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Jul 20th, 2009 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Is sola scriptura offended if it takes more than the Bible to be obedient to the Bible? Dr. Derek Thomas, Professor of Systematic and Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, gives his insight in his column Corinthian Enthusiasm, in the July 2009 Tabletalk magazine.  On the one hand, he opens with this: “Only one book is absolutely essential to save us . . . . Only one book gives us undiluted truth — the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Only one book serves as our ultimate and final authority in all that it affirms. That book, of course, is the Bible.” But, on the other hand, he explains: “And yet the irony is that if we use only this book, we may in fact be in disobedience to it.  We should count good teaching about the Bible — whether through commentaries, books, sermons, study Bibles, and so on — to be a gift from God for the good of His church.”

Denver Seminary Library

So how can it be that the book which gives us “the whole truth,” an “undiluted truth,” if used in isolation, could result in disobedience to its truth?  Dr. Thomas seems to have a rejection of the biblicist, or ‘solo scriptura‘ view in mind: “So what may look pious on the outside (“Just me and my Bible!”) can actually mask pride on the inside.”  (A future article of this site will explore the distinction between sola and solo scriptura in great detail, so I will not fully take that up here.)  The inference is that while it is prideful to think one’s private interpretation of the Bible can hold one in obedience to the Bible, it is humble to look to commentaries, sermons, and the like to remain obedient to God’s Word. The difficulty here is that the Bible-plus-commentaries view is not principally distinct from the solo-ist view, because the former would have to use the Bible to decide which commentaries, sermons, etc. to use to properly remain obedient to the Bible.

Dr. Thomas uses the example of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 to make his point that the Bible plus supplemental exposition can be needed to avoid disobedience to the Bible.  “During his return trip he was puzzling out loud over the Isaiah scroll that he held in his hands. And the Holy Spirit appointed Philip to help him understand the meaning of the Bible.”  Of course, we know that Philip asked the eunuch if he understood the scroll, to which he replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” Dr. Thomas explains what he sees as a lesson from this pericope.  The Ethiopian, on his own initiative, wrestles to understand “God’s Word,” and then “humbly acknowledges his own insufficiency and lack of understanding,” “admit[ting] that he needs help.”  The fruit of his wrestling is the ability to ask a “good, clear, relevant question,” which, combined with careful listening “to the Christ-centered, gospel-focused teaching before him,” allows the eunuch to put into practice what he received “from the Word and from his commentator.”

In other words, we, like the Ethiopian eunuch, cannot understand the Bible unless we acknowledge our own insufficiency and lack of understanding, and receive Christ-centered teaching. But here our problem surfaces: if we need the Bible plus Christ-centered teaching to allow our insufficient selves to grasp the sufficient Bible, how do we know which teaching is Christ-centered?  To what measure or touchstone do we hold our teachers?  Do we judge our commentaries by other commentaries, catechisms, sermons, or the like (which only pushes the question back), or do we judge them by the Bible (that is, “Just me and my Bible”)?

In the discussion of the eunuch’s admission that he is insufficient to understand the Scriptures, Dr. Thomas shifts from looking to Philip as the reliable expositor of scripture, explaining that we should go directly to God for an explanation: “[God] wants to be asked and . . . He promises to assist us: ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him’ (James 1:5).'” Further, he points to Psalms 119 as a model for seeking understanding: ‘Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.”

We are thus offered only two methods for deciding which commentaries to use to supplement the Bible: either we pick the ones we privately determine to be in conformity with the Bible, or we receive wisdom about proper Bible supplements directly from God. If reading the Bible without commentaries can ironically lead us to be disobedient to it, then the former position seems to be eliminated — we cannot use the Bible alone to determine which commentaries to use to aid in the Bible’s exposition. For this reason, we seem left looking to the Holy Spirit to assure us that we are using the right supplements in our scriptural interpretation, a ‘burning in the bosom.’

I agree with Dr. Thomas that the me-and-my-Bible method of interpreting the Bible can lead to error.  And I commend the use of the Ethiopian eunuch passage to offer a lesson in this matter.  But the better lesson from Acts 8 is that we need someone to teach us (“How can I, unless someone guides me?”), and that someone is the likes of Deacon Philip, not a teacher of my own choosing.

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  1. Tom,

    And if bosom-burning is the fundamental guide to commentaries, there is no principled need for the middle-man (i.e. commentaries). There is no principled need then, even for Scripture, as Jakob Boehme (1557-1624) wrote:

    I have enough with the book that I am. If I have within me the Spirit of Christ, the entire Bible is in me. Why would I wish for more books? Why discuss what is outside, while not having learned what is within me?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  2. And if every book except the Bible–therefore all commentaries–are not inerrant, even if we find a “good” one, at best we can hope that it mostly teaches truth, but we have no way of really knowing under this system unless the Holy Spirit burns our bosom positively when we read something true in the commentary and burns our bosom negatively when we read something false.

    An excellent encapsulation of the dilemma, Tom.

  3. Dear Bryan,

    That is an interesting quote. Does it follow, though, that there would be no need for a Bible if bosom-burning were the way to knowledge of truth (and God’s will)? Couldn’t God will to use a bosom-burning + Bible methodology, sort of a combination of mediate and immediate supernatural revelation to each Christian?

    And of course if that is so, He can will to use a combination of bosom-burning + Bible + commentaries methodology. My point is that Dr. Thomas really winds up with only two options: (a) self-refutation of his position (that Bible w/out commentaries can lead to disobeying the Bible); or (b) some admixture of bosom-burning in the truth-seeking process.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  4. Tom,

    I’m not saying that resorting to bosom-burning necessitates setting aside Scripture, but it does make doing so possible. And if it is possible, then all it takes is a little bosom-burning in that direction to make it actual.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  5. Tom,
    Thanks for posting these thoughts. The Tabletalk article is at least open and honest, and of course the matter of determining which interpretative grid is Biblical leads to some circular logic. I was just commenting to my wife how elements of the Federal Vision movement were impossible to refute outside of appeals to the Reformed Confessions, and the most interesting part of that was the fact that the points where they were hardest to refute were when they sounded Catholic. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say….

    Jonathan

  6. Dear Jonathan,

    I agree with you that the Tabletalk column was “open and honest.” I have a favorable opinion of it precisely for that reason. It is hard to engage with the position of a vaguely written piece. This column was a bit gutsy to step out there and oppose “just-me-and-my-Bible.” This allows for an analysis of whether a principled distinction from that position, while remaining true to the sola scriptura paradigm, is even possible.

    “I was just commenting to my wife how elements of the Federal Vision movement were impossible to refute outside of appeals to the Reformed Confessions…” Wasn’t that precisely the flap from the PCA General Assembly of two years ago? The GA adopted a report condemning the Federal Visionists based on non-conformity to the Westminster standards (only), and not Scripture. I’ve always been torn over the Federal Vision spirit. I never cared for what seemed like an open willingness to be divisive with the denomination; I admired that they were willing to go where their study of Scripture took them.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  7. Tom,

    I think your article is a fair statement of the use of commentaries and the interaction between commentary on Scripture and the Scripture itself in Protestantism. But isn’t there a similar sort of situation within the RCC? You have an infallible tradition which comprises Scripture and the de fide statements of the Magesterium. There is lots of commentary on RCC tradition. Sometimes the commentary is correct and sometimes it isn’t. And when the commentary is incorrect, it because it has been jusdged to be incorrect by the standard of the aforementioned tradition. This sort of back and forth between the infallible source and the commentary on that infallible source happens in both Reformed and RCC worlds. I think you might like to make the case that there is a fundamental difference but you have not done that in your post.

    Perhpas you think that the “sola” terminology is not helpful to describe the situation and I understand this. We certainly are not wedded to a given terminology.

  8. Dear Andrew,

    Great to hear from you, and thanks for the comment!

    I did not take up the Catholic position in my post, though I realize that given our forum, it is assumed we are juxtaposing Catholicism to the Reformed faith. I actually was simply commenting on an interesting Tabletalk column without the Catholic view specifically in mind. I was not trying to make out a case that there is a “fundamental difference” between Catholics and Reformed on knowing truth (though there is one!), but rather that there is *no* fundamental (principled) difference between biblicism and Bible + commentaries. My point in this post was that Dr. Thomas position on how to know truth can only go in one of two directions (based on the choices with which he has left us): either biblicism (and I’m not wedded to terminology either, but the underlying premises), or bosom-burning. I meant to comment that the middle position is not there.

    But your question is interesting nonetheless. Catholicism does not need to reduce to either of those, because the Catholic can look to his valid teaching authority, whether it speaks fallibly or infallibly. We may agree on what you are saying on Catholic commentaries (there can appear to be a back-and-forth on the orthodox position over matters that have not been dogmatically declared). So the Catholic today can know how to be obedient to God’s will the same way that the Ethiopian eunuch did, by looking to the properly authorized teachers of the Church which Christ established at Pentecost. In this way an illiterate slum-dweller in Mumbai, India can know the Gospel sufficiently, and know how to be obedient to it: no Bible or commentary needed for him (immediately).

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  9. the Catholic today can know how to be obedient to God’s will the same way that the Ethiopian eunuch did, by looking to the properly authorized teachers of the Church which Christ established at Pentecost.

    Tom,

    If you are just pointing out that the Reformed cannot claim valid orders as defined by the RCC, then OK, I certainly can’t argue with that. We certainly don’t ascribe to the RCC technical defintions of such things. But if you want to say that rejection of the RCC understanding of “properly authorized teachers” will lead to biblicism or bosom-burning, then that’s where I would point out that the Reformed aren’t doing anything different procedurally than the RCC when they come to defining a given issue, except that 1) the Reformed don’t have the same set of infallible rules and 2) the Reformed secondary standards don’t rise ot the level of authority of the primary standards. But the process is essentially the same. For both RCC and Reformed, there is a set of primary standards and then there is a historical deliberative process by which those primary standards are reviewed and secondary standards and commentaries produced. The “problem” of what happens when a given commentary of the primary standard is shown to be in error by further deliberation on the primary stadards is an issue for both RCC and Reformed as I see it.

    But if it just comes down to being “properly authorized” then this raises the question as to whether the RCC definition of propoer atuhorization is correct.

    On the FV issue that you raise above in #6, what the FV folks were consistently told was that the matter of fidelity of the Reformed confessions to the Scriptures and that of the fidelity of FV theology to the confessions were two different issues. In many cases the debates with the FV became very confusing because some of the FV proponents were blending these two debates into one.

  10. Person 1: “Samuel Alito is one of the judges on the supreme court.”

    Person 2: “No, he isn’t.”

    P1: “He was duly appointed.. ”

    P2: “I know in my heart he is not one of the judges because he does not abide by the constitution.”

    These persons are NOT equally guilty of bosom burning. P1 has a principled advantage over P2 in determining the authority that interprets the constitution. So does the Catholic Church over the Protestant position. Therefore, the process is emphatically not the same for Protestants and Catholics. If you disagree, show, in the example above, how person 1 is doing the same thing as person 2.

  11. Dear Andrew,

    “if you want to say that rejection of the RCC understanding of “properly authorized teachers” will lead to biblicism or bosom-burning,…”

    I would say that, like the eunuch in Acts 8, I needed in my life a teacher to explain the Scriptures to me (I never would have grasped Christology without such teachers!). I do not see that Dr. Thomas has provided a method for measuring which teachers to trust besides biblicism or bosom-burning. Do you? I think the Catholic Church, Orthodoxy, and the Anglican Communion may have alternatives, but that’s a larger scope than I intended to cover with this post.

    “…then that’s where I would point out that the Reformed aren’t doing anything different procedurally than the RCC when they come to defining a given issue, except that 1) the Reformed don’t have the same set of infallible rules and 2) the Reformed secondary standards don’t rise ot the level of authority of the primary standards.”

    I hear you, but I do not see who is teaching the neophyte about the faith as Philip taught the eunuch. If Philip’s teaching authority didn’t “rise to the level of authority” of the scroll upon which he expounded, how was Philip’s teaching distinct from X’s, Y’s, or Z’s (or from the eunuch’s own guess as to what the text meant)? Please note, I am not saying Philip had an abrogative or veto power over Isaiah, but that his authority to interpret was from the same source as that which granted Isaiah his authority to write. In this sense, the Reformed “secondary standards” (pastors, the WCF, trusted commentaries, etc.) don’t at all claim to do what the Catholic teaching authority does. Therefore, the process of reaching a doctrinal or moral decision in the Catholic and Reformed faiths is not essentially the same.

    “The “problem” of what happens when a given commentary of the primary standard is shown to be in error by further deliberation on the primary stadards is an issue for both RCC and Reformed as I see it.”

    I may agree with you here, if we are merely speaking of theological opinion about matters not dogmatically defined. But if we are speaking of the trinity or transubstantiation, then the Catholic teaching authority has not released “commentary” but juridical proclamation. Because the Reformed do not have (and do not claim to have) a body or process to make such proclamations, the processes of the bodies are starkly different.

    Regarding the FV movement, it is odd that they should be told that the issues (fidelity to Bible and fidelity to confession) were distinct, unless some important qualification were added (like ‘distinct but significantly overlapping’). Wasn’t such a qualification made?

    Good discussion, thanks!

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  12. I would say that, like the eunuch in Acts 8, I needed in my life a teacher to explain the Scriptures to me (I never would have grasped Christology without such teachers!). I do not see that Dr. Thomas has provided a method for measuring which teachers to trust besides biblicism or bosom-burning.

    When you read someone like Derek Thomas and then dig into his sources, he is connected to an impressive array of theologians, not just those that are alive today but the countless thousands of theologians who have comprised at least part of the Western tradition back to the Reformation and before. And this was true of the Reformed family of Churches when they parted ways with the RCC. The Reformers had a staggering knowledge of the history of the Church as well the Scriptures. The Reformers were connected with a great multitude of witnesses and history. It was not about what one of these theologians felt. The confessions that came out of the Reformation were based on the aforementioned deliberative process that encompassed a huge amount of biblical and historical analysis. Where they parted ways with the RCC theologians, who were also going through analogous deliberative processes, was over the nature of the foundation of infallible knowledge. But when I look on these Reformed teachers I don’t see folks who were giving just their opinion. So I agree with you that we need authoritative teachers and I think where we disagree is over whether or not we can say that the teaching authority of any deliberative body can promulgate something which is infallible. For us infallibility is reserved for the Words of God, not what even a collection of bishops speaking in an official capacity say about the Word of God.

    Because the Reformed do not have (and do not claim to have) a body or process to make such proclamations, the processes of the bodies are starkly different.

    I am repeating what I say above, but I think we do have such proclamations, but we don’t ever say that they have inherent or de facto equivalence to the Word of God.

    For the congregation that ties its work and worship to the Reformation, we neither in theory or in practice allow for individualistic interpretation. That does not mean that folks don’t leave when they feel like it but then there are no shortage of cafeteria sorts in the RCC congregations as well.

    On the FV issue, ministers in Reformed congregation promise to uphold their confession. When they don’t they are held responsible. It’s sort of like being tried by the laws of a city and then appealing to the US constitution. It may be that a given city’s laws are not in accord with the constitution, but when you are in court being tried for breaking the laws of the city the judge is not going to debate the US Constitution with you. This is a different matter for a different court. If every local judge had to work through foundational constitutional issues on infractions of local laws it would make for an impossible mess. Likewise with the FV, the courts were trying to analyze the adherence of the FV folks to the confession and leave the question of the relationship of the confession to the Scriptures to another deliberative body if necessary.

  13. Dear Andrew,

    “When you read someone like Derek Thomas and then dig into his sources, he is connected to an impressive array of theologians, not just those that are alive today but the countless thousands of theologians who have comprised at least part of the Western tradition back to the Reformation and before.”

    To be clear, I have no doubt that Dr. Thomas is a fine Scholar and godly Reformed man. The issue is what method he offered in his column for measuring which teachers to trust besides biblicism or bosom-burning. Is your answer that an alternate is to be connected in thought and teaching to an impressive array of scholars down through time?

    This would only push the question back, I believe. It does not tell us which teachers are the right ones with whom to be connected, nor who decides which ons are impressive. That information, it seems to my PCA ears, would have come to from Scripture or bosom-burning.

    Perhaps you would say that we trust Augustine, for instance, because of objective manifestations of his brilliance and devotion to God? In that case, why did the Reformers take only some of his teachings, and leave the rest? If we look to the impressive array because of its objective impressiveness, it would be ad hoc to accept from its members only what we find to be true.

    Where they parted ways with the RCC theologians, who were also going through analogous deliberative processes, was over the nature of the foundation of infallible knowledge.

    You see the infallability claim as the difference between a Catholic conclave and a Presbyterian assembly of elders, but I disagree. The deliberative processes are not analogous. The difference is the authority of the interpreter to make interpretation — infallability is a characteristic of the product. The same goes for Isaiah: he was a Prophet of God not because he was infallible, but because he had the authority to speak for the Almighty. The infallibility of the words he communicated was a characteristic of his office.

    For us infallibility is reserved for the Words of God, not what even a collection of bishops speaking in an official capacity say about the Word of God.

    How do you know which teachings build you up to an understanding of and obedience to the scriptures? How do you know the Reformed tradition is superior to the Lutheran or Anglican?

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  14. This would only push the question back, I believe. It does not tell us which teachers are the right ones with whom to be connected, nor who decides which ons are impressive.

    Yes Tom, and here is where some of the difference is. When the Medieval Church formulated so many of the doctrines that separate you and I, was she correct or not? Both sides engaged in historical analysis, textual criticism, etc, etc and came to different conclusions. But what the Reformers were doing was not saying, “here is what I feel.” They were saying, “here is the verdict of the Church.” They were not just pointing to Scriptures, they were pointing to the Early Church and showing where the Medieval RCC had gone wrong. And Tom, I know you won’t agree with the assessment that the Reformers made, but my point is that they were making this assessment, and the RCC theologians were looking at the same data and making a different assessment. Why they came to this different assessment is the big question.

    If you are correct that the Reformers were doing something that was akin to what Joseph Smith did, then it’s hard to push the dialogue beyond this. If it really just is the bosom-burning stuff then I better stop right here.

    why did the Reformers take only some of his teachings, and leave the rest?

    But the RCC does not take all of Augustine’s teaching as gospel truth either, do they? In his Retractions written at the end of his life, Augustine himself bemoaned of how much he had been influenced by the pagans in his earlier thinking. The RCC does not take any Early or Medieval Church theologian’s teaching without the proper critique, does she? Every scholar had their pros and cons. But the assessment of which scholar to accept on what topic is just the matter under consideration. Or so it would seem to me.

    Cheers….

  15. Andrew,

    But what the Reformers were doing was not saying, “here is what I feel.” They were saying, “here is the verdict of the Church.”

    The problem is that they didn’t have the authority to speak for the Church and give the “verdict of the Church” any more than Korah could speak for the Israelites, or Marcion could speak for the second-century Church, or the Arians could speak for the fourth century Church. Each of them too could have said, “Here is the verdict of the Church.” But it would have not been the verdict of the Church precisely because they had not been given the authority to speak for the Church and determine her verdict. No one gave the Protestants the authority to determine the “verdict of the Church.” (See The Catholic Controversy, by St. Francis de Sales.) As Heb 5:4 says, “And no one takes the honor to himself”. Divine authority must be given; it cannot be taken. The Church belongs to Christ, and hence no one can speak for the Church except those whom Christ has authorized to speak for the Church. Those without the succession had no such authority; the Church had not authorized them or sent them. So their claim “here is the verdict of the Church” had no authorization. That’s the point St. Francis de Sales makes in his opening chapter.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  16. Dear Andrew,

    Thank you for the reply. Understanding each other does take time, so I appreciate your patience with me.

    “When the Medieval Church formulated so many of the doctrines that separate you and I, was she correct or not? Both sides engaged in historical analysis, textual criticism, etc, etc and came to different conclusions.”

    Then why specifically do you believe ‘your’ side and not the other side? You have defended at least two times that the Reformers were not saying, “here is how I feel” when reaching their conclusions. I hope to be clear that this is not my charge against them. I freely grant that each side made an assessment based on information before them, and then reached different conclusions.

    We need to do more here, or else we forever stand at an impasse (Cf. John 17 (implying an imperative to seek unity)). You said that if I insist that the Reformers reached their answer via bosom-burning, the conversation is at an end. I do not want to show that the Reformers used bosom-burning; I want to learn what they were using, and how it is distinct from biblicism or bosom-burning (the two choices that appeared to me to be in Dr. Thomas’s column).

    Your answer seems to be: textual/historical criticism. And you defend the Reformers picking of parts of Augustine by saying that the Catholics did the same thing (i.e., picking and chosing which Fathers and which parts of Fathers to call ‘true’) (a tu quoque rebuttal). You said, “But the assessment of which scholar to accept on what topic is just the matter under consideration.” If that is the only matter, we would be left with our question pushed back, and thus left at an impasse. We need to establish why we accept assessment X vs. assessment Y. Do you follow the Reformers because you have concluded that their conclusions (and thus subsequent commentaries and teachings on the Bible) were more academically rigorous, more faithful to the Bible’s plain text, or some other answer?

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  17. Then why specifically do you believe ‘your’ side and not the other side?

    Tom (and Bryan),

    I don’t see you as being “the other side” necessarily. I do see that there are important matters where we disagree. Now if Bryan is correct in his last post above that the Reformers had no authority to be making theological assessments then the case is closed, Catholicism is correct, and the Reformers are proved wrong. From my standpoint, Bryan is just stating a difference between us without attempting a proof. But if you like Bryan are convinced that there are certain issues that invalidate the Reformers claims wholesale then there is no point in talking about specific issues that separate us. Would you agree with that? The Apostles got into the same sort of debate with some of the Jews who were convinced that there literal succession from Abraham guaranteed that God would always be faithful to this literal line and the Apostles could not speak with any authority since they could not claim such pedigree. For the Jews who held to such an idea there was nothing more to be said.

