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Vatican rejectes idea that all religions are equal #41997
09/10/00 10:45 PM
09/10/00 10:45 PM
A
Anonymous OP
Unregistered

September 6, 2000

The Vatican has rejected the idea that all religions are equal. In a 36-page theological document, the Roman Catholic Church took issue with the idea that non-Christian religions could be equal to Roman Catholicism or that Protestant churches could be considered "sister churches."

Non-Christians are in a "gravely deficient situation" regarding salvation, the document said. The Church reiterated its official positions, ordering its theologians not to manipulate what it called the truth of the faith and to counteract "relativistic theories" of religious pluralism, according to the document.

The document said that other Christian churches had "defects," in part because they did not recognize the primacy of the pope.
It dismissed all post-Reformation churches, saying those "that have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the eucharistic mystery are not churches in the proper sense." Other Christian churches "suffer from defects" but have not been deprived of "significance and importance in the
mystery of salvation," it said.

The document caused quick reactions from other Christians. "The Church of England, and the worldwide Anglican Communion, does not for one moment accept that its orders of ministry and Eucharist are deficient in any way," said George Carey, the archbishop of Canterbury, according to The Times of London. He said the Vatican document failed to "fully reflect the deeper understanding that has been achieved through ecumenical dialogue and cooperation during the past 30 years."

by the Editors of ReligionToday
-------------------------------------

The following is the URL where you can find the above talked about document. It is quite long, the document that is, as well as the URL. Let me know if you have any problem finding the document.


http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/docume nts/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000806_dominus-iesus_en.html


[This message has been edited by Avalee Lohman (edited September 10, 2000).]

---------------

Attention moderators: I am allowing the URL posted here as an exception to our forum rules as it backs up what was posted.

Daryl Fawcett
Administrator

[This message has been edited by Daryl Fawcett (edited September 10, 2000).]


Re: Vatican rejectes idea that all religions are equal #41998
09/13/00 02:30 PM
09/13/00 02:30 PM
A
Anonymous OP
Unregistered

Vatican Declaration Receives "Not New" Comment From Adventists
Vatican City, .... [Bettina Krause]

A recently released Vatican document claiming that the Roman Catholic Church holds a monopoly on Christian legitimacy should not come as a surprise to the religious community, says Dr. Bert B. Beach, director of Inter-church Relations for the Seventh-day Adventist Church worldwide.

"There is nothing new here," says Beach of the document that has prompted an outcry from many non-Catholic Christian denominations around the world. "The Roman Catholic Church has never affirmed the
validity of Protestant churches. Despite its involvement in interfaith dialogues over the years, it has always claimed primacy as being the only 'true church.'"

Beach points out that even the Second Vatican Council of 1962 to 1965, widely hailed as having liberalized the Roman Catholic Church in a number of areas, including its approach to ecumenism, consistently referred to other Christian denominations as "ecclesial communities"
rather than churches.

The declaration, called Dominus Iesus, was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican body founded in 1542 that is charged with the protection of doctrinal orthodoxy. Speaking at a September 5 news conference at Vatican City, the head of the Congregation, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, said the document is intended to counter "religious relativism."

According to the document, "there exists a single church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him." Thus, non-Catholic
churches are in a "gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the [Catholic] Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation."

The steadily growing involvement of the Roman Catholic Church in various ecumenical organizations, such as the World Council of
Churches, over the past few decades has made this frank assertion of superiority shocking to many in the religious community, says Beach.

"But the Catholic Church's participation in such organizations has always been based on a mono-centric view of ecumenism," Beach explains. "This is an underlying belief that Christian organizations should work towards unity, but with the ultimate goal of coming together under the umbrella of the Roman Catholic Church the 'one true church.'"

Beach says that, in one sense, such an open assertion is a good thing, providing a clear picture of where the Vatican stands on the issue.

Dr. Gerhard Pfandl, an associate director in the Adventist Church's Biblical Research Institute, called the declaration "a bold move to counter the inroads of postmodernism and pluralism in the Catholic Church" and "an indication that the church has not changed its philosophy or doctrinal stand." Pfandl says that the document "comes close to saying that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, which was the position of the Church for centuries."

