Apostolic Succession and Historical Inquiry: Some Preliminary Remarks

May 12th, 2013 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Included in the May 2013 issue of First Things is Ephraim Radner’s review of Candida Moss’s book, The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom (HarperOne). I found Moss’s arguments against the historicity of early Christian martyrologies to be particularly familiar and interesting in the light of some recent discussion over at Jason Stellman’s blog concerning the historicity of the early Christian accounts of Apostolic Succession. [1

Apostolic Succession at the Bar of Skepticism

Moss’s arguments and Radner’s responses concerning Christian martyrs in the Roman Empire are all but isomorphic with the arguments put forward by some contemporary historians and the responses by other historians concerning Apostolic Succession in the first two centuries of the Church. Like accounts of martyrdom, bishop lists can serve to galvanize a community in the face of various pressures (both internal and external). Both the (so-called) martyrs and the (putative) successors to the Apostles serve an obviously rhetorical role in the narrative of the developing catholic Church, and there are analogues for each in both Jewish and pagan histories.

So, what follows? Are the early bishop lists and martyrologies both shams because they have non-Christian precedents and play a moral and polemical role in the Church’s self-understanding and witness (both then and now)? Of course not. Accepting the early Church’s testimony regarding these things is not a matter of gullibility but of taking into account positive evidence while recognizing a logical fallacy where it exists in the hermeneutics of suspicion. Of course these ancient Christian authors had moral, theological, and in some cases polemical purposes in composing their accounts of the Church’s history. For that matter, any standard introduction to the New Testament will emphasize the distinctive theological viewpoints of the four Evangelists. Each Gospel was written for a different audience, and the central narrative is arranged and supplemented to suit the authors’ peculiar purposes. The Gospels are theological documents, written for religious reasons. Are they therefore unhistorical?

At the conclusion of his review, Radner points out the radical skepticism that motivates Moss’s dismissal of Christian martyrology. Like other forms of radical skepticism, this dismissal is not based on evidence, but is predicated upon an a priori suspicion or outright hostility towards its object:

Christian martyrdom’s power, which is a historical phenomenon and stands as an important piece of evidence in its own right, is bound to its religious meaning. The two cannot be separated, and together they shed light on the early Church’s witness. Minimalist readings of that early record are certainly possible. But Moss draws radically negative speculative conclusions from it: It is all a sham.

This isn’t history but an ideologically charged refusal to deal with the moral consistency of Christian martyrdom, both in the first centuries and as it is still in fact suffered. This refusal marks an indifference in the face of Christian martyrdom’s deep political challenges. The indifference itself hints at the irrelevance of her main project.

Like Christian martyrdom, Apostolic Succession is “a historical phenomenon and stands as an important piece of evidence in its own right.” Furthermore the principle of Succession “is bound to its religious meaning.” Like martyrdom, Apostolic Succession sheds “light on the early Church’s witness.” And as with martyrdom, “[m]inimalist readings of that early record are certainly possible.” It is this last point that serves as an excuse for the skeptic: “It is all a sham.”

John Henry Newman wrote that to “just be able to doubt” is no excuse for not believing. Otherwise, skepticism would be a universal solvent when applied to historical claims, and any theological claim with an historical element could not be received with the full assent of faith. The Resurrection of Our Lord is the most obvious case in point for Christians. The primary historical evidence for the Resurrection consists in the written accounts of four persons who claim to have seen (or are recorded as having seen) the risen Christ (Peter, John, Matthew, and Paul), though no one is supposed to have been a witness of the Resurrection itself. The earliest (extant) written accounts of the Resurrection were produced some twenty years after the event. Other than Saul, there are no corroborating witnesses from outside the early Christian community, for the very good reason that the Risen Christ only appeared to his followers, and then only in private–e.g., the Upper Room and the Road to Emmaus, not the Jerusalem Temple or the court of Pontius Pilate. In other words, although the evidence for the Resurrection is very good in its kind, it could have been a lot better. Some might say that it should have been a lot better, given how much was and is riding on it. And since the actual evidence is not better than it actually is, the confirmed skeptic will not believe.

Apostolic Succession and the Criterion of Faith

The gist of Apostolic Succession is that there is an ordained Christian ministry, distinct from (though not unrelated to) the priesthood of all believers, which ministry is sacramental in character, being conferred through the  imposition of hands by at least one already ordained minister, some but not all ordained ministers receiving this gift in its fullness (inclusive of the authority to ordain), and only those who have been ordained to ordain can validly ordain others. [2] In that this ministry was given by Christ to the Apostles, it is Apostolic. In that it has been entrusted by the Apostles to other men, there is a Succession to the ordained Christian ministry. In that this succession essentially involves a visible rite by which the ordained ministry is sacramentally bestowed by one who has already received this gift in its fullness, it is objective and historical. In that this objective and historical dimension of the succession has been observed ubique, semper, ab omnibus, it is unbroken. [3]

Apostolic Succession, so understood, is a solid and impressive feature of Church history. It is like a mountain range: full of unexplored details, but abundantly evident in the main. Ordination by the laying on of hands is clearly Apostolic; ordination by those who have been ordained to ordain is the prevailing practice in the Church throughout history; the college of bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome (as a point of emphasis) is a materially evident and historically continuous thing (which Catholics call “the Magisterium”), being a touchstone of orthodoxy as witnessed by the history of the Ecumenical Councils and the writings of the Church Fathers. [4] The objections to Apostolic Succession, by contrast, are built upon conjecture about periods or areas for which we do not have much evidence, some possible exceptions to the rule of mediate ordination (e.g., the early Christian prophets), and (less theoretically) the experience of many Christians in ecclesial communities that lack sacramental Apostolic Succession but nonetheless enjoy an authentic life of faith and good works in some sort of communion with other like-minded communities. [5]

Ultimately, the challenge presented by the principle of Apostolic Succession is that, like the Resurrection and the accounts of the early Christian martyrs, once it is admitted as historically plausible, it presents us with a call to faith, which we must either accept or reject. And this call to faith requires submission to a living and visible authority on earth. Just as the Christian martyr lays down his own life for the sake of something greater–the hope of a better Resurrection–a Catholic lays down his private judgment for the sake of something greater–the teaching authority of the Church. Both acts undeniably involve loss. But the question, “Is there really something greater to be gained?” is one that only faith can finally answer.

It is important to respond to critics who challenge the historical basis for the Christian traditions of the Resurrection, Martyrdom, and Apostolic Succession. There is, after all, an historical basis for each of these, and it can be found both in the early documents and subsequent development of the Church. [6] The arguments of the critics, which are more or less probable speculations, can be and have been responded to on historical grounds by way of offering more or less probable speculations in defense of the Church’s doctrine and practice concerning the nature and transmission of the ordained ministry. [7] Even supposing that the arguments of the skeptics are roughly on par with the arguments of believers on this matter, from any Christian point of view which accepts the theological claims about Christ and the Church found in the New Testament the position of the skeptic is seen to be heavily burdened by untoward implications, namely, ecclesial deism and solo scriptura.

Those who accept Apostolic Succession, on the other hand, avoid both of those problems precisely by embracing the historical episcopate as a sacramental gift from Christ, through the Apostles, to the Church. In that Holy Orders is a sacrament, it involves an outward sign (the imposition of hands) which contains and conveys an inward grace (the charism of teaching, governing, and sanctifying). [8] The outward sign provides the inquirer with an objective marker in his search for the locus of the Church’s interpretive authority. The grace of the sacrament provides part of the rationale for believing that the college of bishops is uniquely equipped to be God’s instrument for preserving the Church in unity (governing), holiness (sanctifying), and truth (teaching), such that one is never justified in preferring his own private judgment to the definitive judgment of the Magisterium in matters of doctrine nor in otherwise separating himself from the communion of the Church.

Apostolic Succession and Private Interpretation

Of course, the inquirer into the historical and theological basis for Apostolic Succession, who does not yet accept it on the basis of the Church’s authority (which is to have faith), cannot plead the Church’s authority as reason for accepting the doctrine except by way of begging the question. But one of the things he can do, without either marshaling all of the historical data into an undisputed synthesis or presupposing the authority of the Catholic Magisterium and the truth of the Catholic doctrines of Holy Orders and Apostolic Succession, is evaluate the following hypothetical syllogism:

If Apostolic Succession (as understood by the Catholic Church) is guaranteed by the laying on of hands in sacramental succession from the Apostles, then all one needs to identify true doctrine is to identify those who are in succession from the Apostles, who are by this fact uniquely equipped to teach the truth.

Given that Christ founded only one Church (the universal Church)–as attested by the singular ecclesia used in Matthew 16:18–such that the three-fold charism of teaching, governing, and sanctifying, while most obviously operative in the local churches, presupposes, depends upon, and is ordered to the life of this one, universal Church, the inquirer is justified in asking further “Where should I look for the true interpretation of divine revelation in the event that not all sacramentally ordained bishops are in communion with one another, teaching the same doctrine?” The Catholic answer to this question is to look to the bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome. There are biblical and historical data, subject of course to a variety of interpretations, upon which the Catholic position concerning the distinctive role of the bishop of Rome in the communion of the universal Church is based. But, again, one need not marshal an undisputed synthetic account of the whole historical data set or else presuppose the truth of Catholic teaching concerning the papacy in order to evaluate the following hypothetical syllogism:

If the bishop of Rome is the visible principle of unity for the universal Church, such that those sacramentally ordained bishops not in communion with Rome are in schism from the Church, then all one needs to identify true doctrine is to identify the college of bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome. One need not adjudicate between competing colleges of bishops on the basis of one’s own doctrinal opinions–here accepting the teaching of this college, and there of another college–in order to determine what is orthodoxy. One can simply accept by faith the teaching that comes from the college of bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome.

Thus, Apostolic Succession and the Papacy together constitute objective grounds for distinguishing between human interpretive opinions and the divinely authorized interpretation of special revelation. These grounds are objective in that they do not predicate the validity and authority of the Christian ministry, nor the veracity of its teaching, upon the ordained ministers agreeing with one’s own interpretation of the doctrinal content of divine revelation. As to the reason for supposing that this is an important point, I will only add here (to what I have said elsewhere) that the following proposition is (at best) deeply counter-intuitive, yet it seems to follow from any historically plausible position other than Catholicism:

“My own interpretation of whatever writings I deem to be canonical is the measure of the universal Church that Christ founded.”

Please note the qualification, “historically plausible.” This post is not intended to discount the need for reasonable investigation of history. One can find numerous sects or individuals making extravagant claims to authority, which, if true, would obviate the need to ultimately depend upon one’s own hermeneutical abilities. Ecclesial claims, however, are necessarily rooted in history due to the Incarnation. The Church is the Body of Christ, and the Christ is Jesus of Nazareth. Any plausible claimant to be the Church that Christ founded must, therefore, have historical roots in the first century. Furthermore, unless one is prepared to accept ecclesial deism (with its concomitant restorationism) the claimant to ecclesial authority must be able to give a reasonable account of its own continuity-in-identity-through-change-over-time (after the manner of a seed growing into a tree) with the visible Church that Christ founded some 2,000 years ago. [9]

Conclusion

For those not driven by radical skepticism predicated upon indifference or outright hostility towards the hierarchical principle embodied by the historic episcopate and the primacy of the pope, the historical evidence for the same, while it cannot compel one to believe, is sufficient when taken with other biblical and theological considerations to warrant faith in the Catholic claims concerning ecclesial authority. If we were to consider matters from either the historical-critical or the epistemological / theological perspective alone, the case for Catholic faith would seem to be unproven relative to the historical data or else predicated upon philosophical and theological arguments that any group or individual making sufficiently audacious claims to interpretive authority could easily appropriate. But the case for Catholicism is not restricted to the purview of any single academic discipline. We do not have to chose between history, epistemology, and theology (etc.). We can consider all relevant matters by way of faith seeking understanding, or personal opinion seeking faith.

_______________

[1] See the following posts, along with the subsequent comments: “Apostolic Succession: A Minimalist Proposal,” “On Selective Skepticism,” and “Don’t Pity the Fool.”

[2] Much to this effect has been argued in detail in the article “Holy Orders and the Sacrificial Priesthood.”

[3] Some critics of Apostolic Succession suggest that it entails that the entire Christian Ministry could be lost if only one link in the chain of succession has been broken. But the tactile succession from the Apostles via the successive laying on of hands is better likened to a grid than a chain, as pointed out by John Spalding in his essay, “The Apostolic Succession Unbroken.”

[4] See Vladimir Soloviev, Russia and the Universal Church, “Part Two: The Ecclesiastical Monarchy Founded by Jesus Christ” for an account of the place of Peter in the life of the Church with special reference to the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon and the “Robber Council” of Ephesus. For the testimonies of the Fathers to the Bishop of Rome as a touchstone of orthodoxy and catholic communion, see Edward Giles, Documents Illustrating Papal Authority: A.D. 96-454.

[5] The Catholic Church’s understanding of non-Catholic churches and ecclesial communities is expressed in Unitatis Redintegratio, the “Decree on Ecumenism” of the Second Vatican Council.

[6] For a presentation of the evidence from Tradition and Sacred Scripture, see the following sections of Bryan Cross’s extended response to Michael Horton on the topic of sola scriptura: “Apostolic Succession,” and “Bishops.”

[7] Felix Cirlot’s Apostolic Succession: Is it True? An Historical and Theological Inquiry (1948) is perhaps the most extensive defense of Apostolic Succession on historical-critical grounds. In addition to the detailed case made by Cirlot in response to common objections to the historicity of Apostolic Succession, see the summary account of Holy Orders in the pre-Nicene era by Aidan Nichols OP in Holy Order: Apostolic Priesthood from the New Testament to the Second Vatican Council (1990), 35-47.

[8] 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6.

[9] For an overview of the changes in the Catholic Church considered as organic developments, see “A Response to Scott Clark and Robert Godfrey on ‘The Lure of Rome’.”

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  1. I just want to make sure I am understanding you correctly. Are you saying that any professing Christian throughout church history who has publicly opposed the opinions/teaching of the bishop of Rome was necessarily in error (at least on that particular point)?

  2. David,

    Thank you for the question. No, that is not what I am saying. The kinds of assent required of Catholics in response to various kinds of magisterial teaching have been specified in the Doctrinal Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the Professio Fidei.

    Andrew

  3. I gather that the short answer to my question is that it is only required to be in agreement with the bishop of Rome when he speaks “ex cathedra.” Do you know of any criteria by which to divide between “ex cathedra” opinions/teaching and “non-ex cathedra” opinions/teaching of the bishops of Rome of, say, the first several centuries of church history?

    Am I to suppose the “ex cathedra” qualification renders the public disagreement of Irenaeus with Victor, and of Cyprian and Firmilian with Stephen, irrelevant?

  4. David,

    What you describe as a “short answer” is actually only a partial answer. As discussed in the “Doctrinal Commentary,” a Catholic is required to be in agreement with the Magisterium, including the Pope, in instances of magisterial teaching besides extraordinary exercises of the charism of infallibility such as an ex cathedra definition of doctrine.

    The criteria for distinguishing between instances in which the Magisterium teaches infallibly and instances in which it teaches authoritatively though not infallibly are summarized in footnote 17 of the “Doctrinal Commentary”:

    It should be noted that the infallible teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium is not only set forth with an explicit declaration of a doctrine to be believed or held definitively, but is also expressed by a doctrine implicitly contained in a practice of the Church’s faith, derived from revelation or, in any case, necessary for eternal salvation, and attested to by the uninterrupted Tradition: such an infallible teaching is thus objectively set forth by the whole episcopal body, understood in a diachronic and not necessarily merely synchronic sense. Furthermore, the intention of the ordinary and universal Magisterium to set forth a doctrine as definitive is not generally linked to technical formulations of particular solemnity; it is enough that this be clear from the tenor of the words used and from their context.

    The various qualifications provided by the Catholic Church with reference to the charism of infallibility, including the ex cathedra stipulation made at Vatican I with reference to papal infalliblity, do not necessarily render “irrelevant” any public disagreement with the Magisterium as a whole or the pope as head of the college of bishops in particular. So, what we should do is seek to understand precisely how such public disagreement with either a papal teaching or non-doctrinal ruling is relevant to the doctrine of papal infalliblity in light of the Catholic Church’s express understanding of that doctrine.

    Andrew

  5. Thanks for the explanation, but, honestly, it all seems very complicated (and convoluted) to me. But I’ll do my best to keep an open mind. Do I assume correctly by the title of your article that this is only the first of a series of articles on this topic? If so, I will be interested to continue to follow what you say on this topic.

  6. David,

    You write that “it all seems very complicated (and convoluted) to me.” I am not sure if you are referring to the distinctions made in the “Doctrinal Commentary,” my own answers to your questions (drawing from said document), or the material in the original post, or all of the above. Granted, the original post presupposes some familiarity with previous discussions about this matter here and elsewhere.

    In any case, the title to this post is meant to indicate that what follows are some things to consider before (in the “logically prior to” sense) investigating the historical details or deeper theological significance of the Apostolic Succession in Holy Orders. It is possible that more along those lines will be explored on this site, but in any case there are resources already available to inquirer, as indicated in some of the footnotes, above. For more, see the sub-category “Apostolic Succession” under the “The Church” section in our Index, as well as the section on “The Papacy.” Also, see the entries under “The Papacy and the Magisterium” on the Suggested Reading page.

    One resource not listed there, but which I have found to be very helpful for understanding the link between the principle of ecclesial hierarchy and theology, strictly speaking, is Matthew Levering’s Christ and the Catholic Priesthood: Ecclesial Hierarchy and the Pattern of the Trinity. For understandable reasons, ecumenical discussions of the Apostolic Succession tend to be focused on “horizontal” matters, such as schism and communion, or private interpretation and teaching authority. That kind of dialogue and investigation, however important in its own right, by no means exhausts the significance of the hierarchical Christian ministry as a gift from God which, like all of God’s gifts, is given to bring us into (and deepen our) communion with God.

    Andrew

  7. Hello David,

    RE post #5… “it all seems very complicated (and convoluted) to me…”

    In my experience as a convert to Christianity and, through Bible study and prayer, Catholicism, the Church’s teaching is (mildly) complex because life is complex; the Bible is a complex book, even the Gospels, which are relatively simple and direct, are by no means easy-1-2-3… if the rest of Christian Tradition is of a piece with the earliest documents, why expect it to be reducible to a couple of PowerPoint slides?

  8. Mr. Preslar, you wrote:

    “‘Where should I look for the true interpretation of divine revelation in the event that not all sacramentally ordained bishops are in communion with one another, teaching the same doctrine?’ The Catholic answer to this question is to look to the bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome. There are biblical and historical data, subject of course to a variety of interpretations, upon which the Catholic position concerning the distinctive role of the bishop of Rome in the communion of the universal Church is based.” (emphasis mine)

    Will you please clarify this? If apostolic succession is accepted, in order to embrace an ecclesial reality of this one must choose between the “sacramentally ordained bishops [who] are [not] in communion with one another.” “The Catholic answer is,” as you say, “to look to the bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome” (emphasis mine). But why would one choose this answer instead of another, e.g., the Greek Orthodox answer?

    Thank you.

  9. Andrew,

    I was referring primarily to the “Doctrinal Commentary” document, which, I suppose, represents the view of Catholicism in general. I would venture to say I have read and thought about these issues a good bit more than the average person on the street, and yet I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around it. As time permits, I plan to go back and read the other posts you recommend. I have read a number of posts here at “Called to Communion,” but not all.

    Michael,

    Thanks for checking in as well. I understand the point you are making with regard to complexity. Honestly, though, it’s the convoluted part that bothers me more than the complicated part. I do want to understand, though, and make sure I am not rushing to judgment based on false presuppositions. Thanks for trying to help me understand.

    And, for the sake of full disclosure, I am not really thinking about converting to Catholicism or anything like that. I am a pretty convinced Evangelical (Baptist, to be more specific). But neither am I raising these questions just to be cantankerous. I truly want to make sure I understand correctly.

  10. Frank,

    The short answer is that without a personal and visible principle of unity within the episcopal college itself, such that disputes within the college of bishops, including competing doctrinal definitions put forward by rival synods, can be definitively adjudicated by Magisterial authority, the ultimate arbiter of orthodoxy would seem to be the individual Christian. As I said in the post, that is a deeply counter-intuitive position (at best), and it does not provide a basis for faith over and above personal opinion relative to the doctrinal content of divine revelation taken as a whole. (I explore this problem more fully here.)

    David,

    Fair enough. I appreciate your taking the time to read Called to Communion. Please feel free to offer further comments or questions on any of our articles.

    Andrew

  11. Hey Andrew,

    Thank you for taking the time to write a response. I’d like to leave a few thoughts of my own on this preliminary post. I like much of what you said in the opening section. I fully agree with Newman (and you) that the ability to doubt does not constitute sufficient reason for unbelief.

    In the section on AS and the criterion of faith you say,

    The objections to Apostolic Succession, by contrast, are built upon conjecture about periods or areas for which we do not have much evidence, some possible exceptions to the rule of mediate ordination (e.g., the early Christian prophets), and (less theoretically) the experience of many Christians in ecclesial communities that lack sacramental Apostolic Succession but nonetheless enjoy an authentic life of faith and good works in some sort of communion with other like-minded communities.

    I think you may have overstated your case here with the use of the word “conjecture.” Also, what periods of time are you referencing? I’m assuming you’re referring to the first 2 centuries where the evidence for the Rome’s take on AS lacks the evidence of later centuries. I’d be interested to know what you mean by conjecture. Do you mean historical reconstruction (of which all are, in some sense, conjectural)? If this is the sense in which you mean “conjecture” then isn’t the Roman claim to AS equally “conjectural”? You move on to say,

    There is, after all, an historical basis for each of these, and it can be found both in the early documents and subsequent development of the Church

    I will patiently wait, I just want to make sure that this evidence will be laid out in subsequent posts, right?

    You then move on to discuss the value of AS. You say,

    Those who accept Apostolic Succession, on the other hand, avoid both of those problems [ecclesial Deism or Solo Scriptura] precisely by embracing the historical episcopate as a sacramental gift from Christ, through the Apostles, to the Church.

    We can discuss this as well when we get there, but we should not put the cart before the horse. For the sake of argument, let us assume that Christ did not establish a perpetual Petrine office or an episcopacy of any kind. What value do the charges of ecclesial Deism and Solo Scriptura possess if they rest upon a notion of ecclesiology that is false? The only reason I ask this is because if Jesus did not found a church with the preconditions for knowledge of the Divine revelation like CtC has argued, then these arguments lose their value. [On a side note, I’d be interested to know if you would abandon your Christian faith if you were convinced Jesus did not found a church like Rome.]

    Conversely, as you go on to argue in your hypothetical syllogisms, if we can establish the Roman position on AS, then my agreement or disagreement with Rome’s position on Mary, justification, icons, etc would have a principled way to be resolved. My own interpretation would be subject to Church that Christ founded (if I wanted to retain my Christianity in any meaningful sense).

    I’ll simply add that we should not bite off more than we can chew. When discussing the Roman position on AS, we are attempting to discuss the positive claims Rome makes for herself. Your inquiry into Protestant ecclesiology is a valid question, but the two questions are distinct. Can we agree on this? If you’re interested in the positive arguments for Protestant ecclesiology perhaps another series of posts could be devoted to it.

    Finally, in your conclusion you state the position you will be [?] arguing that the Roman argument is multi-faceted, incorporating philosophical/theological issues as well as historical issues. You put it this way “the case for Catholicism is not restricted to the purview of any single academic discipline.”

    I think this is acceptable, however, because the Roman claim is an historical one, the argument must be an historical one. Historians admit that historical inquiry does not take place in a vacuum. Our philosophical and theological commitments do impact our historiography. But one of the ways that our philosophical and theological perspectives are chastised is through interacting with the historical data. I think we agree here, but theological and philosophical pre-commitments are no substitute for dealing with the facts of history. I trust that you will do this to the best of your ability and I look forward to further posts on the Roman position of AS.

  12. Refprot,

    You wrote:

    I think you may have overstated your case here with the use of the word “conjecture.” Also, what periods of time are you referencing? I’m assuming you’re referring to the first 2 centuries where the evidence for the Rome’s take on AS lacks the evidence of later centuries. I’d be interested to know what you mean by conjecture. Do you mean historical reconstruction (of which all are, in some sense, conjectural)? If this is the sense in which you mean “conjecture” then isn’t the Roman claim to AS equally “conjectural”?

    By “conjecture” I am referring to accounts given by historians of what happened at a place and time for which we have no explicit account of the conditions, persons, and events under consideration written during or soon after that time. With reference to Apostolic Succession, this specifically refers to when or how or under what auspices the ordained Christian ministry was established in a place where we know there to have been / still be a local church.

    The Catholic Church’s claim to have preserved the sacramental succession from the Apostles is not conjecture. It is an instance of authoritative and indeed irreformable teaching of both the ordinary and extraordinary Magisterium. As I stated in the original post, what is conjectural, in the sense just described, are some aspects of the historical-critical defenses of this Catholic doctrine (or least some essential aspects of the doctrine) offered by various historians, some of whom I cited in the footnotes.

    You wrote:

    I will patiently wait, I just want to make sure that this evidence will be laid out in subsequent posts, right?

    As I said in response to David, this post is “preliminary” in the sense that it lays out some prolegomena to historical inquiry. Digging into the details of history, and then presenting a logical, coherent, and reasonably comprehensive synthesis of that data takes a lot of time and effort. (Remember, we all have full-time jobs or are full-time students, almost all of us have families with young children, and none of us work in the capacity of specialist in the history of the pre-Nicene Church!) In the meantime, you can consult the work of scholars such as Cirlot (whose book on Apostolic Succession is admittedly hard to come by, being out of print), Nichols, and others whom I cite in the footnotes or else are included on the Suggested Reading page (see comment #6, above).

    You wrote:

    For the sake of argument, let us assume that Christ did not establish a perpetual Petrine office or an episcopacy of any kind. What value do the charges of ecclesial Deism and Solo Scriptura possess if they rest upon a notion of ecclesiology that is false? The only reason I ask this is because if Jesus did not found a church with the preconditions for knowledge of the Divine revelation like CtC has argued, then these arguments lose their value. [On a side note, I’d be interested to know if you would abandon your Christian faith if you were convinced Jesus did not found a church like Rome.]

    The charge of ecclesial deism (relative to the subject at hand) is first of all based on the empirical fact of the widespread practice and acceptance of episcopal polity among Christians, East to West, North to South, from at least the late second century or early third century onward. The Protestant Reformers who rejected this polity were thus forced to take the position that the Church had been universally or all but universally disorganized in her main lines for almost the entirety of her history. The charge of “ecclesial deism” relative to Church polity then amounts to this: Granted that Christ founded a Church at all, and that he promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide and guard her, which Church is designated “the fullness of him who fills all in all,” “the Body of Christ,” and “the pillar and foundation of truth,” this systemic and deep-seeded falsehood, which did so much to determine the (mis)development of the Church over the course of so many centuries, is inexplicable unless one concludes that God abandoned the Church at some point early in her existence.

    The force of the charge of solo scriputra depends upon what I am content for now to simply refer to as the “highly implausible” or “deeply counter-intuitive” proposition that I am both the final arbiter of orthodoxy and the measure of the universal Church that Christ founded.

    The hypothetical syllogisms provided in the post are intended to show that the Catholic Church offers a solution to both problems. However, even if the Catholic claims were false, these problems would remain.

    Finally, you wrote:

    I think we agree here, but theological and philosophical pre-commitments are no substitute for dealing with the facts of history. I trust that you will do this to the best of your ability and I look forward to further posts on the Roman position of AS.

    Yes, we do agree here. That is precisely the point of my concluding paragraphs. But don’t expect me to do much of the work for you in investigating the Catholic claims concerning Apostolic Succession and the Papacy. If the opportunity presents itself, I might post something else on the matter. But, again, the thing to do is to start reading the primary and best secondary materials for oneself.

    Andrew

  13. Andrew,

    Thanks, again, for your response. You said,

    By “conjecture” I am referring to accounts given by historians of what happen at a place and time for which we have no explicit of what happened. With reference to Apostolic Succession, this specifically refers to when or how or under what auspices the ordained Christian ministry was established in a place where we know there to have been / still be a local church.

    I’m not sure I understand what you mean here. I’m not asking if there was an idea that ordained men ordained other ordained men. I’m focusing on the narrow question of the Petrine office in Rome. Do we have explicit evidence that Peter established his particular office in Rome? In previous conversations I believe that you have conceded that evidence is not extant. Does this not make the Roman argument equally as “conjectural” as anything historians put forward?

    Furthermore, to be clear, the reason I’m asking for historical evidence is not because I want you to do the research for me. I’ve done reading and I’ve found the evidence very sparse. I’m looking to see if I’ve missed something that I ought to take into account. But I get that you don’t get paid to write blog posts–I don’t get paid for comments either :) This whole discussion requires extensive research. But I’m trying to see if you’re putting forward any new historical data other than what we have discussed over at Creed Code Cult.

    As you continue to respond you focus on Ecclesial Deism. I think you’ve missed the substance of my question. If the Roman claims to AS are not true then whether or not the novel nomenclature of “ecclesial Deism” fits does not matter. As a matter of fact, varying Protestants can and do argue for NT episcopacy. I don’t want to go down this trail but I think that it is worth mentioning.

    Your claim isn’t just to episcopacy but to an episcopacy that is established on the foundation of Peter’s episcopate. Conducting the thought experiment, if Peter was not a bishop and did not ordain someone to fulfill his office of Roman bishop, then the situation that you call “ecclesial Deism” is just another way to describe the “the historical record.”

    The appeal to ecclesial Deism indicates to me that you believe that the subsequent history of the church leaves with the options of belief in the episcopate or believing in a God who is disinterested in His Church. This could be true, but shouldn’t we suspend this assumption as we look at the historical record?

    I agree with you that a positive case for non-episcopal government needs to be made, but the positive case can be made after the criticism has been made to the case being made by Rome.

  14. Refprot,

    The main point of this post and the dispute among historians to which it refers has to do with the historicity of the apostolic succession inclusive of ordained men ordaining other men. Your initial comment was not only concerned with the Petrine ministry but also referred to “an episcopacy of any kind.” So it is both inconsistent and not quite on topic for you to claim to be focusing on the former, but not the latter.

    In no way have I either claimed or suggested that evidence for Peter’s ministry in Rome is not extant. I explicitly cited some evidence to that effect and referred you to Edmundson for an extensive presentation and discussion of the evidence.

    As I pointed out in my previous comment, the charge of ecclesial deism does not presuppose the truth of Catholicism, so it stands or falls independently of the truth or falsity of Catholic ecclesiology.

  15. Andrew,

    As has been noted elsewhere, there is not disputing that the normative way in which ordination occurred in the early church was through “apostolic succession.” I did not understand that is the argument you were attempt to put forth because there is no dispute here.

    My mention of “an episcopacy of any kind” was in reference to a hypothetical. What would that do to your position if Christ did not actually establish an episcopate at all or a Roman episcopate in particular? This is a hypothetical you’ve yet to engage. It is neither inconsistent nor off topic to ask a hypothetical question so as to better understand the methodological procedure you are setting forth.

    With regard to the evidence I’ll remind you of the case you have put forward:

    1. Peter ministered in Rome on multiple occasions
    2. He received a special office in Matthew 16 and he would have to pass that office along
    3. He died in Rome.

    You then concluded,

    it “stands to reason” (i.e., makes sense) to suppose that Peter did intend to establish his Chair (in the sense described in Bryan’s article) in Rome, since it would by the nature of the case be established somewhere on earth.

    In my reading of Edmundson (still ongoing) I have not found anything to add to this argument. As it stands though, I’ve not read in Edmundson nor have you provided any indication that there is explicit evidence beyond the three points above. And outside of #3, points 1 & 2 are contested. There is nothing “explicit” here that differentiates the Catholic claim from being any more conjectural than a historians reconstruction of the events (a criterion I understand you to have set forth in comment #12).

    Finally, ecclesial deism is described by Bryan in Comment 107 at the Ecclesial Deism thread [feel free to link to this particular comment, mods]. In that thread Bryan says,

    (1) In order to justify separating from the Catholic Church, Protestantism, like Mormonism, must claim that Catholic Church corrupted certain essentials.

    (2) Claiming that the Catholic Church is defectible in essentials presupposes ecclesial deism.

    (3) Therefore, Protestantism, like Mormonism, presupposes, ecclesial deism.

    Lets just take what Bryan argues here–we are talking about essentials. It depends on the era and the scene that you were in, but the Reformed really allowed for a multiplicity of church governance. As there are congregational, presbyterian, and episcopal churches within the Reformed church, I don’t see any reason why rejecting episcopal government entails “ecclesial Deism.” So even though I don’t think that the discussion of ecclesial Deism is beneficial when assessing Roman AS, it still does not actually apply to this situation.

  16. Refprot,

    You wrote:

    As has been noted elsewhere, there is not disputing that the normative way in which ordination occurred in the early church was through “apostolic succession.” I did not understand that is the argument you were attempt to put forth because there is no dispute here.

    In this case, we are at least partially at cross-purposes here, because the reason that I was setting out some preliminaries for the historical case that ordination in the early church was through the laying of hands by ordained clergy (specifically, those ordained to ordain) in apostolic succession is that this notion is widely disputed. So when you write that “there is no dispute here,” I am not sure where the “here” is. The groups that I had in mind, namely, some contemporary historians (both Protestant and Catholic) and many conservative Reformed Protestants, argue that AS, the monarchical episcopate in particular, represents a substantial change in Church polity from one kind to another.

    The Catholic historians that I have read who take this position also typically maintain that AS in the monepiscopate, while not originating from Christ through the Apostles as a matter of history, nevertheless is part of God’s providential plan for the Church, and therefore is at least an acceptable form of Church polity relative to historical circumstances. I suppose that this is similar to the position of low church Anglicans and other Protestants who allow that episcopal polity is for the good of the Church though not of the essence of the Church. And of course conservative Presbyterians, Baptists, Congregationalists, and others will want to argue that episcopacy is a corruption of the original polity intended by Christ and the Apostles and as such is not good for the Church, then or now.

    But none of these options for understanding the early Church’s episcopal polity is compatible with Catholicism. The first option divorces the historical Church from the historical Christ, the second is belied by the consensus of the Fathers, which testifies to the necessity of the episcopacy, including the unique authority of the bishop to ordain and consecrate, and the third position is obviously unacceptable to Catholics.

    Furthermore, the specific thing that you want to discuss, carrying over from our conversation elsewhere, that is, the succession of the bishop of Rome to the specifically Petrine ministry, will barely get off the ground unless we have some common understanding of the Apostolic Succession in the monepiscopate as an operative principle in the early Church. If there was no monepiscopate then there was no bishop of Rome. If there was no Apostolic Succession then there were no successors to the office of St. Peter. For that reason, this post refers primarily to Apostolic Succession in the episcopate (i.e., in the office of one who is ordained to ordain, and in particular to such a one who is given charge over a local church or churches among other presbyters/bishops). Of course, it is possible, as some historians have argued, that monepiscopacy arose relatively early in some churches, but relatively late in Rome, which implies a gap between Peter and his first so-called Successor. That is an argument worth addressing in its own right, but its still part of a larger picture.

    The unique role of the pope is referenced in this post in anticipation of objections raised to the doctrinal significance of the college of bishops due to the fact that not all validly ordained bishops are in communion with one another. We can continue discussing the historical basis for the papacy, including the historical evidence that St. Peter went to Rome (which you seem to admit, since you appear to admit that he was martyred there). But I think that it would be more helpful, and more in keeping with what I am trying to do in this post, to focus first of all on the Apostolic Succession in the monepiscopate, which I maintain is essential to the Church carrying on as Apostolic, per the Creed.

    Perhaps in a furture post I can provide a brief historical sketch of the development of the monepiscopate in the relation to the Apostles. Again, Nichols does this quite nicely in Holy Order, p. 35-47. His account is, in my opinion, more than a match for rival accounts in terms of offering a plausible construal of the data, and it has the added benefit of not falling prey to either solo scriptura or ecclesial deism. Which brings us to the next point.

    You wrote:

    … the Reformed really allowed for a multiplicity of church governance. As there are congregational, presbyterian, and episcopal churches within the Reformed church, I don’t see any reason why rejecting episcopal government entails “ecclesial Deism.” So even though I don’t think that the discussion of ecclesial Deism is beneficial when assessing Roman AS, it still does not actually apply to this situation.

    Reference to ecclesial deism is beneficial to this post because it applies to the situation that I had in mind when writing it, i.e., historians advancing arguments against Apostolic Succession in the monepiscopate as something intended by Christ and the Apostles. Apostolic Succession was not understood, by those who believed in it and claimed to have it from the second century onward, to be something optional or contingent. It was understood to be essential, and it was the universal polity of the entity that everyone referred to as the “Catholic Church” from at least the third century onward. So the “allowed for a multiplicity of church governance” view does not cover the case doctrinally. Furthermore, many within the Reformed camp do not allow for a multiplicity of Church polities, and many of these specifically rule out episcopacy and apostolic succession. This implies ecclesial deism for the reasons that I gave in comment #12.

    Andrew

  17. Andrew:

    Thank you for this post. I think it hits just the right note.

    Given the state of the evidence up to the end of the 2nd century, the Catholic view of AS is historically plausible but not historically demonstrable. Many critics suppose that’s a problem for Catholicism, but it is not. For one thing, and as you point out, the same could be said about the Resurrection, a doctrine that nobody here denies; so, to fault the doctrine of monepiscopal AS for being historically plausible but not historically demonstrable is to apply a double standard. For another, the absence of demonstrative evidence that early church polity did embody monepiscopal AS does not entail that early church polity did not embody monepiscopal AS; to hold otherwise would simply be an argument from silence. From a purely historical point of view, the best evidence that early church polity was monepiscopal AS is that, after the 2nd century, it was generally assumed to have been so.

    Many Protestants seem willing to concede that point, but some of course argue that, by the 3rd century at the latest, the Church as a whole had got the will of Christ regarding essentials of church polity wrong. That, as you say, entails ecclesial deism. That some don’t see that as a problem is itself a problem.

    Best,
    Mike

  18. Refprot (re: #15)

    You wrote:

    As has been noted elsewhere, there is not disputing that the normative way in which ordination occurred in the early church was through “apostolic succession.”

    Do you believe that the person ordaining must himself have been ordained either by an Apostle or by someone ordained by an Apostle, or by someone ordained by someone ordained […] by an Apostle? If so, then given the Protestant rejection of the authenticity of the sacrament of Holy Orders, why do you believe that having received baptism is insufficient for having the power to ordain, contrary to the position Doug Wilson for which argues? But if not, then when you grant that the normative way in which ordination occurred in the early church was through “apostolic succession,” what do you mean, exactly, by the term ‘apostolic succession’?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  19. Mike,

    I’d love to see the parallels between the evidence for the resurrection and the evidence we have for Peter. If you could add to the evidence given by Andrew that’d be great. To suggest that the wealth of eye witness testimony for the resurrection is tantamount to the speculative evidence put forth so far (see #15 above) is perplexing for me. I’ve asked you this over at CCC but perhaps you’ve missed it. Can you show how the evidence for the resurrection and the evidence for a perpetual Petrine office in Rome are similar? Is there eyewitness testimony to this fact? Is there first generation testimony?

    Regarding ecclesial deism, it is inconsistent to apply what you believe is an essential, monoepiscopal polity, and make that an essential for Protestants. Protestantism is generally willing to acknowledge that ecclesial structure is not of the essence of the church; hence the broad polity among Protestantism. In short, Church government is not an essential. So if we use Bryan’s criteria, your claims of ecclesial deism are a non sequitur.

    Furthermore, your standards for ecclesial deism need to be able to match the history of the church. The reason your ecclesial deism is a red herring is because you are presupposing that the history has been established in order to argue for it. I’m still asking Andrew, from a methodological perspective, what power would the ecclesial deism argument possess if Jesus did not found a Petrine office that was to be in the city of Rome? Arguing for AS using the ED argument is to assume the truth of the Catholic position; the very thing that we are examining.

    Andrew argues that because the early church believed it was founded by Christ that it was of the essence of the Church. I don’t doubt that many of them thought this, but just because they believed it doesn’t mean that it was so nor does it entail that God had forsaken his church because they did. There were many in the church that argued for the quartodeciman calendar as being Apostolic. For example, I’ve taken this quote from Irenaeus from wikipedia,

    Neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe what he had always observed with John the disciple of our Lord, and the other apostles with whom he had associated; neither could Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe it, as he said that he ought to follow the customs of the presbyters that had preceded him.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quartodecimanism#Background

    Does this divergence of tradition, something hotly disputed in the first few centuries, entail ecclesial deism?

  20. Refprot, (re: #19)

    Can you show how the evidence for the resurrection and the evidence for a perpetual Petrine office in Rome are similar?

    I’m not sure how Andrew could have been any clearer in comment #16 regarding the purpose of this post, and the topic of this post. You seem absolutely determined to take the discussion here into the topic of the papacy. May I request that you respect Andrew’s request, and stay on-topic? How can we even begin to discuss the question of the unique role given to St. Peter in the keys, and the succession of that charism, if we have not even come to agreement concerning apostolic succession in general, or if, when you grant that apostolic succession was the normative way ordination occurred in the early church, we are not using the term ‘apostolic succession’ with the same meaning or concept, and thus already talking past each other?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  21. Andrew & Bryan,

    What I mean by “Apostolic Succession” is that there was a lineage of ordained men who had the power to ordain other men. This is how current Presbyterian and Reformed polity works, as well. Normatively, you have someone who is ordained ordain another.

    These positions are still in flux for me and I’m not comfortable with where I am. But in my reading I have never heard anyone object that ordination is ordinarily passed down from the minister to minister. So when I use the words “Apostolic Succession” I’m referring to the fact that Paul ordained Timothy who ordained someone else, etc. I don’t have any problems acknowledging that this was the way ordination functioned in the early church.

    Of course, by using the adverb “normatively” I have indicated that there are situations and qualifications to this. I would be willing to entertain the idea that in these rare cases the church, by virtue of her baptism, would be able to ordain men in situations where the leadership had become corrupt and the church was unable to have a qualified (in the 1 Tim. sense) minister of the Gospel.

    The theological conclusions that flow from this historical reality are what are in flux for me. That’s probably not a satisfactory answer and I’m sorry I don’t have a more specific argument yet. Feel free to let me know what you believe the implications of my current position are. I’ll have to recuse myself for a few days after this comment but will be able to read the updates and hopefully respond in the near future.

  22. Refprot (#19):

    Pending your response to Bryan’s quite reasonable request, I shall first address the parallel between the evidence for monepiscopal AS in the post-apostolic church and the evidence for the Resurrection. After that, I shall address your argument concerning ecclesial deism.

    You write:

    Andrew argues that because the early church believed it was founded by Christ that it was of the essence of the Church. I don’t doubt that many of them thought this, but just because they believed it doesn’t mean that it was so…

    I have one and only one parallel in mind, but it’s important. The NT contains not “eyewitness accounts” of the Resurrection itself, but accounts of an empty tomb and appearances of Jesus to his followers afterward. Assuming the sincerity and general accuracy of those accounts–which many do not–Jesus’ followers clearly inferred, and by that means believed, that he had risen bodily from the dead. But that does not make their inference correct, and thus does not make the inferred belief true. The totality of the evidence that Jesus had risen bodily from the dead–which includes how the Apostles, ordinary men all, gave their lives for it in the course of spreading the Gospel and the Church–suffices to make that belief plausible to us who weren’t there and didn’t see what his followers saw. But it does not suffice to demonstrate it. We believe it by faith, partly through the Church that wrote and canonized the NT. Epistemologically, the same goes for the Catholic belief in monoepiscopal AS in the post-apostolic church. The totality of the historical evidence–after as well as during the first two centuries of the Church–suffices to make that belief plausible, but not to demonstrate it. Necessarily though in part, we believe it because we believe the Church. Given that parallel, then, I still claim you’re applying a double standard.

    Nonetheless, you write:

    …your standards for ecclesial deism need to be able to match the history of the church. The reason your ecclesial deism is a red herring is because you are presupposing that the history has been established in order to argue for it. I’m still asking Andrew, from a methodological perspective, what power would the ecclesial deism argument possess if Jesus did not found a Petrine office that was to be in the city of Rome? Arguing for AS using the ED argument is to assume the truth of the Catholic position; the very thing that we are examining.

    By no means do I “presuppose” that “the history has been established.” The history by itself only warrants a plausible opinion which, from the standpoint of human reason alone, might turn out to be wrong in light of evidence yet to be discovered. What we believe, we believe by faith; yet, since that article of faith clearly has an historical implication, the history we do know must be enough to make it rationally plausible. It is; that’s all it is; and given the nature of the subject matter, that’s enough.

    More generally, and as Andrew has pointed out, ecclesial deism is a problem even without assuming the truth of Catholic ecclesiology. If there either never was or, at some point, there ceased to be any continuing, visible body that has inherited, via monepiscopal AS, the authority Jesus gave to the Apostles, then there is no principled means for distinguishing question authentic and thus inerrant expressions of divine revelation from human theological opinions. Theology becomes entirely a matter of human opinions which, in light of further evidence or argument, could turn out to be wrong. Accordingly, some authority of the sort the Catholic Church claims for herself is necessary for providing the needed principled means. But that argument doesn’t premise that it’s the Catholic Church, rather than some other church, which has that authority.

    Best,
    Mike

  23. Bryan,

    Perhaps I’ve misunderstood Andrew’s point. If so, I apologize for taking the discussion off topic. However, in my estimation, the development of the Roman understanding of AS begins with Peter, and so I assumed this would be a relevant place to begin discussion. If I’ve miscalculated then I’m sorry and hope to continue the discussion on the topic at hand.

  24. Refprot,

    Its an understandable misunderstanding, given that we were recently discussing the history of the early Church in Rome with reference to Peter and the papal claims; and as you mentioned, its not exactly off topic in this post. Furthermore, one could begin with Rome as a case in point for the emergence of monepiscopacy more generally. As I wrote above, it is possible, and some historians have argued, that monepiscopacy arose relatively early in some churches, but relatively late in Rome, which would imply a gap between Peter and his first so-called Successor. That is an argument worth addressing in its own right, and there is much to consider, and several possible ways to respond, but as I see things its still part of a larger picture. The case for there being a monepiscopal bishop of Rome in succession from Peter will be on better standing if we can first figure out what kind of a case can be made for and against monepiscopacy as an operative principle in the Church at large. It is not exactly the case that “the Roman [if by that you mean Catholic] understanding of AS begins with Peter.” Strictly speaking, it begins with Christ and the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem with the whole Apostolic college.

  25. Refprot, (re: #21)

    You wrote:

    What I mean by “Apostolic Succession” is that there was a lineage of ordained men who had the power to ordain other men. … But in my reading I have never heard anyone object that ordination is ordinarily passed down from the minister to minister.

    I agree that within Reformed tradition and practice, ordination is ordinarily by way of the laying on of hands, by ordained men. But it seems to me that there are [at least] two important and related differences regarding our respective conceptions of apostolic succession. First, in the Reformed tradition, it is not essential that the ones ordaining have themselves been ordained in an unbroken succession of ordinations extending back to the Apostles. It is merely a custom [in Reformed practice] that ordinarily only ordained persons ordain. In a pinch, as you seem to acknowledge, any baptized persons can ordain. Second, in the Reformed tradition, in the rite of ordination the one being ordained is not receiving a spiritual or ecclesial authority or power from the Apostles through the ordained men who are ordaining him. The two points are related obviously, because if the ones ordaining were by this act conferring some spiritual power or authority on the ordinand, it would be essential that they themselves have this authority, since no one can give what he does not have. But if all persons had this power by baptism, then ordination would be entirely superfluous. If, however, this power does not come through baptism, but through ordination, then only those having received ordination from those having an unbroken succession from the Apostles, can ordain others.

    Consider what Berkhof says on page 588 of his Systematic Theology, in the section titled, “The officers’ induction into office.” Berkhof, quoting Hodge, writes, “Ordination is the solemn expression of the judgment of the Church, by those appointed to deliver such judgment, that the candidate is truly called of God to take part in this ministry …. ” The mere expression of a judgment, no matter how solemn, is not the conferring of a grace or spiritual or ecclesial authority. Nor is the “external call” a conferral of authority passed down from the Apostles through a succession of ordinations.

    Berkhof goes on in the section titled “Laying on of hands,” and shows that the Presbyterian conception of ordination makes the laying on of hands “optional.” He writes,

    Ordination is accompanied with the laying on of hands. Clearly, the two [i.e. ordination and laying on of hands] went hand in hand in apostolic times …. In those early days the laying on of hands evidently implied two things: it signified that a person was set aside for a certain office, and that some special spiritual gift was conferred upon him. The Church of Rome is of the opinion that these two elements are still included in the laying on of hands, that it actually confers some spiritual grace upon the recipient, and therefore ascribes to it sacramental significance. Protestants maintain, however, that it is merely a symbolical indication of the fact that one is set aside for the ministerial office in the Church. While they [Protestants] regard it as a Scriptural rite and as one that is entirely appropriate, they do not regard it as absolutely essential. The Presbyterian Church makes it optional”. (Berkhof, p. 588)

    Reformed theology’s non-sacramental conception of ordination seems to make ordination ultimately optional, because ordination doesn’t give any grace or power or authority to the ordinand. It is merely symbolic. Declaring the candidate “elected” (i.e. externally called) would be sufficient. If nothing is being given by those laying on hands, the laying on of hands seems contrary to what it symbolizes. I understand that you think something is given to the ordinand, from the Apostles, through a succession of ordained men down to those ordaining him. But I don’t see that notion as part of Reformed theology. Rather, I see the opposite, because of the Reformed (and Protestant) denial of ordination being a sacrament. The difficulty for your position, then, from my point of view, is not only showing its compatibility with Reformed theology, but also explaining why ordination (given your notion of Apostolic succession), is not a sacrament. As St. Thomas says (in the Supplement),

    Further, “the cause of a thing being such, is still more so.” Now Order is the cause of man being the dispenser of the other sacraments. Therefore Order has more reason for being a sacrament than the others. (Q. 34 a.3)

    In other words, if baptism and the Eucharist are sacraments, then that by which a man is made to be the dispenser of them has more reason for being a sacrament, because “the cause of a thing being such, is still more so,” and the minister is a cause (not the only cause, of course) of the sacraments being such.

    Calvin’s treatment of ordination (Institutes IV.3.10-16) is quite the same as Berkhof’s. Calvin writes:

    But though there is no fixed precept concerning the laying on of hands, yet as we see that it was uniformly observed by the apostles, this careful observance ought to be regarded by us in the light of a precept, (see chap. 14, sec. 29; chap. 19, sec. 31.) And it is certainly useful, that by such a symbol the dignity of the ministry should be commended to the people, and he who is ordained, reminded that he is no longer his own, but is bound in service to God and the Church. Besides, it will not prove an empty sign, if it be restored to its genuine origin. For if the Spirit of God has not instituted any thing in the Church in vain, this ceremony of his appointment we shall feel not to be useless, provided it be not superstitiously abused. Lastly, it is to be observed, that it was not the whole people, but only pastors, who laid hands on ministers, though it is uncertain whether or not several always laid their hands. (Institutes IV.3.16)

    In Calvin, ordination is merely ceremonial and symbolic, “useful for the dignity of the ministry” by showing the people that the person ordained is set aside by the Church for pastoral ministry. (Institutes IV.3.16). Yes he says that it will “not prove an empty sign” if it is “restored to its genuine origin” (i.e. if it is done as he prescribes). But that’s the closest he comes, so far as I can tell, to saying that ordination does anything.

    Your position, by contrast, sounds more like that of Trent:

    Since from the testimony of Scripture, Apostolic tradition and the unanimous agreement of the Fathers it is clear that grace is conferred by sacred ordination, which is performed by words and outward signs, no one ought to doubt that order is truly and properly one of the seven sacraments of holy Church. For the Apostle says: “I admonish thee that thou stir up the grace of God which is in thee by the imposition of my hands. For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sobriety.” (Session XXIII.3)

    So I agree that in Reformed ordinations only ordained men lay on hands. But it seems to me that in Reformed theology ordination is not by way of apostolic succession (as you conceive of apostolic succession), because of the Reformed belief that ordination is not a sacrament, the Protestant notion of the “priesthood of all believers” (more precisely the Protestant rejection of the ministerial priesthood), and thus that in Reformed theology nothing is uniquely conferred upon the ordinand by those ordaining him, except permission to minister in their denomination (or pulpit sharing denominations). For many many years the Reformed practice has not concerned itself with ensuring that only those who have ordinations in an unbroken succession of ordinations from the Apostles, participate in ordinations. Therefore, how could there be any possible trust that those Reformed ministers now participating in ‘ordinations’ have the Apostolic authority/power that is passed down through apostolic succession? A theology that denies apostolic succession (and redefines it as ‘apostolicity,’ i.e. conformity to the Apostles’ doctrine) affects the practice of the tradition that adopts it, and thereby in subsequent generations undermines any credible claim to having apostolic succession, without reacquiring valid Holy Orders through faith traditions (e.g. Catholicism, Orthodoxy) that do. If I were seeking ordination, and I believed in apostolic succession (as you conceive of it), I wouldn’t be seeking ordination from a group of men within a tradition that has not maintained (as an infallible part of Tradition) that doctrine, because I would have no good reason to believe that they themselves were validly ordained, and thus to believe that they could give to me what they themselves did not have.

    I understand that you’re in the process of working this question out. I’m not really laying out any implications of your position. I’m merely arguing, for what its worth, that the position you are tentatively taking seems to me more in agreement with Catholic/Orthodox conceptions of AS, and less compatible with the Reformed tradition.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  26. Mike:

    You said:

    By no means do I “presuppose” that “the history has been established.” The history by itself only warrants a plausible opinion which, from the standpoint of human reason alone, might turn out to be wrong in light of evidence yet to be discovered. What we believe, we believe by faith; yet, since that article of faith clearly has an historical implication, the history we do know must be enough to make it rationally plausible. It is; that’s all it is; and given the nature of the subject matter, that’s enough.

    This is where the conversation needs to start and may possibly stop. Until there is agreement on this point, there is no agreement moving forward. The nature of revelation and how we know it is (most) fundamental to the conversation. It informs the nature and scope of the entire historical project.

  27. Andrew,

    Thank you for your article. I look forward to reading more in the future regarding AS.

    But for the time being, I thought I would pose a scriptural introduction to the topic. I believe that there is something in the scriptures which teach that ordination is a sacrament. But the question following would be, if ordination is a sacrament which confers the grace which it signifies, what does this mean in effect with relation to apostolic succession?

    St. Paul teaches us that in the ascending exaltation of Christ above all powers, God has ordained Jesus Christ as “head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23). The relationship between Christ and His Body is that they are both one, where the Head is the source of all power and strength. Therefore, the Church (which is His body) has a unique oversight by Christ Himself. Who wouldn’t care for their own body? Christ is head of the Church and he governs it from His heavenly throne.

    One of the purposes that God had in bringing Christ up from the dead to ascend above all things is so that he might “fill all things” (Ephesians 4:10). What this means precisely is explained to us in the same chapter, it is the “fullnes of Christ”, which itself is the “unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God”. The “filling” of all things is Christ giving to His body the necessary charism it needs in order to grow in the unity which is in the faith, and the hope and love of faith’s calling. St. Paul says that Jesus “ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things” and this he does by giving certain gifts to men to serve the body of Christ. So we have here the following: Christ was raised from the dead to prove the necessary gifts for His body (the Church) to grow into the unity of faith. This unity of faith is the bond of peace amongst the members of Christ, the love we have for each other, the growing of the body in love. But it is important to take note that the instrumentality of such growth has the giving of gifts from Christ as it’s designated souce.

    Now, St. Paul also teaches elswhere that St. Timothy was given certain gifts in his ordination. He says “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed upon you through the prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery” (1 Timothy 4:14). If we understand from Ephesians 4 that Christ ascended to bestow certain gifts upon men for the service to the unity of faith, hope, and love in Christ’s body, then it should not be difficult to believe that St. Timothy was one of those whom God had gifted with this service to Christ’s body. But what is important is how Paul describes the source of this gift. Of course we know it is from God…but it is written “…the spiritual gift…bestowed upon you through the prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery” (v14). The greek word “dia” (through) and “meta” (with) seems to suggest the instrumentality through which St. Timothy had become a recipient of this gift. If we are to honor the many times that St. Paul describes certain gifts given dia pisteos (through faith- such as justification) then we should be confident in believing that St. Paul actually meant that the gift came to St. Timothy in this very way. This fact by itself might be a snipet of historical proof (if one accepts the NT as a historical set of writings) that there was such a thing as a sacrament of ordination.

  28. Brent (#26):

    You asserted:

    The nature of revelation and how we know it is (most) fundamental to the conversation.

    Of course. It always was and always will be.

    Your sentence serves to describe the subject matter of what’s come to be called, among Catholic theologians, “fundamental theology” (FT). Unless and until we get that right, debate about specific points of special or even general revelation is largely futile. Moreover, since many debates in FT itself are epistemological and/or metaphysical, even doing FT is futile unless and until we get our philosophy straight. This is why philosophy is and ought to be prerequisite for studying theology in major seminaries.

    But philosophy isn’t all there is to FT. One cannot develop an adequate concept of divine revelation without some concrete knowledge-by-acquaintance of divine revelation as handed on and lived by the Church. Protestants can do that to some extent because much of what they affirm happens to express truths of divine revelation so handed on and lived. Yet they cannot, in my view, explain why what they profess is anything more than human opinion. The topic of apostolic succession (AS) is important because without AS, I would argue, there can be no explanation of the sort needed.

    Best,
    Mike

  29. Hey Bryan,

    Thanks for your response.

    Everything that you quote from Berkhof is consistent with what I’ve said in #21 as far as I can see. Berkhof concedes the historical reality that in the early church this is the way that things generally functioned yet does not necessarily say that it is of the essence of ordination. As you note, Calvin’s position is similar. I’m not fully satisfied in my own mind with the theological implications of this, but my point has been from the beginning that no one is denying that we would find a form of succession where an apostle ordains a man who ordains another,etc. This is the way that Berkhof, Calvin, & every professor and minister I’ve encountered in the Reformed tradition would acknowledge. This is, in fact, good, orderly, and exactly how our polity would expect the early church to have functioned.

    So this is why I’m trying to “get along” by acknowledging that the conversation isn’t about whether the apostles ordained men who in turn ordained others. I’m not even aware of a liberal scholar who alleges this. The question is whether the form of Roman AS, where only the bishop is invested with the charism to ordain, was established by Christ and the Apostles [Please note that for the Roman Catholic, according to Vatican I, this takes place in Matthew 16 and so I believe that is fair to talk specifically about the form of episcopacy that you are advocating, with Peter as the “principium unitas” among the bishops in Rome].

    For whatever you think the Reformed may lack in sacramental ordination, that does not solve the specific area of disagreement over the founding of the Roman episcopate. If “AS” existed as I’ve outlined (in agreement with Berkhof, Calvin, and the Reformed tradition) but without an episcopate in Rome, then the Roman claim is false. Is that fair?

  30. Refprot, (re: #29)

    I was prompted to comment on this thread by your statement in #15:

    As has been noted elsewhere, there is not disputing that the normative way in which ordination occurred in the early church was through “apostolic succession.” I did not understand that is the argument you were attempt to put forth because there is no dispute here.

    It seemed to me initially, upon reading that statement, that you were not understanding exactly what Andrew meant by ‘apostolic succession,’ and thus that the two of you were talking past each other when you claimed that there is no dispute [presumably between the Reformed and Catholic traditions] that the normative way in which ordination occurred was through apostolic succession. And my preliminary judgment is being confirmed by your subsequent comments.

    When you use the term ‘apostolic succession,’ you mean only that the practice presumably handed down from the Apostles is that only ordained men ordain other men. You do not mean that any grace or divine authority or divine gift is conferred through ordination per se upon the soul of the ordinand; only that the ordinand is given permission by these ordaining men (and those whom they represent) to minister in their communion. Because (a) you hold that having been ordained is not a necessary condition for ordaining (i.e. “… in these rare cases the church, by virtue of her baptism, would be able to ordain men …”), and (b) you agree with Berkhof that the laying on of hands in ordination “is merely a symbolical indication of the fact that one is set aside for the ministerial office in the Church,” and (c) one cannot give what one does not have, such that if baptized but non-ordained persons can give x, then if the ordinand is already baptized, he already has x, therefore it follows that in your position the ordinand does not receive any spiritual gift or Apostolic authority in ordination. Hence, as I explained above, ordination (on this view) does not confer anything beyond what is given in baptism, except permission to minister in that communion. Ordination, on this view, is merely a rite, but is entirely unnecessary. A mere public declaration by the ecclesial leaders that the ordinand has been given permission to minister in this communion would be equivalent, and do what the rite does, without the symbolism.

    But when Andrew or myself (or any other Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox, or Oriental Orthodox) use the term ‘apostolic succession,’ we do not mean merely giving permission to minister or merely the practice in which only ordained men ordain others, but rather we refer to a sacrament whereby a sacramental grace and Apostolic authority is given, as something over and above what is given in baptism. This authority is handed down from the Apostles not through baptism (contra Wilson – see the link in #18), but through the sacrament of Holy Orders, i.e. through ordination, and thus through the unbroken succession of ordinations extending back to the Apostles. This is a fundamental difference in our (yours on the one hand, and Andrew’s and mine on the other hand) conceptions of the term ‘apostolic succession.’

    Moreover, it seems to me that you use language in a somewhat sloppy and misleading (equivocal) way regarding ‘apostolic succession’ even in describing your own position. So, you say:

    What I mean by “Apostolic Succession” is that there was a lineage of ordained men who had the power to ordain other men. .. I have never heard anyone object that ordination is ordinarily passed down from the minister to minister

    There you seemingly speak of a power being passed down from minister to minister, much more like the Catholic and Orthodox conception of apostolic succession, and not in agreement with the Calvinist/Berkhof position described above. To be sure, you don’t exactly say that, but it is seemingly implied. Then, however, you say:

    So when I use the words “Apostolic Succession” I’m referring to the fact that Paul ordained Timothy who ordained someone else, etc.

    And there you imply that by ‘apostolic succession’ you are referring only to the practice in which ordinarily, only ordained men ordain. And that minimalistic conception of apostolic succession is compatible with Calvin/Berkhof, but not with the Catholic/Orthodox notion of apostolic succession. By describing apostolic succession in both ways, you can make it seem as though you’re in agreement with Andrew regarding apostolic succession (and thus we can jump forward to questions of the episcopacy and the papacy), while at the same time when necessary use your minimalistic definition (i.e. merely the practice of only ordained men ordaining) in order to say that nothing in your position is incompatible with Calvin/Berkhof. But you can’t have it both ways. Either ordination imparts a spiritual gift / Apostolic authority beyond what is given in baptism, and more than mere permission to minister in that communion, or it does not. If it does, then what you are saying goes beyond Calvin and Berkhof, and is faced with the difficulty of explaining why ordination is not a sacrament. But if according to your position ordination does not impart any such gift, then it is not true that, as you said in #15, “there is no dispute here” regarding apostolic succession.

    So the disagreement is not only logically prior to the papacy question, and logically prior to the question “Can only bishops ordain?” The disagreement is over what ‘apostolic succession’ means, and what is happening in ordination. And in my opinion, it is important not to leap over this more fundamental disagreement (somewhat hidden by our respective ability to use the same term ‘apostolic succession’ in different senses), when attempting to resolve the disagreement regarding whether only bishops can ordain, or whether the bishop of Rome has some unique authority among the bishops.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  31. Refprot,

    In addition to underscoring the sacramental nature of Apostolic Succession (something that I repeatedly referred to in the post), Bryan’s comment makes explicit something that I was content to leave implicit in my depiction of the “gist of Apostolic Succession”; namely, that it is the bishop alone who has the authority to ordain, having been uniquely “ordained to ordain.” The reason that I left this implicit in the post is that I was purposefully abstaining from entering into the question of the distinction between bishops and presbyters, which is something that Tim has already addressed with respect to the fluidity of terminology–from the New Testament’s connotative use of the terms in reference to the ordained ministers to the later denotative use of the same terms in reference to distinct offices–in his article on Holy Orders. In an upcoming post, already in the works, I hope to make more explicit the significance of the distinction between presbyter and bishop with respect to the Apostolic ministry of the early Church.

    In the meantime, I’ll simply note that the Reformed theologian Francis Turretin admitted that the tactile succession itself, i.e., the unbroken succession from the Apostles of ordination by the laying on of hands, was not preserved even by way of presbyteral ordinations in the Reformed communities. Thus, Turretin argued that this visible succession in office, while in some sense optimal, is by no means necessary for the preservation and propagation of the Christian ministry. (See Francis Turretin, “The Call of the First Reformers”, in Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 3, trans. James G. Frazer, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. [Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1997], 235-45.)

  32. Bryan,

    Thanks for your response. To make sure I am not being ambiguous I will attempt to restate my position. The use of the word “power” was not the best choice of words and I understand what it appears equivocal. If I could rephrase it I would prefer to say that “there was a lineage of ordained men who ordained other men.”

    If by Apostolic Succession we are referring to everything entailed by the Catholic position, then no, I don’t believe that there is agreement. If we mean by it that Paul ordained Timothy who ordained another generation, etc., then I believe that we can find common ground here. If you notice, my comment in #15 is a response to Andrew in #14 when he stated,

    The main point of this post and the dispute among historians to which it refers has to do with the historicity of the apostolic succession inclusive of ordained men ordaining other men

    As I’ve attempted to argue, the Reformed are content to acknowledge a normative principle whereby the Apostles ordained men who ordained others. I’ve not seen you dispute this claim or provide evidence to the contrary. You have actually shown Calvin & Berkhof agree with Andrew’s comment in #14. So, in this way, we agree.

    The theological value of that historical reality is a point of dispute, as you have pointed out. It may even be that my position and the position of the Reformed is inconsistent in making sense of the historical reality and current patterns of ordination; however, I still believe this is beyond the scope of the current discussion.

    Here is why: if Jesus did not establish an episcopate, and more specifically if Peter did not establish an episcopate in Rome, then Rome’s whole notion of AS is false. Rome may itself not have the objective, historic AS that it claims for itself (see Andrew’s quote below)!
    Allow me to quote from Andrew in the article to show why the historical questions take center stage in this discussion,

    For those not driven by radical skepticism predicated upon indifference or outright hostility towards the hierarchical principle embodied by the historic episcopate and the primacy of the pope, the historical evidence for the same, while it cannot compel one to believe, is sufficient when taken with other biblical and theological considerations to warrant faith in the Catholic claims concerning ecclesial authority.

    Let me further quote from Andrew in the article,

    Like Christian martyrdom, Apostolic Succession is “a *historical phenomenon* and stands as an important piece of evidence in its own right.”

    He goes on to say,

    In that this succession essentially involves a physical rite by which the ordained ministry is bestowed by one who has already received this gift in its fullness, *it is objective and historical*

    I concede that Andrew wrote about using both historical and theological arguments. Andrew also mentions the “sacramental” character of the succession. Andrew, in comment # 16 then lays more of his cards on the table with regards to this sacramental character when he says,

    I was setting out some preliminaries for the historical case that ordination in the early church was through the laying of hands by ordained clergy (specifically, those ordained to ordain) in apostolic succession is that this notion is widely disputed

    Of course, this theology of ordination is derived from an historical argument, that there is an order of those ordained to ordain. Andrew is correct here that there is dispute about this. and the way to resolve this dispute is not to discuss the theological merits of each position, but to first discuss the historical viability of this thesis of AS. If such a discussion is better had on Tim’s article then I can take the discussion there, but I’ve felt from the beginning that this post has been focused on the “historical phenomenon” of AS.

  33. Refprot:

    As I see it, all that’s necessary, from a strictly historical point of view, for supporting the Catholic doctrine of AS is that the evidence we have makes it rationally plausible to believe that “Apostles ordained men who ordained others” who ordained men after them, and so on–Rome included. I don’t believe it’s in dispute that such a belief is rationally plausible. What seems to be in dispute is whether Catholic answers to such questions as “Who counts as a bishop?” and “Is ordination a sacrament?” and “Do bishops inherit the teaching authority of the Apostles?” and “Must every church have a single bishop as its head?” can and ought to be established historically.

    I’ve explained above why I believe the answer is negative. In sum: Since those are primarily doctrinal questions, no amount of historical data can establish the doctrinal answers. Here I would add an observation on a topic that particularly concerns you.

    We cannot reach a mutually satisfactory answer to question whether Rome always had a single bishop until we are agreed on (a) What’s necessary and sufficient for being a bishop, and (b) How “bishops” are to be distinguished from “presbyters.” Those too are doctrinal questions. Accordingly, the usual Protestant objection to the Catholic belief that Rome always had a single bishop begs the question. It is true that the state of the historical evidence does not suffice to establish the belief that Rome always had a single bishop. But neither does it undermine that belief either. For it would be a fallacy to treat the absence of logically sufficient historical evidence for the Catholic belief as sufficient evidence of the absence of what Catholics believe to have been present. The very sparsity of the evidence blocks the inference that, whatever the leaders of the Roman Church were, the leadership was not monepiscopal. And that’s because the logically prior doctrinal criteria cannot themselves be established historically.

    Best,
    Mike

  34. Hey Mike,

    I, and most modern scholarship (which is not an arbiter of truth) would dispute that the evidence for a Roman episcopate is plausible. I’m not trying to be inflammatory with these comments, but I believe the historical argument for AS is significantly lower than plausible. I’d describe it as abysmal. Your comments seem to prove my point that the real point of contention is on the historical issue. You say we’re agreed so we can move on. I’m saying, “Not so fast. I need further evidence to substantiate your historical claim.”

    Your response to me, in #22, I believe misses the point. Of course the resurrection and AS are historical pieces of knowledge. In this way they are epistemically equivalent. Let me prove a known falsified historical event to prove my point. The Donation of Constantine made an historical claim about the Roman churches authority. As a piece of knowledge, it is in a similar epistemic category as AS and the resurrection of Jesus. The real distinguishing point comes in the substantiating evidence for the historical claim. The evidence for supporting this historical claim, however, is fatally deficient. Everyone now knows that the Donation of Constantine is not original and cannot be appealed to as a piece of evidence for Roman supremacy (as it was in the Medieval church).

    While there is an epistemic similarity between believing in the donation of Constantine and the resurrection, the warrant for believing in one and not the other is so otherworldly that there is no use in comparing them. The resurrection has multiple first century claims for it. We have non-Christian attestation to “Chrestus” in the early second century and Christian sources in the late 1st century (1st Clement) that corroborate the resurrection. In terms of ancient historical events, it doesn’t get any stronger than the resurrection of Jesus. Analysis of the facts does not demand faith in Christ, but it certainly provides strong evidence for the Christian claims.

    We then encounter the question of the Roman version of AS and whether or not it possesses the same warrant (or “plausibility”). The claims is that Peter is ordained as a bishop–the first among equals–with the charism of infallibility which he subsequently establishes in Rome from Linus down to Francis I. But I’m not convinced that this is true at all. If you can add to the evidence presented in #15, I’m more than willing to re-assess my position. I’m sincerely here to dialogue. However, if this is the evidence that has been presented–and I’ll note that Edmundson and other writers in your bibliographic sections are simply arguing for the historical reliability of these 3 points–then you have a position that is historically unreliable at very best.

    If you want to come with an a priori assumption that in order for us to understand revelation we must have a principled means to distinguish human opinion from Divine revelation, then I guess we are at an impasse. Let me ask you this question, why do you believe that the biblical or Christian position requires that human interpretation have a principled means to determine orthodoxy and heresy? If it is because it is a philosophical pre-commitment that is fine. I understand the philosophic reasons for your desire to hold such a position.

