The Importance of Peter's Successor

Linus7

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The Great Schism did not leave a leadership vacuum in the Orthodox Church.
I strongly disagree.

Recall that after the fall of Judas (no, I am not comparing the Pope to Judas!) it was necessary that his position be filled. The lot fell to Matthias.

If Peter was the leader of the early Church, which I believe he clearly was, and the bishops of Rome were Peter's successors, then the absence of the Bishop of Rome from the College of Bishops most certainly creates a leadership vacuum.

That is not to say that others cannot or have not stepped up to fill the vacuum.

But such a situation is clearly not the one intended by Christ.

Is it?
 

Brendan03

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Varangia --

I agree with much of what you wrote ... it is what I have thought about these matters for some time.

Some comments...

"condition existed through the fall of Constantinople in 1453, up to the final collapse of the Ottoman empire."

I generally agree, although I think that the Ottoman Conquest, coupled with the Porte's incessant meddling in the affairs of the Patriarchate, significantly undermined its ability to function as the Primate already several centuries before the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. And the collapse of the Ottoman Empire gave birth to "national" churches, a concept which, while understandable given the historical context of the age, nevertheless greatly disfigures Orthodox ecclesiology, but is today almost taken as a "given" in Orthodoxy.

"It was implicitly acknowledged in the ecumenical Orthodox Church that the principle of concilliarity cannot be a reality without primacy. I feel that today, we're going to have relearn this, due to the present vacuum in leadership in Orthodoxy and what are, IMHO, the wrong conclusions that are being drawn from it."

Yes, we clearly need both, but we appear to be moving in, perhaps, the wrong direction.

"This vacuum exists due to the ailing condition of the Ecumenical patriarchate, a crisis that has been around for the past 80 years, and is not the result of any one factor."

Yes, this is the critical structural problem facing world Orthodoxy at this time. The current system with the Patriarch of Istanbul is dysfunctional, and we have to be brave enough to admit that. Problem is: will the EP ever leave Istanbul? Probably not, because of the Greek sentimentality associated with that City (alas, it is gone, but the memories will never fade). This is a pity, because when you look at the history of the Early Church, it was *pragmatism* that formed the basis of the Patriarchates, not past glories or history. The leading See in Orthodoxy should simply not be located in a 98% Muslim city -- it doesn't make sense, and it is bad for Orthodoxy. But as Fr. Schmemann pointed out in his prescient essay "A Meaningful Storm", the Greek/Hellenic view of the Orthodox Church is such that the Greeks must maintain their primacy in Orthodoxy, regardless of whether or not that makes sense.

"The result of this kind of inattention is that the faithful become confused, local churches become divided into "super-correct" and "modernist" factions and jurisdictions, and this gives the opening to Rome to pursue the "divide and conquer" strategy that so many traditionalist Orthodox fear and lament."

This is absolutely on the mark, in my view. Clearly, Vatican policy has been, in part at least, to play "divide and conquer" by playing various Orthodox Churches against each other -- most notably by trying (and seemingly failing) to isolate the Moscow Patriarchate from much of the rest of Orthodoxy, trying to take advantage of the tensions between the MP and the EP in Eastern Europe and the Baltics. We have to realize that the Vatican is nothing if not very clever politically. By remaining vulnerable in this way or by allowing these vulnerabilities to become manifest by presenting ourselves in a less than fully unified way, we are simply playing into their hands. We need a reformed Primate. Not along the Roman model, for sure, but certainly not the current model, either. And, as you point out, the real problem is that the longer the current model persists, the more it will become engrained into Orthodox psyches everywhere that the current model is simply "Orthodox", which is unfortunate.

"We may be witnessing the passing of the mantle from Constantinople to Moscow, in terms of which will be the Church with Priority in Orthodoxy. But such transitions take more than a generation to become apparent or to get worked out."

I have often thought of this as well. One significant issue here, however, is that the Soviet period of ROC history is pretty bleak, and it will take a generation at least until the ROC is able to raise up Bishops and teachers that can plausibly inspire the remainder of world Orthodoxy to accept that kind of a role for the MP. And, to the extent that the EP is successful in wresting away from the MP all of the MP's jurisdiction outside the national boundaries of the Russian Federation, thereby reducing the MP's jurisdiction to that of any other "national Church", there will be further difficulties in assigning such a role to the MP -- hence the clever strategy of the EP in actively seeking to divest the MP of jurisdiction outside the Russian nation. There's far more going on there than meets the eye, and it is high politics, Orthodox style, if you ask me.

