Protestant Apologist Jason Engwer Continues His All-Out War on St. Peter & the Papacy
Gotta give Protestant apologist Jason Engwer an E for effort and a C for cleverness and inventiveness. He has taken it upon himself to refute many scriptural arguments I have made in favor of Peter’s primacy (while not — in recent years — naming me, which is a frequent tactic of anti-Catholic polemicists). Four days ago, for a fleeting moment acknowledging my paltry existence, he stated that he would ignore my critique of one of his anti-Peter arguments: St. Peter Listed First in Lists of Disciples: A Debate, by writing:
I have to be highly selective in what I do and don’t reply to, given how often I get responses from people, other work I’m involved with, and other factors. I’m not planning to respond to Dave’s article at this point.
This is nothing new for Jason. We sparred as far back as 2000, but he has not directly answered any critique of mine for ten years now. In August 2003 we had a big highly publicized written (formal) debate on the anti-Catholic CARM discussion board, regarding the Church fathers and sola Scriptura. It didn’t go well for Jason. In recalling what happened (on 11-20-15), I observed:
I was in “enemy territory” and their champion was gonna (was supposed to) rip me to shreds. I would finally get my “come-uppance” once and for all. Well, it didn’t happen quite like the expectations of the anti-Catholic minions.
Jason hedged and hawed and avoided direct argumentation with me (interaction with my arguments) from the beginning. He started in with the personal insults early on. It’s been that way in all the attempted debates I have had with him through the years. It’s what anti-Catholics do when they get with Catholics who can defend their faith.
It was so bad that out of the ten Church fathers originally to be debated, Jason dealt with only four and then decided to split from the debate (much to the disappointment of his fans). I continued on analyzing all ten. I had predicted that he would leave, five days before it happened. I could see the writing on the wall, . . .
Even when Jason was supposedly directly engaging my arguments, back in 2010, he attempted to systematically ignore some 80% of them, as I documented at the time:
Proof That Anti-Catholic Apologist Jason Engwer Ignores an Average of 80% of Catholic Opponents’ Arguments (Four Exchanges With Bryan Cross and Myself) [1-14-10]
Evidence That Anti-Catholic Apologist Jason Engwer Mostly Ignores Catholic Arguments in “Debate”: Exactly What He Cited From Two of My Recent Papers [1-14-10]
So now he’s back to his old tricks. He said he would ignore my post about St. Peter, for lack of time, but now he has proceeded to write an article (in classic Engwer style) precisely about the prominence of Peter (or lack thereof), which clearly has my past papers on the topic in mind, while not mentioning me: per the usual modus operandi of anti-Catholic apologists: a method perfected by his buddy, James Swan, of the Boors All blog.
Here is the complete history of our debates back and forth regarding Petrine primacy:
“acknowledged preeminence.” (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)
“This accords with the pre-eminence which he had among the apostles as primus inter pares . . . which was recognised by Jesus Himself.” (Meyer’s NT Commentary)
“[A]t the head of the list stands Peter, first not only numerically (Meyer) but in importance, a sure matter of fact, . . .” (Expositor’s Greek Testament)
“Peter is named first, not without an indication of rank . . . on the primacy of Peter, see Luke 8:45; Luke 9:32; John 1:42; Matthew 16:16; John 21:15; Acts 1:15; Acts 2:14; Acts 8:14; Acts 10:5; Acts 15:7.” (Bengel’s Gnomen)
“. . . the leading position that St. Peter held among the twelve.” (Pulpit Commentary)
Matthew 14:25-29 (RSV) And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.  But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.  But immediately he spoke to them, saying, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.”  And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus;John 21:7 . . . When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea.
Matthew 10:37-38 He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;  and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.Luke 9:59-62 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  But he said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”  Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”Romans 12:11 Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord.1 Peter 3:13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is right?2 Peter 1:10 Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall;2 Peter 3:14 Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.Revelation 3:19 Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent.
8. Peter alone among the apostles is mentioned by name as having been prayed for by Jesus Christ in order that his “faith may not fail” (Lk 22:32).
9. Peter alone among the apostles is exhorted by Jesus to “strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22:32).
10. Peter first confesses Christ’s divinity (Mt 16:16).
11. Peter alone is told that he has received divine knowledge by a special revelation (Mt 16:17).
14. Jesus Christ uniquely associates Himself and Peter in the miracle of the tribute-money (Mt 17:24-27).
15. Christ teaches from Peter’s boat, and the miraculous catch of fish follows (Lk 5:1-11): perhaps a metaphor for the pope as a “fisher of men” (cf. Mt 4:19).16. Peter was the first apostle to set out for, and enter the empty tomb (Lk 24:12; Jn 20:6).*
17. Peter is specified by an angel as the leader and representative of the apostles (Mk 16:7).
18. Peter leads the apostles in fishing (Jn 21:2-3,11). The “bark” (boat) of Peter has been regarded by Catholics as a figure of the Church, with Peter at the helm.