"The document is an attempt to rein in certain Catholic theologians who have gone, or would like to go, beyond the limits the papacy has set in its ecumenical enterprise," says Pfandl, who notes that the declaration is specifically directed to Roman Catholic theologians rather than the
broader religious community.

A German magazine, Focus Weekly, has printed excerpts from a book by Ratzinger, to be published next month, reports Associated Press. The goal, Ratzinger states in the book, is to unite Christianity as a single faith. He adds that "we as Catholics are convinced that such a single church exists in its basic form in the Catholic church."

Also published last week was an official "Note" written by Ratzinger and approved by Pope John Paul on June 9. The four-page note, which was sent to the heads of Catholic bishops' conferences around the
world, warns against the use of the phrase "sister churches" to describe Protestant denominations.

The release of both Dominus Iesus and the cardinal's note has received wide media coverage and prompted expressions of concern from many Christian leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey and the chairman of the council of the Evangelical Church of Germany, Manfred Kock.

From:

ANN Bulletin
Adventist News Network
Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headquarters
September 12, 2000



Re: Vatican rejectes idea that all religions are equal #41999
09/15/00 09:55 PM
09/15/00 09:55 PM
A
Anonymous OP
Unregistered

Poland's Catholic bishops reject criticism of Dominus Iesus

Warsaw (ENI). Roman Catholic leaders in Poland have expressed strong support for a controversial Vatican document released
early this month which restates the belief that that Protestant denominations are not churches but "ecclesial communities". However, as in many other countries, Poland's Protestant church leaders have criticised the document - Dominus Iesus, on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church - and predicted that it could endanger improving ecumenical
relations in this predominantly Catholic country.


From:

Ecumenical News International
News Highlights
15 September 2000



Re: Vatican rejectes idea that all religions are equal #42000
09/16/00 02:49 AM
09/16/00 02:49 AM
L
Linda Sutton  Offline
Charter Member
2500+ Member
Joined: Jul 2000
Posts: 2,794
USA
This subject has been brought up in the Endtime Issues in two other topics, one of which I had started two days ago. Since it appears that it went unread, I have deleted it and am copying my post here. I am also adding this URL, where Cardinal Ratzinger explains what "sister churches" are in Catholic theology, since this phrase is in Dominus Iesus and is used in ecmenical documents of all faiths. It doesn't mean the same thing to ecumenical Protestants as it does to Catholics.


http://www.natcath.com/NCR_Online/documents/sisterchurches.htm

__________________

When I search the web, I never know just what I might come accross. Here is an interesting article I found in the London Telegraph. Three articles on the same Declaration also appeared in an Irish paper. How many people believe that the Catholic church has changed? Here is proof that what EGW wrote over a hundred hears ago is true.

quote:
September 4 2000
WORLD Churches stunned by Pope's attack on 'defects'

BY RUTH GLEDHILL

THE Church of England and all other Protestant churches are not "proper" churches because they suffer from "defects", according to the Roman Catholic Church.
In a declaration approved by the Pope, the Vatican will also state that followers of all non-Christian religions are "gravely deficient" and their rituals constitute "an obstacle to salvation".

The statements are contained in Declaration Dominus Iesus, to be published in Rome tomorrow. Although not in the name of the Pope, it was approved by him and "reflects his thinking".

The declaration, which has been received with "stunned horror" by bishops and Roman Catholic theologians throughout the world, threatens to undo decades of inter-faith bridge-building. The Church of England called it disappointing and negotiations have taken place between Catholic officials and Lambeth Palace, the London headquarters of the Archbishop of Canterbury, in an attempt to limit damage.

With the Pope and the Queen due to meet in Rome next month, the document will also threaten relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England, of which the Queen is the Supreme Governor.

Although written by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican body formerly known as the Inquisition, the declaration has the authority of Pope John Paul II.