    But the real question gets down to the principled means in which you distinguish your position from JW’s, or Mormon’s or the E.O. When that question arises we are then pointed to Roman AS–an historical claim. If you lose this historical claim your philosophical argument becomes much less effective, and your principled means to determine orthodoxy is ahistorical–the very thing that Andrew has said would undermine Catholicism.

    What is very much in question is whether the RCC claims are plausible. It depends on how you define plausible. It is equally as plausible that Paul could have been a bishop in Rome, but it is also equally as unlikely. The issue really boils down to the historical question: Was Peter established as an infallible bishop to reign in the city of Rome? If you tell me that the evidence presented above is sufficient to believe this claim then I’m not sure more dialogue is possible.

  35. Hey RefProt,

    Do you know of any direct evidence that Rome’s church was headed by muliple leaders of equal authority? I’ve never seen any. So why the hubbub?

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  36. RefProt,

    I am not sure I understand what you are accepting or denying. Do you believe that through the physical motions of the laying on of hands that there is a gift of unique power that passes on from the ordainer and the ordinand?

    For instance, when St. Paul says to St. Timothy “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed upon you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery” (1 Tim 4:14) and “And for this reason, I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6)? that there is nothing passing on from Paul to Timothy?

  37. K. Doran,

    The evidence is fragmentary in every direction. I do think that the archaeological evidence suggests a more “presbyterial” governance in Rome. I’d point you to Peter Lampe’s analysis in “From Paul to Valentinus” which I’ve found a compelling historical reconstruction of early Rome.

    I think that your question actually applies more forcefully to the Roman position. Let me turn your question on you:

    Do you know of any direct evidence that Rome’s church was a monoepiscopate in succession from Peter and granted with the charism of infallibility? I’ve never seen any. So why the hubbub?

  38. Refprot, (re: #32)

    My intention, as I pointed out above, was to make sure that we’re not talking past each other by using the same term in different senses. I think that’s cleared up now. You are using the term ‘apostolic succession’ to refer only to the fact that the ordinary practice has been that only ordained men ordain. Andrew, in his post above, is using the term to refer not only to that practice, but also to what those who engaged in this practice understood themselves to be doing in ordination, and not merely the fact that ordinarily only ordained men ordained others. So at least we’re now clear, I think, that your sense of the term is not exactly the same as Andrew’s. So now, when using the term, we will all be more conscious of the particular sense in which it is being used. And in my opinion, that is very important.

    But let’s consider the role of history in this question. You wrote:

    The theological value of that historical reality is a point of dispute, as you have pointed out.

    And then:

    Of course, this theology of ordination is derived from an historical argument, that there is an order of those ordained to ordain. Andrew is correct here that there is dispute about this. and the way to resolve this dispute is not to discuss the theological merits of each position, but to first discuss the historical viability of this thesis of AS.

    I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “historical viability” (nor do I think such an ambiguous metaphorical criterion is of any worth) but I agree that if there were some incompatibility between the historical data and the Catholic understanding of apostolic succession, that would be a problem for the Catholic position.

    Maybe by ‘historical viability’ you mean that history supports only the minimalistic sense of ‘apostolic succession’ that you have been using (i.e. that the normative practice was that only ordained men ordain), and that the Catholic conception of apostolic succession (which includes the conferring of a grace and authority from the Apostles) is not supported by the historical evidence. If that’s what you mean, then I beg to differ, because I think that exactly the opposite is true. What we find in history relevant to this question is not merely *that* the ordinary practice was that only ordain men ordain, but also what the Church thought ordination did, and the reason *why* only ordained men can ordain. The theology according to which ordination imparts a grace and authority, is part of the historical evidence we find in the writings of the Church Fathers. And this theology-within-history is much more than merely the fact that only ordained men ordain.

    What the history and consensus of the Fathers teach regarding the mere fact that only ordain men ordain, is something compatible with both the Reformed and Catholic doctrines concerning apostolic succession. (If you disagree, and think that what the history and consensus of the Fathers teach regarding the mere practice is incompatible with the Catholic doctrine concerning apostolic succession, then please cite that evidence.) But what the consensus of the Fathers teach regarding the doctrine of apostolic succession is compatible with (and preserved within) the Catholic tradition and practice, but is incompatible with the Reformed doctrine. The Catholic can affirm what the Church Fathers taught on apostolic succession, but the Reformed must (in order to remain Reformed) claim that though the Fathers retained the apostolic practice (that only ordained men ordain) they got the theology of succession all wrong, by treating it as though it imparts a grace and an authority from the Apostles, when in actuality it is merely a symbolic rite that imparts nothing beyond what has been given in baptism, except permission to minister.

    Let’s consider some examples. St. Irenaeus writes:

    For if the Apostles had known hidden mysteries which they taught to the elite secretly and apart from the rest, they would have handed them down especially to those very ones to whom they were committing the self-same Churches. For surely they wished all those and their successors to be perfect and without reproach, to whom they handed on their authority (Against Heresies 3.3.1)

    A bit later in the same work he writes:

    It is necessary to obey those who are the presbyters in the Church, those who, as we have shown, have succession from the Apostles; those who have received, with the succession of the episcopate, the sure charism of truth according to the good pleasure of the Father. But the rest, who have no part in the primitive succession and assemble wheresoever they will, must be held in suspicion (ibid 4.26.2).

    Why, in the liturgy of ordination in St. Hippolytus in the third century, is ordination even a prayer? If ordination is fundamentally granting permission by the elders, to the ordinand, it should be spoken to the ordinand, not to God. It should simply be “We recognize that you have been called by God, and we hereby grant you permission to minister in our churches …” Of course the candidates must be evaluated, and screened, etc. but that’s not the *essence* of ordination (in the patristics); that’s the prerequisite for ordination. The ordination is in its essence the prayer with the laying on of hands, as St. Chrysostom points out

    Observe how he avoids all that is superfluous: he does not tell in what way it was done, but that they were ordained (ἐ χειροτονήθησαν) with prayer: for this is the meaning of χειροτονία, (i.e. “putting forth the hand,”) or ordination: the hand of the man is laid upon (the person,) but the whole work is of God, and it is His hand which touches the head of the one ordained. (Homily 14 on the Acts of the Apostles)

    As I pointed out previously, the form of the practice (i.e. both the prayer — the fact that it is a prayer — and the laying on of hands), performatively contradicts the non-sacramental conception of apostolic succession.

    In the mid-third century, Firmillion of Caesarea writes:

    But what is his error, and how great his blindness, who says that the remission of sins can be given in the synagogues of the heretics, and who does not remain on the foundation of the one Church which was founded upon the rock by Christ can be learned from this, which Christ said to Peter alone: “Whatever things you shall bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth, they shall be loosed in heaven;” and by this, again in the gospel, when Christ breathed upon the Apostles alone, saying to them; “Receive the Holy Spirit: if you forgive any man his sins, they shall be forgiven; and if you retain any mans sins, they shall be retained.” Therefore, the power of forgiving sins was given to the Apostles and to the Churches which these men, sent by Christ, established; and to the bishops who succeeded them by being ordained in their place (Letter to Cyprian 75.16)

    St. Gregory of Nyssa writes:

    The bread again is at first common bread, but when the sacramental action consecrates it, it is called, and becomes, the Body of Christ. So with the sacramental oil; so with the wine: though before the benediction they are of little value, each of them, after the sanctification bestowed by the Spirit, has its several operations. The same power of the word, again, also makes the priest venerable and honourable, separated, by the new blessing bestowed upon him, from his community with the mass of men. While but yesterday he was one of the mass, one of the people, he is suddenly rendered a guide, a president, a teacher of righteousness, an instructor in hidden mysteries; and this he does without being at all changed in body or in form; but, while continuing to be in all appearance the man he was before, being, by some unseen power and grace, transformed in respect of his unseen soul to the higher condition.” (On the Baptism of Christ)

    St. Chrysostom writes:

    See how even among the seven one was preeminent, and won the first prize. For though the ordination was common to him and them, yet he drew upon himself greater grace. And observe, how he wrought no (signs and wonders) before this time, but only when he became publicly known; to show that grace alone is not sufficient, but there must be ordination also; so that there was a further access of the Spirit. For if they were full of the Spirit, it was of that which is from the Laver of Baptism. (Homily 15 on the Acts of the Apostles — on Acts 6:8)

    St. Augustine writes:

    In like manner as if there take place an ordination of clergy in order to form a congregation of people, although the congregation of people follow not, yet there remains in the ordained persons the Sacrament of Ordination; and if, for any fault, any be removed from his office, he will not be without the Sacrament of the Lord once for all set upon him, albeit continuing unto condemnation. (On the Good of Marriage, 24:32)

    If ordination were merely permission, it could be rescinded by the elders. But if ordination imparts an indelible character by the finger of God, then that cannot be removed by men.

    And there are many other examples in the Church Fathers showing that they believed that ordination was not merely a symbolic rite, but conferred a grace beyond what was given in baptism, and that only those who had received authority in succession from the Apostles could give this authority to others by ordination. So the idea that history leaves us with nothing but the mere fact of succession stripped bare of a theology of succession, is just not true. The historical evidence pertaining to apostolic succession not only is compatible with, but strongly supports the Catholic/Orthodox conception of apostolic succession, but it is incompatible with the Reformed notion that ordination is merely a symbolic rite and that apostolic succession is merely the normative practice that ordinarily only ordained men ordain other men.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  39. Refprot (re: #37),

    I know you want to go into a discussion of the papacy, but again, in my opinion, as I mentioned above, there is a more fundamental point of disagreement between us regarding what apostolic succession is, and that point of disagreement has nothing to do with the papacy. As for Lampe, see my comment #20 in “Modern Scholarship, Rome and a Challenge,” as well as the quotation in bold font in the body of Sean’s post; as I show there (in that comment), appealing to Lampe amounts to appealing to the same hermeneutic of suspicion Andrew is referring to in the body of his post above.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  40. Refprot:

    I think you’re missing my point and K Doran’s. Given how “fragmentary” is the evidence you refer to, and taken by itself, it is consistent with either a Catholic or a non-Catholic theological interpretation. For reasons I’ve already explained, one simply cannot infer, from how that evidence fails to establish the truth of Catholic ecclesiology, that it establishes the falsity of Catholic ecclesiology.

    Moreover, for purposes of theological interpretation, it’s not the totality of the relevant evidence. The mere fact that, from Irenaeus onward, the prevalent ecclesiology is clearly committed to monepiscopal AS shows that, from that time onward, such evidence as they had was interpreted as supporting monepiscopal AS in all the recognized churches. And that fact is itself evidence for Catholic ecclesiology, because it strongly suggests that the evidence available to them from the first century or so of the Church was greater than what’s available to us.

    Best,
    Mike

  41. Bryan,

    Bryan #37,

    Thank you for the thorough comment. By “historical viability” I am referring to whether or not the Catholic position is sustainable. Is such a position a “viable option?”

    I don’t dispute the fact that the Catholic Fathers have a different theological understanding of AS than the Reformed and I think you demonstrate that the early fathers do believe that there is sacramental authority passed down in the “holy orders.” I still believe that there is some diversity in the second and third century with regard to ordination and the role of itinerant preachers in particular (i.e. the Didache), but I”ll concede that whatever differences there may have been in the second and third century, it is incompatible with current Reformed practice.

    I do appreciate the work that you have done to demonstrate the difference of opinion with regard to ordination, however, I still believe that we need to press the question back earlier. That in the late 2nd and early third centuries a developed mono-episcopate existed is impossible to dispute. All of your citations are from after this time period, however, and do not answer the important claim of Roman Catholicism–the Jesus founded Peter as the head of the Church, which was eventually located in Rome. This occurred c. 30 AD.

    I’m perplexed as to why you think that the later formulations of ordination are more important than what chronologically and logically precedes your theology of ordination. The reason I want to discuss the papacy is because that is the form of AS you are advocating. It is is not tangential. Your doctrine of ordination flows directly out of your understanding of the mono-episcopate established by Peter. I’m not bringing up something that is a tangential issue. I’m addressing something that is the heartbeat of Rome.

    We disagree about what AS is because we disagree about the history. We disagree about ordination because we disagree about the history. If we cannot discuss the historical basis for your theological claims then we are unable to move forward as far as I can tell.

    Re: your comment #20 on Sean Patrick’s thread, I believe John Bugay effectively dealt with much of your response. I’ll only add that the reason for a reconstruction of Irenaeus’s list is because of the wealth of evidence archaeological and literary evidence that Lampe provides that such an episcopate is highly unlikely.

  42. Refprot (re: #32)

    Let me go back to your suggestion that the way to proceed, in order to attempt to resolve our disagreement regarding apostolic succession, is “to first discuss the historical viability of this thesis of AS.” If the evidence from history is what we should go by, then which Church Father claimed or taught that ordination is only the judgment of the Church that the ordinand has been called by God and the permission by the Church for him to minister in the Church, and that ordination does not confer an inward grace or authority from the Apostles not already received in baptism?

    If none, then why doesn’t that count as showing that the Reformed conception of “apostolic succession” is not “historically viable” (whatever that term is supposed to mean)? If the whole Church, from the second century to the beginning of the sixteenth century, as far as she spread throughout the whole world, believed and taught that ordination does confer an inward grace not already received through baptism, and an authority transmitted from the Apostles, then (1) how, in your mind, is the Reformed conception of ‘apostolic succession’ denying the conferring of an inward grace and Apostolic authority beyond what is received in baptism “historical viable,” and (2) how does that position not entail some kind of ecclesial deism, and (3) how does that position explain why everyone everywhere misunderstood and distorted the Apostles’ teaching regarding what happens in ordination? If it were, in fact, *not* historically viable, how exactly would the evidence have to be different?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  43. Mike,

    If you find the evidence that Peter founded a perpetual Petrine office in Rome convincing then I cannot stop you. I’m honestly shocked, but there probably isn’t any more discussion necessary. We’ve come to a cross roads.

    I’ll just note that your “principled means” really suffers a lot from this admission. We really are left in a conundrum because your principled way to distinguish human opinion from divine revelation is connected to AS. Unfortunately, this historical claim is, by your own argument, at best plausible (and when conducted with historic rigor, highly unlikely). The certainty that comes with your touted “principled means” is built upon an uncertain & unstable historical foundation. Once the historical argument is gone, you’re only left with the philosophical debris.

  44. Hi Andrew,

    You wrote:
    “My own interpretation of whatever writings I deem to be canonical is the measure of the universal Church that Christ founded.”

    In order to qualify as “historically plausible”, are actual claimants to ecclesial authority required to have ability to assert this proposition ? It seems that every Pope must be able to assert this to help establish continuity-in-identity.

    Thanks,
    Eric

  45. Refprot, (re: #41)

    You wrote:

    By “historical viability” I am referring to whether or not the Catholic position is sustainable. Is such a position a “viable option?”

    Again, I don’t know that means, except in the most trivially true sense. If by ‘sustainable’ you mean simply that someone can hold it, then the answer is yes, since I (and other Catholics) hold it. So you must mean something more substantive than that. But you haven’t yet explained or defined the criterion. And that’s why it is (up to this point) still a worthless criterion, because no one knows what would satisfy it, or not satisfy it.

    I don’t dispute the fact that the Catholic Fathers have a different theological understanding of AS than the Reformed and I think you demonstrate that the early fathers do believe that there is sacramental authority passed down in the “holy orders.” I still believe that there is some diversity in the second and third century with regard to ordination and the role of itinerant preachers in particular (i.e. the Didache), but I”ll concede that whatever differences there may have been in the second and third century, it is incompatible with current Reformed practice.

    Ok. That’s an important agreement between us, I think.

    I’m perplexed as to why you think that the later formulations of ordination are more important than what chronologically and logically precedes your theology of ordination. The reason I want to discuss the papacy is because that is the form of AS you are advocating. It is is not tangential. Your doctrine of ordination flows directly out of your understanding of the mono-episcopate established by Peter. I’m not bringing up something that is a tangential issue. I’m addressing something that is the heartbeat of Rome.

    That helps me understand where you are coming from. You apparently think that since the Catholic Church believes that Christ gave the keys to St. Peter in AD 33 or so, and thereby gave to him the unique charism of papal authority perpetuated in the succession of bishops of Rome, therefore (a) the Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession and ordination must follow from (or depend logically upon) that theological doctrine, and (b) that the evidential value of all patristic evidence for a sacramental conception of apostolic succession (such as Andrew describes in his post and I have been describing in my comments above) hangs on whether or not the Catholic doctrine of the papacy is true. And my response to that is that each of those two conclusions is both false and a non sequitur. While the papacy is important for identifying the college of bishops, especially in the event of schism at the episcopal level, the Catholic doctrine of ordination does not logically depend upon the Catholic doctrine concerning the unique gift Christ gave to St. Peter in the keys, or upon the historical evidence that the early Church believed Christ gave a unique charism to the succession of bishops in Rome through St. Peter. Nor does the evidential value of the patristic evidence for a sacramental conception of apostolic succession depend on whether or not the Catholic doctrine of the papacy is true, or whether the Catholic doctrine of the papacy can be established historically from the patristic data.

    If you disagree, then instead of merely asserting that the Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession “flows directly out of” the Catholic understanding of the papacy, you’ll need to make an argument for that claim.

    We disagree about what AS is because we disagree about the history. We disagree about ordination because we disagree about the history. If we cannot discuss the historical basis for your theological claims then we are unable to move forward as far as I can tell.

    I completely agree.

    Re: your comment #20 on Sean Patrick’s thread, I believe John Bugay effectively dealt with much of your response.

    That’s a statement about yourself, and does nothing to refute what I said there.

    I’ll only add that the reason for a reconstruction of Irenaeus’s list is because of the wealth of evidence archaeological and literary evidence that Lampe provides that such an episcopate is highly unlikely.

    Feel free to put actual data on the table (as I did in comment #38 above), rather than merely hand-waving with allusions to “the wealth of evidence archaeological and literary”. Hand-waving is easy, but unhelpful.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  46. Eric,

    In addressing your comment, I also want to briefly respond to RefProt’s persistently repeated assertions about the historical basis for the Apostolic Succession in Rome. So either of you guys should feel free to respond to this.

    It seems to me that in order for history to even be relevant to any claim to ecclesial authority, that authority must be admitted to somehow depend upon material continuity in identity through history with Christ and the Apostles. Without this external mark of continuity, any claim to ecclesial authority would appear to abscond entirely from history and base itself solely on doctrine. This is what the Protestant version of “apostolic succession” amounts to, which makes it strange that they would even want to appeal to history at all in reference to the basis for the Christian ministry. All that history can do for them is in principle to provide evidence undermining the Catholic version of ecclesial authority. Their own ministry floats free in the theological ether.

    Apostolic Succession in the Christian ministry via the laying on of hands does locate that ministry within the ambit of history. And the available data from the first century indicates that this succession did in fact occur; cf. the ordination of Matthias, Paul’s ordination of Timothy (which Eric cited in comment #36), and Clement’s remarks to the church in Corinth concerning the “succession” in ministry.

    The data from the second century, most notably Irenaeus, more than adequately confirms this principle by tracing the episcopal succession in Rome from Peter. The only exceptions (for which we have any direct evidence) to this principle of succession in office as a criterion of ecclesial authority are the Gnostic, Montanist, and perhaps some other early sects. Otherwise, the actual evidence that we have from the first two centuries, in contrast to arguments from silence, indicates that Apostolic Succession occurred and was a criterion of the Church that Christ founded, and therefore a criterion of true doctrine.

    In addition to the testimony of Irenaeus, see the numerous patristic statements (helpfully collected by Stephen Ray in Upon This Rock, 63-96) to the effect that Peter (along with Paul) established and ministered in the Church in Rome, was martyred there, and was succeeded in office by Linus, Anacletus, Clement, and so forth. There are no patristic witnesses that contradict these accounts. Thus, insofar as it depends upon an historical succession of bishops from Peter in Rome, the papacy’s claim to ecclesial authority rooted in visible continuity with Christ through the Apostles is on very solid footing. Competing claims about the history of the Church in Rome, while they cannot be ruled out absolutely on historical grounds alone, lack direct evidence, and are therefore more conjectural (and consequently more subject to the biases of the historian, most notably the hermeneutics of suspicion and hostility towards hierarchy) than the historical judgment that affirms Apostolic Succession.

    Eric, you wrote (#44):

    In order to qualify as “historically plausible”, are actual claimants to ecclesial authority required to have ability to assert this proposition? [“My own interpretation of whatever writings I deem to be canonical is the measure of the universal Church that Christ founded.”] It seems that every Pope must be able to assert this to help establish continuity-in-identity.

    Anyone can assert that proposition. But my point is that doing so by no means helps to establish continuity in identity with the Church that Christ founded nor genuine ecclesial authority in that Church. In exercising the papal teaching office as such, no Pope is asserting that “My own interpretation of whatever writings I deem to be canonical is the measure of the universal Church that Christ founded,” for the reason that papal teaching, as such, is not ultimately grounded in private interpretation but in the charism of infallibility that belongs to the Church as the “pillar and foundation of truth” and the “fullness of him who fills all in all,” which charism pertains to the papal office in a distinctive way as the Church’s visible principle of unity. Of course, any individual can lay claim to the practical equivalent of that same charism, but these individuals are not the successor of St. Peter in the See of Rome, even if in some cases they (perhaps inadvertently) carry on as if they were (or wanted to be).

  47. Hi RefProt,

    I think we need to distinguish between good evidence and bad evidence. Frequently one piece of good evidence is far more useful than many pieces of bad evidence. As a case in point, consider a whole body of work based on very small non-random samples that makes the claim that on average children do just as well with non-biological parents as they do with their biological parents. Then suppose that someone collects a very large random sample, and in this very large random sample, we see that on average children do much worse with non-biological parents than they do with their biological parents. That one piece of evidence easily trumps a whole body of previous work. You therefore need to add to your discussion an analysis of the quality of different pieces of evidence. Only then can you decide whether one piece of evidence can trump three other pieces of evidence, or vis versa.

    One of the most important markers of the quality of a piece of evidence is its directness. Suppose that in 10,000 years scholars compared two pieces of evidence about the nature of the authority of the U.S. presidency. One was the U.S. Constitution, the other was a transcript of a heated conversation the president had with one of his aids. In the former, we have a clear direct proclamation of the President’s duties and powers. In the latter, we have one phrase: “you can’t do that Mr. President, I won’t let you do it!”. Suppose that the majority of scholars, for whatever reason, decided that the second piece of evidence implied that the President had some kind of primacy of honor, but no real authority over even his aids. What would you say to them? You would probably say: “The second piece of evidence does not directly address the President’s constitutionally-based authority. The second piece of evidence could mean many things, and since it doesn’t directly address the issue at hand, we shouldn’t place too much weight on arguments from silence or other extrapolations from this conversation. Instead, let’s put the most weight on the surviving manuscripts of the U.S. Constitution, which directly address this issue.” And you would be right: direct evidence is far less likely to mislead us than indirect or tangentially-related evidence that is ambiguous at best and completely unrelated to the question at worst.

    In light of this point, the fact is that Irenaeus is the only person who directly addresses the question of whether or not there was always a ruler of the Church of Rome that could be called a Bishop. It is simply a fact that archeological evidence or the fathers quoted by Protestant scholars don’t even address this question; they write about leadership more generally, and in a way perfectly consistent with how I talk about the leadership of my diocese today with my friends: such as “the leaders of the disocese here tend to think that the liturgy is best celebrated. . .” and “the leadership in this other diocese is not as unified as it could be. . .”

    Now, if we had deeply interconnected data regarding the conversation with the President, we would be able to see right away whether the aide had really equal authority or whether she was just using a figure of speech. But, in the absence of interconnected data, the indirect data that we can glean from her statement is too ambiguous to inform our question.

    Because indirect data is ambiguous when it is not sufficiently interconnected to explain itself, we often cannot learn much from indirect, oblique references in the early non-interconnected and non-comprehensive data of Christianity. When the early data also does not have much direct evidence to inform our question, we are left with ambiguous evidence. It is important to clarify what ambiguous evidence teaches us.

    What does it mean to have no evidence which directly informs our question? It does not mean that we know that there were no Bishops in Rome. It does not mean that we know that there were Bishops in Rome. It does not mean that it is more likely than not that there were no Bishops in Rome. It does not mean that it is more likely than not that there were Bishops in Rome. It simply means that, using this evidence, we don’t know. That means we need to expand the pool of evidence in order to determine what the evidence can say on this question. When we do expand the evidence beyond the first century, we find two things:

    (1) a piece of indirect evidence: Ignatius of Antioch firmly states that no Church is a true Church without a bishop, priests and deacons; and he is certainly sure that Rome is a true church.

    and, much more directly, we have (2): Irenaeus clearly states that the Church of Rome always had a bishop in charge, and he is neither likely to be ignorant nor a liar (we can double check many of his statements from other sources, and we can see for ourselves that he is far more often correct than he is incorrect).

    So we have direct evidence that there was always a Bishop of Rome, but we don’t have any direct evidence for all of Rome’s leaders being equal in authority.

    Since the indirect evidence either strongly supports the direct evidence, or is at least consistent with it, that means that it is more likely than not that Rome always had a bishop.

    To convince me otherwise, you would have to show some direct evidence to the contrary, because indirect evidence can mean whatever we want it to mean, and it causes us to make arguments that are based on assumptions rather than on the data itself.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  48. Refprot (#43):

    You write:

    ’ll just note that your “principled means” really suffers a lot from this admission. We really are left in a conundrum because your principled way to distinguish human opinion from divine revelation is connected to AS. Unfortunately, this historical claim is, by your own argument, at best plausible (and when conducted with historic rigor, highly unlikely). The certainty that comes with your touted “principled means” is built upon an uncertain & unstable historical foundation. Once the historical argument is gone, you’re only left with the philosophical debris.

    In addition to missing the point about the historical evidence itself–for reasons K Doran has well explained in #47–that also misses the point of my usual argument against Protestantism. I hold that, if there is no living authority of the sort the Catholic Church claims for herself, then there is no principled means for distinguishing divine revelation from human opinion. Of course you might be content with declining to acknowledge any such means–in which case, religion for you would be no more than a matter of opinion–but I shall proceed on the tentative assumption that you believe there is such a means.

    As I’ve said before, my philosophical argument does not prove that the Catholic Church has such authority; as you have said and I’ve often acknowledged, there are the claims of the EO communion and the Mormons to consider. I have considered them, and I have my reasons for believing the Catholic Church has the strongest claim. In my view, Eastern Orthodoxy’s criteria for determining the conditions under which “the Church” teaches infallibly are nowhere near as clear and consistent as Catholicism’s. In the course of my inquiries, I’ve become convinced that they simply lack the ecclesiological principles needed for getting clearer and more consistent than they are; for them, the matter remains one of opinion, which is as good as their having no answer at all. As for the Mormons, their doctrine entails a Great Apostasy that lasted nearly 1,800 years until Joseph Smith came along to set matters straight. The main problem I have with that is the same as my problem with any form of cessationism about church history: it is simply incompatible with Christ’s promises to the Church.

    Note that my criticisms of both Eastern Orthodoxy and Mormonism is are not primarily historical, but primarily logical. There is a very good reason for that. Whatever the ecclesial body with the requisite authority may be, the doctrines it teaches with its full authority are authentic expressions of divine revelation, not matters of opinion. Some of the doctrines allegedly backed by such authority have historical implications. Accordingly, if a given ecclesial body’s claim to such authority is true, then the available historical should be interpreted as that authority interprets it. And if so, then appealing to history against such an authority necessarily begs the question. The inherent plausibility of a body’s claim to the sort of authority in question must be assessed before we draw any conclusions about how to interpret historical evidence theologically. But if one simply assumes, as you do, that an ecclesial body’s claim to the requisite authority can be adequately assessed by an independent, scholarly interpretation of the available historical data, while bracketing the logical questions of “fundamental theology” that I consider first, then one is already committed to rejecting any such claim. Surely you cannot expect me, a Catholic, to share such a methodology.

    Best,
    Mike

  49. Andrew,

    Your response helps me understand. I can set aside the subjective aspect of authority claimants to concentrate on the objective.

    You wrote:
    It seems to me that in order for history to even be relevant to any claim to ecclesial authority, that authority must be admitted to somehow depend upon material continuity in identity through history with Christ and the Apostles. Without this external mark of continuity, any claim to ecclesial authority would appear to abscond entirely from history and base itself solely on doctrine.

    Response:
    What formal continuity in identity accompanies the material ? I’m thinking of something formal that retains the aspect of being an external mark.

  50. Eric,

    You asked:

    What formal continuity in identity accompanies the material ? I’m thinking of something formal that retains the aspect of being an external mark.

    Most apparently, in the immediate context of ordination, that would be the form of the sacrament, expressed, for example, in the 3rd century ordinal of Hippolytus to which Bryan referred (with accompanying link) in comment #38.

    The inward grace of the sacrament, as described by various church fathers (some of whom are cited in that same comment), though not itself empirically evident, provides for substantial (not merely visible or external) continuity in identity of the Christian ministry that comes from Christ through the Apostles. But the aspect of an objective or visible mark is not therefore lost, because this grace is sacramental, and a sacrament essentially involves a visible sign.

    Andrew

  51. Hi,

    A couple of other interesting considerations. It is (to me) of note that one of the earliest accounts detailing the rootedness of authentic doctrine to that held and expressed “from Rome” in Irenaeus mentions that church being “founded and organized” by Peter and Paul. I thought he mentioned specifically their martyrdom there as a component of that founding, but I’m not finding that right now; it is held as an artifact of history that both were martyred in Rome, correct? I just find it as a perhaps intriguing that that point specifically may be a point of intersection.

    Also, just as a point of personal testimony (and I think I have mentioned this in comments on other topics here), I have of late been considering in what manner a hierarchical system is present in a natural body, if it is “essential” to the functioning of that body, and in what manner. There are aspects of a body that are not necessary to its living (for me, I no longer have a gall bladder, for example). However, a healthy body cannot function without a nervous system or a circulatory system, one a hierarchy of nerves coordinating the body, the other a hierarchy of vessels carrying life (blood) throughout the body. While science has yet to confirm it explicitly, the development of a child in the womb from conception to birth also has ben a point I have been pondering. In the early stage of development, it seems as if the cells have no differentiation; yet the earliest systems developed are the central nervous system and the circulatory system. So perhaps AS, , analogous to the visible development of hierarchical systems in a real body, was present but not visible immediately, yet developed early and continues to be “of the essence” of the Church as the Body of Christ. What body functions well without coordination? What body functions well without life? Anyway, these are just my own personal musings as I ponder the physiological implications of a body vis-à-vis the Body.

    In Him,
    Bill

  52. Fellows,

    In my own journey to the Catholic faith, I found that discussions such as these tended to leave my head in a whirl of competing analyses.

    That is not to dismiss them; indeed, it is important to run down every last rabbit-trail if one can, and try to tie it all together into a convincing analysis if possible. It was only because I thought it important enough to read and ponder all these issues, that I ended up in head-whirl territory.

    But I found that, in some cases, merely practical questions helped settle the evidentiary issues. I found myself asking questions such as these:

    My child was recently born: Should I have her baptized, or “dedicated” after the manner of my Baptist upbringing? How should I sort out the competing opinions on this topic, the competing Scripture citations?

    My father and my mother divorced after my father’s (unrepented) affair; he went on to marry the other woman. The marriage ceremony was celebrated in a Methodist church, with communion, and the bride and groom distributed the elements. What, objectively, in the eyes of God, is the status of this new marriage? What, objectively, in the eyes of God, was the status of the bride and groom? Was it fitting they distribute communion?

    Can a person, through willful sin or apostasy, “lose his salvation?” Under what conditions? What is the soteriology implied by the answer? What should I teach my kids about this? How, on this and a hundred other points of doctrine debated by Christians, should I lead my family? I am in a role, as father, which requires me to teach my children; yet teachers are especially responsible to teach what is true, and are held to account before God. How can I know that I am teaching correctly?

    And then…there are lots of Christian local churches. Some are obviously teaching bad theology of one kind or another, but after they are ruled out, many remain which offer convincing arguments from Scripture that their systematic theology is the correct one, although it disagrees with the others. Obviously I want my kids to know the Truth that the Truth might set them free; and being members of a church which preaches the Truth is very helpful in that regard. How can I, an intelligent but not utterly professorial guy, with a busy life doing things other than studying theology, figure out which church my family should join? Which authority-structure I should submit to?

    I guess I could give up my normal job and spend years becoming a Scripture scholar…but do all Scripture scholars agree? And even if they did, surely God does not intend that everyone become expert in Greek and Aramaic, leaving no-one to grow food and fix drains!

    In for each of these questions, a related set of questions immediately followed: Had I been an intelligent-but-illiterate low-income Christian layperson in the year 75, or the year 175, or the year 275, or 375, facing these same issues, how would I resolve them? What objective, determinate procedure could an Average Joe without benefit of seminary training use to satisfy himself that he was not in doctrinal error? …and have that satisfaction be well-founded?

    There is, I admit, an assumption in asking this question. The assumption is that Jesus didn’t leave us orphans. The assumption is that He gave us a way, if we chose to take advantage of it, to not merely guess but to know about such things.

    I worked over these questions for years.

    In the end I could not escape the feeling that the Catholic historical proofs were good but not, y’know, mathematical. I could wedge a little doubt here, a little skepticism there, and find a way to NOT be persuaded, if I chose.

    But that left me with a bigger problem: Without a living authority which I could interrogate for clarification on disputed doctrinal issues, I was always stuck interpreting Scripture, or interpreting someone else’s interpretation of Scripture, and relying on my own best efforts in the end.

    And, without an Apostolic Succession to objectively point to the correct authority figure, I had no objective way to know which living authority to trust.

    Y’know, Mohammed didn’t get this bit right. If there hadn’t been squabbles about how to know what was true and who was in charge from moments after Mohammed died, we non-Muslims would never have heard the words “Sunni” and “Shia.” Apparently Mohammed didn’t have much of what small-business owners call “a succession plan” for after he was gone.

    But Jesus, we think, did better: He had a succession plan in place. What was it?

    For the Christians in 175 A.D., without benefit of affordable Bibles (or a firm New Testament canon), the answer seems to have been, “listen to your bishop.” And, in response to the question, “what if the bishops are in disagreement with one another?” the answer seems to have been, “listen to the bishops who’re arguing the same side of the issue as the bishop of Rome.” That’s how the evidence reads, so far as I can tell. And as for “Who gets to be a bishop? And how?” the answer seems to have always been ordination by an apostle or other bishops, through the laying on of hands.

    I trust that Jesus did not leave us orphans. I trust that He left me a way to know the truth, and to know that I know, when there was a practical need.

    There’s just enough uncertainty in the historical record — just enough lacunae — to talk myself out of Apostolic Succession, and the Magisterium, if I choose. But I find then that I’m orphaned. I can’t learn what’s true the way the early Christians did. I’m left foundering in waters too deep for me, relying on my own resources even when I know I’m out of my depth.

    Or if I turn to others, it’s because (in my judgment!) they’re reliable authorities. But how easy to trust a person merely because he has a winsome speaking style, or argues a doctrine towards a conclusion I’d been hoping for anyway! How can I competently judge the reliability of their teaching, unless myself I become so well-informed that I’m fit to judge them. Can I become sufficiently well-informed to judge between an R.C. Sproul, an N.T. Wright, and whomever else? So, there again, I’m in over my head.

    “This is not going to work,” I realized.

    But Apostolic Succession? That, it seems to me, has meat on it. You can objectively do it. And recourse to the Chair of Peter to know “which bishops” makes it solid right to the center.

    I trust Jesus to have had a “succession plan” that would last for the ages, and which would continue functioning from then until now. And it seems to me that the Apostolic Succession is really the only plausible candidate in town, to keep me from drowning in doctrinal uncertainty.

    When sailing through deep water, it’s better to be in the boat.

    Or that at least is my experience. I know this little testimony is hardly as sophisticated as some of the arguments that will be made here. But in case someone as unsophisticated as myself should be reading through this comment thread, and find himself a bit overwhelmed…? Well, for that person, I hope it will be helpful.

    Sincerely, R.C.

  53. R.C. and everyone (#52),

    Thanks so much for your comment. I hope that many people will read it, because it poses *very* serious questions in very clear ways. It also presents the options (in terms of potential answers to those questions) in a way that clearly explains why more than a few thoughtful Protestants have reached the point (often against their wishes) of rejecting the Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

    When I was meeting with an elder and friend at my “non-denominational,” Reformed-leaning church, asking questions about the Bible, historic Christian doctrine, the Church Fathers, etc., we seemed to periodically come back to the issue of the “Christian essentials.” Specifically, how does one know what those essentials *are*? I was basically told that the Bible makes it clear.

    By logical deduction, then, *any* professing Christian who reads the Bible and comes to a non-Trinitarian position *must* either not be reading Scripture carefully enough or must be in rebellion against God. However, Scripture does have passages and verses which seem, respectively, to teach *for* and *against* the Trinity. Moreover, some of these passages and verses seem equally “clear.” On the non-Trinitarian side, what could be more seemingly clear than “The Father is greater than I,” as spoken by Jesus in John 14:28? On the Trinitarian side, there is “The Father and I are one,” also from Jesus, in John 10:30.

    Yet *each* of the above verses seems clear. Who is to decide which verse or passage is sufficiently clear enough to constitute proof of “orthodox Christian doctrine”? Who is to decide what even should be *held* as orthodox Christian doctrine?

    I asked my elder why we held that non-Trinitarians are not Christians (other than that, in our understanding, “The Bible teaches the Trinity”). He replied that the Trinity has to do with the very nature of of God, who God actually is. I then asked him why most Calvinist congregations consider non-Calvinist Protestants to be fellow Christians, as that issue *also* has to do, at least in a way, with the nature of God. Why is the issue of Calvinism vs. Arminianism not a matter of “essential Christian doctrine” (especially given that I have heard committed Calvinists say that Arminianism is either “not the Gospel” or “a step in the direction of saving yourself”)? My elder didn’t have an answer to my question– not in that particular conversation, nor any future one, and I write this with sincere love and respect for him to this day.

    When I studied Scripture and the early Church Fathers, together, at least one thing was very, very clear– in terms of determining what was/is orthodox Christian doctrine, and even the “essentials” of such, the early Church did not operate according to the Sola Scriptura principles which my elder and I were using. (I do mean “Sola Scriptura,” not “Solo Scriptura,” for any of my Protestant brothers and sisters who may be reading!) Moreover, I couldn’t seem to find the point at which, according to a potential Protestant sensibility, the early (or later) Church finally began to operate according to Sola Scriptura– other than with heretics along the way, here and there, who rejected the Church’s authority and founded their own sects.

    As a Protestant, I finally had to ask myself why Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, themselves, represented the “Biblical default mode” I should follow, rather than the Church which claimed, and, increasingly, seemed to have, historical succession from Jesus and the apostles *by* Christ’s own intention. The more that I read and studied both the Bible and the early Church, I saw very little of anything which resembled my Sola Scriptura-based thinking. In addition, Protestantism appeared to be more and more untenable as a movement which could reliably pronounce on what even *are* the “essentials of orthodox Christianity.”

    When I studied the Bible on the issue of justification, without my “Reformed lenses,” it became clear to me (no pun intended!) that, similarly as with the Trinity, different interpretive camps each had seemingly clear passages and verses on their side. I saw that the Catholic position on justification had *at least* as many clear passages as did the historic Reformed position.

    Again, operating by Sola Scriptura principles, there seemed to be no way to definitively determine what is “essential Christian doctrine.” This conclusion, combined with my increasing recognition of the sheer “Catholicity” of the early Church Fathers (on Apostolic Succession, the Eucharist, Purgatory, Mary, the Saints, and more) brought me to a point of realizing that I could no longer be a Protestant. Eastern Orthodoxy and the Catholic Church were possibilities for me, but Protestantism had disintegrated as an option in my mind, much less as the default mode for “Biblical Christians.”

    As much as I was attracted to Eastern Orthodoxy (knowing that I would not likely lose *nearly* as many Protestant friends if I became EO than if I returned to the Catholic Church), I also did not see, in EO, any final way of saying “the bock stops here,” in terms of determining what is and is not essential, or simply orthodox, Christian doctrine and practice. I saw evidence of at least the early manifestation of the Papacy in the Church, which both dismayed and delighted me, as part of me really desired *not* to return to the Church. I could not say, with mathematical certainty, that the Catholic Church is what she claims to be, but far too many signs very strongly pointed in that direction for me to be able to finally ignore them. I have since learned that the Catholic Church calls these signs “the motives of credibility.” God used them to lead me Home to the Church. She definitely has her serious problems (the abuse scandals, dissent, and more), but she is the Bride of Christ. I love Christ, so I can’t be anywhere else other than in full communion with His Church.

  54. Bryan (#45),

    Let me propose the word plausible. Is the Catholic claim a plausible reconstruction of their version of history? You may claim that this is also nebulous, but the question I’m after is does the evidence warrant the claims Rome makes? My conclusion is that the three or four pieces of evidence presented are insufficient to make the Roman case plausible. In order to substantiate the Roman claim there would need to be compelling evidence from the first 150 years that Peter was instituted as the bishop of Rome and passed down this charism to individuals in Rome. I don’t find any evidence for this is 1 Clement, or the Epistle of Ignatius (as critical scholars note, the Roman bishop is not mentioned but there are bishops mentioned in 6 other letters). I’m not aware of anything in Justin Martyr or any other early Christian writer before Irenaeus. If the evidence we possess is evidence 150 years after the fact (and disputed itself) I believe that we have serious problems in making such a case plausible.

    If you disagree, then instead of merely asserting that the Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession “flows directly out of” the Catholic understanding of the papacy, you’ll need to make an argument for that claim.

    Let me ask this question: Does the unique Roman claim of AS remain Roman Catholic if Peter was not given the charism of infallibility?

    I’m arguing a particular example, Roman ecclesiology, to get at a larger paradigm, AS. If Rome did not have a perpetual Petrine office given by Peter, then Roman Catholicism is false, but not necessarily AS (i.e. Orthodoxy, Anglicanism). The Roman claim for the establishment of the episcopate is tied to Peter and his establishment of an episcopal office in Rome. If Rome did not have a monoepiscopate then the specific sacramental rite you are proposing, a bishop sacramentally ordaining presbyters and other bishops, encounters serious difficulty.

    The positive Roman reconstruction is that the charism of ordination is passed from bishop to bishop and bishop to presbyter. However, if the church was not structured with Peter as the first bishop, then the nature of the sacramental rite is fundamentally different than what you are claiming. This is why, in my mind, claims to sacramental authority are intimately related to claims of the papal office.

    Feel free to put actual data on the table (as I did in comment #38 above), rather than merely hand-waving with allusions to “the wealth of evidence archaeological and literary”. Hand-waving is easy, but unhelpful.

    We need to revisit how things got started here. You directed me to your comments in my response to K. Doran’s question in #35. I explained that Lampe is someone I would point to for my own positive reconstruction. You interjected with #39. Mind you, the topic of this post is not my positive reconstruction, even though I offered my thoughts. I took your interjection as politely pointing me in the direction of something you’ve written. I briefly responded to you, attempting to politely acknowledge your comment by stating that I didn’t see anything that would cause me to change my opinion of the matter. I answered that John had provided what I believed to be satisfactory answers for K. Doran. He was curious about my positive case. I felt that further discussion would distract from the direction of the thread so I kept it brief.

    You then respond to my brief comments as if they were in the form of an argument. If you took my comments to be a refutation of everything you wrote then you have misunderstood. My response was constructed to with K. Doran’s question in mind. Finally, it is an objective fact that Lampe puts forth lots of evidence in his book before his section on Irenaeus’s list. That’s not hand-waving. That is contextualizing.

  55. It is clear that the from Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Ireneaus, and Tertullian that there was this formal organization for the authority of the oversight of the Church, namely, that the apostles passed on their authority to their corroborators (apostolic men) and then these men laid hands on others who would take the oversight function and then these would lay hands on others who would take the oversight function, etc,etc,etc.

    Was there something actually given in this sacrament of ordination? Yes. This is very clear from the writings of Hippolytus. There was a moment of silence on the laying on of hands, and this was to wait for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the ordinand. Very clearly, without real logical dispute available, there was something being passed on in the act of ordination.

    From the 2nd century onward there is a very clear consciousness of the fact that Bishops were governing the churches all around the world. The question is now, was this a divine law or was this convenient arrangement for the time? Clement of Rome did not see it as a matter of convenience, but that it was an apostolic prescription, in other words, coming from the mind of apostles themselves. And Clement of Rome spoke about this formal organization, prescribed by the apostles, in terms of certain approved men taking the office of prior bishops who were succeeded from the apostles. However, Clement does not answer the question of whether an ordination was valid if the ordinand was unworthy of the office. But we can assume that he does not agree with the Donatists, for he speaks of the possibility of men being ejected from their episcopacy (implicitly) through grave sin. ‘

    Ireneaus and Tertullian are prime witnesses to the government of the early Church consisting in the Bishopric function, where each human person occupying the office of Bishop was ordained and succeeding a previous bishop that goes back to either an apostolic men (those who tagged alongside the apostles in their work) or one of the apostles themselves. Was the need for such a formal succession simply a matter of convenience? Ireneaus states that only those bishops in succession with the apostles have the “charism of truth” residing in them. This seems to match the way Paul describes the “charism” in timothy by the laying on of hands.

    But the question of apostolic succession becomes a bit difficult in modern times of course. For we have three major denominations, 1) Anglicans, 2) Eastern Orthodox, and 3) Roman Catholics who all alike believe in apostolic succession. I happen to know people from each, and a bit of their reasoning on why such a division exists between them. But the tricky part it, each one can agree with the testimony of the early centuries regarding apostolic succession and the sacrament of ordination. So why the divide?

    It seems to me that it is possible to question what sort of purpose does apostolic succession really have if you have 3 denominations that have no communion with each other (from the orthodox perspective there is no communion with Roman Catholics) who all have the apostolic grace upon the physical nature of apostolic succession and the sacrament of holy orders???

    There is a book I just purchased, it is called “A HANDBOOK ON THE PAPACY” by The Bishop of Down and Dromore (Ireland) , William Shaw Kerr, and Anglican, and he “tries” to demonstrates from the very beginning all the way until the Vatican Councils that the pre-eminent authority of the Bishop of Rome was not of apostolic origin, but was rather an issue of unlawful development in later years from the apostles. I have not read the whole thing yet, but it is quite concerning for the seeker who is gravitating towards Roman Catholicism. This Bishop would have much more in common with EO than RC’s of course.

    Other than Don Chapman and Fortesque and Steve Ray (Upon this Rock), does anyone know of any literature that provides a cojent argument for the historicity of the Papacy? Other than Cardinal Newman.

  56. K. Doran #47,

    Thanks for your response. Let me deal with the last part of your statement which can also address part of Andrew’s comment above. Let’s deal with the larger pool of evidence you cite.

    (1) a piece of indirect evidence: Ignatius of Antioch firmly states that no Church is a true Church without a bishop, priests and deacons; and he is certainly sure that Rome is a true church.

    This evidence actually works strongly against the Roman claim. Ignatius, in his writing to the 7 churches, addresses 6 bishops…the one left out is the Roman bishop. There is only a mention of church leaders (plural). Why would Ignatius not address the bishop of Rome if he were the unifying principle of unity in the Church?

    ): Irenaeus clearly states that the Church of Rome always had a bishop in charge, and he is neither likely to be ignorant nor a liar (we can double check many of his statements from other sources, and we can see for ourselves that he is far more often correct than he is incorrect)

    Irenaeus comes 150 years after Peter and we know of no bishop lists existing before c.160 with Hegessipus. Hegessipus’s list is not complete but when we come to Irenaeus we get a full-fledged list. This is the first full list that we have extant, 150 years after the fact. It is also important to note that Irenaeus appers to use Hegessipus’s incomplete list, which is concerned with the succession of apostolic “teaching.” For Bryan’s take you can follow the link he presents above. The real question is why we don’t have something else attesting to the Roman claims when we have a wealth of information before Irenaeus: Justin Martyr, Ignatius (listed above), Polycarp, 1st Clement, The Didache , and Tatian to name some. Because we have no other extant bishop lists for such a long period it ought to give us pause as we consider it as a piece of evidence.

    Finally, you say,

    To convince me otherwise, you would have to show some direct evidence to the contrary, because indirect evidence can mean whatever we want it to mean, and it causes us to make arguments that are based on assumptions rather than on the data itself.

    I agree with you, but notice that in accordance with your current argument you have presented one piece of direct evidence c. 180 AD. Your example of the Constitution and a transcript between a President and an aide is one that is favorable to Protestantism. What is more reliable? The governing document of the church or the unclear “oral” tradition? You are proposing that Constitution, and I agree. It is the founding document. The problem is that not only is the historical evidence suspect, but the biblical evidence does not show an episcopal church government—particularly one with Peter as the head of the college of bishops. My concern is precisely that Roman claims are based on assumptions rather than the data itself.

  57. Erick,

    You asked:

    Other than Don Chapman and Fortesque and Steve Ray (Upon this Rock), does anyone know of any literature that provides a cojent argument for the historicity of the Papacy?

    See the section “The Papacy and the Magisterium” on the Suggested Reading page.

    Many Orthodox recognize the principle of papal primacy. What is disputed is the nature of the primacy. Anglican orders have been declared null and void by the Catholic Church, so from the Catholic perspective the Anglo-Catholic claim to have preserved the sacramental succession (and not merely the tactile succession) from the Apostles is moot. In any case, the claim that Anglicans “believe in apostolic succession” is problematic due to the vagueness of the Anglican formularies and the lack of a unified teaching authority in the Anglican Communion to provide a definitive interpretation of its own doctrine.

    [Update: At least, the question of Anglican orders, though fascinating in its own right, is moot for purposes of this discussion, which presumes validity and therefore is not taken up with the question of disputed claims to valid Orders.]

  58. Andrew,

    You have a considerable point to make concerning Anglican orders. This has been a subject of investigation for me lately. It seems as though each Anglican Church sees itself as independent. But there are Bishops who still claim, for instance one I know of, that they succeed bishops who go back to Paul or James.

    Refprot,

    The view of apostolic succession does not necessarily hinge on the claims of the Papacy. For instance, in Cyprian’s writings, he understands that when Christ have the keys of the kingdom to Peter, that He established one episcopacy that all bishops sit under. Each Bishop has the authority of the one episcopacy, and the sacrament of ordination brings one into this service.

  59. Mike #48,

    I’m not sure I’ve missed anything about the historical evidence or your argument based on your response. Your argument is not based on history, but upon a philosophical pre-commitment, as I note in #43. That’s fine but all it does is give you a philosophical pre-commitment without possessing the means to determine one “infallible” institution over another. Bryan has put forward the historical means of AS to differentiate between the burning in the bossom of the Mormon and the claim to be part of the church Christ founded by the Catholic. This is the thesis statement on the Sola Scriptura article,

    In this article we argue that there is no principled difference between sola scriptura and solo scriptura with respect to the holder of ultimate interpretive authority, and that a return to apostolic succession is the *only* way to avoid the untoward consequences to which both solo scriptura and sola scriptura lead.

    You may disagree with them, which is fine. I was just operating under the assumption that you agreed. If you don’t agree with them though, it would seem that you still retain a problem because according to Bryan AS is the “only way” to avoid the consequences of an unprincipled distinction between human opinion and divine revelation.

    You go on to say,

    Note that my criticisms of both Eastern Orthodoxy and Mormonism is are not primarily historical, but primarily logical. There is a very good reason for that. Whatever the ecclesial body with the requisite authority may be, the doctrines it teaches with its full authority are authentic expressions of divine revelation, not matters of opinion.

    So you bring this a priori argument to your analysis of religious claims. Your primary problems with E.O. and Mormonism are philosophical. E.O claims infallibility but in a way you perceive inconsistent and Mormonism is that it means that Christ left the church for 1,800 years. Your philosophical precommitments then leave you with the RCC because it fulfills the philosophical criteria you believe necessary in order for divine revelation to exist.

    You then conclude,

    Some of the doctrines allegedly backed by such authority have historical implications. Accordingly, if a given ecclesial body’s claim to such authority is true, then the available historical should be interpreted as that authority interprets it. And if so, then appealing to history against such an authority necessarily begs the question. The inherent plausibility of a body’s claim to the sort of authority in question must be assessed before we draw any conclusions about how to interpret historical evidence theologically. But if one simply assumes, as you do, that an ecclesial body’s claim to the requisite authority can be adequately assessed by an independent, scholarly interpretation of the available historical data, while bracketing the logical questions of “fundamental theology” that I consider first, then one is already committed to rejecting any such claim. Surely you cannot expect me, a Catholic, to share such a methodology.

    Because you have accepted Rome on philosophical grounds, her interpretation of history must be infallible. If Rome were wrong in her historical opinions this would make divine revelation impossible to understand, which it is not. Therefore, Rome must be right in her historical pronouncements regardless of the evidence (I’m not necessarily saying contradicting the evidence, because you would claim such a contradiction were impossible. I’m just pointing out that the evidence, strong or weak, does not affect your position because you have already placed your faith in the infallibility of the Church).

    I’m not saying that we should exclude questions of theology in our quest for theology, but if our theology prevents us from allowing historical discoveries to challenge our faith then we have entered fideism. I don’t think that is what Bryan or others at CtC are advocating. That is a point of common ground among us, but I am wondering if it is one that you share with us. Maybe if you answer this hypothetical it will help me: If Peter was not the bishop of Rome, would you abandon your faith? If we can answer that then I think we can begin moving towards what criteria would be sufficient for you.

  60. RefProt,

    We have one piece of direct evidence (Irenaeus’ bishop list) for there always being bishops in Rome. You have zero pieces of direct evidence for there being no bishop in Rome. None of the indirect evidence contradicts the one piece of direct evidence. Therefore, it is more likely than not that there was always a bishop in Rome.

    To disagree with this argument, you must either argue that indirect evidence trumps direct evidence, or you must produce at least one piece of direct evidence for your claim. Which are you arguing?

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  61. Refprof, (re: #54)

    You wrote:

    Let me propose the word plausible. Is the Catholic claim a plausible reconstruction of their version of history? You may claim that this is also nebulous, but the question I’m after is does the evidence warrant the claims Rome makes? My conclusion is that the three or four pieces of evidence presented are insufficient to make the Roman case plausible. In order to substantiate the Roman claim there would need to be compelling evidence from the first 150 years that Peter was instituted as the bishop of Rome and passed down this charism to individuals in Rome.

    In these few lines you jump from ‘plausible’ to ‘warrant’ back to ‘plausible’ then to ‘substantiate’ then to ‘compelling.’ If you keep shifting the criterion, and don’t even define the criteria as you shift them, then you’re just playing a game, seeming like you’re doing something objective and helpful, but actually merely engaging in futility. There is no way to evaluate something, without first establishing or acknowledging some defined criterion by which to evaluate it.

    I don’t find any evidence for this is 1 Clement, or the Epistle of Ignatius (as critical scholars note, the Roman bishop is not mentioned but there are bishops mentioned in 6 other letters). I’m not aware of anything in Justin Martyr or any other early Christian writer before Irenaeus. If the evidence we possess is evidence 150 years after the fact (and disputed itself) I believe that we have serious problems in making such a case plausible.

    I’m going to defer on this question, until we have resolved the apostolic succession question, because this question [i.e. the papacy question] depends on (a) how much data for anything about the particularities of Church doctrine is extant from that time period and therefore what amount of data we should expect to find regarding this particular doctrine, (b) what role development of doctrine plays in relation to the papacy and the Church’s understanding of the papal office, (c) what later evidence tells us about earlier beliefs and practice – if we do not presuppose ecclesial deism, and (d) which available paradigm best explains all the relevant patristic data.

    I had written, “If you disagree, then instead of merely asserting that the Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession “flows directly out of” the Catholic understanding of the papacy, you’ll need to make an argument for that claim.” To that you responded:

    Let me ask this question: Does the unique Roman claim of AS remain Roman Catholic if Peter was not given the charism of infallibility?

    I don’t know what you mean by “the unique Roman claim of AS.” You’ll have to define your terms. By this do you mean the Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession (which pertains to all validly ordained persons), or do you mean merely the succession of bishops of the particular Church at Rome, or do you mean the Catholic teaching concerning the Petrine office occupied uniquely by the bishops of Rome in succession from St. Peter?

    I’m arguing a particular example, Roman ecclesiology, to get at a larger paradigm, AS.

    I don’t understand what that sentence means, because I don’t know what it means to “argue an example.”

    If Rome did not have a perpetual Petrine office given by Peter, then Roman Catholicism is false, but not necessarily AS (i.e. Orthodoxy, Anglicanism).

    Exactly.

    The Roman claim for the establishment of the episcopate is tied to Peter and his establishment of an episcopal office in Rome. If Rome did not have a monoepiscopate then the specific sacramental rite you are proposing, a bishop sacramentally ordaining presbyters and other bishops, encounters serious difficulty.

    That conclusion does not follow from the premise. There can be multiple bishops in one city simultaneously, and yet only one of them be the diocesan bishop. (We presently have three bishops in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, but only one is the diocesan bishop.) So likewise, in the early particular Church of Rome there could have been (and some evidence suggests that at times there may have been) multiple bishops serving in the particular Church in Rome. But that is fully compatible with only one of them at a time having jurisdiction over the particular Church of Rome.

    The positive Roman reconstruction is that the charism of ordination is passed from bishop to bishop and bishop to presbyter.

    The notion that it is a “reconstruction,” and not the faithful handing down of the tradition and history by those who were there, begs the question against the Catholic position. It is not a ‘neutral’ stance or term.

    However, if the church was not structured with Peter as the first bishop, then the nature of the sacramental rite is fundamentally different than what you are claiming.

    Here you lost me. I don’t know what you are referring to by “the nature of the sacramental rite.” If you are referring to apostolic succession, then no. That is, if it were true that St. Peter did not hand down a unique authority to his episcopal successor in Rome, that wouldn’t entail that apostolic succession is false. It would entail rather that the bishop of Rome does not have the unique authority (in relation to all the other bishops) that the Catholic Church teaches he has.

    We need to revisit how things got started here. You directed me to your comments in my response to K. Doran’s question in #35. I explained that Lampe is someone I would point to for my own positive reconstruction. You interjected with #39. Mind you, the topic of this post is not my positive reconstruction, even though I offered my thoughts. I took your interjection as politely pointing me in the direction of something you’ve written. I briefly responded to you, attempting to politely acknowledge your comment by stating that I didn’t see anything that would cause me to change my opinion of the matter. I answered that John had provided what I believed to be satisfactory answers for K. Doran. He was curious about my positive case. I felt that further discussion would distract from the direction of the thread so I kept it brief.
    You then respond to my brief comments as if they were in the form of an argument. If you took my comments to be a refutation of everything you wrote then you have misunderstood. My response was constructed to with K. Doran’s question in mind. Finally, it is an objective fact that Lampe puts forth lots of evidence in his book before his section on Irenaeus’s list. That’s not hand-waving. That is contextualizing.

    Here’s what I am saying. If there is any relevant evidence that Lampe has put forward that you think I have failed to address adequately, feel free to put it on the table. What needs to be avoided here is the phantom-argument fallacy, namely, the hand-waving gesture to evidence or argumentation somewhere in a book, as if such a gesture or allusion adequately establishes x (in this case, that the Catholic teaching regarding papal succession is false). Nothing is demonstrated or gained (in terms of resolving a disagreement) merely by alluding to or trading book titles or authors.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  62. RefProt,

    To see the difference between direct evidence and indirect evidence, all you need to do is put the evidence down in the form of an argument. With direct evidence from irenaeus, we only have to assume that he was in a position to know about what he spoke, and that he was’t lying. These assumptions are both supported by ancillary evidence: irenaeus learned his doctrine from polycarp who learned it from john; irenaeus had multiple recorded contacts with the roman church; irenaeus was a holy man; and irenaeus can be double checked on many facts and found to be more frequently right than wrong. Direct evidence is a clear statement whose value depends on assuming that the person offering it is neither ignorant or lying; and in this case, both of those simple assumptions are well-supported.

    But with indirect evidence, you need not only the two assumptions above, but also much bigger assumptions, and the assumptions can be seen to be doing all the work in your argument. To demonstrate this, look at John Bulgay’s argument on the Joshua lim thread. He demonstrated that his own argument was based on large assumptions about obscure off-hand remarks in Paul’s letters and other early literature.

    As Bryan asked, why don’t you present an actual argument for why Rome did not always have bishops? Then we can see whether your assumptions are doing the work in the argument, or, as in the catholic case, you merely have to assume that the person asserting a type of governance was not ignorant or lying. If it is the former, you have indirect evidence which can mean anything. and in that case, why should I change my views after reading evidence which could mean anything, and which only means what you want it to mean when you make big assumptions to go with it? But if it is the latter, then you have direct evidence on which you can build a strong case, and we would all like to see it. I look forward to your argument.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  63. Andrew,

    I don’t think anyone can reasonably reject the material continuity, unless they are driven by some radical form of skepticism. Following Calvin, I would say laying on of hands ought to be observed because of the uniform Apostolic observance (witnessed in scripture). This observance is taken as precept, even though an explicit precept is unavailable. I suspect, based on similar reasoning, we could reach some agreement on formal continuity.

    I think the syllogisms are sound. True doctrine follows from true teachers. It seems, however, the following are problems for the objective grounds:

    1. Unobservable defect of intention within the ordaining minister.
    2. Sedevacantist thesis on dividing the chair and the man.
    3. Valid and invalid sacraments can have material continuity in common.
    4. Apostolic primacy is not given sacramentally.
    5. Apostolic successors, who are not in communion with the bishop of Rome, are disqualified as objective grounds. If the bishop of Rome can be a schismatic, then no true doctrine can be expected to follow.
    6. If the future Antichrist imitates the pilgrim church, then how can the inquirer distinguish ?

    Thanks,
    Eric

  64. Refprot,

    You had said that Ignatius’ mention of the Bishop in 6 of his epistles, but omitting any mention of a bishop in his epistle to Rome provides some kind of evidence that there was no monarchial episcopate in Rome at this point in history.

    The problem with this assumption is Ignatius’ assumptions which are universal concerning the bare minimum requirements for a church to be a church. Consider the following quotes.

    “For even Jesus Christ, our inseparable life, is the [manifested] will of the Father; as also bishops, settled everywhere to the utmost bounds [of the earth], are so by the will of Jesus Christ. Wherefore it is fitting that you should run together in accordance with the will of your bishop, which thing also you do. For your justly renowned presbytery, worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the strings are to the harp. Therefore in your concord and harmonious love, Jesus Christ is sung. And man by man, become a choir, that being harmonious in love, and taking up the song of God in unison, you may with one voice sing to the Father through Jesus Christ, so that He may both hear you, and perceive by your works that you are indeed the members of His Son. It is profitable, therefore, that you should live in an unblameable unity, that thus you may always enjoy communion with God.” (The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians- Chapter 3 Exhortations to Unity)

    Do you see how general he speaks concerning the role of the Bishop? Also notice how vast he designates the location of bishops.

    “It is fitting, then, not only to be called Christians, but to be so in reality: as some indeed give one the title of bishop, but do all things without him. Now such persons seem to me to be not possessed of a good conscience, seeing they are not stedfastly gathered together according to the commandment.”(The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians Chapter 4).

    Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, which is at Philadelphia, in Asia, which has obtained mercy, and is established in the harmony of God, and rejoices unceasingly in the passion of our Lord, and is filled with all mercy through his resurrection; which I salute in the blood of Jesus Christ, who is our eternal and enduring joy, especially if [men] are in unity with the bishop, the presbyters, and the deacons, who have been appointed according to the mind of Jesus Christ, whom He has established in security, after His own will, and by His Holy Spirit. The Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians

    Take heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to [show forth ] the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever you do, you may do it according to [the will of] God. The Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians

    Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid. The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans

    For Ignatius to omit any reference to a bishop in Rome should not at all make us doubt there was a Bishop there, especially given the general required function that Ignatius gives to the office of Bishop.

  65. K Doran (#62),

    You have the burden of proof. My interaction in this thread is to see if a Catholic is able to put forward adequate pieces of evidence which attest to the Roman claim. You keep pressing me when you are the one making the positive case. I’ve only been asking for further information about the Roman case. If you’re giving me one piece of direct evidence 150 years after the fact, I’ll allow you to judge the persuasiveness of your claim. I find it unpersuasive in the highest degree.

    Making a positive case is something that would require lengthy space and argument. As I explained, you can check out Lampe if you want to see the analysis that I find convincing about the Roman church.

    Erick (#64),

    Thanks for doing the work of bringing the quotes out. I think, however, that the quotes only make the silence in his letter to the Roman church even more weird. Why does he not mention the most important episcopate in the Christian world? This does not mean he didn’t believe Rome had a bishop, but Ignatius does not really serve to provide evidence for an episcopate in Rome. I don’t really think he can be used to advocate one position over another.

    Bryan (#61),

    I’m just trying to put forward something that will allow us to move forward. Would plausible work or is that word not a good word?

    There were a few typos in my post. Sorry about that, but I think it may be more efficient if I ask a clarifying question instead of going back and restating things. I’m trying to look at Rome as a test case in AS. Did Rome have an episcopate established? Maybe I’m assuming too much, but you argue that this is Peter. Now, maybe I’m moving too fast, but if Peter was not a bishop in Rome and if Peter did not pass on an episcopate to others, then this shows that the RCC is wrong about the sacramental nature of ordination (laying on of hands by bishops) and also about the charism of infallibility in the Roman bishop. This is my line of thinking. Feel free to let me know if i’m missing you.

  66. Refprot (#59):

    At this point, I am genuinely puzzled that you continue to misunderstand the case I’ve been making. For instance, you write:

    Your argument is not based on history, but upon a philosophical pre-commitment, as I note in #43. That’s fine but all it does is give you a philosophical pre-commitment without possessing the means to determine one “infallible” institution over another. Bryan has put forward the historical means of AS to differentiate between the burning in the bossom of the Mormon and the claim to be part of the church Christ founded by the Catholic….You may disagree with them, which is fine. I was just operating under the assumption that you agreed. If you don’t agree with them though, it would seem that you still retain a problem because according to Bryan AS is the “only way” to avoid the consequences of an unprincipled distinction between human opinion and divine revelation.

    I do not disagree with Bryan. I just think you’ve mischaracterized his position as well as mine. We both believe that affirming accepting AS, as the Catholic Church understands that concept, is the “only way” to secure a principled distinction between divine revelation and human opinion. That’s because we believe that, unless there is a living authority that has continuously inherited the teaching authority of Christ from the Apostles, there can be no such distinction, and AS is the means by which that authority is inherited. But I don’t think one can consider the historical issue of AS in its proper order without first having successfully argued, on philosophical grounds, the epistemic need for the sort of authority allegedly inherited by AS. And that’s the argument I provide. Calling the conclusion of that argument a “precommitment” is unhelpful and even misleading, because it doesn’t address the quality of the argument, but merely suggests rhetorically that I’ve stacked the deck in advance.

    Now as I said in my previous comment, that initial philosophical argument of mine does not suffice to prove that the Catholic understanding of AS is actually true. I’d also made clear that I think the very nature of the subject matter precludes any argument proving that, or indeed any theologically significant doctrine generally. I would argue only that AS, as the Catholic Church understands that concept, is necessary for the purpose I’ve specified. But you don’t take due account of that. Instead, you write:

    Because you have accepted Rome on philosophical grounds, her interpretation of history must be infallible. If Rome were wrong in her historical opinions this would make divine revelation impossible to understand, which it is not. Therefore, Rome must be right in her historical pronouncements regardless of the evidence (I’m not necessarily saying contradicting the evidence, because you would claim such a contradiction were impossible. I’m just pointing out that the evidence, strong or weak, does not affect your position because you have already placed your faith in the infallibility of the Church).

    There are two problems with that. First, you confuse my confessional theology with my apologetical strategy; second, having done so, you falsely claim that “the evidence,” such as it is, “doesn’t affect my position.”

    Confessionally, I hold that the Catholic hierarchy constitutes that teaching authority which is necessary for distinguishing divine revelation from human opinion in a principled way. But my apologetical strategy is not meant to prove that; for I don’t believe any argument can prove that. That strategy is meant to simply to defend, against objections, what I hold confessionally. The defense is twofold: (a) Show that, without some authority of the sort the Catholic Church claims for herself, there can be no such distinction; (b) The claims other bodies make to such authority are implausible without even considering history. That doesn’t prove that Catholicism in general, and the Catholic understanding of AS in particular, are actually true. All it shows is that Catholicism is the most reasonable confession given the background assumption that a principled distinction of the sort needed is in fact available. But that doesn’t mean that the state of the historical evidence is simply irrelevant to my argument.

    As I had said, the fact that the Catholic doctrine of AS has “historical implications” requires that the available historical evidence suffice to make the doctrine “rationally plausible.” For reasons K Doran has well explained, that’s what the available historical evidence does. And that’s all that’s needed. The fact that such evidence does not suffice to prove the truth of that doctrine does not mean that such evidence is irrelevant. It just means that such evidence doesn’t have the epistemological priority on my account that it does in yours. What gives historical evidence the epistemological priority it has for you is the conservative-Protestant interpretive paradigm (CPIP). Since we don’t share the CPIP, what counts as a major defect on your IP doesn’t on ours.

    Nonetheless, you write:

    I’m not saying that we should exclude questions of theology in our quest for theology, but if our theology prevents us from allowing historical discoveries to challenge our faith then we have entered fideism. I don’t think that is what Bryan or others at CtC are advocating. That is a point of common ground among us, but I am wondering if it is one that you share with us. Maybe if you answer this hypothetical it will help me: If Peter was not the bishop of Rome, would you abandon your faith? If we can answer that then I think we can begin moving towards what criteria would be sufficient for you.

    That continues missing the point. Of course, if Peter was not the first bishop of Rome, then Catholicism is false. But such historical evidence as is currently available to us does not show that Peter was not the first bishop of Rome. All that can fairly be said is that we cannot know, exclusively on such grounds, that Peter was the first bishop of Rome. But that’s only a problem given your IP, not ours. Given the totality of the historical evidence our IP admits as relevant–which is bigger than you seem to allow–it is rationally plausible to believe that Peter was the first bishop of Rome.

    Best,
    Mike

  67. To all,

    I understand the conversation has taken a turn into the issue of Lampe and the question of a monarchial episcopate in Rome, but if possible I would like to move it onward to the general point of Apostolic Succession and it’s relationship to the Bishop of Rome.

    It is extremely important to Roman Catholicism that the Papacy be justified (just as Moses’ authority was justified by miracles, or the apostles and prophets) at the very same time as apostolic succession. The reason why is because according to the Catholic Church, no Bishop has any authority, particularly the authority which is sacramentally infused into the ordinand, unless that ordinand is in communion with the Bishop of Rome. Therefore the Papacy is the center of unity as well as defining the location of where this apostolic authority lies; it only lies upon those Bishops in communion with the Papacy.

    However, as many Anglicans and Eastern Orthodox scholars have shown in many various publications, the historian has a very difficult time seeing the belief in the Papacy in the first 3 centuries of the Church. I am reading a book on the Papacy by one Anglican Bishop, William Shaw Kerr, and he goes from case by case responding to the likes of Mr. Adrian Fortescue demonstrating that there is no evidence for a belief in the anything near the claims of the modern day Vaticanal form of the Papacy. The author himself accuses Roman Catholic apologists of lying time after time with sweeping statements concerning how the Supreme Authority of the Pope has been believed in all ages. I do not agree with this, but it shows the extant at which this Bishop disagrees with Roman Catholic historians in the attempt to provide proof that early Christians believed in the supreme authority of the Pope.