Brendan



 

nstanosheck

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Thanks Elisha, since you are a friend of Linus, I hope this calms the heat of our POV on this discussion then.

Linus7 said:
I also think it is really no argument at all to accuse someone of arguing like a Protestant. That is not refuting an argument but is rather an attempt to discredit an argument by associating it with the methods of those with whom we all disagree.
Again, I apologized if a spoke wrongly of you, I just found it interesting (I was not thinking of saying it to demean you in anyway) you were arguing that if one doesn't see it by reading a verse in the Bible, doesn't mean it did not happen - in another thread. As Anastasios said, it seems to be pretty much universally thought that Peter was associated with the Judaizers. The only people I had ever heard argue it in the past was Roman Catholics, while some still conceded that he was a Judaizer, including RC priests in homilies.

So again, I apologize again if my words were construed as a personal insulting attack, as I did not mean to make one. But I stand by my arguments. :D Please accept my apology and let us move on to the discussions fromt he fathers and scripture and not what tone one another said something.
 

Linus7

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Nicholas -

Forgive me, but where is the evidence that St. Peter ever held the position of the Judaizers? I am not a Protestant. I will accept evidence from the Apostolic Tradition.

If Peter did hold Judaizing opinions, he certainly had abandoned them by the time of the Council of Jerusalem.

Look at the speech he made there as recorded in Acts 15. It is definitely anti-Judaizers.

I know you apologized. I am sorry, but since Elisha quoted you in responding to me, I felt the need to answer him according to what he had quoted.
 

Asteriktos

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Power to bind and loose with all apostles: Jn. 20:23; Matt. 18:18

I have a quote of St. Isidore of Seville that gives the Orthodox interpretation rather well... that Peter was the leader, and that he was first given the powers, BUT then all the apostles were given the same powers, AND the apostles are all equal. I'll post some more Scripture and also some Patristics tonight. And maybe an additional argument or two. I'm not looking to get into this discussion though, just trying to provide some information for consideration.
 

nstanosheck

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Let me quote St. Chrysostom again.

"The apostles had permitted circumcision at Jerusalem, for a complete severance from the law was not practicable. But when they entered Antioch, they left off this observance, and lived indiscriminately with the believers among the Gentiles, which Peter also was doing at that time. But since some came from Jerusalem, who had heard the preaching he gave there, he no longer did so, fearing lest he should strike them with a blow. But he changed his course using economy, so as to both avoid scandalizing the Jews and to give Paul a reasonable pretext for rebuking him... Whereupon Paul criticizes, and Peter bears with patience, that when the teacher is blamed, yet keeps silence, the disciples may more easily make a transition." [Ch. II P.G. 61:687 (cols. 640, 641).]

"On account of their excessive adherence to the law, he calls that which took place a dissimulation, and severely criticizes, in order to effectively remove their prejudices. And Peter too, hearing this, joins in their feint, as if he sinned, in order that they might be corrected by means of the rebuke give to him. If Paul indeed made a criticism to these Jews, they would have been indignant and spit upon it, for he was not held in high esteem by them. But now, when they behold the teacher being criticized and keeping silent, they were unable to despise or stand against what Paul had said." [Ch. II P.G. 61:688 (cols. 641, 642).]

The saint appears to take a middle ground between our postitions Linus. Peter evidentally joined up with the Judaizers, but may not have been completely in agreement with them.
 

Linus7

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Nicholas said:
Let me quote St. Chrysostom again.

"The apostles had permitted circumcision at Jerusalem, for a complete severance from the law was not practicable. But when they entered Antioch, they left off this observance, and lived indiscriminately with the believers among the Gentiles, which Peter also was doing at that time. But since some came from Jerusalem, who had heard the preaching he gave there, he no longer did so, fearing lest he should strike them with a blow. But he changed his course using economy, so as to both avoid scandalizing the Jews and to give Paul a reasonable pretext for rebuking him... Whereupon Paul criticizes, and Peter bears with patience, that when the teacher is blamed, yet keeps silence, the disciples may more easily make a transition." [Ch. II P.G. 61:687 (cols. 640, 641).]

