Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #166

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

If you are in the Huntsville/North Alabama area and would like to be involved in getting some men’s events (luncheons/conferences) going on up that way, let me know. I’ve already met with a small group of men and we are planning a men’s luncheon, with speaker, for the Fall and a large men’s conference for next March.

And, for those folks, especially young adults, in the Huntsville/Decatur area, I will be speaking at a Theology on Tap event in the Parish Hall of Holy Spirit Church in Huntsville on Friday, May 6, at 6:30 PM. At least, they’re calling it a Theology on Tap, although I don’t know what kind of spirits, other than the Holy Spirit, they will have there.


This newsletter continues the debate I am having with Thomas Thrasher of the Campbellite Church of Christ on the topic of Peter as the first Pope.

I have to be honest and say that I find it a little bit difficult at times to deal with some of his arguments. Not from the standpoint of the strength of his arguments, but from the standpoint of the literalist/fundamentalist nature of his arguments. For example, he keeps wanting to argue whether or not Peter was actually called “Pope” Peter, as if that matters. When I try to explain that the debate is about Peter being the first head of the Church, regardless of what he was called, to him that means that Peter wasn’t the first head of the Church because we call the head of our Church the Pope.

And, his argument about Peter not being the Bishop of Rome in AD 30, so that means Peter couldn’t have been the Pope in AD 30 because the Pope is the Bishop of Rome. If I say Peter wasn’t the Bishop of Rome in AD 30 he says, “Aha! You admit Peter was not the Pope.” If I say the Pope wasn’t always the Bishop of Rome he says, “Aha! You admit that the Bishop of Rome is not the Pope.”

It’s a bit like arguing with my 9-yr. old at times. And I say all of this because this is exactly what you will come up against as you delve more deeply into the apologetic realm. When you get arguments like that, you will have to decide whether or not to continue, or to just go ahead and shoot yourself in the hand or foot or some such thing, which will be of great annoyance, but not necessarily life threatening.

If this debate with Thrasher were between him and me alone, no audience, I would have been sorely tempted to end it after the 2nd round, as he has exhibited no ability, or no desire, to try and understand what I am actually saying and what the Church actually teaches. When you come across folks like that, there is absolutely nothing wrong with removing your sandals, shaking off the dust, and moving on.


Thomas Thrasher – 3rd Negative:

Once more I am blessed to participate in this discussion with my friend, John Martignoni. Not only do he and I share weighty responsibility for our contributions to this debate, but our readers are also accountable to God for their responses (Luke 8:18; Acts 17:11).

My opponent claims, “Most of his [Thrasher’s] ‘scriptural’ argument…is an argument from silence.”  Suppose John ordered a lawnmower costing $250 from Sears. However, when his order arrived, Sears had shipped the lawnmower, a boat, and a refrigerator, charging John $5000. When John complained, Sears argued, “You didn’t say not to ship a boat and refrigerator!” I suspect John might argue that he hadn’t ordered those other items, and Sears was not authorized to add items to his order. Surely, every reader of this debate understands that principle.

However, it is unfortunate that John seems to have so little respect for God’s word that he fails to recognize the importance of respecting the “silence” of the Scriptures! God warned, “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18). God cautioned, “Every word of God is pure;… Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:5-6). God charged, “You shall not add to the word which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2). Furthermore, “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it” (Deuteronomy 12:32). God killed Nadab and Abihu because they did that which God “had not commanded them” (Leviticus 10:1).

John declared, “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God” (2 John 9). Peter wrote, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11). God expects us to respect His silence.

The writer of Hebrews made an argument based upon the principle that silence does not authorize, silence prohibits: “For He [Jesus] of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood” (Hebrews 7:13-14).

The point is that Jesus could not have been a priest under the Old Law, because Moses “spoke nothing” (God’s word was silent!) about priests from the tribe of Judah! Evidently, John rejects the argument from the “silence” of the Scriptures. In so doing, he rejects the Holy Spirit’s argument!

