I was just noting once again how modern readers who are attempting to shoe-horn their current theologies into the early church abuse those very writings. For example, it is well known amongst fair minded scholars that multiple views of church governance existed in the earliest periods of the church. Plainly, the letter from the church at Rome to the church at Corinth shows that both continued to have the biblical model: a plurality of elders. It is interesting to note the arguments put forward by such folks as Dr. Gentry regarding a very early date for that epistle. And clearly it was a development that began in the east and moved westward, as Ignatius’ letters attest. He plainly holds a monarchical view himself, and when writing to sees that already possess that structure, he addresses the singular bishops. But he knows Rome does not have that structure (as the above epistle shows), and he does not, therefore, address a singular bishop. Those who embrace the anachronistic Roman primacy perspective cannot allow this to stand, and cannot imagine the kind of catholicity that would allow Ignatius to hold one view while having fellowship with those with a different view. These same zealots might want to consider how Irenaeus basically told Victor to “cool his jets” when he threatened division over the Quartodeciman controversy about sixty or so years later. We should remember well the wise words of J.B. Lightfoot:
There is all the difference in the world between the attitude of Rome towards other churches at the close of the first century, when the Romans as a community remonstrate on terms of equality with the Corinthians on their irregularities, strong only in the righteousness of their cause, and feeling as they had a right to feel, that these counsels of peace were the dictation of the Holy Spirit, and its attitude at the close of the second century, when Victor the bishop excommunicates the Churches of Asia Minor for clinging to a usage in regard to the celebration of Easter which had been handed down to them from the Apostles, and thus foments instead of healing dissensions….Even this second stage has carried the power of Rome only a very small step in advance towards the assumptions of a Hildebrand or an Innocent or a Boniface, or even of a Leo: but it is nevertheless a decided step. The substitution of the bishop of Rome for the Church of Rome is an all important point. The later Roman theory supposes that the Church of Rome derives all its authority from the bishop of Rome, as the successor of S. Peter. History inverts this relation and shows that, as a matter of fact, the power of the bishop of Rome was built upon the power of the Church of Rome.
No matter how they try to spin it, those who submit to Rome’s claims are forced, by her very dogmas, to turn the early writers into something they were not in and of themselves. This is plainly seen in the dogmatic statement of Rome defining the supposed infallibility of the Pope. Note these words:
At open variance with this clear doctrine of Holy Scripture as it has been ever understood by the Catholic Church are the perverse opinions of those who, while they distort the form of government established by Christ the Lord in his Church, deny that Peter in his single person, preferably to all the other Apostles, whether taken separately or together, was endowed by Christ with a true and proper primacy of jurisdiction
No serious reading of church history, as Cardinal Newman knew, could ever substantiate the claim that this has always been the understanding of the Catholic Church, but this is the dogmatic claim of Rome. One side can allow the fathers to be the fathers, to be in disagreement, to have different views, but the other must turn them all into servants of the Papacy long before any such concept had come to the fore. The more Rome’s servants attempt to read her later dogmas back into the early centuries the more they prove, unwittingly, the observation that if you do not believe in sola scriptura, you believe in sola ecclesia, and do with history what you must to maintain that belief.