19. Peter alone casts himself into the sea to come to Jesus (Jn 21:7).
20. Peter’s words are the first recorded and most important in the upper room before Pentecost (Acts 1:15-22).
21. Peter takes the lead in calling for a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:22).
22. Peter is the first person to speak (and only one recorded) after Pentecost, so he was the first Christian to “preach the gospel” in the Church era (Acts 2:14-36).
23. Peter works the first miracle of the Church Age, healing a lame man (Acts 3:6-12).
24. Peter utters the first anathema (Ananias and Sapphira) emphatically affirmed by God (Acts 5:2-11)!
26. Peter is the first person after Christ to raise the dead (Acts 9:40).
28. Peter is the first to receive the Gentiles, after a revelation from God (Acts 10:9-48).
Understood and interpreted with this background and overall framework in mind, yes, I think it is also significant that Peter is described in Holy Scripture as the first to enter the tomb of the risen Jesus (though he was not the first to see the risen Jesus: that was Mary Magdalene). And it is because he is the leader and first pope; therefore, in biblical thinking, it is fitting and appropriate for him to 1) do that, and 2) to be recorded as having done it.
And so on. Peter was outspoken, impulsive, rash, and so forth, so that he would often stand out for reasons other than a papacy. There’s no reasonable way to deny that Peter’s prominence in the early sources is due partly to such personal traits.
Yes, but I don’t think this one proposed factor overcomes the place of zeal and a strong faith, etc., which indicate that he was chosen as leader for those reasons (but not because he was perfect). I think this is desperate special pleading on Jason’s part.
And that’s a problem for Roman Catholicism. Since Peter’s personality explains his prominence so well, no papacy or any other concept of a similar nature is needed to explain that prominence.
Many biblical leaders and heroic figures had quite strong personalities (not to mention big faults as well). I don’t see that this suggests that they weren’t leaders or especially selected by God. One can think of Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Job, Moses, Joshua, David, Elijah, Jeremiah, St. Paul, and many others. In other words, it largely coincides with leadership, and so is hardly a contraindication of same.
All other things being equal, we prefer simpler explanations. Simplicity isn’t the only criterion we take into account, but it is one of the criteria we consider. Why seek a second explanation for Peter’s prominence when the first one is sufficient?
Jason assumes it is sufficient. But in no way does this “thesis” explain away the prominence of Peter in the New Testament: a thing freely admitted by the vast majority of Protestant commentators, while still refusing to accept the historical papacy built upon Peter (being Protestant).
The passage most often cited by Catholics in this context, Matthew 16:18-19, is closely followed by Jesus’ rebuke of Peter in verse 23. We don’t take that latter passage as a reason to look for a Satanic succession that will infallibly represent Lucifer in every generation. Yes, Jesus singles out Peter in Matthew 16:23. Yes, what Jesus says to Peter there isn’t said to anybody else. But all of what occurs in that episode can easily be explained by Peter’s personal traits. He misjudged the situation and rebuked Jesus when he shouldn’t have, so Jesus responded in a way that singled out Peter, since Peter was the one speaking to him. It wouldn’t make sense for Jesus to rebuke Thomas in response to Peter’s error. In the same way, Jesus’ responding to Peter in verses 18-19 is easily explained, and best explained, by Peter’s personal characteristics, without any papal office involved. It was Peter who rightly identified Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God, so it wouldn’t have made sense for Jesus to have responded by talking to Thomas.
Wavering people who were also zealous and extraordinary leaders of the faith and chosen by God is not unusual; in fact, it might be said to be the norm. Abraham lied about his sister, Moses murdered a man, and seemed to have quite a temper (striking the rock for water a second time, etc.); he complained to God about not being eloquent. Saul and Solomon fell away from the faith (yet Solomon built God’s temple); King David famously had a man killed so he could take his wife.
It didn’t stop God from making an eternal covenant with him, and making him a prototype of the Messiah Jesus (who was called “Son of David”). St. Paul persecuted Christians. Thomas doubted that Jesus had risen from the dead. Peter could be overzealous, precisely because he was zealous in the first place. So he wound up being rebuked by Jesus and denying him three times. But he repented.