    If we agree that it’s not so much of a “side” to be picked but rather specific issues to talk through then maybe the question you ask above could better be stated as why do we hold to certain positions against what Rome teaches? And to that we would say that if we take a certain issue we have to delve back into the Scriptures and subsequently into the witness of the Early Fathers to determine if the later Church got it right or not. So if we take the issue of prayers to Mary for an example, we note that there was no practice of teaching concerning prayers to Mary in the early centuries of the Church. Certainly in the 4th and 5th centuries such a practice took hold. So it seems to me we have to ask the question as to whether it is possible to see the later RCC belief as a proper development of the earlier tradition. We have to ask why the change occurred and whether the change was justified. If the answer is no, then we conclude that Rome was not correct on that point. And I do understand that this is no easy sort of assessment and that Catholic and Protestant approach such matters with different hermeneutical frameworks, but that’s the way I look at it.

    I’m not sure why you are saying that my answer on Augustine was tu quoque. I just wanted to point out that there is probably no Father or theologian in the history of the Church whose teaching the RCC would affirm without qualification. When we look at Augustine, even he did not agree with himself as he qualified some of his thinking later in life. And we would agree with Augustine that he does sound much too Neoplatonic (to pick one example) earlier in his writings.

    BTW, I think it’s me dragging my feet rather than you.

  18. Derek’s piece is neither surprising nor unusual. Thoughtful Reformed profs (among others) regularly refute nuda scriptura and the strange brand of fundamentalism/primitivism that attends it. I look forward to the pice on solo vs sola (interacting with Mathison on this?). The question is not one of any authoirty at all for extra-biblical sources, but rather ultimate and infallible authority. Rome posits not simply the necessity of an external guide to understanding the Scriptures but the dogma of an infallible magesterium, which, at least from an historical perspective simply isn’t going to work. So great was the fear of ‘Bible Study’ in the RCC that prior to Vat 2 members were regularly steered away from reading and studying Scripture on their own – and thats a quote from RC writers not just my own opinion. I constantly read ‘demolitions’ of sola scriptura which are nothing of the kind but just the same old burning of straw men. Look, the Church – and by this one has to mean MORE than the Bishops assembled in Council – other wise even Priests can’t teach the Bible – must guide the faithful, and Protestants do this all the time, especially with reference to the first six ecumenical councils and yes from our own confessional standards too. The difference is that while the Church must interpret the Bible and teach the Bible, the Bible corrects the Church while the Church never corrects the Bible (perhaps Luther’s lowest moment was adding ‘alone’ to his translation of Romans). That capacity for correction good friends makes all the difference in the world.

    On a lighter note, I recall an old story about a sem proffessor asked by a student whether or not he needed to bring a Bible to class with him. “Yes”, replied the professor, “You will find it sheds a lot of light on the commentaries.”

    IX,

    DP Cassidy

  19. Dear Andrew,

    Thank you, that was quite helpful to me in understanding your position.

    “if Bryan is correct in his last post above that the Reformers had no authority to be making theological assessments then the case is closed, Catholicism is correct, and the Reformers are proved wrong.”

    Maybe so, but at least by knowing where he stands, we know where the discussion should lie, and you quite correctly invited him to attempt a proof to support his conclusion. But I hope you can see that, given Bryan’s (Catholic) belief, it would not profit much to spend time debating a particular analysis undertaken with historical criticism, when the actual difference is whether we should be looking to that scholarly discipline or the magisterium for truth. The discussion should be over *why* we look to that discipline or the Pope or the burning bosom or the four-corners of the Bible for truth.

    Talking through the issues from the historical-critical perspective seems (at the onset) to present an inevitable conclusion: we will never be in doctrinal unity if attempt to reach conclusions issue by issue. I don’t see how any two people could reach the same conclusions.

    “if we take a certain issue we have to delve back into the Scriptures and subsequently into the witness of the Early Fathers to determine if the later Church got it right or not.”

    Is this the right test? Do you posit that primitivism (what’s the word?) is the hallmark of truth? And what puts us in a better position to second-guess the analysis of the Church’s leaders at 200, 300, or 400 AD?

    “So it seems to me we have to ask the question as to whether it is possible to see the later RCC belief as a proper development of the earlier tradition.”

    We would agree that development was inevitable, and that there could be good development and bad development. I just can’t imagine that I’m in any position to make these assessments without devoting my life to scholarly study. What is the poor slum-dweller of Mumbai to do and to believe? And even if I could so devote my life, how would I *know* when I encountered a proper and an improper development? What’s my litmus test? An earlier historical conclusion, a bosom-burning, the perspicacious text of the Bible, or some other measure?

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  20. Dear Andrew,

    I should add a point: I do not mean to be dismissive of historical criticism, and do believe that it can yield objective truths. However, I do not believe it can always yield objective truths, and do not see how it is ever going to yield or verify complex truths like Trinitarian or Christological doctrine. I hope that helps qualify my previous comments.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  21. Dear DP,

    Thank you for commenting (and for the “lighter note”; seminary professors always seem to have a lively sense of humor).

    The solo vs. sola piece will definitely take up Keith Mathison, as will another article further in the works on the Canon Question.

    “So great was the fear of ‘Bible Study’ in the RCC that prior to Vat 2 members were regularly steered away from reading and studying Scripture on their own – and thats a quote from RC writers not just my own opinion.”

    Maybe an RC writer said that, but I would beg to differ. When my Reformed-baptist-pastor grandfather passed away, I was able to auto-inherit from his library. He lived in Maine and used to witness to the papist French-Canadians in town. I found an old French Biblia Sancta, and an old Douay-Rheims English Bible. Inside the front cover of the latter my grandfather had pasted a Catholic information sheet granting a plenary indulgence to Catholics who read the Bible fifteen minutes per day. (I don’t remember the exact date on this indulgences, but it was well before Vatican II.) Clever Grandfather figured he’d beat them with their own tricks. So (and with a twist of indulgent irony), I do not believe that Catholics were ever so afraid of the study of the Bible (nor would I give the changes following the Second Vatican Council so much credit in this regard).

    “I constantly read ‘demolitions’ of sola scriptura which are nothing of the kind but just the same old burning of straw men.”

    I do hope that you are able to interact with us when we hit the topic; if there are any straw men in use, you can call us out!

    “That capacity for correction good friends makes all the difference in the world.”

    Amen. For years, I longed for my Reformed pastors to help me see how sola scriptura didn’t fall apart as circular. I intend to remain for the rest of my life open to correction if I am in error; what do we have if we won’t allow ourselves to be corrected?

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  22. Andrew,

    From my standpoint, Bryan is just stating a difference between us without attempting a proof.

    If you disagree with me (about the difference between us), do you think that authorization by the Church is not necessary to give “the verdict of the Church”, or , if you think such authorization is necessary, then (1) who authorized the early Protestants to give the “verdict of the Church”, and (2) which Protestants were the ones who gave the “verdict of the Church” and (3) what is the principled reason why those Protestants, and not the other Protestants, had the authority to give the “verdict of the Church”?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  23. But I hope you can see that, given Bryan’s (Catholic) belief, it would not profit much to spend time debating a particular analysis undertaken with historical criticism, when the actual difference is whether we should be looking to that scholarly discipline or the magisterium for truth. The discussion should be over *why* we look to that discipline or the Pope or the burning bosom or the four-corners of the Bible for truth.

    I hope that we don’t have to decide between scholarly discipline or the magisterium. I would imagine that the RC scholar/theologian might say that scholarly discipline is an essential part of the process by which the magisterium is defined. So I think I would say that the question is whether the magisterium can be in error over de fide matters. Where we have an issue is when the magisterium is said to be infallible in any way since then the words of the collection of the bishops when speaking on de fide matters is effectively placed on par with the Words of God.

    Concerning what you say about “debating a particular analysis,” this is generally what Protestants want to do when discussing differences with Catholics. And I’m sure this seems somewhat nominalistic to you, but we do often debate issues on an individual basis. This can be difficult for Catholics who have accepted Catholicism as a package deal so as to speak. So in my previous example of prayers to Mary, for the RC believer, it’s inconceivable that the Church could have made an error on such an issue because the magisterium speaks infallibly when a such an official pronouncement is made. But the assumption of the indefectibility of the RCC is one of the issues which we are not willing to grant. It seems to us that this is something to be proved rather than as assumption to be utilized in further theological consideration.

    I just can’t imagine that I’m in any position to make these assessments without devoting my life to scholarly study.

    I don’t think you and I as individuals have to do all this kind of study since we both rely on our respective ecclesiastical traditions to do that. But we do have to make the assessment as to whether our respective traditions are in line with the Scriptures and secondarily with earlier tradition. And perhaps what you feel is just what some of the Jews in the Apostles’ time felt when their traditions were challenged and they had to do some fundamental rethinking.

  24. Bryan,

    So you are asking who is authorized to be a valid bishop in the Church? It always seems to us that the RCC theologians will make this judgment on one criteria and only one. And that is whether or not valid orders are present, that is, whether or not those in authority were descended from the original bishops or not. There is no question even among RCC historians that many of the RCC bishops of the Reformation era had little care for what it meant to be Christian even over very basic matters. But they were “valid” bishops based on their pedigree, end of story. No matter how much the bishops did or did not measure up to the biblical standards of what a bishop ought to be, they still possessed proper authority to the mind of Rome.

    For us, there is more to being a valid bishop and possessing proper authority than this matter of pedigree. And we agree that in general one set of officers should choose the next generation. But we don’t utilize this principle to the exclusion of all other principles. There are definitely times when division is necessary.

  25. Andrew,

    I appreciate your reply, but it does not answer any of the three questions I asked in #22.

    It is easy to criticize. But in order to compare two positions, we need the positive alternative to what you are criticizing. And that’s what my three questions are asking from you. Otherwise, by default, Peter’s question (“To whom shall we go?”) provides its own answer. Without a positive alternative, the object of scorn remains the only option, even the object of deep affection and devotion, in spite of all the criticisms heaped upon her.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  26. “So great was the fear of ‘Bible Study’ in the RCC that prior to Vat 2 members were regularly steered away from reading and studying Scripture on their own – and thats a quote from RC writers not just my own opinion.”

    Waiting for a reference to this “quote” from “RC writers”…

    Andrew, I know you’re already dialoging with several other people on this thread, but as a fellow Protestant who is considering converting I’d like to ask a question about something you said a few posts up…

    “I don’t think you and I as individuals have to do all this kind of study since we both rely on our respective ecclesiastical traditions to do that. But we do have to make the assessment as to whether our respective traditions are in line with the Scriptures and secondarily with earlier tradition.”

    First you say that we don’t have to do all this kind of study since we rely on our respective ecclesiastical traditions to do that. I’m wondering how this could be true for a Protestant. In the past, I’ve often seen Reformed friends chide Catholics for putting faith in the Church rather than in the bible (implicit faith?). Are you saying that Protestants do and should put (at least some degree of) implicit faith in their tradition? If so, should I rely on the traditions of the Presbyterians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Reformed Baptists, or the Methodists?

    But then you go on to say we DO have to make the assessment as to whether our traditions are in line with the Scriptures. This has been a real sticking point for me. I totally agree with Tom here. How could I possibly have a job and be a husband and father while also doing all of the theological inquiry necessary to make an “informed decision” about some of the terribly difficult and often convoluted issues surrounding the debates of the16th and 17th centuries? I don’t want to be a professional theologian and, frankly, I don’t have time.

    And if it’s my responsibility to check up on centuries of theological reflection, what authority do any of the churches REALLY have in my life? If I decide that they’re wrong, so what? If the Reformers questioned centuries of conciliar declarations made by hundreds of bishops, why can’t I question the conclusions of poorly educated PCA elders who went to no-name seminaries for 2-3 years and can barely read a sentence of Greek? Even in an extreme case such as excommunication, who cares? If I get kicked out of denomination A because I accept Paedocommunion or believe that justification can be lost, and I join denomination B which has no problem with any of it, whose declaration of my inclusion in the body of Christ is legitimate?

    That last paragraph was a bit of a tangent from my original point. Anyway, I don’t see how you can seriously say that the burden of ALL of the investigation and research is not on each of our shoulders as protestants. I obviously have no idea who you are or what your religious past is like, but I know I’m getting kinda tired of moving from one position to another and feeling a constant need to devote myself to studies for which I have no time. Maybe I’m just neurotic and particularly sensitive to thinking too much and getting overwhelmed by it, but personally it keeps me from even being able to worship God in good conscience since I never know if my personally assembled doctrinal set is correct. In your case, do you just “let go and let God”? Sometimes I talk to my “evanjellyfish” friends and I understand the pull away from doctrine. Perhaps this is a symptom of the disillusionment brought about by the constant bickering and dividing.

  27. The reference is John W O’Malley SJ, in his very fine history of vatican 2. I don’t make the news anonymous, I just report it.

    And sorry, but what are the no-name seminaries and who are the ordained guys who can barely read a sentence of Greek? For what its worth, most of the Priests and Pastors I know can’t read their Greek NT (or LXX) very well because after seminary they stop using Greek daily. Big deal. Let Piper chew ’em out for that. There are very fine scholars across the Body of Christ, including brilliant people in the RCC – and even among the Reformed!

    You’re asking the right questions about RCC assumptions with regard to their own tradition(s). It can be just as circular as any Protestant argument made. So lets get real: want to bow down and worship before the host elevated in a monstrance? That’s not optional in the RCC and is an understandable outcome of their view of transubstantiation – a view not held by the EO, despite the fact that adoration of the host shows up in Western Orthodoxy service books. Sorry, but whatever one wishes to conclude about the nature of the change (status, substance, etc) of the bread (and wine), the very idea of Peter or Paul bowing down and adoring the host is simply unimaginable, unscriptural, and there simply isn’t any Patristic evidence for this kind of thing either. The Reformation happened for good reason, though not all that happened in the Reformation was either good or good reason. One should have faith in the Triune God alone with reference to salvation, but one can walk in trust and love with other Christians who are also looking to God in faith. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus shared a great trust in the experience and observations each possessed, but both saw in Christ alone and the word he opened to them and the bread he broke for them the fulfillment of their hopes and the salvation of their souls. So, walk with Faith in Christ and trust in those with whom you walk, knowing that they are not infallible while Christ most assuredly is now and forever. Christian Faith is communal: we must walk in trust together, always acknowledging our fallen, fallible, finite state, always equally affirming our glorious destiny, which is also communal as much as it is personal.

    You see, as Pelikan points out, there has always been great diversity with the Western Church and the diversity of the 14th-15th centuries is foundational to the events of the 16th century. Nor was that 16th century Reformation the first – or indeed the last, as I take Vat 2 to be an excellent example of the kind of ‘reformation’ and development Rome is indeed capable of. Leo X was a classical scholar of the highest order, but that did not make him an able Pope. He handled Luther poorly (looking over his shoulder at Charles V, as did much of the Papacy in this era), and Carafa (Paul IV) made matters much worse. Indeed when he died the people of Rome (of ROME!), not Geneva or Wittenberg, rejoiced and breathed a collective sigh of relief. Maybe if Pole had been elected things may have turned out differently (he lost to Carafa by one vote).

    Let me just add at this point that the new spirit evident in the RCC post Vat 2 – and exemplified in the courageous scholarship of De Lubac, Congar, et al, as well as the stirring leadership of John Paul 2 (a man I deeply admire), shame the paltry efforts of many Protestant and sub-Protestant evangelical leaders. The so-called awakenings (first and second) set the stage for an entirely new kind of ‘American’ Christianity, utterly disjointed from the ancient. Many people are rightly leaving that behind. Yet there is no reason to equate this American morphed form of the Faith and Church with Geneva (for instance, and I could add Wittenberg and Edinburgh and Canterbury and Constantinople to the list). There are many ‘reformed’ churches that simply have no idea what the Reformation Churches looked like. Its tragic. Read the Westminster Directory for Public Worship on Baptism – in some places if a PCA Pastor used those very words in a baptism, the words of his own directory for public worship, he’d be held in deep suspicion of sacerdotal tendencies…all because many Reformed people can’t tell the difference between American baptist culture and their own very vital historical connection to the ancient (though of course we don’t accept the Seventh Council, and with the EO don’t view later councils as truly ecumenical in any case). You don’t need to go to Rome. Go to Geneva.

    To my RCC friends here and elsewhere – and they are many – this issue of adoration of the host
    more than any other remains an incredible stumbling block not only for me but millions more. It is precisely here that Bible and Biblically based Tradition collide in spectacular fashion. I hate Gnosticism with all my might, and want to see the incarnation made clear and life-changing for all Christians, agreeing with Lee that “Protestant Gnostics’ must be resisted. Aquinas worshiped the host…did the Fathers? No. Innovations in Marian doctrines and Dogmas (which further alienate the Eastern Orthodox) add to the sadness (and I am for giving to the Blessed Theotokos all the honor due her). Rome’s claim that her Tradition (and traditions) are the right one ‘because we say so and we can say so because our tradition says we can’ sound as hollow as any feeble and circular defense of nuda scriptura. I have more faith in Rome’s ability to change than some Roman Catholics do. I believe Rome has and will continue to reform, and until that reaches a further stage of devlopment, I understand why they are forbidden from our communion services by their Bishops. I disagree with this, but I understand it. I believe better days will come. That new unity however need not be the kind of uniformity Rome currently demands of all who seek to be part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

    IX,

    DP Cassidy

  28. their view of transubstantiation – a view not held by the EO,

    Transubtantiation is not a word used by the EO but they believe substantially the same thing. They believe the host is the Body without further qualification. The Eastern Chuches do have stumbling blocks to full communion with the Catholic Church, this isn’t one of them.

    the very idea of Peter or Paul bowing down and adoring the host is simply unimaginable,

    (to the Protestant mind yes)…

    unscriptural, and there simply isn’t any Patristic evidence for this kind of thing either.

    Adoration itself is, generally speaking, a post 9th century development though there may be some evidence of it as early as the 6th.. Regardless, this Western devotion developed out of elements already present in the ancient liturgy combined with popular piety.

    You see, as Pelikan points out, there has always been great diversity with the Western Church and the diversity of the 14th-15th centuries is foundational to the events of the 16th century.

    There still is a great deal of diversity within the Catholic Church both Western and Eastern. But diversity does not entail division.

    Nor was that 16th century Reformation the first – or indeed the last, as I take Vat 2 to be an excellent example of the kind of ‘reformation’ and development Rome is indeed capable of.

    Comparing the Reformation to V2 is not a valid or helpful comparison. Vatican 2 was a council called by the Church for reforms of the Church. The Reformation was a split from the Church and was not, in any way, true reform. Reform always happens within. Re-defining “Church” to be essentially invisible, of course, will not validate the Reformation as true reform.

    I agree that there were real and important issues that sparked the Reformation and I agree that Pope Leo X handled Luther poorly.

    this issue of adoration of the host more than any other remains an incredible stumbling block not only for me but millions more.

    Don’t you think that was an issue for all of us before we converted? If the Catholic Church is wrong on this, she is idolatrous! That’s no small charge and I can assure you that none of us took it lightly. But what’s interesting to me is that you say this issue “more than any other” is the stumbling block. But if I talk to 20 different Protestants, I’ll have 20 different prime reasons for rejecting the Catholic Church. One man we talked to here on CTC said that Mary’s perpetual virginity was his big stumbling block. Another said Church infallibility… I just wanted to point out that each person has their own peculiar stumbling blocks.

    Aquinas worshiped the host…did the Fathers? No.

    To clarify, the private devotion of “adoration” had not developed in the time of the early fathers as mentioned above. But there are elements of adoration in the liturgy so your statement is incorrect.

    Innovations in Marian doctrines and Dogmas (which further alienate the Eastern Orthodox)

    This sounds to me like you’ve been reading modern EO scholars, which are all over the board on these topics. The fact is, if you read the EO in her own voice (some modern scholars excepted) you’ll find that they believe essentially the same things on the issues which Protestants and some EO like to pretend divide us (Marian dogmas, purgatory etc…). I recommend the Eastern Orthodox blog Eirenikon. Especially check out his fantastic series on the Immaculate Conception in EO history.

    I believe better days will come. That new unity however need not be the kind of uniformity Rome currently demands of all who seek to be part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

    I just want to be clear on the term “reform” here, Rome may reform in practice but not in dogma. She will not and cannot change her dogma. I say dogma instead of doctrine because doctrine, keeping in mind that in means ‘teaching’, may reform and develop. Unity for us is essentially visible. What Rome demands now for unity, in its essence, will always be her demands. There almost certainly will be particular concessions made for the EO and I hope that will be in my life time. Pope JPII (I think it was) said that the role of the Pope may need to change in some way to allow for reconciliation. And the “uniformity” Rome requires is only uniformity of truth. We cannot be in communion with anyone who teaches things we know to be false. This is why Rome’s arms stand wide open towards the East, but also why they will forever be closed to Protestant communities (ever open to individual Protestants of course).

    There is one hope and one hope only for Christian unity and that is to be plugged into the life of Christ which flows through the Catholic Church.

  29. DP,

    For He received earth from earth; because flesh is from the earth, and He took flesh from the flesh of Mary. He walked here in the same flesh, and gave us the same flesh to be eaten unto salvation. But no one eats that flesh unless he first adores it; and thus it is discovered how such a footstool of the Lord’s feet is adored; and not only do we not sin by adoring, we do sin by not adoring.” (St. Augustine, Enarations on the Psalms 98:9)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  30. DP,

    The Orthodox doctrine of the Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is substantially the same as the Catholic doctrine (cf. Synod of Jerusalem 1672). Holding that doctrine, as they do, together with the practice, which they observe, of reserving the consecrated species, there is (as Bishop Kallistos Ware has observed) no theological reason for them not to practice Adoration outside the context of the Eucharistic Sacrifice itself. That the Eastern churches (Orthodox and Catholic) generally do not do so is a matter of specifically liturgical tradition.