It was ratified and confirmed by him "with sure knowledge and by his apostolic authority".

The declaration is merciless in its cutting through of the diplomatic language of ecumenism and inter-faith relations of recent decades.

It is also an attack on a number of priests and theologians, in particular in India and South-East Asia, as well as a warning to other Roman Catholics to stay in line.

Churches such as the Church of England, where the apostolic succession of bishops from the time of St Peter is disputed by Rome, and Churches without bishops, are not considered "proper" Churches.

The declaration concedes that some Churches - this would include the Eastern Orthodox - are "true particular Churches" because they have preserved the "apostolic succession" of bishops from the time of the Apostles.

John Fitzsimmons, former Rector of the Scots College in Rome who currently chairs the faith and order commission of ACTS, the churches' ecumenical body in Scotland, said: "The tenor of this document gives me a sense of disappointment and dismay. It is a return to the idea that the Catholic Church is the embodiment of the truth and anything that falls short of the Catholic Church is not the fullness of the truth. It is terrible."

The Catholic Media Office in London said it was important to distinguish between the "theological" and "common" uses of terms such as "proper Church". A spokesman said: "In common usage, of course the Church of England is a proper Church. But if you ask me whether the Church of England is a Church in the specific, theological sense, then we have to say 'no', and that is nothing new. But we are not going to stop calling the Church of England the Church of England."



I think that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith used to be known as the Office of the Inquisition.

This is from the Irish Times, 9-8-2000.

quote:
On Tuesday, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, spelt out the Catholic Church's position on ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue.

The cardinal vigorously asserted the Catholic Church's "infallible" teachings about the "single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church".

The Dominus Iesus document on the "Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church" came within two days of the beatification of Pope Pius IX, a conservative pontiff with a strong belief that the Catholic Church was the only acceptable Christian faith.


Rome never changes!
________________________
Even so come, Lord Jesus
Linda

[This message has been edited by Linda Sutton (edited September 15, 2000).]


Re: Vatican rejectes idea that all religions are equal #42001
09/16/00 03:27 AM
09/16/00 03:27 AM
L
Linda Sutton  Offline
Charter Member
2500+ Member
Joined: Jul 2000
Posts: 2,794
USA
More reaction to Dominus Iesus:
quote:
RELIGIOUS LEADERS COMMENT ON "DOMINUS IESUS" DECLARATION
Criticize Catholic Theology But Are Grateful for Clarity

VATICAN CITY, SEP 6 (ZENIT.org).- Reactions to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's presentation yesterday of the "Dominus Iesus" Declaration, written by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, included perplexity, criticisms, and the realization that, in declaring her identity, the Catholic Church is relaunching the ecumenical dialogue and discussions with other religions.

In Great Britain, while Queen Elizabeth prepares to visit the Pope on October 17, Archbishop George Carey of Canterbury said that the idea that the Anglican Church and other Churches are not Churches in the real sense of the term, seems to cast doubt on the considerable ecumenical steps that have been taken. The Anglican Archbishop feels that the document does not reflect the profound understanding that has been reached through ecumenical dialogue and co-operation over the last 30 years.

In number 17, the Declaration states: "the ecclesial communities that have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery, are not Churches in the proper sense; however, those who are baptized in these communities are, by Baptism, incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the Church."

However, the Catholic Primate, Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor denied that the document might negatively affect the ecumenical efforts, and affirms that "the principal objective of the Vatican Declaration is to warn in face of the tendency to consider all religions equal."

Reverend Manfred Kock, president of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, who recently spoke about the need to recognize the Pope as a symbolic unitary figure of Christianity, said that the document "Dominus Iesus" represents "a step backwards for ecumenical relations."

"We Are Church," a group supporting changes in Catholic doctrine on Papal infallibility, ordination of women, and homosexuality, stated, "The declaration is a questionable attempt put the reinstate the defeated absolutist image of the Chruch from the First Vatican Council, with its limitless primacy of the Pope. It stands in stark contrast to the hopeful concern for inter-Christian ecumenism and interreligious dialogue initated by the Second Vatican Council."