    Let’s face it, if it is true that Jesus gave to the apostle Simon the keys of the kingdom of heaven and the powers of binding and loosing, and this fact itself fully entails the uniform and inflexible law that all his singular successors would possess supreme power (infallibility), then Peter himself knew this fact. Many Catholic authors go to GREAT lengths showing that the historical context and the language of “Rock”, “keys of the kingdom of heaven”, and “binding/loosing” denotes the idea of an infallible governing authority in the form of a succession. Well, if it is so clear then that would mean the apostles themselves understood what happened in this moment. For Peter to receive the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, if it truly means what Catholics say it means, that means that Peter himself as well as the other 11 apostles fully understood what this meant.

    If Peter and the apostles knew what this meant, then that would mean they shared this with their collaborators and disciples. If their collaborators and disciples were taught this doctrine of the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven being inflexibly locked down in the singular successors of Peter, then this belief would have been handed on from that point onward to all the apostolic churches. Tertullian and Ireneaus point out that all the worldwide catholic apostolic churches have one and the same faith. Well, if this is true, and the former statements concerning the Keys of the Kingdom and it’s inextricable tie to the lineage of Peter’s successors are true, then that would mean that the entire worldwide church, all the local church communities, were taught that when Jesus gave Peter the apostle the keys of the kingdom of heaven, that this also meant that Peter’s successors (in a singular monarchial sense) inherit this very same authority which is supreme over the entire Church on the earth. If this is true, then we should see evidence of this fact in ALL the churches which were rendered duly apostolic.

    One example from history which speaks against this, in my present opinion, is the situation of Victor (188-98), the bishop of Rome. He is possibly the first Pope to attempt to influence the ecclesiastical policy of the other Churches. The event showed that neither in the East nor in the West was such a conception of his authority recognized. “Any bishop could, of course, cut off churches from communion with his own Church. It was quite a different thing to compel other Bishops to excommunicate them. Victor excommunicated the Asian ones, but failed in a striking manner to make his excommunication general. His action was condemned and resisted” (Handbook on the Papacy, William Shaw Kerr, pg 97). Polycrates was the Bishop of Ephesus. He wrote “to Victor and the Church of Rome” refusing to alter his custom. “He tells how a great number of bishops with him in synod also refused. He mentions that he was the 8th of his family to be a bishop. His letter shows no trace of knowledge that by not submitting to the one supreme Pastor he was losing faith and salvation. The terms of his reply show how little he regarded the authority of Victor. ‘Therefore I for my part, brethren, who number 65 years in the Lord (bringing his conversion back to possibly 120 AD!), and have conversed with the brethren from all parts of the world and traversed the entire range of holy Scripture (appealing to what Fortesque would call private judgement!), am not frightened by threats. For those better than I have said “We must obey God rather than man”‘”.

    This is extremely revealing. Here we have a bishop of Ephesus, whose conversion goes back to 120AD (roughly) who himself has conversed with brothers in Christ from all over the world and who can surely be in the position to tell of the holy traditions of Christ’s church shows no trace of knowledge concerning the authority of the bishop of Rome. In fact, his decisions and actions show the opposite. In fact, we can say that this Bishop Polycrates represents the entire mind of the Ephesians See from 120AD onward (since he refers also to a synod), was completely unaware of a divine prerogative in bishop of Rome’s claims to universal jurisdiction.

    Now how could this be? If it is true that Jesus taught, as a divine law, that the successors of St. Peter would be the single and visible representation of Christ’s infallible governing authority on earth to the apostles and if the apostles then taught their disciples and if their disciples taught others, how could this have possibly passed the education of the entire Ephesian Church?

  68. Michael (#65),

    In the above comment you wrote,

    “We both believe that affirming accepting AS, as the Catholic Church understands that concept, is the “only way” to secure a principled distinction between divine revelation and human opinion. That’s because we believe that, unless there is a living authority that has continuously inherited the teaching authority of Christ from the Apostles, there can be no such distinction, and AS is the means by which that authority is inherited.”

    Do you believe that having a divinely authorized teaching authority is what enables Catholics to distinguish between divine revelation and human opinion, or is it the extra component of magisterial infallibility that enables such distinction to occur?

    Sincerely,

    Christie

  69. Erick,

    The large topic of the role of the papacy in the communion of the universal Church would be better pursued under another thread, such as the one following Bryan’s post on the Chair of St. Peter. That way, this thread can focus on Apostolic Succession.

    Here, I will only suggest that one thing that you might want to do, by way of evaluating the anti-papal argument put forward in your comment, is substitute “the Trinity” for “the papacy” and “the Arian bishops” for “the Asian bishops.” If your / Kerr’s argument undermines the doctrine of the papacy, it undermines the doctrine of the Trinity.

    Andrew

  70. Andrew,

    I only wish to dialogue concerning the relationship of Apostolic succession with the Papacy because the Papacy has much control on the location of the essential elements of apostolic succession. I personally do not have a firm stance against the Papacy. I happen to be drawing much from Soloviev on the Papacy. However, I want to put out there the various arguments of others so as to narrow down a cojent argument for the Papacy, because this is the defining mark of apostolic succession.

  71. Erick,

    It looks as though you are thinking of apostolic succession and the papacy along the same lines as Refprot. In which case, I refer you to Bryan’s comments #45 and #61 in which he makes some important points regarding how the one is related to the other.

    If you want to further discuss the papacy in this thread, then I suggest that you focus on that aspect of the office which I discussed in the post, namely, how the papacy provides an objective principle of unity within the college of bishops, such that in the case of schism(s) among the bishops, one need not ultimately rely upon private interpretation in order adjudicate between competing doctrinal claims issued by the various groups.

    Andrew

  72. Christie:

    As a Catholic, I believe that a magisterium which is infallible under certain conditions just is that “divinely authorized teaching authority” which is necessary for making a principled distinction of the sort in question.

    Best,
    Mike

  73. Andrew,

    Fair. Then I would like to move the discussion in that direction, then. I noticed that many of the Anglican authors who write against the Papacy paint a picture of the Papacy as a tyrannical overlording despot that Christ said would not exist among His followers when he said “The greatest of you shall be the least”. I also seems as though the claims to universal jurisdiction and supreme authority are what really screeches the ears of the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox.

    However, the question we must ask is if each Bishop who receives the charism of truth from the Holy Spirit, which is a portion of what the sacrament confers, then what do we do when (hypothetically) certain factions begin to emerge. One Bishop teaches this, and another Bishop disagrees, and the other disagrees with both of these previous Bishops. Now you have the Holy Spirit indwelling these Spiritual leaders in 3 different directions? I am not sure how Anglicans and Eastern Orthodox handle something like this, but how could an Ecumenical Council even benefit them if there are already so many disagreements amongst themselves? For instance, Anglicans have their own council every 10 years (I think) and they do not commune with the other many many many Bishops around the world in apostolic succession, so I am not sure how they would even constitute a catholic council.

    Unless of course there is one Bishop who is head over all other bishops, a principle which is directly denied by St. Cyprian: “For neither does any of us set himself up as a bishop of bishops, nor by tyrannical terror does any compel his colleague to the necessity of obedience; since every bishop, according to the allowance of his liberty and power, has his own proper right of judgment, and can no more be judged by another than he himself can judge another. But let us all wait for the judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only one that has the power both of preferring us in the government of His Church, and of judging us in our conduct there.”. If there is a Bishop who is head of all other Bishops, then whatever he says and teaches, under the proper conditions, he is speaking with one voice as a binding declaration of what all Bishops must believe, and under this sort of system, schism is absolutely impossible. Cyprian somehow manages to speak about the individual liberty and independence of each Bishop in his own area, and yet at the same time speak about some power which unifies the whole episcopacy under the Chair of Peter, which Chair is not the Bishop of Rome but the whole Bishopric on earth.

    Is it possible to manage a unified Church without one head bishop above all others? Only if each bishop maintains faithfulness to the original rule of faith which was once and for all delivered unto the saints. Why is it that this principle cannot be the way in which Christ’s teaching ministry was to engage the rest of the world after His ascension? The living authority of Christ would be expressed in an infallible way in the Council of all Bishops of the world. It seems as though the claims to universal jurisdiction developed at the need for the worldwide Church to be unified, but can we truly insert a new teaching on Authority for the sake of Unity?

  74. Eric (re #63),

    You wrote:

    I think the syllogisms are sound. True doctrine follows from true teachers. It seems, however, the following are problems for the objective grounds:

    1. Unobservable defect of intention within the ordaining minister.
    2. Sedevacantist thesis on dividing the chair and the man.
    3. Valid and invalid sacraments can have material continuity in common.
    4. Apostolic primacy is not given sacramentally.
    5. Apostolic successors, who are not in communion with the bishop of Rome, are disqualified as objective grounds. If the bishop of Rome can be a schismatic, then no true doctrine can be expected to follow.
    6. If the future Antichrist imitates the pilgrim church, then how can the inquirer distinguish ?

    1. Given that the minister observes the rite of the Church, with proper form and matter, the presumption is that he has the requisite intention, i.e., to do what the Church does. Proper intention is embodied in the observable rite. Furthermore, apostolic succession depends upon a web or grid of ordinations, with three ordaining bishops required for regularity. For these reasons, the possibility of a lapse in orders due to an unobservable defect of intention is negligible–it is in the realm of the theoretical possibility that every other human being is a cleverly constructed robot.

    2. The sedevactanist thesis reduces to solo scriputra, which it is not reasonable to hold.

    3. True, but so long as the proper form is also observed, then proper intention can be presumed, and we can rest assured that the sacrament is valid.

    4. I am not sure what you mean by “apostolic primacy.” Apostolic Succession is conferred sacramentally, by episcopal ordination.

    5. I do not know what your first sentence means. But your second sentence seems to be precisely my point in the second syllogism in the post.

    6. As I have argued elsewhere, the universal Church has both a material and an immaterial aspect, and in this way is like a living body, a substance. The universal Church is not simply a species, or kind, that can be more or less perfectly reproduced or copied here and there. Thus, one can distinguish the true Church from imitations by tracing the material continuity of the universal Church from the beginning through time to the present moment.

    Andrew

  75. Erick (re #72),

    As made clear by Vatican II (Lumen Gentium, Chapter III), the Pope is the visible head of the college of bishops, but not in such a way that each bishop in communion with the Pope ceases to exercise episcopal authority by virtue of his own sacramental office, received in succession from the Apostles. Apostolic Succession does not reduce to Petrine Succession. In their turn, the individual bishops do not exercise their authority in autonomy from the communion of the universal Church. Apostolic Succession flows from and is ordered to the life of the Catholic Church.

    In Catholic ecclesiology, schism is in fact possible, but it is always schism from the Church, not schism within the Church. As St. Paul rhetorically asked the Corinthians: “Is Christ divided?” The implicit answer is “Of course not.”

    According to Catholic ecclesiology, “the living authority of Christ […] expressed in an infallible way in the Council of all Bishops of the world” is not an hypothetical “would be.” And this is precisely because the living authority of Christ–as delegated to the Church–has not been destroyed by schism, but subsists in the Catholic Church.

    Finally, you asked:

    It seems as though the claims to universal jurisdiction developed at the need for the worldwide Church to be unified, but can we truly insert a new teaching on Authority for the sake of Unity?

    Of course no one can do any such thing. All authority has been given to Christ, not us. It is he, not us, who establishes authority in the Church.

    Andrew

  76. Andrew,

    Then why won’t the Roman Catholics accept the legitimacy of the Anglican Orders? The author of that book you recommend on Apostolic Succession, I believe Circot, an extremely difficult book to find, also writes a book vindicating Anglican Orders.

    The Anglicans have been, in my mind, the most studious when it comes to reading the Early Church Fathers and pointing out many of the weaknesses of late Roman Catholicism.

  77. Erick,

    The reasons for the decision on Anglican orders are given in the document in which they were declared null and void, Apostolicae Curae. The Church of England formally changed its ordinal in the context of changing its obedience, its theology, and its cult, which changes testified to a change of intention in ordination, all of which constituted a break with Catholic tradition concerning Holy Orders.

    It is true that high-church Anglicans have mounted spirited and learned defenses of their own orders, as well as of the principle of Apostolic Succession considered more generally (Cirlot and also Dix come to mind). It is also true that, as a matter of self-justification, Anglicans, including those of the Anglo-Catholic party, have been prominent among Protestants in pointing out the weaknesses of the Catholic Church both before and after the Protestant Reformation.

    But all of that is pretty much a side-bar to the topic at hand. I am grateful for the historical-critical case mounted by Cirlot in defense of AS in general. There is nothing else quite like it.

    Andrew

  78. Andrew,

    Thank you for the link.

    Just for what it is worth. I think it might be worth considering what the available remaining options there are if indeed apostolic succession is false. If AS is truly false and nothing of the claim has actually been going on, then what are the seekers of Christ left with?

  79. Erick,

    Regarding Anglican orders, in addition to Andrew’s comment just above, you might also see comment #128 in the Tu Quoque thread.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  80. Erick (re #77),

    We would be left with private judgement and individual claims to have received private illumination from the Holy Spirit.

    Andrew

  81. Andrew,

    Granted that Apostolic Succession is true, consider the following scenario (this just helps better define what is going on here). Let’s say that the a major city in a small state only has 2 local communities gathered in the name of Jesus Christ, a Baptist church and a Roman Catholic Church (Valid). If the Roman Catholic Church had a Bishop was extremely unworthy (drunk, immoral, etc. , etc. ) and the entire congregation in the Catholic Church was likewise immoral, and yet the Baptist Church had a pastor who used to go to the Catholic Church down the road but got “saved” out of all his sin and felt “called” into the ministry to start a church to survive the gospel in that city and the people at his church are all really holy and zealous people for the Lord .

    Is this Catholic Church the only true Church in this city? And should a repentant seeker attend the Catholic Church or the Baptist church in an effort to survive his soul from the judgement of God?

  82. Ultimately, must one not be able to see the Church operating according to the Matthew 18 model, for it to be the Church?

    I mean this: Suppose my brother or sister in Christ is doing something sinful, and I follow the commanded process: I speak to them privately and hope to win back my brother or sister. But he or she says that what he or she is doing is not, in fact, sinful; perhaps he or she claims it’s even meritorious, something to be celebrated.

    So, I take one or two other Christians with me the next time, “that every matter might be established by two or three witnesses.” But again, our attempt to turn this wayward brother or sister away from error is unheeded.

    So, I take the matter before the Church. At this point:

    1. The Church must be identifiable: That is, we must have a visible organization to whom we can take the matter.

    2. The authority structure in the Church must be identifiable: If the wayward brother or sister replies, “Hey, I too am in the Church! Have I not the Holy Spirit also? Why don’t I decide for myself?” one must be able to objectively and authoritatively identify who is, and is not, “the decider” about such matters, so as to be able to answer the wayward brother or sister, “No, not every member of the body is a hand or an eye. Not every Christian is a bishop. We must take the matter before the Church; and if we are to hear the judgment of Christ, then we must listen to those who are tasked with being, as it were, the nerve-pathways in the body of Christ, carrying signals to us from the Head.”

    3. The authority structure of the Church must derive from Jesus Christ. (Whose Church is it, anyway?) We cannot invent new systems of Church governance in the 16th century merely because we do not like the judgments passed to us by the old ones. That’s Korah’s rebellion all over again.

    4. Those tasked with rendering judgment in the Church must be able to render judgment not merely in matters of injury, but matters of doctrine. This part is fairly straightforward and, I think, agreed upon by all. For of course if I accuse my brother of sin, and he claims it isn’t sin and that my accusation is unjust, that is certainly a matter for the Church to decide! But if he argues before the Church that his behavior is not sin, they have to be able to judge that, yes, it is. They must be able to make such moral pronouncements.

    5. Those tasked with rendering judgment in the Church must be able to judge in a fashion which is globally acknowledged and enforced. It is clearly a departure from the Church governance envisioned by Jesus Christ when a person wants, say, to remarry in the Catholic Church, is told that his first marriage was valid and indissoluble, and responds by ditching the Catholic Church, joining the nearby XYZ church, and being married to his second wife in a religious ceremony there. The New Testament envisions rather that once the decision is made, the only way a person can trick another religious body into operating against that decision is (a.) to lie about it, so that the second religious body doesn’t know about the decision; or, (b.) by going to a non-Christian or heretical religious group. But if he shows up in another city at a local church which is integrated into The Church Universal, then it operates as part of that universal organization, in accord with the Church’s authoritative judgments.

    6. The judgment must be infallible if it cannot be appealed; or if it can be appealed, then it must have become perfectly infallible once one’s final appeal is exhausted. Only such an outcome, guaranteed by the Holy Spirit (who else could guarantee such a thing?!) can prevent the authoritative decision of the Church envisioned in Matthew 18 from resulting in treating an innocent man “as a heathen or tax collector.” When St. Paul ordered in 1 Cor 5 that the man “who has had his father’s wife” be put out of fellowship, his decision was either correct, or God in Heaven had “bound and loosed” erroneously. That, of course, cannot happen, if God is God.

    7. If, as a matter of history, bishops should ever disagree with one another about topics which should rightly fall under their purview, then there must be some process or person of final authority to which the matter may be appealed in order to finally obtain a reliable, authoritative, bound-in-Heaven answer. If it is not “Roma locuta,” it needs to be “Something locuta,” or the entire system becomes either non-functioning (the kind of thing a fallible man, but not the perfect God-man, would put in place) or else it relies on infallibility in all the bishops. Since the bishops have a times disagreed and fallen into error (many of them, in the Arian controversy) we can say without any doubt that bishops in general can fail to correctly teach the Apostolic faith, even if it isn’t often. So the possibility of global episcopal infallibility is ruled out. But the possibility of Magisterial infallibility is not ruled out provided that disagreements can be appealed, ultimately, to a final arbiter whom God will guard from a false ruling (by the gift of the Holy Spirit in general, or, one supposes, by untimely death if necessary!).

    I realize that one can wedge a little skepticism here and some doubt there, and say that you can’t prove this system from Scripture. Of course one can’t. (Since when is the family photo album/scrapbook the best place to go, to prove that dad hasn’t been living under a false name? No single book of the New Testament claims to be an exhaustive Catechism or book of Canon Law; there’s no reason to suppose that the New Testament should collectively turn out to be so.)

    But my conclusion is that, if Christ couldn’t give us a functioning Magisterium we could rely upon, to function as Matthew 18 expects, then he isn’t God.

    But He is God.

    So….

  83. Erick,

    Everyone who knows that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded must enter or remain in full communion with the Catholic Church for the sake of his own salvation.

    In cases of scandal or abuse (of whatever kind), one should humbly and prayerfully go through the proper authority channels in seeking to have the problem resolved. Of course, one might also at the same time need to take other practical steps to protect his family from immediate harm in extreme cases. But in no case should anyone who knows that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded forsake her communion for that of a non-Catholic ecclesial community.

    Andrew

  84. Andrew,

    1 & 3. A rite, defined form / matter, and juridical safeguards protect the validity of ordination. We can reasonably presume validity. What reasons can you give to presume no defect was in Peter ordaining Linus ? I’m sure the question is pointless to Catholics, but it does illustrate gratuitous presumptions towards juridically underdeveloped points in history. A legitimate rite and proper form must be treated as a grant, and by this, conveniently avoiding the fact that matter is common to valid and invalid sacraments.

    2. I limited the problem to a division of chair and man. Sedevacantism evades condemnation from the putative authorities of Rome. I think your assessment of the thesis reveals the real strength of Popery, i.e., the willful obedience and subjection to what we deem true examples of chair / man union.

    4. I mean Apostolic primacy of Peter and his successors. Full Episcopal power (universal bishop) is not conferred through any sacrament. Look closely at how the universal bishop is the only one who can divide the Primacy (chair) and the man. We should expect to find each Roman Pontiff taking care to personally elect his unique successor.

    5. Can the Pope be a schismatic ? How does it affect someone trying to identify true teachers ?

    6. I will view the link provided. It seems that an Antichristic imitation of material continuity must be part of the religious deception to even qualify as deception. Manifest enmity towards Christ and the pilgrim church is not Antichrist’s game plan.

  85. Andrew,

    Thank you for your answer. It makes sense. It was kind of an extreme hypothetical situation. But I consider the faithful few that remained in the churches of Revelation who were not doing so good.

    R.C.,

    You said that the Church’s decision must be infallible since the promise says “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven”. But isn’t it true that there is only a few narrow and unique case for infallibility for the pope? Whereas this situation in matthew 18 is speaking to a small community occurence at the level of the Bishop. Does apostolic succession give infallibility to local bishops? If so, is it due to their communion with the Pope?

  86. Eric (re #84),

    You asked:

    What reasons can you give to presume no defect was in Peter ordaining Linus ?

    The reasons for presuming that there was no defect in form, matter, or intention in Peter’s ordinations or those by the other apostles are the same as the reasons for presuming that neither he nor the other human authors of Sacred Scripture had their fingers crossed when writing their various letters, gospels, and so forth.

    You wrote:

    Sedevacantism evades condemnation from the putative authorities of Rome.

    No, sedevacantism has been condemned by the putative authorities in Rome; i.e., the Magisterium.

    Your fourth point is unintelligible to me.

    No, the Pope cannot be schismatic in the sense of being in schism from the Church that Christ founded.

    Whatever the Antichrist’s game plan is, no one can change history.

    Andrew

  87. Erick Ybarra:

    I do not think the Holy Spirit gives infallibility to local bishops…at least, not in the sense I think you mean.

    But I think the Church is One; Jesus did not found many Churches. And I think the Church is not only the Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ, but also the Household of God and the Kingdom of God and the Family of God.

    If the Holy Spirit made each bishop infallible when rendering his judgment with respect to a matter of faith or morals, then of course there’d be no need for collegiality between the bishops. You could take the matter “to the Church” at a purely local level, and get an answer, and find that no matter how far you traveled, and no matter which other Church you joined, you could never find a bishop in Apostolic Succession that disagreed.

    As a matter of history, though, we know that isn’t correct: The Arian controversy is sufficient to demonstrate that. And anyway, that would be many Churches, not One Church; so it fails the test of Christ having One Body, not many bodies. Jesus is not some opposite-of-a-hydra with one Head but many bodies. Jesus is not a polygamist with many brides. There is one household of God, one family of God; God does not have a different family in each of several towns, like a nasty sort of traveling salesman.

    So it is the Church that winds up being able to bind and loose — because the Church is Christ’s Body and, to borrow a phrase, when J. C. Messiah talks, people (ought to) listen. Christ’s mouth is a part of His body: So when a certain part of the Church speaks, it is Christ speaking. It is the Church which is the pillar and bullwark of the truth, holding up and defending the truth.

    But the bishops have a share in that ministry of binding and loosing because they are Christ’s stewards, exercising power in His name. And the successor of Peter has an especially important role as Christ’s chief steward. Thus the chief steward authority is conferred first (and with the grandest language, and with the symbol of the “keys”) on Peter; but later conferred also on the rest of the Apostolic College. They all have a share in this binding-and-loosing authority which ultimately is Christ’s authority, but Peter’s share is the chief stewardly share and the other apostles’ share is the normal stewardly share.

    Of course the context of this discussion of “stewards” is Isaiah 22, which I think everyone agrees is an important Old Testament passage Jesus has in mind when speaking to Peter in Matthew 16 and to the apostles in general in Matthew 18. But more generally, it helps to know that ancient Near East kingdoms nearly always followed a similar pattern: Kings/Sultans didn’t administer everything personally, but rather created offices of authority who administered certain provinces or departments in the king’s name, and there was one such which was the chief office, second only to the King. The Sultan had many Viziers, but one Grand Vizier; the King had many Stewards, and one Chief Steward; or (in more modern language) many Ministers, and one Prime Minister. Eliakim son of Hilkiah replaces Shebna in a Chief Stewardly office in Isaiah 22, but we see similar structures elsewhere in the Old Testament. (Joseph under Pharaoh; Haman, then Mordecai, under Artaxerxes II; Daniel and his friends at more minor levels under Nebuchadnezzar…and later Daniel appears to have been offered an office one level lower than the Prime Ministership, under Belshazzar, though he didn’t want it.)

    Just like the other stewards the chief steward can bind and loose in the name of the King, but unlike the others, the chief steward has a sort of veto or tie-breaker authority. As it says in Isaiah 22: the chief steward can lock and unlock (all the stewards can), but also, what he locks/shuts/binds “no other” can unlock/open/loose; and what he unlocks/opens/looses, “no other” can lock/shut/bind. That authority is conferred by the King on no other steward save the chief steward, the one with “the keys of the House of David” on “his shoulder.”

    This allows the chief steward to be like that main tent peg of a tent, driven firmly into a secure place, holding the whole tent together. In Isaiah 22 the tent is “the House of David” …not a literal building, of course, since by the time Isaiah is writing David’s been in the grave hundreds of years; the “House” of David is the Davidic Dynasty (as in the House of Tudor) and thus refers to the Davidic kingdom in general: all who are under the authority of the Davidic king (Hezekiah, I think, in Isaiah’s time, isn’t it?), all who are under “David’s roof.” They are all in “the household of David.”

    Now because of the chief steward, there is unity. Imagine what happens if the Davidic King should be away leading the army, or out-of-town on a mission of state, and the stewards he put in charge of the Kingdom in his absence should have a disagreement about policy? What would the kingdom do, if all the King’s men were squabbling among themselves and the division could not be resolved?

    But the chief steward has “the buck stops here” authority. This makes it possible to resolve disputes. It keeps things together, until the king gets back in town. He makes unity possible, and as it says in Isaiah 22, he serves as “a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” One could say that when the king is out-of-town, the chief steward is a “papa,” or a “pope.”

    And of course the Davidic Kingdom is an Old Testament type which is fulfilled in the New Testament by the Messianic Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven, which Jesus establishes. Naturally the new Davidic King will make many attributes of His Kingdom fulfill and improve upon many attributes foreshadowed in the original Davidic Kingdom. So David had stewards and a chief steward; Jesus has stewards and a chief steward. As David’s kingdom grew and the complexities of administering it increased, he added more stewards in charge of various provinces and particular matters of state…but there was always a single chief steward, also having the title “head of house.” (I think the Hebrew term is something like Al Beth or Al Beit?” My Hebrew is weak, but “Beth” is “house” as in the name of David’s city, Bethlehem, “the house of bread.”)

    As in the type, so in the antitype: When a steward dies or abandons his post, another is selected to fill his office. (We see that in Acts 1, with Matthias.) What Jesus’ chief steward binds, no other steward shall loose, which allows Peter and his successors to bind what others have loose and loose what others bind: A tie breaker or veto among the bishops. But remember that St. Paul says the Church is “the household of God” and “the pillar and bulwark of the truth”; and also remember that Jesus gives a greater binding-and-loosing authority to Peter and the Church than David could ever have given to his stewards: What they bind on earth shall be bound “in heaven.”

    How can that be? If a single steward makes an error, of course the others can register their disagreement and appeal the matter to the chief steward, asking him to reverse the original steward’s error. But what if the chief steward makes an error? Will God bind that? Will God agree with the error? The chief steward is “where the buck stops” because what he opens, “no other shall shut” and what he shuts, “no other shall open!” So once the chief steward has definitively ruled, there is no further appeal. What then? Can that ruling be in error? If so, then God has promised to bind/loose it in heaven.

    That can’t be. The Church is the pillar and the bulwark of the truth, not an organization that writes lies in stone.

    Ah, but Christ provides us with the answer in Matthew 16: “It is not man who has revealed this to you, but My Father.” And elsewhere, “the Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth.”

    Now what does THAT mean? The Holy Spirit will lead “you” into all truth. Who is “you?” We all have the Holy Spirit. But that does not mean that our particular role in the Church is to be decision-making conduit by which the Holy Spirit leads the Church into all truth.

    And anyway, Christians disagree about doctrine, don’t they? If they all had the Holy Spirit the same way, they never would. Clearly that is not what that promise means. Look what happened to some rebels in the Old Testament when they said, “Don’t we have the Spirit in us, too?!” Clearly, merely having the Holy Spirit is not the same as being appointed to a special role of authority.

    Here is what I think it means: Christ’s promise that the bindings/loosings of the college of bishops — once taken to the highest level, the final appeal, made definitive, and declared in a fashion which makes them thereafter unchangeable — would be “bound in heaven” means that He protects His Body from being a teacher of error. A layperson can be in error, and teach it, without Christ’s promise being broken. A bishop can even be in error, and teach it, without Christ’s promise being broken. For in either of those cases, the chief steward could still come in and fix the problem. The final Church-wide decision has not yet been rendered: The Church remains, arguably, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.

    But once the chief steward renders a decision, then if that decision were in error, not only would the Church suddenly become the pillar and bulwark of a lie, but God — according to Jesus — would have ratified that error in Heaven! Impossible.

    So I think God prevents the chief steward from binding/loosing in error, in order to prevent the Church from teaching error and ceasing to be the pillar and bullwark of the truth.

    Thus does Peter’s office become a secure tent peg which holds the whole tent — the whole Household of God — together in unity.

    Does that answer your question?

  88. Eric Ybarra:

    I realized, right after typing “Does that answer your question?” and clicking “Submit Comment,” that I’d gotten longwinded and given you the whole context from which I would answer you, without directly applying that context to your questions. Sorry. Congenital longwindedness. I’m trying to control it with medication.

    Anyhow, your precise questions were:

    1. “…isn’t it true that there is only a few narrow and unique case for infallibility for the pope?”

    …and I’m not quite sure what that question means. Are you asking whether there have only been a few historical instances of the successor of Peter exercising his extraordinary Magisterial authority? As I understand it, that’s true…but of course there’s always the ordinary Magisterium. Perhaps I need the question clarified.

    2. “Whereas this situation in matthew 18 is speaking to a small community occurence at the level of the Bishop. Does apostolic succession give infallibility to local bishops?”

    Ah. THAT’S the question I really intended to answer with my big long discussion above. As you can see, I think it’s shown by history alone that every single bishop does not gain infallibility in every teaching on a matter of faith/morals, merely by virtue of his Apostolic Succession. But when a particular question has been judged by the steward (=bishop), his answer can either be accepted, or appealed to the “chief steward” who can loose what the steward has bound or bind what the steward has loosed. And once the chief steward has ruled, then there is no further appeal, so at THAT point, the decision is either infallible, or God has adopted error, or Christ is a liar. (I opt for “infallible.”)

    But as you see, this process begins in the local level with the local bishop, and if his judgment is merely a repeating of a judgment already made (a week ago, or a year ago, or six centuries ago) by a council in communion with the pope, or by the pope exercising his extraordinary magisterium, or by the uniform teaching of the whole Church through the ages, then the “appeal to Rome” option really isn’t necessary. Such questions fall under the topic of “asked and answered.” The bishop is speaking infallibly not by some extraordinary charism, but because he is merely relaying what has already been taught by the Magisterium.

    At any rate the King does not appoint his chief steward to serve simultaneously as the local steward of every last province in the kingdom! The local stewards really are stewards; they are really in charge. The bishops are real bishops, serving with all the dignity described by Ignatius of Antioch in his letters. Judgment begins with them, and in the normal operation of the kingdom it will rarely ever require appeal to the chief steward. It is not the pope’s job to be butting in, disciplining priests and deacons and feeding the poor and confirming new converts who’re supposed to be under the authority of the bishop of Podunk. That’s the bishop of Podunk’s job. But on those rare points where the question is not “asked and answered” already and the unity of the kingdom requires a judgment to be made definitively about some matter of dispute, why, then, we are fortunate that the office of the chief steward exists.

    3. “If so, is it due to their communion with the Pope?”

    Well, I already said “no” to the idea that Apostolic Succession gave a sort of independent infallibility to the bishops. I guess you could say that it’s through their communion with the bishop of Rome that they have a share in the infallible Magisterium. But I don’t mean by that that just because a bishop is in communion with the pope, he gains an identical charism to that of the pope. I only mean that he, like the pope, has a share in the binding/loosing authority of Christ, and that in order for that authority to function in a visible organization on planet Earth the chief steward has to be able to open what others shut and shut what others open, so that disputed matters may be authoritatively resolved and unity maintained.

    You need that main tent peg to stay firm, so that the whole tent doesn’t collapse. And of course the ropes only benefit from the secure positioning of that tent peg because they are tied to it. If they aren’t connected to that main peg, its secure-ness doesn’t benefit them. If a bishop in apostolic succession, but who is not in communion with the successor of Peter, has to make a new moral judgment (e.g. about stem-cell research, or transhumanist augmentation, or holodeck usage, or stuff like that), he can make a judgment…but if he sees a brother bishop deciding differently, that ought to give him pause. If their differences are not merely of emphasis or matters of local discipline, but involve a real disagreement about what is the truth, then it is time for them to appeal the matter to one whose judgment is final and is supported by the full weight of Christ’s promises for the Church. But if they are not in communion with him, then that option is unavailable.

    This is why, as I dithered between Catholic and Eastern Orthodox — I was raised Baptist — I ultimately opted for Catholic: I don’t see that the Eastern Orthodox understanding of the unity of the Church allows it to function as pillar and bullwark in such matters. I don’t deny in the slightest the majesty of their monastic tradition, their contemplative spirituality, the real validity of their sacraments. They are in the Body of Christ, profoundly and beautifully. But that inability to answer new issues, or even to definitively apply old answers to new situations as they arise, matters.

    In ten million years, if the Lord tarries so long, the Church still needs to be functioning in the world. By then the seat of Peter may be located in Alpha Centauri, for all I know. But there needs to be a way for the Church to definitively have unity on questions about the ethical use of transporter technology. And I think it will be important for bishops to be able to say, “Alpha Centauri locuta, causa finita est.”

  89. Erick (81)

    Your scenario is exactly why the reformation began, and moreover, why it was successful. Andrew’s answer in #83 is shocking to me. So… if I am a 12 year old boy being sexually molested by the priest, I should stay in that church? What if I report it and no one does anything… as has been the case many times? The concept of “one church, no matter how corrupt” just doesn’t fly.

    That ain’t the church my Christ founded! The priesthood of all believers is often considered a “right” conveyed upon individual believers, and in some senses it is. But most importantly, it is a responsibility to be in direct communion with God, and to discern His will. So, for example, Paul says this in Colossians 1…

    9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.

    In fact, here is the stone the church is founded upon… as declared by none other than Peter himself…

    1 Peter 2

    4 And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For this is contained in Scripture:

    “Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone,
    And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
    7 This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve,

    “The stone which the builders rejected,
    This became the very corner stone,”

    8 and,

    “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”;
    for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

    9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

    He has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. We must respond faithfully to His call, no matter where the darkness may be.

    Blessings
    Curt

  90. Curt,

    You wrote:

    Andrew’s answer in #83 is shocking to me. So… if I am a 12 year old boy being sexually molested by the priest, I should stay in that church? What if I report it and no one does anything… as has been the case many times?

    Perhaps you are confusing the local parish with the universal Catholic Church. One should never leave the latter, but as I wrote in response to Erick’s question:

    Of course, one might also at the same time need to take other practical steps to protect his family from immediate harm in extreme cases.

    Sexual molestation is obviously an extreme case, particularly when no one does anything about it. And of course among the “other practical steps” one would take in such a case would be to leave that parish. But this does not entail leaving the communion of the Catholic Church to join a Protestant assembly.

  91. Curt,

    I am pretty sure that this cause was not the only one for the reformation. And if it was the only cause of the reformation, then I am not sure how the reformation solved the problem of sin-infested churches. Aside from myself having a reformed baptist pastor have 12 allegations of lewd lascivious (he has not been proven guilty yet) put against him, you just have to do an internet search on the kind of public scandals exist in the varied protestant denominations. If the reformation sought to solve this problem, then I am not sure how it was satisfied.

    Andrew,

    I am trying to relate this to the question of Apostolic Succession, for if there is a duly ordained bishop in town who is a drunk and a fornicator (publicly known) and all (hypothetically) the congregants alike are involved in the same sins, that bishop still has the sacraments flowing through him and him alone (in the given hypothetical situation above where there is only 1 catholic bishop). In addition to this, if I was to attempt to confront the Bishop on his sin, and then he excommunicated me immediately, how should I perceive this? As coming from Christ? The promise of Christ on binding and loosing had to do with this kind of local “moral” situation. Christ gives a promise that “whatever” is bound on earth is bound in heaven, specifically to the small communities issues that are of a “moral” nature (much different than worldwide doctrine proclamatory). Is the promise of infallibility at work here? If it is not, we know that the early canons forbade anyone excommunicated from his/her bishop is not to be received by any other bishop. In other words, in the Council of Nicea, the highest court of appeal was the Bishop in the local diocese, and no other bishop was allowed to intervene, not even the Bishop of Rome (per St. Augustine).

  92. Erick,

    You will have to consult someone who knows something about canon law in order to discover what are the proper ways to bring a charge against a bishop, and under what circumstances excommunications can be lifted or declared void, and how to go about resolving the problems you raise in this hypothetical scenario. But I can say with confidence that in the Catholic Church it is simply not the case that the ordinary bishop in a local diocese is the highest court of appeal in the universal Church. The Pope is most certainly able to intervene in the diocese of an erring bishop. Church councils / synods also have authority to make and enforce canon law. Individual bishops can be and have been corrected and disciplined, up to and including being deposed, defrocked, and excommunicated. The universal Church, on the Catholic model, is not a mere collection of local churches extrinsically related to one another by doctrinal, cultic, and moral resemblances and ad hoc, administrative arrangements. It is a visible, hierarchical community with a unified structure including headship at the universal level.

  93. Andrew,

    Your answer is why I think that a discussion about Apostolic Succession while disregarding the Papacy is almost unhelpful. For the whole concept of Apostolic Succession is the sacrament of Holy Orders which endows a human person to be an extension of Jesus Christ in our world today. But you have all these persons (Bishops/Priests) endowed as extensions of Christ who are able to go in so many diverse directions that the question of how visible communion will be successfully achieved given the wide range of human ideas. This is why many of you have argued for the need of a head, a visible head to be a principle of unity in the distribution of holy orders, so that schism may not occur.

    So we can actually have extensions of Christ in our world today who can exhibit a visible oneness, for there is an indivisible (one) human person who is head over all, to serve as a principle unity of faith and morals.

    This all makes perfect sense philosophically, but this immediately raises so many questions for how such a thing can go unnoticed or untaught for so long, to be justified by a theory of development.

  94. Erick,

    There is no intent here to “disregard” the papacy in the discussion about apostolic succession, but we absolutely must distinguish between the sacrament of Holy Orders and the papacy. Without Holy Orders, there is no sacramental Church for the Pope to serve, no Eucharist for him to celebrate. These are not incidental matters, they are essential, and one need not presuppose the Catholic doctrine of the Papacy in order to intelligibly discuss them. However, since I raised the topic of the Papacy, if only in passing, in the original post, I guess I shouldn’t complain too much if you and others latch onto it, disregarding the bulk of what I had to say by way of a preliminary discussion of apostolic succession.

    Regarding Papal authority, you wrote:

    This all makes perfect sense philosophically, but this immediately raises so many questions for how such a thing can go unnoticed or untaught for so long, to be justified by a theory of development.

    The force of the argument for development in recognition and understanding of unique role of the Bishop of Rome in the universal Church depends (in part) upon when “so long” becomes “too long” for the first distinct signs of noticing and teaching to be plausibly considered as developments of something original and intrinsic rather than an invention of something new.

    There is some indication of a special role for the Church of Rome in the first century (Clement), clearer indications in the second century (Ignatius and Irenaeus), and clear reference to the particular authority of the Bishop of Rome in the third century (Cyprian), which kind of statements grow progressively more pronounced in the fourth and fifth centuries, until by the time of Pope Gregory (sixth century) we have a very noticeable Papacy together with distinctly Catholic teaching about the Papacy.

    As I pointed out in comment #69, this process of development is similar to the development of Trinitarian and Christological orthodoxy over the same period of time. One can always ask why, if Christ is indeed consubstantial with the Father, and if the Holy Spirit is indeed “with the Father and the Son together worshiped and glorified” it took so long for the Church to notice and teach these things. Or, one could ask, “If Christ really has two wills, why was this not explicitly defined until the late seventh century?” And those are certainly valid questions. There were and are so-called heretics who claim(ed) that the ecumenical councils invented novelties.

    I think that there are good reasons to accept the teaching of the ecumenical councils and that the plausibility of the principle of doctrinal development is among those reasons. But then, once this principle is admitted–and I have a hard time seeing how one could be anything but accidentally orthodox and / or historically naive without admitting it–the kind of developments that one can observe in the both the practical functioning of Papal authority and the early Church’s theoretical understanding of the role of the Bishop of Rome in the universal Church can by the same token be plausibly explained as about what one would expect to see, all things considered, if the Papacy is indeed something that Christ instituted in the Church that he founded in the first century, intending it to grow and to endure as one Church everywhere through all the subsequent centuries.

  95. Andrew,

    I would be glad to embrace your synopsis, but the remaining barrier for seems to be the difficulty
    of how the early Bishop outright rejected this kind of structure (Papal structure). As I wrote in a previous post
    Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus (or Symrna) represents the totality of the churches of Asia and he responds
    to victor with “We should obey God rather than man”.

  96. Curt (#89):

    You wrote:

    Your scenario is exactly why the reformation began, and moreover, why it was successful. Andrew’s answer in #83 is shocking to me. So… if I am a 12 year old boy being sexually molested by the priest, I should stay in that church? What if I report it and no one does anything… as has been the case many times? The concept of “one church, no matter how corrupt” just doesn’t fly.

    Well, I was “sexually molested” by a priest as a 13-year-old boy. I did report it, and nobody did anything. That caused a crisis of faith for me that lasted almost through my college years. During those years, I double-majored in philosophy and religion so as to help myself form a worldview I could believe in. At the end of that period of inquiry, having explored all the philosophical and religious alternatives I could, I returned to the Catholic Church.

    Why? For roughly the reasons I’ve been giving at this site. My faith has never depended on my opinion of the clergy. Neither should yours.

    Best,
    Mike

  97. Mike (95)

    My faith has never depended on my opinion of the clergy. Neither should yours.

    I absolutely agree. That is why Protestants view Christ as the cornerstone of the church, the great High Priest, and those who follow Him as “the Church”. When we place our faith in the hands of a particular denomination or a particular place or in particular people, no matter which denomination, place or people, we run the risk of a faith crisis as you experienced. Jesus calls us to worship God in spirit and truth… not in a particular place. We recall the conversation with the woman at the well…

    John 4
    20 Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” 21 Jesus *said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman *said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” 26 Jesus *said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

    Blessings
    Curt

  98. Erick (re #95),

    The notion that “we should obey God rather than men” expresses an obvious truth, and for that reason it is the cry of men everywhere whenever they prefer their own judgment to that of the Church. But it does not follow from this that the Church does not have God-given authority to which men ought to submit, even though when push comes to shove they often do not. The same goes for the authority of the Pope within the Church. Pope Victor’s move to excommunicate “the whole of Asia” was precipitous, and “the whole of Asia” certainly objected to it. But notice that when Irenaeus counsels Victor not to excommunicate these churches, he does not argue that the Bishop of Rome has no such authority in the first place. Rather, he pleads toleration of the Asian churches’ customs regarding Easter and the preceding fast, since these originated not “in our time, but much further back” and that all have previously lived in peace despite these differences, which diversity actually “enhances the unanimity of our faith.” (cf. Eusebius, Church History, V. 24. 9-18.)

  99. Hi Erick,

    One caveat, and then a response to your latest question.

    Caveat: I don’t quite agree with Andrew that “by the time of Pope Gregory (sixth century) we have a very noticeable Papacy together with distinctly Catholic teaching about the Papacy.” I think that as soon as we have good data (early 400s) we have statements and actions from Innocent and the following Popes, as well as statements and actions from fathers like Peter Chrysologus, that clearly state a distinctly Catholic teaching about the worldwide doctrinal authority of the Papacy, as well as the dominical source of that authority. Much of the belief that we don’t have such a distinctly Catholic teaching until later is a result of very dishonest histories written by self-justifying non-Catholic historians, coupled with very ignorant histories written by more recent Catholic historians who studied from the textbooks and scholarly articles written by the self-justifying non-Catholic historians (who were themselves the academic parents of multiple generations of academic historians, and whose views therefore became exaggerated beyond their merits). That is why it is so refreshing to read Chapman. He was a monk (former Anglican) who didn’t have any doctoral students, as far as I know, but his work is still cited by the best non-Catholic scholars today because it was so much more fair, honest, and intelligent than much of what was written by the non-Catholic academics of his day. He’s better than Solovyov if you want to see just how much pro-papal material has been left out of the histories you’ve been reading (especially from that period starting around 400 where the data set gets rich with minor authors), as well as how clear explanations of the non-pro-papal material can be made.

    As far as the question of how to make sense of Polycrates:

    It has been, and continues to be, a long-standing question of what to do if you are a Catholic and you wake up one morning and the Pope says something that seems to be an obvious heresy. It may surprise you to know that there are a large variety of viewpoints on that question among legitimate believing knowledgeable Catholics. I think that all such viewpoints agree that if the Pope has not irreversibly declared the heresy using his full authority, then he should be strongly resisted. There is probably more disagreement about what it would mean if he did infallibly declare a heresy to be true. But, minus the infallible declaration, almost anyone would agree that we must obey God rather than man. If the Pope wrote me a letter and said that he wanted to deny me communion unless I stood up and said “I don’t believe in God!” in the town square, I would definitely not obey him. If his action was public I would love to say publicly in return that I must obey God rather than man. And none of this would imply a crisis of faith on my part: I would trust that the holy spirit would prevent the Pope from infallibly declaring a heresy, as He always has in the past. And therefore I would trust that the Pope himself would back down, as in fact Victor did.

    I note that we don’t have firm evidence that Victor was wrong to behave the way he did — Eusebius implicitly states that many bishops agreed with Victor. But neither was Polycrates necessarily wrong: if Polycrates thought that Victor was requiring him to reject a clear and public teaching of the apostles of whose teaching he had certain knowledge, then Polycrates did exactly the right thing to resist strongly and publicly. In cases without infallible authority being invoked, I think any Catholic today would do exactly the same. There would likely be more disagreement about what to do in the infallible case, but, as it happens, that has never been a problem before, and I do not believe it ever will be.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  100. Erick (91)

    I am pretty sure that this cause was not the only one for the reformation. And if it was the only cause of the reformation, then I am not sure how the reformation solved the problem of sin-infested churches. Aside from myself having a reformed baptist pastor have 12 allegations of lewd lascivious (he has not been proven guilty yet) put against him, you just have to do an internet search on the kind of public scandals exist in the varied protestant denominations. If the reformation sought to solve this problem, then I am not sure how it was satisfied.

    If you don’t think church corruption was the cause of the reformation, I’m curious what you think was the cause. Yes there is corruption in all churches from the beginning of time. In the Catholic church, there is this one little problem… salvation and forgiveness of sin is dispensed through the church. If a church leader is corrupt, this seems a bit illogical, if not outright hypocritical. The other problem is that the congregation has no authority to take action against a corrupt priest. In the Protestant church, the elders can immediately remove a pastor who acts inappropriately. Further, in the Protestant church, salvation comes through Christ, the great High Priest. He is the only intermediary between man and God. We worship in spirit and truth… not in a particular place.

    John 4
    23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

    Philippians 3
    2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; 3 for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh

    Blessings
    Curt

  101. Curt,

    I think what you are trying to argue for is that each Christian is only bound to obey God and that there is no submission that we must give to man? Well, if this is the case, the same Holy Scriptures which, as you believe in Sola Scriptura, which also are useful for doctrine, teach us to submit to Clergy (Heb 13).

    K. Doran,

    I understand your points. However, it must be questioned concerning this unique case of infallibility, for Christ’s promise concerning the binding of men on earth in heaven was not qualified (in the text anyway) to not include general excommunications. In fact, Jesus promised this power to bind and loose in a local setting, presumably something which can take place at one time in many many places throughout the world. The binding and loosing powers, if they carry infallibility in themselves, which I think you’d have to say (since the text says whatever you bind is bound in heaven), then it has to be something which can be attributed to local bishops. This being the case, it seems more consistent, yet more problematic, with Jesus’ words if infallibility is general and not some unique point of speech which has to be qualified with one thing after the next.

  102. In an interesting response to the 1848 letter of Pope Pius IX to the Orthodox Patriarchs, who had this to say:

    Who is so bold and confident in the dignity of the Apostolic Throne, as to dare to say that if our holy Father, Sr. Irenaeus, were alive again, seeing it was fallen from the ancient and primitive teaching in so many most essential and catholic articles of Christianity, he would not be himself the first to oppose the novelties and self-sufficient constitutions of that Church which was lauded by him as guided purely by the doctrines of the Fathers? For instance, when he saw the Roman Church not only rejecting from her Liturgical Canon, according to the suggestion of the Schoolmen, the very ancient and Apostolic invocation of the Consecrating Spirit, and miserably mutilating the Sacrifice in its most essential part, but also urgently hastening to cut it out from the Liturgies of other Christian Communions also,—his Holiness slanderously asserting, in a manner so unworthy of the Apostolic Throne on which he boasts himself, that it “crept in after t.he division between the East and West” (p. xi. 1.11)—what would not the holy Father say respecting this novelty ? Irenaeus assures us (lib. iv. c. 34) “that bread, from the ground, receiving the evocation of God, is no longer common bread,” etc., meaning by “evocation” invocation: for that Irenaeus believed the Mystery of the Sacrifice to be consecrated by means of this invocation is especially remarked even by Franciscus Feu-Ardentius, of the order of popish monks called Minorites, who in 1639 edited the writings of that saint with comments, who says (lib. i. c. 18, p. 114,) that Irenaeus teaches “that the bread and mixed cup become the true Body and Blood of Christ by the words of invocation.” Or, hearing of the vicarial and appellate jurisdiction of the Pope, what would not the Saint say, who, for a small and almost indifferent question concerning the celebration of Easter (Euseb. Eccl. Hist. v. 26), so boldly and victoriously opposed and defeated the violence of Pope Victor in the free Church of Christ? Thus he who is cited by his Holiness as a witness of the primacy of the Roman Church, shows that its dignity is not that of a lordship, nor even appellate, to which St. Peter himself was never ordained, but is a brotherly privilege in the Catholic Church, and an honor assigned the Popes on account of the greatness and privilege of the City. Thus, also, the fourth Ecumenical Council, for the preservation of the gradation in rank of Churches canonically established by the third Ecumenical Council (Canon 8),—following the second (Canon 3), as that again followed the first (Canon 6), which called the appellate jurisdiction of the Pope over the West a Custom,—thus uttered its determination: “On account of that City being the Imperial City, the Fathers have with reason given it prerogatives” (Canon 28). Here is nothing said of the Pope’s special monopoly of the Apostolicity of St. Peter, still less of a vicarship in Rome’s Bishops, and an universal Pastorate. This deep silence in regard to such great privileges—nor only so, but the reason assigned for the primacy, not “Feed my sheep,” not “On this rock will I build my Church,” but simply old Custom, and the City being the Imperial City; and these things, not from the LORD, but from the Fathers—will seem, we are sure, a great paradox to his Holiness entertaining other ideas of his prerogatives.

    Shall we say then, that it is not just Protestants who have a problem with apostolic succession and Papacy as it is alleged to be by the Roman church.

    They also said this…

    Moreover, neither Patriarchs nor Councils could then have introduced novelties amongst us, because the protector of religion is the very body of the Church, even the people themselves, who desire their religious worship to be ever unchanged and of the same kind as that of their fathers: for as, after the Schism, many of the Popes and Latinizing Patriarchs made attempts that came to nothing even in the Western Church; and as, from time to time, either by fair means or foul, the Popes have commanded novelties for the sake of expediency (as they have explained to our fathers, although they were thus dismembering the Body of Christ): so now again the Pope, for the sake of a truly divine and most just expediency, forsooth (not mending the nets, but himself rending the garment of the Savior), dare to oppose the venerable things of antiquity,—things well fitted to preserve religion, as his Holiness confesses (p. xi. l.16), and which he himself honors, as he says (lb. 1.16), together with his predecessors, for he repeats that memorable expression o one of those blessed predecessors (Celestine, writing to the third Ecumenical Council): “Let novelty cease to attack antiquity.” And let the Catholic Church enjoy this benefit from this so far blameless declaration of the Popes. It must by all means be confessed, that in such his attempt, even though Pius IX be eminent for wisdom and piety, and, as he says, for zeal after Christian unity in the Catholic Church, he will meet, within and without, with difficulties and toils. And here we must put his Holiness in mind, if he will excuse our boldness, of that portion of his letter (p. viii. L.32), “That in things which relate to the confession of our divine religion, nothing is to be feared, when we look to the glory of Christ, and the reward which awaits us in eternal life.” It is incumbent on his Holiness to show before God and man, that, as prime mover of the counsel which pleases God, so is he a willing protector of the ill-treated evangelical and synodical truth, even to the sacrifice of his own interests, according to the Prophet (Is. lx. 17), A ruler in peace and a bishop in righteousness. So be it! But until there be this desired returning of the apostate Churches to the body of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of which Christ is the Head (Eph. iv. 15), and each of us “members in particular,” all advice proceeding from them, and every officious exhortation tending to the dissolution of our pure faith handed down from the Fathers is condemned, as it ought to be, synodically, not only as suspicious and to be eschewed, but as impious and soul-destroying: and in this category, among the first we place the said Encyclical to the Easterns from Pope Pius IX, Bishop of the elder Rome; and such we proclaim it to be in the Catholic Church.

    Food for thought from the Orthodox side of the Church… not too distant from Protestant thought.

    Blessings
    Curt

  103. Curt (#97):

    That is why Protestants view Christ as the cornerstone of the church, the great High Priest, and those who follow Him as “the Church”. When we place our faith in the hands of a particular denomination or a particular place or in particular people, no matter which denomination, place or people, we run the risk of a faith crisis as you experienced. Jesus calls us to worship God in spirit and truth… not in a particular place.

    That begs the question in two ways: first, by assuming that divine revelation, and therefore the will of Christ, can be reliably identified and interpreted as such without recourse to ecclesial authority; second, by assuming that the Catholic Church is just one more “denomination,” as distinct from his visible Body which he founded as such. Any informed Catholic would reject both assumptions. I am Catholic because I came, after lengthy consideration, to reject them.

    Best,
    Mike

  104. Mike

    … and thereby subject yourself to another crisis, should that particular ecclesial authority do something which stands in opposition to God’s truth, as understood by your ability to discern God’s truth… which you do have, by the way.

    Blessings
    Curt

  105. Curt (#97):

    You say, ‘That is why Protestants view Christ as the cornerstone of the church, the great High Priest, and those who follow Him as “the Church”. When we place our faith in the hands of a particular denomination or a particular place or in particular people, no matter which denomination, place or people, we run the risk of a faith crisis as you experienced.”

    Ah, but formulating the matter in that way (“no matter which denomination”) obscures the fact that there are no alternatives (assuming that one considers the Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox churches to be “denominations,” which of course Catholics don’t, but it’s the usual Protestant view).

    When I say, “there are no alternatives,” I mean this: Everyone needs guidance and help and companionship and fellowship in their walk of faith. Everyone needs wise counsel and good examples set by holy forebears and the benefit of good instruction and sound Scripture interpretation. Everyone needs this.

    Where, then, will each man get it?

    He will either get it from a Protestant denomination — which is a particular group of men — or he will get it from any of various Evangelical para-church organizations — which are also particular groups of men — or he will get it from popular spiritual writers — another group of men — or he will try to re-invent the wheel all on his own by relying on his own resources. And in that last case, he will still be getting counsel, et cetera from a “group” of men, but it’s a group of only one: himself.

    Now your phrasing of the matter obscures this reality. It makes it sound as if, when a man seeks Christ all by himself and without submitting to any other authority, he is not submitting to any authority but Christ. But this is not so: He is submitting to his own authority. He follows whatever light is shed by his own best guesses as to the meaning of Scripture, the calling of God in his life, the applicability of the apostolic faith to modern questions, and so on.

    Now of course he is unlikely to be a specialist in all facets of theology and spiritual practice! When one refuses to benefit from the experience of others, one cuts out a fairly large chunk of the information one might otherwise have obtained. And, unlike the act of submitting to another human being, one gains no useful exercise in humility or self-abnegation by submitting solely to one’s own best guesses.

    Of course, as a former evangelical I realize that one does not see one’s spiritual walk in such terms when one is an evangelical! One is aware of “not having a pope”; but one is not aware of being, effectively, one’s own pope.

    For example, one might say, “I don’t just live according to my best guesses! I do my best to gnaw on Scripture, to ruminate on every phrase, to know it backwards and forwards! I do my best to be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, whom I implore to lead me into all truth every time I open the sacred pages. I am leaning not on myself, but on Christ alone.”

    Now this protestation is noble in intent, but it is mistaken. We know that it is mistaken because if several hundred million Protestants were all being led by the Holy Spirit, there would be no daylight between Protestants on matters of doctrine, ecclesial governance, the practice and meaning of the sacraments/ordinances, and so on. The existence of the myriad Protestant denominations is a divine message to humanity written across the face of human history: “That Model Sounds Nice, But It Is Not My Model. It Is Not The Way I Ever Intended To Lead You Into All Truth. You Can Pray That The Holy Spirit Will Guide Your Scripture Interpretation As Much As You Like…But I Give You No Guarantee Of Infallible Individual Interpretation BECAUSE I NEVER MEANT IT TO WORK THAT WAY.”

    Paradoxically, the man who leans on the Catholic Church to assist him in knowing true doctrine is the man who really leans on Christ alone: Because he is obtaining truth the way Christ intended him to obtain it, and not seeking truth through a novel 16th-century alternative approach. If the Church is a crutch, it is a crutch that Christ gave us because of our lameness. The Great Physician knows far better than we whether we need a crutch for the healing of our bones.

    And at any rate, the Body of Christ is the body of Christ. How can one be relying on men instead of Christ, if one is leaning on Christ’s hands, Christ’s feet, Christ’s shoulder?

    As I said before: I was an evangelical. I know that perspective, and I know it is sincere, because I sincerely held it. It was my best understanding at the time.

    But there were questions which simply had never occurred to me. The honest examination of those questions and the realization that Protestantism had no adequate answers for them moved me in to a no-man’s-land where I was not yet Catholic, but could no longer, with intellectual honesty, call myself Protestant.

    The Apostolic Succession and the chief-stewardly role of the successor of Peter provides a solution the problem of How Do We Know What Christianity Is? What is our methodology for knowing that? And don’t forget: It has to be the same methodology Christians used in AD 75, AD 175, AD 275…, and has to keep working, producing consistent answers, in AD 1750, AD 2013, AD 2750, and AD 9999.

    Protestantism has no such answer. Its attempts to formulate an ecclesiology that can work and maintain doctrinal stability long term have all failed in a mere 500 years. Imagine how it’ll look in another 500! Just to cite one problem: Will any existing Protestant communion not have gay weddings by then? Given how far they’ve drifted from Luther and Calvin’s opinions excoriating contraception, it is hard to believe they won’t drift on other matters also.

    You say, “when we place our faith in the hands of …particular people.” Well, yourself is “particular people.” The only way to avoid “particular people” being a problem is if they’re the people Jesus Christ designated to lead you.

  106. Curt:

    As to your #100, I have long been aware of how the Orthodox patriarchs responded to Pope Pius IX’s letter. Neither side said anything of doctrinal substance that hadn’t been said, over and over, for centuries. So what is the Christian inquirer trying to decide between them to do? In college I became convinced, and I remain convinced, that he must decide which ecclesiology and accompanying historical narrative–the Catholic or the Eastern-Orthodox–is best suited to distinguishing divine revelation from human theological opinion. To me, the answer has long been obvious, and I’ve explained why more than once on this site. If you haven’t read it, I’m quite able to summarize it for you.

    But I suspect the effort would be premature in your case. For there’s a still more basic problem with the quintessentially Protestant attitude expressed in your #102–one that the “Eastern” and the “Oriental” Orthodox would also see as a problem.

    Addressing my rejection of the assumptions you expressed in #97, you write:

    … and thereby subject yourself to another crisis, should that particular ecclesial authority do something which stands in opposition to God’s truth, as understood by your ability to discern God’s truth… which you do have, by the way.

    The key phrase in that is ‘as understood by your ability to discern God’s truth…” I do believe I have the ability to discern that. But I also believe I could not have that ability if I did not believe what “the” Church Christ founded teaches. For without the sort of authority that both the Roman and the EO communions claim for themselves, I have only my own opinion about what God’s truth is. I neither have nor can claim the authority to distinguish authentic expressions of divine revelation from my own theological opinions. Neither do you. Neither can Protestantism in general, for reasons I have long been explaining. The choice for somebody who wants to get beyond mere opinion is between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. But we can’t even get into a position to discuss what’s involved in making that choice unless you concede the more basic point, which of course you have not done. So that’s the point I’m interested in discussing

    Best,
    Mike

  107. Andrew,

    If, by the act of writing, the NT writers intended to do what Christ and His Church do, then we have no objective criteria to discern any possible defect of intention. Christ never instituted writing to be faithfully continued in his ministers. We are forced to conclude that all inscripturation presupposes the intention of its human author. The fact and nature of scripture itself grounds our presumptions of sufficient intention.

    If proper intention is embodied in the observable rite, then please produce the rite performed by Peter. Peter received the institutions from Christ as objective criteria for discerning intention. Where are the witnesses or the form ? The Magisterium allows its followers to identify legitimate successors of Peter without an infallible witness. Identities, such as Linus or Pope Francis, are subjects of divinely revealed truths. Where is the infallible canon of legitimate Popes ?

    Eric

  108. Michael,

    Fundamentally, it seems as though the difference (maybe not whollistically) between the PIP and the CIP, which you are espousing to be the first stage of observation prior to engaging in discussion on whether one accepts Eatern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism, is that the PIP always examines what is being “SAID” whereas the CIP does not launch from this preliminary search but is more concerned with “WHO” is saying what is “SAID”. The PIP focuses more on the arguments whereas the Catholic focuses more on the speakers. The PIP assumes that we must always subject ALL human persons to the ability of error (even apostatizing error) and therefore it can never be “WHO” is speaking but a scrutinization of “WHAT” is being “SAID” by whoever is speaking. There is constant examination and confirmation that what one is saying is true. The CIP however finds that this method is subject to subjective opinion being the highest expression of truth, in other words, whatever one thinks should be SAID is what he/she will be satisfied with being SAID. The CIP then turns away from always examining “WHAT” (in a certain preliminary observation stage) is being said and rather determine “WHO” the right people are, namely, “WHO” is being divinely protected by God from any possible error, and then after this we will begin to study “WHAT” is being said without the anxiety of having to fear any error in what is being studied.

    The problem with the CIP, basically, is that the available writings we have of the apostles and their close companions provide us, it seems to me at the present moment, assumptions which fit more in the PIP than the CIP. For sure, the CIP is the constant mode in heaven. No one would argue against that. And the CIP was operative with the Prophets and Apostles. Again, I don’t think anyone will argue against that. But the teachings of these men consist in the fact that all mankind is subject to gross error. This assumption is what grounds the exhortations to “hold fast” or “test all things” and “hold to what is good and not evil” and “let every one being convinced in his own mind” ,etc,etc,etc. These exhortations have a sort of operating assumption, one that seems to me fits more perfect within the context of the PIP, for the CIP simply begins with an invesitgation for the “WHO’ rather than an investigation for the “WHAT”.

    Now I am playing a bit of devil’s advocate here, so I do not necessarily hold to the below viewpoints, however for the sake of discussion, I am going to put forth what is available in the logic of the PIP.

    Given this, let’s run through what it would look like if every human statement was at best an expression of human opinion, meaning, that it is not exactly or necessarily preserved from any error. If God is in fact behind the revelation of each person’s belief, than it is not in fact a human opinion from God’s standpoint, and therefore it is released from the attribute of being a mere opinion. Rather, if God is the operating revealer behind each person’s faith, than there are no opinions in the matter, but divine truth coming from divine law. The problem with this is that, in it’s totality, it is an entirely invisisble thing. Therefore, neither the one who has had revelation given to them nor any observing enquirers have the ability to objectively “know” if the belief revealed is “actually” without error. But let’s face it, is this not a human problem? If it is a human problem, then it is not God’s problem, nor is it the problem of those who are annoiinted with the Holy Spirit, who know the testimony of Chris by the gift itself. Will the religion of Christ be subject to division? Of course, just as the 12 apostles themselves were divided. Just as from the very get to in Jersusalem, there was major division. Just like thereafter there was division, etc,etc,etc,etc.

    Now let’s run through what the world would be like in the CIP. In this world, it is a matter of sticking with the right people, not necessarily (in the first place) always having to test everything that is said. Comfort in knowing one is in orthodoxy is a matter of location, and not argumentation. Of course the two are wedded together in the outworking, but basically it does boil down to WHO is being preserved from error by God. It can be compared to a crystal ball that when one looks into it, there will always be revealed the truth about any given question. The crystal ball is the location of infallibility, and so there is no reason to question or doubt whether one is receiving the truth.

    Out of the two principles, I think one can argue that the apostles (in what writings we have representative) as well as in the early church, there seems to be a sort of PIP and a sort of CIP. For the Church can never be defective, but yet again each person is subject to apostacy, and so the orthodox and anglican divines see infallibility in the whole, rather than in one man in certain conditions. Since both principles can be seen in Church history (PIP and CIP- For papal infallibiity was never part of the Church’s confession for years and years way after Christ himself), it seems that Orthodox at least have a stronger case.

  109. Eric (re #105),

    You wrote:

    If, by the act of writing, the NT writers intended to do what Christ and His Church do, then we have no objective criteria to discern any possible defect of intention. Christ never instituted writing to be faithfully continued in his ministers. We are forced to conclude that all inscripturation presupposes the intention of its human author. The fact and nature of scripture itself grounds our presumptions of sufficient intention.

    This paragraph, as a whole, is unintelligible to me. For one thing, it is merely a string of assertions, though apparently you think it is an argument (“We are forced to conclude…”). For another, each assertion, except for the last, is in itself problematic. The first sentence seems to be a mere tautology. The second sentence is ambiguous–it is not obvious what you mean by “faithfully continued” “his ministers” and “writing.” Your final assertion is exactly correct, and perfectly applies to ordinations by the Apostles; i.e., “The fact and nature of the Apostolic ministry itself grounds our presumptions of sufficient intention.”

    You wrote:

    If proper intention is embodied in the observable rite, then please produce the rite performed by Peter. Peter received the institutions from Christ as objective criteria for discerning intention. Where are the witnesses or the form ?

    The ordination rite used by Peter is in the same place as the original mss. of his first and second epistles. Produce the latter, and I will produce the former. The significance, or lack thereof, of failing to produce the original is similar in each case.

    You wrote:

    The Magisterium allows its followers to identify legitimate successors of Peter without an infallible witness. Identities, such as Linus or Pope Francis, are subjects of divinely revealed truths. Where is the infallible canon of legitimate Popes ?

    The legitimate successors of St. Peter are not identified without an infallible witness. The judgment of both the Church as a whole and the ordinary and universal magisterium are infallible witnesses, and these have judged that there have been 265 successors to St. Peter. For names and dates, see this webpage.

  110. Erick (#106):

    As used by people who did not walk the earth with Jesus or the Apostles–i.e., by everybody since the first century of the Church’s life–the essence of the PIP is to identify and interpret the deposit of faith as such, and thus divine revelation, by studying the “sources” (chiefly but not exclusively Scripture) and making inferences from them. The problem with that approach is that, if no particular person or group of persons inherits the infallible teaching authority of Jesus from the Apostles, then we have only opinions to offer about what belongs in the sources and what they mean. Thus, even when the content of our opinions belongs as a matter of fact to divine revelation, they cannot be held and taught with what anybody can recognize as divine and thus infallible authority. Hence, it can be held and taught only as opinion. And that makes it, for us, indistinguishable in principle from mere opinions, even when they happen to express what God wants us to believe. Thus they cannot qualify for the unconditional assent of faith, but only for the provisional assent of opinion.

    It seems to me that your “devil’s-advocate” argument walks into that trap. You propose to address the issue between the PIP and the CIP by studying the NT to see if the Apostles relied on something like the PIP or something like the CIP, or both–a procedure which is itself characteristic of the PIP, and thus begs precisely the question needing resolution. You also propose to study early Church history as a whole to see who has the stronger case about ecclesial polity. But the result is the same: It not only begs the question, but leaves us only with opinions, which is the very problem we’re setting out to solve. Finally, since the PIP and the CIP are not entirely compatible with each other, if the Apostles oscillated between both, then something later is needed to resolve the inconsistency.

    Indeed, the first step in getting out of the trap is to reject the false dichotomy you’re presenting. When it comes to things like prophecy and other such gifts of the Spirit, nobody disputes the need to “test” everything. But it’s somewhat different with doctrine. On disputed issues, of course, it’s important to try to work things out with meditation, prayer, discussion, even debate. But if no outcome is ever irreformable, by virtue of being taught with inherited divine authority, then everything remains a matter of opinion, and we cannot identify and interpret the deposit of faith, whatever its content, as divine revelation distinct from opinion. So doctrinal development is not a matter of either “testing” everything or resolving some things by appeal to infallible authority. The former process is always necessary, but in many areas, so is the latter. For the arguments characteristic of the former are never demonstrative enough n themselves to compel the assent of faith as distinct from that opinion. All they can do is show how the needed authority can be considered reasonable, once the resolution required of authority is given.

    Best,
    Mike

  111. Mike,

    Thank you for the thorough response.

    I can think of a few answers to this question. Maybe you can give a link. But why wouldn’t the “sources” provide somewhat of a basis from which to “know” what has been taught from the apostles and early church fathers?

  112. Erick Ybarra, you write:

    Fundamentally, it seems as though the difference (maybe not whollistically) between the PIP and the CIP, which you are espousing to be the first stage of observation prior to engaging in discussion on whether one accepts Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism, is that the PIP always examines what is being “SAID” whereas the CIP does not launch from this preliminary search but is more concerned with “WHO” is saying what is “SAID”.

    I think that this is a false dichotomy, i.e. that when it comes to interpretive paradigms, that somehow the Protestants are more interested in WHAT is being said in the scriptures, whereas Catholics are primarily interested in WHO is doing the interpretation of scriptures. Here is why I say that. Suppose, at the first stages of his inquiry, the seeker of the truth has been given the grace of God to believe by the gift of divine faith that the scriptures are the divinely inspired, (God-breathed), inerrant, word of God. At this stage of his inquiry, the seeker would be operating from an article of faith that is shared by those who hold the Conservative Protestant Interpretive Paradigm, the Catholic Interpretive Paradigm, and the Orthodox Interpretive Paradigm.

    The seeker of truth, in examining WHAT the word of God says, soon discovers that Jesus Christ founded his own personal church (Matthew 16:18), and that Christ has demanded of those who would be his disciples that them must listen to the church that he personally founded or suffer the pain of excommunication (Matthew 18:17). The inquirer, from his reading of the inerrant scriptures, is confronted with the fact that WHAT is written in the word of God demands of him that he listen to WHO is speaking with authority in the church that Jesus Christ personally founded. For this scriptural reason, the inquirer would know that he cannot listen to any man or woman in a Protestant denomination as a final interpretive authority, since all Protestant denominations are merely ecclesial organizations founded by protesting men and women in schism with the church personally founded by Jesus Christ. Matthew 18:17 also excludes the solo scriptura principle (which implicitly asserts that I am the final interpretive authority), or as Andrew Preslar puts it, the scriptures exclude this belief:

    “My own interpretation of whatever writings I deem to be canonical is the measure of the universal Church that Christ founded.”