    The real and objective presence of Our Lord in the consecrated species is rooted in the words of Institution, the teachings of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, the teachings of the early Church fathers and the unbroken tradition of the Apostolic churches continuing to this present day. (See Mike Aquilina’s The Mass of the Early Christians for a helpful summary of the enduring doctrine of the Church, as professed in the first few centuries of her existence.) Also, note that a key feature of the debate surrounding the seventh ecumenical council was the distinction between an icon of Our Lord and the manner of his “depiction” in the Eucharist.

    This Holy and Apostolic doctrine of the Real Presence has, in the course of centuries, given rise to various developments in Christian worship, including that form of devotion wherein the sacramental Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ is reverently exposed to the faithful so that they might adore him in this most humble mode of being wherein he has promised to be present with us until his coming again in glory.

    Given what Christ himself said of the Eucharist (speaking in no uncertain terms), and what his Church has maintained, not without clarification and development, throughout the ages, I see no more reason to balk at adoration of the Eucharist than to take umbrage at calling a Jewish peasant, a man like you and I, having flesh and blood, the Word of God, Almighty Creator, consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

    As for this faith, the proof is in the pudding. Will you fall down and worship this man when you see him (arms, beard, fingernails and all), or will you scruple to worship what you clearly perceive to be a man? I suppose that you are confident that you will not shirk your profession of faith on that day. How then, since his word is over all, will you repudiate his word concerning the most Holy Eucharist, by refusing, because of unbelief, to bow down before him today?

  31. Bryan,
    Augustine did not mean in that statement a practice developed 500 years later.
    DPC

  32. DP, he was not referring to the later devotion of Eucharistic adoration of the exposed Body outside of mass; you are correct. But he was referring to adoring the sacrament within the liturgy which is what I was referring to above. It has always been present. If the Church recognizes her Master to be present, and she indisputably has since the beginning, how can she do anything but adore?

  33. Andrew,
    Yet Ware, with whom I was with just two weeks ago, refuses this, noting that the rite of the pre-sanctified gifts is for consumption not adoration. The adoration of the host is in the Western Rite service book, so at least in the Antiochian jurisdiction it is approved for that use. A Russian Priest i know is for that reason especially opposed to the Western Rite! If it isn’t Biblical and it isn’t Patristic, the Byzantine orthodox sure aren’t going to start doing it – and their view of the change in the bread and wine is just as strong as the RCC, sans the Aristotelian-Thomistic explanation of the mystery.

    Will I fall down before a man on the day – yes, and with joyous gratitude, abject humility, and profound sorrow for my many sins. I bow down today as well – to a man, or rather, to the God-Man, our Lord Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man. I don’t bow to the host. The EO position on the Incarnation and Chalcedonian formulation is the same as the Faith I hold and would die for – right now.

    Of course behind this is the theology of the communication of the attributes of deity and humanity. Perhaps one of the CTC authors will tackle that (or has done so) in a post here. Cosmology and theology meet here, and that would be a very interesting discussion indeed.

  34. The Patristics adored the Lord in the Liturgy, but did not ‘confine’ him to the altar and the bread. If I sing “O come let us adore him” during a Eucharist at Christmas it does not follow that I am suggesting everyone bow down to the broken bread. Look, if one wishes to claim that the adoration of the host is a sound theological development of the mid-medieval period, OK, that’s a case to be debated; but lets not try to make this a view commonly held by the ancient Church. It simply wasn’t, and I think St Vincent of Lerins’ well-known formula rather torpedoes that suggestion.

  35. Andrew,

    is the 1672 conference to which you refer the one so many Orthodox find offensive because of Latin influences, especially in the theological langauge? Just wondering. I have to go for coffee now, and I’ll check on that later.

  36. DP,

    We have to have a clear distinction between the Western devotion of Eucharistic adoration and general adoration which you don’t seem to be willing to make. You seem to take it as anachronistic if I talk about the latter because you identify it with the former. This is a mistake.

    Now Augustine isn’t singing “O Come Let Us Adore Him”; he is specifically and unequivocally referring to the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. Did Augustine confine the Body to the altar?

    “That Bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God is the Body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Blood of Christ. Through that bread and wine the Lord Christ willed to commend His Body and Blood, which He poured out for us, unto the forgiveness of sins.” (Sermons 227)

    I don’t need to quote any more. We all know what Augustine meant. It’s not me who is being anachronistic.

  37. Yes, we do all know what Augustine meant. But this is why I am raising the issue of whether he *confined* the presence of Christ to the sacrament. I’m not suggesting he does not include it, as he most certainly does – there is what has come to be called ‘sacramental presence’. But is the only way the presence of Christ (for Augustine I mean) is made real in the liturgy. Is he adored exclusively in the sacramental presence, or does his being ‘with’ us and ‘in’ us have a wider appilication in the context of worship? We would say wider, while also affirming what Augustine said about your mouth and stomach: why prepare these for he who believes eats and drinks already. With Calvin I affirm that I receive the Body and Blood of Christ – real presence – not by brining him down to us but in our communal, liturgical ascension unto him, where at the Father’s right hand he is both host and feast. But of course this is a matter about which we might wrangle endlessly, and sadly we could not simply examine the Scriptures (as the noble Bereans) but you would wish to somehow ascribe an infallible authority to the Bishops as well, at least those from the West. And I’m supposed to admit to being sectarian? My oh my.

    I understand the distinction made between dogma and doctrine. It is the dogmatizing of Marian doctrine, and the Dogmatizing not of Ecclesial infallibility but the infallibility of a single Bishop, that divides Rome and the East most profoundly. But yes, let us hope JP2 is correct and a full reconciliation can occur in the wonderful spirit of the Gospel.

  38. As opposed to O’Malley’s book, I think you might take a look at “Vatican II: Renewal Within Tradition,” edited by Matthew Lamb and Matthew Levering, Oxford University Press. For an enlightening comparison of the two works, I recommend the following review of both:

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/09/001-what-really-happened-at-vatican-ii-30

    A key paragraph:

    “Enter Vatican II: Renewal Within Tradition. The book shamelessly pulls rank on O’Malley by opening with a reflection by Pope Benedict XVI on the proper interpretation of the council. The question is one of hermeneutics, says the pope. There are, he suggests, two quite different ways of understanding the council: ‘On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call ‘a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture’; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the ‘hermeneutic of reform,’ of renewal in the continuity of the one subject, the Church that the Lord has given us. She is a subject that increases in time and develops, yet always remains the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.'”

  39. DP, I see what you mean now. I don’t think Augustine confined, depending on how we use that word, the presence to the Eucharistic species and modern Catholics certainly don’t. Christ’s mystical presence in the midst of a gathered body of believers is not mutually exclusive with His particular presence in the Eucharist. So I don’t think Augustine would limit proper worship of Christ to the adoration of the Eucharistic species but I think it’s clear that he’s talking about that in this particular instance (though he might include other forms of adoration as well). We should also note that the work Bryan quoted from was the same work where Augustine had said that Christ held Himself in His hands when He said, “This is My Body.”

    There may be other valid applications of Augustine’s text and it is absolutely true that Presbyterians truly adore Him. I’m certainly not saying that you aren’t adoring Christ by other methods or that Augustine may not have had the variety of possible modes of adoration in mind when he said the above. I only mean to say that Augustine was speaking primarily of the adoration of the sacrament within the liturgical context of the mass.

    I wish there were as many Catholics (per capita) who rightly adored Christ (outside the confines of the Eucharist) as there are in the PCA/OPC etc…

  40. DP,

    There’s a key line in The Incredibles:

    “And when everyone’s super .. [evil laughter] … no one will be.”

    The same is true of the sacred. When everything is sacred, then, in effect, nothing is sacred. When Christ is equally present everywhere, then, in effect, Christ is present nowhere. That’s why there are two ways to eliminate the sacred: treat everything as secular, or treat everything as sacred. Eliminate grace, or have grace eliminate nature. That’s why when Christ is treated as equally present everywhere, you might as well worship in a warehouse or a polebarn. And that mentality in large part accounts for contemporary megachurch architecture, as I explained here. When the sacred is only ‘in our hearts,’ then nothing is sacred. What is it that motivated and inspired the magnificent architecture of the old cathedrals? The Eucharist. Something here is sacred, far above and beyond the sacredness of anything else, and deserves to be treated as such.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  41. I am referring to Chapter VI of the Acts and Decrees of the Synod of Jerusalem, 1672, including The Confession of Dositheus. Decree XVII deals specifically with the Eucharist.

  42. Dear DP:

    First, an admission: I haven’t been following this exchange very closely, and certainly haven’t been following it from the gitgo. So maybe what I’ll say is redundant. But in any case:

    I think your instinct here is right: wanting to preserve something special with respect to the sacramental presence, but not wanting to wrongly confine Christ’s presence in the context of liturgical worship generally speaking. I myself don’t see a tension here, but it’s interesting to note that St Augustine (whose views you all have been discussing) apparently didn’t see a tension here either. He spoke, for example, of each sacrament as a verbum visibile, a visible word, and of the proclaimed word as an audible sacrament (sacramentum audible). Along the same lines, some Catholic theologians have taken to referring to Christ’s “real presence” in the proclamation of the Gospel, after which (as you know) the rubrics require the lector to pray inaudibly, “May the words of the Gospel wipe away our sins” — a prayer that presupposes and assigns something like sacramental efficacy to the proclaimation of the Word. And of course, as a general matter, nobody wants to deny that the Spirit of the Lord is present when believers gather together for worship in His name, even if we wish to add to that admission the fact that something special, different, occurs at consecration.

    All this to say: I think you’re right to object to a “confining” view of Christ’s presence within the context of the liturgy; but I think that this noble instinct is not at odds with Catholicism. Similarly, the question whether we all collectively “go up” or whether, instead, Christ “comes down” during the Eucharistic liturgy, is perhaps simply a misguided question — not that I’m accusing you of being misguided as you raise it. Once more, and perhaps frustratingly, Catholic teaching requires us to believe that heaven “touches down” on earth (at consecration), but doesn’t tell us to believe that this somehow excludes our being “brought up” to heaven within the context of the selfsame Eucharistic sacrifice. (I think it’s Eucharistic Prayer IV that has the priest pray that the Lord’s angels would take the bread and wine offered up into the heavenly altar, so that we here on earth may partake of the sacrifice offered by our common High Priest; and the sursum cordis, followed by the sanctus hymn at each Mass, has the same effect of orienting each worshipper heavenward. Nobody, so far as I know, sees these things to be in tension with the idea that Christ is nevertheless really eucharistically present with us earthbound creatures in the here and now.)

    So it seems to me that if you believe that something sacred and peculiar occurs during the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and nevertheless don’t see this as undermining your belief that *additional* sacred and special things are going on during worship generally, then you may find that your views on these matters are somewhat close to Catholic teaching, or at any rate similar already to what very many Catholics (licitly) believe.

    All best,

    Neal

  43. It is easy to criticize. But in order to compare two positions, we need the positive alternative to what you are criticizing.

    OK, so in your question #1, the answer as to who authorized the Protestants is exactly the same source that authorized the Roman Catholics. Both divisions within Western Christendom claimed to be acting in the authority of the Apostles which was given to them by Christ as outlined in the Scriptures. The RCC looked to its physical lineage through the bishops. The Protestants looked through their spiritual lineage through the bishops. And here is where we get back to my point in the last post (#24) about what the basis was for determining whether Catholic or Protestant had rightful authority. What does it mean to be connected to the Church that Christ instituted? Is it just a matter of lineage or is there something more? For the Reformers there was something more than just pedigree.

    I don’t want to make light of the difficulty that it must have been for those living in the late Medieval and early Reformation era to break with the RCC since there was no defined ecclesiastical structure outside of Rome in the West. But the question that you raise (”To whom shall we go?”) was just what the Reformers were asking when they saw that the catholic Church of the late Medieval era was no longer what she was in the Early Church. What, they asked, were the faithful bishops of the Church to do to when it was clear the Rome was no longer faithful? A similar question was asked by many Jews in the Apostles time when they had to consider where to go when the established Church, composed of those who could trace their lineage to Abraham, were no longer faithful to Abraham. So then what happens, the Reformers asked, when those who could trace their lineage to the early Apostles were no longer faithful to the religion of the Apostles?

    Now concerning #2 and #3 questions, you are assuming that there is some fundamental distinction between the various Protestant denominations, are you not? But this is not a distinction that is shared historically by the Protestants as the looked at each other. I think that Phillip Schaff was right on target when he referred to the “Reformed family of Churches.” I don’t want to be dismissive about the difference between denominations since sometimes small differences were magnified into serious conflicts. But as we look back at the historic Reformed Churches we see very little difference in theory and practice. We see the Protestants in general acting as one, and for those of us who still trace our lineage to the Reformation Churches, generally we don’t perceive that our denominational distinctives separate us from each other. In other words, there is no decision to be made as to which division within the Reformed Churches is THE correct church. As an example, folks like R.C Sproul (Presbyterian). Al Moehler (Baptist), and J.I Packer (Anglican) speak at the same conferences and worship at each other’s churches and can all be in full communion with each other without any debate as to which of their denominations is THE right one. It’s just not a question that any of them need to ask. They are unified in Christ’s visible Church even if they are not unified administratively.

  44. First you say that we don’t have to do all this kind of study since we rely on our respective ecclesiastical traditions to do that. I’m wondering how this could be true for a Protestant. In the past, I’ve often seen Reformed friends chide Catholics for putting faith in the Church rather than in the bible (implicit faith?). Are you saying that Protestants do and should put (at least some degree of) implicit faith in their tradition? If so, should I rely on the traditions of the Presbyterians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Reformed Baptists, or the Methodists?

    But then you go on to say we DO have to make the assessment as to whether our traditions are in line with the Scriptures. This has been a real sticking point for me. I totally agree with Tom here. How could I possibly have a job and be a husband and father while also doing all of the theological inquiry necessary to make an “informed decision” about some of the terribly difficult and often convoluted issues surrounding the debates of the16th and 17th centuries? I don’t want to be a professional theologian and, frankly, I don’t have time.

    DP (I think this was DP who was writing this),

    I am only saying that we don’t have to go through every theological debate between Catholic and Protestant before we can arrive at some sort of conclusion. I don’t think anyone can do that. We do have to do some study and put some sort of thought into into our ecclesiastical affiliation. We all make such attachments and accept the general conceptual framework which is entailed within the confessional standards of the ecclesiastical structure we are part of.

    I don’t think I am getting to what you are asking and I’m not sure I understand where you are coming from. We agree that we can’t study everything so where does that put us? Is there a default position because we cannot understand everything?

  45. Hey, Andrew.

    Is R.C. Sproul Presbyterian? (I know, sounds like, “Is the Pope Catholic?”) The reason I ask is because I once wrote something sort of similar on my now defunct personal blog, and a person pointed out to me that Sproul is not actually presbyterian: he “parks his ordination” with the PCA, but his own personal church is not under the authority of the PCA. So far as I understand, it isn’t under any presbyterial (distinct from “elder”) oversight at all. This is somewhat off track, I realize, but is there a problem with this, from your perspective? (This is not a leading question; I’m really just wondering what your views are on this matter.)

    Neal

    [PS: There are of course questions that could be raised about Packer’s status in the broader Reformed world as well; but I guess these questions wouldn’t impinge upon the status of other Anglicans as long as they are deemed to be sufficiently reformed or otherwise evangelical. Here again: correct if I’m wrong.]

  46. Andrew,

    If I am understanding you correctly, you are saying that the Apostles authorized the first Protestants to give the “verdict of the Church.” But, as you know, the Apostles had been dead for fourteen centuries when the Reformation began. So, how do you know that the Apostles authorized the first Protestants to give the verdict of the Church? If in actuality, the Apostles did not authorize the first Protestants to give the verdict of the Church, but instead the first Protestants assumed this authority to themselves, how would you know? What would be different about their ‘authorization’? And if your answer to that question is “There wouldn’t be any difference,” then how is it meaningful to speak of an authorization, when non-authorization is indistinguishable from it?

    As for question #2, I understand that your answer is “the Reformed family of Churches.” But I don’t see your answer to question #3 (from comment #22). What is the principled reason why “the Reformed family of Churches” has the authority to give “the verdict of the Church”, and all the other Protestant ‘branches’ do not have that authority? “The Reformed family of Churches” would be an answer to question #3 only if “the Reformed family of Churches” encompassed all Protestants. But surely you don’t want to say that. Therefore, giving “the Reformed family of Churches” as an answer to #2, does not ipso facto answer question #3.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  47. Andrew.

    In other words, there is no decision to be made as to which division within the Reformed Churches is THE correct church. As an example, folks like R.C Sproul (Presbyterian). Al Moehler (Baptist), and J.I Packer (Anglican) speak at the same conferences and worship at each other’s churches and can all be in full communion with each other

    How are Presbyterians united to Baptists when Baptists don’t even hold as valid Presbyterian baptisms? How is that full communion?

  48. To further Neal’s and Tim’s point, Sacrosanctum Concilium states, “7. To accomplish so great a work, Christ is always present in His Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister, “the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross” , but especially under the eucharistic species. By His power He is present in the sacraments, so that when a man baptizes it is really Christ Himself who baptizes. He is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20) .

    I also echo the recommendation of the aforementioned book on Vatican II edited by Lamb and Levering.

  49. If in actuality, the Apostles did not authorize the first Protestants to give the verdict of the Church, but instead the first Protestants assumed this authority to themselves, how would you know?

    Bryan,

    When we talk about the Apostles authoring, we have to ask what it was that the first bishops after the Apostles were authorized to do. It was more than just being given authority, right? They were commanded to do certain things. So the question is what happens if later descendants of the bishops of the Early Church are doing the opposite of what the Apostles commanded? Can we say that they are valid just because they are acting when their actions are in some or many cases antithetical to what the Apostles commanded? If what the Apostles intended was that their descendants act for and represent the Church no matter what form that action took and no matter how faithfully these later bishops did or did not follow the commands of the Apostles then you are right and the Reformers had no foundation. So are you convinced that this is correct given what I write in bold above?

    Concerning Evangelicals who are not Reformed, which is admittedly the vast majority of Evangelicals, I think that they would still by in large say that their lineage is traced to the Reformation and they owe their church communities to the Reformation. And generally we are all in communion with each other so I can’t see that there is any reason to draw a fundamental distinctions. We all see each other as part of the same Church even though, as you have often pointed out, it becomes rather a hazy invisible thing for so many of the Evangelicals. And this is unfortunate but there you have it.

  50. Is R.C. Sproul Presbyterian?

    Sproul is a PCA pastor but curiously he does pastor an independent church not affiliated with any other denomination. I’m sure I’ve heard the story before as to why this is, but I can’t remember it now. I’m going to ask someone who knows.

    Cheers….

  51. How are Presbyterians united to Baptists when Baptists don’t even hold as valid Presbyterian baptisms? How is that full communion?

    Sean, now that’s good question. I think the Baptists would say that they accept that we are all in communion and see us as all part of the Christ’s Church. But they would argue that we have made an error in our understanding of the proper recipients of the sacrament of Baptism so that someone coming into their churches who has not been baptized as an adult should be rebaptized since (so they would argue) baptism is a sign of coming to conscious faith in Christ. But they are rebaptizing for a different reason that they would rebpatize, for instance, a Mormon who came to faith. They are rebaptizing the ex-Mormon because the “church” he attended was part of a false religion while they would rebaptize someone who was baptized as an infant in another Evangelical church because they don’t agree that an infant is a proper recipient.

    I think that most of the baptists would perceive infant baptism to be a small error on our part and not something to break fellowship over.

  52. Andrew,

    Let’s be careful not to conflate two distinct questions. My question is: How do you know that the Apostles authorized the first Protestants to give the verdict of the Church. Your reply (in comment 49) had to do with a different question: Under what conditions do bishops lose their ecclesial authority? That’s an important question, but it is a separate question from whether or not the Apostles authorized the first Protestants to give the verdict of the Church. Even if the early 16th century Catholic bishops had lost their ecclesial authority, that wouldn’t show that the Apostles authorized the first Protestants to give the verdict of the Church. So my question:

    If in actuality, the Apostles did not authorize the first Protestants to give the verdict of the Church, but instead the first Protestants assumed this authority to themselves, how would you know?

    remains unanswered.

    Regarding your second paragraph (in comment 49), you write:

    I think that they would still by in large say that their lineage is traced to the Reformation and they owe their church communities to the Reformation.

    Are you claiming that all Protestants belong to “the Reformed family of Churches”? If not, then question #3 (from comment 22) remains unanswered.

    But if you are claiming that all Protestants belong to “the Reformed family of Churches”, and therefore that all Protestants have the authority to “give the verdict of the Church”, then on any matter where Protestants disagree with each other, no one would have the authority to give the “verdict of the Church”. Yet it would be ad hoc to claim that when Protestants disagree with the Catholic Church, then Protestants have the authority to give the verdict of the Church, but when Protestants disagree with each other, no one has the authority to give the “verdict of the Church.” There is no principled reason why unanimity among dissenters from the Catholic Church would entail possession of authority to give the verdict of the Church, when on any point in which there is not unanimity among Protestants, no group of Protestants has the authority to give the verdict of the Church.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  53. I think that most of the baptists would perceive infant baptism to be a small error on our part and not something to break fellowship over.

    This is why the baptists broke fellowship in the first place during the Anabaptist movement.

  54. Andrew,

    “Concerning Evangelicals who are not Reformed, which is admittedly the vast majority of Evangelicals, I think that they would still by in large say that their lineage is traced to the Reformation and they owe their church communities to the Reformation. And generally we are all in communion with each other so I can’t see that there is any reason to draw a fundamental distinctions. We all see each other as part of the same Church even though, as you have often pointed out, it becomes rather a hazy invisible thing for so many of the Evangelicals.”

