The Rise of the Papacy

March 25, 2013

With the resignation of Pope Benedict and the installation of Pope Francis, the question of how the papacy began is a good one to ask.  Catholics believe that Jesus himself laid the foundation for papal succession when he announced that the church would be built on Peter (Matthew 16:18-19).  Peter, therefore, acting as bishop of Rome, passed down his apostolic authority to his successor.  That successor passed Peter’s authority to the next, and so on down to the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio two weeks ago.  Bergoglio, taking the name Francis, is the 266th Pope.

“The problem with this explanation,” writes David Wells, “is that there is no evidence to sustain it.”

Well’s brief article is an informative and interesting look at the reality behind the rise of the papacy.  You can read the article here.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

[One of our church members, John Bates, wrote a meditation on Psalm 22 following the sermon last Sunday. I asked John if I could post it, and he gave me permission. May God use it to inspire your worship of Christ. – Pastor David ]

Seldom do we look at the psalms to lead our meditations through the passion of the Christ. The words that dripped from Christ’s lips, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” were not just a mere utterance of the sacrifice receiving the weight of the sin of His people. These were the words of King David in his prophetic psalm written 1000 years earlier.

The psalm that the dying Christ spoke, directing the bystanders to be witnesses, paints a picture of pure suffering and humiliation with such vivid details that mirrored the event unfolding at the cross. The scoffers, as they shook their heads and proclaimed, “He trusts in the Lord, let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” were written by David but played out on Golgotha. Those bulls of Bashan with gaping mouth like a raging and roaring lion were the children of Israel calling for His death. David said they would divide His garments and cast lots for them, and so the soldiers did. How strange were David’s words as he talked about piercing hands and feet, long before the morbid minds devised this means of execution. Who would suffer these pains of death far beyond David’s imagination, who would be the one poured out and dried up, broken and frail? Christ was proclaiming, “It is I! I am fulfilling the prophecy of David.”

Yet David’s psalm does not end with the echos of the suffering. For if one is astonished by the accurate description of the sufferings, then one would have to explode in exuberance in the hope of the resurrection. Through Christ’s suffering and death comes life in salvation through the resurrection. For David said, “He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted.” Oh, there is HOPE! “The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord!” In his resurrection He has inherited the Kingdom, and we become the subjects and the children of the righteous King. David said, “Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.”

So another 2000 years from the fulfillment of the suffering, I urge you to be witnesses and partakers in the hope of the resurrection and prepare to proclaim to the next generation the hope we have in Christ. His suffering had to be incredibly horrid, in order for His salvation to be ever so glorious.

The psalmist once asked, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?”  The answer, of course, is nowhere.  Unless you’re talking about Twitter or Facebook.  We all know that God isn’t on social media, which is why we use it to post whatever we want.  In cyber world we’re like ambassadors in a foreign country, moving among our friends and followers with diplomatic immunity.  What is it to Jesus or the church or to anyone else for that matter if we grumble, or rant, or flirt, or slander, or brag?  Once we’ve signed in, we have left the sphere of verbal and visual accountability.  We have entered a virtual God-free zone where we can “just be real” or “not really mean anything by it.”

The psalmist had no conception of social media as he pondered escaping God’s presence.  But his ancient conclusion is no less applicable to our modern situation: God is everywhere.  God is present in all reality, including virtual reality.  My dear Christian brother or sister, we must remember this.  Just as we would hope to honor Jesus in our personal interactions with others, we must seek to honor him in online interactions too.  We should never think of our discipleship as being temporarily suspended whenever we log on.  Our passwords may be secret, but what we post never is.

Dispelling the illusion of secrecy is a good place to start.  Last year Pastor Kevin DeYoung offered some good advice on this point:

Whether you are a tween, a teen, a pastor, a politician, a grandma, or a grad student, whether you blog, tweet, post, or pin, here is the one indispensable social media rule you must follow if you want to be wise, edifying, and save yourself a lot of anguish:  Assume that everyone, everywhere will read what you write and see what you post.