I have repeatedly asked where the Scriptures refer to Peter’s being Bishop of Rome, Head of the Church, or Pope. John knows the Scriptures nowhere mention these ideas. However, instead of respecting the silence of the Scriptures, he attacks me for insisting that we should not add to God’s word (Revelation 22:18; Proverbs 30:5-6; Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32), but “speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11).

John states: “Nowhere does the Bible use the term ‘preaching elder.’ Yet, Pat Donahue…was introduced to me as a ‘preaching elder.’” Pat told me he thinks John is mistaken. Regardless, Pat rejects being called that, for he is not an “elder” at all!  The Bible mentions elders (1 Peter 5:1; Acts 20:17), but it never mentions Archbishops, Cardinals, or Popes!

My opponent said, “The Campbellite Church of Christ has regular church meetings on Wednesday night.” Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). Wouldn’t that include any time—even Wednesday night? Early Christians were involved daily in “teaching and preaching Jesus” (Acts 5:42).

John states, “Instruments are banned in the Campbellite churches.” Sadly, although my friend has previously admitted that “Campbellism” is a digression from our topic, he seems unwilling to refrain from insulting epithets. Tactics such as name-calling and insults are frequently employed as a subterfuge when one does not have Bible authority for his practices! Interestingly, John ignored my offer to discuss “Campbellism” when this debate has concluded.

John said, “Tell me where…there is a prohibition against musical instruments in worship services, and I will concede your point.”  The use of instrumental music in New Testament worship is prohibited because it is an addition! “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God” (2 John 9). God destroyed people who did that “which He had not commanded them” (Leviticus 10:1), and God warns not to add to His word (Revelation 22:18; Proverbs 30:5-6; Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32).

Christians are taught to sing in worship to God (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; Acts 16:25). We are never authorized to use instruments of music (pianos, organs, guitars, etc.) in New Testament worship. If John honestly thinks we are, perhaps he will put that on our growing list of debate topics!

My opponent stated concerning Luke 22:24-26, “Mr. Thrasher seems to think that Jesus’ silence in not naming Peter as the greatest is scriptural evidence that Peter was not the first head of the Church.” My point was that Jesus could have easily settled the issue by saying, “Peter is the greatest,” but He didn’t!

John objected, “Nowhere does it state that Peter was involved in this ‘dispute.’”  However, whether or not Peter was involved is irrelevant to the point, although John admitted Peter may have been. Regardless who was disputing, Jesus could have said, “Peter is the greatest,” if that were true.

John said, “Jesus did indeed tell his disciples who the greatest among them was”—Peter. However, his conclusion contradicts the very point Jesus made: “Those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you” (Luke 22:25)! 

John alleges, “Jesus did indeed tell us that Peter was the greatest among them” when He said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat” (Luke 22:31). Dear reader, does that verse say anything about Peter being the greatest?

John adds, “Jesus prayed for Peter.” Is that evidence that Peter was the greatest? Perhaps it was because Peter was going to deny the Lord three times and would need restoring. However, Jesus also prayed for His other disciples: “I pray for them” (John 17:9).

My friend argues that Jesus told Peter to “strengthen your brethren”; therefore, Jesus was selecting Peter to be Pope. However, Paul and his company “returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples” (Acts 14:21-22).Does the fact that they strengthened disciples make them Pope?  “Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren” (Acts 15:32). Were Judas and Silas Popes?

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). Was Paul Pope?

John refers to Shebna (Isaiah 22) as “Prime Minister of the Davidic Kingdom.” However, Shebna is called “steward” (Isaiah 22:15, NKJV, NASB, NIV, ESV) or “treasurer” (KJV, ASV), not Prime Minister. He did not occupy a position such as the Pope does.

John asked, “Does Mr. Thrasher thereby wish to contend that Eliakim being given the key to the kingdom signifies that Eliakim will be the first to preach the Jews and the Gentiles?”  Obviously not! Does John think that “Eliakim being given the key” signifies that Eliakim was Pope?

