Doug Wilson’s “Authority and Apostolic Succession”Mar 12th, 2010 | By Bryan Cross | Category: Blog Posts
Recently I was asked for my evaluation of Doug Wilson’s article titled “Authority and Apostolic Succession.” For the sake of any others who may be interested in a Catholic evaluation of Doug’s article, I am posting my evaluation here.
In 2006 Doug Wilson wrote an article titled “Authority and Apostolic Succession” in which he defends what he refers to as a Protestant conception of Apostolic succession, over against that of the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox. My statements below are critical of Doug’s article, but I should point out that they are not intended to be critical of Doug as a person; I consider him a brother in Christ, and my criticisms of his article should be interpreted in that light. I’m intending to explain where I think his reasoning in this article is mistaken, and I hope my explanation is helpful to him, and to others, so that we might come closer to agreement concerning the truth.
The first four paragraphs of his article are mostly rhetorical “debris clearing,” so my analysis begins with his fifth paragraph. There, in regard to the question of finding the visible Church, Doug claims that there are two ways of answering the question, “Where are we to find the visible church?” One way is through succession, and the other is by restoration. Doug claims that the classical Protestant way is not that of restoration (think Campbellites or Mormons) but that of succession, writing, “This helps explain how classical Protestants can identify with the Church as she existed prior to the Reformation.”
The problem for Doug’s position is one that I explained in my article titled “Ecclesial Deism.” If ‘classical Protestantism’ were not succession, but a form of restoration, it would essentially be no different. That is because, as I pointed out in “Ecclesial Deism,” so many things considered essential to the Catholic faith for at least a thousand years prior to the 16th century, were jettisoned by Protestants. Only what agreed with their interpretation of Scripture was retained.1 That’s restorationism, even if one pins a ‘succession’ label on it. That’s not to deny that Protestantism carries with it implicitly and explicitly traditions and ideas that developed within the Catholic Church. But Protestantism retains those things in spite of itself, because of its authority structure viz-a-viz sola scriptura.2
Even if Doug accepts the authority of the fifth and sixth ecumenical councils (having scratched out the fifth ecumenical council’s teaching that Mary remained a perpetual virgin), he rejects the authority of the seventh through seventeenth ecumenical councils. So his claim to identify “classical Protestantism” with “the ancient and medieval church” seems quite empty, because his claim is fully compatible with the truth of its contrary. If his denomination decided to deny identification with the medieval church, it wouldn’t need to change a thing. No Protestant doctrine stands or falls on any medieval council or decision. It is as if the Church ceased to exist for a thousand years. And for this reason it presupposes ecclesial deism.
Next, Doug claims that there are gaps in the record of apostolic succession. The example he uses is that of St. Clement of Rome. Doug appeals to the American Jesuit Francis Sullivan to support his claim that we don’t know whether St. Clement was a bishop. But such a claim can only arise from a hermeneutic of suspicion. St. Irenaeus, himself a second century bishop of Lyon in what is now France, wrote the following:
The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome dispatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles, proclaiming the one God, omnipotent, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of man, who brought on the deluge, and called Abraham, who led the people from the land of Egypt, spoke with Moses, set forth the law, sent the prophets, and who has prepared fire for the devil and his angels. From this document, whosoever chooses to do so, may learn that He, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, was preached by the Churches, and may also understand the tradition of the Church, since this Epistle is of older date than these men who are now propagating falsehood, and who conjure into existence another god beyond the Creator and the Maker of all existing things. To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Soter having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth. (Against Heresies III.3.3)
St. Eleutherius was bishop of Rome from c. 174 – 189. So St. Irenaeus, who had visited the Church in Rome, was writing this list between 174 and 189. Who then has greater proximity and historical authority? St. Irenaeus, or Francis Sullivan? That’s simply no contest. Only someone operating under the hermeneutic of suspicion would think Sullivan more of a credible source about the episcopacy of St. Clement than St. Irenaeus, who had been taught by St. Polycarp, who himself had been taught by the Apostle John.
