Thursday, November 14, 2013

Pack's Proofs on Peter's Pontificate

Today, I want to talk about Dave Pack's "Ten Proofs Peter Was Not the 'Pope' at Rome".

After completing my review of Herman Hoeh's "True History of the True Church", and finding it remarkably flawed, I wanted to see if the Church of God groups had progressed since 1959. Finding that the COGWA had made several false claims about their roots did not fill me with optimism.
Completely at random, I chose a more recent attempt at documenting the history of Armstrongism. I chose "Where Is The True Church? And Its Incredible History!" (2009 version) by Mr. David Pack, which is currently downloadable in PDF format from the Restored Church of God website.
I wanted to see how the claims had changed over the years, and whether or not the scholarship had improved.

After reading a few pages and checking sources I can tell you that my pessimism is justified. I am not impressed. Not only had Mr. Pack not improved upon Mr. Hoeh's earlier work, in my opinion things had gotten worse.
Today's post is not going to go over the entire book. I'm still working on that. The booklet is 223 pages! I almost expect it to come in hard-cover form. Rather, today I am just going to sample one small area which is easy to bite off and chew, and which is representative of the rest of the work.

On pages 90-91, Mr. Pack sets out a list of 10 reasons why Peter was not the Pope at Rome. Some of these points try to demonstrate that Peter was never in Rome, and some of them try to demonstrate that even if he was in Rome he still wasn't the first Pope. I want to go over just that section in today's post. Unless otherwise stated, all of my quotes are from those two pages.

What I'm going to do is quote the ten points straight from the booklet, one at a time. Then I'm going to give my summary of what that quote means, just to make it easier to understand. Then I'm going to give my response.

You might say that you don't believe Peter was in Rome, and you certainly don't believe Peter was the first Pope, so what's the problem? I don't necessarily agree with the Catholic Church's claims in this arena either. But that's entirely beside the point.
Whether one agrees with a claim is secondary to whether or not the claim is intellectually honest and well formed. This is fundamental to the pursuit of truth. I can agree that George Washington, the United States' first president, was an important historical figure. But if I believe that because I rely on silly evidences such as "he chopped down a cherry tree and admitted it to his father", an event that never actually happened, then really I'm just a chattering mouth making noises devoid of substance. He is a great historical figure; but not because of silly folk tales. Or, I can disagree that Peter was the first Pope. But if I do that because I rely on empty conspiracy theories and fiction authored by pseudo-scholars, then I'm really just a misinformed gossip and a tale-bearer.
Mr. Pack spends a good deal of time talking about truth in his book. Well, do we really value truth, or are we tickling in the ears - only interested in what upholds our preconceptions?

Let's get started, shall we?

Point #1
"(1) Rome is in Italy. This means that Gentile Italians live there. The apostle Paul was ordained to be the apostle to the Gentiles, not Peter. Paul wrote this to the Gentile Romans: “That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable…” (15:16). He also described himself to the Galatians as having the gospel of the “uncircumcision”— the Gentiles—committed to him (2:7)."

My summary: Peter did not reside in Rome because Rome is Gentile and Paul was sent to the Gentiles.

This is simply not feasible even by Mr. Pack's own standards.
Peter wasn't forbidden to go to the Gentiles. Who was the first Apostle to go to the first Gentile convert? Peter. He was sent to Cornelius.
In many places throughout the book, Mr. Pack makes definite claims that Peter was sent to Israelites and Paul was sent to Gentiles. That is the root claim that point #1 relies upon. However, in many places throughout the book, Mr. Pack tells us where Peter supposedly went during his life. Britain, Babylon, Galatia, Antioch, the regions around the Black Sea, and every other area outside of Palestine that Peter supposedly went to, were also Gentile. This is beyond doubt.
In order for Mr. Pack to get Peter out of Rome and in to Britain and other areas, he had to fall back on British-Israelism which claims Israelites were there somewhere. (We are supposedly forbidden from knowing exactly where they were.) If Peter and Paul both supposedly went to Britain, then why can't both go to Rome? Well, Jews are Israelites after all. We know from the Bible as well as from history that a large population of Jews and Jewish converts to Christianity were in Rome.
Therefore, point #1 is simply not feasible.