John says I believe the book of “Mark is inspired by God, yet nowhere does the Bible specifically say so.” 
God revealed His word: “For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).

God completely revealed His word: “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

God’s word was written: “How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)” (Ephesians 3:3-4); “What you see, write in a book” (Revelation 1:11); “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this” (Revelation 1:19; “The things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37); “I now write to you this second epistle” (2 Peter 3:1); and many other passages.

God promised to preserve His word: “The word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Peter 1:25); “My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35). I trust God as revelator and preserver of His word—all of it! However, He was/is under no obligation to reveal the names of human writers, either of Mark or any other inspired book. The fact that God didn’t reveal certain information demonstrates that information wasn’t vital for us to know. God “has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Knowing for certain who wrote the book of Mark evidently does not “pertain to life and godliness”!

John asserts that my “argument against Peter being the first head of the Church is that the Bible nowhere specifically states Peter was, ‘the Bishop of Rome, pope, or head of the church.’” However, that is only one of many arguments. For example,

According to the Bible, Jesus is the only Head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23; 5:23; Colossians 1:19).

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, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:1-4). Peter did not claim preeminence over other elders. He declared that the oversight of elders is limited to the local church. He called Jesus (not Peter) the Chief Shepherd.

Peter’s name was not mentioned first in several passages (Galatians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:22; 9:5).

The power to “bind and loose” was given to all the apostles (Matthew 18:18).

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).

Peter did not speak of being Pope or having any papal successors.

Peter was a married man (1 Corinthians 9:5; Matthew 8:14).

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!

My friend has mentioned repeatedly my “private, fallible interpretation.” John, what about your numerous interpretations—are they fallible or infallible?  If fallible, does that mean you are wrong?
Dear reader, if my opponent could produce one verse of Scripture demonstrating that Peter was Head of the Church or Pope, that verse would settle the dispute! We are still waiting.


John Martignoni – 4th Affirmative:

I must have touched a nerve with Mr. Thrasher, as he accused me of using an “insulting epithet” with the term “Campbellite” Church of Christ.  No insult intended. I merely used that term to distinguish his faith tradition from the “Catholic” Church of Christ to which I belong.  I didn’t realize that associating his church with its founders (the Campbells) would cause insult. I find his sensitivity to be a bit disingenous, however, as he has no sensitivity when it comes to insulting my church.

Regarding his arguments, notice how he responds to some things I have posed to him, but not others.  He has to be very careful because his faith tradition is prone to contradicting itself over and over again in its theology, and particularly in its interpretation of Scripture. 

For instance: He states that we must “respect the silence of the Scriptures!”  Really?!  This is his main argument in regards to this debate – that nowhere does the Bible actually say, verbatim, “Peter was the Pope,” the “Bishop of Rome,” or the “Head of the Church.” So, his argument goes, since Scripture is “silent” on the matter, Peter was not the first Pope.   

Yet, as previously stated, the Bible nowhere calls itself “The Bible.”  But, he calls it “The Bible.”  Do the Greek words biblion and biblios (book or scroll) appear in Scripture?  Absolutely.  Do they once refer to all 73 books of the Bible as “The Bible.”  No. Does Mr. Thrasher respect that silence?  No.

On earth and in Heaven we see musical instruments used in the worship and praise of God (Ps 33:2-3; Rev 5:8).  Since God has commanded the use of musical instruments in worship and praise, then if God had changed His mind and no longer wanted us to use musical instruments in worship and praise, one would expect to find that command in the Bible, right? Does the Bible ever ban the use of musical instruments in the worship and praise of God. No. Does Mr. Thrasher respect that silence? No. And, to use Thrasher’s reasoning, if Jesus had not wanted us to use musical instruments, He could have easily told us so.

Does the Bible ever say to use contraception?  No.  Does Mr. Thrasher’s church of Christ respect that silence?  No. Did Thrasher have any comment on this argument?  No. If Jesus had wanted us to use contraception, He could have easily told us so.