Another glaringly obvious thing (if one reflects on it for not too long) is that Jesus chose Peter and called him “the Rock” (changing his name) despite his tempestuous personality, not because of it, just as he chose similar hotheads and “uneven” people like Moses, Samson, David, Jonah, Elijah, and Paul. He wasn’t the leader of the Church because of his personality or a supposed perfection, but because he was the man for the job according to God, in His providence and knowledge of all things. No one God chose for His tasks was perfect and sinless, save the Blessed Virgin Mary. And she only was because of an extraordinary act of God’s preserving grace at her conception before she even had a free will to accept.
And, unlike the situation with verse 23, what’s said of Peter in verses 18-19 is also said of the other disciples elsewhere. If we assume that Peter is the rock in Matthew 16:18, the other apostles are also referred to with such architectural terminology (Galatians 2:9, Ephesians 2:20, Revelation 21:14).
No one else is called the “rock” upon whom Jesus would build His Church. It’s common in Scripture to have a preeminent prototype alongside lesser similar types. This would be analogous to the pope and bishops. Peter is the ultimate leader (pope) and his fellow disciples are also leaders in the Church (bishops).
And, unlike the effort to differentiate Jesus in Ephesians 2:20, for example, no effort is made in any of these passages to differentiate Peter from the other apostles.
He is made to stand out and particularly mentioned as distinct among the group many times (see, e.g., Mk 1:36; Lk 9:28,32; Acts 2:37; 5:29; 1 Cor 9:5).
Similarly, the imagery of thrones in Matthew 19:28 differentiates Jesus’ glorious throne from the thrones of the Twelve, but no effort is made to distinguish Peter’s.
There would be no need to do so in that particular passage, because the dynamic is Jesus over against His disciples (i.e., God and creatures), and so He mentions Himself as sitting on God’s throne, and the twelve disciples also having thrones. Moreover, the larger passage still shows Peter as the leader (“Lo, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?” — 19:27), and Peter functions as the spokesman for all of them, using the word “we”; therefore, Jesus answers in a collective sense (“you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones” — 19:28). So the dynamic is “what will we have? —> “all of you will have this [thrones]”. In that “structure” it’s not necessary to point out Peter’s preeminence. Nor (I submit) would or should it be expected.
Likewise, all of the disciples are referred to as having the keys of the kingdom in Matthew 18:18, again without any effort to place Peter above the others.
This again misses the point (as so often with Jason, who habitually “can’t see the forest for the trees”). Only Peter is described (directly by name, which always has significance in Scripture) as being given the keys (16:19). That goes beyond merely binding and loosing, as many Protestant commentators have noted. The other disciples can also bind and loose (18:18), but they can’t bind the entire Church as Peter can, as the “superintendent” of the Church: as Protestant commentator Oscar Cullmann described him:
Just as in Isaiah 22:22 the Lord puts the keys of the house of David on the shoulders of his servant Eliakim, so does Jesus hand over to Peter the keys of the house of the kingdom of heaven and by the same stroke establishes him as his superintendent. There is a connection between the house of the Church, the construction of which has just been mentioned and of which Peter is the foundation, and the celestial house of which he receives the keys. (St. Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr, Neuchatel: Delachaux & Niestle, 1952 [French edition], 183-184)
Peter is sometimes appointed to a role that’s superior to that of one or more of the other apostles.
Not just “sometimes” but systematically; over and over again.
But when it happens, such as his being an apostle with a focus on the Jewish people in Galatians 2:8, we’re explicitly told about it. We don’t have to read it into the text in the sort of dubious way Catholics handle passages like Matthew 16 and John 21:15-17. Another passage where we see explicit reference to a significant role Peter was appointed to is Acts 15:7. Peter was chosen to introduce the Gentiles to the gospel in Acts 10. That’s not equivalent to a papal office, but it is a unique role Peter was given.
Well, it’s perfectly consistent with his being the leader and the pope. It’s appropriate and to be expected for Peter to be the first to bring the Gentiles in, even though Paul soon takes the lead in evangelism to the Gentiles. All the more reason to interpret this as a “papal indication”: since one would expect it to have been done first by Paul: in light of the subsequent emphasis of his ministry. But it wasn’t; Peter was the first.
In a similar way, John is the beloved disciple, Paul is referred to as having a focus on the Gentiles that Peter didn’t have in Galatians 2:8, etc. Peter is sometimes unique, superior, and so forth in comparison to the other apostles, but never in a way that suggests a papacy.
That’s what Jason claims, but it doesn’t hold any water when all the data is fairly considered. Jason doesn’t do that. He just looks at portions of the Bible that he falsely thinks bolster his “anti-papal” point of view and ignores the rest. He’s made virtually a career as an apologist out of ignoring anything that doesn’t fit into his heretical imaginings.