"On account of their excessive adherence to the law, he calls that which took place a dissimulation, and severely criticizes, in order to effectively remove their prejudices. And Peter too, hearing this, joins in their feint, as if he sinned, in order that they might be corrected by means of the rebuke give to him. If Paul indeed made a criticism to these Jews, they would have been indignant and spit upon it, for he was not held in high esteem by them. But now, when they behold the teacher being criticized and keeping silent, they were unable to despise or stand against what Paul had said." [Ch. II P.G. 61:688 (cols. 641, 642).]

The saint appears to take a middle ground between our postitions Linus. Peter evidentally joined up with the Judaizers, but may not have been completely in agreement with them.
Ah! That quote from St. John Chrysostom explains a lot: both Peter's rebuke from St. Paul and his opposition to the Judaizers at the Council of Jerusalem. 8)
 

Linus7

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From Joe Zollars: It can be justifiebly believed that Peter kept to the Judaizer position from the vision he had on the hostop of all the unclean animals. If he did not follow this positon what would be the point of the vision and why did he respond as he did.
When St. Peter had his vision on the rooftop in Joppa, ALL Jewish Christians would have held to a "Judaizer position" because the Gospel had not yet been taken to the Gentiles.

Such a vision would have probably been necessary to convince any of them to associate with Gentiles.

St. Peter, as leader of the Church, was chosen by God to be the first to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.

See the account of this in Acts 10.
 

Asteriktos

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What about Samaritans? Certainly Jews of the time didn't view them as "Jews," yet they were missionized.

And did the Apostles just not understand things like what Jesus said at the end of Matthew? "All nations" (Matt. 28) would have meant Gentiles to any Jewish listener; this is the thing that makes the statement so profound: it is no longer us (Jews) vs. them (the nations, the gentiles), but it is now us AND them. What is being said on this thread reminds me of a mid-acts dispensationalist teaching that the original Apostles just kept going to the Jews, and then somewhere in the middle of Acts the Apostles--who just couldn't figure it out--got hit upside the head with another dose of divine revelation and finally saw the truth. Just some questions, what is being said on this thread I've honestly never heard before (from Orthodox Christians).
 

Linus7

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Paradosis said:
What about Samaritans? Certainly Jews of the time didn't view them as "Jews," yet they were missionized.

And did the Apostles just not understand things like what Jesus said at the end of Matthew? "All nations" (Matt. 28) would have meant Gentiles to any Jewish listener; this is the thing that makes the statement so profound: it is no longer us (Jews) vs. them (the nations, the gentiles), but it is now us AND them. What is being said on this thread reminds me of a mid-acts dispensationalist teaching that the original Apostles just kept going to the Jews, and then somewhere in the middle of Acts the Apostles--who just couldn't figure it out--got hit upside the head with another dose of divine revelation and finally saw the truth. Just some questions, what is being said on this thread I've honestly never heard before (from Orthodox Christians).
Well, the fact remains that Peter's trip to Caesarea and the home of Cornelius is regarded in Acts as the opening up of the Church's mission to the Gentiles (Acts 10). If St. Peter did not need "another dose of divine revelation" to know to go to the Gentiles, then please explain his rooftop vision in Joppa and the surprise of the Jewish Christians with him when the Holy Spirit descended on the household of Cornelius.

This is the second post that has remarked with amazement on the things posted by some Orthodox Christians (by which evidently I am meant).

I do not see that anything I have posted contradicts Orthodox teaching in the least, unless, of course, I am being misunderstood, or the best those who disagree with me can do is to cast doubt upon my orthodoxy.

I also dislike the comparison to "mid-Acts Dispensationalism," which I think is unwarranted. No one has presented anything even remotely resembling Dispensationalism.

I believe the Church is the True Israel and that all those who have faith in Christ are children of Abraham, whether Jew or Gentile. That is a far cry from the "two kingdoms" theory of Dispensationalism.

To assert that Peter was the leader of the early Church and that the bishops of Rome were his successors is Orthodox.