    In short, WHAT is being said in scriptures demands that the inquirer be concerned with “WHO is saying what is SAID”. All of which should lead the inquirer into an examination of the doctrines concerning Apostolic Succession. Andrew Preslar speaks to this point in his article:

    Given that Christ only founded one Church (the universal Church)–as attested by the singular ecclesia used in Matthew 16:18–such that the three-fold charism of teaching, governing, and sanctifying, while most obviously operative in the local churches, presupposes, depends upon, and is ordered to the life of this one, universal Church, the inquirer is justified in asking further “Where should I look for the true interpretation of divine revelation in the event that not all sacramentally ordained bishops are in communion with one another, teaching the same doctrine?”

    Since the scriptures rule out all of Protestantism as a final interpretive authority, the inquirer then needs to ask himself which of the ancient churches that have maintained Apostolic Succession is the church that Christ commands him to listen to. This leaves the inquirer with essentially the choice between the Catholic Church, or one of the local particular churches in the Eastern or Oriental Orthodox communions.

    The inquirer is left to wrestle with this historical fact: all of the ancient churches that have maintained Apostolic Succession confess as an article of faith that they believe that valid Ecumenical Councils also teach infallibly when the Ecumenical Council solemnly defines dogma. To accept an Apostolic Church as having final interpretive authority, the seeker of truth must accept by faith that the dogmas formally defined at Ecumenical Councils are inerrant, for that is what it means to “listen to the church” that has maintained Apostolic Succession.

    All of these ancient churches also teach that there have been Councils that were called as Ecumenical Councils, and that some of these Councils were not valid (e.g. the Robber Council of Ephesus). No disciple of Christ is bound by pain of excommunication to believe in the formally defined dogmas of invalid Ecumenical Councils. Which means that the inquirer now needs an answer to this question: “What are the objective criteria that determines the validity of an Ecumenical Council?”

    My take away point is this, that when speaking of “interpretive paradigms”, the scriptures exclude the Protestant interpretive paradigm, (i.e. paradigm that asserts that I don’t have to listen to the church founded by Jesus Christ if I personally disagree with what Christ’s church teaches). The scriptures demand a different interpretive paradigm altogether (the paradigm that insists that I do have to listen to the church personally founded by Jesus Christ).

    Erick Ybarra, it seems to me that you are interpreting wrongly the “binding and loosing statements” in Matthew chapters 16 and 18 when you write this:

    The promise of Christ on binding and loosing had to do with this kind of local “moral” situation. Christ gives a promise that “whatever” is bound on earth is bound in heaven, specifically to the small communities issues that are of a “moral” nature (much different than worldwide doctrine proclamatory).

    Explicitly, Christ teaches that the brother that is sinning that refuses to “listen to even the church” is to be excommunicated. In your interpretation of Matthew 18:15, it seems to me, that you are limiting “sinning” to the sins of the flesh (“issues of a ‘moral’ nature”), and you are also limiting “the church” of Matthew 18:17 to mean the “small community” of a local particular church. But I have a big problem with your interpretation about both these points. I cannot accept your interpretation about what constitutes sinning, since it does not include sins about preaching heresy or advocating schism. Nor can I accept your interpretation about what constitutes “the church”, since the scriptures give us an explicit account of Christ’s teaching found in Matthew 18:17 being implemented by his church, and in this example, “the church”, is something more than just the local particular church governed by a bishop.

    The scriptures I have in mind are found in Acts Chapter 15. There we read about brothers from Jerusalem that go to Antioch and start division within the local church of Antioch by preaching a false doctrine about what is necessary for salvation – i.e. that the gentile converts to The Way need to be circumcised to be saved. These brothers are sinning by preaching false doctrine, and their sinning is leading to division within the local particular church. The Apostle Paul rejects the heresy being espoused by the brethren from Jerusalem, and he happens to be in Antioch where he confronts these outsiders from Jerusalem. Note that the local church in Antioch does NOT resolve this dispute by appealing to the bishop of Antioch as the final arbiter that can bind the brethren in Antioch to an article of faith. Nor does the local church in Antioch look to the Apostle Paul as the final arbiter about what constitutes orthodox doctrine. The church in Antioch seeks resolution of this doctrinal dispute by following the teaching of Christ found in Matthew 18:17. The brethren in Antioch send Paul and Barnabas to the Apostles and the elders in Jerusalem to get a definitive teaching on this matter of doctrine.

    My take away points here are two. One, the “sinning” mentioned in Matthew 18:15 is not limited to only sins of a moral nature, and two, that the scriptures show us in Acts chapter 15 that doctrinal disputes at the local level are ultimately settled by men with authority that live outside of the local community.

    Erick, you may very well disagree with my interpretation of scriptures. But then, how should we resolve our interpretive dispute since we both believe that the scriptures are the inerrant God-breathed word of God? I say we should settle our dispute by bringing our dispute the church that Jesus Christ personally founded. What scriptural argument can you raise to tell my that we should not do this?

  113. Mateo,

    I never once limited the sinning to exclude heresy. And would you say that Christ is telling us to bring fornicators to the pope for excommunication? Since his judgement alone can truly bind? No, the local community can bind, and it has the promise of heavenly ratification. This presents a problem for the Catholic condition of infallibility being something only in Rome, going against Jesus’ general principle here.

  114. Erick (re #111),

    According to Canon Law in the Catholic Church:

    Can. 381 §1. A diocesan bishop in the diocese entrusted to him has all ordinary, proper, and immediate power which is required for the exercise of his pastoral function except for cases which the law or a decree of the Supreme Pontiff reserves to the supreme authority or to another ecclesiastical authority.

    This power, as stated in the first part of the paragraph, corresponds to the judgment of the local church as described by Our Lord in Matthew 18:17-18 (assuming that this passages applies to the local as well as the universal church, which I think it does). But this passage, in theory and as to practical application, presupposes that the local church is in full communion with the universal Church. If we assume that local churches can lawfully, in a binding way, exercise the power of the keys apart from mutual communion with and in the universal Church, then we would have situations in which local churches were exercising the power of the keys in mutually incompatible ways on essential matters. In that case, the Church would be divided against itself, and we know that “a kingdom divided against itself will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:24). But this paralyzing and ultimately destructive problem cannot obtain in the Catholic Church, precisely because there is a single, visible and authoritative court of appeal at the universal level, as implied by Our Lord’s words to Peter in particular in Matthew 16:16-18, and as specified in the second part of Canon 381, above.

  115. Erick (#109):

    The “sources” do give us some knowledge of what the apostolic tradition was. But by themselves, all they tell us is something about what those who followed that tradition believed to be divine revelation. By no means do they afford sufficient evidence that what those people believed to be divine revelation actually is divine revelation. Nor do they suffice, even in principle, to resolve disputes about how to interpret them for purposes of accuracy about the content of divine revelation, where that is a matter of dispute. For both purposes, we need “the” Church Christ founded, along with the wider tradition from which the sources themselves sprang. Otherwise, we are simply left with endless disputes about what is to be taken as normative, and in what sense.

    Best,
    Mike

  116. Mike (105)

    You said…

    As to your #100, I have long been aware of how the Orthodox patriarchs responded to Pope Pius IX’s letter. Neither side said anything of doctrinal substance that hadn’t been said, over and over, for centuries. So what is the Christian inquirer trying to decide between them to do? In college I became convinced, and I remain convinced, that he must decide which ecclesiology and accompanying historical narrative–the Catholic or the Eastern-Orthodox–is best suited to distinguishing divine revelation from human theological opinion.

    The key phrase in that is ‘as understood by your ability to discern God’s truth…” I do believe I have the ability to discern that. But I also believe I could not have that ability if I did not believe what “the” Church Christ founded teaches. For without the sort of authority that both the Roman and the EO communions claim for themselves, I have only my own opinion about what God’s truth is. I neither have nor can claim the authority to distinguish authentic expressions of divine revelation from my own theological opinions. Neither do you. Neither can Protestantism in general, for reasons I have long been explaining. The choice for somebody who wants to get beyond mere opinion is between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. But we can’t even get into a position to discuss what’s involved in making that choice unless you concede the more basic point, which of course you have not done. So that’s the point I’m interested in discussing

    It seems to me, from your point of view, that we are both suffering from the same logic problem. If neither of us can discern “authentic expressions of divine revelation”, then I cannot discern whether Protestants or Catholics have the right theological interpretations, and you cannot discern whether the Catholics or the Orthodox have the right theological interpretations. Since each body relies on its own interpretation to validate its authority, the only way to know who is right is to personally discern which interpretation is correct. This relies on “personal discernment” (my word) or “personal opinion” (your word) regarding their authority claims, some of which are theological, which, by your own admission, we are incapable of formulating.

    I’m curious how “the answer to you is obvious” without being able to discern “authentic expressions of divine revelation”?

    Blessings
    Curt

  117. Erick Ybarra, you write:

    I never once limited the sinning to exclude heresy.

    Sorry, I misunderstood you. Since you do recognize that it is possible for a brother to sin by preaching heresy, do you also agree that the church personally founded by Jesus Christ has the authority to excommunicate the obstinate heretic that clings to his own mistaken interpretations of scripture?

    And would you say that Christ is telling us to bring fornicators to the pope for excommunication?

    No, I am not saying this. The church that Jesus Christ has founded gives to her members objective criteria about what constitutes moral behavior. Those who are members of Christ’s church understand that obstinate and unrepentant fornicators are to be shunned by the faithful. See 1Cor. Chapter 5 for an example of Paul castigating the local church at Corinth for not casting out of their community a man guilty of unrepentant fornication.

    No, the local community can bind, and it has the promise of heavenly ratification.

    This is a uniquely Protestant interpretation of scriptures. All the ancient churches that have maintained Apostolic Succession understand that only a validly ordained bishop has the authority to formally excommunicate a member of the church that Jesus Christ personally founded. How can it be otherwise? If I, a layperson, have the authority to formally excommunicate a member of Christ’s church for moral failure, then I also have the authority to decide for myself the objective criteria of what constitutes moral failure. Which makes the commandment of Jesus in Matthew 18:15-20 to listen to his church utterly nonsensical, because if the laity have the authority to define what constitutes the orthodox doctrines of faith and morals, then the laity only have to listen to the church when the church agrees with whatever the laity believes.

    This presents a problem for the Catholic condition of infallibility being something only in Rome, going against Jesus’ general principle here.

    What “general principle” are you talking about? If I belong to a Presbyterian church that teaches that abortion is not sinful under most circumstances, does God ratify that particular Presbyterian church’s teaching about abortion in Heaven? This is hardly a mere theoretical example, because the Presbyterian church near to where I live does teach that abortion is not sinful under most circumstances. Other nearby Protestant churches teach from the pulpit about the acceptability of homosexual “marriages”. If a would-be pastor of one of these Protestant “churches” were to object to what the laity of these churches believe, he (or she!) would be thrown out of these Protestant churches by the laity. Protestantism as a whole is a case study of what happens when the laity presume to be the final temporal authority that decides what constitutes the orthodox doctrines of faith and morals.

    Erick, I don’t understand what you mean when you write: “ This presents a problem for the Catholic condition of infallibility being something only in Rome …”. Rome is a city, and as a city. it is no more the center of infallibility than is Cincinnati Ohio. The Catholic Church’s teaching about infallibility is that infallibility is a charism of the Holy Spirit that can be exercised by the living magisterium under certain circumstances. The exercise of the charismatic gift infallibility is not restricted to only the holder of the Petrine office:

    Catechism of the Catholic Church

    2035 The supreme degree of participation in the authority of Christ is ensured by the charism of infallibility. This infallibility extends as far as does the deposit of divine Revelation; it also extends to all those elements of doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, or observed.

    891 “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council.

  118. Mateo (111) and (116)

    I agree with your beginning thought process here, except that your conclusions are based are based on the IP you are trying to confirm.

    The seeker of truth, in examining WHAT the word of God says, soon discovers that Jesus Christ founded his own personal church (Matthew 16:18), and that Christ has demanded of those who would be his disciples that them must listen to the church that he personally founded or suffer the pain of excommunication (Matthew 18:17).

    That interpretation is based on the Catholic interpretation of Matthew. If you do not hold to that interpretation, you cannot therefore proceed to your next comment…

    The inquirer, from his reading of the inerrant scriptures, is confronted with the fact that WHAT is written in the word of God demands of him that he listen to WHO is speaking with authority in the church that Jesus Christ personally founded. For this scriptural reason, the inquirer would know that he cannot listen to any man or woman in a Protestant denomination as a final interpretive authority, since all Protestant denominations are merely ecclesial organizations founded by protesting men and women in schism with the church personally founded by Jesus Christ.

    Again, to reach this conclusion, one must believe that “the church personally founded by Christ” is only the Roman Catholic church… an assumption that is only held by the Roman Catholic church.

    In 116, regarding excommunication, you said…

    Erick: No, the local community can bind, and it has the promise of heavenly ratification.

    Mateo: This is a uniquely Protestant interpretation of scriptures. All the ancient churches that have maintained Apostolic Succession understand that only a validly ordained bishop has the authority to formally excommunicate a member of the church that Jesus Christ personally founded.

    In the Presbyterian church, only validly ordained elders (or presbyters) can enforce church discipline.

    The elders or overseers of Acts, Philippians, 1 Timothy and Titus were men selected from the church to be in a position of authority over the church. In Acts 20, Paul calls together the elders and, among many other things, he says, “28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

    There are only two offices defined in the early (Biblical) church… overseer (bishop, elder, presbyter, etc) and deacon. The former is called to spiritual oversight, the latter is called to special service within the flock. Following the model of the Biblical church, the Presbyterian church elects elders, and then the elders elect representatives to meet at a higher level (Presbytery), just as the early churches did.

    Don’t misunderstand… I am not saying that the Presbyterian church is a perfect body. It has its leadership problems … just as the Catholic church has also had at different points in its history. However, its leadership authority is based on the Biblical model used in the earliest churches.

    When you give examples of Protestant errors from the pulpit, I would remind you that there was a time in Catholic history when communicants had to purchase their forgiveness through financial payment. Even the Presbyterians aren’t that bad. Had it not been for the reformation, one has to wonder if that would have ever changed. God chose to involve humans in His work, knowing full well that we are flawed and will all make mistakes. That is why He made Christ the head of the church… the only one who lived without sin.

    Blessings
    Curt

  119. Curt (#114):

    You write:

    It seems to me, from your point of view, that we are both suffering from the same logic problem. If neither of us can discern “authentic expressions of divine revelation”, then I cannot discern whether Protestants or Catholics have the right theological interpretations, and you cannot discern whether the Catholics or the Orthodox have the right theological interpretations. Since each body relies on its own interpretation to validate its authority, the only way to know who is right is to personally discern which interpretation is correct. This relies on “personal discernment” (my word) or “personal opinion” (your word) regarding their authority claims, some of which are theological, which, by your own admission, we are incapable of formulating.

    That’s just a version of the ol’ tu quoque objection that Bryan Cross, Tim Troutman, and yours truly have rebutted before. It is of course true that, for the Christian inquirer uncommitted to any one of the three major traditions, his reasons for making a decision to embrace one of them over against the others can comprise only an opinion. But it does not follow that the entirety of the doctrines to which he thereby comes to assent are themselves only opinions. For there is a key difference between the sort of assent a Protestant as such can render and the sort of assent a Catholic or Orthodox as such can render.

    Given its denial of ecclesial as well as individual infallibility, Protestantism as such cannot hold and teach doctrine as calling for anything more than the provisional assent of opinion–even when some of the doctrines a Protestant holds and teaches happen, on other grounds, to express truths of divine revelation. For the Protestant as such must allow that any of the doctrines he professes might somehow be wrong, thus remaining open to negation or substantial modification pending further evidence, argument, or other “discernment.” But if the claims of either the Roman or the EO communions for themselves are true, then they can and do hold and teach those true doctrines in such a way as to call for the unconditional assent of faith, not just the provisional assent of opinion. Of course it does not thereby follow that either communion’s claim in particular is true. What does follow, however, is that some such claim must be true if we are going to be in a position to render the unconditional assent of faith, as opposed to the provisional assent of opinion, to such-and-such doctrines. So, for the inquirer interested in faith, not just in opinion, the choice is between Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

    You write:

    I’m curious how “the answer to you is obvious” without being able to discern “authentic expressions of divine revelation”?

    When I was faced with the choice between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, what became “obvious” to me in due course is that the former had a much clearer and more self-consistent account of the criteria for determining when “the” Church is teaching with her full authority, and thus with her divine and infallible authority. The EOs, like the Catholics, pointed to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed and the “seven” ecumenical councils of the first millennium as instances of teaching that called for the unconditional assent of faith by virtue of having been infallibly taught by inherited divine authority. But unlike the Catholics, the EO authors and clergy I consulted did not supply a clear and consistent account of what made those sources (and other) sources infallible and thus binding on the whole Church. I heard a standard range of answers, most of which struck me as more ad hoc than principled, and which in any case were not collectively consistent with each other. Catholic ecclesiology, on the other hand, has a simple and clear answer: a dogmatic teaching propounded by a council as expressing the faith of “the Church” could be known to do so if, and only if, the See of Rome ratifies or otherwise confirms it as such. I reasoned that, for the sake of the faith of ordinary believers, the clearer and more consistent account is much likelier to be true, all other things being equal (and I believed at the time that all other things were roughly equal). So I returned to the Catholic Church, convinced that her claims for herself are true–though I didn’t do so with much enthusiasm, given my youthful experiences. Yet given that I have rendered the unconditional assent of faith in her claims for herself, I can no more envision leaving the Catholic Church than I can envision holding my breath until I die from suffocation.

    Best,
    Mike

  120. Mike (118)

    Thanks for a really thoughtful and honest response. A few follow-ups…

    You said

    It is of course true that, for the Christian inquirer uncommitted to any one of the three major traditions, his reasons for making a decision to embrace one of them over against the others can comprise only an opinion. But it does not follow that the entirety of the doctrines to which he thereby comes to assent are themselves only opinions.

    Agreed. However, if your choice between them relies on their interpretation of truth, then you must discern your own interpretation of truth to determine which of them is rightly interpreting. It still seems you must personally discern God’s truth in order to make that decision.

    Given its denial of ecclesial as well as individual infallibility, Protestantism as such cannot hold and teach doctrine as calling for anything more than the provisional assent of opinion–even when some of the doctrines a Protestant holds and teaches happen, on other grounds, to express truths of divine revelation.

    This is only true if one does not believe that the Holy Spirit interacts with Elders within the body of believers. But we know that the Holy Spirit does interact with Elders in the body of believers. (Acts 20:28) As an elder my self, I would not describe the rulings of our body of Elders as “opinions” any more than I would describe the Roman Church Counsel’s rulings in the same manner. Whether we are talking the Roman Counsels or Presbyterian Elders, we must decide whether we believe that the Holy Spirit is present and active or not. If it is, then we would believe that it is guiding us as promised in Scripture.

    For the Protestant as such must allow that any of the doctrines he professes might somehow be wrong, thus remaining open to negation or substantial modification pending further evidence, argument, or other “discernment.”

    This is true, though if you look at the Book of Confessions of the Presbyterian Church, you will not find much difference between current theology and the theology of the early reformation. The problem arises in practice, and I will grant that the Presby Church is vulnerable to outside invasion by socialists who use the church for personal agendas. But believers in the Presby Church have the ability to deal with such problems, up to and including leaving the particular denomination. The Catholic Church, by contrast, is less vulnerable to local abuse (though certainly not immune) but believers in the local parish have no ability to deal with human failure as their very salvation is tied to the particular church.

    But if the claims of either the Roman or the EO communions for themselves are true, then they can and do hold and teach those true doctrines in such a way as to call for the unconditional assent of faith, not just the provisional assent of opinion. Of course it does not thereby follow that either communion’s claim in particular is true. What does follow, however, is that some such claim must be true if we are going to be in a position to render the unconditional assent of faith, as opposed to the provisional assent of opinion, to such-and-such doctrines.

    Starting with your last sentence, I do not believe this to be true. I render my unconditional assent of faith to Christ as He reveals Himself in Scripture. I find Scripture to be complete with everything I need to know for faith and practice. Certainly there are many theological fine points we could discuss, but I do not believe that God left anything significant out of Scripture… why would He?

    As to the EO church… correct me if I am wrong, but they do not believe in individual infallibility, but rather a consensus form of theological correctness for church leadership. They would not affirm the the infallibility of the ordinary and universal magisterium. In this regard, the EO Church is much more like the Presbyterian Church than the Roman Catholic Church. Further, by not claiming infallibility, the EO church remains agile to self-correction when necessary. The RC Church, in my humble opinion, has hung a millstone around its neck with the doctrine of infallibility. It can never say “we were wrong” without undermining the very foundations of its theology. I understand that its interpretive paradigm precludes this from ever being necessary, but given its history and the sinful nature of man, this seems like very dangerous ground.

    Thanks for the balance of your comment which gives a straight honest revelation of your faith walk. If I could find the Catholic IP compelling as you have, I would certainly be right there with you!

    Blessings
    Curt

  121. Hello Curt,

    It’s good to see that you are still engaging. You have been very measured in your approach and I appreciate this kind of thoughtfulness.

    I have to say though that I am perplexed that you aren’t quite grasping what Michael is saying. It seems that you are thinking of Roman Catholicism as a denomination that is a viable option within “Christendom” if only it didn’t have so many corrupt doctrines and superstitious accretions. But, when you say that something is not straight teaching, you are stating the opinion that other Protestants also share, but you nor they have proved that these doctrines do not belong to the deposit of faith. If you say that you are using scripture to judge, I see that you are in actuality saying that you have the authority to know what is orthodox to Christianity. With what authority do you come to a Catholic and tell them that what they believe is not true Christian teachings? You see, I have only been Catholic since December, but since then I have been shown many doctrines that are scriptural. Now, Rome and the EO church have many more doctrines in common, that to a Protestant, are not essential to Christianity and are just many man made accretions. But, if you consider that the EO church wasn’t disturbed by the Reformation going on in the west, it would be an authentic picture of what was germane to Christianity prior to the 1500’s; and so Protestant prejudice is not scriptural prejudice but modern reductionism. For a Protestant cannot prove that all those elements that are part and parcel of Catholic/EO doctrine and practice are not essential doctrines.
    Protestantism leads to skepticism because there is no way to know for sure what constitutes an essential doctrine. From the sola scriptura point of view, if I show you how some of those doctrines shared by Rome and the EO are scriptural, you have no way to judge. Most people I know wiggle out of acknowledging that those doctrines, are in fact, being taken from scripture, but they don’t do this by appealing to scripture but to a Reformed prejudice. If, someone is going to fall back on the Reformed take on things, how is that any different then “popishness”?
    When I think of your IP, I see myself before a long bench of men representing PCA, OPC, CRCNA, Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, Evangelical Free, Churches of Christ, Brethren in Christ, Quakers, Pentecostals, Calvary Chapels, Vineyard Christian Fellowships, Willow Creek, Solid Rock, Cornerstone Christian, Faith Fellowship, Sandals, The Bible Church, Home Church, etc… and they all have a gavel with “sola scriptura” on it.

    Wouldn’t it make sense that God would want us to know everything we needed to know about him and that the source of that witness should be protected from teaching things contrary to the truth? This is what the magisterium is. The witness of the church is supposed to be guided by the Holy Spirit. In you scenario everybody has the Holy Spirit if they read the scriptures and decide for themselves. The Catholic Church speaks as one who has authority. I have never seen scripture wielded so accurately. http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P90.HTM

    And if this isn’t the right interpretation then no one has it! How do I know? The Spirit guides us into all truth:)

    Blessings,
    Susan

  122. I meant to direct you to the whole section on prayer. If you are interested, please read the pages that follow upon the section I linked. I thought I loved covenantal theology, per The Kingdom Prologue, but the idea, even from this sliver amount in the Catholic Catechism, is so much richer!

    Blessings,
    Susan

  123. RC (104)

    I know you don’t mean it this way, but when I read your post, I could not help but think… you must be the Holy Spirit… for you speak with absolute authority about the mind and will of God…

    For example, one might say, “I don’t just live according to my best guesses! I do my best to gnaw on Scripture, to ruminate on every phrase, to know it backwards and forwards! I do my best to be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, whom I implore to lead me into all truth every time I open the sacred pages. I am leaning not on myself, but on Christ alone.”

    Now this protestation is noble in intent, but it is mistaken. We know that it is mistaken because if several hundred million Protestants were all being led by the Holy Spirit, there would be no daylight between Protestants on matters of doctrine, ecclesial governance, the practice and meaning of the sacraments/ordinances, and so on. The existence of the myriad Protestant denominations is a divine message to humanity written across the face of human history: “That Model Sounds Nice, But It Is Not My Model. It Is Not The Way I Ever Intended To Lead You Into All Truth. You Can Pray That The Holy Spirit Will Guide Your Scripture Interpretation As Much As You Like…But I Give You No Guarantee Of Infallible Individual Interpretation BECAUSE I NEVER MEANT IT TO WORK THAT WAY.”

    So… you are speaking for God here? You know that God only works in one way with people? I think this statement is grossly presumptuous. Here are just a few personal assumptions that you have projected on to God:

    1. That Protestants have no one who is as theologically educated as Catholics
    2. That the Holy Spirit is not working in Protestants or their churches
    3. That God wanted to limit His grace to one particular church or one particular model
    4. That God is not big enough to bring people to Himself in a variety of ways

    Now I’m not arguing that any of these are true or untrue, just that they are implicit in your comment.
    In addition, you say things regarding Protestantism that are just wrong. For example…

    Protestantism has no such answer. Its attempts to formulate an ecclesiology that can work and maintain doctrinal stability long term have all failed in a mere 500 years.

    Failed? Why is it that nearly every person on this board first came to Christ through the Protestant church? How many billions have come to Christ via Protestant churches through the years? Are you saying that they did not? or are you saying that God was just nice and let them in anyway?

    Yes there are socialists who have co-opted certain churches or denominations. That does not disqualify other churches that follow God… any more than a certain wayward Catholic priest who happens to be a pedophile disqualifies the balance of the Catholic church. When you say of the Protestant church… imagine how it will look in another 500 years, I think that is exactly what Martin Luther said about the Catholic church 500 years ago. Thankfully the middle ages are over… I think your love for the church might have been different had you lived then. And the reformation of the 1500’s would have never gotten off the ground had the Catholic church abused less and loved more in that time.

    Finally, you conclude…

    You say, “when we place our faith in the hands of …particular people.” Well, yourself is “particular people.” The only way to avoid “particular people” being a problem is if they’re the people Jesus Christ designated to lead you.

    My faith is in Christ… not a church. I know people here want to make it complicated… Jesus made it simple so that all could understand…

    16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

    So simple, even a dumb Protestant like me can understand it!

    Blessings
    Curt

  124. Curt Russell, I wrote “The seeker of truth, in examining WHAT the word of God says, soon discovers that Jesus Christ founded his own personal church (Matthew 16:18), and that Christ has demanded of those who would be his disciples that them must listen to the church that he personally founded or suffer the pain of excommunication (Matthew 18:17).”

    You responded:

    That interpretation is based on the Catholic interpretation of Matthew. If you do not hold to that interpretation, you cannot therefore proceed to your next comment…

    What other interpretation is possible? Please explain that to me! In Matthew’s Gospel, Christ commands that those who would be his disciples must listen to the church or suffer the pain of excommunication (Matt18:17). The referent to the church can only be the church that Matthew mentioned previously in his Gospel, the church personally founded by Jesus Christ (Matt 16:18). The referent to “the church” in Matthew cannot possibly be some Protestant sect, since the earliest these sects appear on planet earth is one thousand five hundred years after Christ had given the commandment to his disciples to listen to “the church”.

    Again, to reach this conclusion, one must believe that “the church personally founded by Christ” is only the Roman Catholic church… an assumption that is only held by the Roman Catholic church.

    No, the inquirer that has been given the grace of God to believe that the scriptures are inerrant does not have to make this assumption. The inquirer that reads Matthew’s Gospel understands (if he has normal reading comprehension skills) that Christ is commanding his disciples to listen to the church that he personally founded. This commandment of Christ forbids the inquirer from choosing just any old church to listen to. The inquirer cannot identify the church that he will listen to as being the church that teaches what the inquirer wants a church to teach. The inquirer that is choosing a church by that criterion is listening to himself, and not listening to the church personally founded by Jesus Christ. Church shopping, or ecclesial consumerism, is forbidden by Christ.

    So how does the inquirer find the church personally founded by Christ? The inquirer knows from Matt. 18:17 that he must listen to a visible church, since it is not possible to bring a brother that is sinning to an invisible church for judgment. Especially when one believes that the brother’s sin involves the sin of preaching heresy. Maybe the brother is teaching heresy, and maybe he isn’t – Christ is saying that ultimately his church can make that judgment, and that is one reason why he founded his own church and sent the Holy Spirit to guide her into all truth. Protestant “invisible church” ecclesiology is ruled out by Matt. 18:17. Furthermore, the church that the inquirer needs to listen to must be identifiable by some objective criteria that does not require the inquirer to exercise the charismatic gift of infallibility in order to know that he has made the right judgment. For if the inquirer must exercise the charismatic gift of infallibility to know which church is the church that he must listen to, then he doesn’t need a church to listen to – he needs the charismatic gift of infallibility. Unbroken Apostolic Succession is one the objective criterion necessary for the inquirer to identify the church personally founded by Christ, the church that he must listen to upon pain of excommunication.

    The inquirer can know from reading Matthew’s Gospel that Christ has promised that the powers of death cannot prevail against the visible church that Christ personally founded (Matt. 16:18). And that means the church personally founded by Jesus Christ cannot die. Therefore, “the church” must still exist on planet earth, and she must have an unbroken history that stretches back two-thousand years. This fact alone means that the inquirer can dismiss any Protestant sect’s claim to be the church that he must listen to. That is so because no Protestant sect has a history that stretches back two thousand years, and every single Protestant sect was personally founded by some man or woman, and was not personally founded by Jesus Christ. Might a Protestant sect have something worth listening to? Sure, but such a sect can never be the final temporal arbiter of about what constitutes orthodoxy, since no Protestant sect can possibly be the visible church that was personally founded by Jesus Christ two thousand years ago.

    Curt, you argue that I am saying that the inquirer has to assume that the Catholic Church is “the church” – the church mentioned in Matthew’s Gospel. I disagree with that. The inquirer doesn’t have to assume that the church that he must listen to is the Catholic Church. I am saying that the inquirer needs to do his homework and seek out the churches that meet two criteria: one, the church under consideration claims to be personally founded by Jesus Christ; and two, the church has an unbroken history of two-thousand years. The inquirer that does his homework will learn that there are only a few possible choices that meet these two criteria, either the Catholic Church, or one of the local particular churches in the Eastern Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox communions.

    Again, to reach this conclusion, one must believe that “the church personally founded by Christ” is only the Roman Catholic church… an assumption that is only held by the Roman Catholic church.

    Again, I disagree. Does the Catholic Church dispute that the local particular churches in the Eastern or Oriental Orthodox communions meet the two criteria that I have mentioned? She does not. As far as my Matthew’s Gospel argument goes, the local particular churches in the Eastern or Oriental Orthodox communions are real possibilities for the inquirer in a way that no Protestant sect ever can be. Other criteria are needed to narrow the choice down to only the Catholic Church as opposed to the EO or OO.

    My take away point is that the inerrant scriptures rule out all Protestant sects from being “the church” that Christ has commanded his disciples to listen to. The scriptural argument that I have advanced, so far, is not sufficient for the inquirer to rule out the local particular churches in the Eastern Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox communions. The inquirer that needs to choose between the Catholic Church and the EO or OO is going to run head on into the issues that Michael Liccone speaks about in the last paragraph of his post # 117.

    In the Presbyterian church, only validly ordained elders (or presbyters) can enforce church discipline.

    In the Elks Club and Moose Club validly elected officials can enforce club rules too. Why should the inquirer care about what Presbyterians do to enforce the “club rules” of a particular sect of Presbyterianism? John Calvin was a layman that rejected all the men who claimed to have legitimate ecclesial authority over him. So Presbyterians have “ordained” elders that are “ordained” by other elders. What of it? I can take you to “churches” in the South where grandpa founded his own personal bible church just like John Calvin did. Grandpa then “ordained” his grandson by laying hands upon junior and “making him preacher”. I can’t see any difference between grandpa founding his own personal bible church and ordaining his grand kids then I can see with Presbyterian elders “ordaining” other Presbyterian elders.

    Presbyterian elders have no more authority than what a member of the Presbyterian sect gives to them. The governing principle of the Protestant Reformation is that if my conscience tells me that the elders in my Presbyterian church are preaching false doctrine, I don’t have to act against my conscience. If I don’t agree with the “ordained elders” of my Presbyterian sect that abortion is not sinful under every circumstance, I can go to another Presbyterian church that agrees with me. It is the Presbyterians that assert that I have this “freedom of conscience”. And if I can’t find a Presbyterian sect that completely agrees with me on what constitutes the orthodox doctrines of faith and morals, I can follow the footsteps of John Calvin. I can reject all men that claim to have church authority over me, and found my own personal “bible church” – a church that teaches, quite naturally, the doctrines of faith and morals that I personally believe to be true.

    The inquirer that reads Matthew’s Gospel should be horrified at this Protestant “primacy of conscience” doctrine, since the Protestant principle of the Reformation ultimately rests on a false doctrine that I only have to listen to a church that doesn’t upset me.

    “When I submit only when I agree, the one to whom I submit is me.”

    When you give examples of Protestant errors from the pulpit, I would remind you that there was a time in Catholic history when communicants had to purchase their forgiveness through financial payment.

    Just to be clear for those who might be reading this thread, there has never been a dogma of the Catholic Church that states that the forgiveness of sins can be purchased. The Catholic church has always condemned the sin of Simony. Curt, it would take us way off topic to discuss this, so we should pick up this point of disagreement on a different thread.

  125. Mateo (123)

    First of all, did you read all of Matthew 18, or just verse 17? I ask because you seem to have missed 21-35. Moving along to the verses in question, you ask…

    What other interpretation is possible? Please explain that to me! In Matthew’s Gospel, Christ commands that those who would be his disciples must listen to the church or suffer the pain of excommunication (Matt 18:17).

    So first let’s look at the Scripture…

    17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

    By your interpretation, at face value, are a Gentile and a tax collector by race and vocation excluded from the church? So how does being a Gentile and a tax collector suddenly mean excommunication? Secondly, it does not say “let him be to the church as a Gentile and a tax collector”, does it? No… it says “let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Am I the excommunicator? If we take the commonly held meaning that the tax collector or Gentile is someone we would typically avoid as a Jew of the time, then this verse is speaking to us individually in terms of calling out a brother’s sin. The steps are: 1) approach him one on one, 2) approach him with two or three, 3) take him before the church, 4) avoid him. Each step tells what I should do… not the church. This is followed in verses 21-35 with a very strong dose of “forgiving your brother”. In fact, it is so strong that I would be thinking a lot more about helping my brother than excommunicating him, lest I bring judgment upon myself. Not saying we don’t need church discipline… just that 21-35 are there for a reason.

    Then you say…

    The referent to the church can only be the church that Matthew mentioned previously in his Gospel, the church personally founded by Jesus Christ (Matt 16:18). The referent to “the church” in Matthew cannot possibly be some Protestant sect, since the earliest these sects appear on planet earth is one thousand five hundred years after Christ had given the commandment to his disciples to listen to “the church”.

    I guess all of the churches in Acts were Roman Catholic? Or maybe they just weren’t real churches. How do the churches that Paul founded and nurtured fit in? After all, Paul was an outsider. Were they part of the church Christ personally founded? The problem is that, when you hear the word church, you automatically think of the Roman Catholic church. I think of the word ekklesia (ecclesia), defined by the Catholic Encyclopedia as “the term by which the New Testament writers denote the society founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ”. Hmm. A society founded by Christ. Well gee, by this definition, my church might actually qualify as part of that society… after all, Jesus never said “Roman Catholic” church. He just said church.

    So when you say…

    No, the inquirer that has been given the grace of God to believe that the scriptures are inerrant does not have to make this assumption. The inquirer that reads Matthew’s Gospel understands (if he has normal reading comprehension skills) that Christ is commanding his disciples to listen to the church that he personally founded. This commandment of Christ forbids the inquirer from choosing just any old church to listen to. The inquirer cannot identify the church that he will listen to as being the church that teaches what the inquirer wants a church to teach. The inquirer that is choosing a church by that criterion is listening to himself, and not listening to the church personally founded by Jesus Christ. Church shopping, or ecclesial consumerism, is forbidden by Christ.

    You are reading so much into one verse of Scripture that it is truly astounding. Where does Christ forbid the inquirer from choosing just any old church? Where is church shopping, or ecclesial consumerism forbidden by Christ? Certainly there were many churches in the days of Acts, and they were certainly not all in the same ecclesial place. I’m not advocating these things… just pointing out that your paradigm is not supported by the Scriptures you are quoting.

    So how does the inquirer find the church personally founded by Christ? The inquirer knows from Matt. 18:17 that he must listen to a visible church, since it is not possible to bring a brother that is sinning to an invisible church for judgment.

    Finally we agree! Ok, my church is a visible place where we can go. Yea! Next…

    Especially when one believes that the brother’s sin involves the sin of preaching heresy. Maybe the brother is teaching heresy, and maybe he isn’t – Christ is saying that ultimately his church can make that judgment, and that is one reason why he founded his own church and sent the Holy Spirit to guide her into all truth. Protestant “invisible church” ecclesiology is ruled out by Matt. 18:17. Especially when one believes that the brother’s sin involves the sin of preaching heresy. Maybe the brother is teaching heresy, and maybe he isn’t – Christ is saying that ultimately his church can make that judgment, and that is one reason why he founded his own church and sent the Holy Spirit to guide her into all truth. Protestant “invisible church” ecclesiology is ruled out by Matt. 18:17.

    So here is another broad statement that is conferred on this one verse. Yet Jesus says in verse 20 “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” So the Catholic church has no monopoly on the Holy Spirit. Luke writes in Acts 11…

    15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”

    All believers have the gift of the Holy Spirit. And the church that Christ founded, by Catholic definition, is the ecclesia or “the society founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ”. It is catholic (universal) in that it incorporates all believers. If it doesn’t, then it isn’t catholic.

    Furthermore, the church that the inquirer needs to listen to must be identifiable by some objective criteria that does not require the inquirer to exercise the charismatic gift of infallibility in order to know that he has made the right judgment. For if the inquirer must exercise the charismatic gift of infallibility to know which church is the church that he must listen to, then he doesn’t need a church to listen to – he needs the charismatic gift of infallibility. Unbroken Apostolic Succession is one the objective criterion necessary for the inquirer to identify the church personally founded by Christ, the church that he must listen to upon pain of excommunication.

    You really have a thing for excommunication. The God I know wants people to come, not go. But I digress. So you want objective criteria… and you define that as claims the Roman church makes about herself. How is that objective? Unbroken Apostolic Succession is by no means historically provable. So it can only be believed by “the charismatic gift of infallibility”. Apparently, we’re all in the same boat.

    The inquirer can know from reading Matthew’s Gospel that Christ has promised that the powers of death cannot prevail against the visible church that Christ personally founded (Matt. 16:18)

    Yea! We agree again! (with a slightly different definition of the word “church”)

    And that means the church personally founded by Jesus Christ cannot die. Therefore, “the church” must still exist on planet earth, and she must have an unbroken history that stretches back two-thousand years.

    Absolutely! The ecclesia that Christ founded… that “society of believers” as defined in the Catholic Encyclopedia, does still exist today with a 2000 year unbroken history… right back to the churches in Acts.

    This fact alone means that the inquirer can dismiss any Protestant sect’s claim to be the church that he must listen to. That is so because no Protestant sect has a history that stretches back two thousand years, and every single Protestant sect was personally founded by some man or woman, and was not personally founded by Jesus Christ.

    You are now saying that I am not a member of the society of believers, based on your interpretation of one verse in Scripture. You might remember that Martin Luther was a Catholic priest, and apparently had someone’s hands laid upon him to confer holy orders. Reformed churches consider themselves to be apostolic… they just don’t have a need for an absolutist name list… its not a magic spell… its the Holy Spirit.

    Might a Protestant sect have something worth listening to? Sure, but such a sect can never be the final temporal arbiter of about what constitutes orthodoxy, since no Protestant sect can possibly be the visible church that was personally founded by Jesus Christ two thousand years ago.

    This basically says the Holy Spirit is limited to your understanding of the word “church”. And that understanding sets billions of Christians outside of your understanding of the “church”. Ok… well maybe Jesus didn’t want them anyway.

    Curt, you argue that I am saying that the inquirer has to assume that the Catholic Church is “the church” – the church mentioned in Matthew’s Gospel. I disagree with that. The inquirer doesn’t have to assume that the church that he must listen to is the Catholic Church. I am saying that the inquirer needs to do his homework and seek out the churches that meet two criteria: one, the church under consideration claims to be personally founded by Jesus Christ; and two, the church has an unbroken history of two-thousand years. The inquirer that does his homework will learn that there are only a few possible choices that meet these two criteria, either the Catholic Church, or one of the local particular churches in the Eastern Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox communions.

    The criteria you selected are, well, a little suspicious. Kinda like hmm, what two criteria are there that only the Catholic church would meet? I know! Personally founded by Christ and 2000 years of history! That’s it! Do you see what I am saying? What if they teach Satanic doctrine? What if they tell you to drink spiked koolaid and die? Again, I think our difference is in how we define “church”. I believe I go to a church that was founded by Christ and has the same history as your church for the first 1500 years. Then you made us leave.

    In my previous post, I commented “In the Presbyterian church, only validly ordained elders (or presbyters) can enforce church discipline.” You replied…

    In the Elks Club and Moose Club validly elected officials can enforce club rules too. Why should the inquirer care about what Presbyterians do to enforce the “club rules” of a particular sect of Presbyterianism?

    Well, likewise, the College of Pontifs led by the Pontifex Maximus were the religious leaders of the pagan Roman empire for 700 years before Christ. Why should the enquirer believe that this cultural overlay on the Christian church is now the enforcer of all things ecclesial? Jesus never mentioned popes, did He? The sword of the Spirit has two edges my friend. The Presbyterian church is not a club.

    Calvin was a layman that rejected all the men who claimed to have legitimate ecclesial authority over him.

    Nearly everyone God chooses for leadership roles in Scripture are laymen. Peter was a fisherman. He rejected all the men who claimed to have ecclesial authority to follow Christ. Calvin did likewise.

    Presbyterians have “ordained” elders that are “ordained” by other elders. What of it?

    And Catholics have bishops that are ordained by other bishops… what of it?

    I can take you to “churches” in the South where grandpa founded his own personal bible church just like John Calvin did. Grandpa then “ordained” his grandson by laying hands upon junior and “making him preacher”. I can’t see any difference between grandpa founding his own personal bible church and ordaining his grand kids then I can see with Presbyterian elders “ordaining” other Presbyterian elders.

    Well, I guess the Holy Spirit better play by your rules then, eh? What do you know of another man and his relationship to God? What do you know of the Holy Spirit and God’s will? I’ve seen a lot more of God’s love come out of those little country churches than a whole bunch of high steeple churches full of pharisees. Jesus says we will know believers by their fruit, not their denomination or their diploma.

    Presbyterian elders have no more authority than what a member of the Presbyterian sect gives to them.

    False. Presbyterian Elders have ruling authority over the church.

    The inquirer that reads Matthew’s Gospel should be horrified at this Protestant “primacy of conscience” doctrine, since the Protestant principle of the Reformation ultimately rests on a false doctrine that I only have to listen to a church that doesn’t upset me.

    False again. First, you don’t know your own church’s teaching…

    The Catholic Church has always held to the primacy of conscience and taught that individuals must follow their consciences even when they are wrong. (Vatican II, On Religious Liberty (1965), §2)

    Secondly, the primacy of conscience is based on the promise of the Holy Spirit which we happen to really believe in. Just because there are sinners in the church who choose to sin… this has nothing to do with conscience… quite the opposite. I guess there are no Catholics in the pew who have a problem with sin? The Protestant churches I am familiar teach the entire Scripture, upsetting or not. At least the Protestant churches teach something.

    “When I submit only when I agree, the one to whom I submit is me.”

    I hate to say it, but this I hear this a lot here and it strikes me as totally juvenile… for several reasons. First of all, Protestants don’t submit only when they agree. Secondly, this saying totally denies that the Holy Spirit is alive and active. It is a catchy but meaningless phrase.

    Just to be clear for those who might be reading this thread, there has never been a dogma of the Catholic Church that states that the forgiveness of sins can be purchased.

    But real people in real Catholic churches paid real money to real priests for the forgiveness of their sins, did they not? Did those people make a booboo, or did the priests tell them that was the drill? Honesty is important.

    Blessings
    Curt

  126. Andrew (re #107),

    The phrase “do what Christ and His Church do” usually functions as a rule for measuring validity in the administration of sacraments. It is equivalent to what Christ executed or instituted. I know this doesn’t escape your attention because of the revised sentence,

    “The fact and nature of the Apostolic ministry itself grounds our presumptions of sufficient intention.”

    The fact and nature of the “Apostolic ministry”, understood as Apostles distinct from their successors, is measured by “do what Christ and His Church do”. The phrase grounds presumptions of sufficient intention because you believe “AM” conforms to a rule from Christ.

    I don’t think the same can be said of scripture. Nothing in the phrase can measure the scripture writer’s intention, i.e. Christ never wrote and no other NT scripture precedes our recognized NT canon. Furthermore, Christ never instituted some order of “scripture writer”. Ok, what is the measurement ? We measure the writer’s proper intention by the writings apart from another rule.

    You wrote:
    The ordination rite used by Peter is in the same place as the original mss. of his first and second epistles. Produce the latter, and I will produce the former. The significance, or lack thereof, of failing to produce the original is similar in each case.

    Response:
    Yes, both originals are lacking. In Peter’s case, we can justly appeal to epistle copies to establish character and signs of intention. Our mss. evidence may be better than evidence reconstructing the details of his rite. I can agree that the ritual’s substance perdures because Christ instituted teachers and pastors.

    Catholic sacramental theology requires us to discover proper intention that is habitual. Did the minister agree to ordination ? Does he have a history of administering sacraments ? Does he teach and practice the sacramental life of the church ? We can call on many things to demonstrate the habitual intent of a minister. Here we are unable to make any appeals to rites, bishops or Popes. No proper intention means no validity or sacramental effect. Returning to Peter ordaining Linus, are we able to determine habitual intention by interpreting the character of Peter in his epistles ?

    You wrote:
    The legitimate successors of St. Peter are not identified without an infallible witness. The judgment of both the Church as a whole and the ordinary and universal magisterium are infallible witnesses, and these have judged that there have been 265 successors to St. Peter…..

    Response:
    You should have no problem affirming this,

    Honorius I (625-638), Pope of Old Rome, was a legitimate successor of Peter. He kept the see of Peter unimpaired by any error and turned Christ’s flock away from the poisonous food of error.

    Or identifying this as a undefined divinely revealed truth,

    Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome, is a legitimate successor of Peter.

    Eric

  127. Mateo,

    But many catholics claim that since christ promised that whatever the church binds is bound in heaven that this truth implies infallibility. The problem is that catholics believe that this has only happened a few times in world history and it cannot be attributed to all local churches even if they are ordained. If a fornicator is excoMmunicated the local church made an infallible decision? But how can that be is only the pope is infallible?

  128. Mateo,

    The protestant reads those verses on where jesus said to submit to the church, but what if the “church” becomes corrupt at the leadership level? The apostles gave us strong warning to abstain from ungodly men. And then many wish to point out that jesus told that the pharisees should be listened to, but is christs church capable of the error of the pharasaism of jesus’ day? Did jesus not say that those who do not pick up their cross and follow him are not worthy of him, and yet his church has been overran by the wicked?

    Everything has to be widdled down to teaching, to the exclusion of moral living. So as long as what has been taught is the same, nevermind what has been done. This divorce between doctrine and lifestyle is what jesus never envisioned for his church.

    To keep one church from the beginning, one must heed to it no matter what, even if the pope is heading wars. If you believe that the church must be holy, then you are left with viewing the church not as a singlke visible institution perpetuated in history?

    But on the day of judgement do you want to be holy? Or part of the right group? Maybe these shouldn’t be divorced. I’m just putting forth some of my thoughts.

  129. Curt (#118):

    The substance of what I shall say is really no different from that of what Susan has just said. For the sake of both clarity and courtesy, though, I shall address your points directly.

    You wrote:

    However, if your choice between them relies on their interpretation of truth, then you must discern your own interpretation of truth to determine which of them is rightly interpreting. It still seems you must personally discern God’s truth in order to make that decision.

    In that paragraph, you’re not attending to the key distinction I had explicitly made. So I’ll frame in another way the same point you need to attend to.

    The Protestant as such recognizes no church as having inherited infallible teaching authority from Christ through the Apostles. His choice of church, if any, must accordingly conform to his own, independently reached interpretation of the sources. And he retains the right to make that interpretation his criterion for judging the orthodoxy of churches. So, if and when his interpretation changes enough, his choice of church changes accordingly; and in some cases, he will simply start his own church. That happens every day in the Protestant world, even though not all Protestants happen to do it. And that is only to be expected. For the essence of Protestantism is the idea that people can reliably know, interpret, and believe the deposit of faith independently of any ecclesial authority. Such authority, when accepted at all, is therefore accepted only to the extent that its exercise conforms to what the individual already believes, for his own reasons, to be the deposit of faith.

    For the Catholic or Orthodox, however, it’s the other way round. Such a believer does not hold that she can reliably know, interpret, and believe the deposit of faith independently of her church’s authority. So her choice of church does not depend on an understanding of the deposit of faith that she has acquired independently and finds sufficient. Her choice of church does indeed involve “personal discernment,” but what’s being “discerned” is which church is the Church Christ founded and thus inherits his infallible teaching authority through the Apostles. Once she has discerned which church that is and joined that church, she no longer retains the right to judge that church’s orthodoxy in light of her own understanding of the sources. Rather, she has submitted her understanding to the Church’s, so that the Church becomes the criterion of her orthodoxy, not vice-versa. The nature of her assent of faith is thus radically different from the Protestant’s, even though the process facilitating that assent was epistemically similar to the Protestant’s as an act of personal discernment. As a result of the process she surrenders, while the Protestant retains, the right to judge ecclesial orthodoxy.

    I had written:

    Given its denial of ecclesial as well as individual infallibility, Protestantism as such cannot hold and teach doctrine as calling for anything more than the provisional assent of opinion–even when some of the doctrines a Protestant holds and teaches happen, on other grounds, to express truths of divine revelation.

    To that, you reply:

    This is only true if one does not believe that the Holy Spirit interacts with Elders within the body of believers. But we know that the Holy Spirit does interact with Elders in the body of believers. (Acts 20:28) As an elder my self, I would not describe the rulings of our body of Elders as “opinions” any more than I would describe the Roman Church Counsel’s rulings in the same manner. Whether we are talking the Roman Counsels or Presbyterian Elders, we must decide whether we believe that the Holy Spirit is present and active or not. If it is, then we would believe that it is guiding us as promised in Scripture.

    That simply begs the question: Which church teaches with divine and thus infallible authority? As a Catholic I would argue that, to discern which church leaders teach with divine and thus binding authority, and are not simply offering their own theological opinions, we must discern which church is the Church Christ founded and thus teaches with the infallible authority inherited from him through the Apostles. As a Protestant, you reject that very way of framing the issue. Recognizing no church as having inherited such authority from the Apostles, you judge which church leaders (such as yourself) have “the Holy Spirit” by how well their teaching and practice conform to “Scripture.” But precisely as a Protestant who rejects ecclesial infallibility, you are in no position to claim that your view of what belongs in the biblical canon and what it means is divinely protected from error. Hence, while it might be objectively true that you, as an elder, “interact” with the Holy Spirit to a certain extent, you cannot present your belief to that effect as anything more than an opinion of yours that the members of your particular denomination happen to share. But your religious epistemology logically requires you to allow that you might be wrong. Hence, to the extent you have made an assent of faith in Christ, that is not because of but in spite of your epistemology.

    Thus you wrote:

    I render my unconditional assent of faith to Christ as He reveals Himself in Scripture. I find Scripture to be complete with everything I need to know for faith and practice.

    Since you claim no infallibility either for yourself or for your church, your religious epistemology does not permit you to offer those two claims as anything more than your opinions. And opinions are not fit objects for “the unconditional assent of faith.” Of course, since I don’t know you personally, I can’t say that you lack unconditional faith in Christ. For all I know, you may have it to a certain extent, though I’d regard it as incomplete. But I would certainly argue that, if you do have such faith, it is in spite of not because of your epistemology. It is parasitic on the authority of the Church Christ founded, which in some cases wrote, and in any case collected, preserved, and authentically interpreted the very Scriptures on which you rely. Yours is not that Church.

    You wrote:

    As to the EO church… correct me if I am wrong, but they do not believe in individual infallibility, but rather a consensus form of theological correctness for church leadership. They would not affirm the the infallibility of the ordinary and universal magisterium. In this regard, the EO Church is much more like the Presbyterian Church than the Roman Catholic Church. Further, by not claiming infallibility, the EO church remains agile to self-correction when necessary. The RC Church, in my humble opinion, has hung a millstone around its neck with the doctrine of infallibility. It can never say “we were wrong” without undermining the very foundations of its theology. I understand that its interpretive paradigm precludes this from ever being necessary, but given its history and the sinful nature of man, this seems like very dangerous ground.

    I believe you’ve misunderstood EO ecclesiology here. The EOs certainly do believe that “the Church,” as they conceive her, is infallible in matters comprised by the deposit of faith. That’s why the believe that the N-C Creed and the dogmas defined by the “seven” ecumenical councils, as “symbols” of faith, may never be rejected in any particular. And they also have the functional equivalent of the “ordinary and universal magisterium” of the bishops. For them, when the college of bishops as they recognize it teaches a doctrine with synchronic and diachronic consensus, it is being taught with divine and infallible authority and, as such, commands the unconditional assent of faith. An example of such a doctrine would be the distinction between the “divine essence” and the “divine energies.” For reasons I’ve already explained, however, Orthodoxy differs from Catholicism in its account of how we recognize when “the Church” is teaching with her full and thus infallible authority. Catholicism has a clearer, simpler, and more consistent account.

    Finally, you wrote:

    Thanks for the balance of your comment which gives a straight honest revelation of your faith walk. If I could find the Catholic IP compelling as you have, I would certainly be right there with you!

    I appreciate that. All the same, I wouldn’t call the Catholic IP “compelling” as compared with the EO IP. Both IPs are rationally plausible; it’s just that, on balance, I find the former better suited than the latter to facilitating the unconditional assent of faith. What I don’t find rationally plausible for that purpose is the PIP.

    Best,
    Mike

  130. Curt,

    re: #121

    Failed? Why is it that nearly every person on this board first came to Christ through the Protestant church? How many billions have come to Christ via Protestant churches through the years?

    Perhaps the more interesting question is why, in coming to Christ, they did not find the fullness of Truth in those Protestant traditions and found that fullness in the Catholic Church. Which leads me to the next point:

    My faith is in Christ… not a church. I know people here want to make it complicated… Jesus made it simple so that all could understand…

    It is a false dichotomy to imply that one is called to faith in Christ but not faith in His Church. Why is it that there are statements of faith in the Church in both the Apostle’s and Nicene creeds? “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.”? Each of the statement in the creeds are those which must be accepted on faith, which means, with respect to the church, that it is more than a human assembly. The scriptures are clear that Christ and His Church are one Body, so to have faith in His Church is to have faith in Him. Perhaps it is this dissonance you present which those from Protestant communions found unsatisfying and so journeyed onward to the Catholic Church. I also find it very interesting that the early creeds contain such a statement regarding the church and yet none regarding any of the “solas” which signify the hallmarks of the Reformation.

    In Him,
    Bill

  131. Eric,

    You wrote:

    Christ never instituted some order of “scripture writer”. Ok, what is the measurement ? We measure the writer’s proper intention by the writings apart from another rule.

    Christ ordained the Apostles, and promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide them into all of his truth. He then sent them into the world to proclaim the truth that he had thus given to them as “the deposit of faith.” If the writing of the New Testament does not lie within the ambit of this institution, such that the latter provides a “rule” for the former, then one must adopt a relatively low view of the New Testament, or else understand it as floating free of the life of Church, which, for obvious historical and exegetical reasons, I do not.

    Regarding the earliest Church’s rite of ordination, you wrote:

    I can agree that the ritual’s substance perdures because Christ instituted teachers and pastors.

    Exactly.

    Unfortunately, you immediately went on to write this:

    Catholic sacramental theology requires us to discover proper intention that is habitual. Did the minister agree to ordination ? Does he have a history of administering sacraments ? Does he teach and practice the sacramental life of the church ? We can call on many things to demonstrate the habitual intent of a minister. Here we are unable to make any appeals to rites, bishops or Popes. No proper intention means no validity or sacramental effect. Returning to Peter ordaining Linus, are we able to determine habitual intention by interpreting the character of Peter in his epistles ?

    These questions miss the basic point about proper intention, namely, that it is presumed to be present whenever the Church’s rite is observed. And it is precisely because, as you just noted, Christ “instituted pastors and teachers,” intending this ministry to be preserved in his Church (contra ecclesial deism), that we can rest assured that the Apostolic Succession has not been broken in the Church that Christ founded, neither by defect of form, matter, nor intention. Proper intention in ordination (as with the other sacraments) does not depend upon the character or habits of the minister, but upon his observing the rite of the Church in doing what the Church does. This is fundamentally due to the fact that Christ himself is the true minister of every sacrament. The human minister (bishop, priest, or deacon) is his instrument.

    Finally, you wrote:

    You should have no problem affirming this,

    Honorius I (625-638), Pope of Old Rome, was a legitimate successor of Peter. He kept the see of Peter unimpaired by any error and turned Christ’s flock away from the poisonous food of error.

    Or identifying this as a undefined divinely revealed truth,

    Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome, is a legitimate successor of Peter.

    You are correct in that both Pope Honorius I and Pope Francis are legitimate successors of St. Peter. As such, neither can bind the Church to any error in matters of faith or morals. It is possible for a Pope to be personally a heretic, or to fail in his public ministry to clearly teach the truth or vigilantly defend the Church from error. History has not judged Pope Honorius I kindly, though it is not difficult to show that his own teaching was not heretical. He did, however, fail to adequately express the distinction between his own view (which was in substance the orthodox view) and the doctrine of the monothelites. Hopefully, Pope Francis will not merit any such censure from future generations. I do not believe that he will.

  132. Hi Susan (120)

    Thanks for getting back!

    I have to say though that I am perplexed that you aren’t quite grasping what Michael is saying.

    Sorreeeey! It might not be as bad as you think. :-0

    It seems that you are thinking of Roman Catholicism as a denomination that is a viable option within “Christendom” if only it didn’t have so many corrupt doctrines and superstitious accretions. But, when you say that something is not straight teaching, you are stating the opinion that other Protestants also share, but you nor they have proved that these doctrines do not belong to the deposit of faith. If you say that you are using scripture to judge, I see that you are in actuality saying that you have the authority to know what is orthodox to Christianity. With what authority do you come to a Catholic and tell them that what they believe is not true Christian teachings?

    Well, first of all, I would never presume to tell a Catholic anything outside of a discussion board like this, which was, I believe, intended for such conversations. So I am in no way exercising any authority over anyone.

    Secondly, I believe Scripture is inerrant, and thus is a good measuring stick for all other thinking.

    Thirdly, there might be an exception, but generally if I take exception to a Catholic teaching, I support my position with Scripture. Yes, it is my understanding of that Scripture… but that’s why we’re here… to examine each other’s views. It is an misstatement to universally say that I am just espousing other Protestant views.

    You see, I have only been Catholic since December, but since then I have been shown many doctrines that are scriptural. Now, Rome and the EO church have many more doctrines in common, that to a Protestant, are not essential to Christianity and are just many man made accretions. But, if you consider that the EO church wasn’t disturbed by the Reformation going on in the west, it would be an authentic picture of what was germane to Christianity prior to the 1500′s; and so Protestant prejudice is not scriptural prejudice but modern reductionism. For a Protestant cannot prove that all those elements that are part and parcel of Catholic/EO doctrine and practice are not essential doctrines.

    First, there is nothing more Scriptural than Scripture. So doctrines that are Scriptural still do not rise to the level of Scripture itself. Unless I’m missing something, your next sentence is a non sequitur. How does the lack of impact of the reformation on the EO church show that Protestant scriptural prejudice is modern reductionism? You got me there. Nothing in history can be proven without an element of faith, so neither side can make a proof statement… else we would have already. We have Scripture, the Holy Spirit and the preponderance of evidence and the promise that God reveals Himself to us.

    Protestantism leads to skepticism because there is no way to know for sure what constitutes an essential doctrine.

    So then, what does this Scripture mean?

    25 This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life. 26 These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. 27 As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

    Apparently, we have an anointing that teaches us about all things, and particularly, guards us against false doctrine. One problem I find with Catholic teaching is this remnant of the middle ages that seems to say that the average person is incapable of any spiritual discernment. Sort of a “yours is not to wonder why, yours is only to do or die” mentality. This is implicit in comments phrases like “your personal opinion”… or like this…

    From the sola scriptura point of view, if I show you how some of those doctrines shared by Rome and the EO are scriptural, you have no way to judge. Most people I know wiggle out of acknowledging that those doctrines, are in fact, being taken from scripture, but they don’t do this by appealing to scripture but to a Reformed prejudice.

    If you have read my posts on this page and its sisters, I think you will find that I always cite Scripture as the basis of the theological positions I hold. You may disagree with the interpretation of those Scriptures, but they are there for the viewing. What I find in many of the Catholic positions is a vast over reach of interpretation based on an isolated verse that seems to conflict with the preponderance of Scripture, as in the long discussion of Matthew 16:18 above.

    When I think of your IP, I see myself before a long bench of men representing PCA, OPC, CRCNA, Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, Evangelical Free, Churches of Christ, Brethren in Christ, Quakers, Pentecostals, Calvary Chapels, Vineyard Christian Fellowships, Willow Creek, Solid Rock, Cornerstone Christian, Faith Fellowship, Sandals, The Bible Church, Home Church, etc… and they all have a gavel with “sola scriptura” on it.

    Perhaps all of those churches serve a purpose in God’s plan. Why do we have a need to fit everyone in the same box? God did not create mankind uniformly, but in beautiful diversity. Can He not also create a beautifully diverse church? Some want to read liturgy to move closer to God. Some want to raise their hands and sing praises with the lyre and drum.

    Wouldn’t it make sense that God would want us to know everything we needed to know about him and that the source of that witness should be protected from teaching things contrary to the truth?

    Of course. That is why He sent the Holy Spirit to us.

    This is what the magisterium is. The witness of the church is supposed to be guided by the Holy Spirit. In you scenario everybody has the Holy Spirit if they read the scriptures and decide for themselves. The Catholic Church speaks as one who has authority. I have never seen scripture wielded so accurately.

    And this is what the body of elders is in our church. Your comment “In your scenario everybody has the Holy Spirit if they read the scriptures and decide for themselves.” just is not true.

    And if this isn’t the right interpretation then no one has it! How do I know? The Spirit guides us into all truth:)

    Me too :-)

    Blessings
    Curt

  133. @Erick Ybarra (#127

    But how can that be is only the pope is infallible?

    It is not the Pope who is infallible. It is the Church. The Pope is infallible only insofar as he is speaking to and for the whole Church.

    …catholics believe that this has only happened a few times in world history …

    No, it is only the case that Papal definitions have happened only a few times in world history. Everything the Church believes it believes infallibly. An example is the existence of angels. No Pope has ever defined as a dogma of faith that angels exist, because the question is never seriously arisen. You are confusing Papal definitions of infallibility with the infallibility of the Church. It is the Church that will not fail. When final push comes to final shove, it has needed Papal definitions to clarify certain matters.

    jj

  134. JJ,

    Thanks for clarifying this.

  135. Curt Russell, you write:

    By your interpretation, at face value, are a Gentile and a tax collector by race and vocation excluded from the church? So how does being a Gentile and a tax collector suddenly mean excommunication?

    The first point that I would like to make in answering your question about Gentiles-tax collecters-excommunication is that this isn’t my interpretation. This is the same interpretation that you would get from those with teaching authority in the Oriental Orthodox Churches, Eastern Orthodox Churches and Catholic Church. You aren’t just arguing against me, you are arguing against every church with a two-thousand year history. If you ask the authorized teachers in one of these ancient churches to give you a comprehensive list of the foundational scriptures that speak to the church discipline of excommunication, then you are certainly going to get Matthew 18:17 included in that list.

    Am I the excommunicator? If we take the commonly held meaning that the tax collector or Gentile is someone we would typically avoid as a Jew of the time, then this verse is speaking to us individually in terms of calling out a brother’s sin.

    I agree that this verse is speaking to all the members of the church that Jesus Christ founded. Is the individual the excommunicator? Obviously not. The man that refuse to listen to the church is the man that gets treated by the faithful members of the church as a Gentile or a tax collector.

    The steps are: 1) approach him one on one, 2) approach him with two or three, 3) take him before the church, 4) avoid him. Each step tells what I should do… not the church.

    You have the steps right, but the step 3 tells you that if steps one and two fail to correct a brother that you think is sinning, then you are to bring the brother to “the church”. And that tells us that the church has the authority to settle the matter. You and your two witnesses do NOT have that authority.

    Let us apply these steps in a thought experiment. I am living in the first century, and I am a baptized member of the church that Jesus Christ personally founded. I leave my hometown of Jerusalem to visit a city in Asia Minor where I meet brother Paul. I am shocked and horrified by what I hear brother Paul preaching. I confront brother Paul and tell him to his face that he is sinning because he preaching to the Gentile converts that they do not need to be circumcised to be saved. I am concerned that brother Paul is misleading the Gentiles in preaching heresy about a matter of the faith.

    Brother Paul tells me that I am grossly mistaken, and that I am the one that is sinning by preaching a false doctrine about what is necessary for salvation. No matter how much I quote scriptures to brother Paul, he continues to oppose me. I take step two, and I bring three witnesses that agree with me, and together with my witnesses, we confront brother Paul. Brother Paul refuses to accept what we are telling him no matter how much we quote scriptures to brother Paul. The brethren of the city in Asia Minor want a resolution of our doctrinal dispute, because the dispute is is beginning to divide the brethren over a matter of doctrine. What do the brethren of the city do? They take step three, and the brethren in Asia Minor send brother Paul and brother Barnabas to the church for a ruling on the matter.

    Obviously, I am paraphrasing the situation in Antioch mentioned in Acts chapter 15. The men that definitvely settle the doctrinal dispute are living men who happen to be in Jerusalem at the time. The ruling of these men is that Paul is not preaching heresy – it is me, and my witnesses that are teaching heresy. If I refuse to “listen even to the church”, what are the brethren in Antioch going to do to me once they receive the letter sent from the teachers in Jerusalem? They are going to excommunicate me, because they now know with certainty that I am the one refusing to listen even to the church.

    I think four points are worth making here. One, scripture alone did not settle the doctrinal dispute that broke out in Antioch. Two, the Apostle Paul did not have the authority to settle the point of dispute for the brethren of Antioch. Three, the brethren of Antioch knew who could settle the dispute, and it wasn’t anyone living in Antioch. Four, this incident shows Christ’s church developing doctrine, and the whole church is bound for all time by this development of doctrine.

    I guess all of the churches in Acts were Roman Catholic? Or maybe they just weren’t real churches.

    Perhaps you are unaware of it, but the name “Roman Catholic” was originally a derogatory name cooked up by the Anglicans when the British Empire was at its height. If you do a word search of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, you will turn up no reference to “Roman Catholic” nor “Roman Catholicism”. I make this point because the churches in Acts were all part of the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.”

    How do the churches that Paul founded and nurtured fit in? After all, Paul was an outsider. Were they part of the church Christ personally founded?

    Paul was sent by the church personally founded by Jesus Christ to preach to the Gentiles. Because Paul was sent by the true church, he has the title Apostle. All the churches that Paul established on his missionary travels were local particular churches of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Some of these churches established by Paul are still in existence today and they are identifiable because they have maintained Apostolic Succession. If you listen to the liturgies of these churches you will hear them confessing that they believe in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

    The problem is that, when you hear the word church, you automatically think of the Roman Catholic church.

    If you want to know what I think, just ask me. Of the four Gospels written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the word ekklesia appears in only two verses, and those verses are Matthew 16:18 and Matthew 18:17. Never once in my posts to this thread have I said that I think that the ekklesia of Matthew’s Gospel is a synonym for “Roman” Catholic.

    In Matthew 16:18, Christ speaks of my church and in Matthew 18:17, Christ speaks of the church. I think is obvious from reading Matthew’s Gospel, “the church” of Matthew 18:17 is synonymous with “my church” of Matthew 16:18. And that is all I have said in my argument. I haven’t even come close to arguing that “my church” of Matthew 16:18 is the church that I belong to.

    In Matthew 16:18, Christ is speaking about building “my church”, which means that Christ has personally founded his own church two-thousand years ago. Note “my church”, as opposed to any old church founded by someone other than Christ. The church that Christ commands his disciples to “listen to”, is “my church” the church he personally founded. That is my argument, and that argument follows from a rational reading of Matthew.

    You are reading so much into one verse of Scripture that it is truly astounding. Where does Christ forbid the inquirer from choosing just any old church?

    What is astonishing to me is what you are reading into Matthew 18:17, that is, when Christ commands his disciples to listen to “the church”, what Christ is really teaching is that his disciples have been authorized listen to any old church!

    … my church is a visible place where we can go.

    Your “church” may be visible, but it wasn’t founded by Jesus Christ. It is one of thousands upon thousands of Protestant “churches” that were founded by men and women – “churches” that preach a conflicting Babel of contradictory doctrine.

    So here is another broad statement that is conferred on this one verse. Yet Jesus says in verse 20 “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

    How does verse 20 relate to the gist of my argument? You have avoided addressing my point, and my points is that is that I may sincerely believe that a brother is sinning by preaching heresy, and I may be mistaken – or maybe not. My point is that I don’t decide for myself what constitutes orthodoxy, I bring my doctrinal conflict with my brother to “the church”, and “the church” settles the matter. If I can bring my dispute to any old church (including a church that I personally found), then Christ’s commandment to his disciples to listen to “the church” is utterly meaningless.

    Presbyterian Elders have ruling authority over the church.

    Only to the extent that you grant them their authority. You have said as much when you wrote in your post # 120:

    I will grant that the Presby Church is vulnerable to outside invasion by socialists who use the church for personal agendas. But believers in the Presby Church have the ability to deal with such problems, up to and including leaving the particular denomination.

    You say I can “deal” with the elders of a Presbyterian Church that preaches what I personally believe to be false doctrine by leaving the church to find a church that agrees with me. If that is so, then no Presbyterian elder has any real authority over me.

    In the real world, some Presbyterian churches preach that abortion is not sinful. If I think the elders in a local Presbyterian church that are teaching abortion is not sinful are out of their mind, you are telling me that I can deal with this by church hopping until I find Presbyterian Church that agrees with me. But likewise, if I sincerely think that a “woman’s right to choose” is something that must be defended on moral grounds, then I can church hop until I find a Presbyterian Church that agrees with me about that. In effect, I get to decide what constitutes orthodox doctrine by church hopping, and the elders had better tow the line or I will pack up and leave. What you are saying logically follows, if the church that Christ commands me to listen to can be any old church!

  136. Hi Curt,

    You said to Mike:

    Curt Russell May 30th, 2013 3:57 pm :
    Mike (118)

    Thanks for a really thoughtful and honest response. A few follow-ups…

    Agreed. However, if your choice between them relies on their interpretation of truth, then you must discern your own interpretation of truth to determine which of them is rightly interpreting. It still seems you must personally discern God’s truth in order to make that decision.

    That was not the case for me.

