Greg Koukl and Church History

OK, here is a partial transcript, put on your thinking caps fellow Catholic apologists, and see how you deal with this one. In answer to the question posed by a caller, “We were first” referring to what Catholics (like Bill Bennett) say about the Catholic Church, Koukl responds:

“So let me ask you a question, do you know anything at all about the early church? Have you read the Book of Acts? … So the early church, was the early church based in Rome? … No, the early church was based in Jerusalem, and also had leadership in Antioch. So the first church was not the Roman Catholic Church … That church, the universal group of Christians that looked to Rome for its leadership, was the first church? This is false. It’s false. The first church was in Jerusalem. … So the Roman Catholic Church is not the first church. … So if you’re dealing with the biblical texts, you don’t see the Roman Catholic Church in play early on, in fact you don’t even see that for the first 350 years. … So you don’t see this like ‘Rome in charge’ for the first 300 or 400 years, and they were there first. This is nonsense. Every follower of Jesus Christ can easily claim those first 400 years as his spiritual forebears. There was no Roman Catholic Church then, this is a fiction of history. … You see, I don’t think that Jesus came to build an organization…and if Jesus didn’t come to build an organization, then it doesn’t make sense to ask ‘which organization is the right one?’ So when Roman Catholics say we’re the ‘true church’ I say that’s nonsense, because the church is not an organization. And the Roman Catholic Church was not Roman Catholic until the Roman bishop gained power over everybody else, and that was long into the process. Certainly past the Council of Nicaea. You don’t see any of that stuff in play early on.” (From Koukl’s “Stand to Reason” 6/17/2007)

I know Koukl’s logic is just impeccable and his history totally correct :rolleyes: but let’s see how well you do in answering these tough tough objections. I have a few answers up my sleeve, but mainly just quotes from secular and Christian historians since I’m lazy. :smiley:

“If art is the organization of materials, the Roman Catholic Church is among the most imposing masterpieces of history. Through nineteen centuries, each heavy with crisis, she has held her faithful together, following them with her ministrations to the ends of the earth, forming their minds, molding their morals, encouraging their fertility, solemnizing their marriages, consoling their bereavements, lifting their momentary lives into eternal drama, harvesting their gifts, surviving every heresy and revolt, and patiently building again every broken support of her power.” (Will Durant, Story of Civilization: The Age of Faith [volume 4, 1950], page 44)

1950 - 1900 = 50 AD. BINGO. :thumbsup:

From The Primacy of Peter by Orthodox scholar John Meyendorff:

“Let us turn to the facts. We know that the Church of Rome took over the position of ‘church-with-priority’ at the end of the first century. That was about the time at which her star ascended into the firmament of history in its brightest splendor…Even as early as the Epistle to the Romans, Rome seems to have stood out among all the churches as very important. Paul bears witness that the faith of the Romans was proclaimed throughout the whole world (Rom 1:8)…we have a document which gives us our earliest reliable evidence that the Church of Rome stood in an exceptional position of authority in this period. This is the epistle of Clement of Rome…We know that Clement was ‘president’ of the Roman Church…” (Afanassieff from Meyendorff, page 124)

“The epistle [Clement of Rome to the Corinthians]…clearly shows that the Church of Rome was aware of the decisive weight, in the Church of Corinth’s eyes, that must attach to its witness about the events in Corinth. So the Church of Rome, at the end of the first century, exhibits a marked sense of its own priority, in point of witness about events in other churches…Apparently Rome had no doubt that its priority would be accepted without argument.” (Afanassieff from Meyendorff, page 125-126)

“Rome’s vocation [in the “pre-Nicene period”] consisted in playing the part of arbiter, settling contentious issues by witnessing to the truth or falsity of whatever doctrine was put before them. Rome was truly the center where all converged if they wanted their doctrine to be accepted by the conscience of the Church. They could not count upon success except on one condition – that the Church of Rome had received their doctrine – and refusal from Rome predetermined the attitude the other churches would adopt. There are numerous cases of this recourse to Rome…” (Afanassieff from Meyendorff, page 128f, 133)