Ask yourself, if Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles only and Peter the Apostle to the Israelites only, then why was Peter in Babylon and Paul in the synagogue?

Point #2
"(2) The Emperor Claudius had banished all Jews from Rome in AD 50. Acts 8:1 describes the “great persecution against the Church” and that “they were all scattered abroad” as a result."

My summary: Emperor Claudius banished all Jews from Rome, so there were no Jews for Peter to go to.

Mr. Pack is anticipating the obvious response to point #1. Here is his reason for why Peter could not go to Jews in Rome.
This expulsion most likely happened in 49 AD. This is long before Peter's death. St. Peter supposedly died in 67 AD. Jews were not permanently expelled. This wasn't the first time they were expelled, either; the most recent was under Emperor Tiberius. They always came back. This time there were so many Jews that Claudius was worried of rioting.
Claudius died in 54 AD. The ban could not have lasted beyond then. We know from history that it didn't even last until that point. Either way, the expulsion could not have lasted 5 years.
Rome made no distinction between Christians and Jews until later in the first century. The Christians and Jews knew the difference, but Rome didn't, and that's what counts in 49 AD. If the Jews were expelled, the Christians were also. Hence, why Priscilla and Aquilla - being Christians and not Jews by religion - had left Italy. If any Christians went back to Rome, and we know they did or there would be no epistle to the Romans in 57 AD, then the Jews were also allowed back in.
Therefore, what Mr. Pack is trying to establish - that there were no Jews in Rome for Peter to go to - is simply not tenable.

Ask yourself, does having no Jews in Rome between for the 5 years between 49 and 54 AD mean Peter could not possibly have gone to Rome during the 13 years between 54 and 67 AD?

Point #3
"(3) Peter wrote his first general epistle from the city of “Babylon” (5:13). Many have assumed that this is Rome, when it is actually the Babylon of Mesopotamia. It is interesting to note that historians generally confuse—switch—scriptural references to Babylon by applying those that do apply to Rome as though they apply to Babylon, and vice-versa—in other words, those that do not apply to Rome are assigned Roman designation."

My summary: Peter wrote from Babylon, not Rome.

This point is neither here nor there. Peter wrote an epistle from Babylon. So what?
If the claim is "Peter wrote from Babylon, therefore he couldn't be in Rome" then he also wrote from Babylon therefore he couldn't be in Britain or any of the other areas Mr. Pack said he went to either.
If the claim is that "Peter wrote from Babylon, not Rome, because Babylon isn't Rome" then this contradicts far too many of his other doctrines. The entire claim that the Catholic Church is Babylon the Great rests on the assertion that Babylon absolutely is Rome. You can't have it both ways. You can't both insist Babylon is always Rome in Revelation, and insist Babylon never Rome at all so we know it isn't Rome in Peter's epistle.
The only other option is that Mr. Pack means to say that, taken on a case-by-case basis, this one instance Babylon is not symbolic and does not symbolize Rome. OK. Now, where's the proof for that? Mr. Pack gives us nothing but his good word. Well, we know Rome was called "Babylon" in early years. So it could have been Rome. But no matter what interpretation you side with, the claim is weak.
Either way, that is really neither here nor there. All this talk about "Peter didn't mean Rome" is nothing but a distraction. Symbolically Rome or literally Babylon, either way the claim is weak. Mr. Pack is trying to demolish the weakest possible evidence and then claim absolute victory. What he cannot do is demolish the strong evidence we have from the witness of names like Irenaeus, Clement, Tertullian, Ignatius, and etc who say Peter was there. I would have you know, Mr. Pack cites some of the names I just mentioned as reliable source material in other areas of his book. So, are they reliable or aren't they? In one place he says they are reliable. What other conclusion can we reach other than he is saying in this place they are completely unreliable? If he doesn't believe his own sources, then all he ever does is quote mine them; taking what he wants and disregarding the rest. Then what's the value of any of it?
Therefore, this claim is beyond weak and contradicts his own evidence in other areas of the book.