    I came back to the Catholic Church reluctantly after a long and considered study of many religions. I came back not because I personally understood or even believed some of the Doctrines. I came back because I learned to trust the Church. I remember standing at the door of the Church watching people take Communion and saying to myself, “either the Catholic Church is completely nuts. Or they are the only ones who have it right.”

    The Catholic Church does not set out mainly to cultivate theologians who understand every nuance of the Faith. The Catholic Church sets out mainly to cultivate that sanctity without which one can not see God:

    Hebrews 12:14
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  137. Curt: (#123)

    Wow, no I certainly didn’t mean it that way, and so I’m glad to hear you begin your note saying, “I know you don’t mean it that way.”

    Whew. Okay, let me back up and try to carefully respond to your response in such a way as to be clear, and to make the tone of my writing match my entirely charitable intent and empathetic feelings!

    Hmm. How to do that?

    Well, it may help to know that I grew up in Southern Baptist circles. Some in the church identified as “Reformed” Baptists, but I think I can say that by Presbyterian standards they were not out-and-out Calvinists. A lot of folks drew from Calvin but would call themselves “four-and-a-half-pointers” and similar labels…and as you know, the Baptist tradition excludes infant baptism and insists on full-immersion baptism. Within those circles, I never called myself explicitly “Baptist” but “Christian,” following the example of my parents; we served and were fed at a Baptist church but “we will go where God sends us” was the attitude. Later I served (as a musician) in non-denom churches and at a nearby Methodist church (where I still have a regular gig as a musician).

    During all that time I was very serious about the Christian faith and desired to practice and believe it in an orthodox fashion. I wanted it to be true that what the apostles had heard from Christ, as applied in a modern setting, was what I believed and lived. If through no fault of my own I didn’t know or properly understand something, that was the Lord’s problem, to educate me in His time and in His way, but I didn’t want to ever turn away from something He wanted me to know, just because it was unpopular or personally difficult for me.

    So I would never call a Protestant uneducated, or devoid of the Holy Spirit at work in them, or anything of the sort. Were I to do so, I’d be describing myself in that fashion. I’d be saying I was that way for the first, oh, 35 years of my life, which I know perfectly well is nonsense. And of course I wasn’t the smartest guy around in the Protestant world when I was a Protestant; not by a long shot. About the best I can say is that I had an inclination to think analytically and an affinity for apologetics. But I was learning from people wiser and more experienced than I, all the time: Protestants whom I love and to whom I am deeply grateful today.

    Now as for “speaking for God”: No, I make no claim to speak for God here; but I hope to build upon what you and I both agree is God’s truth, and from that common foundation exhibit implications that you perhaps hadn’t previously considered.

    For, I do hold that there are truths which are obvious once one has considered them, but which one can go a lifetime without considering. I think a person is not morally obligated to consider the implications of a realization if that realization has not yet occurred to them. But if someone else brings it up in such a way as to call their attention to it winsomely — once it has their attention and in a way that predisposes them to take it seriously — I think at that point, if it’s a matter of faith or morals, then moral responsibility for taking that realization seriously grows in proportion to the degree to which it has commanded their attention and they’ve had time to consider it.

    So, during those first 35 years of my life, I don’t believe I was morally responsible for considering questions like, “How can Sola Scriptura be true if it isn’t taught in the Bible?” and “What does it mean, that there so many, and so varied, Bible-based interpretations of Christianity derived by good, Holy-Spirit filled persons with substantial seminary educations, which vary on such vitally important topics?” and “How can all these denominations claim to be ‘an Acts 2 church’ or ‘restoring the gospel to its original simplicity’ if our earliest evidence shows signs of the early Church being very Catholic or at least Eastern Orthodox in character, and if even Peter wincingly admits that ‘there is much in the writings of our brother Paul that is difficult to understand?'”

    I went a long time untroubled by these questions, following Christ as best I knew how. But later, when by the grace of God, these and other related questions commanded my attention, I do think God morally obligated me to consider them and to take action if I arrived at conclusions which required I make changes.

    So let me hit on the 4 things you said were implicit in my comment:

    “1. That Protestants have no one who is as theologically educated as Catholics”

    No! I don’t think that! (And even if I thought that I sure as heck wouldn’t use it as a foundational assumption for an apologetic directed at a Protestant!) This isn’t about theological education. A person could go a lifetime of studying the Bible without asking, “If an apostle had just finished ‘planting’ a church and was now leaving for a new missionary journey, knowing he would probably never return, what authority structure did he leave behind to ensure the church he ‘planted’ avoided heterodoxy, and what is the relationship of the New Testament to that authority structure?”

    Or, a person could become brilliant at interpreting Scripture through the lenses of a particular tradition, all the while not knowing there was a fundamental error at the bottom of that tradition which was causing some of his interpretations to go askew. He would need to first arrive at the point where he’s willing (or, perhaps, forced by circumstance) to look outside his tradition to find answers…and then he might find that another tradition fit the evidence better. But within his tradition, he might be a brilliant expositor.

    “2. That the Holy Spirit is not working in Protestants or their churches”

    I could scarcely be a Catholic if I thought that; the Catholic Church affirms that the Holy Spirit IS doing just that, not least for the edification of Catholics.

    In the words of Unitatis Redintegratio, “…anything wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren can contribute to our edification.”

    (But that does not mean that the Holy Spirit has placed an infallible interpretative gift in any particular Protestant or group of Protestants, or that (one of) the Protestant models of authority is exactly what Jesus had in mind for keeping His flock unified in faith and morals — one Lord, one Faith, one baptism — until He comes again.)

    “3. That God wanted to limit His grace to one particular church or one particular model”

    I absolutely don’t believe that He limits His grace, generally, to a particular church or a particular model of authority. We are bound by the sacraments, if we know about them; but He is not bound by them.

    Now I do hold that there is one very important gift of the Holy Spirit — that of infallibly leading the People of God into all truth, which God has chosen to supply to the baptized through the visible mechanism and offices of the successors of the apostles and the successor of Peter. I hold that the grace which God gives us through that particular channel is the grace of a guaranteed living, query-able source for doctrinal truth on matters of faith and morals, for our catechetical benefit. (For Holy Scripture is inerrant, but it (a.) was never intended to be a Catechism, and (b.) cannot answer you if you say, “I think this passage means XYZ rather than ABC…did I get that right?”)

    Can a Christian live a pure and holy life without access to that particular mechanism? Of course. Can the Holy Spirit lead a Christian into doctrinal truth even without access to that particular mechanism? Of course (though He obviously doesn’t guarantee that He will do so at every asking).

    But I think Jesus gave us that guaranteed mechanism because He wanted us to have it, for our good, and the good of all His holy Church. Through that mechanism we gain an additional benefit: The ability to be obedient to His actual known truth, if we choose it, rather than to our best guess or the best guess of some other man, who may be wrong. It is not that we can’t get by without that, but I believe Christ in His generosity wanted us to do better than get by. (So, if Catholics are wrong about this, it is because they are giving Jesus too much credit.)

    But Vatican II teaches that God is gracious to the Orthodox (who lack the Petrine office but have valid sacraments), to the Protestants (who lack certain sacraments, but retain valid baptism and matrimony and the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives for sanctification, and reverent attention to Scripture), and to non-Trinitarian sects, to Jews, and even to those with no religion or religious traditions bearing no historical connection to the plan of salvation.

    So I do not, indeed, cannot hold that Protestants receive no grace from God. (Heck, I surely did, plenty, back when I was Protestant!) God’s generosity is not reserved solely for those in visible communion with the successor of Peter. It is merely that God has opted, in His wisdom, to make available a particularly useful gift, and has opted to do so through the Magisterium.

    “4. That God is not big enough to bring people to Himself in a variety of ways”

    Of course He is.

    It is just that, when He brings people to Himself, He ultimately desires that they be “the People of God” not merely in an invisible spiritual union undetectable to non-believers, but a visible unity that the world can see. Jesus says that this is His intent during His “high-priestly” prayer in John 17: He prays that we (not just the apostles, but we who came after them) would “be one” as He and the Father are one.

    Think about that. That’s pretty darned “one.” Does Jesus disagree with the Father about whether Christians should practice infant baptism? About whether the Eucharist is really His body, blood, soul, and divinity? About whether contraceptive use or homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered? About whether valid marriages are permanent on this side of the grave? About how church government should be organized and church discipline should be exercised? It is Jesus’ will that we be one as He and the Father are one.

    And, He intends that we “be one” visibly, not merely in some qualified sense in spite of disagreements and divisions, but in a way the world can see: “That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, so that the world may believe and be convinced that You have sent Me.” Can the world be convinced by a unity they can’t detect?

    Is the world currently even convinced of what Christianity is, considering that Christians appear to have no unity of opinion about it? Our disunity hampers our witness. But the united Church of the first thousand years grew from 120 persons to 3,000, then swept through the Roman Empire, converted it in three or four centuries, outlasted it, and planted the seeds which produced the first Christian civilization of the High Middle Ages.

    I think that God deeply desires that same unity to return, for the sake of saving souls, like Jesus said. And thus I believe it is the ecumenical destiny of all Christians to some day be reunited in one faith and one communion, and that the Holy Spirit desires this far more than we do.

    …continued…

  138. …continuing, in reply to Curt (#123)…

    So, yes, God brings people to Himself in many ways. But He desires that they all be one family. So the “many ways” doesn’t, in its consummation, remain a permanent diversity in all facets, including truth! “In essential things, unity; in non-essential, diversity; in all things, charity.” And stuff like baptism and the eucharist are essential, so while all members of the family are unique, some things are common to the whole household.

    Current Protestants agree with this, but say that the commonalities do not include the Magisterium, etc.; but we former Protestants have come to believe that the commonalities do include the “Catholic distinctives.”

    Going on, Curt, you say that I make certain assertions that are “just wrong,” including that Protestant ecclesiology has failed in a mere 500 years. You answer this assertion, saying,

    “Failed? Why is it that nearly every person on this board first came to Christ through the Protestant church? How many billions have come to Christ via Protestant churches through the years? Are you saying that they did not? or are you saying that God was just nice and let them in anyway?”

    It seems to me that your response contains a misunderstanding, for which I am at fault: I did not define what I meant by saying that Protestant ecclesiology has failed. So let me say: A functioning Biblical ecclesiology would (a.) have roots in Scripture, both Old and New Testaments; (b.) would provide doctrinal stability, so that those remaining in the visible Church would retain the same doctrines over the centuries (allowing for development, but not reversal); and (c.) would, in any event, do way, way more than just get people to Christ.

    So, yes, Protestant ecclesial communities have been God’s tool for bringing many people to Christ, including me! (As for God being nice and letting them in? Well, of course Catholic and Protestant alike agree that God is being more than nice, but absurdly generous and gracious and merciful, letting any one of us “in,” cradle Catholics included.)

    But if all a Church does is bring people to Christ, it fails, because Jesus wanted it to do more than that. He wanted it to be able to render authoritative judgments on His behalf. This includes disputes between Christians, including when one Christian accuses another of sin. That means the authority HAS to include some kind of reliable judgment regarding doctrine, which would not be “reversed” or “abrogated” over time but would be developed into deeper understanding of the truth as time went by. That vision is implied by Matthew 16 and 18 and John 17 and elsewhere.

    Now there is not a single Protestant denomination today that wouldn’t dismay the original generation of that same denomination through doctrinal drift alone. (Have you heard what some of the reformers — or for that matter the vast majority of all Christians prior to 1900 — had to say about artificial contraception?) Why this drift?

    And within a few decades of Luther and Calvin splitting away, their two or three formulations of the meaning of communion had become, what, a hundred or so different competing beliefs?

    You say, “When you say of the Protestant church… imagine how it will look in another 500 years, I think that is exactly what Martin Luther said about the Catholic church 500 years ago.”

    Yes. And there are always bad clergy — even Jesus did no better at selecting clergy than to get 11 out of 12! There are always Judas priests.

    “And the reformation of the 1500′s would have never gotten off the ground had the Catholic church abused less and loved more in that time.”

    I agree wholeheartedly. If Christians aren’t saints — with gobs of outlandish generosity and self-sacrifice and humility pouring out of every pore, exhibiting heroic virtue and shyly keeping quiet the miraculous events in their lives so as not to draw excessive attention — not only do they not convert non-Christians, they make it hard for the baptized around them to be attracted to orthodoxy. How great the Church would be, if it only didn’t have people in it! (And any Church that was perfect would cease to be, as soon as I got there!)

    So I agree with all of that.

    But I think you misunderstood my “how will Protestantism look in 500 years” concern. I’m not talking about moral corruption. Catholics and Protestants, being human, will both be doing that until the Lord returns.

    But I meant confidence that the doctrines of the faith are, indeed, the doctrines of the faith, unchanging through the millennia. I want to be in a Church that has staying power, so that if I look at what Ignatius of Antioch says about the significance of the bishops or what the Eucharist really is, it looks like not only what I think, but what the most prominent saints and doctors were saying about the same topics in each and every century in between me and Ignatius.

    In the Protestant world, I cannot think of a single denomination where I could, today, have my kids baptized there, grow up in that church, marry in that church, start their own families in that church, and have me, now, be confident that my grandkids will be taught the same doctrines as me. I’m not talking about one local church going askew because of a bad pastor; I’m talking about the local church going askew and the only way to get away from it is to leave the denomination, because if you appeal to the denominational leadership, they’ll say either that what the local church is doing is right, or that they aren’t sure and are unwilling to say one way or the other.

    The most prominent examples of course are in the Anglican world. In a functioning ecclesiology there’s not a single reason on earth why Gene Robinson and, for that matter, Katherine Jefferts Schori aren’t long-since laicized and instructed to not receive communion, for their own safety, for fear of drinking condemnation on themselves. (And as for Shelby Spong!) But the Anglicans can’t do that because organizationally they have no avenue for saying XYZ Is The Truth in an irreformable way. They could say it now, but a hundred years later they could say the opposite.

    But I have no fear — none at all — that, ten thousand years from now, there will be female Catholic bishops, let alone gay weddings considered sacramental by the Church.

    You say, “My faith is in Christ… not a church.”

    Well, mine too. With all the sinners and hypocrites in it, it is a First-Order Miracle that the Catholic Church still exists, let alone has any worthy qualities. A half-dozen lousy Borgia popes couldn’t take down the Church; what human organization could survive that? I don’t put my faith ultimately in Pope Francis, or Benedict XVI before him, or John Paul II before him, let alone any of the other bishops. I’m putting my faith in Jesus Christ that He’ll keep pouring out the Holy Spirit on His Church to lead us into “all truth,” so that the Church, which is the Household of God, will remain the pillar and bulwark of the truth.

    You say, “I know people here want to make it complicated…”

    Well, no. I mean complexity for complexity’s sake is bad. Simplicity is good: But we want to avoid over-simplifying, on any occasion where the details matter.

    Keep in mind that we’re discussing God here: The fundamental source of all reality.

    Now, in merely physical terms, fundamental reality tends to look simple enough that you can sum it up in a single sentence…but it tends to be filled with head-whirling mysteries the closer you look at it. A chair is a chair. And it’s made of atoms, and atoms are atoms. And atoms are made of electrons, neutrons, protons: Fine. But neutrons and protons are themselves composites of smaller quanta. And quanta don’t allow you to simultaneously know their position and momentum, and have this weird property called “spin” that isn’t, really; and they behave sometimes like waves and sometimes like particles but they aren’t either, really; and they interact in probabilistic ways such that there’s a very very small but nonzero chance that you will, ten seconds from now, mysteriously vanish from wherever you are and reappear in Alpha Centauri, or turn to gold, or just evaporate into nonexistence.

    (Counting to ten.)

    You still there?

    So, yeah, mere physical reality can be summed up succinctly to a certain degree, and sometimes the additional details don’t matter. But when they do matter, and you explore the details, a bewildering complexity emerges. If this is the case with the mere fundamentals of physical matter, how much more so with the fundamentals of theology and ecclesiology and soteriology?

    Yes, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. Absolutely! But when you ask, “Son? How exactly does God have a Son?” then you get the mystery of the Trinity and you have to cope with the Holy Spirit, and I don’t suppose I will ever, in this life, “comfortably have a handle” on those mysteries.

    So I’m sorry if I have unnecessarily complicated anything. But when the details of the truth matter, I not only expect some complexity, but am willing to endure it for the sake of accuracy.

    When my first child was born, I was still serving in non-denom churches.

    When my second was born, though, I was serving at a Methodist church…and they baptize infants. Moreover, my parents had divorced, and my father was opting to remarry. I was raised Baptist, believing in the permanence of marriage, and “believer’s baptism” by immersion. So what, from a practical standpoint was I to think? Was my father’s second marriage going to be mere adultery? Should I baptize my second child at eight days?

    With respect to these controversies, both sides had Scripture they liked to cite; they had holy men with seminary degrees who argued their position. I know little Greek; the arguments of both sides seemed plausible.

    Ah, but when I turned to the Church Fathers to research baptism, I quickly found that the earliest quarrel among Christians about baptism was about whether this New Testament “circumcision” was required to be on the eighth day, as under the Old Covenant, or could be earlier if the child seemed likely to die. I found that the Didache had a provision if the person being baptized was not old enough to “speak for themselves.” So that settled it: Infant baptism was okay. For the first time in my life I said, “With all respect and affection for those who taught me to love Jesus as a child, on this topic, they had it wrong.”

    But while reading the Church Fathers, I found to my dismay that from the beginning they sounded very Catholic. Try as I might, I could locate no Methodists or Baptists among them. Oh, they sounded “Baptist” on every topic where a Baptist and a Catholic would say the same thing. But where Baptists and Catholics disagreed, I could find no Baptists.

    To be even more precise (for this is a topic where details matter), I could find early Christians here and there who disagreed with Catholics in the same way a Baptist would, today, on one particular doctrine; but on all the other doctrines, they’d either agree with the Catholics, or hold some view that both modern Baptists and modern Catholics would call heretical. I could find ancient Catholics; I could find no ancient Baptists.

    Where were they? What was the Holy Spirit doing for fifteen centuries? Napping?

    And what’s all this in Ignatius of Antioch about the “Catholic Church” being “wherever the episkopos is” …and the “episkopos” being surrounded by presbyters, apparently a separate office? And what’s up with this passage where he said, “They [heretics] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes. But it were better for them to treat it with respect, that they also might rise again…” …what’s up with that? Sounds like he took John 6 very literally. But how could a disciple of St. John the Apostle, who served under Evodius at Antioch, who became bishop when Evodius was martyred, and who was writing this en route to his own martyrdom around 110…how could he get it wrong? How could he, learning Christianity from John, mess up a core interpretation of John’s gospel?

    I thought about what St. Paul said in 1 Cor 11. And then I thought, “Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed, come let us celebrate the feast.” I thought about the fact that any Israelite who didn’t eat the Lamb the night before the departure from Egypt would have had a dead firstborn in the morning. I thought about John the Baptist saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”

    I said to myself, “Oh my God. It’s not just a symbol.”

    And that was when I really started investigating the Catholic faith.

    Well. Enough of all this rambling on my part. I think I responded to your questions. Blessings on you, Curt.

    Sincerely,

    R.C.

  139. Mateo (135)

    Thanks for your response. A couple of follow ups…

    I think four points are worth making here. One, scripture alone did not settle the doctrinal dispute that broke out in Antioch.

    Minor detail, but the New Covenant Scripture had not yet been written. It was precisely these formative years that gave rise to the inerrant Scripture we now have for “teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Apparently Scripture is adequate… if we believe it is inerrant.

    Two, the Apostle Paul did not have the authority to settle the point of dispute for the brethren of Antioch. Three, the brethren of Antioch knew who could settle the dispute, and it wasn’t anyone living in Antioch. Four, this incident shows Christ’s church developing doctrine, and the whole church is bound for all time by this development of doctrine.

    Its interesting that you bring up Acts 15. For the very doctrine they were settling was that of salvation through grace and not through works of the law. Peter says this…

    7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; 9 and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.”

    Peter is speaking here about salvation through works… which he describes as a yoke around their neck. It did not work for the Jews and will not work now. This is the very way Protestants see the “grace + works” theology of the Catholic church. Protestants would affirm with Peter that “we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.”

    Perhaps you are unaware of it, but the name “Roman Catholic” was originally a derogatory name cooked up by the Anglicans when the British Empire was at its height. If you do a word search of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, you will turn up no reference to “Roman Catholic” nor “Roman Catholicism”. I make this point because the churches in Acts were all part of the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.”

    Yes I am aware that this is how the Roman Catholic church views itself. I assume you are aware that the Presbyterian church also sees itself as part of the one holy catholic apostolic church founded by Christ, just as were the other churches in Acts? Of course, there is a difference in the view of what constitutes “apostolic”. If the Catholic church really wants unity, perhaps they should invite key apostolic Protestant church leaders to an ecumenical council to work out all of these theological questions once and for all. I mean this seriously. I would love as much as you to have one united body of Christ, but the Catholic church would need to take the organizational lead as the largest body.

    I haven’t even come close to arguing that “my church” of Matthew 16:18 is the church that I belong to.

    Point taken… though the inference is certainly strong.

    In Matthew 16:18, Christ is speaking about building “my church”, which means that Christ has personally founded his own church two-thousand years ago. Note “my church”, as opposed to any old church founded by someone other than Christ. The church that Christ commands his disciples to “listen to”, is “my church” the church he personally founded. That is my argument, and that argument follows from a rational reading of Matthew.

    Again… when you say “Note “my church”, as opposed to any old church founded by someone other than Christ.” you are reading into the word ekklesia a particular meaning. If the word ekklesia means the body of those who believe in Christ, then your statement is inaccurate. From Matt 16:18, you cannot read any more into the verse… Jesus founded His church… the body of believer… and built it through the apostles… and nothing can stop it… (even the abuses of the middle ages, one could certainly argue).

    Your “church” may be visible, but it wasn’t founded by Jesus Christ. It is one of thousands upon thousands of Protestant “churches” that were founded by men and women – “churches” that preach a conflicting Babel of contradictory doctrine.

    Of course it was founded by Christ… we are part the body of believers… the ekklessia… like the many churches in Acts. Perhaps our “failure” of doctrine began with the Catholic church’s failure to exemplify the love of Christ during the middle ages… Or perhaps the popes who turned the Seat of Peter into a brothel and den of inequity. Perhaps Christ was protecting His church through the reformation. Perhaps if the Catholic church had used Trent as an opportunity to unite and resolve rather than divide and excommunicate, the church might still be united. But they didn’t. Nonetheless, there still are churches preaching the good news of Christ, given to us through the apostles… that through Him our sins are forgiven… that we are saved by grace, not as a result of works, that none may boast.

    How does verse 20 relate to the gist of my argument? You have avoided addressing my point, and my points is that is that I may sincerely believe that a brother is sinning by preaching heresy, and I may be mistaken – or maybe not. My point is that I don’t decide for myself what constitutes orthodoxy, I bring my doctrinal conflict with my brother to “the church”, and “the church” settles the matter. If I can bring my dispute to any old church (including a church that I personally found), then Christ’s commandment to his disciples to listen to “the church” is utterly meaningless.

    Because, again, your view of “the church” infers the Roman Catholic church. If that is not what you mean, then please tell me which church (now, today) is the church I should go to for theological clarification. My view of “the church” is the church that Christ founded… the ekklessia… the body of those who believe. Acts tells us that we should select elders … they are to be the leaders of the church. When there are questions, the elders should work it out. To flip your question… if we limit the discussion to RC or EO, which church should I listen to?

    You say I can “deal” with the elders of a Presbyterian Church that preaches what I personally believe to be false doctrine by leaving the church to find a church that agrees with me. If that is so, then no Presbyterian elder has any real authority over me.

    Are you suggesting that the RC church has you chained to the pew? Well, I mean, other than with a doctrine that alleges to withhold your salvation if you leave? … another leftover of the “power and control” period of the middle ages.

    In the real world, some Presbyterian churches preach that abortion is not sinful. If I think the elders in a local Presbyterian church that are teaching abortion is not sinful are out of their mind, you are telling me that I can deal with this by church hopping until I find Presbyterian Church that agrees with me. But likewise, if I sincerely think that a “woman’s right to choose” is something that must be defended on moral grounds, then I can church hop until I find a Presbyterian Church that agrees with me about that. In effect, I get to decide what constitutes orthodox doctrine by church hopping, and the elders had better tow the line or I will pack up and leave. What you are saying logically follows, if the church that Christ commands me to listen to can be any old church!

    Perhaps the unfortunate outcome of the middle ages, when the Catholic church was charging money for the forgiveness of sin… and the poor guy in the pew who was being embezzled had no other option. The issues going on in the PCUSA are the result of socialists who are using the church to advance non-Biblical social agendas. What the socialists do is between them and God… not my problem. I feel the same way about the popes of the middle ages. The agility of Protestantism allows the true believer (the ekklessia) to find a church home that is Scripturally rooted when a denomination becomes hopelessly corrupted. Such was not the case in 1500. Jesus told the woman at the well that it didn’t matter whether you worshiped on the mountain or in Jerusalem. Its not the “place”. What matters is that we worship “in spirit and in truth”. Through the Spirit and the Word, Christ will lead His church. And if the appointed leaders screw up, even the stones will cry out.

    Blessings
    Curt

  140. Bill (130)

    I missed your comment earlier, but thanks for contributing to the discussion! A few thoughts…

    Regarding the fact that most people on these boards came to Christ through Protestant churches, you said…

    Perhaps the more interesting question is why, in coming to Christ, they did not find the fullness of Truth in those Protestant traditions and found that fullness in the Catholic Church.

    Well, if you want to do that comparison, we can. In my Presbyterian church, the Senior Pastor was raised RC, the Associate Pastor was raised EO. More than half of the congregants were raised RC. But trading congregants should not a point of pride for either, and is not what we should be about… I’m sure you agree. Spreading the gospel is the commandment we are called to fulfill.

    It is a false dichotomy to imply that one is called to faith in Christ but not faith in His Church. Why is it that there are statements of faith in the Church in both the Apostle’s and Nicene creeds? “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.”? Each of the statement in the creeds are those which must be accepted on faith, which means, with respect to the church, that it is more than a human assembly.

    I agree totally. I was referring to saving faith. The church doers not save… Christ saves. I certainly believe that Christ founded a church… and that this is a matter of faith.

    The scriptures are clear that Christ and His Church are one Body, so to have faith in His Church is to have faith in Him. Perhaps it is this dissonance you present which those from Protestant communions found unsatisfying and so journeyed onward to the Catholic Church.

    I don’t think there is a dissonance. I fully believe that Christ is united with His sheep… wherever they are. I won’t speculate on the “why” of the decisions of others.

    I also find it very interesting that the early creeds contain such a statement regarding the church and yet none regarding any of the “solas” which signify the hallmarks of the Reformation.

    Yes that is interesting. Are you saying that the Nicene Creed is the full extent of all that the Christian should believe? If so, we could bring most of the Protestant and EO Churches back together with the Catholic Church. Perhaps we might also find it interesting that the concept of grace plus works is missing from the early creeds?

    Blessings
    Curt

  141. De Maria (136)

    Thanks! … that was a very refreshing view. I, too, went “off the ranch” in my younger days … in my case, far off the ranch. Mine was a search for “truth”. I looked at all of the major religions as well as some of the popular eastern permutations that arose out of the 60’s. I was young and curious. Ultimately, my return was not to a particular denomination, but to the Christian faith as a whole. That return was facilitated by a number of denominations and parachurch orgs including Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Navigators, CBMC and others. Not that I investigated these denominations per se… but rather, there were people who took an interest in me and helped me return to Christ who haled from these denoms and orgs. The reality was that my life was heading down the tubes of drug abuse, and God reached out and grabbed me by the collar through these folks and saved me from myself. That was nearly 40 years ago. The life that God has given me since that time has been one of redemption and victory in Christ that is totally undeserved and can be explained only by His grace. This life experience makes it very difficult for me to comprehend salvation by grace plus works, to use the Protestant description. My salvation was truly by grace alone. His power changed me. Any concept of personal merit for my good works since that time would, for me, seem totally arrogant. I just could not say that. My good works are only by God working in me to accomplish His purposes. I deserve nothing, but I have been adopted by a loving Father who has made me an heir to His kingdom.

    I guess at the end of the day, what we believe is informed in part by the way that God has interacted with each of us personally.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

    Blessings
    Curt

  142. Hi Curt,

    You said,

    Curt Russell June 2nd, 2013 8:38 pm :
    De Maria (136)

    Thanks! … that was a very refreshing view. I, too, went “off the ranch” in my younger days … in my case, far off the ranch. Mine was a search for “truth”. I looked at all of the major religions as well as some of the popular eastern permutations that arose out of the 60′s. I was young and curious. …. I just could not say that. My good works are only by God working in me to accomplish His purposes. I deserve nothing, but I have been adopted by a loving Father who has made me an heir to His kingdom.

    I guess at the end of the day, what we believe is informed in part by the way that God has interacted with each of us personally.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

    I probably didn’t make my point clearly enough. I wasn’t trying to compare our respective journeys of faith. Let me see if I can start again. I was commenting on part of your response #120 to Mike :

    You said:

    Curt Russell May 30th, 2013 3:57 pm :
    Mike (118)

    Thanks for a really thoughtful and honest response. A few follow-ups…

    Agreed. However, if your choice between them relies on their interpretation of truth, then you must discern your own interpretation of truth to determine which of them is rightly interpreting. It still seems you must personally discern God’s truth in order to make that decision.

    I think the point I tried to make is more clearly expressed with this objection that Protestants aim at Catholics. They frequently say, “You have checked your brain at the door of the Catholic Church.”

    And the meaning is clear. Even non-Catholics can see that we don’t discern our own interpretation of the Truth. We come to trust the Church and accept the Church’s interpretation of the Truth.

    This is a clear difference between Catholic and Protestant. Let me ask you. If you came to a different interoperation of the Word of God in Scripture than did your denomination, would you think twice about the matter?

    A Catholic in that situation will submit to and obey the Catholic Teaching. I have done so many times.

    But almost every single Protestant I’ve ever spoken to on this subject has said that they would leave their denomination before they would change their mind about their personal interpretation of the Bible.

    Where do you stand?

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  143. RC (137/138)

    Thanks very much… if your explanation was lacking before, your grade point just took a huge leap! :-)

    Your faith journey helps explain things a lot. I touched on mine a bit in 141. Certainly your desire to have a church that answers all theological questions definitively makes sense. I think all “true” Christians would like to have that. One can certainly make the case that Protestant churches do not have that, as there is not a “unified” Protestant theology. But even if that is true, it is not a necessary conclusion that the Catholic church must therefore be “right” (and I know that you are not saying that). Your point is that one must investigate, and that I agree with. That is why I spend time on these boards.

    I cannot say that the fruit of my investigation thus far has led me much closer to the Catholic church. While my comments here may seem incredibly one sided, this is simply my way of pressing people to clarify what they really believe and to express the theology of the RC church as they understand it. Worked pretty well on you! :-) … and I appreciate your thoughts very much! Let me also say that there is a great deal of commonality between “true” Christians of every stripe, including God fearing Protestants and God fearing Catholics. There are probably only a handful of theological questions that really separate us. The problem is that there are a couple of really big ones.

    Regarding your path to the Catholic church, and not to sound like a denominational snob, but I’ve never quite understood the concept of a “reformed Baptist”. These denominations sprang from separatist or anabaptist roots and had little if any systematic theology. My attraction to Presbyterianism generally relates to its highly developed systematic theology. One may agree or disagree with various points, but at least it is clearly defined. More so, I believe, than other Protestant denoms. The Westminster Confession is well thought out, with significant Scriptural reference work… similar in structure and method to the Catholic Catechism. So I think I am with you that many of the Protestant denoms are lacking in theological thought that runs deeper than the words of Amazing Grace (no disrespect to the song, by the way! … its what I have on my morning alarm clock… helps start my day with the right perspective!). I would find these denominations lacking as well.

    That notwithstanding, I also must wonder why the Reformation happened. If Luther was truly seeking God’s will within the Church (and I think he was), why did God let the schism occur? If the RC church is the one true church, why did Jesus let scoundrels become popes? How could it possibly be good for the church? How could one proclaim that Christ was protecting His beloved church? How could one believe that these pagan guys were the vicar of Christ? It just doesn’t add up to me. Then there are the theological issues… how did we get from Mary, the human mother of Jesus to sinless Mary, co-redemptrix with Christ? One answer I was given was that it was an unequal role… like a co-pilot is to a pilot. This kind of logic is confounding. Is the mother of a pilot a co-pilot? No. Neither was Mary a redemptrix, co- or otherwise. There is nothing in Scripture about Mary having anything to do with salvation… and that would be kind of a big thing, don’t you think? There are others, but you know what they are, so I won’t belabor the point.

    So where does that leave me? Still studying. I, too, am analytical… engineer by training. I’m not sure that analysis is all that there is. At some point faith is part of the equation… perhaps the biggest part. So I trust Jesus when He says “seek and you will find”.

    Thanks so much for the clarifications.

    Blessings
    Curt

  144. Erick Ybarra (re: #127), you asked me:

    But many catholics claim that since christ promised that whatever the church binds is bound in heaven that this truth implies infallibility. The problem is that catholics believe that this has only happened a few times in world history and it cannot be attributed to all local churches even if they are ordained. If a fornicator is excommunicated the local church made an infallible decision? But how can that be is only the pope is infallible?

    Erick, I think that this is a really good question, and is germane to the topic of Apostolic Succession.

    As far as what the Catholic Church teaches about the teaching powers vested with the office of bishop, did you see the last part of my post #117 where I quoted CCC 891? The CCC is saying that especially in the case of an Ecumenical Council, when the body of bishops is united together with Peter’s successor, that the body of bishops is exercising the charismatic gift of infallibility when they solemnly define dogma. Which is to say, that the Catholic Church does not teach that the pope has to personally define the dogmas promulgated at an Ecumenical Council in order for the faithful to know that a particular solemnly defined dogma has been taught infallibly by the church. The pope need only exercise (in an uncoerced manner, of course) an act of affirming the dogma taught at an Ecumenical Council by the body of bishops for the unity to be established between the body of bishops and the pope.

    I think that it is important to note here that the Catholic Church teaches that the laity don’t have to exercise the charismatic gift of infallibility for themselves to know when a dogma has been infallibly taught at an Ecumenical Council. The laity only need to know the objective criteria that establishes the validity of the dogmas defined at an Ecumenical Council – for example, was the council called as an Ecumenical Council? Did the body of bishops define a dogma at the Ecumenical Council? Did the holder of the Petrine office affirm what was solemnly defined by body of bishops at said Ecumenical Council? These are objective criteria that can be answered without the laity needing a special charismatic gift of the Holy Spirit to sit in judgment of what is being formally taught at an Ecumenical Council.

    Before moving on, I think I need pause here to make a point here about the difference between the extraordinary exercise of the teaching powers vested with the office of bishop, and the ordinary exercise of the teaching powers vested with the office of bishops. An Ecumenical Council is an extraordinary exercise of the teaching office of the church personally founded by Jesus Christ. Typically, at an Ecumenical Council, the body of bishops do the work of debating and defining, and the pope only approves what is being proposed by the bishops as solemnly defined dogma to be received by the whole church. Which means that many (most?) of the solemnly defined dogmas (the class of dogmas known as de fide definita dogmas) that have been received by the church have been defined by the bishops of the church at valid Ecumenical Councils. My point here is that not every de fide definita dogma of the faith has been received by the church by the church through the pope exercising, in an extraordinary manner, the teaching powers of the Petrine office apart from an Ecumenical Council.

    It is true that the Catholic Church teaches that the pope can exercise, in an extraordinary manner, the teaching powers vested with the Petrine office apart from an Ecumenical Council. You write “that catholics believe that this has only happened a few times in world history”, and you are correct if the “this” of your statement refers to those few times where the Pope has solemnly defined a dogma through an extraordinary exercise of the powers vested in the Petrine office apart from the body of bishops in an Ecumenical Council. But I don’t think that is what you are saying. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I believe the “this” of your statement refers to every infallibly taught dogma of faith and morals that have been received by the members of the church. For clarity on this matter, it is important to know that the church receives her infallibly taught doctrines not just exclusively by the pope exercising the teaching powers of the Petrine office in an extraordinary manner.

    To my knowledge, (and I would have to do more research to know for sure), the body of bishops participating in the various Ecumenical Councils have only ever solemnly defined doctrines of the faith, and have never solemnly defined a doctrine of morals. The vast majority of the infallibly taught doctrine of the church has not been received by the church through extraordinary exercises of the teaching office of Christ’s church. John Thayer Jensen makes that point in his post # 133 where he writes “No Pope has ever defined as a dogma of faith that angels exist …”. To that I would add, that the living magisterium has never exercised the teaching office of the church in an extraordinary matter to solemnly define that it is an article of faith that God exists. Or that the Ten Commandments are not the Ten Suggestions, or that Satan worshiping is not compatible with having Jesus as Lord, or that genocide is not compatible with the commandment of loving one’s neighbor, or …. I think you get the picture.

    Erick, you asked me a question about the sin of fornication, which is a question about a doctrine of morals (as opposed to a doctrine of faith). Most, (if not all), of the infallibly taught doctrines of morals received by the faithful of Christ’s church have been received through the exercise of the ordinary and universal magisterium. Which is just a way of saying that when the body of bishops of Christ’s church universally teach a doctrine of morals to the members of the church in the ordinary way (such as through their homilies to the faithful), then the moral doctrine being taught to the faithful meets the criteria of a moral doctrine that has been taught infallibly by the church. An example of a doctrine of the faith that has been received by the church through the ordinary and universal magisterium is the doctrine that only men can received the Sacrament of Ordination. An example of a doctrine of morals that has been received by the church through the ordinary and universal magisterium is the moral doctrine that fornication is a sin involving grave matter that can lead to eternal damnation in the fires of Hell.

    There is no absolute need to bring a fornicator to the pope so that the pope can exercise the teaching authority vested with the Petrine office in a two step process: one, the pope exercises the teaching powers vested with the Petrine office to solemnly define that fornication is actually a sin, and then, two, the pope exercises the disciplinary powers vested with the Petrine office to excommunicate the unrepentant fornicator. The pope has no need to do step one, because the doctrine of morals that fornication is a sin has always been infallibly taught by the ordinary and universal magisterium. The second step can be taken by the pope if the pope sees the need, that is, the step of formally excommunicating a member of the church for being obstinately unrepentant for violating a doctrine of morals (e.g. Pope Clement VII excommunicating King Henry VIII for his unrepentant acts of adultery).

    Erick, I hope this answers your question. Yours is a good question, but not a question that can be addressed with a quick answer. The complete answer to your question leads us back to Matthew 18:17. Why does Christ command his would-be disciples to listen “to the church”? What does that entail? How does a would-be disciple of Christ identify the church that Christ’s commands him to listen to? How does a would-be disciple of Christ know with certainty what constitutes the orthodox doctrines of faith and morals?

    Erick, I would now like to ask you a question. My question is about “the church” that Christ commands his disciples to listen to in Matthew 18:17. Is the referent to “the church” in Matthew 18:17 the church personally founded by Jesus Christ? Or is the referent to “the church” in Matthew 18:17 just any old church that some man or woman decided to start based on their own private interpretation of the scriptures? If the referent to “the church” in Matthew 18:17 is not the church personally founded by Jesus Christ, nor is it just any old organization that calls itself a church, such as the church founded by Jim Jones, then what are the objective criteria that gives identity to the visible church that I am supposed to submit to?

  145. Curt Russell, you write:

    … when you say “Note “my church”, as opposed to any old church founded by someone other than Christ.” you are reading into the word ekklesia a particular meaning.

    Of course I am reading a particular meaning into the word ekklesia. I am arguing that any rational reading of the two uses of the word ekklesia in Matthew16:18 and Matthew 18:17 precludes “the church” and “my church” from being just any old organization founded by some man or woman that has given the title “church” to the organization that he or she has just founded!

    It is nonsensical to interpret word ekklesia Matthew 18:17 in this manner, because it makes Christ’s commandment listen to “the church” utterly meaningless. If “the church” that I must listen to can be any old church, including a church that I have personally founded, then I don’t really have to listen to any church at all, except the church of me, myself and I. Christ can’t possibly be telling me in his commandment to listen to “the church” that all I really have to do to fulfill this commandment is to listen to myself, as I decide for myself, what constitutes the doctrines of orthodoxy.

    The agility of Protestantism allows the true believer (the ekklessia) to find a church home that is Scripturally rooted when a denomination becomes hopelessly corrupted.

    Agility? Scriptural Rootedness? What is that? What sect of heretics has ever argued that they are not rooted in scripture? With thousands upon thousands of Protestant sects teaching conflicting doctrine, someone has to be teaching heresy!

    What I hear you saying is that the individual ultimately decides for himself what constitutes the orthodox doctrines of faith and morals. He can do this by church shopping until he finds a church that agrees with his private interpretation of scriptures, or he can do this by founding his own personal bible church, that teaches, quite naturally, his own private interpretation of scriptures. If he does either of these two things, he is fulfilling the commandment of Christ to “listen to the church”.

  146. Curt:

    In your response to De Maria, you state, “This life experience makes it very difficult for me to comprehend salvation by grace plus works, to use the Protestant description. My salvation was truly by grace alone. His power changed me. Any concept of personal merit for my good works since that time would, for me, seem totally arrogant.”

    As someone raised Protestant, and for whom Protestant terms and word-pictures are familiar, I completely understand how you feel there. Indeed, some Protestant word usages seem different from Catholic usages in such a way as to maximize misunderstanding and mutual dismay.

    But I think that one can find phrasings, analogies, and word-pictures which help a lifelong Protestant approach the Catholic understanding without hitting the tripwires of how Protestants conventionally use language…and conventionally misunderstand Catholics!

    I offer the following, in an attempt to give you some phrasings, analogies, and word-pictures to bridge this terminological gap. If any of the following helps, keep it; otherwise, discard it.

    First, let’s define “good works” broadly: These are acts of volition; exercises of free will. If you didn’t have any choice in doing something it can’t be morally commendable or morally exculpable. We don’t blame clouds for raining on our picnics; they don’t have any choice in the matter. But when a person attempts do achieve a good thing through good methods for the right reasons, even if he fails due to no fault of his own, it is a “good work.”

    Secondly, remember that the “good works” discussed in Scripture can be described in three categories:

    (1.) Attempts to put God in your debt by your own righteousness, as if you were a laborer working for an employer and hoping to be owed heaven as a “fair wage.” This of course is fruitless: No man can boast before God of his imperfect attempts at righteousness, as if they could put God in his debt! And anyway the kind of relationship God desires with us is the spirit of sonship, not an arms-length “hired hand” relationship. This is explicitly not what Catholics have in mind when describing a good work as having merit.

    (2.) Attempts to be saved by following some other system other than relying on the covenant in Christ’s blood; for example, by following the Mosaic Code. Ceremonial practices found uniquely in the Mosaic Code (e.g. circumcision and keeping kosher) are called “Works of Torah” in 1st-century parlance. But of course “Torah” is translated to Greek it is the Greek word for “Law,” so our English translation of Greek references to this is “Works of Law.” It is important also to note that even obedience to God’s moral code (refusing to commit adultery or murder or steal) can be a “Work of Torah” if the motive for obeying these moral commands is the desire to be saved through Torah. (But of course if one does the very same works motivated by love of Christ, it is not a “Work of Torah” but a work which is an outgrowth of the grace of God; see below.)

    (3.) Opportunities to please God which are put in a man’s path by God’s providence, to which is a man is led by the Holy Spirit, Who also moves the man to want to do them, and for the right reasons. These opportunities themselves are by God’s initiative; Man’s notice of the opportunity comes by God’s initiative; Man’s desire to do them comes by God’s initiative; Man’s desire to do them for the right reasons (love of God) comes by God’s initiative (putting that love in the man’s heart).

    Furthermore, because a baptized man in a state of grace is “in Christ,” the deeds themselves, once performed, are not so much deeds of the man but deeds done by a member of the body of Christ; and since it is all initiated by God, it is perfectly sensible and truthful for the man to say, “Christ did it, not me; I could never have had the opportunity, nor wanted to take the opportunity for the right reasons, if it weren’t for Him.”

    Nevertheless, in this last category God does not overwhelm the man’s free will, turning him into an automaton. He puts the opportunity in the man’s path; he assists him to desire it but not overwhelmingly; the choice remains up to the man. If the man cooperates and takes advantage of the opportunity, the resulting good work might be called a “Work of Grace” inasmuch as it was only possible by God’s grace: The man could never have done it on his own. Man “cooperates” but God’s grace makes the cooperation possible.

    For these works, and these alone, God describes the man’s deeds as meritorious. But God’s pleasure in these deeds is not the pleasure of an employer who hired a worker, is glad the man did the job, pays the man, and then thinks no more of the man. Rather, God’s pleasure is like that of a Father who gives his son $5 to buy a Father’s Day present, and is pleased when his son goes and buys a $5 gift for him. No one is lunatic enough to the Dad is $5 better off than before! But a good Dad is pleased by his son’s deed, even though it would have been impossible without the Dad’s assistance. The Dad is happy because to the extent the son was able to cooperate, he did so, appropriating the grace of $5 to do a “meritorious” work by which the son’s character is matured in goodness.

    Thirdly, consider that Christians are not gnostics. We do not believe that men are a soul which merely incidentally inhabits a body. Rather, we believe that matter is good (God made it and said so) and that God made men to intrinsically be both material and spiritual beings. Thus it is not enough that a man be saved so he could merely “go to Heaven,” disembodied. (That would be a kind of eternal incompleteness, for a man without his body is not a whole man, and the separation of soul and body is a thing God never intended, a thing made possible only by man’s sin, and Jesus wept when He saw it.)

    No, a disembodied eternity is not Christianity: Christianity believes in the Resurrection of the Dead. Our raised bodies will be immortal, and have miraculous properties different than our corruptible bodies (as exhibited in the Risen Christ) but will still be bodies, capable of being seen and touched and even of eating fish (as exhibited in the Risen Christ, the firstborn among many brothers and the promise of our eventual reward if we eat His flesh and remain in Him).

    Because we are both soul and flesh, both mind and matter, and these things are unified or married to form the whole man, it follows that when man has real, living faith, this real, living faith produces deeds which follow naturally from it.

    Tell a man there is a bomb hidden in the room about to explode. If he nods and says “I believe you,” then stands there chatting idly, he does not really believe you. His mouth, and perhaps even his mind, are saying one thing; his body is saying something else. But if the whole man believes, he’ll be dashing for the door.

    Likewise, consider a man who says he believes that God is all-knowing, and that God loves him and wants the best for him, and that God has commanded him not to commit adultery. Now if you see him commit adultery thereafter, not by some slip which he repents of and tries never to repeat but by some plan he pursues unswervingly, what can you say of his faith?

    Well, either he doesn’t really believe that God is all-knowing, but instead believes that he “knows better” than God on this particular issue…; or, he doesn’t really believe that God loves him and that the command to avoid adultery is for his own good, but instead believes that obeying God might not the most beneficial move available to him…; or, he really believes that God did not prohibit adultery. Now in any of these cases, the “God” he believes in is not the Christian God. For the Christian God did prohibit adultery, not for His own selfish benefit but for ours, and really does know best. If that’s not the God you “believe in” then your belief is in some other god.

    At any rate, a man may say he believes in the Christian God. Maybe some intellectual part of him does. But the whole man needs to believe, for it to count. If his body and emotions and will don’t have faith, and only that tiny corner of his being which deals with abstract propositions believes in God, then “his faith is dead.” (For of course a soul separated from its body makes a dead body, doesn’t it?)

    And this is the gist of James chapter 2, wherein we are told explicitly that “faith without works is dead” and that such a faith cannot save. James is telling us to believe not merely with an inactive intellect but an active will and with our bodies: The whole man. We are not gnostics; the body matters. We are not automatons; the exercise of free will matters.

    Of course when James says that “faith without works is dead” he is thinking of what I have previously called “works of grace.” He is not saying that your faith needs to be added to works which are motivated by a desire to do a “job” for God which buys heaven; nor is he saying your faith needs to be added to circumcision or kosher eating (or even moral obedience done for Moses’ sake rather than Jesus’). James is not saying that faith without those things is dead.

    But James knows that the Holy Spirit will lead us to opportunities for obedience, for faith, for loving our neighbor, because the Holy Spirit always does that: Paul says we are “created in Him for good works, which He prepared for us beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God has the works planned out, and is granting us the grace to perform them; we just have to play along and cooperate and not resist His grace.

    But if we do not play along? If we do not appropriate the grace of good-doing which God is offering us but instead say, “Okay God, thanks for the fire-insurance but now that I’ve ‘accepted Christ’ I figure I’m done?”

    Well, that faith is dead, because it resists the Holy Spirit, produces no works of grace. Christ says that the branches which produce no fruit wither, are cut off, and are thrown into the fire to be burned. The grace God wishes to flow through us must be allowed to flow; it is like the sap in the branch.

    Fourth, consider the following conception of faith and works: That works (of grace) ARE faith and faith IS a work:

    I have already explained how, after a fashion, works (of grace) are faith when faith is resident in the will and the body; that it makes no sense to claim a belief when your actions declare the opposite.

    But remember how Jesus answers the man who asks what “good work” he must do, and Jesus answers, “the work of God is to believe in the One whom He has sent.” Belief is the work of God, according to Jesus. Belief is work.

    Actually this is not so strange. Belief requires will; and is sometimes difficult. I doubt many mature Christians could say that they’ve never had moments of doubt, or even moments where they’d rather Christianity were not true! …but the exert effort of will, and by God’s grace, they do not apostasize. Their faith involves work.

    So where does that leave us? Here are the bullet-points:
    – Faith comes by the grace of God;
    – Faith is a work (of grace) in which we cooperate to “do the work of God” of believing in the One He has sent;
    – “Works of Grace” (as described in (1.), above) come by the grace of God;
    – “Works of Grace” are faith, not merely in the mind, but in the will and the body. (Contra the gnostic conception of man.)

    Fifth, consider how easy it would be to selectively quote the New Testament to compose a Gospel Of Salvation By Works Alone, if one chose to do so!

    Really, it would be child’s play. You could cut about five verses from Paul, two from John, and suddenly all you’d have left are thirty or so verses (including lots of verses in Paul and John!) that make it sound as if works were all that mattered. Blessed are the dead in Christ “for their works follow them,” you find. You’d find Jesus talking about whatever you did “for the least of these” and saying, “depart you evildoers!” to those who didn’t do such works of charity.

    You’d find it prominently in John 6: The injunction to eat His flesh and drink His blood, so as to “have life in you.” However you interpret eating His flesh and drinking His blood, it’s gonna be a work. A work by the grace of God, no doubt, but still a work: Something you do.

    Oh, and don’t forget the Lord’s prayer: “For if you do not forgive men’s sins, neither will the Father forgive your sins.” Can a man get into Heaven if God hasn’t forgiven his sins? And, is it sometimes hard work, forgiving someone who sinned against you?

    Likewise in Paul, a man is worse off “than an unbeliever” if he neglects to care for his family. Are unbelievers saved? If a man neglects the good work of caring for his family, he is in a “worse” state than an unbeliever. If an unbeliever is not saved, how can a man who is worse off be saved?

    So you see that our moral obligations are quite great. They are more stringent than the Mosaic code, of course, as Jesus makes plain: “You have heard it said ‘do not commit adultery. But I say to you that if a man but look at a woman lustfully…!” No wonder Paul speaks of working out your salvation “with fear and trembling!”

    But — praise be to God! — that’s only half the lesson. Paul continues, “For it is God who worketh within you.” Whew! The Holy Spirit is supplying to us the daily grace to “do the work of God,” both of believing with our minds (faith) and with our bodies (good works-of-grace). We do not have to panic. Instead, we remember that God has prepared good works for us beforehand, “that we might walk in them.” So our effort is not to earn God’s favor; instead, we cooperate with grace in order that we might not resist the Holy Spirit and willfully separate ourselves from the life of the vine. If we do cooperate with grace by doing the good works which the Holy Spirit is leading us into, then the sap of grace flows from the True Vine out to the tips of us branches, and produces good fruit.

    So we do not have to panic. Neither should we be presumptuous, as if we could stop cooperating with grace and still receive life from the vine. That is not how it works: The grace to do good works and to continue believing is the Holy Spirit’s work in us. Reject the Spirit, and you are not receiving the “sap.” You’ll produce no fruit, and wither, and be bundled up and burned. So, we can’t be presumptuous. But neither should we despair as if we had to do it on our own: We are in Christ; He gives us the grace, and we’re just cooperating. We’re just buying Dad his Father’s Day gift with the $5 that Dad gave us.

    I hope some of that is helpful.

    Sincerely,

    R.C.

  147. Mateo (re #144)

    I appreciate you taking to time to explain all of this. However, my response is simple. You are rightly reading into Matthew 18 the issue of doctrinal declaration, but more close to the context is the issue of a brother sinning. Is heresy a sin? Sure! But if you read the context, especially with the question immediately popping into Peter’s head “How many times shall I forgive my brother?”, it is doubtless that the mainframe is personal sinning against another brother. To be unloving, hate, cursing, bitter, etc… Now you have to take the time to think of how your post bears upon the definition of “infallibility” within this very circumstance of a one human person being bitter against another human person in a local church setting. And this is something I do not think you have answered.

    What do I think Christ means when he says “My Church”, I believe it is Christ’s Church which He founded, but is a primarily spiritual society of people who are a dwelling place of God in the Holy Spirit. But before we get to this, you need to address the above paragraph.

  148. Erick (re #147),

    Ecclesial infallibility does not extend to disciplinary matters at the level of a local church disciplining one member for heresy or some other sin. Ecclesial authority, on the other hand, is operative in such cases.

    I have already pointed out that ecclesial authority at the local level depends upon communion with the universal Church. Otherwise, the Church that Christ founded would become divided against itself in cases where two or more local churches contradicted one another. See #114, above.

    I understand that you want to wait for Mateo’s reply before further addressing your own understanding of the universal Church that Christ founded (summarized in your second paragraph). But here is something to consider in the meantime: On your view, can the universal Church define doctrine and / or exercise the power of the keys in matters of discipline? If so, how and by whom is doctrine defined and discipline administered at the universal level?

  149. Mateo (145)

    What I hear you saying is that the individual ultimately decides for himself what constitutes the orthodox doctrines of faith and morals.

    And that is presumably how you ended up in the RC church, yes?

    Curt

  150. @Curt Russell (passim)

    …grace plus works …

    The Catholic faith does not and never has believed in grace plus works; indeed, it would not be accurate to say that it believed in faith plus works – if, by that, you meant two conjoined things of the same order. The Catholic faith believes in faith working through love – and the faith and works are two aspects of the same thing, and all is of grace. I cannot add my works that are done independently of grace to anything of Christ’s in order to be saved. Salvation is by grace alone; it is not by faith alone.

    jj

  151. De Maria (way back there)

    You asked…

    But almost every single Protestant I’ve ever spoken to on this subject has said that they would leave their denomination before they would change their mind about their personal interpretation of the Bible.

    Where do you stand?

    First, I would not be spending this much time on these dialogues if I thought I had all the answers. Second, I am a member of a very conservative church in a very liberal denomination. As a church, we have chosen to stay in the denom to work for reform (sound familiar?) :-) Of course, the issue in this case is not that we have some new different theological position, but that the denom itself is changing… which is a somewhat different situation than you are describing. And the truth is, there are some lines in the sand that would precipitate our departure from the denom (as a church) if they occur… forcing us to hire gay pastors, pay for abortions, etc. We currently have the local option to adhere to Biblical standards, and we do.

    At the root of your question, though, is this (if I understand you correctly)… Do I trust the church to be 100% inerrant when it comes to doctrinal accuracy? The answer is no. Does that mean I will leave any church that does not agree with me 100%? The answer is also no. I do believe God gives us a brain for a purpose. I also believe He gives us a heart for a purpose. So for example 2 Tim 3

    14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

    What possible meaning does this Scripture have, if we are to blindly do what the church says and ignore Scripture?

    Paul prays for the Philippians…

    9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

    Apparently we should grow in personal knowledge and discernment to “approve the things that are excellent”. God gives us the ability to discern right from wrong to remain “blameless”.

    Blessings
    Curt

  152. Hi Curt,

    You said to Mateo:

    Curt Russell June 2nd, 2013 4:57 pm :
    Mateo (135)

    Thanks for your response. A couple of follow ups…

    Mateo said:
    I think four points are worth making here. One, scripture alone did not settle the doctrinal dispute that broke out in Antioch.

    Your reply:
    Minor detail, but the New Covenant Scripture had not yet been written. It was precisely these formative years that gave rise to the inerrant Scripture we now have for “teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Apparently Scripture is adequate… if we believe it is inerrant.

    We believe it is inerrant. But let us look deeper into that verse which you are standing upon. That is easily recognized as 2 Tim 3:16:
    2 Timothy 3:16-17
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    16 All Scripture is [a]inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for [b]training in righteousness;2 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

    Please note the following.
    1. The verse says that “all” Scripture is inspired by God. Not that “only” Scripture is inspired by God. In fact, we can deduce that this is not a literal statement. God did not breathe Scripture out of His mouth. God inspired Holy Men to preach and they wrote the Scriptures. Therefore, God inspired Holy Men. And these were all men of the Church. Therefore it can also be said that God inspired the Church to write Scripture.

    2 Peter 1:20-21
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

    2. This verse also says that Scripture is “profitable” not “necessary” for instruction teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;….

    3. The fact that the Scripture is suggested as a profitable tool for teaching points directly at the existence of a teacher. One who will use the Scripture to teach the student about righteousness in rode that the student may be perfectly equipped.

    4. Therefore there is no suggestion that the Scripture is ever to be alone.

    5. In fact, the entire letter of 2 Timothy is about St. Paul teaching St. Timothy how to teach. Not how to pass out bibles. Let me give some excerpts:
    2 Tim 1:8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 10 but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him [h]until that day. 13 [i]Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the [j]treasure which has been entrusted to you.

    2 Timothy 2
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    Be Strong

    1 You therefore, my [a]son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

    2 Timothy 4
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    “Preach the Word”

    4 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with [a]great patience and instruction.

    So, none of 2 Tim is about Scripture alone. It is about Magisterium. The Teaching Church. Bishops and Priests like St. Paul and St. Timothy teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    And I repeat, we believe Scripture is inerrant. That is why we believe the Church is infallible. Because Scritpure says:
    1 Timothy 3:15
    King James Version (KJV)
    15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

    And also:
    Ephesians 3:10
    King James Version (KJV)
    10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

    Therefore we believe that there is an infallible Church out there. And when I compare the Teachings of the Church to Scripture, I find that the Catholic Church teaches precisely what Scripture teaches. Whereas, I can’t find in Scripture, either the doctrine of Scripture alone nor any other Protestant doctrine which opposes the Catholic Church.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  153. Andrew,

    You assert that the binding and loosing of a local bishop does not include the notion of infallibility. However, I have heard from Catholic apologist after Catholic apologist claiming that binding and loosing man ,precisely a power given to Simon renamed Rock, entails the notion of infallibility BY THE VERY WORD “whatever”. Whatever Peter binds on earth, is bound in heaven. I remember this being resounded in an audio by Bishop Fulton Sheen. This idea entailed infallibility. How then, if we are going to affirm that the statement “whatever is bound on earth is bound in heaven” entails infallibility, but then tone this entailment down when the same power is infused into the local situation of a woman in adultery, or a brother who is bitter against another brother, or a priest tells a lie, etc,etc,etc….

    It seems to me that as soon as you make it a fact that binding and loosing authority already entails, in itself, the notion of infallibility, that you cannot tone it down when the power is attributed to a local situation of a church member who commits homosexuality.

    Therefore, this means that we must re-examine what binding and loosing powers are, and see how we can define them without the notion of infallibility.

    And what is worse, Andrew, is that you may not have local catholic bishops who are not actually being faithful to the teaching of the Papacy (I beg to differ), but even worse is that at different points in history, the catholic church seems to have taught different things and have bound different things. In other words, the Immaculate Conception was not a belief that was mandatory upon the faithful, and therefore none who rejected this doctrine was liable to excommunication. But now, the faithful are under this threat. This right here pulls a major question as to just how unified the catholic church is, not just presently (which I think there are major divisions), but also across the span of time.

  154. Erick,

    Your point seems to be that if we accept ecclesial infallibility at all, particularly if we accept infallibility on the basis of Matthew 16 (“whatever you bind”), then we should admit that this charism extends down to the judgments of the “local bishops” in matters of discipline (Matthew 18). I disagree, and maintain instead that ecclesial infallibility, while it is a charism that the universal Church actually possesses, does not extend to disciplinary judgments of an individual bishop exercising his (legitimate) authority in the local church. But this is not simply an assertion on my part, it is the teaching of the Catholic Church:

    Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held. (Lumen Gentium, 25.)

    Furthermore, ecclesial infallibility is not unlimited–it has recognized boundaries:

    And this infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of Revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded. (Ibid.)

    With both of these things in mind, there are a few important distinctions that need to be recognized regarding the Catholic Church’s power of “binding and loosing.”

    1. There are some obvious differences between Matthew 16 and Matthew 18. The former is unambiguously about the universal Church, though not to the exclusion of the local, while the latter seems to envision a judgment of the local church, though not to the exclusion of the universal. In the former passage, Peter in particular is named as the rock upon which Christ will build his Church, and Peter in particular is given the keys of the kingdom of heaven. The reference to “binding and loosing” in Matthew 18 presupposes the binding and loosing of Matthew 16, but these passages are not identical, so we should not infer that what is implicit in the former is necessarily implicit in the latter.

    2. With reference to the power of binding and loosing, there is also an important difference between (a) teaching on doctrine and morals and (b) disciplinary judgments regarding wayward, or putatively wayward, members of the Church. As specified by Vatican II, the charism of infallibility only extends as far as the deposit of Revelation extends. But the deposit of revelation does not include every particular case of misconduct. It only contains some cases (e.g. Korah and company, Ananias and Sapphira, Hymenaeus and Alexander). Thus, granted that the scope of infallibility is limited by the extent of divine revelation, the Church can teach infallibly on matters at least implicitly contained in revelation, but her judgment is not infallible in other cases (e.g., in disciplining particular persons). I think that there are good reasons to believe that infallibility is thus tied to revelation. If need be, we can discuss this further.

    3. One reason that infallibility would pertain to the universal Church as such (Matthew 16) but not the particular churches as such is that infallibility is by its very nature universal. To deny this would be relativism. Thus, Vatican II specified that the bishops participate in the Church’s infallibility [not by virtue of their headship in the local churches (which they legitimately inherit from the Apostles), but] by virtue of the their communion with one another and with the successor of St. Peter in Rome in the universal Church.

    With these things in mind, lets now consider the central points in your comment:

    It seems to me that as soon as you make it a fact that binding and loosing authority already entails, in itself, the notion of infallibility, that you cannot tone it down when the power is attributed to a local situation of a church member who commits homosexuality.

    Therefore, this means that we must re-examine what binding and loosing powers are, and see how we can define them without the notion of infallibility.

    But you have provided us with no reason to think that, in fact, “binding and loosing authority already entails, in itself, the notion of infallibility….” I have pointed out that there are some important differences between the two passages where our Lord speaks of “binding and loosing on earth … in heaven.” Even if binding and loosing implies ecclesial infallibility at the universal level in teaching on faith and morals (and I think it does), it does not follow that binding and loosing implies ecclesial infallibility at the local level (per se) in either teaching or disciplinary judgments.

    I agree with the second paragraph (quoted above), though obviously not for the reasons that you gave in the first. From my own perspective as well as yours, it is important to understand “what binding and loosing powers are” and how they are operative even when not infallible.

    Finally, you wrote:

    And what is worse, Andrew, is that you may not have local catholic bishops who are not actually being faithful to the teaching of the Papacy (I beg to differ), but even worse is that at different points in history, the catholic church seems to have taught different things and have bound different things. In other words, the Immaculate Conception was not a belief that was mandatory upon the faithful, and therefore none who rejected this doctrine was liable to excommunication. But now, the faithful are under this threat. This right here pulls a major question as to just how unified the catholic church is, not just presently (which I think there are major divisions), but also across the span of time.

    The first part of this paragraph is ambiguous. Are you bringing a charge against any particular Catholic bishops?

    The second part of the paragraph points to the facts that the Catholic Church did not define all doctrine at the first moment of the Church’s existence, and that before some dogmas were defined the faithful were not expected to receive them as defined dogmas. You obviously think that this is a problem (“but even worse…”), but I fail to see why these facts are problematic for the Catholic Church.

  155. @Curt Russell (#<a href="http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2013/05/apostolic-succession-and-historical-inquiry-some-preliminary-remarks/#comment-51445"149)

    Mateo (145)

    What I hear you saying is that the individual ultimately decides for himself what constitutes the orthodox doctrines of faith and morals.

    And that is presumably how you ended up in the RC church, yes?

    I cannot speak for Mateo – though I would be surprised if he disagreed with me – but for me, and, I think, for any Catholic convert, you have it exactly backwards. I did not first decide for myself what constitute orthodox doctrines of faith and morals and then look around for a church that agreed. I came to believe that Jesus established one church that it was every Christian’s duty to belong to – and that, necessarily, the church being His establishment, I could trust that church’s doctrines of faith and morals as being orthodox. Indeed, when I concluded that I must become a Catholic I was still quite ignorant about most of what those doctrines were.

    It was the church that I trusted, since it was, as I believed, Christ’s church, to teach me correctly.

    I think Mateo would agree, but perhaps he can comment.

    jj

  156. jj

    I understand… and to make this assertion…

    I came to believe that Jesus established one church that it was every Christian’s duty to belong to – and that, necessarily, the church being His establishment, I could trust that church’s doctrines of faith and morals as being orthodox.

    you necessarily had to rely on your own interpretation of Scripture, yes?

    Blessings
    Curt

  157. Andrew,

    Would you disagree that the function of “binding and loosing” which was singularly given to Peter in Matthew 16 is generally given to all the Church in Matthew 18? And, as I have said before, I have heard Catholic apologists says that the “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven” requires the notion of infallibility, for how can something be ratified in heaven is the cause if fallible men? But the problem is the same promise is given to all in Matthew 18. This is precisely the crux of the problem for the one who wishes to see a distinction between matthew 16 and matthew 18. It is not warranted logically, in my present opinion. Binding and Loosing powers in this case, if we are to given to infallibility by way of the promise “Whatever…on earth….will be…in heaven”, then the same will have to be attributed to the whole church.

  158. Hi Curt,

    In Message 151, June 3rd, 2013 2:26 pm, you said :

    First, I would not be spending this much time on these dialogues if I thought I had all the answers. Second, I am a member of a very conservative church in a very liberal denomination. As a church, we have chosen to stay in the denom to work for reform (sound familiar?) :-)

    Yes.

    Of course, the issue in this case is not that we have some new different theological position, but that the denom itself is changing… which is a somewhat different situation than you are describing. And the truth is, there are some lines in the sand that would precipitate our departure from the denom (as a church) if they occur… forcing us to hire gay pastors, pay for abortions, etc. We currently have the local option to adhere to Biblical standards, and we do.

    Ok.

    At the root of your question, though, is this (if I understand you correctly)…

    You do.

    Do I trust the church to be 100% inerrant when it comes to doctrinal accuracy? The answer is no.

    Do you believe that such a Church exists? I do. I stand upon the Scripture which says:
    Ephesians 3:10
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    10 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.

    I believe that God speaks through His Church and therefore it is infallible. And I believe I have found that Church. And I base that upon Scripture.

    So, do you believe that there is any Church on earth which is infallible.

    Does that mean I will leave any church that does not agree with me 100%? The answer is also no. I do believe God gives us a brain for a purpose. I also believe He gives us a heart for a purpose. So for example 2 Tim 3

    14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

    What possible meaning does this Scripture have, if we are to blindly do what the church says and ignore Scripture?

    1. I didn’t suggest following anything or anyone blindly.

    2. I did not recommend ignoring Scripture either.

    3. My faith in the Church has come after a careful comparison of Church Doctrine to the Scriptures. And I found that I could trust them on all those things which I could understand. Therefore, I also placed my faith in the Church on those things which I could not understand.

    4.You also asked:
    “What possible meaning does this Scripture have….?” (2 Tim 3:15-16).

    a. It doesn’t say anything about ignoring Tradition. In fact it emphasizes Tradition.
    You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of,

    b. It doesn’t say anything about disregarding the Church.
    knowing from whom you have learned them,

    Because whomever he learned them from, they were members of the Church.

    b. It also emphasizes Scripture.

    But this three part from is the Catholic Teaching of Tradition, Scripture and Magisterium. It is not Scripture alone.

    Paul prays for the Philippians…

    9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

    Apparently we should grow in personal knowledge and discernment to “approve the things that are excellent”. God gives us the ability to discern right from wrong to remain “blameless”.

    That is true. It is Catholic Teaching. Part of our works which accompany our faith. God also expects us to:
    1 Timothy 4:16
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will [a]ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.

    I think you are here for that purpose. Which I believe is honorable. Perhaps thinking you can impart some knowledge which might help save us.

    If you are not here for that purpose, I know that I am. And I am simply explaining how I understand and discern the Word of God in Scripture. It is the Word of God in Scripture that principally proved to me that the Reformers are wrong. And later was one of the major reasons why I turned back to the Catholic Church.

    Blessings

    You too Curt. As always, I enjoy our conversations.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  159. re: my post # 147

    Erick Ybarra, you write:

    You are rightly reading into Matthew 18 the issue of doctrinal declaration, but more close to the context is the issue of a brother sinning. Is heresy a sin? Sure! But if you read the context, especially with the question immediately popping into Peter’s head “How many times shall I forgive my brother?”, it is doubtless that the mainframe is personal sinning against another brother.

    No doubt the meaning of Matthew 18:17 can’t be wrenched from the context of the preceding verses that begin with Christ saying “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. … “

    So, yes, I agree with you that the context of Matthew 18:17 is the case of a brother sinning against another brother. You next state:

    Now you have to take the time to think of how your post bears upon the definition of “infallibility” within this very circumstance of a one human person being bitter against another human person in a local church setting.

    “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault … If I think that a brother is sinning, then I am making a judgment about that brother. If I think that a brother is sinning by preaching heresy, it necessarily follows that I must hold an opinion that I know what constitutes the orthodox doctrines of faith held by the church that the offending brother is failing to uphold. Likewise, if I think that a brother is sinning by moral failure, then I am again making a judgment of that brother, and it necessarily follows that I must hold an opinion that I know what constitutes the orthodox doctrines of morals taught by the church that the offending brother is failing to uphold.

    My point all along has been that while I might think that I know what constitutes the orthodox doctrines of faith and morals held by the church when I make my judgment of another brother, I might be wrong – or maybe not. And my point all along has been that I cannot be the final arbiter of what really constitutes the orthodox doctrines of faith and morals without trashing the meaning of what Christ is saying in Matthew 18:17.

    The final arbiter that decides whether or not a brother is really sinning by failing to uphold either a doctrine of faith, or a doctrine of morals is the church, and not me. The referent to “the church” in Matthew 18:17 cannot be any old church, especially not a “bible church” that I have personally founded. Which is why I can neither “church shop” until I find a church that agrees with what I personally believe to be the orthodox doctrines of faith and morals, nor can I found my own personal bible church that teaches what I define to be the orthodox doctrines of faith and morals. Because if I do either of these two things, then I am NOT listening to the church, I am listening to me, because I have set myself up as the final arbiter of what constitutes the orthodox doctrines of faith and morals that I will accept.

    Now you have to take the time to think of how your post bears upon the definition of “infallibility” within this very circumstance of a one human person being bitter against another human person in a local church setting.

    My first point is that I am not giving you my definition of infallibility, I am giving you the Catholic Church’s definition of infallibility. See again my post # 117 addressed to you where I gave you these quotes:

    Catechism of the Catholic Church
    2035
    The supreme degree of participation in the authority of Christ is ensured by the charism of infallibility. This infallibility extends as far as does the deposit of divine Revelation; it also extends to all those elements of doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, or observed.
    891 “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council.

