Let’s get to the heart of the matter, who’s right? Why does it matter?
C.S. Lewis said that if there is no heaven or hell, than nothing matters, but if there is a heaven and hell, everything matters. What C.S. Lewis is hinting at is that if heaven and hell don’t exist, then nothing means anything – go to the strip club, do whatever the hell you want; then when all the pleasure loses its luster, die quickly. However, if there is a heaven and a hell; if one has a chance to be in a new heavens and a new earth, where one has a Father with an endless imagination and also endless Love – this is the only thing that matters.
Each denomination differs over these points. How is one saved? What is the best way to get to Heaven and to fall in love with God? These are the most important questions you will consider in your life. The Catholic Church says it has an unerring interpretation of the bible for the means of salvation. You can fully trust Holy Mother Church’s mind and her direction for the path of life; the road to God’s heart. Protestants say the Bible alone has the unerring teaching. Take a closer look at the Catholic understanding.
Until 60-70 AD, over 25-30 years after Jesus died, there was not a single Gospel written. The only Scripture Christians had for these years was the Old Testament. The last book of the New Testament was not finished until 100 AD. For 70 years, the early Christians didn’t have a full New Testament. So, if the Bible alone is the guide to Heaven, the early Christians were left behind!
Okay, but they had the Apostles. Amen brotha! Then we agree the Apostles’ teaching and interpretation of scripture is where one goes for the way to Heaven. This is true because Jesus, although the Word of God, never wrote anything and left the job to the apostles: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth,,,(John 16:13).”
After the Apostles died, where did one go to find the way to Heaven?
Protestants say the Bible, but this statement is lacking. The Bible’s Canon (list of books) was not finalized until 399-401 A.D. Also, most Christians were illiterate, how are they to be saved without being able to read? One could read the Bible for them, much like Phillip in the Acts of the Apostles for the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40). But many know the way to heaven is not just through the reading of the Bible but also the understanding of the Bible. Philip not only reads with the eunuch but also interprets it so he may understand; “‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me’ (Acts 8:30-31).”
The early Church’s way to salvation is set out in Acts. After the people were cut to the heart and baptized, Peter did not hand out Gideon Bibles, give them a little slap on the butt and say, now read! What was their next move? The Acts of the Apostles lays out the next move for one who is now washed clean through baptism and has received the Holy Spirit; what must I now do? “So those who received his word were baptized and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they held steadfastly to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers (Acts 2:41-42).”
First, they held steadfastly to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship. To continue on the road to Heaven one must hold fast to the Apostle’s teaching and have fellowship with them. The Apostles knew that these four marks were going to be needed after they had passed on to eternal life.
So, what did they do so people 2,000 years later could still have fellowship with them and hold to their teachings? They ordained Bishops. Bishops were men who were to replace them in the communities. They were the one not only to hand on their teachings found in the Bible, but also the understanding of these teachings. A great thing to do when in disagreement about teachings like this, is to see what the early church thought. The early Christians were alive when the Apostles were alive and many of them heard them preach and teach.
There was a man named St. Ignatius of Antioch. He was taught, baptized and ordained a bishop by St. John, the beloved disciple (the author of the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation). He was the Bishop of Antioch, one of the main cities of the ancient world and martyred in the Roman Coliseum in 110 AD (just a fews years after St John the beloved died). On his way to be martyred, he wrote letters to the surrounding Churches as he traveled through to the coliseum. In his Letter to the Smyraeans (yes, this is a real city and not the home to a village of smurfs), this is what St. Ignatius had to say to Christians concerning the bishop:
“It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honors the bishop has been honored by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does [in reality] serve the devil…Nor is there anyone in the Church greater than the bishop, who ministers as a priest to God for the salvation of the whole world. …. He who honors the bishop shall be honored by God, even as he that dishonors him shall be punished by God. …who presumes to do anything without the bishop, thus both destroying the [Church’s] unity, and throwing its order into confusion? …Let the laity be subject to the deacons; the deacons to the presbyters; the presbyters to the bishop; the bishop to Christ, even as He is to the Father.”
