Bluster without truth or substance

Responding to Andrew McCallum in comments below, Joseph Richardson not only misrepresented what “tradition” really meant in the New Testament, but he went further and congratulated himself for doing a fine job of things, and related it in a standalone blog post.

Nevertheless, he showed himself to be making several crucial errors, and demonstrating a thorough unfamiliarity with the research on the topic that’s been done in the last 50 years or more:

So from the very beginning, Christians accepted a message and teaching in addition to Scripture. And this is “Tradition” — what was handed down by Christ to His Apostles and by the Apostles to their disciples — and it was infallible, and it preceded the New Testament.

In the first place, you are using the word “infallible” anachronistically here. Infallibility, in fact, was a category that was first considered in church history in and around the early 13th century, when popes began considering whether they could modify the authoritative statements of previous popes. So your use of the word “infallibility” here is a gross anachronism, not worthy, according to Stephen Wolfe, of further discussion.

However, even if you remove the word from your comment here, you are still guilty of equivocating on the word “Tradition”. You’re neither understanding nor distinguishing the different forms of “tradition” that were being discussed in various places.

You call yourself an “academic” but you fail to take into account the various definitions of “tradition” that are understood to have been in place, not only at that time, but throughout early church history, and in fact, you are projecting the current, Vatican II definition of Tradition.

Regarding the word “tradition” (“paradosis”), Oscar Cullmann traces what the “content” of this word was throughout the New Testament, contrasting various kinds of Jewish “oral tradition” along with Christian traditions, and discusses its relationship with various other types of “traditions” in the ancient world. R.P.C. Hanson cites other scholars who confirm and elaborate on what Cullmann had said.

In fact, there were at least a number of different kinds of “tradition” in the early church, which manifested themselves at different times and with different levels of authority. The “paradosis” or the “kerygma” which became written down in the New Testament documents is distinguished from later “ecclesiastical traditions” which nevertheless [wrongly, in many cases] took on the level of authority that the Apostolic traditions were understood to hold.

Cullmann elaborates: See “The weakness of ‘the living voice’ in the 2nd century, and the integrity of the New Testament canon”:

[The] “Apostolic tradition” was the definitive, eyewitness testimony of the Apostles. This “tradition” lived and died with the apostolic office. No other source had the eyewitness authority of the Apostles. The later church did maintain an “ecclesiastical tradition”, or “traditions of the church”. There was a clear difference in authority between the “Apostolic tradition” and the “ecclesiastical tradition”. However, that did not prevent the church, at a later date, from mixing the two.

As well, you are ignoring what is known about the process by which “oral traditions” did or didn’t become written down as Scripture. For example, Cullmann relates that Papias certainly preferred “the living voice” to the written traditions. And certainly, his testimony gives weight to the notion that there was a “living voice”. However, it also provides a clear example of how that “living voice” became corrupted:

About the year 150 there is still an oral tradition. We know this from Papias, who wrote an exposition of the words of Jesus. He tells us himself that he used as a basis the viva vox and that he attached more importance to it than to the writings. But in him we have not only this declaration of principle; for he has left us some examples of the oral tradition as he found it, and these examples show us well what we ought to think of an oral tradition about the year 150! It is entirely legendary in character. This is clear from the story that Papias reports about Joseph Barsabbas, the unsuccessful candidate, according to Acts 1:23 f., for the post of twelfth disciple rendered vacant by Judas’s treason. Above all there is the obscene and completely legendary account [in Papias] of death of Judas Iscariot himself.

The period about 150 is, on the one hand, relatively near to the apostolic age, but on the other hand, it is already too far away for the living tradition still to offer in itself the least guarantee of authenticity. The oral traditions which Papias echoes arose in the Church and were transmitted by it. For outside the Church no one had any interest in describing in such crude colours the death of the traitor. Papias was therefore deluding himself when he considered viva vox as more valuable than the written books. The oral tradition had a normative value in the period of the apostles, who were eye-witnesses, but it had it no longer in 150 after passing mouth to mouth (Cullmann, 88-89).