    Note what is being said here. The material that can be taught infallibly by Roman Pontiff or the college of bishops united with the Roman Pontiff can be either doctrines of the faith (e.g. the doctrine of the Trinity), or the doctrines of morals (e.g. the moral doctrine that artificial contraception is sinful).

    How is that definition of infallibility relevant to the case of the brother that is full of hatred for another brother in a local church? The magisterium of the church is teaching infallibly when it teaches that the doctrines of faith and morals written in the canon of scriptures are inerrant. The church decided that 1 John belongs to the canon of scriptures, and 1 John explicitly addresses the case of a brother that is full of hatred for another brother:

    Any one who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 1 John 3:15

    The magisterium of the church tells me how to interpret this scripture. And the magisterium teaches that hatred of another brother is a mortal sin the leads to the loss of eternal life abiding within.

    I am fully aware that there are many Protestant “churches” that interpret this particular scripture in a radically different manner than churches where Apostolic Succession has been maintained (the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Oriental Orthodox Churches). By the time these Protestant sects are finished interpreting this verse for me, I am supposed to understand that John cannot possibly be saying that hatred is a sin that leads to the loss of eternal life abiding within, because these Protestant sects teach that there is no such thing as a mortal sin that can lead to the loss of eternal life abiding within.

    Erick, I hope this answers your concern about infallibility. The charismatic gift of infallibility is relevant in every instance involving a matter of faith or morals, because it by this charismatic gift of the Holy Spirit that the authorized teachers of the church guide the church in her teachings about faith and morals. When I make the judgment that a brother is sinning, I am making this judgment on the basis of what I believe constitute the orthodox doctrines of faith and morals taught by the church.

    Erick, you write:

    What do I think Christ means when he says “My Church”, I believe it is Christ’s Church which He founded, but is a primarily spiritual society of people who are a dwelling place of God in the Holy Spirit.

    This definition of My Church is way too vague to be of any use in identifying the visible church that I must listen to upon pain of excommunication.

    I received my membership in Christ’s Church by receiving valid Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist). I might be full of hatred for another brother, and have lost the eternal life abiding within me because of this sin. But this doesn’t mean that I have lost my membership in Christ’s Church. I could still have faith that the church is teaching infallibly that hatred is a mortal sin, and because I believe that, I might be assiduously seeking a way to overcome my hatred by availing myself to the supernatural grace that comes through the church. If I really hate my brother, but do not doubt that this is a sin that is killing me, I would be united to the church in faith, but not charity.

    It is quite true that I should be united to the Church in charity (agape), so that I can have eternal life abiding within me, (or as you say, I should be a person in whom God dwells). But whether or not God is dwelling in someone is a reality that is invisible to me, and I can’t take my case of a brother that does not listen to me or my witnesses to an invisible church.

    Please, let us limit this conversation to which church is the visible church that I must listen to upon pain of excommunication. What are the necessary elements of that church? Is Apostolic Succession a necessary constituent? Can the visible church that is the final arbiter of what constitutes orthodox doctrine be any old church, including a church that I have personally founded?

  160. @Curt Russell (#<a href="http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2013/05/apostolic-succession-and-historical-inquiry-some-preliminary-remarks/comment-page-4/#comment-51484"156)

    I understand… and to make this assertion…

    I came to believe that Jesus established one church that it was every Christian’s duty to belong to – and that, necessarily, the church being His establishment, I could trust that church’s doctrines of faith and morals as being orthodox.

    you necessarily had to rely on your own interpretation of Scripture, yes?

    Blessings
    Curt

    No. Quite the opposite. I came to believe that Scripture was God’s word and to be believed because I had first believed the Catholic Church – which affirmed for me this statement about Scripture was, in fact, God’s truth-telling thing.

    To be sure, words in the Bible – simply considered as historical information and not as words of God – were data leading me to the Church. But I was unable to be sure they were God’s words until I had come to be sure it was His Church.

    It was not faith in Scripture that led me to the Church. It was faith in the Church that led me to Scripture – precisely what Augustine famously said.

    jj

  161. Erick (re #157),

    You asked:

    Would you disagree that the function of “binding and loosing” which was singularly given to Peter in Matthew 16 is generally given to all the Church in Matthew 18?

    As I pointed out in #154, there are some important differences between the two passages. Thus, although the promise regarding binding and loosing is found in each passage, we should not simply assume that the scope of this authority is the same in both cases. Context is important (more on this below). So, no, at this point I would not without qualification agree that what is given to Peter in Matthew 16 is given to all the disciples in Matthew 18.

    If the local church is not infallible in matters of discipline, then the disciplinary actions of the local churches are potentially unjust, and in point of fact individual bishops and groups of bishops have actually ruled unjustly in some cases (e.g., the condemnation of St. Joan of Arc). I am not sure if there is a sense in which binding and loosing in heaven can correspond to an unjust case of binding or loosing in disciplinary matters on earth. What I am sure of is that the argument “If the gift of infallibility in implicit in Matthew 16, then it must be implicit in Matthew 18” is a non sequitur.

    I agree with you that if the phrase “whatever you bind … will be bound in heaven” itself implies infallibility, regardless of context, and if Matthew 18 refers to disciplinary judgments (whether at the level of the local or the universal Church), then there is potentially a problem for the Catholic understanding of infallibility, since on our understanding infallibility is limited by the extent of divine revelation, and revelation only includes a few cases of Church discipline. The vast majority of disciplinary cases would, therefore, fall outside the scope of ecclesial infallibility. And Matthew 18 is obviously dealing with general procedure in matters of Church discipline. However, as you have made clear, the crux of the matter lies in the thesis that the binding and loosing promise necessarily, in every instance, regardless of context, includes a promise of infallibility. But although you have alluded to persons that you understand to have made that argument, you have yet to produce the argument.

    According to Catholic teaching, the gift of infallibility is indeed and in various ways attributable to the whole Church, though not for the reasons you have given. But this does not imply that the Church is infallible in disciplinary matters, nor that individual bishops, particular churches, and / or individual believers are themselves infallible in matters of doctrine and morals. Infallibility is, in my view, implicit in the binding and loosing promise insofar as that promise applies to the Church’s teaching authority and not only her ruling authority, and insofar as the former is that of one or more of those authorities to whom it has been given to teach at the universal level. That sort of authority seems to be comprehended in Matthew 16, where the universal Church is in view, and the binding and loosing promise is made in the context of Peter’s confession of faith. The context of the binding and loosing promise in Matthew 18 is significantly different, in that the local Church seems to be primarily in view, and the matter at hand is how to deal with a brother who has done wrong.

  162. Andrew (re #131),

    You wrote:
    If the writing of the New Testament does not lie within the ambit of this institution, such that the latter provides a “rule” for the former, then one must adopt a relatively low view of the New Testament, or else understand it as floating free of the life of Church, which, for obvious historical and exegetical reasons, I do not.

    Response:
    I think the ambit is too broad to function as a rule. If Christ, as the principal author, commanded them to write, then we have something closer to a rule.

    No Apostles, then Apostolic succession is impossible.
    No Apostles, then NT scripture is impossible.

    The difference between these is what makes scripture special.
    —————-

    You wrote:
    These questions miss the basic point about proper intention, namely, that it is presumed to be present whenever the Church’s rite is observed. And it is precisely because, as you just noted, Christ “instituted pastors and teachers,” intending this ministry to be preserved in his Church (contra ecclesial deism), that we can rest assured that the Apostolic Succession has not been broken in the Church that Christ founded, neither by defect of form, matter, nor intention.

    Response:
    We agree that Christ instituted Peter as a pastor and teacher. So, whenever Peter observed the Church’s rite, Christ’s intention to preserve pastors and teachers was fulfilled. Here proper intention is presumed. Are these really the thoughts behind Trent’s canon ?

    Canon 11. If anyone says that in ministers, when they effect and confer the sacraments, there is not required at least the intention of doing what the Church does,[6] let him be anathema.

    What was the point for drawing a distinction between intention and doing, if the intention was not subjective and interior ? This belongs to the unobservable places in the soul. I say that this intention is not required and still escape the charge of ecclesial deism. Arguing against ecclesial deism may be laudable, but it is irrelevant to what Trent was opposing.
    —————

    You wrote:
    You are correct in that both Pope Honorius I and Pope Francis are legitimate successors of St. Peter….

    Response:
    I wonder where the ordinary magisterium ends and history begins. Was Honorius justly judged a heretic by the council ? It seems that any rehabilitation of Honorius casts suspicion on the council.

  163. The problem again, which you are not addressing is that Jesus promised to the church in a local size the same ”whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven”. And this is an explicitly moral case of sin against another brother. The burden of argumentation is on you to reason how binding and loosing is different within two chapters and that infallibility is reduced only to doctrine,. When the same language ”whatever you bind.. ” is given to a situation of moral failure

  164. Andrew,

    What you are saying is the the authority to bind and loose on earth, and to have this authority ratified in the heavens, is sometimes infallible and sometimes fallible. For Bishop Fulton Sheen, as well as many Catholic apologists will point out that the correspondence between “Heaven” and “Earth” entail infallibility, for how can something be declared in heaven as true because of what is declared on earth if what is declared on earth is fallible. Do you see the logic ?

    Well if you run this same logic through Matthew 18, the same correspondence between heaven and earth occur in the situation of excommunicating a disgruntled brother against another. So the argumentation burden is upon the Catholic to explain how he can derive a notion for infallibility from the correspondence between heaven and earth in the power to bind and loose given in Matthew 16 verses the very same correspondence between heaven and earth in the power to bind and loose given to all in matthew 18. Do you see ?

  165. Mateo,

    If we are not going to dialogue on the text of the Scripture, in hopes to come to agreement, but rather are going to be told once again that your argument is true because that is what the Church says, then we are not discussing the Scripture but are back again to one topic, namely, the authority of the Papacy. I would love to have this conversation, and I do not doubt that it is central, but what I am doing is examining the Scriptures, as the Bereans did (and I do not believe in Sola scriptura, if you would think I am by bringing up the bereans) to see if there is ANY reflection of truth in what you are saying about the power of binding and loosing.’

    What you seem to be ignoring is that the same ratification, namely heavenly, of earthly binding that is given to Peter in matthew 16 is given to the Church in Matthew 18 AND this binding and loosing is in the mode of a moral failure of one or more brothers. This itself presents a problem for the Catholic who wishes to believe that ONLY doctrine is what is infallible in the church. If you are just going to respond with, “The CHurch has the right to tell me what all this means”, please do not respond. I admire the response, and it is totally valid, just not what Im looking for right now.

  166. Eric (re #162),

    It is because the Great Commission of Christ (inclusive of his promise to lead the Apostles into all truth) is so broad that the writing of the NT is included within its scope. The NT does not float free from Christ and the Church. Thus, when one raises a conspiracy theory regarding some essential element with which the Body has been endowed by the Head, implying that element has been lost, it is legitimate to inquire into the implications of this line of thinking with respect to the NT.

    It is precisely because you are putting forward such a conspiracy theory (i.e., Apostolic Succession has lapsed in the Church due to some sort of widespread defect of rite and / or intention in ordinations) that the charge of ecclesial deism applies. To be clear, the charge applies to your skeptical theory regardless of what the Council of Trent was opposing in the canon which you cite.

    Regarding that canon, I have not been denying the distinction between right intention and observing the proper form / rite in the celebration of the sacraments, including the sacrament of Holy Orders. What I have been pointing out is that the former is principally made evident by the observation of the latter.

    For further information on the case of Pope Honorius from the Catholic point of view, see The Condemnation of Pope Honorius, by Dom John Chapman.

  167. Erick (re 163, 164),

    You wrote:

    The problem again, which you are not addressing is that Jesus promised to the church in a local size the same ”whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven”. And this is an explicitly moral case of sin against another brother. The burden of argumentation is on you to reason how binding and loosing is different within two chapters and that infallibility is reduced only to doctrine,. When the same language ”whatever you bind.. ” is given to a situation of moral failure

    I addressed that problem in my two previous replies to you (154, 161).

    You wrote:

    What you are saying is the the authority to bind and loose on earth, and to have this authority ratified in the heavens, is sometimes infallible and sometimes fallible. For Bishop Fulton Sheen, as well as many Catholic apologists will point out that the correspondence between “Heaven” and “Earth” entail infallibility, for how can something be declared in heaven as true because of what is declared on earth if what is declared on earth is fallible. Do you see the logic ?

    Yes, that is what I am saying. You still have not produced the argument, or a summary of the argument, from Bishop Sheen or anyone else, to the effect that the “binding and loosing” language necessarily implies infallibility in whatever context it occurs. I do not think that Bishop Sheen intended to teach that the disciplinary judgments of a local church are infallible, and I am pretty sure that he was aware of Matthew 18. In answer to your concluding question (above), yes, I see your logic, but I also see that you have interpreted the “binding and loosing” language to mean “declared in heaven as true.” But you have not yet argued that that is in fact the meaning of “binding and loosing” in cases of church discipline.

    You wrote:

    Well if you run this same logic through Matthew 18, the same correspondence between heaven and earth occur in the situation of excommunicating a disgruntled brother against another. So the argumentation burden is upon the Catholic to explain how he can derive a notion for infallibility from the correspondence between heaven and earth in the power to bind and loose given in Matthew 16 verses the very same correspondence between heaven and earth in the power to bind and loose given to all in matthew 18. Do you see ?

    Of course I see that the promise of “binding and loosing” is made in each passage, Matthew 16 and 18. And I agree that if anyone thinks that infallibility is implicit in the former passage, but not the latter, the burden of proof is upon that person to show why this is so. I have assumed that burden, and given my reasons in comment 161, particularly in the final paragraph.

  168. Andrew,

    But your argument, if it is even an argument, is not facing the contradiction in your reasoning. I am going to outline it here.

    1) Jesus gives Peter the power to bind and loose on earth

    2) Binding and loosing one performed on earth by the human Peter

    3) Such binding and loosing is ratified in heaven

    4) The reason it is ratified in heaven is because Jesus said so – “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven”

    5) Therefore Peter is infallible under certain conditions

    You are willing to admit these 5 points, given the language. But you do not follow to the below conclusion in a different passage with the same language

    1) There is a brother who gets angry and hits another brother

    2) The brother who sinned is unrepentant

    3) The brother who sinned stands before the Church

    4) The Church binds him, or excommunicates him

    5) Such binding or excommunication is ratified in heaven

    6) The reason it is ratified in heaven is because Jesus said so “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven”.

    The argument which seeks to make the scope of authority in Matthew 16 the same as Matthew 18 is simply the words “whatever”. I remember Bishop Fulton Sheen going on and on about this word “Whatever!!!”, as if there is no limit. And yet he is completely ignorant of the fact that the same word is attributed to the whole church in a disciplinary situation, something which his overall theology will not allow. The argument is strong because the words of Jesus correspond with each other in both passages.

    Now, is Matthew 16 dealing with a doctrinal confession? Sure. Is Matthew 18 dealing with a disciplinary situation? Sure. But this doesn’t seem to tone the language of jesus one bit. For him, it seems, binding and loosing apply to both situations. Therefore the burden of proof or evidence is on you to reason how the scope could be any more or less in one passage than the other. And simply pointing out the doctrinal versus disciplinary difference does not prove anything. This is why I am not sure it is even an argument. If it is, it isn’t very good.

  169. Erick (#167)
    If I may say so, I think the difficulty here is a kind of nominalism, that treats everything as unconnected with everything else. It is, indeed, the Church that has the power to bind and loose. The Church, however, is not simply the set of all members of it. It is an organic substance – the Body of Christ. Peter – and his successors (ex hypothesi) have the power par excellence. When my local bishop excommunicates me, the bishop of the neighbouring diocese does not have the power to contradict him – but the Pope has.

    All this is, of course, true only if the Catholic Church is what it says, but it does not seem to me there is any contradiction in saying that the power of binding and loosing is Peter’s and also that it is the Church’s.

    I think nominalism lies behind much of our thinking we find contradictions in things – a tendency to reductionism that sees larger things, like the Church, simply as a sum of their parts. As well cut a man into pieces and say that the assembly is still the man.

    jj

  170. Erick (re 168),

    I agree with all of the eleven propositions you listed. However, as the first five propositions are supposed to form a deductive argument (which, by the way, is not an argument I have made or would make) it is important to note that the conclusion (5) does not follow from the premises. The second list of propositions does not form an argument, but, again, I agree with each of those propositions, not one of which specifies that the local church is infallible in its disciplinary judgments.

    I doubt that Bishop Sheen was “completely ignorant” of the fact that the word “whatever” [you bind or loose] is used in Matthew 18. So I would assume that when and if he ever discussed that passage in relation to ecclesial infallibility, he would have wanted to qualify his argument. But in any case, his argument is not mine.

    What I have been doing here is raising objections to your argument, which I take to be an attempted reductio ad absudum of the Catholic position, to the effect that if ecclesial infallibility is implicit in Christ’s promise to Peter (and his successors) in Matthew 16, then it must be implicit in his promise to all of the Apostles (and their successors) in Matthew 18.

    However, the overall case for the Catholic doctrine of ecclesial infallibility does not hang upon the word “whatever,” but is based instead on a variety of data that one finds in the Matthew 16 passage and elsewhere in the New Testament, along with other ecclesiological, historical, and philosophical considerations.

    You wrote:

    Now, is Matthew 16 dealing with a doctrinal confession? Sure. Is Matthew 18 dealing with a disciplinary situation? Sure. But this doesn’t seem to tone the language of jesus one bit. For him, it seems, binding and loosing apply to both situations. Therefore the burden of proof or evidence is on you to reason how the scope could be any more or less in one passage than the other. And simply pointing out the doctrinal versus disciplinary difference does not prove anything. This is why I am not sure it is even an argument. If it is, it isn’t very good.

    The distinction between doctrine and discipline does not require any “toning down” of Christ’s promise regarding binding and loosing from one case to the other. It simply requires that we consider how that promise applies in each case. We should not simply assume that it applies in the same way, because the objects are in each case different. To illustrate: A man who promises to love his wife and children has unequivocally made the same promise to both wife and children, but that promise does not apply in the same way to his wife as it does to his children. For example, a man’s love for his children will mean that eventually he will want them to leave his home and start families of their own (or enter into the priesthood or religious life or some noble mode of single life). But he will not wish the same thing for his wife.

    What is interesting to me is that you do not seem to actually believe that the local church is infallible in matters of discipline. But you also presumably believe that our Lord’s promise in Matthew 18 holds good all the same. In that case, you must believe that there is a sense in which whatever the local church non-infallibly binds on earth will be bound in heaven. I believe that as well, though I am not sure what that sense might be. Perhaps you could help me out on that point.

    The force of your argument would then be that if infallibility does not follow from the binding and loosing promise in Matthew 18, it does not follow from the binding and loosing promise in Matthew 16. Heaven would simply bind or loose whatever the Church non-infallibly declares. But this still leaves us with a problem of understanding how Heaven could thus be tied to an errant Church. In other words, I don’t think that the real puzzler here is how infallibility enters into the picture (if at all), but how Heaven can bind or loose “whatever” the Church on earth binds or looses.

    Of course, I would argue that infallibility does enter to the picture insofar as that picture comprehends a situation in which the universal Church, in either an ordinary or extraordinary way, defines a doctrine to be definitively held by all the faithful. But I have not been making that argument. I have simply been responding to (what I take to be) your attempted reductio, which I believe fails as such. At most, what you have shown is that infallibility does not necessarily follow from the promise of binding and loosing. That is something with which I agree, and which is completely compatible with the Church’s doctrine of ecclesial infallibility.

  171. Andrew,

    Well, many of the early church writings refer to binding and loosing in terms of excommunicating and re-admitting offenders. No church was allowed to accept an excommunicant from another church, for the Bishop who excommunicated was given this authority from Christ (Matthew 18). So the early church understood binding and loosing in terms of disciplining moral failures in the church. There really is no disputing this fact.

    However, one can argue convincingly that since the power to bind and loose comes from the function of the keys of the kingdom, and since binding and loosing involves moral disciplinary issues, that the keys of the kingdom do not always operate infallibly. But this confuses the matter all the more and it makes the catholic position seem weaker and weaker. One will have to depend on the wisdom of the Church and the testimony of history on this one. Exegesis does not make it pretty for the Catholic argument.

  172. Erick,

    Thanks for the information. We are still left with the problem of how heaven could ratify an unjust excommunication or re-admittance to communion. I don’t think its an insuperable problem, but I don’t see the answer myself. I do not see how limited infallibility makes the Catholic position seem weaker, except in the sense that the Catholic position is not as strong as the position of a Church that claims unlimited infallibility. Of course we should depend upon tradition in this case as in all other cases, but from my point of view such dependence is a part of good biblical hermeneutics.

    It seems to be incredibly precipitous on your part, at least on the basis of the argument you’ve been making in this thread, to claim that “Exegesis does not make it pretty for the Catholic argument.” My goodness, so far as I can tell your exegesis (which is not the same thing as exegesis, generally speaking) consists of a short-order analysis of the relation between two passages with respect to binding and loosing. Even there, you only managed to show that the same promise is made in Matthew 16 and 18, and that in the latter passage the promise applies specifically to Church discipline. But we (Catholics) already knew that, and there are many other passages to consider with regard to the nature of the Church.

  173. Andrew (re #165),

    Inquiring into implications of my line of thinking is legitimate. I welcome it. What is lacking is an accurate assessment of my approach. The problems I raised are topics familiar to catholic theological speculation. Thus, no one needs to think they favor conspiratorial theories or ecclesial deism. Please remember that your own position permits some degree of discontinuity. Christ does not providentially prevent every baptized individual from defecting, or every minister from causing invalid sacraments. Being sensitive to the continuity and discontinuity, I wrote

    (#63) I think the syllogisms are sound. True doctrine follows from true teachers. It seems, however, the following are problems for the objective grounds

    (#126) I can agree that the ritual’s substance perdures because Christ instituted teachers and pastors.

    (#162) We agree that Christ instituted Peter as a pastor and teacher.

    When will the catholic purge the remaining Ecclesial Deism leaven from their own house ? Christ promised to be with them always except those who fall from catholic communion. Its strange how He keeps the impersonal instituted means, but not every person who had some contact with those means.

  174. Eric,

    What you raised beginning in comment #63 and in your subsequent comments are not problems for Catholic theology in the sense most relevant to the topic at hand; i.e., Apostolic Succession. The position is quite clear: If AS is of the essence of the Catholic Church, and if Christ promised to keep the Catholic Church from passing out of existence, then AS has been preserved in the Catholic Church at all times. So your problems are not matters for speculation within the Church in the sense of uncovering whether or not the Succession has been compromised, either by St. Peter or anyone else, whether in the Church of Rome or anywhere else generally in the Catholic Church due to any defect in rite or intention. It is true that “Christ does not providentially prevent every baptized individual from defecting, or every minister from causing invalid sacraments,” but the latter possibility, with respect to Holy Orders, could only compromise the Catholic Church if it were original with the Apostles or widespread among their successors. And to maintain either of those things is to posit a conspiracy theory. But simply to raise the possibility of lack of proper intention in ordination, without specifying particular cases and giving good evidence, is idle with respect to the point of this post.

    Everyone who remains within the communion of the Church, and partakes of her means of grace, does so by the grace of God and is nourished by the same. The same power that maintains the Church as a whole maintains individuals within the Church, some only for a season, some unto the end. This is not ecclesial deism. This is the recognition that not everyone is elected to final perseverance and eternal glory.

  175. re:165

    Erick Ybarra, you write:

    If we are not going to dialogue on the text of the Scripture, in hopes to come to agreement, but rather are going to be told once again that your argument is true because that is what the Church says, then we are not discussing the Scripture but are back again to one topic, namely, the authority of the Papacy.

    You asked me how the question of infallibility is germane to Matthew 18:17, and I told you that infallibility is germane because the context of Matthew 18:17 is tied to Matthew 18:15. If I think a brother in the church is sinning, then I must at least think that I know what constitutes the orthodox doctrines of morals that the church confesses. If you want to argue that the church that Christ personally founded – the church that Christ has commanded me to listen to upon pain of excommunication – is NOT infallible when she exercises her teaching authority in matters of faith and morals, then we would still have to listen to the church personally founded by Jesus Christ.
    Why? Because there are no scriptures that authorize a member of the church Christ personally founded to do anything but listen to that church or be excommunicated. If you think that you know of scriptures that authorize not listening to the church personally founded by Jesus Christ, show me those scriptures!

    Erick, I don’t think that I have to worry about the possibility that “the church” that Christ commands me to listen is ever going to teach heresy, since God Almighty is the founder of the church that he has commanded me to listen to. God has promised that the powers of hell will not prevail against God’s church, which is why God’s church will never become an instrument of Satan that can teach false doctrine about matters of faith and morals. All bets are off, however, on “churches” that men and women found for themselves.

    I would love to have this conversation, and I do not doubt that it is central, but what I am doing is examining the Scriptures, as the Bereans did (and I do not believe in Sola scriptura, if you would think I am by bringing up the bereans) to see if there is ANY reflection of truth in what you are saying about the power of binding and loosing.’

    Erick, you asked me how infallibility is germane to Matthew 18:17, not what I think “binding and loosing” means. In point of fact, I believe that the power to bind and loose in both Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18 involves both the power to to teach what constitutes the orthodox doctrines of faith and morals, and the power to set discipline within the church.

    The magisterium is the teaching office of “the church”, and the teaching office is only infallible in matters of faith and morals. Bishops, and only bishops, are vested with the authority to define what constitutes the orthodox doctrines of faith and morals. Bishops hold more authority within the church than just the authority to teach – they also are vested with the authority to govern. The discipline of the church is mutable (it can change over time), whereas the doctrines of faith and morals are not mutable.

    Let me make an analogy that might help about why the discipline of the church is mutable. Suppose parents tell their children that they are going out at night, and that they instruct their young children to be in bed by 9 pm. The parents tell their children that they will be home at 11:30 pm. The children decide to ignore what their parents have told them to do, and they get busted because their parents come home early and find them not in bed. Were the children sinning by being up at 10:30 pm when their parents came home? Yes they were, because they are under their parents authority, and there is an immutable commandment of God that children must honor their father and mother. The sin of the children didn’t have to do with the fact that 9:00 pm is a sacred hour or anything like that. The parents set a disciplinary ruling for their children – be in bed by 9 pm – and the parents have the authority to make bedtime 9:00 pm, or any other time, that the parents think prudent. It would also be normal for parents to make bedtime later than 9:00 pm as the children grow older.

    In my analogy, the bishops have authority to establish church discipline (e.g. the rules of fasting and abstinence for Lent). The power to bind and loose in Matthew 18:17 is given to the Apostles, who are the first bishops of the church personally founded by Jesus Christ. The bishops pass down their govening authority to “bind and loose” the through Apostolic Succession.

    What you seem to be ignoring is that the same ratification, namely heavenly, of earthly binding that is given to Peter in matthew 16 is given to the Church in Matthew 18 AND this binding and loosing is in the mode of a moral failure of one or more brothers.

    I don’t understand what you are saying. What have I ignored? Peter can bind and loose because he is the holder of two offices within the church that Christ has personally founded. Peter holds both the office of bishop, and the office for which the “keys” are its symbol. The keys are given only to Peter, and not to the rest of the Apostles.

    I agree with you that the power to bind and loose is given to “the church” in Matthew 18:18, and that is why the disciples of Christ must listen to “the church”. It strikes me though, that you are redefining “the church” to be any old church that some man or woman decides to start up, with a system of governance that the founders have cooked up. If I misunderstand you, then please clarify this for me: can “the church” that Christ commands me to listen to in Matthew 18:17 be any old church, including a personal “bible church” of which I am the founder?

  176. Mateo,

    I apologize for being very blunt, and my response was not engaging with you overall thought. I can see that somewhat now. The discussion took a brief steer into the direction of what it means to “bind” and “loose”, particularly when it is promised heavenly ratification to both Peter (Matthew 16) and the Church (Matthew 18). As I was mentioning before to Andrew, many Catholics will quote Matthew 16 and point out that the word “whatever” is used in front of “you being on earth shall be bound in heaven”. In other words, the argument goes like this: If a decision is made on earth it will be accepted as valid in heaven. But how can Peter make a false decision, or declare something false, and then be accepted into heaven? And the Catholic apologist will argue at this point that this must mean that Peter is protected from error. And so we have an attempt to bring attestation for Papal infallibility from the Holy Scriptures.

    The problem with this is that the same word “whatever” is used in Matthew 18, not with regard to doctrinal declaration, and not just with regard to a declaration of what is moral or immoral, but precisely upon binding the sins of a brother who has morally sinned against his brother! So here we have the same language “whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven” , which was seen as an entailment to Papal Infallibility, operated upon an individual who has committed a moral failure. Given this it begs the question, and I am sure the Church has an answer, of how can Infallibility be so limited and exclusive to the Pope in special conditions when the language providing that entailment to infallibility is extended to the local assembled church in a situation of “moral” failure?

  177. Erick (re 176),

    You seem to be commenting under the assumption that in formulating, defining, and defending the dogma of papal infallibility / ecclesial infalliblity the Catholic Church is generally relying upon the kind of argument that you attribute to Bishop Sheen (and unnamed others) regarding papal infallibility. But I have not observed this to be the case. In his book, The Gift of Infallibility: The Official Relatio on Infallibility of Bishop Vincent Ferrer Gasser at Vatican Council I, James T. O’Conner presents both the text finally adopted by Vatican I concerning the Church and the Pope’s role in the Church and Bishop Gasser’s influential document presented to the Council arguing for the definition of papal infallibility that was eventually adopted. Nowhere, either in the Council’s definition of the doctrine or Gasser’s Relatio, is the argument made that you are criticizing. Instead, both the Council and Gasser appeal to Matthew 16 as part of the biblical basis for papal primacy, from which, along with other biblical, historical and theological data, papal infallibility is inferred. The words “whatever you bind” are not mentioned in special connection to infallibility.

    Now, if the argument that you are criticizing is not made in either the very document promulgated by the Council nor the key presentation at the Council in support of papal infallibility, then it is tendentious to carry on as if the doctrine of papal infallibility somehow depends on that argument. It clearly does not. As I have pointed out to you numerous times in this thread, the Catholic Church does not need to assume that “whatever you bind” is in itself “language providing that entailment to infallibility.” Thus, your criticisms of the argument made by some Catholic apologists to the effect that the binding and loosing promise in itself entails infallibility are not at all telling against the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility itself or the principle evidential basis for that doctrine. And repeating it over and over again will not make this line of criticism any more relevant.

  178. Re: post # 176

    Erick Ybarra, there is no need for you to apologize for being blunt. You haven’t said anything that has offended me in the least.

    Let my try and address your concerns. You write:

    … many Catholics will quote Matthew 16 and point out that the word “whatever” is used in front of “you being on earth shall be bound in heaven”. In other words, the argument goes like this: If a decision is made on earth it will be accepted as valid in heaven. But how can Peter make a false decision, or declare something false, and then be accepted into heaven? And the Catholic apologist will argue at this point that this must mean that Peter is protected from error. And so we have an attempt to bring attestation for Papal infallibility from the Holy Scriptures.

    Actually, I have never known a Catholic to make such an argument based on the word “whatever”. But if a Catholic did do that, then that would prove that that Catholic doesn’t know what the Catholic Church actually teaches.

    It is true that the Catholic Church teaches that the faithful Catholic must listen to the Pope when he establishes a discipline within the church. Just as a child must listen to his parents when his parents establish a rule about what constitutes bedtime. But while the Pope can bind the whole church to a matter of discipline, the discipline being taught can never be taught infallibly, since discipline is mutable.

    Let us discuss a specific example of a discipline within the church – the day that the whole church should celebrate Easter. In responding to your post #95, Andrew Preslar writes this:

    The same goes for the authority of the Pope within the Church. Pope Victor’s move to excommunicate “the whole of Asia” was precipitous, and “the whole of Asia” certainly objected to it. But notice that when Irenaeus counsels Victor not to excommunicate these churches, he does not argue that the Bishop of Rome has no such authority in the first place. Rather, he pleads toleration of the Asian churches’ customs regarding Easter and the preceding fast, since these originated not “in our time, but much further back” and that all have previously lived in peace despite these differences, which diversity actually “enhances the unanimity of our faith.”

    The Catholic Encyclopedia has this to say about the Easter Controversy:

    … We read in Eusebius (Church History V.23): “A question of no small importance arose at that time [i.e. the time of Pope Victor, about A.D. 190]. The dioceses of all Asia, as from an older tradition, held that the fourteenth day of the moon, on which day the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb, should always be observed as the feast of the life-giving pasch [epi tes tou soteriou Pascha heortes], contending that the fast ought to end on that day, whatever day of the week it might happen to be. However it was not the custom of the churches in the rest of the world to end it at this point, as they observed the practice, which from Apostolic tradition has prevailed to the present time, of terminating the fast on no other day than on that of the Resurrection of our Saviour. Synods and assemblies of bishops were held on this account, and all with one consent through mutual correspondence drew up an ecclesiastical decree that the mystery of the Resurrection of the Lord should be celebrated on no other day but the Sunday and that we should observe the close of the paschal fast on that day only.” … The question thus debated was therefore primarily whether Easter was to be kept on a Sunday, or whether Christians should observe the Holy Day of the Jews, the fourteenth of Nisan, which might occur on any day of the week.

    Ref: Catholic Encyclopedia article, Easter Controversy, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05228a.htm

    Note that the controversy that Pope Victor became embroiled in was over a matter of discipline (custom) within the Church. That is, what day should all the members of Christ’s church celebrate Easter? The custom of some churches in Asia minor was that date of the celebration of Easter was determined solely by the Jewish Lunar calendar that determined the date of the paschal full moon, (which in turn establishes the fourteenth of Nisan). The custom for the rest of the world for establishing the date of Easter was determined by both the Jewish Lunar calendar and the Jewish solar calendar, that is, for the rest of the world, Easter was celebrated on the first Sunday (determined by a solar calendar) after a paschal full moon (a date established by the Jewish lunar calendar).

    This wikipedia article speaks to the complexity of making the calculation of the determining the date of a paschal full moon:

    By the middle of the third century AD computists of some churches, among which were the Church of Rome and the one of Alexandria, had begun to calculate their own periodic sequences of dates of paschal full moon, to be able to determine their own dates of Easter Sunday. The motivation for these experiments was a dissatisfaction with the Jewish calendars that Christians had hitherto relied on to fix the date of Easter. These Jewish calendars, according to their Christian critics, sometimes placed Nisan 14, the paschal full moon and the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover, before the spring equinox (see Easter). The Christians who began the experiments with independent computations held that the paschal full moon should never precede the equinox.

    The computational principles developed at Alexandria eventually became normative, but their reception was a centuries-long process during which Alexandrian Easter tables competed with other tables incorporating different arithmetical parameters. So for a period of several centuries the sequences of dates of the paschal full moon applied by different churches could show great differences (see Easter controversy).
    Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paschal_Full_Moon

    My point here is that day that Christians celebrate Easter is a matter of discipline (custom), and this is analogous to a parent setting bedtime for their children at 9:00 pm. There is no real reason that the custom for establishing the date of Easter could not be set by the Jewish Lunar Calendar alone, in which case Easter would be celebrated on any day of the week (Monday, Tuesday, etc. as determined by a solar calendar).

    The motivation of Pope Victor’s actions was to get the whole church on the same page, so to speak, and as Andrew has pointed out, Pope Victor had the authority vested with his office to determine when all the members of Christ’s church should celebrate Easter. But because this is a matter of church discipline, Pope Victor could not speak infallibly about this matter, because matters of church disciple are not matters about which the doctrine of infallibility is germane. Let me note that Pope Victor had the authority to bind the church to the discipline of the minority, that is, Pope Victor could have decided that Easter should be determined by the Jewish Lunar calender alone, as was the custom of the Asiatic churches.

    In our era, the exact date of Easter is calculated differently in the Eastern Orthodox Churches than it is in the Catholic Church. If some future pope decided for the sake of reunification, that the Eastern Orthodox Churches calculation was to be accepted by the whole church, that future pope could change the church discipline that I have been observing on this matter. If that were happened, and a Catholic were to say, forget what the pope has done, I am going to continue to follow that discipline that my grandparents observed, that Catholic would be sinning, because the new discipline of the pope would be ratified in Heaven.

    … I am sure the Church has an answer, of how can Infallibility be so limited and exclusive to the Pope in special conditions when the language providing that entailment to infallibility is extended to the local assembled church in a situation of “moral” failure?

    Any Catholic that knows what the Catholic Church really teaches about infallibility understands that infallibility is not “ limited to, or exclusive to, the Pope”. The doctrines of faith and morals that have been taught by the ordinary and universal magisterium are doctrines that have been taught infallibly. An example of a doctrine of the faith that has been taught infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium is the doctrine that the Sacrament of Ordination is reserved to men only.

    Cardinal Ratzinger, before he became Pope Benedict XVI, made exactly this point in his letter Reflections on “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis” which he wrote as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith under Pope John Paul II:

    … In response to this precise act of the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, [the issuance of “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis” by Pope John Paul II] explicitly addressed to the entire Catholic Church, all members of the faithful are required to give their assent to the teaching stated therein [that the Sacrament of Ordination is reserved to men only]. To this end, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of the Holy Father, has given an official Reply on the nature. of this assent: it is a matter of full definitive assent, that is to say, irrevocable, to a doctrine taught infallibly by the Church. In fact, as the Reply explains, the definitive nature of this assent derives from the truth of the doctrine itself, since, founded on the written Word of God, and constantly held and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary universal Magisterium (cf. Lumen gentium, n. 25). Thus, the Reply specifies that this doctrine belongs to the deposit of the faith of the Church. It should be emphasized that the definitive and infallible nature of this teaching of the Church did not arise with the publication of the Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. In the Letter, as the Reply of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also explains, the Roman Pontiff, having taken account of present circumstances, has confirmed the same teaching by a formal declaration, giving expression once again to quod semper, quad ubique et quod ab omnibus tenendum est, utpote ad fidei depositum pertinens. In this case, an act of the ordinary papal Magisterium, in itself not infallible, witnesses to the infallibility of the teaching of a doctrine already possessed by the Church.

    Ref: http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDFREPLY.HTM

    The point to be made here is that the church has received an infallibly taught doctrine through the ordinary and universal magisterium. Matthew 18:18 is germane in this case. The whole church has been bound to a doctrine that has been taught by the ordinary and universal magisterium (that is, the bishops of the church have universally taught this doctrine). The pope can witness to the truth of this doctrine, but he has no power to overturn this doctrine. The Pope does, however, have the authority to promulgate an ex cathedra statement that affirms this immutable doctrine of faith. An Ecumenical Council could also solemnly define this doctrine of the faith. Neither of these extraordinary exercises of the magisterium have ever happened, but that does not mean because the doctrine has not been solemnly defined, that it isn’t an infallible doctrine of the faith.

    Erick, I have tried to answer all your questions. Will you now please answer my question that I have addressed to you in my post # 175?

    Can “the church” that Christ commands me to listen to in Matthew 18:17 be any old church, including a personal “bible church” of which I am the founder?

  179. Andrew,

    Well if we can agree that matthew 16 nor matthew 18 hint at the idea of papal infallibility, then we have made progress. The idea of papal infallibility is not really hinted at in scripture. That being said papal infallibility is also not part of the original rule of faith at least not in the development. It is something drawn from logic and philosophy, which is reasonable still.

  180. Andrew, does it trouble you that Moss teaches at one of the leading U.S. Roman Catholic universities, or that your church no longer has the power to ban books?

  181. Erick,

    Sorry, we don’t agree that neither Matthew 16 nor 18 hints at the idea of papal infallibility. Rather, we agree that the idea does not automatically follow from the binding and loosing promise. Papal infallibility is hinted at in sacred scripture in the sense that it can be legitimately inferred from scripture, including Matthew 16. I am not sure what you mean by the following sentence: “That being said papal infallibility is also not part of the original rule of faith at least not in the development.”

    dgh,

    I’ve never heard of Moss. The Catholic Church has, now as ever, the authority to ban books. Whether or not that authority is exercised or can be enforced is bound to be relative to circumstances.

  182. dgh,

    Candida Myth-of-Martyrdom Moss teaching at V-Monologue U (i.e., Notre Dame) is not troubling. Unfortunately, for that university, scandal has long since been the status quo. Nevertheless, from what I can tell, her thesis (a) is politically motivated and (b) is more or less saying that Christian persecution was prosecution. Or, “you Christians weren’t singled out, you were just caught up in the empire wide prosecution of those who did not practice Caesar’s religion.” The problem, I find with her thesis, is two-fold. (1) It is what one would expect a young theologian educated at Yale would come up with under normal influences trying to get a job today, and (2) it would reduce Hitler’s persecution of the Jews, similarly, to a prosecution of all “non-Aryans.” Setting aside the moral suspicions in the former, my second point highlights the general revisionist, deconstructionist mode of modern historians. Yawn.

    But, hey, according to the Michigan Skeptics Organization (i.e., atheists), she is a practicing Catholic. So, what are we to think?! : )

  183. In all fairness, Prof. Moss may be a practicing Catholic (I hope she is) and confused about history. I don’t think her book is particularly dangerous, just seriously misguided.

  184. Oh, that Moss. We’ve been discussing papal infallibility for so long that I forgot about the original post.

  185. Mateo,

    I really do think when Jesus said “tell it to the Church, and if he will not listen even to the Church” I think he is referring to a specific communion head by specific people who have been ordained with an interconnection between men who were once ordained all the way back to the source of men who received the keys of the kingdom. This being said, I am currently caught in the Anglican/Orthodox/Roman Catholic dialogue, seeking resolution on the issue.

  186. Andrew,

    Have you ever read works by Francis Sullivan, the Jesuit catholic scholar? He argues that there was no monarchial episcopate in the early church, but that this emerged way after a post-apostolic church was already in existence. He argues that the Holy Spirit guiding the church to eventually resort to having only one bishop in each church.

    What’s your take on his view that collegiality was the structure of the apostles and their collaborators and that a monarchial episcopate was a later institution of men, though divine in the sense that the Spirit was leading the men in the decision?

  187. Refprot, (re: #65)

    You wrote:

    I’m just trying to put forward something that will allow us to move forward. Would plausible work or is that word not a good word?

    It isn’t about whether the word is a good word or not, but rather whether you have an objectively specified criterion. If you are going to evaluate a doctrine by way of a standard, that standard needs to be defined carefully, so that one can determine objectively whether the evidence does or does not meet it.

    There were a few typos in my post. Sorry about that, but I think it may be more efficient if I ask a clarifying question instead of going back and restating things. I’m trying to look at Rome as a test case in AS. Did Rome have an episcopate established?

    Yes.

    Maybe I’m assuming too much, but you argue that this is Peter. Now, maybe I’m moving too fast, but if Peter was not a bishop in Rome and if Peter did not pass on an episcopate to others, then this shows that the RCC is wrong about the sacramental nature of ordination (laying on of hands by bishops) and also about the charism of infallibility in the Roman bishop. This is my line of thinking. Feel free to let me know if i’m missing you.

    I don’t know whether you are missing me or not. But regarding your line of reasoning you say, “if Peter was not a bishop in Rome and if Peter did not pass on an episcopate to others, then this shows that the RCC is wrong about the sacramental nature of ordination.” That conclusion does not follow from those two premises. If (counterfactually) those two premises were true, it could still be the case that ordination is sacramental, and that only those bishops who were ordained by apostles other than Peter (or by such bishops) are validly ordained bishops. As for your conclusion about the “charism of infallibility in the Roman bishop,” I agree that that would follow from those two premises (along with some other premises). But this thread is fundamentally about apostolic succession, and not about the unique charism of infallibility in the bishop of Rome. Nevertheless, regarding those two premises, the patristic tradition is that Peter was the first bishop of Rome, and was martyred in Rome after having ordained episcopal successors there in Rome (i.e. St. Linus, St. Cletus, St. Clement). No evidence has been discovered that is both incompatible with the evidence for this tradition and outweighs the evidence for this tradition. That’s why I said what I said at the link in comment #39 above.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  188. Erick (re 186),

    I have read Sullivan’s book on AS. My take on that book, as regards its central thesis, is that Sullivan, like other scholars who come to the same conclusion (in some cases sans the theological thesis about the Spirit’s guidance), is using an anachronistic definition of “monarchical bishop” (which includes the notion of residence in one place) and so overlooks the sense in which the Apostles themselves exercised a monarchical episcopal function within the congregations that they planted. After the deaths of the Apostles, the episcopal-presbyteral ministers in the local churches, certainly moved by the Holy Spirit, but also per the express intention of Christ regarding the hierarchical structure of the Church (Luke 22:15-32), and in keeping with principles in natural law and in theology regarding headship, elected one among themselves as head (or monarchical) bishop, who would exercise authority in the local church similar to that exercised by the Apostles. This is precisely what men like Timothy and Titus were ordained to do, and it is what is described by St. Ignatius of Antioch regarding the episcopal ministry in his epistles, which date from the early second century.

    This hierarchical structure, at both the local and universal levels, is compatible with collegiality though it is not compatible with strict democracy. However, if monepiscopacy were an “institution of men” in the sense that it had not been instituted by the God-man, Christ himself, then it would make no theological sense to suppose that it was the result of the leading of the Spirit, for the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, and it is Christ who established the Church. Many liberal scholars doubt or deny that Christ ever intended to establish a Church, and view Matthew 16 as an invention of a sub-Apostolic Christian community. But if we reject this opinion, and if we accept orthodox Christology, then we should also assume that Christ not only founded a Church but like a good builder intended a definite structure for the Church, and like a risen Savior has maintained his Church, his mystical Body, in her organic, structural-bodily integrity from the beginning and throughout the subsequent ages.

    Oswaldo Sobrino has written a helpful critique of Sullivan’s (et al’s) position in the article, “Was Peter the First Bishop of Rome?”, which can be downloaded as a Word document by clicking the following link: PeterInRome.doc.

  189. Andrew,

    Are you saying then that a monarchial presbyter among fellow presbyters was in force from the very beginning in each local church? The evidence seems to suggest that there was at least presbyters in each church. Since presbyters and bishops were interchangeable in terminology, are you saying that there was always recognized one presbyter above the other presbyters , but was just called fellow presbyter until later in the 2nd century where we have Bishops taking on a different role than presbyters?

    If it is true that the monarchial bishopric was always in force that there would have to have been a recognized distinction between one of the presbyters among the other presbyters in each local church who possessed more authority, but nevertheless was still referred to as presbyter. Is this what you believe?

    Also, I notice that Sullivan ignores Ignatius some bit, is there a reason?

  190. So many of the RCC arguments put forth on CCC and in this thread are philosophical and logical. Well and good. However, may I ask the RCC adherents out there what you find to be the most troubling historical events in church history? I use the word “troubling” in 2 ways: either a) personally troubling (eg, perhaps in the way that priestly pedophilia is hopefully troubling), or b) theologically troubling (eg, if you were to concede that something in the annals of RCC history might belie some of the RCC’s theological tenets).

    For instance, the following is an excerpt from a Wall Street Journal article (2/16/2013) by Professor Eamon Duffy (Cambridge University).

    “….most of the early popes were celebrities from local aristocratic families, often career administrators among the deacons of Rome, the clerical rank responsible for most papal business. In these early elections, priests were seldom chosen, and bishops of other dioceses hardly ever, since a bishop was thought to be “married” to his see for life. Papal elections might be sudden or protracted, and election by “acclamation” wasn’t uncommon. A likely candidate might be seized by the crowd during the previous pope’s funeral and rushed off to church to be consecrated. Unsurprisingly, corruption and conflict were common features of papal
    appointments. Rival claimants brought confusion over who was the “real” and who the “antipope.” But negotiated solutions could produce unpleasant surprises. In 686, Rome was deadlocked over the choice of a pope, the clergy promoting their own man, the local militia insisting on another. The standoff was resolved by the election of an elderly nonentity, Pope Conon, a Sicilian priest whose father had been a famous general, so he was acceptable to both sides. He proved to be a disaster, dimwitted and ineffective, and too old and ill for even routine duties. But the popes weren’t always elected. Ninth- and 10th-century Rome was run by Mafia-style noble families, who appointed the popes from their own kindred. The notorious Marozia Theophylact appointed three popes, including John XI (931-935), her bastard son by her lover Pope Sergius III. Her legitimate son, Prince Alberic II,appointed five popes, including his bastard son Octavian, “elected” Pope John XII in 955 at the age of 18, dead of a stroke at the age of 27, from his exertions, it was claimed, in the bed of a married woman.”

    If one were to concede the historical veracity of Duffy’s comments, 2 additional queries are:
    1. How do RCC adherents reconcile, or personally process, the above information with the notion of apostolic succession?
    2. Assuming that, for instance, RCC folks would consider Pope Sergius III to be a ‘bad’ pope (he allegedly ordered the murders of his two immediate predecessors), on what basis can an RCC person make the evaluation that a pope is ‘bad’? That is, at that point, don’t RCC folks have the same interpretive problem that protestants are accused of having, to wit, “who gets to decide” that a pope is ‘good’ or ‘bad’?

    Many thanks ahead of time for your thoughts and feedback!

  191. Erick (re 189),

    I am saying that the hierarchical structure of the Church was in force from the beginning in each local church by virtue of the Apostles’ ministry in founding and overseeing the local churches. Obviously, this was both an itinerant and a residential ministry, but not any less episcopal and monarchical for all of that. Regarding terminology (“bishop” and “presbyter”) and the monepiscopacy in the early church, see Section III of Tim Troutman’s article on Holy Orders.

    Sullivan devotes an entire chapter to St. Ignatius. He acknowledges that the latter’s letters show that the monepiscopacy had developed in some local churches by the early second century. Sullivan speculates that other churches still had other kinds of polity, and that in any case the episcopate to which St. Ignatius refers is not something that derives from Christ through the Apostles by succession. In this way, Sullivan drives a wedge between the Christ of history and the Church of history.

  192. Re 190:

    The historical details that you note (citing Duffy) are perfectly consistent with the Catholic doctrines of Apostolic Succession and Papal primacy. In response to your questions:

    1. First, with reference to reconciling such data with Catholic doctrine, it is necessary to note that no point of Catholic doctrine specifies that bishops or popes will always be good men, though of course we fully acknowledge, following St. Paul’s instructions in the Pastoral Epistles, that only good men should be elected to the episcopacy and papacy. But a bad man who is elected pope, or a pope who turns bad, is still the pope. Catholic doctrine specifies that the pope, by virtue of his office, has plenary jurisdiction over the whole Church on earth, and that he cannot err when “in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.” Obviously, a bad pope, by virtue of his position, can do a lot of damage in the Church without actually teaching heresy, and can be an occasion of stumbling to those outside the Church. That is one of the reasons why it is such a fearful thing to be elected to that office. (Dante, in the Divine Comedy, portrays some of the worst popes as being condemned to the lowest circles of Hell.)

    2. On this website, we have often argued that there is an interpretive problem endemic to Protestantism. However, we are not claiming or arguing that apart from the Magisterium no one can recognize that murder is wrong. Murder is contrary to natural law, and the natural law is accessible to reason, being “written on our hearts,” even apart from special revelation. So anyone can recognize (and in this sense “decide”) that murder is wrong, even if it is a pope who commits or authorizes the murder. It is with reference to special revelation, specifically its extent and meaning (synthetically considered), and (practically speaking) with reference to some of the more difficult to discern aspects of natural law that the interpretive problem for Protestantism arises. (For more on this problem, see this article.)

    You asked how one can be personally reconciled to the more sordid details of Church history. Well, you can’t be reconciled to such deeds themselves, in the sense of loving the sin. Popes, bishops, and other Christians have done horrible things which cannot be undone, and for which we (the Church militant, collectively) can only feel shame and ask forgiveness. But one can be reconciled to the Church in the sense of loving the notorious sinners in the Church today and praying for their reconciliation, hoping that the notorious sinners of past repented in time, praying for and in whatever ways possible seeking to help those who have been hurt, and recognizing that the most sure recourse to reconciliation is found within the Catholic Church, not in schism from her. One can also be reconciled to Church history by viewing it in its fullness, not only the bad but also the extraordinary good. The bad popes are ours (i.e., they were Catholics), but so were so many of the most wonderful saints (both canonized and unknown) and teachers down through the ages. Its tempting to be a Donatist, but the price you pay is the loss of the visible Catholic Church, the Church to which so many heroes of the faith belonged, professing the same faith, nourished by the same sacraments, and obedient to the same authority.

  193. Re: 191. Andrew, thank you for your thoughts. So….if you happen to be living in a time when you have a ‘bad’ pope, or if you were to deem that your local priest/bishop/archbishop is ‘bad’ by dint of your own reason, how does a faithful RCC adherent, practically speaking, reconcile his duty to submit to the church and its authority with the (presumed) need to be faithful to his own conscience and reason? Assuming the person’s conscience/reason prevails, how does he avoid being schismatic?

  194. Re 193:

    Those are good questions. I have little knowledge of canon law, so take what follows for what it is, namely, my own opinions off the top of my head. First, it is important not to judge hastily. We should take care to distinguish between actions, attitudes, and / or decisions that we don’t like, and those that are in themselves morally culpable. It is too easy to be hyper-critical of persons in authority. This is particularly the case when we are considering what might be the consequence or implications of their actions. Secondly, it is important to remember that our bishops are not perfect or all-knowing people. They daily commit sins and make mistakes, just like the rest of us. Third, in cases of notorious and serious sin, where the sin is an established fact and not merely a rumor, one can pursue the proper channels for bringing the matter before the competent Church authority, up to and including the Vatican. It might take some time for a matter to be resolved, so in cases where immediate harm would result (to oneself or one’s family) by continuing in the communion of a particular parish or diocese, one should try to move to another Catholic parish or diocese.

  195. Bryan #187,

    If there was an episcopate established in Rome by Peter, as you affirm, then I want to see evidence that substantiates this. Andrew refers to it in the article refers to this fact as “materially evident” but I can find no evidence that substantiates this claim. You can appeal to bishop lists that begin appearing well after the fact, 100+ years, but we don’t possess anything in the 1st or early second century that tells us there was a bishop in Rome, even though we have a number of writings from the city of Rome in this time period.

    And let me clarify my argument. If Rome did not have a bishop in the first two centuries then the ministry in the city of Rome lacks the Apostolic Succession that you are arguing for. Even if you have Linus as the first bishop you may have succession, but it is not Apostolic. If Rome cannot trace its episcopal lineage to Peter then “Apostolic Succession” does not exist in the Rome church. There are a few other options available, however.

    It may be true that the Roman church does not have “AS” but the Eastern Churches do. It may also be true that “AS” is not connected to episcopal church government but is rather connected to “tactile succession.” In this second option Rome could still have a form of “AS” but it would be a fundamentally different type of “AS” that you are arguing for. In either event, if you are defending Roman Catholicism, which this article attempts to do, then you need to make an argument for a Roman (an apostolic succession from bishop to bishop in the city of Rome) succession.

    What I would like to do is press you on this claim and have you make an argument for it,

    No evidence has been discovered that is both incompatible with the evidence for this tradition and ***outweighs*** the evidence for this tradition.

    Every time I ask this question I am asked to clarify or make my argument as to why I think the evidence is unpersuasive, but I am asking a question about your statements and I’m asking the questions from a place of sincere inquiry.

    I will once again list the evidence so that we can properly weigh the evidence and you can clarify my understanding:

    1. Jesus founded Peter as the head of the Apostles (Matthew 16:18)
    2. Peter visited Rome on multiple occasions
    3. Peter was martyred in Rome

    This evidence that exists for roughly 150 years after the alleged installation of Peter. After that time period we have the following pieces of evidence:

    4. Irenaues c. 180 AD presents a bishop list of Peter in Rome
    5. Later Church tradition argues that Peter was bishop in Rome

    I think that it is clear that by the 3rd century that there is strong, universal consensus about there being Petrine succession in Rome.

    My intention this entire time has been to engage statements, like yours above, which argue that the facts of history strongly support the Roman position. Again, I’m not attempting to present a positive case for my view, but I’m attempting to understand where you are coming from. With the evidence that I have been presented I remain incredulous, however, I am willing to expand and refine my understanding of the Roman arguments.

  196. Re: #192. Andrew, just a followup question for you. You rightly indicate that murder is discernibly wrong by virtually anyone without appeal to the Magisterium of the church, but that on matters of special revelation that one does need the RCC’s teaching to know what ‘truth’ is. But, isn’t this the very issue that provoked the Reformation? Seemingly, how one might mitigate the punishment of God for his own sin would be a matter of special revelation. And, it was the teaching of the church in the 1500’s that someone could donate $ to the church and thus have their sins (or, the sins of their relatives) not be punished as harshly, if not forgiven. (Hopefully, we can agree that the notion of indulgence sales is an extra-Biblical one, whether or not we agree with whether it is right, or not. So, if one uses his ‘reason’ when he reads Scripture, his ‘reason’ will never lead him to believe that buying/selling an indulgence is a godly thing to do, as it’s an extra-Biblical concept.) This was a prime issue that caused heartburn for Luther, was it not? So, if you were a friend and contemporary of Luther, what would you advise him to do? Was he supposed to submit to the church’s teaching or follow his conscience and Biblical reasoning?

    If nothing else, you can appreciate the inertia that Protestants have to converting back to the RCC, as they’d inherit the risks of both subjecting themselves to ‘bad’ popes and possibly be forced to occasionally choose, as with Luther, between what their conscience/Scriptural reasoning tells them and what the RCC teaches.

    Your thoughts? What would you say to alleviate this inertia?

  197. Refprot, (re: #195)

    You wrote:

    If there was an episcopate established in Rome by Peter, as you affirm, then I want to see evidence that substantiates this. Andrew refers to it in the article refers to this fact as “materially evident” but I can find no evidence that substantiates this claim. You can appeal to bishop lists that begin appearing well after the fact, 100+ years, but we don’t possess anything in the 1st or early second century that tells us there was a bishop in Rome, even though we have a number of writings from the city of Rome in this time period.

    What is telling here, in your statements “I can find no evidence …” and “you can appeal to bishop lists that begin appearing well after the fact, 100+ years,” is your not counting the testimony of second century saints (e.g. St. Hegesippus and St. Irenaeus) as evidence. You can find “no evidence” substantiating the claim, implying that for you, the testimony of these saints is not even evidence. To start off in the rationalist paradigm is already to beg the question, by presupposing skepticism regarding the Fathers and the Tradition. By contrast, in the Catholic paradigm, these are our Fathers, and the Tradition as mediated through them is not only evidence, but authoritative. (That paradigm difference is in part what I was trying to explain in “The Tradition and the Lexicon.”) This very same stance you are taking toward the Fathers, when applied to Scripture, entails higher biblical criticism. It treats the Apostle Thomas’s doubt concerning the testimony of the other Apostles regarding Christ’s resurrection as an exemplar, rather than as a fault. To apply this same stance to the Fathers while refraining from applying it to Scripture (or to the Apostles) is ad hoc and special pleading. To approach the Catholic question already discounting the Fathers is to have already presupposed the falsehood of the Catholic claim, and thus to be wasting your time seemingly “weighing” the evidence for Catholicism. Many Reformed Protestants responded to our “Solo Scriptura” article by denying that they are “solo scriptura” Christians, and affirming that they too embrace the authority of tradition. But performatively when the rubber meets the road, I find that the Church Fathers are typically treated as you are treating them here, namely, as evidential trash. I hardly see any need to respond to the rest of your comment, because already we have reached the fundamental reason for our disagreement.

    You wrote:

    And let me clarify my argument. If Rome did not have a bishop in the first two centuries then the ministry in the city of Rome lacks the Apostolic Succession that you are arguing for.

    I agree.

    You wrote:

    Even if you have Linus as the first bishop you may have succession, but it is not Apostolic.

    I take it you mean that if no apostle ordained St. Linus, then any succession of men ordained by him would not be apostolic. If that’s what you mean, then I agree with you.

    Next you wrote:

    If Rome cannot trace its episcopal lineage to Peter then “Apostolic Succession” does not exist in the Rome church.

    Notice that that conclusion does not follow from that premise. Here’s an example to demonstrate why. If you cannot trace your ancestral lineage back to Adam, then you did not descend from Adam. So that’s a bad argument.

    You wrote:

    In either event, if you are defending Roman Catholicism, which this article attempts to do, then you need to make an argument for a Roman (an apostolic succession from bishop to bishop in the city of Rome) succession. What I would like to do is press you on this claim and have you make an argument for it,

    No evidence has been discovered that is both incompatible with the evidence for this tradition and ***outweighs*** the evidence for this tradition.

    Every time I ask this question I am asked to clarify or make my argument as to why I think the evidence is unpersuasive, but I am asking a question about your statements and I’m asking the questions from a place of sincere inquiry.

    When you say “Every time I ask this question …” and then “I am asking a question …” I don’t know what question you are referring to, because no question precedes your statement, nor do you specify the question you have in mind, nor is there a question in your entire comment (i.e. comment #195).

    You wrote:

    I will once again list the evidence so that we can properly weigh the evidence and you can clarify my understanding:
    1. Jesus founded Peter as the head of the Apostles (Matthew 16:18)
    2. Peter visited Rome on multiple occasions
    3. Peter was martyred in Rome

    This evidence that exists for roughly 150 years after the alleged installation of Peter. After that time period we have the following pieces of evidence:

    4. Irenaues c. 180 AD presents a bishop list of Peter in Rome
    5. Later Church tradition argues that Peter was bishop in Rome

    The fact that you leave out St. Hegesippus suggests that you didn’t read (or carefully read) the link I posted in comment #39. You also leave out the testimony of Tertullian, who says at the end of the second century that St. Clement was ordained by St. Peter. The line of bishops in Rome was also recorded and handed down by Julius Africanus (who wrote a chronology in AD 222), by St. Hippolytus in AD 234, and, in the fourth century, by Eusebius who drew from these received histories. Here’s what St. Irenaeus, who had himself visited the Church in Rome around AD 177, writes circa AD 180:

    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. (Against Heresies, III.3.3)

    Eusebius claims that St. Clement was still the “head of the Roman community” in the first year of Trajan. (See History of the Church, 3.21.) According to Eusebius (E.H. 3.34), St. Clement “departed this life, yielding his office to Evarestus” in the third year of the Emperor Trajan (AD 100), having been “in charge of the teaching of the divine message for nine years in all.” So given that St. Irenaeus visited the Church in Rome around AD 177, the time between the death of St. Clement, and St. Irenaeus’s visit to Rome was about 77 years. Now let’s put that in contemporary terms. Seventy-seven years ago was 1936, when Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the Olympics in front of a displeased Hitler. This summer I’m going to visit my grandfather, whose mind is still clear. He was born in 1919, and was 17 years old when Owens won those gold medals. That event is not even history for him, but a living memory. In the same way, there may still have been in the Church of Rome, at the time of St. Irenaeus’s visit to Rome in AD 177, people who were not only eyewitnesses of all the bishops of Rome since St. Clement, but who may have remembered St. Clement himself, the way St. Polycarp in AD 155 still remembered the Apostle John. Even if no such persons were alive at the time of St. Irenaeus’s visit, surely there remained alive some persons whose parents had sat under St. Clement, and heard him explain the history of the Church at Rome. Thus to deny or disregard the testimony of Sts. Hegesippus and Irenaeus regarding the history of the Church in Rome, for no other reason than that they had to learn about this history from second century persons who did not themselves see Sts. Peter, Linus, and Cletus, and who did not see the apostolic ordination of these first bishops of Rome, is a skepticism that says more about what the skeptic does not want to believe than about the truth of the list of bishops of Rome provided by Sts. Hegesippus and Irenaeus. When a saint of the Church (whom you claim to be part of your patrimony too) gives you a cup of cold water, do you presume that it is poisoned? If you do not even treat your own parents this way, why treat the Fathers of the Church this way? Why presume that what they say is false until it is verified independently by contemporary evidence? This skepticism is at the heart of our disagreement; the problem is not the patristic evidence, but the stance of skepticism toward this evidence.

    For more patristic evidence, for whatever its worth to you, see the patristic statements Stephen Ray lays out on pages 63-96 of Upon This Rock that testify to St. Peter’s leadership in the Church in Rome, his martyrdom in Rome, and that Sts. Linus, Cletus, and Clement succeeded him in the office of bishop of Rome.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  198. Gentlemen

    Just following the conversation here. What seems a bit disjointed is that the Church that Jesus founded in Peter along with the tremendous significance it represents as understood by the believing Catholic is left to founder in hearsay historical evidence that can only be scraped together from fragmented and stale evidentiary sources. If Jesus intended, and Peter understood, that there was this much significance to a “particular” apostolic succession from the very beginning, then one would have to believe that the early fathers were just totally incompetent in maintaining accurate records… or perhaps the “particular” apostolic succession was not the original intent. Perhaps a broader apostolic counsel such as existed in the Acts churches was the plan.

    Blessings
    Curt

  199. Refrprot (#195) and Bryan (#196):

    Your exchange in the above-referenced pair of comments perfectly illustrates the main point I’ve been trying to make. Before we consider reasons for believing the Catholic doctrine of AS, especially regarding the papacy, we need to agree on answers to two prior questions: What would count as evidence, and how much of the evidence that counts is needed to make said doctrine reasonable to believe? It is evident that we haven’t got agreement here on answers to those two questions. And that’s because we approach the dataset with fundamentally different interpretive paradigms: the PIP and the CIP. Bryan’s comment shows how that difference plays out in this case.

    As a Catholic, of course, I agree with how Bryan identifies and uses the evidence in this case. But a Protestant such as Refprot does not agree, for reasons that need to be well understood. This aporia is why I prefer to conserve energy by focusing first on the paradigm difference. Unless and until we agree on what the main purpose of theological IPs is, and on how to assess IPs against each other in light of that purpose, discussions of “evidence” will be largely unproductive, regardless of how much knowledge of the actual data any of the interlocutors may have.

    Best,
    Mike

  200. Dear Ref Prot,

    I never saw your previous response to me from May 24, and so I have been assuming that you hadn’t responded at all.

    In answer to your short response, I will agree: yes, the Catholic is making a positive claim. We have the burden of proof for making that claim. And yes, we respond to that burden of proof by bringing up positive direct evidence for the claim that there were always Bishops in Rome.

    This positive direct evidence comes from people such as Irenaeus who were closely connected to the Roman Church, whose writings were read widely by contemporaries, and who were both knowledgeable and trustworthy saints writing about 100 years after Peter’s death.

    Given that evidence, Ref Prot, I have no reason to just throw away what Irenaeus said unless you bring forth positive direct evidence for a contrary position. Given the positive direct evidence that we have for there always being Bishops in Rome, you need to convince us by bringing positive direct evidence to the contrary to the table. Given the positive direct evidence we have, you have the burden of proof to overturn that evidence. Of course we have the burden of proof for introducing the first pieces of positive direct evidence in support of our position. But once we have laid all the positive direct evidence there is on the table, and we find that all of it supports our position, it is then your job and your burden to find some positive direct evidence that we have overlooked, and bring it to the table yourself. How could it be otherwise?

    If you don’t have any positive direct evidence about all leaders in the Roman Church being equal in authority, you could always respond to the positive direct evidence to the contrary with a: “well, that is 100 years after Peter died, so by that very fact I don’t believe it.” But in that case, Ref Prot, you would have to be a mere agnostic about early Roman authority. You certainly would have no ground to say something like: “your Catholic beliefs are contradicted by the evidence.” You would only be able to say something like: “there is not enough evidence to say either way.”

    So, if you just don’t like the positive direct evidence that we do have from 100 years after Peter’s death, because you don’t buy the excellent points Bryan made above about why we shouldn’t discount this evidence, then you should agree to be an agnostic about this question, since the evidence we have brought forth is the only positive direct evidence there is, and the earlier “evidence” is completely indirect to the question of whether all leaders of the Roman church are equal in authority.

    But you don’t want to be an agnostic about this. You want to claim that somehow, some way, you have shown that it is self-contradictory to be a Catholic, because Catholics believe in a history of bishops in the Roman Church that can be shown to be contradicted by historical facts. The only problem with your claim is that you don’t have any direct evidence for it; in fact, all the direct evidence is for the Catholic position.

    I encourage you to think about the points I made above and respond to them in detail. But in addition to these points, I have to bring up a disappointment I have with our conversation: you have never responded in the slightest to my explanation for why indirect evidence is completely useless to the question of how many people shared equal authority in Rome. You haven’t defended the indirect evidence from Lampe and others. You have just asserted that it is convincing. But I have explained why such indirect evidence is useless, because any argument constructed from such evidence requires massive assumptions, and it can easily be shown that small changes in those assumptions cause the arguments based on such “evidence” to reach completely different conclusions. Therefore, the assumptions are doing all of the heavy-lifting in the argument, not the “evidence.” I am disappointed that you haven’t seen fit to explain to me and to others why indirect evidence of the sort brought forth by Lampe does not suffer from the criticism I have made of it. It makes me think that you do not want to convince me, or that you don’t believe that my reason for remaining unconvinced by Lampe’s and Bugay’s evidence is that it is completely indirect. But in that case, why are you communicating with me? I thought you wanted to convince me.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  201. Hi Michael,

    While I appreciate your position here, I think we should note that one of the reasons why Protestants don’t agree with Bryan’s points is a mistaken belief. The mistaken belief is that the statement “there is no surviving evidence on this question from between year X and year Y” implies “whatever Catholics say about this question is wrong”.

    If there is no evidence on a question between year X and year Y then that just means there is no evidence. If it is really and truly the case, then that just means we should all (Protestants included) be agnostics about that question. The problem with the Protestant position is that they don’t want to be agnostics about such questions. They want to claim that the historical evidence on such questions contradicts the Catholic position. This is a simple logical error. They don’t understand the difference between: (1) “we have evidence against your claim”; (2) “all evidence survived and there is no evidence for your claim”; and (3) “most of the evidence between the years X and Y has not been preserved and in those particular years we can’t find surviving evidence for your claim”. As long as they believe that (1), (2), and (3) imply the same things about these questions, they are making a logical error, and one that needs to be pointed out clearly and repeatedly until they acknowledge it. Of course, in their everyday lives they distinguish between (1), (2) and (3) all the time, which is why I have hope that many will see the light on this issue.

    So, as we can see, the problem that I’ve mentioned isn’t a problem about IPs. It is a simple logical error about what an absence of surviving evidence implies. Here is the key point: to confront this logical error, we do not need to do an in depth study of IPs. Doing an in depth study of IPs is useful. But it is not necessary for pointing out the error of conflating (1), (2), and (3).

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  202. Curt (re 198),

    The problem with that line of argument, as I pointed out in the post, is that it does not interact with the evidence that we actually have, e.g., the New Testament data concerning Peter and the historical evidence that Peter was in Rome (which is the uniform testimony of the Church fathers) and established his episcopal chair in that city, to which others succeeded (cf. Irenaeus). Instead, you simply suggest that if the Catholic understanding of AS is true then there should be more evidence. In some cases, this sort of critique is helpful; for example, if I claim that a rocket ship launched from my driveway yesterday evening, we would rightly expect for there to be a particular kind and amount of evidence (scorch marks, etc.). But I am not sure how we go about determining a priori what sort of evidence “ought to” accompany an historical event. A skeptic could always argue that, for example, if Christ had really risen from the dead, and if this is supposed to be really important to everyone, then he ought to have appeared in public places like the Jerusalem Temple and the court of Pontius Pilate rather than confining himself to private settings among his own followers. Of course, there might be various ways to explain why the evidence is what it is, and is not what it is not, but in any case we have to take into account the evidence that we actually have. Same goes for AS.