Does the Bible ever say to meet together at the church on Wednesday night?  No.  Does Thrasher respect that silence?  No.  In fact, he tries to twist the verse, “Where two or three are gathered in My name,” to somehow make it say, “Gather at the church on Wednesday night.”  And, to use his fundamentalist method of Scripture interpretation: Jesus says wherever “two or three” are gathered in His name, He doesn’t say anything about four or more people, does He?  Ridiculous interpretation?  Indeed!  But it employs his method of scriptural interpretation.

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?” No.  Did one of them ever say, “God is the source of the Gospel of Mark?”  No.  Did one of them ever say, “Mark was inspired by the Holy Spirit?” No.  Did one of them ever say, “The Gospel of Mark is inspired Scripture?”  No.  Does Mr. Thrasher respect that silence?  No.  If Jesus had wanted us to know that the Gospel of Mark was inspired Scripture, He could have easily told us so. 

The gyrations and twisting that Mr. Thrasher goes through to get the Scriptures to say what he wants them to say are almost unbelievable! The fact is, even though the Bible nowhere states that God is the source of the Gospel of Mark, and even though Mr. Thrasher has confessed that he doesn’t even know who wrote the Gospel of Mark, he believes the Gospel of Mark was written by Mark and it is indeed inspired!  The only problem is, he just can’t tell us the source for his belief.

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 and he believes the Catholic Church of Christ wrong to teach such a thing.  The Scripture is also silent, according to his own words, on who wrote the Gospel of Mark; yet, he believes Mark wrote Mark.  The Scripture is silent as to whether the Gospel of Mark was inspired by God; yet, he believes it was.  The Scripture is silent on God banning musical instruments in worship; yet, he believes they were.  The Scripture is silent on the use of contraception; yet, he believes it’s okay to use.  The Scripture is silent on Wednesday night church meetings; yet, he attends them.  Can we talk double standard?  Contradiction?  Hypocrisy even? 

Mr. Thrasher, I am asking you again to give me book, chapter, and verse that states: “God inspired the Gospel of Mark,” or “Mark was inspired by the Holy Spirit,” or any similar passage that proves, from the Bible, that Mark was indeed inspired by the Holy Spirit.  Or, give me any book, chapter, and verse that states Mark was an Apostle or that he ever performed a miracle.  Afterall, that’s your belief about “proof” of inspiration, isn’t it?  If you cannot do so, then please have the intellectual honesty to admit that your argument about the Scripture’s “silence” in regard to it not stating, verbatim, “Peter was the first Pope,” is a specious argument and proves absolutely nothing!

Furthermore, he quoted from the Letter to the Hebrews in his reply.  Who wrote that letter, Mr. Thrasher?  You don’t know.  Well, if you don’t know who wrote it, how do you know it is inspired?  Does the Bible somewhere say, “The Letter to the Hebrews is inspired Scripture?” No!  Therefore, by the same reasoning you use to “prove” Peter was not the 1st Pope, I can “prove” the Letter to the Hebrews is not inspired Scripture.  Who told you, Mr. Thrasher, that the Letter to the Hebrews is inspired Scripture?  Or that the Gospel of Mark is inspired Scripture? I demand you answer those questions, because if you can’t, then all of your arguments are worthless and you must concede this debate.

Now, about Mr. Thrasher’s previous quotations of early Christian writers in regard to the successors of Peter.  Please note pretty much everything he quoted buttressed my arguments.  He thought he was somehow trapping me by asking me to name the first ten Popes and then he would pounce on me and “prove” Peter wasn’t the first Pope by showing that there was disagreement amongst early Christians as to the order and timing of Peter’s successors. 

Well, he actually proved too much.  First of all, the early Christian sources he quoted were not disagreeing about whether or not Peter was the first head of the Church, they simply disagreed about the exact order and timing of Peter’s first few successors as head of the Church!  Mr. Thrasher was quoting early Christians who all took for granted that Peter was the first head of the Church.  In essence, he conceded the debate with those quotations. The argument went from being about whether or not Peter was the first head of the Church, to being about who succeeded him as head of the Church and when! Debate over!