No matter your settings or how tight your circle is, you ought to figure that anyone in the world could come across your social media. All it takes is a link or a search or a bunch of friends you don’t know gathered around a phone that belongs to someone you do know. Anyone can see everything. Your pastor, your parishioners, your ex-whatever, your boss, your prospective employer, your spouse, your kids, your in-laws, your…fans, your constituents, your opponents, your enemies, your parole officer, the girl you like, the dude who freaks you out, the feds, the papers—assume everyone can read your rant and see your pics….

It’s amazing what some people post online. Do we forget that a thousand other folks are reading this intimate declaration of marital affection or this lambasting of all that their family holds dear? I wonder if people realize that what we post is who we are to hundreds or thousands of people. So no matter what we think we are like in real life, to most people who know of us, they only know us as that guy obsessed with Ron Paul or that girl obsessed with dieting or the pastor who seems to hate everyone or the cynical college kid or the older [person] checking out strange things through Socialcam.

(Read the whole article here.)

To DeYoung’s one indispensable rule for social media we can add several explicitly Christian points.  I offer these points in the form of diagnostic questions.  None of us will remember all of these questions, but they are the kinds of thoughts that should pass through our minds before we ever hit ‘Tweet’ or ‘Post’ or ‘Pin It’ or ’Upload.’  An honest, gospel-shaped answer will guide you well.

  • Is the content sinful (e.g., grumbling, slanderous, immodest, suggestive, etc.)?
  • When God opens my timeline history on the day of judgment, will I regret this?
  • Will this hinder or help my witness for Jesus?
  • Is this truly benign, or am I seeking to make much of myself?
  • Can I post this with faith and a clear conscience?
  • How am I seeking to honor God with this post?
  • How am I seeking to build up my neighbor with this post?

None of these questions are meant to imply that every tweet or post must be a Bible verse or a spiritual thought.  But let all of our posts have the hearty aim of serving Jesus and others rather than ourselves.  In short, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all your tweets and posts.

All the world belongs to God, including cyber world.  God is with us offline and online.  Post for his glory!

I want to propose that glossolalia should be defined as a vocalization pattern, a speech automatism, that is produced on the substratum of hyperarousal dissociation, reflecting directly, in its segmental and suprasegmental structure, neurophysiologic processes present in this mental state.

Let me interpret: hahahahaha.

The above quotation is cited by D. A. Carson in Showing the Spirit (page 184) merely as an example of physiological explanations of tongues-speaking.  Don’t be scared.  The rest of Carson’s book is not only intelligible but immensely helpful in sorting out 1 Corinthians 12-14.  Regardless of one’s position on the continuation of the so-called charismatic gifts, Carson’s book provides solid argumentation that deserves a hearing.

But that quote.  Man, that quote is really something.

Yesterday we held a worship service in which we expressed sorrow and grief.  Talk about counter-cultural.  Why would we do such an unhappy thing?  Because we believe the gospel has something to say to sad believers.  The work of Christ is deep enough to encompass the entire emotional range of our lives.

Of course we used the Psalms.  About that neglected book, here is the lead quote from our worship bulletin, from the wonderfully provocative Carl Trueman:

I would like to make just one observation: the Psalms, the Bible’s own hymnbook, have almost entirely dropped from view in the contemporary Western evangelical scene.  I am not certain about why this should be, but I have an instinctive feel that it has more than a little to do with the fact that a high proportion of the Psalter is taken up with lamentation, with feeling sad, unhappy, tormented, and broken.  In modern Western culture, these are simply not emotions which have much credibility: sure, people still feel these things, but to admit that they are a normal part of one’s everyday life is tantamount to admitting that one has failed in today’s health, wealth, and happiness society.  And, of course, if one does admit to them, one must neither accept them nor take any personal responsibility for them: one must blame one’s parents, sue one’s employer, pop a pill, or check into a clinic in order to have such dysfunctional emotions soothed and one’s self-image restored….  By excluding the cries of loneliness, dispossession, and desolation from its worship, the church has effectively silenced and excluded the voices of those who are themselves lonely, dispossessed, and desolate, both inside and outside the church.

I hope our church will lament together more often in the future.  It’s remarkable how a downer-of-a-service can be so uplifting.  The Spirit of the Suffering Servant was present, and his comfort was real.