My approach, on the other hand, is to examine all major arguments that are relevant on a topic, including (importantly) examining point-by-point opposing arguments like Jason’s: whereas he is presently ignoring mine which differ from him. He’s in a bubble and an echo chamber, but I’m out here engaging sincere but terribly mistaken opponents of what I believe. Jason takes an approach opposite of his mentor, the late Steve Hays, who wrote (words in green):
If you comment on something I say, especially in the form of a criticism, then that’s an open invitation for me to respond. If you can’t take it when people reply to your public criticism of their position, then don’t criticize their position. You evidently think that criticism is a one-way street. You should be free to criticize Calvinism, but a Calvinist has no right to criticize Arminianism. (3-5-08)I notice Preston ignores objections he can’t refute. . . . Preston keeps taking ethical and intellectual shortcuts. (11-24-15)
Of course, it’s your prerogative not to respond.
However, your choice not to respond to Steve [Hays]’s points means either you don’t want to respond or you aren’t able to respond. If the former, then a good reason might be because you don’t like to engage in online debates. But in that case it’s odd to say the least because you initiated an online debate with the questions in your tweets. Not to mention you’ve expended some time and effort to “correct” Steve on a peripheral point as well as to interact with others here. . . .
Hence, this would seem to leave the best explanation for why you don’t respond to Steve’s points being because you aren’t able to respond – or least that’s not an unreasonable inference to make. (4-22-18)
Luke 22:31-32 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,  but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.”
I guess Jason thinks this is yet another “personality-dominated” Gospel scene because after this portion, Peter claims, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death” (22:33): which, of course, he actually did, later in his life. So, according to Jason, this is in the Bible because Peter’s impulsive, overzealous temperament required for it to be in there; and it has nothing to do with his papacy.
But think for a moment about what is entailed in that view. Jesus prays for Peter, that his faith may not fail. Are we to believe that no other disciples would have instances of failed faith? Only one of them, after all, was present at His crucifixion (St. John). Did none of them experience a lack of faith during that terrible time of His Passion? Of course they did! “Doubting Thomas” is an obvious example. So the relevant question is: why is it that Jesus is praying only for Peter’s faith? And why is Satan after him: so much so, that Jesus mentions it as something to pray for?
From Acts 15, we learn that “after there was much debate, Peter rose” to address the assembly (15:7). The Bible records his speech, which goes on for five verses. Then it reports that “all the assembly kept silence” (15:12). Paul and Barnabas speak next, not making authoritative pronouncements, but confirming Peter’s exposition, speaking about “signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles” (15:12). Then when James speaks, he refers right back to what “Simeon [Peter] has related” (15:14). To me, this suggests that Peter’s talk was central and definitive. James speaking last could easily be explained by the fact that he was the bishop of Jerusalem and therefore the “host.” (3-2-17)
2 Timothy 1:3-6, 13-15 I thank God whom I serve with a clear conscience, as did my fathers, when I remember you constantly in my prayers.  As I remember your tears, I long night and day to see you, that I may be filled with joy.  I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lo’is and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you.  Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; . . .  Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus;  guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.  You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, and among them Phy’gelus and Hermog’enes.*2 Timothy 2:1-2, 15, 22 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,  and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. . . .  Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. . . .  So shun youthful passions and aim at righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart.*2 Timothy 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it*2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching.
Galatians 1:15-18 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace,  was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood,  nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus.  Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and remained with him fifteen days.
Then later, when Paul and Barnabas are present with Peter at the Council of Jerusalem, Peter clearly predominates, and all the text says that Paul and Barnabas did was give a mission report, highlighting their work among Gentiles (Acts 15:4: one verse). It’s Peter who delivers the central argument that determines the outcome of the council (15:7-11). It is then said that Paul and Barnabas “went on their way through the cities” and “delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem” (Acts 16:4). That hardly suggests that Paul is above Peter, does it?
Thus, the relevant data suggests or (at the very least) is perfectly consistent with the notion that Peter is the head of the Church.
2 Peter 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
2 Peter 2:1-3 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.  And many will follow their licentiousness, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled.  And in their greed they will exploit you with false words; from of old their condemnation has not been idle, and their destruction has not been asleep.*2 Peter 2:13-15 suffering wrong for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their dissipation, carousing with you.  They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!  Forsaking the right way they have gone astray; they have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Be’or, who loved gain from wrongdoing,*2 Peter 3:1-3, 17-18 This is now the second letter that I have written to you, beloved, and in both of them I have aroused your sincere mind by way of reminder;  that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles.  First of all you must understand this, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own passions . . .  You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability.  But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappado’cia, Asia, and Bithyn’ia,*1 Peter 5:2-3 Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly,  not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock.