COC #9: Objection #3: “Jesus is the ONLY Rock and Foundation”

(3) The Protestant Church of Christ argues that Jesus is the rock and foundation of the Church, and therefore, nobody or nothing else can be rock and foundation.  

The argument quickly falls apart because it conflicts with your group’s argument that the rock Jesus was referring to in Matthew 16:18 is St. Peter’s “confession of faith”, or the “confession of faith” of any individual, as shown in objection #1; and it conflicts with your group’s argument that the rock is Jesus Himself (see objection #2). In other words, your objections to the Catholic Church of Christ, as it is built on rock, have thus far invalidated themselves because they contradict your other objections.

Each of your group’s theories regarding the rock of Matthew 16:18 share a characteristic: they draw attention away from the clear subject of the sentence, which is the person of St. Peter. But you are correct when you suggest that Jesus is “the rock” in a particular sense, but He is not the only rock in all senses. Your group counters by quoting St. Paul: For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11). Your counter is presented as a last word—a way to finalize an argument with a Christian-sounding “the Bible says it, that settles it” closure, yet fails to recognize that the Bible “says” nothing; heresy is not in the text, but in the interpretation of the text. In other words, the Catholic Church of Christ acknowledges that Jesus is the foundation of the Church, yet she also acknowledges that St. Peter participates within that foundation as rock.

St. Paul also called St. Peter Cephas—Rock (1 Corinthians 1:12, 3:22, 9:5, 15:5, Galatians 1:18). Since St. Paul was not confused by arguments that would be conjured centuries later within Protestantism (and post-Protestant Restorationism), he was able to recognize St. Peter by the name Jesus gave him—Rock, which also indicates St. Paul’s understanding that Jesus built His Church on Cephas and not on only a confession of any sort; for he never called “faith” or a “confession of faith” “rock”.

The apparent problem is for Christians to reconcile Jesus’ status as the foundation with St. Peter’s status as a participant in the Church’s foundation. Either both passages (Matthew 16:18 and 1 Corinthians 3:11) need to make sense together, or one passage must be jettisoned or altered in some fashion to fit new (= Protestant) beliefs. The real Church of Christ accepts both passages, and your community does not. Your group emphasizes 1 Corinthians 3:11 to the exclusion of Matthew 16:18 to avoid what your group perceives as a conflict, and to offer what you believe to be a “silver bullet” proof against the Catholic Church of Christ, but the conflict is invented; it only exists within the minds of groups that must avoid the subject and authority of the Petrine Office.

To pit Matthew 16 against 1 Corinthians 3, though, is short-sighted for other reasons as well, because there are many rocks. And “Bible Christians” ought not sacrifice one Scripture for another, nor one Scripture for many others, because they are all God-breathed, and collectively, not singularly, provide a proper sense of the Bible’s meaning. Recall Isaiah 51, which refers to Abraham as rock: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and Sarah as the quarry from which you were digged. Are not both individuals, separately, though synergistically, providing the foundational rock of many nations? Is it not clear that a proper theology incorporates more of a Catholic “both/and” understanding than a Protestant “either/or” understanding?

Consider St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Was he contradicting his letter to the Corinthians (no other foundation . . . Jesus Christ) when he wrote, the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-20)? Was St. Paul, again, confused when he called the Church, not any confession nor the Scriptures, the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15 New International Version)? Is not St. Paul’s theology clearly capable of entertaining a broader understanding of rock and foundation than yours? Is St. Paul not more Catholic than Restorationist?

Consider St. John’s Apocalypse: And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:14). So, then, can you not detect a pattern? One in which rock and foundation are not metaphors that Scripture reserves for Jesus specifically, but rather, are words ascribed also to agents in concert with Christ Jesus? Abraham, Sarah, the Apostles, St. Peter, Jesus, and the Church, are called rocks and foundations of Christ’s covenant assembly, of his royal priesthood and holy nation, and of truth. And we Christians ought not sacrifice the full spectrum of the Scriptures that might reveal as such for a preferred passage that provides, at least among some Protestant communities such as yours, a forced preference for a confused and agenda-driven anti-Catholic conclusion. 

And so, there is no great quandary to reconcile, and there is no dissonance within the Scriptures’ portrayal of St. Peter as rock and its portrayal of Jesus as foundation. The quandary, rather, is in your group’s insistence to interpret the Scriptures in an obviously unscriptural, limiting sense. Is there any reason to think Jesus has not given us teachers and shepherds (cf. Ephesians 4:11) even though He declared that we have one teacher . . . the Christ (Matthew 23:8) and that He is the good shepherd (John 10:11), or is Scripture communicating a gulf of majesty between God and man? Do we cease to be fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17) when we read that Jesus is the heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2)? Can Jesus not be Foundation of our Faith, and St. Peter foundation of the Church?       Jesus is Foundation by nature, and St. Peter is foundation by calling. Jesus is Foundation and Creator, and St. Peter is foundation of the created. Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone, and St. Peter is subject to the Chief. Jesus is Shepherd and King, and St. Peter is shepherd and prime minister; and the King remains the King when He assigns a prime minister. Both are foundation, yet different. Both are rock, yet different.