So there came a point at which the viva vox, the “oral tradition”, lost its true and Apostolic flavor; not only did it become “not helpful”, but it stopped being genuine, and was actually a hindrance to the proper understanding of New Testament teachings.

I’ve elaborated on this in a number of places:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/10/rome-is-all-about-aggrandizing-rome.html

Which came first? Apostolic Succession or the New Testament?

* * *

So the Protestant claim of “sola scriptura” is not merely a claim that “Scripture is an infallible standard”: it must somehow explain how Scripture became the only infallible standard;

Again, you’re demonstrating a lack of historical sensitivities. Based on my discussion above, you’re conflating a number of different discussions and anachronistically seeking to find the Reformers’ doctrine of Sola Scriptura articulated in the early church. You won’t find that, but you will find such things as “Scripture interprets Scripture” in Irenaeus, or in Justin, who holds to perspicuity, i.e., “pay attention, therefore, to what I shall record out of the holy Scriptures, which do not need to be expounded, but only listened to” (Dialogue with Trypho, 55) and “we are at a loss, if we do not believe that, according to the will of the Father of all things, it was possible for Him to be born man of the Virgin, especially after we have such Scriptures, from which it can be plainly perceived that He became so according to the will of the Father (Dialogue 75).

In fact, the Reformers, having rejected Rome’s authority (which was self-evidently wrong) in so many places), who distilled the concept of Sola Scriptura from these writers like Justin and Irenaeus, for whom Scripture was clear and perspicuous – it is evident that they held to these concepts from the way that they treat the Scriptures in their writings. The Reformers followed suit.

We see no note of “Tradition” in the earliest of the Church Fathers because they took such teachings for granted: what we see instead is the personal testimony that “Peter and Paul gave their witness among us” and “I sat at the feet of the blessed Polycarp as he recalled hearing John share stories of Our Lord”.

We see from the example of Papias that it is one thing to cherish the recollections … it is another thing to accurately transmit those recollections.

As with much of what passes for “Roman Catholic Apologetics”, this comment of yours is pretty much just bluster without truth or substance.

This entry was posted in Irenaeus, Sola Scriptura, tradition and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Bluster without truth or substance

  1. Thank you for the kind and charitable response, John, and the recognition and the blog traffic. I share things with my readers that I think they might find helpful, and I pray that this has been.

    A few points: I don’t think I said anything about what “tradition” meant in the New Testament, nor  did I intend to address any particular definition of “Tradition”. By “Tradition,” in this context, I meant to refer to all the things that have been called “Tradition,” descending from the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles. I did not mean to single out, distinguish, or privilege any particular understanding of that word. I merely wanted to point out, in contrast to Andrew’s argument, that there was an authoritarive “tradition” in the Early Church, and that it proceeded from the oral teaching of Jesus and the Apostles. I apologize if I am using terminology anachronistically or in a less than technical way. I only used the terms “infallible” and “Tradition” at all in response to Andrew’s comment, who used those terms first. What I meant by “infallible,” and what I presume Andrew meant, is “un-failable,” “incapable of being wrong,” “carrying an absolute authority.”

    If there is any particular understanding of “Tradition” I would like to draw attention to, it is not the “viva vox” of the Church, but rather the whole body of knowledge, the whole deposit of faith, that was passed down by the Church from generation to generation, including, but not limited to, the canonical Scriptures. This includes the Church’s interpretation of the Scriptures, her liturgy and practice and forms, her art and iconography and hymnody, and her growing doctrinal understanding — all of the tangible and intangible things by which the Church maintained and transmitted the faith of Christ. 

    Thank you again for honoring my words with so thoughtful and substantive a response. God bless you and His peace be with you!

    Like

    • John Bugay says:

      I don’t think I said anything about what “tradition” meant in the New Testament, nor did I intend to address any particular definition of “Tradition”.

      So you just want to throw fluffy, ill-defined but pleasant-sounding concepts out there and hope people are attracted to them?

      By “Tradition,” in this context, I meant to refer to all the things that have been called “Tradition,” descending from the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles.

      But you see here, you prove Stephen’s point by presupposing that certain things were “descending from the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles”, when clearly, according to analysis, they have not.