I would think one would be amazed that any Orthodox Christian would have a problem with that statement.

I also think that only a thoroughly partisan spirit could fail to recognize that the Great Schism was a terrible tragedy and that it left a leadership vacuum in the Church.

Note: I am not saying you are such a partisan spirit; I am simply making a generalized statement.
 

nstanosheck

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Linus7 said:
I also think that only a thoroughly partisan spirit could fail to recognize that the Great Schism was a terrible tragedy and that it left a leadership vacuum in the Church.
I agree with the first part. The Great Schism was a great tragedy. But to asert that it left a leadership vaccuum is inaccurate IMO. And one does not have to be thoroughly partisan in spirit to agree with that. The Pope did not lead the Church Universal. Saint Gregory Pope of Rome said that if anyone claimed to do so he was a heretic. This is why he opposed the Patriarch of Constantinople taking on the title of Ecumenical Patriarch.
 

Linus7

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Nicholas -

I think you misunderstood me.

I did not say the Pope had universal jurisdictional or was the absolute autocrat of the Church.

But the loss of any Patriarch creates a leadership vacuum.

Matthias was not chosen to be the leader of the early Church, but the Apostles considered it important that he fill the position Judas left vacant by his fall.

Besides that, I think it is incorrect to assert that the Pope was just another bishop and that he exercised no position of leadership. He was not an infallible autocrat, but he was a kind of president to whom appeals were addressed in cases of controversy.
 

Asteriktos

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Well, the fact remains that Peter's trip to Caesarea and the home of Cornelius is regarded in Acts as the opening up of the Church's mission to the Gentiles (Acts 10).
Ok, but if Judaizer implied Judaism, or Jewishness, doesn't the Samaritan mission sort of muddy the waters? What do you think about it? Did the apostles think that "all nations" meant the samaritans on not the rest of the world?

This is the second post that has remarked with amazement on the things posted by some Orthodox Christians (by which evidently I am meant).
Well, comments on this forum in general amaze me.

I do not see that anything I have posted contradicts Orthodox teaching in the least, unless, of course, I am being misunderstood, or the best those who disagree with me can do is to cast doubt upon my orthodoxy.
I just said I'd never heard any Orthodox Christian assert what is being asserted before. But I learn about new (Orthodox) teachings each day, so who knows...

I also dislike the comparison to "mid-Acts Dispensationalism," which I think is unwarranted. No one has presented anything even remotely resembling Dispensationalism.
Well, there are about 101 different types of dispensationalism, perhaps you aren't familiar with the group I had in mind (ever hear of Bob Hill or Bob Enyart?). I certainly didn't mean to call you a dispensationalist, any more than I would call St. John Chrysostom a dispensationalist because of how he draws a sharp distinction between the old covenant and new covenant morality (especially in the morality expected, as can be seen in his wonderful homilies on the Sermon on the Mount). What I thought was similar was the idea that the Apostles kept going to the Jews through the middle of Acts, all the while apparently unaware that they were suppose to missionize the gentiles. Now certainly the apostles, before the Holy Spirit came, were pious but didn't always "get it" right away (Jesus even calls them dense a few times). Yet, you'd think that once the Holy Spirit came, and once Jesus equipped them and sent them, they'd have known that they were suppose to go to the Gentiles.

To assert that Peter was the leader of the early Church and that the bishops of Rome were his successors is Orthodox.
I agree totally.

And the Fathers, at face value, say much more about him. Consider the words of St. Ambrose:

"It is that same Peter to whom He said, 'Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church.' Therefore, where Peter is, there the Church is, there death is not, but life eternal. And therefore did He add, 'and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,' (or him). Blessed Peter, against whom 'the gates of hell prevailed not,' the gate of heaven closed not; but who, on the contrary, destroyed the porches of hell, and opened the heavenly vestibules; wherefore, though placed on earth, he opened heaven and closed hell." Ambrose, Commentary on Psalm 40:30
Yet, what did St. Ambrose mean? The meaning is clear (or so they think) to a Roman Catholic: Peter really did do all those things and really is all those things. We Orthodox though, who are not trapped in unfortunate humanism, can see that Peter did not really destroy the gates of hell, but as Ambrose says elsewhere, his faith did:

"Faith, then, is the foundation of the Church, for it was not said of Peter's flesh, but of his faith, that 'the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' But his confession of faith conquered hell." - Ambrose; The Sacrament of the Incarnation
So even while a Father could bestow such great words on a person, it was always always always only insofar as they held and taught the true faith of Christ. Peter wasn't a guarantee of orthodoxy or salvation, as Roman Catholics would interpret the first passage, but Peter as seen in his faith was a manifestation of the truth, which could save. That is why we say such amazingly bold things about the Theotokos, not because she, as though a demi-god, could save us, but because we know the root and source of her abilities. If she were to ever falter (an absurdity, but grant it for the sake of argument), then we would no longer magnify her as we so rightly now do. So to, with the rock and chair of Peter, while his successors were Orthodox, they certainly were deserving of the great words showered on them. But once they were wrong, their "position" and "place of leadership" afforded them no leadership.

Where was this "leader" during the 2nd Ecumenical council? You see, I find your assertion on this impossible to accept because Church history itself does not allow it. Where was this necessity for Roman leadership, e.g., when the 2nd Ecumenical Council elevated the see of Constantinople to the 2nd place in power, against the explicit and vocal wishes of the Pope? Rome, in fact, refused to accept the canons of this council until centuries after, and in fact didn't accept the Constantinopilitan canon until nearly a millenium after. And what was the eastern response? Follow the leader? Did things collapse if the "leader" wasn't followed? Absolutely not, from the very acts at the council forward, the canons were submitted by those in the east, whether the Pope would accept them or not. Even when it was obvious (as they tried to reconcile the next year) that the Pope wasn't going to budge, they simply continued on as they had before, recognizing in practice what the Orthodox would later teach formally: that while Rome is the first among equals, it is first only so long as it is correct and orthodox. Should it's Orthodoxy falter (as Alexandria's did), another would take it's place and step up in leadership. We Orthodox are not dependent on Rome, as though we are lost sheep without our shepherd; staying with the same father, Ambrose boldly proclaims:

"Your rock is your deed, your rock is your mind. Upon this rock your house is built. Your rock is your faith, and faith is the foundation of the Church. If you are a rock, you will be in the Church, because the Church is on a rock. If you are in the Church the gates of hell will not prevail against you" - Ambrose,Commentary in Luke 6, 98
This brings to my mind the wonderful words of Saint Athanasius:

"In Thy saints, who in every age have been well pleasing to Thee, is truly Thy faith; for Thou hast founded the world on Thy faith, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." - Athanasius, Commentary on Psalm 11
When a see falls into heresy, the see falls entirely. Heresy is, as the Fathers teach universally, a gate of hell. When Rome fell into humanism, which like a dominoe caused all of her other woes, she fell from her high place down to the earth. But woe to them, who would defend this fallen see unduly, leading sincere but not-yet-knowledgable members of the theanthropic body of Christ astray. Fear, great fear is what such a person should have!

I would think one would be amazed that any Orthodox Christian would have a problem with that statement
there is no problem with the statement. The problem is the conclusions drawn from the statement (seen in the next quote), which are wholly unorthodox.

I also think that only a thoroughly partisan spirit could fail to recognize that the Great Schism was a terrible tragedy and that it left a leadership vacuum in the Church.
Certainly it was a terrible tragedy :( Just as certainly, Orthodox did not falter when it happened. According to Orthodox ecclesiology, Christ is our head, and Christ is our leader. The unorthodox neo-papal doctrine (which is a guised form of the original humanistic papism, the first protestantism) that says that Rome was somehow the glue that held us together, and that we are "left in a leadership vacuum" because she fell, is so horrifying that I couldn't possibly conceive of words to describe it. Daily I realise how far we have all fallen as an Orthodox body, and how close we are to the end, when almost all will fall away because they don't even realise that they are falling.

Justin

PS. I'm sorry nicholas, I can't continue posting here on this thread.
 

Asteriktos

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One last post before I leave the thread...

He was not an infallible autocrat, but he was a kind of president to whom appeals were addressed in cases of controversy.
Were you aware that all the bishops brought their problems to Constantine at the time of the First Ecumenical Council? Were you aware that an Ecumenical Council gave Constantinople the right to hear all disputes in the east?