However, at the same time Kock acknowledged that "the Declaration has many affirmations that the Reformed Churches could approve without reservations, beginning with the salvific universality of Christ."

The Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow made no comments, as it prefers to study the document first. A spokesman of the Patriarchate limited himself to saying that "Catholics and Orthodox have a different conception of the Church's universality, and this continues to be the heart of the question."

For Islam, the problem is both identical and opposite: to the primacy of Christ they posit the primacy of Allah. Hamza Piccardo, leader of Italian Muslims, said: "We apply the verse of the Koran, according to which those who believe in Allah and the prophetes, one of whom is Jesus, will be saved."

Amos Luzzatto, president of the Jewish communities in Italy, was concise: "Cardinal Ratzinger can do all the verbal acrobatics he wishes, but in practice for Jews the New Testament doesn't even exist. Moreover, to say that the only possible mediator for salvation is Jesus Christ, removes us from all dialogue."


------------------
________________________
Even so come, Lord Jesus
Linda


Re: Vatican rejectes idea that all religions are equal #42002
09/16/00 01:34 PM
09/16/00 01:34 PM
A
Anonymous OP
Unregistered

Linda very informative. Thank you.

We can praise our Lord Jesus Christ that we have the assurance He will be victorious over all.

In The Blessed Hope


Re: Vatican rejectes idea that all religions are equal #42003
09/16/00 11:55 PM
09/16/00 11:55 PM
Daryl  Offline

Site Administrator
23000+ Member
Joined: Jul 2000
Posts: 25,126
Nova Scotia, Canada
Yes, these news items are most interesting.

It will be even more interesting to see what really comes out of it.

-----------
In His Love, Mercy & Grace

Daryl


Re: Vatican rejectes idea that all religions are equal #42004
09/21/00 03:13 AM
09/21/00 03:13 AM
Daryl  Offline

Site Administrator
23000+ Member
Joined: Jul 2000
Posts: 25,126
Nova Scotia, Canada
Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi asked me to post this for him as he is having trouble posting it himself. (I will reformat it later)

DOMINUS DEUS: VATICAN RETRENCHMENT
Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D., Prof. of Theology, Andrews University

On Tuesday evening, September 5, 2000, I was in Rome, Italy, watching news on the main Italian TV network. I was surprised to see
on the news Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the powerful German Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, announcing the
release of the Vatican Declaration Dominus Jesus, which means "Lord Jesus." This controversial document reiterates the traditional teaching that the Catholic church provides the sole sure path to salvation.

Ratzinger commented on the significance of this document for Catholics and non-Catholics. I was stunned when I heard him saying that only in the unique and universal Catholic Church there can be salvation. Such a declaration contradicts the more ecumenical, inclusive policy adopted by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) toward other Christian churches and non-Christian religions.

It is not surprising that religious leaders and theologians have reacted with dismay to this latest Vatican document. Dissident
Swiss Catholic theologian Hans Kung describes Dominus Jesus as "a mixture of medieval backwardness and Vatican megalomania." He said that it is hypocritical for the Vatican to "continually talk about dialogue while not talking about the colossal pretence of absolutism."

The Vatican Declaration Dominus Deus reaffirms the traditional Catholic view expressed by Pope Boniface VIII in his Bull, "Unam Sanctam" (A. D. 1302): "There is one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and that outside this Church there is neither salvation nor remission of sins." This view was substantially modified at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) which formulated
the concept, especially in the Constitution of the Church, that salvation is found not only inside the Catholic Church but also
outside its fold, by all who live according to their conscience.

This broader view of various avenues to salvation fostered a policy of benign tolerance toward non-Catholics. Protestants, for example, were rehabilitated from heretics, to "separate brethren," and to brothers and sisters in Christ. Similarly, members of world religions are now treated with openness and respect.

