Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #169

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

I’m still trying to get back into a regular newsletter-writing routine. Just a lot of things going on that keep getting me out of my regular routine. Right now I’m involved in trying to sell one radio station and buy a better one for Catholic radio here in Birmingham. So please say a prayer that we can swing that whole deal…lots of little pieces that all have to fall into place to make it happen.


Well, Mr. Thomas Thrasher finally got back to me with his latest reply in our debate on whether or not Peter was the first Pope and, I have to say, I was disappointed, though not surprised, by his response. As you will see, he essentially answers my arguments not by directly attacking them, but rather by simply repeating what he said previously, almost as if I had never made a response.

Before reading his reply and my response, I recommend you go back and read Issue #166 on the Newsletter page of our website (www.biblechristiansociey.com) to refresh your memories regarding my last set of arguments. Then come back and read this issue.

You know, reading his latest response reminded me of why I decided to take a break from debating his fellow Campbellite Church of Christ member, Mr. Pat Donahue – the debate moves forward to a certain point and then simply stops and even begins to regress. Even though these guys are relatively intelligent human beings, there is something that quite often occurs when you debate with a “Bible-only” person and you start forcing them to dive beneath the surface of their rather shallow theological constructs. When they can’t dive down below, because there is nothing down below to dive into, they have a choice to make. Either they have to admit to themselves that there are questions about their theology that they cannot currently resolve (which, though not frequently, can happen), or they have to try to draw again from a very shallow theological well that has already been tapped out. And when they try to draw again from that tapped out well, the muck they pull up from the bottom can range from the slightly ridiculous to the utterly bizarre. Which results in otherwise intelligent men suffering from a condition that I call “getting stupid in a hurry” when it comes to the Bible. Again, these are not stupid men, but if they are unwilling to accept that they may have a chink in their theological armor, then they are forced, by their own theology, into saying some rather ridiculous things.

Okay, enough on that. Mr. Thrasher’s response is presented first in its entirety, and then I give my response afterwards.


Thomas Thrasher – 4th Negative:

My friend thinks he “touched a nerve” by using an “insulting epithet” (“Campbellite”). He says, “I didn’t realize that associating his church with its founders (the Campbells) would cause insult.” John is surely not so naïve or uninformed that he does not know the term “Campbellite” is offensive to us. John’s pretense at innocence in repeatedly using that term is quite disingenuous! John then charges that I have been guilty of “insulting” his church; however, he neglects to cite any instances. I have referred to the Roman Catholic Church because that is the term used in his proposition, and he accepts it. Not only do I not accept the term “Campbellite,” I reject it!

John mentions several items again (the term Bible, instrumental music in worship, church meetings on Wednesday nights, and authorship of Bible books). Since I have already commented on these matters, since his remarks do not provide evidence for his proposition, and since my rebuttal space is limited, I ask you to re-read my third speech for my replies to these points.

However, my friend also mentions “contraception” again (apparently a topic of great importance to him), yet he has never submitted a single verse supporting his viewpoint on this issue. If he wishes to introduce some scriptural evidence on “contraception,” I will respond. However, I am confident that whatever he offers will not demonstrate that Peter was Pope!
John asked, “Do the Greek words biblion and biblios … once refer to all 73 books of the Bible as ‘The Bible’”?  John, was that a “trick” question? My Bible has 66 books. However, Revelation 20:12, “And the dead were judged … by the things which were written in the books” (tois bibliois), is an example.

My opponent also asked, “Of all the Bible verses Mr. Thrasher trots out to prove that ‘God is the source’ of the Gospel of Mark, did one of them ever mention the ‘Gospel of Mark?’” 2 Timothy 3:16 states: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…”

John states: “To summarize: the Scripture is silent, in his fallible opinion, on Peter being the 1st head of the Church; therefore, he doesn’t believe Peter was.” My friend misrepresents my rebuttal arguments by ignoring many points I have made. For example, note the following scriptural evidence that Peter was not a Pope:

·    According to the Bible, Jesus is the only Head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23; 5:23; Colossians 1:19). What verse teaches Peter or his alleged successors were Heads?
·    Peter did not have authority over other apostles. Paul wrote, “In nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles” (2 Corinthians 12:11); “I am not at all inferior to the most eminent apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:5).
·    Jesus condemned exalting one disciple above others: “But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren” (Matthew 23:8).
·    Peter referred to himself as a fellow elder: “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder … shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, … and when the Chief Shepherd appears…” (1 Peter 5:1-4). Peter did not claim preeminence over other elders. He declared the oversight of elders is limited to the local church. Peter called Jesus (not himself) the Chief Shepherd.
·    Peter’s name is not mentioned first in several passages (Galatians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:22; 9:5), so, by John’s reasoning, Peter must not have been Pope!
·    The power to “bind and loose” was given to all the apostles (Matthew 18:18), not just Peter!
·    The 12 apostles were (in some sense) to “sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28).
·    Peter did not accept reverence from men (Acts 10:25-26).
·    The Bible provides no indication that Peter accepted titles such as Pope, Vicar of Christ, Bishop of Rome, Head of the Church (cf. 1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1).
·    Elders/Bishops were instructed to “shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers” (1 Peter 5:1-3), not the church universal.
·    The term “Holy Father” is never used of Peter. It is only used by Jesus in addressing God the Father (John 17:11).
·    Peter said nothing about being a Pope or having any papal successors (Book of Acts; 1 Peter; 2 Peter).
·    Peter was a married man (1 Corinthians 9:5; Matthew 8:14). John, who was the last married Pope of whom you have knowledge?
·    The office and qualifications of Pope are never mentioned in the Scriptures; however, others are (e.g., apostles—Ephesians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 12:11-12; bishops or elders—Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 1 Peter 5:1-3; deacons—Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8-13); and evangelists (2 Timothy 4:5). “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11), but no mention of Popes, Cardinals, or Archbishops!
·    The apostle Paul wrote several letters to or from Rome, naming many individuals (e.g., Romans 16:1-23; Colossians 4:7-14; 2 Timothy 4:9-21; Philemon 23-24). However, Paul never mentions Peter, a peculiar omission if Peter was Bishop of Rome or Pope!
·    Peter did not have primacy. Paul wrote: “God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised” (Galatians 2:6-9).
·    Peter never celebrated mass, never heard confessions, never directed anyone to pray to Mary or the saints, never advocated the use of holy water, never ordered people to abstain from meat on Fridays or during Lent, never taught that priests and nuns should not marry, never presented his foot to be kissed, and never lived in a palace with soldiers to guard him and numerous servants to supply his wants. He didn’t do these things and many others … because he was never Pope!

John asserts, “In essence, he conceded the debate with those quotations” concerning the early so-called popes. Completely untrue! My friend offered statements regarding the primacy of Peter from Tertullian (ca 213 A.D.), Clement of Alexandria (ca 200 A.D.), Origen (ca 230 A.D.), and Cyprian of Carthage (ca 251 A.D.), writing approximately 170-221 years after the beginning of the church!

My opponent admits, “There was disagreement amongst early Christians as to the order and timing of Peter’s successors.” That is exactly what I was demonstrating—their testimony is not inspired or necessarily trustworthy. Therefore, we ought to depend upon inspired scripture, not uninspired (and often contradictory) statements of men as evidence for John’s proposition. As previously quoted:

“In the article PAPACY we have referred to the uncertainty prevailing in regard to the first bishops of Rome. Roman Catholic writers themselves quite generally admit that the statements of ancient Church-writers on the subject are entirely irreconcilable, and that it is impossible to establish with any degree of certainty the order in which they followed each other, the years of their accession to the see of Rome, and the year of their death” (Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, volume 8, page 409).

John never answered some questions I asked in my second speech:  Do you agree with everything written by ‘early Christian writers’?  Did each of the four men you quoted write by inspiration, guided by the Holy Spirit as Bible writers were?

My opponent argued that Jesus appointed Peter as “shepherd of His flock” (John 21:15-17); therefore, Peter was over the other apostles and head of the whole church. However, all the apostles were told to feed the sheep in the sense of teaching them (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16) and caring for them (2 Corinthians 11:28). Bishops/elders were also told to feed the flock (1 Peter 5:1-3; Acts 20:28). Are all of them Popes?

The truth is that there is no passage, including John 21, that calls Peter the Chief Shepherd or that states He has authority over the other apostles. Jesus is the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4) and Great Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20), not Peter. The fundamental error of the doctrine of Papal authority is that it exalts a man to the place of God. Jesus is Head (Ephesians 1:22-23), Foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11), and Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4).