    When I was a Southern Baptist, our huge Baptist church was located just down the street from a huge Presbyterian church. I remember asking my fellow Baptist, “Do you know what they believe at that church and what is different from our beliefs?” and he did not know. We didn’t know them; they didn’t know us, and we worshiped at two big churches almost right next to each other: If that is communion then we are already unified.

    I would also point out, that if you went to any given Evangelical and asked him if he associated himself with Martin Luther or John Calvin, you would probably get a raised eyebrow and a perplexed look. I have been in ecumenical dialogue with Evangelicals friends, and one of the things that falls upon me to demonstrate to them is that, indeed, they do come from the Reformation and should know what Luther and Calvin (and the radical Reformers) believed! The current Evangelical friend of mine with whom I am discussing still has not ceded the point that he has any meaningful connection to Luther et. al. nor that he should care about them at all.

  55. Andrew,
    What do you make of the Reformed Baptists who, while preparing to celebrate the ministry known as “Together for the Gospel”, opposed giving communion to Presbyterians on the grounds that their baptisms were invalid? I posted it on my CTC blog post here:
    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/07/on-perspicuity-and-commentaries/

    The actual link is:
    http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/enjoying-god/piper-grudem-dever-et-al-on-baptism-the-lords-table-and-church-membership-just-how-together-for-the-gospel-are-we/

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  56. Let’s be careful not to conflate two distinct questions. My question is: How do you know that the Apostles authorized the first Protestants to give the verdict of the Church. Your reply (in comment 49) had to do with a different question: Under what conditions do bishops lose their ecclesial authority? That’s an important question, but it is a separate question from whether or not the Apostles authorized the first Protestants to give the verdict of the Church.

    Bryan, I don’t think they are separate. The question I’m raising is whether the Medieval Church retained authority when she was doing just the opposite in many cases of what the Apostles commanded. If you want to gauge fidelity of the Medieval Church merely on the formal question of their pedigree then what of the commands of the Apostles and what of the characteristics of a biblically valid bishop as outlined in the Pauline corpus? What happens when the RC concept of valid and the biblical and Early Church concept of valid don’t match? Then where do those faithful bishops go?

  57. I would also point out, that if you went to any given Evangelical and asked him if he associated himself with Martin Luther or John Calvin, you would probably get a raised eyebrow and a perplexed look.

    Devin,

    I suppose you might get the same response if you went to the typical Catholic and asked him what his impression of Thomas Aquinas is. But hopefully the priest who presides over the congregation knows something of Thomas.

  58. Andrew,

    I showed that “How do you know that the Apostles authorized the first Protestants to give the verdict of the Church?” is a separate question from “Under what conditions do bishops lose their ecclesial authority?” by pointing out that:

    “Even if the early 16th century Catholic bishops had lost their ecclesial authority, that wouldn’t show that the Apostles authorized the first Protestants to give the verdict of the Church.”

    That’s because otherwise every predominant heresy of the previous fifteen centuries would ipso facto have acquired the authority to give the “verdict of the Church” if the Catholic bishops had lost their authority during that century instead.

    So my question:

    If in actuality, the Apostles did not authorize the first Protestants to give the verdict of the Church, but instead the first Protestants assumed this authority to themselves, how would you know?

    remains unanswered.

    I know you are asking a number of questions, and I am willing to address them, but I generally focus on one question at a time, for the sake of clarity.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  59. What happens when the RC concept of valid and the biblical and Early Church concept of valid don’t match? Then where do those faithful bishops go?

    Andrew, we’ve been through this before. The Bible never talks about how to determine if someone is a validly ordained bishop although it does mandate who should be ordained. You’re confusing the two. The early Church practiced an episcopal ordination system identical with the basic Catholic structure today.

    Do you accept the Ignatian epistles as authentic? Calvin rejected them as spurious because, if authentic, they prove that the early Church held an episcopal government and material succession from the apostles. So if you accept the Ignatian epistles as authentic, then you must admit that the early Church was episcopal. Do you or don’t you?

  60. Andrew,

    “The question I’m raising is whether the Medieval Church retained authority when she was doing just the opposite in many cases of what the Apostles commanded.”

    I’ve been reading Carroll’s History of Christendom books, and the reality within the Church that he describes shows that, early, middle, and late, there have always been many Christians (including priests, bishops, and even popes) who “did the opposite of what the Apostles commanded”. What I am challenging is the assumption in your question that, specifically, the Church during the “Medieval” time period violated the commands of the Apostles (whereas during the early time period she did not).

    On what basis do you claim that in the Medieval period (and when exactly did that begin?) “the Church” was doing the opposite of the Apostles commands in many cases whereas before the Medieval period, “the Church” was following the commands of the Apostles?

  61. Andrew,

    You are placing a lot of emphasis on the lack of fidelity of Catholic clergy before the Reformation. A few questions:

    (a) Do you believe that the average member of the new order of reformed clergy was more faithful than the average member of the Catholic clergy of the time?

    (b) Do you believe that the most faithful of the new order of reformed clergy were more faithful than the most faithful of the Catholic clergy of the time? It would be interesting to compare Martin Luther here with, say, Saint Francis De Sales. Is the comparison so obvious here that it is worthwhile splintering the Church to establish a new and holier order of ministers?

    (c) If the most faithful of the Catholic clergy were still more faithful than the average protestant clergy, would that be sufficient to prove that the Catholic claims to authority could not yet be overridden?

    Also, someone mentioned that the Jews in Christ’s time had to decide what to do when they had a corrupt clergy and were invited by Jesus to change their ways. Someone mentioned that this is similar to the decision that the reformers had to make 1600 years later. But this is nothing like the Reformation, because Jesus was a new revelation of God. He was a game changer. There was no new revelation at the time of the reformation.

    This was a major point for me when I was trying to figure out what Church to listen to. Comparing Catholic clergy of the reformation era with Jewish clergy of Christ’s time is useless, because the Jews at that time were choosing between their own corrupt clergy and God himself who physically came down to talk with them. This was not the decision that reform-minded Christians had to make at the time of the Reformation. Jesus did not walk the earth in physical form preaching to the reformed Christians and calling them to form a new order of ministers.

    Rather, they made this decision based on prayer and scripture reading, both of which can and have contradicted each other in each of our own lives, if we are honest (how many of us have _never_ just listened to our own voice in prayer when we really should have listened to God’s voice). And they also based their decisions on a few other things. . .

    As one such example, Andrew, you should admit that many of the reasons that people become protestant were orthogonal to the question of faithful clergy. Look at a map of the farthest extent of the Roman Empire before its collapse. Compare this to a map of the countries that became protestant. I don’t think that the similarity is a coincidence. Political history and geography played a large role in who became protestant. In light of this, why all the emphasis on the supposed greater corruption of Catholic clergy as opposed to protestant clergy?

  62. I showed that “How do you know that the Apostles authorized the first Protestants to give the verdict of the Church?”….

    Bryan,

    Let’s back up a little and think about what was authorized by the Apostles. As concerns the authority of the bishops/elders, I’m not aware of the Apostles authorizing anything explicitly outside of what is contained in the NT, most particularly the Pauline letters. Are you aware of anything in the Sub-apostolic Fathers where we are told what else the Apostles authorized outside of the Scriptures? The Apostles did not explicitly authorize the next generation to do anything outside of what is contained in their words. There was of course a general inference among the Sub-apostolics that they ought to choose their successors basedo n what the Apostles had done. This is a reasonable inference and one that was shared by the Early Church Fathers. But it seems you are taking this one inference and using it as the only criteria for determining validity throughout the history of the Church. You are jumping from this inference to the conclusion that the Apostles authorized the Medieval RCC bishops. But the Apostles did not authorize the Medieval RCC bishops. These bishops just happened to be those who were the next in line. Sometimes these folks were chosen for good reasons and sometimes they were chosen for just the worst reasons. Sometimes they measured up to what the Apostles commanded and sometimes they did not. My contention is that when someone is chosen who clearly violates what the Apostles did authorize (i.e. see the clear data in Timothy and Titus) they are not valid just because they stand in direct line with previous bishops.

    So when we look at the RCC and the Reformed bishops I think it’s very hard to say that one was authorized by the Apostles and one was not. There does not seem to be any more justification for saying the RCC bishops at the Reformation period were authorized by the Apostles than saying that the Jews of Jesus and the Apostles time were authorized by Abraham. Pedigree was not the sole determining factor of validity for those in the Sanhedrin as the Apostles pointed out, and I cannot see that there is any more reason to infer that it was for later generations of RCC bishops.

    So in short, the logical question that precedes whether or not the Reformation bishops were authorized, is what does it mean to be authorized by the Apostles? If it’s just a matter of pedigree, then why in this true in the NT but not in the OT?

  63. Do you accept the Ignatian epistles as authentic? Calvin rejected them as spurious because, if authentic, they prove that the early Church held an episcopal government and material succession from the apostles. So if you accept the Ignatian epistles as authentic, then you must admit that the early Church was episcopal. Do you or don’t you?

    Tim,

    I certainly accept those as authentic those not in the Pseudo Ignatian corpus. I think that the interesting historical question over an episcopal form of government is why there was a change between the time of Clerment and Ignatius. In Clement there was no separate episcopal office. This was new with Ignatius. So the question is what is Ignatius reasoning for positing this separate office and was his reasoning sound? What do you think? What was Ignatius’s reasoning here?

    But concerning Episcopal vs. Presbyterian forms of church government, I can’t say I have any big issues with my Anglican/Episcopal friends. This is not a major point of contention between us. The more significant difference is between Rome and Constantinople on this issue and then later between Rome and Cantebury.

  64. Andrew, in 1 Clement, the office of the episkopos and presbyter seem to be used interchangeably but this is not conclusive in the text. St. Clement is not as explicit as Ignatius but this does not imply (at all) that he believed something different. The mere decade that elapsed between them is not enough time to change the universal Church from a Protestant model that you’d be comfortable with into what St. Ignatius clearly taught and believed.

    The discrepancy can be explained in several ways: 1. different people have different writing styles 2. they were written under different circumstances in different parts of the world 3. Rome’s system of episcopacy may not have been as clearly defined as Asia Minor (many modern scholars believe this to be the case)

    St. Polycarp writes much later than Ignatius yet seems to offer little or no evidence of an episcopal government. He never uses the word bishop; only presbyter and deacon. If the smaller discrepancy between St. Clement and St. Ignatius proves a change from non-episcopal government to episcopal government, then the larger change between St. Ignatius and St. Polycarp proves a change from episcopal government back to non-episcopal government which is manifestly absurd. St. Polycarp was a contemporary of St. Ignatius as was St. Clement. In fact, all three were ordained by apostles (Ignatius & Clement by Peter, Polycarp by John). Polycarp & Ignatius both studied under St. John.

    And yes, we have some issues to work out with the Anglicans and Orthodox but those are minor. They both accept the apostolic model of episcopal government.

  65. Andrew,

    So in short, the logical question that precedes whether or not the Reformation bishops were authorized, is what does it mean to be authorized by the Apostles?

    Here’s what it means. Jesus does not speak or act on His own initiative; He does and says only what He was sent to do and say by His Father. (John 5:19, 30; 8:28, 42; 12:49-50: 14:10) His teaching is not His own but that of the Father who sent Him. (John 7:16) That is why to listen to Jesus is to listen to the Father. (John 14:24) The same pattern continues with the Spirit, who is sent by Christ and discloses what belongs to Christ. (John 16:14-15) Jesus teaches that this same pattern continues with the Apostles.”He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” (Matthew 10:40), and “He who listens to you listens to Me, and he who rejects you, rejects Me.” (Luke 10:16) To receive the Apostles is to receive Jesus, precisely because Jesus had authorized them and sent them. (John 13:20) Just as the Father had given authority to Jesus, so Jesus gives authority to His Apostles. (Luke 22:29-30; Matthew 11:27) Jesus gives to Peter the keys of the Kingdom. The Apostles in communion with Peter share in the authority by which their decisions on earth are ratified in heaven. (Matthew 16:19; 18:18) When they forgive sins, those sins are forgiven; when they retain men’s sins, those sins are retained. (John 20:23) As the Father sent Christ, so Christ sent the Apostles. (John 17:18; 20:21) Without being sent by another, one has no authority to speak for the other. The Church was to continue to follow the pattern it had received from the Apostles (2 Tim 1:13) including the pattern of succession of authority.

    Just as Christ had authorized the Apostles to teach and govern His kingdom in His name, so the Apostles authorized successors to do the same, entrusting to them the deposit of the faith, and teaching them to do the same to their own successors. (2 Tim 2:2; Titus 1:5) We see this already in their filling Judas’ unoccupied “ἐπισκοπὴν” (i.e. bishopric). (Acts 1:20) The apostolic authorization was given through the laying on of hands. (Acts 6:6; 13:3; 2 Tim 1:6; 1 Tim 4:14; 5:22) Without this authority, those speaking did not speak for the Church, or as Christ’s authorized representatives; they could only speak in their own name. (John 5:43, Acts 15:24-27, Rom 10:15) But those having this authority from the Apostles could “speak and reprove with all authority.” (Titus 2:15) Those who know God listen to those who are “from God,” i.e. have been sent by Christ or by those whom He sent, or by those whom they sent. (1 John 4:6)

    Only on the basis of this succession is it right for us to obey and submit (Heb 13:17) to the shepherds of the Church, for in doing so we are submitting to Christ. But those who “take the honor” (Heb 5:4) to themselves, without the succession, are not true shepherds. (John 10:1-2) They cannot speak for the Church or give her verdict who have not been authorized and sent by the Church. Only by the succession of divine authorizations, derived from the Apostles who had themselves received it from Christ, does the Church remain perpetually the “pillar and ground of truth,” (1 Tim 3:15) preserving the apostolic kerygma until the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  66. Tim,

    In Ignatius we have the first statement of a distinct episcopacy. And yes as you point out, things are not clearly defined with Ignatius. But what if any are the reasons that Ignatius has for making this distinction? And then for what reasons does the office of the episcopacy develop further with Irenaeus, Tertullian, etc? Sometimes we Protestants get confronted with the descriptive with the tacit assumption that the descriptive ought to be the prescriptive. But just saying something was a practice at a given point in the history of the Church does not make it right if the reason the given Father or group of Fathers was not sound. Now in the case of Ignatius I’m not aware of any reasoning for his position, he was just stating the way things were. So, what exactly are you saying when you appeal to the writings of Ignatius?

    Also, you are appealing to Ignatius (assuming that we have accurately identified his letters) and asking me why I don’t agree that there ought to be a separate class of officers in the bishops. Ignatius certainly had something valuable to say. My question then to you is if we assume Ignatius to be essentially correct then why do you extend the concept of the bishop further than what Ignatius described? The bishop for Ignatius ruled over one congregation. The difference between Ignatius and what you would find in an average Presbyterian congregation utilizing the three office system is quite small. But the difference between the Ingnatian system and the convoluted episcopacy of Rome is quite a bit larger.

  67. Without being sent by another, one has no authority to speak for the other. The Church was to continue to follow the pattern it had received from the Apostles (2 Tim 1:13) including the pattern of succession of authority…..

    Bryan,

    So what it come down to then is what does it mean to say “the pattern it had received from the Apostles” What is this pattern? You are stating things as if the Medieval and modern RCC interpretation of what it means to act in this pattern is just what the Apostles and the Early Church intended. But this is just the point of contention between us. You are stating the point of contention, not the solution.

    The Apostles did explicitly state what the Church ought to be doing and the basis for what her bishops ought to look like. You seem to want to say that all that matters is that the direct line of succecssion ought to be followed. But ths is an inference from previous tradition and not something explicitly stated by the Apostles. Our contention is that the Medieval RCC ignored the explicit statements of the APostles and judged her bishops to be valid solely on pedigree. From our standpoint, whether the Medievel RCC adhered to the pattern of the Apostles ought to be made on a point by point basis. So take for instance my note to TIm above (#66). Was the RCC following the pattern of the Apostles to extend the concept of the episcopoacy beyond what we find in Ignatius? And then beyond what we find in Irenaeus? Etc.

  68. Andrew,

    The existence of the Ignatian epistles does not prove that the Catholic/early Church model of episcopal government is correct but it does prove that it was in practice during the early Church.

    Calvin rejected them specifically because they disproved his ecclesiology and Calvinists/Presbyterians have gone right along with it until the last hundred years. As soon as they were proven authentic, instead of admitting that Presbyterians do not have the apostolic ecclesiology, they say “Oh well we’re not really all that different from Ignatius after all.” Forgive me for my bluntness, but that’s called dishonesty.

    W.D. Killen, a Presbyterian minister and professor of Church history, writes of the Ignatian epistles in the 19th century:

    In an uncritical age the cheat succeeded; the letters were quite to the taste of many readers; and ever since they have been the delight of High Churchmen.

    Calvin said similar things. Under the assumption that the Ignatian epistles were forgeries, the Presbyterian scholars felt sure that they were Catholic lies meant to deceive people into thinking the early Church was Catholic. Now that they’ve been proven authentic, Presbyterians say “oh well the letters aren’t really that Catholic.” Again, forgive my bluntness, that’s a lie. It is not seeking the truth in humility, it is an arrogant disdain for the truth. I’m speaking of your scholars, not you.

    Now you say that your system is closer to Ignatius than ours, but that is false. Prof Killen, mentioned above, thinks that Pope Callistus forged the Igantian epistles in order to fabricate episcopal rule and papal authority in Rome!

    Now how is it that one Presbyterian thinks the documents are forgeries aimed at proving the Pope’s power and another thinks that the documents are closer to a Presbyterian ecclesiology than to Rome’s? Which is it?

  69. Paul’s epistle to Titus explicitly descibes the monoepiscopate:

    Titus oversees all of Crete (without a body of “ruling elders”). Paul tells him to appoint presbyters in every town. And there are deacons. This is identical to the geographic Catholic diocese.

    This is exactly what we have in St Ignatius and it is precisely what we find in the Catholic Church today.

    I left the PCA when I realized that my PCA pastor had the same apostolic authority as a Young Life leader. Both had been hired and received training–neither had an ordination that could be traced to the 12 Apostles, and this Christ.

    I just put up a podcast on this topic last week:
    Saint Paul on Priesthood and Holy Orders (Bishop/Presbyter/Deacon)

  70. Tim,

    The subject of the authenticity of the Ignatian Epistles was hotly debated even before Calvin’s time, and the controversy still goes on. I can’t say that I know what Calvin’s reasoning is for rejecting all of them, but the Catholics certainly accepted all of them during Calvin’s time. The truth seems to be somewhere in the middle. I think most Protestants and Catholic scholars today would agree to that.

    Anyway, my point on Ignatius is that the episcopacy he describes is congregational rather than diocesan. There is a distinction between the two offices but they both reside within the congregation. The bishop does not rule over multiple congregations. In the congregations at this point there is a bishop who functions as a point person and spokesman. He represents his congregations to the community. In Presbyterian congregations today we generally have something which in practice is quite similar. There is an elder/bishop who preaches and leads the congregation and is the voice of the church to the community. So I’m just saying that functionally this Presbyterian system is not too different in practice than the one that Ignatius describes.

    I don’t think you can say that there is a Catholic episcopacy that has risen yet. There is none of the system of bishops, archbishops, cardinals, etc, etc that comprise the complex system that we would normally associate with a Roman Catholic ecclesiology. The issue that really interests me is how we get from the simple ecclesiology of Ignatius to the convoluted ecclesiology of the RCC centuries later.

  71. Andrew,

    Placing the Ignatian epistles aside, was not Titus charged by Paul to appoint presbyters in every town? Clearly St. Titus oversaw several congregations.

    Also, St. Ignatius is the bishop of a city – not a single congregation.

  72. Also, archbishops are merely bishops of a major diocese (i.e. New York) – there is not an advanced ordination for them beyond “bishop”. I.e. it’s honorific. Cardinals are merely bishops tapped by the Bishop of Rome. They are typically only bishops. These are different honors associated with being a bishop. Even the Pope is the “Bishop of Rome”.

    If you’re going to be so scrupulous, you better be ready to defend an ecclesiology that includes several different, overlapping Presbyterian denominations and also such novelties as “General Assemblies” and “Moderator of the Denomination”.

  73. Andrew,

    “There is an elder/bishop who preaches and leads the congregation and is the voice of the church to the community. So I’m just saying that functionally this Presbyterian system is not too different in practice than the one that Ignatius describes,”

    but does the BCO accurately describe what St. Igantius does when it says in Chapter 20-2 in the calling of a Pastor, “Every church should be under the pastoral oversight of a minister,
    and when a church has no pastor it should seek to secure one without delay.
    A church shall proceed to elect a pastor in the following manner:
    The Session shall call a congregational meeting to elect a pulpit committee
    which may be composed of members from the congregation at large or the
    Session, as designated by the congregation (see BCO 25). The pulpit
    committee shall, after consultation and deliberation, recommend to the
    congregation a pastoral candidate who, in its judgment, fulfills the
    Constitutional requirements of that office (e.g., BCO 8, 13-6 and 21) and is
    most suited to be profitable to the spiritual interests of the congregation (cf.
    BCO 20-6).”

  74. Andrew,

    In #67 you wrote:

    So what it come down to then is what does it mean to say “the pattern it had received from the Apostles” What is this pattern?

    See the pattern I laid out in comment #65. It is a pattern that has its origin in the Trinity, as I explain there.

    There is no evidence from Church history that during any time in the first fifteen hundred years of the Church’s existence, succession from the Apostles was not necessary for having the authority to give the verdict of the Church. You keep saying that there is more to it than succession. But that misses my point, which is that it at least includes succession from the Apostles, something the first Protestants didn’t have.

    Our contention is that the Medieval RCC ignored the explicit statements of the Apostles and judged her bishops to be valid solely on pedigree. From our standpoint, whether the Medievel RCC adhered to the pattern of the Apostles ought to be made on a point by point basis.

    The logical question which precedes your judgment of the Church is the authority question. By what authority do you stand in judgment of the Church? Who made you a judge over the Church? Who authorized you to give the verdict of the Church regarding whether or not the Church has “ignored” the Apostles or is rightly following them? By standing in judgment of the Church, you are presuming that your own interpretation of Scripture is greater in authority than that of the Church, and thus presuming that you have an authority that in actuality you do not have (since no one has authorized you to stand in judgment of the Church that Christ founded, or to give the verdict of the Church). That was precisely the point of my question in comments #22 and #46, that the first Protestants had no authority to stand in judgment of the Church. Any adherent of any heresy throughout history could claim that the Church was not following the true doctrine. (Heretics don’t think they are heretics; they think they are orthodox, and they think that the Church is heretical, and that the Church is misinterpreting Scripture.) But in each case they [i.e. the heretics] did not have the authority to determine the authentic interpretation of Scripture for the Church or to give the “verdict of the Church.” Only the Magisterium of the Church has the authority to give the verdict of the Church, because the Magisterium has received that authority from Christ, in succession from the Apostles.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  75. The subject of the authenticity of the Ignatian Epistles was hotly debated even before Calvin’s time, and the controversy still goes on.

    And…

    The truth seems to be somewhere in the middle.

    Which is it? Because earlier you said:

    I certainly accept those as authentic those not in the Pseudo Ignatian corpus.

    But why would you accept them if “the controversy still goes on” and “the truth is somewhere in the middle”?

    There is zero positive evidence that the early Church ever practiced a system without bishops (as distinct from presbyters). There are passages in the NT and in 1 Clement that are ambiguous or at least not as clear, but they fit as easily with the episcopal system as with the Presbyterian system. There is, on the contrary, plenty of positive evidence for the episcopal system (the Ignatian epistles alone prove it beyond any reasonable doubt). You have expressed doubt, but it isn’t reasonable.

    You also didn’t answer my question:

    how is it that one Presbyterian thinks the documents are forgeries aimed at proving the Pope’s power and another thinks that the documents are closer to a Presbyterian ecclesiology than to Rome’s? Which is it?

    The bishop does not rule over multiple congregations.

    This is an assertion without any evidence. What is your source? It is certainly conceivable and probable that some or even most of the bishops ruled over just one congregation at that time. But in a major city like Ephesus, for example, which had a Christian church for over 65 years at that time, it is unlikely, or rather: nearly inconceivable, that all the Christians met in one underground Church building each week. So this unsupported claim does not hold water.

    Like Taylor pointed out, if you understood the core simplicity of the Catholic episcopacy, you would not think it is “convoluted” or any different from Ignatius’ writings. (Note, this is not a claim for Petrine authority in Ignatius.. We can talk about that another time…) What I mean is the geographical, one bishop system shared by Catholics, Anglicans and Eastern Orthodox.

  76. It’s worth noting that there is no example of Presbyterian polity prior to 1520.

    Think about it: Who ordained John Calvin? Does he have any kind of succession? Did anyone lay hands on him?

    Again, Calvin’s “ordination” was just as valid as that of a Young Life leader. It has lacks the biblical pattern, i.e. it is not orthodox…

    Presbyterian polity is an egalitarian invention of the 16th century that does not even conform to the biblical witness of the New Testament.

  77. Placing the Ignatian epistles aside, was not Titus charged by Paul to appoint presbyters in every town? Clearly St. Titus oversaw several congregations.

    Taylor (and Tim),

    Titus, Silas, Epaphroditus, and others were itinerant evangelists and emissaries for the Apostles. We cannot say that they were bishops the modern sense of that term. They did not have charge over a given geography.

    Also, St. Ignatius is the bishop of a city – not a single congregation.

    So you think that Ignatius was the bishop over every church in the city? Where do you get that? I’m going on what Ignatius says in his epistles. When he writes to Polycarp who is Bishop of Smyrna he calls him the Bishop of the congregation of Smyrna. And throughout his letters when he speaks to a given congregation he is refers to the bishops and presbyters or sometimes the bishops and presbyters and deacons of the congregation. There is no sense that a bishop has a calling to rule over more than one church.

  78. but does the BCO accurately describe what St. Igantius does…

    Tom,

    You are describing a logistics by which the congregation inputs into the process . But the person who finally gets put forth as an elder has been chosen to be an elder by those who already are elders long ago. But now the same question to you. When we read something from the late Medieval ages where we get Bishops of Rome describing themselves as rulers over “every living creature,” is the system that the Pope rules over anything close to what Ignatius describes? What does Ignatius have to say about Rome and the extent of her power?

    The Presbyterians have no huge issue with an episcopacy per se. The debates between Anglican and Presbyterian churches are relatively small. I have no problem worshiping in a conservative Anglican church nor would I have any qualms in joining one. It’s not the episcopacy that we have issue with Rome over. It’s the centralization of the episcopacy into what she became in the medieval era. If you were trying to defend an EO version of the episcopate it would make more sense if you wanted to utilize Ignatius because in Ignatius, like in the EO system, there is a collegiality of the bishops. As the EO put it, the bishops are autocephalous. The challenge for you is to square a Roman episcopacy with Ignatius.

  79. Which is it? Because earlier you said: I certainly accept those as authentic those not in the Pseudo Ignatian corpus. But why would you accept them if “the controversy still goes on” and “the truth is somewhere in the middle”?

    Tim,

    When I say that the truth is “somewhere in the middle” I was referring to the fact that Calvin rejected all of the Ignatian Epistles while the Catholics accepted them all. But neither side was correct by the judgment of modern scholarship. Is that clear? Of course, we have to be careful before judging either Calvin or his Catholic contemporaries too harshly. The textual critical tools developed in the Renaissance for the purposes of assessing such texts were still young, and many of the versions of the Ignatian and Pseudo Ignatian works had not come to light at this point in time.

    There is a general consensus among patristic scholars that seven of the extant Ignatian epistles are indeed authentic. But I would think that few of them would say that all controversies around these epistles are solved. From a textual standpoint, Ignatius’ works are probably the most hotly contested of all the Early Church Fathers. I don’t think that there is any contradiction in saying that there is general consensus but some debate goes on. The debate has been going on since the late 15th century and these letters have been shrouded in controversy ever since. Fortunately modern scholarship has shed quite a bit of light on them.

  80. But that misses my point, which is that it at least includes succession from the Apostles, something the first Protestants didn’t have.

    Bryan,

    But I’ve already said that the expectation of the Early Church was that there would be this succession. And I also said that the Early Church would have expected that the Church would have followed the explicit statements of Scripture describing what the Church would do and what the characteristics would be for choosing her bishops. So now given that the Reformers were not in this line and that Rome was in general opposition to these explicit commands (think Leo X for instance) the Early Church would not have agreed with either side in its entirety. So what then? Do we go with Rome out of default? Or do you want to argue that the bishops of the Renaissance/Reformation era, particularly those of Rome who were waging civil wars and fathering children and so on, were acting within the explicit commands of Scripture?

  81. Andrew,

    You’re doing a remarkable job at returning fire to all your various challengers at once! Sorry to add to your workload ;)

    I think something that’s confusing the discussion a little is the understanding of the nature of St. Paul’s charges to St. Titus and St. Timothy regarding the qualifications for priests and deacons. They are guidelines for choosing men for those positions, but against the heresy of Donatism, they are not guidelines that make a man into a priest or deacon or take him out of that position once he’s received it.

    It is ordination within apostolic succession, not qualification that makes a man a priest or a deacon. Once ordination has been received, that man is a priest or deacon whether he conducts himself according to the qualifications for his office or not. He should be removed from his office if he misbehaves, to be sure, but the misbehavior does not automatically remove him.

    This is true in the Presbyterian and most other protestant communities as well. A man continues to be an elder or deacon until he is formally removed from that office.

    So to say that there were priests and bishops in the 16th century who were not acting in accordance with the qualifications to their office really doesn’t bear on the question of whether apostolic succession is necessary to be ordained. All that says is that the Church was not upholding her own standards as well as she should have at that time.

    But we both agree that holiness, though desirable in a Church official, is not essential to holding that office. And if, as we argue and the historical record supports, apostolic succession is necessary for ordination, the fact that Rome was ordaining unholy men does not make it valid for protestants to ordain their own ostensibly holy men without apostolic succession.

  82. You’re doing a remarkable job at returning fire to all your various challengers at once! Sorry to add to your workload ;)

    Hey Matt, I know every time I come here I’m in for a workout!

    It is ordination within apostolic succession, not qualification that makes a man a priest or a deacon. Once ordination has been received, that man is a priest or deacon whether he conducts himself according to the qualifications for his office or not. He should be removed from his office if he misbehaves, to be sure, but the misbehavior does not automatically remove him.

    This is true in the Presbyterian and most other protestant communities as well. A man continues to be an elder or deacon until he is formally removed from that office.

    OK then, so let me ask what happens when they are not removed from office because those in the leaderships the of the Church are some of the worst offenders. The situation goes on and nothing changes and the leadership gets only worse and the people are left without any shepherd. At what point does one [say] that the Church is no longer there? This certainly happened in the OT with the leadership of the Jewish Church that God ordained. They were convinced that their direct line to Abraham was surety that they were were the true people of God. They were correct that succession was important, But this succession did not guarantee anything, did it? So in the NT age, at what point do we say the same thing has happened in the Church?

    What I am focusing on is not one or two leaders here or there who are unfaithful but the RCC in general not following the explicit commands of Scripture. It seems that the answer to my question if you are really consistent with the criteria of succession for validity is that it does not matter how much the RCC as a whole rejected the clear teachings of the Apostles in terms of what the Church should be doing and what the characteristics of her bishops should be all. All that matters is that there was valid orders, end of story. And I pointed out that valid orders were not part of this explicit teaching, it was a tradition that developed from the practice of bishops choosing their successors. And certainly this is a good tradition, but from the standpoiint of the Reformers it was not a tradition which should obviate all other considerations.

  83. Andrew,

    OK then, so let me ask what happens when they are not removed from office because those in the leaderships the of the Church are some of the worst offenders.

    Instead of speaking in the abstract, and hypothetical, let’s stay grounded in the concrete. Here’s the list of popes. Which one was the last one, in your opinion, to have the authority of apostolic succession, and what is the principled reason why the succeeding one no longer had it, in your opinion?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  84. Andrew:

    But neither side was correct by the judgment of modern scholarship. Is that clear?

    Got it, that’s fair.

    Here are some particular questions:

    1. On the one bishop issue, are you admitting that there were multiple congregations in cities like Antioch and Ephesus at the time of Ignatius and yet believe that each one had its own bishop? If so, you need to produce evidence for this. Name one other second bishop in Antioch or any city at any time in the Church, at any time in the first 1500 years. Also explain why ALL the fathers always refer to only one man as the bishops of these cities. If you can’t do this, then you need to retract your claim and admit that there was a one bishop system for all of recorded Church history (at least post New Testament).

    2. You still haven’t answered my main question above: “how is it that one Presbyterian thinks the documents are forgeries aimed at proving the Pope’s power and another thinks that the documents are closer to a Presbyterian ecclesiology than to Rome’s? Which is it?”

  85. Andrew,

    You write:

    “So you think that Ignatius was the bishop over every church in the city? Where do you get that? I’m going on what Ignatius says in his epistles.”

    By the time Saint Ignatius is writing, the community in Antioch is about 60 years old. I’ll just low-ball it by a lot and say that there were only 150 Christians in Antioch.

    Since the Church was being persecuted and they did not own “church buildings” – they met in homes. Are you saying that 150 could meet in someone’s house secretly for a Sunday Eucharist?

    In reality, there were likely more than 150 Christians. How could so many meet in one house at one time? Saint Ignatius didn’t have access to Joel Osteen’s “mega-church”. All the Antiochians owned were personal residences.

    From this it seems that there were multiple meetings across the city of Antioch…

  86. Andrew Said:
    What I am focusing on is not one or two leaders here or there who are unfaithful but the RCC in general not following the explicit commands of Scripture. It seems that the answer to my question if you are really consistent with the criteria of succession for validity is that it does not matter how much the RCC as a whole rejected the clear teachings of the Apostles in terms of what the Church should be doing and what the characteristics of her bishops should be all.

    Andrew,

    This gets back to the very same distinction I was trying to make in my last comment. Apostolic succession is necessary to ordination. Holiness is desirable, but not necessary.

    To say that holiness is essential to ordination is to fall prey to the heresy of Donatism, to say nothing of the whole host of practical problems it raises. How holy do you have to be? Reasonably holy? By whose standard?

    But that aside, if holiness is essential while succession from the Apostles is not (which is what you argue in your reductio in the preceding comment), then it follows that any holy man could take ordination upon himself, which would obviously lead to chaos and disunity in the Church.

    Furthermore, you’re mistaking what happened in the old covenant. It wasn’t that Israel went off the rails and some holy man decided to step up and take the mantle of authority. Authority was always given, either through succession or by direct fiat from God. No one ever just decided things had gone wrong and he would be the new leader, which is precisely what the Reformers did. As others have noted, St. Frances De Sales makes the clearest argument on this subject.

  87. On the one bishop issue, are you admitting that there were multiple congregations in cities like Antioch and Ephesus at the time of Ignatius and yet believe that each one had its own bishop?

    No, I’m just saying that Ignatius only refers to bishops in the context of a congregation. He writes letters to bihsops (like Pokycarp) and churches (like Smyrna) and only refers to their congregations. What other congregations existed within these cities and what was their relationsh to other officers of other churches? I don’t think history relates. Actually Tim, I’m getting into a debate here where I can’t say I have much stake in the outcome. I really don’t have any real big issue with say the Anglican church where I visit when I’m in London (St. Helen’s). I think in practice there is probably not all that much difference as to how our system of elders and their system of bishops deal with matters in the various congregations of a given geographical area. Anyway, I’m really just trying to point out that there was a very simple ecclesionolgoy in the time of Ignatius that from what I can see would not be much of a model for the very very centralized and bureaucratic ecclesiology of Rome centuries later.

    “how is it that one Presbyterian thinks the documents….

    If you mean Calvin by the “one Presbyterian” then I think I did say that Calvin and his Catholic contemporaries were at the front end of this very difficult and protracted debate. It was still going on centuries later between very intelligent patristic scholars on both sides. Calvin did correctly perceive that there were forgeries, but should we be surprised that he may have gotten some matters wrong given what I say above? And although some of the epistles were forgeries this did not mean they were worthless, just that they were not written by Ignatius when they claimed to be. They could still have great value as tests describing the state of the Early Church assuming they could be dated with some accuracy. So whether they were written by Ignatius or someone claiming to be Ingatius, we have described there a good picture of some of the aspects of the Church of that time (again assuming that the texts can be dated with some degree of accuracy).

  88. Instead of speaking in the abstract, and hypothetical, let’s stay grounded in the concrete. Here’s the list of popes. Which one was the last one, in your opinion, to have the authority of apostolic succession, and what is the principled reason why the succeeding one no longer had it, in your opinion?

    Bryan,

    Your question reminds me of another question which is who was the last King of England to have rightful authority over the US colonies? If I cannot answer this question clearly, is this a tacit admission that the US still ought rightfully to be under the Crown of England? Like many other similar historical matters, when a government or bureaucracy or a line of kings/popes or whoever goes off the rails it does not happen all at once and it’s generally very difficult to say when exactly the entity in question was running at cross purposes to its original charter. But there are times when it becomes clear that such a thing has happened. Should we always ignore such matters and hope things get better or is there a time when those under the authority of this entity can rightfully disobey? I think that the case of the bishops it is not conceptually possible for you that they could ever fall into error when speaking on a de fide matter. But obviously we are not starting with this same assumption.

    The appeals to absolute administrative unity through Rome to the end of the world seem to us to be more philosophically based rather than derived from anything in the Scriptures or early tradition. Those who made arguments in the past for one world ecclesiastical governments were often listening to the same philosophers as those who proposed one world civil governments. But we see no reason to believe that God cannot bring unity in belief and practice to His Church without complete administrative unity. Administrative unity can promote that which is good or it can promote the opposite. This is one reason why we do not support an appeal to the formal unity of the bishops without consideration of any other criteria for validity.

  89. Furthermore, you’re mistaking what happened in the old covenant. It wasn’t that Israel went off the rails and some holy man decided to step up and take the mantle of authority. Authority was always given, either through succession or by direct fiat from God.

    Butt Matt, you are assuming that the Medievel Church had the same authority given to them that the Apostles did based solely on literal succession, right? But this assumption is just what I’m questionsing.

    At the time when the Jews debate the Apostles we are told that the Apostles pointed out that the Jews had obviated the Sciptures by their tradition. Paul would spend says in the synagogue making this case. The Jews were convinced that their literal succession was a gaurantee of God’s blessing on them. They could claim Abraham as their father which was of course no idle boast. And here is where the analogy is. The literal succession did not gaurantee that their traditions were of God, right? And I’m making the same case in terms of Rome that her succession to earlier bishops does not necessarily guarantee Rome’s fidelity on matters where she claims she is faithful.

    Cheers and good night…….

  90. Andrew,

    Your question reminds me of another question …

    Perhaps so, but you did not answer my question. If you’re going to lay a charge against Christ’s Church, and claim that her bishops no longer have Christ’s authorization, you cannot do so by speaking only in the abstract and hypothetical. You need concrete evidence. St. Paul teaches,

    Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. (1 Timothy 5:19)

    Mere abstract hypotheticals are not enough. You need names, and dates and specific sins. To justify your claim that all Catholic bishops have no divine authorization, your accusation would need to have this form:

    This [w] is what all the Catholic bishops, including the pope, did in this [x] century, and because of Apostolic teaching [y], this proves that they and their successors no longer have ecclesial authority, and avoids Donatism for reason [z].

    The stakes are far too high; treating as profane what is consecrated to God is the sin of sacrilege, which is grave matter. If through apostolic succession the Catholic bishops have retained their divine authorization to shepherd Christ’s Church, then I don’t need to spell out the seriousness of your error, not only for yourself, but also with regard to all those you have influenced away from the true shepherds of Christ’s Church. Therefore, merely hypothetical or abstract or vague accusations against no particular bishops in no particular time, are not sufficient to substantiate your serious charge against the Catholic Church. But, if you reject apostolic succession, and would like to see where the logical implications of doing so lead, read comments 66-101 in the thread of the Ecclesial Deism article.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  91. Andrew Said:
    At the time when the Jews debate the Apostles we are told that the Apostles pointed out that the Jews had obviated the Sciptures by their tradition. Paul would spend says in the synagogue making this case. The Jews were convinced that their literal succession was a gaurantee of God’s blessing on them. They could claim Abraham as their father which was of course no idle boast. And here is where the analogy is. The literal succession did not gaurantee that their traditions were of God, right? And I’m making the same case in terms of Rome that her succession to earlier bishops does not necessarily guarantee Rome’s fidelity on matters where she claims she is faithful.

    Andrew,

    You’re correct, the reason I think the Catholic Church’s bishops still had God’s authority in the 16th century, regardless of their behavior, is because they held authority which was passed down from Christ, to the Apostles, through a succession of other bishops to them.

    The difference between this situation and the Jews questioning the authority of the Apostles, who did not follow in Israel’s succession, is twofold:

    The Apostles had a mission and authority given to them directly from God
    The Apostles’ claim to authority outside of succession was backed by signs and wonders

    There is no biblical or historical example of authority over God’s people being lawfully taken up without one or both of these two criteria. St. Francis De Sales made these points with concision and incisiveness beyond mine and I suggest you check out his work The Catholic Controversy which can be read in its entirety at the preceding link. The opening section on the concept of mission is the most pertinent to the discussion here, but it’s all a good read. Good enough to convert the majority of Geneva’s Calvinists back to the Catholic Church, in fact.

    So then we take a look at the Reformers, who had no direct calling from God and no miracles to back their claim to legitimate breaking with succession. Their options were to work for reform from within the Church or to take authority that was not given to them and start their own illegitimate communities. They chose the latter.

    There is simply no historical precedent to support their choice nor any biblical mandate for laity to take up authority if they perceive that the Church has gone astray.

  92. Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. (1 Timothy 5:19). Mere abstract hypotheticals are not enough. You need names, and dates and specific sins. To justify your claim that all Catholic bishops have no divine authorization, your accusation would need to have this form:

    Bryan,

    I’m not sure where you are going with this. I mentioned Leo X earlier. He was according to one Catholic historian “the worst thing that God ever inflicted on His Church.” I picked him as an example of the times of the early Reformation but also because he was the pope that faced of with Luther. But I’m sure you know the story of the various corrupt popes of that time and the bishops and cardinals who supported them. But does any of this matter? Does it matter how many bad popes, cardinals, etc ruled the RCC at this time? If they were in the line with previous bishops then it matters not what they believed or practiced, right? The “validity” of their office was guaranteed by their pedigree.

    The Reformers were not just individuals who decided to be ministers. They were chosen and ordained as outlined in Scripture. In many cases they had been ordained by Rome herself but of course excommunicated when they broke with Rome. So I’m sure you will argue that they lost any authority when they were kicked out of the RCC. So maybe this is the issue between us concerning ecclesiology and authority. Did Rome have such authority based on what we know from Scripture and early Christian tradition?

  93. Matt,

    You know that I would agree with you that the Apostles were rightful heirs to the Jewish kingdom. But what did the Jews say when they were presented by such data as you speak of? They said to the Apostles that that was just your interpretation of Scripture. The Jews were sure that their tradition was pure based on their connection to the Early Fathers of Judaism. And isn’t this really where our debate is? The RCC is convinced that her literal succession is surety of her correctness and we are (ultimately) arguing from Scripture concerning whether RCC tradition (on those matters of de fide significance) is correct. We are not arguing that Jesus didn’t give authority to the Apostles. We are arguing that some of the tradition of the RCC at the time of the Reformers was not correct. So yes, authority must be given by Christ. And you as a RC point to the literal succession of the Medieval and current RCC as proof that the RCC still has the same authority. I in turn am questioning, not the fact the Christ gave authority to His Church, but rather the assumption that the Medievel/Reformation era RCC was still faithful based solely on literal succession.

    Have a good Sunday.

    And cheers….

  94. Andrew,

    I’m not sure where you are going with this.

    I’ll explain. Because we are not to receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses, therefore, the burden of proof is on the accuser. So in order to justify your claim that all Catholic bishops have no divine authorization, your accusation against them needs to include four things. First, you would need to specify the sin that they all committed by which they lost divine authorization. Second, you would need to specify when this happened (e.g. 16th century). Third, you would need to show that the committing of this sin removes or nullifies divine authorization to govern Christ’s Church. And fourth, you would need to show how your claim [that this sin removes divine authorization to govern Christ’s Church] avoids Donatism.

    If you can’t provide these, then your claim that they lost divine authorization to govern Christ’s Church, is not justified, and you owe them your obedience and submission (Heb 13:17).

    Pope Leo X

    You mention the corruption of Leo X, but you haven’t specified what sins he committed and why those sins removed his divine authorization to govern Christ’s Church, and how this charge avoids Donatism. So, given what you’ve said so far, you have not shown that Leo X lost divine authorization to govern Christ’s Church. And if Leo X retained divine authorization to govern Christ’s Church, then Martin Luther was excommunicated with the same divine authority by which Pope Pius I excommunicated Marcion in AD 144 AD, Pope Callistus excommunicated Sabellius in AD 220.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  95. Andrew, you misunderstood my question and I’m not sure how else to explain it. (87) Please re-read it and let me know your answer.

    Further, your claims regarding the complexity of the Catholic episcopacy above and beyond Ignatius have already been refuted yet you keep claiming them. That is called table-pounding and not at all what we’re about here.

    If you are refuted, then you need to either retract your claim or offer a rebuttal. What you frequently do, is move on to another topic or sidestep the issue and then later, re-assert claims that you’ve already been refuted on. Not only does this show that you are resisting the truth, it exposes the weakness of your position.

  96. Bryan,

    Concerning Leo X, you can read his story in the Catholic Encyclopedia. I’ve coped a few excerpts here: The first concerning Leo X’s fund raising activities:

    Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that the large treasure left by Julius II was entirely dissipated in two years. In the spring of 1515 the exchequer was empty and Leo never after recovered from his financial embarrassment. Various doubtful and reprehensible methods were resorted to for raising money. He created new offices and dignities, and the most exalted places were put up for sale. Jubilees and indulgences were degraded almost entirely into financial transactions, yet without avail, as the treasury was ruined.

    And this on the proceedings from the Fifth Lateran Council:
    Towards the close of the council (1517) the noble and highly cultured layman, Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola, delivered a remarkable speech on the necessity of a reform of morals; his account of the moral condition of the clergy is saddening, and reveals the many and great difficulties that stood in the way of a genuine reform. He concluded with the warning that if Leo X left such offences longer unpunished and refused to apply healing remedies to these wounds of the Church, it was to be feared that God Himself would cut off the rotten limbs and destroy them with fire and sword. That very year this prophetic warning was verified. The salutary reforms of the Lateran Council found no practical acceptance. Pluralism, commendatory benefices, and the granting of ecclesiastical dignities to children remained customary. Leo himself did not scruple to set aside repeatedly the decrees of the council. The Roman Curia, then much despised and against which so many inveighed with violence, remained as worldly as ever. The pope was either unwilling or not in a position to regulate the unworthy and immoral conduct of many of the Roman courtiers. The political situation absorbed his attention and was largely responsible for the premature close of the council.

    And finally on a political enemy who had tried to poison Leo:
    The affair throws a lurid light on the degree of corruption in the highest ecclesiastical circles. Unconcerned by the scandal he was giving, Leo took advantage of the proceeding to create thirty-one new cardinals, thereby obtaining an entirely submissive college and also money to carry on the unlucky war with Urbino. Not a few of these cardinals were chosen on account of the large sums they advanced.

    You can read the whole unflattering account of political intrigue and selling offices and appointing the worst sort of cardinals yourself. But I’m sure you already know this sort of stuff. It’s not me who is doing any accusing and I certainly don’t want to suggest anything of the popes, cardinals, etc of the Pre-Reformation and Reformation era that has not already been documented by Catholic historians as above. You can also read similar accounts in Catholic sources of Julius II and Alexander VI and others. But again, you are probably already aware of such things, yes? My point in all of this is to compare the lives of the bishops (not just the Bishop of Rome) at this point in time with the bishops in the earliest Christian centuries. It was obvious to the Reformers that the religion of the popes, cardinals, bishops of their time was of a completely different character to that of the early Christian leaders.

    I have asked a question of you more than once that you have not answered, but I will ask again. Concerning the corruption that existed in the leadership of the RCC when the Reformers came on the scene, does it matter? The bishops of the Renaissance/Reformation era were indeed descended from previous bishops so it does not matter how corrupt they were or how immoral or how unconcerned with the sorts of things that the Fifth Lateran Council spoke to, does it? All that matters for validity in RCC terms is valid orders. Is this correct or not? And if correct, then why even ask me for documentation of the corruption of the popes during the Renaissance and Reformation? If it has no bearing on the question at hand then why ask me?

    Concerning authorization, Leo certainly had authorization from Rome. But the question is whether, given what the CE writes about him, he was a proper overseer to his people in the same way say Clement or Ignatius were. For the Reformers there was no question that such a person as Leo (and so many other bishops of the time) was not an episkopos in the biblical sense of that term. The aforementioned speech from the Lateran Council ought to convince you of that. Leo ignored this advice and continued to do that which was “reprehensible” to use the CE term. So Leo was authorized by Rome, yes. That’s just a statement of fact. But the question of whether the cardinals of the RCC of that time were correct in authorizing him is another matter. Given the biblical data concerning what the overseers are supposed to do and what the criteria is for choosing them, it was the judgment of part of the Church (not Rome obviously) that a change was needed. Who authorized them you might ask, and we would ask you the same question concerning the RCC cardinals. Who authorized the RCC cardinals? If the answer is that these cardinals could claim literal succession then you are just restating the problem at hand and not offering any solution.

  97. Andrew.

    Bryan can certainly provide an answer to your question since you directed it at him but I would like to offer a quote from Thomas Howard which is related to your question. The following is taken from “Letter to my Brother: A Convert Defends Catholicism,” Crisis, December 1991.

    Rome’s opulence, her political machinations down through the centuries, her tyrannies and hauteur and self-assertiveness, not to mention the Dionysian romp in the Vatican in the Renaissance, what with Borgia popes and catamites and so forth: all of that is bad – very bad. The Catholic Church knows that. Dante, of course, had half of the popes head down in fiery pits in hell. Chaucer, contemporary with the Lollard Wyclif, but himself a loyal Catholic, is merciless – scathing even – in his portraiture of filthy and cynical clergy. St. Thomas More and Erasmus, contemporary with Luther and Calvin, were at least as vitriolic in their condemnation of Roman evils as were the Reformers . . . But Israel was not less Israel when she was being wicked . . . The Church is in the same position in its identity as people of God. We have Judas Iscariot, as it were, and Ananias and Sapphira, and other unsavory types amongst us, but we have no warrant to set up shop outside the camp, so to speak . . . Evangelicals, in their just horror at rampant evils in Catholic history, . . . unwittingly place themselves somewhat with the Donatists of the fourth century, who wanted to hive off because of certain evils which they felt were widespread in the Church. Augustine and others held the view that you can’t go that far. You can’t set up shop independently of the lineage of bishops . . . As far as the ancient, orthodox Church was concerned, nobody could split off . . . The problems of the Roman Catholic Church (sin, worldliness, ignorance) are, precisely, the problems of the Church. St. Paul never got out of Corinth before he had all of the above problems. Multiply that small company of Christians by 2000 years and hundreds of millions, and you have what the Catholic Church has to cope with. Furthermore, remember that the poor Catholics aren’t the only ones who have to cope. Anyone who has ever tried to start himself a church has run slap into it all, with a vengeance . . . Worldliness, second-generation apathy, ossification, infidelity, loss of vision, loss of zeal, loss of discipline, jiggery-pokery, heresy – it’s all there.

    My emphasis.

    Israel didn’t go set up a new tabernacle when their leaders were wicked. They didn’t strike off from the camp and create new doctrines or anything.

  98. Andrew,

    The problem with being Catholic is that the Church has to bear the burden of history and we do not hide from it, as evidenced by your source(though the fact is that there have been vastly more holy and saintly Popes than those who have sadly failed in their calling). As has been remarked elsewhere, the bad thing about the Catholic Church is it’s a big family, and the good thing about the Church is it’s a big family. As, I believe, James Joyce said, “The Catholic Church is ‘here comes everybody’.” The sad fact of Protestantism is that it continually divides itself, which is intrinsic to it, it cannot help but do that. For example, when the PCUS was moving liberal the response was to start a new group, the PCA, prior to that when the UP was moving liberal, the response was to start what would become the OPC and of course, we could go on and on (e.g. the Anglican communion).

    That being said, I do think that the division between the Northern and Southern Kingdoms provide a framework in which to understand the tragedy of the 16th century. We know the sad story of King Solomon and how his sins led to the division of Israel. When the Lord told Jeroboam that he would take ten tribes and give them to him to be their king (1st Kings 11) a legitimate question to ask is “Was this a test by God to Jeroboam?” We have an example from one greater than Jeroboam, namely Moses, who was told by God that he would destroy this stiff-necked people and make for Moses a new nation for Moses to lead (Exodus 32). Compare the two responses: one reveals a heart of humility and love, a love for God and his name and a love for God’s people; the other reveals a heart that seeks power and authority for its own sake. Should not Jeroboam have responded, “Lord, no, I cannot do this, for I do not seek to divide our people. I seek not my own power or authority but seek that your people and your king shall serve you and you alone. I dare not seek to see our people divided, torn asunder by rivalry. I seek, rather, a oneness for our people, a oneness rooted in you, for you O Lord, are our Lord, and you O Lord are one.”

    It is also interesting to note that not one of the kings of the Northern Kingdom are ever described as having done what was good in the sight of the Lord, rather they are described in these tragic words, “and he did evil in the sight of the Lord.”

    Were it that the response of Luther, Bucer, Zwingli and others was that of St. Catherine of Siena, who spoke of the sins of the Church and grieved greatly for the Church. The Church does not need reformers, she needs saints, and the more we are saints, the more shall the Church be reformed, as Pope Benedict has said. As Bryan has said, it better to suffer martyrdom, either white or red, than to can schism. As evidenced by St. Padre Pio and other saints, sometimes one suffers as much from the Church as for the Church. Yet, we love her. Why? For she is Christ’s and it’s his Church and not ours.

  99. Andrew,

    In comments #90 and #94, I showed that you needed to provide four things, in order to justify your claim that the Catholic bishops lost their divine authorization to govern Christ’s Church. You have not yet done that.

    But again, you are probably already aware of such things, yes?

    Yes. When Jesus appeared to Peter after His resurrection, He didn’t say, “Here are the keys again.” Did Leo X do something more sinful than denying Christ three times?

    It was obvious to the Reformers that the religion of the popes, cardinals, bishops of their time was of a completely different character to that of the early Christian leaders.

    Are you claiming that the Catholic religion is not Christianity? If so, your statement is an example of ecclesial deism. Would the Reformers have said the same thing [i.e. that the religion of the Catholic Church was of a completely different character to that of the early Christian leaders] about the 11th century Church? The eighth century Church? The fourth century Church? For how long, according to the Reformers, was the Catholic religion, prior to the 16th century, something of a completely different character than Christianity?

    There are two points to keep in mind here. First, development of doctrine is not corruption of essentials, though both involve change. Not all change is corruption of essentials. Second, moral corruption of individuals within the Church is compatible with the Church’s teaching on faith and morals remaining true and uncorrupted. The existence of corrupt popes and bishops does not falsify the doctrine of indefectability.

    Concerning the corruption that existed in the leadership of the RCC when the Reformers came on the scene, does it matter?

    That’s one of the four things you would need to show, in order to justify your claim that the Catholic bishops lost their divine authorization to govern Christ’s Church.

    why even ask me for documentation of the corruption of the popes during the Renaissance and Reformation? If it has no bearing on the question at hand then why ask me?

    Because, as I explained in #90 and #94, the sin by which they supposedly ‘lost their divine authorization’ is one of the four things you would need to show in order to justify your claim that the Catholic bishops lost their divine authorization to govern Christ’s Church.

    But the question is whether, given what the CE writes about him, he was a proper overseer to his people in the same way say Clement or Ignatius were. … But the question of whether the cardinals of the RCC of that time were correct in authorizing him is another matter.

    If all you have are questions, and not all four things I described in #90 and #94, then by default the Catholic bishops retain their authority, because merely having questions doesn’t take away someone’s divine authorization.

    For the Reformers there was no question that such a person as Leo (and so many other bishops of the time) was not an episkopos in the biblical sense of that term. The aforementioned speech from the Lateran Council ought to convince you of that.

    Since the Reformers had no divine authorization to govern Christ’s Church, their opinion is not authoritative. Anyone can have an opinion. Mirandola’s speech does not show that Leo X was not a bishop “in the biblical sense of that term”; it shows at most that Leo X was not a good bishop in the biblical sense of what a good bishop should be.

    Given the biblical data concerning what the overseers are supposed to do and what the criteria is for choosing them, it was the judgment of part of the Church (not Rome obviously) that a change was needed. Who authorized them you might ask,

    No one.

    and we would ask you the same question concerning the RCC cardinals. Who authorized the RCC cardinals?

    Christ, through the Apostles, and the succession of bishops.

    If the answer is that these cardinals could claim literal succession then you are just restating the problem at hand and not offering any solution.

    To what “problem” are you referring? Apostolic succession is not a problem.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  100. Andrew said “It was obvious to the Reformers that the religion of the popes, cardinals, bishops of their time was of a completely different character to that of the early Christian leaders.”

    This statement runs counter to the (Catholic) history of Christendom that I have been reading about in Warren Carroll’s books.

    One example: In the early 4th century, Arius was a leader of the Church in Alexandria, a highly intelligent man, yet one who persisted in his heresy even after Nicaea and spread the heresy so well that it was centuries before its traces were gone. The worldy, unholy bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia (later Bishop of Constantinople and influential advisor to Constantine) supported Arius, as did the bishop Eusebius of Caesarea (“the historian”) and many other bishops. They all persecuted St. Athanasius for decades and caused great scandal and evil within the Church that lasted long after they were gone.

    Arius and his supporters within the Church’s leadership were not unique within history but are repeated in ever-varying ways in every century after, yes, even up through the time of the Reformation. The claim that the leaders of the Church were evil during the Reformation but holy in the “early” Church is false. The truth is that there were holy and unholy priests, bishops, and popes throughout the centuries, the weeds and the wheat, even at the top of Christ’s Church, and that continues to this day.

    I encourage you to read the Carroll books (history from a Catholic perspective)–he makes no bones about calling out all of the bishops and popes who were dissolute or greedy or cowardly nor of describing the political machinations around the selection of bishops and popes in every country of Christendom throughout all of her history.

  101. Andrew,

    Please answer these questions:

    When the High Priest Aaron made a golden calf and led the people into idolatry and moral depravity, did his grave sin disqualify him from being High Priest?

    Consider David. When he committed public scandal, did he cease being King?

    When Solomon disgraced Jerusalem with pagan shrines for idolatrous worship, did he cease being King?

    When Peter denied Christ three times, did he cease being an Apostle?

  102. Bryan,

    I’m having a heck of a time getting a straight answer from you. I will try one more time and then I will give up.

    Andrew: Concerning the corruption that existed in the leadership of the RCC when the Reformers came on the scene, does it matter?

    Bryan: That’s one of the four things you would need to show, in order to justify your claim that the Catholic bishops lost their divine authorization to govern Christ’s Church.

    But Bryan, I am asking you to answer this. I’ve asked you this in a number of different ways and so I’m asking you again. If the RCC during the time we are speaking of was unfaithful in what we have explicitly from the Apostles hands concerning what officers of the Church were to be doing and the criteria she used to choose the bishops, then is she still faithful merely on the basis of this literal succession? In other words are bishops valid merely on the basis of literal succession, all other considerations aside?

    Either Leo, Julius, etc were faithful or they were not. The question you asked about previous popes is an interesting issue but it does not necessarily bear upon the question which I raised. And as I’m sure you know in order to analyze all the popes back to the times when this title was taken on would take a book length post.

  103. Consider David. When he committed public scandal, did he cease being King?

    Taylor,
    You are using examples where the person in question acknowledged their sin and repented. Are you saying this analogous to the Medieval RCC where the folks we were talking about did not acknowledge their sin but persisted in it and choose others as bad as themselves?

  104. Andrew @ 103 (Why do I get the feeling that you wont admit you’re wrong here even after this irrefutable proof)

    How about king Abijah?

  105. Tim,

    Irrefutable proof? Tim, we haven’t even started talking about it. I’m trying to get Taylor to expand his point before I answer him.

    No, obviously these folks did not stop being kings. And I’m not saying that Leo, etc stopped becoming pope. So given this I need Taylor to tell me where he thinks the analogy is.

  106. Andrew,

    (Reply to #102)

    Andrew: Concerning the corruption that existed in the leadership of the RCC when the Reformers came on the scene, does it matter?

    Bryan: That’s one of the four things you would need to show, in order to justify your claim that the Catholic bishops lost their divine authorization to govern Christ’s Church.

    But Bryan, I am asking you to answer this.

    You would need to fill in the “with respect to whatness.” For example, Did Pope Leo’s moral failings ipso facto laicize him, and/or strip away his divine authorization to govern Christ’s Church? The Church’s answer to that question is no, as we can see with regard to the Donatist schism. The sins of a bishop or priest do not remove the sacramental character of Holy Orders, just as they do not remove the sacramental character of baptism or confirmation. Aquinas writes:

    But it is the sacrament of order that pertains to the sacramental agents: for it is by this sacrament that men are deputed to confer sacraments on others: while the sacrament of Baptism pertains to the recipients, since it confers on man the power to receive the other sacraments of the Church; whence it is called the “door of the sacraments.” In a way Confirmation also is ordained for the same purpose, as we shall explain in its proper place (65, 3). Consequently, these three sacraments imprint a character, namely, Baptism, Confirmation, and order. (ST III Q.63 a.6)

    Aquinas defends that by appealing to the universal practice of the Church, of never repeating these three sacraments. And likewise, ceteris paribus, a pope who had sinned would not need to be restored to his office after repenting; prior to repenting he would be a sinful pope, not a sinful former pope.

    Nor do sins remove a bishop’s jurisdictional authority. By canon law (in its present form), a person is automatically removed from ecclesiastical office “who has publicly defected from the Catholic faith or from the communion of the Church.” (Source) Publicly defecting from the faith refers to publicly renouncing the Catholic faith. But Pope Leo X did not do any such thing, even though he sinned in other ways.

    I’ve asked you this in a number of different ways and so I’m asking you again. If the RCC during the time we are speaking of was unfaithful in what we have explicitly from the Apostles hands concerning what officers of the Church were to be doing and the criteria she used to choose the bishops, then is she still faithful merely on the basis of this literal succession?

    And I have pointed out that your question oversimplifies the Biblical prescriptions, because your question glosses the distinction between necessary conditions for ecclesial authority and recommended qualities possessed by one exercising ecclesial authority. Not manifesting the [merely] recommended qualities does not strip away a bishop’s ecclesial authority. But if you want to ask me about whether Pope Leo X did not meet the necessary conditions for holding the episcopal office, as specified in Scripture, then you would need to list those necessary conditions, and how you know they are necessary conditions, and not merely recommended qualities.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  107. Andrew,

    The Catholic claim is simply this; she is the Church intended and established by Jesus Christ. She is who she is based on the promise of Christ to His Church, “the gates of hell will not prevail”. The moral failures of Popes, Bishops, or any of the Catholic faithful do not negate the promise of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. The simple fact is this: the Church claims infallibility as it pertains to the teaching of faith and morals. There is no claim, nor has there ever been a claim, that the Church, in her members, Popes, Bishops and any Catholic faithful, of moral perfection. The Church makes this clear in the Liturgy, when we begin by asking the Lord for his mercy due to the fact of our sins, and it should go without saying that the Pope and Bishops say these very words along with the faithful.

    Let us consider the poster Pope for bad Popes, Alexander VI (and far be it from me to be his judge or the judge of anyone’s eternal destiny for that matter). He engaged in behavior that was sinful, objectively evil, as the history books make clear. Yet, does he change any doctrine? No. From a purely human perspective this is counter-intuitive, as we can see with the Anglican communion. Why? Because he could have changed the moral teaching of the Church and lowered the bar, if you will. What do we see with much of the Anglican communion, especially here in the States? We have seen changes in the moral teachings of that communion to fit with the times. What do we find in the Church? We find the doctrine and morals unchanged because truth is not contingent upon the times, nor is it contingent upon the moral character (good or bad) of the teacher who proposes it. From a purely human perspective the Catholic Church would have gone the way of other Christian groups, change teaching to fit the times and suit our desires (what are we to make of divorce and remarriage in so-called conservative Christian groups?). What accounts for the Catholic Church? What accounts for this fidelity in doctrine and morals, lo these many years? Simply the hand of God guiding her, rooted in the continuing work of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

  108. And I have pointed out that your question oversimplifies the Biblical prescriptions, because your question glosses the distinction between necessary conditions for ecclesial authority and recommended qualities possessed by one exercising ecclesial authority.

    Bryan – Be that as it may, what I’m getting at is that in practical terms it is not going to matter what reasons I give you for the RCC failing to properly excercise proper ecclesiastical authoirty. Your response is always going to be the same, isn’t it? You asked for “specific sins” but no matter how many popes and cardinals and bishops over how many decades acted in oppostion to the clear statements of the Apostles in terms of 1) what the Church was supposed to be doing and 2) what the characteristics of her bishops was supposed to be, the answer is always the same. Rome had authority based on succession, end of story. The facts that at Trent, generation after Julius, Leo, etc, the RCC was still trying to deal with the corrupstion of the bishops just does not matter, does it? The answers I could come up with in response to the “four things” I would need to show is irrelevant since you will just always refer to the one thing which is whether or not valid orders were present. Rome never looses her authority because she has valid orders no matter how many generations or centuries of doing that which is plainly in contradiction to the Scriptures and the teaching of the Early Church. You don’t have to be brilliant to figure out that the RCC was acting in opposition to the religion of the Apostles and the Early Church fathers. Just read of the life of Leo or ALexander and what they spent their time doing and then do the same for Clement or someone else in the Apostlic/Subapostolic era. But none of this matters to Rome in terms of assessing proper authority, right? No matter how much Rome at the time of the Reformation became decoupled from Christianity, her bishops still possessed proper ecclesial authority, case closed. In practical terms do I overstate the case or have I got this right?

    This debate would be somewhat easier if you were coming from an EO standpoint since they correctly point out that the bishops in the Early Church were autocephalous and “first among equals” was purely titular, not functional. This assumption that Rome was the ultimate authority just was not shared by the Fathers of the early centuries of the Church.

  109. Andrew – @105 : I meant irrefutable proof that you were barking up the wrong tree. I stand corrected though as you have admitted that bad kings continued being kings and bad bishops continued being bishops which brings me to the next question, why aren’t you submitted to your bishop, who is, by your own admission, still a bishop?

  110. The Catholic claim is simply this; she is the Church intended and established by Jesus Christ. She is who she is based on the promise of Christ to His Church, “the gates of hell will not prevail”. The moral failures of Popes, Bishops, or any of the Catholic faithful do not negate the promise of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. The simple fact is this: the Church claims infallibility as it pertains to the teaching of faith and morals. There is no claim, nor has there ever been a claim, that the Church, in her members, Popes, Bishops and any Catholic faithful, of moral perfection.

    Tom,

    I hope you realize that I am not speaking of a David and Bathsheba situation. I am not speaking of someone who sinned, then repented and came back to the Church wanting forgiveness. This is why the Donatist label for us does not work. I am speaking of long periods of opposition of the RCC to Christianity (as measured by the writings of the Apostles and subsequently by those in the Sub-apostolic era) where there was no repentance. If the faithful bishops, elder, etc of the Church come to the point as they did in the late Medievel/Early Reformation era where the RCC had abonded the religion of the Early Church, then what? Do these bishops continue to follow the Leo’s and Julius’ of the RCC or do they break with them? If we follow the logic that the only thing that matters is valid orders as defined by Rome then the leaders of the Reformation were wrong. But that’s the question – are valid orders the only thing that matters?

  111. I am speaking of long periods of opposition of the RCC to Christianity (as measured by the writings of the Apostles and subsequently by those in the Sub-apostolic era) where there was no repentance.

    Exactly how long, in days or years, must time lapse without repentance to justify schism?

    If the faithful bishops, elder, etc of the Church come to the point as they did in the late Medievel/Early Reformation era where the RCC had abonded the religion of the Early Church, then what?

    Then that would be ecclesial deism, which Bryan showed to be incompatible with Christianity.

    Do these bishops continue to follow the Leo’s and Julius’ of the RCC or do they break with them?

    Schism is never justified.

    But that’s the question – are valid orders the only thing that matters?

    When it comes to authority, , i.e. validity of one’s order, yes.

  112. Andrew,

    Questions do not establish anything, nor are they a substitute for an argument. If you want to argue for a position, then you need to use statements, not questions. If your questions are merely rhetorical, and not sincere questions, then there is no reason for us to answer them, or you to post them. The general rule of thumb within the context of genuine dialogue aimed at the pursuit of truth is that we should only ask sincere questions. A sincere question is one whose answer we do not yet know and by which, in the very act of asking the question, we are requesting enlightenment from our interlocutor concerning the answer to our question. So, if you have sincere questions, we’ll be glad to answer them. But if your questions are merely rhetorical, then please refrain from making use of such questions.

    We’ve explained that the Church has always taught that ordination, like baptism, is never redone. Sins by bishops do not ipso facto remove the authority of those bishops. This is why Donatism was a schism from the Church, and not the continuation of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. The bishops who committed sacrilege rather than suffer martyrdom, remained the rightful bishops.

    If you think the Church has been wrong about that, then feel free to make your case, without using rhetorical questions.

    This debate would be somewhat easier …

    There’s an underlying problem. You are thinking of this discussion as a debate, instead of a mutual pursuit of truth and reconciliation. The only way for us to make progress in coming to agreement is not to seek to ‘win a debate’ but to pursue the truth together. So, I recommend hitting the mental ‘reset’ button, switch from ‘debate’ mode to ‘truth-seeking’ mode, and then re-reading the whole thread.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  113. Exactly how long, in days or years, must time lapse without repentance to justify schism?

    Tim – I have no answer to this one. But I can say that one of the first things that Trent did was to deal with the issue of moral laxity. The complaints by reformers within the Church had been unheeded for centuries. So how many generations or centuries should the faithful bishops of this era been expected to wait?

    Schism is never justified.

    If you are correct here then that ends the debate and we should all become Catholics. For the Reformed, we are more interested in the historical content of Christianity and less interested in the formal structure of the organization used to convey this content. We are convinced that we should not limit God to working through one administrative vehicle. The importance for us is not administrative unity but unity of belief and action.

    When it comes to authority, , i.e. validity of one’s order, yes.

    I’m glad to hear you say that so plainly, Tim.

  114. Questions do not establish anything, nor are they a substitute for an argument. If you want to argue for a position, then you need to use statements, not questions.

    Bryan,

    When I say something like, “the question is….,” this is just a manner of speaking. It’s a rhetorical device. I’m not really raising a question that I don’t know the answer to. I’m seeking to establish our respective positions on a given issue. Of course I may not have gotten your position correct and you are free to correct it. In fact, that’s what I want you to do. But, if this particular manner of speaking bothers you, I will try not to use it although no doubt I will forget.

    There’s an underlying problem. You are thinking of this discussion as a debate, instead of a mutual pursuit of truth and reconciliation. The only way for us to make progress in coming to agreement is not to seek to ‘win a debate’ but to pursue the truth together. So, I recommend hitting the mental ‘reset’ button, switch from ‘debate’ mode to ‘truth-seeking’ mode, and then re-reading the whole thread.

    Bryan, firstly there is no reason to think that a good debate does not seek to establish truth. Debate and seeking truth are not mutually exclusive. Two people debating an issue can be a good thing. Secondly, you don’t know why I am engaging in these discussions. I’m not looking to “win” debates.

  115. Andrew,

    The Reformed position on the Church that have described in #113 is identical to the one being made by the Gnostics during the time of Irenaeus, i.e. the Message trumps the Church.

    The problem with this is that there is no way of securing the Apostolic message – each leader and sect has his own spin. Lutherans have one doctrine of justification. Calvinists another. Methodists another. And so and so on.

    With Catholicism, you don’t have to choose between the Message and the Church.

  116. Andrew,

    You seem to be missing the whole point of ordination. Ordination is the giving of orders, that is of commands and the authority to execute those commands. Orders to rule God’s people can only come from God Himself or from the people He has directly authorized to give orders.

    I understand you’re under a deluge of comments to respond to right now, but you ignored my last comment on where orders come from. You simply can’t have a group of people with no orders from God to do anything who magically gain the authority to ordain one of their own to a position of authority over God’s people. Again, there is no historical, biblical or logical precedent for anything of the kind.

    Scripture speaks of authority passed by the laying on of hands or a direct call from God. Again, the reformers had neither. The burden of proof lies with you to show that there is some reason for an exception in the case of the reformers that didn’t apply in any of the other heresies of Church history.j

  117. Orders to rule God’s people can only come from God Himself or from the people He has directly authorized to give orders.

    Matt,

    I’ve tried to express this more than one way and evidentally I have not been clear. We don’t disagree that authority is necessary. It’s what the nature of that authority is. It’s just like I was saying to Tim, it’s not the issue of the episcopacy that is any big deal even to non-Anglican Reformed folks. The issue is the peculiarities of the Roman episcopacy. When we read through what the Apostles said, such as in the Pastoral Epistles, and then subsequesntly through the Sub-Apostolic Fathers (those closest to the Apostles) where do we get the idea that the Roman bishop ought to call the shots? The authority that Paul speaks to Timothy about is congregational, there is no worldwide coordinating authority. There are instructions to appoint bishops, elders, and deacons, but this authoirty is given to each congregation. This does not mean of course that there ought to be no coordination between churches. If there is any dispute then the elders/bishops ought to come together like they did in Acts over the issue of the Gentiles. But where do we get Rome out of all of this?

    So again, no question about proper authoirty, but obviously I have a concern about the role that the Roman postiff is supposed to play in this given the data in Scriptures and those Fathers immediately following the Apostlic era. Just because Clement and Ignatius did not see the bishop of Rome as having some sort of supreme power in these matters doesn’t mean that they are right, but certainly their words are worth considering. What really puzzles me is why the folks here speak of the power of Rome to dictate such matters as if it’s patently obvious. See Bryan’s post #99 as a for instance. “Christ, through the Apostles, and the succession of bishops” authoirzed the Roman Cardinals. No explanation or defense, just a statement of apparent fact.

  118. Just because Clement and Ignatius did not see the bishop of Rome as having some sort of supreme power in these matters doesn’t mean that they are right, but certainly their words are worth considering.

    This is an unsubstantiated claim. We cannot equate the non-existence of an explicit statement in favor or a proposition with its denial as you are openly doing. For example, only the author of Hebrews calls Jesus the “High Priest”. It would be false for me to say, as you have, that “just because the other NT authors did not see Jesus as the High Priest doesn’t mean that they are right.” Can you offer any evidence whatsoever that either Clement or Ignatius did not see the supremacy of the Pope? And “supreme power” is an unhelpful and misleading description of papal authority.

    Further, the issue of episcopacy is a big deal for non-Anglican Protestants because it shows that you have a church governmental structure other than what the apostles established.

    You still haven’t answered my question in comment 68.

    Also, I think I’ve made about as strong of a case as can be made for your position in my latest post.

  119. Andrew.

    This link discusses the roll of Peter in scripture. You are speaking as if our view of Peter is foreign to scripture. We believe that it is exactly what scripture prescribes. It was Peter alone who had his name changed by Christ, Peter alone who was given the keys and Peter alone who was told to “feed the sheep.”

    Also, reading Clement and Ignatius doesn’t lend itself to your view at all and certainly proves that Presbyterian polity is an invention. The above link also provides passages from Clement and Ignatius about the ‘Church in Rome’ which ‘cannot be disagreed with’ and ‘presides in love.’

  120. I would further add that in the 3rd and 4th centuries there were many bishops in the Church who with explicit deference to the Holy See, to “Rome”, or to the “Prince of the Apostles” as well as Popes who wrote assuming that the bishops of the Church and her members accepted this primacy.

    And it seems to me that Andrew has targeted the “medieval” Church as having many evils, but I think he would consider the 3rd and 4th centuries to still be in the “early’ Church, so how does he explain these references? (Also, my refutation to his statements about the “medieval” Church unholiness vs. “early” Church holiness in comment #100 stands unacknowledged (much less refuted) by Andrew.)

  121. Andrew,

    Thanks for continuing to labor for clarity. I really don’t think you’ve been too unclear in your previous posts, but we weren’t even necessarily talking about the authority of the bishop of Rome beyond his own diocese.

    In fact, bearing in mind the obvious case of the Orthodox Churches and a few others, we can leave the Papacy out of this discussion entirely for the time being. It comes to bear, but only after we have agreed that there is such a thing as physically bestowed Apostolic Succession.

    My point, for the time being, isn’t that the protestants broke with Rome. They did, that was schism and they ought not have done it. But the Orthodox broke from Rome as well, which was also schism, but they stayed in the Apostolic Succession because they were still connected, through their bishops, to the authority that God gave to the Apostles.

    The protestants took no such connection to the Apostles with them when they left Rome. Once you’ve left that succession, any claim to authority through the “laying on of hands” has no connection to the hands of Jesus or his Apostles and therefore means nothing in the Church. Luther and his co-reformers laying hands on one another in a rite of ordination simply has no connection to authority given by God.

    It’s no different than if five of my friends laid hands on me and proclaimed me to be a bishop. It’s all well and good to say that, but what you’ve done has no command from God to authorize it.

    All that is to say, bringing Rome into it at this point in the discussion is jumping too far ahead. Authority is possible without connection to Rome. None is possible without connection to God.

  122. Further, the issue of episcopacy is a big deal for non-Anglican Protestants because it shows that you have a church governmental structure other than what the apostles established.

    Tim, for the sake of argument, I’m happy to concede the point. It just does not matter to me. There used to be a blog called Reformed Catholicism that was mostly Reformed Presbyterians and Anglicans. On the issue of the episcopacy we just did not bother to debate the matter that I can remember, it was just no big deal.

    You still haven’t answered my question in comment 68.

    I answered your question and you responded back (#95) saying I had misunderstood you but you did not say what I had misunderstood. Well, unless you give me some sort of indication what the problem was with my answer in #87, then I don’t have anything to work on and you are just going to get back the same answer as before.

    Also, I think I’ve made about as strong of a case as can be made for your position in my latest post.

    In this post you say, The magisterial Protestant sees the Church as initially having an authoritative magisterium, but by the time of the Reformation, having a corrupted magisterium which had lost its authority.

    The concept of an “authoritative magisterium” in the RCC understanding of the term contains elements that we would disagree with. And I should also mention contains elements that the EO disagree with as well as elements which are not found in the earliest centuries of the Church. So I think there is a better term than this. We would certainly agree that each congregation had the right and obligation to choose their successors and we see this in practice in the period right after the Apostles. This gets back to what we were talking about before concerning Ignatius as he refers to the bishops and elders and deacons who were discussed within the context of the congregation or maybe at most the city or local region. It’s not just that there is no central importance granted to Rome, but also that there is no central authority. Even trying to extend the power of a bishop beyond the congregation is really stretching it with Ignatius, let alone Clement. But the Medieval and modern RCC concept of the magisterium assumes an authority that is not local, but universal in nature powerfully centered in Rome.

    So one set of bishops/elders in a given congregation chooses the next generation. But again, given the data in the early centuries of Christianity, how can we justify Rome’s involvement in this process? If Rome should not have been involved then she had no business in deciding matters that were happening in Reformation France and Germany and wherever else outside her bishopric. Now obviously we are not going to agree with each other here, but I want to make the case that our disagreement is at least partly here. We Reformed are not speaking to the issue of Rome loosing her authority, but rather about what authority she had to begin with. And sorry to repeat myself again, but it is here where I think the EO perspective on the extent of the authority of the Bishop of Rome is helpful. I like bringing up the EO perspective because I think (maybe incorrectly) that you are more likely to resonate with an argument from someone who is in communion with you than one of us quarrelsome Protestants :)

  123. Also, reading Clement and Ignatius doesn’t lend itself to your view at all and certainly proves that Presbyterian polity is an invention. The above link also provides passages from Clement and Ignatius about the ‘Church in Rome’ which ‘cannot be disagreed with’ and ‘presides in love.’

    Sean,

    I don’t see the “…disagreed with” quote. I’m not sure what else in the Clement and Ignatius quotes here would disagree with what I’ve said. And on Presbyterian polity, I have no additional comments beyond what I said to Tim.

  124. I would further add that in the 3rd and 4th centuries there were many bishops in the Church who with explicit deference to the Holy See

    Devin,

    Now here I think you are getting to something important and something that resonates with Protestants, at least those in the Reformed tradition. The power of the Roman See develops in the West and we see that power develop as the physical city of Rome itself develops. The same thing happens in the East with Constantinople when the Emperor move East. So did the Church in Rome grow in power for a good and spiritual reasons, and is what we see developing at the close of the Early Church age (early 5th century) proper developments of what we see in the first few centuries of the Church, or did the Roman See grown in power for other non-spiritual reasons? Well, we both know where each other stands on this, but I don’t think that either position is obvious.

  125. In fact, bearing in mind the obvious case of the Orthodox Churches and a few others, we can leave the Papacy out of this discussion entirely for the time being. It comes to bear, but only after we have agreed that there is such a thing as physically bestowed Apostolic Succession.

    Matt,

    As you might have guessed from my comments above, the limits of the authority of the Bishop of Rome are part of my argument and I don’t think we can separate Apostolic succession from the papacy. At least I’m not trying to separate them.

  126. Andrew,

    In fact, heterodox and heretical Eastern Bishops made the claim that the authority of the Bishop of Rome had to do with the power of the city of Rome. This claim was and is nonsense. Let’s talk about the authority of the Church of Rome starting from Clement 96 AD. We can talk about who opposed this authority and why, and who accepted it and why. We can talk about the Anglican myth about the independence of the African Church. We will see Rome acting jurisdictionally in the internal affairs of other churches — even in the East — throughout this period. And we will see Rome acting definitively in doctrinal matters. It has nothing to do with the growing power of the city of Rome :)

    Let the people here know if you want to begin. We will start with Clement.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  127. I answered your question and you responded back (#95) saying I had misunderstood you but you did not say what I had misunderstood. Well, unless you give me some sort of indication what the problem was with my answer in #87, then I don’t have anything to work on and you are just going to get back the same answer as before.

    I’m not the one who stands to benefit from you offering a reasonable response to my question. Every one reading knows what my question was, and everyone knows you haven’t answered it. It wasn’t difficult to understand. If you don’t want to answer it – that’s up to you. No one is going to believe that you didn’t understand it.

    And I should also mention contains elements that the EO disagree with as well as elements which are not found in the earliest centuries of the Church.

    Again, you’ve already been refuted on this point. This table pounding is beginning to be rude. Re-asserting claims that have been refuted, again, demonstrates that you are resisting the truth and simply trying to win a debate. “Winning a debate” is the farthest thing from what you’re accomplishing right now. You’re showing that you do not have answers for our arguments.

    This gets back to what we were talking about before concerning Ignatius as he refers to the bishops and elders and deacons who were discussed within the context of the congregation or maybe at most the city or local region.

    Yes, it gets back to another point you’ve already been shown wrong on and have offered no response and yet you repeat the claim un-phased.

    Re: my new post:

    The concept of an “authoritative magisterium” in the RCC understanding of the term contains elements that we would disagree with.

    Andrew, you need to deal with the argument on its own terms. You’re inventing other things to disagree with that are unrelated. The argument works just the same from the Eastern Orthodox standpoint or from certain High Church Anglicans.

    It’s not just that there is no central importance granted to Rome, but also that there is no central authority.

    This is a separate issue and you’re just bringing up another unsubstantiated claim. Let’s stick to the topic. What you’re doing is instead of answering points where you’ve been refuted, you’re picking up other topics and tossing out unsubstantiated claims. You’ve been here at CTC long enough to know that we never let you get away with that so why do you keep doing it?

    Even trying to extend the power of a bishop beyond the congregation is really stretching it with Ignatius, let alone Clement.

    You’re table pounding again. And, I thought you said you had no problem with the Anglican system. Do you not realize that the power of the Anglican bishops extend beyond their local congregation? So why is the episcopal system a stretch for Catholics but not for Anglicans? The episcopal system is, to be certain, what we see in Ignatius, and Titus, as shown above, and at times you say you have no problems with it and other times you deny it.

    But again, given the data in the early centuries of Christianity, how can we justify Rome’s involvement in this process?

    That’s a fair question but unrelated. We will get to it at some point.

  128. Every one reading knows what my question was, and everyone knows you haven’t answered it. It wasn’t difficult to understand.

    Tim, in #95 you didn’t say to me that I had not answered you; you said that in my answer I had misunderstood you. But you did not say what I had misunderstood. I can’t read your mind, Tim. Until you tell me what you think I misunderstand what am I supposed to say? I could try to second guess what you are thinking, but I don’t want to do that.

    Andrew: And I should also mention contains elements that the EO disagree with as well as elements which are not found in the earliest centuries of the Church.
    Tim: Again, you’ve already been refuted on this point. This table pounding is beginning to be rude.

    Tim, I was not aware that I had been refuted on the points above. And I’m not sure why would anyone disagree with what I’ve said above. The EO do have elements of their ecclesiolgy that they disagree with Rome on. For instance, they see the bishops as operating in an autocephalous manner while Rome does not. This is what I was referring to. Did anyone try to refute this? I cannot imagine they would want to. And yes, there are elements of early Church ecclesiology that are not the same as what we find at the time of the Reformation and Catholic historians don’t disagree that I know of. I’m not arguing here that RCC ecclesiology of the 16th century was wrong, only that there are elements of the 16th century theology that are not present in the ecclesiology of the Early Church. Catholic historians do say that what we find with Catholic ecclesiology at the time of the Reformation was a proper development of what we find in the Early Church. Maybe they are right. This is where I think we get into an interesting discussion. But you want to say that I have been refuted before we get to this point. I’m sorry to hear that you think this. Perhaps there are more differences between us than I had thought.

  129. Andrew,

    Would you like to discuss the evidence of jurisdictional interference and doctrinal authority of the Church of Romefrom one or more of the early centuries of the Church? It is difficult to know what evidence to bring forward until you state your mind clearly about which Fathers you take to have a fundamentally different ecclesiological viewpoint from modern Catholics.

