Did you hear the one about the One holy catholic and apostolic church?
If you read modern Roman Catholic arguments for why you should "return home" or "come back to the mother Church," or "Swim the Tiber," one of the most common (and even compelling) arguments is that Christ established only ONE Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
It sounds so… right.
Was Peter the First Pope?
Many scholars agree, even many Protestant scholars, that Jesus gave serious props to Peter as the first "Pope" (or Papa) of the infant church.
In Matthew 16, when Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do you say I am?" Peter boldly went where no man had gone before:
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (KJV)
Roman Catholics in particular see these verses as proof that there is only one true Church and Peter was the first in a long succession of Pope's.
I do not deny that Peter (as the Pope) of the early church was the foundation upon which the church was built. But, when Peter died, universal papal authority was not passed down to his succeeding bishop (pope). The Bible does not teach this. The church fathers were NOT universal in their understanding of this. They gave "honor" to Rome, but not universal allegiance. The fact that the church in the West stayed under the authority of Rome does not prove intent.
The Orthodox Church (there are many stripes of this church), the Coptic Church and Anglican Church all believe in Apostolic Succession, but deny Universal Papal Authority.
What About Binding and Loosing?
One of the strongest arguments has to do with "binding and loosing." Think "authority."
Roman Catholic thinkers often commit a logical fallacy here, called "hasty generalization."
"Hasty generalization is the fallacy of examining just one or very few examples or studying a single case, and generalizing that to be representative of the whole class of objects or phenomena." (Source)
The biggest problem with this case is that two chapters later in Matthew 18, when teaching about Church Discipline (something ironically absent from most Roman Catholic churches), Jesus grants this same authority to ALL of the Apostles and by extension, to all Christian churches.
18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Another factor often overlooked is that Jesus REMOVED the geographic notion of authority when He declared in John 4 that true Spiritual worship would no longer be tied to any particular mountain (as a seat of authority, power and worship) but it would take place in the realm of the Spirit (Think… From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya)!
More on this subject to follow.