John asked, “If Jesus is not appointing Peter as the shepherd of His flock … what He is doing”? After Peter’s three-fold denial of the Lord (Luke 22:34, 61), Jesus uses this occasion to restore Peter to His service. Despite Peter’s previous failures, the Lord now admonishes Peter to “follow Me” (John 21:19, 22).

John asked, “Don’t you believe that we aren’t supposed to call anyone ‘father’”? In the sense that Jesus prohibited it, we shouldn’t—“Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9). John, what do you think the Lord meant when He said that? Should we do what He said not to do?

John apparently overlooked my response to his argument that Peter’s being told to “strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:24-26) shows he was to become the Pope:
·    Paul and his company “returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples” (Acts 14:21-22).
·    “Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren” (Acts 15:32).
·    Paul “went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:41) and he “went over the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples” (Acts 18:23). Strengthening others does not make a person Pope!
Furthermore, my friend evidently thought that the Lord’s praying specifically for Peter meant he would become Pope. However, my friend again overlooked my observation that Jesus also prayed for all of the apostles (John 17:9). Were all of the apostles Popes? Furthermore, the context shows that Jesus did not pray for Peter to exalt him as Pope, but because Jesus knew that Peter was soon to deny Him (Luke 22:34). The context also indicates that Peter would not be over the other apostles; rather, the apostles [plural] would in some sense “sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (:28-30).

My opponent claims, “It is very clear from Matthew 16:16-19 and Isaiah 22:15-22, that Jesus was indeed appointing Peter to be a pope, or a father, to His people.” Actually, neither passage says anything that necessitates that conclusion. Isaiah 22 has nothing to do with the apostle Peter, despite John’s assertions.

Peter had important work to do in the kingdom. He opened the door to the kingdom through his preaching to Jews (Acts 2) and Gentiles (Acts 10). This is the idea of Peter’s having the “keys of the kingdom” (Matthew 16:19); he had authority to preach the gospel so people could be saved and enter the kingdom.

Others besides Peter also engaged in preaching work that opened the door to the Lord’s kingdom: Paul (1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3; Acts 16:14); Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:27); the evangelist Titus also had authority (Titus 2:15). The other apostles likewise used the keys of the kingdom, for Jesus told them, “Assuredly, I say to you [plural], whatever you [plural] bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you [plural] loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18; cf. Matthew 16:19). The Lord gave all of the apostles the same binding-and-loosing authority and the same commission (Matthew 16:19; 18:18; 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-20).

Please give your attention to my friend’s closing speech.


Obviously I did "touch a nerve" with Mr. Thrasher regarding the "Campbellite" Church of Christ.  I use that appellation to distinguish his Church of Christ from my Church of Christ.  It is historical fact that his Church of Christ was founded by the Campbells a couple hundred years ago, so I fail to see why calling his Church of Christ "Campbellite" would be so insulting.  But, he is certainly free to reject the term "Campbellite" and to take insult if he so chooses. I do not take offense at the term "Roman Catholic."  The point I was making, is that he has no problem in saying bad things about the Catholic Church; yet, he gets all bent out of shape because I associate his church with its founders?!  Again, I find his sensitivity to be a bit disingenuous.

Thrasher has not actually responded to my arguments regarding instrumental music in worship, nor Wednesday night church meetings, nor authorship and inspiration of the Gospel of Mark.  I have to conclude that he is either unwilling or unable to do so. This is a very important point, because this line of argumentation strikes at the heart of the main portion of his arguments in this debate.

He uses "silence" in the Bible to justify banning instrumental music in the worship of God.  Yet, the Bible is not silent on the use of musical instruments in the worship of God.  The Bible actually commands that music be used in the worship of God (Ps 33:2-3)!  And, the Bible says, "For I, the Lord, do not change," (Mal 3:6).  Mr. Thrasher apparently believes the Lord does change when it comes to the use of musical instruments.  Scripture shows the use of instrumental music in worship on Earth and in Heaven.  So, for the Campbellite Church of Christ (CCoC) to be true, it must show where God changed His mind and specifically prohibited the use of instrumental music in worship.  They can’t, which means the "silence" of Scripture in this case actually contradicts their belief. 

Wednesday night church meetings.  Thrasher uses Acts 5:42 to justify this practice.  Yet, what does Acts 5:42 actually say?  It says the Apostles taught every day "in the temple" and "at home.”  Two questions: 1) Why then is the CCoC not meeting every day; and, 2) Where does it say anything about gathering at a church?  It says at the temple – a public place where the Apostles preached to believers and unbelievers alike; and at home – where private instruction of the faithful took place.  Why aren’t they gathering in a public place with unbelievers or at home?  Acts 5:42 doesn’t describe exactly what they practice, does it? Seems they interpret the Bible to mean whatever they need it to mean to justify their beliefs.

Thrasher’s comments on contraception indicate the hypocrisy of his arguments and how twisted his logic is when it comes to biblical interpretation.  In his "third speech," he indicates that the CCoC’s ban on instrumental music is scriptural because of the principle: "silence does not authorize, silence prohibits." Yet, nowhere does he produce a Scripture verse – Old Testament or New – authorizing contraception.  So, were he consistent in his beliefs, he would say that the use of contraception by Christians is prohibited in accord with the “silence” of Scripture on this matter.  Yet, the CCoC fully accepts contraception! Apparently, CCoC scriptural reasoning goes like this: A) The Bible is silent on Christians using instrumental music in worship; therefore, it is prohibited; and, B) The Bible is silent on Christians using contraception; therefore, it is permitted.  Silence prohibits when it comes to music; silence authorizes when it comes to contraception.  Hypocrisy. 

Plus, the Bible does, in fact, speak of contraception. There is one contraceptive act in the Bible.  In Genesis 38, Onan "spilled his seed on the ground," to avoid fulfilling his levirate duty to his dead brother.  That was an act of contraception.  What did God do?  "And what [Onan] did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord and He slew him," (Gen 38:10). God killed Onan for what "he did," – spilling his seed on the ground.  Furthermore, the Bible says, more than once, go forth and multipy.  Nowhere does it say, "Go forth and contracept."  God’s displeasure with “spilling seed,” contraception, is directly spoken of in the Bible. 

The whole point I am making by my comments about the banning of musical instruments, Wednesday night church meetings, contraception, and the authorship and inspiration of the Gospel of Mark, is to show that Mr. Thrasher maintains one standard for himself and the CCoC when it comes to the Bible; yet, he imposes a completely different standard when it comes to the Catholic Church of Christ and the Bible. And, the arguments he employs to maintain this double standard are replete with circular reasoning, illogic, and outright hypocrisy.

For example, Mr. Thrasher’s whole argument about Peter not being the first Pope can be boiled down to: "The Bible nowhere specifically states that Peter was ‘Pope,’ or ‘Head of the Church,’ or ‘Bishop of Rome.’"  So, the standard of proof that he places upon me is that I must show where the Bible specifically uses one of these titles in relation to Peter, or he wins the debate (according to his logic).

But, when I question him about the biblical support for his beliefs, all of a sudden there is a different standard.  Mr. Thrasher believes the Gospel of Mark was written by someone named Mark, and that this Mark was inspired by the Holy Spirit and, therefore, that God is “the source” of the Gospel of Mark.  Yet, when I ask for specific passages from the Bible that tell us who wrote that Gospel, or that the writer of that Gospel was inspired by the Holy Spirit, or that God is indeed "the source" of the Gospel of Mark, how does Thrasher respond?

He throws out a bunch of Bible verses, none of which are referring to the Gospel of Mark, as if that was actually an answer to my questions.  When I point out that not a single verse he quoted from says anything about the Gospel of Mark and, therefore, does not answer my questions, what is his reply?  "All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God…".

In other words, he can "prove" that God is the source of the Gospel of Mark only if he first makes the assumption that it is inspired Scripture, which then allows him to quote from 2 Tim 3:16 about all Scripture being inspired of God, and thereby he can conclude that God is the source of the Gospel of Mark.  He has to first assume what he is attempting to prove, in order to prove it!  A finer example of circular reasoning I have never seen!  The problem is, though, he has yet to give me one shred of evidence, from the Bible, that the writer of the Gospel of Mark was inspired by the Holy Spirit or that God is indeed the source of the Gospel of Mark.

Not only does he not give one single verse that says God is the source of the Gospel of Mark, he actually admits that he doesn’t know who wrote the Gospel of Mark!  He  admits the Bible is silent on that.  So, according to the principle of "silence prohibits," since the Bible is silent on who wrote the Gospel of Mark, I assume the second Gospel in his Bible is entitled, "The Gospel According to Anonymous," right? Don’t bet on it. He believes Mark wrote Mark.  He does not practice what he preaches.

I have clearly demonstrated that Mr. Thrasher employs double standards, circular reasoning, and hypocrisy in his argumentation.  None of which speaks well for his beliefs.  So, unless he can give me a Bible passage that specifically contradicts God’s command to use music in worship (in Psalm 33); or that everyone should meet at a church – not at the temple or in a home – on Wednesday nights only rather than every day of the week as the Scripture he cites states; or that specifically allows the use of contraception; or that specifically states that God is "the source" of the Gospel of Mark; then all of his arguments regarding Scripture being silent on Peter as "Pope," "Head of the Church," or "Bishop of Rome," are shown to be null and void.  And, since the “silence” argument is the bulk of his argumentation, I win the debate.

Furthermore, as I stated in the last round, his citations regarding the successors of Peter do indeed prove, from history, that Peter was the first Pope.  The sources he cited state there is disagreement as to the exact order and timing of Peter’s successors as head of the Church. He claims that these citations therefore show that the historical sources I quoted regarding Peter as the first Pope were “not inspired or necessarily trustworthy” in their testimony.

Well, 1) I never claimed they were inspired.  These are historical sources. Since the Bible nowhere mentions Hannibal, does Mr. Thrasher then not believe Hannibal existed?  By the way, on what historical sources does he rely to claim that his church is the historical Church of Christ?  Or that the CCoC’s elders have authority to preach and teach?  2) To state these sources are not trustworthy because they disagree as to the exact order and timing of Peter’s successors, is an  absolutely ridiculous claim. His sources and mine agree on these historical facts: A) Peter was the first Bishop of Rome and head of the Church; B) Peter had successors; and C) The names of those successors.  They disagree on matters of timing, but not on the matter of primacy and succession.  Does that make them untrustworthy?  It does only if you are desperately trying to deny something that is as plain as the nose on your face.  So, again, from an historical standpoint, even his own sources prove Peter was the first head of the Church.  I win the debate.

His response to my comments on the obvious connection between Matthew 16 and Isaiah 22 was, essentially, “Unhh, unhh.” Both passages mention the keys of the kingdom and binding (closing) and loosing (opening).  The parallels are easy for all to see except those who have eyes but will not see.  Thrasher simply pronounces that these two passages have nothing to do with each other – no reasons why, no arguments – just an infallible “Unhh, unhh.”  As mentioned previously, in Isaiah 22 the chief steward of the Kingdom of David, the holder of the keys, is called a father (papa, pope) to his people. Jesus gives Peter the keys to the Kingdom, which means he is a father (papa, pope) to his people.  He has no response, I win the debate.

Again, from my first four affirmatives, Scripture tells us the following about Peter and Peter alone:

1) Peter walked on water

2) Peter called for a replacement to Judas

3) Peter settled the issue at the Council of Jerusalem

4) Peter was appointed, by Jesus, as shepherd of Jesus’ flock

5) Jesus prayed specifically for Peter

6) Peter spoke for the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost

7) Peter received a special vision from God to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles

8) Peter was given a special revelation about Jesus being the Messiah

9) Peter was given the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven

10) Jesus paid the temple tax for Himself and Peter only

11) Paul comes to Peter to consult with him

12) Peter generally speaks for all the Apostles

13) Peter spoke judgment upon Ananias and Sapphira

14) Peter has his name changed to “Rock.”

About no other Apostle can these things be said.  Peter’s role is unique. Scripture, history, and tradition (the same tradition Thrasher relies on to know his Bible is the inspired Word of God) all show that Peter was indeed the first head of the Church.


[I will now be interested in whether or not Mr. Thrasher would like to debate the proposition: “The Church of Christ to which Thomas Thrasher belongs is the same scriptural and historical Church of Christ that we see in the New Testament; and the Roman Catholic Church is not.”  Three rounds, same 2000 word limit, and since I was the affirmative this time, he will be the affirmative and go first this next time, should he choose to accept the assignment.]


In Conclusion

The lesson I should be learning is not to even bother to debate with someone from the Campbellite Church of Christ. Not because their arguments are so strong or convincing, but because the “methodology” they employ – illogic, circular reasoning, double standards, and outright hypocrisy – can be a real pain in the tookis to deal with. But, I really want to do one more debate with this guy – the one I mention at the end of my comments – because I really want to see how he would respond to what I have in store for him.

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Apologetics for the Masses