  203. Re 196:

    Concerning indulgences, see this post. Concerning the abuse of selling indulgences, see this post.

    You wrote:

    If nothing else, you can appreciate the inertia that Protestants have to converting back to the RCC, as they’d inherit the risks of both subjecting themselves to ‘bad’ popes and possibly be forced to occasionally choose, as with Luther, between what their conscience/Scriptural reasoning tells them and what the RCC teaches.

    It is always a fearful thing to submit to authority. But if the authority to which one submits is from God then it is ultimately a more fearful thing not to submit. If one knows that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded and sustains as his own mystical Body, then the only way that it would be conscionable to remain in schism from her would be to have an ill-formed conscience. There are plenty of bad pastors all over the world; the Catholic Church does not have a corner on that market. Even if someone starts his own church, there is no guarantee that he won’t be or become a bad person. The difference with Catholicism, however, is that God has granted, so we believe and confess, certain protections to our pastors, so that they will not lead us into doctrinal error, and He has granted them the sacerdotal power for our sanctification, which power depends upon His promise rather than their merits.

  204. RefProt,

    If I may “pile on” to what Bryan, Mike, and K. Doran have already written, I think the central issue here is clearly one of perspective with respect to the data, and not one of data per se. Since you seem to be sincerely interested in understanding where a Catholic might be “coming from” in assessing the data in a Catholic way, I’ll offer a bit of personal experience that may shed some additional light on the issue from the standpoint of one former Protestant’s personal perspective.

    When I was a young Evangelical with very little historical or theological education, I was taught on more than one occasion that the Catholic Church was a type of cult and, moreover, that the odd doctrines of Rome (the papacy, priestly confession, Marian dogmas, veneration of the saints, etc) were all medieval corruptions of Christianity. As I grew older and matured intellectually, I began reading materials by various Reformed teachers and theologians, including the primary works of the magisterial Reformers. From these writers (especially secondary authors), I was forced to revise my earlier (and admittedly anachronistic) picture of Catholicism. I understood now that, in fact, popes and priests, and Marian dogmas, etc., very much predated the middle ages. Rather than medieval corruptions or mutations of the gospel, these were instead mutations arising around the time that Constantine legalized Christianity within the Roman Empire.

    Catholicism was the unhappy result of syncretism between Christianity and various forms of Roman imperialism and paganism. However, several years later, I began reading in the primary patristic sources and discovered a wide range of ante-Nicene patristic testimony supportive of either outright Catholic or what might be called proto-catholic doctrine; including,, of course, the affirmations of apostolic succession and the Roman bishop lists by authors such as those Bryan has already mentioned (Hegesippus, Irenaeus, Turtullian, Africanus, Hippolytus, Eusebius, etc). This discovery was psychologically shocking (perhaps partly because of the prior caricatures or pseudo-history I had been fed previously). Instead of the papacy being a medieval invention, or even a post-Constantinian invention, it turned out that apostolic succession, bishops, and – in particular – a bishop of Rome descending from Peter himself was something attested by fathers as early as the late 100’s, and on into the 200’s with only growing reference, attestation, and development from there on out. At this juncture, and in light of Petrine passages in the NT, I began to take the Catholic position quite seriously because (from my perspective) the direct data/evidence had already shattered two previous accounts of the timing and origin of Catholicism, (or at least quasi-Catholic doctrine), and the time gap between the “purity” of NT Christianity and the Catholic-like patristic references was becoming (again from my perspective) vanishingly small..

    The intellectual movement from the caricature of Catholicism as of medieval origin, to the pseudo-history of Catholicism as a post-Constantinian invention, to the direct patristic testimony represented in my mind an ever contracting circle which transitioned from a removal of barriers and hostility toward Rome, to a serious consideration of her claims. Those Roman bishops lists –unless they are made up – fill in the gap between the closing of the NT and the time of Irenaeus, Heggisipius, etc. Given the number of lists and the earliest Fathers’ proximity in time to Peter’s martyrdom and their possible, if not likely, contact with the generation of believers who would have been privy to early events in the church at Rome, (here I think Bryan’s analogy concerning his grandfather is quite vivid and helpful); the notion that these ancient Fathers got it all wrong, whereas modern historical critics have got the correct skinny, just strikes me as preposterous. Moreover, the data and writings we do have between the time of Peter’s martyrdom and St. Irenaeus give us no information which negates the claims of Irenaues and the other Fathers who give Roman bishop lists traced back to St. Peter. If anything, the behavior of St. Clement in taking it upon himself to correct the Corinthians strikes me as a nod in the Catholic direction. So when you write:

    I will once again list the evidence so that we can properly weigh the evidence and you can clarify my understanding:

    1. Jesus founded Peter as the head of the Apostles (Matthew 16:18) [actually Jesus says he will build His Church upon Peter. Being head of the apostles and the foundation of the Church are not necessarily coextensive]
    2. Peter visited Rome on multiple occasions
    3. Peter was martyred in Rome

    This evidence that exists for roughly 150 years after the alleged installation of Peter. [and either silence or else fragments which have no bearing or negative impact on the early patristic witness prevails during this 150 years] After that time period we have the following pieces of evidence:

    4. Irenaues c. 180 AD presents a bishop list of Peter in Rome [and also other early fathers (200’s), St. Hegesippus, Irenaeus, Turtullian, Africanus, Hippolytus]
    5. Later Church tradition argues that Peter was bishop in Rome [all bracket emphasis mine]

    In light of all that data/evidence, my perspective honestly leads me to ask – “What’s the problem? What more could one ask for in terms of an evidential basis for the notion that there was always a succession of bishops in Rome, especially given the situation of Christianity within the Roman empire during the first 250 years of Church history?”

    This is what I find so perplexing about your approach to the data, as well the approach taken by Reformed theologians like Mathison or Horton. Both of those men, for instance, make strong assertions like (and I paraphrase) “there is absolutely no basis for thinking that there was a succession of bishops from Peter in Rome”. But when one presses for the basis upon which such theologians make such apparently bold and confident assertions, one finds just the sort of evidential situation described above. And then I just scratch my head. It would be one thing if we had some document(s) in the 150 years between Peter’s death and St. Irenaues which explicitly contradicted the notion of a succession of bishops in Rome from Peter or even directly addressed the ecclesial polity of the Church in Rome – but as far as I know, we don’t.

    So how small does the gap between the death of Peter and the first patristic witnesses have to be in order for the explicit statements about Roman succession given by the early Fathers to be regarded as of strong evidential value? If we had a Father in 140AD providing a Roman bishop list traced to Peter, would that do it? I seriously doubt it. Certain Reformed theologians would just contract the circle still further. “See (they would say) we have absolutely no evidence of a succession of bishops in Rome between the death of Peter and 140AD. The Roman claim is a historical sham!” And again, what such men would mean by making such an assertion is that there is no *additional* positive evidence for the Roman succession until 140AD; nor would they mean that there is some evidential data which explicitly negates the (now earlier) patristic witness about succession in Rome. They really just mean that *unless* they are provided with some additional (pre 140AD) testimony to a succession of bishops in Rome, they will remain justified in rejecting Catholicism. But what if there were some Father providing a Roman bishop list in 110AD? And so on.

    So it just begins to look (as it looked to me before I became Catholic) that this sort of approach is really just a defense mechanism to justify Reformed theologians (and their seminary students) in avoiding Catholicism at all costs. Of course, none of that technically “proves” anything, but shows how different individual mindsets and perspectives can be with respect to the same data.

    You are very cordial in dialogue, but I have encountered several Reformed Christians who are somewhat abrasive and say things like “You Catholics just don’t want to deal with the fact that there is no corroborating evidence between the NT and St. Irenaeus for the Catholic position. Your whole ecclesial system is built on the testimony of men roughly 125 years removed from Peter’s death!”; as if that were obviously problematic from an evidential point of view. But hopefully you can see, given the above account, how someone like myself – and given my history – wants to respond with something like: “you [Reformed] just don’t want to deal with the fact that the earliest patristic evidence we have all points to the reality of a succession of Bishops in Rome (a situation favorable to the Catholic position), with zero explicit evidence between Peter’s death and those first patristic witnesses to undermine the early patristic attestations. Your entire ecclesial system is built upon a documentary silence of 125 years, along with an undervaluing of the witness of the earliest Church Fathers for no good reason.”

    Obviously, I think the place where the Catholic puts the evidential accent is far more reasonable than the place where the Reformed Christian (or the historical critic generally) wants to place that accent. Given this situation, and given that the data is what it is, I am not sure what options remain – perhaps the philosophical route Mike suggests.

    Pax

  205. Andrew (203)

    Jumping in on your reasoning from this post, you said…

    There are plenty of bad pastors all over the world; the Catholic Church does not have a corner on that market. Even if someone starts his own church, there is no guarantee that he won’t be or become a bad person.

    The problem with this argument is that the “means” of Protestant salvation are different than the “means” of Catholic salvation, and thus the quandary of sinful leadership may also have different meaning to the average parishioner. The Catholic believes that access to salvation comes through the church and the sacraments administered therein, while a Protestant believes that salvation comes directly from God. Thus, the Protestant has a sort of “immunity” to bad leadership while the Catholic may not if, for an extreme example, the Pope were to turn the sacrament of communion into a satan worship tradition. One could certainly argue that, if the RC church is truly the church Christ founded, that He would never let that happen. Unfortunately, the Middle Ages give us pause to consider otherwise.

    Blessings
    Curt

  206. Bryan #196,

    Thank you very much for your response. I believe we are headed in the right direction.

    First, I said I can find no evidence to substantiate Andrew’s claim that it is “materially evident,” but I did not say there is no evidence in this discussion at all. That is why I went on to list evidence to see if I was understanding your case in the best possible light. Furthermore, consider this definition from the legal dictionary for the term “materially evident”:

    Important; affecting the merits of a case; causing a particular course of action; significant; substantial. A description of the quality of evidence that possesses such substantial probative value as to establish the truth or falsity of a point in issue in a lawsuit.

    You’ve badly misunderstood my intention so let me affirm that there *is* evidence. Irenaeus and Hegesippus, whom I had wrongly excluded (though, my reason for doing so is that is list is not complete but I agree he should be added) *ARE* important pieces of evidence. We are agreed here. I just do not believe that they serve to offer “material evidence” as Andrew states in the post. The value of the evidence is what is disputed. I hope you can understand why your assessment below is a misunderstanding and not actually true,

    I hardly see any need to respond to the rest of your comment, because already we have reached the fundamental reason for our disagreement.

    Moving along, the question I’m referring to is for you to provide the evidence for the claims being made in this post and in the comments. When I’ve asked that evidence be presented, even attempting to lay out the case and evidence for you, I’m asked to present a positive case by you and others, or I am told that other ancillary theological topics must be discussed first. I am asking someone (initially Andrew) to substantiate the historical claims about the episcopate in Rome made in this post. One of those claims is that what Andrew is arguing is “materially evident.” I’m saying (inquisitively), prove it.

    You move on to say,

    The fact that you leave out St. Hegesippus suggests that you didn’t read (or carefully read) the link I posted in comment #39

    To me, this is unnecessarily polemical when I am asking you if I’ve missed anything. I’m not making an argument, I’m making *your* argument for you to better understand you! I have read, multiple times in fact, the comments on that thread. Hegessipus’s testimony is not as strong as Irenaeus’s testimony, however, and we do not have it extant. We only possess it from Eusebius. That doesn’t mean it’s not evidence, I just didn’t include it because it is not the most explicit evidence. In hindsight (as I’ve indicated above) I should have included it to be as expansive as possible.

    That said, I do appreciate laying out the text of Irenaeus. I think this is helpful and I think your anecdotal story is helpful as well. It is true that Irenaeus visited Rome around 177 AD which means that there very well could have been people who were alive when Clement was in Rome. This makes the statements of Irenaeus important and makes us believe that he may have well encountered individuals who believed in an apostolic episcopacy in Rome. But the fact is that we don’t know who Irenaeus’s sources were—other than that critical scholars surmise that he uses Hegesippus’s list, something you rightly identify in the other thread as speculative. It could be that Irenaeus spoke with a manifold number of people in Rome and they all confirmed that there was an episcopate in Rome, but this too is speculative. We don’t know where Irenaeus collects his information or who he talks to.

    Furthermore as we consider Clement, what reason do we have to believe that Clement was in fact a Roman bishop? When we read 1st Clement we see nothing but mention of presbyters and bishops in the plural—seemingly used interchangeably. For example in 1 Clement 42:4-5 it reads,

    So preaching everywhere in country and town, they appointed their firstfruits, when they had proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons unto them that should believe. And this they did in no new fashion; for indeed it had been written concerning bishops and deacons from very ancient times; for thus saith the scripture in a certain place, I will appoint their bishops in righteousness and their deacons in faith.

    In 44:3-4 we read,

    For it will be no light sin for us, if we thrust out those who have offered the gifts of the bishop’s office unblamably and holily. Blessed are those presbyters who have gone before, seeing that their departure was fruitful and ripe: for they have no fear lest any one should remove them from their appointed place.

    We also see no mention of Clement’s office or have any indicaton that he is writing from the chair of St. Peter. We just read that the letter is sent from the “sojourning Church in Rome.” If Clement was a bishop as you and Irenaeus suggest we find no direct evidence of this in his writing.

    My skepticism towards Irenaeus’s (and Hegesippus’s) claims causes you to say the following,

    Thus to deny or disregard the testimony of Sts. Hegesippus and Irenaeus regarding the history of the Church in Rome, for no other reason than that they had to learn about this history from second century persons who did not themselves see Sts. Peter, Linus, and Cletus, and who did not see the apostolic ordination of these first bishops of Rome, is a skepticism that says more about what the skeptic does not want to believe than about the truth of the list of bishops of Rome provided by Sts. Hegesippus and Irenaeus. When a saint of the Church (whom you claim to be part of your patrimony too) gives you a cup of cold water, do you presume that it is poisoned?

    First, I do not reject Irenaeus’s list for no reason. I find them questionable because they come so late for something that you claim is essential for the Church to exist at all. It’s not just because they didn’t see Peter, it’s because the other evidence we have doesn’t seem to correspond to any sort of AS from Peter to Linus to Cletus (or, according to Hippolytus, Clement) to Clement, which Irenaeus puts forth. This is why it doesn’t say anything about me. It says something about the evidence that is being marshaled as “materially evident.”

    Second, as to your analogy, I take what the Fathers give me with great reverence and appreciation but I do so with a critical eye as well. Just because a Father makes a claim does not mean that it is true. I attempt to weigh what the Fathers say in light of the evidence and make determinations as a result. I believe that you do the same as well. There are a number of things that the Fathers, even men such as Irenaeus and Tertullian, argue for that I would demur from. When I do disagree, I do so in humility, holding these Fathers in great respect. I do not need to believe that they are intentionally trying to deceive in order to conclude that their teaching is incorrect or faulty. Protestants and Catholics all engage with the Fathers in this way and just because you may disagree with a Father does not mean that I presume the cup is poisoned.

    And this takes us to your final statement. You say,

    This skepticism is at the heart of our disagreement; the problem is not the patristic evidence, but the stance of skepticism toward this evidence.

    I agree that the issue is not the evidence, but our interpretation of it. We come down on different ends of the spectrum. Being descriptive, you see me as a skeptic while I see you as gullible. These are the facts, we have a 100 years of silence, in terms of extant sources, for something that you claim is essential for the operation of the church. You conclude, based on later evidence, that this silence is not as important as the evidence which comes after. As you argue, it is a possibility that Irenaeus talked with someone who knew Clement. I, on the other hand, conclude that the 100 years of silence causes a different conclusion. If something so essential to the churches existence was not referenced until Hegesippus and in its mature form in Irenaeus over 100 years after the fact, this strains credulity. At the very least, I believe that any unbiased observer will acknowledge that the evidence is not “materially evident.” It is speculative and based on probabilities; probabilities that modern critical scholarship regard as theological impositions into the historical account.

    I’m willing to concede that it is a possibility that things could have transpired the way that Rome claims, but such an opinion is based upon a reading of the available evidence in light of the dogmatic claims that Rome makes about itself. You have referred me to Stephen Ray’s patristic quotes, but the only thing this does is shows how widespread the notion was that Peter was a bishop in Rome throughout Church history. It doesn’t change the fact that the only direct evidence we have comes 100+ years after the fact. Because you are the one claiming that this is the way the church has always been, you have the burden of proof. If I am considered a “skeptic” or a “rationalist” for finding the arguments presented here specious and lacking the moniker “materially evident,” then guilty as charged.

    So that my post is not taking in an unnecessarily combative way (this is probably one of the stronger comments I’ve written here), I want to express that I appreciate the willingness to dialogue and engage on these questions. I want to passionately pursue truth and in my interaction at CtC I believe my interlocutors do as well. I appreciate the interaction and pray that, if in some small way, this conversation can lead us to communion with one another. I hope my comments, though critical, are received in that way.

  207. K. Doran,

    First, I am an agnostic about church government in Rome in the first century. I’m not violently opposed to the idea of there possibly being an episcopacy in Rome, I just don’t see sufficient evidence to substantiate the claim. My best guess is that presbyterian government functioned, but I also wouldn’t be shocked to find out that it had a more congregational operation. I lead towards Presbyterianism, but I’m willing to admit that my own Presbyterian leanings may color my analysis of the evidence.

    With regard to my desire to “convince you,” I’m certainly not attempting to do that. I’m trying to ascertain the strongest argument for the RCC’s claim that Peter established a perpetual Petrine office in Rome. I don’t have the time or the energy to come to a Catholic blog to put forward my own positions. I’m attempting to engage and learn about the Catholic position. I may press back, but I’m really just trying to learn. I’m not trying to be a proselyte.

    To help you think through the way I’m approaching this issues, let’s try a thought experiment. It is not meant to be insulting, but to illustrate how your perspective, of having me, the inquister into the Roman claims, have to present an opposing position in order to critique Rome.

    Following your line of reasoning I would ask you to provide a direct piece of evidence that Sasquatch does not exist. There are numerous pieces of evidence that indicate that a Sasquatch could exist. We possess eyewitness testimony. There have been pictures, movies, etc that indicate that Sasquatch could exist. What direct evidence do you have that Sasquatch does not exist? If you cannot provide me with a piece of direct evidence, then why do you not except that Sasquatch could exist?

  208. Ray,

    Thanks for your comments. Time ticks so only a brief reply.

    As I’ve attempted to explain, the reason the Reformed reject the claims of Rome is not only because she possesses late evidence, it is that the large amount of extant writing that we do have from the second century–even centered in Rome–does not make the claims to AS like Irenaeus and later Fathers make.

    For example, even a piece of evidence that has been suggested in this thread to support Petrine succession causes serious problems. Ignatius talks about he necessity of a bishop, prebyster, deacon scheme in the church and in 6 of his 7 letters Ignatius explicitly addresses the bishops, but in one of them, he leaves it out. And isn’t it interesting that he addresses a plurality of presbyters at Rome! Sure, the Catholic can fit this into his “paradigm.” You can explain it any number of ways, but such evidence is intriguing given the silence from other areas. Couple this with Clement’s letter which nowhere mentions a monoepiscopacy, writings like the Didache which seem to have a less hierarchical structure than an episcopal bishopric, ommissions from Justin Martyr, Tatian, the Sherphard of Hermas, etc, and you have a cummulative case that makes that gap in time look more significant.

  209. K Doran:

    … the problem that I’ve mentioned isn’t a problem about IPs. It is a simple logical error about what an absence of surviving evidence implies.

    I used to think that myself. But eventually I ceased to, because I had too hard a time believing that such otherwise intelligent people could persist in making such an elementary logical error.

    As Ray implies in #204, I suspect that their thinking goes rather like this: “There is no evidence for distinctively Catholic doctrines in the early sources; but if Catholicism were true, we’d expect to find such evidence. Therefore, the absence of evidence in this case is evidence of absence.” The problem with that argument, of course, lies in its commitment to the PIP, which is an interpretive paradigm brought to the data rather than being introduced to explain the data.

    Hence my preferred order of apologetical argument.

    Best,
    Mike

  210. Hi Michael,

    You wrote: “I suspect that their thinking goes rather like this: “There is no evidence for distinctively Catholic doctrines in the early sources; but if Catholicism were true, we’d expect to find such evidence. Therefore, the absence of evidence in this case is evidence of absence.” The problem with that argument, of course, lies in its commitment to the PIP, which is an interpretive paradigm brought to the data rather than being introduced to explain the data.”

    But, the thing is: their argument is wrong. It is just not the case that if X (a set of statements) is true then we should expect to find evidence of every piece of X in a data set that has lost the majority of its observations.* This is just false. It is demonstrably false. We can prove that it is false, with simple demonstrations involving numbers, etc. In fact, as you yourself know very well, we can prove that we would expect NOT to see much of X in a data set that his been sparsely preserved.

    Now, if the PIP involves the specific choice to base all of their controversies with Catholicism on arguments from silence applied to the most sparsely-preserved part of the data set, then the PIP is not credible for more reasons then the fact that it doesn’t distinguish between revelation and opinion. It is also non-credible because it makes bad use of probability theory. I don’t think we can afford to not point out such an elementary problem.

    The people who give into this mistake may or may not be otherwise intelligent people of goodwill. Either way, a probability mistake is a probability mistake, and it needs to be acknowledged.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

    p.s. where this would just be an issue of paradigms would be if the Protestants said: “well, we need to be agnostic about anything not in the early data because the early data is the Word of God and we know there was a great apostasy three months before Irenaeus wrote Against Heresies. So please be agnostic about the Papacy, like we are.” But that’s not what they’re saying. They aren’t asking us to be agnostic about the evidence for the papacy. They are claiming that the historical (note historical, hence data-based) evidence about the early papacy makes the Catholic position ridiculously unlikely to be true. And this is just a serious (albeit elementary) error in understanding probability and data.

    * Note to Protestants: there is enormous evidence that we have lost the majority of early Christian writings, and that this loss is greater the further back you go. For an easy way to see this is true, look at the lists of books by early authors whose titles we know from other early sources, but whose contents we have never found. Most of what even a great writer such as Irenaeus wrote is now gone, and probably will be gone for ever. This situation was much improved by the time of Augustine, the vast majority of whose treatises, at least, we still have.

  211. Re: #203. Andrew, thank you for your thoughts. I must say I don’t think it is always fearful to submit to authority. But it IS fearful to submit if you have reason to not trust that authority. I’m thinking, for instance, that I’m not so likely to trust Pope Sergius III, and hopefully you will understand why, if not agree.

    So when you say “that God has granted, so we believe and confess, certain protections to our pastors, so that they will not lead us into doctrinal error”, can you elaborate on what you mean? If you and I were buddies of each other and contemporaries of John Hus, exactly what would you be telling me about the rightness or wrongness of what the church did to Hus, under the watchful directive of RCC leadership?

    Lastly, one of the posts you cited says ” The Catholic Church does not now nor has it ever approved the sale of indulgences.” So, what was it that Pope Leo X was doing? I’m guessing the official RCC position is that he didn’t ‘sell’ indulgences, but that he merely granted them to people who made $ donations to his causes. If this is the case, this strikes me as rhetorical parsing of words, and misses the intrinsic issue that was (rightly) a matter of heartburn for Luther.

    In sum, so much of the RCC apologetic (for itself and for AS) seems very reliant on people explicitly “trusting” the institution of the church hierarchy and teaching through the ages. For those of us that are blessed to read the Scriptures for ourselves, and evaluate the history, practices, and teachings of the RCC in light of Scripture, we find many admirable, honorable, and Biblically consistent practices and teachings. We also find horrible abuses and errors. From this protestant’s perspective, it would be nice to see the RCC do far more to acknowledge those abuses and errors, both historical ones and contemporary ones, and to prosecute the contemporary ones with the same fervor that it used to go after Hus and Luther.

    Doing that could possibly be huge in restoring trust and credibility to the RCC, and might alleviate a chunk of the inertia facing schismatics.

    I realize that most of the posts in the overall thread have to do with intellectual/philosophical ideas and legal notions of what proper historical evidence should really be for AS, but I suspect the (lack of) “trust” in the institution of the RCC is equally an impediment.

    What thinkest thou?

  212. Refprot, (re: #206)

    Regarding what Andrew means by “materially evident,” I’ll wait for him to clarify, if he wishes. In the mean time, I’m glad we agree that the writing of Sts. Hegesippus and Irenaeus are “important pieces of evidence” regarding the history of the Church at Rome from the time of the Apostles to the middle of the second century.

    You wrote:

    Moving along, the question I’m referring to is for you to provide the evidence for the claims being made in this post and in the comments.

    I still don’t see any question from you, which again forces me at best to guess the identity of your question. (I do not understand why this is so difficult. An affirmative statement is not a question. If you truly want to ask a question, make sure it ends with a question mark.) If I had to guess your question, given what you say above, I would guess it is this: What is the evidence for the claims being made in this post and in the comments? But that question is too broad, because in the combination of post and comments, hundreds of claims have been made. So, maybe what you want to ask is a much more specific question. But why make me guess your question? Why not just make your question explicit?

    When I’ve asked that evidence be presented, even attempting to lay out the case and evidence for you, I’m asked to present a positive case by you and others, …

    I beg to differ. Here’s what you said in #37:

    I do think that the archaeological evidence suggests a more “presbyterial” governance in Rome. I’d point you to Peter Lampe’s analysis in “From Paul to Valentinus” which I’ve found a compelling historical reconstruction of early Rome.

    You are making a positive claim (i.e. that the archaeological evidence suggests a mere presbyterial governance in Rome), and the only reason you are being asked here to present a positive case is to substantiate that positive claim you are making. No Catholic here (so far as I know) is responding to a question from you (regarding the evidence for the Catholic position) by asking you to make a positive case for the contrary.

    But the fact is that we don’t know who Irenaeus’s sources were—other than that critical scholars surmise that he uses Hegesippus’s list, something you rightly identify in the other thread as speculative. It could be that Irenaeus spoke with a manifold number of people in Rome and they all confirmed that there was an episcopate in Rome, but this too is speculative. We don’t know where Irenaeus collects his information or who he talks to.

    I agree that we don’t know the identities of the persons from whom Sts. Hegesippus and Irenaeus acquired their history. But you seem to think that this justifies skepticism toward the testimony of Sts. Hegesippus and Ireneaus. That is, if we cannot independently verify who told them this history, and whether the persons who told them this history were themselves reliable, then our default stance should be one of skepticism regarding the truth of what Sts. Hegesippus and Ireneus said. I disagree with that stance, however, in part because through the tradition we know something about the moral character of these men (the Church recognized them as saints), and from the tradition we know how they would obtain this history of the Church at Rome, namely, by searching out trustworthy persons within the Church at Rome, especially given the fact that both men spent time in the Church at Rome. St. Hegesippus’s time in the other particular Churches, and his recognition by the Church for sainthood, imply (from the internal point of view) that he would have had conversation with the leadership of the Church of Rome during his time there. And that is almost guaranteed in the case of St. Irenaeus, who as a priest was sent to Rome by the clergy of the particular Church of Lyon precisely for such consultation, bearing a letter to Pope Eleutherius, and replacing the martyred Bishop Pothinus upon his [i.e. St. Irenaeus’s] return to Lyon. For these reason, the persons whom Sts. Hegesippus and Irenaues would have consulted while in Rome would not have failed to include the leaders of the Church in Rome. If there had been any contradiction between what the leaders reported regarding the history of the Church at Rome, and what the elderly laity had seen and received from their parents and teachers, Sts. Hegesippus and Irenaeus would have had good opportunity to discover this, and provide the multiple histories. But their singular account, and the fact that there was no response from the Church at Rome correcting it, indicates that this was the history shared by the people (clergy and laity alike) of the Church at Rome at the time of the sojourns there by Sts. Hegesippus and Irenaeus. So standing in suspicion over the testimony of Sts. Hegesippus and Irenaeus is calling into question the credibility not only of these saints, but of the whole community of the second century Church in Rome about its own history.

    Furthermore as we consider Clement, what reason do we have to believe that Clement was in fact a Roman bishop?

    The fact that Sts. Hegesippus and Irenaeus testify to his being a bishop of Rome, along with the internal tradition of the particular Church of Rome, which even from the second century counted him as one of her bishops.

    When we read 1st Clement we see nothing but mention of presbyters and bishops in the plural—seemingly used interchangeably.

    Right, but that’s fully compatible with the testimony of Sts. Hegesippus and Irenaeus.

    We also see no mention of Clement’s office or have any indicaton that he is writing from the chair of St. Peter. We just read that the letter is sent from the “sojourning Church in Rome.” If Clement was a bishop as you and Irenaeus suggest we find no direct evidence of this in his writing.

    True, but again, that’s fully compatible with the testimony of Sts. Hegesippus and Ireneaus.

    My skepticism towards Irenaeus’s (and Hegesippus’s) claims causes you to say the following, … [my quotation] … First, I do not reject Irenaeus’s list for no reason. I find them questionable because they come so late for something that you claim is essential for the Church to exist at all.

    First, everything is questionable. Even God, who is the source of all being, and Truth itself, is questionable. Otherwise there could be no atheists. So saying that x is questionable is unhelpful, because it is trivially true. (See comment #79 of Taylor’s “John Calvin’s Worst Heresy” post.)

    Second, when I pointed out the fallacy with your previous argument, by using the example of tracing your lineage back to Adam, I thought that would be sufficient to make clear a distinction your argument was conflating. That is the distinction between ontology and epistemology. That’s a very basic and fundamental distinction, and it is crucial in this discussion. You cannot provide documents establishing your own existence at every moment since you’ve been born. But that does not show that you’ve existed only intermittently between visits to the DMV, and other such places. Your present existence, along with our knowledge of human nature, growth and maturation, shows that you’ve existed continuously since you were born. Likewise, though a person’s heart is essential to his existence, the first medical records containing measurements verifying the activity of his heart can be from his teens or twenties (or later). The absence of records of direct measurements of his heart’s activity do not show either (a) that he didn’t exist until those measurements were taken or (b) that the human heart is not essential to human life.

    And so it is here as well. Just because something is essential to the Church in her being, it does not follow that there must be historical records documenting the existence and activity of that essential feature at every point in the Church’s history. Historical silence regarding an essential office does not entail that the office is not essential. What is essential in order for us to know something about the Church at some previous point in history by way of independent evidence is not identical to what is essential to the Church at that point or any point in her history.

    It’s not just because they didn’t see Peter, it’s because the other evidence we have doesn’t seem to correspond to any sort of AS from Peter to Linus to Cletus (or, according to Hippolytus, Clement) to Clement, which Irenaeus puts forth.

    That’s not a question; that’s again a positive claim. You’re claiming that the evidence we do have does not “correspond” to “any sort of AS from Peter to Linus to Cletus.” Please show how it does not correspond; you need to make the positive case to substantiate your positive claim. The evidence you have mentioned so far is fully compatible with what Sts. Hegesippus and Irenaeus wrote. You are treating silence in the historical record as non-correspondence. And that is not a safe assumption, because there are many other factors that can account for the relative historical silence concerning the first hundred years of the Church at Rome. (If you want to claim that there is a “large amount of extant writing” from the Church of Rome during this time period [notice, another positive claim], then you need to list out the writings to which you are referring.)

    Just because a Father makes a claim does not mean that it is true.

    I agree, of course, but, you are treating the claim as false until shown to be true, while I’m treating it as true until shown to be false. And that’s a huge difference.

    These are the facts, we have a 100 years of silence, in terms of extant sources, for something that you claim is essential for the operation of the church. … If something so essential to the churches existence was not referenced until Hegesippus and in its mature form in Irenaeus over 100 years after the fact, this strains credulity.

    Here again you conflate epistemology (particularly what can be independently verified by way of historical records to persons in the twenty-first century) and ontology (i.e. what is essential to the life of the Church).

    It is speculative and based on probabilities; probabilities that modern critical scholarship regard as theological impositions into the historical account.

    I haven’t mentioned anything about probabilities. That’s your caricature of my argument (i.e. that it is based on probabilities).

    I’m willing to concede that it is a possibility that things could have transpired the way that Rome claims, but such an opinion is based upon a reading of the available evidence in light of the dogmatic claims that Rome makes about itself.

    No, it is based upon not presuming that Sts. Hegesippus and Irenaeus (and the Church at Rome from which they obtained their histories) were untrustworthy witnesses.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  213. K Doran (#210):

    Here’s how I once described the PIP:

    …the only way to reliably identify the formal, proximate object of faith — which means identifying the correct ensemble of secondary doctrinal authorities and their proper relationship to one another — is to study the written sources from early Christianity, mainly but not limited to Scripture, and make the correct inferences from them. Inconsistencies in such a body of inferences can only be resolved, when they can be resolved, by appeal to inspired Scripture, which trumps anything to the opposite effect in the other, uninspired sources. Hence the slogan ad fontes, a rallying cry of the Renaissance humanists who so influenced the early Reformers. On this approach, the doctrinal content of the deposit of faith consists in what is (a) explicitly asserted in Scripture and (b) what can be inferred from those assertions with valid deductive and inductive arguments, such as those made in the early “catholic church” to yield Nicene orthodoxy. Once we’ve identified a set of such statements, we’ve learned all we need to know about which doctrines are revealed and apostolic, which in turn are all and only the doctrines we must believe. Anything beyond that is human opinion masquerading as divine revelation, and thus a deception.

    If that description is correct, then the attitude of somebody like Refprot is not at all illogical. For an adherent of the PIP, the relative sparsity of evidence, in the first century or so of the Church’s history, for Catholic doctrines such as AS suffices, if not to rule them out completely, at least to make them mere opinions that might be wrong and which no Christian is bound to believe.

    That said, you’ve raised an point that’s important in evaluating the PIP precisely as an IP. Since the sparsity of evidence is not by itself evidence of absence, it is reasonable to consider the evidence we find in Hegesippus, Irenaeus, and others not merely in light of the absence of earlier corroboration for their claims, but in terms of what later came to be accepted by the Church as a whole as apostolic. Given that latter acceptance and other, intratextual facts you cite, it is plausible to allow that much of the corroborating, written “record” from the Church’s first century was lost. That is a point which tells against the PIP, because it can’t admit the possibility in question as doctrinally significant.

    Best,
    Mike

  214. Re 211:

    Regarding lack of trust, you seem to be assuming that to trust the Church is to put your trust in whatever man or men hold ecclesial office at any given time. But this is not the case, for reasons indicated towards the end of my previous reply to you. It seems to me that the line you are taking leads to a kind of Donatism (and eventually complete isolation), with concerned persons founding new churches whenever their current communion fails them in some serious way. Of course, these persons can only trust their new churches to the degree that they trust themselves, which is why Protestantism / Donatism has a sort of Pelagian flavor–the sufficiency of the self over and above the Church. But instead of speculating on what one would do or would have done in real or imagined scenarios in which persons having authority in the Church have failed in some way, one could simply ask the question, “Where is the Church that Christ founded?” then join that Church and work for its reform when and as needed. Of course, this is to assume that Christ founded one universal Church and that he will preserve it until the end of time. But I’m guessing that those are assumptions we share in common. Getting back to the main point of this thread, I believe that AS is a mark of the Church. If you disagree, it might be helpful to specify what scriptural, historical, theological or any other sort of data is inconsistent with Catholic doctrine on this matter.

  215. Bryan / Refprot (re 206 / 212),

    The “materially evident” remark was in reference to “the college of bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome” and was intended to distinguish the visible aspect of AS from the invisible grace of the sacrament of Holy Orders. One can argue that AS and the Papacy were invented sometime after Christ, but will still have to face the fact that the episcopacy and the papacy exist and have existed continuously from some time in antiquity. I was pointing this out as being a bit of evidence in its own right.

  216. Dear RefProt,

    In your comments to me, Bryan, Ray, and Michael, you have revealed that you have a deep misunderstanding of what data can and cannot tell us. I will start by outlining two simple facts about data. Then I will explain what these facts imply for numerous claims you have made on this thread. My explanations will also serve to reinforce points about data analysis for everyone in the discussion, thus moving the conversation forward.

    FACT 1: Most of the early data of Christianity has been lost.

    This fact is easy to demonstrate by any number of means. First, consider the size of the data set that has been preserved over time. A good place to get a general sense of the scope of preserved early Christian writings is the Patrologia Latina and the Patrologia Graeca of Jacques Paul Migne. While many critical editions of the fathers exist, it is difficult to find collections more comprehensive than his. Furthermore, since his collections are organized in rough chronological order, it is possible to get a sense from his work not only of how much early Christian writing has been preserved, but also how the number of preserved writings has varied over time.

    These collections demonstrate that for the first 300 years of Church history, the collection of Christian writings is sparse. The 300 years between Pentecost and Nicea cover 16 volumes in the Greek collection. This is only one volume preserved from every 20 years of Christian history, with large periods in which nothing is preserved at all. The total number of authors seems to be about 30, or only one Christian author for every ten years of Christian history. Unfortunately, the plurality of these volumes are simply scriptural commentaries by one author (Origen), so we have even less data from these 300 years than the 16 volumes would indicate. Finally, the Latin collection contains only eight volumes during these first 300 years of Christian history.

    The number of preserved writings is so small in the early years that it strongly suggests that most of the data has been lost. But it turns out that we actually have direct proof that this is the case. It turns out that there are many known missing writings. We know that these writings existed because they are referred to or cited by contemporary or near-contemporary witnesses. But the writings themselves have never been found in the modern era. Look at the links below, and see what a large number of writings of even exceptionally important early Christians are now missing:

    Irenaeus: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08130b.htm
    Tertullian: http://www.tertullian.org/works_lost.htm
    Origen: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origen#Exegetical_writings

    Take Irenaeus as one example of this phenomenon: Including only works which we see specifically mentioned in other sources, we know that Irenaeus wrote at least seven treatises/ books: (1) Against Heresies; (2) Proof of the Apostolic Preaching; (3) On the Subject of Knowledge; (4) On the Monarchy, or How God is not the Cause of Evil; (5) On the Ogdoad; (6) A Treatise on Schism; and (7) A Book of Divers Discourses (probably a collection of homilies).

    Of these seven works, only two have been preserved. And one of these two, the Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, was only discovered centuries after the Protestant Reformation. So, at the time of the Reformation, the preservation rate of Irenaeus’ known treatises was at most 14% (assuming generously that he wrote nothing that hasn’t been referenced in other early literature). As of now, the preservation rate has increased to at most 28%. And this is a very generous upper bound.

    Given the facts that I’ve outlined, many more of which you can find for yourself any time you wish, it is clear that most of what was written, let alone spoken, by even the most important early Christians has not been preserved.

    FACT 2: Indirect evidence can’t tell us anything: accompanying assumptions do all of the work.

    Direct evidence is evidence which tells us about exactly the question we’re asking, and does so as long as we merely assume that the person giving us the evidence is not a liar or completely misinformed. Anyone who has a good reason to know the truth about something and is not a liar can provide direct evidence.

    Indirect evidence also requires that we assume that the person giving us the evidence is not a liar or completely misinformed. But it is distinguished from direct evidence in that it doesn’t inform our question without additional assumptions on top of these. These additional assumptions do two things: they allow us to claim that the indirect evidence is actually obliquely referring to the question at hand, and they allow us to claim that the indirect evidence implies a particular answer to the question at hand.

    If an argument is entirely based on indirect evidence, then that means that the additional assumptions that we’re using to shoe-horn the indirect evidence into applicability to our question are really doing all the work – the claim that the evidence is telling us anything in itself is vitiated. This problem does not exist for arguments based on direct evidence.

    You brought up the Sasquatch in your last comment to question whether we really base our arguments on direct evidence in our daily lives, but in fact, we know that the Sasquatch doesn’t exist by direct evidence. In particular, when we have numerous exhaustive surveys of all large land mammals in all parts of the earth, then the fact that none of these surveys finds evidence of the Sasquatch is direct evidence that he doesn’t exist. An argument from silence is perfectly good direct evidence when that argument is based on exhaustive and comprehensive data. In the case of exhaustive and comprehensive data, the absence of evidence is just the same thing as evidence for absence. Where an argument from silence fails as direct evidence is when the data has been sparsely preserved.

    Now that I have introduced these two facts, I will explain how they affect some of the key claims you have made on this thread.

    Claim 1: You wrote to Ray above:

    As I’ve attempted to explain, the reason the Reformed reject the claims of Rome is not only because she possesses late evidence, it is that the large amount of extant writing that we do have from the second century–even centered in Rome–does not make the claims to AS like Irenaeus and later Fathers make.
    . . . You can explain it any number of ways, but such evidence is intriguing given the silence from other areas. Couple this with Clement’s letter which nowhere mentions a monoepiscopacy, writings like the Didache which seem to have a less hierarchical structure than an episcopal bishopric, ommissions from Justin Martyr, Tatian, the Sherphard of Hermas, etc, and you have a cummulative case that makes that gap in time look more significant.

    This claim is just false. The “evidence” is not “intriguing”. You do not “have a cumulative case that makes that gap in time look more significant”. In fact, the gap in time is completely insignificant to the question of whether we have a monoepsicopy in Rome, and it is insignificant for two reasons:

    (1) The gap in evidence for a monoepiscopy between 60AD and 180AD is no more relevant than the gap in evidence for a presbytery in which all presbyters are equal in power between 60AD and 180AD. If it were really true that the argument from silence worked on the data between 60AD and 180AD, then it would be just as damning for your side that we don’t have any direct evidence for a presbytery in which all presbyters are equal in power.

    (2) But, in fact, it gets even worse for your case: the argument from silence cannot work in the slightest on the data set between 60AD and 180AD. This is because of Fact 1 above: the early data set has lost too much data. To see why the loss of data vitiates the argument from silence, consider the following exercise applied to the Catholic Church of today. You can be in no doubt that the Catholic Catechism of today teaches the full gamut of teachings on papal authority. But let’s find out if a small sample of data from the Catechism would be likely to reveal the truth that the Catholic Church of today teaches the full gamut of teachings on papal authority.
    Suppose that, as in early Christianity, only a small portion of the Catechism of today survives the next two thousand years. You can simulate this by taking a random sample of paragraphs from the Catholic Catechism of today. There are 2865 paragraphs of the Catholic Catechism. Now: how many of these paragraphs provide direct evidence of papal infallibility? Do a search on this website (http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc.htm) and see for yourself how many paragraphs refer to papal infallibility. Now, if you took a 1% random sample (29 of the 2865 paragraphs), what are the chances that this sample would include a reference to papal infallibility? Try taking a bigger random sample. How big would the sample have to be in order to make it more likely than not that a sample would include one of the few paragraphs that directly assert or imply papal infallibility?
    As you can see, Ref Prot, arguments from silence don’t work on sparsely preserved data sets. If you want to make an argument from silence based on Augstine’s corpus of treatises, then go ahead: we have 96% of them preserved. But you can’t make convincing arguments from silence on the early data.

    Because of the two points above, the “gap” in evidence you speak of is not “intriguing”; it doesn’t hint at anything; it doesn’t make a “cumulative” case. It can’t make a case for anything at all. Which means that you can’t use the early data to criticize or query us for our beliefs in the slightest: the data necessary for such a query isn’t there. Now I note that by the same token neither can we say: “ha, there is no direct evidence for a presbytery in which all presbyters are equal in authority in the early data, so by that fact alone you are wrong.” But, in fact, we have never said that.

    Likewise, you wrote to Bryan:

    I, on the other hand, conclude that the 100 years of silence causes a different conclusion. If something so essential to the churches existence was not referenced until Hegesippus and in its mature form in Irenaeus over 100 years after the fact, this strains credulity.

    No, it doesn’t. See above. 100 years of silence tells us nothing about this issue. You should stop claiming that it does unless you can disprove my explanation of why it doesn’t above.

    You also wrote to Bryan:

    I take what the Fathers give me with great reverence and appreciation but I do so with a critical eye as well. Just because a Father makes a claim does not mean that it is true. I attempt to weigh what the Fathers say in light of the evidence and make determinations as a result.

    Unfortunately, you cannot weigh what Irenaeus says about monoepiscopy “in light of the [earlier] evidence and make determinations as a result.” You have no ground on which to weigh his testimony. You don’t have any earlier evidence which can tell us about monoepsicopy or about perfectly equal presbytery. If you think that arguments from silence give you that ground, then see Fact 1 and the discussion above. If you think that indirect evidence gives you that ground, then see Fact 2. Or better yet, please provide the indirect evidence. I want to see the complicated arguments about off-hand remarks Paul made in one of his letters and about where various houses were in Roman ruins. The arguments will reveal their own indirectness and accompanying baggage of question-begging assumptions.

    The first rule of data analysis is that you have to take the data as it is. The person who is eager to throw-out data that he doesn’t like and base his conclusions on portions of the dataset that are unrelated to the question at hand has revealed their own bias, and in professional situations will always be ignored.

    My advice is the following. Unless you can directly confront the four key issues, I don’t think you will understand the Catholic position: Fact 1; Fact 2; the “telling” gap in direct evidence for your position itself in the early data; and the lack of ground on which to weigh Irenaeus’ testimony.

    That’s four things you need to consider. If you do, then your stated aim of understanding why Catholics remain utterly unconvinced by Protestant historical data arguments will be greatly advanced.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  217. Re: 214. Andrew, I don’t want to assume too much, so can you specifically comment on what you think of Pope Sergius III or of the indulgence activities of Pope Leo X, or of what the church did to Mr. Hus. Or, alternatively, can you offer up what (if any) historical events in the life of the RCC trouble you the most?

    it seems to me that one of the intrinsic issues with the claims of AS is that AS claims some kind of special divine protective grace that provides legitimacy to its leadership. If RCC apologists want to critique Protestantism for its ‘anything goes’ ecclesiology, it seems that the RCC needs to own that, its doctrine of AS notwithstanding, the reality is that the RCC has had its share of, can I say it, “loony” leadership even amongst its popes. (Yes, Protestantism has its loonies, too, but we make no special claim to protection given to our pastors.)

    I hope you will reconsider and engage my hypothetical question to you about what you would advise a contemporary of Hus. Put another way, suppose you were on a desert island with Pope Sergius III and Billy Graham, who each are pastoring their own churches. Presumably the doctrine of AS would tell you that you should be a member of Pope Sergius’ church and not Billy Graham’s church, yes? On my end, I would happily trust myself on that desert island, over and above trusting the Church, to make a decision to fellowship with Billy Graham over trusting the Church that was led by Pope Sergius. To the extent you presumably would opt for Pope Sergius seems to me to be a kind of cult-like (lack of) thinking. But, I realize you are a thinking person, so I hope you will clarify what you would do on that desert island, and why.

    The line I take does not lead to a kind of Donatism or Pelagianism, if by that you mean it leads to some view of the church at large being populated only by ‘saints’ and not by ‘sinners’. Far from it. But, my view, informed by the Bible, tells me that it IS a requirement for leaders in the church to be above reproach, and when they are not, they forfeit their leadership role.

    You’ve said it would be helpful if I specified “what scriptural, historical, theological or any other sort of data is inconsistent with Catholic doctrine on this matter”. I’m not an RCC doctrinal expert, so I don’t know what is consistent or not with Catholic doctrine. I have specified, however, a number of historical realities (not abstract concepts) and remain wondering how an RCC adherent can coherently rationalize its view of AS with those historical realities.

    And further, I would like to know how — in time and in space and in reality — a contemporary of John Hus (to pick on one of my examples) was supposed to respond. Could you reconfirm that you really recommend that he “join that Church and work for its reform when and as needed”? If you do, is that not cult-like? If you do not really recommend that, it seems that you weaken your own argument for AS, do you not?

    Thanks for taking the time to consider this, and helping me better understand the RCC perspective.

  218. Refprot,

    If all you are doing is inquiring on the evidence for an monarchial episcopate in Rome coming from the apostle Peter, and you know the existing evidence we have, what purpose is there inquiring? It seems there is a bit more in your intentions than inquiry. Maybe you are assessing whether to come closer to your embracing of Roman Catholicism. If not, and you totally convinced of your theological placement, what is the purpose of your questioning?

    If it is true that you are not convinced by evidence that dates close to 100 years after the fact, and you also know that this is the evidence that Catholics historically work with, what purpose is there to question more? Are you wondering how it is that Catholics are able to historically accept the existence of an episcopacy in Rome? If that is the case, you have been told plenty of times. If you wish to contest this, then you are in the position of trying to convince catholics that the evidence is not substantial enough to believe there was an episcopacy in rome. In that case, you are liable to get a response which requests from you certain positive statements, assertions, and arguments to go with it.

  219. Re 217:

    You wrote:

    Put another way, suppose you were on a desert island with Pope Sergius III and Billy Graham, who each are pastoring their own churches. Presumably the doctrine of AS would tell you that you should be a member of Pope Sergius’ church and not Billy Graham’s church, yes?

    Your remarks demonstrate that you are still thinking of the Catholic understanding of the Church as though we were putting our trust in the specific men who hold ecclesial office, rather than in Christ who maintains the Church in its essential integrity through the structures, inclusive of episcopacy and papacy, that he put in place for the Church militant. Pope Sergius III, like every other pope, was not pastoring his own Church. He was the head pastor (i.e., the visible shepherd on earth) of the universal Church that Christ founded. Thus, had I lived in the early tenth century, I would not have been a member of “Pope Sergius’ church” I would have been a member of the Catholic Church, Segius III being the Pope at that time.

    On the Catholic view, all Christians, including popes and bishops, are capable of committing grave sins. But these sins do not deprive the Church of either the means of grace (the sacraments) or her gift of infallibility in teaching on faith and morals or her ruling authority. But Protestants have been deprived of all of these gifts (except for the sacraments of baptism and matrimony). Thus, since my confidence is not in man but in God, I would remain in the Catholic Church under the authority of a bad pope rather than leave her communion and be deprived of the sacraments, faith, and ruling authority of the universal Church in order to follow after a teacher having no divine authority who attempts to found a “church” made in his own image.

    You wrote:

    But, my view, informed by the Bible, tells me that it IS a requirement for leaders in the church to be above reproach, and when they are not, they forfeit their leadership role.

    The first part of this is consistent with Scripture, as St. Paul says as much in the Pastorals. But the second part appears to be an inference of yours rather than something that is directly affirmed in Sacred Scripture. In fact, the case of Judas Iscariot seems to undermine your view, as Judas was not above reproach and yet remained an Apostle during his lifetime. It is of course possible for the Church to deprive a notorious sinner or heretic of his office (this kind of discipline has been exercised throughout history, including recently), but this is something reserved for the proper authorities acting in their official capacity. In the Catholic Church, pastors cannot be deposed by private judgment.

    Finally, why would it be “cult-like” to remain in communion with the Church that Christ founded rather than follow after men like Jan Hus, who taught novel doctrines and rebelled against the universal Church? It seems to me that the shoe is on the other foot.

    Update: I didn’t mean to ignore your question about which events in Church history trouble me the most. I suppose that it depends upon what you mean by “trouble.” Since my faith is in God who preserves the Church in spite of all, there is a sense in which I am not troubled (e.g., “let not your heart be troubled …”) by anything in Church history, though of course I recognize that Christians have sinned in countless ways, sometimes grievously. I think that I have already stated what is my attitude towards such sins: Shame and prayerful hope for healing / reconciliation.

  220. K.Doran and Refprot,

    Excuse me for jumping in, but regarding Sasquatch and the Papacy and arguments from silence or absence of evidence I’d like to offer a perspective. Living in a prime Sasquatch area it is actually a question I’ve come back to and considered (yes seriously considered) several times over the decades. Every time there is a major, new, piece of ‘evidence’ I at least give it a good look. Similarly I’ve gone back over the Papacy and the roots of Catholicism numerous times. So here are my thought on how or why these two cases differ.

    First as K. Doran points out, direct evidence assumes the reliability of the witness or the one who brings the evidence. The witnesses for AS are Church Fathers and Saints and Bishops who hold office in the Church and who we are confident knew and were taught by the generation who actually knew the Apostles. The witnesses and discoverers of evidence for Sasquatch have no “office” and generally (with few exceptions) no particular qualifications. In fact, much of the evidence does not stand up to scrutiny and can be proven to be faked. So, given that we know evidence for Sasquatch has (often) been faked in the past – most recently http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-08-28/sasquatch-bigfoot-hoax-fatal/57363768/1 – we are not wrong to be skeptical of Sasquatch direct evidence. Even thus, I remain somewhat open minded and admit Sasquatch might possibly exist, but I’m not out there looking for one and I really doubt it.

    More significant however is this: Regardless of the known hoaxes we have very good reasons to be skeptical of Sasquatch claims. 1) There are no other primates in North America and haven’t been in at least 10s of thousands of years. Thus the idea that there is an undiscovered, large, fairly intelligent primate hiding the Cascades automatically requires some skepticism. This is not the case of a larger version or a different variant of a known group of species in the area. It is a (claimed) completely isolated population of a unique species with no close evolutionary relatives in the region in the past 10,000 years. For this reason it requires more direct evidence and reliable direct evidence to make a case for the existence of the species. 2) There is no solid evidence for the existence of any similar species anywhere in the world. There is not one single existing corpse or large portion of any one of the similar contemporary legendary large mountain primates much less one capture live. Even further the case that there are similar species in the fossil record isn’t strong so we don’t even have a solid case that such a creature has ever existed. For this reason we are quite legitimate in expecting a good deal of direct evidence and subjecting that evidence to thorough evaluation before accepting it as proof of Sasquatch existence.

    Now compare this to the case for Apostolic Succession. (I am just doing short hand – other’s more informed that I have covered much of this on other threads here on C2C) Hierarchical organization structures dominated the New Testament world and the Old Testament world. In the Jewish world Patriarch, Kingship and Priesthood and High Priesthood were all known and familiar offices. Jesus clearly establish an office of Apostle and appointed leaders. At every point in history we expect SOME organization structure to exist and particularly in this time period (as well as most of recorded history – certainly up to 1500) a clear hierarchical structure with a single leader in a region was absolutely the predominant organization model to such an extent that exceptions are in fact, exceptional. Thus, when it comes to supporting the belief that a Mono-episcopate hierarchical structure was inherent to the institution of the Church at the beginning one is not providing evidence of something particularly hard to believe. Because a mono-episcopate is exactly the type of structure that was common to organization in that time, and mono-episcopate fits well with organizational models from Jewish history, I am very willing (and right to) accept that claim on limited direct evidence especially when there is no contrary evidence.

    Third, in the case Sasquatch we are talking about a species that is supposed to exist now, in this time, and in my case, here where I live. It is possible to gather more evidence, the expand the data set, etc. Given that we should expect given some time the many searchers and particularly reliable scientists should be able to find some indisputable evidence. Where as K. Doran has demonstrated, the early organization of the Church was 2000 years ago and the evidence that we have is probably all we will ever have. Scholarship and archaeology may reveal a few more pages but it is unlikely we will find much more than a few fragmentary paragraphs possibly out of context. On the other hand, I guess the Protestant side may be counting on finding direct evidence to the contrary but that can only happen should their case be the truth.

  221. Andrew, thank you for your response. In concept, please know I understand the formal distinction between an institution (such as the RCC or any church) and the men who occupy its offices. But, it remains a mind-bender for me as to how you can reconcile your assertion about Christ maintaining the essential integrity of the structure of the papacy, together with the infallibility of the moral teaching of the papacy, in light of the various historical abuses (in some cases, “abuses” is not nearly a strong enough term) by the papacy. I realize you’ve made a good faith attempt to explain to me how you reconcile those things from an RCC standpoint, for which I’m appreciative, but remain flummoxed. If you would be willing to take another stab at homogenizing those things, please do.

    On my hypothetical desert island, there are only 2 churches, an RCC church pastored by Pope Sergius and a protestant church pastored by Billy Graham. There are no other options available to you (imagine that the rest of the earth got hit by a meteor and got completely wiped out). That you would opt for the church where Pope Sergius is the pastor – wanting to “remain in the Catholic Church under the authority of a bad pope rather than leave her communion” – is certainly impressive to me in terms of your undying commitment. Your position illustrates, however, a big limitation on RCC-Protestant dialog – basically, there would seem to be no circumstance, or RCC sanctioned activity, or RCC teaching, that would ever justify (for you) leaving the RCC. In that context, yes, I understand that really nothing done in RCC annals is ‘troubling’ to you.

    You write “why would it be “cult-like” to remain in communion with the Church that Christ founded rather than follow after men like Jan Hus, who taught novel doctrines and rebelled against the universal Church?” Well, I will offer you this…the day that any church starts burning people at the stake is the day that all faithful followers of Jesus Christ should NOT remain in communion with that church. Since the RCC believes that Protestants, a la Hus, teach “novel doctrines” and have “rebelled against the universal Church”, you have helped me become more appreciative that (so far) the current papacy has not ordered up a big supply of wood and matches to eradicate our protestant heresies. The operative part of my argument here is not to insult or suggest that you want to burn protestants, but merely to point out that should Pope Francis want to burn Billy Graham, that such an occasion seems to present you no problems with your AS position. True?

  222. GNW (219)

    You make some excellent points regarding evidentiary claims and do a good contrast and compare of the Sasquatch vs Papal claim investigations. Regarding evidence of early church polity, there is possibly more to consider. Let me begin my thoughts by starting with your statement…

    At every point in history we expect SOME organization structure to exist and particularly in this time period (as well as most of recorded history – certainly up to 1500) a clear hierarchical structure with a single leader in a region was absolutely the predominant organization model to such an extent that exceptions are in fact, exceptional.

    When the church began, there was not a monepiscopacy, but rather a presbyteral form of polity. There is no evidence that the churches of Acts had a hierarchy that extended beyond elders at the local level, and apostles (equal presbyters) at the “global” level. True, as the church grew, the structure formed into the monepiscopacy that existed in the 1500’s. Of course, over that time, there were “issues” with some of the bishops and papal leaders. For some of us, there is also an issue with the fact that the concept of a pontiff was derived from the college of pontiffs, headed by the Pontifex Maximus… the pagan religious leaders of Roman society pre and post Christ. That said… if, in the church’s history, there have existed both presbyteral and monepiscopal forms of polity… and if there is evidence of evolution to different forms based on the needs of the church, then what is to say that the reformation wasn’t God’s way of getting the church back on track? If we can make an argument from silence regarding episcopal polity, can we not also make an argument from silence regarding presbyteral polity. We have no evidence that God opposes either, do we?

    You stated…

    Hierarchical organization structures dominated the New Testament world and the Old Testament world. In the Jewish world Patriarch, Kingship and Priesthood and High Priesthood were all known and familiar offices.

    First, the argument for presbyteral church polity is not an argument for lack of organizational structure. You might not agree with modern day Presbyterians, but no one would accuse them of being disorganized. Further, I would dispute that the Jewish church polity was a monepiscpate. Quite the opposite. Jewish polity revolved around a covenant and was both religious and political in nature. In Mosaic times, the congregation (or edah) became the Hebrew equivalent of “commonwealth” or “republic,” with strong democratic overtones.

    From “Foundations of the Jewish Polity” by Daniel J. Elazar

    The characteristics of the original edah can be summarized as follows:

    The Torah is the constitution of the edah.
    All members of the edah, men, women, and children, participate in constitutional decisions.
    Political equality exists for those capable of taking full responsibility for Jewish survival.
    Decisions are made by an assembly that determines its own leaders within the parameters of divine mandate.
    The edah is portable and transcends geography.
    Nevertheless, for it to function completely, the edah needs Eretz Israel.

    So historically, the Jewish people were quite democratic (really, a democratic republic)… and it was this model that the reformers used (along with the Acts churches) to return church polity to a presbyteral mode. This form of government was ultimately used to develop the polity of the US government as well. Presbyteral polity is not leaderless, nor is it non-hierarchical. It simply provides accountability of the leaders to someone other than themselves. The return to this form of polity happened largely in response to bad popes and bad kings.

    So when you conclude…

    Because a mono-episcopate is exactly the type of structure that was common to organization in that time, and mono-episcopate fits well with organizational models from Jewish history, I am very willing (and right to) accept that claim on limited direct evidence especially when there is no contrary evidence.

    I might end up in a different place, citing these evidentiary points:

    1. The early churches operated under presbyteral polity
    2. There is clear Biblical evidence of an elder form of leadership, yet no mention of a hierarchy beyond the original apostles who functionally acted as equal presbyters.
    3. Paul’s correction of Peter indicates that neither Peter nor Paul nor the other apostles considered Peter to be in supreme authority over other presbyters.
    4. Early Jewish society operated under elders in a democratic republican form of polity which was both religious and political (they saw the two as one, joined by a covenant)
    5. The monepiscopal form of polity is most closely derived from the polity of earthly kingdoms, not Biblical mandates.
    6. The pontificate had its origin in pagan Roman society.

    Food for additional thought!

    Blessings
    Curt

  223. Re 220:

    The Catholic position is that the teaching Church is infallible within certain limits, i.e., when she teaches with her full authority on matters of faith and morals. This is not the same thing as claiming, which the Church does not claim, that the Magisterium is impeccable in the moral conduct of the pope and bishops or that these are infallible in their disciplinary judgments. I “reconcile” these things simply by recognizing the difference between infallibility and impeccability.

    In your hypothetical scenario, there are only two churches in all the world, and presumably these differ from one another in essential matters. Given that Christ only founded one Church and that he promised to preserve this Church throughout time, it follows that only one of these churches is that Church founded by Christ and the other is something else. So the question then becomes, “Which one of these churches is the Church founded by Christ?” This places the same limitation on dialogue as does the thesis that there is only one Christ. The question “Which is the true Church” mirrors the question “Who is the true Christ?” And it is no accident that this similarity obtains between Christ and the Church, because the Church is the mystical Body of Christ.

    I have already explained the sense in which I am not “troubled” by human failures in the Church, namely, because my trust is not in man but in God, who preserves the Church by his Holy Spirit. I am glad that you understand this, but I had also hoped that such was your position as well. However, if you meant something else by “troubled,” such that it would not be inconsistent both to trust God and to be troubled, then you should specify what you mean so that we avoid talking past each other due to equivocation.

    From the theological standpoint, heresy is more deadly than murder, since the former only kills the body but heresy can destroy the soul. But it does not follow from this that unrepentant heretics should in every circumstance be subject to punishment by the state. The persecution of heretics depends in part upon social conditions, most especially the relation between Church and state, which is bound to vary from time to time and place to place. Catholic doctrine is not post-millennial or politically theonomic, but the Church has recognized that the respective ends of Church and state are sufficiently compatible as to allow for mutual influence and support, the degree and kind depending upon circumstances which make for or else mitigate against a societies’ capacity for the spiritual life.

    In some states, persistent and publicly proclaimed heresy might pose enough of a threat to society (analogous to terrorists threats or serious slander) as to be considered a crime. Whether or not heresy ought ever to be regarded as a capital offense, and obviously it has been so regarded at times, is strictly speaking a political question and as such does not fall under the rubric of the Church’s infallibility and is not directly relevant to the topic of AS. Thus, a Catholic can admit, as I do admit, that the Church, most notably at Vatican II, has significantly changed its position on religious freedom, including the question of whether or not heretics and infidels have the right to such freedom.

  224. Re: #203. Andrew, one more thought. You write “then the only way that it would be conscionable to remain in schism from her would be to have an ill-formed conscience”. I would argue the polar opposite, at least for someone in Hus’ day, to wit, that if one observed the RCC burning Mr. Hus at the stake, then to remain in the RCC would be de facto evidence of a tremendously “ill-formed conscience”.

    If my view of that is unreasonable or untenable in some way, please advise how/why.

  225. Re 223:

    That position is unreasonable in the same way that it would be unreasonable to maintain that we should leave the Church that Christ founded if one of the Apostles ever betrayed Jesus or ever played the hypocrite to the point of not being straight-forward about the truth of the Gospel.

  226. Re: 220. Andrew, suffice to say that if I’m on the island with Pope Sergius, my question at that point in time is not “Which one of these churches is the Church founded by Christ”, but more likely, “How can I avoid being murdered by Mr. Sergius.” And further, I would feel duty-bound under God, to not submit one iota to the guy. But, if I did get around to asking “which church – the one pastored by Sergius or the one pastored by Billy Graham – was the one that Christ founded, it would take me a nanosecond to decide in favor of the church founded by Billy Graham.

    Yes, my position is that I trust in God, not man. My trust in God is not shaken by man’s failures. My trust in a particular incarnation of a ‘church’, however, would be nil if I witnessed said ‘church’ burning people, or witnessed its titular head murdering people.

    I think possibly Romans 9:6,7 is apt here. For RCC adherents, mere membership or holding office in the church seems to carry considerable weight, perhaps in the same way Jews think their DNA commended them before God (vis a vis whether or not they had faith). In that regard, from my perspective, a whole bunch of popes were likely lost unbelievers (no, I cannot prove this).

    But alas, your undying commitment to the RCC, nothwithstanding any possible event or heinous action taken in its name, is impressive.

    I do appreciate your time. Your perspectives have helped me understand the RCC viewpoint in much clearer terms.

  227. Curt,

    In general, I think you accept the argument I was primarily making: simply that the evidential balance between direct evidence and lack of evidence and the existence of Sasquatch really isn’t analogous to the same issues regarding Apostolic Succession.

    I will agree that my argument doesn’t prove Apostolic Succession, but I never intended such. My argument does hinge on the observation from historical knowledge that something very like Apostolic Succession and having clear lines of authority (mono-episcopacy) is a perfectly logical option and not something that requires an exceptionally high burden of quality direct evidence to be a reasonably held – very UNLIKE believing in Sasquatch.

    I am tempted to engage in your gloss of Jewish polity…. sorry… I can’t really help pointing out the succession of Patriarchs and the passing from father to son of that heritage through blessing and laying on of hands, or that kingship of David, Saul, Solomon….. and finally the very identifiable Aronnic Priesthood and the Levitical Priesthood (clear instruction for how the Jewish people would know who the legitimate priests were). I’m not making an argument here to PROVE Apostolic Succession simply that the Jewish people were indeed familiar with the concepts of succession of office , and clear hierarchy in their own experience in addition to living amid and within empires and states that had clear monarchial organization structures. At the very least, it is perfectly reasonable to expect that a new Jewish “movement” might have such elements; doesn’t prove in itself that Christianity did, but that it is perfectly reasonable. ….

    Thus when we have the Evidence mentioned above from Sts. Hegesippus and Irenaeus and every writer after them that there was Apostolic Succession and a mono-episcopacy going back to the time of the Apostles, arguments from silence or indirect evidence (as argued by K. Doran) hold little weight. Making a comparison to Sasquatch is a distraction and no more because something like the mono-episcopacy is quite predictable as a likely structure for an Ecclesial body born out of first century Judaism.

    I think I recall an article on this site by Bryan Cross that addressed Old Testament and historical Jewish Hierarchy but I didn’t locate it quickly. Also Tim Troutman addressed the New Testament time period in http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/05/holy-orders-and-the-priesthood/ . In any case much of this ground that has been plowed several times and I’ll let Bryan Cross or Michael Liccione direct where to take that conversation either here or onto the appropriate forum.

  228. Re 225:

    I do hope that my commitment to the Catholic Church will prove to be undying, but I suspect that you are not really impressed. In any case, I am glad to have been of some help, even though it doesn’t seem like you have paid much attention to my responses to your comments. C’est la vie.

  229. ‘Corn-Czar’, (re: #225)

    You wrote:

    my question at that point in time is not “Which one of these churches is the Church founded by Christ”, but more likely, “How can I avoid being murdered by Mr. Sergius.”

    That shows you believe death of the body is worse than the sin of schism. But even a venial sin is worse than death of the body, because it is better to lose one’s body than lose one’s soul by sinning.

    And further, I would feel duty-bound under God, to not submit one iota to the guy.

    There is no duty not to submit one iota to God-established authorities with moral failings. This ‘duty’ is one of your own making. The duty not to submit to a God-established human authority is a duty Andrew already described above, namely, a duty not to submit only to commands requiring us to disobey God.

    But, if I did get around to asking “which church – the one pastored by Sergius or the one pastored by Billy Graham – was the one that Christ founded, it would take me a nanosecond to decide in favor of the church founded by Billy Graham.

    I suppose you meant to say “pastored” by Billy Graham, not “founded by Billy Graham.” Otherwise, saying that the Church Christ founded is the Church founded by Billy Graham would entail that Billy Graham is Christ. But the question is not how many nanoseconds it would take you to decide, but which is, in actuality, the Church Christ founded.

    Imagine a man who decides which woman is his wife at any particular moment (or nanosecond), by asking which is the most beautiful. You point out to him that the woman to whom he is married is the one to whom he was betrothed at the altar ten years ago. But his response is something like, “Well, how sick do she and my children have to be before I get to have an affair?” Obviously, he doesn’t understand marriage. So likewise, there is no point of moral sickness among the members of the Church Christ founded at which “ecclesial consumerism” becomes an option, because Christ is not like the man I just described, and remains married to His bride, the Church He founded, even when her members fall into moral sickness. There is no point at which ecclesial consumerism becomes an option because the whole consumerism paradigm is mistaken, just as one’s wife is not “whichever woman happens to be most attractive to oneself at this particular nanosecond.” The proper response to moral sickness among members of Christ’s bride is the proper response to sickness among members of one’s family: laying down one’s life to serve and care for them, and nurse them back to health if possible, till one’s dying day. The man who abandons his family when his wife or his child come down with cancer, is not the exemplar we should imitate with respect to loyalty to the Church Christ founded. Such a man is a shameful scoundrel.

    Yes, my position is that I trust in God, not man.

    That position would put you in a pickle if God ever called you to trust a man He appointed, and through whom He would guide you: a pickle very much like that of Korah in the Old Testament in relation to Moses. At that point you would have to choose between your position and trusting God. You would be in the same pickle if Christ gave to His Apostles and their successors the sort of authority He gave to Moses, and Montanism [in which each man is to be divinely governed directly and solely by the Holy Spirit speaking in the bosom of his heart] is false. So if, for example, Christ’s statement in Luke 10:16 [“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”] applies also to the successors of the Apostles [the very question Andrew’s post addresses], then your position [as stated] puts you in a position of trusting yourself and distrusting God. So if you truly wish to “trust in God,” you must be willing to trust Him when (or if) He calls you to trust men whom He has established in authority, men whom we should obey, and to whom we should submit, who keep watch over our souls as those who will give an account to God on Judgment Day. (Hebrews 13:17)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  230. Bryan (228)

    You said:

    There is no duty not to submit one iota to God-established authorities with moral failings. This ‘duty’ is one of your own making. The duty not to submit to a God-established human authority is a duty Andrew already described above, namely, a duty not to submit only to commands requiring us to disobey God.

    Scripture says:

    14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said,

    “I will dwell in them and walk among them;
    And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
    17 “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord.
    “And do not touch what is unclean;
    And I will welcome you.
    18 “And I will be a father to you,
    And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,”
    Says the Lord Almighty.

    So we do have a duty to separate (unbind) ourselves from the fellowship of unbelievers. If the unbelievers happen to be church leaders, this duty is still our duty. Further, this verse declares that “we” are the temple of God… not some church somewhere. God promises to be our Father if we remain faithful to Him… not some organizational representation of Him.

    Regarding trusting God not man, you said…

    That position would put you in a pickle if God ever called you to trust a man He appointed, and through whom He would guide you: a pickle very much like that of Korah in the Old Testament in relation to Moses. At that point you would have to choose between your position and trusting God.

    Is that not the “pickle” the Jews were in upon the appearance of Christ? The Pharisees were the keepers of God’s law… the Levites… entrusted with the “keys to the kingdom” under the old covenant. Along comes Christ, and the Jews have to make a decision… do I stay with the corrupt “church” that God clearly founded? If they perceived that continuing to follow the Pharisees was tantamount to “trusting God”, where would that leave them?

    “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean;
    And I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,”
    Says the Lord Almighty.