Doug claims that there are gaps in apostolic succession, but he does not specify what these gaps are, and whether they are gaps in the succession itself or gaps in his knowledge of the succession. It would be helpful if he would point to the gap in this list of popes. But, having asserted that there are gaps of some unspecified sort, he precedes forward as though he has established the premise that there are gaps in the succession from the Apostles to the current pope, Pope Benedict XVI. Doug writes,
In fact, the demonstrable existence of such gaps favors a position that allows for them (like classical Protestantism) and argues against any position that depends on an absence of gaps.
Notice that he claims the gaps are “demonstrable”, but he never demonstrates that these gaps exist. He uses an assertion for the point in question, as if it is so obvious and well-known that he does not have to provide the evidence.
He next adds:
the foundation for my faith assumptions about church history are found in Scripture. This means that I believe certain things about the authority of the Church on the basis of what Jesus and the apostles taught, not because I can produce an exhaustive set of minutes that prove, say, that Second Nicea was an unlawful council. I know what to think of Second Nicea on the basis of the Second Commandment, which I consider to be a senior Second.
That’s another way of saying that Doug is his own ultimate interpretive authority. When any Church council teaches something contrary to his own interpretation of Scripture, his own interpretation of Scripture judges that council’s teaching; the council’s teaching does not stand as judge of his own interpretation of Scripture. Neal and I addressed that “solo scriptura” approach to Scripture in our article “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority.”
Doug next writes:
One last thing before we begin. Questions of scriptural authority cannot be separated from questions of ecclesiastical authority. The Bible, all 66 books of it, is the Word of God, and is the final and ultimate authority over all our disputes. But we have to acknowledge the role that Church played in the formation of that canon. The Table of Contents in front of my Bible is not the Word of God directly, but is rather the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the Church.
If Doug really believed in an “identification” of his ‘church’ with the “medieval church,” as he claimed above, then he would accept the canon [of Scripture] taught by the medieval church, listed in Session 11 of the Council of Florence in 1442, the same canon spelled out later at the Council of Trent.
And in the spirit of John the Baptist, the faithful Church says that Scripture must increase, and I must decrease.
Scripture can increase only by becoming more widely known and understood. And Scripture can become more widely known and understood, only if the Church increases. There is no reason to pit Scripture against the Church, as if one must decrease for the other to increase. They can both increase simultaneously, because they are not in competition with each other, but mutually illumine and inform the functional capacity of the other. Doug thinks that Scripture is akin to Christ, while the Church is akin to John the Baptist. But, while Scripture is the Word of God written, the Church is the Word of God mystically embodied, because the Church is the Body of Christ as St. Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 12. Christ increases in the world not only when the Word increases throughout the world, but also when His Church increases throughout the world. Neither increases without the other also increasing.
In getting to the heart of his article, Wilson refers to Hebrews 10:19-22, which reads:
Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Doug asks whether this text is referring to baptism. The answer, of course, is yes. Then he claims that “baptism fulfills, not only circumcision, but also a number of other typological features of life under the law, including the rite of ordination.” Doug’s evidence that baptism fulfils … the rite of ordination” is that being sprinkled with blood and water was part of the ordination rite under the Old Covenant. (Exod. 29:4, 21; Lev. 8:6, 30).
Of course the Catholic Church believes and teaches that by our baptism we are given a share in the common priesthood of all believers. As the Catholic Catechism teaches:
The baptized have become “living stones” to be “built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood.” By Baptism they share in the priesthood of Christ, in his prophetic and royal mission. They are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that [they] may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called [them] out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Baptism gives a share in the common priesthood of all believers. (CCC 1269)
But Doug’s reasoning falls short in the succeeding paragraph, where he writes:
We Christians in the New Israel are a nation of priests, and as priests, we have access to the heavenly sanctuary. This privilege is conferred, stated, promised, signed and sealed in our baptisms. Apostolic succession is therefore a priestly succession, and the New Testament teaches that even Gentiles (in Christ) can walk into the Holy of Holies as priests. Not just one Jew from the line of Aaron, once a year, but multitudes of Gentiles, all the time, not to mention all the Jews who came to faith as well. This means that ordination in the Old Covenant is not primarily a type of ordinations in the New (although there are ordinations in the New). These ancient ordinations are a type of what is declared of all Christians in baptism.
