“Thou Art Peter…”


Jim van Heiningen

The conditioned mind

This saying of our Lord in Matthew’s Gospel (16:18) is the rock on which Roman Catholicism is built. What would our RC friends do without it? There would be no Holy See, no Holy Father, no Vatican, no encyclicals, no white smoke, no cardinals, no “spokesman for Christianity”, no “symbol of unity” as Joseph Ratzinger has called the pope in the past.

Without these three words of Jesus, the RC church would be just another “denomination”, seeking to navigate the storms of time. Having a pope is what truly sets them apart from all the others who go by the name of “Christian”. The world is more convinced of that now than ever before – what other denomination, or religion, can match the unsurpassed pageantry of one pope going and another one coming.


Probe an RC mind and these are the rhetorical questions that will pop out:
Is not the pope “the Bishop of Rome…”? Was not Saint Peter the very first Bishop of Rome and thus the very first pope? Are not Saint Peter’s bones buried right there underneath the basilica that bears his name? And does not the pope have the authority and voice, of the “Vicar of Christ”, i.e. the same authority that Peter received directly from the Lord? Didn’t Jesus give Peter (and his successors!) “the keys of the kingdom” and the power to “bind and loose”?


These are the kinds of unquestioned assumptions that condition the RC mind.., from Ratzinger on down. True, the present pope’s intellect may be something else; it may be of the highest human order, but that doesn’t stop it also being totally conditioned. His upbringing has conditioned him, and his RC tradition, and his training, and his surroundings, and what not… A pope entertains no doubt about the propriety of his office. Ratzinger is no exception.

One meaning for “conditioning” given by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary is: “to adapt, modify, or mold to respond in a particular way.” Can this cast iron mold of a conditioned RC mind be broken? Catholics do often become atheists, agnostics or members of some cult – in staggering numbers! However, that is no more than a reconditioning of the mind, the mold is recast. Only God’s Word can break the mold – and smash the hold it has on heart and mind!! There are many examples of this. One interesting testimony to the power of God’s Word is Luis Forero’s story – you’ll find it in “From Monastery to Christ” under AMAZING GRACE!

“Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?”- Jer. 23:29.

The conditioning of the RC mind, generation after generation, has everything to do with the hierarchy’s specious interpretation of the Scriptures. Characteristically (and inevitably), when one set of Scriptures is “wrested”, another set is wiped off the table, i.e. those Scriptures to which the faithful had better not be exposed. Though obviously still in the Bible, they must be overlooked or perceived to be “irrelevant”. Anything to stop the “fire” and the “hammer” smashing the mold of the RC’s mind…

“Fire and hammer” examples can be given from our Lord’s ministry. Even his prayer life is revealing – He thanked his Father for hiding things from the one group (the wise and prudent, which, of course, includes the Vatican variety), and for revealing them to the other group (the babes): “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in your sight” (Mt. 11:25-26).

Addressing the religious respectability syndrome (Mt. 23), He said: “Woe to you… hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

Addressing the particular craving for the title of “(Holy) Father”, He said: “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for one is your Father, He who is in heaven” (Mt. 23:9).

Or, addressing the perceived need for exalted hierarchy: “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Lk. 6:26). “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God”(Lk. 16:15). “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you…” (Lk. 22:25-26).

And so we could go on, but let me just remind you of the epistle to the Hebrews. In the New Testament it is probably the most devastating document to the time-honored RC concepts of “priesthood” (from pope to parish priest), of “sanctuaries” (basilicas, cathedrals, churches, chapels and all the other shrines), and of “sacrifices” (the daily “mass” with the “host”).

The RC who allows God to set aside his preconceived ideas, as he starts to read and meditate in the Scriptures, that RC is a true candidate for “babe” classification. His conditioned mind is changing into a converted mind as God’s mighty revelation falls upon it. Soon he will be an RC no more, rather an “NC”, a “new creation.”

Back to Matthew 16

That is where we started and it is important to find out what was really said.

Peter clearly expressed who Jesus was: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

1) The Lord spoke to Peter about the rock. He did not say that Peter was the rock. Peter’s testimony about Jesus’ identity made him not only “blessed”, it also made him “Peter” (“petros” in Greek – i.e. a simple “stone” or “rock fragment”). Then Jesus goes on to point out that on this “rock”, i.e. on this “petra” (notice the difference between petros and petra), He would build his church (ekklesia). For a foundation a solid petra is needed, not an unstable petros. Only Christ Himself can be that petra, witness what Peter had just confessed in verse 16 (see also 1 Cor. 3:11!).

2) What did Peter understand? Did he take the Lord’s words to mean: “You are going to be the Bishop of Rome, the pope, the Holy Father, the vicar of Christ, the visible head of the Church”? That is what the millions of RCs are indoctrinated to believe.

Not Peter. Not a shred of such thinking can be found either in his addresses (Acts 1-5, 10-11, 15) or in his two epistles (see also Galatians 2).

We find Peter exclusively exalting Christ as the “chief cornerstone,” (1 Peter 2) admitting about himself that he is no more than “a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ,” (2 Peter 1) that “silver and gold I do not have…”; (Acts 3) and that no reverence must be given him (telling Cornelius in Acts 10: “Stand up; I myself am also a man”).

3) What about the “keys of the kingdom” given to him? The 3 main groupings of mankind at the time (Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles), mentioned by Jesus in Acts 1:8, must have the “door of faith” opened to them. It was Peter’s privilege to use the “keys” for that. He did so, respectively, in Acts 2, 8 and 10. Of course, it was the Holy Spirit doing this through Peter, that is, opening the “door of faith” to all people groups, once-and-for-all – no successors needed!

And the “binding and loosing”? In Matthew 18:15-20 Jesus went on to refer to this as a ministry, not of a pope or a hierarchy, but of the local congregation of his children, i.e. when finding themselves in the circumstances that would demand such action.