This is continued from Parts I & II (imagine that), so you may need to read those before it will make sense. See the sidebar. I'll go ahead and spoil it for you though, it doesn't end here because I didn't have time. (Sorry for the length)
Last time, after successfully defeating the reformed "Objector" with a solid Saint Nicklaus style punch to the face, we left our hero: Catholic to face the formidable Anglican Ninja. Can he hold his own? Will the Anglican's ad hominem attacks be too literal for him to handle? Stay tuned for this exciting episode of DOA. Queue theme music.Yeorgi approaches the two and joins the conversation.
Yeorgi Orthodox, a towering Russian Orthodox layman and former heavy weight boxer approaches the scene where Ambrose Anglican and our hero, Catholic had recently engaged in a deadly bout of manlitude. The scene is near silent. Orthodox watches from a distance as the bloodied Catholic pulls himself up from the ground.
Anglican: Wow, I really kicked your ass.
Catholic (scoffing as his pride kicks in): Anglican, if you want the truth, the only reason you were able to even lay a finger on me is because the author of our world was trying to feign fairness in his humor at the request of Phil Snider.
Anglican: I beg your pardon?
Catholic: Nevermind. You really laid the smack down on me, I’ll give you that. But I wonder if you can hold your own in a civilized discussion.
Anglican: Hah! Shall we then?
Catholic: So you believe in the visible Church but you reject what has been considered the visible Church for 1500 years prior to yours?
Anglican: That’s a bit of a shallow attack I’m afraid. The Church of England is simply that: the Church of England just as in the Scriptures we may hear the New Testament speak of say “the Church at Jerusalem” or something of that sort. We do not identify The Church of England as the exclusive heir of the title “visible Church” yet we do not deny the principle in the way that some Protestants may.
Catholic: Then what does “visible” mean to you?
Anglican: The “visible Church” is the Catholic Church. But this isn’t to be taken as referring to the Roman Church. This means all Churches which hold the Catholic doctrine. How can Rome call herself the exclusive heir to this title? Given that fragmentation has existed in the Church from her very beginnings (and not merely since the reformation or even the great schism), how can you keep a straight face while saying that Rome alone has consistently been right on doctrines?
Catholic: Ordinarily that is ridiculous of course. But before I answer that, answer me one simple question. Which other city can even come close to making that claim? To have been right all along and is still right?
Anglican: … Constantinople, or Antioch or as far as I’m concerned any of the earlier centers of Christianity. The cities themselves never apostatized and the Churches there still retain apostolic doctrine. I fail to see your point.
Catholic: My point was that..
Anglican: That Rome is unique in her claim to perfect doctrine? Maybe unique in claiming it, but even if we hold Rome to be the standard of true doctrine, other cities have maintained that level of purity as well.
Catholic: But only because and insofar as they have remained in communion with her.
Anglican: I beg to differ, the Orthodox have been out of communion for half of their existence and if they can do it for 1,000 years, they could have conceivably done it for 2,000 and may have. If we can say that the Roman Catholic Church teaches true doctrine, we must also say that the Orthodox Church retains true doctrine. If we deny the Orthodox their truth, we deny Catholics their truth. Furthermore, Rome’s claim and historical influence rests as much or more in the fact that she was the seat of the Roman empire than that she is the heir to Peter’s episcopacy.
Anglican: It seems as if you debate like you fight.
Catholic: I’m slow witted and slow fisted. Just give me a second.
Anglican: Tell yourself whatever you like, I’m sure you’ll be telling your friends how they “should have seen the other guy”.
Catholic: Ok, the fact that it was the center of the Roman empire is irrelevant for this reason: We know that the conquest of Alexander and the subsequent Hellenization of the classical world helped spread the gospel but it had nothing to do with the validity of the gospel itself. If Jesus had come and taken the gospel to a remote fishing village in southern Africa (ignoring the lack of Judaic backdrop for the sake of the argument here), it would (humanly speaking) never have gotten off the ground. It would have risen, died and been forgotten before it ever reached the Sahara desert. But the gospel would have still been true. And Peter came to Rome for the same reason that Jews came to Alexandria in the centuries before Christ – it was the center of the empire and the capital. Peter came to Rome because it was important but the Roman CHURCH is important because Peter came to it. All of what you said could well be true. But we do have a promise from Christ of Peter which gives further validity to the Roman claim. Jesus did say that the Church would be built on Peter and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it.
Anglican: I am inclined here to follow Tertullian and affirm that the Church would be built on Peter as Christ said. But as Tertullian points out, this prophecy was fulfilled at Pentecost and his preaching there. The Church is built on the apostolic doctrine which he proclaimed there and which continues today in the Catholic Church (not only the Roman Catholic Church). I agree that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church obviously. But this doesn’t mean “wherever Peter dies, the Church that springs up there will rule all other Churches and will never be wrong on any doctrine”. It is an eschatological hope. If by “the gates of hell will not prevail against her” we mean “she will never be in error” , then we have already proven Christ wrong. Look at the fragmentation that exists in the body of Christ now.
But we'll have to develop that next time. I need some sleep.