First he moves from the truth that by our baptism we Christians in the New Israel are a nation of priests, to the conclusion that Apostolic succession is therefore a priestly succession. Even though he is correct that Apostolic succession is a priestly succession, from the fact that by our baptism we enjoy the baptismal priesthood it does not follow that Apostolic succession (i.e. which includes ministerial priesthood) is a priestly succession, except per accidens.3 Doug is implicitly moving from the fact of our baptismal priesthood as a fulfillment of Old Covenant ordination, to the conclusion that Apostolic succession is only by baptism and not by the sacrament of Holy Orders. But that conclusion does not follow from his premise.
He then claims that because in the New Covenant the priesthood of all believers includes Gentiles and Jews alike, and not one Jew in a line from Aaron, this means therefore that ordination in the Old Covenant “is not primarily a type of ordinations in the New.” That too is a non sequitur. To arrive at that conclusion, Doug would have to conflate the baptismal priesthood and the ministerial priesthood, as though there were no distinction between them. And such a conflation would simply beg the question, i.e. assume precisely what is in question between Protestants and Catholics [and Orthodox]. Just because all believers by their baptism are given a share in the common priesthood of all believers, it does not follow that ordination in the Old Covenant is not a type of ordination in the New Covenant. Doug is assuming that ordination in the Old Testament cannot have more than one kind of fulfillment in the New Covenant. He is assuming that since baptism brings us all into the [baptismal] priesthood, therefore New Covenant ordination cannot be a fulfillment of Old Covenant ordination. In other words, he is assuming that if by our baptism we are all brought to the level of Aaron’s priesthood, then there can be no more priestly hierarchy in the New Covenant. But the assumption is itself a non sequitur. Just because by our baptism we all share in the common priesthood of all believers, it does not follow that there is no ministerial priesthood. The ministerial priesthood of the Apostolic hierarchy is greater still than that of Aaron, in as much as the New Covenant is far greater than the Old.
Next Doug writes:
If we see apostolic succession in terms of mere governmental actions, carefully noted in the minutes, the farther we get away from the apostles, the more obscurity will surround the entire question, and the disputes will multiply. I mean, look at them. Look at us.
Here Doug makes use of an obvious straw man. Apostolic succession is not a mere “governmental action;” it is a sacramental action. In it and through it, God authorizes the successors of each bishop. Doug thinks that the farther we get from the Apostles in time, the more obscurity will surround the question of who has succession from the Apostles. But if we look at the situation, as he invites us to do, we find just the opposite. We find the most chaos and confusion precisely where men have rejected apostolic succession, and claim to be directly and immediately authorized by God. They teach their followers, without authorization from the Church, but by their own self-declared authorization. They cannot resolve their interpretive disagreements, even five hundred years after separating from the Catholic Church. And so they remain fragmented, and continue to fragment. Doug’s own denomination, which he helped start, is only twelve years old, founded when some Protestants couldn’t clear up the obscurity of whose interpretation was correct, and who had ecclesial authority. And so he started his own denomination.
By contrast, where bishops authorize their successors through the sacrament of Holy Orders, the very nature of the act makes it clear to everyone who is the rightful successor, namely, the one authorized by the Church, not the one who usurps the role on his own authority. The unity of the Church is ensured by the pattern of authorization we find already manifested on Mt. Tabor, when Jesus was transfigured. There God the Father told the Apostles: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” (Mt 17:5) So likewise, the Apostles told the Church to listen to those whom they authorized to succeed them. And so likewise those bishops authorized their successors and told the Church to listen to them. And this pattern by which sacramental magisterial authority is handed down, continues in every generation. It is never a bottom-up source of authority, as though the people have the authority to ordain. It has always been only a top-down authority, handed down from Christ, through the Apostles, and their successors.4
Doug then says:
If in order to offer the bread of life and the wine of the new covenant to our people I have to be sure of the exact relationship between Clement and Linus, and other early pastors in Rome, the people of God will starve to death. If, before I open the Scriptures to declare what God has given to all of us, I have to make sure that the electrical current can make it all the way to me through one solitary line, then we are all in trouble.
Here he has offered two non sequiturs. The first is that if we need to know that the line of succession is unbroken, in order to offer the Eucharist, then we will not be able to offer the Eucharist. The second is that if we have to make sure that the line of authorizations goes all the way from the Apostles to the present, then we’re in trouble. Notice the hidden premise necessary in order to reach the conclusions: we cannot know that the line of succession is unbroken. Does Doug give any evidence that the line is broken, or that we cannot know that the line is unbroken? No. He assumes it, just as many people assume that we cannot know for sure that Christ rose from the dead. The Church has always known that Christ rose from the dead, and the Church has always kept the succession from the Apostles. She has preserved the living memory of her unbroken succession from the Apostles, even in her liturgy. How do we know that the succession is unbroken? Because the Church is unbroken. In order for the succession to be lost, the Church would have to become extinct. And once extinct, it could never be re-established unless Christ returned in the flesh. No one could re-establish Holy Orders if it were ever lost. The conferring of Holy Orders is both public and bound by the laws of the Church. For that reason, no one who isn’t known to have received Holy Orders can confer them. The notion of ‘re-starting’ Holy Orders, is therefore impossible. But, all this is purely hypothetical, because Doug has provided no evidence that there was every a gap in the succession from the Apostles, or that it was ever re-started after it had been lost. Doug’s casting doubts on apostolic succession, is just skepticism. Skeptics come and skeptics go, but the Church continues onward, for two thousand years now, and will continue until Christ returns.
Doug then tries to justify rejecting the traditional doctrine of apostolic succession, by claiming that Jesus never promised that everything would be “nice and tidy.” Surely Doug recognizes that every heretic and schismatic in the history of the Church could have used this line, and it would not have justified their heresy or schism. That Jesus never promised things would be “nice and tidy” doesn’t justify schism or heresy. If Christ authorized the Apostles, and the Apostles authorized successors, and commanded them to do likewise, until Christ returns, then abandoning that ordinance established by Christ and handed down by His successors, cannot be justified by noting that Christ didn’t promise that things would be nice and tidy. Jesus said, “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me. (Luke 10:16) In the time of the Apostles, no one could be justified in separating from the Apostles and setting up one’s own ‘church’ on the basis that Christ never promised that things would be “nice and tidy.” And in the generation after the Apostles, no one could be justified in separating from their successors and setting up one’s own ‘church,’ on the basis that Christ never promised that things would be “nice and tidy.” And that is no less true today.
Doug then states:
Jesus did pray that His people would be one, as He and the Father are one. This has not happened yet, not anywhere. Not in Rome, not in Geneva, not in Constantinople. But Jesus prayed for it, and it will happen.
All of Jesus’ prayers are infallible, because He is God. The Church that Christ founded on Peter the Rock, has always been one. It is the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. It cannot be divided because it is the Body of Christ, and Christ cannot be divided (1 Cor 1:13). Doug thinks Christ’s Church has never been one. He thinks that because he sees the separation of those sects in schism, but he does not recognize that these schisms are schisms from the Church that is one, not schisms within a Church that is divided.
Doug then writes:
The New Testament does teach us that government of the congregation is important, and we see in multiple ways how and why it is important. But John Murray argues rightly that any congregation of baptized Christians, that is to say, any congregation of priests, has the authority to establish such government among themselves. It is necessary that they do so, and the authority conferred by baptism enables them to do so with a clean conscience.
Doug appeals to John Murray in support of his claim that any group of baptized persons has the authority to establish an [ecclesial] government among themselves. The problem is that John Murray did not have Holy Orders, and so the appeal to John Murray simply begs the question, i.e. assumes precisely what is in question, by appealing to someone not having Holy Orders, to determine whether Holy Orders are necessary to possess the authority to make such determinations. Of course, if Doug is appealing to an argument made by John Murray, that is different. But Doug doesn’t provide that argument; he only alludes to it.
