Irenaeus on Succession

Turretinfan has been following (and answering) Steve Ray’s “Questions for Bible Christians.” He answers Question #35, here:

http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2010/02/unloading-35-loaded-questions-for-bible_13.html

He’s completed the series. Interestingly, #35 touches on “apostolic succession: Here’s the question, and here’s my comment:

When did it become okay not only to disobey the Church’s leaders, but to rebel against them and set up rival churches?

I would ask, “when do “church leaders” cease to be “church leaders”? Of course, Roman Catholics will cry “donatism” and that is a code word to the effect that once ordained, your “office” endures forever. But is that really the case in Scripture?

1 Cor 5: What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”

How about in “tradition”? Irenaeus, as part of his brief mention of “apostolic succession,” said, For they (apostles) wanted those to whom they left as successors, and to whom they transmitted their own position of teaching, to be perfect and blameless (1 Tim 3:2) in every respect. If these men acted rightly it would be a great benefit, while if they failed it would be the greatest calamity.” (Against Heresies, 3.3.1)

Who can say that “bishops of Rome” did not “fail” to “act rightly?” That is unquestioned even in the most devout Catholic circles. Roman bishops thus brought “the greatest calamity” on the church. What then of “apostolic succession”? How can an “unbroken succession” be claimed? Only by crowing that they have failed to exercise this highly important Pauline point of church discipline.

But at this point, Irenaeus is not talking about the “transmission of the deposit of faith.” He has something in mind that Roman bishops (and others) can’t live up to, and thus, that’s why we don’t hear Roman apologists like Steve Ray going around and citing this particular teaching from Irenaeus. But Irenaeus cites this before talking about succession at Rome. It is central to his belief and teaching on succession, but ignored by Roman apologists.