Apostolic Succession: A Minimalist Proposal

Posted by on April 24, 2013 in Catholicism, Church History, Development, Early Church Fathers, Ecclesiology, Featured, History, Protestantism | 220 comments

I would like to move the recent discussion concerning apostolic succession from the “What Difference Does the Vowel Make?” thread to this one (hey, it’s nearing 500 comments and counting). In the interest of narrowing the focus, I would suggest that there are two related questions that need to be asked: (1) What historical circumstances need to have occurred in order to substantiate apostolic succession?, and (2) What historical circumstances need to have occured in order to invalidate apostolic succession? And keep in mind that we’re only talking about its historical truth or falsehood, not about its theological significance, if there is any.

My contention is that Protestants and Catholics (perhaps unwittingly) have differing standards here, which means that appeals to historical evidence often fail to hit the proper targets.

Speaking for the Catholic side, I would suggest that most of the data adduced by Protestants from secondary sources — data that is being used to delegitimize apostolic succession — actually only beats up a straw man by attempting to poke holes in aspects of a position that we do not actually insist upon.

For example, let’s say the Protestant cites a scholar who attempts to show that the lists of Roman bishops are not completely exhaustive. In the Protestant’s mind he has falsified the Catholic claim, while in the Catholic’s mind his claim is untouched. The reason for this is that the absence of a name in an ancient list does not in any sense mean that there was no Roman bishop during that time, and in fact, it probably just means that the one compiling the list did not remember or did not have access to that particular bishop’s name. If you were to corner a U.S. History prof and ask him to rattle off the names of all our presidents from Washington to Obama, and if he missed a couple, that does not alter the number of presidents we have actually had, nor does it entail that there was a gap in the succession and a corresponding illegitimacy of all the presidents after it.

For another example, the degree of ecclesiological awareness that the early Roman bishops had about their own office, or the level of detail their writings demonstrate regarding the extent of their jurisdiction, is beside the point when it comes to the Catholic claims about the papacy. It is quite possible that no  bishop thought of his episcopate as extending beyond the walls of his own particular congregation until divisions arose that were not merely intra-congregational, but between one congregation, or one bishop, and another. Insisting upon the criterion that unless a bishop of Rome wrote a treatise outlining a fully-developed doctrine of the papacy then therefore the papacy is a corruption, is to insist upon something that the Church does not even demand. Such an expectation is as silly as saying that unless Jesus of Nazareth could have given a Christologically erudite account of his own divine identity and mission when he was four, then therefore his subsequent claims were late, and thence illegitimate, developments. No, if Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, then there’s no reason why the same could not be true of his mystical Body and its own self-awareness.

What, then, needs to have occurred in antiquity for the bare historical claim of apostolic succession to be established?

My suggestion is rather minimal: all that needs to have taken place is that from the time of St. Peter until the papacy of Francis, there has always been a leader of the Roman church with full ministerial powers. It doesn’t matter if he used the title of “Pope,” it doesn’t matter if he had a full understanding of the extent of his own authority, and it doesn’t matter if he worked closely with, or more independently from, the other ecclesiastical leaders within his region.

And what set of historical circumstances need to have transpired to delegitimize apostolic succession?

Given what I suggest above, such an invalidation would only have occurred if, say, a bishop of Rome died and not only was there no immediately chosen successor, but even the validly ordained body of men with the authority to appoint one decided, for some unknown reason, not to. And after this gap in the line of succession had lasted long enough for all the Church’s bishops to die, some self-appointed man came along who successfully re-established the entire Christian Church by illicitly assuming authority he did not have, and then passing that pseudo-authority along to others (whose heirs are all the current Catholic bishops today) in what turned out to be perhaps the most elaborate hoax ever foisted upon the people of this planet, one that somehow escaped the notice of any historian then or since, as well as duped both the people of its own generation as well as billions of others since.

If my answers to the two questions posed above reflect faithfully the Catholic position, then of the two sets of historical circumstances outlined, which is more plausible and likely to have transpired?

220 Comments

  1. Mike,

    Responding to your last comment in the Vowel thread, I can say from personal experience that I concluded long before I was a Catholic that apostolic succession actually occurred. I just didn’t attribute any theological significance to it.

    The necessary conditions for it to be historically false are just too implausible.

  2. Michael,

    To call the the Catholic IP sola ecclesia is a polemical distortion. On the CIP, the Magisterium does not determine or invent the content of Scripture and Tradition. Those latter are the means by which divine revelation is transmitted to us, and their content is a fixed “given” simply because divine revelation itself is. The Magisterium’s necessity is epistemic, not ontic. Thus, by virtue of being divinely protected from error under certain conditions, it identifies and interprets Scripture and Tradition with divine authority, so as to transcend human opinion about what’s in them and what they mean. But on your IP, everybody after the Apostles is always fallible; therefore, nobody can teach with divine authority, which is infallible. Hence, even the beliefs that the biblical canon is to contain only such-and-such books, is divinely inspired and thus inerrant, and on disputed points means A rather than B, are fallible.

    To say “sola Scriptura” devolves into “solo Scriptura” is a polemical distortion.

    If the Magisterium tells me infallibly what is Scripture and what portions of tradition to hear—because you know full well that Rome does not follow all of church tradition—then the Magisterium is the final authority. When I point to an aspect of Roman Catholic theology that is at odds with tradition and Rome can infallibly tell me either that said tradition is not truly apostolic or that I have interpreted it improperly, Rome is the final infallible authority. If Rome makes an infallible pronouncement that cannot be questioned, it is the final authority. Scripture is essentially non-self authenticating under the Roman IP if Rome must identify it. Sola Ecclesia.

    The assumption that fallibility means that one cannot teach with divine authority is just that, an assumption. If I, though fallible, teach something that conforms fully to the infallible Word of God, then what I teach has divine authority, not by virtue of a charism God has given to me but from the nature of God’s Word. Or, as one Reformed confession puts it, “the preached Word of God is the Word of God.”

    Accordingly, if those beliefs are to be accepted as anything other than provisional opinions, you have to present them not as articles of faith taught with divine authority and, as such, commanding the unconditional assent of faith, but as items of human knowledge established like other such items–e.g., that the shape of the Earth is roughly spherical. Yet, even though we can do that in science, we cannot do it in theology. Scientists in general merit their authority because their very methods supply the means to rationally verify their claims independently of their authority; but theology ponders divine revelation, expressible as truths that cannot be discovered by any method of human reason; instead, God must communicate them to us on his authority. Therefore, there is simply no way to verify authentic expressions of divine revelation as such by human reason, independently of such authority. And so the question before us simply becomes who bears divine authority and when. But your IP rules out answering that question. For on your IP, the belief that Scripture bears divine authority is not itself taught with divine authority, and thus might be wrong; nor is it an item of knowledge like the shape of the Earth, because there is no means of verifying it independently of divine authority. Even if you uphold Scripture as “self-attesting,” that is only a fallible opinion unless you can show that it’s actually an item of human knowledge, verifiable with known methods of acquiring such knowledge. But you cannot show that, for the reason I’ve already given. We can use quasi-scientific methods (e.g., the grammatico-historical method) to learn, in many cases, what the human authors of Scripture meant to assert; but no such method can suffice, even in principle, to tell us that what’s thereby asserted expresses divine revelation, or exactly what that means in disputed cases.

    Wait—I thought I was the Protestant. I thought the whole point of the Roman Catholic natural theology tradition was that human reason alone can discover at least some divine truths.

    To some degree I would agree with what you have said about being unable to verify divine revelation independently of said authority. But I would say that is true not because Scripture is divine revelation but because it is one’s ultimate authority. There are many ways and methods to establish one’s final authority, but at the end of the day one of them involve that authority itself, otherwise it is not one’s final authority. This is true even in science. Scientific methods can supply the means to test their authenticity, but that is because scientists have agreed on how experiments should be conducted, the measurements that should be standard, etc. etc. Furthermore, I would say that any time we come to true knowledge, we have embraced divine revelation. So the approach to determining theological knowledge has much in common with the study of natural revelation. God reveals Himself in the world and God reveals Himself in His Word. Both streams of revelation are infallible, but my interpretation of them is not necessarily infallible—and neither is the church’s.

    To put it perhaps more clearly, I reject the assumption that arriving at true theological knowledge requires a fundamentally different approach than arriving at a true knowledge of anything else. I don’t need to believe a scientist is infallible in order to believe and have true assurance that the earth is a (roughly speaking) sphere, and I don’t need to believe a Magisterium is infallible in order to believe in and have true assurance of the divinity of Christ, the truth of the resurrection, and so on. Nor do I need these things to ensure that they are not mere human opinion. I have a high regard for evidential apologetics, but at the end of the day, the Holy Spirit must finally convince me and anyone else of the truth of His Word. One of the means He do that is through the faithful preaching of His church, but it is not the exclusive means. And He certainly will not do it in a manner that contradicts His Word, which means many Roman doctrines, including the Immaculate Conception, automatically fail the test of being divine revelation.

    I reject the postmodern assumption that ultimately drives much of the apologetic for Rome, namely that all interpretations or opinion must be equally valid. That is a fundamental starting point that has to be proven, not simply asserted. I realize that you would likely not say that explicitly, but if your epistemology requires a church that is infallible in order to have certainty about which one is right, then the assumption is that the Mormon reading is just as valid as the Presbyterian reading and can provide just as much true assurance. That is not how any of us approaches knowledge in any other realm. Consider two competing interpretations —geocentrism and heliocentrism. I doubt that few of us are geocentrists. We study the issue as best we can, look at the evidence, consider the authorities who teach it and their credibility, and then conclude that heliocentrism is true. We don’t thereby believe that there are conditions under which the scientists who first discovered heliocentrism and their successors are infallible.

  3. Michael,

    That is why, on the CIP, the triad: Scripture-Tradition-Magisterium is such that the three elements are mutually attesting and necessarily interdependent. As Vatican II said, “none can stand without the others.” That’s because pitting any one of them against the other essentially rules out identifying any proposition as an authentic expression of divine revelation rather than a human opinion.

    Now to your credit, you recognize that Scripture should not be read apart from something called “the church.” But you don’t grasp the implications of that; instead, your very argument undermines your own position. Thus:
    No one is advocating reading Scripture apart from the church. If to read Scripture with the church means the church is infallible, then where does Scripture say that? If all three sources of authority are working together, then where does Scripture say the church is infallible? I have too high a view of man’s depravity (because of Scripture) to believe the church is infallible just because the church says so and because it can trace a pretended line of succession back to the apostles.

    By raising the question: “Where does Scripture say that?” as if the answer could trump the Magisterium’s claims for itself, you are proceeding as though the content and meaning of divine revelation can be reliably known independently of any church’s authority.

    At the end of the day, even if you accept that there is such a thing as a church that is infallible, you still have to make a judgment as to which church body that happens to be. That judgment is a fallible one. You are just pushing things back a step.

    If the content and meaning of divine revelation cannot be reliably known independently of any church’s authority, then Rome must discount the many people who, with no religious background whatsoever, find a Bible, read it and then believe in Jesus but never join the Roman church. Since Rome wants to extend salvation even to those who deny the Trinity—such as Muslims—I don’t think Rome will be doing that any time soon.

    If you really think that the content and meaning of divine revelation cannot be reliably known independent of church authority, then you are essentially saying that you believe the Roman Catholic Church is the one true church because the Roman Catholic Church tells you that it is the one true church. Furthermore, you have not answered the problem of how the OT saints knew God’s revelation. Jesus appealed to the Scriptures to verify His authority, but if there was no infallible pronouncement of the canon at that point, how did they know where to turn? How could they then be sure that their interpretation of it as pointing to Jesus was correct? Why is that not a mere fallible human opinion? Simply to say it is because they were living at a time when new revelation was given will not do. How did those who were receiving it know they were receiving it? Maybe they were hallucinating. What is the principled distinction by which Joseph knew one dream was from God and another was from his own mind? Did he really think to himself, “I have no principled way to distinguish between my dreams, so I’m going to risk my reputation by going through with my marriage to Mary even though this might be a mistake”? When he was told to take Mary and Jesus into Egypt, did he pause and realize he had no principled way to make a distinction between opinion and revelation, and so he said, “What the heck, I’ll just go anyway even though I’m risking my life and livelihood and those of my family.”

    What was the principled distinction for Peter to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and not one of the many other Messianic claimants of the first century? Where was the infallible visible body he could go to? Why was his conclusion no mere human opinion but one in which He could put His trust?

    The three-legged stool is a nice image, but if Rome determines infallibly the meaning of Scripture and tradition, you have a one-legged stool. No matter what anyone says, Rome must be right. Your driving presupposition makes it impossible to criticize Rome or reform her. You will always find a way to justify Roman pronouncements. Hence comments from earlier popes that the job of historical and biblical interpreters is to find whatever they can to justify Roman authority.

    If that were the case, then we ought to read Scripture independently of any church’s claim to authority, so as to assess such a claim for ourselves like any other matter of human knowledge, and pick our church accordingly. That would make us Protestants. But given your own interpretation of Scripture as teaching the “total depravity” of human reason, you can’t do that. Hence you and those who agree with you are left only with your opinions, which have no authority whatsoever. And that renders your question is altogether idle.

    Scripture also tells me that Jesus’ sheep hear His voice and that the Holy Spirit can reveal the church to us despite our depravity. It’s called the miracle of regeneration and the process of sanctification.

    Despite the many words you have written, you largely assessed the Roman Church’s claims for itself like any other matter of human knowledge and picked it accordingly, with the exception that your driving presupposition was that you needed a visible, infallible body to give you assurance. The way you went about picking a church is no different than the way Protestants do, unless, of course, you want to tell me that Mary or another saint came to you in a dream. If so, I want to know your principled reason for believing you were not having a hallucination.

    My choice of Christ, and, ultimately Presbyterianism as the best expression of the church, was arrived at in a manner that in many ways is not different than other objects of knowledge. I was raised Lutheran as a child and trusted my teachers that Christ is God and that salvation is by grace through faith. As I got older, I was able to test those claims. Apologists helped me to see the solid intellectual foundation for Christian faith. Personal experience told me that I was a sinner in need of salvation. Knowing the basics of church history helped me see that the medieval church became so corrupt that it forced schism in the East and West. When I entered college and graduate school, I studied other religions, finding the Qur’an, for example to be a false guide because it falsely presented what Christians actually believe. I saw through my study of history how so often the visible church seemed to have gone almost completely apostate except for a few who clung tenaciously to Scripture, so tenaciously that their view became the orthodox one (Athanasius, anyone?). I saw how the return of the Bible to the people in the Reformation led to social reforms. I came to understand that any human reasoning at all presupposes that there is a personal God who has made us in his image—which only the Bible teaches. I saw how Rome tortures Scripture to get papal infallibility out of Matthew 16. I saw the Roman Catholic Church appoint liberal scholars to the pontifical biblical commission. I saw the raw power grabs of the medieval church, the reliance upon forged documents such as the Donation of Constantine, and the incompatibility between a kingdom that is not of this world and the modern nation-state of Vatican City complete with its own secretary of state.

    Ultimately, however, I must credit my belief to the Spirit, who authenticates Scripture and makes it possible for me to believe unto salvation.

  4. Michael,

    Against the CIP, your objectively strongest argument is that the Magisterium, even when teaching with its full authority, has contradicted itself over time. But that is just to beg the question. High-level magisterial statements as you interpret them are thus mutually contradictory, but the question is whether they can and should be interpreted otherwise, whether by individuals or the Magisterium itself. They can be, as evidenced by the fact that thoughtful Catholics and the Magisterium itself, over time, have seen no such contradictions. And if the Magisterium does bear the authority it claims, then they should be so interpreted.

    Couple of things:

    1. If the Magisterium does not bear the authority it claims but really wants to bear such authority, of course it is going to read changes as if they were not contradictions. The Jehovah’s Witnesses do it all the time.

    2. Thoughtful Roman Catholics have, over time, seen the contradictions, hence the sedevacantist movements and those who oppose the reforms of Vatican 2. You can tell me, of course, that such are not true Roman Catholics. That only lends credence to my charge of sola ecclesia.

    3. What is the principled distinction by which I know the Magisterium of the moment is giving me a true interpretation? As you say elsewhere, most of Roman Catholic Europe thought “no salvation outside of the visible church” meant no salvation outside of communion with the Roman pontiff. This would include most popes and cardinals. Were they just passive recipients of revelation who said things they didn’t really understand? Did the Spirit shut off their minds when they make an infallible pronouncement such as EENS so that the words are true but they don’t know their meaning? How do I know the Magisterium of the day is saying things that don’t really mean what we think they mean on the face of it?

    Against that, you have cited the favorite example of contemporary Protestants, namely that Vatican II contradicted the traditional Catholic dogma of extra ecclesiam nulla salus (“Outside the Church there is no salvation; ‘EENS’ for short). But there is no historical evidence that EENS was taken by the Magisterium to mean that people in general can only be saved through “visible union” with the Catholic Church. For a little over a millennium (roughly, 400-1600), most Western-European Catholics understood EENS that way because they lived in a profoundly Catholic culture, so that a person’s lack of visible union with the Church was presumed to be radically culpable. But given the persistence of the schism with the Orthodox, the discovery of the “New World” full of religiously ignorant natives, and the entrenchment of Protestantism, the Magisterium came to reject that presumption. Even Aquinas recognized that “invincible ignorance” is exculpatory; Popes Pius IX and XII, and in due course Vatican II, merely expanded the application of that concept to allow for exculpatory “imperfect” communion with the Church.

    It won’t do to cry foul here, claiming that the Magisterium’s self-interpretation is self-serving. What looks that way from the standpoint of your IP doesn’t look that way from the standpoint of the CIP. And so the question which IP is the more reasonable, given the subject-matter of divine revelation, must be addressed before the question who gets to interpret magisterial pronouncements, and how. You have not done that.

    If the Magisterium did not think that EENS meant people could be saved apart from visible union with the Church, why did Luther and countless other Protestants have a price on their head? Why were Protestant missionaries to Italy killed? Why the Inquisition? The Magisterium thought that Protestant teaching was so dangerous to people’s souls that they were willing to bless the killing of its architects and promoters.

    What looks unreasonable or not certain enough from the Catholic interpretive paradigm does not look unreasonable or not certain enough from the Protestant interpretive paradigm.

    The fundamental difference is that you are the one who is trying to define what is most reasonable. You make all these comments and write hundreds of words that talk about how Christianity is a revealed religion (which I believe) but then you essentially say that you will not believe Christianity or that it is unreasonable to believe it without a visible body that can make infallible pronouncements under certain conditions. So, you are essentially setting your opinion about what will satisfy you as the ultimate standard. That is your starting point. You have said so elsewhere by saying that you could not be a Christian unless the RC or EO is the church. Your starting point is wrong. If Christianity is a revealed religion, you must accept whatever authority Christ has actually given, which may not be the infallible body you are looking for.

    The Bible has a word for demanding that God meet certain conditions before they will believe—unbelief.

    As I said to Jason, I don’t see how your demands will not lead more philosophically minded individuals such as yourself you finally into atheism. You are a smart guy, and I don’t think you will be able to deny basic historical facts forever. History is not kind to the church of Rome unless you first accept Roman presuppositions.

  5. Michael (following on from the “difference a vowel makes post”), in a round-about way, you have basically conceded that indeed the OT was an age of mere personal opinions. The only exceptions were those rare few people who had a direct experience of God. So God indeed left the believers in the OT in a epistemologically hopeless position (although not a soteriologically hopeless one). No one could know beyond their opinion. All their debates (and intellectual deliberations) were only just short of a farce because they didn’t realise that they actually needed an infallible magisterium in order to know something definitively. They might be of the opinion that the God of Israel is the only God (a true opinion), but unless they were Moses who heard it direct from God it was simply an opinion. And the Israelites who affirmed YHWH and Baal or Asheroth (a false opinion) were of a different opinion, and there was no definitive way to tell the difference (at least until the Catholic Magisterium arrived, at which point the correct opinions could be declared and defined as definitive truth). Is this correct Michael?

  6. Last post was addressed to Michael Liccione (+Don’t know why it went all italics)

  7. Guys,
    Something to consider which was quite different with in the OT era was the fact that the unity of God’s people was defined within the context of the descendants of the patriarchs with whom God gave the promises of the covenant. Therefore unity was inherent to the physical dependency and keep the unity of the people even with disagreements. This is an extreme change in the NT era, where now not only the physical descendants of the promise are the people of God, but in Christ all people are called into the unity of God’s people, therefore there will be an agent incorporated which creates that unity. That unity is the sending of Christ and then his sending of the Apostles in His name to “make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
    Just something to roll around,
    Mike

  8. MichaelTX,

    Your last post is largely inaccurate. Unity of God’s people was not defined merely in terms of the descendants of the patriarchs, for many descendants were cut off for unbelief. Then, as now, the defining characteristic was faith. Hence Ruth and Rahab were true Israelites, but not Ishmael and Esau.

    The history of Israel proves this. Up until the exile, you had multiple competing claimants to being true Jews, many of whom were outright pagans, and there was no infallible visible hierarchy to tell them they were holding mere personal opinions. The prophets, when criticizing the people, appealed to the Torah. After the exile, outright idolatry was much less common, but the people still had nothing but the OT to indicate who the Messiah would be, despite divisions into different parties such as the Sadducees and Pharisees.

  9. Robert,
    I think you misunderstand me. I do not mean to say that the believers with true faith in God were defined my there heritage. I mean the unity of the called out people was defined by heredity and the given nation and laws of God, by which they could be identified from outside in the world. Despite any divisions only Israelites could enter inter court areas of God’s single temple and only one chosen Israelite could enter the Holy of Holies once a year. This is quite a different change in the NT where though Christ we all may enter the Holy of Holies through the body of the one High Priest of us all.
    Sorry for any confusion,
    Mike

  10. Jason,

    You ask this:

    What historical circumstances need to have occurred in order to substantiate apostolic succession?

    My answer is that for the Roman Catholic version of Apostolic succession to be valid, as opposed to the EO or Protestant versions, there would need to be some directive from the Apostles that tells us that the Roman bishop was to have functional preeminence over all other bishops and that he was to lead the Church on all matters of faith and morals. We have lots of writings from the Apostles but nothing in there about the importance of the Bishop of Rome. Now you might argue that such directives are in the oral tradition of the Christian faith rather than in what has been written down for us. And if you want to try to make this case, go ahead. But if you can’t then from my perspective the RCC version of Apostolic succession fails.

  11. @Jason:
    Ditto on the historical question. The essence is the ability to speak on behalf of Rome to the world. Peter Lampe, who is a critic of papalism, identifies an “outside minister” for Rome who speaks on behalf of the local Roman community to others. But from a theological perspective, that’s more than enough if the men appointing him permanently are likewise presbyters and bishops celebrating the Eucharist. The fact that Lampe, a specialist who has every reason to deny as much as he can, can’t manage to jump the hurdle he needs to jump strikes me as awfully good evidence that it can’t be done.

    One other major theological principle of Church history needs to be covered. The entire basis for this way of thinking is that Christ Himself is the revelation: everything before Christ was obscure to some extent, and everything after Christ is clear to the extent possible in our pilgrim journey on earth. There’s been a lot of discussion about the Old Testament along those lines. How did the Old Testament saints know? How were they saved? Did they not have Scriptures? Didn’t Jesus say they should have known?

    The fact that Scripture gives such accounts of special revelation in the Old Testament and the inter-testamental period shows exactly what is wrong with this reasoning. If the Scriptures themselves were adequate, then God, would not have needed to send signs and prophets at all. Rather, the Old Testament would have already outlined a fully adequate means of revelation, and the coming of Christ to reveal the Father would have had no revelatory significance but only a legal significance within the Jewish Law. (This was the view of the Judaizers. )

    By contrast, after Christ, such signs can be sent out of spontaneous divine grace, but they are not necessary for public revelation. That is the advent of the “principled means of distinguishing divine revelation from mere opinion.” The Holy Spirit must therefore serve the purpose of leading Christians to such a means; if the Holy Spirit needs to provide additional revelation, that would mean that the revelation of Christ itself is inadequate.

    Historical analysis that is not based on this theological principle is therefore defective. The idea that there is a univocal “people of God” with equal revelatory access before and after Christ is unsustainable. Instead, when we look for a principled means of distinguishing the time before and after Christ, we need to find something after Christ that was not there before. Likewise, the principled means inaugurated by Christ’s revelation must be the same ever after. Breaking the latter principle was obviously necessary for the Reformation, and the historical origins of that erroneous principle among Joachim de Fiore, the Spiritual Franciscans, the Brethren of the Free Spirit, the Lollards, and other similarly apocalyptic medieval mystics are echoed in Protestantism even hundreds of years later.

  12. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    So the approach to determining theological knowledge has much in common with the study of natural revelation. God reveals Himself in the world and God reveals Himself in His Word. Both streams of revelation are infallible, but my interpretation of them is not necessarily infallible—and neither is the church’s.

    Well that pretty much cinches it. ‘Tis a clear manifestation of the “Visible Doctrine/Invisible Doctrine dichotomy” (which goes right along with the Visible Church/Invisible Church one). As I’ve said, it’s Fiducial Faith to simply trust that Invisible Doctrine is right and true even though its content is unknowable and inaccessible. One simply trusts that it’s “up there, somewhere” in the Mind of God.

    One might muse as to why the Reformed don’t have a Visible Jesus/Invisible Jesus dichotomy, but this is not because the historical Jesus and historical Incarnation are unimportant in Reformism, but rather, simply because the Incarnation (Incarnationalism) plays no role in its worldview/ecclesiology/praxis (i.e. the Incarnation is not its Cosmic Hermeneutic).

    I’ll have more to say about all this later and on another thread, (including trying to parse out the Incarnationality of the Catholic dynamic), but this suffices to show that, as long as one hangs onto the Visible/Invisible Dichotomy, no Motives of Credibility or Authority-claims will ever be good enough. The skepticism is built right in from the get-go.

    So the question is, “Is Apostolic Succession, even if a historical fact, important to a Reformed worldview?” Base upon what Jason said, (“… I can say from personal experience that I concluded long before I was a Catholic that apostolic succession actually occurred. I just didn’t attribute any theological significance to it.”), that would seem to be “Negatory, good buddy”.

  13. @Andrew McCallum:

    My answer is that for the Roman Catholic version of Apostolic succession to be valid, as opposed to the EO or Protestant versions, there would need to be some directive from the Apostles that tells us that the Roman bishop was to have functional preeminence over all other bishops and that he was to lead the Church on all matters of faith and morals. We have lots of writings from the Apostles but nothing in there about the importance of the Bishop of Rome.

    I think I can answer that directly from the principle above. The Scriptures are about Christ primarily and us only peripherally. The Gospels say explicitly that they are about Christ, not that they are an instruction manual. So if one comes across the revelation of Christ, Who claims to be the once-for-all revelation of the Father, one would be led to the questions that I raised above? What has changed? How is Christ the once-for-all revelation? Where can I find a principled means of determining what is revealed by Christ?

    Looking for evidence of an explicit directive is therefore misplaced, because we wouldn’t expect the Apostles to need to write that for the reasons I gave above: if people are looking for Christ, then they will have something to find. You would instead look for a Church that functions as if it were such a principled means and examine the Tradition that made it what it is.

  14. The fact that Scripture gives such accounts of special revelation in the Old Testament and the inter-testamental period shows exactly what is wrong with this reasoning. If the Scriptures themselves were adequate, then God, would not have needed to send signs and prophets at all.

    At certain limited points in the OT and then during the times of Jesus/Apostles there were miraculous signs given because there was no Scripture to reference on the points that the Prophets/Apostles/Jesus were speaking on. This was brand new revelation right from the mouth of God. But once the Scriptures were complete they were sufficient, and as they were utilized by the Church (as such Church is defined in the Scriptures) there was no more need for miracuous gifts to point to the truth of God’s revelation to us.

  15. Looking for evidence of an explicit directive is therefore misplaced, because we wouldn’t expect the Apostles to need to write that for the reasons I gave above: if people are looking for Christ, then they will have something to find. You would instead look for a Church that functions as if it were such a principled means and examine the Tradition that made it what it is.

    So Jonathan, which “Church” do look to – the one defined in Scriptures or the one that evolved out of Rome in the West centuries later? If you assume the later then you are assuming a big part of what we are asking you to prove.

    You don’t want an “explixit directive.” OK then maybe you could start with something not quite so direct in the writing of the Apostles which would finger the Bishop of Rome as THE bishop to whom all other bishops were to be in functional obedience.

    Since the EO share a similar philosophy of revelation to you maybe you ought to start with disproving the EO on this account.

  16. Wosbald,

    Your comments above are filled with so much inaccuracy that it is hard to know where to start.

    1. The fact that the Reformed ecclesiology does not mirror Roman or EO ecclesiology prove the incarnation is unimportant to Reformed thought and practice. The question is whether Roman ecclesiology is an accurate reflection of the incarnation. Since all must finally bow to the infallible pronouncements of the Magisterium, one could say that Roman ecclesiology veers in a Monophysite direction.

    2. The Reformed do not believe doctrine is unknowable simply because it is in God’s mind.

    3. So the question is, “Is Apostolic Succession, even if a historical fact, important to a Reformed worldview?” Base upon what Jason said, (“… I can say from personal experience that I concluded long before I was a Catholic that apostolic succession actually occurred. I just didn’t attribute any theological significance to it.”), that would seem to be “Negatory, good buddy”.

    The issue is whether apostolic succession, as defined by Rome, is a historical fact. If it were, it would be important to a Reformed worldview. The problem is establishing it from apostolic testimony to which people apart from the Magisterium that most profits from the doctrine have access. We just grant that those who later went all heretic-like but who had the laying on of hands by an orthodox person have no valid claim to being the successor of the apostles in any sense. Forgive us for caring about whether our leaders actually taught what Peter, Paul, and company did. Our bad, I guess.

  17. I haven’t read the post yet, but I saw the picture and laughed. In true 2K form, I have to confess that sense of humor is not dependent on orthodoxy!

  18. Jason–

    1. Against your definition of minimum requirements is the demonstrable fact that for large sections of time the “Roman” bishop did not reside in Rome. You, of course, are speaking of a valid minister of the church having some sort of jurisdictional authority over the whole church, even during times when it was not (or could not) be centered in Rome.

    2. But this means that during the early years–when it seems historically verifiable that the Bishop of Rome did not hold church-wide jurisdiction of any sort–your definition fails. You cannot have it both ways. You, I am sure, will speak of the development of the doctrine of the papacy and weasel out of that one. (You will not even think of it as “weaseling.”)

    3. The only clear biblical succession is that of Apostles: Matthias was chosen in Judas’ stead. This is not a succession that could continue for long because one of the requirements was to have walked and talked with Jesus (which Paul only met in precarious fashion).

    4. Since no succession of Apostles is possible and no single line of succession from the Apostles can be shown, I would like to dispense with the term apostolic succession (in the Roman manner). It is way too speculative even to speak of in a meaningful sense.

    5. It appears that the Apostles appointed bishops in every region to which they traveled. No line looks dominant. Peter accedes to both Paul and to James (neither one of whom is one of the Twelve).

    6. All that Rome can claim is to have is A possible line of succession from the Church which Christ founded. There is no evidence whatever that it was established to be THE line of succession. None whatever. Case closed.

    7. It is a human phenomenon–repeated hundreds, possibly even thousands of times–that the “firebrands” of a revolution are swept aside. Idealists are almost always replaced by those who are politically or militarily powerful. We see this in religious movements, as well: the House of the Prophet, the Party of Ali (the Shi’ites) got shoved aside by the (Sunni) Caliphate. Joseph Smith’s direct heirs got shoved aside by Brigham Young. And on and on. We should expect a dominating party to sweep into power. Rome was the center of the Empire. It was what one would expect of mankind. It is not what one would expect from God. (Later, when Constantinople became the New Rome, lo and behold, it became a rival center within the church. Poof, just like that, the imprimatur of the Savior.)

    8. As “SS” has pointed out (and been shouted down as somehow irrelevant), the only designated center for the church in Scripture was Jerusalem. Backwater town.

    Be that as it may, here is my criterion for successful apostolic succession: that the Bishop of Rome has always been a respectable man of faith. Any credible succession, protected with the chrism of Christ, would have included a component of spiritual fealty. Guess what we don’t get from Rome?

    Quite honestly, I could not care less whether Rome has a “line of succession” stretching back to the Apostles. In the West, so do the Anglicans and the Swedish Lutherans and the Old Catholics. How do the Rome-declared “breaks” in each of their lines compare with possible “breaks” in Rome’s own line(s)?

    How do you deal with them Jason? They fit quite nicely under your own “minimum” requirements. Is it time for minor amendments to your criteria?

  19. All–

    Sorry about all the italics. (I hate html tags!!!)

  20. Ah, I guess it wasn’t my mistake, after all!!

  21. Jason, you said:

    “My suggestion is rather minimal: all that needs to have taken place is that from the time of St. Peter until the papacy of Francis, there has always been a leader of the Roman church with full ministerial powers. It doesn’t matter if he used the title of “Pope,” it doesn’t matter if he had a full understanding of the extent of his own authority, and it doesn’t matter if he worked closely with, or more independently from, the other ecclesiastical leaders within his region.”

    This appears to me to be a nebulous statement. What do you mean by “full ministerial power?” If it is not connected to their own self-understanding of his authority, the title which he assumes, and if his relation with other ecclesiastical officers is not taken into consideration, what do you have in mind?

    I’m not sure anyone denies that there were leaders of the church in Rome. Even liberals scholars acknowledge as much. If Rome is the Church that Christ founded, then all of the qualifications you’ve listed as “not mattering” are actually the heart of the matter. The question is not whether there were ministers in Rome, everyone affirms that. The question, for the Roman claim, centers around the existence of a papal office instituted by Christ.

    Did any leader in Rome believe himself to be filling the chair of St. Peter? If so, this means that it most definitely matters how he understood his office. Consequently, it most certainly matters how he understood his authority. Finally, it is perhaps most important how he interacted (and was viewed) by other churches outside of Rome. Whether or not the bishop of Rome follows in a line of episcopal apostolic succession does not necessarily defeat an argument for apostolic succession (i.e. E.O) but it deals a serious blow to the Roman argument for Apostolic succession.

  22. Maybe an arbitrary closing tag here will turn off the tap of Italics? Wouldn’t want anything Italian or Romish going crazy on the internet after all…

    But Eric, great points. There were apostles, plural (and wasn’t James in charge?), they ordained bishops, even more plural, and things grew from there. Not apostolic succession in a line, but gospel succession in a branching genevangelogical tree.

  23. Nope, extra closing tags didn’t help. JJS maybe you can edit Erics post above to clean up the html and the rest will fix itself?

  24. @Andrew McCallum:
    I could not reject Eastern Orthodoxy based on the criteria I outlined, so that discussion would be off topic. The minimal historical evidence required for belief in the papacy is also consistent with the Eastern Orthodox view of a primacy of honor.

    As to “which church,” your assumption that Scripture defines the Church, as opposed to being the Church in which the Scriptures function, is question begging. And your assertion that the Scriptures at some point became “complete” and “sufficient” suffers from the same defective theological assumption I explained before. If it were simply a matter of completing the Scriptures, Christ’s Incarnation is unnecessary for revealing God, but the Scriptures themselves contradict this (e.g. John 1:18, 14:6).

  25. test test

  26. Jason–

    I’m not sure that I can divorce the historical legitimacy of apostolic succession from its theological significance even as a thought experiment.

    I’m sure I speak for many Protestants when I say that one of my criteria would also be the end results: a valid “apostolic succession” would necessarily produce a faithful church. This certainly could not be said of the Catholic church immediately preceding the Protestant Reformation (many, many Catholics themselves would not presume to claim such a thing), and most Protestants would not be able to say such of the present Church of Rome. (Exactly how bad does a church have to be before it can be said that “the Gates of Hell” have prevailed against it?)

  27. Many Roman Catholic priests will admit that they receive no ‘special power’ in their ordination, that ordinary believers don’t have.

    There’s no etherial ‘blue gas’ that is passed from one special set of fingertips to other people.

    The power lies in the Word of God. Romans 1:16.

  28. You quoting somebody there Steve?

  29. As to “which church,” your assumption that Scripture defines the Church, as opposed to being the Church in which the Scriptures function, is question begging.

    Jonathan,

    On the contrary, my comments to Jason explicity stated that I was open to hearing about what other evidence he might bring to the table besides Scripture. Go back and read my first comment to Jason again. And I’ll make the same challenge to you – what in the Apostolic witness justifies the RCC version of Apostolic authority? And if we don’t ground the RCC notion of Apostolic succession in a mandate from the Apostles, what is it based on? Vague references to the Apostles passing authority to the next generation don’t substantitate the pecularities of Roman Catholic dogma on succession.

    Since in the EO mind the concept of primacy wrt the Bishop of Rome is purely titular, and they reject any kind of functional headship of the Bishop of Rome, the EO version of succession is a different version than either the Roman or Protestant one.

  30. Robert:

    To say “sola Scriptura” devolves into “solo Scriptura” is a polemical distortion.

    Bryan Cross and Neal Judisch gave an extended argument for what you call a “polemical distortion.” You have not rebutted that argument.

    If the Magisterium tells me infallibly what is Scripture and what portions of tradition to hear—because you know full well that Rome does not follow all of church tradition—then the Magisterium is the final authority. When I point to an aspect of Roman Catholic theology that is at odds with tradition and Rome can infallibly tell me either that said tradition is not truly apostolic or that I have interpreted it improperly, Rome is the final infallible authority. If Rome makes an infallible pronouncement that cannot be questioned, it is the final authority. Scripture is essentially non-self authenticating under the Roman IP if Rome must identify it. Sola Ecclesia.

    Here’s why your sola ecclesia is a polemical distortion. On the CIP, the Magisterium is not the “final authority,” or indeed any authority, for determining the content of the Word of God. The primordial word of God is the Son, and the Word transmitted to us through Scripture and Tradition is him. The Magisterium is not even the “final authority” for identifying and interpreting the Word as transmitted through those two “sources.” God is; the Magisterium, under certain conditions, is merely a embodiment of that authority, and thus secondary. The Magisterium is the “final authority” only in the sense that, for us on earth, it is the court of last appeal for settling potentially church-dividing questions about how to identify and interpret the Word. That does not replace the divine authority of the Word; rather, it is God’s instrument for enabling us to locate and interpret the Word in a manner that transcends mere opinion.

    The assumption that fallibility means that one cannot teach with divine authority is just that, an assumption. If I, though fallible, teach something that conforms fully to the infallible Word of God, then what I teach has divine authority, not by virtue of a charism God has given to me but from the nature of God’s Word. Or, as one Reformed confession puts it, “the preached Word of God is the Word of God.”

    That misses the point utterly. Without an infallible authority to settle questions about where the Word of God is to be found and what it means, then the belief that such-and-such a teaching “conforms fully to the infallible Word of God” can be held and taught only as an opinion, and thus is not held and taught with divine authority.

    I thought the whole point of the Roman Catholic natural theology tradition was that human reason alone can discover at least some divine truths.

    Of course. But when I speak of “divine revelation” as something that human reason cannot in principle discover, I am speaking of special not general revelation. That distinction is standard in Roman-Catholic theology. My mistake was to assume that you would assume I knew that.

    That said, St. Thomas Aquinas did argue, correctly, that it’s fitting that truths belonging to general revelation be taught with the authority of the Magisterium. That’s because, given the effects of original and actual sin, such truths are often not discovered by individuals using reason alone, and even when they are, they are often mixed with much error. As an adherent of the doctrine of “total depravity,” you should have no difficulty seeing that.

    I reject the assumption that arriving at true theological knowledge requires a fundamentally different approach than arriving at a true knowledge of anything else. I don’t need to believe a scientist is infallible in order to believe and have true assurance that the earth is a (roughly speaking) sphere, and I don’t need to believe a Magisterium is infallible in order to believe in and have true assurance of the divinity of Christ, the truth of the resurrection, and so on. Nor do I need these things to ensure that they are not mere human opinion. I have a high regard for evidential apologetics, but at the end of the day, the Holy Spirit must finally convince me and anyone else of the truth of His Word. One of the means He do that is through the faithful preaching of His church, but it is not the exclusive means. And He certainly will not do it in a manner that contradicts His Word, which means many Roman doctrines, including the Immaculate Conception, automatically fail the test of being divine revelation.

    When the distinction between general and special revelation is kept in mind, that too can be seen to miss the point. Let’s see how, by following your reasoning.

    You say: “I don’t need to believe a Magisterium is infallible in order to believe in and have true assurance of the divinity of Christ, the truth of the resurrection, and so on.” Of course you don’t. It is quite possible to come to believe, and feel certain about, all manner of truths of special revelation without believing the Magisterium is infallible. My point is that, without relying on the sort of authority the Magisterium claims for itself, you cannot distinguish such beliefs from opinion in a principled way. Of course you go on to say: “Nor do I need these things to ensure that they are not mere human opinion.” But what reason do you give for saying that? “…at the end of the day, the Holy Spirit must finally convince me and anyone else of the truth of His Word. One of the means He do that is through the faithful preaching of His church, but it is not the exclusive means.” But as a Catholic, I can and do say the same thing for myself. Our particular disagreement is not about the necessity of the Holy Spirit to “convince” us of the truths of special revelation. Nor is it about the need for the teaching of “His church” as a means of his doing so. Our disagreement is about the kind of authority “His church” must have in order to serve as such a means, and about how to identify “His” church.

    On your view, which is a standard confessional-Protestant view, we first come to know the content of special revelation by studying and meditating on “the sources,” be they taken as the writings of Scripture alone or Scripture in combination with some notion of Tradition. We then determine which church’s teaching conforms with that knowledge, and pick our church accordingly. Thus even for confessional Protestants, the content of the deposit of faith can be known independently of ecclesial authority, which is acknowledged only to the extent that a church conforms, in the individual’s judgment, to an independently acquired knowledge of what the Word of God is and what it means. You judge your Reformed church to so conform, and the Catholic Church to not so conform. Thus: “And He certainly will not do it in a manner that contradicts His Word, which means many Roman doctrines, including the Immaculate Conception, automatically fail the test of being divine revelation.” Well, millions of educated Catholics, including myself, don’t think that distinctively Catholic doctrines “contradict” the Word at all, but in fact belong to the Word. And you cannot demonstrate, as a matter of knowledge rather than opinion, that we are wrong, any more than I can do the same for your beliefs. That’s because our respective interpretive paradigms are both fundamentally incompatible and, of necessity, logically under-determined by the data. So the discussion, if it is to go anywhere, must begin with comparing those IPs with each other, to determine whose conception of epistemic authority is more fit for distinguishing divine revelation from human opinion. That’s what I began to do in the CTC article of mine which followed up the Cross/Judisch critique of Keith Mathison on sola scriptura. You have not addressed my arguments. Since this thread is not the place to do that, I suggest your post your rebuttals in the combox over there.

    At the end of the day, even if you accept that there is such a thing as a church that is infallible, you still have to make a judgment as to which church body that happens to be. That judgment is a fallible one. You are just pushing things back a step.

    That’s a repetition of the standard tu quoque objection, which Bryan Cross and I have both rebutted. Again, I refer you to our respective CTC articles, and invite you to comment on mine. I deal with the TQ directly in the last section of mine.

    If the content and meaning of divine revelation cannot be reliably known independently of any church’s authority, then Rome must discount the many people who, with no religious background whatsoever, find a Bible, read it and then believe in Jesus but never join the Roman church. Since Rome wants to extend salvation even to those who deny the Trinity—such as Muslims—I don’t think Rome will be doing that any time soon.

    For reasons I made quite clear in the comment I addressed to Anthony in the same thread you’re responding to, that is a fallacious argument. It is possible to discover and affirm truths which in fact belong to special revelation, without being able to explain how one can profess them as such, rather than just as opinions.

    I reject the postmodern assumption that ultimately drives much of the apologetic for Rome, namely that all interpretations or opinion must be equally valid. That is a fundamental starting point that has to be proven, not simply asserted. I realize that you would likely not say that explicitly, but if your epistemology requires a church that is infallible in order to have certainty about which one is right, then the assumption is that the Mormon reading is just as valid as the Presbyterian reading and can provide just as much true assurance.

    That’s just a distortion of my position. It is perfectly consistent for me to acknowledge that some interpretations and opinions are better-supported by evidence and argument than others. My point is that the assent of faith is not assent to well-supported opinions, but to what is proposed by divine authority. Our disagreement is about how to locate and identify that authority; and if that disagreement could not itself be resolved beyond the level of opinions, faith would be impossible. Whatever its nature and scope, that authority is not a matter of opinion.

    If you really think that the content and meaning of divine revelation cannot be reliably known independent of church authority, then you are essentially saying that you believe the Roman Catholic Church is the one true church because the Roman Catholic Church tells you that it is the one true church.

    I am not saying that at all. I argue, instead, that accepting some authority of the sort the Catholic Church claims for itself is a necessary condition for distinguishing special revelation from human opinion in a principled way. That does not show that the Catholic Church actually has that authority as opposed, say, to the EO communion or the Mormon church. Resolving that further issue requires further arguments that I have given elsewhere.

    Furthermore, you have not answered the problem of how the OT saints knew God’s revelation. Jesus appealed to the Scriptures to verify His authority, but if there was no infallible pronouncement of the canon at that point, how did they know where to turn?

    I answered that question in my reply to Anthony.

    What was the principled distinction for Peter to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and not one of the many other Messianic claimants of the first century? Where was the infallible visible body he could go to? Why was his conclusion no mere human opinion but one in which He could put His trust?

    Your questions are irrelevant. The CIP’s triad: Scripture-Tradition-Magisterium is for those of us who, not having experienced the definitive revelation in Christ directly, must make our assent of faith by accepting some ensemble of secondary authorities as embodiments of Christ’s divine authority. Thus Peter, experiencing said revelation directly, didn’t need the Magisterium. He got the truth straight from the source of the Magisterium’s authority, namely the Word himself.

    The three-legged stool is a nice image, but if Rome determines infallibly the meaning of Scripture and tradition, you have a one-legged stool. No matter what anyone says, Rome must be right. Your driving presupposition makes it impossible to criticize Rome or reform her. You will always find a way to justify Roman pronouncements. Hence comments from earlier popes that the job of historical and biblical interpreters is to find whatever they can to justify Roman authority.

    Another distortion. It is no part of the CIP to claim that Rome is always right. As a Catholic, I’d say that popes have made many mistakes. The Church is divinely protected from error only when teaching under certain conditions. Only teachings set forth under those conditions are irreformable.

    Despite the many words you have written, you largely assessed the Roman Church’s claims for itself like any other matter of human knowledge and picked it accordingly, with the exception that your driving presupposition was that you needed a visible, infallible body to give you assurance. The way you went about picking a church is no different than the way Protestants do, unless, of course, you want to tell me that Mary or another saint came to you in a dream. If so, I want to know your principled reason for believing you were not having a hallucination.

    Yet another distortion. I do not see my belief in the Magisterium’s claim for itself as an item of “knowledge” but as an article of faith. Nor did I come to said belief by what you call a “presupposition.” I have a philosophical argument for my belief that “a visible, infallible body” is needed for making a principled distinction between special revelation and human opinion, whether that body be the Catholic Church or some other. So, while I appreciate the brief intellectual autobiography you give in the rest of the paragraph I’ve just quoted, it settles nothing; for I could give you mine in response, and that would just put us right back where we started. Thus when you say: “Ultimately, however, I must credit my belief to the Spirit, who authenticates Scripture and makes it possible for me to believe unto salvation,” I can and do say the same for myself. The dispute is about the means which the Spirit uses to make possible and facilitate the assent of faith, as opposed to that of opinion.

    If the Magisterium does not bear the authority it claims but really wants to bear such authority, of course it is going to read changes as if they were not contradictions. The Jehovah’s Witnesses do it all the time.

    The Magisterium must do what you say even on the assumption that it does have the authority it claims. That’s because it, like the JVs or any other church, sets store by being self-consistent, as well it should. Hence, your objection is not really an objection.

    Thoughtful Roman Catholics have, over time, seen the contradictions, hence the sedevacantist movements and those who oppose the reforms of Vatican 2. You can tell me, of course, that such are not true Roman Catholics. That only lends credence to my charge of sola ecclesia.

    A schismatic minority of Catholics judges that some of Vatican II’s statements are logically incompatible with Tradition and dogma. Thus they are doing the same sort of thing that schismatics in every generation of the Church have always done–only about different issues. That does not constitute an objection to the Magisterium’s claims for itself. All you’ve shown is that you believe their and your interpretive authority trumps the Magisterium’s. Just like schismatics in every generation.

    What is the principled distinction by which I know the Magisterium of the moment is giving me a true interpretation? As you say elsewhere, most of Roman Catholic Europe thought “no salvation outside of the visible church” meant no salvation outside of communion with the Roman pontiff. This would include most popes and cardinals. Were they just passive recipients of revelation who said things they didn’t really understand? Did the Spirit shut off their minds when they make an infallible pronouncement such as EENS so that the words are true but they don’t know their meaning? How do I know the Magisterium of the day is saying things that don’t really mean what we think they mean on the face of it?

    Such questions are merely rhetorical, even if not intended as such. EENS remains an irreformable dogma; what developed in the Church over time, in light of historical facts, was an expanded understanding of what “communion with the Roman pontiff” could consist in, for those who do not culpably reject it. That development is logically compatible with the wording of the applicable dogmas. That the Church’s understanding of how they apply took time to develop does not mean that those who defined the dogma didn’t understand it at all. It only means that, given their cultural milieu, they didn’t understand as fully as we have come to understand it. The same goes for doctrines you would agree with, such as the Christological dogmas defined in the first millennium. There will always be heretics and/or schismatics who reject this-or-that doctrinal development, just as there were in the first millennium. Some of those schisms persist to this day. But that is not an objection to doctrinal development in general, or to the content of any development in particular.

    If the Magisterium did not think that EENS meant people could be saved apart from visible union with the Church, why did Luther and countless other Protestants have a price on their head? Why were Protestant missionaries to Italy killed? Why the Inquisition? The Magisterium thought that Protestant teaching was so dangerous to people’s souls that they were willing to bless the killing of its architects and promoters.

    People of all sides back then believed that heresy was in some cases punishable by death at the hands of the state, because theological orthodoxy, however that was conceived, was assumed to be the basis not merely for individual salvation, but also for social cohesion and political legitimacy. That belief, in my view, was erroneous, and the Church has come to understand it as erroneous. But that sort of belief could not qualify as a dogma, because it didn’t and couldn’t have qualified as belonging to the deposit of faith. Hence, its rejection by the contemporary Church is not a contradiction of dogma.

    What looks unreasonable or not certain enough from the Catholic interpretive paradigm does not look unreasonable or not certain enough from the Protestant interpretive paradigm.

    Indeed. So the discussion needs to start by comparing the two IPs to see which, given general norms of rationality, is better suited for achieving the purpose of theological IPs, which is to distinguish divine revelation as such from human opinion.

    The fundamental difference is that you are the one who is trying to define what is most reasonable. You make all these comments and write hundreds of words that talk about how Christianity is a revealed religion (which I believe) but then you essentially say that you will not believe Christianity or that it is unreasonable to believe it without a visible body that can make infallible pronouncements under certain conditions. So, you are essentially setting your opinion about what will satisfy you as the ultimate standard. That is your starting point. You have said so elsewhere by saying that you could not be a Christian unless the RC or EO is the church. Your starting point is wrong. If Christianity is a revealed religion, you must accept whatever authority Christ has actually given, which may not be the infallible body you are looking for.

    That your last sentence is true shows why your previous sentence begs the question and your overall critique is idle. I fully agree that we “must accept whatever authority Christ has actually given.” We disagree about the nature and scope of that authority. My argument is that, given your IP, such a disagreement cannot be resolved even in principle, whereas given mine, it can be resolved in principle, even though in practice many do not accept it.

    Best,
    Mike

  31. I’m guessing we all just have italics, now.

    Steve,
    I think I could say the same as a husband or father, but I clearly have had an irrevocable change in the previous call of God to a new substantial position regarding what I am to do and be from this point forward.
    Good to see you roaming around in here still.
    Peace,
    Mike

  32. Oh dear. Somewhere toward the beginning of my previous comment, I forgot to close an italic. Jason, please fix.

  33. Steve,
    I also should be confident that God will supply all the necessary grace to fulfill my new ontological position of greater responsibility before Him.

    Hope I used ontological right. 🙂
    Peace,
    Mike

  34. Michael L,

    Its the whole page brother.

  35. Michael Tx,

    My pastor was a Lutheran chaplain in the Air National Guard and his father was also a Lutheran Chaplain in the Air Force.

    Both had contacts and friendships with many Catholic priests who admitted to them that there was nothing in them that was different than any lay person because of their ordination.

  36. The power comes from the Word of God. Romans 1:16

    We have One Mediator and that is Christ Jesus.

    Yes we need pastors and preachers and priests for good order. But we don’t need their ‘special touch’ to make the sacraments efficacious. The Word is quite capable of accomplishing that for which it sets out to do.

    Thanks, all. Off to work.

    ___

    Michael, got your e-mail (thank you). Will try and reply later this evening.

  37. +JMJ+

    Robert wrote:

    Wosbald,…
    2. The Reformed do not believe doctrine is unknowable simply because it is in God’s mind.

    Well, it’s a good thing that I didn’t say that, then.

  38. Jonathan Prejean wrote:

    One other major theological principle of Church history needs to be covered. The entire basis for this way of thinking is that Christ Himself is the revelation: everything before Christ was obscure to some extent, and everything after Christ is clear to the extent possible in our pilgrim journey on earth. There’s been a lot of discussion about the Old Testament along those lines. How did the Old Testament saints know? How were they saved? Did they not have Scriptures? Didn’t Jesus say they should have known?

    The fact that Scripture gives such accounts of special revelation in the Old Testament and the inter-testamental period shows exactly what is wrong with this reasoning. If the Scriptures themselves were adequate, then God, would not have needed to send signs and prophets at all. Rather, the Old Testament would have already outlined a fully adequate means of revelation, and the coming of Christ to reveal the Father would have had no revelatory significance but only a legal significance within the Jewish Law. (This was the view of the Judaizers. )

    By contrast, after Christ, such signs can be sent out of spontaneous divine grace, but they are not necessary for public revelation. That is the advent of the “principled means of distinguishing divine revelation from mere opinion.” The Holy Spirit must therefore serve the purpose of leading Christians to such a means; if the Holy Spirit needs to provide additional revelation, that would mean that the revelation of Christ itself is inadequate.

    Your argument is unsound because it commits the fallacy of affirming the consequent. Your proposition is essentially this:

    1. If God fully revealed truth in the catholic magisterium, we have a principled means of distinguishing truth from opinion.

    2. We have a principled means of distinguishing truth from opinion.

    3. Therefore God fully revealed truth in the catholic magisterium.

    No one is disputing that Christ is the final and fullest revelation of God and His will. What is in dispute is that the principled means to distinguish truth from opinion is the magisterium via the CC.

    Historical analysis that is not based on this theological principle is therefore defective. The idea that there is a univocal “people of God” with equal revelatory access before and after Christ is unsustainable. Instead, when we look for a principled means of distinguishing the time before and after Christ, we need to find something after Christ that was not there before. Likewise, the principled means inaugurated by Christ’s revelation must be the same ever after. Breaking the latter principle was obviously necessary for the Reformation, and the historical origins of that erroneous principle among Joachim de Fiore, the Spiritual Franciscans, the Brethren of the Free Spirit, the Lollards, and other similarly apocalyptic medieval mystics are echoed in Protestantism even hundreds of years later

    The theological principle you speak of begs the question. The objective observer is under no compulsion to accept your assumption that the magisterium is in fact, the means through which a principled decision can be made on doctrinal matters. I had a good chuckle reading your post because you began by pointing to Peter Lampe’s work, and that in and of itself is reason enough to call into the question the P in your proposition above.

    Lampe says:

    “Before the middle of the second century in Rome, at no time did one single prominent person pass on the tradition: this was done by a plurality of presbyters … at the time that Rome experiences the development of a monarchical episcopacy, a twelve-member list of names going back to the apostles is constructed … the presence of a monarchical bearer of tradition is projected back into the past…

    talk about wrong reasoning…

  39. Cool Steve,
    Sounds good. Hear from you later.

    Regarding your post 10:10 post,

    I agree with all of that, yet I would say to be conformed to the Word we do need their sending or ordination. For without a sending from the Father we would not have received the Word made flesh and to be in the image of God we, as Man, still receive the Son by grace at the sending of the Father.
    Even within the Church we are conformed to the image of God revealed in the Word made flesh. Not by mediation but by conformation unto the Word, by grace. We need no priest except for the fact that the Christ, the one mediator, has willed to come in the flesh still unto this day. Even if it is the likeness of sinful flesh. It is not the priest per say who is changed it is the availability of Christ to the world that changes, because of His choice to bring us into Himself through the flesh in conformity to Himself.

    Hope that helps reveal my basic understanding,
    Mike

  40. Jason wrote:

    Speaking for the Catholic side, I would suggest that most of the data adduced by Protestants from secondary sources — data that is being used to delegitimize apostolic succession — actually only beats up a straw man by attempting to poke holes in aspects of a position that we do not actually insist upon

    Jason,

    We’ve come full circle. Allow me a minute to mourn… and the privilege of a lament: you began this series of blog posts by taking on the protestant understanding of salvation and justification from a unique angle – the idea being that if the protestant paradigm is true then is it reasonable to expect to see things like Rom 2:13, Jas 2:24 and so on in the pages of the Bible. You did not deny that the Protestant side had a way to account for these verses, but instead argued that while that was so, probabilistically speaking, this strained credulity.

    And so, I joined you in pointing out why I also thought the protestant understanding of justification is flawed.

    But now, ironically, you are in the same boat you decried the protestants for: you have decimated your position’s credibility on apostolic succession by the death of a thousand qualifications. No one doubts that you can defend the catholic understanding of succession. But if this defense involves torturous qualifications, exceptions, rationalizations, special pleading, and ignores the work of even catholic historians such as Lampe by way of ad hominem, you should be not be surprised that others don’t see what is so clear to you now.

    To paraphrase you: Possible? Yes. Likely? No.

  41. Brandon wrote:

    Did any leader in Rome believe himself to be filling the chair of St. Peter? If so, this means that it most definitely matters how he understood his office. Consequently, it most certainly matters how he understood his authority. Finally, it is perhaps most important how he interacted (and was viewed) by other churches outside of Rome. Whether or not the bishop of Rome follows in a line of episcopal apostolic succession does not necessarily defeat an argument for apostolic succession (i.e. E.O) but it deals a serious blow to the Roman argument for Apostolic succession.

    +1

    (bolded above my emphasis)

  42. Ruberad wrote:

    There were apostles, plural (and wasn’t James in charge?), they ordained bishops, even more plural, and things grew from there. Not apostolic succession in a line, but gospel succession in a branching genevangelogical tree.

    Keep always in mind without Peter no Church, and the succesion is sacramental.

  43. Andrew,

    My answer is that for the Roman Catholic version of Apostolic succession to be valid, as opposed to the EO or Protestant versions, there would need to be some directive from the Apostles that tells us that the Roman bishop was to have functional preeminence over all other bishops and that he was to lead the Church on all matters of faith and morals. We have lots of writings from the Apostles but nothing in there about the importance of the Bishop of Rome. Now you might argue that such directives are in the oral tradition of the Christian faith rather than in what has been written down for us. And if you want to try to make this case, go ahead. But if you can’t then from my perspective the RCC version of Apostolic succession fails.

    This tactic of pitting Rome against EO and then hiding behind that division is of no help to Protestantism. Rome and EO are in complete agreement on AS as a necessary condition, and in complete agreement about how that Protestantism and its idea of doctrinal succession is a complete novelty that no body in the first 1000 years would have recognized as valid. Heck, EO even affords to the pope a primacy of honor.

    The question for you is not “What circumstances establish the full-blown papacy?”, but “What circumstances establish or invalidate apostolic succession as a historical phenomenon?”

  44. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    Your argument is unsound because it commits the fallacy of affirming the consequent. Your proposition is essentially this:
    1. If God fully revealed truth in the catholic magisterium, we have a principled means of distinguishing truth from opinion.
    2. We have a principled means of distinguishing truth from opinion.
    3. Therefore God fully revealed truth in the catholic magisterium.

    Actually, since Jonathan said this…

    “Instead, when we look for a principled means of distinguishing the time before and after Christ, we need to find something after Christ that was not there before. Likewise, the principled means inaugurated by Christ’s revelation must be the same ever after.”

    … I think that you could. more fairly, reformulate the syllogism along these lines…

    1. There must be a stable (semper eadem), uniquely post-Christic Principle by which to determine Public, Divine Revelation.

    2. The Magisterium is such a Principle.

    3. Therefore, the Magisterium is, at least, an admissible contender.

  45. SS,

    Yes, I have moved on from discussing the gospel to discussing the church, and from things you agree with me about to things you don’t. Seeing as you dismiss the entire historical church as hopelessly broken since Acts 28 ended, I can understand how you would “lament and mourn” my defense of an actual visible institution (although the handwaving is a bit off-putting).

    Man, it must be nice to be able to sit above history and judge it from the convenience of detachment, issuing jeremiads to everyone else!

  46. Jason,

    Part of the problem for you is that for centuries Rome taught that the full-blown papacy existed from the day Peter founded the church in Rome. Even now, I don’t see many attempts made to disabuse the uneducated of the belief that the papacy existed in the second century as it exists today.

    In any case, off the top of my head, the bare minimum criteria for apostolic succession according to the general Roman/EO view would be an apostolic statement that:

    1. We are to identify the church of Christ by a visible bishopric that can trace a lineage back to the apostles.
    2. There are specific conditions under which the apostolic successors, if they exist, are infallible

    The lack of either one of these, I would think, would eliminate the traditional view of Apostolic succession in Rome or EO.

  47. Mike L wrote (from the Vowels thread, in response to Anthony)

    You’re overlooking a crucial distinction: that between believers who receive and profess what in fact belongs to divine revelation, but who do not possess the necessary, principled means for distinguishing it from human opinion, and believers who receive and profess divine revelation precisely by such a means. It is quite possible to be the first sort of believer without being the second, and indeed that’s sometimes the case. That’s why, on the Catholic IP, we can and do affirm that some people who do not recognize the authority of the Catholic Church can nonetheless have a degree of faith and even be saved. They receive and possess much of what is in fact divine revelation, and are sanctified to a degree as they live accordingly, but they cannot explain how they can distinguish it in a principled way from human opinion, because they do not recognize the authority needed for that purpose.

    The above belies either ignorance, misunderstanding, or a deliberate avoidance of Jewish Covenantal realities. Whichever it is, the conclusion is still the same, namely that the reasoning is flawed and hence mistaken. It is precisely because God directly revealed Himself to Abraham, in the cutting of the covenant, that the latter could stand with epistemological certainty upon His promises:

    Gen 15:
    “17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi[e] of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”

    Abraham did not need an intepretative paradigm to distinguish anything, because the Father of every true paradigm revealed Himself directly to Him, and proved that this was no mere invention of the man’s imagination, by fulfilling all He had promised to him. This is the Jewish paradigm that trumps any western/rationalistic set of ideas. In fact, were it not for the former, the latter wouldn’t even exist.

    Now some of the “righteous” of the OT and inter-testamental periods–such as Abraham, Moses, the later prophets, Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah, and John the Baptist–experienced divine revelation’s unfolding directly. Thus they knew they were believing God; they didn’t have to rely exclusively on a secondary authority for the content of their faith, even though the fullness of revelation was not yet known to them. Many others, however, were in a position similar to the people I described in the previous paragraph. They did not experience divine revelation directly, nor did they receive and profess the definitive revelation in Jesus Christ, because they could not. But they did receive and profess, through what was in fact Scripture and Tradition, the preparatory stages of that definitive revelation by grace, and responded to it appropriately by grace. Since all grace comes ultimately from Christ, they thus participated proleptically in that definitive, revealed reality which they did not see in its fullness. Accordingly, though they were in no position to explain how to distinguish that definitive revelation from human opinion, what they affirmed and lived by was not, in fact, a matter of opinion. For that reason, they had faith as a virtue, but not the fullness of “the faith” as the object of their assent of faith.

    Re bolded above (my emphasis): again this is ignoring the reality of the Jewish covenant and the historical outworking of that covenant by the mighty Hand of God.

    Hebrews 11:1 states:

    Now Emunah is the substance of things for which we have tikvah. Emunah is the conviction of things not seen.

    I use the Jewish bible translation here to point out that the semitic conception of faith involves certainty and conviction, in contradistinction to the argument above which states that the OT saints had no way to distinguish opinion from divine revelation. They have conviction, assurance of the things not seen and promised, not epistemological doubt as to the origin of such promises. That’s why they are extolled in the hall of faith. That their faith is prototypical of the faith that a believer in Christ would is besides my point. My point is that they had epistemological certainty, because they had witnessed the mighty acts of God on their behalf, they had motives of credibility so to speak. That is why they could make such an assent of faith, which is the conviction of things unseen.

    But here’s the thing. Given that the definitive revelation in Jesus Christ has occurred, and has been handed on to us through Scripture, Tradition, and the Church to whom those have been entrusted, we are now able to do what they could not: distinguish, explicitly and reliably, divine revelation from human opinion. The Catholic IP exhibits how that works. But if one holds that nobody after Christ is ever infallible by divine gift, then one cannot explain how to distinguish divine revelation as such from human opinion, even if much of what one professes happens, as a matter of fact, to be divine revelation. Hence, one cannot even explain why the NT’s treatment of “the righteous” of the OT and inter-testamental periods is anything more than the opinions of the writers and those who choose to believe them.

    The last sentence above illustrates the flaw in your stance, you commit the fallacy of affirming the consequent (see my 10.33 am post to Jonathan).

    This is why all appeals to Scripture against the Catholic Magisterium’s claim for itself simply beg the question. If one denies that any such ecclesial authority has the authority it claims, because everybody’s always fallible, then such appeals cannot present themselves as anything more than one opinion among others, which is not to present divine revelation as such, even when some of one’s religious opinions otherwise happen to be true. And that’s exactly what you’re doing.

    The people of God were called to walk by faith. Not make an idol out of infallibility. God’s faithfulness to His people was always and everywhere sufficient for them to believe Him and be saved, despite the mistakes the leaders made owing to their sin. Hence, John the Baptist knew with divine certainty, that Jesus was the Messiah and preached as much. Zechariah and Elizabeth sacrificed in the temple, anticipating Messiah, and were righteous before God.

    “39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

    How interesting that Elizabeth did not say “Mary, I know you think you are carrying Messiah, and amma let you finish, but that strikes me as the most ridiculous belief of all time!”. Mary stood upon the epistemic certainty that is unique to the covenant that God made with His people. Once the angel spoke, she believed fully. There was no need for a catholic IP and saying that it was already present at the time is mere question begging.

  48. Eric,

    1. Against your definition of minimum requirements is the demonstrable fact that for large sections of time the “Roman” bishop did not reside in Rome. You, of course, are speaking of a valid minister of the church having some sort of jurisdictional authority over the whole church, even during times when it was not (or could not) be centered in Rome.

    A bishop of Rome being forced to leave the city does not falsify anything I have said, since none of it depends on his mailing address. Just like Bush was still president even though he spent most of his presidency on his ranch in Texas chopping wood, so the pope is still the pope even if he needs to flee for a time.

    2. But this means that during the early years–when it seems historically verifiable that the Bishop of Rome did not hold church-wide jurisdiction of any sort–your definition fails. You cannot have it both ways. You, I am sure, will speak of the development of the doctrine of the papacy and weasel out of that one. (You will not even think of it as “weaseling.”)

    My definition fails? Read my post again, because you’re taking from it the exact opposite of what I actually said. My point was that for AS to be historically true, it is not requisite that early popes recognized the full extent of their authority. And your dismissal of development as “weaseling” just begs the question. If all change is corruption, then you’d need to make that case rather than just imply it.

    3. The only clear biblical succession is that of Apostles: Matthias was chosen in Judas’ stead. This is not a succession that could continue for long because one of the requirements was to have walked and talked with Jesus (which Paul only met in precarious fashion).

    So you’re saying that the only clear instances of “biblical succession” are those instances recorded in the Bible? Umm, yeah, I agree (kind of like the only accounts of presidential succession recorded in a Lincoln biography are the 14 that preceded him). But as you know, Clement wrote — before John died — that succession just kept on happening from apostles to bishops.

    4. Since no succession of Apostles is possible and no single line of succession from the Apostles can be shown, I would like to dispense with the term apostolic succession (in the Roman manner). It is way too speculative even to speak of in a meaningful sense.

    Your skeptic’s slip is showing. You want to dismiss something that was considered an undisputedly necessary condition for valid ministry for 1500 years, and down to this day among the CC and EO, simply because you it “can’t be shown” to your satisfaction? Hey, it’s a free country. But don’t turn around and argue that you’re not a Solo Scripturist, not to mention an ecclesial deist.

    5. It appears that the Apostles appointed bishops in every region to which they traveled. No line looks dominant. Peter accedes to both Paul and to James (neither one of whom is one of the Twelve).

    None of this falsifies apostolic succession in the least. And last I checked, Paul went to Jerusalem to set his gospel before Peter “lest he had run, or was running, in vain.”

    6. All that Rome can claim is to have is A possible line of succession from the Church which Christ founded. There is no evidence whatever that it was established to be THE line of succession. None whatever. Case closed.

    Wow, that was quick! Of course, this just ignores everything I said in my post.

    7. It is a human phenomenon–repeated hundreds, possibly even thousands of times–that the “firebrands” of a revolution are swept aside. Idealists are almost always replaced by those who are politically or militarily powerful. We see this in religious movements, as well: the House of the Prophet, the Party of Ali (the Shi’ites) got shoved aside by the (Sunni) Caliphate. Joseph Smith’s direct heirs got shoved aside by Brigham Young. And on and on. We should expect a dominating party to sweep into power. Rome was the center of the Empire. It was what one would expect of mankind. It is not what one would expect from God. (Later, when Constantinople became the New Rome, lo and behold, it became a rival center within the church. Poof, just like that, the imprimatur of the Savior.)

    You do realize that, until very recently, Christianity has completely dominated the West? And in this country and much of Europe, Protestant Christianity? If this is “not what one would expect from God,” then what happens when it’s people you agree with who wield power?

    8. As “SS” has pointed out (and been shouted down as somehow irrelevant), the only designated center for the church in Scripture was Jerusalem. Backwater town.

    Fine. But please don’t make any pretenses about caring at all about the post-apostolic church, which considered Rome pretty, pretty important. I mean, SS floats above history and issues calls to repentance, but I thought you were a confessional Protestant.

    Be that as it may, here is my criterion for successful apostolic succession: that the Bishop of Rome has always been a respectable man of faith. Any credible succession, protected with the chrism of Christ, would have included a component of spiritual fealty. Guess what we don’t get from Rome?

    So ecclesial authority is contingent upon the sanctity of those who claim to wield it? OK, but don’t claim to not be a Donatist.

    Quite honestly, I could not care less whether Rome has a “line of succession” stretching back to the Apostles. In the West, so do the Anglicans and the Swedish Lutherans and the Old Catholics. How do the Rome-declared “breaks” in each of their lines compare with possible “breaks” in Rome’s own line(s)? How do you deal with them Jason? They fit quite nicely under your own “minimum” requirements. Is it time for minor amendments to your criteria?

    That’s why having a pope really helps (!). As long as any form of succession suffices, then I could go get ordained as an Anglican and then break away and form a church around my idea that Cylons are really among us and 9/11 was a hologram, and as long as I ordain a bunch of people, the succession is preserved. There’s a reason why Jesus told Peter to feed his lambs, tend his sheep, and why he gave the keys to him alone.

    I’m sure I speak for many Protestants when I say that one of my criteria would also be the end results: a valid “apostolic succession” would necessarily produce a faithful church. This certainly could not be said of the Catholic church immediately preceding the Protestant Reformation (many, many Catholics themselves would not presume to claim such a thing), and most Protestants would not be able to say such of the present Church of Rome. (Exactly how bad does a church have to be before it can be said that “the Gates of Hell” have prevailed against it?)

    This just makes reform impossible, since the moment “the church” (whatever that is) has been “unfaithful” for a few weeks, it can be declared illegitimate and a break-away group can claim to reconstitute it.

    Just slow down. The indulgence abuses of the sixteenth century are all fixed now (and have been for centuries). The priestly abuse issues are being dealt with, and within a decade or two will be a thing of the past. But as long as people maintain their Donatist ideas about maintaining a perfectly faithful church or risk losing all church authority, we’ll have nothing but endless division and anarchy.

    Oh, wait – never mind. . . .

  49. SS,

    Yes, I have moved on from discussing the gospel to discussing the church, and from things you agree with me about to things you don’t. Seeing as you dismiss the entire historical church as hopelessly broken since Acts 28 ended, I can understand how you would “lament and mourn” my defense of an actual visible institution (although the handwaving is a bit off-putting).

    Man, it must be nice to be able to sit above history and judge it from the convenience of detachment, issuing jeremiads to everyone else!

    Jason,

    The Pharisees were eminently visible in Jesus’ day. Were they therefore legit?

    Regarding sitting above history and judging: I would reframe that as discerning and not judging. As I have said many times, I do not declare you or catholics unsaved, nor do I condemn anyone. God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy. I do however reserve the right to disagree with the claims of the CC and point out why. And this is done, believe you me, without convenience, because I have paid a dear price to detach myself from existing structures ( I won’t go into details). Not to mention that if we were in the dark ages, I would have been executed by now by the authorities that you now uphold, so I count myself as blessed.

    The lament was over the flaw in your logic over apostolic succession. I thought your approach was justified in the beginning re soteriology and still think the paradigmatic question remains. I just wish you would be consistent in your ecclesiological thinking, that’s all.

    Shalom.
    SS.

  50. @Andrew McCallum:
    Apostolic authority is a theological concept. Appealing to Scripture as evidence of apostolic authority is itself begging the question. You have to have a theological paradigm that includes apostolic authority before you can inquire about what data is relevant.

    @SS:
    Wosbald got it right, and you could rewrite the syllogism as follows:

    1. If public revelation is closed after Christ, then Christ must have left a lasting, principled means of discerning divine revelation.

    2. The Protestant interpretive paradigm (PIP) affirms that public revelation is closed.

    3. The PIP does not provide for a lasting, principled means of discerning divine revelation.

    4. Therefore, the PIP denies that public revelation was closed after Christ. (modus tollens from 1 and 3)

    5. 2 and 4 contradict each other; therefore, the PIP is not true (law of non-contradiction).

    That’s a valid argument. You may not accept 1-3, but the logic holds.

  51. Jason wrote:

    None of this falsifies apostolic succession in the least. And last I checked, Paul went to Jerusalem to set his gospel before Peter “lest he had run, or was running, in vain.”

    This is what the text states in Gal 2:

    “Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. 2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain.”

    There is nothing in the text that proves Petrine supremacy. It doesn’t say that Paul set his gospel before Peter, but before those of reputation. While Peter was obviously of the contingent, there’s no compulsion to see him as the head of the church. If anything, at par value, the text suggests a plurality and conciliar process. This view is strengthened by the account in Acts 15, where James makes the final decision as to what they were to do with the gentiles. Peter got to speak yes, but he does not make the final decision, James does. Now I know that you’ve said that the catholic position has no problem with that. But that’s precisely why I believe your paradigm not just unconvincing, but extremely so.

  52. The biblical evidence for the primacy of Peter among the Apostles is well known. Peter is always listed first as well as being distinguished among the other Apostles; e.g., “Cephas and the Twelve.” Christ’s words in Matthew 16 are addressed specifically to Peter, and include implicit reference, via the OT background in Isaiah 22, to a succession in the office of chief steward.

    The historical evidence for Peter having traveled to and from Rome and back, ministering and ultimately being martyred in that city is likewise well known, being laid out, for example, by George Edmundson in The Church in Rome in the First Century.

    So it is in one sense a matter of course that the the office of primacy, with the authority that goes with it, which office and authority Peter uniquely held (as witnessed by the NT), not apart from the other Apostles and Christian ministers, but among them, would be passed on to a successor, not in Jerusalem or Antioch, but in that city where Peter last resided and exercised his ministry; namely, Rome.

    More generally, we have early evidence that among the bishop/presbyters in a local church, one of these represents that church in a unique way; the monarchical episcopate emerges clearly from history as the Apostles themselves, and those apostolic men whom they directly ordained to exercise leadership over a geographical area (e.g., Timothy and Titus), passed away. Thus, the principle of headship, originally embodied in the twelve themselves, and those men to whom they explicitly entrusted headship, continues on in an uninterrupted succession with the monarchical bishop; i.e., among those bishops ordained by the Apostles and apostolic men, but themselves being neither, one is elected as head of the local church. Early evidence for this hierarchical structure is like-wise well known, being found in the epistles of Ignatius of Antioch.

    As we study the first several centuries of the life of the universal Church, we come across more and more evidence the Church of Rome has a unique role in the life of univeral Church, and that the bishop chosen as head of the local church in Rome exercises the specifically Petrine charism in a unique way. This evidence, extending from Clement (96 AD) to various letters to and from Pope Leo after the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD), is also well known, and has been helpfully gathered and presented by Edward Giles in Documents Illustrating Papal Authority.

    Of course, neither Peter nor the bishop who succeeds to his Chair in Rome is only bishop, and as controversies arose around the Christian world, those men who had received the authority to teach, sanctify, and govern the Church exercised that authority in communion with one another, where they were, and as issues presented themselves. Thus, Church councils are held all over the Roman Empire in the first five centuries, from Jerusalem to Chalcedon. And while it falls to Peter (Acts 15:6-12) and the successors to his unique office (cf., the Tome of Leo) to his office to speak the decisive word, it belongs to the whole Church, particularly the bishops, to receive and promulgate that word (cf., Acts 15:22, the doctrinal definition of the Fathers of the Council of Chalcedon).

    Of course, because the doctrinal content of the faith is available to all, and since the bishops and their presbyters have the task of handing on this content to the faithful, which requires there understanding and expounding it, and even in some cases developing it in profound theological reflection and influential writings, there are always going to be occasions for dissent. The bishop of Rome, as attested by the evidence just summarized, has the authority to exercise the power of the keys in a uniquely decisive way, he does not have the power of mind control. Many of the objections to papal authority depend the fact of dissent, but of course that fact would prove far too much, re any claim to authority.

    This summary is already over-long for a comment, so I’ll say further that the evidence for apostolic succession, in its historical and theological dimensions, which as Mike has rightly noted cannot really be separated, is sufficient for anyone to who wants to believe to reasonably believe that the bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome (together with presbyters and deacons who assist them), and they alone, are the authentic ministers of the New Covenant Church in its fullest and most rightly ordered expression in history.

  53. @SS:
    Wosbald got it right, and you could rewrite the syllogism as follows:

    1. If public revelation is closed after Christ, then Christ must have left a lasting, principled means of discerning divine revelation.

    2. The Protestant interpretive paradigm (PIP) affirms that public revelation is closed.

    3. The PIP does not provide for a lasting, principled means of discerning divine revelation.

    4. Therefore, the PIP denies that public revelation was closed after Christ. (modus tollens from 1 and 3)

    5. 2 and 4 contradict each other; therefore, the PIP is not true (law of non-contradiction).

    That’s a valid argument. You may not accept 1-3, but the logic holds.

    My original argument to you (that you commit the fallacy of affirming the consequent) had nothing to do with the PIP. Hence, you still have to show how and why your argument is not flawed.

  54. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    My original argument to you (that you commit the fallacy of affirming the consequent) had nothing to do with the PIP. Hence, you still have to show how and why your argument is not flawed.

    I think he covered that in saying that “Wosbald got it right” by identifying your misrepresentation of his argument. See my earlier post (Apr 25th @ 11:07 am).

  55. There are several typos and word omissions in the previous comment; but you catch my drift. I just want to clarify that the claim that “the doctrinal content of the faith is available to all” needs to be unpacked. In the sense most relevant to my argument, it is available insofar as it has been presented for theological reflection in the liturgy, including the reading of Sacred Scripture and the preaching of the bishop (or the presbyter to whom the bishop has delegated this task), in the decisions of councils, and in the theological literature. And of course the doctrinal content of the faith is progressively made more and more explicit, by the foregoing means, in the life of the Church as a whole, as the occasion demands and the Spirit leads. And of course it is almost always the case that many people refuse to accept a definitive doctrinal development, for reasons of their own. But this in no way disproves that the authority by which Christian doctrine is thus defined is in fact not the kind of authority that it claims to be.

  56. @SS:
    You’re confused. I wasn’t making an argument for Catholicism. I was making an argument for why a principled means of discerning revelation is a necessary, though not sufficient, element of any theologically orthodox Christian church. It is an argument against Protestantism, not an argument for Catholicism.

  57. I think he covered that in saying that “Wosbald got it right” by identifying your misrepresentation of his argument. See my earlier post (Apr 25th @ 11:07 am).

    No, he didn’t cover that because the principled means of distinguishing truth from opinion need not be the magisterium as defined by catholics and it need not presuppose discontinuity in the economy of salvation from the pre-Christ to the post-Christ era.

  58. I wasn’t making an argument for Catholicism. I was making an argument for why a principled means of discerning revelation is a necessary, though not sufficient, element of any theologically orthodox Christian church. It is an argument against Protestantism, not an argument for Catholicism.

    Your definition of principled means of discerning revelation assumes infallibility. That’s why your argument is still a quasi argument for catholicism.

  59. +JMJ+

    Wosbald wrote:
    .
    I think he covered that in saying that “Wosbald got it right” by identifying your misrepresentation of his argument. See my earlier post (Apr 25th @ 11:07 am).

    SS wrote:
    .
    No, he didn’t cover that because the principled means of distinguishing truth from opinion need not be the magisterium as defined by catholics and it need not presuppose discontinuity in the economy of salvation from the pre-Christ to the post-Christ era.

    Yes, it covered that by showing that he wasn’t “affirming the consequent”.

    The fact that you want to dispute the admissibility of his Major Premise is another argument entirely. Go ahead and run with this, instead. The field is open.

  60. @SS:
    Do you believe that the authors of Scripture wrote infallibly? Everybody believes in infallibility of divine revelation; it’s just a question of whose ox gets gored.

    My conclusion was not tailored to Catholicism, so your accusation that I explicitly or implicitly affirmed the consequent is false.

  61. Hello Andrew,

    You said,

    “More generally, we have early evidence that among the bishop/presbyters in a local church, one of these represents that church in a unique way; the monarchical episcopate emerges clearly from history as the Apostles themselves, and those apostolic men whom they directly ordained to exercise leadership over a geographical area (e.g., Timothy and Titus), passed away. Thus, the principle of headship, originally embodied in the twelve themselves, and those men to whom they explicitly entrusted headship, continues on in an uninterrupted succession with the monarchical bishop; i.e., among those bishops ordained by the Apostles and apostolic men, but themselves being neither, one is elected as head of the local church. Early evidence for this hierarchical structure is like-wise well known, being found in the epistles of Ignatius of Antioch.”

    I understand that there is some plausibility to this reconstruction, but we have no indication from the biblical writing that the church had instituted a monarchical episcopate with Peter as the head. This is a hotly contested point. I do see Timothy and Titus being commissioned as ministers (Paul speaks very highly of Timothy) but I’m not sure I see them being installed as bishops. Where do we have Paul instill Timothy or Titus as the bishop of a particular city?

    Then, working backwards in your comment, can you provide a biblical reference to Peter being instilled as the bishop of any city–even if you can argue for Petrine privilege? Claiming that because Peter died in Rome that he must ordain a successor who remains a bishop in that city is perplexing. I have not read Edmundson so you may be assuming things I am unaware of–my issue not yours–but if that is the summation of the argument I find that deeply problematic.

    Finally, appealing to the historical reality of the pervasive influence of the Roman bishop is corroborating evidence to your claims, but I do not find the pervasiveness of the Church of Rome to be related to it’s Petrine office. I actually believe the reverse. I believe that because of Rome’s political and economic clout, narratives arose to explain Rome’s power. This is not to say that Rome would not have been significant if it wasn’t the capital city of the Roman Empire–the two most influential leaders were martyred there! But I believe that earlier history, particularly in the city of Rome, provides the strongest evidence that Rome’s importance to Christianity came after Rome was already important because of its political position.

    Lampe has been mentioned time and again, but I think he is worth mentioning again. He masterfully argues that the rise of the Roman episcopate developed from the diaconal funds of the city. Before making this argument Lampe appeals to the fractionated structure of Roman geography (and the supporting archaeology) to make this case. I won’t rehash all of Lampe here, but I think that he is compelling and provides a more holistic understanding of the development of Christianity and the Roman Church that the narrative you offer above.

  62. Jonathan wrote:

    By contrast, after Christ, such signs can be sent out of spontaneous divine grace, but they are not necessary for public revelation. That is the advent of the “principled means of distinguishing divine revelation from mere opinion.

    The above bolded is the catholic view, presupposed in your argument. You are still affirming the consequent in the proposition I outlined above.

  63. I actually believe the reverse. I believe that because of Rome’s political and economic clout, narratives arose to explain Rome’s power.

    By Occam’s Razor and its parsimony, this alternative carries far more explanatory power than what has been presented in this thread.

  64. Anthony:

    Addressing me, you wrote:

    …in a round-about way, you have basically conceded that indeed the OT was an age of mere personal opinions. The only exceptions were those rare few people who had a direct experience of God. So God indeed left the believers in the OT in a epistemologically hopeless position (although not a soteriologically hopeless one). No one could know beyond their opinion. All their debates (and intellectual deliberations) were only just short of a farce because they didn’t realise that they actually needed an infallible magisterium in order to know something definitively. They might be of the opinion that the God of Israel is the only God (a true opinion), but unless they were Moses who heard it direct from God it was simply an opinion. And the Israelites who affirmed YHWH and Baal or Asheroth (a false opinion) were of a different opinion, and there was no definitive way to tell the difference (at least until the Catholic Magisterium arrived, at which point the correct opinions could be declared and defined as definitive truth). Is this correct Michael?

    Not correct. You’re overlooking another key distinction: that between propositions that are intrinsically matters of opinion, and propositions that express either fact or revealed truth, but which cannot be shown to be anything more than opinions until further evidential conditions warrant.

    An example of a proposition that is “intrinsically” a matter of opinion would be

    (1) My wife would never be unfaithful to me.

    Now (1) may well be true, but there is no way to know that it is true. For even if my wife in fact remains faithful to me until death, that does not rule out that she could have chosen otherwise; and if she could have chosen otherwise, then (1) cannot be known to be true. Thus (1) is, at most, a well-supported opinion–one which, I might add, a good husband would be normally be inclined to hold. But that doesn’t make (1) an item of knowledge for him or anybody; it’s only a expression of (presumably) justified trust.

    By contrast, some true propositions are not matters of opinion, even though the facts they express are not yet known. E.g., somebody who said in 1300 that

    (2) The shape of the Earth is roughly spherical

    was stating a fact, but given the evidence available at the time, they could not show that it was anything more than a well-supported opinion. But the evidence for (2) now available is so overwhelming, when taken as a whole, that denying (2) would simply be unreasonable. Thus we know now that (2) expresses a fact, whereas centuries ago, people did not know that–even those who believed (2).

    Now consider the case of revealed truths. The examples of divine revelation you have chosen are not apposite on my view, because the proposition that God is one is philosophically demonstrable, and thus, as an instance of general revelation, is an item of knowledge for us. Let’s take a proposition belonging to special revelation:

    (3) Old Testament prophecy points to Jesus Christ and the Church, who fulfill it.

    On the assumption that the Bible, OT & NT, is a divinely inspired and thus inerrant expression of divine revelation, we can and should say that (3) is true. But the only people who can know (3) to be true are those experienced the fulfillment directly from Christ, the primordial Word who is God’s definitive revelation to man–namely, the Apostles and their associates. We who come after them cannot apprehend (3) as a fact, an item of knowledge; we can only accept them as articles of faith, by trusting some ensemble of authorities who transmit such propositions to us by divine authority. Analogously, people who, in the OT and inter-testamental period, experienced divine revelation’s unfolding directly, knew that what they experienced communicated truth, but did not grasp its full meaning, because its fulfillment in Christ had not yet occurred. And those who, during those periods, did not experience divine revelation directly could, by trusting authority, profess what was in fact divine revelation, but were in no position to explain why it was divine revelation and not just a well-supported opinion.

    Accordingly, the epistemic position of those Jews in the OT and inter-testamental periods who did not experience divine revelation directly, but who were faithful all the same, is this: What they believed and lived by was not intrinsically “personal opinion,” any more than the spherical shape of the Earth was ever such a matter. But given that the revelation they believed on authority, unlike those who knew because they experienced it directly, had not yet reached fulfillment in Christ and the Church he founded, they could not say how it was more than a well-supported opinion, but actually commanded the unconditional assent of faith.

    Best,
    Mike

  65. SS:

    The above belies either ignorance, misunderstanding, or a deliberate avoidance of Jewish Covenantal realities. Whichever it is, the conclusion is still the same, namely that the reasoning is flawed and hence mistaken. It is precisely because God directly revealed Himself to Abraham, in the cutting of the covenant, that the latter could stand with epistemological certainty upon His promises…

    That’s just a context error. I was speaking of those who, whether pre-Christ or post-Christ, have not experienced divine revelation directly. Those who did, had knowledge as well as faith, without need of a Magisterium. Hence the rest of your comment is off base.

    Given that Jason now has a new thread about a different topic, we should respect that. Hence I will not debate the topic of the old thread further here.

    Best,
    Mike

  66. Mike L wrote:

    Analogously, people who, in the OT and inter-testamental period, experienced divine revelation’s unfolding directly, knew that what they experienced communicated truth, but did not grasp its full meaning, because its fulfillment in Christ had not yet occurred.

    This imposes a quasi-gnostic mindset upon Scripture. Scripture attests to the semitic origins of the revelation of the one true God. As such, we should not be introducing and artificial distinction between the experience of truth and the knowing of truth. Precisely because such a distinction does not exist in the Jewish phronema. To experience IS to know and to know to experience. I adduce the Jewish concept of ‘knowing’ one’s wife, which involves direct experiential intimacy with the wife. I further adduce the words of Christ Himself who stated:

    “54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.

    Abraham was glad because he had a full experiential knowledge of God in Christ. To argue that he did not grasp the full meaning of Christ is simply not supported by Scripture and careful attention given to its semitic background.

  67. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    Jonathan wrote:
    By contrast, after Christ, such signs can be sent out of spontaneous divine grace, but they are not necessary for public revelation. That is the advent of the “principled means of distinguishing divine revelation from mere opinion.
    The above bolded is the catholic view, presupposed in your argument. You are still affirming the consequent in the proposition I outlined above.

    Oy gevalt. ‘Tis nothing but an expression of his Major Premise. Instead of spinning your wheels, a better tack would be to simply explicate your view that the pre-Christic and post-Christic economies are identical.

    But if you take this tack, I’m not even sure where common ground could be found. Off the cuff, it would seem like a variation of the Reformed understanding in which the Old Law is that which saves, but instead of Christ vicariously saving men through his keeping of the Old Law, it would be like Christ “enabling” our keeping of the Old Law unto salvation. Is that essentially where you’re going?

  68. Instead of spinning your wheels,

    Show how it is spinning my wheels, it’s a bit too easy to simply make the charge and expect everyone to agree with you.

  69. You’re overlooking a crucial distinction: that between believers who receive and profess what in fact belongs to divine revelation, but who do not possess the necessary, principled means for distinguishing it from human opinion , and believers who receive and profess divine revelation precisely by such a means. It is quite possible to be the first sort of believer without being the second, and indeed that’s sometimes the case. That’s why, on the Catholic IP, we can and do affirm that some people who do not recognize the authority of the Catholic Church can nonetheless have a degree of faith and even be saved. They receive and possess much of what is in fact divine revelation, and are sanctified to a degree as they live accordingly, but they cannot explain how they can distinguish it in a principled way from human opinion, because they do not recognize the authority needed for that purpose.

    to which I replied

    “The above belies either ignorance, misunderstanding, or a deliberate avoidance of Jewish Covenantal realities. Whichever it is, the conclusion is still the same, namely that the reasoning is flawed and hence mistaken. It is precisely because God directly revealed Himself to Abraham, in the cutting of the covenant, that the latter could stand with epistemological certainty upon His promises…”

    and to which you said

    That’s just a context error. I was speaking of those who, whether pre-Christ or post-Christ, have not experienced divine revelation directly. Those who did, had knowledge as well as faith, without need of a Magisterium. Hence the rest of your comment is off base

    In your earlier comment you distinguished between believers who:

    1. receive and profess what in fact belongs to divine revelation but lack PMD
    2. receive and profess divine relation by the means of PMD.

    The first category above contradicts you saying that you were speaking of those who had not experienced divine revelation directly. So my post isn’t off base.

  70. Brandon,

    As I argued in my comment, there is in fact some “indication from the biblical writing that the church had instituted a monarchical episcopate with Peter as the head.”

    I claimed that Timothy and Titus were given authority in certain “geographical areas” (cf. Titus 1:5). Being the bishop in a particular city is not of the essence of the monarchical episcopate. Headship, including the authority to “set things in order,” is.

    Christ does not install Peter as the bishop of any city. He installs him as the chief steward over the whole Church. Peter later exercised the headship, by virtue of being the Apostle in residence, in at least two particular churches, first Antioch, and then Rome, and, following a period of travel, again (and finally) in Rome. (The evidence for this narrative of Peter’s extra-Palestinian ministry and travels is set out by Edmundson.)

    Peter probably ordained bishop-presbyters wherever he ministered, as did the other Apostles and those of the seventy disciples who has themselves been bishop-presbyters (in the sense inclusive of having been ordained to ordain), and as did other apostolic men who had been ordained to ordain. So in this regard Peter is not unique, as having successors, and obviously not all of Peter’s episcopal successors, including those who were raised to the headship over a local church other than that of Rome, were popes in the sense of exercising the uniquely Petrine charism described in Matthew 16. That passage, inclusive of the Isaiah 22 background, provides the biblical evidence for the notion that there would be successors to the unique Petrine ministry as such, i.e., that the uniquely Petrine ministry was not established as something exclusive to his person, but as an office to which other persons would succeed.

    Peter did not just happen to die in Rome. He was there for a reason, and he returned for a reason. Granted that he had been given a distinct office by Christ, it stands to reason that at least a part of his intention was that his ministerial office on behalf of the universal Church would be seated in Rome, and his successor elected as bishop of that city.

    In his CTC article, “Archbishop Minnerath on Rome, the Papacy, and the East,” David Anders cites evidence to the effect that:

    “… the theory of a merely canonical primacy, deriving from convention or from Rome’s location as seat of the Empire is a later and exclusively Byzantine development. On the contrary, the earliest arguments for Roman primacy were exclusively theological¸ based on Rome’s fidelity to apostolic tradition or upon apostolic succession. The oldest theory we know of explaining the primacy of Rome’s bishop was given by Pope Stephen I (254-257), who claimed unambiguously to sit in cathedra Petri.”

    David’s article and the subsequent discussion are worth a look.

    Finally, I haven’t read Lampe, so I can’t comment on his interpretation of the data. But the fact that you find his argument “compelling” is merely a biographical fact about yourself. I could list a number of scholars whose conclusions I find “compelling,” but that fact should not be convincing in the least to anyone else, regarding whether or not said author’s argument is valid and sound.

  71. @SS:
    It’s also the Eastern Orthodox view, the Oriental Orthodox view, the Assyrian Church of the East’s view, etc. My argument doesn’t exclude the truth of any of these, so I am not affirming the consequent. The fact that you see “Catholic” when you read “apostolic succession” or “infallibility” does not reflect the actual situation.

    @Brandon:
    Where I’ve found Lampe inadequate is that it doesn’t explain why others fell into line. It’s easy to attribute that to power or influence, but Rome and Alexandria were both on the wrong side of emperors, and there doesn’t seem to be any real variation between good and bad times in terms of the influence. Moreover, as you said, the apostolic witness to which they appealed was the blood of the martyrs Peter and Paul more than any secular importance.

    Lampe claims the transition was “predestined,” but frankly, diaconal funds weren’t that much power, and it doesn’t explain why the transition was so early (barely fifty years out from the last Apostle). And he doesn’t seem to account for the fact that if you were made Pope, you were *going* to be martyred. It was a death sentence at exactly the time when this “transition” was supposed to be happening. And why would the secular authorities single out popes? For that matter, this explains why the records are spotty; the wrong letter could get you killed!

    So when I look at this trying to take the bishops of the time seriously, I ask myself “why did they go along with this?” And with respect to the real conditions, I ask myself “why would anyone be Pope?” Try as I might, I can’t come up with a much better explanation than that the office was considered special, and even essential, to their theological convictions. And the way even outsiders in Alexandria, for example, behaved is consistent with that kind of theological importance. It feels like a theological reason, not just some bureaucratic functionary getting too big for his britches.

  72. It’s also the Eastern Orthodox view, the Oriental Orthodox view, the Assyrian Church of the East’s view, etc. My argument doesn’t exclude the truth of any of these, so I am not affirming the consequent. The fact that you see “Catholic” when you read “apostolic succession” or “infallibility” does not reflect the actual situation.

    Do the EO emphatically insist upon a ‘principle means of distinguishing truth from opinion’ which includes the understanding of infallibility?

  73. @SS:
    Of course they do! Have you not heard of ecumenical councils?

  74. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    Show how it is spinning my wheels, it’s a bit too easy to simply make the charge and expect everyone to agree with you.

    It’s spinning your wheels, if you want to have a productive conversation. But if you just want to criticize and preach repentance like the Precursor, then “Ka-chow!”, Lightning McQueen.

  75. Of course they do! Have you not heard of ecumenical councils?

    Then why do they reject all ecumenical councils held past the 7th?

  76. Then why do they reject all ecumenical councils held past the 7th?

    Because they don’t think any past the 7th are ecumenical councils.

  77. It’s spinning your wheels, if you want to have a productive conversation. But if you just want to criticize and preach repentance like the Precursor, then “Ka-chow!”, Lightning McQueen

    Show me how it’s an unproductive conversation or spinning my wheels. Simply asserting such does not make it so.

  78. Because they don’t think any past the 7th are ecumenical councils.

    So what happened to the infallibility of the church speaking through a council?

  79. Thanks for your reply, Andrew.

    You said,

    “Peter did not just happen to die in Rome. He was there for a reason, and he returned for a reason. Granted that he had been given a distinct office by Christ, it stands to reason that at least a part of his intention was that his ministerial office on behalf of the universal Church would be seated in Rome, and his successor elected as bishop of that city.”

    Perhaps I have missed the argument. But your interpretation of Peter’s death in Rome is a purely conjecture. I did not see a reason why we should accept this assumption. Your above statement is ripe with highly contestable and speculative presuppositions. For example, it is not at all clear that Peter was “given a distinct office by Christ” based upon exegesis of relevant texts. Are you thinking of Matthew 16:18 as establishing a peculiar Petrine office? If the Roman Church is in fact the Church that Christ founded, I would hope there would be stronger geographical ties than that! The Antiochenes have a pretty legitimate claim to Petrine succession if this is the ground of the argument.

    The reason I asked about the geographic area for Timothy and Titus is similarly related. Both men served churches but typically in a missionary capacity. We cannot deduce from Scripture that these mean functioned as “bishops.” Paul sent them to specific areas as missionaries to establish particular churches with elders and deacons. I’d be interested to know the particular marks of a bishop that Timothy and Titus have that a missionary would not.

    Finally, you claim in your initial comment,

    “This summary is already over-long for a comment, so I’ll say further that the evidence for apostolic succession, in its historical and theological dimensions, which as Mike has rightly noted cannot really be separated, is sufficient for anyone to who wants to believe to reasonably believe that the bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome (together with presbyters and deacons who assist them), and they alone, are the authentic ministers of the New Covenant Church in its fullest and most rightly ordered expression in history”

    When attempting to examine the evidence you offer, however, none of it is very compelling; most of all the Petrine office being located in Rome. Perhaps you are thinking of other evidence or Edmundson lays out more, but nothing in Mr. Anders article addresses the view of the early church on the Papacy. By 451 at Chalcedon, Rome had already been politically established AND had connections to early Christian history (Constantinople did not). Citing ninth century Syrian bishops does not bolster my confidence.

    Finally, I believe it is important, with the OP in mind, to really show that it is actually of the essence of the question for how the Roman bishop functioned and thought of himself. To say that it doesn’t matter, all that matters is that there was a “spiritual authority” in this “bishop” (to use this word seems odd since he may not have called himself this, may not have functioned like this, and may not have been regarded as such by the broader Christian community) screams fideism. I don’t think Jason is a fideist, and I know you are not based upon our interaction, but the issues are of the essence of the question.

  80. So what happened to the infallibility of the church speaking through a council?

    Nothing. On the EO IP, ecclesial infallibility was exercised then, in that form. That is hasn’t been exercised since in that form does not trouble them.

  81. +JMJ+
    I think that SS’s principle issue is not with so much with an infallible authority per se, since he affirms an analogously infallible, though esoterically-certified, pre-Christic authority. What he’s essentially saying is that the canon is not closed and that the Church isn’t, exactly, established (at least, not any more). But we still have the opportunity to establish it and realize the dream. IOW, we have the potential to have this authority (if we either repent or return to the Jews in sackcloth and ashes or whatever).

    It’s hard to know exactly because he tends to be so vague, but I think that it’s something along these lines.

  82. Nothing. On the EO IP, ecclesial infallibility was exercised then, in that form. That is hasn’t been exercised since in that form does not trouble them.

    And that is why I view the EO as schismatic catholics, with no real ontological identity of their own (same for oriental orthodox etc). It should trouble them that they have never held an ecumenical council since, because the latter fact exposes a key inconsistency: that God spoke through the living voice of the church for the first 7 councils but has since stopped speaking. They are fundamentally catholics, although they of course disagree with this. This is why Jonathan’s claim that the fallacy I pointed out is voided by the existence of the EO and OO does not work.

  83. From a Catholic standpoint, the EO communion seems pretty much as you describe. But it does not look that way to them. And they’ve got a case. For the EO communion does have a plausible claim, both philosophically and historically, to be the Church Christ founded. They claim ecclesial infallibility, which I see as a necessary condition for distinguishing, in a principled way, divine revelation from human opinion; and they do have apostolic succession and the sacraments that go with it. The arguments Jonathan and have been giving around here, therefore, do not suffice to establish that the Roman communion, rather than the EO communion, is the Church Christ founded and with which he shares his infallible authority. So Jonathan is not committing the fallacy you accuse him of.

  84. I think that SS’s principle issue is not with so much with an infallible authority per se, since he affirms an analogously infallible, though esoterically-certified, pre-Christic authority. What he’s essentially saying is that the canon is not closed and that the Church isn’t, exactly, established (at least, not any more). But we still have the opportunity to establish it and realize the dream. IOW, we have the potential to have this authority (if we either repent or return to the Jews in sackcloth and ashes or whatever).

    The authority is none other than the Father with whom Christ is eternally pre-existent. The faith was once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3), but has since been altered due to unfaithfulness and despite claims of infallibility. The Father grants us authority to the extent that we are faithful to Him. Did He not grant Moses the authority to lead the Hebrews and yet forbid him from entering the promised land, granting that privilege to Joshua instead?

    And yes, we can repent of our sins (which include rejecting believing Jews as co heirs to the Kingdom, if you do not believe me then listen to your own Fr Friedman, cf. ‘Jewish Identity’) and turn back to him and be a church that is grounded not in self ascribed infallibility, but rather grounded in the faithfulness of the living God and faithfulness to Him.

  85. …turn back to him and be a church that is grounded not in self ascribed infallibility, but rather grounded in the faithfulness of the living God and faithfulness to Him.

    And how do we resolve disagreements about who’s being faithful to the Faithful One? By calling a council of Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, and Jews (and perhaps Muslims, if we’re feeling especially generous) and take a vote?

  86. And they’ve got a case. For the EO communion does have a plausible claim, both philosophically and historically, to be the Church Christ founded. They claim ecclesial infallibility, which I see as a necessary condition for distinguishing, in a principled way, divine revelation from human opinion; and they do have apostolic succession and the sacraments that go with it

    In my view, they don’t have a case. They cannot be disassociated from the CC for the first 7 ecumenical councils and have since never held one since. That fact alone demonstrates that they are a schism and do not exist in their own right. Yes, they claim ecclesial infallibility, but that is precisely what I hold is in contention here: how can you claim such and never hold a council since the 7th ecumenical council? It is an inconsistent and untenable position. To me, OO, EO etc are all catholic schisms. That you have admitted so only reinforces my original argument to Jonathan, because we are both in agreement that the EO are in fact catholics.

  87. And how do we resolve disagreements about who’s being faithful to the Faithful One? By calling a council of Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, and Jews (and perhaps Muslims, if we’re feeling especially generous) and take a vote?

    Yes, by calling a truly ecumenical council (with all believing parties present) and taking the first step of repentance. Your church for example could begin by being an example and confessing its sin to the thousands of Jewish believers who are descendants of the ones you murdered centuries ago.

    2 Chronicles 7:

    “13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.

    17 “ As for you, if you walk before me faithfully as David your father did, and do all I command, and observe my decrees and laws, 18 I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor to rule over Israel. ’

    You believe that God raised Christ from the dead, but you don’t believe that He can unite His church?

  88. Brandon,

    You wrote:

    “Perhaps I have missed the argument. But your interpretation of Peter’s death in Rome is a purely conjecture. I did not see a reason why we should accept this assumption. Your above statement is ripe with highly contestable and speculative presuppositions. For example, it is not at all clear that Peter was “given a distinct office by Christ” based upon exegesis of relevant texts. Are you thinking of Matthew 16:18 as establishing a peculiar Petrine office? If the Roman Church is in fact the Church that Christ founded, I would hope there would be stronger geographical ties than that! The Antiochenes have a pretty legitimate claim to Petrine succession if this is the ground of the argument.”

    That Peter was martyred in Rome is not pure conjecture. That he had a reason for being in Rome is not pure conjecture. That he had been given a distinct office by Christ is evidenced in Scripture, most notably Matthew 16 (drawing on Isaiah 22). This evidence is, of course, subject to interpretation, but this texts say what they say, and the connection between them (Mt 16 and Is 22) is empirically evident.

    Thus, the tie between the Church that Christ founded and the church in Rome is precisely Petrine. His final ministry and martyrdom in that city, and the subsequent evidence from Church history specifying that the Chair of Peter is established in Rome distinguishes the bishop who presides in Rome from the bishop of Antioch as the successor of the specifically Petrine ministry.

    You wrote:

    ” I’d be interested to know the particular marks of a bishop that Timothy and Titus have that a missionary would not.”

    That would depend upon who had commissioned the missionary, and for what purpose the latter had been commissioned. A missionary that has been ordained by the laying on of apostolic hands, and commissioned to set all (ecclesial) things in order in a given region, inclusive of the power to ordain other men, is ipso facto a monarchical bishop. Residence in one city is not of the essence of monarchical episcopacy. Residence, as a mark of monarchical episcopacy, is a development in the Church’s practical polity and (eventually) canon law by way of rightly ordering the local churches after the deaths of the apostles and apostolic men who had previously exercised an itinerant headship in the churches (cf., the ministry of St. Paul, as described in his letters).

    Regarding David’s article, you wrote:

    “Citing ninth century Syrian bishops does not bolster my confidence.”

    Keep reading. And remember, biographical statements about yourself say nothing at all about the facts of the matter at hand.

    I don’t understand your concluding paragraph.

  89. SS:

    I had asked:

    And how do we resolve disagreements about who’s being faithful to the Faithful One? By calling a council of Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, and Jews (and perhaps Muslims, if we’re feeling especially generous) and take a vote?

    To that, you replied:

    Yes, by calling a truly ecumenical council (with all believing parties present) and taking the first step of repentance. Your church for example could begin by being an example and confessing its sin to the thousands of Jewish believers who are descendants of the ones you murdered centuries ago.

    OK, so the council is to begin by having the Catholic Church repeat a mea culpa that John Paul II had already given, for crimes committed centuries ago by Catholics. Beat our breasts harder, and perhaps longer. I get it. Then what?

    You apparently think that such a council–assuming all the interested parties, including the Muslims, could agree to hold it and abide by its decisions–would restore the True Faith by taking votes. Is that your “principled means for distinguishing divine revelation from human opinion”? Seriously? And if so, do you think the interested parties would actually accept such a criterion?

  90. Andrew wrote:

    That Peter was martyred in Rome is not pure conjecture. That he had a reason for being in Rome is not pure conjecture. That he had been given a distinct office by Christ is evidenced in Scripture, most notably Matthew 16 (drawing on Isaiah 22). This evidence is, of course, subject to interpretation, but this texts say what they say, and the connection between them (Mt 16 and Is 22) is empirically evident.

    Not so.

    Isaiah 22:

    20 “In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. 21 I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the people of Judah. 22 I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 23 I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will become a seat of honor for the house of his father. 24 All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots—all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars.

    Rev 3:7 says:

    “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens , says this”

    Isaiah 22 and Eliakim point to Christ, not Peter. There’s only one key involved here (key not ‘keys’), the key to the House of David. And the one who holds that key is Christ, as the above in Revelation states clearly.

  91. OK, so the council is to begin by having the Catholic Church repeat a mea culpa that John Paul II had already given, for crimes committed centuries ago by Catholics. Beat our breasts harder, and perhaps longer. I get it. Then what?

    You point to one man’s letter and claim that you have beat your breasts? You haven’t beat anything at all according to the testimony of your own priests:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ex863pm0j3A

    You apparently think that such a council–assuming all the interested parties, including the Muslims, could agree to hold it and abide by its decisions–would restore the True Faith by taking votes. Is that your “principled means for distinguishing divine revelation from human opinion”? Seriously? And if so, do you think the interested parties would actually accept such a criterion?

    Your inclusion of muslims in your argument only shows your lack of charity and ascerbic tone. I asked you a question, why did not answer it?

    You believe that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, but you do not believe He can unite His church if she repents?

  92. Your inclusion of muslims in your argument only shows your lack of charity and ascerbic tone.

    It’s “lack of charity” on my part to suggest that you’d want to include the Muslims? Why? There are many faithful Muslims who venerate Jesus and his Mother. Is it because they are heretics all the same, and you obviously wouldn’t want to include heretics? Well, how about Unitarians, Quakers, and Oneness Pentecostals then? Are they also to be excluded? If not, why not? What makes them better candidates than Muslims for voting on the True Faith? And if they are to be excluded, is that because they deny the divinity of Christ?

    You see where I’m going with this. You are invoking a particular criterion of orthodoxy, one by no means shared by all, to determine who’s included and who’s excluded from the council you think is needed to restore the True Faith. By what authority do you do that? That of Scripture? But what makes your canon and interpretation thereof normative, if you claim no divine authority, and those to whom you allow divine authority might, as fallible people, be wrong about any particular point?

    I asked you a question, why did not answer it?

    I’m not sure which question you mean, but scrolling up, I see that the last question you asked me was contained in this sentence:

    Yes, they claim ecclesial infallibility, but that is precisely what I hold is in contention here: how can you claim such and never hold a council since the 7th ecumenical council?

    I have my own reasons for rejecting the EO communion’s claim to be the infallible Church Christ founded, but the one you give is not it. Whether on a Catholic or an Orthodox account, the dogmatic canons of an ecumenical council are not the only means by which the Church–whichever communion that may be–manifests her infallibility. In fact, on the EO account, it is not even the primary means. Hence the fact that the EO communion has not recognized any council since the 8th century as “ecumenical” –whether its own or those of Catholics–is not an objection to the EO claim. There might be bad reasons why the EOs have not done so, but those reasons do not imply her ecclesial infallibility.

    The Youtube video you post is primarily of a Catholic priest at a conference in Brazil arguing that the Church hasn’t done enough to repair relations with Jews, especially Messianic Jews. That’s true to an extent, but I wouldn’t agree with all his points, and in any case it doesn’t take away the fact that JP2 issued a mea culpa, widely appreciated by Jews, for the crimes you mentioned. So let’s stick to the topic I opened this comment with.

  93. Here we go again,

    SS, you said, April 25, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    And how do we resolve disagreements about who’s being faithful to the Faithful One? By calling a council of Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, and Jews (and perhaps Muslims, if we’re feeling especially generous) and take a vote?
    Yes, by calling a truly ecumenical council (with all believing parties present) and taking the first step of repentance. Your church for example could begin by being an example and confessing its sin to the thousands of Jewish believers who are descendants of the ones you murdered centuries ago.

    1st. The Catholic Church has murdered no one.
    2nd. And none of the Catholics on this forum have murdered anyone centuries ago.

    Now, you seem to function under a double standard. You don’t want to be reminded that Scripture attests that the Jews murdered Jesus and many Christians,
    1 Thessalonians 2:15
    King James Version (KJV)
    15 Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:

    but you want to drudge up anti-Catholic rumors and lies.

    Do you really want to go there, again?

    Sincerely,
    De Maria

  94. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    You believe that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead…

    You act as if believing in Jesus rising from the dead is settled. We haven’t had our council yet, remember?

  95. It’s “lack of charity” on my part to suggest that you’d want to include the Muslims? Why? There are many faithful Muslims who venerate Jesus and his Mother.

    Do Muslims call themselves Christians? If not, why would they be invited to an ecumenical council?

    The Youtube video you post is primarily of a Catholic priest at a conference in Brazil arguing that the Church hasn’t done enough to repair relations with Jews, especially Messianic Jews. That’s true to an extent, but I wouldn’t agree with all his points, and in any case it doesn’t take away the fact that JP2 issued a mea culpa, widely appreciated by Jews, for the crimes you mentioned. So let’s stick to the topic I opened this comment with.

    If you concede that the CC hasn’t done enough, wouldn’t a council, which would for the first time since Jerusalem in A.D. 50 include Jewish believers in Christ who are not catholics or protestants, be the right venue to right the wrongs and repent from boasting over the natural branches for so long? (see your own Fr Friedman for more on that).

  96. You act as if believing in Jesus rising from the dead is settled. We haven’t had our council yet, remember?

    Wrong. There has been one legitimate council, and one only, as seen in Acts 15, and it presupposes that Christ has risen from the dead.

  97. +JMJ+

    SS wrote:

    Wrong. There has been one legitimate council, and one only, as seen in Acts 15, and it presupposes that Christ has risen from the dead.

    You act as if believing in ‘the Bible’ as being the Word of God is settled. We haven’t had our council yet, remember?

  98. You act as if believing in ‘the Bible’ as being the Word of God is settled.

    It was settled. Again, see Acts 15.

  99. Do Muslims call themselves Christians? If not, why would they be invited to an ecumenical council?

    Most Jews don’t call themselves Christians either, and few regard Jesus as a true prophet, while Muslims do. Yet you have your reasons for inviting non-Christian Jews to such a council. So you have not yet stated a relevant reason for excluding Muslims.

    If you concede that the CC hasn’t done enough, wouldn’t a council, which would for the first time since Jerusalem in A.D. 50 include Jewish believers in Christ who are not catholics or protestants, be the right venue to right the wrongs and repent from boasting over the natural branches for so long? (see your own Fr Friedman for more on that).

    I would have no problem at all inviting non-Christian Jews to the next council the Catholic Church would consider ecumenical, for the purpose of fostering better Christian-Jewish relations. So if that’s all you’re concerned about, we’re on board together. But somehow I don’t think that would be enough to satisfy you.

    In any case, why not answer a few of my questions you haven’t answered yet? For your convenience, I shall pose the two sets of them anew here.

    First, do you propose to exclude Muslims because they are heretics, and you obviously wouldn’t want to include heretics? Well, how about Unitarians, Quakers, and Oneness Pentecostals then? Are they also to be excluded? If not, why not? What makes them better candidates than Muslims for voting on the True Faith? And if they are to be excluded, is that because they deny the divinity of Christ? Well, so do non-Christian Jews, whom you want to include, so that’s no answer. I could throw in the JVs and the Mormons, but by now I hope you get the point.

    Second, you apparently think that such a council would restore the True Faith by taking votes. Is that your “principled means for distinguishing divine revelation from human opinion”? Seriously? And if so, do you think the interested parties would actually accept such a criterion?

  100. SS April 25, 2013 at 5:56 pm
    You act as if believing in ‘the Bible’ as being the Word of God is settled.
    It was settled. Again, see Acts 15.

    Neither the Jews nor the Muslims accept the New Testament Scriptures. So they don’t consider Acts 15 authoritative.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  101. If you concede that the CC hasn’t done enough,

    The Catholic Church has done more than enough.

    wouldn’t a council, which would for the first time since Jerusalem in A.D. 50 include Jewish believers in Christ who are not catholics or protestants, be the right venue to right the wrongs and repent from boasting over the natural branches for so long? (see your own Fr Friedman for more on that).

    The Catholic Church has never boasted over the natural branches. Jewish believers in Christ are part of the Catholic Church by virtue of their Baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They are equal participants in the plan of salvation.

    Jews who do not believe in Christ also participate in the plan of salvation but do not take advantage of the additional helps provided by Jesus Christ in the Sacraments.

    Jews who do not believe in Christ exclude themselves from His grace.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  102. That Peter was martyred in Rome is not pure conjecture. That he had a reason for being in Rome is not pure conjecture. That he had been given a distinct office by Christ is evidenced in Scripture, most notably Matthew 16 (drawing on Isaiah 22). This evidence is, of course, subject to interpretation, but this texts say what they say, and the connection between them (Mt 16 and Is 22) is empirically evident.

    Andrew P,

    I really appreciate the fact that you are attempting to bring evidence for the Roman Catholic understanding of Apostolic Succession. But I would like to ask you about your statement above. You say that the texts in Matt 16 and elsewhere are “open to interpretation” but then you say that what these verses say is “empirically evident.” So I’m not sure what the take from you what you write above.

    Many scholars talk about the evidence to prove that Peter was in Rome. I have to admit that I’m not nearly so interested in the evidence for Peter’s residence in Rome as I am in determining what he did there (assuming he was there of course). What evidence does Edmunson bring to the table in terms of what Peter did while in Rome?

    Concerning Edmunson, I doubt that I will go out and buy the test and read him unless he is on-line. Can you give us a synopsis of what his evidence is concerning Peter and his connection with the Roman Church?

  103. Hello Andrew M.,

    St. Peter was preaching in Rome. That is attested by early witnesses:

    Dionysius of Corinth

    You have also, by your very admonition, brought together the planting that was made by Peter and Paul at Rome and at Corinth; for both of them alike planted in our Corinth and taught us; and both alike, teaching similarly in Italy, suffered martyrdom at the same time (Letter to Soter of Rome [inter A.D. 166 -174] as recorded by Eusebius).

    Irenaeus

    Matthew also issued among the Hebrews a written Gospel in their own language, while Peter and Paul were evangelizing in Rome and laying the foundation of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, also handed down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter (Against Heresies 3:1:1 [A.D. 189]).

    But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the Churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient Church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, that Church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the Apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all Churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world; and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the Apostolic tradition (ibid 3:3:2).

  104. All: I would urge us to not get sidetracked by the whole Jews/Muslims issue. What’s relevant is not whether the CC has done enough for the Jews, but whether something more than my criteria is necessary to establish whether AS is an historical fact.

    PS – Andrew McC, I believe that what Preslar said is that “what the texts say is empirically evident,” and not that his conclusion about them is.

  105. Thanks for your response Andrew,

    You said,

    “That Peter was martyred in Rome is not pure conjecture. That he had a reason for being in Rome is not pure conjecture. That he had been given a distinct office by Christ is evidenced in Scripture, most notably Matthew 16 (drawing on Isaiah 22). This evidence is, of course, subject to interpretation, but this texts say what they say, and the connection between them (Mt 16 and Is 22) is empirically evident.

    Thus, the tie between the Church that Christ founded and the church in Rome is precisely Petrine. His final ministry and martyrdom in that city, and the subsequent evidence from Church history specifying that the Chair of Peter is established in Rome distinguishes the bishop who presides in Rome from the bishop of Antioch as the successor of the specifically Petrine ministry.”

    I think you’ve missed my point. I nowhere suggested that Peter’s martyrdom is conjecture. That is true. The interpretation that offer about his reason for going to Rome to be martyred is conjectural. You’ve offered nothing to substantiate his reasons for going to Rome. Even if Matthew 16 and Isaiah 22 are connected, you’ve not shown how the city of Rome completes the circle. You’ve just offered a conjectural explanation without providing corroborating evidence. These are the facts you’ve presented:

    1. Peter died in Rome
    2. Peter is given a distinct office among the apostles per Matthew 16 & Isaiah 22

    1 is a well established fact. 2 is debatable, even among RC’s. Even if we accept it though, why do those 2 facts substantiate that Peter’s office is perpetual in the Roman bishop? This is where I don’t see a substantive argument.

    You continued in your response:

    “That would depend upon who had commissioned the missionary, and for what purpose the latter had been commissioned. A missionary that has been ordained by the laying on of apostolic hands, and commissioned to set all (ecclesial) things in order in a given region, inclusive of the power to ordain other men, is ipso facto a monarchical bishop. Residence in one city is not of the essence of monarchical episcopacy. Residence, as a mark of monarchical episcopacy, is a development in the Church’s practical polity and (eventually) canon law by way of rightly ordering the local churches after the deaths of the apostles and apostolic men who had previously exercised an itinerant headship in the churches (cf., the ministry of St. Paul, as described in his letters).”

    Thanks for this. Let me just ask a clarifying question to make sure I understand. The two markers that identify Timothy and Titus as bishops is that they are commissioned to oversee the planting of churches in a given area and they are given the authority to ordain leaders in these churches. Is that accurate?

    You then said,

    “Keep reading. And remember, biographical statements about yourself say nothing at all about the facts of the matter at hand.”

    This is one of the rhetorical tactics that I find mildly offensive and frustrating about CtC. I’m using conversational language. I don’t wish to belabor it, BUT since this is the second time. I’m just telling you that as the argument stands I don’t find it persuasive. You’re free to continue believing I’m wrong.

    To be more precise, my comment about the article though was directly related to your statement that it said something about Peter’s intention for going to Rome. There is nothing in the article by Mr. Anders that addresses Peter’s intentions on going to Rome. His quotes from much later in church history don’t really address the important issues with Apostolic Succession.

    Finally,

    “I don’t understand your concluding paragraph.”

    Sorry, I could have said that much better. I was required to finish in haste and it showed! The point I was making was that in the OP Jason said that he was only after a “minimal” doctrine of AS. But Jason’s criterion reduced the office to something that would not be a meaningful bishop or Pope in any sense that we’re talking about. Therefore Jason needs to re-calibrate his “minimal” doctrine of AS. Hope that clarifies

  106. In any case, why not answer a few of my questions you haven’t answered yet? For your convenience, I shall pose the two sets of them anew here.

    First, do you propose to exclude Muslims because they are heretics, and you obviously wouldn’t want to include heretics? Well, how about Unitarians, Quakers, and Oneness Pentecostals then? Are they also to be excluded? If not, why not? What makes them better candidates than Muslims for voting on the True Faith? And if they are to be excluded, is that because they deny the divinity of Christ? Well, so do non-Christian Jews, whom you want to include, so that’s no answer. I could throw in the JVs and the Mormons, but by now I hope you get the point.

    Muslims do not define themselves as Christians, but instead see the latter as infidels, so I find your insistence quite remarkable. I would not include non believing Jews on the same basis as well. Regarding Protestant sects, why not? What is there to fear? Again, I will ask you, if God raised Christ from the dead, can He not lead us into all truth?

    Second, you apparently think that such a council would restore the True Faith by taking votes. Is that your “principled means for distinguishing divine revelation from human opinion”? Seriously? And if so, do you think the interested parties would actually accept such a criterion?

    And this coming from the one who belongs to a church which votes on the papacy? Why the sudden ridiculing of voting, or more generally, the conciliar process? I don’t think that a council, in and of itself would achieve anything. I do believe however, that if true repentance is offered by all parties, God will grace such an effort of humility with guidance. Imagine a first century ebionite or judaizer, he could complain just as easily as you: “You seriously think that your council in Jerusalem amounts to anything? You guys take a vote and expect us to side with you?” But the fact of the matter nevertheless is that the council took place and it was ruled that circumcision was not binding upon gentiles. And that council included Jewish believers: Peter, James, John and so on. A truly ecumenical council would have to include Jewish believers today as well, as irritating as that thought might be to many of you.

  107. My suggestion is rather minimal: all that needs to have taken place is that from the time of St. Peter until the papacy of Francis, there has always been a leader of the Roman church with full ministerial powers. It doesn’t matter if he used the title of “Pope,” it doesn’t matter if he had a full understanding of the extent of his own authority, and it doesn’t matter if he worked closely with, or more independently from, the other ecclesiastical leaders within his region.

    Jason,

    Let’s use Isaiah 22. Not to show that it refers to Peter, because it doesn’t (as shown above, which no one has responded to), but rather because it tells us something about God’s requirements for the leaders of His people:

    15 This is what the Lord, the Lord Almighty, says:

    Go, say to this steward,
    to Shebna the palace administrator:

    16 What are you doing here and who gave you permission
    to cut out a grave for yourself here,
    hewing your grave on the height
    and chiseling your resting place in the rock?

    17 “Beware, the Lord is about to take firm hold of you
    and hurl you away, you mighty man.
    18 He will roll you up tightly like a ball
    and throw you into a large country.
    There you will die

    and there the chariots you were so proud of
    will become a disgrace to your master’s house.
    19 I will depose you from your office,
    and you will be ousted from your position.

    20 “In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. 21 I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the people of Judah. 22 I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 23 I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will become a seat[a] of honor for the house of his father. 24 All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots—all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars.”

    If one’s paradigm was that the criteria for AS is so minimal as you have outlined, one should not be bumping into such explicit rejection and replacement as seen above, don’t you think? Think about Moses, was he infallible? If he was, why was he denied the right to enter the promised land and why was that role given to Joshua? Scripture states that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, so why would we expect any different from him on AS?

  108. @Andrew McCallum and Brandon:
    I’m genuinely curious about your take on Peter’s martyrdom and the martyrdom of the early popes. Neither of you seem to put much weight on it, nor does Lampe for that matter. But the early Church clearly did, and what really stands out to me is that even Scripture spends time on it.

    John 21 [RSV]
    [15] When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
    [16] A second time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
    [17] He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
    [18] Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.”
    [19] (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, “Follow me.”
    [20] Peter turned and saw following them the disciple whom Jesus loved, who had lain close to his breast at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”
    [21] When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”
    [22] Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!”
    [23] The saying spread abroad among the brethren that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

    There’s a lot that interesting here. First, St. Peter’s death is not only described, but it is the subject of a prophecy by Jesus Himself. Second, Peter’s death is described explicitly as one that will “glorify God,” yet there is no account of it given in the Scriptures. Third, this is presented in the context of Peter’s charge to feed and tend the sheep (the antitype of his denial), explicitly connecting his charge with his martyrdom (St. Augustine notes this in Sermon 253). Fourth, St. John appears to be almost apologetic about not being martyred himself; John appears to be saying “well, I would have been willing to die, and Jesus didn’t even say that I wasn’t supposed to die, just that Peter was.”

    Anyway, this is an awful lot of attention to be given to the matter of Peter’s death for something that has no theological significance. And as I mentioned above, being a successor of Peter (or whatever title you think they had then) had a strong tendency to shorten one’s lifespan as well. People usually aren’t willing to die for unimportant things; they sacrifice themselves for higher things. If we are going to take theological convinctions seriously, and particularly the theological convictions of the surrounding Christian community, I believe that we need to give a little more weight to how martyrdom, and specifically Peter’s martyrdom, was viewed. That’s not fideism; it’s simply taking theological commitments as real historical factors in evaluating the significance of Peter’s martyrdom.

  109. SS,

    In Matthew 16, Jesus isn’t talking to himself; he is talking to Peter when he says:

    “And I tell thee this in my turn, that thou art Peter, and it is upon this rock that I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; and I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

    This clearly echoes Isaiah 22:22, which says of Eliacim:

    “I will give him the key of David’s house to bear upon his shoulders; none may shut when he opens, none open when he shuts.”

    Obviously, Isaiah 22:22 is virtually quoted, and not merely echoed, in Revelation 3:7 . But the application of this passage to Christ does not preclude its application by Christ to another. The King entrusts the keys of the kingdom of heaven to his Steward on earth, even as the Steward Eliakim is entrusted with the key of the Davidic kingdom.

    Andrew M.,

    Edmundson’s book is solid, though by the nature of the case he has to get into a lot of conjecture in reconstructing this period of history, filling in the blanks left by the extant first century documents. The book can be downloaded for free at the Internet Archive, and also (if memory serves) at CCEL.

    Brandon,

    One the reasons that I and some other CTC folks call out the conversational-type references to being or not being persuaded by an argument is that these references often stand in the place of an actual critique of the argument. And that sort of thing tends to bog a conversation down. New Atheist folks do this as well. When I present a summary or even a fairly extended version of an argument for God’s existence, they typically don’t attempt to show why the underlying metaphysics is wrong, or where the argument is invalid, they just say, “I’m not impressed.” And I generally respond, “So what?”

    Regarding Peter and Rome, all I am pointing out is that he must have had reasons for going and returning to Rome in the course of his ministry. That is a point that you left out, in your summary of my argument. If Peter had been given a distinct charism of leadership in the universal Church, and if that charism was such as to be passed down in a distinctly Petrine office (as seems to be indicated in Mt 16), then it stands to reason that at least part of Peter’s purpose in Rome was to establish this office in that city. Subsequent church history bears this out, to the extent that Rome is associated with Peter in a way that Antioch is not (cf. Bryan’s “Chair of St. Peter” article).

    David’s article is related to the thesis that Rome’s place of honor in Christendom was based upon that city’s secular prestige. There is of course at least an indirect sense in which that is true; it is not for nothing, in the providence of God and by the leading of the Spirit, that Peter chose Rome instead of some other city. But in a direct sense, the basis for the primacy of the Church of Rome is theological, as David points out. In any case, evidence for the view that you are espousing is relatively late, and was always contested in both East and West.

    You wrote:

    “Let me just ask a clarifying question to make sure I understand. The two markers that identify Timothy and Titus as bishops is that they are commissioned to oversee the planting of churches in a given area and they are given the authority to ordain leaders in these churches. Is that accurate?”

    Yes, that is accurate.

  110. SS April 25, 2013 at 4:29 pm
    Not so.
    Isaiah 22:
    20 “In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. 21 I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the people of Judah. 22 I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 23 I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will become a seat of honor for the house of his father. 24 All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots—all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars.

    Rev 3:7 says:
    “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens , says this”

    Isaiah 22 and Eliakim point to Christ, not Peter.

    Please explain why Isaiah 2 and Eliakim can not point to both Christ and St. Peter.

    There’s only one key involved here (key not ‘keys’), the key to the House of David. And the one who holds that key is Christ, as the above in Revelation states clearly.

    The metaphor is not about the number of keys in possession, but about the ability to bind and loose in the Kingdom of Heaven which is the same thing as the House of David because Christ rules there.

    1. These are the things which you neglect. Christ is the King of Kings. Therefore, He always has the Key. Just because He gave a set to St. Peter doesn’t mean that He would therefore be unable to open the doors of His own household.

    2. But St. Peter is the Prime minister, just as Eliakim, and he possesses the keys not by right of birth, but by the grace of God, just like Eliakim.

    3. As for the number of keys, it is the same metaphor. The keys or key symbolize the power to bind and loose in the Kingdom of Heaven. If anything, the fact that Jesus gave St. Peter a set of keys means that he has more power than did Eliakim of old. Not less. And it certainly doesn’t mean that Jesus gave away His own set of keys.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  111. SS April 25, 2013 at 4:29 pm
    Not so.
    Isaiah 22:
    20 “In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. 21 I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the people of Judah. 22 I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 23 I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will become a seat of honor for the house of his father. 24 All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots—all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars.

    Rev 3:7 says:
    “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens , says this”

    Isaiah 22 and Eliakim point to Christ, not Peter.

    Please explain why Isaiah 2 and Eliakim can not point to both Christ and St. Peter.

    There’s only one key involved here (key not ‘keys’), the key to the House of David. And the one who holds that key is Christ, as the above in Revelation states clearly.

    The metaphor is not about the number of keys in possession, but about the ability to bind and loose in the Kingdom of Heaven which is the same thing as the House of David because Christ rules there.

    1. These are the things which you neglect. Christ is the King of Kings. Therefore, He always has the Key. Just because He gave a set to St. Peter doesn’t mean that He would therefore be unable to open the doors of His own household.

    2. But St. Peter is the Prime minister, just as Eliakim, and he possesses the keys not by right of birth, but by the grace of God, just like Eliakim.

    3. As for the number of keys, it is the same metaphor. The keys or key symbolize the power to bind and loose in the Kingdom of Heaven. If anything, the fact that Jesus gave St. Peter a set of keys means that he has more power than did Eliakim of old. Not less. And it certainly doesn’t mean that Jesus gave away His own set of keys.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  112. JONATHAN PREJEAN April 25, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    I’m genuinely curious about your take on Peter’s martyrdom and the martyrdom of the early popes. Neither of you seem to put much weight on it, nor does Lampe for that matter. But the early Church clearly did, and what really stands out to me is that even Scripture spends time on it.

    This bleeds into the other thread a bit but is a tad bit more specific.

    On Peter’s martyrdom there is a very good reason for that and it has to do with the evolution of Christianity. In the docetic stage Christianity was Encratites primarily. The philosophy of divinity was still middle platonic and Jewish in the sense that humanity and divinity could not meet, something like the hypostatic union was impossible. So the savior figure could take on a semi human appearance as a way of communicating but not take on humanity The savior figure at this point has mostly settled on being Jesus but still sometimes Melchizedek, Elijah, Seth, Sophia… .

    For the earlier purely Gnostic forms of (proto-)Christianity we as believers could take on divinity a spark of divinity and thus gain the ability to lift up past the archons in death through the teachings of the savior and through his heavenly acts of rescue. What the docetic Christians / Encratites are really adding to the picture is the notion of joint fulfillment. Christ can be crucified and it has heavenly implications but he cannot suffer and thus it often in their theology lacks some needed earthly implications. The apostles, Peter in particular, begin to become the earthly intermediaries of Christ’s ministry. Peter has an earthly crucifixion which has the suffering component, Peter establishes a fleshy church … Peter’s martyrdom is extremely important to them and you can see residues of this in their Acts which preserve docetic theology: Acts of Peter, Acts of John…

    When Catholicism arises they adopt a lot of Encratites theology, and mythology. Jesus has had an earthly crucifixion in every sense so Peter of the Encratites’ crucifixion can within the Catholic scheme be part of a scheme joint fulfillment. For the Catholics humanity and divinity can and they did meet in the person of their Jesus. As Luke/Acts and later Catholic mythology repurposes the Encratite Peter to become the Catholic Peter, the first Pope, the crucifixion remains but the theological importance cannot. Luke / Catholicism has to repurpose these martyrdoms and Catholicism adopts a theology of martyrdom which will serve it well among the other Roman sects.

    Acts still shows the seams where Catholicism was stitched out of earlier belief systems, you can learn a lot from it.

  113. Comment

  114. Jason et al:

    We can debate the state of the evidence for early mono-episcopacy in Rome all we want, but what we’ll get, from a purely historical standpoint, is at most a probability based on a convergence of different sorts of evidence. Yet there will always be scholarly disagreement about the degree of probability we are warranted in affirming, pending discovery of further evidence, and even about what range of evidence is relevant. There will also and always be disagreement about what those inconvenient epistemological facts imply theologically.

    From the standpoint of an essentially Protestant IP, the natural persistence of such disagreements poses a problem for Catholicism. How can the doctrine of the primacy of the Roman bishop, as the Church has come to think of it, be credible if one cannot establish, as incontestable fact, that it was so thought of in the sub-apostolic Church? If one assumes that the content of the deposit of faith can and must be identified by reading the pre-Nicene sources that have come down to us and making logical inferences from them, then the historical evidence for early mono-episcopacy in Rome is insufficient to establish papal primacy as anything more than one opinion among others–a plausible opinion, perhaps, given the totality of evidence that can reasonably be thought relevant, but an opinion all the same. This is not like the case of, say, the Apostles’ Creed, whose origin as a response to the Marcionite controversy is well-established, and whose doctrinal normativity is largely unquestioned.

    From the standpoint of the CIP, however, the state of the evidence for early mono-episcopacy in Rome–whatever that state may be at any given time–is not a problem. For what’s theologically normative on the CIP does not depend on the state of the documentary and other historical evidence at any given time, but on unwritten Tradition as well as Scripture, as both are interpreted by the judgment of the Church when exercising her full authority. That’s how contested points graduate to the status of binding, de fide doctrine; otherwise, they remain not only contested but contestable. Protestants always say, of course, that such a procedure begs the question. And given what they think the question ought to be, that attitude is perfectly understandable. So before we talk about how much “historical” evidence is needed for apostolic succession in general and Roman mono-episcopacy in particular, we should be discussing norms for determining what kinds and degree of historical evidence would be theologically significant, and how.

    Needless to say, we’re not going to get complete agreement on what those norms should be. Given the difference of IP, that is inevitable. But we can make some progress using historical evidence by pointing out a couple of things.

    First, and given the nature of Christianity as a religion in which history matters, there must be some evidence in the early sources for belief in doctrines that imply concrete, recordable events. But it’s important to be careful about the sort of evidence required. The core example of a doctrine where some historical evidence is required is the Resurrection. The primary kind of evidence we have for that doctrine is the reports and interpretations in the New Testament. Traditionally, many Christians have taken what is now called the Shroud of Turin as corroborating evidence, but that is itself contested. What’s clearly established is that, from the beginning of the Church, she believed that Jesus had risen bodily from the dead, and that the fact of his bodily resurrection was absolutely central to the Gospel. But that, of course, does not demonstrate the fact of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. All it establishes is that the belief that he so rose belongs to the “faith once delivered.”

    Now the evidence for early mono-episcopacy in Rome, and for belief in Roman primacy, is not as strong as that. But even on even the CIP, it’s important that there be some evidence of Roman primacy in the sub-apostolic Church; otherwise, the Catholic doctrine of Roman primacy would simply be ahistorical, which it is not. And there is some such evidence, of the sort Catholics have cited in this thread. It will not do, of course, to object here that the evidence is insufficient to establish the facts of Roman mono-episcopacy and primacy in the early Church; for neither is the evidence sufficient to establish the fact of the Resurrection. Nor will it do to object that the evidence fails to establish widespread belief in Roman mono-episcopacy and primacy in the early Church. For neither does the evidence establish that there was no such belief, and to argue otherwise from the relative paucity of evidence would be a fallacious argument from silence.

    That suggests the other point to be kept in mind about using historical evidence. Assuming that some such evidence is required for belief in doctrines with historical implications, the failure of the evidence available, in the pre-Nicene sources that have come down to us, to exhibit explicit affirmation of a given contested doctrine D of that sort should not necessarily be thought of as a defeater for D. As long as the available evidence can plausibly be interpreted in a manner consistent with holding D to belong to the deposit of faith, then the question whether D actually does belong to the deposit of faith becomes a question of authority. A good example of that is the doctrine that Jesus founded a visible, unitary Church which he intended to perdure as such till he comes again. The relevant evidence does not suffice to prove that, but it does suffice to make that doctrine a plausible one to affirm as belonging to the deposit of faith. The same goes, I’d suggest, for the doctrine of papal primacy.

    Best,
    Mike

  115. Edmundson’s book is solid, though by the nature of the case he has to get into a lot of conjecture in reconstructing this period of history, filling in the blanks left by the extant first century documents. The book can be downloaded for free at the Internet Archive, and also (if memory serves) at CCEL.

    Andrew P,

    I think that gets right to the heart of the matter. There is just so much conjecture about the life and times of Peter once we get beyond the Scriptures. My perspective is that Christianity is not affected one iota if Peter did nothing in Rome but stop by for a visit. There were so many stories about Peter running around during the early centuries of Christianity, many of which were written down in heretical and apocryphal works. No doubt there is truth to some of them but I see no way to accurately constuct a life of Peter given extant accounts. In God’s providence we just don’t know. And we really don’t know anything about what his supposed successors did in Rome. My conclusion is that if God had wanted us to have an accurate record of the life of Peter after the biblical account then He would have preserved it.

    On Matt 16, in the Early Church there was quite a bit of variation of interpretation of the passage concerning the Rock. The majority of the ECF’s believed it was the faith of Peter rather than Peter himself who was the foundation. But no matter how we interpret it, I see no case for establishing a Petrine office here that extended beyond the life of Peter.

  116. @Jason

    What, then, needs to have occurred in antiquity for the bare historical claim of apostolic succession to be established?

    My suggestion is rather minimal: all that needs to have taken place is that from the time of St. Peter until the papacy of Francis, there has always been a leader of the Roman church with full ministerial powers. It doesn’t matter if he used the title of “Pope,” it doesn’t matter if he had a full understanding of the extent of his own authority, and it doesn’t matter if he worked closely with, or more independently from, the other ecclesiastical leaders within his region.

    There are a bunch of problems with this answer. Apostolic succession remember asserts that the apostles were the guys whom Jesus knew. One thing that would undermine apostolic is that they all exist and mean what you think they mean, but I’ll for the purpose of argument grant Luke / Acts. The next is that they were all working together to create institutional churches tied liturgically, structurally and theologically together. Now that is disprovable even if I grant Acts. Because in real history, the churches that exist all over the Roman world during the 1st and 2nd century are a wild diversity liturgically, theologically and structurally. The Catholic version of history doesn’t even attempt to explain the historical evidence in a meaningful way.

    The early Reformers had access to limited Christian history. Some, particularly the radical reformers, interpreted Collisions, Corinthians, 1John that had a church early on falling into a diversity of heresies one of them being what evolved into Catholicism. That certainly is evidence that disproves apostolic succession regardless of whether there was an early Roman Peter or not. Later Christians didn’t grant Acts. In the 18th-20th centuries we had some terrific archeological finds which by the late 19th century were leading to speculation that these “apostles” and churches didn’t share much of a common theology at all. What you are looking at in the formation of Catholicism is a process of wildly different theological groups melding together. But that means prior to the meld they weren’t unified and none of them were anything remotely like Catholic.

    And it is hard to imagine anything more damaging to Catholic claims of apostolic succession than historical evidence demonstrating that progression. If apostolic succession means anything it means that the Catholic church was the unique original historical church in Jerusalem that later moved to Rome.

    What it would take to validate apostolic succession given the overwhelming historical evidence against it… would be a plausible consistent timeline, consistent with documentary record we have demonstrating a Catholic apostolic origin to Christianity.

  117. MICHAEL LICCIONE April 26, 2013 at 5:15 am

    From the standpoint of an essentially Protestant IP, the natural persistence of such disagreements poses a problem for Catholicism.

    That is true from a Protestant perspective. But it is completely illogical. It is like saying that the existence of the Jews presents a problem to the Teachings of Christ.

    The truth is true whether anyone believes it or not. The existence of Protestantism is not for the sake of Protestantism. God has permitted their existence in order to highlight the truth of Catholicism. As it says in the Scripture:
    1 Corinthians 11:19
    For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  118. ANDREW MCCALLUM April 26, 2013 at 5:21 am….
    On Matt 16, in the Early Church there was quite a bit of variation of interpretation of the passage concerning the Rock. The majority of the ECF’s believed it was the faith of Peter rather than Peter himself who was the foundation. But no matter how we interpret it, I see no case for establishing a Petrine office here that extended beyond the life of Peter.

    But it isn’t all about you Andrew, we also have a say. And we see the Petrine office established and described in that verse. And since Jesus Christ established a going concern, it is highly unlikely that the office He established to run His Corporation (from the word “corpus” for “body”, i.e. the Body of Christ) would end, while His Corporation would continue until the end of time.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  119. CD-HOST April 26, 2013 at 5:50 am
    What it would take to validate apostolic succession given the overwhelming historical evidence against it… would be a plausible consistent timeline, consistent with documentary record we have demonstrating a Catholic apostolic origin to Christianity.

    The timeline is there. And it is consistent with the facts of Scripture and history. What you are asking for is a timeline which matches your preconceived notions. No one can produce that but you.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  120. @De Maria

    The timeline is there. And it is consistent with the facts of Scripture and history.

    Really? Irenaeus has Sethians emerging from Simon Magus who is a contemporary of Peter. We now have Sethian documents from 100 BCE. Explain that.

  121. De Maria:

    I have long argued that the CIP, unlike any PIP, can distinguish in a principled way between divine revelation and human opinion. One bit of evidence for that is the example you give. But such an argument doesn’t suffice to show that “an essentially Protestant IP” is “completely illogical.” Protestants have pretty much the same grasp of logic as any other large group of people: basically sound, though imperfect. It only shows that the CIP is more reasonable than the PIP, prescinding from any particular doctrinal commitments.

    Best,
    Mike

  122. +JMJ+

    De Maria wrote:

    That is true from a Protestant perspective. But it is completely illogical.

    I don’t know if you’ve gotten the chance to read this whole thread, but you might want to check out my earlier post (Apr 25th @ 6:47 am) about Reformism’s particular relation with historicity. The unique historical squints that we all bring to the table is an interesting subject in itself, methinks. (This isn’t exactly in line with the OP, so I don’t want to blaze a rabbit trail., but just an FYI.)

    Stay thirsty my friend.

  123. @Andrew McCallum:

    There is just so much conjecture about the life and times of Peter once we get beyond the Scriptures. My perspective is that Christianity is not affected one iota if Peter did nothing in Rome but stop by for a visit. There were so many stories about Peter running around during the early centuries of Christianity, many of which were written down in heretical and apocryphal works. No doubt there is truth to some of them but I see no way to accurately constuct a life of Peter given extant accounts. In God’s providence we just don’t know. And we really don’t know anything about what his supposed successors did in Rome. My conclusion is that if God had wanted us to have an accurate record of the life of Peter after the biblical account then He would have preserved it.

    When Andrew P. mentions biographical statements in lieu of an argument, I believe this is what he had in mind, and this is question-begging in the same sense that all three of us (Jason, Andrew, and I) have pointed out. This case could be made even more strongly with respect to the life of Jesus Himself. If you apply your verificationist skeptic standards consistently, then the reverence of the Church for Scripture and apostolic authorship ceases to be an adequate criterion for its reliability.

    In other words, your appeal to God allegedly wanting us to have a record is ad hoc with respect to Scripture; you have to assume both that God wanted us to have a record and that Scripture is the only record that God wanted us to have in order to exempt your own theology from the same criticism. That being the case, you would either need to produce the same sort of evidence not only for Jesus and Scripture generally but also for every piece of content that you assert to be taught in Scripture, or you would need to justify your interpretive paradigm on theological and philosophical grounds as against Catholicism.

    Note that the former option would not be limited to the Resurrection, for example, which is hard enough, but every incident and saying in Scripture. You would end up with a J.P. Meier-style historical Jesus as the only authority, with only a purely irrational fideism to supplement it. To say that doesn’t affect Christianity one iota may be your opinion, but objectively and rationally, it puts you in no man’s land; you would believe in a Christianity that doesn’t make any sense.

    Speaking of which…
    @CD-HOST:
    I concede that if the historical situation were as you have interpreted it, to the extent that there were actually compelling evidence for your thesis, then I would cease believing in apostolic succession and also Christianity. If what you describe actually happened, then we are all wasting our time here on a foolish 1st century myth.

  124. CD-HOST:

    From the demonstrable fact that, from the very beginning, there was a diversity of sects calling themselves apostolic and Christian, it does not follow that there is no discernible and normative “apostolic succession.” All that follows is that, if one tries to discern such a succession just by a study of history, one is going to fail. But that does not mean there is no such succession to discern. For if there always was a doctrinally normative and binding ecclesiology picking out a visible and unitary “Church” as a datum of divine revelation, then apostolic succession has to be part of that, and the evidence can be interpreted in keeping with that. That’s exactly what St. Irenaeus did.

    I’ve had just this debate with Elaine Pagels, starting in the late 1970s when I was one of her students. Her response to the argument I’ve just summarized was that Irenaeus suppressed evidence unfavorable to his position and exaggerated the evidence favorable to it. Well, perhaps he did, perhaps he did not; if he did, we cannot be sure how much. But in any case, the issue is theologically dispositive only if one assumes that normative ecclesiology is to be determined solely by historical evidence. If one has a self-consistent and authoritative ecclesiology to begin with–which Irenaeus clearly did–then the existence of “Christian” sects that were heretical or schismatic from the standpoint of that ecclesiology is not a problem for that ecclesiology in particular. For no matter what one’s ecclesiology, there are always going to be people who reject it for whatever reasons they may severally have. So, just as diversity of belief does not entail the absence of any and all normative orthodoxy, so diversity of “churches” does not entail the absence of a visible, unitary Church founded by Jesus Christ and enjoying apostolic succession.

    Best,
    Mike

  125. JONATHAN PREJEAN April 26, 2013 at 6:34 am

    In other words, your appeal to God allegedly wanting us to have a record is ad hoc with respect to Scripture; you have to assume both that God wanted us to have a record and that Scripture is the only record that God wanted us to have in order to exempt your own theology from the same criticism. That being the case, you would either need to produce the same sort of evidence not only for Jesus and Scripture generally but also for every piece of content that you assert to be taught in Scripture, or you would need to justify your interpretive paradigm on theological and philosophical grounds as against Catholicism.

    This was directed at Andrew who is an excellent debater but I thought I’d comment a bit from a non-Reformed perspective. You are actually reading this backwards from a (baptist) Protestant perspective. The idea is not that God preserves something reliable through time but that God rises up his word for his people. So for example in 2Kings 22, 2Chr 34 Deuteronomy is rediscovered, God is rising up Deuteronomy for his people in that time when it had been lost before. What is preserved and what is lost can change in time and culture. In other words the scripture we use today is what God wanted us to have.

    It isn’t ad-hoc it is the very definition of the biblical canon.

  126. Jason,

    this raises a very deep and difficult issue for me. Once anyone accepts the existence of God and therefore the miraculous…. How can one make these types of judgment calls at all in a consistent manner? How do we distinguish the probability that a man named Moses split the red sea from the odds that there is such a thing as apostolic succession? Why is it just a basic obvious given that the bible is reliable but not Tradition? there are problem popes…. There are problem scriptures…. Yet we believe in spite of these issues and use apologetics to defend our stance. It seems to me that when we gaze outside of our own belief system we adopt the eyes of an atheist. How is it that a protestant is to honestly evaluate the evidence for apostolic succession and the papacy and say “nahhhh I just don’t think your claims are probable” when all the while believing in the miraculous!!!! I’m not sure how the two sides can honestly evaluate each other when points like this are raised? What are your thoughts?

  127. Kenneth:

    I try to answer your question here.

    Best,
    Mike

  128. @MICHAEL LICCIONE April 26, 2013 at 6:49 am

    You might have been name dropping Elaine Pagels to be establishing some cred, and it worked 🙂 She is a bit of a hero. You were truly blessed to have gotten the chance to work with her directly. Especially since you are talking about in the 1970s when her most critical ideas were just starting to be expressed. Today she’s a legend but not cutting edge, she’s primarily a popularizer now speaking to a mass audience.

    From the demonstrable fact that, from the very beginning, there was a diversity of sects calling themselves apostolic and Christian,

    Let me just stop there. Most of the people on your side of the debate would absolutely deny that they were a diversity of sects that were Christians. They deny existence of a Christianity outside of Catholicism. Most of the people on the Protestant side as well. In their view if you had done a census in the 1st century 90, 95, 99% of all Christians are Catholics and there are at best a few scattered crazies preaching some weird variants of now meaningful historical importance.

    Once you admit those sects exist and comprised a substantial percentage of the Christians of the 1st and 2nd century you have already made huge progress towards accepting a History of Religions perspective. “What percentage?” is not a minor side point it is critical piece of evidence one way or the other.

    For if there always was a doctrinally normative and binding ecclesiology picking out a visible and unitary “Church” as a datum of divine revelation, then apostolic succession has to be part of that, and the evidence can be interpreted in keeping with that. That’s exactly what St. Irenaeus did.

    I wrote you a long reply on the other thread regarding the issue of apostolic succession and whether it is the only possible or even a biblical sanctioned way.

    But for now on this thread let me grant that. There is a structure to your argument.

    1) There was one unified divine revelation
    2) The apostles knew what it was
    3) The apostles taught it to others
    4) There was a church created which knew what it was and taught it, regardless of how small or insignificant that church was.
    5) That church is what we today call the Catholic Church.

    I think we agree history can’t effectively weigh in on the truth of (1) or (2).
    The documentary record we have does speak to (3). And it does not have the apostles teaching Catholicism.

    So let me modify (3) to make it outside the range of historical attack

    (3’) The apostles taught it to others leaving behind no historical trace. The early apostolic record we do have is almost completely corrupted.

    (3’) is similar to (4) in that there is no way to disprove the existence of a tiny church which left behind no trace.

    But as that tiny church quickly grows into the dominant form of Christianity, the Catholic church, by the mid 3rd century at the latest that displacement would leave a trace. But the trace we have is one of sects merging not of sects being displaced. The diversity of theological viewpoints we see within self identified Catholicism is inconsistent with that timeline.

    Under this view was the New Testament written by Catholics or people belonging to these other sects? If by Catholics, and there were unified then why the theological diversity? If by other sects why didn’t the Catholics preserve their own early writings?

    If one has a self-consistent and authoritative ecclesiology to begin with–which Irenaeus clearly did–then the existence of “Christian” sects that were heretical or schismatic from the standpoint of that ecclesiology is not a problem for that ecclesiology in particular.

    It is a problem because Irenaeus ecclesiology makes historical claims in addition to theological claims. If Christianity made no claim to being a historical faith, then you’re right it wouldn’t matter. Dr. Pagels has indicated she considers Irenaeus a good demarcation line for early Christianity vs. Catholic Christianity If Irenaeus were as a historical fact were the even originator of Catholicism then it wouldn’t be a problem theologically except for the problem that Catholicism has historical content. Acts is part of Catholicism, and Luke/Acts theme is the evolution of Christianity from Jesus to Peter to Paul as historical events.

    Were it not for Irenaeus’ historical claims then sure. You could just define the deposit of faith to be Irenaeus faith and the only historical issue for a modern Catholic is their divergences from Irenaeus. But there is no way to get around Irenaeus many many falsifiable historical claims. The one I hit De Maria with is a good example. If the Sethians are running around by 100 BCE then a Simon Magus who is a contemporary of Peter’s did not precede them. His ordering of events is falsifiable in this and many other cases.

  129. @CD-HOST:
    The reason that it’s question-begging is the one I gave before. I understand why God had to raise up His Word by special intervention in the Old Testament. But based on my Christian theology, there should be no such need. If God has to raise up His Word or to make prophets or to do signs in the post-Apostolic age, then there’s no reason that I can perceive to consider the original Christian revelation reliable.

    That has not stopped this from being a popular heresy. There have been many groups appealing to this pattern: the institutional church is corrupt and has lost its way, so God raised up men of humility and simple faith obedient to his will to bring God’s people back to Him. In the Christian church particularly, there are also typically some apocalyptic or eschatological elements to justify a second change associated with Christ’s Second Coming, so these people are like latter-day John the Baptists.

    This is an old story. It was ridiculous when the Montanists came up with it, it was ridiculous when Joachim de Fiore “prophesied” it, and I don’t think it has gotten any better with age. It’s just a lack of faith in the end; it’s this belief that *this time* it’s so bad that God just has to *do something*. Serious, you guys.

    This seems to be a relic of superstition from pagan days about divine disfavor. God is angry, so bad things are happening. The Christian revelation that God is love, so much so that He gave His Only-Begotten Son, should blunt those concerns. Christ fixed it all; “it is finished.” But the anxiety is hard to overcome; the temptation is always to think “this time is different,” when it never really is.

  130. Hey Jonathan,

    Thanks for the thoughtful response. I don’t have much time left to address this, but I want to give my thoughts briefly,

    “Where I’ve found Lampe inadequate is that it doesn’t explain why others fell into line. It’s easy to attribute that to power or influence, but Rome and Alexandria were both on the wrong side of emperors, and there doesn’t seem to be any real variation between good and bad times in terms of the influence. Moreover, as you said, the apostolic witness to which they appealed was the blood of the martyrs Peter and Paul more than any secular importance.”

    Could you specify what you mean about “falling into line?” Does this mean recognizing an episcopate immediately? I would assume that you’re talking about in the late second and early third centuries, which still leaves the question open as to when and how that episcopate arrived.

    You then say,

    “Lampe claims the transition was “predestined,” but frankly, diaconal funds weren’t that much power, and it doesn’t explain why the transition was so early (barely fifty years out from the last Apostle). And he doesn’t seem to account for the fact that if you were made Pope, you were *going* to be martyred. It was a death sentence at exactly the time when this “transition” was supposed to be happening. And why would the secular authorities single out popes? For that matter, this explains why the records are spotty; the wrong letter could get you killed!”

    I think you may have overextended what Lampe is arguing. The power that came from the diaconal fund may not have been expansive, but it provided the seeds for a sole administrator in Rome. What ended up happening was all the fractionated groups in Rome coalesced around this leader. Irenaeus’s list of bishops dating back to Peter provides counter-evidence to this claim, but Irenaeus’s historical reliability needs to be interacted with critically. Time limits my ability to flesh out Lampe in full, but it is more developed than Bryan Cross or Sean Patrick have indicated over at CtC. He believes Irenaeus to be unreliable for theological reasons (for example, the list being 12 “popes” long, with “Sixtus” being the sixth number), but most importantly because it does not match with the textual & archaeological evidence that Lampe deals with through the majority of the book.
    Furthermore, I don’t think appealing to the willingness of bishops to die means too much in light of the Christianity of the time. Being a Christian was a calculated risk. It was no secret you could be killed. The devotion of many of the early Christians led them to desire martyrdom (See Origen).
    I’d be interested to know what time period you have in mind for authorities singling out bishops. The policy of the Roman authorities was to address the leaders of the Christian movement because they were figureheads. This doesn’t necessarily speak to how the office developed.

    Finally you say,

    “So when I look at this trying to take the bishops of the time seriously, I ask myself “why did they go along with this?” And with respect to the real conditions, I ask myself “why would anyone be Pope?” Try as I might, I can’t come up with a much better explanation than that the office was considered special, and even essential, to their theological convictions [I just want to note that this is conversational language and not you just attempting to throw your opinion out as a conversation stopper]. And the way even outsiders in Alexandria, for example, behaved is consistent with that kind of theological importance. It feels[Ditto here] like a theological reason, not just some bureaucratic functionary getting too big for his britches.”

    These are more interesting questions. No doubt these men who risked their lives sincerely believed that the ministry to the church was vitally important. They were even willing to die, like Paul & Peter, to serve their communities. Clearly there were theological & historical convictions that these bishops shared. I agree that this evidence ought to be accounted for. From the perspective of Lampe, I believe you’re asking the questions in reverse.

    Lampe argues that we have no record of an episcopate in Rome based upon the archaeological and extant sources. The fractionated structure of Rome vitiates against any theory that there was one representative for the church of Rome. He substantiates this by looking at the records, inscriptions, and writings of that period to show that the earliest Christians were associated with house churches and not bishops. The reason he doesn’t deal with your questions is because it comes after the period of interest. If his research is accurate, then the questions you raise are historical questions for a later time.

    I’m ignorant of the data you’re referring to regarding Alexandria. Any way you could point me to it?

  131. CD-HOST April 26, 2013 at 6:25 am
    @De Maria
    The timeline is there. And it is consistent with the facts of Scripture and history.
    Really? Irenaeus has Sethians emerging from Simon Magus who is a contemporary of Peter. We now have Sethian documents from 100 BCE. Explain that.

    First explain what that has to do with Apostolic succession. Then I’ll gladly explain what it is you misunderstood.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  132. Andrew,

    Thanks for your response. You said,

    “Regarding Peter and Rome, all I am pointing out is that he must have had reasons for going and returning to Rome in the course of his ministry. That is a point that you left out, in your summary of my argument. If Peter had been given a distinct charism of leadership in the universal Church, and if that charism was such as to be passed down in a distinctly Petrine office (as seems to be indicated in Mt 16), then it stands to reason that at least part of Peter’s purpose in Rome was to establish this office in that city. Subsequent church history bears this out, to the extent that Rome is associated with Peter in a way that Antioch is not (cf. Bryan’s “Chair of St. Peter” article).”

    I hope you can bear with me. I’m not trying to be a pain but trying to understand you’re argument. I’m still not seeing where the connections are being made. Let me distill your argument.

    “Peter travels to and from Rome. Peter has the Petrine office. Therefore, it stands to reason that Peter’s multiple visits indicated he established his perpetual office in the city of Rome. The later history of the Church bears witness to this.”

    Is this an accurate summary of your argument?

    Mike L,

    You said,

    “From the standpoint of the CIP, however, the state of the evidence for early mono-episcopacy in Rome–whatever that state may be at any given time–is not a problem.”

    First, do you believe in the motives of credibility? How credible are those motives if the evidence for the central aspect of the Roman claim is weak?

    You then say,

    “It will not do, of course, to object here that the evidence is insufficient to establish the facts of Roman mono-episcopacy and primacy in the early Church; for neither is the evidence sufficient to establish the fact of the Resurrection.”

    Second, are you arguing that the evidence for Papal primacy is equivalent to the evidence to establish the resurrection? I certainly hope this is not what you are saying, though it seems to be what you are insinuating. According to the claims being made by CtC and here, the teaching of the resurrection were carried alongside of the resurrection. Jesus established a visible church after all. The fact that we have overwhelming testimony (even eyewitness testimony) to Jesus’s resurrection puts the evidence for Jesus’s resurrection in a completely different universe than the claims for AS from Peter all the way down to Francis.

  133. Brandon,

    That is somewhat representative of the case that I have been sketching. However, I prefer my version of the case, which you quoted, since it is just as clear as your (only slightly shorter) distillation, and more accurately represents my view (since I wrote it).

    Peter did not simply visit Rome on several (at least two) occasions. He ministered in that city. Furthermore, he must have had reasons for ministering in Rome on these occasions. So the question is, what were his reasons for going to, ministering in, and returning to Rome? (I take it, following Edmundson, that when in his letter to the Romans St Paul says that he has hitherto not come to Rome because of his principle of not building on another man’s foundation, he is referring to Peter’s first Apostolic visit to and ministry in Rome.) Of course it does not follow as a matter of logical deduction that Peter went to Rome in order that his unique office would be perpetuated in that city. But granted that (a) he had received such an office, and (b) that this office was intended by Christ to be a permanent and essential feature of the Church, then 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.

    Taylor Marshall provides a complementary sketch of Peter’s post-Acts 12 ministry in the following post:

    http://www.taylormarshall.com/2012/01/was-saint-peter-in-rome-or-antioch.html

  134. JONATHAN PREJEAN April 26, 2013 at 8:41 am

    The reason that it’s question-begging is the one I gave before. I understand why God had to raise up His Word by special intervention in the Old Testament. But based on my Christian theology, there should be no such need. If God has to raise up His Word or to make prophets or to do signs in the post-Apostolic age, then there’s no reason that I can perceive to consider the original Christian revelation reliable.

    Baptists don’t consider our record of the original Christian revelation outside of what was raised up for group of believers reliable. The only thing you and your church can rely was what was raised up for your church.

    For example lets take the New Testament. We have today
    — An English bible that is used by the English language church the KJV
    — A traditional New Testament Greek text the Textus Receptus
    — A reverse engineered Greek text from the KJV which intermixes the TR with older strands of Greek that were represented by the Vulgate.
    — A scholarly collection of Greek texts with variants, the NA28
    — A variety of bibles based on the NA26, NA27, NA28 which reproduce different underlying greek texts and different underlying lexical texts

    That is the extract opposite of reliable preservation. So Conservative Baptists have to believe one of several things

    a) That the KJV was risen up by God, i.e. it contains new revelatory content.
    b) That the modern bibles: NIV, ESV, NLT, NKJV, NASB… all mostly say the same things so the variants are unimportant
    c) That God is rising up a new bible we are living in a period of revelation. There is a variant of this one sees among the Conservative Reformed as well so I’ll mention it that I’ve been calling “ESVonlyism” This is a belief that the ESV constitutes essentially new revelation for this generation of English speaking Christians the way the KJV did 400 years ago.
    d) All the English versions are unreliable and only the Greek is reliable. Which mostly they don’t understand the diversity and complexity of and thereby avoid the issue.

    It was ridiculous when the Montanists came up with it, it was ridiculous when Joachim de Fiore “prophesied” it, and I don’t think it has gotten any better with age. It’s just a lack of faith in the end; it’s this belief that *this time* it’s so bad that God just has to *do something*. Serious, you guys.

    Take Luther. After 500 years and with the explosion of Latin American Pentecostalism there is a very real probability that by the next generation Protestantism with ties to Luther will be the dominant form of Christianity on this planet. At what point does it stop being ridiculous and instead become that Montanus, Prisca and Maximilla had a point? Did I mention that the New Apostolic Reformation which is passing

    The Christian revelation that God is love, so much so that He gave His Only-Begotten Son, should blunt those concerns. Christ fixed it all; “it is finished.”

    Have you been to the vatican’s website and noted that your church puts out new encyclicals? Your group doesn’t believe in meaningfully fixed final revelation either. Given that the Baptists reject all councils, and truly do limit their revelation books no later than the mid 2nd century I’m hard pressed seeing how a Catholic gets to attack Baptists for adding to the faith of Christ.

  135. Jason—

    1. Yes, George W. Bush was President. He actually governed in Washington, D. C. Al Gore may have received the most votes, but he never actually governed. A revisionist historian with affinities for the Democratic Party may one day insist that he did, but that doesn’t change the facts on the ground. A good number of popes never actually governed in Rome (or over Rome). An antipope sat in that seat. Sometimes, no one actually governed except for the antipope. (Victor III put off being elected, laid his powers aside for a while after he was consecrated pope, and preferred his residence in Monte Cassino. And of course, there was the phenomenon of having three popes at once—Avignon, Rome, and Pisa—where it was not sorted out till afterwards who the legitimate successor to Peter had been. Thousands lived and died never knowing, participating in illegitimately consecrated Eucharists and receiving phony absolutions from sin.) Many popes were only considered legitimate after the fact. Plus, there were a lot of short breaks (though these could be years in duration) where no one whatsoever reigned.

    2. The reason I said your definition failed is that you could not have it both ways: your definition cannot be that at one point all that is requisite is that the pope be sovereign over Rome (and nowhere much else) and then later be ecumenically sovereign (but not over Rome). I’m sure you feel covered by the Development of Doctrine (which covers over a multitude of sins, not to mention a boatload of obfuscations). In all honesty, I can almost see it. Just can’t quite get there. A little too much standing in the way. (On the other hand, I do not think any self-respecting, even somewhat objective historian could ever agree with Rome that her use of “development” always concerns new insights and discoveries enhancing existing doctrines and never concerns wholesale, convenient change to doctrines which have outlived their usefulness or the new minting of doctrines from extra-biblical sources which, for whatever reason, have found widespread popularity.)

    3. To restate things for you and anyone too dense to read between the lines, the succession of actual Apostles is the only example of succession with any biblical warrant. And this particular type of succession cannot be continued. Nowhere in Scripture is it stated who can or cannot consecrate a new bishop. The Apostles could not and did not get everywhere, and they nowhere charged bishops to consecrate other bishops. And your well-attested and self-acknowledged weakness in Church History shows itself again (just kidding 🙂 ):

    1 Clement 44:2

    “For this cause therefore, having received complete foreknowledge, they appointed the aforesaid persons, and afterwards they provided a continuance, that if these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed to their ministration. Those therefore who were appointed by [the Apostles], or afterward by other men of repute with the consent of the whole Church, and have ministered blamelessly to the flock of Christ in lowliness of mind, peacefully and with all modesty, and for long time have borne a good report with all these men we consider to be unjustly thrust out from their ministration.”

    Do you happen to see where it says “by other men of repute with the consent of the whole church”? This cannot be the ecumenical church, for there would have been no way extant to administer all such appointments. It must be either the local congregation or local presbytery. Therefore, we have men who explicitly are not bishops making episcopal appointments. Your sense of “apostolic succession” is not being carried out. The Protestant notion of doctrinal/spiritual succession emphatically is being carried out. Clement goes on and on how appointees are to be faithful men (as Moses was faithful).

    4. The Roman sense of “apostolic” succession is that there is one line and one line only that has supremacy. This means that there is one line and one line only that is infallible. The EO have made mistakes concerning the papacy and the filioque, etc. I believe Early Church history rules out this type of “apostolic” succession. That doesn’t make me a skeptic, just sensible. That ministerial candidates and church officers must be approved by the church is a tenet the Protestant church shares with Clement. Indeed, it is a tenet which the all of Christianity has held to for almost 2000 years now. It is not a tenet relegated to the EO and RC varieties thereof. We confessional Protestants lay on hands when ordaining. We believe in succession as taught in Scripture and by the Early Church. What we do not believe in is a form of succession which is purely physical and, as such, detached from faith. Neither did Clement. Neither did Augustine.

    Since by solo Scriptura all you mean is sola Scriptura, I will gladly bear the title, and with great honor. It is far better than being “extra Scriptura” as you are. As for “ecclesial deism,” I don’t buy it. God’s Providential protection doesn’t need to fulfill some empirical demand that we be able to see it visibly rather than by faith.

    5. Paul went to Jerusalem and argued beside Peter, not to Rome to argue in front of Peter.

    6. I didn’t ignore anything. Your post ignored a great deal and played fast and loose with history.

    7. There’s a difference between wielding authority, delegated from Christ, for the greater glory of the Kingdom of God on the one hand, and wielding authority, delegated from men, for the grandeur of Conquest and Empire and Hegemony, on the other. I stand firmly against any form of Erastianism, including Calvin’s Geneva. Even the otherwise marvelous John Owen was sucked into advocating regicide. Worldly power corrupts, period.

    8. I don’t care a whit for the post-apostolic church as the post-apostolic church. I care about them to the extent that they were faithful to the Lord of the Church. And yes, ecclesial authority is contingent upon the sanctity of those who claim to wield it! Read Clement’s letter again if you think otherwise. Augustine would have said the selfsame thing. Now, it is not contingent solely on holiness and doctrinal fealty. The unity of the church is rather important. The Donatists held an inadequate, heretical view on grace, disavowing forgiveness for repentant apostates. To be honest, their view on leadership needing to be above reproach is a biblical one. To some extent, the Roman Church was unfaithful in this regard. (Augustine, by the way, viewed Tyconius, a lifelong Donatist and gifted exegete, with great admiration. Of course, Tyconius himself was no rigorist, believing the church would always be an admixture of wheat and tares.)

    If having a pope insures that we won’t have anyone forming a church around the idea that “Cylons are really among us and 9/11 was a hologram,” then why do we have such an astounding number of bizarrely syncretistic churches in the RCC? By comparison, the FV is about as bizarre as it comes among confessional Protestants. If your system is so far superior to ours, why does ours work so much better in practice?

    I am no rigorist and am not looking for one idyllic, flawless church. I am looking for one that is faithful in the basics. To me, that cannot be one that practices no visible discipline, fiercely protects its vast wealth and property, maintains an inadequate view on grace (eviscerating the gospel), and holds to idolatrous views of Mary and the Saints.

  136. +JMJ+

    Eric wrote:

    4. The Roman sense of “apostolic” succession is that there is one line and one line only that has supremacy. This means that there is one line and one line only that is infallible.

    There is no line of succession (Holy Orders) that has supremacy or infallibility. Whoever is the Bishop of Rome is supreme and has the charism of Infallibility. The Bishop of Rome can be chosen from any apostolic line of succession. This is pretty basic, so I figured that you would already know this. Maybe I’m just reading you wrongly.

  137. +JMJ+

    Kenneth wrote:

    I’m not sure how the two sides can honestly evaluate each other when points like this are raised?

    For the Catholic, I would say that one should always relate everything back to Incarnationalism. This is where every non-Catholic perspective fails (regardless of whether whether we’re talking religion, science, philosophy, history, ideology, etc). They may make sense within their own limited circle, but they make no sense within Incarnation. Every field of apologetics, as well as every apologetic school within a field, must begin and end here, convinced that the resolution to every problem and paradox in every field of human endeavor is found in Incarnation. The Incarnation is The Cosmic Hermeneutic. (Participation in the Trinitarian Life [Trinitarianism being the interior, Heavenly Hermeneutic] is also rendered problematic by erroneous Incarnationalism.)

    Granted, this tack is only explicitly helpful when making faith-appeals to those who confess the bare fact of Incarnation, but it can even be helpful in a tangential way when dealing on a purely reasonable, Natural level. And even though one might wonder how Incarnationalism ties in with something like the Papacy (especially considering that Infallibility is a charism and not a Sacrament), one can see that the lack of an Incarnational touchstone to make dogma knowable, one ends up, again, in that Visible/Invisible Doctrine Dichotomy (see my post above: Apr 25th @ 6:47 am) which affronts Incarnationalism.

  138. Kenneth, I responded to your comment in the Muggles thread.

  139. Jonathan says this:

    your appeal to God allegedly wanting us to have a record is ad hoc with respect to Scripture; you have to assume both that God wanted us to have a record and that Scripture is the only record that God wanted us to have in order to exempt your own theology from the same criticism. That being the case, you would either need to produce the same sort of evidence not only for Jesus and Scripture generally but also for every piece of content that you assert to be taught in Scripture, or you would need to justify your interpretive paradigm on theological and philosophical grounds as against Catholicism.

    Andrew Andrew replies thus:

    Jonathan,

    I would have to produce such evidence IF you were an atheist or a liberal or someone else who rejects the notion that Scripture is accurate history because God wrote it. But you are not such a person. You are in fact someone who accepts the fact that God Almighty told us things in the Scripture concerning the life and death of His Son. You and I don’t have to debate that there was someone called Jesus who was born of Mary, was persecuted by the Jews, was crucified, etc. We don’t have to debate this because we both agree that the Bible is an accurate history of those historical events. So when you speak of my “appeal to God allegedly wanting us to have a record” I reply that yes, God wants us to have an accurate history of the life of His Son and He gave us just such an record which we can appeal to.

    So now Andrew P and Jason and others are trying to make the case that we can know definite things about the life of Peter after the biblical account. Andrew P adduces certain primary and secondary sources. I have not read his secondary source but it seems to me his secondary sources are insufficient to say much concerning Peter, how he carried out his ministry to the Jews, what the nature of his ministry in Rome was, etc. Jason and Andrew P are arguing from the historical record and I am responding to the inferences they are attempting to draw from this record.

    If you want to argue from something else besides the historical record for the RCC understanding of Petrine primacy and the RCC dogmatic understanding of Apostolic succession I won’t fault you for that.

  140. Whoops, mistake in third sentence of my second paragraph above. Should read:

    I have not read his secondary source but it seems to me his primary sources….

  141. Dang. I wrote a substantial reply to CD-HOST that simply disappeared into cyberspace. I’ll try again tomorrow.

  142. KENNETH April 26, 2013 at 7:28 am

    How can one make these types of judgment calls at all in a consistent manner? … Yet we believe in spite of these issues and use apologetics to defend our stance. It seems to me that when we gaze outside of our own belief system we adopt the eyes of an atheist

    Hi Kenneth. This question was asked to Jason but I figured I’ve been where you are so I’ll throw my $.02 in. My answer is that once you discover that hypocrisy in yourself your ability to keep doing this in a consistent manner that you can feel genuine confidence in is gone. You’ve lost your intellectual virginity and you will never be able to unknowingly be a hypocrite again and convince yourself of the truth of your hypocrisy.

    So… what to do? Well the first thing you’ll notice about apologetics, and it sounds like you already have is the two standards of truth:

    Apologetics tends to affirm something as true that’s in the faith as long as there is still some sliver of possibility regardless of how small. You need to start honestly assigning probabilities to things. Once you are willing to start making a mental map that has transformed:

    “True by multiple high quality sources vs. True by tortured argument” you are well on your way to being able to say:
    “Almost certainly true vs. Almost certainly false” and then that becomes your working definition for
    “True vs false”

    Let the process run its course. You are questioning biblical infallibility go ahead. If the Red Sea was more than an example make sure to read some non-religious scholarship about the Old Testament. Start with Is Moses a historical figure at all? and read the counter argument to ask yourself whether you even believe there was a Jewish religion much before 600 BCE. If you decide you do believe those stories then you only now need to reconcile why you don’t believe in other religions myths. If not… you are done as a conservative Christian. So read some Liberal Christians decide if you are fine with a Christianity that doesn’t have biblical infallibility. Then you can decide if without an infallible bible your Protestant faith is worth saving or not.

    That changes the question from “Can I force myself to believe in this Moses stuff” to “Do I want to be part of a church, does church make my life better”. Most Christians don’t believe in an infallible bible that’s a choice you made or that was made for you.

  143. MICHAEL LICCIONE April 26, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    Thanks for being willing to try twice! This site is really dangerous in terms of eating text. I always use an external editor and cut and paste here.

  144. Wosbald–

    Though Francis is the very first Jesuit to fill the seat of Peter, I was not pitting sacred orders one against another. The Benedictines and the Norbertines will not be battling it out for ascendancy!

    No, I was speaking of lines of succession beginning with the actual Apostles. The Mar Thoma church in India (which I believe is now part of the Anglican Communion) descends directly from St. Thomas. The Coptic church descends from St. Mark. The Ukrainian Orthodox, (possibly) from St. Andrew. The Armenian church, from St. Thaddeus (i.e., Jude) and St. Bartholomew. In other words, there are lines of succession, going all the way back to the beginning, which are not in communion with Rome.

  145. +JMJ+

    Eric wrote:

    Wosbald–
    Though Francis is the very first Jesuit to fill the seat of Peter, I was not pitting sacred orders one against another. The Benedictines and the Norbertines will not be battling it out for ascendancy!
    No, I was speaking of lines of succession beginning with the actual Apostles. The Mar Thoma church in India (which I believe is now part of the Anglican Communion) descends directly from St. Thomas. The Coptic church descends from St. Mark. The Ukrainian Orthodox, (possibly) from St. Andrew. The Armenian church, from St. Thaddeus (i.e., Jude) and St. Bartholomew. In other words, there are lines of succession, going all the way back to the beginning, which are not in communion with Rome.

    Religious Orders are not the same as Holy (or ‘sacred’ as you say) Orders. “Holy Orders” is a Sacrament that refers to the sacerdotal priesthood.

    And so, yes, a Pope can be, theoretically, chosen from any Apostolic Line of Succession.

  146. Thanks for the conversation Andrew. I’ll let you have the last word if you so prefer. You said,

    “But granted that (a) he had received such an office, and (b) that this office was intended by Christ to be a permanent and essential feature of the Church, then 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.”

    The key word in this sentence is “suppose.” If you’re giving me motives of credibility for the Roman claim that Christ founded a visible, Petrine church, “suppositions” are not sufficient evidence. I understand that you are offering “proofs” but those “proofs” do not substantiate your conclusion. At best they offer one possibility among others. The fact that we have a record of Paul establishing a church in Antioch indicates that IF the Petrine office is a perpetual office that it is just as likely (and this is being generous to the Roman claim) to be in Antioch as in Rome.

    I don’t think there is any more ground to tread upon here, but if you have any additional resources or additions to your argument I would love to study them. Thanks again, Andrew.

    Jason,

    I understand you are a busy guy, but I am a little disappointed that after your proposal has been interacted with you remain absent. I’m sure there are good reasons, but I would like to see if you would add anything to Mr. Preslar’s argument. I’d also like to get your thoughts on the necessity of recasting this “minimal proposal” so that it meets reasonable criteria for the Roman claim. As it stands, your proposal, even if true, does not establish Rome as the “CTCF.” If this is the claim, that the RCC comes directly from Jesus himself, then your “minimal” approach does not argue for the Roman position so far as I can see.

  147. Brandon,

    I understand you are a busy guy, but I am a little disappointed that after your proposal has been interacted with you remain absent.

    When I first started the series on gospel paradigms I made the effort to respond to every comment that came in, point by point. As you can imagine, that was unsustainable. For now, I tend to write two or three pretty long comments per day, mostly to questions that are addressed to me and that haven’t been answered by someone else. But if others are saying already what I would have said (and often saying it better), I am happy to just oversee things. I prefer that, actually.

    I would like to see if you would add anything to Mr. Preslar’s argument.

    No, I thought he did a good job of pointing out that the biblical and historical data shows that the papacy is at least a plausible option, particularly if you are already convinced philosophically that a visible and in some sense infallible church is needed in order to have a principled distinction between divine revelation and human opinion.

    I’d also like to get your thoughts on the necessity of recasting this “minimal proposal” so that it meets reasonable criteria for the Roman claim. As it stands, your proposal, even if true, does not establish Rome as the “CTCF.” If this is the claim, that the RCC comes directly from Jesus himself, then your “minimal” approach does not argue for the Roman position so far as I can see.

    You are right, this claim is more general than Rome’s, and could be adhered to by EOs as well.

    No one believes that the CC in its present form came directly from Jesus (as in, he gave the disciples the blueprints for St. Peter’s and then explained how to manufacture cardinals’ vestments). Development was happening within the church from the very beginning, as should be expected (we even see it in the history covered in Acts).

    What would be necessary in order to make this minimalist argument single out the CC would be to show that Jesus’ bestowal of the keys upon Peter alone involved the bestowal of a perpetual office of prime minister (as it did in Isa. 22). It would then need to be shown how that the bishops’ exercise of binding and loosing is only valid if it is done in conjunction with the holder of the keys, such that communion with him is a necessary condition for full communion with the church.

    A tougher and more involved case, certainly. But for the purpose of this post, I just wanted to get people on the same page when it comes to what needs to be true in order for AS in general to be a historical fact, since until we agree on that, all appeals to evidence are meaningless.

  148. Brandon,

    I have enjoyed the conversation. Since you graciously offered me the last word, I will say further that my summary arguments from the data of history, concerning the relation of the Church that Christ founded and the Church of Rome, are not intended to be proofs, but they are intended to be a plausible way of construing the data regarding St. Peter’s ministry, in defense of the Church’s tradition regarding Peter and Rome. Even if we cannot “prove” this tradition by historical arguments, that only places it on somewhere in the ballpark with, for example, the historical case for the authenticity of the biblical account of the Exodus, or the reign of King David. The intrinsic limitations of historical arguments, in general and in particular cases, are not in themselves warrant for not believing a theological claim that has an historical aspect.

    We know from the NT that Peter was both in Antioch and in Rome (1 Peter 5:13). We know from subsequent records of Church history that Peter finally ministered in Rome, not Antioch, and was martyred there. His relics are in that city to this day, in the tomb just under the main altar of the basilica that bears his name. You are simply ignoring large swaths of evidence when you claim that it is “just as likely” that the Chair of Peter was established in Antioch. Again, I encourage you to look into Edmundson’s history of the church in Rome in the first century (available here) and Bryan’s article on the Chair of St. Peter, which focuses on the third and fourth century patristic data.

  149. @Andrew M. and Brandon:
    I’ll try to hit on a big issue, and then I will bow out until Jason has a chance to say what he wants to say on the subject. The point that I wanted to raise was that there appears to be a serious equivocation between the two of you and the Catholics about what function this historical method is supposed to be serving here. The problem is summarized quite nicely in Andrew’s response to be concerning the content of Scripture:

    I would have to produce such evidence IF you were an atheist or a liberal or someone else who rejects the notion that Scripture is accurate history because God wrote it. But you are not such a person. You are in fact someone who accepts the fact that God Almighty told us things in the Scripture concerning the life and death of His Son. You and I don’t have to debate that there was someone called Jesus who was born of Mary, was persecuted by the Jews, was crucified, etc. We don’t have to debate this because we both agree that the Bible is an accurate history of those historical events. So when you speak of my “appeal to God allegedly wanting us to have a record” I reply that yes, God wants us to have an accurate history of the life of His Son and He gave us just such an record which we can appeal to.

    This is what both of you are missing, and it is the reason that we are talking past each other entirely. The discussion is one of explanatory paradigms, and in comparing the two, you can’t take for granted the conclusions of one to justify the other. In other words, if there is no apostolic succession with a Petrine ministry, I would not accept the accounts of Jesus being God as true. That doesn’t limit me to Catholicism, because there are other accounts of the primacy of Rome (e.g., Eastern Orthodox) that preserve both apostolic succession and a Petrine ministry (cf. the role of the Bishop of Rome in ecumenical councils). But if all of those people are wrong (for example, if CD-HOST is right about Catholicism originating with St. Irenaeus), then the motives for credibility would be essentially annihilated. So from both a theological and historical perspective, the explanatory account always has to start from the ground up; you have to provide an explanation for what your model takes away from the other model.

    The objective problem with your historical analysis is that you are offering a rival theory without providing an explanation for the phenomenon. In other words, regardless of what your views are on the correctness of “apostolic succession” (AS), there is no question that it was recognized universally in the Church for more than fifteen centuries. By the fourth century, AS was no longer in any doubt, and depending on the source, it was probably winning by the end of the second and all but victorious by the end of the third. That’s the historical phenomenon that has to be explained, and given the scope and extent of the issue, it is nearly as formidable a task as explaining Christianity itself. (Indeed, from the Catholic perspective, it just is explaining Christianity itself.)

    So when you come in with your historian hat on, particularly if you are denying AS, you have come up with evidence to support the rival theory. Jason’s question could really be formulated as “given the eighteen hundred years of evidence for papal claims based on the chair of Peter, what is the minimal evidence in the first two centuries required to sustain the explanation?” And even in the most skeptical interpretation, it isn’t that much, because any theory that provides a great explanation for centuries worth of data is going to be given the benefit of the doubt on any gaps. Parsimony goes with either Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy, because they essentially have an explanation about those centuries as a freebie: it’s always been this way.

    The evidence you need for your theory is, on the other hand, much more difficult to obtain. Because you are arguing that something changed, you have to find evidence for what the original belief was, why it changed, and why everybody afterward rejected the original belief and accepted the changed belief. I have read a handful of Protestant authors who engage at all with the theological underpinnings of the ante-Nicene period (Eric Osborn, D.H. Williams, Everett Ferguson, Michael A.G. Haykin, and Lampe come to mind), and I am personally not aware of a single one who has offered an explanation (historical or theological) as to why the conflicting beliefs went extinct or why a completely different belief was universalized.

    Brandon seems to concede this when he says: “The reason [Lampe] doesn’t deal with your questions is because it comes after the period of interest. If his research is accurate, then the questions you raise are historical questions for a later time.” On the contrary, if his conclusion doesn’t explain the subsequent events, then this would only show that his theory can’t stand as an explanation of AS, only (at best) as a theory about first and second century religious practices. To make his case persuasive against AS, he would have to argue not only that people originally worshipped in house churches but also that no external ministers were appointed either in the house churches or in Rome itself, the latter of which is only substantiated (at best) from silence. And my further point was that even as a matter of mundane historical opinion, the willingness of people to die for the sake of the office has probably not been substantiated, nor has this rather unusual claim that any sort of bureaucratic responsibility (effectively an administrative assistant in this case) is “predestined” to evolve into a church office.

    The quote I had from Lampe that “the role of ‘external minister’ was predestined to flow into a monarchial episcopacy in the second half of the second century” (p. 404 of From Paul to Valentinus) is an assertion, not an explanation. The relations with Alexandria and Antioch also cannot be explained by the fractionation of Rome. Why would a third century Alexandrian bishop like Dionysius, in charge of the largest port in the Roman empire, need papal approval? Why would the Antiochene council condemning Paul of Samosata contact Rome? Making an argument from silence at that point is fatal, because it is a failure to carry a burden of bringing forth an explanation. So Lampe simply isn’t even trying to do what he would need to do to answer the question of AS, which is essentially “if they didn’t believe AS in the first place, why did they accept it to the exclusion of all other theories later?”

    That’s probably way too much to expect to be discussed in a thread, but the point is that you just can’t say “do we have enough evidence in the ante-Nicene records alone to justify the Petrine ministry?” That is because the explanatory work has to extend to the reasons for subsequent acceptance of these ideas to the point of excluding competing paradigms. The question of “minimal evidence” is “what is the minimum evidence in this period required for the explanatory paradigm for the entire dataset to be sustained?” Even before we get into theological considerations, from a purely historical approach, you have to start with an explanation of AS in its entirety before you turn to the narrower question of looking at the particular period.

  150. Wosbald–

    I’m sorry for my terminology gaffe. I didn’t think you could possibly mean simple ordination.

    It depends on what you mean by “theoretical.” Most EO priests are married and would have to jump through all kinds of hoops to become a RC priest, let alone pope. Of course, EO bishops are unmarried, but they are not considered part of the RC ordinary magisterium. It is difficult enough for a non-Italian to be elected pope. It used to be, before the Catholic Reformation, that the papacy was bought and sold. Under these circumstances, a candidate could rise up through the ranks almost instantaneously, even if unordained before the process. This will never happen again, no matter how theoretically possible you believe it to be. “Papabile” candidates these days come only from within the magisterium. You know as well as I, that anyone who is not at least a RC Bishop will never be considered. Not now, nor at any time in the foreseeable future.

    In other words, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox lines are only theoretically valid. I am assuming that the Mar Thoma line, though eminently apostolic, is not even up to that standard. They are, after all, associated with the Anglican line, which is considered void by Rome because of some supposed “inconsistencies” in the consecrations performed during Edward VI’s reign.

    The fact of the matter is that the lines of Phillip (Ethiopia), Mark (Coptic), Jude and Bartholomew (Armenia), Thomas (Mar Thoma), and Barnabas (Cyprus), among others, are all second-class lines with no real recognition (other than “theoretical”).

    So within your one ruling line, we find some of the lines of Peter (though not those through Mark), some of the lines of Paul (though not all of those through Barnabas), and some of the lines of Andrew (though not the Slavic lines). In no meaningful sense do you include the lines of John, Phillip, Thomas, Jude, Bartholomew, Matthew, Matthias, or Simon Zealot. On the positive side, you do include James, and perhaps even James the Less.

    All told, there are far more lines you do not include than those you do.

  151. +JMJ+

    Eric wrote:

    Wosbald–
    I’m sorry for my terminology gaffe. I didn’t think you could possibly mean simple ordination…
    All told, there are far more lines you do not include than those you do.

    I’m simply establishing that, contrary to what you’d apparently said earlier, all Apostolic lines have a potential share in the exercise of the supremacy and the infallibility. Just clarifying for the benefit of all, so that we’re on the same page and whatnot.

  152. Wosbald–

    Well, actually, unless and until they come into full communion with Rome, there is no such potential, not really. (And if a Protestant denomination were to come into full communion with Rome, they would have the exact same status.)

    The Traditional Anglican Communion was just recently offered full communion. I believe, in the end, they voted it down, however.

  153. @Jonathan Prejean

    The objective problem with your historical analysis is that you are offering a rival theory without providing an explanation for the phenomenon. In other words, regardless of what your views are on the correctness of “apostolic succession” (AS), there is no question that it was recognized universally in the Church for more than fifteen centuries. By the fourth century, AS was no longer in any doubt, and depending on the source, it was probably winning by the end of the second and all but victorious by the end of the third. That’s the historical phenomenon that has to be explained, and given the scope and extent of the issue, it is nearly as formidable a task as explaining Christianity itself. (Indeed, from the Catholic perspective, it just is explaining Christianity itself.)

    It isn’t true that AS was universally recognized. In Europe Arianism starts thriving somewhere in the late 3nd century and lasts, at least in the military for about 500 years as the dominant Christian form. Also early on there is still a distinct Christian Hermetic movement which agrees to RCC discipline while rejecting their doctrines.

    Further south the Encratites are evolving into Collyridian Christianity. That will thrive for centuries spread thought the middle east and become a quasi-Christian faith called Islam which to this day challenges Catholicism. Again rejecting AS.

    In the east the Priscillianism still exists, Bagnolians are starting to form. Paulicans exists and will become the Bogomils all rejecting AS. Over many centuries those sects are going to merge with the Catholic Pataria reformers and become the Cathari. Their rejection of AS is going to really matter because while the Cathari are eliminated physically their beliefs pass on through Esoteric Christianity to Christian Humanism and from there to the Reformers. As political movements to the Brethern of the Free Spirit to the Waldensians and Hussite.

    In the middle ages you also have other movements that reject AS. The “Christ had no apostles” which are proto-Reformation associated with Franciscan offshoots are explicitly rejecting the idea of AS. They were adopting the Gnostic / Marcionite idea that the Apostles distorted the true teachings of Jesus and the RCC is a perversion of Jesus.

    It is simply not true that AS was universally recognized. It is true that the dominant form of Christianity believed in AS almost universally. But there probably was no place or point in time where there wasn’t some form of underground Christianity rejecting AS. Catholicism likes to pretend that they were the only form of Christianity and thus by definition they have universal agreement on their doctrines prior to the Reformation.

  154. +JMJ+
    CD-Host wrote:

    It is simply not true that AS was universally recognized. It is true that the dominant form of Christianity believed in AS almost universally. But there probably was no place or point in time where there wasn’t some form of underground Christianity rejecting AS.

    Echoing what I said last week, this only further supports the Catholic point. It proves that there’s an identifiable Content to Catholic Faith against which one can rebel.

  155. @WOSBALD April 27, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    Echoing what I said last week, this only further supports the Catholic point. It proves that there’s an identifiable Content to Catholic Faith against which one can rebel.

    No argument. That’s what makes disproving AS so easy. There are long term identifiable theological claims so you can see when they start entering the Christian documentary record. There are many others but the big one is “One God, one bishop, one baptism one faith”. Most of the early Christian sects viewed themselves as sects not as full religions looking for huge audiences. The Catholic Church is in some sense the first Christianity that aims to be small-c catholic.

    There are other identifiables like a strong incarnation that’s a key component of the Catholic faith that Jesus was present on earth in a meaningfully human sense. Replacement theology. Neither rejecting Judaism nor being a form of it. Compromise positions on most issues demanding that orthodoxy be “both” rather than “either-or” is very characteristic of Catholicism even today.

  156. +JMJ+

    CD-Host wrote:

    No argument. That’s what makes disproving AS so easy. There are long term identifiable theological claims so you can see when they start entering the Christian documentary record. There are many others but the big one is “One God, one bishop, one baptism one faith”. Most of the early Christian sects viewed themselves as sects not as full religions looking for huge audiences. The Catholic Church is in some sense the first Christianity that aims to be small-c catholic.
    There are other identifiables like a strong incarnation that’s a key component of the Catholic faith that Jesus was present on earth in a meaningfully human sense. Replacement theology. Neither rejecting Judaism nor being a form of it. Compromise positions on most issues demanding that orthodoxy be “both” rather than “either-or” is very characteristic of Catholicism even today.

    Rather, I would say that that’s what makes AS so easy to prove. Provided that one wishes to hold to the preeminent Christian distinctives of Incarnation and Trinity, that is. Of course, if these are negotiables and not viewed as Christian distinctives, then there’s a whole slew of Christian-esque sects that might suit one’s fancy. But ultimately, if one wants to consistently and holistically affirm Incarnation and Trinity across the entire spectrum of the Christian walk, then one will ultimately go Catholic. The strength of the Catholic Faith is, ultimately, in its internal homogeneity and irreducibility of its dynamic tension. This explains its unbreakable endurance in the face of every movement attempting to dissect it.

  157. . So Lampe simply isn’t even trying to do what he would need to do to answer the question of AS, which is essentially “if they didn’t believe AS in the first place, why did they accept it to the exclusion of all other theories later?”

    Look at the situation today in Protestantism. There are a wide range of sects competing for members. Members jump from church to church based on their needs and wants. Protestant churches mostly cannot police their members for the same reason that McDonalds cannot police their customers. People like Irenaeus understood that discipline inside the church would require a unified organization and that required a unified faith. The Catholic church was born of a vision to provide to the Empire a unified faith and not a huge morass of semi-related sects.

    There was resistance to AS. But ultimately many of the people who became Bishops were people who wanted to govern inside an institution and an institution required discipline. Without AS every Christian sect was mostly coequal. The argument that AS is required for orthodoxy is wrong, there are other approaches as Jews and Muslims prove, but AS was the means by which Catholicism achieved orthodoxy.

    Soon after AS really becomes standardized the Catholic Church becomes a division within the Roman state. The church starts using state power to maintain doctrinal orthodoxy. At that point there needs to be a moral justification for using state terror to propagate the faith and AS provides that.

    In short:

    a) When AS was first proposed there was resistance to this doctrine from other Christian sects

    b) AS quickly became popular among the Catholic hierarchy because it fit well with the structural objectives of the Catholic hierarchy. Another example of behavior changes belief.

    c) AS fit well with the needs of the Roman state once Catholicism became a state church.

  158. WOSBALD April 27, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    , I would say that that’s what makes AS so easy to prove. Provided that one wishes to hold to the preeminent Christian distinctives of Incarnation and Trinity, that is.

    Why would one want to do that?

    Trinity isn’t until Catholicism is dominant and also excluded Arianism, Islam, Cathari… So that criteria excludes most of later Catholicism’s competitors. Incarnation excludes most of the early sects. So your argument essentially amounts to:

    1) Choose beliefs mostly unique to Catholicism
    2) Exclude any sects not sharing those beliefs

    conc) Catholicism was the sole form of Christianity.

    _____

    My crystal ball is as bad as anyone else’s. But I suspect that with even the most conservative Christians moving away from the English language tradition of biblical translation towards translations more faithful to the Greek, they are inevitably going to be carried towards ancient “heresies”. The 19th century Arian movement came out of rejecting the traditional translations and I suspect it happens to Evangelicalism as a whole over the next 2 centuries. This is going to be compounded by better source text, since the earliest and best sources have far more verses in support of arianism, modalism, adoptionism and docetism.

    I don’t think trinitarianism makes it through the next two centuries for Protestants as normative. We’ll have to see.

  159. +JMJ+

    Wosbald wrote:
    .
    I would say that that’s what makes AS so easy to prove. Provided that one wishes to hold to the preeminent Christian distinctives of Incarnation and Trinity, that is.

    CD-Host wrote:
    .
    Why would one want to do that?

    Well, I can’t answer that one for you.

    Let me be clear… I’m only saying that, for those who wish to hold to these preeminent dogmas, then the case becomes quite easy to make. I’m sure that one can make a strong case regardless (depending the methodological presuppositions that one admits upon examining the historical data, of course), but to make such a case is, for the most part, beyond my competence. Unless I have a particular insight to share, I leave that to others more capable.

  160. All,

    I think Jonathan hits the nail on the head by highlighting the sheer implausibility of AS being a corruption of the original ideal: If it is some sort of later move away from the way things were supposed to be, why did things change? And why did they change universally? And why did they change without controversy? Denial causes more problems than acceptance.

    I would like to play the plausibility game a bit more by adding that since we know that from Irenaeus’s time (c. 170) apostolic succession was considered a necessary qualification for the episcopacy (he even names all the bishops of Rome from Peter to his own day), then it would stand to reason that if there was a gap, it would have been before Irenaeus and not after him. Right? I mean, if he just made the whole thing up on the spot (which of course is unlikely since he speaks of it as though it’s completely uncontroversial)—but if he did just pull it out of thin air and people liked the idea, then common sense would tell us that from that point onward they started keeping track in earnest. So if by the late second century there was general agreement about AS, then the records would thenceforward be kept very carefully.

    So if there’s a gap, it would have been during the century between Peter’s time in Rome and Irenaeus’s own day. That’s a pretty short period of time, just a couple generations in fact. Don’t you think that if Irenaeus was going to just pull a succession of Roman bishop’s names out of his butt and pawn it off as actual history—actual and very recent history—that someone would have noticed? Think about it: it’s not as if he’s manufacturing historical events from long ago, he’s claiming to be setting forth history from when his grandpa was a kid, through the time his dad was born, and until his own day. And he’s doing it with all the confidence of one who cannot even imagine anyone disagreeing with him.

    Imagine if I wrote a paper on all the American presidents from WWI until now. That is a slice of history with which most of us are familiar, and loads of people who read my paper would remember, from their own lives and the lives of their parents, those presidents and those events. Do you see how impossible it would be for me to just make up a bunch of names? Moreover, imagine if I invented some inaugural procedure that is as false as laying-on-of-hands-succession supposedly was in Irenaeus’s day. For example, what if I wrote, “So when President Alex P. Keaton took office in the year 1954 he, like all the presidents before him, donned a toga and juggled bowling pins on the south lawn.” Don’t you think that if I made up a fake president and invented a fake inaugural procedure that he and all the rest supposedly underwent I would, I don’t know, BE FOUND OUT?!

    So if someone as important as the bishop of Lyons considered apostolic succession so fundamental and so easy to prove a century after Peter’s death, and if that consideration was so completely uncontroversial as to be universally agreed upon by the entire eastern and western church from his day to our own, then why, for heaven’s sake, would anyone disbelieve it?

    And before you answer, ask yourself a better question: If the Magisterium taught only what you believe the Bible teaches, you’d totally add apostolic succession to your arsenal when you debate Mormons, right? Come on, just admit it. The reason Protestants deny it is because it is the vehicle by which doctrines are taught that butt up against their own interpretation of Scripture.

    (Or, Solo Scriptura for short.)

  161. @Jason

    So if there’s a gap, it would have been during the century between Peter’s time in Rome and Irenaeus’s own day. That’s a pretty short period of time, just a couple generations in fact. Don’t you think that if Irenaeus was going to just pull a succession of Roman bishop’s names out of his butt and pawn it off as actual history—actual and very recent history—that someone would have noticed? Think about it: it’s not as if he’s manufacturing historical events from long ago, he’s claiming to be setting forth history from when his grandpa was a kid, through the time his dad was born, and until his own day. And he’s doing it with all the confidence of one who cannot even imagine anyone disagreeing with him.

    Yes he is. That’s a very effective way of lying complete confidence something fabricated and don’t hedge one bit. A contemporary example of that technique would be the Republican party / FOXNews approach of asserting that government deficits during a period of low interest rates suppress business activity when every single piece of evidence we have says the opposite. And even with all the available information supported by almost every economist, many tens of millions of people in the USA believe this nonsense and vote are to make their own lives quite a bit worse based upon that belief.

    Irenaeus is such a powerful writer and as a result it is his vision of Christianity that lasted until our day. Bishops who were a bit more circumspect about the evidence from the same time, like Bishop Serapion of Antioch (a generation later), don’t get nearly as much airtime.

    As for being found out. Yes he was found out. His ideas were seen as ridiculous exaggerations at the time. They were seen and written about as falsifications and fabrications. He is living in an area where Montanism and Cerinthus were dominant forms of the faith and lacking the charisma to be a great guru a great inventor or a great prophet he hit upon another approach. No he was not generally believed at the time. But he was believed by some. More decades pass the other sects of Christianity pass mostly from the scene and the Catholic church is the only sect that even dates back to the late 2nd century. Catholics destroy heretical works mostly by not copying them sometimes deliberately. The Sethians become full on Neo-Platonists and stop identifying as Christians at all. Many of the other Gnostics end up joining into Manichaeism. Encratites stop existing as an independent sect. Some form Syriac Christianity and become part of Catholicism, those that don’t will evolve into Collyridians and later Islam. The Muslims to this day deny apostolic succession.

    By 400 CE, 700 CE, 1100 CE who is left to object that you would listen to? Irenaeus’ strategy worked, that doesn’t mean he was telling the truth. Once we entered the high middle ages and people came in contact with writings from the ancients including earlier forms of Christianity there was an explosion of sects during the middle ages trying to create a Christianity based on these writings.

    People’s understanding of history is shockingly bad. During your lifetime there has been an explosion of translated, analysis and dissemination of the last few centuries archeological finds for the history of early Christianity. Those finds and their analysis have been on the front covers of newspapers and magazines during your life, there has been no lack of publicity. Yet you are unaware of them. So yes we have many documents from the late 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries completely refute the argument you are presenting here of no objection: mocking, refuting, disagreeing with Catholic “Johnny come lately” claim to be the original Christianity.

    The literature you are most familiar with that refutes apostolic succession, though obviously indirectly since the claim didn’t exist yet, is the bible. All of the biblical authors when arguing with their opponents see themselves on a level playing field, they appeal to scripture to prove their points not an office in a hierarchical institution. Contrast that with Irenaeus and later Bishops who do not see themselves on a level playing field. The Reformers didn’t have to appeal to esoteric literature from the ancient world, in refuting Apostolic Succession the bible itself worked fine.

  162. “The Muslims to this day deny apostolic succession.”

    So what do you want to proof……they also deny the Fall of man, the Incarnation, the Holy Trinty etc. Bad company for a Christian to make his point.

  163. @AH

    o what do you want to [prove]

    That there was not universal agreement about Apostolic Succession. Remember that’s the point in question. Who got there first, not who agrees with you.

    they also deny the Fall of man, the Incarnation, the Holy Trinty etc.

    We know the doctrine of the fall didn’t have universal agreement either example: http://gnosis.org/naghamm/hypostas.html

    Islam’s doctrine of the Fall is similar to the mainstream Jewish doctrine. Similarly their conception of God is of a sort that is inaccessible which goes further than Judaism but certainly is in line with many early Christian writings that have God the father as an unconnected alien God who is accessible only through his Logos (word made flesh) or in the case of Islam will made manifest.

    Mainstream Islam preserves very little of Christianity, there are too many other features in the mix. But Islamic Hermeticism or Sufism seem like rich areas of exploration to learn about the Christian past. Early Christianity is lost to the winds of time, but traces do remain.

  164. CD-Host,

    If you would, please briefly tell us what it is you actually believe. From what I have been able to piece together, you’re some sort of Gnostic and believe that the early Christian church was Gnostic as well, but due to some sort of conspiracy became Catholic in the second century. Before you comment further, please explain your position.

  165. Jason,

    We have a natural predilection to seek out a king. Even in the most democratic of societies, it’s the single leader that people gravitate toward. Look at how many people care about the presidential election in our country vs. the off-year congressional elections.

    Given this, and other things, its easy to see how apostolic succession came to take on the form that it did. When you have Gnostics claiming to have secret knowledge from the apostles, it helps to be able to point out a line of so and so ordaining so and so all the way back to the apostles. It’s a “if there were secret knowledge, surely we would have it approach.”

    Human beings are inclined to institutionalize things in an improper manner. The mere fact that a later generation holds a view does not meant that such is the view as it was originally taught. Look at our own country. Did any of the founding fathers envision the situation we have now where the president is largely king, checks and balances are not really as strong as intended, and so on? We’re barely 200 years away from the Constitutional Convention. It’s quite easy to envision perversion of original intent happening early, especially when it is due to good purposes (we need a monarchical bishop to get things done—we need a strong president to get things done).

    For centuries, Rome taught that Jesus handed over the papacy in a form basically identical to what it became. You have to either give up a minimalist proposal or say that earlier popes and Magisteria got it wrong. Either way, Roman believability again is threatened at its very core.

  166. CD-HOST:

    It’s probably a good thing that this site ate the reply to you I tried to post on Friday night. Having followed this thread since, I understand your train of thought a bit better. That makes it easier to rebut.

    Before I get to that, let me just say that I mentioned my relationship with Elaine Pagels not so as to drop a famous name, but to prove that I’ve long been discussing these issues with influential contemporary scholars who have raised them. Whatever you may think of my religious beliefs, you can’t accuse me of ignorance or naïveté, and in fact you do not. For example, at one point you cite the “History of Religions” perspective favorably. Well, that’s the main perspective to which I was exposed when I double-majored in philosophy and religion as an undergraduate. My first college text in “religion” was Huston Smith’s The World’s Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions, and we moved on from there to later works written from a similar perspective. As I came of age, my study of religion, both Christian and non-Christian, was guided almost entirely by non-Catholics.

    Back to substance. Your thesis, in essence, consists of two interconnected points: (a) Prior to St. Irenaeus, there is no evidence of what I called a “normative ecclesiology” that entailed AS and was recognizably Catholic; and (b) What we now know about the various Christian and quasi-Christian sects prior to Irenaeus shows that he was “lying” (!) both about them and about the nature of the Church before him. That pair of theses is more radical still than Pagel’s or most others scholars of the period I have read. But (a) is false, and its falsity entails that of (b).

    It would be helpful to our readers to recall some facts you haven’t mentioned. First, St. Irenaeus came from Asia Minor to Rome before becoming Bishop of Lyons, and was a protegé of St. Polycarp of Smyrna. In a letter that survives, the latter wrote that he learned the Faith directly from the Apostle John. Few scholars dispute all that. It supplies at least some evidence that Irenaeus was not making up his ecclesiology, and his view of non-Catholic sects, out of whole cloth–whether or not that ecclesiology is also true. He was articulating an ecclesiology, along with a whole set of doctrines, that he sincerely believed was apostolic.

    Further, independent evidence for that claim is the so-called “Apostles’ Creed,” which expresses core Catholic doctrine and on which the “ecumenical” creed of 381, still recited today, is clearly based. It is the scholarly consensus that the Apostles’ Creed was itself based on a traditional profession of faith made by catecheumens upon baptism, and was codified by the Church of Rome in response to the Marcionite heresy of the early and mid-2nd century, precisely so as to ensure that new members of the Church were not Marcionites, who had been excommunicated by Pope Anicletus sometime in the 140s. This is the same Rome that insisted, against Marcion and various Gnostic groups, on a biblical canon that is almost identical with what the Catholic Church later came to define (a few writings were still being debated). Now according to Irenaeus, when Marcion met Polycarp in Rome and asked him: “Dost thou know me?,” Polycarp replied: “I do know thee, the first-born of Satan.” The only basis for doubting that story would be proving that, as you hold, Irenaeus was a liar. And it’s also common for scholars to hold that the Gospel of John was written partly in response to the Docetists and other groups who denied that Jesus had truly come “in the flesh.” The Johannine tradition considered such groups diabolical. All this suggests that there was a recognizably proto-Catholic ecclesiology before Irenaeus, which he took to be normative and which he articulated further.

    Thus, although it is evident that Irenaeus didn’t get his history of “the heresies” entirely right, there is no evidence he was lying, i.e. saying things he knew to be false so as to deceive his audience. For instance, as early as 110 St. Ignatius of Antioch, a revered martyr, was speaking of “the catholic church” and stressing the importance of obedience to “the bishop,” meaning bishops in communion with said church by “one faith and one baptism.” And he wasn’t the only one to be talking that way within living memory of the Apostles. Thus you write:

    here are long term identifiable theological claims so you can see when they start entering the Christian documentary record. There are many others but the big one is “One God, one bishop, one baptism one faith”. Most of the early Christian sects viewed themselves as sects not as full religions looking for huge audiences. The Catholic Church is in some sense the first Christianity that aims to be small-c catholic.

    All that is quite true. The only point needing emphasis here is that such talk is a couple of generations earlier than the writings by Irenaeus that have survived. That makes it easy and plausible to believe that he and earlier, proto-Catholics were passing on what they took to be the public, apostolic tradition.

    What little plausibility your (a) and (b) may have is based on a certain explanation of how Catholic ecclesiology arose: primarly by political machinations which caused one “tiny” Christian group among others to become the dominant one. In this respect, your joint theses resemble not only Pagels’ thesis but those of a host of cessationists, Protestant and otherwise, going back almost to the very period in question. But the “tiny group” in question wasn’t tiny. It was the only group that called itself “the catholic church” (I use the lower-case ‘c’ intentionally, so as to avoid begging any questions), and it had reason to do so. As even you admit, it was the “universal” group in light of which others were, and all but regarded themselves as, sects.

    If Catholicism is true, all that is just what one should expect. Thus Catholicism’s hermeneutic of its own origins, while not rationally necessitated by the data available to scholars, at least makes sense of that data. Your hermeneutic, on the other hand, is not all that plausible even if one assumes that Catholicism is false.

    Best,
    Mike

  167. Robert:

    Addressing Jason, you write:

    For centuries, Rome taught that Jesus handed over the papacy in a form basically identical to what it became. You have to either give up a minimalist proposal or say that earlier popes and Magisteria got it wrong. Either way, Roman believability again is threatened at its very core.

    You’re presenting a false dichotomy. Although “Rome” still does teach, in effect, that “Jesus handed over the papacy in a form basically identical to what it became,” it does not follow from that teaching that Peter and the other Apostles articulated, or even could have articulated, the doctrine of papal primacy in the form in which, say, Pope Leo the Great articulated it in the 5th century and Vatican I defined it in the 19th. The questions to which such later articulations are answers hadn’t even arisen yet. This is why Jason’s “minimalist proposal” is workable. All that’s necessary, as evidence for a historical basis for the papacy, is that there were early bishops of Rome who understood themselves to stand in succession from Peter and exercised plenary authority over other churches. It is not necessary to discover what the mechanism of that succession was, or that they they said what the Catholic Church later came to say. That doesn’t mean they might have “got it wrong”; all it means is that they needn’t have fleshed out the whole picture. Indeed, they probably did not.

    Although the developed Catholic doctrine is not rationally necessitated by the data available, it is consistent with that data. So, of course, are alternative interpretive paradigms. So the question becomes which IP is the most reasonable, and that question is to be answered in terms of which is better suited to distinguishing, in a principled way, divine revelation from human opinion. To be sure, that issue won’t matter to people who simply take for granted that there is no such way. But I assume you aren’t one of those people. At least I hope you aren’t.

    Best,
    Mike

  168. If you would, please briefly tell us what it is you actually believe. From what I have been able to piece together, you’re some sort of Gnostic and believe that the early Christian church was Gnostic as well, but due to some sort of conspiracy became Catholic in the second century. Before you comment further, please explain your position.

    Sure is a good summary I keep up http://church-discipline.blogspot.com/2012/09/sects-to-evangelicals.html

    I don’t believe there was any single entity you could call “the early Christian church”. Christianity evolved in a natural way from Jewish sects starting around 200 BCE. Christian ideas develop originally independently of one another. So Jewish baptismal sects evolve separately from Samaritan sects which believe in a prophetic redeemer develop separately from Hellenistic Jewish sects that are developing a stoic Jewish hybrid of Logos theology are developing separately from Hermetic sects that are developing a theology of meaning to crucifixion. These ideas being to merge with one another and proto-Christianities (plural) form from these ideas coming together and sharing with one another. proto-Catholicism forms out of earlier Christianities.

    Cerinthus becomes the Johanne community. Marcionism merges with Logos Judaism to become the proto-Catholicism of Justin Martyr. Those two sects merge in the encratites which give rise to Syriac Catholicism and what you would call Catholicism. The evidence for Gnosticism existing first is pretty clear. We have huge numbers of Gnostic documents which date to before 30 CE.

    Scholars like Birger Pearson, Bart Ehrman, Elaine Pagels, Karen King, John Turner would be representative earlier writers like Walter Schmithals, GRS Mead, JM Robertson, FC Baur and the Dutch Radicals that followed him, Morton Smith… would be representative of the kinds of views I’m expressing.

  169. The only additional point I would tack onto Jason’s response is exactly what Wosbald said: it also matters that the people who held AS were right. That’s where the theological part comes in. The councils’ Trinitarian Christianity is also the only coherent account that in which Jesus Christ could be worthy of worship for rational beings. The fact that this group, and only this group, held the only possibly true belief in which Christ could be worshipped as God means something. CD-HOST’s parade of horribles represent exactly the opposite, a bunch of deluded and false beliefs in “divine” being who aren’t worthy of the name in an objective sense.

    Leaving aside the fact that most of these sensationalist theories from the seventies and eighties were convincingly debunked by subsequent scholarship (Fr. John Behr especially, but also Eric Osborn), historical analysis that leaves out this factor simply isn’t going to be workable as a theory of Christian belief. Ironically, it’s analogous to what happens when you try to understand deficit spending without accounting for public debt overhang: http://conversableeconomist.blogspot.com/2012/10/imf-on-public-debt-overhang.html

    The right answer, the real answer, matters. We can’t lose sight of the fact that there is a right answer on Christology if we want to be able to worship Jesus Christ as God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds. We also can’t ignore from a historical perspective that these orthodox beliefs just happened to be held exclusively in churches that accepted AS for centuries.

  170. Jason–

    Do you happen to know who John Hanson, Elias Boudinot, Thomas Mifflin, Richard Henry Lee, Nathan Gorman, Arthur St. Clair, and Cyrus Griffin are?

    They are the first seven Presidents of the United States (under the Articles of Confederation). Do you think there are many school children who know their names? Did you know their names? The last one on the list held office a mere 225 years ago. Certainly people still know that and could correct anyone who incorrectly spouted off George Washington’s name (that infernal latecomer…Father of his Country, indeed!)

    In the history of most institutions, there is an initial hierarchy which is thrown off…and nobody but nobody makes a big deal of it decades later (let alone 100 or 200 years). Irenaeus proves absolutely nothing. Heck, less than nothing.

  171. @Mike

    Back to substance. Your thesis, in essence, consists of two interconnected points: (a) Prior to St. Irenaeus, there is no evidence of what I called a “normative ecclesiology” that entailed AS and was recognizably Catholic; and (b) What we now know about the various Christian and quasi-Christian sects prior to Irenaeus shows that he was “lying” (!) both about them and about the nature of the Church before him. That pair of theses is more radical still than Pagel’s or most others scholars of the period I have read.

    OK but let me a just add a small clarification. I said that Irenaeus was a reasonable line if one were going to draw one between Catholicism earlier Christianities. I’d be more inclined towards a lot of grey.

    But (a) is false, and its falsity entails that of (b).
    It would be helpful to our readers to recall some facts you haven’t mentioned. First, St. Irenaeus came from Asia Minor to Rome before becoming Bishop of Lyons, and was a protegé of St. Polycarp of Smyrna. In a letter that survives, the latter wrote that he learned the Faith directly from the Apostle John. Few scholars dispute all that.

    Virtually every scholar who is not a traditionalist disputes all that. The do on the immediate basis of the Gospel of John which shows different layers of different theologies. Mostly they dispute any meaningful tie at all between an apostle John if they believe one exists and Polycarp. C.H. Dodd who is mainstream noted the derivation of Gospel of John on Hermetic literature. Bultmann noted the dependency on Mandaean scriptures. Raymond Brown further developed this and tied to to an earlier Gnosticizing Jewish element in the DSS. Cottan further developed Brown. This all concludes with Stephan Huller’s defense of Polycarp as the redactor for Gospel of John. He means redactor in the Bultmann sense so a different theology.

    Even conservative scholars are backing off from the existence of John since the DSS. The DSS has passages to similar to those in the Sepher Refu’ot. Which might mean that John, Son of Zebedee was a Jewish a famous Jewish doctor with no ties to Christianity probably associated with a competing sect absorbed by Johannine community. I suspect that one of the reasons “John” lives so long is to try and fill in the void before Polycarp in Catholic myth.

    So no I would strongly dispute the idea that scholars don’t dispute this. But even if I did agree that sort of evidence cuts both ways for example: Paul -> Theudas -> Valentinus. Even if we take this sort of traditional approach, as you know from Elaine Pagels the Christians two generations out weren’t sure who represented the genuine legacy of the apostolic founders. A huge part of our politics is arguing about who is the rightful heir of the legacy of FDR, Kennedy, Reagan… And we have better records.

    It supplies at least some evidence that Irenaeus was not making up his ecclesiology, and his view of non-Catholic sects, out of whole cloth–whether or not that ecclesiology is also true. He was articulating an ecclesiology, along with a whole set of doctrines, that he sincerely believed was apostolic.

    I don’t see how his claiming to be tied to Polycarp (a claim I believe is true BTW) and his claim of Polycarp’s tie to John (a claim I believe false) is evidence that he wasn’t making up his ecclesiology.

    Further, independent evidence for that claim is the so-called “Apostles’ Creed,” which expresses core Catholic doctrine and on which the “ecumenical” creed of 381, still recited today, is clearly based. It is the scholarly consensus that the Apostles’ Creed was itself based on a traditional profession of faith made by catecheumens upon baptism, and was codified by the Church of Rome in response to the Marcionite heresy of the early and mid-2nd century,

    Lots of assertions here. First off be careful you are arguing in a circle. The best ties we have for the tie between the Apostle’s Creed and the baptismal formula is from Irenaeus. You can’t use that to establish the reliability of Irenaeus.

    Now I happen agree with you the apostle’s creed is based on baptismal statements. I also happen to agree that Irenaeus and possibly most (all) of Catholicism is anti-Marcionic by his time. That doesn’t mean anything about the situation 2 generations earlier during the most important years of Marcion’s ministry.

    This is the same Rome that insisted, against Marcion and various Gnostic groups, on a biblical canon that is almost identical with what the Catholic Church later came to define (a few writings were still being debated).

    Marcion invented the New Testament canon. Yes it continued to evolve for several hundred years from the apostolicon. But it certainly wasn’t remotely settled or even all discovered (written?) by the time of Irenaeus.

    Now according to Irenaeus, when Marcion met Polycarp in Rome and asked him: “Dost thou know me?,” Polycarp replied: “I do know thee, the first-born of Satan.” The only basis for doubting that story would be proving that, as you hold, Irenaeus was a liar.

    Assume the story were true, which I doubt. The similar story about Cerinthus which is mostly just a character attack.

    But let’s say I grant the story. The story proves Polycarp doesn’t like Marcion. We know various Christian sects competed. We know various sects didn’t like each other in the early and mid 2nd century. Why would this particular conflict be dispositive of anything?

    And it’s also common for scholars to hold that the Gospel of John was written partly in response to the Docetists and other groups who denied that Jesus had truly come “in the flesh.”

    Let me comment that evidence cuts in my favor. If Gospel of John is refuting docetists than docetists are earlier than Gospel of John.

    As an aside though I don’t think think so. As for John’s conception of Jesus I doubt it. Gospel of John has Jesus asking for drink but then immediately in 4:34 denying the necessity of food which an anti-docetist writer wouldn’t do. Moreover I tend to think the Gospel of John is introducing a syzygy of Jesus in the paraclete multiple times which is very docetic.

    The Johannine tradition considered such groups diabolical.

    No it didn’t. What you’ve shown so far is Irenaeus considered such groups diabolical and claimed his mentor did as well. I agree with that. What we also know is the Johannine community gave birth to a tremendous number of such groups. In your theory Cerinthus comes out of the Johanne tradition. The Montanists come out of this tradition. Marcionite Christianity is active where Irenaeus is. There is an active docetic movement which will compose several Acts active where he is. There are the Nicolaitans who authored several texts and must have been early since John of Patmos is opposed. And that’s on top of another 1/2 dozen forms of Gnosticism he’s confronting.

    So one thing we can know for sure is that the Johannine community does not oppose the creation of such groups. The Catholic leadership most likely did not like them much.

    All this suggests that there was a recognizably proto-Catholic ecclesiology before Irenaeus, which he took to be normative and which he articulated further.

    I’d say that’s a rather large stretch.

    Thus, although it is evident that Irenaeus didn’t get his history of “the heresies” entirely right, there is no evidence he was lying, i.e. saying things he knew to be false so as to deceive his audience.

    Under the Catholic theory Irenaeus is a leader of a hierarchical well disciplined church that has been all over the Empire for 120 years. Why is he getting it wrong? Why doesn’t he know which sects arose where and how? Why doesn’t he know what stuff predates the apostles? Why doesn’t he know which sects existed in the mid 1st century, which ones didn’t exist till much later? Why does he get the connections wrong? Why does he get their motivations wrong? Why does he get their origins wrong?

    In other words if Catholicism was what you claim it was in his day why does he write like a guy who has no knowledge of history and mostly has to make guesses around 170 CE? And more importantly to his reliability, if he doesn’t know stuff then why is he pretending he does?

    For instance, as early as 110 St. Ignatius of Antioch, a revered martyr, was speaking of “the catholic church” and stressing the importance of obedience to “the bishop,” meaning bishops in communion with said church by “one faith and one baptism.”

    I believe Eric addressed this in this very thread rather well.

    Thus you write:
    here are long term identifiable theological claims so you can see when they start entering the Christian documentary record. There are many others but the big one is “One God, one bishop, one baptism one faith”. Most of the early Christian sects viewed themselves as sects not as full religions looking for huge audiences. The Catholic Church is in some sense the first Christianity that aims to be small-c catholic.
    All that is quite true. The only point needing emphasis here is that such talk is a couple of generations earlier than the writings by Irenaeus that have survived. That makes it easy and plausible to believe that he and earlier, proto-Catholics were passing on what they took to be the public, apostolic tradition.

    The problem with that theory is that they are adding too many of their own creations for it to be plausible that it was a public apostolic tradition. Now if you want to argue for a secret apostolic tradition… that was what I addressed in my last post.

    But the “tiny group” in question wasn’t tiny. It was the only group that called itself “the catholic church” (I use the lower-case ‘c’ intentionally, so as to avoid begging any questions), and it had reason to do so.

    Remember the context. We were discussing the lack of a record. If they are a big group then why does no one else know about them? Why don’t the Sethians know about them in 100 CE when they come into contact with mainstream Christianity?

    As even you admit, it was the “universal” group in light of which others were, and all but regarded themselves as, sects. If Catholicism is true, all that is just what one should expect. Thus Catholicism’s hermeneutic of its own origins, while not rationally necessitated by the data available to scholars, at least makes sense of that data.

    No it doesn’t. It does a plausible timeline. It does not answer the basic “who did what when” question. It contradicts the documentary record over and over and over.

    Your hermeneutic, on the other hand, is not all that plausible even if one assumes that Catholicism is false.

    Nonsense. My hermeneutic is rather simple. Groups that leave behind traces in the documentary record exist in roughly the percentage of the traces they leave behind. It is a simple question, a Catholicism is really the dominant form of Christianity at the end of the 1st century why don’t any of the other (proto-)Christian groups appear to know about the existence of Catholics? After a bunch of hand waiving what you have is my theory is false because a guy who is known to lie or misrepresent other stuff told a story about his mentor and from that you want to generalize. No I don’t believe it fits the evidence at all.

    You want to fit the evidence you need a timeline. A timeline that explains
    At this point hundreds of texts that shouldn’t exist
    A well studied biblical record of textual changes that runs in the opposite direction of an apostolic deposit of faith consistent with later Catholicism
    A total inability for Catholics to put together a plausible timeline for the origins of Christianity
    And has Lample / John Bugay has mention a complete contradiction to the archeological evidence.

  172. CD Host.

    I’ll let Michael respond to 99% of what you just posted but I would like to ask what ‘archeological evidence’ renders the ‘Catholic timeline’ implausible?

    By ‘Catholic timeline’ I assume you mean apostolic succession and specifically that Linus succeeded Peter as the Bishop or Rome down to Pope Francis etc.

    Please, what archeological evidence is there that makes the ‘Catholic timeline’ implausible? I’d love to see it.

  173. @Johnathan

    The councils’ Trinitarian Christianity is also the only coherent account that in which Jesus Christ could be worthy of worship for rational beings. The fact that this group, and only this group, held the only possibly true belief in which Christ could be worshipped as God means something. CD-HOST’s parade of horribles represent exactly the opposite, a bunch of deluded and false beliefs in “divine” being who aren’t worthy of the name in an objective sense.

    I’m going to assume you can think how ridiculous that is. The Church of the East which denies the hypostatic union exist today. Arianism thrived and thrives to this day. Krishna is an avatar that is begotten but not coequal to Vishnu and is worshipped by rational beings as a subordinate deity. Islam gives Jesus high regard while totally denying his place in the Godhead. The most you can say is you have some sort of emotional attachment to the Catholic conception of God and therefore you believe it must have originated earlier in Christianity than the evidence shows it did.

    Leaving aside the fact that most of these sensationalist theories from the seventies and eighties were convincingly debunked by subsequent scholarship (Fr. John Behr especially, but also Eric Osborn),

    Then if they refuted it you should have no problem producing a plausible timeline for the various Christian sects and how they emerged that fits the documentary record that they proved.

  174. CD-HOST:

    What you have is a story you tell to present the data you consider relevant and explain it. But I reject your assumptions about what weight to give various data, what needs to be explained in this context, and what an alternative Catholic explanation would accordingly need to accomplish.

    You claim Catholics need (I number your desiderata for convenience):

    A timeline that explains:

    1. At this point hundreds of texts that shouldn’t exist
    2. A well studied biblical record of textual changes that runs in the opposite direction of an apostolic deposit of faith consistent with later Catholicism
    3. A total inability for Catholics to put together a plausible timeline for the origins of Christianity
    4. And has Lample / John Bugay has mention a complete contradiction to the archeological evidence.

    About (4), Sean Patrick has already asked an apposite question, so I leave it aside pending your answer.

    Now (1) is ambiguous. If Catholic ecclesiology is true, then the texts you cite “shouldn’t exist” only in the sense that they are heterodox. But it doesn’t follow that the truth of Catholic ecclesiology would entail their not having existed, and thus that they “shouldn’t exist” in that sense. Heterodoxy has been rife in most periods of the Church’s history, including her beginnings. Among people who took Jesus seriously, proto-Catholicism was no more popular in the world of the 1st and 2nd centuries than full-blown Catholicism is today; plenty of people today who take Jesus seriously hate Catholicism and espouse different ideas, just as they did then. So the range of what, from a Catholic standpoint, was “heterodoxy” in the 1st and 2nd centuries is simply irrelevant to the question whether there was a normative ecclesiology and whether it can be recognized as such partly by means of reading men like Ignatius, Polycarp, and Irenaeus. All you’ve shown is that, if there was such an ecclesiology, many rejected it. That’s only relevant if one assumes, as you do, that an ecclesiology’s normativity at any given time would entail its prevalence. But that assumption is unwarranted.

    As to (2), most of the biblical criticism you cite is speculative. There is no way of knowing whether it is true; it is a matter of scholarly opinion. And even assuming that some of the opinions are true, nothing follows about the truth or falsity of Catholicism. All that follows is that, whatever normative Christianity was and is, the available data from the sub-apostolic period make it impossible to say, from a theologically neutral standpoint, how people recognized it as such in the sub-apostolic Church. But so what? (2) affords a premise only for an argumentum ad ignorantiam against Catholicism. That is hardly promising for your theory.

    As another premise in your case against Catholicism, (3) is grossly exaggerated, and would beg the question even if suitably qualified. It is simply not true that Catholicism has “no plausible timeline for the origins of Christianity.” Catholicism’s hermeneutic of its own origins, which includes the New Testament as well as Irenaeus, tells a story that is consistent with the overall dataset, and is indeed itself part of the dataset. Thus it is plausible in that sense. It is implausible only given the assumption of yours I’ve already said is unwarranted.

    Though you seem to be more of a Gnostic than a Protestant, your larger mistake is pretty similar to that which most Protestant critics of Catholicism make. You’re taking for granted that if Christian theological “orthodoxy,” whatever that may consist in, is not clearly discernible as such by examining and interpreting the early sources from a purely historical viewpoint, then it is not discernible at all. But that is simply to confuse the relationship of reason with faith. Theological inquiry as such entails bringing some interpretive paradigm to the dataset. The main job of a theological IP is to enable those using it to distinguish in a principled way between divine revelation as such and merely human ideas and beliefs. No amount of scholarship, historical or otherwise, can do that by itself, even though for Christians and Jews, history is relevant to a degree. To do it, one must also bring to the data a set of criteria for making the necessary distinction. Conservative Protestants typically do that by invoking sola scriptura, and sometimes also the early Church fathers and the creeds as hermeneutical aids; Catholics do it by invoking the triad: Scripture-Tradition-Magisterium, which I have argued is far better suited to the purpose historically as well as conceptually. Thus it is not a problem for Catholicism that its distinctive IP is not inferable just from the historical data. For no theological IP is.

    Of course you might well want to argue that historic Christianity, as that eventually came to be understood, does not convey divine revelation at all, as distinct from opinions that prevailed for historically contingent reasons. But then you would have to say what your principled distinction between divine revelation and human opinion is. Your story so far does not suggest that you have one.

    Best,
    Mike

  175. +JMJ+

    Gnosis and Anti Christian Gnosis – Jean Borella

    http://www.theveil.net/meta/bor/bor_0_0.html

    It’s been a while since I’ve last read this, but ’tis an excellent read and, if I remember aright, is relevant to the discussion at hand…

  176. Does Apostolic Succession cover this: The Pope last week met with religious leaders of the world in a display of ecumenical charity. What he said to the Muslims below is really nothing new but still shocking. Why did Christ have to die if everyone does not need the atonement?

    I greet and thank cordially all of you, dear friends belonging to other religious traditions; firstly the Muslims, who worship the one living and merciful God, and call upon Him in prayer. I really appreciate your presence, and in it I see a tangible sign of the wish to grow in recipricol trust and in cooperation for the common good of humanity.

    Text from page http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/03/20/pope_francis:_discourse_to_representatives_of_the_churches,_ecclesia/en1-675184
    of the Vatican Radio website

  177. Mike:

    From the fact that Muslims “worship the one living and merciful God, and call upon Him in prayer”–which Vatican II had said nearly 50 years ago–it does not follow that they don’t “need the atonement” like everybody else. Of course they do; they just don’t believe it, because many of their beliefs about the one God are false. But they are right to believe that there is only one God, and that they pray to him.

    Best,
    Mike

  178. Allah is not “the one living and merciful God” though. He was a false moon god.

  179. Apostolic Succession produced this as well?
    In his Ineffabilis Deus in 1854, Pope Pius IX said as follows:
    Let all the children of the Catholic Church, who are so very dear to us, hear these words of ours. With a still more ardent zeal for piety, religion and love, let them continue to venerate, invoke and pray to the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, conceived without original sin. Let them fly with utter confidence to this most sweet Mother of mercy and grace in all dangers, difficulties, needs, doubts and fears. Under her guidance, under her patronage, under her kindness and protection, nothing is to be feared; nothing is hopeless. Because, while bearing toward us a truly motherly affection and having in her care the work of our salvation, she is solicitous about the whole human race. And since she has been appointed by God to be the Queen of heaven and earth, and is exalted above all the choirs of angels and saints, and even stands at the right hand of her only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, she presents our petitions in a most efficacious manner. What she asks, she obtains. Her pleas can never be unheard.

  180. @Michael Liccione

    Now (1) [hundreds of texts that shouldn’t exist] is ambiguous. If Catholic ecclesiology is true, then the texts you cite “shouldn’t exist” only in the sense that they are heterodox.

    Catholic theology has in its version of history the existence of heterodox groups that broke off from the Catholic church and died off. So I agree simply demonstrating the existence of heresies is not the problem. What is a huge problem is:

    a) Many start to early. For Catholicism to have been the source there shouldn’t be any before 30 CE and there are many.

    b) The documents run in the wrong order chronologically. They show evolution from Judaism towards Catholicism. If these sects were moving away from Catholicism we shouldn’t see that.

    c) They demonstrate signs of having more primitive versions of stories. This is true both from the standpoint of literary analysis and historical analysis. Which is to say they show evidence the borrowing was not Catholic -> Heretic but Heretic -> Catholic, i.e. going the other direction.

    d) This directionality is true of Catholic literature as well, the Catholic literature becomes more Catholic with time.

    That’s only relevant if one assumes, as you do, that an ecclesiology’s normativity at any given time would entail its prevalence. But that assumption is unwarranted.

    That’s not an assumption, that’s a definition of norm: the usual, the typical, the standard. The entire argument in this thread has been that Christians from the beginning accepted Apostolic Succession. The Protestants have argued that this was false that an overwhelming number had never heard of the idea and when they did hear of it, often first rejected the idea and only later was it accepted. If it is true that an overwhelming number of the Christians of the first two centuries belonged to these sects it puts a fork in the entire argument your side has been making. If Christians belonged to sects that didn’t believe in a unified revelation and thus they did not belong to an authoritative church and thus did not in have a belief in doctrinal authority of apostles; then your argument falls apart. If the majority, particularly an overwhelming majority, of Christians in the first hundred fifty years aren’t Catholic I’d say that’s game over for the AS argument. You have just confirmed what people like Eric and John Bugay have been arguing.

    Now you are right that theoretically it is possible that both are true. It is possible that there was some tiny insignificant Catholic Church which was the repository of the original revelation of Jesus while a diversified Christianity thrived around it which did not have that deposit of faith. But that is not the claim Catholic apologists make because it is so much weaker.

    Now as an aside I also happen to think the internal Catholic record disproves this one. The small Catholic Church with the original deposit theory still doesn’t explain why Catholic documents run in the direction of becoming more Catholic. One can then amend the argument to have a divinely guided development of doctrine, but at that point Catholicism lost any claim to being a historical faith. To be historical a faith must make testable historical claims.

    As to (2) [A well studied biblical record of textual changes that runs in the opposite direction of an apostolic deposit of faith consistent with later Catholicism], most of the biblical criticism you cite is speculative. There is no way of knowing whether it is true; it is a matter of scholarly opinion.

    I would agree it is a matter of scholarly opinion. But it meets the ultimately test of truth which is public multiple independent experimental verification. We have hundreds of papyri we can date them in a variety of ways, many of those an amateur can understand for themselves. Most educated Protestants at this point have a good collection of verse variants: Metzger, Comfort… and such things are online as well. So one can examine the evidence for themselves. And the evidence is over many many verses in books of the bible that developed independently.

    That is the kind of belief I feel most comfortable standing on top of. Ultimately if I am going to believe anything about anything, beliefs subject to public multiple independent experimental verification are at the top of my list.

    All that follows is that, whatever normative Christianity was and is, the available data from the sub-apostolic period make it impossible to say, from a theologically neutral standpoint, how people recognized it as such in the sub-apostolic Church. But so what?

    You may be misunderstanding. I’m not talking the Old Testament or deuterocanonicals. I’m talking the New Testament which in your theory is written by the apostles or close associates.

    As another premise in your case against Catholicism, (3) is grossly exaggerated, and would beg the question even if suitably qualified. It is simply not true that Catholicism has “no plausible timeline for the origins of Christianity.” Catholicism’s hermeneutic of its own origins, which includes the New Testament as well as Irenaeus, tells a story that is consistent with the overall dataset, and is indeed itself part of the dataset. Thus it is plausible in that sense. It is implausible only given the assumption of yours I’ve already said is unwarranted.

    Nope. We’ve talked about this in the last thread with Irenaeus, and the level of ignorance he shows being inconsistent with being a member of a globally dispersed hierarchical church that has been in existence everywhere for at least 120 years. Catholicism makes claims about the origins and developments of all the sects. It makes claims about their own deposit of faith. Those claims contradict each other and they contradict the available evidence.

    Gospel of John has a single author is inconsistent with the structure of John by literary analysis. Mark, Luke and Matthew are independent are independent of each other is inconsistent by literary analysis. The identification of Pauline epistles with a single author is inconsistent with the data by literary analysis. Having documents from the pre-Christian era showing Christian themes is inconsistent with the Catholic story for how these themes developed. Having a more primitive more contextual James (Epistle of the Works of Righteousness) is inconsistent with James was a just a bishop in Jerusalem and the epistle being authored by him.

    What we have is a dataset consistent with Catholicism being a 2nd century faith that wanted to claim 1st century origin.

    You’re taking for granted that if Christian theological “orthodoxy,” whatever that may consist in, is not clearly discernible as such by examining and interpreting the early sources from a purely historical viewpoint, then it is not discernible at all.

    I would agree I am doing that. And I did that when I was a Protestant. Christianity claims to be a historical faith. We are in the Apostolic Succession thread, the whole point of AS is creating a historical claim to authority of the Catholic church. In Protestant / Catholic debates Catholic often argue for a historic test to prove the validity of their claims when confronted with biblical hermeneutics. The standard they propose is, “this is what the church has always believed X”. So evidence that shows that X is not what Christians believed, that they believed something entirely different and they only came to believe X after centuries is a very big deal.

    The justification for the faith in Catholicism has been the historical argument. If that isn’t clearly discernible that argument falls apart. If, as I have been arguing, that what is clearly discernible is another faith all together then the historical argument far from being evidence for believing Catholic claims becomes evidence against it.

    For example to pick an area of disagreement that is current in Catholic / Protestant debate. There is an idea that salvation depends totally on your internal state and not on external obedience. Obedience is at best a means to an end. If that is true then both Valentinus and Jonathan Edwards are right and the Catholic faith is wrong on a crucial component of Christian faith. If that was the beliefs of the early church then that hugely important evidence for Protestantism.

    Theological inquiry as such entails bringing some interpretive paradigm to the dataset. The main job of a theological IP is to enable those using it to distinguish in a principled way between divine revelation as such and merely human ideas and beliefs… But then you would have to say what your principled distinction between divine revelation and human opinion is.

    Apologetics isn’t theological inquiry. It is a defense of the faith. A detailed faith is taken as a given in apologetics. Theologians need to determine what the faith should be. Apologists can assume the content of the faith, theologians can assume the truth of the faith.

    Now if the question is one of theology and not one of apologetics. I’m not sure I buy your argument either which draws a sharp distinction between divine revelation and human opinion. My impression is that there divine revelation is so self evident that there is no need to check it against diversity. Anyone who understands what is meant by 2, 3, 5 and + understands that 2 + 3 = 5. If that revelation or opinion? Does the question even make sense? A divinity whose revelations are so petty that a mere human can create equally plausible counter ideas strikes me as a not particularly impressive divinity. The divine truth in and of themselves should be elevating and changing they shouldn’t be able to be questioned.

    The nature of the divinity has a lot to do with the nature of their revelations. So for example Wicca divine revelation is what spirits tell you that you would otherwise not know. They either fill in blanks in which you didn’t have an opinion or contradict your opinion. In Buddhism the revelations are what you learn through the practice the goal isn’t to teach you anything, but rather to form your opinions to be consistent with the eternal unchanging aspects of the universe. Divine revelation is correct human opinion and you are able to differentiate based on your own enlightenment. You cannot disagree with Buddha anymore than you can disagree with gravity. Biblically the principled means of doing what you are talking about is a prophetic test performed on prophetic candidates. A prophetic candidate (remember that means claims to visions not just opinion) has true divine revelation if they are able to accurately determine future events while teaching a faith affirming message.

    So I don’t think you are starting at the right place. The right place is what is the nature of divinity(ies) and what sort of content do they want to communicate? You are presupposing a content that could be confused with human opinion, is untestable, but is still vitally important. I don’t see any reason to grant that.

    Best wishes,
    CD-Host

  181. @SEAN PATRICK April 28, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    I didn’t mean anything particularly creative in the archeology comment just what you and John have argued about for 2 1/2 years. The grave markings we have on Christian cemeteries are inconsistent with the Catholic timeline. They show:

    a) A greater diversity of the faith
    b) Non Catholic groups arriving in areas first where a continuous Catholic bishop was supposed to be in place and dominant according to Catholic ecclesial history
    c) A history of sects consistent with most other modern scholarship

    In other words various christianities came first, Catholicism came later.

  182. @CD-HOST:

    I’m going to assume you can think how ridiculous that is. The Church of the East which denies the hypostatic union exist today. Arianism thrived and thrives to this day. Krishna is an avatar that is begotten but not coequal to Vishnu and is worshipped by rational beings as a subordinate deity. Islam gives Jesus high regard while totally denying his place in the Godhead. The most you can say is you have some sort of emotional attachment to the Catholic conception of God and therefore you believe it must have originated earlier in Christianity than the evidence shows it did.

    No, what I think is ridiculous is that I would have to take seriously as being true any claim that was ever made by anybody. God is real, more real than anything else than exists, so the same standards I would apply to mundane physical science, I must apply a fortiori to God. If some ancient author was arguing against antiseptic surgery or surgery at all in favor of some sort of demon exorcism, then I would disregard his opinion as a guide on medicine, even if I could accurately analyze what it is. If any ancient author thought the Sun was a flaming chariot or that the stars were pinpricks in cloak of the heavens, I would likewise disregard his opinion on astronomy, which would not mean that I didn’t understand it. So it is the case here; I understand what the Gnostics were saying and even why they were saying it in many cases, but I have no reason to take their commitments seriously in terms of possibly being true.

    This has nothing to do with “emotional attachment” to Catholicism. To tell you the truth, my subjective conversion process was far more rationalistic than that. My religion growing up was essentially Joseph Campbell, a comparative mythological study that viewed religion as a psychological phenomenon of a real-yet-mostly-unknowable transcendent. Hence, all religions were a blend of core truth and a lot of surrounding nonsense, which was of primarily aesthetic importance as compared to physical science. My opinion changed suddenly and immediately when a Catholic priest explained the Catholic doctrine of perichoresis to me, which caused me to realize that there was really something there in the Trinity that was utterly unlike any other metaphysical concept. That was something I could believe; that was a theory that could explain something real, not just let me psychologize. My motives of credibility for Trinitarian belief were therefore very similar to my motives of credibility for quantum mechanics; it wasn’t something that was immediately intuitive from ordinary experience, but it was incredibly powerful for objectively describing real phenomena.

    Putting this as nicely as I can say it, I’ve already went through what you’re doing for roughly twenty years,I got past it, and I have no need to go back over it again. So as to your second point:

    Then if they refuted it you should have no problem producing a plausible timeline for the various Christian sects and how they emerged that fits the documentary record that they proved.

    The problem here is that you’re assuming a priori that error has a principle, which is doesn’t. I can certainly explain in specific cases what historical circumstances might have motivated certain people to invent certain beliefs and why those beliefs might catch on. But in terms of theology, that exercise is of purely historical value, much like looking at why people might have thought of the heavens as a cloak surrounded by light. It’s descriptive; it doesn’t get you any closer to the truth. In this case, the parallel history was an accident; there was no reason or Providence behind it any more than the numerous mundane events on which history turns. It’s your theological conception that this has *any* significance that is unsupported.

    Thus, I can speak to this statement as well:

    The nature of the divinity has a lot to do with the nature of their revelations. So for example Wicca divine revelation is what spirits tell you that you would otherwise not know. They either fill in blanks in which you didn’t have an opinion or contradict your opinion. In Buddhism the revelations are what you learn through the practice the goal isn’t to teach you anything, but rather to form your opinions to be consistent with the eternal unchanging aspects of the universe. Divine revelation is correct human opinion and you are able to differentiate based on your own enlightenment. You cannot disagree with Buddha anymore than you can disagree with gravity. Biblically the principled means of doing what you are talking about is a prophetic test performed on prophetic candidates. A prophetic candidate (remember that means claims to visions not just opinion) has true divine revelation if they are able to accurately determine future events while teaching a faith affirming message.

    So I don’t think you are starting at the right place. The right place is what is the nature of divinity(ies) and what sort of content do they want to communicate?

    That is nonsense. From a metaphysical perspective, you couldn’t even answer that question a priori, and it would be irrelevant if you did, because that wouldn’t have any necessary connection to what any real allegedly-divine entity would reveal. Like I said, I have no problem dismissing erroneous prophetic beliefs than I do in dismissing erroneous beliefs about medicine or astronomy. People are wrong all of the time; people misunderstand their experiences all the time. The “prophetic test” is typically just as subjective as the experience itself, and if it weren’t for the completely ad hoc fact that God had used Israel as a vehicle for the delivery of His Son, I wouldn’t have any good reason to believe them either.

    The situation we are in with Christ is analogous to the situation we have with medicine or astronomy; I don’t need to waste time going back over false ideas that I know are false. Going back to a method that proved unreliable over and over again, with false prophet after false prophet, is exactly like turning back the clock on any other science. God, the one and only God, took us past that nonsense for a reason. There aren’t “divinities,” which is an absolute metaphysical absurdity. You might as well be asking us to forget about electricity or antibiotics.

  183. Hey CD- Host,
    I’m trying to catch up with you guys.

    @ April 29, 2013 at 6:19 am:various christianities came first
    I’ll am abit confused about your post here to Sean Patrick. Do believe that no understanding of Christianity is more valid than others? And if so, which understanding is that? If not, why bother in trying to find out which one is best?
    It seems to me if there is no valid way to distinguise true Christianity from false forms of it, we are all wasting our time.

    Just trying to understand. Let me know.

    Peace,
    MichaelTX

  184. CD Host:

    I didn’t mean anything particularly creative in the archeology comment just what you and John have argued about for 2 1/2 years.”

    I have not seen John cite a single instance of archeological evidence against the claims of the Catholic Church. At least, if he did, I don’t remember it.

    The grave markings we have on Christian cemeteries are inconsistent with the Catholic timeline.

    What grave markings? And how do they show all the things you think they show?

  185. +JMJ+

    CD-Host wrote:

    The Church of the East which denies the hypostatic union exist today. Arianism thrived and thrives to this day. Krishna is an avatar that is begotten but not coequal to Vishnu and is worshipped by rational beings as a subordinate deity. Islam gives Jesus high regard while totally denying his place in the Godhead.

    Q: And what do all of these have in common?

    A: They’re not Incarnation.*

    *Duly noting that there is a question as to whether the maintenance of the Church of the East’s Christology is informed and sustained more by a simple, calcified formalism than it is by by a vital devotion to Nestorianism.

    ——————————————-

    Jonathan Prejean wrote:

    My opinion changed suddenly and immediately when a Catholic priest explained the Catholic doctrine of perichoresis to me, which caused me to realize that there was really something there in the Trinity that was utterly unlike any other metaphysical concept.

    Precisely. Incarnation and Trinity are unknown (or unthinkable) concepts in the ancient world. They are Total Novum, which are either piously unthinkable (and thus, blasphemy to the Jews) or systematically unthinkable (and thus, foolishness to the Greeks/Pagans.)

  186. @Seam —

    I think we may be talking past each other. I’m just going to start setting out the what I believe from my perspective and you let me know where I’m missing something. Lampe is the author that John Bugay quotes all the time. You wrote an article http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/09/modern-scholarship-rome-and-a-challenge/

    Lampe’s From Paul to Valentinus: Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries is an attempt to derive additional information about the evolution of Roman Christianity from graveyards or parts of graveyards involving Christians. He’s looking at: who was buried (titles), when,a ny kind of inscriptions which indicate Christian sect, Institutional ties that can be discerned…

    He is then trying to tie that to other sources of information we have from the Catholic and heretical literature to create a timeline.

    John’s concern with Lampe comes from the fact that Lampe is able to document the spread of the idea of the monarchical episcopacy. It turns out that there were class distinctions in early Christianity and the sects didn’t cut across class lines. The bulk of Christians coming seemed to be coming from the urban poor, i.e. what I and not Lampe has been calling proto-Catholicism is a movement among the poor not the rich. Many of the heretical forms of Christianity are popular with the wealthy. Without getting into a lot of detail Lampe’s discussion of the the monarchical episcopacy is that it comes out of a movement to tie the rich to churches of the poor. From John’s perspective that’s useful because it proves the idea evolved.

    I was justing Lampe because I assumed it was old ground and Lampe proves that the earliest graves aren’t predominantly Catholic and become more Catholic with time.

  187. How one can read grave various inscriptions and get all that beyond me.

    “These graves in this area share this feature and these ones are different. Therefore Linus did not succeed Peter…”

    I am just a Texas farmer but that doesn’t make very much sense at all.

  188. CD-HOST:

    As “a huge problem” for Catholicism, you posit:

    a) Many start to early. For Catholicism to have been the source there shouldn’t be any before 30 CE and there are many.
    b) The documents run in the wrong order chronologically. They show evolution from Judaism towards Catholicism. If these sects were moving away from Catholicism we shouldn’t see that.
    c) They demonstrate signs of having more primitive versions of stories. This is true both from the standpoint of literary analysis and historical analysis. Which is to say they show evidence the borrowing was not Catholic -> Heretic but Heretic -> Catholic, i.e. going the other direction.
    d) This directionality is true of Catholic literature as well, the Catholic literature becomes more Catholic with time.

    Taken either severally or collectively, none of the above are a “huge problem” for Catholicism.

    As to (a): The Catholic hermeneutic of its own origins simply does not require that Catholicism be the “source” of every early “Christian” heresy. Given the assumption that some early sects existing alongside proto-Catholicism predated it, those were heretical from a proto-Catholic standpoint just to the extent that they claimed some sort of apostolic mantle or otherwise took on some Christian coloration. But that doesn’t make proto-Catholicism their “source.” It only makes proto-Catholicism a contributing factor in their evolution from their prior stages.

    As to (b): Proto-Catholicism itself can be seen as an “evolution from Judaism.” That’s pretty much what the New Testament calls for concluding. From the fact (if it is a fact) that certain sects also evolved from Judaism, and contradicted each other as well as proto-Catholicism, all that follows theologically is that some groups’ evolution from Judaism was a corruption rather than the fullfillment thereof. That the question which was which cannot be answered by purely historical inquiry is irrelevant, for reasons I explained in my previous comment.

    As to (c): From the fact that some Catholic ideas are anticipated by earlier, non-Catholic ones, it does not follow that Catholicism arose from paganism, as if Catholicism were not the normative expression of a revelation given by God rather than an idea originating with man or finite spirits. Rather, if Catholicism is true, the most that follows is that some of its doctrines express “myth become fact,” such as the Incarnation. C.S. Lewis noted that generations ago.

    As to (d): If Catholicism is true, it’s only to be expected that its literature would become “more Catholic” over time, as the Church collectively meditates on what she takes to be the “deposit of faith.” That’s called “development of doctrine.” So (d) is not an objection to Catholicism at all.

    I rejected your assumption that “that an ecclesiology’s normativity at any given time would entail its prevalence.” To that, you replied:

    That’s not an assumption, that’s a definition of norm: the usual, the typical, the standard. The entire argument in this thread has been that Christians from the beginning accepted Apostolic Succession. The Protestants have argued that this was false that an overwhelming number had never heard of the idea and when they did hear of it, often first rejected the idea and only later was it accepted. If it is true that an overwhelming number of the Christians of the first two centuries belonged to these sects it puts a fork in the entire argument your side has been making. If Christians belonged to sects that didn’t believe in a unified revelation and thus they did not belong to an authoritative church and thus did not in have a belief in doctrinal authority of apostles; then your argument falls apart. If the majority, particularly an overwhelming majority, of Christians in the first hundred fifty years aren’t Catholic I’d say that’s game over for the AS argument. You have just confirmed what people like Eric and John Bugay have been arguing.

    That entire paragraph is a just an exercise in question-begging, because the sense in which you mean “normative” is not the sense I mean, and I argue that the sense I mean is the most important sense.

    What makes an ecclesiology “normative” in the empirical sense of the term is that it is widely believed over a given period of time; in that sense, it naturally functions as “the usual” and “the standard” by which others are judged. And that’s the sense you mean. Given that sense, we have no way of knowing whether proto-Cathoic ecclesiology was normative from the beginning. But what makes an ecclesiology, or indeed any doctrine, normative in the theological sense is not that it is the empirical norm at any particular period of time, but that it is propounded with divine authority, and is thus a datum of divine revelation. And that’s the sense I mean. Thus, when Catholics speak of “Christians” accepting AS in the sub-apostolic period, we mean those who believed that the Apostles received a public, definitive divine revelation they taught with an authority they received from Jesus and passed on to their successors, without any esoteric content that might have contradicted what the Apostles and their putative successors publicly taught. (People like Bugay do not deny that the Apostles had such authority; they just think that only the “apostolic” writings of the NT, not the Apostles’ personal successors as leaders of the Church, speak with apostolic authority after them.) The actual number of self-styled “Christians” who rejected proto-Catholicism from the start, relative to the number who accepted it from the start, is neither knowable nor particularly relevant. For the debate is about how to tell who counted, and counts, as a Christian in the theologically normative sense, not in the empirically normative sense. So the Catholic position, whether in its early or more developed stages, does not require that the “orthodox” outnumber the “heterodox” during any particular period of time. And Jason’s argument does not itself require that it did so during the sub-apostolic period–though there’s reason to suspect it did all the same, given that only one geographically disparate “Christian” community referred to itself as “the catholic church.” Rather, proto-Catholicism proposed, and Catholicism still proposes, criteria of Christian orthodoxy that necessarily include an ecclesiology affording a principled way to distinguish divine revelation from human opinion. That ecclesiology entails AS. What matters in this context for theological purposes, then, is not that such an ecclesiology have prevailed from the start in terms of sheer numbers of adherents, but that it be reliable for the purpose I’ve stated and eventually come to be understood as such. Assuming that it could only be reliable for its purpose if it was the empirical norm from the start therefore begs the question against Catholicism. The absence of historical proof that proto-Catholicism was the empirical norm does not constitute an objection to it.

    You write:

    Now as an aside I also happen to think the internal Catholic record disproves this one. The small Catholic Church with the original deposit theory still doesn’t explain why Catholic documents run in the direction of becoming more Catholic. One can then amend the argument to have a divinely guided development of doctrine, but at that point Catholicism lost any claim to being a historical faith. To be historical a faith must make testable historical claims.

    There are two problems with that. One is what I pointed out in response to your (d). The other is a premise you can only adopt as the conclusion of a non-sequitur. From the fact that Christianity is a historical faith, it does indeed follow that some of its doctrines must have a historical basis. But it does not also follow that, in order for those doctrines to be credible, we must be able to verify them using independent methods of historical inquiry. For instance, if Jesus rose from the dead, that is an event which occurred in history, and thus there must be some historical basis for it. But there’s no way to verify, by historical methods alone, that it actually happened. Our chief evidence for it is certain writings purporting to derive from those who believed they experienced Jesus alive for some days after he was killed; yet there is no independent, corroborating evidence to verify those writings’ claim that Jesus rose from the dead. And much the same goes for the doctrine of AS. There were people who believed it from the start, and if it’s true, then it’s something that occurred in history; but we have no way to prove, using independent historical methods, that their belief was true. So the mere fact that we cannot verify certain key “orthodox” Christian claims in the way we can verify many ordinary historical beliefs is neither here nor there. We’re dealing with theology here, not just history.

    As to biblical criticism, you write:

    I would agree it is a matter of scholarly opinion. But it meets the ultimately test of truth which is public multiple independent experimental verification. We have hundreds of papyri we can date them in a variety of ways, many of those an amateur can understand for themselves. Most educated Protestants at this point have a good collection of verse variants: Metzger, Comfort… and such things are online as well. So one can examine the evidence for themselves. And the evidence is over many many verses in books of the bible that developed independently.

    Assuming that some of the opinions in question are correct, that is a more a problem for conservative Protestantism than for Catholicism. The former depends crucially on a pair of assumptions: (a) The Bible is a divinely inspired and thus inerrant record of divine revelation; and (b) As such, the Bible is the sole inerrant rule of faith, whereas the Church is not infallible under any conditions. But if it can be shown that some of the content of what we now call the NT was redacted or augmented after the death of the last Apostle, the conservative-Protestant position would require saying that the Church was infallible in that case but not in any others after the Apostles. And that position would be purely ad hoc. On the Catholic position, though, the bishops of the Church, taken collectively, inherit the presumptively infallible teaching authority of the Apostles straight through. Hence the content of the Bible, as a divinely inspired canon of writings, is whatever the Church accepts and defines it as being. That is not ad hoc, and it’s perfectly compatible with the NT’s having been redacted or augmented after the death of the last Apostle.

    About Irenaeus, you write:

    …the level of ignorance he shows being inconsistent with being a member of a globally dispersed hierarchical church that has been in existence everywhere for at least 120 years. Catholicism makes claims about the origins and developments of all the sects. It makes claims about their own deposit of faith. Those claims contradict each other and they contradict the available evidence.

    Even if we knew that Irenaeus’ account of the origin and development of “the heresies” is largely incorrect–which we do not, since so much is a matter of opinion–nothing would follow about the credibility of Catholicism. All that would follow is that Irenaeus was a bad historian, by the standards of that discipline which prevail today. But of course, by those standards most ancient authors were bad historians.

    About NT source and redaction criticism, you write:

    Gospel of John has a single author is inconsistent with the structure of John by literary analysis. Mark, Luke and Matthew are independent are independent of each other is inconsistent by literary analysis. The identification of Pauline epistles with a single author is inconsistent with the data by literary analysis.

    All that is simply a matter of opinion. Even if your opinions are true, they have no bearing on the truth or falsity of Catholicism, for the reason I gave above.

    In the same paragraph, you also write:

    Having documents from the pre-Christian era showing Christian themes is inconsistent with the Catholic story for how these themes developed. Having a more primitive more contextual James (Epistle of the Works of Righteousness) is inconsistent with James was a just a bishop in Jerusalem and the epistle being authored by him.

    Your first sentence is a category mistake. From the fact that some pre-apostolic sources have “Christian themes,” combined with the fact that some proto-Catholics got pagan religious history wrong in some ways, it does not follow that what “the catholic church” took to be divine revelation was not divine revelation and that said church was not preserving it as such. All it suggests is what Justin Martyr thought in the mid-2nd century: that many pre-Christian pagan authors, interpreted either rightly or wrongly, anticipated the Gospel. As a philosopher, I’d say that’s true of Plato and some other pre-Christian thinkers.

    You infer:

    What we have is a dataset consistent with Catholicism being a 2nd century faith that wanted to claim 1st century origin.

    Yes, the dataset is consistent with what you say. And for the reasons I’ve been giving, it’s also consistent with what I say. That indicates the need to choose between theological IPs before we try to determine which data are relevant and how they are to be interpreted.

    I had written:

    You’re taking for granted that if Christian theological “orthodoxy,” whatever that may consist in, is not clearly discernible as such by examining and interpreting the early sources from a purely historical viewpoint, then it is not discernible at all.

    To that, you reply:

    I would agree I am doing that. And I did that when I was a Protestant. Christianity claims to be a historical faith. We are in the Apostolic Succession thread, the whole point of AS is creating a historical claim to authority of the Catholic church. In Protestant / Catholic debates Catholic often argue for a historic test to prove the validity of their claims when confronted with biblical hermeneutics. The standard they propose is, “this is what the church has always believed X”. So evidence that shows that X is not what Christians believed, that they believed something entirely different and they only came to believe X after centuries is a very big deal.
    The justification for the faith in Catholicism has been the historical argument. If that isn’t clearly discernible that argument falls apart. If, as I have been arguing, that what is clearly discernible is another faith all together then the historical argument far from being evidence for believing Catholic claims becomes evidence against it.

    I’ve explained above why all that begs the question, but it looks like I need to do it again.

    That many people who, in the apostolic and sub-apostolic periods, regarded themselves as Christians rejected the proto-Catholic notion of AS is theologically signficant only on a certain assumption: that Christianity’s being a historical religion requires that the empirical norm of orthodoxy, whatever that might have been, be the theological norm thereof. But it doesn’t require that. Moroever, you are now claiming something even stronger than what you have been arguing for hitherto, and your new, stronger claim is arguably inconsistent with your earlier arguments.

    Those arguments aim to support the belief that, prior to the eventual prevalence of Christian belief in AS after the 2nd century, there simply was no one “faith” that could be called Christian; rather, there was a variety of sects calling themselves Christian, with no authoritative criteria for orthodoxy discernible among them. That’s what Elaine Pagels and others think, and I understand that approach even though I don’t agree with them or you about its theological significance. Now, however, you’re claiming that the non-proto-Catholic “Christians” of the apostolic and sub-apostolic periods actually had “another faith altogether” that is “clearly discernible” as well as contrary to the Catholic faith. But you can’t have it both ways. And I would caution you that, using purely historical methods, you’re no more likely to discern the content of a unitary Christian “faith” opposed to proto-Catholicism than such methods alone suffice to extract proto-Catholicism as that faith. Given that the subject-matter is theology, the problem is with your very methodology. And your confusion shows that.

    I had written:

    Theological inquiry as such entails bringing some interpretive paradigm to the dataset. The main job of a theological IP is to enable those using it to distinguish in a principled way between divine revelation as such and merely human ideas and beliefs… But then you would have to say what your principled distinction between divine revelation and human opinion is.

    To that, part of your reply is:

    Apologetics isn’t theological inquiry. It is a defense of the faith. A detailed faith is taken as a given in apologetics. Theologians need to determine what the faith should be. Apologists can assume the content of the faith, theologians can assume the truth of the faith.

    That is confused in two ways. First, while I am indeed engaged in apologetics, the apologetical argument I most often give is a philosophical one in favor of adopting one theological IP over against another. As I said, the purpose of a theological IP is to “supply a principled distinction between divine revelation and human opinion.” Hence, an argument for adopting one theological IP over another would be an argument that the former supplies such a distinction, whereas the latter either fails to do so at all or supplies one that, for other reasons, is not a good candidate. But your second confusion makes it almost impossible for you to appreciate what’s involved in that.

    On the one hand, you assert: “Theologians need to determine what the faith should be.” That suggests that theologians are the ultimate touchstone of orthodoxy. But then you assert: “… theologians can assume the truth of the faith.” Well, if theologians determine what the faith should be, then there is no logically prior “faith” whose truth they can assume; rather, they determine which faith is to be taken as true. But on the Catholic IP, theologians do not determine what the faith should be; they take the faith, both its content and its truth, as a given, and bring forth its riches by meditation, experience, and argument. An apologist for a given faith merely defends it from the inevitable and myriad objections. That’s what I’m doing here.

    You also write:

    Now if the question is one of theology and not one of apologetics. I’m not sure I buy your argument either which draws a sharp distinction between divine revelation and human opinion. My impression is that there divine revelation is so self evident that there is no need to check it against diversity. Anyone who understands what is meant by 2, 3, 5 and + understands that 2 + 3 = 5. If that revelation or opinion? Does the question even make sense? A divinity whose revelations are so petty that a mere human can create equally plausible counter ideas strikes me as a not particularly impressive divinity. The divine truth in and of themselves should be elevating and changing they shouldn’t be able to be questioned.

    The first part of that is a category mistake. If divine revelation as such were “self-evident” in the sort of way mathematical knowledge is, then our believing it would be an instance of knowledge, not of faith. But that’s not how things are. The content of special as distinct from general revelation is precisely that which cannot be discovered by human reason alone, but which must be communicated to us by God on his authority. Hence it is not “self-evident” in the way some forms of knowledge are. Thus, a fundamental question of theology is how that divine, revelatory authority is to be located and identified by those who have not experienced it directly. On the Catholic IP, Peter and the other apostles experienced it directly, and we encounter it indirectly via its embodiments in the triad: Scripture-Tradition-Magisterium, which together present us with the same divine authority with which Jesus taught and which he passed on to the Apostles. There are “motives of credibility” for trusting that triad, but whatever reasons one may have for choosing to trust it, they cannot be rationally compelling in the way a mathematical proof is.

    If I understand it correctly, though, I do agree with your last sentence: “The divine truth in and of themselves should be elevating and changing they shouldn’t be able to be questioned.” An assent of faith made in what one sees as an embodiment of divine authority must be unconditional, not provisional like that of opinion, else it is not an assent of faith at all. If one’s assent of faith is in what is also true, then it brings in its train the certainty of the light of grace, which in that respect and others is “elevating and changing.”

    I don’t understand some of your next paragraph, and what I think I understand, I don’t agree with. For reasons I stated in the other thread, I particularly disagree with your assertion that verified prophecy by those who have experienced visions is the sole principled means for distinguishing divine revelation from human opinion. It may be for them, but not for the vast majority of us. So let’s move on to your conclusion.

    So I don’t think you are starting at the right place. The right place is what is the nature of divinity(ies) and what sort of content do they want to communicate? You are presupposing a content that could be confused with human opinion, is untestable, but is still vitally important. I don’t see any reason to grant that.

    What you present as “the right place” to start the inquiry is, for the majority of people, more like the right place to end it. In my view, which I take to be the same as St. Paul’s in Romans 1: 20, people in general can know the “nature of divinity” to a limited extent “from the things he has made.” And a few specially chosen people, such as Paul himself, can learn more by experiencing divine revelation directly. But for most of us, the special divine revelation that has been granted to humanity can only be apprehended by trusting some ensemble of secondary authorities as an embodiment of divine authority. That’s what I take the Catholic triad to be.

    Since our exchange is growing longer and longer, I suggest you confine your reply to considerations on the nature of divine revelation in general. If we can make progress on that, the apostolic-succession issue can return in due course to its proper role in the discussion.

    Best,
    Mike

  189. @MICHAELTX April 29, 2013 at 7:06 am

    I’ll am abit confused about your post here to Sean Patrick. Do believe that no understanding of Christianity is more valid than others? And if so, which understanding is that? If not, why bother in trying to find out which one is best?
    It seems to me if there is no valid way to distinguise true Christianity from false forms of it, we are all wasting our time

    I think there are a few different questions.

    1) What is the history of Christianity?
    2) What do you mean by a “valid Christian faith”
    3) What should the Christian faith be?

    The history is what the history is. Sure it has theological implications but you accept and that opens up realms of new possibility for what you want to create in terms of a Christian faith. If you can no longer validate the Christian faith historically maybe you can find other ways to make valid. And historically there are groups that have done that.

    Yes nihilism is one response to having delusions crushed. But so is joy at the doors that open once constraints are removed.

  190. I enjoy reading the debate between CD-Host and Mike about the history of early Christianity. What I am most interested in is how certain we can be about that history given how many holes there are in the record. It makes me want to research the topic.

  191. @Michael

    Since our exchange is growing longer and longer, I suggest you confine your reply to considerations on the nature of divine revelation in general. If we can make progress on that, the apostolic-succession issue can return in due course to its proper role in the discussion.

    I’ll focus on this topic but I think I may want to make some concluding comments on your other points.

    What you present as “the right place” to start the inquiry is, for the majority of people, more like the right place to end it. In my view, which I take to be the same as St. Paul’s in Romans 1:20, people in general can know the “nature of divinity” to a limited extent “from the things he has made.” And a few specially chosen people, such as Paul himself, can learn more by experiencing divine revelation directly. But for most of us, the special divine revelation that has been granted to humanity can only be apprehended by trusting some ensemble of secondary authorities as an embodiment of divine authority. That’s what I take the Catholic triad to be.

    I understand Paul’s argument in Romans I’d say that if you take it to mean the nature of divinity than experimentally we can verify that Paul is wrong. All humans experience the same creation, but humans have wildly different ideas about the nature of divinity. So his system in this case doesn’t seem to work very well. What I believe Paul meant, which is from the context, is that we can discern the nature of morality. Now morality is fairly consistent across all people and groups of people. There does seem to be a natural morality. There doesn’t seem to be a natural notion of divinity.

    Getting to the second part I’ve pointed out the various types of religions and the types of revelations their practices and teachings are designed to transmit. Most of what you are assuming about revelation assumes a very Catholic view of revelation.

    Individual believers can’t experience revelation directly. The world’s largest religions Buddhism and Hinduism would disagree with you on that. Smaller ones like Voodoo would disagree with you on that. You could tomorrow participate in a Voodoo possession ritual and you would experience powerful thoughts and feelings which are alien to your own consciousness and if you were so inclined you could easily choose to consider those divine revelations. Eastern Religious exercises in very short order introduce new opinions that were not there previously and do so to several billion people on the planet regularly. And let me point out quite a few teachers of Catholic Mysticism would also believe that through exercises you could quickly experience revelation.

    What you are talking about is a belief particular to a particular Conservative Catholicism which culturally has a Presbyterian feel. You are choosing to debate Presbyterians so they don’t challenge you on this limited notion of revelation. But if you were debating Christians that came from a tradition where individuals frequently had prophetic experiences, which I should add is rapidly becoming or already is the dominant form of Protestantism on the planet, this notion wouldn’t go unchallenged.

    In other words you have to have a notion of god(s) that are fairly separate and inaccessible to believe that revelation is this uncommon. That’s already a huge assumption and one not shared by most. The bible also lists other systems for getting information for getting information from spirits and gods like divination. But let’s assume that we only have infrequent prophetic revelation. And here the bible has a system for prophetic revelation we have discussed.

    a) Prophets have visions.
    b) People claim prophetic status.
    c) The faithful have an obligation to record the teaching os prophets and to classify them into: true prophets, false prophets and prophets of other gods.
    d) True prophets are to be obeyed.

    Now that’s a system doing precisely what you want, which is separating divine revelation from opinion. It is the system clearly presented in the Old Testament and endorsed in the New. If you are going to claim that the God of Catholicism is the God of Abraham, of Moses and of Isaiah you can’t just brush off the system the God of Moses set down for differentiating divine revelation from human opinion. Catholicism simply is not entitled to lay claim to an alternative system of differentiation and simultaneously lay claim to this God. If the revelation is coming form the God of Moses I’d assume you would have some interest in this God’s direct orders how to process his revelations.

    So even if I granted your notion of revelation, your notion of authority with regard to revelation doesn’t follow in the slightest. There is an alternative method which has far better attestation. What should be happening is that people like Sister Bernadette Soubirous are in an entirely different category than Pope Francis, you or I. Pope Francis has the authority of a teacher not the authority of a prophet which means he does not speak for God or exercise divine authority, while she does.

    The third issue is that even if I were to grant the notion that revelation is limited to a few people and the Catholic system were a legitimate system for differentiating these revelations from opinion then the question becomes do I believe they are actually handling a divine deposit at all? And here the quality of the revelation comes into play. My intuition remains that a divine revelation that can be confused with human opinion implies a rather uninteresting deity. The words and thoughts of a college professor would never be confused with those of an elementary school student. The difference in intelligence, wisdom and insight between the smartest human and least god is greater even than that. Which is why I think divine revelation should be self authenticating. Or to take the contrapositive if it isn’t self authenticating then it is just human opinion.

    Certainly I can’t rule out that there is an infinitely powerful all knowing God who communicates rarely, communicates ineffectually so that a complex system and is needed to record and retain his word and what he does communicates is stuff that the isn’t much different than what a creative smart person could just make up on their own. But it is highly implausible. I don’t see how the content of Catholicism isn’t further evidence against Apostolic Succession rather than evidence for it.

  192. CD-Host,
    I guess I am just still trying to understand where you are coming from. To me, understanding others truly helps us speak to each other in a functional a productive way. So, here is just my questions and responses to your questions and please correct my confusion about your views, because I am sure I must be.
    1) What is the history of Christianity?
    2) What do you mean by a “valid Christian faith”
    3) What should the Christian faith be?

    1) Do you believe we come to a reasonably reliable account of history? And if so, how?
    2) I think I can answer your question on this.
    – If there is a creator God who has revealed a faith and that faith is the Christian faith, it is as solid and reliable as the God who revealed it. Therefore as knowable as He wills it.
    3) This seems to be answered above; but basically, it should be what it is and not what we wish or think it to be.

    Please help me with your understanding here.
    Thanks,
    MichaelTX

  193. CD-Host,
    Reading over your last post to Michael L, I get the feeling something more is needed of the Christian idea of original sin and how the coming of Christ has forever given the incarnational vision of God in and through the man Christ Jesus. Essentially something above our pre-Christ humanity was and remains lacking apart from Christ. We are essential “blind” to ultimate Truth apart from the presence of God with us. This revelation is fully there in the Law and the Prophets yet is living in Christ, therefore we no longer wish to know but by faith we now see. So the Christian is not abondoning the revelation to the Old Covenant people, living it in Christ.

    Galations 3 touches on this. ” Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slaveg nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”

  194. Sorry, “…. the Christian is not abandoning the revelation to the Old Covenant people, but living it in Christ.”
    Thanks,
    MichaelTX

  195. MICHAELTX April 30, 2013 at 5:56 am

    I’m not understanding most of your questions. I am getting your history question I think

    Do you believe we come to a reasonably reliable account of [the early history of Christianity]? And if so, how?

    Yes I think we can. I think the means we use are the same means we use of any other historical debate. We look at the available evidence. We draw specific hypotheses which make predictive clams about future evidence. As future evidence comes to light we test that evidence against the predictions from our hypotheses. If our hypotheses hold up against this new evidence then we consider them more likely to be true. If they don’t we got back to drawing hypotheses. We treat our beliefs about the history of early Christianity no differently than we treat our beliefs about the history of Han Dynasty in China which was about the same time.

    and how the coming of Christ has forever given the incarnational vision of God… 24So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.

    You may want to check your translation of that verse. You are reading something that Paul never ever says anywhere. He doesn’t say in that verse “until Christ came” but until the faith of Christ came. Your entire interpretation hinges crucially on that mistranslation. So check for yourself what I’m saying is true about the translation before we go any further. Don’t believe or ignore me, look for yourself.

    I’m going to propose something like: So that the law has been our guardian (lead us) to Christ that by faith we might be justified. eis Christon is “to Christ”, lead us to Christ is justified for clarity but “leading us to the time of Christ” is a stretch. This is BTW a perfect example, of the type of problem you will see everywhere when you try and read Catholicism (and Protestantism) back into the bible. What Paul means and what MichaelTX reads are two very different things. Ultimately what I’m proposing is that you have to make a choice and I’ll use this verse as an example. You have to decide if you care what Paul means. You could legitimately say “no” that you want to believe in a modern Christianity and you don’t want to strip 2000 years of tradition. But if you go down that road, read what Paul actually says not what you want him to say you will very shortly no longer believe what you wrote me in the last post.

    That line makes it crystal clear the debate I’m having. Should you read what Paul wrote, or what the church wants you to believe Paul wrote? Should you read Catholicism into the text or read the text for what it means independently of any theology and just do your best to understand Paul? I’ll answer your question about valid theologies below but the core of my belief is that I don’t have the right to attribute to Paul any theology of the later church.

    I wrote a post about this on my own blog about another verse which is frequently mistranslated: http://church-discipline.blogspot.com/2009/07/venus-translation-vs-transculturation.html

    MICHAEL TX: Do believe that no understanding of Christianity is more valid than others? And if so, which understanding is that?
    CD-Host: What do you mean by a “valid Christian faith”
    MICHAEL TX: If there is a creator God who has revealed a faith and that faith is the Christian faith, it is as solid and reliable as the God who revealed it. Therefore as knowable as He wills it.

    The body of doctrines we call Christianity hadn’t jelled together until long after the culture that produced that ceased to exist. There never was and can never be an authentic Christian faith, all we can do is take some thing and approximate. If you want to chase down the revelation then by the time the revelations consolidated I’d go for Elkasaites to Manichaeism. That seems to combine the best understanding of the Hellenistic Judaism from which the various proto-Christianities emerged, the closest thing we can get to the original revelations that gave birth to Christianity, a preservation of the spirit of exploration that gave birth to Christianity…. But someone could disagree with me. Manichaeism is a dead religion now, Sufism is probably the closest you can get today though assuming you aren’t of the right ethnicity that isn’t going to be viable for you either. Bahá’í is open to you.

    I kind of consider myself a Theosophists which is a branch of Hermetic Christianity that seeks to explore the mysteries. But I (we) don’t consider the revelation solid we have more of a Eastern perspective that the revelations are merely transitional teaching tools.

  196. JONATHAN PREJEAN April 29, 2013 at 6:49 am

    God is real, more real than anything else than exists, so the same standards I would apply to mundane physical science, I must apply a fortiori to God.

    That’s fine. But that’s Buddhism not Christianity. It is certainly not Conservative Catholicism which denies that the information of God is testable like a mundane physical science and instead is contained in a private deposit of faith.

    My motives of credibility for Trinitarian belief were therefore very similar to my motives of credibility for quantum mechanics; it wasn’t something that was immediately intuitive from ordinary experience, but it was incredibly powerful for objectively describing real phenomena.

    Quantum mechanics has an entire body of easily repeatable experimental results which verify the equations behind it. What experiments did you conduct or have you seen conducted which verify the trinity?

    CD-Host: Then if they refuted it you should have no problem producing a plausible timeline for the various Christian sects and how they emerged that fits the documentary record that they proved.
    Johnathan The problem here is that you’re assuming a priori that error has a principle, which is doesn’t.

    No I’m assuming that large organizations which claim to be present for events have records of those events. If the Catholic church was present and active in the 1st century Christian community that it knows what the first century Christian community was doing. Or to put that contrapositively if the Catholic church doesn’t appear to know much about 1st century Christianity, then they weren’t there.

    But in terms of theology, that exercise is of purely historical value, much like looking at why people might have thought of the heavens as a cloak surrounded by light. It’s descriptive; it doesn’t get you any closer to the truth.

    I’m asking a simple historical question. For Catholic history including Apostolic Succession to be true there needed to be Catholic church in a meaningful sense operating in the 1st century. If they don’t know much about the first century that’s very good reason to doubt their historical claims. Their theological hang on their historical claims. If someone tells you a complex story involving them having been at a Hockey game last night and they don’t even know who won, the final score any of the plays made in the game you don’t have to have to go much further in analyzing the complex story.

    The “prophetic test” is typically just as subjective as the experience itself, and if it weren’t for the completely ad hoc fact that God had used Israel as a vehicle for the delivery of His Son, I wouldn’t have any good reason to believe them either.

    Well according to your God, your bible and your church it wasn’t ad hoc. Your church claims continuity with the God of Moses. That’s not me misunderstanding Catholicism, that’s you disagreeing with it. You want God the Creator (the god of the Old Testament) and God the Father (the god of Jesus) to be two different gods that’s fine. But that ain’t the position you have to defend. Your church condemns that as heresy so serious you cannot be baptized if you profess this belief.

    The situation we are in with Christ is analogous to the situation we have with medicine or astronomy; I don’t need to waste time going back over false ideas that I know are false. Going back to a method that proved unreliable over and over again, with false prophet after false prophet, is exactly like turning back the clock on any other science. God, the one and only God, took us past that nonsense for a reason. There aren’t “divinities,” which is an absolute metaphysical absurdity.

    At least one of the three persons of the trinity made an unequivocal direct command about how to handle divine communications. I understand you think it is a dumb system. Heck, you are coming real close to suggesting that God got it terribly wrong when he ordered that system be used. But frankly who cares what system you think God should use for direct communication? The God with whom you are trying to communicate quite specifically banned any other system from ever arising in places like Deuteronomy 13. And even if he did intend another system to arise it appears that big change isn’t even considered worthwhile mentioning in the New Testament. Rather the New Testament authors consistently appeal to old prophetic system, evidently mistakenly believing it is still in effect.

    So we are left with what seems like 4 possibilities:

    a) Catholicism is wrong about worshipping the God of Moses.
    b) The God of Moses is an inconsistent fool.
    c) The Catholic church is wrong about a binding magisterium having secret knowledge based on apostolic succession
    d) The Catholic church made the whole thing up in classic false prophet fashion.

    You’re blasting me for this system. I ain’t Moses. I didn’t write one word of the Pentateuch. This ain’t my idea. So from that list I’m going with (d). You seem to be going with (a) with a touch of (b) on the side. That presents rather serious theological problems for you. It does not create any kind of a-priori mess for me.

  197. CDH,
    Sorry about the wording there I intended, “Do you believe we can come to a reasonably reliable account of history”

    I basically agree with your idea of testing the evidence to make conclusions. One extreme difference I do see is there are essential differences in the conclusions made pertaining to reality when we compare what claims the Han Dynasty has over all people vs those which the words of Christ has over us, being He claims to speak the very words of God.
    Concerning the translation,

    You are right in the basic difference of the text. Most translations don’t have the coming or came in there it is often just “Christ” not needing the “until” or anything. I used the ESV because most guys here respect it. The difference does not affect the idea I present. It is the Christian notion that apart from Christ humanity is lost and blind. The Law gives a clear direction, but no destination. Speaking in relation to the timing is often assumed necessary because we are in time. The truth of the incarnation effects all time pre-Christ and post-Christ, therefore the authority by which Christ speaks is not limited to those moments in time but is necessarily contained them.

    I think I have a little better understanding of you now, CDH. Thanks a lot for the clarity. Though I do believe we can know Christianity because it is not a system of thought or theology, but is the knowledge of Christ who came that we may know the Truth.

    Happy to hear any thoughts on what I have said,
    MichaelTX

  198. CD-host,
    One other option should be in your list.

    a) Catholicism is wrong about worshipping the God of Moses.
    b) The God of Moses is an inconsistent fool.
    c) The Catholic church is wrong about a binding magisterium having secret knowledge based on apostolic succession
    d) The Catholic church made the whole thing up in classic false prophet fashion.

    e) We or the one you are speaking with misunderstands the actual teaching of the Church of Christ and the Scriptures.

    I’m prone to put myself in the e category.

  199. MICHAELTX April 30, 2013 at 9:26 am

    The difference does not affect the idea I present.

    Glad we agree on the translation. Yes the difference does effect the idea since you were talking quite incarnationall, “Christian idea of original sin and how the coming of Christ has forever given the incarnational vision of God in and through the man Christ Jesus”. But Paul doesn’t say that what. he says. Is that now that we have faith in Christ, we know of Christ things have changed….

    Notice the shift. What’s changed for Paul is that we have come to know of Christ through scripture and thus can have faith in him. What’s changed for MichaelTX is the incarnation. Paul’s is 1st century Christianity yours is late 2nd century Christianity. It is a subtle shift but it is an important shift. Paul makes an appeal to scripture. The 2nd century Christians don’t appeal to scripture they appeal to a knowledge passed down from a hierarchy. For Paul we know about Jesus through the revelations God gave to moses and the prophets. For 2nd century Catholics we know about Jesus through the revelations Jesus gave his apostles that just happened to work for their church. Notice the difference?

    Let me use our host’s test. Given what you believe about the incarnation would you ever have phrased the line that way? Now let me throw something else out at you. Over the next 6 months as you run into Paul keep this thread in mind. As Paul defends that resurrection from the dead is possible, why doesn’t he mention Lazarus. As Paul discusses the crucifixion why doesn’t he mention the Roman soldiers, Calvary the wonderful scene the night before. And as the center of his ministry is the crucifixion why does he never mention where or when? And the only one time he does where and when that one is symbolic… he couldn’t actually mean what he says. As Paul gives you lines right out of the gospel stores why does he keep attributing them to God and not Jesus?

    What I believe is that Paul does not believe what you do about the incarnation. There is a good reason that Marcion, Basilides and Valentinus were the earliest commentators we know of on Paul. That they introduced Paul to the broader Christian world. That they weren’t the ones distorting his message. And he became a Catholic Bishop a century after his death when the Catholic church decided to try and recruit from the Gnostic and Encratite churches.

    I’m not expecting you to believe me today. Like I said try this for six months. At the end of the end of six months you face a fork, do I believe the bible or do I believe the church? If you go the bible route you know where to find me.

    As for the rest Paul would agree with you that Christ in you speaks the very word of God.

  200. @MICHAELTX April 30, 2013 at 10:00 am

    One other option should be in your list….
    e) We or the one you are speaking with misunderstands the actual teaching of the Church of Christ and the Scriptures.
    I’m prone to put myself in the e category.

    I agree with you. The CtC apologetic, is a different thing than Catholicism. The CtC apologetic is viscously sectarian. It writes off some huge percentage like 95% of the Catholic population. Actual Catholicism is more complicated. The pre-Vatican 1 style apologetic is a part of Catholicism that is very similar to Conservative Presbyterianism so there is enough similarity for them to talk. I often wonder when I read their stuff if they know actual Catholics.

    Actual existant Catholics put up with the hierarchy because they love being Catholic and they love the Catholic church. Actual Catholics like the idea of being Catholic in the same way they are American or French. It is something they are, not something they choose or conform to or believe. They believe Catholicism has a church associated with it, that church has a hierarchy and that hierarchy can often be jerks. At the same time picking your church the way you say pick a doctor a tailor seems ridiculous. A church should be tied to the sacraments, critical moments in life: baptism, first communion, marriage, sickness, death. Your tailor isn’t going to see you through those moments and a Protestant church with its consumer culture isn’t likely to either.

    The theology of actual Catholics can’t have a sophisticated debate about justification because it openly semi-Pelagian. On the other hand it could debate the issue of “one bishop” in a much more meaningful way presenting the disadvantages of sectarianism of Protestantism.

    Protestantism is about doctrine it was born of doctrinal conflict. Catholicism is about food, ritual, liturgy, music, intergenerational connection…. The doctrinal conflicts are what are causing people to abandon the rest. The whole CtC thing is the opposite of my experiences of existent Catholics. Which is why I had never run into Vatican 1 style apologetics till 5 years ago.

  201. CDH,
    I’m sorry but I can not align your understanding of Paul’s teachings with the Scriptures. It is largely the teachings of Paul which caused me to recognize the Church and its teachings as being of Christ and the Scriptures not against them. It seems to me you have the same assumptions I ran into before I fairly assessed the teachings of the Catholic Church in light of the my Scriptural knowledge and background. Not that my knowledge is something exuberant, but God has given me a love for His word and I seek to understand as much as I can. I also like you, assumed the Church to not be the called out people of God therefore I considered separate what God had joined together. God has made a people and you say there is no true people of God. This lead me to many false conclusion of the teachings of the Church as well.

    Here’s a GK Chesterton quote I like that touches on both what you call me to do and what I call you to do.
    “I am incurably convinced that the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again, on something solid.”

    CDH, I do have my testimony over at my blog. I dropped it over there the other day. I was not pro-Catholic in the least when I started this road.

    Peace,
    MichaelTX

  202. CDH,
    I think we understand each other a bit more now. Let us continue on this road. Though I can’t throw the CtC guys under the convertible we’re cruzin’ in.

  203. I appreciate the work they do over at their site and they are my brothers in Christ after all. We are one body in Christ. No need to cut of an arm.

  204. CD-HOST:

    From your last several comments, it is evident that we disagree to some extent about what the very concept of divine revelation is, and accordingly about how divine revelation is to be identified and interpreted as such. That makes our disgreement more radical than that between Catholicism and the Reformed tradition of Christianity. As I wrote in a Called to Communion article a few years ago, Catholicism and conservative Protestantism in general “share a crucial assumption” that “specifies a clear context for debate:” to wit, “the divine revelation in and through Jesus Christ is public, definitive, once-for-all, consistently and authoritatively identifiable through time, and expressible as the doctrinal content of the deposit of faith.” The disagreement between Catholicism and conservative Protestantism is simply about how, not whether, said deposit is “consistently and authoritatively identifiable through time.” But given your approach to the concept of divine revelation, that assumption cannot be taken for granted; even if you share it all the same, you nonetheless have a different concept of divine revelation as such, irrespective of what phenomena may actually and objectively constitute divine revelation. So I shall just compare and contrast our respective approaches to the concept of divine revelation, criticizing yours along the way. Once all that is clear, we can then discuss how interested but uncommitted inquirers might want to choose between our respective approaches.

    As I said in an earlier comment and you acknowledged, there is a point of contact between you and many Reformed Protestants: namely, the assumption that “if Christian theological “orthodoxy,” whatever that may consist in, is not clearly discernible as such by examining and interpreting the early sources from a purely historical viewpoint, then it is not discernible at all.” That is why, given the rather unsatisfying state of the documentary evidence from the sub-apostolic period, you refuse to treat the emergence and persistence of the Catholic Church’s “Tradition” as evidence for what that Tradition claims to have preserved and “handed on”–even though nobody disputes that said tradition’s main outlines had recognizably emerged by the end of the 2nd century. Given the absence of the sort of evidence you think necessary, you treat as “myth” what the Catholic Church calls “Tradition.” And this is where the first major difference between me as a Catholic on the one hand, and Reformed Protestants and you on the other, also emerges.

    I would hold that, even if we were to discover mutually-attesting documents claiming that the Apostles had ordained specific, named men to succeed them in authority over every church they had founded, while authorizing those men to found others, men who in their turn had ordained specific, named successors to govern those churches and found others, that would not prove that such men had actually received whatever divine authority the Apostles may have had, or even that the Apostles actually had such authority to bestow. That’s because the questions what that authority, if any, was, and how it was transmitted, if at all, are primarily theological questions and only secondarily historical ones. All such a documentary record would prove is that a geographically disparate community of groups, which had started calling itself “the catholic church” by the early 2nd century, believed the Apostles had some such authority and bestowed it–which it is plausible to believe anyhow, given the totality of relevant evidence we actually have. But even a full record of the sort I’ve indicated would not constitute evidence that such beliefs were actually true. Only if the Catholic Church actually has the sort of authority she claims could we see a detailed, documentary record of successive appointments as exhibiting something of theological significance. But on its own, such a record would do nothing to establish truth of the claim in question. Moreover, if the Catholic Church has the divine authority she claims, then her Tradition is basis enough for affirming apostolic succession even in the absence of such a record; all the absence of such a record shows, objectively speaking, is that the truth of the Church’s self-understanding cannot be proven historically, which I have already said it can’t be anyway, given the nature of the subject matter. So we need to consider the Church’s claim to authority on the merits before talking about what the absence of such a record might signify. That’s a much bigger task than examining documents and artifacts from nearly two millennia ago and drawing provisional scholarly conclusions from them. I believe the task should begin with a philosophical argument for adopting the Catholic IP, prior to any further historical considerations that may or may not augment the motives of credibility for accepting Catholicism. And that’s what I do.

    Nevertheless, considering even that kind of argument would be premature without addressing the differences between our respective concepts of divine revelation. Let’s consider first the distinction between “general” and “special” revelation.

    I had written:

    In my view, which I take to be the same as St. Paul’s in Romans 1:20, people in general can know the “nature of divinity” to a limited extent “from the things he has made.” And a few specially chosen people, such as Paul himself, can learn more by experiencing divine revelation directly. But for most of us, the special divine revelation that has been granted to humanity can only be apprehended by trusting some ensemble of secondary authorities as an embodiment of divine authority. That’s what I take the Catholic triad to be.

    To that, you reply:

    I understand Paul’s argument in Romans I’d say that if you take it to mean the nature of divinity than experimentally we can verify that Paul is wrong. All humans experience the same creation, but humans have wildly different ideas about the nature of divinity. So his system in this case doesn’t seem to work very well. What I believe Paul meant, which is from the context, is that we can discern the nature of morality. Now morality is fairly consistent across all people and groups of people. There does seem to be a natural morality. There doesn’t seem to be a natural notion of divinity.
    Getting to the second part I’ve pointed out the various types of religions and the types of revelations their practices and teachings are designed to transmit. Most of what you are assuming about revelation assumes a very Catholic view of revelation.

    Your first paragraph misses the point. I had claimed that, according to Paul and myself, people can know something about “the nature of divinity” from the things God has made. That means some will, but it doesn’t mean everybody will, and hence that there won’t be significant disagreement. All it means is that, if people can acquire such knowledge as Paul says, then when they fail to do so, that must be explicable in terms of their choices and habits, not in terms of their natural epistemic capacities. Paul explains it by citing immorality that blinds. Thus there is such a thing as the moral law “written on the human heart,” Gentile as well as Jewish, as even you seem to acknowledge; but by choosing to live contrary to it, people blind themselves in due course to the truth about God. Now I’m sure that explanation is true of some people, but I doubt that it’s true of all who do not accept general revelation, or even of the majority. Many people’s ignorance should not be thought culpable. But regardless of who’s culpable and who isn’t, I hold that there is such a thing as general revelation of roughly the sort Paul says, which monotheists get generally right and others get generally wrong. On the contrary, your conclusion is that “there doesn’t seem to be a natural notion of divinity.” But that doesn’t follow from the mere existence of disparate conceptions of divinity; all that follows is that, if there is a “natural notion of divinity,” then some people are thinking and acting in ways that prevent them, whether culpably or inculpably, from sharing it. Since you seem to agree that people can do that kind of thing by choosing to live contrary the natural moral law, you have no good reason to deny they do it in the case of natural theology. In essence, Paul says many do the latter by means of doing the former.

    Your second paragraph misses the point in pretty much the same way your first does. The mere fact that religions other than Catholicism adhere to concepts of special revelation that differ from Catholicism’s says nothing either way about the credibility of the Catholic concept. All it shows is that, if Catholicism’s concept is correct, then various factors can and do explain why some do not altogether share it, even though there are some commonalities. So we need to consider whether the Catholic concept is correct before we discuss the significance of the fact that many do not share it.

    In your next few paragraphs, you consider and reject what you take to be my claim that “Individual believers can’t experience revelation directly.” But that is not my claim. What I claim is that only a small minority of people have directly experienced what qualifies as public special revelation, and that therefore, most people who apprehend such revelation must do so indirectly by means of the sort I specified, whether or not the Catholic Church in particular actually possesses that means. That does not rule out “private” revelations to individuals, which I believe occur even in these latter times. But it does imply that, in order to assess individual claims to such private revelations, we must be able to tell whether they conform with public revelation as transmitted to the vast majority of ordinary believers. One of the most important issues between us is whether there is such a public special revelation to be transmitted, and if so, by what means it is to be apprehended. And once again, that issue must be addressed before we can assess the significance of differing accounts of special revelation.

    You write:

    The bible also lists other systems for getting information for getting information from spirits and gods like divination. But let’s assume that we only have infrequent prophetic revelation. And here the bible has a system for prophetic revelation we have discussed.
    a) Prophets have visions.
    b) People claim prophetic status.
    c) The faithful have an obligation to record the teaching os prophets and to classify them into: true prophets, false prophets and prophets of other gods.
    d) True prophets are to be obeyed.
    Now that’s a system doing precisely what you want, which is separating divine revelation from opinion. It is the system clearly presented in the Old Testament and endorsed in the New. If you are going to claim that the God of Catholicism is the God of Abraham, of Moses and of Isaiah you can’t just brush off the system the God of Moses set down for differentiating divine revelation from human opinion. Catholicism simply is not entitled to lay claim to an alternative system of differentiation and simultaneously lay claim to this God.

    The thing is, that just attacks a straw man. Catholicism accepts (a)-(d) as descriptions of what’s recounted in the Bible, because she considers the Bible a divinely inspired and thus inerrant record of divine revelation. But given that assumption, much of what’s recounted in the Bible is people receiving divine revelation directly. That does not affect the question how the rest of us, who are the vast majority, are to apprehend and believe that revelation all the same, but indirectly. When I speak of the Catholic triad: Scripture-Tradition-Magisterium, I’m describing an answer to that question. And that answer presupposes (a)-(d) rather than denying them or brushing them aside.

    Hence, when you write next:

    So even if I granted your notion of revelation, your notion of authority with regard to revelation doesn’t follow in the slightest. There is an alternative method which has far better attestation.

    what you’re rejecting is not what I’m asserting. But I cannot pass over the rest of that paragraph:

    What should be happening is that people like Sister Bernadette Soubirous are in an entirely different category than Pope Francis, you or I. Pope Francis has the authority of a teacher not the authority of a prophet which means he does not speak for God or exercise divine authority, while she does.

    As a good Catholic who spent the last few years of her brief life as an obedient nun doing menial tasks, St. Bernadette herself would not have agreed with you. Mind you, I believe she was justified in claiming to have seen and heard “the Immaculate Conception” and to have carried out that Person’s instructions. But as a Catholic, I believe that because the Church, having diligently investigated the matter and exercised the authority she claims, says it’s worthy of credence. I wasn’t there when it happened, and even those who were there didn’t see Bernadette’s visions and hear her locutions. The private revelation and wider phenomenon of Lourdes have been deemed credible by the Church for two rather different reasons.

    First, its content is not only consistent with, but confirms, Catholic Marian doctrine–especially that of the Immaculate Conception, formally defined as dogma by Pope Pius IX four years earlier, much to the chagrin of most non-Catholic Christians ever since. Second, its authenticity has been attested by many publicly observed miracles, both during the apparitions and well afterwards. If it were not for such things, the Church would not have deemed Bernadette’s private revelation as credible. Given such things, she is justified in deeming them credible. But that doesn’t undermine the Church’s claims for herself; it actually lends support to them. From the authenticity and credibility of the Lourdes phenomenon, therefore, your above conclusion simply doesn’t follow. They rather suggest the opposite conclusion.

    In what you write next, you start reaching the real heart of the matter. Thus:

    The third issue is that even if I were to grant the notion that revelation is limited to a few people and the Catholic system were a legitimate system for differentiating these revelations from opinion then the question becomes do I believe they are actually handling a divine deposit at all? And here the quality of the revelation comes into play. My intuition remains that a divine revelation that can be confused with human opinion implies a rather uninteresting deity. The words and thoughts of a college professor would never be confused with those of an elementary school student. The difference in intelligence, wisdom and insight between the smartest human and least god is greater even than that. Which is why I think divine revelation should be self authenticating. Or to take the contrapositive if it isn’t self authenticating then it is just human opinion.

    So it appears you agree with me that there must be a principled distinction between special divine revelation and human opinion to which even simple believers can have reliable recourse. It’s just that you think “divine revelation should be self-authenticating,” and that if it is not, then “it’s just human opinion.” But I don’t understand why you think that. I would agree that divine revelation received directly is “self-authenticating” in some sense, and thus constitutes a kind of knowledge for those who so receive it. But it just isn’t that way for most of us believers, no matter how much we may wish it were. That’s why most of us, if we are to apprehend divine revelation at all, must do so by trusting some ensemble of secondary authorities that embody divine authority. I call that ensemble–whatever it may actually consist in–“the formal, proximate object of faith” (FPOF). If there is a public, special revelation at all that’s expressible as the doctrinal content of the “deposit of faith,” then there’s no way for most of us to do without an FPOF, if we are to identify and assent to that content.

    Obviously you dislike the Catholic account of the FPOF. Thus you conclude your comment addressed to me:

    Certainly I can’t rule out that there is an infinitely powerful all knowing God who communicates rarely, communicates ineffectually so that a complex system and is needed to record and retain his word and what he does communicates is stuff that the isn’t much different than what a creative smart person could just make up on their own. But it is highly implausible. I don’t see how the content of Catholicism isn’t further evidence against Apostolic Succession rather than evidence for it.

    Now I’ve heard many objections to Catholicism in my time, but the claim that its content “isn’t much different than what a creative smart person could just make up on their own” is not one of them. Leaving ecclesiology aside for the moment, Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and many forms of Protestantism entail such propositions as these:

    (1) Three eternally existing divine persons, one of whom deigned to become incarnate in the world for a time as a man, are each the same God as the others
    (2) The person who so deigned was and is fully man as well as fully God
    (3) That person saved humanity from itself by letting a handful of people publicly torture and execute him as an enemy of the state before he rose from the dead, with an immortal, specially empowered body that was still recognizably his.

    Now such paradoxes don’t strike me at all as the sort of thing a “creative smart person could just make up on their own”–at least not if such a person wanted to be taken seriously. According to the NT, for example, the equivalent of (3) was preached throughout the Mediterranean world by the Apostles, ordinary men all, because their experience after Jesus’ execution led them to believe it and commit their lives to it despite their initial doubt and bewilderment. Most ended up being killed for their efforts, and until the 4th century, not a few of their self-styled successors suffered the same fate. The hypothesis that the Apostles, or those who wrote in their name, just fadged it all up as a cleverly concocted myth is simply not credible–unless you hold that the NT is mostly just a pack of lies, in which case you don’t even think there’s a credible myth here. For their own part, (1) and (2) are so paradoxical that some “smart, creative” people today find them as incredible as similar people did when the logical equivalents of such statements were first hammered out by the councils of Nicaea I, Constantinople I, and Chalcedon. The men who hammered out such affirmations did so after extended periods of bitter controversy, and believed they had to do so in order to secure the Church’s fidelity to the deposit of faith she had received from the Apostles. If one is credulous enough to be taken in by clever stories, orthodox Christianity is not the one to choose. There’s too much history as well as too much paradox.

    It is no objection to Catholicism to point out that it’s complex and paradoxical. Quantum mechanics is complex and paradoxical too, but is also as well-confirmed as a scientific theory can be. Of course you’ll want to point out that there are universally agreed-upon methods for confirming scientific theories but not theologies. And I would agree. But that’s only an objection to Catholicism on the assumption that what God might have done for us and said to us needn’t be learned only on his authority, and can’t be as complex and paradoxical as something like quantum mechanics. To me, the opposite seems far more likely.

    In your discussions with Jonathan Prejean and MichaelTX, you adduce a number of other claims and arguments about divine revelation that I would take issue with. I might get to them if I don’t find your interlocutors to be giving adequate replies. But in the meantime, I have to resume living my life, and this comment is already more than long enough. I wish we could find some way to whittle things down to their essence.

    Best,
    Mike

  205. @CD-HOST:
    I didn’t say that theology was a mundane physical science. I said that my standards of truth must be at least as rigorous, because God is even more real than the phenomena that are studied physically. Consequently, if I would disregard an opinion for obsolescence or error in physical sciences, I must do likewise for theological positions I determine to be mistaken. In other words, I must affirm truth and reject error.

    As to worshipping the God of Moses, I said that I did so precisely because the Church says to do so. I accept the Church on this point and that the same God authentically communicated through prophets *in the Old Testament*. After the coming of Christ, such revelation is obsolete in terms of public revelation, and all other (non-Christian/pre-Christian Judaic) prophetic revelation has been falsified. The need for prophetic witnesses is gone, so while there can still be true Christian prophets, nothing is needed for the content of divine revelation.

    I don’t need to explain why people held false beliefs, except out of historical curiosity. As to the alleged “ignorance” of the 1st century by Catholic authors, all this shows is that they were polemicists rewriting history in their favor, which hardly proves that their beliefs were wrong.

  206. @Michael

    I’ll hit the big point on prophetic revelation plus the other about martyrdom.

    CD-Host:The bible also lists other systems for getting information for getting information from spirits and gods like divination. But let’s assume that we only have infrequent prophetic revelation. And here the bible has a system for prophetic revelation we have discussed.
    a) Prophets have visions.
    b) People claim prophetic status.
    c) The faithful have an obligation to record the teaching os prophets and to classify them into: true prophets, false prophets and prophets of other gods.
    d) True prophets are to be obeyed.
    Now that’s a system doing precisely what you want, which is separating divine revelation from opinion. It is the system clearly presented in the Old Testament and endorsed in the New. If you are going to claim that the God of Catholicism is the God of Abraham, of Moses and of Isaiah you can’t just brush off the system the God of Moses set down for differentiating divine revelation from human opinion. Catholicism simply is not entitled to lay claim to an alternative system of differentiation and simultaneously lay claim to this God.

    Michael: The thing is, that just attacks a straw man. Catholicism accepts (a)-(d) as descriptions of what’s recounted in the Bible, because she considers the Bible a divinely inspired and thus inerrant record of divine revelation. But given that assumption, much of what’s recounted in the Bible is people receiving divine revelation directly. That does not affect the question how the rest of us, who are the vast majority, are to apprehend and believe that revelation all the same, but indirectly. When I speak of the Catholic triad: Scripture-Tradition-Magisterium, I’m describing an answer to that question. And that answer presupposes (a)-(d) rather than denying them or brushing them aside.

    Take a look at (c) carefully. Your granting the authority to judge prophets to the scribes / teachers not to the faithful. Let’s take the example.

    CD-Host:What should be happening is that people like Sister Bernadette Soubirous are in an entirely different category than Pope Francis, you or I. Pope Francis has the authority of a teacher not the authority of a prophet which means he does not speak for God or exercise divine authority, while she does.

    Michael: As a good Catholic who spent the last few years of her brief life as an obedient nun doing menial tasks, St. Bernadette herself would not have agreed with you. Mind you, I believe she was justified in claiming to have seen and heard “the Immaculate Conception” and to have carried out that Person’s instructions. But as a Catholic, I believe that because the Church, having diligently investigated the matter and exercised the authority she claims, says it’s worthy of credence. I wasn’t there when it happened, and even those who were there didn’t see Bernadette’s visions and hear her locutions. The private revelation and wider phenomenon of Lourdes have been deemed credible by the Church for two rather different reasons.
    First, its content is not only consistent with, but confirms, Catholic Marian doctrine–especially that of the Immaculate Conception, formally defined as dogma by Pope Pius IX four years earlier, much to the chagrin of most non-Catholic Christians ever since. Second, its authenticity has been attested by many publicly observed miracles, both during the apparitions and well afterwards. If it were not for such things, the Church would not have deemed Bernadette’s private revelation as credible. Given such things, she is justified in deeming them credible. But that doesn’t undermine the Church’s claims for herself; it actually lends support to them. From the authenticity and credibility of the Lourdes phenomenon, therefore, your above conclusion simply doesn’t follow. They rather suggest the opposite conclusion.

    I agree with you Bernadette was fully in accord with her submission. That may be reason to consider her a false prophet, though I would tend to consider it yet more reason to consider her in humble submission and therefore it comes from righteous. But unless she spoke in prophetic voice on the issue it doesn’t matter much what she thinks. Bernadette’s own opinions don’t matter very much, except when she speaks in prophetic voice she’s not speaking for God.

    The church, which is to say scribes / teacher like Francis I have the authority to record her and to comment / interpret her teachings they don’t have the authority to judge her. That’s an authority you possess, they don’t. It is this intermixing of roles that differentiates the Catholic system from the biblical system. Our conversation was about judging the content of the deposit of faith

    Bernadette presents herself as a prophetic candidate and speaks in prophetic voice.
    The church records her statements
    The faithful judge her.
    If they judge her a true prophet they obey her.
    The church teachers her statements and interprets them overtime as part of the deposit of faith.

    That is the biblical system. A binding magisterium with final authority depending on a secret revelation is not the biblical system.

    (1) Three eternally existing divine persons, one of whom deigned to become incarnate in the world for a time as a man, are each the same God as the others
    (2) The person who so deigned was and is fully man as well as fully God
    (3) That person saved humanity from itself by letting a handful of people publicly torture and execute him as an enemy of the state before he rose from the dead, with an immortal, specially empowered body that was still recognizably his.
    Now such paradoxes don’t strike me at all as the sort of thing a “creative smart person could just make up on their own”–at least not if such a person wanted to be taken seriously …. The men who hammered out such affirmations did so after extended periods of bitter controversy, and believed they had to do so in order to secure the Church’s fidelity to the deposit of faith she had received from the Apostles.

    The church from the earliest days wanted to assert

    i) Jesus is fully God (i.e. Arianism is False)
    ii) The Father is fully God (no progression of Gods)
    iii) Jesus is not equal to the Father (i.e. no Modalism)
    iv) There is only one God (no tri-theism)
    v) The Holy Spirit is also God and is not Jesus or the Father

    Now if you have to have a theology could either drop some of the axioms or just declare the whole mess of statements simultaneously true and then declare how it all works out “is a mystery”. That’s not a work of divine genius that’s the sort of half baked compromise that anyone who works in industry sees everyday.

    Similarly with the hypostatic union.

    i) Jesus has a fully divine nature (no arianism)
    ii) Jesus has a fully human nature (no docetism )
    iii) Jesus is only one person (no adoptionism)

    And again nobody knows what that means so just declare them all true.

    As for the crucified suffering God that goes way back as far back as we can go. So that’s not unusual at all.

    Most ended up being killed for their efforts, and until the 4th century, not a few of their self-styled successors suffered the same fate.

    On Peter’s martyrdom and the other apostles there is a very good reason for that and it has to do with the evolution of Christianity. In the docetic stage Christianity was Encratites primarily. The philosophy of divinity was still middle platonic and Jewish in the sense that humanity and divinity could not meet, something like the hypostatic union was impossible. So the savior figure could take on a semi human appearance as a way of communicating but not take on humanity The savior figure at this point has mostly settled on being Jesus but still sometimes Melchizedek, Elijah, Seth, Sophia… .

    For the earlier purely Gnostic forms of (proto-)Christianity we as believers could take on divinity a spark of divinity and thus gain the ability to lift up past the archons in death through the teachings of the savior and through his heavenly acts of rescue. What the docetic Christians / Encratites are really adding to the picture is the notion of joint fulfillment. Christ can be crucified and it has heavenly implications but he cannot suffer and thus it often in their theology lacks some needed earthly implications. The apostles, Peter in particular, begin to become the earthly intermediaries of Christ’s ministry. Peter has an earthly crucifixion which has the suffering component, Peter establishes a fleshy church … Peter’s martyrdom is extremely important to them and you can see residues of this in their Acts which preserve docetic theology: Acts of Peter, Acts of John…

    When Catholicism arises they adopt a lot of Encratites theology, and mythology. Jesus has had an earthly crucifixion in every sense so Peter of the Encratites’ crucifixion can within the Catholic scheme be part of a scheme joint fulfillment. For the Catholics humanity and divinity can and they did meet in the person of their Jesus. As Luke/Acts and later Catholic mythology repurposes the Encratite Peter to become the Catholic Peter, the first Pope, the crucifixion remains but the theological importance cannot. Luke / Catholicism has to repurpose these martyrdoms and Catholicism adopts a theology of martyrdom which will serve it well among the other Roman sects.

  207. Let me go back to the issue of the historical record

    CD-Host:a) Many start to early. For Catholicism to have been the source there shouldn’t be any before 30 CE and there are many.

    b) The documents run in the wrong order chronologically. They show evolution from Judaism towards Catholicism. If these sects were moving away from Catholicism we shouldn’t see that.

    c) They demonstrate signs of having more primitive versions of stories. This is true both from the standpoint of literary analysis and historical analysis. Which is to say they show evidence the borrowing was not Catholic -> Heretic but Heretic -> Catholic, i.e. going the other direction.

    d) This directionality is true of Catholic literature as well, the Catholic literature becomes more Catholic with time.

    Michael: As to (a): The Catholic hermeneutic of its own origins simply does not require that Catholicism be the “source” of every early “Christian” heresy. Given the assumption that some early sects existing alongside proto-Catholicism predated it, those were heretical from a proto-Catholic standpoint just to the extent that they claimed some sort of apostolic mantle or otherwise took on some Christian coloration. But that doesn’t make proto-Catholicism their “source.” It only makes proto-Catholicism a contributing factor in their evolution from their prior stages.

    As to (b): Proto-Catholicism itself can be seen as an “evolution from Judaism.” That’s pretty much what the New Testament calls for concluding. From the fact (if it is a fact) that certain sects also evolved from Judaism, and contradicted each other as well as proto-Catholicism, all that follows theologically is that some groups’ evolution from Judaism was a corruption rather than the fullfillment thereof. That the question which was which cannot be answered by purely historical inquiry is irrelevant, for reasons I explained in my previous comment.

    As to (c): From the fact that some Catholic ideas are anticipated by earlier, non-Catholic ones, it does not follow that Catholicism arose from paganism, as if Catholicism were not the normative expression of a revelation given by God rather than an idea originating with man or finite spirits. Rather, if Catholicism is true, the most that follows is that some of its doctrines express “myth become fact,” such as the Incarnation. C.S. Lewis noted that generations ago.

    As to (d): If Catholicism is true, it’s only to be expected that its literature would become “more Catholic” over time, as the Church collectively meditates on what she takes to be the “deposit of faith.” That’s called “development of doctrine.” So (d) is not an objection to Catholicism at all.

    (a) First off a crucial component of the Catholic apologetic is that Catholicism is the first church. Jesus is the founder of a Catholic institution. If you have Jesus cults predating Catholicism that’s a serious problem. Let me give you an apologetic from your website that depends crucially on this idea: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/07/branches-or-schisms/ . Lose the idea there is a trunk at all and there are real problems with many of the CtC articles.

    Secondly, Catholicism claims rituals like the eucharist to have been initiated by Jesus. If they predate 30 CE…

    Third remember this all started with a defense of Irenaeus I.30.15 “Such are the opinions which prevail among these persons, by whom, like the Lernæan hydra, a many-headed beast has been generated from the school of Valentinus.” Notice the connection and he talking about the Ophites here. If he is wrong about his early history that what reason is there to be believe him about early Popes? Jason’s original question started mostly from Sean’s original point about Irenaeus’ list of Popes. Lose his value as a historian and you’ve just conceded the core argument you were having with Protestants that his Pope list is accurate because Irenaeus is trustworthy.

    (b) I think you are losing the thread of (b). This might not be a problem if you are willing to concede these groups evolved independently. So your answer to (a) may kill my argument (b). The argument I was making is that if you do assume a trunk then the documentary record for sects often shows from Jewish sects with proto-Christian notions to or towards Catholicism. That’s the opposite direction of what you want for Christian heresies emerging from Catholicism. So if you are OK with the “no trunk” notion then fine, otherwise this is powerful counter evidence.

    (c) Myth becomes fact I love. I always believed this when I was a Baptists, I would have left much earlier without this. Most apologists won’t go there. Unfortunately much as I’d like to move on when you start talking heretical Christianity it is too close date wise for this to save the argument and Myth becomes fact generally bites off too much for a Conservative Catholic. For example if Acts of Paul has a more primitive version of the discourse of marriage than 1Cor then you can’t have all of: 1Cor written by Paul and Acts of Paul written in the 2nd century. Similarly if Marcion’s Gospel of the Lord predates canonical Luke you can’t have Marcion late and Luke the companion of Paul, etc…

    (d) if a problem if you want to assert a deposit and not an evolution which you seem to want to have. That there is some collection of “stuff” the apostles knew and passed on. What is in the original deposit if not at the very least primitive Catholicism?

  208. +JMJ+

    CD-Host wrote:

    Take a look at (c) carefully. Your granting the authority to judge prophets to the scribes / teachers not to the faithful.

    I think that the Incarnational worldview sheds light upon this. In the Incarnational Reality, there is no absolute distinction or opposition between teachers and faithful, between priest and prophet and king. All distinctions are but living manifestations (or organic localizations) of a single Incarno-Sacramental Christic Reality. Within the internal praxis of this Christic organism, each incorporate person works out their salvation (their sacred path, wyrd or destiny) within the Salvation Story.

    This is Incarnationalism; all dualities are now resolved. Being a work of “divine genius” (your term), they are resolved, not in some doctrine or system, but within the living Person of Jesus Christ. Where Christ speaks in the Magesterium, the Sensus Catholicus ratifies. Where Christ speaks in the Sensus Catholicus, the Magisterium teaches. The Church moves as One. In the Church, there is no more ‘this or that’, only the One in the Many and the Many in the One.

    This is why, later, you rightly, but perhaps unknowingly, hit upon the key: you pointed out that it “is this intermixing of roles that differentiates” the Catholic Incarnational Reality from the oppositions and reductions of the pre-Incarnational Reality.

  209. @JONATHAN PREJEAN April 30, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    so. I accept the Church on this point and that the same God authentically communicated through prophets *in the Old Testament*. After the coming of Christ, such revelation is obsolete in terms of public revelation, and all other (non-Christian/pre-Christian Judaic) prophetic revelation has been falsified. The need for prophetic witnesses is gone, so while there can still be true Christian prophets, nothing is needed for the content of divine revelation.

    You still have a few problems:

    a) Why does God set up the prophetic system as permanent if he intends to later falsify it?
    b) Why do the New testament authors support it not repudiate the prophetic system?
    c) What reason is there to believe that it is has been falsified?

    That’s a rather huge dependency of Catholicism if you are asserting this as a prerequisite. The prophetic approach to revelation is one of the most well documented heavily discussed themes of the Old Testament. There is more on the role of prophets than there is on a messiah for example.

    _________

    As to the alleged “ignorance” of the 1st century by Catholic authors, all this shows is that they were polemicists rewriting history in their favor, which hardly proves that their beliefs were wrong.

    No it doesn’t prove there beliefs were wrong. But if they were willing to lie about historical things to strengthen their case it makes it far more likely they were willing to lie about theological things to strengthen their case. I agree there are polemicists, the problem for you is that belief justifies a hermeneutic of suspicion not a hermeneutic of trust.

  210. @WOSBALD April 30, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    Hebrews 6-7. Why do you think Jesus himself is a priest of the order of Melchizedek and not a priest of the order of Aaron? Precisely because those dualities are not resolved even for an incarnate God. By choosing to be of the tribe of Judah he does not have the roles and rites of the tribe of Levi. That’s the whole point of the chapter.

    Heb 8:4 couldn’t be clearer: Now if [Jesus] were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law;

    The earthly priesthood cannot be reconciled in that way.

    I’m not a believer so I’m not entitled to use the word heresy but if I were … the idea in CCC 1241 The idea that Christ has priestly office would fit the bill. Similarly that believers have kingly or prophetic office. I don’t disagree with you that’s Catholic teaching one bit.

    1241 The anointing with sacred chrism, perfumed oil consecrated by the bishop, signifies the gift of the Holy Spirit to the newly baptized, who has become a Christian, that is, one “anointed” by the Holy Spirit, incorporated into Christ who is anointed priest, prophet, and king.

    But I read stuff like that and I’m really floored. Once you get past the various deeply presuppositional stuff there are some really nasty issues of biblical interpretation that I have no idea how people get past.

  211. @Michael

    I wanted to hit on this issue of normative.

    What makes an ecclesiology “normative” in the empirical sense of the term is that it is widely believed over a given period of time; in that sense, it naturally functions as “the usual” and “the standard” by which others are judged. And that’s the sense you mean. Given that sense, we have no way of knowing whether proto-Cathoic ecclesiology was normative from the beginning. But what makes an ecclesiology, or indeed any doctrine, normative in the theological sense is not that it is the empirical norm at any particular period of time, but that it is propounded with divine authority, and is thus a datum of divine revelation. And that’s the sense I mean. Thus, when Catholics speak of “Christians” accepting AS in the sub-apostolic period, we mean those who believed that the Apostles received a public, definitive divine revelation they taught with an authority they received from Jesus and passed on to their successors, without any esoteric content that might have contradicted what the Apostles and their putative successors publicly taught.

    OK the problem with that definition is that ultimately it is meaningless. The statement about AS and norms is generally used in an apologetic sense to argue that this was a belief of the ancient church and thus should be given credence today. If you define a norm the way you are proposing it becomes a statement about my state.

    a) I believe X is true.
    b) The church for purposes of counting the norm is those people who agree with X, and possibly other restrictions.
    c) Therefore if there is at least one ancient person who agrees with X becomes the norm.

    A norm ceases to be a fact of objective history and just a synonym for whatever I happen to believe. Under your definition I could say that it is the norm to believe that anchovy pizza tastes better than pepperoni pizza completely ignoring the sales figures because anyone who thinks pepperoni pizza tastes better is not counted. So when you say something is normative you aren’t saying anything more than you agree with. Obviously you don’t believe something to be true and contradiction to the divine deposit of faith, that goes without saying. Under your definition a statement about a “theological norm” isn’t a statement about reality or history it is a statement about the speaker’s opinions. And yes I think Catholics mean considerably more than that.

    Vincent of Lenins gives a definition of universality, antiquity and consent, “ Now in the Catholic Church itself we take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all. That is truly and properly ‘Catholic,’ as is shown by the very force and meaning of the word, which comprehends everything almost universally. We shall hold to this rule if we follow universality, antiquity, and consent.” Where by universality he means the belief of the faithful, antiquity a bias towards continuity and consent he means the support of the learned authorities. That is a definition that has testable content.

    People like Bugay do not deny that the Apostles had such authority; they just think that only the “apostolic” writings of the NT, not the Apostles’ personal successors as leaders of the Church, speak with apostolic authority after them.) The actual number of self-styled “Christians” who rejected proto-Catholicism from the start, relative to the number who accepted it from the start, is neither knowable nor particularly relevant.

    I think it is knowable and we are getting a far better handle of knowing it. I suspect that work like Lampe’s will get us reasonably accurate measures of the populations of various sects and flows between those sects in say 200 years. Nobody has really gone after that data because until the 1970s people disbelieved Gnostic claims and did believe Catholicism was normative in the statistical sense. Now that they realize that is false, that Catholicism is not continuous with the 1st century faith, they want to figure out much more about the 1st century faith.

    And Jason’s argument does not itself require [statistical normativeness] it did so during the sub-apostolic period–though there’s reason to suspect it did all the same, given that only one geographically disparate “Christian” community referred to itself as “the catholic church.”

    .

    I disagree with you on Jason’t argument not require the statistical normative aspect. But his argument crucially depends on the apostles having belonged to “the catholic church”, which certainly demands it existed and they knew about it. In particular I don’t know that Bugay would claim the apostle’s would have identified as Catholic, I think he would assert that this designation did not exist for them. AFAIK John’s position is that Catholicism is a heresy that developed among orthodox Christians, not that it was the original Orthodox Christianity. The primary difference between John’s position and my own is that I don’t believe there was any Orthodoxy at all in the 1st century, that it didn’t exist yet; while John believes it did exist in the apostolic churches which he sees as in a loose cooperation not a formal hierarchy.

    Assuming that it could only be reliable for its purpose if it was the empirical norm from the start therefore begs the question against Catholicism.

    I don’t think so. As long as Catholics lay claim to historical, testable theories of the origin of their church empirical tests matter. Bryan’s “find the church of Jesus and go forward decade by decade” is an empirical claim and a testable claim. It isn’t a theological claim. To mean anything at all it proposes something like

    a) That Jesus founded a church
    b) That this church formed a structure with other churches
    c) That the structure in (b) has a web of organizational / structural ties with the modern Catholic church

    If (a) is either false or such a church died, then that disproves the argument. If there is no possibility of the Catholic church having a web of organizational / structural ties with any first century church because it was a coalition that formed in the 2nd century then this argument is disproven.

    The absence of historical proof that proto-Catholicism was the empirical norm does not constitute an objection to it.

    Sorry but it is. Catholicism claims to be the original, Christian church. It claims to be the form of Christianity most Christians did worship in. It claims that title still. Those are empirical claims. I agree there are theological claims. Those are attacked through biblical interpretation not history.

  212. CDH,
    I’d like you to think about the body of a person for a moment and I think you will understand what someone like Bryan means when they say, “find the church of Jesus and go forward decade by decade.”

    What I wouldn’t be requiring evidence that makes me see all the bones, tendons, eyes, fingertips and such of the body to say that body is the same as the first cells of that life. What one should require is that once out in the world moving and function as a unified body that it is true to and consistent to the DNA and soul which it has been given at conception. I think there is evidence for that, but impossible to have the later. Yet, not unreasonable to the mind for acceptance if one believes in a God who loves and watches out for His people.

    Peace,
    MichaelTX

  213. We have a God in Christ who tells us to “seek ask and knock and the door will be opened” to us.

  214. @MichaelTX

    OK same DNA and soul. So for an organization that would be things like: same financial structure, same organizational structure, same offices, same mission, same founders. Oh well its a church so lets try: same holy books, same body of doctrine, same rites. None of that is true.

    I’m not going to address the it is possible to believe… It is possible to believe anything I suspect. But what the evidence shows is that it didn’t exist. It is possible to believe that John McCain should have beat George Bush in the Republican Primary of 2000, and asserting that a loving God would have made it happen doesn’t change the fact that this is not what happened. If we know that John McCain lost why bother with philosophical speculation about how it should have won? If we know that the Catholic Church arose out of other 2nd sects in the 2nd century, why bother with philosophical speculation about how it should have arose?

  215. We seem to differ on what constitutes the Church and from our earlier conversations that is something I assumed. It is easy to look at the Catholic Church and see finances, leaders, structure, offices, and mission, even the Bible, doctrine and rites, but the Church is more than is seen like the person is more than the body.

    The DNA and soul of the Church I see, is with eyes that see more than these; which I would not assume anyone will see without being lead to look for more. The Spirit is the soul and Christ Himself is the DNA. We are just His members still riddled with the flesh of mutilated weakness on our cross.

    I see different.

    Peace,
    Mike

  216. @CD-HOST:
    a) He never said it was permanent or that it would continue to be used after it was pointless.
    b) Because prophetic revelation died with the Apostles. They were the last, and upon their passing, no more was needed.
    c) The fact that Trinitarian theology has been exhaustively and consistently formulated without it. And by the way, your suggestion that it was simply a meaningless consensus shows that you are the one who is ignorant of the history of pro-Nicene theology.

    Easy peasy lemon squeezy; your “problems” are resolved. As to Irenaeus’s polemical excesses making him unreliable, that is at odds with subsequent history. Generally, the stronger the theological conviction, the less likely one is to treat one’s opponents fairly in.polemics. The fact that Irenaeus accuses Gnostics of being of one common evil mass is little different than Athanasius’s condemnation of Arians or Eusebians. Yes, it’s a bit of a conspiracy theory from a historical perspective, but it accurately targets common errors.

  217. Apostolic Succession, if it requires a mere “waving or laying on of the hands” (with one. two or three fingers) would then allow all believing bodies who ordains its’ elders to have a right to be called “churches”, despite what the Second Vatican Council claimed, or the Orthodox church claims , or even the protestant denomination called The Church of Christ claims as the one ‘true church.

    The “Great Successionism”, practised by the third century onward by New Covenant worshipers, whereby they reversed the order of salvation from the “Jew first” to “only gentiles” probably caused the awakening of the “second fruits” (the Apostles) to walk in Jerusalem disavowing all claims of apostolic succession.

    None the less, even the protestant Presbyterian church practice of administering the “Eucharist” or “Lords Supper” or “Baptism” by Teaching Elders and not by Ruling Elders is a thinly veiled adherance to the “sacrements being administered by The Holy See”.

    Can you blame the Messianics, and even the Muslims (who respect all “people of the scriptures”) watching the Christians “eat their own” and call the gentiles mere “infidels” .

  218. The argument for “legitimate” Apostolic Succession is just another way of “fencing” the table. Even Judas Iscariot, at least by Luke’s rendition, sat at the Lord’s Eucharist table and was permitted communion.

    With that in mind it is not the doctrines of Apostolic Succession and Magesterium ( which gives it “teeth” ) that I am leary of, it is the expansion of the principle in 1854 to a single man who by “ex cathedrae” can rule infalliblly over the body of bishops in Christ’s Church. I along with most Orthodox and Oriental believers would not commune with CC over this.

  219. After the Acension, a voice from heaven was heard to say……..Hold a second boys. one clarification if I may…Go ye therefore to all nations making disciples and baptizing them in the name of the……(Insert your favorite group)

  220. Thomas,
    If I may, this exactly why I am Catholic. I came to see we are “just” all the baptized into Christ and are to accept every baptized believer as born of the “universal” Christ and His Church. When we do what the Church says even if we don’t claim the Church we are following it. Which is and by His grace will remain one holy catholic and Apostolic. I understand as Orthodox, you and I will have some differences but we hold much from the same one Truth. We just differ on who has left parts out and who hasn’t. May God grant us mercy to see the Truth together as one.
    Peace,
    MichaelTX

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