Phil P

Koukl vs. Meyendorff continued…

“It is impossible to deny that, even before the appearance of local primacies, the Church from the first days of her existence possessed an ecumenical center of unity and agreement. In the apostolic and the Judaeo-Christian period, it was the Church of Jerusalem, and later the Church of Rome – ‘presiding in agape,’ according to St. Ignatius of Antioch. This formula and the definition of the universal primacy contained in it have been aptly analyzed by Fr. Afanassieff and we need not repeat his argument here. Neither can we quote here all the testimonies of the Fathers and the Councils unanimously acknowledging Rome as the senior church and the center of ecumenical agreement. It is only for the sake of biased polemics that one can ignore these testimonies, their consensus and significance.” (Schmemann from Meyendorff, page 163-164)

Koukl vs. Shotwell/Loomis

From the Anglican study The See of Peter by James T. Shotwell/Louise Ropes Loomis (NY: Octagon Books, 1965) on the early evidence for the primacy of Rome –

“Unquestionably, the Roman church very early developed something like a sense of obligation to the oppressed all over Christendom…Consequently there was but one focus of authority. By the year 252, there seem to have been on hundred bishops in central and southern italry but outside Rome there was nothing to set one bishop above another. All were on a level together, citizens of italy, accustomed to look to Rome for direction in every detail of public life. The Roman bishop had the right not only to ordain but even, on occasion, to select bishops for Italian churches…To Christians of the Occident, the Roman church was the sole, direct link with the age of the New Testament and its bishop was the one prelate in their part of the world in whose voice they discerned echoes of the apostles’ speech. The Roman bishop spoke always as the guardian of an authoritative tradition, second to none. Even when the eastern churches insisted that their traditions wer older and quite as sacred, if not more so, the voice in the West, unaccustomed to rivalry at home, spoke on regardless of protest or denunciation at a distance…” (see pages 217-228)

Koukl vs. JND Kelly:

“Everywhere, in the East no less than the West, Rome enjoyed a special prestige, as is indicated by the precedence accorded without question to it…Thus Rome’s preeminance remained undisputed in the patristic period. For evidence of it the student need only recall the leading position claimed as a matter of course by the popes, and freely conceded to them, at the councils of Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451). We even find the fifth-century historians Socrates and Sozomen concluding…that it was unconstitutional for synods to be held without the Roman pontiff being invited or for decisions to be taken without his concurrence. At the outbreak of the Christological controversy, it will be remembered, both Nestorius and Cyril hastened to bring their cases to Rome, the latter declaring that the ancient custom of the churches constrained him to communicate matters of such weight to the Pope and to seek his advice before acting. In one of his sermons he goes so far as to salute Celestine as ‘the archbishop of the whole world’ …It goes without saying that Augustine [c. 354 - 430 AD] identifies the Church with the universal Catholic Church of his day, with its hierarchy and sacraments, and with its centre at Rome…By the middle of the fifth century the Roman church had established, de jure as well as de facto, a position of primacy in the West, and the papal claims to supremacy over all bishops of Christendom had been formulated in precise terms…The student tracing the history of the times, particularly of the Arian, Donatist, Pelagian and Christological controversies, cannot fail to be impressed by the skill and persistence with which the Holy See [of Rome] was continually advancing and consolidating its claims. Since its occupant was accepted as the successor of St. Peter, and prince of the apostles, it was easy to draw the inference that the unique authority which Rome in fact enjoyed, and which the popes saw concentrated in their persons and their office, was no more than the fulfilment of the divine plan.” (Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, pages 406, 407, 413, 417)

Oh there’s more, but I’ll stop. The call to Koukl’s program (6/17/2007) can be heard here (2nd call in).