In the thinking of Vatican conservatives, the policy of benign tolerance toward non-Catholics inaugurated by Vatican II, may
have gone too far. It may have weakened the alleged unicity and primacy of the Catholic Church. This concern is expressed in an
official four page "note" by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the powerful Prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The "Note," approved by Pope John Paul II on June 9, explains that "when the expression 'sister churches' is used in the proper sense, the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Universal Church is not [meant
to be] sister but 'mother' of all particular churches. This is not merely a question of terminology, but above all of respecting a basic truth of the Catholic faith: that of the unicity of the Church of Jesus Christ. In fact, there is a single Church."

In other words, it is a fundamental Roman Catholic belief that there is only one true church that possesses the means of salvation and such church is the Roman Catholic church. Any salvation obtainable through other churches, ultimately derives from "the fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church."

This fundamental truth is reiterated more fully in the 16 pages Declaration Dominus Jesus, which is largely a reprimand to
liberal Catholic theologians who "have argued that all religions may be equally valid ways of salvation." Contrary to the thinking of some people, the Catholic Church is not a monolithic organization, where all of its theologians uphold the fundamental Catholic dogmas. There is much dissent within the Catholic Church. Some of my Jesuit professors at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy, openly questioned in class such important dogmas as papal infallibility and transubstantiation.

The Declaration is concerned about "the rapid spread of the relativistic and pluralistic mentality" among liberal Catholic theologians, who believe that "one religion is as good as another." To remedy this problem, the Declaration reiterates that "Catholic faithful are required to profess that there is an historic continuity-rooted in the apostolic succession-between the Church founded by Christ and the Catholic Church. . . . There exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him."

The Declaration makes a distinction between the Orthodox churches, which retain "apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist,"
and the Protestant "ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the
Eucharistic mystery." The formers are viewed as part of "the Church of Christ" because of their close bonds with the Catholic Church,
while the latters "are not Churches in the proper sense; however, those baptized in these communities are, by Baptism, incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with
Christ."

Both documents pointedly avoid using the word "church" when referring to Protestants, adopting instead the elusive term "ecclesial communities." These Protestant communities may have elements of truth, but, according to the Declaration, "they derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church."

What all of this means is that the churches born of the Protestant Reformation are reduced by the Vatican Declaration Dominus
Jesus to a lower level, being excluded from the list of "sister churches." Protestants do not possess the means of salvation within
their communities, but are dependant for salvation upon "the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church."

EVALUATION OF DOMINUS DEUS

The absolutistic Vatican Declaration that salvation for any persons is ultimately possible only through the channels of grace
entrusted to the Catholic Church, stands in stark contrast with the interfaith dialogue fostered by Vatican II and the ceaseless efforts of Pope John Paul II to become the undisputed spiritual leader of mankind by reaching out to people of all faiths.

One wonders, What has caused this Vatican retrenchment? What is the theological and biblical justification for the Vatican
absolutistic claim to possess the monopoly of salvation? It is unfortunate that the extensive media coverage of the Vatican
Declaration, makes no attempt to understand and explain the subtle way in which Dominus Jesus justifies the Catholic claim to possess
the sole means of salvation. This analysis attempts to fill this gap, by looking briefly at the theological presuppositions of such claim.

The reason for the Vatican retrenchment is the concern, mentioned earlier, that the policy of benign tolerance inaugurated by
Vatican II, may have gone too far. It has encourage the spread of "religious relativism" and "the mentality of indifferentism [that] leads to the belief that one religion is as good as another." Such a view undermines the unicity and primacy of the Catholic Church. At the news conference to present the Declaration Dominus Jesus, Cardinal Ratzinger, the Vatican's Doctrinal watchdog, said that some theologians were "manipulating and going beyond the limits" of tolerance when they put all religions on the same plane.

It is evident that the Vatican is concerned about the spread of theological relativism and pluralism which is weakening the alleged unicity and primacy of the Catholic Church. To counteract this threat Dominus Jesus reiterates in a succinct but comprehensive
way the theological foundation of the Catholic claim to possess the sole means of salvation.