No group of Christians has a right or authority to form some other ecclesial government than the one already established by Christ; that would be the ecclesial equivalent of treason. No one can lay another foundation than was already laid. The Apostles are those foundations stones (Eph 2:20, Rev 21:14), and on those stones are their successors, and their successors, and so on. As St. Paul said, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 3:10-11) Just as no one can lay another cornerstone than the One that was laid, so no one can lay new foundation stones other than the Apostles, or other second course stones than their successors. The notion that any group of baptized Christians has the authority to establish their own ecclesial government presumes that they can lay a foundation again, as if the Apostles and successors have not already laid a foundation, and as if their present-day successors of the Apostles do not exist. In that sense, it begs the question, by assuming that there are no successors of the Apostles presently governing the Church. In addition, it presumes that the Church Christ founded is invisible, having no visible government to which all Christians should be subject.
Doug must know that most all heretics and schismatics in the history of the Church have believed that they have the authority to form their own ecclesial government, once they separate from the government of the Church. So, his similar claim should raise a red flag, and urge him to find some principled reason why they are not justified in doing so, but he is.
Next he writes:
This next thing may seem like a odd claim for a Protestant to make in a discussion with Roman Catholics, but I do not believe that this view is a disparagement of orderly government and ordination on my part as their view is a disparagement of the actual privileges conferred in baptism.
Here he asserts that the Catholic (and Orthodox) understanding of baptism is a disparagement of the privileges conferred in baptism, because the Catholic (and Orthodox) conception of baptism does not include Holy Orders within it. He hasn’t given any reason to believe that baptism confers what Holy Orders confers. He has simply asserted it. And the proper response to such an assertion is: “The fifteen hundred years of Church tradition, prior to the rise of Protestantism, testify against that assertion.” The evidence is overwhelmingly against his assertion. If baptism included Holy Orders, then there was no point in the Apostles laying their hands on the deacons in the book of Acts, and there was no point in St. Paul bestowing a gift of God on Timothy through the laying on of his hands. (2 Tim 1:6) The Church universal, from the first century to the 16th, believed, taught, and practiced ordination by the laying on of hands by a bishop who was himself ordained in the same manner. That would have been pointless if all believers already had all ecclesial authority simply in virtue of their baptism. All of this testifies against Doug’s claim that baptism confers Holy Orders. But if baptism does not confer the authority of Holy Orders, then the baptized cannot confer Holy Orders, because no one can give what he does not have.
Baptism is not just a matter concerning individual salvation, of placing a sign and a seal of Abraham’s faith on individual persons. Individuals can be baptized only because the world has been baptized. Baptism is the birthright of the new humanity, the citzenship papers of the inhabitants of the new heaven and new earth. Christ is a new Adam. The Church is a new Eve. All things have been made new.
A Catholic can agree with that, and Doug sounds quite Catholic in speaking in this way. But what he says here doesn’t imply or entail that baptism confers Holy Orders.
Next he writes:
As we congregate in churches, of course all things should be done decently and in order. But our lifeline to Christ is not a line of ordinations, except in the sense that the ordinations of the old order were rolled up into baptism and graciously given to us. God has made us kings and priests to rule on the earth. This was conferred upon us when we were baptized into the triune Name, ushered (in that formal rite) into the visible Church.
Here Doug asserts that our “lifeline” to Christ is not through a line of ordinations. He assumes that because by our baptism we have a share in the common priesthood of all believers, therefore we (baptized believers) have all the priesthood there is to have. His assertion, therefore, simply begs the question against the Catholic (and Orthodox) understanding of baptism and Holy Orders. His claim is not an argument or evidence for the Protestant position against the Catholic position; it is simply an assertion of the Protestant position, as if he is unaware of the Catholic distinction between the baptismal priesthood and the ministerial priesthood. And so by showing that through baptism we have priesthood of some sort, he mistakenly believes he has thereby shown that all the baptized each have all the priesthood there is to have.
A position like this makes Christian catholicity, catholicity of spirit, possible. It recognizes the baptisms of all Trinitarian communions, and does not try to solve the lamentable divisions in Christendom by holding up the hands and saying, “Brethren! These divisions are disgraceful! Our proposal for eliminating them is for everyone to stop being obstinate and join us!”
