Today, we continue our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. The Catholic apologist continues his six-part section on church hierarchy and authority with a chapter countering Protestant claims of “No Other Foundation but Jesus.”
The Roman Catholic church cites Matthew 16:13-20, and specifically Matthew 16:18, as the basis for its claims to Petrine primacy and the papacy:
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” – Matthew 16:18
As Broussard points out, Protestants often rebut the Roman church’s interpretation of this passage, that Jesus would build his church upon apostle Peter, by citing apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:11:
“For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
Broussard then responds with several passages that indicate that the apostles were in fact foundation stones of the church, including Ephesians 2:19-20:
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone”
and 1 Corinthians 3:10:
“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it.”
Broussard then argues that Peter’s (and hence the pope’s) preeminent and foundational role in the church is “not apart from Jesus but only in and through Jesus.”
Gospel Christians actually have no problem agreeing that the apostles were foundational in the creation of the church, as they built upon the prime foundation, Jesus Christ, the cornerstone. What Protestants object to is how Catholicism parlays Matthew 16:18 to mean Jesus granted preeminent authority to Peter and thus to the bishops of Rome as Peter’s alleged successors.
Protestant commentators have historically interpreted Matthew 16:13-20 as Jesus’ proclamation that He would build His church upon the great truth that was divinely revealed to Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,“ NOT that He would build His church upon lowly Peter. In the Greek text, we note the differentiation in wording that Jesus used when He stated, “You are Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church.” Peter/petros in Greek means a small stone or pebble while petra means a massive, immovable rock formation. Jesus used a play on words to make a distinction between Himself and unstable Simon/Peter. Catholics object to this interpretation, saying the distinction between petros and petra cannot be found in the Aramaic language that Jesus and Peter spoke. However, that qualification presumes a knowledge of the conversation between Jesus and Peter that is superior to the writer of the gospel, Matthew, as guided by the Holy Spirit.
There are more than a few problems with Catholicism’s interpretation of Matthew 16:13-20 that Broussard purposely avoids:
- Several of the early church fathers, including John Crysostom and Augustine, interpreted the passage in Matthew 16 as meaning that Jesus would build His church upon Peter’s proclamation that He was the Messiah rather than upon Peter: “I so explained what the Lord said: ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church,’ that it be understood as built upon Him whom Peter confessed saying: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.'” – Augustine
- If Jesus had granted apostolic primacy to Peter in Matthew 16:18, then why did James and John subsequently engage their mother to request apostolic primacy for them in Matthew 20:20-28? Jesus went on to warn the apostles NOT to set up the very type of hierarchy that was the framework of the Roman church: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you” (Matthew 20:25-26).
- Peter was clearly a leader among the twelve apostles, but NOWHERE in the New Testament does it directly indicate that he was preeminent and the authoritative “Vicar of Christ” as Catholicism claims for Peter and its popes. Broussard cannot appeal to supporting passages because there are none. In addition to Matthew 20, Scripture indicates elsewhere that the apostles were equal in authority (Galatians 2:6, Matthew 18:18).
Some unwary Gospel Christians may be rattled by Broussard’s appeal to Ephesians 2:19-20 and 1 Corinthians 3:10 as rebuttals to “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” However, Christians who know God’s Word readily acknowledge the apostles were building blocks of the New Testament church as they themselves rested upon the cornerstone, Jesus Christ.
IMPORTANT: In all six of his chapters on authority, Broussard intentionally avoids the elephant in the middle of the room; the papacy of pope Francis. Catholicism has longed claimed papal succession was divinely guided and that its popes were infallible in important declarations on faith and morals (proclaimed a dogma in 1870) and that its popes were incapable of leading the church into error. Since his election in 2013, pope Francis has guilefully overturned several longstanding doctrines including the ban on communion for remarried divorcees, the ban on communion for Protestant spouses of members, and the licitness of capital punishment. Many of Broussard’s conservative Catholic colleagues are advising their followers to ignore Francis’ heterodoxies. Some are even calling Francis a heretic. In each of his six chapters on authority, Broussard repeats his church’s empty claims about its papacy while ignoring the current crisis within Catholicism over Francis’s assault on longstanding and cherished doctrines. Broussard is in the uncomfortable and embarrassing position of having his own pope effectively disprove his claims regarding papal authority!
Next up: “Paul Rebuked Peter”