Ask yourself, is it good to quote sources as reliable for one thing, then ignore those same sources in other things?

Point #4
"(4) Paul told the Romans, “Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation” (15:20). Paul’s assertion would make no sense had Peter been resident at Rome, having established this congregation."

My summary: Paul only preached where no one else had.

This point is demonstrably false.
Paul strove to preach in areas where Christ was unknown; this much is clear. However, this doesn't by any means indicate that he always preached where Christ was unknown and never preached where Christ was known.
On pages 60-64, Mr. Pack claims Paul preached in Britain, along with Peter, James, Simon the Zealot, Joseph of Arimathea, and Aristobulus. Now, he uses some pretty shaky sources to make this claim. I'm not concerned about the accuracy of the claim at this point, only that he made the claim. The question is, how can Mr. Pack both claim that all of these people were in Britain, and claim that Paul never preached where others preached first? At some point he's going to have to become consistent.
What's more, it is undeniable that Paul did preach in Rome. It would appear that Priscilla and Aquilla were Christians before they met Paul, and they had only met Paul because they were expelled from Rome for being of Jewish descent. Someone had preached Christ in Rome long before Paul got there. He also built on someone else's foundation in Damascus after he was first converted (ACT. 9: 19-22), and then in Jerusalem (ACT. 9: 28-29), and again in Antioch (ACT. 11: 19-26). Acts 11: 19 tells us Christians were scattered to Phoenicia and Cyprus where they preached; Paul went to both of these places to preach (ACT. 13: 4-5; 15: 3).
Therefore, this claim is demonstrably false as well as inconsistent.

Ask yourself, is it just to use something as evidence if that thing is shown to be false?

Point #5
"(5) Then, in light of the previous point, why would Paul offer the following salutation to the Roman congregation, also if Peter had been there for years?: “For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end that you may be established” (1:11). Think how insulting this expression would have been to “Pope Peter,” had he been in Rome."

My summary: Paul wanted to impart a spiritual gift to the Romans to establish them, so Peter could not be there or Paul's gift was really an insult to Peter.

Note that point #5 relies on point #4. Point #4 is false. Therefore point #5 builds on a false premise. As Herbert W Armstrong was fond of saying, if the starting point is false then the conclusions will be false.
Think about this a moment. Mr. Pack's book is meant to impart a spiritual gift to establish you. Therefore, by his own reasoning, this book is an insult to all of the others in his church and everyone who came before him. So we should learn the lesson -- don't impart any spiritual gifts.
I jest, because the claim is ridiculous on its face.
Paul was writing to whom? No one? No. He was writing to a congregation. Was this a non-congregation, un-established and void? No. Let's ask Romans 1: 8 if they were un-established: "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world". The what? The un-established church, where no one had yet preached, was so faithful they were spoken of throughout the world. It's a miracle!!
This claim depends on there being no one in Rome, but if there was no one in Rome then there could be no epistle to the church in Rome. Luckily, there were many Jews in Rome (in Acts 28, Paul preaches to them) and Christians of both Jewish and Gentile background (in Romans, Paul writes to both). I was certain point #1 said that never happened.
Therefore, this point, as with the previous point upon which it relies, is demonstrably false.

Point #6
"(6) Paul concludes the Roman letter in chapter 16 with separate greetings to 30 different people in Rome—Mary, Andronicus, Junia—(these last two were probably apostles; Rom. 16:7)—Amplias, Urbane, Stachys, Apelles and 23 others— with no reference to the one who was supposedly the Pope, guiding the congregation and the entire New Testament Church from that city. No reasonable person could believe that Paul would so insult his own spiritual superior!"

My summary: Paul never mentions a leader, so there must not have been one.

