume. Thus, it stands to reason that “Bible” would not be in the sacred writings called the Bible! Since the word is not found in the Bible, what about the sacredness of “oral tradition,” is that something that should be held as authoritative?
New Testament Christians look upon “oral tradition” as lacking the qualities of sacredness and authority because the Holy Spirit revealed to Jude and Peter the following words:
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue (2 Peter 1:2-3).
Catholics believe in “oral tradition,” but the Lord regards nothing authoritative about “oral tradition.” What He does regard as authoritative is His would that He commissioned to His apostles.
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. (John 16:13)
This promise applies only to the apostles, and not to any other man after the lives of those chosen by the Lord in His earthly ministry are over.
Is the word “trinity” in the Bible, and if not, why is it a significant teaching accepted in Christianity? It is true the word “trinity” is not in the Bible. Since it is not, then should the doctrine taught by so many be held suspect? Not if the concept of the trinity is biblically based. The word “trinity” refers to the teaching that God is one, but consists of God – the Father, God – the Son and God – the Holy Spirit. This is known as the “Godhead.” The English word “trinity” simply conveys the idea/teaching in a single word. Catholics accept this as do Protestants.
It is a New Testament teaching?
But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God”. (Acts 5:3-4)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. (John 1:1-3)
From the foregoing passages we learn that the Holy Spirit is God and that the Logos (the Son), who is God, was with God (the Father) at the very beginning. Thus, the “trinity” is a scriptural idea, though the actual word is not located within the pages of the New Testament.
Thus, the comparison between “papacy” and “Bible,” and “trinity” fails. In this portion of the author’s effort to say the papacy is both biblical and historical fails – at least with regard to the Bible.