The 15 pages documents is well-structured with an introduction, six parts, and a conclusion. The introduction states
the problem that motivated the Declaration. "The [Catholic] Church's constant missionary proclamation is endangered today by relativistic theories which seek to justify religious pluralism, not only de facto but also de iure (or in principle)." The result is that "the universal salvific mediation of the [Catholic] Church" is weakened and obscured.

To counteract the "relativistic mentality, which is becoming ever so common," the first three parts of the Declaration reassert the fullness of the revelation of Jesus Christ and the unicity of the salvific mystery of Jesus Christ. "It must therefore be firmly
believed as a truth of Catholic faith that the universal salvific will of the One and Triune God is offered and accomplished once and for all in the mystery of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God."

Evangelical Christians reading the first three parts of the document can find themselves in full agreement with the emphasis on the unique revelation and salvation provided by Jesus Christ. After all this is a fundamental Biblical concept. However, most readers may miss the reason for emphasizing the unique salvific role of Christ, which becomes apparent in the next three sections. The latters explain that the salvific mystery of Christ becomes a reality for the believer only through the Catholic Church and her sacraments.

The Declaration states: "Christ continues his presence and his work of salvation in the Church and by means of the Church." By "the Church" is meant "the Catholic Church," and not Christian churches in general. This is clearly stated in Dominus Jesus: "Just as there is one Christ, so there exists a single body of Christ, a single bride of Christ: a single Catholic and apostolic Church." "There exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him."

By linking the saving work of Christ with the Catholic Church, making the latter the sole channel for dispensing "Christ's salvific mystery," the Declaration makes salvation a monopoly of the Catholic church. This means that the Catholic Church herself is a
"sacrament," that is, a channel of grace to the world. "The Church is a 'sacrament'-. . . she is the sign and instrument of the kingdom."

Such a preposterous, presumptuous, and exclusivistic claim is based on the unfounded assumption that church in the New Testament is a visible, hierarchical organization, which was originally established by Christ Himself, when he made Peter the foundation rock of the Church (Matt 16:18). This is known as the "Petrine Theory," according to which Christ entrusted to Peter the government of His church. To buttress this theory, the Declaration repeatedly appeals
to the "apostolic succession." By the latter is meant the existence of an unbroken succession from Peter, the first Pope, to John Paul II, the last Pope. Catholics proudly point out that no other church
can make this claim of unbroken succession.

Petrine Theory. No attempt can be made in this newsletter to expose all the fallacies of the Petrine theory and of the apostolic
succession. These subjects will be examined in-depth in my forthcoming book on POPULAR HERESIES.

For the sake of brevity I will limit my comments to the pivotal text of Matthew 16:18 used to prove the Petrine theory. Christ tells Peter: "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the power of death shall not prevail against it." The question is, Who is the "rock" upon which Christ built His church? Obviously for Catholics, the "rock" is Peter as the foundation stone upon which Christ built His church. They rightly point out that the play on words "You are Petros and on this Petra"
shows that there is an unmistakable connection between the two. Thus, Peter is the Petra upon which Christ has built His Church.

Protestants obviously reject the Catholic interpretation, arguing instead that the "rock" is either Jesus Himself or Peter's
confession of Christ. According to the former the text would read: "You are Peter and on myself as a rock I will build my church."
According to the latter: "You are Peter and on the rock of Christ you have confessed, I will build my church."

The problem with both of these popular interpretation, is that they do not do justice to the play on words. In the Greek there is an unmistakable connection between "Petros" and "Petra." The question is not whether "Petra- the rock" refers to Peter, but in what sense Peter is "Petra-the rock." In my view Peter is "Petra-the rock," not in the Catholic sense of being the foundation
stone upon which Christ built His church, but in the sense that Peter is the initial foundation of the church, which is built upon the foundation of the apostles, with Christ as the corner stone.

This interpretation rests on two major considerations. First, the New Testament pictures the church as a building, "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone" (Eph 2:20; cf. 1 Pet 2:4-8; 1 Cor 3:11). The imagery of the church as a building suggests that the church does not
rest on the foundation rock of Peter, but that began with Peter as the first stone. He was the first person to confess and accept Jesus of Nazareth, as the Christ, that is, the Messiah, "the Son of the living God" (Matt 16:16). Being the first convert to publicly accept Christ, Peter became in a sense "the first charter member" of the
church, or the first foundation stone of the spiritual edifice which is the church.