    Blessings
    Curt

  231. GNW (226)

    Again, I am not arguing against a hierarchy. In the Kingdom of God, there is one King… Jesus Christ. He is the great High Priest. When He ascended into heaven, He left us 12 apostles to work co-equally in a presbyteral manner, empowered by the Holy Spirit to start churches all over the known world. These churches were led by elders, chosen from the ranks of ordinary people. This is the Biblical leadership model we have been given.

    Blessings
    Curt

  232. Curt,

    Your claims in #230, which are partly true, have been addressed by Tim in the article to which GNW linked towards the end of #226.

  233. Curt, (re: #239)

    From the 2 Cor passage you conclude, “So we do have a duty to separate (unbind) ourselves from the fellowship of unbelievers. If the unbelievers happen to be church leaders, this duty is still our duty.” But that conclusion is not entailed by the passage. It is an assumption you are imposing on the text. The meaning of the text is not that Christians should separate from the Church if or when there are tares within the Church, but rather that the Church should separate herself (in communion) from unbelievers.

    Further, this verse declares that “we” are the temple of God… not some church somewhere.

    The verse does not say “not some church somewhere.” Those are your words and your idea imposed on the text. The “we” is precisely the Church.

    Is that not the “pickle” the Jews were in upon the appearance of Christ? The Pharisees were the keepers of God’s law… the Levites… entrusted with the “keys to the kingdom” under the old covenant. Along comes Christ, and the Jews have to make a decision… do I stay with the corrupt “church” that God clearly founded? If they perceived that continuing to follow the Pharisees was tantamount to “trusting God”, where would that leave them?

    That objection is addressed in the section titled “The Contradiction of Pleading for Communion in what one Condemns as Idolatrous” in Matt Yonke’s post titled ““Too catholic to be Catholic?” A Response to Peter Leithart”.” The objection presupposes that the New Covenant is no better than the Old Covenant with respect to Christ’s guidance of and relation to the Church’s leadership. So the objection is a question-begging objection, because it presupposes precisely what is in question.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  234. re: #228. Bryan, thank you for your thoughts and engagement. You acknowledge that we have “a duty not to submit only to commands requiring us to disobey God.” Of course, Luther felt that the papal directives of his day would have required him to disobey God, but my guess is that you would not give Luther a pass on that. To personalize it, if a pope wanted to burn a heretic that was causing schism and the pope told you to personally light the match, what would you do?

  235. The stakes for AS being ‘right’ are quite high. AS offers a kind of “good housekeeping seal of divine approval”, inasmuch as it’s the means by which people are supposed to figure out which is the church that Christ founded. After all, who wouldn’t want to be in His Church? Or conversely, who really aspires to be a schismatic or heretic that is enjoined to some ‘church’ other than the one that Christ founded?

    Andrew writes that one of the premises of AS is that “and only those who have been ordained to ordain can validly ordain others.”

    There are any number of Scriptural texts that link moral requirements for leadership, so it’s a bit hard to ignore the historical record. Per my earlier post #190, I submit Duffy’s “The notorious Marozia Theophylact appointed three popes, including John XI (931-935), her bastard son by her lover Pope Sergius III. Her legitimate son, Prince Alberic II,appointed five popes, including his bastard son Octavian, “elected” Pope John XII in 955 at the age of 18, dead of a stroke at the age of 27, from his exertions, it was claimed, in the bed of a married woman.”

    Further, curious readers may find this Wikipedia entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marozia to be of similar interest, where I’ve just learned a new term “pornocracy” being applied to the environment surrounding the papacy in the early 900’s.

    The murders, adulteries, and secular political intrigue that enveloped the papacy in the 900’s are more egregious than mere “moral failings” or “moral sickness”, and it seems that these events have gotten a bit of a theological brush-off in the overall discussion here. This is evidenced by Bryan’s analog in #228 about whether a guy decides who his wife is going to be at any point in time by whomever he deems to be the most beautiful at any point in time just doesn’t seem to fully capture the historical realities of papal corruption. Please…can we recognize that the Reformation happened not because people were “ecclesial consumerists” and thought Luther was slightly theologically more appealing than Rome? There was quite a bit more substance to the Reformation than that.

    I recognize that none of this is persuasive to an RCC adherent, for reasons that Andrew and Bryan have articulated, but I think some of this is relevant for the consideration by agnostic readers.

  236. Bryan,

    I may be mistaking you, but are you saying that the Church has no responsibility to deliver unworthy members of the Church over to Satan? Paul speaks of delivering certain believers over to Satan after having committed some ungodly acts, and he speaks of it as if it was a commonly understood act, and that the Church has the responsibility from God to do such a thing in the face of sin. If a certain church leader is ungodly, he must be delivered over to Satan. This is the responsibility of the Church. This is the principle of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 5.

    What I find striking in the Catholic viewpoint, which I am not sure if it is in the viewpoint itself or some catholics, is the tendency to view holiness and the spiritual life to not be stunted in a community of unworthy professors of Christ. St. Paul understood that the holiness of the Church is under threat when there are wicked sinners in the congregation (1 Cor 5). This is the reasoning behind his exhortation to purge out the old leaven for leaven leavens the whole lump. This is why many in the early Church excommunicated the wicked who were in the Church, because at that time, the Bishops understood this principle of purifying the Church, not as something which is healthy, but essential for the life of the body of the Church.

    Today, and not just in one church here or there, you can have the wicked getting married, joining in the Eucharist, even being influential in the Church itself, and nerve is still there to find continuity with the ancient church of the first three centuries. Of course, the assumption is that the Church has something to do with the holiness of individuals. Well, of course that is my assumption. The ekklesia is the community or gathering of people called out from the world to be sanctified and purified for the kingdom of God. This is seen in the royal call of repentance in John the baptist, he was preparing the people for the coming of the king. Jesus likewise, in the institution of baptism, is signifying the need for purification prior to the arrival of God’s kindgom, which implies a judgement of mankind and the need for repentance for salvation. Of course, the assumption is that the holiness of the people is a significant aspect of Christ’s church.

    So what do we do? We define the “Church” as something which can exist wholly separate from the lives of individuals. The “church” is now the location of a duly ordained bishop, whether he is holy or believing or not. And the “members” could all be members of the KKK, the New York Mafia, the group of the Nazi’s, or whatever evil organization….and yet this location is the Church and not any other group of holy men and woman who are seeking to follow Jesus who do not have this proper ordination. It is only by doing this that one can justify maintaining communion with the wicked. For maintaining unity with the Bishop, even if he is a kidnapper, is essential to one’s salvation. What we have here is a disassociation of holiness as a pre-requisite for the life of the Church. St. Augustine’s argument was that the efficacy of the sacraments do not depend on the holiness of the minister. Who can deny this? Of course the Donatists made this claim. But my case here is not Donatist. My issue is not that the efficacy of the sacraments depend on the holiness of the minister. Rather, what I am proposing here is that the New Testament apostles teach us that “sin” cannot exist tolerated in the assembly of Jesus Christ. To prolong sin, to maintain sin, to nurture sin, to treat it as acceptable, and more pointedly, to not take action against sin, is to participate in that same sin. This may be the answer to the question of why Catholic churches across the board seems very dull and disinterested in the spiritual life of holiness in comparison to many protestant churches. I mean, with all due respect, there is a reason behind everything. Why is it that you can attend a local catholic church (and this is not a rare scenario), and see a thug participating in the Eucharist? Why is it that in a prebyterian church, they are making moves to excommunicate the impenitent? There is a reason behind this. At least on this level, the presby church is attempting obedience to Christ (Matthew 18) even if they do not inherently have the authority to do so and the Cathoilc church is willfully being disobedient to Christ (matthew 18) when they have the authority to make such moves on someone. In either case, it is difficult to find a preferable stance. For one can have a very rich and holy life in a presby church precisely due to the faithful administration of the leaders, and conversely one can continue to live a very godless life in a catholic church precisely due to the unfaithful administration of the leaders. The popularity of this problem in catholic churches is noteworthy and it is a cause for someone to search for the reason.

  237. Andrew,

    I thought it would be worth discussing the topic of Peter’s Cathedra as it spoken about in St. Optatus and St. Cyprian. This may seem to be a topic only relevant to the post on the “chair of Peter”, however, for reasons I will mention, I think it is very relevant. You see, St. Optatus wrote against the Donatists accusing them of setting up a new Cathedra which before did not exist. What is important is that he called this Cathedra that the Donatists were setting up a “2nd Chair”, presupposing that there is only “one Chair”, implying a “1st Chair” which can never have a “next” after it. Before making an argument, I will say that what St. Optatus and St. Cyprian had in mind when they wrote “chair of Peter” is the universal episcopate, of which the present bishop of Rome only has a small portion of alongside the rest of the bishops of the world. In fact, the one episcopate is not one episcopate if one bishop out of the whole episcopate governs the others.

    The argument will go as follows: Since the Donatsists were viewed by St. Optatus viewed the Donatists as setting up a “2nd Chair”, he must not think of an individual human person when he writes the word “chair”. Since he does not think that it pertains solely to one human being, he must think of Cathedra in terms of a corporate episcopate, or a corporate priesthood. Therefore, when he speaks of the Chair of Peter being “ours”, he is referring not a single Bishop but the totality of bishops who all sit on the one big chair, the corporate chair of Peter. This is why St. Cyprian calls Rome the place where all unity proceeded out from, a priority of time, because Peter’s chair came from there. But this does not mean the successors sit on the chair of Peter alone, for he clearly speaks of all bishops sitting on the chair of Peter, and so does St. Optatus.

    Given what I have said, and if it is true, should not the orthodox, anglican, and catholics re-unite by confessing that all sit on the chair of Peter? Like the early church believers understood?

  238. Erick (re 237),

    Those topics should be discussed each in its own right in the threads following Bryan’s articles The Chair of St. Peter and St. Cyprian on the Unity of the Catholic Church. Regarding your claims, feel free to present your arguments in the aforementioned threads, interacting with the material in the original articles.

    Here I will only respond to your concluding question. It seems to me that if the bishops of the Catholic Church and Orthodox churches along with the episcopal figures in the Anglican Communion all currently sit in the Chair of St. Peter, and if that Chair is integral to the life, inclusive of the teaching authority, of the Church, then it would manifestly be the case that the Church is divided against itself, because those bishops and episcopal figures teach mutually incompatible things on essential matters and are not in full communion with each other. But we know that “no kingdom that is divided against itself can stand.” And Christ promised that the Church would not fall. Thus, it seems to me that we have sufficient reason to reject the notion that “all [Catholics, Orthodox, and Anglicans] sit on the chair of Peter,” even before investigating your other claims about that Chair.

  239. Corn-Czar (re: #234)

    You wrote:

    if a pope wanted to burn a heretic that was causing schism and the pope told you to personally light the match, what would you do

    It is the teaching of the Church that “A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience,” (CCC 1790) and “must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience” (CCC 1782). Every Catholic, therefore, must always follow his or her conscience, even Catholics receiving orders from the pope.

    But man also has a duty to seek to inform his conscience:

    Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings. (CCC 1783)

    By this formation in conscience, one comes to understand that schism from the Church is never justified, even when her leaders sin, or when they ask one to do something that would violate one’s conscience. By such a formed conscience one understands that one must never do evil in order to achieve some good. And that entails, for a conscience so informed, that one must never form or join a schism from the Church Christ founded, in order to avoid any undesirable consequences (e.g. insult, derision, death, etc.) of following one’s conscience while a member of Christ’s Church. It is always better to suffer within the Church for following one’s conscience, even suffer death if it comes to that, than to commit the sin of schism. As St. Augustine said, “There is nothing more grievous than the sacrilege of schism….there can be no just necessity for destroying the unity of the Church.” And if one were to be excommunicated for following one’s conscience, the proper response would not be to start one’s own Church and embrace the schismatic state, but rather to seek continually to be reconciled and restored to full communion with the Church Christ founded.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  240. Andrew (238)

    You said…

    It seems to me that if the bishops of the Catholic Church and Orthodox churches along with the episcopal figures in the Anglican Communion all currently sit in the Chair of St. Peter, and if that Chair is integral to the life, inclusive of the teaching authority, of the Church, then it would be manifestly the case that the Church is divided against itself, because those bishops and episcopal figures teach mutually incompatible things on essential matters.

    Was the Church divided against itself when Paul called out Peter for teaching that Gentiles needed to comply with Jewish law? By your definition, the answer would be yes, as they were teaching mutually incompatible doctrine. How did the apostles work it out? They met together, just as Erick has suggested… and Peter ultimately submitted to Paul’s authority.

    Blessings
    Curt

  241. Curt Russell, in your post # 125, you said to me that “you don’t know your own church’s teaching…” (your assertion was in regards to the Protestant “primacy of conscience” doctrine that I mentioned in my post # 124.) I haven’t responded to your claim that I don’t what the Catholic Church teaches about following one’s conscience, since I thought that this would take us off topic. Bryan Cross’ post # 239 can stand as my response.

    Curt, regarding the Protestant practice of using one’s conscience as the final arbiter of what constitutes the orthodox doctrines of faith and morals, I addressed you with this in my post # 145:

    What I hear you saying is that the individual ultimately decides for himself what constitutes the orthodox doctrines of faith and morals. He can do this by church shopping until he finds a church that agrees with his private interpretation of scriptures, or he can do this by founding his own personal bible church, that teaches, quite naturally, his own private interpretation of scriptures. If he does either of these two things, he is fulfilling the commandment of Christ to “listen to the church”.

    In your post #149, you responded to my first sentence in the above, with this:

    And that is presumably how you ended up in the RC church, yes?

    You presume wrongly!

    In my response as to why you presume wrongly, I should mention that I lived as an apostate for about fifteen years. During that time, I was deciding for myself what doctrines of faith and morals that I would live my life by. The result of such a life is entirely predictable – I became so miserable that I hit rock bottom. At my bottom, I no longer had any desire to be the lord of my own life, since that way of life had led to such soul wrenching pain that death seemed preferable to living any longer. During my decent into the black abyss, by the grace of God, I came to know, quite apart from Christian witnessing, that the reason that I was put on earth was to serve. Not only that, in order to really serve, I had to do God’s will, even if I didn’t understand why God’s will was directing me to certain paths. It was during this time of my life, as an act of sincere submission on my part, I told God that to serve him, I was even willing to become a Catholic, if that is what God wanted of me. Now this was a big deal for me, because as an apostate I hated the Catholic Church with a passion, and submitting myself to God and becoming a Catholic was the worst possible thing I could think of doing with my life.

    God answered my prayer, and that is why I became a practicing Catholic. So no, I did not become a practicing Catholic because I was deciding for myself what constitutes the doctrines of faith and morals that would govern my life – I became a practicing Catholic because “listening to the church” was the worst possible thing I could think of doing.

  242. Corn-czar,

    Re: #235,

    While quoting Eamon Duffy, you may wish to peruse his book “The Stripping of the Altars.” It will disabuse you (pardon the pun) of the notion that the Reformation was a responce to the abuse and corruption in the Medieval Church.

  243. Corn-Czar,

    Given so much sin, is not it even more miraculous that AS has persisted? Do not similar vices destroy other human offices? In addition, would it not be dubious if the leadership of the Church were protected from human vice? In no way am I advocating for Her leadership to be in sin, but what disgusts us with bad popes is what disgusts us with ourselves. Then, to believe that God would use us — sinful, poor and wretched — to lead His Church is just beyond comprehension. I think it points to the underlying edifice of grace that subsumes it all.

    It is truly Christ in His Church. Look at His Vicar today and ask, “Is He not working all things for good?” Then, think about your own life. I will mine. Is not there filth, disgust and shame? Surely. Yes, the cross is the story of God taking our most evil action and working it out for our good. How Christ preserved the Church He personally founded is beyond what this mind can comprehend. It is why His Church is a miracle, a living sacrament to the world of God’s salvation. She is a mirror of both the depth of our human depravity but also the height of where grace can gently lead us. It is because, there, the prostitute and the Savior meet.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  244. Curt (re 240),

    You asked:

    Was the Church divided against itself when Paul called out Peter for teaching that Gentiles needed to comply with Jewish law?

    In order to understand each other’s positions, it is important that we not equivocate, even unintentionally, in our use of words. In this case, I have in mind your use of the words “teaching” and “authority.” Galatians 2:11-14 does not say or imply that Peter was formally teaching, as a matter of faith to be definitively held by all, that the Gentiles needed to comply with Jewish law. Rather, Peter was informally “teaching” this by way of his personal example. The context makes this clear. Peter did not lapse into, much less did he teach, heresy on this occasion. He lapsed into the sins of cowardice and hypocrisy.

    Based upon what we can piece together from the NT data, it seems clear that Peter did submit to Paul’s “authority” in the sense of accepting his rebuke and repenting of his behavior. St. Paul clearly occupied the moral high ground in this case, and (apparently) St. Peter recognized this. The same can be said of other incidents in Church history, such as Irenaeus and Pope Victor, or Catherine of Siena and Pope Gregory XI. However, such submission on the part of the popes does not imply that either St. Paul, St. Irenaeus, or St. Catherine was authoritative in the sense that the popes were bound to submit to them as a matter of ecclesial polity.

    In short, everything that occurred in Antioch between Peter and Paul is consistent with the closely related Catholic doctrines of the Church’s essential unity in faith and the papal primacy.

  245. Andrew,

    I am just thinking about what arguments one could pose against the idea of a succession of bishops wherein the teaching and governing authority of Christ is and nowhere else other than heaven.

    Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger mentions in his book “Called to Communion” that Protestants have reduced the necessity of divine revelation and it’s witness to a “floating word”. Meaning, it is the gospel itself which has it’s own authority in our world and it is not in a bind with any human being in particular, and is a singularly found in the text of Scripture and the results of exegesis. He then goes on to argue that the “laying on of hands” itself denotes the idea that divine revelation and it’s witness is not a mere floating word to be handled through exegesis of the general mass of human minds, but is rather tied together with a human witness who is ordained within an interconnectedness between those who are “sent”, the Apostles, and those whom associate successively within this structure.

    But you see, looking at this from a natural point of view, and a skeptical point of view, if Jesus ordains the 12 apostles, and then the 12 apostles ordain other men, what is making it impossible for the entirety of the successors from falling into apostatizing error? If we are dealing with fallible human beings, then one cannot rest upon the man’s touch upon divine revelation, and they are all subject to error.

    If it is God who keeps the successors from error, than how is this different than the view which expouses God controlling the will of man, double predestination, such that a man is not free to teach error?

  246. Erick,

    I do not fully understand how God has made it so that, on the one hand, (a) the Bible is inspired and infallible, (b) the Church is infallible, and (c) all of the elect persevere to the end, and on the other hand the human authors of Sacred Scripture, individual lay and ordained Christians, and those elected to glory have not been deprived of free will. I suppose that from the standpoint of skepticism one would simply refuse to believe whatever he doesn’t fully understand. But in that case a person would lose more than then the mystery of grace and free will; he would lose his faith entirely.

    The relation between grace and free will has been discussed at some length in the thread following Taylor’s post on predestination.

  247. It’s hard to see why Paul’s rebuke of Peter could ever be construed as debunking papal authority.

    Suppose that an army unit, after serving together in a war zone for some time, is temporarily back home for some R & R and is out at a bar together.

    And suppose that the commanding officer of that unit happens to have been raised in a racially-prejudiced society, and, while not habitually racist himself, he gets a few too many beers in him, loses his inhibitions, and when some hayseeds at the bar start telling bigoted jokes, he joins in, repeating a couple of bigoted jokes he remembers from his childhood.

    And let’s say there’s another officer, lower ranked than the CO but highly respected for his expertise in certain fields, who overhears the CO joining in with the bigoted joking. He responds by pulling his CO out from amidst the guys telling bigoted jokes, and then strongly tells the CO that what he was doing was wrong. He points out that there are men in their unit whose racial backgrounds are the same as those which were the butt of the jokes, and what’re they going to think about their CO now? He points out that he’s being a horrible example to the men. He tells him that he’s supposed to be a better CO than that, and usually is, in every other way, but that this behavior is something the CO should be ashamed of.

    The CO, coming to his senses, apologizes. He resolves never to let anything like that happen again. He apologizes to the members of his unit who had special cause to be offended, then to the whole unit generally. He reiterates a policy that every man is respected no matter his ethnicity. He states that that’s the real policy, and the right policy, and openly admits he was wrong to act otherwise.

    The men — even those most offended — accept the apology and consider the matter closed. Just then calls start coming in on cell phones: Surprise! The unit’s been called back to active duty a week ahead of schedule. They leave on a plane in 12 hours.

    When they’re back in the field, who’ll now be the CO? Will everybody still be taking orders from the same guy they were before? Or are they now taking orders from the lower-ranked officer, who upbraided the CO for his bad behavior? Does the whole episode mean that the CO never really had any authority at all?

    Note: I have not served in the military and perhaps my terminology is off, and probably my scenario is unrealistic. If that has produced flaws in the scenario described above, please overlook them, or correct my terminology if you think it’ll help.

    But my point is that the CO is still the CO: He occupies an office, with certain kinds of authority. And the official policy — mutual respect for all men without regard to race — was unchanged throughout the incident. The problem is that the CO was hypocritical and behaved in a scandalous fashion.

    But after one of the men called him out on it, he admitted wrong, reversed course, apologized for violating the official policy — which is not is own, anyhow, but something he passed on from higher authorities — and then reiterated the official policy. The guy who upbraided him is now not suddenly the new CO. And although he has been a moral disappointment and has lost “moral credibility,” at least temporarily, he is still the commanding officer, and his orders should still be followed by his unit.

    I think this is not far from what the Bible describes in the situation with Peter. When hanging around some anti-Gentile bigots, he started acting like an anti-Gentile bigot…like those amongst which he was probably raised. Paul — a steward in Christ’s kingdom, although not the chief steward — called him out on it. And Peter, the chief steward, admitted wrong, reversed his bad behavior, and reiterated the official policy: No Jew nor Greek, no slave nor free.

    But all along Peter was still the chief steward. And even while the chief steward was being a hypocrite and setting a bad example, the official policy from Jesus never changed. Indeed Peter never said it had changed; and never would have said such a thing. He was just responding to peer pressure by acting like an idiot, and changed his tune when Paul justly rebuked him.

    In short, Peter “got his head screwed on straight”; got “turned back around,” and cleaned up his act. While his behavior failed, his faith never did. So, because his faith did not fail, after he had gotten “turned back around,” he was able to go back to “strengthening his brethren.”

    Just like Jesus told him to do.

  248. Andrew (re #174),

    After a careful review of our exchange, I can see how no one would want to fall into conspiracy theories. I don’t want to attack the whole and cast doubt on Christ’s promises. Your answers to my problems with the objective grounds did bring some balance and perspective.

    Thanks,
    Eric

  249. Andrew (244)

    Galatians 2:11-14 does not say or imply that Peter was formally teaching, as a matter of faith to be definitively held by all, that the Gentiles needed to comply with Jewish law. Rather, Peter was informally “teaching” this by way of his personal example. The context makes this clear. Peter did not lapse into, much less did he teach, heresy on this occasion. He lapsed into the sins of cowardice and hypocrisy.

    That quite a statement, Andrew. How do you divide between “formal” teaching and “informal” teaching other than convenient discernment? Does “formal teaching” imply correctness, while informal teaching implies incorrectness? Verse 14 says “But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?. Peter compelled the Gentiles to live like Jews. That sounds like “formal” teaching to me. Peter was not “straightforward about the gospel”… that sounds like misleading “formal” teaching. What the context makes clear is that Peter was absolutely teaching heresy, and that is precisely why Paul calls him out. And to make it absolutely clear, Paul takes verses 15-21 to provide the correct understanding of the gospel… that we are saved by faith in Christ and not by keeping the law. concluding…

    “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

    In short, everything that occurred in Antioch between Peter and Paul is consistent with the closely related Catholic doctrines of the Church’s essential unity in faith and the papal primacy.

    Not really… Peter and Paul had co-equal status. In this case, Peter submits to Paul. In other cases, other outcomes. There is no concept of a supreme arbiter among the apostles. They worked and ruled the church as a team, submitting to one another.

    Blessings
    Curt

  250. Curt (re 249),

    In cases like these, it is important to pay close attention to the text, rather than letting our partisan imaginations run away with us. I think that there are things in the text which you are overlooking in your zeal to condemn Peter as a heretic.

    My statements about “formal” teaching and “informal” teaching were meant to draw a distinction between overtly communicating a message by word of mouth or letter versus implicitly communicating something by example or omission. For example, when I say “Lying is wrong” I am overtly teaching something. When I lie to gain an advantage, and other people observe me doing this, I am implicitly or indirectly teaching something. We can infer that St. Paul recognized this distinction, since he could have easily applied the language that he uses in Galatians 1:6-10 to St. Peter. But he does not do this. He does not say that Peter is preaching “another Gospel,” nor that he is “anathema” (ἀνάθεμα ἔστω); rather, he claims that Peter is “not being straightforward about” (RSV), or that his “conduct was not in step with” (ESV), the truth of the Gospel, and that he was “self-condemned” (κατεγνωσμένος).

    Regarding Galatians 2:14, the word that St. Paul uses is ἀναγκάζεις, which is translated as “force,” “compel,” “urge,” or “insist.” There are a couple of things to note here: First, this is a different word than is used in Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 (δέω), which is translated “bind” and is used both literally and in legal contexts. The word that Paul uses does not have the same connotation. If Paul thought that Peter was using his authority as an Apostle in the Matthew 16 and 18 juridical sense of “binding” it would have made more sense to use δέω instead of ἀναγκάζω. Second, the context makes it clear that Paul is not using even the latter word quite literally. Peter’s condemnable actions were of the passive variety; he “he began to draw back and hold himself aloof.”

    Your closing remarks, regarding authority, are simply assertions. Furthermore, you do not interact with the points that I made in #244 regarding authority and mutual submission.

  251. Andrew (250)

    In cases like these, it is important to pay close attention to the text, rather than letting our partisan imaginations run away with us.

    I agree… and I encourage you to do so!

    I think that there are things in the text which you are overlooking in your zeal to condemn Peter as a heretic.

    I have no zeal to condemn Peter as a heretic. Peter was chosen by God as an Apostle. That does not mean Peter was perfect, or always said the right thing… that he never erred in his teaching. The Scripture in Galatians clearly shows Peter teaching in error, and further being corrected by another Apostle, namely Paul. It further gives us insight into the workings of Apostolic ministry… that God worked through the group of Apostles, and that, as a group, they were a self-correcting (through the Spirit) body.

    My closing comments in 249, which you regard as assertions, are nonetheless assertions that are consistent with history. If you feel otherwise, then supply the historical account of a supreme Apostle within the first group of Apostles. Regarding your comments in 244, the evolution into a papal structure a hundred or a thousand years after the first Apostles does not change the historical account of the first Apostles who acted in a Presbyteral manner as a without a supreme leader, guided as a body by the Spirit.

    Blessings
    Curt

  252. Curt (re 251),

    In comment #249 you wrote:

    What the context makes clear is that Peter was absolutely teaching heresy, and that is precisely why Paul calls him out.

    Someone who is absolutely teaching heresy is a heretic. The question at hand is whether Peter was “absolutely,” or, in my words, “formally” or “directly” teaching heresy in Antioch or was he only indirectly, by the implications of his actions, “teaching” heresy, the way that a father teaches his children that it is okay to lie by his action of lying in order to gain some personal benefit. Catholic doctrine does not state that popes cannot err in the latter sense, so if Peter only erred in that sense then Galatians 2 is not problematic for the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility.

    In support of my view, I have invoked the common sense distinction between direct or overt teaching by means of propositions, and indirect or implicit teaching by actions. I have also pointed out evidence from the text that supports my view that Peter was not “absolutely teaching heresy” but rather he was misleading the Antiochians about the nature of the Gospel by way of his personal example.

    Instead of engaging this evidence, you have chosen merely to repeat your original assertions to the effect that Peter was a heretic who had no unique ecclesial authority. Adding additional assertions without evidence, e.g., that your prior claims are “consistent with history,” only compounds the problem. There is no need for me to provide “the historical account of a supreme Apostle” before you engage my responses to you regarding your claims about the implications of the encounter of Peter and Paul at Antioch, which is an issue that you raised in #240.

  253. Andrew

    Someone who is absolutely teaching heresy is a heretic.

    No… the Roman Catholic church teaches that a heretic is one who willfully and persistently rejects any article of faith. From the Catholic Encyclopedia… “Pertinacity, that is, obstinate adhesion to a particular tenet is required to make heresy formal.” Peter was repentant. He stopped teaching false doctrine.

    I have also pointed out evidence from the text that supports my view that Peter was not “absolutely teaching heresy” but rather he was misleading the Antiochians about the nature of the Gospel by way of his personal example.

    Yes you pointed that out, but your assertion is contradicted by the Scripture… which says that Peter was compelling” Gentiles to follow Jewish law. That is not simply Peter misleading by his own personal example. It is teaching errant doctrine.

    Andrew, I don’t know how to make it any more clear. You simply choose to ignore my points, just as you chose to ignore my challenge to provide “the historical account of a supreme Apostle”. What point of yours did I not respond to?

    Blessings
    Curt

  254. Curt (re 253),

    You wrote:

    No… the Roman Catholic church teaches that a heretic is one who willfully and persistently rejects any article of faith. From the Catholic Encyclopedia… “Pertinacity, that is, obstinate adhesion to a particular tenet is required to make heresy formal.”

    Agreed. However, this still leaves your claim the Peter was absolutely teaching heresy at Antioch. You seem to think that that claim is supported by Paul’s use of the word “compelling” in Galatians 2:14. I have already addressed this in comment #250. Peter compelled the Antoichians to live like Jews in that he withdrew from table fellowship with them. There is no indication in the text that he explicitly taught that in order to be justified one must observe the ceremonial and dietary aspects of the Mosaic law.

    You wrote:

    Andrew, I don’t know how to make it any more clear. You simply choose to ignore my points, just as you chose to ignore my challenge to provide “the historical account of a supreme Apostle”.

    There is no need to make your assertions any more clear. They are clear enough. You claim that the events recorded in Galatians 2 imply that Peter “absolutely taught heresy” and the first Apostles “acted in a Presbyteral manner as a without a supreme leader.” I have in fact responded to these assertions, adducing evidence to the effect that such points are not established by what occurred between Peter and Paul in Galatians 1, nor are the Catholic claims concerning the papacy falsified by those events.

    Finally, you asked:

    What point of yours did I not respond to?

    There is a difference between responding by repeating previous assertions, which you have done several times, and responding to my points by engaging them, either showing how they are mistaken or irrelevant to the topic, or else acknowledging that they are valid points, and either retracting your original claims or modifying those claims or showing how those claims stand regardless of the validity of my points. You have indeed written comments following my comments, but you have yet to engage the following points:

    1. The sort of authority exercised by Paul in Antioch and Peter’s submission to that authority (which we can infer from various texts) is consistent with the latter having supreme eccleisial authority. (See the second paragraph of comment #244.) I pointed this non-response out to you already, at the end of #250.

    2. The difference between Paul’s censure of Peter in Galatians 2 and his censure of “certain people” in Galatians 1. (See the second paragraph of comment #250.)

    3. The difference between “compelling” (Galatians 2) and “binding” (Matthew 16 and 18); specifically, that the latter term has legal / official connotations that the former does not. (See the third paragraph of #250.)

  255. Andrew (254)

    First, I reject the notion that your explanations are taken as de facto truth that I apparently cannot or will not understand, while my explanations are counted as merely “assertions” that apparently have no particular merit either historically or otherwise.

    For example, in 252, you said

    In support of my view, I have invoked the common sense distinction between direct or overt teaching by means of propositions, and indirect or implicit teaching by actions. I have also pointed out evidence from the text that supports my view that Peter was not “absolutely teaching heresy” but rather he was misleading the Antiochians about the nature of the Gospel by way of his personal example.

    Instead of engaging this evidence, you have chosen merely to repeat your original assertions to the effect that Peter was a heretic who had no unique ecclesial authority.

    Ok… so I accepted your chastisement, and responded with…

    Yes you pointed that out, but your assertion is contradicted by the Scripture… which says that Peter was compelling” Gentiles to follow Jewish law. That is not simply Peter misleading by his own personal example. It is teaching errant doctrine.

    Andrew, I don’t know how to make it any more clear. …

    And then you come back with…

    There is no need to make your assertions any more clear. They are clear enough.

    Then don’t say I didn’t engage your point. I did… you just reject it as an “assertion”.

    But you never engaged my point… Peter was teaching errant and misleading doctrine. It went well beyond “hypocritical” behavior. Paul’s correction in Verses 15-21 make that clear. Just saying “no he wasn’t” isn’t an argument. Neither is the notion that there is “formal” teaching and “informal” teaching. There is only one truth. There is only one gospel. Peter was a church authority teaching a false gospel. That is heresy. Period.

    Now let me engage your three points …

    1.) 244, second paragraph…

    Based upon what we can piece together from the NT data, it seems clear that Peter did submit to Paul’s “authority” in the sense of accepting his rebuke and repenting of his behavior. St. Paul clearly occupied the moral high ground in this case, and (apparently) St. Peter recognized this. The same can be said of other incidents in Church history, such as Irenaeus and Pope Victor, or Catherine of Siena and Pope Gregory XI. However, such submission on the part of the popes does not imply that either St. Paul, St. Irenaeus, or St. Catherine was authoritative in the sense that the popes were bound to submit to them as a matter of ecclesial polity.

    I “engaged” and responded to this in 251…

    Regarding your comments in 244, the evolution into a papal structure a hundred or a thousand years after the first Apostles does not change the historical account of the first Apostles who acted in a Presbyteral manner as a without a supreme leader, guided as a body by the Spirit.

    I stand by this response. My point is that there is no evidence of a “papal” apostle among the first apostles.

    2.) 250 second paragraph…

    My statements about “formal” teaching and “informal” teaching were meant to draw a distinction between overtly communicating a message by word of mouth or letter versus implicitly communicating something by example or omission. For example, when I say “Lying is wrong” I am overtly teaching something. When I lie to gain an advantage, and other people observe me doing this, I am implicitly or indirectly teaching something. We can infer that St. Paul recognized this distinction, since he could have easily applied the language that he uses in Galatians 1:6-10 to St. Peter. But he does not do this. He does not say that Peter is preaching “another Gospel,” nor that he is “anathema” (ἀνάθεμα ἔστω); rather, he claims that Peter is “not being straightforward about” (RSV), or that his “conduct was not in step with” (ESV), the truth of the Gospel, and that he was “self-condemned” (κατεγνωσμένος).

    All this proves is that Paul was gracious in his correction of Peter. Your position says more about Paul than Peter. Paul spells out “the other gospel” that Peter was preaching in his correction (verses 15-21). Peter had allowed himself to become a mild form of judaizer. Paul, in no uncertain terms, sets the record straight… there is no place for legalistic righteousness in the covenant of grace. As I said before, if one is “not straightforward”, then they are lying. Deception is a lie. You can’t just sugarcoat it away with concepts of “formal” and “informal” teaching.

    3.) 250, third paragraph

    Regarding Galatians 2:14, the word that St. Paul uses is ἀναγκάζεις, which is translated as “force,” “compel,” “urge,” or “insist.” There are a couple of things to note here: First, this is a different word than is used in Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 (δέω), which is translated “bind” and is used both literally and in legal contexts. The word that Paul uses does not have the same connotation. If Paul thought that Peter was using his authority as an Apostle in the Matthew 16 and 18 juridical sense of “binding” it would have made more sense to use δέω instead of ἀναγκάζω. Second, the context makes it clear that Paul is not using even the latter word quite literally. Peter’s condemnable actions were of the passive variety; he “he began to draw back and hold himself aloof.”

    Paul initially condemns Peter for “drawing back” this is true… but it is not the sum total. In 14 he says, “But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” The context here is this… It was bad enough that Peter had withdrawn… but then I heard that he was not being straightforward with the gospel. That crossed a serious line for Paul which propels him into a strong correction in 15 through 21. By this correction, we can clearly infer the errors being taught.

    16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.

    Obvious inference… Peter was teaching that adherence to the law was a requirement for justification. Paul says it is not… we are justified by faith, not by works of the law.

    Paul concludes with the gospel message…

    20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

    I believe I have now engaged all of your points. Feel free to dismiss them as “assertions”, but in fairness you should now engage mine, concluding with the historical account of a supreme Apostle within the first group of Apostles.

    Blessings
    Curt

  256. Curt,

    Perhaps I have not been as clear as I needed to be in spelling out the implications of my three points (numbered in comment 254) re your understanding of the implications of Galatians 2. In order to correct this flaw, I will try again. My intention is not to ignore your latest response, but to correct a flaw in my own comments, which, I believe, has lead you to misconstrue or overlook my purpose in making these points.

    To recap: You maintain, based on Galatians 2, that Peter “absolutely taught heresy” and that he had no special ecclesial authority in addition to that granted to each of the Apostles. First let me say that my responses have not been meant to prove that Peter, as pope, cannot formally teach heresy or that he was the first pope in the Catholic sense of the term. My goal is has been more limited; specifically, I have only been trying to show that your conclusions about Peter and (by implication) the papacy do not follow from Galatians 2. To that end, I have made three basic points, which I will now make again hopefully with more clarity and taking into account your most recent comment.

    1. Regarding authority and submission: My point is and has been that it is possible for one person who has been put in a position of authority over another person to submit to that other person in various ways. For example: A husband has authority over his wife, who owes him obedience as described by St. Paul in Ephesians 5:22-24. Nevertheless, the husband is to submit to his wife as instructed in Ephesians 5:21. The mutual submission enjoined in this verse does not negate or undermine the husband’s headship as described in the verses immediately following. In a similar way, Peter can be head of the Apostolic college while still submitting to fellow members of that body in various ways. Thus, his acceptance of Paul’s correction in Galatians 2 does not in itself imply that Peter had not been given a unique authority in the Church as the visible head of the Apostolic college. I have not gone into the historical evidence for such visible headship in the universal Church because it seemed counter-productive to do so until we have first come to an agreement regarding the meaning and implications of Galatians 2. But if you want to explore that evidence, you can begin with several posts on this website concerning the papacy, which have been collected here. I would be happy to discuss any of that material with you in the respective comment threads.

    2. Regarding my point about the different language used by St. Paul in Galatians 1 and 2, you wrote:

    All this proves is that Paul was gracious in his correction of Peter. Your position says more about Paul than Peter.

    I think that what Paul says about Peter says something about Peter. My position turns upon what Paul actually says about Peter in Galatians 2 compared to what he actually says about “certain persons” in the previous chapter. Your position, on the other hand, turns upon a series of statements made by yourself based upon inference, e.g., “the context here is this,” “we can clearly infer the errors being taught,” “obvious inference.” I think that it is safer to base our position as much as possible on what the text says rather than inferences from the text, which is why I made it a point to compare the words used in Galatians 1 and 2 when trying to determine the nature of Peter’s “teaching” in Antioch after the arrival of the delegates from Jerusalem. I agree with you that “not being straightforward” is a kind of deception, but I do not agree that pointing out the difference between teaching by explicit propositional instruction and teaching by example amounts to “sugarcoating.” What Peter did in Antioch was wrong, but we should allow Paul to specify the nature of that wrongdoing rather than substitute our own inferences for what the Apostle says.

    3. Regarding Peter’s “compelling the Gentiles to live like Jews”: Your gloss on this verse depends upon reading ἀλλ’ ὅτε εἶδον ὅτι οὐκ ὀρθοποδοῦσιν πρὸς τὴν ἀλήθειαν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου (“but when I saw that they were not being straightforward about the truth of the gospel”) as a conjunction contrasting two distinct acts of Peter and company (they did did this, but when they did that) rather than emphatically conjoining Paul’s counteraction to the preceding verses (they did this, but I when I saw that they were doing this, I did that). It seems to me that the flow of the passage suggests that latter reading. Thus, in verse 14 Paul is not describing some offense by Peter in addition to the offense of drawing back and holding himself aloof from the Gentiles; rather, Paul is describing his own response to Peter’s drawing back and holding aloof, which he characterizes as “compelling the Gentiles to live like Jews.” In other words, Galatians 2:12 and 14a refer to the same offense. That offense would amount to compulsion to live like a Jew insofar as the Gentile Christians could only maintain table fellowship with the Jewish Christians by “Judaizing.”

    So, Paul’s corrective address in 2:15-21 need not be taken as contradicting the express, propositional teaching of Peter. Paul’s address can be taken as correcting the implications of Peter’s sinful actions along with the heretical teaching, directly expressed, of the persons referred to in Galatians 1. Coupled with my point about the difference in language between Galatians 1 and 2, this seems like the more natural reading, being based more upon what the text actually says than upon inference.

  257. Several comments submitted on this thread (almost all by Catholics) have not been posted. I just wanted to let you all know that this is because I want to avoid piling on, redundancy, and rabbit trails, and to keep this thread focused on the topic of apostolic succession and the role of the papacy in the apostolic college.

  258. Andrew (256)

    Thank you for your response… you are most gracious! Your point by point synopsis is most helpful.

    As to point 1, I agree that it is possible for one person who has been put in a position of authority over another person to submit to that other person in various ways. Regarding the implications (or or not) of the Galatians verses on the topic of Peter/papacy, I’ll defer further discussion to the board you have recommended.

    As to point 2, you agree with me that “not being straightforward is a kind of deception”. I agree you that “What Peter did in Antioch was wrong, but we should allow Paul to specify the nature of that wrongdoing rather than substitute our own inferences for what the Apostle says.” So what does Paul say? First, I think we both agree that Paul has strong (and different) words for the Judaizers in chapter 1. These were “distorting the gospel of Christ” teaching a doctrine of salvation through the law in addition to grace. Paul re-establishes his apostolic credentials at the end of chapter 1 and beginning of chapter 2. Then he opposes Peter, first for hypocrisy in verses 11-13, and then for being deceptive about the gospel in verse 14, compelling Gentiles to live like Jews. This is the very same thing that the Judaizers required, which I see you agree with in your point #3. So I think we agree on what Paul is saying. Peter was both hypocritical in his behavior and being deceptive about the gospel in the same way that the Judaizers were. And this is no minor doctrine… it is at the core of the gospel, which likely explains Paul’s highly “exercised” corrective teaching, not just at the end of chapter 2, but throughout the balance of the epistle.

    As to point 3… your reading of the “compelling” verse does not really contradict mine, however your conclusion seems to. Your reading is “they did this, but I when I saw that they were doing this, I did that”. I do not disagree with this reading. The straight reading as you have described it says that Paul observed “A”, but he felt obligated to act when “B” was discovered. You conclude that “Paul is describing his own response to Peter’s drawing back and holding aloof, which he characterizes as ‘compelling the Gentiles to live like Jews'”. It does not read that way, even by your own characterization. If “A” were conjoined to “B” as you infer, then Paul would use the word “and” (And when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel,…) The telling word Paul employs is “but”… a word that denotes segregation into two things (But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel,…). This denotes a separation of thought, which you allude to in your characterization of the phrase… “they did this, but I when I saw that they were doing this, I did that”. The call to action was precipitated by “B”, which is separate and distinct from “A”. Thus, the “compelling the Gentiles to live like Jews” is distinct from, and not just a characterization of “drawing back”.

    As to your conclusion… “Paul’s corrective address in 2:15-21 need not be taken as contradicting the heretical beliefs and express, propositional teaching of Peter”…. I agree that the specific text of the epistle is written to the Galatians… not Peter specifically. Paul opposed Peter in Antioch, so his correction of Peter was precedent to his letter to the Galatians. Since we agree that Peter’s offense, as you said “would amount to compulsion to live like a Jew insofar as the Gentile Christians could only maintain table fellowship with the Jewish Christians by “Judaizing.””, it would naturally follow that the correction of Peter would have paralleled the correction of the judaizers and the Galatians at large… with perhaps the added line… “C’mon Peter, you’re an apostle… you know better!”. There is no logical reason to relate the account of Paul opposing Peter in the middle of Paul’s epistle and correction of the judaizers unless it were germane to the point at hand. What makes it germane is that Peter was guilty of the same offense… judaizing. The epistle recounts this confrontation, and Paul lays out the reasoning for the true gospel, dispelling the judaizers’ false teaching.

    Now, let me make a grand assertion… it seems to me that Paul uses the confrontation with Peter to add credibility to his argument. He is saying that even Peter the Apostle has been guilty of judaizing, but this is so important theologically, that I could not let even Peter be sloppy about this. I, Paul, challenged Peter (who apparently agreed with Paul) and now I, Paul, am writing to you to get this set straight once and for all. By using this approach, Paul disarms the Galatians using the following points:

    1. I am the Jew’s Jew and an apostle called directly by Christ. I know my theology.
    2. Even Peter has been drawn into some level of judaizing (either directly or implicitly)
    3. I called Peter on the carpet, and he agreed with me theologically
    4. So here is the correct theology… there is no other
    5. Don’t be sucked in by the judaizers or other false doctrines

    Peter’s error, correction and subsequent unity with Paul lends credibility that “checkmates” the judaizers. In my humble view, this is the strength of presbyteral polity. (sorry… I had to throw that in)

    Blessings
    Curt

  259. Curt,

    I think that we are coming closer to agreeing about what was going on in Galatians 2. However, one or two points of disagreement or misunderstanding remain.

    You wrote:

    So I think we agree on what Paul is saying. Peter was both hypocritical in his behavior and being deceptive about the gospel in the same way that the Judaizers were.

    No, it has been my point all along that while Peter was clearly hypocritical (Paul says exactly that) and this hypocrisy amounted to a distortion of the Gospel, he was not “being deceptive about the gospel in the same way that the Judaizers were.” The difference is that the Judaizers both (a) explicitly taught another Gospel and (b) remained aloof from table fellowship with the Gentiles, whereas Peter was guilty of only the latter offense, which by implication distorted the Gospel.

    You wrote:

    The straight reading as you have described it says that Paul observed “A”, but he felt obligated to act when “B” was discovered.

    No, my reading is that Paul observed A and felt obliged to do B when A was discovered. The contrasting conjunction “but” (ἀλλά) is thus not contrasting two different transgressions on the part of Peter; rather, it is emphatically introducing Paul’s counteraction.

    So, on my reading, which I believe best accounts for all of the data in the text, Peter was guilty of compromising the truth of the Gospel by his actions, but not by his direct, explicit teaching. The Judaizers, on the other hand, compromised the truth of the Gospel both by their actions and by their direct, explicit teaching.

  260. Andrew (259)

    No, it has been my point all along that while Peter was clearly hypocritical (Paul says exactly that) and this hypocrisy amounted to a distortion of the Gospel, he was not “being deceptive about the gospel in the same way that the Judaizers were.”

    Ok… I thought when you said this (in 256)…

    In other words, Galatians 2:12 and 14a refer to the same offense. That offense would amount to compulsion to live like a Jew insofar as the Gentile Christians could only maintain table fellowship with the Jewish Christians by “Judaizing.”

    …that you were equivocating Peter’s offense with those of the judaizers. That offense was “compelling the Gentiles to live like Jews”. We are back to that word “compelling”… which is an action verb that Paul uses to describe Peter’s action. Since we are using Paul’s words, we cannot escape the fact that Peter was guilty of the same error as the judaizers… that of “compelling the Gentiles to live like Jews”. Paul further qualifies this as “not being straightforward with the gospel”. Now just holding oneself aloof is not tantamount to “compelling the Gentiles to live like Jews” nor “not being straightforward with the gospel”. Aloofness is not compelling nor theologically deceptive. So I’m not sure what other data in the compendium of verses changes the overt statement by Paul regarding Peter’s errors.

    Regarding your second point, I think we missed a step somewhere. Let me try again. Here are the verses I was referring to…

    12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13 The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?

    1. “A” = Peter withdrawing and holding aloof (thus, hypocrisy)
    2. “B” = Not being straightforward about the truth of the gospel (thus, Paul takes action)

    “B” (not being straightforward) is further defined by Paul in the same sentence… “how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

    That’s what I was trying to get across. On this point, we are probably picking fly specks… the bottom line is that Peter was in error on both counts.

    I still do not get how you conclude… “Peter was guilty of compromising the truth of the Gospel by his actions, but not by his direct, explicit teaching.” There is nothing that says this… you have postulated only the weakest of inferences, in my humble opinion. This inference is, again in my humble opinion, overwhelmed by Paul’s overt statement “how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”. To argue that Peter compelled them by being aloof just doesn’t seem like a very strong position… quite an ambiguous reading of Paul who is many things, but not usually thought of as ambiguous.

    Blessings
    Curt

  261. I don’t know if it’s worth my piling in here, but I would just say that ‘compelling the Gentiles to live like Jews’ is susceptible of several interpretations. It seems to me – but I could be wrong, of course – nothing could be more probable!! – that the Judaisers were teaching that they could not be saved unless they lived like Jews. Even if we put into the word ‘compelling’ some sort of verbal statements of Peter’s, for it to be a violation of Papal infallibility, wouldn’t it have to be the case that Peter was saying:

    1) to the whole Church
    2) that it was a matter of faith or morals that Gentiles must live like Jews?

    I am not sure that ‘compelling’ has to be more than Paul’s meaning “by your personal behaviour combined with your prestige this will make them think they are obliged to live like Jews” – but even if Peter had told somebody “you must live like a Jew,” it still wouldn’t fulfill either of the two conditions above, would it? It could look like a discipline?

    Just a thought.

    Back to your corners for round whatever :-)

    jj

  262. Curt,

    You wrote:

    Now just holding oneself aloof is not tantamount to “compelling the Gentiles to live like Jews” nor “not being straightforward with the gospel”. Aloofness is not compelling nor theologically deceptive.

    This is helpful in that it is now pretty clear that the thing most keeping us from arriving at further agreement about this passage is our different understandings of the significance of drawing away and remaining aloof from table fellowship with the Gentiles. As I explained in #256 (3rd point), drawing and back and holding aloof from Gentiles (Galatians 2:12) was tantamount to compelling them to live like Jews, which was to not be straightforward concerning the truth of the Gospel (Galatians 2:14).

    Notice that, on this reading, Peter’s offense is explained by allowing Paul’s words to interpret one another without my adding anything material by way of inference, whereas on your reading, in order to explain the nature of Peter’s offense you have to supply, by inference, a charge against Peter that Paul does not explicitly make in the text; namely, that Peter was explicitly teaching doctrinal error. Thus, your concluding paragraph in #260 gets things precisely backwards.

  263. As your interesting discussion seems to be going into some sort of a stalemate, let me put my pennyworth from a different language perspective.
    One of the interpretive keys which you discuss is whether Ga 2:14b:
    (1) describes some additional behavour of Peter (on top of Ga 2:12-13), only which promted Paul’s rebuke; or
    (2) simply reiterates Ga 2:12-13, adding nothing new to our knowledge of Peter’s ‘offence’.
    In this context the word “But” is pivotal in the English text.
    Now, I have reviewed translations, both Protestant and Catholic, in my mother’s tongue (Polish), and in plain and natural reading they all imply the option (2). Paul says Peter was guilty of hypocrisy (2:11), describes the nature of Peter’s guilt (2:12-13) and retells the words he spoke to Peter (2:14). Reading of Ga 2:14, particularly Ga 2:14b, in the sense “only when” or “once I saw that Peter also” in fact disturbs the natural and logical flow of Paul’s text. It would really be strange for Paul to make stronger accusations against Peter only in the words of rebuke rather than in the preceding verses describing the actual transgression. Especially that Ga 2:11 is a kind of introductory remark, which otherwise should be put after Ga 2:12-13 if it were to apply to Ga 2:14 interpreted as indication of some additional offence, which finally triggered Paul’s action. Consequently, in all Polish translations, the English word “But” is rendered as “Thus” or “So”.
    I have no knowledge of Greek, but perhaps reading to the original text could move your discussion of this point forward.

  264. JJ (re #261),

    The thing is, we don’t know what Peter was verbally teaching in Antioch because his direct, verbal teaching there is not recorded, unlike his teaching in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-36). Neither do we know whether or not Peter, while in Antioch, was teaching in the same way that he taught in Jerusalem, i.e., in a definitive way on a matter of faith to be held by the whole Church. If Peter did teach in Antioch like he taught in Jerusalem, and if he in fact “absolutely taught heresy” in so teaching, that would be incompatible with the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility. On the other hand, implicitly supporting false doctrine and (conversely) undermining the true faith through setting a bad example is not incompatible with the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility, even though such behavior, on the part of Peter or any subsequent pope, is a very serious matter.

  265. Andrew (262)

    I agree that our disagreement boils down to “withdrawing, and thereby compelling” (your concept) as opposed to “withdrawing and also compelling” (my concept).

    As I explained in #256 (3rd point), drawing and back and holding aloof from Gentiles (Galatians 2:12) was tantamount to compelling them to live like Jews, which was to not be straightforward concerning the truth of the Gospel (Galatians 2:14).

    I went back and looked at 256, point 3. It that “explanation”, you set up two interpretations of the word “but” as it is used in the sentence; one representing my interpretation, and one representing yours. You then proceed immediately to this…

    It seems to me that the flow of the passage suggests that latter reading.

    With that, you proceed to reiterate your interpretation and its subsequent meaning in the larger sense. If I had written this, you would say that I have made an assertion based on my opinion, and then interpreted Scripture through the lense of that assertion. You amplify this assertion in 262, saying…

    Notice that, on this reading, Peter’s offense is explained by allowing Paul’s words to interpret one another without my adding anything material by way of inference, whereas on your reading, in order to explain the nature of Peter’s offense you have to supply, by inference, a charge against Peter that Paul does not explicitly make in the text; namely, that Peter was explicitly teaching doctrinal error. Thus, your concluding paragraph in #260 gets things precisely backwards.

    I could not disagree more. Paul explicitly charges Peter with compelling Gentiles to live like Jews. Peter was the compeller. Compelling Gentiles to live like Jews is doctrinal error. If not, then why did Paul confront Peter? Peter submits to Paul… doctrinal purity is re-established by Paul with Peter’s agreement… case closed.

    But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?

    The simple reading of the text is that Peter was teaching in error. If he were not, then he would be straightforward with the gospel.

    At the end of the day, I think we have mutually exclusive assertions through which we arrive at different understandings. I’ll leave it there because I want to respond to something you said to jj in 264.

    Blessings
    Curt

  266. Andrew (264)

    Sorry for the blockquote misfire at the end of the last comment!

    As a Protestant, I have no particular axe to grind in the reading of the passage from Galatians 2. To me, its just another case of Peter getting a little off base and then being reeled back in by God… in this case through Paul. I love Peter because, like most of the men God chose for leadership, he exhibits all the human qualities of the rest of us, yet shows us how God works even through common people. Further, I am not here to “prove” that papal infallibility is wrong (though I am obviously not convinced it is right), but rather to challenge the thinking so as to better understand how others arrive at different conclusions.

    In 264, you said…

    If Peter did teach in Antioch like he taught in Jerusalem, and if he in fact “absolutely taught heresy” in so teaching, that would be incompatible with the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility. On the other hand, implicitly supporting false doctrine and (conversely) undermining the true faith through setting a bad example is not incompatible with the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility, even though such behavior, on the part of Peter or any subsequent pope, is a very serious matter.

    While everything you say here is true, this is one of my biggest hang-ups with the papal infallibility concept. What I hear in this statement goes something like this… It doesn’t matter whether people in the church get the right message or not… as long as we can protect the concept of papal infallibility. This shouts even louder to me when I look at the middle ages. In the case of Peter and Paul, the issue was self corrected (or more accurately, Spirit corrected) within the bounds of the church and her leadership… a good thing! But when I look at history through the middle ages and the subsequent reformation times, it looks (to me) like the church lost its ability to be self correcting within its walls. The corrupted church leadership used papal authority for personal power and control, and doctrinal purity took a back seat. Martin Luther did not set out to divide the church. He challenged papal leadership on doctrinal points just as Paul challenged Peter. Whether he was right or wrong, it seems to me that the church arrogantly rejected Luther as a challenge to their authority rather than considering his points, again, right or wrong. Had the dialog gone more like the dialog between Peter and Paul, perhaps there would be no Protestant church today. Conversely, had Peter invoked papal authority in its current state over Paul in Antioch, perhaps we would all be compelled to follow Jewish law.

    The history and “rights and wrong” are obviously way more complicated than this, but the assertion is what it is… just my observation.

    Blessing
    Curt

  267. Jan (263)

    Thanks for jumping in! You said

    In this context the word “But” is pivotal in the English text.
    Now, I have reviewed translations, both Protestant and Catholic, in my mother’s tongue (Polish), and in plain and natural reading they all imply the option (2). Paul says Peter was guilty of hypocrisy (2:11), describes the nature of Peter’s guilt (2:12-13) and retells the words he spoke to Peter (2:14). Reading of Ga 2:14, particularly Ga 2:14b, in the sense “only when” or “once I saw that Peter also” in fact disturbs the natural and logical flow of Paul’s text.

    Precisely! … because that is what Paul intended. Peter was guilty of hypocrisy “BUT when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” Paul intended the word “but” to interrupt the flow, otherwise he would have used the words “thus” or “so” or “and” or any number of others. In fact, he did not use those words. He used “but”. “But” does not mean “thus” or “so”… it means “but”. This happened and it was bad… but when that happened, I did thus and such. That is the flow of the text.

    Blessings
    Curt

  268. Yes, Andrew, that was exactly what I was trying to say. The passage doesn’t say that Peter ‘taught’ anything in the literal sense of saying “X is the case.” Paul’s word ‘compel’ may mean merely mean ‘by seeing your behaviour they may feel compelled.’

    FWIW, Jan, the Greek is indeed ‘alla’ which is usually translated ‘but’ but does not necessarily have the same ‘by contrast with what goes before’ meaning of English ‘but’ (and perhaps of the Polish equivalent – maybe that’s why the Polish translators use something that could mean ‘thus’).

    jj

  269. Curt, JJ, Jan,

    Regarding the word “but” (ἀλλά) in Galatians 2:14: This conjunction can serve various purposes. Turner notes that it is a simple co-ordinating particle which can function as a strong adversative, but that it also occurs as “however, nevertheless” and can even be used as an interjection, “well” (Grammar of the New Testament, Volume III: Syntax, 329-30). Wallace also notes that ἀλλά can serve a variety of syntactical functions (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 669-78). The translations “thus” or “so” are certainly permissible. In any case, the interpretation of this passage doesn’t turn on these options. Taken as a strong adversative, we are still left to the context to determine whether Paul is contrasting one action of Peter and co. to another action of theirs, or if he is contrasting his own counteraction to their action.

  270. Curt (re #265-67),

    You wrote:

    Compelling Gentiles to live like Jews is doctrinal error.

    Well, it at least implies doctrinal error. The issue between us is whether Peter was guilty of explicitly teaching false doctrine (i.e., “Gentiles must live like Jews in order to be justified”) over and above implying such doctrine by his actions.

    In response to the distinction that I invoked between explicit and implicit communication, you wrote:

    What I hear in this statement goes something like this… It doesn’t matter whether people in the church get the right message or not… as long as we can protect the concept of papal infallibility.

    Well, you alone can speak for what you hear, but anyone reading this thread can see what I wrote, which was this:

    … such behavior, on the part of Peter or any subsequent pope, is a very serious matter.

    When I write that something is a “very serious matter” and what you hear is that “it doesn’t matter” then what we have is a very serious communication breakdown. To me, this indicates that it is time to end this particular portion of the conversation thread. Thank you for the exchange.

  271. Re: #194. Andrew, is your following comment not an example of the sin of “ecclesial consumerism”? “so in cases where immediate harm would result (to oneself or one’s family) by continuing in the communion of a particular parish or diocese, one should try to move to another Catholic parish or diocese.” Or, are you conceding that ecclesial consumerism is okay if one perceives himself to be in bodily danger by the local RCC priestly leadership, but not okay if one perceives himself to be in theological danger by RCC priestly leadership?

    Secondly, what if, practically speaking, there are no other Catholic parishes or diocese within a couple hundred miles, and the only ‘church’ alternative for a person is a Protestant one? What should that person do?

    Would it be a fair restatement of your views that a) bad behavior by popes (including murder, adultery, et al) is a real possibility and ‘serious matter’, but that b) theological doctrinal error by a pope is, as an article of RCC faith, simply not a possibility? Then, could you elaborate on what ‘serious matter’ really means to someone when they encounter such a ‘serious matter’? I remain confused as to exactly what a good RCC adherent is to do, in order to remain in “communion with the bishop of Rome”, if/when that bishop of Rome is a murderer and adulterer? And, may I comment, I think your phrase ‘serious matter’ is hardly serious enough.

    Re: #242. Dp, if you are saying that the horrific events of the papal 900’s may not have precipitated the Reformation in the 1500’s, you are probably right. But, the papacy in the 1500’s had its own share of horrific theological and behavioral abuses (comforting to know that one of Pope Leo X favorite practices at his lavish dinner parties was to serve large cakes where naked little boys would jump out! ( cf the PBS video http://video.pbs.org/video/1379546586/ at minute 42:20 to 43:05).

    Thankfully, the 2010’s decade of the papacy may not be as ‘bad’ as Europe in the 900’s or 1500’s, but pedophilia issues remain rampant throughout the RCC, Vatican bank fraud issues remain, homosexuality practices and coverup within the Vatican remains, etc, etc.

    The contributors at CTC all have incredible intellects and are serious about their faith. I wonder if some CTC energy might be profitably applied to reforming the still existent “serious matters” within the CCC? Doing so may add some weight/credibility to arguments in defense of infallibility and AS matters.

  272. Re 271:

    It is not consumerism to avoid immediate spiritual, physical, or psychological harm. One does not have to submit to abuse in order to remain a faithful Catholic. Spiritual or theological abuse would include things like a cleric overtly contradicting Catholic teaching in homilies, omitting parts of the liturgy which is he required to say or do, and modifying or supplementing the liturgy with inventions of his own (whether word or action), in an unauthorized way.

    The following paragraph from the Code of Canon Law applies to cases in which a Catholic cannot, practically speaking, attend Mass:

    If it is impossible to assist at a eucharistic celebration, either because no sacred minister is available or for some other grave reason, the faithful are strongly recommended to take part in a Liturgy of the Word, if there be such in the parish church or some other sacred place, which is celebrated in accordance with the provisions laid down by the diocesan bishop; or to spend an appropriate time in prayer, whether personally or as a family or, as occasion presents, in a group of families. (CIC 1248, § 2)

    You asked:

    I remain confused as to exactly what a good RCC adherent is to do, in order to remain in “communion with the bishop of Rome”, if/when that bishop of Rome is a murderer and adulterer?

    In cases where the Pope is a notoriously unholy person, to the point of committing adultery and murder, one should remain in full communion with the Catholic Church, trusting in God as always to preserve the Church in spite of the sins of men. God, who can do all things, can certainly grant a sinful Pope repentance, or incapacitate him (up to taking his life), or in various other ways limit the extent of the damage. In the Catholic view, this divine “limiting of the damage” includes preventing any Pope from binding the Church to error in matters of faith and morals.

    You wrote:

    And, may I comment, I think your phrase ‘serious matter’ is hardly serious enough.

    Well, if “serious” is not “serious” enough, then I don’t know what to say.

    Finally, you wrote:

    The contributors at CTC all have incredible intellects and are serious about their faith. I wonder if some CTC energy might be profitably applied to reforming the still existent “serious matters” within the CCC? Doing so may add some weight/credibility to arguments in defense of infallibility and AS matters.

    Every Catholic has some responsibility, proper to his or her station, in reforming the Church. But first, we must become informed by and obedient to the teaching and authority of the Church, else we risk saddling ourselves with the futile task of trying to reform the Church from the outside. In part, CTC’s “call to communion” is or implies an invitation to our non-Catholic readers to consider joining faithful Catholics everywhere in reforming the Church from the inside, i.e., not from the standpoint of schism but from that of full communion in the Body of Christ.

  273. #272. Andrew, fair enough. You can appreciate, then, that the essence of the Reformation, for Protestants, is that, to avoid spiritual harm, that the RCC was (is) to be avoided. As you know, Protestants believe that people can avoid the ultimate “spiritual harm”, which is spending an eternity in hell, by putting their faith/trust in the shed blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. Back in Luther’s day, the message of the RCC was that people can avoid spending an eternity in hell by donating $ to the church (ie, indulgences) and thus have their sins forgiven. As a result of that RCC teaching, a LOT of spiritual harm, for eternity, was done to those that remained in the RCC. Hopefully, you would acknowledge that?

    It seems that you and CTC are very adept at compartmentalizing the historic and modern-day horrific abuses (CRIMES would really be a better term) in the RCC, and are unwilling/unable to be introspective about how those horrifying crimes “could” be evidence of a fatally flawed institutional structure, and fatally flawed set of theological premises. These abuses seem to get the brush-off from you. Bryan (in #229) wants to equate separation from these crimes as akin to someone (wrongly) wanting to find a prettier wife. You (#225) want to equate the historic and modern-day crimes to a couple of the lapses by the apostle Peter.

    I’m sure that many of us schismatic Protestants have ill-formed consciences of which you speak. But, it just seems that before you pick the specks out of Protestants’ eyes, could you devote some air-time and blog-space to yanking a few of the larger planks out of RCC eyes?

    To that end, what would be evidence to me that you view the crimes to be ‘serious’, would be if, perhaps as a completely separate thread, you and the other fine minds at CTC would write, persuasively and eloquently as you all do, how the RCC should go about reforming itself in modern times. And, deal with specifics of pedophilia, bank fraud, homosexuality in the priesthood, and, perhaps worse, the ever-growing body of evidence of the vast coverups in high RCC institutional circles. By so doing, you will earn a high measure of respect from Protestants for your honesty/integrity/courage, and, God willing, have a positive impact on the RCC itself.

  274. Andrew (272)

    You concluded in 272…

    In part, CTC’s “call to communion” is or implies an invitation to our non-Catholic readers to consider joining faithful Catholics everywhere in reforming the Church from the inside, i.e., not from the standpoint of schism but from that of full communion in the Body of Christ.

    There are many Christians outside of the Roman Catholic communion who, I believe, would love to unite under one banner. However, for many of us, there seems to be a conundrum in the concept of reforming the Catholic church from within… and that conundrum is the doctrine of infallibility for all “settled” matters of faith and morals, juxtaposed with the need for reform. If there are theological issues that have already been “settled”, then doctrinal reform is impossible unless the doctrine of infallibility is somehow rescinded or superseded… which seems unlikely. Of course, the Catholic would argue that there is no settled doctrine which needs reforming. Those of us outside looking in would ask … if Christ willing to protect His Church from errant doctrine, why is He not willing to protect His Church the appointment of evil, unrepentant leadership? And how can we know that the doctrine set forth under evil unrepentant leadership is nonetheless infallible for faith and practice?

    Blessings
    Curt

  275. Curt,

    I am curious to know if you view matters of faith and morals reformable? For example, what more reform can we give on the identity of Jesus Christ? Can we reform our ideas and perceptions on His Messiahship? Or can we reform the divine prohibition of adultery? I would assume that you would answer in the negative. But you may put forth an argument on how the Messiahship of Jesus as WRITTEN in Scripture cannot be reformed however our own understanding can be reformed. But this is not what I’m talking about, I’m talking about certain doctrines which are dogmas, can they be reformed?

    As of now, if you claim the assurance of salvation, then you are de facto also holding that your beleifs, at least the essentials, cannot be reformed to the extant that would take you from a state of damnation to a state of salvation, for if you do not then you would have to renounce your assurance, leaving it open for reform and crucial examination.

    What criterion for reform are you assuming? Because it seems as though deep down inside you just want catholics to confess the solas of the reformation.

  276. Corn-Czar,

    Re: #271,

    I was “suggesting” that while you mine history books for proof-texts and anecdotes justifying your separation from Rome, you might want to read a little deeper into those same sources to challenge your assumptions about why the Reformation happened, and how it affected the everyday believer. Since you claim a familiarity with Eamon Duffy’s books, I would suggest his “Stripping of the Altars” as a good start.

    Naked boys jumping out of cakes is fascinating historical trivia, but really says nothing about whether you should be Catholic or not. Neither do bank scandals, Vatican cover ups, or pedophilia incidents (which the mainstream media has evidently convinced you to be a distinctly Catholic phenomenon). Perhaps it is a special grace of God that you have been kept innocent from the knowledge of all the truly scandalous behavior that you will find in any Protestant church. It would be enough to drive you to atheism.

  277. Corn-czar:

    I’m interested in your claim:

    Back in Luther’s day, the message of the RCC was that people can avoid spending an eternity in hell by donating $ to the church (ie, indulgences) and thus have their sins forgiven.

    I can agree that some (Tetzel, for example) taught this — although I’m not sure that even your summation does it complete justice. However, I do not agree that this was the “teaching of the RCC.” For example, in the early 15th century, St. Bernadine of Siena said:

    “Prayer is the best preparation for Holy Communion. Prayer is the raising of the mind to God. When we pray we go to meet Christ Who is coming to us. If our Creator and Savior comes from heaven with such great love, it is only fitting that we should go to meet Him. And this is what we do when we spend some time in prayer.”

    Not, “Pay the Church some cash, and get to heaven!”

    I would encourage you to look more broadly at Church history and discover what was happening in the RCC Church during the Reformation. We agree on the Bavarian debacle, but I think we need to remember that the Church had experienced dark times before, where seemingly few (nonetheless many) held to the orthodox faith (think Arianism).

  278. Can someone at CTC explain to inquiring Protestants the Biblical basis for the following? http://now.msn.com/pope-francis-offers-twitter-followers-indulgences-to-get-time-off-purgatory

    Similarly, it would be wonderful if someone at CTC could comment on Professor Carl Trueman’s post: http://www.reformation21.org/articles/reflections-on-rome-part-1-connecting-the-mind-and-the-tongue.php

    These two things are related to each other — call the category “Odd things that the RCC does that baffle Protestants” — although they are not specifically related to AS.

    Thank you ahead of time for your consideration and response.

  279. Re 278:

    Bryan Cross discusses the biblical basis for indulgences in his post “Indulgences, the Treasury of Merit and the Communion of Saints.”

    Matt Yonke has written a reply to that post by Trueman [link].

    Thanks for the questions. I hope that these posts will be helpful.

  280. Re: 279. Outside of the generic RCC argument for indulgences, can you specifically explain what it is about using Twitter that would earn someone an indulgence? Secondly, would it be fair to say that there are really no established criteria for indulgences, beyond the fact that the Pope can arbitrarily decree that they can be offered under whatever arbitrary circumstances he so deems? Thanks very much.

  281. Re 280:

    I’ll make a few remarks in response to these questions, but they will be posted under Bryan’s article on indulgences. Any further comments or questions about indulgences should be posted there (after having read the material in the original post), where they will be more relevant.

  282. Could someone help me with this quote from Bart Ehrman? I am Catholic and it bothered me. Could someone tell me where Ehrman is inaccurate and why concerning Church history?

    One could claim-and many in fact did- that the leaders of the churches who were appointed by the apostles could pass along their teachings, so that these leaders had authority equal to God himself. God sent Jesus, who chose his apostles, who instructed their successors, who passed along the sacred teachings to ordinary Christians. Several problems with this view arose, however. For one thing, as churches multiplied, each of them could no longer claim to have as its leader someone who had known an apostle or even someone who knew someone who once knew an apostle. An even bigger problem was the fact that different leaders of churches, not mention different Christians in their congregations, could claim they taught the apostolic truths. But these “truths” stood at odds with what other leaders and teachers said were the teachings of the apostles.

    How was one to get around these problems? The obvious answer presented itself early in the Christian movement. One could know what the apostles taught through the writings they left behind. These authoritative authors produced authoritative teachings. So the authoritative truth could be found in the apostolic writings.”

    He makes it sound like no one believe in Apostolic Succession and that when the Apostles died all the churches were in chaos and claiming different things. I was always told they agreed most of the time and looked to Rome and the other Apostolic Sees for confirmation of true teachings and if they did have a disagreement that is why councils were called.

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