4 Competing Views of Church Organization
The Historical Development of the Papal and Patriarchal Systems of Centralized Church Government
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John Paul II
Catholic, Bishop of Rome, Pope

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Click to ViewGraphical Mouse Rollover of gradual change of organization over time
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Click to ViewOutline: 588-606 AD
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Orthodox, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch


Today: 4 Competing views of organization:

There are four different ways that believers in Christ view the development of papal power in Rome:

  1. The true position: True Christians follow the organization of exactly what God already revealed in the Bible. If God wanted a Patriarchal system, it would be revealed in the Bible and Set up on the Day of Pentecost. If God wanted Rome to be the all time world headquarters of the church, the first century Christians knew nothing about it and God failed to mention such in the Bible. True Christians do Bible things in Bible ways, call Bible things by Bible names and view the Bible as a complete inspired blueprint revealed once for all time. True Christians view the Bible as the only roadmap and reject all creeds and councils as of human origin. The foundational error of Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants is their acceptance of the Nicene council as authoritative. As soon as you accept the Nicene council, you leave the barn door open for wild apostasy. All human creeds are to be rejected, even if they are correct, because they compete with the authority of the Bible. If you think this is not true, take note that both the Catholic and Orthodox churches reject "Sola Scriptura" and openly admit that the Bible is not enough and that we actually need human creeds. How sad and how blasphemous! In the Bible, there was no organization larger than the local church. Individual local churches, functioned independent and autonomous of each other, with no ties between them, is the pattern we see. Within each local church, the pattern is that of a plurality of men who meet the qualifications of 1 Tim 3 and Tit 1, with total control over the congregation. Under them are deacons, who serve as servants of the elders to assist, as instructed, to govern the local church. Pulpit preachers have no more authority than common members, unless they are also one of the elders. Let us get back to the simple organization that God ordained in scripture!
  2. The Catholic position: Peter was designated by Christ be the "universal bishop" and God intended for the Bishops of Rome to be the chair of his power in succession. This of course, is contrary to the Bible and all recorded history. Such a view is as purely mythical as the Muslim view that Jesus was a Muslim and Abraham sacrificed Ishmael instead of Isaac.
  3. The Greek Orthodox position: Orthodox believers object to Rome's claim of universal authority because it is contrary to the recorded history of the Ecumenical councils. The very first council at Nicea (325 AD) granted equal power to initially three Metropolatans: Rome, Alexandria and Antioch. Two later councils, Constantinople (381 AD) and Chalcedon (451 AD), granted equal powers to five Patriarchs: Rome Constantinople, and Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch. Orthodox believers, while acknowledging that their "patriarchal system" is not found in scripture, believe that divine providence brought it into existence. They object to the Roman Catholic monarchy because it would mean one of two things: 1. That God repudiated the decisions of the Ecumenical councils and changed his mind in favour of monarchal power at Rome. Such is difficult for the Orthodox mind to accept, for they see the decisions of the Ecumenical councils as being inspired and directed by the Holy Spirit. Therefore it is like changing the Bible itself. 2. That there was a three stage evolution of church government first, with the simple Biblical arrangement of autonomous local churches, then the trends towards centralization at produced the Patriarchal system of the 4th and 5th centuries and finally the Papal monarchy. Orthodox believers want the "god directed evolution" to stop in the 5th century. Of course the Orthodox position of flawed in its very foundation, by rejecting the Biblical pattern as God's final purpose for the church for all time.
  4. The Protestant position: Amazingly, most Protestants agree with Catholics and Orthodox believers that the Ecumenical councils were ultimately ordained of God. The difference lies in where the organizational evolution stopped. The Orthodox says it stopped in the 5th century with the Patriarchal system, the Catholic in the 6th century with Papal monarchy, and the Protestant stops the evolution during the reformation and thereafter, depending on the specific denomination. Of course some Protestants, familiar with history has been drawn away from Protestantism and towards either Orthodox or Roman Catholic, depending on which set of arguments he accepts as most valid. If he feels the record of history, as revealed in the Ecumenical councils is most important, the Protestant will be drawn towards Orthodox. If the Protestant is most impressed with the claims that the bishop of Rome is the God ordained successor of Peter, and their interpretation of Mt 16:18 that the church was built upon Peter himself, he will naturally defect to Catholicism. The Protestant position, therefore is one rife with contradictions and illogicalities.

B. Philip Schaff comments:

  1. "Here lies the difference, however, between the Greek and the Protestant opposition to the universal monarchy of the papacy. The Greek church protested against it from the basis of the oligarchical patriarchal hierarchy of the fifth century; in an age, therefore, and upon a principle of church organization, which preceded the grand agency of the papacy in the history of the world. The evangelical church protests against it on the basis of a freer conception of Christianity, seeing in the papacy an institution, which indeed formed the legitimate development of the patriarchal system, and was necessary for the training of the Romanic and Germanic Nations of the middle ages, but which has virtually fulfilled its mission and outlived itself. The Greek church never had a papacy; the evangelical historically implies one. The papacy stands between the age of the patriarchal hierarchy and the age of the Reformation, like the Mosaic theocracy between the patriarchal period and the advent of Christianity. Protestantism rejects at once the papal monarchy and the patriarchal oligarchy, and thus can justify the former as well as the latter for a certain time and a certain stage in the progress of the Christian world." (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, book 3, ch 5)
  2. "The apostolical organization of the first century now gives place to the old Catholic episcopal system [one bishop heading each church]; and this, in its turn, passes into the metropolitan [one diocesan bishop over many churches], and after the fourth century into the patriarchal [one bishop over many other diocesan bishops]. Here the Greek church stopped, and is governed to this day by a hierarchical oligarchy of patriarchs equal in rank and jurisdiction; while the Latin church went a step further, and produced in the middle ages the papal monarchy." (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, book 2, chapter 4)


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