A second important point, ignored by the Catholic Church, is that the New Testament views the church, not as a visible hierarchical organization run by the Pope with his bishops, but as an invisible community of believers who are united by the same faith in Christ. In the Bible "the church" is not a religious organization, but the "people of God." Both the Hebrew qahal and the Greek ekklesia, translated "church," actually refer to the "congregation" of believers, who have been called out from the world (Deut 7:6; Hos 11:1; 1Peter 2:9) in order to be a light in the world (Deut 28:10; 1 Pet 2:9).

This means that when Jesus spoke about building His church, He meant, not the establishment of a hierarchical religious
organization, but the building up of a community of believers who by faith would accept Him and confess Him before the world. In this context, Peter, by being the first person to confess and accept Jesus as "Christ," which means "Messiah," became the first living stone of the spiritual edifice consisting of a community of believers. The
idea of Peter being the foundation of the church as a hierarchical organization identified with the Catholic Church, is foreign to the text and to the teachings of the New Testament.

Apostolic Succession. A fatal blow to the Catholic Petrine claim is the lack of any New Testament support for the primacy of Peter in the apostolic church. If, according to the Catholic claim, Christ appointed Peter as His vicar to govern the church, then we
would expect Peter to function as the leader of the Apostolic church. But this is hardly the case.

For example, there are no indications that Peter ever served as the presiding officer of the Jerusalem church. The organizational
structure of the Jerusalem Church can be characterized as collegiality with a presidency. But there are no indications that
Peter ever served as the presiding officer of the church. At the Jerusalem Council, it was James, not Peter, who presided in the deliberations (Act 15:13).

Furthermore, the ultimate authority of the Jerusalem Church resided, not on Peter, but on the apostles, who were later replaced by "elders." For example, it was "the apostles" who sent Peter to Samaria (Acts 8:14) to check on the new Christian communities. It
was the "apostles" who sent Barnabas to Antioch (Acts 11:22). It was "the apostles and the elders" who sent Judas and Silas to Antioch (15:22-27). It was "James and the elders" who advised Paul to undergo a rite of purification at the Temple (Acts 21:18, 23-24).

Had Peter been appointed by Christ to serve as the Head of the Church, he would have played a significant role in the decisions
mentioned above. There are no indications that Paul viewed Peter as the leader of the church. We are told that when Peter went to
Antioch, Paul "opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned" (Gal 2:11). Paul's action hardly suggests that Peter was recognized and respected as the infallible head of the church.

Furthermore, Paul refers to the "pillars" of the Apostolic Church as being "James, Cephas, and John" (Gal 2:9). The fact that "James," the Lord's brother, is mentioned first, indicates that James, rather than Peter, served as the leader of the church. Had the
apostles understood that Peter had been appointed by Christ to serve as the Head of the church, they would have entrusted to him the leadership of the church. But the fact is that Peter is never seen in the NT as the sole leader of the Apostolic Church.

The notion that Christ invested Peter with the authority to govern the church and that such an authority has been transmitted in
an unbroken succession to his successor, is a pure Catholic fabrication devoid of biblical support. It first appears in the writing of Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon (A. 175-195), who uses the argument of the apostolic succession to refute gnostic heretics. He argues that the gnostic teachings are heretical because they are rejected by those churches which can trace their apostolic pedigree (succession-Against the Heresies book 3).

The argument of the apostolic succession served a useful purpose in the early church when the formation of the New Testament was still in a progress. Church leaders needed an objective authority to refute heretics, and they found it in churches like Antioch,
Ephesus, and Alexandria, which could trace their origin to an Apostle. These churches could serve as the touchstone of orthodoxy.
But to extend the concept of the apostolic succession to the whole course of Christian history is unwarranted, because of the
interruption and apostasy that these churches have experience. The Moslem invasion of the seventh and eight centuries wiped out
completely most of the ancient Eastern churches.