Doug’s position also makes schism from the Church impossible, because everyone remains invisibly one in the ‘invisible Church,’ even though visibly divided. If a person is excommunicated from one “communion,” he may go to the next, or start his own. Why? Because he always remains in the invisible Church. In Doug’s ecclesiology there is no visible catholic Church; there are only visible “communions” all divided from each other. Any ecclesiology that makes schism from the Church impossible, shows itself to be false, because of the testimony of Scripture and the Fathers prohibiting precisely that. What is prohibited cannot be theoretically impossible. Therefore, any ecclesiology that makes schism from the Church impossible, shows itself to be false.
“Catholicity of spirit” is another term for ecclesial relativism founded on ecclesial docetism; it is the notion that we remain ‘one’ in spirit, even though in schism, as though schism does not affect our spiritual unity. But what happens in matter affects the spiritual. Doug’s claim that no Church is the Church that Christ founded, is exactly what schismatics love to believe, in order to believe that they are not in schism from the Church that Christ founded. Doug has not shown that no Church is the Church Christ founded; he has merely asserted it.
Finally he writes:
At the same time, we all have our own views, and nothing whatever can be done about that. But catholicity of spirit requires that we subordinate our views to the profound declaration made in our baptism — one Lord, one faith, one baptism. We subordinate our views, which is not the same thing as abandoning our views. And as this process continues apace, I believe the regrettable errors made by Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and people just like me do temporarily get in the way of declaring the true unity of that baptism to an unbelieving world.
Doug claims that catholicity of spirit requires that we subordinate our views to the declaration made in our baptism — one Lord, one faith, one baptism. Of course Catholics agree. But implicit in his claim is that we should all subordinate our views to his conception of what it means to share one Lord, one faith, one baptism (and one body). (Eph 4) Doug thinks that the “errors” made by Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and people just like himself (but, apparently, not including himself, since he doesn’t include himself in the list of institutions and persons in error) get in the way of declaring the true unity of our baptism. What those errors are, how we know them to be errors, who has the authority to determine what is an error and what is not, and how we know who has this authority, he does not say. He merely asserts in passing that there are errors, as if merely asserting it is sufficient. But it is not sufficient. For Protestants and Catholics to be reconciled in full visible communion, we have to take the level of dialogue to a deeper level, where we seek to understand each other’s positions charitably and fairly, patiently explain our objections, and listen sincerely to each other’s replies.
What we do not find in Doug’s article is an answer to the question: Where is the visible Church? If Doug were to claim that the visible Church is just wherever there are baptized persons, then apostates and those who have been excommunicated will nevertheless remain within the visible Church. He claims to believe in a visible Church, but his ecclesiology has no visible Church; it has visible human beings, and visible congregations and visible denominations. But no visible catholic Church.
I’m writing this in the hope that it helps bring understanding of the point of disagreement between the Catholic Church and Protestants like Doug. I’m also hoping it helps further Protestant-Catholic reconciliation.
- Doug himself says later in his article,
All this said, I want to note that the foundation for my faith assumptions about church history are found in Scripture. This means that I believe certain things about the authority of the Church on the basis of what Jesus and the apostles taught, not because I can produce an exhaustive set of minutes that prove, say, that Second Nicea was an unlawful council. I know what to think of Second Nicea on the basis of the Second Commandment, which I consider to be a senior Second.
When the working assumption is that everything we need to believe about the faith can be confirmed or disconfirmed by our own interpretation of Scripture, this is a form of restorationism, whether it calls itself succession or not, because except for its role in the formation of the canon, the Church need not have authoritatively determined anything whatsoever over the last 2000 years. [↩]
- Neal and I explained this essential equivalence between sola scriptura and what Keith Mathison calls ‘solo scriptura’ in our article titled “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority.” [↩]
- For more on our baptismal priesthood, see paragraphs 1120, 1132, 1188, 1273, 1279, 1546, 1547, and 1669 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. [↩]
- Even when the laity participated in nominating candidates for ordinations, the laity themselves did not ordain, since they could not give what they themselves did not have. [↩]