Phil P

OK, as for Jesus didn’t found an organization, a few more quotes:

“The authors of the New Testament did not distinguish between the visible and invisible church. To them, the church that existed in the world was the only church there was…This visible church was the church…we do an injustice to the teaching of the New Testament authors if we impose this conception of an invisible church on the ideas they formulated. These authors were describing the concrete, historical, visible church that had come into existence in their day, and which was rapidly spreading throughout the Mediterranean world. It is this church that they chose to label the ecclesia.” (evangelical Craig Van Gelder, The Essence of the Church [Baker, 2000], page 105,106)

Theological Dictionary of the New Testament edited by Kittel/Bromiley:

“…this ekklesia as the assembly of God in Christ is not invisible on the one side and visible on the other. The Christian community, which as the individual congregation represents the whole body, is just as visible and corporeal as the individual man.” (TDNT, article on ekklesia, 3:534)

Jaroslav Pelikan, Lutheran at the time (later Orthodox), on the early Fathers and the Church:

"To identify orthodox doctrine, one had to identify its locus, which was the catholic church, neither Eastern nor Western, neither Greek nor Latin, but universal throughout the civilized world (oikoumene). This church was the repository of truth, the dispenser of grace, the guarantee of salvation, the matrix of acceptable worship. Only here did God accept sacrifices, only here was there confident intercession for those who were in error, only here were good works fruitful, only here did the powerful bond of love hold men together and ‘only from the catholic church does truth shine forth.’ " (Pelikan, The Christian Tradition, volume 1, page 334-335)

And a quote Karl Keating used once in a 1994 debate with Dave Hunt:

“The society was well known and unmistakable. Its doctrine was everywhere the same; its worship, with rich diversity of forms, centered around one Eucharistic memorial. It had an organized hierarchy for worship and for the pastorate of souls. This hierarchy maintained union between the local branches, and did so in the name and by the authority of Christ. However far back the history is traced, no date can be assigned, however roughly, for the appearance of Catholicism in the Church. The Church was Catholic from the outset.” (Anglican Canon A. J. Mason, cited in The Church and Infallibility [1954] by BC Butler, page 37-38)

THE END. :slight_smile:

Phil P

Koukl’s problem is reasoning backwards.

He needs to justify Protestant authority, which is hard to do when you come to the party 1500 years late.

Whereas we know precisely who founded the various Protestant denominations and when they did so, nobody seemingly claims credit for the founding of the Catholic Church beyond Christ. It’s quite striking that such claims were not made. Had I founded it, I surely would have been happy to have my name associated with it.

Protestants also continue to misunderstand papal authority, due in part to believing Luther’s nonsense about the Pope as Anti-Christ. The Pope is not a dictator. Therefore looking back toward the early church and claiming that since there is no evidence of religious dictatorship there was no Pope is utterly specious.

Koukl also tries to take advantage of others’ historical ignorance by claiming that the Roman Catholic Church (a later moniker) somehow means that the Catholic Church was not one body in the Apostolic Age.

Of course, Peter’s episcopacy did not begin in Rome, as everyone knows.

It says a lot that Koukl is not willing to apply his own logic by claiming that the Roman Catholic Church was founded when St Peter became Bishop of Rome. That would be too early for his taste, and too much authority subsisting in the Catholic Church today.

cf. “Upon This Rock” by Ray for a definitive and well-documented account of the Early Church and Petrine authority.

“The Roman Catholic Church”, or more properly “the Catholic Church”, is the collection of local Churches throughout the world in communion with the apostle Peter and, after his death, with the successor to Peter’s Roman bishoprik, the bishop of Rome.

Visitors from Rome were among the first to hear, and presumeably accept, the gospel from the lips of the apostles. (Acts 2:10) And, even before Paul’s first journey there, the faith of the Romans was already “heralded throughout the world.” (Romans 1:8) However, the local Church at Rome did not become “preeminent” (Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies iii. 3., A.D. 189.) and “presiding” (Ignatius of Antioch, To the Romans, A.D. 110.) until the leading apostle, Peter, established his bishoprik there.

The Church started in Jerusalem and spread throughout the world; the headquarters of the Church under the leadership of Peter began in Jerusalem but later move to Rome with him.

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