Rebutting a Catholic apologist, #1: “James Led the Council”

Many evangelicals are under the false impression that Roman Catholicism teaches the genuine Gospel, albeit with lots of quirky traditions. However, Catholic apologists are quite upfront about the irreconcilable differences between Catholicism and Bible Christianity, including the unbridgeable differences regarding HOW a person is saved. Today, we (finally) kick off our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Catholic apologist, Karlo Broussard. We will be answering Broussard’s arguments in the order they are presented. His first six arguments involve the subject of “church hierarchy and authority” and today we will look at Broussard’s attempts to refute the Protestant assertion that “James Led the Council” of Jerusalem.

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Broussard begins by noting that Gospel Christians cite Acts 15 to prove that the apostle James presided over the Council of Jerusalem rather than Peter, thus debunking the Catholic doctrines of Petrine primacy and the papacy. The papacy is a foundational pillar of Roman Catholicism. Without the pope as its guiding teaching authority, Roman Catholicism ceases to exist. However, the New Testament does not support Catholicism’s claims for Petrine apostolic primacy and the papal office, and quite often contradicts them. Acts 15 describes the apostolic Council of Jerusalem (circa 50 AD), which decreed that Gentile Christians did not have to observe the Mosaic Law of the Jews. A clear reading of the text indicates that the apostle, James, the half-brother of Jesus, presided over the council, but such an interpretation contradicts the Catholic claims for Petrine primacy; the notion that Peter was pope and preeminent in status over the other apostles.

How does Broussard respond? In the course of the council dialogue, Peter initially defends the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, apart from obedience to the Law, followed by Paul and Barnabas, with a concluding judgement by James. Broussard attacks the interpretation of James as rendering the concluding judgement by appealing to the original Greek text. Firstly, he argues that the imperative form of “listen” used by James in his opening statement in Acts 15:13, “Brothers, listen (akousate) to me,” doesn’t necessarily connote authority in all cases. But in the context of the passage, it certainly does. Broussard next turns to Acts 15:19, where James declares his final judgement: “Therefore my judgment (krínō) is…” Broussard asserts that the Greek root word, krínō, means “opinion,” but the word is largely used throughout the New Testament in the sense of a formal decision. The Greek word, dokeō, and derivatives are used elsewhere in the NT for “opinion.” Broussard’s attempts at textual slight-of-hand fall flat.

As with apologists of other pseudo-Christian sects, Broussard leap frogs over Bible passages that clearly refute his case. Subsequently, in Acts 21:17-18, Luke relates, “When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.” Approximately eight years after the Council of Jerusalem, James is still the presiding elder (not pope!) of the Jerusalem church, but Broussard underhandedly omits this important passage.

Rome’s claims for the Petrine papacy rest largely on Catholicism’s interpretation of Matthew 16:18-19, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,” but several early church fathers, including Augustine, interpreted this passage to mean Jesus would build his church upon Peter’s earlier declaration, that Jesus was the Messiah/Christ. If Jesus had granted Peter apostolic primacy in Matthew 16:18-19, then why did James and John, through their mother, request apostolic primacy later on in Matthew 20:20-28? If Peter was pope, why didn’t Paul mention this alleged fact in any of his epistles?

It’s quite ironic that Broussard focuses on Acts 15 in the opening chapter of his book, because it’s at the Council of Jerusalem that Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and James argue AGAINST the very type of anti-Gospel, religious legalism that would later become part and parcel of the Roman church. History reveals that the bishops of Rome gradually consolidated their power over the centuries, and in their ascendancy, emulated the imperial model of the secular Caesars.

It’s so important to be aware that Broussard and other contemporary conservative Catholic apologists at Catholic Answers and EWTN present their case for Petrine primacy and the papal office under extremely difficult and trying circumstances. In 1870, the Catholic church declared its popes to be infallible in matters vital to faith and morals. Catholic apologists of the past boasted that popes were incapable of leading the RC church into error. However, the current pope, Francis, has changed two cherished Catholic doctrines thought to be unchangeable by quietly lifting the ban on communion for remarried divorcees and by allowing communion to non-Catholic spouses at the discretion of local bishops. Many conservative Catholic leaders are advising their followers to ignore Francis’ changes and some are even calling him a heretic. Will Broussard have the courage and honesty to acknowledge the current crisis within Catholicism over Francis’ controversial papacy in the next five chapters dealing with authority? Methinks not.

Among other resources, including “The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary” and “The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance,” I’m indebted to the sermon transcription below from John MacArthur and Grace to You regarding James and the Council of Jerusalem:

James: The Brother of Our Lord
https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-394/james-the-brother-of-our-lord

Thanks for beginning this long series with me!

Next up: “No Other Foundation but Jesus”

64 thoughts on “Rebutting a Catholic apologist, #1: “James Led the Council”

    1. Thanks, Beth! I delayed starting this series because I knew it would involve quite a bit of work, but the Lord kept convicting me to get up off the couch. Thanks for the support and encouragement!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow, this is just the beginning? Instead of true scriptural meditation, catholic apologists seem to have such luxury time to twist and distort.
    I am always reminded of a missionary’s testimony while languishing in communist prison. He said (I paraphrase), “Although we were protestant, catholic, and SDA, after weeks of torture and deprivation all of us dropped doctrinal baggage and clung to the Gospel truth for dear life”
    Oh that Catholics and others would see the futility of religion and cry out to God!
    Press on dear brother!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Lisa Beth!

      RE: “(we) clung to the Gospel truth for dear life”

      For Catholics, membership in their religious institution is the idol that prevents them from trusting in Jesus Christ by faith alone.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I believe that some Catholics, Orthodox, nominal Protestants know enough about Jesus Christ and when faced with a crisis situation cry out to Him in genuine repentance and trust in Him as Savior by faith alone.