I thought there was no one in Rome? How do we have no less than 30 Christians if Paul was the first to preach there?
Now, because a thing wasn't mentioned is not proof that it didn't exist. This is basic logic. He's arguing from silence. By this same reasoning, neither the book of Esther nor Song of Songs ever mention God; therefore He must not have been anywhere in the Middle East!
Anyone who reads the New Testament will know that one of the primary concerns of the Apostles was establishing Elders. But Mr. Pack's claim is that Paul established the church in Rome. This only makes things worse for his claim as Paul would never establish a church and not appoint an Elder (ACT. 14: 3; TIT. 1: 5). How could there be a world-renowned group, thirty of whom Paul greets by name, but there is no church and no Elder? It's a nonsensical claim to make.
Therefore this claim is not tenable.

Ask yourself, if something is not mentioned does that prove it is not there?

Point #7
"(7) Galatians 1:18-19 and 2:7 demonstrate that Peter was based at Jerusalem, from where he periodically traveled to places like Bithynia, Northern Galatia and Babylon, and other places where Israelites (also see #9) had migrated, from AD 38 to AD 49—the dates of these events described in Galatians."

My summary: Galatians 1: 18-19 and 2: 7 demonstrates that Peter was based in Jerusalem from 38-49 AD, so he couldn't have been based in Rome.

First off, Galatians 1: 18-19 are the the only verses mentioned here that show Peter was based in Jerusalem. Galatians 2: 7 does absolutely nothing for his point.
Second, the Epistle to the Galatians was written around 49 AD, but the timing of Galatians 1: 18-19 is not 38-49 AD at all. The timing of verses 18-19 was more like 35-36 AD.
Those verses are very early on in Paul's ministry, immediately after he became a Christian, before the word was preached to the Gentiles at all, and before Acts 15. Of course Peter was going to be in Jerusalem at that time. Citing these verses does absolutely nothing for his point.
That means nothing he cited does anything for his point.
Mr. Pack, in many places in his booklet, relies on Peter being away from Jerusalem. In fact, in Galatians 2: 11-12 Peter is in Antioch, acting like a Gentile, with the Gentiles (I thought point #1 said that never happened). So, Mr. Pack has to contradict himself in order to make this point.
Therefore this point is anachronistic at best, and contradicts his own evidence in other areas of the book.

Ask yourself, if Peter was in one place at the start of his ministry, does that prove he stayed there for the rest of his life?

Point #8
"(8) Luke 22:24 states, “And there was a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.” Here is why this passage is important. This debate took place after Christ, in Matthew 16:17-19, had supposedly designated Peter as the one who would become the first Pope. While not directly involving Rome, this provides its own proof that Christ never conferred, at least from the other apostles’ perspective, the office of “Pope” to Peter."

My summary: The striving over who would be the greatest in Luke 22: 24 happened after Christ designated Peter as the rock in Matthew 16: 17-19. Therefore Peter could not be the Pope.

It's a good point to bring up, except for two incredibly important things:
1) Several times in his book Mr. Pack admits that Peter was the lead Apostle, thus negating this point entirely, and 2) this does absolutely nothing to prove Peter wasn't in Rome.
You might think it odd that Mr. Pack would affirm the Primacy of Peter doctrine. Well, let's review a few quotes:

"As coordinator, Peter traveled to many more areas where the Israelites were located than did any of the other apostles." p.63
"John Replaces Peter. After Peter’s death, John was eventually directed to return to the eastern Mediterranean area to oversee the Church." p.72
"Simon Peter (chief apostle under Christ)" p.74

Just look at those quotes! What you, the reader, should immediately take away from this is that Mr. Pack claims Peter was the Coordinator and Chief Apostle. In other words, Mr. Pack admits the Primacy of Peter doctrine! So, if you, esteemed and astute reader, wanted to hang me for defending the Primacy of Peter doctrine, please hold! I'm not the one defending it. I neither defend it nor deny it; I only write this post to point out Mr. Pack's inconsistencies and the unreliable nature of his claims. He is the one who defends the Primacy of Peter!
Most Armstrongists would find this to be scandalous, but it isn't so odd; Herbert Armstrong did the same.
This is terribly close to trying to have your cake and eat it too. In one place, his claims rely on the Primacy of Peter, so they negate this point. However, here where it's convenient, his point relies on there being no Primacy of Peter, thus negating his earlier claims.
Therefore, this point is exceedingly weak and contradicts his own evidence in other areas of the book.