What about the Pope?
Everybody thinks the Pope likes to make things like eggs for breakfast infallible, but why have a Pope? The Pope was instituted by Jesus in Matthew: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (16:18-19).” The first Pope was Peter, he was the head Apostle. Incase a disagreement arose among the Apostles, the Holy Spirit would guide Peter to the right answer, so the lambs would be fed (John 21:15). One can see this in the first disagreement among the Apostles in Acts 15, the council at Jerusalem. There was a disagreement whether Christians had to be circumcised and adhere to Jewish dietary laws. Peter stood up and proclaimed the Holy Spirit’s decision: “The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter arose and said…For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…(Acts 15:6-7,28).
This does not mean Peter was perfect. In fact, he denied knowing Jesus three times and fled the scene at Jesus’ most vulnerable time,
and he was also called “Satan” by Jesus when he tried to stop Jesus from the crucifixion. The “gift of Peter” is not for the shepherd but for the lambs that the they may be led into all truth. Just look through the phone book at Christian churches to see if there is a crisis in the ability to know the truth of what Jesus taught! Before Peter was crucified upside down by the Romans, he laid his hands on a successor, St. Linus, to continue his work as the “Papa.” Look at the Early Church’s succession of Peter.
1 Peter, Apostle, Saint Reigned 33-67
2 Linus, Saint Reigned c.67-76
3 Anacletus, Saint Reigned 76-88
4 Clement I, Saint Reigned 88-97
5 Evaristus, Saint Reigned c.98- c.106
6 Alexander I, Saint Reigned c.106-115
7 Sixtus I, Saint Reigned 115-125
8 Telesphorus, Saint Reigned 125-136
9 Hyginus, Saint Reigned c.136-140
10 Pius I, Saint Reigned c.140-c.154
11 Anicetus, Saint Reigned c.157-168
12 Soter, Saint Reigned c.166-c.174
13 Eleutherius, Saint Reigned c.175-189
14 Victor I, Saint Reigned 189-c.198
15 Zephyrinus, Saint Reigned 198-217
16 Callistus I Reigned 218-c.222
17 Urban I Reigned 222-230
18 Pontian, Saint Reigned 230-235
19 Anterus, Saint Reigned 235-236
20 Fabian, Saint Reigned 236-250
21 Cornelius Reigned 251-253
22 Lucius I, Saint Reigned 253-254
23 Stephen I, Saint Reigned 254-257
24 Sixtus II, Saint Reigned 257-258
25 Dionysius, Saint Reigned 260-268
26 Felix I, Saint Reigned 269-274
27 Eutychianus, Saint Reigned 275-283
28 Caius, Saint Reigned 283-296
29 Marcellinus, Saint Reigned 296-304
30 Marcellus I, Saint Reigned 308-309
31 Eusebius, Saint Reigned 309 or 310
32 Miltiades, Saint Reigned 311-314
33 Sylvester I, Saint Reigned 314-335
The Pope is an amazing gift for us, and, in fact, the Pope draws more people than Miley Cyrus, Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Bieber combined. Pope Francis just drew a crowd of 7 million people in the Philippines!
Why do they all gather? Jesus did not leave us as orphans and left us a visible sign of his Fatherhood. It is a shame when a Pope doesn’t live up to Christ’s call in his life, but one thing is for certain, he will never lead us astray by his teaching!
Alexander VI, debatably was the most sinful pope; he had orgies, mistresses, and children living at the vatican. Alexander VI never changed any teaching, not even the discipline of celibacy for priesthood, which was within his right to do (and would have brought his sinfulness down a notch or two). In fact, he authored one of the most beautiful Catholic prayers we have, The Angelus, which is still prayed daily at most Churches around the world. However, when a Pope does live up to his call, and he is what he was meant to be, watch out world!
Saint Pope John Paul II, Pray for us. Pope Francis, I agree with slim, you’re dope (even if you don’t smoke dope).