Second, if disagreements among early Christians regarding the facts about Peter’s successors, somehow “prove” Peter wasn’t the first Pope – as Thrasher believes – then that must mean Hebrews, James, 2nd Peter, 2nd and 3rd John, Jude, and Revelation are all not inspired Scripture.  Afterall, there was disagreement over the canonicity of all of those books amongst early Christians.  So, according to Thrasher’s logic, since disagreement proves error, those books are not inspired Scripture.

I noticed Mr. Thrasher had no answer for my comments regarding Jesus appointing Peter as the shepherd of His flock, so I must assume that he simply has no answer.  Mr. Thrasher, if Jesus is not appointing Peter as the shepherd of His flock in John 21:15-17, then please tell us what He is doing.  Explain that passage for all to read.

Now, regarding Thrasher’s comments on Isaiah 22:15-22, I find it hard to take them seriously.  He states that Shebna is called the “steward,” but not the “Prime Minister,” as if the exact title mattered and as if the function of the steward in this case and the function of a prime minister are somehow not one and the same. Is he not aware that the “steward” of the kingdom, the one who has been given the keys, is the chief minister, or the “prime” minister in the kingdom, regardless of his actual title? And that, after the king himself, the steward of the kingdom is the highest ranking authority in the kingdom?!  Is he really not aware of the authority the “key of the house of David” signifies?  I truly find that hard to believe.

And, Mr. Thrasher asked if I think “that ‘Eliakim being given the key’ signifies that Eliakim was Pope?” First of all, please note that he avoided my question of what exactly does being given the key mean?  He didn’t answer.  Why?  He can’t.  At least, he can’t in a way that will fit his theology and still make sense.

Secondly, my answer to his question is, yes.  He may have ignored it in my first affirmative, but the word, “Pope,” simply means, father.  And, the Word of God itself calls Eliakim “a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.”  (By the way, Mr. Thrasher, don’t you believe that we aren’t supposed to call anyone “father;” yet, God Himself is calling Eliakim, “father.”  What’s up with that?!)  So, Eliakim was the Old Testament equivalent to the Pope.  He was the steward of the house of Judah.  A father to the people of the house of David. And, is the church not the New Testament house of David?  Indeed it is.  And, what does the word, “Pope,” mean?  Father. Just so, the Pope is a father for the people of the house of David, the Church.  And the Pope’s role, as holder of the keys, is the same as the role of the steward of the Kingdom.  He is the highest authority in the Kingdom, after the King Himself.

Which means, that when Jesus gives Peter, and Peter ALONE, the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 16 (hearkening back to Isaiah 22 and Eliakim), He is indeed appointing Peter to be a father (pappas, papa, pope) to His people, just as God appointed Eliakim to be a father (pappas, papa, pope) to His people.  And this fatherhood, this authority, was signified by the keys.  Also, the fact that Shebna was replaced by Eliakim, denotes succession in the office.  As Shebna was succeeded, so was Eliakim, and so was Peter.

So, while the Bible may not say, verbatim, “Peter was the Pope,” 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. 

Finally, Thrasher’s response to my argument about Luke 22:24-26 is nonsensical.  I can’t tell if he is purposely ignoring what I said or simply doesn’t understand it.  After they ask Jesus who is the greatest among them, how does Jesus respond?  He defines the greatest among them as being he that serves the rest. And then what does He do?  He turns to Peter and tells him to serve the rest.  “Strengthen your brethren,” the other Apostles, He says to Peter. Jesus tells all of them, out loud, that He will be praying specifically for Peter to strengthen the rest of them.

In Conclusion

Well, we’ve almost wrapped up this debate. There will be two more newsletters devoted to it, and then on to other matters.

I hope all of you have a great week!

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Apologetics for the Masses