      I did not mean to single out, distinguish, or privilege any particular understanding of that word.

      Based on your prior statement, you obviously did.

      I merely wanted to point out, in contrast to Andrew’s argument, that there was an authoritarive “tradition” in the Early Church, and that it proceeded from the oral teaching of Jesus and the Apostles.

      Here’s what Andrew said: “Instead of presuming such things we would need to look at the ECF’s (to start with) and see how they utilize Scripture and tradition. And that of course is a big job (partly because there was no debate over Scripture and Tradition). Two Protestant scholars who have done just this in recent times are Keith Mathison and Heiko Oberman. They have spent many hundreds of pages analyzing the writings of the ECF’s to demonstrate that the way the Early Church used Scripture was essentially the same as what the Reformers did centuries later. And part of this demonstration is that the ECF’s did not utilize tradition the way the RCC did centuries later.”

      So, upon what do you base your conclusion that “there was an authoritarive ‘tradition’ in the Early Church, and that it proceeded from the oral teaching of Jesus and the Apostles”? Andrew has cited two scholars who have come to an opposite conclusion (Mathison and Oberman), and I’ve cited two others (Cullmann and Hanson, who cites still others who agree).

      It seems, again, that you are presuming Rome’s “teaching”, which has been sort of unanimously contradicted by the scholars we’ve cited. You’ve again proved Stephen right: “a Roman Catholic apologist, due to the parameters of his own theological system, cannot present sufficient reasons for a potential convert to believe the Roman Catholic Church’s claims for itself, namely that it is the one true visible church of Christ, such that one must, by good reason, assent to its authority. So, in other words, Roman Catholic apologists cannot publicly verify the authority-claims of the Roman Catholic Church.”

      You asked me elsewhere about “certainty”. Do you see, as Stephen said, “God has given us sufficient reasons to believe apart from the church or any other earthly authority.” The work of Mathison and Oberman and Cullman and Hanson and his others provide overwhelming evidence contra the story you are telling. You have given no reason whatsoever to believe you, other than, on the supposed authority of Rome, which is overwhelmed by legitimate evidence.

      If there is any particular understanding of “Tradition” I would like to draw attention to, it is not the “viva vox” of the Church, but rather the whole body of knowledge, the whole deposit of faith, that was passed down by the Church from generation to generation, including, but not limited to, the canonical Scriptures.

      Now, up above, you said you weren’t singling out any particular understanding of “Tradition”. Now, here you say you are. Here, you continue to presuppose Rome’s account (that there is somehow, “a whole body of knowledge passed down by the church from generation to generation”) – perhaps you could show us what these things are, how you know them, where they have been kept in such a way that they are so obvious to you (and so glaringly absent to us).

      This includes the Church’s interpretation of the Scriptures, her liturgy and practice and forms, her art and iconography and hymnody, and her growing doctrinal understanding — all of the tangible and intangible things by which the Church maintained and transmitted the faith of Christ.

      I’ve just pointed to how “the Church’s interpretation of the Scriptures” is frequently contrary to the actual sense of Scripture. In that way, it undermines the authority that you think it has. I’ve also cited liturgists like Paul Bradshaw to you, who very clearly says that this “liturgy” you are citing is a concoction of the 4th century – that it really isn’t something from the early church (first three centuries).

      Should we just “feel good” about Rome because you’re coming here and trying to be a nice guy? Even though Rome has 2000 years of brutal history, lies (John Huss’s “safe passage”, for example), inquisition, sanction of torture, scum-of-the-earth popes, fostering anti-Semitism, sex abuse scandal, documented obstruction of justice, and other atrocities, throughout which it claims “doctrinal purity”?

      You say you seek “unity”. Seemingly, you seek “unity” in seeking to excuse all of the above. Should we excuse all the Roman Catholic-generated horrors of the last 2000 years, simply on an assertion of (or presumption of) authority?

      Or should we continue to look to the actual evidence that indicts Rome in spite of the smiley-faces it tries to put on as it escapes giving account for any of these things?

      Like

      • Hello again, John. Thank you again for your thoughtful response. I apologize for my tardiness in replying; I’ve had business to attend to these past couple of days.