:(
 

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Paradosis -

I do not understand why you cannot continue posting on this thread.

Have I asserted Roman Catholicism or even come close?

I think words have been placed in my mouth that I have not uttered.

To say that the Great Schism created a leadership vacuum is not the same thing as saying that Orthodoxy was or is entirely dependent upon Rome and its bishop, far from it.

If I have posted anything heretical, please enlighten and correct me.

You misunderstand me if you think I am asserting papal autocracy or universal jurisdiction (how many times must I repeat that?).

I am aware that Popes did not give commands to the other bishops that were always obeyed, and that the leadership of the Bishop of Rome was an honorary chairmanship. Early Popes led more by example than in any other way.

I am sorry I started this topic if it is going to produce reactions like, "Daily I realise how far we have all fallen as an Orthodox body, and how close we are to the end, when almost all will fall away because they don't even realise that they are falling."

And "But woe to them, who would defend this fallen see unduly, leading sincere but not-yet-knowledgable members of the theanthropic body of Christ astray. Fear, great fear is what such a person should have!"

Who is defending the "fallen See?"

Have I spoken anything in defense of the post-Schism Papacy?

I have spoken of Peter's leadership, of the fact that the early popes were Peter's successors.

I have repeated time and time again that I do not accept Roman Catholic innovations and am NOT arguing for them.

Paradosis, you should rather fear to offer offense without cause and to see heresy where there is none.

I think I too will quit posting to this thread, since those who find fault with it cannot do so without lapsing into apocalyptic paroxysms of ultimate doom or questioning my orthodoxy.

When I disputed with Protestants at CBBS and one of them wished to call me a name, he just came out and did it.

Some of you are more subtle, but the name-calling is there nonetheless.


 

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I would like once again to assert that I have not nor am I defending the current Pope or any of the post-schism popes, neither am I defending any western doctrinal innovations which divide the present Roman Catholic Church from the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church.

I am not calling for doctrinal compromise in order to achieve a false "unity."

All that said, I would like to continue this thread because I think it is an interesting topic that needs to be discussed and one from which, I believe, we can all learn something.

I have learned much from it already, some of it rather unpleasant.

However, I have also learned (from Nicholas) that some of the Fathers evidently believed that Peter may have once (however briefly) held at least some of the opinions of the Judaizers. In fact, since starting this thread and reading Nicholas' posts, I have found a nifty passage from St. Cyprian of Carthage that supports Nicholas' position regarding Peter's early view that Gentile converts should be circumcised.

I have amassed a number of patristic passages that I would be interested to share in connection with this topic, but I am not sure I should continue with this thread.

It has aroused far too much venom, almost all of it directed my way and, to my thinking, absolutely unjustified.

I may return to this thread and post what I have learned if I see the discussion continuing and if it seems that it can continue in a more civil manner.

 

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I think that some reasons (as to why Linus would say 'leadership vacuum' per se) that many on this thread are just plain forgetting about are geo-political and socio-economic. I'm talking about just plain number (size) and economic/political power. Remember everyone, the west had the economic and military power to expand, colonize, industrialize, etc. first and conquered "the known world". Of course the Orthodox are "weird" and different to everyone else - their called Eastern Orthodox! Different culture, theology, etc. And...we've always (well, for at least the from the 2nd millenium to arbitrarily choose a not so accurate data :))been in the minority. If we have this great history with the Roman Bishop and his See is so huge, then one could say there's a huge "leadership vacuum" in some sense (but maybe not the sense that Linus or anyone else here is thinking). Weren't the Crusades partly about the Eastern Patriarchates needing help from the more powerful West since they (the East) were militarily and economically inferior while being opressed by the Muslims? Just some thoughts that no one seems to be considering.
 
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Summary - St.Peter is so named (Peter = "rock"), because of his confession. His confession is the foundation of the Church - for without belief in Christ, there is not Christianity, and if no Christianity, obviously no Church.

There is something unseemly, and even obscene about the modern Papal claim (that Peter is of himself "the rock", and his legit successors are also of themselves the "rock" and foundation of the Church) - it places institutional authoritarianism, over that very thing which is the lifeblood and real authenticity of Christianity (Christ, belief in Him, His doctrine...basically, orthodoxy.)