    I am tempted to take Augustine as a good example, because reformed often revere him. But I want you to pick the fathers that you are most relying on in your claim that the early church ecclesiology was fundamentally different (i.e. different in a way that couldn’t even be called the seed of what was to come) than modern catholic ecclesiology. You know best which fathers you believe to be evidence for your case.

    If it is Clement and Ignatius, then I think we have a lot to say in support of the belief that they held to an ecclesiology that involved a jurisdictional and doctrinal primacy. We can go though the evidence step by step if that would make it clearer. The case will get easier with fathers whose words and actions are more copiously preserved, such as Augustine. Looking at Augustine would serve the added benefit of correcting some misconceptions protestant and modernist Catholic historians may have given you about the supposed independence of the African Church, or (more humorously) about Augustine’s supposed disgust with Pope Innocent’s and Pope Zosimus’ imperious language in the Pelagian controversy.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  130. Tim, in #95 you didn’t say to me that I had not answered you; you said that in my answer I had misunderstood you. But you did not say what I had misunderstood.

    I’m sorry, I thought you didn’t really misunderstand but were avoiding the question. If you re-read the question, you’ll notice that I wasn’t talking about Calvin but Prof. Killen.

    I was not aware that I had been refuted on the points above.

    I was referring to this part:

    as well as elements which are not found in the earliest centuries of the Church.

    But you should also drop the stuff about the EO because you do not understand the differences between East and West, and you’re not EO. Protestants commonly try to use EO as leverage to argue against the Catholic Church and do not understand what they are talking about. If you visited Andrew Preslar’s parish or Matt Yonke’s, you wouldn’t know the difference between them and an Eastern Orthodox parish. Or if you are knowledgeable about the difference between say Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox and I don’t know it, feel free to show how the former is in clear discontinuity with the early episcopacy and the former isn’t. Otherwise, that is if you’re not willing to back up your claims, then I’m asking you directly to stop making them. Don’t make any claim that you aren’t willing to demonstrate. Unless I’ve missed it, you haven’t, to date on CTC, demonstrated or attempted to demonstrate a single substantive claim.

    This is what I was referring to. Did anyone try to refute this? I cannot imagine they would want to.

    If by “elements” (above) you mean accidental elements then I have misread you. But if you mean substantial novelties then yes, you have been refuted on this (e.g. 71, 72, 75).

    If you meant accidental elements which could potentially, but not necessarily, have developed organically then I can’t be blamed for misunderstanding you because you’ve said it in the context of a discussion where you’ve initially made claims that Presbyterian government was closer to the early Church (66), were refuted on this point (68, 69, 73), responded to very few of the arguments therein made, and later said that the difference between the Presbyterian government and the early Church, now demonstrated, just “didn’t matter” to you (122).

    And I realize that you have a lot to respond to, but if you go to a large family and start making unsubstantiated and unflattering claims about their mother, you can expect to have some explaining to do and some of the sons may not offer a real warm welcome. So in other words, you made your bed, you need to lie in it. That’s what’s going on here. You’ve made a number of false claims about the Catholic Church and several of her sons have taken you to task. But you’re not responding directly to many of the things we’ve said. In this very response, you picked the weakest of my arguments to respond to and ignored the rest.

    I admire you for sticking in here with us on one hand, but I don’t get the impression that you’re really interested in getting to the bottom of some of these underlying issues. I’d love to be proven wrong on this, but that would require more direct interaction on your part. I may be wrong about some of the things I’m saying, but you shouldn’t have trouble showing that I am if that’s the case.

    I’m only interested in truth. I don’t believe for a second that you’re not interested in the same. But our respective approaches to finding that truth are very different. In some ways that might be ok, but in others its not. There is a noticeable difference in one’s disposition, and it can be seen by others, when their heart is open to the truth – wherever that may lead. There is another method which assumes, facts be damned, that you already have it. That might be fine as long as you happen to already have it. This sets one’s own ideology up and will not entertain thoughts which undermine it. I do not feel like you are entertaining the arguments I’m laying out before you. I know that you are not responding to them directly, that is objective; whether you are actually entertaining them in your mind I cannot know.

    We have reason to be cautious about entertaining ideas outside our ideology when we truly believe our ideology to be Christ centered. But if there is a competing ideology which can be shown to leave the non-negotiables intact, and we approach the issue prayerfully, we can hold do so boldly trusting in the Holy Spirit to guide us into truth (where He wants us). Protestants will not honestly entertain Catholic claims for two primary reasons: 1. their circle of “non-negotiables” is too large (e.g. they think that John Calvin’s particular opinion on the gospel is a non-negotiable part of Christianity) or 2. they misunderstand an element of Catholicism that appears to undermine one of the non-negotiables (e.g. they think Mariology displaces Christocentricity)

  131. If by “elements” (above) you mean accidental elements then I have misread you. But if you mean substantial novelties then yes, you have been refuted on this (e.g. 71, 72, 75).

    Tim,

    You have a very odd idea of what it means to “refute.” Concerning 71 and 75 I very clearly challenged you guys to look up Ignatius and see that he discusses bishops and elders and deacons in the context of the local congregation. I got no answer to that. And I also pointed out that even if you wanted to stretch the meaning of phrases like “Polycarp of Smyrna” to mean mean that there was a bishop over each city, this is still something that is very different from what the bishops of Rome were claiming centuries later. There is again nothing close to a centrally controlled system in Ignatius. But again, no answer to this, but again I’ve been refuted? Tim, just saying that someone is refuted does not mean it is true.

    On 72, Marshall was just misunderstanding my point about cardinals, etc and I noted this.

    And yes, I do understand EO as relates to RCC on ecclesiology. Kalistos Ware writes on the subject in whose book, The Orthodox Church. He quotes an EO theologian right at the beginning of his book calling the Pope “the first Protestant” for breaking with the Church and claiming power that was not his own. I used the EO term “autocephalous” but nobody commented on this. This is an EO term, not mine. I pointed out that the term “first among equals” was purely titular, but nobody responded back.

    Unless I’ve missed it, you haven’t, to date on CTC, demonstrated or attempted to demonstrate a single substantive claim.

    That is a very sad statement, TIm. I think you and Neal and Bryan and others have certainly demonstrated many substantive points here and I’m glad to have heard them. Am I just not your intellectual equal? And truly not to be sarcastic, but if what you say is true, why do you waste any time bothering to answer me. I sure wouldn’t.

    If I have not demonstrated anything I really do need to make a mental note not to come back.

  132. If it is Clement and Ignatius, then I think we have a lot to say in support of the belief that they held to an ecclesiology that involved a jurisdictional and doctrinal primacy.

    K. Doran,

    I agree with this. They both held to a distinct jurisdictional and doctrinal primacy. The jurisdiction from what I can tell from their writings was limited to their congregations or maybe at most their region. Ignatius speaks of the bishop (and presbyter and deacon) within the context of the congregation. In later theologians the power had centralized quite a bit, particularly in the Bishop of Rome. But I find I have people here who are disagreeing with me on this (I’m not sure why) so I will have to see what you think.

  133. Andrew,

    I very clearly challenged you guys to look up Ignatius and see that he discusses bishops and elders and deacons in the context of the local congregation. I got no answer to that.

    This is not a rebuttal to our arguments. In fact, you ignored the arguments in 71 & 75 and made this claim which does not have any support. You were answered on this point in 84 and 85 and you subsequently appeared to back down from it 87 saying , “I’m getting into a debate here where I can’t say I have much stake in the outcome.”

    If by “in the context the local congregation” you mean that he wrote it to bishops who ruled only over single congregations and that a single bishop over a city was a later development, we have shown this to be untenable and you have not responded.

    I also pointed out that even if you wanted to stretch the meaning of phrases like “Polycarp of Smyrna” to mean mean that there was a bishop over each city,

    I must have missed that. That’s not how St. Ignatius addresses St. Polycarp. Here it is:

    Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to Polycarp, Bishop of the Church of the Smyrnæans,

    You said:

    this is still something that is very different from what the bishops of Rome were claiming centuries later.

    Bringing up the primacy of Rome is a red-herring and a distraction. I can see how you think it is related, and certainly if there are bishops then there is a bishop of Rome, and that has implications, but we’re not there yet. We’re still trying on the topic of the mere existence of an episcopacy in the early Church. Although, once you admit that there existed the same basic Catholic episcopal structure as today, then K. Doran has already expressed his willingness to demonstrate the primacy of Rome in the early fathers.

    On 72, Marshall was just misunderstanding my point about cardinals, etc and I noted this.

    Taylor did not misunderstand you, he was pointing out that you do not understand the current Catholic episcopal system. If you responded to him, I was unable to find it. Where did you respond?

    I used the EO term “autocephalous” but nobody commented on this. This is an EO term, not mine.

    Not all EO bishops are autocephalous, some report to patriarchates. Again, this is not a helpful addition to the conversation. It is a distraction because the EO have virtually the same episcopal structure as we do. Which is why when EO Churches become Catholic, the only thing that changes is their allegiance to Rome. They retain all of the Eastern theology and polity, even their filioque-less creed. Andrew P. lives in my town but is under a different bishop than me, yet we’re both Catholic.

    I pointed out that the term “first among equals” was purely titular, but nobody responded back.

    No one responded because that’s not what we’re talking about. We can’t chase every red-herring tossed out.

    Am I just not your intellectual equal? And truly not to be sarcastic, but if what you say is true, why do you waste any time bothering to answer me. I sure wouldn’t.

    I try to treat everyone as my intellectual equal and if I’ve failed to do that with you, then I apologize. Please show me where I have done this so I can learn from my mistake and correct it. But assuming you are an intellectual equal does not mean I will pretend that your arguments are equally strong as the ones we’ve been making. They’re not. But you’ve made mostly baseless claims and then have failed to back them up when pressed.

    We like having the discussion with you, but it can be frustrating, not because the conversations don’t go anywhere, but because they go everywhere. We need to hone in on the specific issue to have real progress and I think you’re having trouble doing that. If you want an idea of what that looks like, take a look at the dialogue between Kenny and myself starting at comment 8 here:

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/07/on-perspicuity-and-commentaries/

    Kenny didn’t become Catholic and I didn’t become Protestant, but we did stay on topic and answered each other honestly and directly. That is exactly the type of dialogue we want to encourage here. That’s not what’s happening in this thread. I’m pointing it out not to insult you or to pretend that you are my intellectual inferior, far from it; I’m pointing it out so that neither of us waste our time.

    Andrew, I don’t want to defeat you in a debate, I want to be in full communion with you as a brother in Christ.

  134. Well I’ve just been enjoying the heck out of this exchange. Hasn’t everyone else?

    I find myself in the possession of a comment from K. Doran, which he was (due to yesterday’s technical difficulties) unable to post, but which shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle. So I’ll paste it below, and then shuffle back to my seat.

    Neal

    **********

    Dear Andrew,

    I wish I could do more, but my wife and I have just had a baby boy, so I will have to limit myself a little bit. But the guys here can add more as your questions arise, and I will recommend some sources that you should look at.

    Let’s start with Clement. There are three things to look at to find evidence for jurisdictional primacy throughout the early Church: (1) actions by the Pope that indicate that he believes he has jurisdictional primacy; (2) the reception of these actions by the people directly involved; and (3) the perspective of third parties at the time of these actions. I will discuss (1) and (2) in reference to Clement — I will leave it to others to discuss (3), since I don’t know of any evidence in that category regarding Clement’s epistle (although this is an important category for later evidence).

    What service did Clement render the Corinthians in his first epistle? He exhorted them to live according to the gospel; and he expected them to end the ecclesiastical controversy going on in their city on his terms. I quote:

    “Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ, in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties. Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them. But we see that you have removed some men of excellent behaviour from the ministry, which they fulfilled blamelessly and with honour.”

    The Corinthians seemed to have unjustly ejected someone from the episcopate. Clement tells them this is wrong. And he further indicates that he expects them to do as he has commanded:

    “Right is it, therefore, to approach examples so good and so many, and submit the neck and fulfill the part of obedience, in order that, undisturbed by vain sedition, we may attain unto the goal set before us in truth wholly free from blame. Joy and gladness will you afford us, if you become obedient to the words written by us and through the Holy Spirit root out the lawless wrath of your jealousy according to the intercession which we have made for peace and unity in this letter. We have sent men faithful and discreet, whose conversation from youth to old age has been blameless among us—the same shall be witnesses between you and us. This we have done, that you may know that our whole concern has been and is that you may be speedily at peace.”

    In closing, he states:

    “Send back speedily to us in peace and with joy these our messengers to you: Claudius Ephebus and Valerius Bito, with Fortunatus; that they may the sooner announce to us the peace and harmony we so earnestly desire and long for [among you], and that we may the more quickly rejoice over the good order re-established among you. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, and with all everywhere that are the called of God through Him, by whom be to Him glory, honour, power, majesty, and eternal dominion, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen.”

    How should we interpret his actions? I quote from Nicholas Afanassieff, an Eastern Orthodox scholar:

    “The epistle is couched in very measured terms, in the form of an exhortation; but at the same time it clearly shows that the Church of Rome was aware of the decisive weight, in the Church of Corinth’s eyes, that must attach to its witness about the events in Corinth. So the Church of Rome, at the end of the first century, exhibits a marked sense of its own priority, in point of witness about events in other churches. Note also that the Roman Church did not feel obliged to make a case, however argued, to justify its authoritative pronouncements on what we should now call the internal concerns of other churches. There is nothing said about the grounds of this priority….Apparently Rome had no doubt that its priority would be accepted without argument.”

    So much for (1). What about (2), the response of the Corinthians? Well, as you probably know, Clement’s letter was read as scripture in Corinth for years afterwords.

    Is this consistent with Clement having a primacy of jurisdiction as recognized in the Catholic Church today? Yes. Is it consistent with Clement having less of a primacy of jurisdiction, but at least the seed of what was to come? Yes. Is it consistent with your statement: “The jurisdiction from what I can tell from their writings was limited to their congregations or maybe at most their region.” No, it is not. Corinth was an eastern city near Athens, not even in the same region as Rome.

    If I have time, I will discuss Ignatius as well. Though I think that the other guys here would also do a great job for both Clement and Ignatius. It will help if we can post Greek words in our comment boxes, which I don’t know how to do.

    Andrew, let me also recommend some sources for you. For the basic Catholic case (the line that fits through the majority of the data points, so to speak), see Steve Ray’s book “Upon this Rock.” If you look it up on google books, he seems to have allowed much of it to be viewed for free. For the outliers (many of which are merely outliers because of some vary naughty history written by gallican and anglican partisans) see Dom John Chapman’s book: “Studies on the Early Papacy” You can find excerpts from his book at the Catholic Apologetics website links below, listed by Chapter heading (I will also try to scan in my copy of the book for you, if I get a chance):

    St. Augustine, Pelagianism, and the Holy See:
    http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/apolog.htm

    Pope Zosimus and Pelagianism:
    http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/num17.htm

    St. Cyprian on the Church and the Papacy:
    http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/num44.htm

    St. Athanasius, Arianism, and the Holy See:
    http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/num51.htm

    St. John Chrysostom on the Apostle Peter:
    http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/num52.htm

    St. Jerome and Rome:
    http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/num53.htm

    Although I may not have much time to visit the site in the near future, do to, among other things, our new bundle of joy, know that I will be praying for all of you — including you, Andrew.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  135. K.Doran,

    You are starting in the right place with your ground up (so as to speak) analysis of the authority of the Church. It’s good to start with the thought forms of the era we are speaking of rather than trying to analyze the intentions of the writers using thought forms of a later era of history. I was trying to persuade Tim that this was the right approach but I don’t think he understood what I was getting at. In his post of a couple of days ago he said, “The magisterial Protestant sees the Church as initially having an authoritative magisterium, …” But then no Protestant would say this since the the term “authoritative magisterium” is filled with assumptions about the RCC that are just what we are trying to examine. So when you start off with the words of Clement it’s rather what I was trying to do by analyzing the words of Ignatius when he referred to “bishops, presbyters, and deacons” (sometimes without the deacons reference) in the context he put those terms in which was the context of the congregation in question (and maybe the city although that’s questionable).

    So on Clement, one thing that interests me is that he does not write the letter in his own authority but rather in the authority of his church at Rome. Why do you think he does that?

    Various Protestants have looked at Clement’s epistle and seen something that sounds very much like letters of exhortation that they have written or received. The letter could be seen as being written from one in authority over those who were his intended audience, but do you think that it would sound any different if Clement did not see that they had any formal authority over the Corinthians? The Corinthians were being told to repent because they were sinning. Clement proves his points again and again directly and indirectly from Scripture which he knew certainly would (or should) have authority. Protestant pastors write the same such exhortations to those congregations or individuals who have sinned. So why do you think that it is necessary to posit formal authority of Rome over the Corinthians?

    BTW, congratulations on baby!!

    And Tim, I don’t mean to talk around you or ignore you, but there has just been two much arguing between us over who misunderstood who about what in which context. I could fill out another long post with all the ways I think you have misunderstood me in your last post, but don’t think that will get anywhere. I’m just not making myself understood….

    And I really appreciate your last thought.

  136. Dear Andrew,

    To increase the probability that the website will accept my post, I will break it into parts.

    Part I

    You wrote:

    “Various Protestants have looked at Clement’s epistle and seen something that sounds very much like letters of exhortation that they have written or received.”

    Yes, he did write in the form of an exhortation. Wisely so, especially considering the pride of the congregation that invalidly kicked someone out of the episcopate.

    ” The letter could be seen as being written from one in authority over those who were his intended audience, but do you think that it would sound any different if Clement did not see that they had any formal authority over the Corinthians?”

    Yes, I suspect that if he was not a legitimate authority over a Church thousands of miles away from him then he would not have sent a letter regarding an intra-congregation squabble without their request.

  137. Part II:

    Also, I suspect he wouldn’t have said the following:

    “If, however, any shall disobey the words spoken by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and serious danger; but we shall be innocent of this sin, and, instant in prayer and supplication, shall desire that the Creator of all preserve unbroken the computed number of His elect in the whole world through His beloved Son Jesus Christ . . .”

    First, he actually claims that Christ has spoken through him, and that they are therefore disobeying Christ by disobeying his letter. But more importantly, this is the language of someone who claims he would be guilty of the sin of not protecting his flock if he didn’t do his duty and try to protect them. I am called by God to correct my neighbor, but the idea of the sins of others actually being counted as my sins is most seriously the case when God has actually placed me in an authoritative role as the teacher of His Gospel over those people; is this not the case? In Acts 18:6, Paul realizes that he has failed to convince the Jews. He chooses a new flock, the Gentiles, who he now has authority over to preach the gospel. In doing so, he declares that he won’t preach the gospel to the Jews anymore — and this seems to be the reason why he won’t be guilty of their blood. Likewise, in Acts 20: 25-27, Paul indicates that he won’t see his flock at Ephesus ever again. It is his lack of contact with them that will end his future responsibility over this flock (25), and it is the good job that he has already done in the time that was allotted to him (27) that ensures that he won’t be judged by God (26). Thus, it is especially those Divinely-ordained pastors with jurisdiction to preach the Word to a particular flock that are particularly concerned with being judged by God for not doing a good job of this preaching. Clement knows he has some sort of jurisdiction over this far-away group of Christians. So he does his job to avoid being judged for their sins.

  138. Part III

    Also, a Catholic translation of Chapter 63.2 reads:

    “For you will afford us joy and gladness if you obey what we have written through the Holy Spirit and get rid of the wicked passion of jealousy, according to the plea for peace and harmony which we have made in this letter.”

    In this translation, their obedience to Clement seems to be also obedience to the Holy Spirit.

    Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Clement is sending his legates to make sure that the Church at Corinth does as he requests. Because of his wise and patient manner, Clement doesn’t beat them over the head with his authority. But on several occasions he is vaguely threatening, and he indicates at least implicitly that he expects his legates to be obeyed.

    As for the question of his quotation of scripture . . . we’re talking about jurisdiction, not doctrine. If we were in a discussion of whether he had the doctrinal primacy to interpret scripture his own way, then a letter composed of mere quotations of scripture without any claims to the ability to authoritatively interpret said scripture would be bad evidence for the Catholic case. But Catholics are not claiming that Clement demonstrated his authoritative interpretation of scripture in this letter (at least Catholics that I have read). We are claiming that he is demonstrating his jurisdiction. What better way to use one’s jurisdiction than to demand that those under your jurisdiction must follow the inerrant truths of scripture — and to send trustworthy men as a “witness between you and us” so that their obedience can be assured?

    So yes, I do agree with Nicholas Afanassieff that Clement phrased his letter as an exhortation. But I also agree with him that he is assuming a type of jurisdiction over these far-off Christians, without their request or without even a defense of his right to do so. Would you accept legates from the Pope today if they were sent with a letter like the one Clement wrote, and told you that Pope Benedict XVI eagerly awaited the news that you had replaced the pastors of your flock after you had unjustly removed them, according to the clear guidelines of scripture? I think not. That is because, among other things, you don’t recognize that he is in the same Church as you and that he has some type of jurisdiction in your area. We would accept such a letter (in fact the Pope still sends them out) because we do recognize that he is in the same Church as us and that he has some type of jurisdiction in our area.

    Now I have broken my own rule to spend time working or with my family — it is tempting for me to continue this, but I beg the other people at CTC to take up the cause of defending the Catholicity of Clement and Ignatius. I recommend looking carefully at the greek words that Ignatius uses to describe the Bishop, and the greek words he uses for the Church at Rome. Be careful of protestant translations that simply drop some of his greeting to the Church at Rome. Finally, regarding the habit in the early Church of speaking of the whole Church of Rome when discussing the primacy, please someone who has more time and resources address Andrew’s concerns! Finally, please correct my distance from Rome to Corinth – it is hundreds of miles, not thousands.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

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