The same hold true for the Bishop of Rome. Anyone familiar with the history of the papacy, knows how difficult it is even for
the Catholic church to prove the unbroken succession from Peter to the present pope. There have been times when the papacy was in the hands of several corrupt Popes, who fought among themselves for the Papal throne. For example, in 1045 Pope Benedict IX was driven out of Rome by the people because of his unworthiness and Silvester II was placed on the Papal throne. Later Benedict IX returned and sold the Papal throne to a man who became Gregory VI.

During the course of events Benedict refused to lay down his papal claims, so that there now were three Popes claiming to be the
rightful pope. To resolve the problem the German Emperor Henry II called a synod at Sutri in A. D. 1046, which deposed all the three popes and elected Clement II instead. One wonders, which of the three deposed popes fits into the apostolic succession? How can the Catholic Church still legitimately defend the notion of an unbroken succession from Peter to the present pope, when some of her popes were deposed for their corruption! It is evident that there are some broken links in the chain of the Apostolic succession.

The Eucharist. The Catholic claim to possess the sole means of salvation rests not only on the alleged apostolic succession, but
also on the Catholic view of the Eucharist as the reenactment of Christ's atoning sacrifice. In fact, "the apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist" are mentioned together several times in the
Declaration Dominus Jesus, because they are the two pillars of the Catholic claim to be the only true church which has the power to
dispense salvation.

Time will not allow us in this newsletter to expose the fallacies of the Catholic view of the Lord's Supper, known as transubstantiation. The absurd claim that the priest has the power to transform the bread and wine into the physical and historical body of Jesus, and to offer it to the believers by means of a wafer, makes the Catholic Church a dispenser of salvation through her priesthood.

For the Catholic Church the benefits of Christ's atoning sacrifice are made available to the believer, not through the heavenly ministry of Jesus in the sanctuary, but through the earthly ministry of the Catholic priests at the altar. The Declaration devotes three sections to extol "the salvific mystery of Christ," because this provides the basis to justify the claim that "Christ's salvific mystery" is realized through the mystery of the Eucharist.

The Christ that most Catholics know, is the Christ they swallow at the Mass. Few devout Catholic families display a picture of Christ in their home. I dare to say that out of 100 devout Italian Catholic families, perhaps 4 or 5 of them have a picture of Christ hanging in the house. They devotion is primarily to Mary and the saints who can intercede for them directly. As far as Christ is concerned, they know little about Him. They know mostly that "Christ's salvific ministry" is available to them through the Eucharist.

Conclusion. The foregoing reflections on the Declaration Dominus Jesus, have served to highlight the Catholic attempt to make
salvation a dispensation of the church, rather than a disposition of the believer. By claiming to be the only church that has the
apostolic succession and consequently the right to dispense salvation, the Catholic church is deceiving million of sincere people
into believing that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church (no salus extra ecclesia). The fact that the Declaration Dominus Jesus goes into great length to reiterate this traditional Catholic teaching, goes to show that after all Ellen White was right when she wrote: "Rome never changes. Her principles have not altered in the least. She has not lessened the breach between herself and Protestants; they have done all the advancing. But what does this argue for the Protestantism of this day? It is the rejection of Bible truth which makes men approach to infidelity. It is a backsliding
church that lessens the distance between itself and the Papacy"
(Signs of the Times, Feb. 19, 1894, par. 4)

Our only safeguard against deceptive eachings such as those found in the Vatican document Dominus Jesus, is familiarity with the teachings of the Word of God. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that the church is not a hierarchical organization that has the right to dispense salvation, but a community of believers committed to "declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you [us] out of darkness into his marvellous light" (1 Pet 1:9).

Christian regards

Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D.,
Professor of Theology and Church History,
Andrews University
4990 Appian Way
Berrien Springs, MI 49103

[This message has been edited by Daryl Fawcett (edited September 21, 2000).]



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