This is why in modern Catholicism, nothing matters quite as much as exoteric, organizational unity - outwardly submit to the Pope, and all manner of religious pluralism will be allowed (thus you have FSSP types on one hand, charismatics on the other, so called "Orthodox in communion with Rome" who think little of down playing or denying papal dogmas, etc...but apparently all are "Catholics in good standing").

Seraphim
 

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While I think it is vitally important to remember that Peter's confession is of primary importance and is one aspect of Jesus' use of the word rock in Matthew 16:18, it is also important to recall that it was Peter himself who made that confession, a man whose name was Simon up until that time.

I find it astounding that anyone could regard as a threat to the Holy Orthodox Church the assertion that Peter was the rock upon which Christ founded the Church.

The truth of this teaching must be separated from the idea that it is an endorsement of post-schism Roman Catholicism. It is not.

Jesus Himself changed Simon's name to Kepha, the Aramaic word meaning rock, and said to him:

"And I tell you, you are Peter [Kepha], and on this rock[kepha] I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18, RSV).

Why did Jesus not say to him, "You are Simon, and on this rock I will build my church," if He wished to differentiate between Peter himself and his confession?

The fact is that the confession cannot be separated from the man who made it. They are both of them the rock upon which Jesus founded His Church, which is, from what I can tell, also the opinion held by the Fathers of the Church.

"There speaks Peter, upon whom the Church would be built . . ." (St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter to Florentius Pupianus, [66 (69), 8]; A.D. 254).

"For Peter, whom the Lord chose first and upon whom He built His Church . . ." (St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter to Quintus, A Bishop of Mauretania, [71, 1]; A.D. 254/255).

"And again He says to him [Peter] after His resurrection: 'Feed My sheep.' On him He builds the Church, and to him He gives the command to feed the sheep; and although He assigns a like power to all the Apostles, yet He founded a single chair, and He established by His own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was; but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair" (St. Cyprian of Carthage, The Unity of the Catholic Church, [4]; A.D. 251).

"Simon, My follower, I have made you the foundation of the holy Church. I betimes called you Peter, because you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of those who will build on earth a Church for Me. If they should wish to build what is false, you, the foundation, will condemn them. You are the head of the fountain from which My teaching flows, you are the chief of My disciples. Through you I will give drink to all peoples. Yours is that life-giving sweetness which I dispense. I have chosen you to be, as it were, the first-born in My institution, and so that, as the heir, you may be executor of My treasures. I have given you the keys of My kingdom. Behold, I have given you authority over all My treasures!" (St. Ephraim the Syrian, Homilies, [4,1]; 4th century).

"He made answer: 'Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock will I build My Church, and I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.' Could He not, then, strengthen the faith of the man to whom, acting on His own authority, He gave the kingdom, whom He called the Rock, thereby declaring him to be the foundation of the Church?" (St. Ambrose of Milan, Expositions of the Catholic Faith, Book IV, Chap. V; 4th century).

"For he was ordained before the rest in such a way that from his being called the Rock, from his being pronounced the Foundation, from his being constituted the Doorkeeper of the kingdom of heaven, from his being set as the Umpire to bind and to loose, whose judgments shall retain their validity in heaven, from all these mystical titles we might know the nature of his association with Christ" (St. Leo the Great, The Great Sermons, Sermon III; 5th century).

I think it is pretty plain that the Fathers recognized the depth of what Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:18. Yes, they believed Peter's confession was the Rock upon which the Church is built; but it is also apparent that they realized that Peter and his confession are inseparable, and that Peter himself was uniquely the Rock upon which Jesus built His Church.

Please, read what I have actually written above. Do not read into it anything but what is actually there.

I am not advocating post-schism Roman Catholicism, universal papal jurisdiction, papal infallibility, papal autocracy, etc.

What I am advocating is the Orthodox position. To deny that Peter was the Rock upon which Jesus founded His Church, to deny that Peter was the leader of the Apostles, to assert that Peter's confession alone was the Rock, is to advocate what are, in fact, Protestant doctrines.

 
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