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  2. I got into it with a Catholic on Twitter yesterday. He tried to tell me that we are justified by faith AND works. I told him we are justified through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Showed him Scripture out of John, Matthew, Romans, and Galatians. I also confronted him about their worship of Mary and “saints” and their belief that a person can lose their salvation. The conversation went all day. When I showed him Scripture and what Jesus said, he told me “that doesn’t prove anything.” I said, “What?! It’s the words of Jesus!” I ended up having to block him because he kept trying to slander and accuse me and he never did answer the questions about Mary. Their false doctrine cannot stand up to God’s Word. God bless!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks a lot for sharing your experience, Ryan! Many evangelicals erroneously assume Catholics believe in the same Gospel, but Catholics will unabashedly admit that they believe they must merit their salvation, with the alleged help of sacramental grace.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, he really stepped around that issue and he didn’t want to admit that or the blasphemous Mary worship. He didn’t want to talk about sacraments, rosary beads, or praying to saints either. I forgot to tell you–the guy used to be a Baptist! He even went to Baptist seminary! Then he became a Catholic! I told him, “Baptist to Catholic, wow! Why would you go from freedom in Christ to the bondage of legalism and false doctrines?” Real mind blower that one! I gave him Galatians 3:1-5 and told him to read the entire book of Galatians. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. RE: the guy used to be a Baptist!

        Sadly, so many tares in the church. Yeah, who in their right mind would voluntarily choose chains and darkness? But it’s spiritual blindness.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Hi brother that tell’s me he was never one of us to begin with to go from babtist to Catholic and they don’t want to admit that they worship Mary nope.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Ryan, give him lumen gentium to read and ask him if Vatican II teaches that good Muslims can attain eternal salvation, why does anyone need to become a Romanist?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, the problem for our friend Karlo Broussard is that the John Chrysostom didn’t see it that way and I’m sure he understood Greek better than Karlo.

    John Chrysostom on James, Acts 15:

    Homily XXXIII.

    Acts XV. 13, 15

    “And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Symeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets.”

    This (James) was bishop, as they say, and therefore he speaks last, and herein is fulfilled that saying, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” (Deut. xvii. 6; Matt. xviii. 16.) But observe the discretion shown by him also, in making his argument good…….

    No more factions and fightings, but thenceforth Paul taught.760 (Recapitulation.) “Then all the multitude kept silence,” etc. (v. 12.) There was no arrogance in the Church. After Peter Paul speaks, and none silences him: James waits patiently, not starts up761 (for the next word). Great the orderliness (of the proceedings). No word speaks John here, no word the other Apostles, but held their peace, for James was invested with the chief rule, and think it no hardship. So clean was their soul from love of glory. “And after that they had held their peace, James answered,” etc. (v. 13.) (b) Peter indeed spoke more strongly, but James here more mildly: for thus it behooves one in high authority, to leave what is unpleasant for others to say, while he himself appears in the milder part. (a) But what means it, “How God first (πρὥτον) did visit?” (v. 14.) (It means) from the beginning (ἐξ ἀρχἥς).762 (c) Moreover he well says, “Symeon expounded” (ἐξηγήσατο) (or, interpreted), implying that he too spake the mind of others. “And to this agree,” etc. Observe how he shows that this is a doctrine of old time. “To take out of the Gentiles,” he says, “a people for His Name.” (v. 15.) Not simply, Chose, but, “for His Name,” that is for His glory. His Name is not shamed by the taking (προλήψει) the Gentiles first, but it is even a greater glory.—Here some even great thing is hinted at: that these are chosen before all.763 (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume XI, Saint Chrysostom, Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, Homily 33, pp. 384-388)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. If this is the best that Karlo can bring forth, their apologetics are in a sad and sorry state. It’s no wonder I always observe amateur Roman apologists get owned by Muslims in discourse.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s irrational for Catholic apologists to debate Muslims or anyone else since their popes and Vatican II have declared all religionists and even atheists can also merit Heaven.

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      3. In addition to John Chrysostom, the Romanist scholar Luke Timothy Johnson, in his commentary on Acts 15:19 in the Sacra Pagina series pg 266, says:

        “The language is solemn and measured, literally, “I judge/I decide (krino)”. Here then is James’ “response”. The “therefore”(dio) is strong, pointing us back to the bas is for the decision…”

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m going to buy some boots tomorrow because sneakers just don’t cut it in the snow and ice. My wife threw out my old boots because she said they were getting ratty 🐀

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Brother this is a good take down. That’s a strange definition he has for , krínō, as being opinion and not judging. Is there any verse he gave for the interpretation of that word? I’m now aware of any myself but I haven’t gone out of the way to do a word study before; still in the context it is clear its talking about issues involving judgment and unlikely to refer to “thinking” per se or opinion. Good post brother!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, brother! He’s being so blatantly deceitful with his false interpretation. Krino and it’s close variation krisis are consistently used for judement as in “formal decision” throughout the NT. No, he didn’t cite any other verses to support his “opinion” interpretation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The burden of proof is on him to establish that’s a possible lexical range of that word and even then he still has to prove that’s the way the word is being used in it context, interesting.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. In light of the current crisis within the RCC over Francis’ papacy, these conservative Catholic apologists should just hold off writing any more books. It’s like trying to sell someone a used car when you know it has some major problems. So dishonest.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Re: used car

        The problem is Karlo’s boss at the dealership, Francis, is undermining his sales pitch, as he is telling potential customers that all cars, as long as it’s a good and well maintained car, will get anyone to their destination just fine!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jesse! I enjoyed your excellent points regarding the Jerusalem council and Sola Scriptura and also your refutation of Peter acting in the office of pope.

      Like

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