Yesterday, while waiting for the new pope to be announced, Fox News Anchor Megyn Kelly made the comment that “Jesus elected the first pope.” Likewise, Executive Vice President and Executive Editor at Fox News John Moody referred to God “choosing this pope” as if the Catholic faith represents all of Christianity.
Watching Fox News, one would think that the Roman Catholic view is the only Christian view in America. It isn’t: 51.5 percent of Americans self identify as Protestants — that’s more than double the number of Catholics.
Protestants reject papal authority over the church for both historical and biblical reasons.
It was not until the fourth century that the Roman emperor Constantine declared Christianity the “official” religion of the empire. In the mid fifth century, Leo, the Roman bishop, commanded through edict that everyone should obey the Bishop of Rome because he held the primacy of St. Peter. This reference to Peter came from an interpretation of Matthew 16:18, when Jesus said, “On this rock I will build my church.” Only the Roman Catholic Church interprets this passage to mean that Peter was the first pope, as this is one of the most controversial and debated passages in all of scripture.
This is what most Bible-believing Protestants believe is as follows. In the context of the New Testament, it is clear that Jesus’ statement did not mean that Peter would have greater authority than the other apostles (Paul corrected him publicly in Galatians 2:11-14); nor did it mean that Peter would be superior in his teaching (Jesus rebuked him in Matthew 16:23). Additionally, other apostles sent Peter to Samaria (Acts 8:14); Peter was required to give an account of his actions to the Jerusalem church (Acts 11:1-18); and James had the final word over Peter at the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:7-21). The Bible teaches that Peter was in no way greater than his fellow disciples, something which Peter himself affirmed. He referred to himself as only one of a number of elders in God’s flock (1 Peter 5:1).
More importantly, the apostles themselves believed that the head of the church was Jesus Christ, not Peter. They repeatedly referred to Jesus being the cornerstone of the church (Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10-11, Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11, Ephesians 2:20, 1 Peter 2:7), citing the prophecy that foretold Jesus’ death centuries before in Psalm 118:22, “the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”
Looking to history again, after Constantine and Pope Leo, a rift broadened between Eastern churches near then-Constantinople and the Western Roman churches. In 1054, the Eastern Church refused to accept the authority of Pope Leo IX. By 1350 the split between East and West was final and the Eastern Orthodox church was formalized.
By the early 16th century, the Protestant Reformation took hold throughout western Europe, where leaders like Martin Luther andJohn Calvin and other protestors broke from the Roman Catholic church and became “Protestants.” The reformers focused on five “onlys”:
- Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone) the Bible is the only inspired word of God;
- Sola Fide (by faith alone) it is by faith alone that people are saved — not through good works;
- Sola Gratia (by grace alone) it is only by God’s grace that they are saved;
- Solo Christo (through Christ alone) Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man — there is no need for a priest or a pope — people can pray to God directly;
- Soli deo Gloria (glory to God alone) only God deserves glory, honor and praise — no person (“saints” canonized by the Roman Catholic Church, popes, or any ecclesiastical hierarchy) should receive praise or honor.
As a result, there are three branches of Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox church and the many denominations within Protestantism.
As a side note, for those who argue in favor of celibacy, it is important to understand that Peter, the very one upon whom the Roman Catholics base the papacy, was married. Three out of the four Gospels (Matthew 8:14, 15; Mark 1:29-31; Luke 4:38) report the fact that Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. Later, the apostle Paul confirmed that Peter indeed had a wife (1 Corinthians 9:5).
“We report. You decide?” Fox News is a network that prides itself on fair and balanced reporting but the coverage of the pope has not been. They are not doing anything differently reporting on the pope than if one were watching a Roman Catholic Television Network. It’s one thing for a representative from the Vatican to say that “Jesus elected the first pope.” But how fair and balanced is it for a network to do the same?
March 14, 2013