Ask yourself, can Peter both be the "chief apostle under Christ" -and- not be the "chief apostle under Christ" at the same time?

Point #9
"(9) This point proves the other side of point 1. Already referenced, notice how Paul, who first describes himself, concludes his statement in Galatians 2:7, with this about Peter: 'But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision [Gentiles] was committed unto me [Paul], as the gospel of the circumcision [Jews and the other tribes of Israel, referenced in #7] was unto Peter…'"

My summary: The Apostles squabbling and Paul being sent to the Gentiles proves that Peter was not over the whole work.

Just like point #5 relied on #4, and both were false, point #9 relies on #8 and both are false.
As mentioned earlier, Mr. Pack himself grants that Peter was the chief Apostle and Coordinator. So, which is it? Is he Coordinator and chief Apostle, as Mr. Pack said several times earlier on, or is it that he wasn't Coordinator and chief Apostle as Mr. Pack says here? They cannot both be true. He defeats his earlier claims here once again, and defeats this claim earlier -- hoping we won't notice. This isn't "proof"; it's "confusion". This is exactly the same flaw we saw in point #8.
Therefore, this claim is useless and contradicts his own evidence in other areas of the book.

Point #10
"(10) In II Timothy 4:11, Paul, commonly understood to be writing this epistle from Rome, states, “Only Luke is with me.” Further, in verse 10, he describes how one named Demas had “forsaken” him and gone back to the “world,” with Crescens and Titus having also transferred to other places of duty. None of this makes sense if the “Pope”—Peter—had been present."

My summary: In II Timothy 4: 11 Paul tells Timothy that only Luke was with him. This doesn't make sense if Peter was there.

By that same reasoning, it doesn't make sense if any Christian was in Rome. Either this applies to all, or it only applies to the people Paul specifically mentioned; it cannot be narrowed to just Peter.
If Mr. Pack is correct, and Paul means to say out of all Christians on earth only Luke was with him, then there were no other Christians in Rome. The fatal flaw is, this cannot only refer to Peter. Mr. Pack's "proof" tries to prove too much. Rome wasn't empty, and that's a fact.
Earlier he tries to show that there was no church in Rome, when we can demonstrate there certainly was. Now again he accidentally shows that there was no church in Rome, when we can demonstrate there certainly was.
Obviously, that there were no Christians in Rome was never Paul's point. II Timothy 4: 9-16 are very sad verses. I don't want to distract from the abandonment Paul certainly felt. But that all Christians in Rome had utterly abandoned him and only Luke remained was not his point. He was really only referring to his formerly trusted travelling companions, most of whom he mentioned by name. In one sense, perhaps none of the Christians in Rome stood with Paul either. But even in that sense, it does exceedingly little as evidence for his claim that Peter was not there.

Of all the points, this one is the only one that bears any load at all for his claim. Yet, it bears so little. I would generously call this point "evidence". I would not agree that it is "proof". Given the rest of the points, and the rest of his book, I find this "evidence" unconvincing.


Some of his "proofs" are fallacious; some are moot; most are contradictory; some are demonstrably false. These are supposed to be the pinnacle! The apex! The zenith! These are his ten very best "proofs"! But they are empty.
There is no hope that this list of 10 "Proofs" in any way prove that Peter was not in Rome. They are good to prove ideological bias, shoddy scholarship, Biblical ignorance, and intellectual dishonesty! They have convinced me that he didn't think through what he was saying. But they are not good to prove Peter wasn't in Rome.

As I said at the start, this list is representative of the entire booklet.

Please don't think I write this article to prove Peter was the Pope at Rome. I mean neither to prove nor disprove that. I am merely reviewing Pack here. However, if you want to demonstrate that Peter was not the first Pope, or if you want to demonstrate that he was the first Pope, take my advice and do not rely on "Pack's proofs".

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11

Monday, November 4, 2013

There Is No Spoon

In the early days and weeks after I left the Church of God I attended, I experienced horrifying guilt for having promoted that belief system. It is a monumental collapse of reality when the weight of what you have involved yourself in is shown in the light that is God.  

The friends I made in the church had become like family to me. I had begun speaking about their doctrine openly with my now grown child. He had even contacted a minister in his area at my encouragement, and downloaded every sermon on iTunes at my direction. He was relying on his trust in me, and following my lead. He believed me because I was his Mother.
Upon my exit, I felt an overwrought sense of responsibility for dragging the people I loved into all that.

A friend, who was very insecure about the teachings and shy of committing, would come to me for comfort. I would overload her senses with COG doctrines; not aware what I was really doing. I had become one of the deceivers. When I left, I felt keenly the words of Jesus in Matthew 15:13-14.
Later, this same friend confided that her true motive for coming to Sabbath services was to see me.  

Other women I spoke with shared this in common.
Another friend called me, asking if I was leaving “The Church”. “Yes. I’m leaving," I replied anxiously, "I’m sorry for hiding that, and if that has hurt you. It was the only way I could keep myself safe.”

It seems that without my having any idea of it (I was ever plagued by feelings of inadequacy, always striving to be a good example and someone the people could lean on) the other women felt they wanted to be like me. They felt I was the one they wanted to model themselves after. I thought this was the craziest thing I had ever heard!
I make mention of it to point out a few things: that you can fool yourself and others about who you are quite effectively, and to emphasize just how committed I was to the church transforming me.
When I left, I was petrified that God was going to hold me responsible for what I had done, and those "I had ensnared".  I felt their blood on my hands. So, for a while, I was caught in a cycle of pseudo-penance, trying to atone for what I had done, and working to break the chains that enslaved others in every opportunity I saw.

I lost much sleep talking with Church of God followers, studying, and trying to win arguments with current members. It gave me some small sense of relief to know that at least God saw me trying. He could see my guilt, my regret, because I was now soldiering on for grace in Christ! Yes, God was witnessing my conversion!

Was that really true?

No it wasn’t. 

I used those people to hone my skills in defending the lies and false claims that they believed. I wanted them to come out of it, of course, but there was definitely an element of using them to better my degree of penance. If I could just perfect my reasoning, then I can defend the truth, and God can use me to free them! The very fact that I can argue the truth more effectively is proof of how ashamed I am of what I did, and how God is converting me, in a similar fashion as the Apostle Paul.  (Galatians 1:13-14)

Except that one day I realized that penance was not grace.

Freeing them, no matter how unbearable for me, was not my job (Philippians 1:6)! The only thing I could actually do was to proclaim the truth, express the fruits, be a light, and live in the freedom He died so horrifically to give me.

The best things I can do are step out of the way of God's work, and earnestly contend for the faith once delivered. That is the work being wrought in me; trust, faith, and hope in Him, for Him and in all things.

I realized that I was still performing. Trapped doing works to please God. The same coin, only the other side.

I now focus on my own trust issues with God, and my faith. I pray for the people still in Armstrongism, but leave it in God’s hands. He will always do a much better job than I could anyway.

When I rest in Jesus, I have to be both my weakest and strongest. I have to be brutal in my honesty with Him about who and what I really am, and leave myself vulnerable to Him in a way that perfectly speaks to striving.  In doing so, real change can come about.

It's about Him, not me. His perfection, not my inadequacies. His triumph, not my penance. So then I set down those works, and instead walk toward Him; knowing for the first time, "there is no spoon".

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11