John Calvin on the Sacrament of Extreme Unction

May 11th, 2009 | By | Category: Blog Posts

As I was reading Calvin’s refutation of the Seven Sacraments, I found his argument against Extreme Unction especially unusual. Calvin recognizes that the Anointing of the Sick has its origins with Christ (Mark 6:13) and was performed by the Apostles (James 5:14-21).

Extreme Unction

Extreme Unction by Rogier Van der Weyden

But the gift of healing disappeared with the other miraculous powers which the Lord was pleased to give for a time, that it might render the new preaching of the gospel for ever wonderful. Therefore, even were we to grant that anointing was a sacrament of those powers which were then administered by the hands of the apostles, it pertains not to us, to whom no such powers have been committed” (Calvin, Institutes IV, 19, 18).

John Calvin’s argument is partly based on his belief that Christ no longer works miracles of healing through His ministers. He also writes: “that gift was temporary, and owing, in some measure, to the ingratitude of men, immediately ceased.” What we have here is a form of dispensationism stating that the sacramental economy during the life of the Apostles differs from that of the contemporary Church. We also have an statement that God withdraws a gift due “to the ingratitude of men”. For me, this proves yet again that the Catholic Church as a more coherent covenant theology than that of Calvin.

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  1. Taylor,

    The “ingratitude of men” struck me as well. Is it legitimate to ask if there is a latent Pelagianism within Calvin’s and his heirs thought?

  2. Tom,

    Calvin’s pre-lapsarian anthropology is certainly Pelagian. If you take his view of Adam you can move in a Pelagian direction or in a Baianist/Jansenist/Calvinist direction. If you have a Catholic view of Adam, then you can sidestep the issue and not bifurcate grace and nature so terribly.

    Taylor

  3. John Calvin’s argument is partly based on his belief that Christ no longer works miracles of healing through His ministers.

    Tom,

    Calvin is not arguing that Christ no longer works miracles, he is arguing that there is no longer a gift of any specific officer of the church to work miracles. In oother words, after the Apostles you know longer had anyone who would go into a town and heal all the sick. The purpose for this gift was no longer there. This is NOT a Dispensational argument any more than the cessation of the gift of tongues is. These gifts had specific purposes but these purposes were not meant to extend to all time and places. This is why you don’t have Clement and Polycarp and so on expressing such gifts.

  4. Whoops – That last comment was meant to be directed to Taylor.

  5. No one can deny that the apostles were given a special charism for miracles; but this is a long way from justifying Calvin’s rejection of the sacrament. Even the Nestorians and Monophysites retained this ancient sacrament in their schism. And Irenaeus, though not specifically in reference to the sacrament, reports that miraculous healings were among the brethren in the second century. Origen also mentions the sacrament, (Hom. ii, in Levit., in P.G., XII, 419) and as more writings become available – 4th / 5th century – the references are abundant. Ambrose for example says to the Novatians:

    Why, then, do you lay on hands, and believe it to be the effect of the blessing, if perchance some sick person recovers? Why do you assume that any can be cleansed by you from the pollution of the devil? Why do you baptize if sins cannot be remitted by man? If baptism is certainly the remission of all sins, what difference does it make whether priests claim that this power is given to them in penance or at the font? In each the mystery is one.

    – De Poenit 1.8.36

  6. Tim,

    As I said in my reply to Taylor, I’m not arguing that Calvin and the Reformed believed that there are no more miracles after the Apostles. I was trying to correct Taylor on that point. And secondly I was pointing out that the argument for the uniqueness of the Apolotolic era on the peculiar gifts of the Spirit is not one that is dispensational in nature. That would be quite anachronistic.

  7. I understand. I was just throwing Irenaeus in there as a side-note. I’m just showing Calvin’s departure from the regula fidei on this point (as on every sacrament).

  8. Hey, as always, I have an unrelaed question that I would love some affirmation on. I am debating my friend from Westminster about Apostolic Succession.

    If a persona is willing to concede that Timothy and Titus had a unique authority to ordain (because they themselves had been ordained by Apostles), isn’t this itself an affirmation of Apostolic Succession? Thanks, – Tate

  9. Luther’s concept of apostolic succession, and for all practical purposes I don’t think Calvin is far from him, is “whatever preaches Christ is apostolic” and “whatever does not preach Christ is not apostolic” or in other words: it was merely formal.

    If Timothy has a right to ordain by virtue of his reception of this particular office from the apostle Paul, then it would certainly be incompatible with the Reformed notion of apostolic succession and a step towards the Catholic faith. Calvin, at least, cannot believe in the material apostolic succession which the Church has always maintained because of the simple fact that he does not have it.

  10. Thanks Tim,

    When the Apostles Creed confesses faith in the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church” is it referring to Apostolic Succession or to the Apostolic content of the Church’s doctrine (or both)?

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy Tate

  11. When the Apostles Creed confesses faith in the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church” is it referring to Apostolic Succession or to the Apostolic content of the Church’s doctrine (or both)?

    Jeremy,

    You have hit on the heart of the question here – How should “Apostolic Succession” be defined? If it is just a material priciple then we would suggest that maybe this perspective is insufficient. Do we want to say that all that matters is that we can draw a straight line to the “physical” decentants of the Apostles, all other matters regardless? We Reformed would argue from Scripture and the earliest tradition of the Church that there is more than this. So when we get to the point of so many of the Medieval Popes, the question is do you think that the Church at the time of the Sub-apostolic Fathers would have recognized the authority of these “successors” as legitimate just because they were in the direct physical line of succession? Or is there more to be considered than just this physical succession?

  12. I think we have to say both. Catholics do not admit the material apostolic succession in opposition to the formal succession but along with it. A king may leave the throne to his son; and his son may run the kingdom how his father would have it. But he might have a wicked son who, although materially heir to the throne, has formally abandoned the principles of the kingdom. But we believe that the Holy Spirit prevents this from happening with the Church. Otherwise, the only way to return to the teachings of the Bridgegroom would be to rebel against the Bride.

    If you are under the rule of a wicked son, regardless of how good the original kingdom was, you will have to rebel against the material succession – the institutional continuum of that very kingdom in order to save it. This makes sense on a human level – it is conceivable that one might rebel against the American government in order to save America – but not so when talking about a heavenly institution. We may not rebel against the Church leaders in order to save the Church any more than Absalom was able to rebel against David to save Israel. Even David would not rebel against Saul.

    So we affirm that “the Apostolic Church” must refer to one who has both formal and material succession from the apostles. That is, it is one and the same Church.

  13. Hey Andrew,

    I am still at a Reformed Church and seminary, but I think we (as reformed) also have to recognize that, if there is no material principle to be concerned with in Apostolic Succession, then we’re left in the same place; 40,000+ denominations all claiming to be Apostolic because of the content of their doctrine. What held the early Church together? Democratic consensus or Apostolic authority?

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

    – Jeremy

  14. Andrew,

    Can you provide an example of an early Church father who argued against those in succession from the apostles on the basis of false doctrine? I’m sure you’re already aware that Irenaeus, for example, argued the inverse ( i.e. that we know their doctrine is right because they received it from the apostles in contradistinction to the Gnostics in particular who had not apostolic succession).

  15. Who had not *material* apostolic succession. Whether they had formal succession was the very question as it always is. Thus, it wouldn’t make sense for an early Father to argue that way – which is (not incidentally) why none of them did.

  16. I think we have to say both. Catholics do not admit the material apostolic succession in opposition to the formal succession but along with it.

    But Tim, we are always pointed to the formal succession of the bishops as proof of the fidelity of the RCC. You don’t see that there is any conceivable way that they can be separated, right? To us it seems that you are driving the formal principle of succession against all other principles. So a simple question we ask is whether someone like Polycarp who represented the epitome of fidelity of the early Christian faith would have recognized the legitimacy of Leo X (who by even RCC historian standards was the worst of worst when it came to successors of the Petrine See) just because he was in direct line of succession. From your standpoint Leo X was a true successor, right? But Leo X was everything that Polycarp was not, so to us it seems that this conclusion can only be arrived at by forcing this principle of formal succession.

    So the answer to your question as to whether the early Fathers would have denied succession is of course no, but then they certainly would have denied that Leo X (just one of many examples) was legitimate. The idea behind literal succession was to assure that Christian officers as defined in the Scriptures kept the faith as defined in Scriptures. So what do we make of an elder or bishop who violates every clear principle of his office? Do we say they are legitimate because they followed a formal principle of succession? It seems to me that the RCC idea is that you have to ascribe legitimacy to someone like a Leo X even if by biblical and early Church standards every other principle of biblical authority is obviated.

  17. I am still at a Reformed Church and seminary, but I think we (as reformed) also have to recognize that, if there is no material principle to be concerned with in Apostolic Succession, then we’re left in the same place; 40,000+ denominations all claiming to be Apostolic because of the content of their doctrine. What held the early Church together? Democratic consensus or Apostolic authority?

    Jeremy,

    I’m not sure where this number of 40,000 comes from, but what is the difference among the Evangelical community on this issue that you are concerned about? Do you feel divided from your Baptist, Anglican, etc friends over the authority granted by Christ to His Church? If so, how so? I understand that we have an issue with our RCC friends here, but where is the point of division within the Reformed or even the Evangelical community?

  18. Andrew,

    You’re dealing with this now on an individual level and thats not how I was treating it. Any given individual having material succession could defect from the gospel. All of the fathers would agree with this and all Catholics do. It’s beside the point. They still retain apostolic succession just as a wicked prince is still heir to the throne.

    It is conceivable that, say, Thomas could defect from the gospel and be deposed from his role as an apostle (I have other reasons for believing he could not but setting those aside for the sake of the argument…) but it is not conceivable that the council of Jerusalem might have erred nor that those apostles with material succession from Christ could defect to the point that someone without material succession would have the ability, even duty, of recapturing the formal succession of the gospel. But it is no more conceivable to the Catholic mind that this might have happened in the second generation than in the first.

    But if we’re going to ask about individuals, let’s not ask whether Polycarp would recognize Leo – would Polycarp recognize his own pupil Irenaeus who said on the subject:

    “Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre- eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.”

    So would Polycarp also maintain that all churches must agree with Rome on account of her preeminent authority and base this on the material apostolic succession argument identical with the modern Catholic argument? Undoubtedly, yes. The answer is also yes to whether he would recognize Leo as the rightful bishop in St. Peter’s See. Likewise, Mahoney is the rightful bishop of Los Angeles regardless of how of a terrible bishop he is. Nestorius was at one time a rightful bishop as was Arius. I juxtapose these, not to say that Leo X taught any heresy (because he did not) but to show that lack of formal succession cannot invalidate one’s office. This would not be intelligible to the ancient mind any more than it would be to say to the modern mind: Obama is not the rightful president because he doesn’t follow the intentions of the founding fathers.

    Now it is clear that Irenaeus, Polycarp’s pupil, argues for a material succession as further proof for his position. He also argues for formal succession because they have it and the Gnostics do not (likewise, the Catholics have it and Protestants, at least in many instances do not). The Protestants have many arguments why they think they have formal succession; the Gnostics did likewise. But neither of them can make any intelligible argument for material succession. This isn’t necessarily the nail in the coffin – but it’s certainly a strong clue.

    We also have a biblical precedent which proves my point. We know that the Teachers of the Law were corrupt in Jesus’ day but it is divinely revealed that they maintained succession from Moses.

    Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. – Matthew 23:1-3

    So to recap:

    1. Individuals, having apostolic succession can defect
    2. The magisterium, qua magisterium, cannot defect
    3. Polycarp’s pupil, Irenaeus, argues for material succession of bishops (and formal) and these do not conflict. He also argues for the preeminence of Rome and necessity of agreement with her
    4. Protestants cannot make an argument for material succession and are forced to abandon the principle

  19. Also, if Jerusalem could not err, but we say that Trent could, then there must be some arbitrary criteria to decide why since the bishops at Trent had the same claim to material succession as the apostles at Jerusalem. That those in Jerusalem were closer in proximity to Christ, or were the apostles themselves is non-conclusive.

    To say that “Jerusalem was infallible on the grounds of formal succession would be the same as saying Jerusalem was infallible because she taught the true gospel.. or Jerusalem could not stray because she did not. But the Protestant answer to this problem has been to toss out infallibility altogether. This is running away from the problem- not answering it. “All councils may err and many have”. But if Jerusalem may err, then we have no assurance of anything regarding the faith (certainly not some collection of books written many years later and largely by the same men who might have goofed at Jerusalem). But if Jerusalem may not err, then neither may Nicaea or Ephesus or Trent or even Vatican 2.

  20. Andrew,

    Another angle from which we could think about this idea would be the analogy of the marital union. Husband and wife are bound together by a sacramental union. If a husband is unfaithful to his wife, he does not become not a husband, he becomes a bad husband who needs to repent.

    So a bishop who strays into heresy still has the sacramental seal of being a bishop, he will be a bishop forever according to Catholic theology, but he may be a very bad bishop.

    Straying a bit from the analogy, said bishop may even be stripped of his authority to rule a diocese, but he would still have the indelible mark on his soul that makes him a bishop.

    So the distinction is this: a bishop once ordained will always be a bishop and have the authority to confect the sacraments appropriate to his office. What he might lose is the authority to minister in the Church if he starts teaching doctrine contrary to the Apostolic faith. This is where the doctrinal fidelity of Apostolic Succession meets the material side of Apostolic Succession in perfect harmony.

    As Catholics we embrace and cherish both.

  21. Something to be remembered in this discussion is the definition of “succession” which assumes continuity.

    It seems that the Reformed must confess something similar to what the Gnostics claimed – i.e. the Catholic bishops lost the true continuity and that true doctrine is available only from enlightened teachers.

    Moreover, if Calvinist ministers do not have apostolic succession, then they are really no different than a Young Life leader since in each case his authority is derived from community or personal charisma and not from a continual succession deriving from the 12 Apostles.

  22. Hey Andrew,
    Jeremy,

    Jeremy,

    “I’m not sure where this number of 40,000 comes from, but what is the difference among the Evangelical community on this issue that you are concerned about? Do you feel divided from your Baptist, Anglican, etc friends over the authority granted by Christ to His Church? If so, how so? I understand that we have an issue with our RCC friends here, but where is the point of division within the Reformed or even the Evangelical community?”

    The number 40,000 comes from Gordon Conwell Seminary and there actual estimate is only 38,000. They released these numbers in 2006 so I added a few thousand extra to cover the past three years.

    To answer your question; yes, I feel very divided from friends in other denominations. Denominationalism kills fellowship and evangelization. I remember being excited to tell my friends about my daughters baptism (she was four months old) and instead of mutually rejoicing with fellow believers I found our conversation devolving into a theological debate over infant baptism. This is also true when other friends would tell me about their charismatic experience. As a PCA’er, I was/am suppose to believe in cessation. I could not rejoice with them, I could only think they were nuts for speaking in tongues.

    Denominationalism also kills evangelism. I was converted through young life and my heart has always been reaching the lost for Christ. For three years my wife and I lived and worked in Manhattan where I spent a great deal of time sharing the gospel with co-workers (overeducated New Yorker’s). I can’t tell you how many times I was asked the question, “which type of Christianity are you selling?” Collectively, Protestantism is communicating to the world “WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE BIBLE IS SAYING.” True, no particular denomination is saying this, but as a whole this is our message. One of my atheist friends in New York put it this way;

    “you say the Bible means this, my Catholic mom says it means this, the Jehovah witness that keeps coming to my house says it means this, Fundamentalist guy preaching on the subway thinks it means this…my conclusion, the Bible must be an unintelligible book.”
    I am looking into the Catholic Church because I don’t see anybody else offering a solution to this crisis. And that’s what it has become, an absolute crisis.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  23. Tim,

    Sorry for my delayed response – I’m wondering around European cities and have intermittent access to the Internet.

    You are stating the Catholic standpoint here very clearly, but I don’t really think you are attempting to prove it. At least I can’t see that you are. You say that the early Church Fathers all held to literal succession and I would agree. So at this point I would ask why quote Irenaeus? Nobody is arguing that there was some sort of divide this early in Christianity. OK, maybe you don’t realize this so let me say that there is no issue here. But Protestants do argue that a distinct difference had developed by the time of the late Middle Ages and early Reformation so I picked an example from this era.

    So yes, the earlier Fathers believed in literal succession but they also believed in the holiness of the clergy as the basis for discipline the Church. Of course they were inventing nothing new here. All you have to do is read Timothy and Titus where the basis for choosing officers is clearly defined. Cyprian elaborated in great detail on this principle as I’m sure you know. The principle of succession as a basis for the validity of officers is spoken of in the early Fathers, but so are the principles that were originally spoken of in Timothy/Titus and then restated by Fathers as exemplified in Cyprian’s writings. But you are effectively claiming I think that all that matters is that a given officer has valid orders all other principles aside. You say that Leo X was valid based on his literal succession, but by every other principle laid down in Scripture and subsequently reiterated in the earliest Fathers, Leo X was completely illegitimate. So you say to me that surely these early Fathers would have recognized Leo X as being legitimate even though he possessed almost none of the characteristics that Fathers like Cyprian said were absolutely necessary. So again, why are you utilizing just one principle to determine validity and disregarding all others? If you want to defend Rome against Protestantism it seems to me that you need to argue that the Early Fathers would have made literal succession the sole principle for determining validity. I fully realize that conservative Catholics bemoan all the nonsense that happens in their various liberal wings. But effectively, the fact that someone knowingly and willingly denies Christ does not exclude him from being in good standing in the RCC, and does not prevent him from holding an office in the RCC, and historically does not even prevent him from being the Pope! It is here where we see the RCC falling away from the faith of the early Christian Church.

  24. Jeremy,

    OK, so you are saying that evangelism is the problem (or at least a problem) because denominationalism hurts evangelism. First can I suggest that many many Reformed and Evangelical missionaries in the field who work with brothers and sisters from other denominations would not relate to what you are saying (if you don’t believe me try calling up MTW or one of the other Reformed sending agencies and ask). So why do you think this is? My suggestion to you is that they have found a way to live with the differences among the various denominational backgrounds in their mission field and been the better for it. Perhaps your felling is just that, a feeling?

    Secondly, denominationalism certainly can be an issue but so can liberalism. This is why in conservative denominations either the liberals get kicked out or leave. This is the purification that I was speaking of previously. In liberal denominations evangelism is nigh unto impossible. How can you evangelize if you can’t agree who Christ is, what sin is, etc? This is why those who profess Christ and those who deny him should not share the same organizational structure. Here is where Catholicism and Protestantism have the same problem. We both have hard core conservatives and hard core liberals and everyone else in the middle. Both Protestantism and Catholicism are a mushy mess of just about anything you could want to find. But the difference among conservative Catholics is that they share the same organizational structure with the liberals and everyone else in Catholicism. Nobody gets tossed out unless they do something really outrageous. Those who profess Christ and those who deny Him are all called “Catholic.” Historically it would be like those who hold to orthodoxy and those who profess Gnosticism, Manicheanism, Donatism, etc all sharing the same organizational structure and all referring to themselves as “Catholics.” So given the Catholic situation, how difficult do you think evangelism would be here?

    “you say the Bible means this, my Catholic mom says it means this, the Jehovah witness that keeps coming to my house says it means this, Fundamentalist guy preaching on the subway thinks it means this…my conclusion, the Bible must be an unintelligible book.”
    I am looking into the Catholic Church because I don’t see anybody else offering a solution to this crisis. And that’s what it has become, an absolute crisis.

    Now given what you say above, how is the Catholic Church providing a solution to the “crisis?” They are just one opinion above.

  25. Andrew, you didn’t respond to the points I mentioned in defense of the Catholic view. I’ll let you re-read and respond to those if you’d like.

    The arguments in Timothy and Titus are not related to this discussion; they do not talk about apostolic succession they talk about how to make a good choice in ordination. Catholics do not think it is wise to ordain a polygamist or an unruly man either. So we agree with those; or if there is something specific in Timothy or Titus that argues against the Catholic idea of apostolic succession – let’s hear it. Also, earlier I said “Can you provide an example of an early Church father who argued against those in succession from the apostles on the basis of false doctrine?” and you haven’t responded. I don’t want to assume that you agree that there is no such thing – so please provide the example. If we want to have a serious discussion about this, these subtle red-herrings aren’t helping.

    But you are effectively claiming I think that all that matters is that a given officer has valid orders all other principles aside.

    I can’t understand where you’re coming from here. Matt addressed this already – if you disagree with him – please state why. Because the question, by how you’re approaching it, is becoming very confused. It seems like you’re asking “is valid orders the only thing that matters for valid orders?” and the answer is of course yes.

    On Cyprian, he never argued the case you’re arguing. Cyprian believed Stephen was the rightful successor to the chair of Peter even though he thought Stephen was teaching heresy. And of course Cyprian and all the African bishops ended up being wrong on the issue. Again, if you disagree – you can provide a passage .from Cyprian arguing the Protestant case to prove your point.

    Finally, on Irenaeus, do you agree with him that “Mary is the cause of salvation for the human race” or that all churches must agree with the Church at Rome because of her “preeminent authority”?

  26. Andrew,

    My suggestion to you is that they have found a way to live with the differences among the various denominational backgrounds in their mission field and been the better for it. Perhaps your felling is just that, a feeling?

    That wasn’t Kristine Franklin’s experience.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  27. Can you provide an example of an early Church father who argued against those in succession from the apostles on the basis of false doctrine?” and you haven’t responded

    Tim – Are you reading what I’m writing? I already said that we have no disagreement that the early Fathers teach a principle of succession. I’m not disagreeing with you! How many times do you want me to say this? Yes, there is in the ealry Church Fathers the idea that in order for an officer of the Church to be considered valid he must have been appointed by previous officers. But they also point out just what Paul points out in Timothy and Titus that there are other requirements that must be met for an officer to be considered valid. Why do you deny that these clear principles of what an officer should look like are relevant?

    I know that the definitions for Church officers in Paul’s letters don’t talk about apostolic succession. But, they do talk about other basic principles besides apostolic succession. Are you saying that what is contained in Timothy and Titus is irrelevant to whether a given officer is valid or not? If so, how can you say this? What if someone exemplifies everything that Paul’s letters say should not characterize an officer? Do we say they are valid just because they are “physically” descended from previous officers? Again, are you going to say that physical succession is all that matters?

    Did Matt in his email say anthing different than you? If I can paraphrase what what Matt said, the bishop remains a bishop no matter what sort of heresy he falls into. Is this right and is it anything effectively different than what you say? OK, so now let’s say we start with someone like our various Renassiance Popes who began denying Christ right from the beginning of their tenure. Was the ordination of someone like this valid just because they had valid orders or should we consider what Paul (as reiteratured by Cyprian, etc) says to Timothy about what characterizes of a true and faithful officer of the Church? Or are you going to say that valid orders (again yes, certainly one characterisitc of a valid officer) trumps everything else?

    We do not deny the importance of one generation of officers picking the next. But if we have officers being chosen who deny Christ by their clearly stated theology and practice, then we say they are not valid. It seems to us the Catholicism just blends in everyone, faithful and unfaithful, into one melting pot that is called Catholicism. The Reformed generally remove those who deny Christ so that our communion is one of those who profess Christ and our leaders are those who in general fall in line with Paul’s defintions of Church officers. This does not mean that there are no goats among the sheep, but only that when the goats are found out to be goats, we deal with them as such.

  28. Andrew –

    You said “Do we want to say that all that matters is that we can draw a straight line to the “physical” decentants of the Apostles, all other matters regardless? We Reformed would argue from Scripture and the earliest tradition of the Church that there is more than this.”

    I’m asking you to back that up by an early Church father quote. Hence I said Can you provide an example of an early Church father who argued against those in succession from the apostles on the basis of false doctrine?

    Let me remind you that the issue in question is apostolic succession and not whether one is a good Christian. So, to that end, do you now retract the argument that the early fathers considered more than a material succession as part of the right to rule as bishop or do you still maintain it? If you maintain it, please provide some support.

    You said “we Reformed would argue from Scripture and earliest tradition.” I’m only asking you to actually make the argument and to provide the quotes. You referenced Timothy and Titus but you only talk vaguely about them. Please provide the actual verses you think support your case. You can also provide the passages from early fathers.

  29. Andrew,

    At the end of the day, and I think everybody on this site would agree, the realization of the holes are evangelicalism and reformatio theology are painful. I love/loved the Reformed faith and worked as hard as I could to convince every Christian I met to embrace Calvinism. For me, it has been a painfully honest process, as I’ve gone through seminary, to admit that something is wrong and missing from the Reformed faith. When my best friend’s dad gets excommunicated from the PCA for having an affair and refusing to repent, and then goes down the street (literally) and becomes a member at another evangelical Church, something is serious off. Personally, it has been painful to come to terms with this reality, but facing, rather than denying what we’ve done in tearing the Church to shreds is what we’re called to do as believers. Its our cross to carry, we must let it bother us.
    Peace in Christ, Jeremy
    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  30. Andrew,

    You’re not dealing with the arguemnt as it’s posed, either from us or from Sacred Scripture. St. Paul is giving criteria on which to choose perspective bishops not the criteria on which the validity of existing bishops is to be judged.

    What’s more, St. Paul does explicitly speak of physical Apostolic succession when he refers to the gift of the Holy Spirit that was given to Timothy by the laying on of St. Paul’s hands. In fact, this is the one and only biblical criteria we have for judging who does and does not have authority in the Church.

    Again, we as Catholics heartily affirm that candidates for this laying on of hands should meet the criteria laid out in St. Paul’s epistles, but this does not deal at all with how we judge these men once they have been ordained.

    Rome would agree completely with the Reformed that men who receive ordination and proceed to act or teach in ways unfitting to their office should be removed from service. But that’s not the question at hand.

  31. […] First, because of a short conversation that went on at one of my favorite blogs –    Called to Communion (the conversation on Apostolic succession was in the comments).  And second, because the claim […]

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