Before I begin our discussion, I want to put out a disclaimer: I have NOT read the entire book by Mohler. I’ve only read Chapter 12 of his book entitled The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I decided to address this chapter because I was interested in how this gentleman would interpret this part of The Apostles Creed. Mohler is an evangelical who is president of a seminary.
The first thing I’d like to point out is: Mohler is not incorrect in all that he says. In fact, he makes some very good points. Here are a few:
“Contemporary Christianity often fails to grasp the depths of the creed’s affirmation and importance of the long, unbroken line of communion Christian’s share as members of Christ’s church” p. 150
“The wisdom of the church fathers continues to cascade throughout the Creed as they insist upon a doctrine of the church alongside affirmations of the Trinity, the atonement, and the mysterious union of the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ” p. 151
*The Creed dispels any notion of individualistic Christianity.
“We believe, therefore, in Christianity, not in ‘Christianities’; we believe in the gospel, not ‘gospels’” p. 159 (This is true as long as we acknowledge the fullness of the original Christianity)
*He acknowledges a communion of saints and references Hebrews 12.
So what are my criticisms of this chapter ? Let’s start with the first one:
Mohler states that the word catholic means universal and is not referring to the The Holy Catholic Church we know today.
Mohler is correct that kataholos (katalikos or katalike) or Catholic means universal but it goes deeper. It’s other meaning when directly interpreted from Greek means “according to the whole” kata– meaning according and holos meaning “whole”. Mohler knows about the Early Church Fathers because references them in this chapter. My question is: Has he considered The Letter to the Smyrneans written by St. Ignatius of Antioch in 107 A.D. ? St. Ignatius specifically references this in his letter: “Let that Eucharist be considered valid that is under the bishop or performed by one to whom he entrusts it. Wherever the bishop appears, let the fullness [of the church] be as wherever Christ Jesus appears, there is the catholic church”
One thing to keep in mind is that Ignatius uses this word and does not explain anywhere in his letter what it means. That indicates that this is a word that might have gained ground in the Church’s earlier culture. Also, as you observe the deeper context of the letter, you’ll notice there were certain features that were expected to be in place as the valid Church such ‘bishops’ or ‘Eucharist’. At the time of the letter, the bishop Polycarp had issues with dissidents who claimed to be the true Church. Ignatius therefore is laying out those features which make the Church ‘whole’. Mohler is correct in identifying a unified Church, but that extends beyond just being together. It is a set of unified set ideas.
Mohler states in his book “Jesus built his church upon Peter’s confession”
This unfortunately is a common Protestant claim based off the Matthew 16:18 verse: “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter [sur (Hebrew), kepha (Aramaic), petros (Greek)], and upon this rock [sur, kepha, petra] I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”
The claim is because petros means “little stone” it’s not possible that would signify that Peter would be the rock on which Christ would build his Church. First thing to consider as we see at the Sermon on the Mount, Christ frequently picks significant and physical structures when making major declarations. This passage from Matthew was made at Caesarea Phillipi, a 200”x500” structure. The second observation is that there’s no evidence that anyone living in the Palestinian area would have gotten a name like Peter unless for some very special reason. It’s completely inconsistent with the cultural norms of that area. The third, although the scriptures were written in Greek, Jesus and the apostles spoke Aramaic and the word kepha would have been used which means rock also. The transliteration of that word used in other parts of the New Testament is Cephas, referencing Peter. The fourth point, there are even Protestant scholars that don’t agree with the idea of the Church being built on Peter’s confession. Let’s take a look:
J. Knox Chamblin, a Reformed theologian , a New Testament professor, and a member of the Presbyterian Church states:
“By the words ‘this rock’ Jesus means not himself, nor his teaching, nor God the Father, nor Peter’s confession, but Peter himself. The phrase is immediately preceded by a direct and emphatic reference to Peter”
Dr. John Broadus in 1886, a Reformed Baptist Bible scholar states:
“As Peter means rock, the natural interpretation is that ‘upon this rock’ means upon thee. No other explanation would probably at the present day be attempted…But there is a play upon words, understand as you may. It is an even more far-fetched and harsh play upon words if we understand the rock to be Christ; and very feeble and almost ummeaning play upon words if the rock is Peter’s confession”
Mohler’s statement on ‘binding and loosening’
His historical references on this issue are correct. The only thing I would emphasis is that this was something reserved for clergy members. In our case, that would mean The Apostles. This is not for the laity. I noticed something else in relation to the binding and loosening. Mohler really doesn’t discuss the keys. Jesus was using a reference made in Isaiah 22. In the passage, Eliakim a minister in King Hezekiah’s court, was made the prime minister by the key being placed on his shoulder that God declared he’d take from Shebna, who abused his power. Cardinal Cajetan, a cardinal in the Protestant Reformation days, uses this very passage in response to Martin Luther’s questioning the papacy and specifically papal succession.
“We stand in the faith of the great Reformers in the sixteenth century and with the faith of Reformation, summarized formally in the ‘Five Solas’. Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Christus, Sola Scriptura, Sola Deo Gloria- faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone, Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone”
Let’s tackle the Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura. We can agree that’s all glory goes to God and his dearly beloved Son.
Sola Fide: I to this day am looking for Martin Luther’s claim that faith alone is in scripture (and not the one he added to his German bible in Romans). The epistle James says you are justified by works and NOT by faith alone (James 2:22-26).
Sola Gratia: Ephesians 2:8-10 states “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God— not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”. Notice that the 10th verse mentions that good works must be the fruit of your faith so it’s just not so that Sola Gratia is valid.
Sola Scriptura: 2 Timothy 3:16 states “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”. However, you notice it does not say only scripture is profitable for correction. Even 1 Timothy 3:15 states that “the pillar and foundation of truth is the Church“ not scripture.
Brothers and sisters, we have a duty and responsibility to carry forth the deposit of faith carefully. We need to engage in proper scholarship and interpretation. We also must adhere to our Church history. I think Mr. Mohler is a smart man. I do question if he’s considered these areas I’ve addressed. My prayer is if he has not that he does. Praised be to Jesus now and forever. Amen.