        I believe, in contrast to your suggestions otherwise, that I gave several examples of what I was talking about: not the bold, writ-large demonstrations that Protestants seem to expect, but indications nonetheless that the Early Church received oral teachings from the Apostles in addition to what was written in Scripture, and that they considered these teachings authoritative. I named in particular the fact that, between the A.D. 70s and the mid-second century, churches throughout the Christian world seem universally and independently to have adopted a model of monoepiscopacy, pastorship by a single bishop, with a college of presbyters serving under him. This is not mandated in Scripture, which in fact suggests no distinction between the offices of bishop and presbyter, hence the rejection of that model by most Protestants. By the end of the second century, it appears that all churches everywhere were ruled by single bishops, and none to my knowledge has deviated from this pattern, apart from the Protestant churches. This is a development that makes no sense unless the Christian churches received and honored some authoritative apostolic or conciliar instruction outside of Scripture. Further, Clement of Rome testifies that the Apostles themselves taught a succession of the episcopal office to ensure a continuity of leadership, and this is also a doctrine that has been held by all traditional churches everywhere, and yet appears to stem from an authoritative tradition apart from and in addition to Scripture. Another thing I believe I named were the basic outlines of the eucharistic and baptismal liturgy.

        I have not read the scholars you are referring to, but I would like to. I am particularly interested in how it is they define “tradition” in such a way that dismisses these and other traditions. I am sure you are aware that I could cite a bucket-full of Catholic scholars to contradict your every Protestant scholar, and you would not consider them of any more weight than I consider yours — so suffice it to say that scholarly opinions vary, suspiciously along the lines of each’s prior doctrinal commitments.

        You continue to insist on casting me in your caricature of Catholic apologetics, when I am pretty sure I haven’t made a single appeal to “the supposed authority of Rome.”

        You continue to presuppose Rome’s account (that there is somehow, “a whole body of knowledge passed down by the church from generation to generation”) – perhaps you could show us what these things are, how you know them, where they have been kept in such a way that they are so obvious to you (and so glaringly absent to us).

        You must not have read very carefully, John. In the very next phrase of the sentence you quote, I went on to name a series of “what these things are”:

        “the whole body of knowledge, the whole deposit of faith, that was passed down by the Church from generation to generation, including, but not limited to, the canonical Scriptures. This includes the Church’s interpretation of the Scriptures, her liturgy and practice and forms, her art and iconography and hymnody, and her growing doctrinal understanding — all of the tangible and intangible things by which the Church maintained and transmitted the faith of Christ.”

        And all of these things, I’m pretty sure, are things that are “obvious” to anyone who looks. The Scriptures you yourself hold. Liturgy and practices and forms are, well, “kept” in liturgy and practices and forms, that have been handed through the centuries, with many accretions, you would say, and I don’t dispute that. Art and iconography and hymnody, likewise are evident, with many extant examples of those things over the ages. The Church’s growing doctrinal understanding, as well as her early and historical interpretation of Scripture, is evidenced by the testimony of the Church Fathers. All of these things I’ve named are things that any honest person can examine and consult. Further, these things have nothing to do with “Rome’s account,” but are preserved, separately and collectively, by all Christian churches in all parts of the world. Even your Protestant churches have their own inherited traditions.

        I’m not asking anybody to “feel good”; although it would be nice to shed some of the rancor that freely flows here. Yes, there have been some nasty people in the Church. I pray that there has never been a sinner in yours. Regardless of any slurs you have against Catholics or the Catholic Church — I and many other Catholic Christians do love and serve our Lord Jesus Christ. We have honest disagreements, stemming from honestly different interpretations of honest evidence. We should deal with that fact honestly and not hurl impugn each other’s intelligence. And above all, we should do our best to be charitable, as people who do love and serve the Lord. I embrace you all as brothers. I don’t suppose you are willing to go that far, but I pray that you can at least accept me as somebody who is trying to be honest and charitable. May God bless you, and His peace be with you!

        Like

  2. Erick Ybarra says:

    John,

    Thank you for posting this. I have some things I’d like to say.

    When early Christian history is put under the scrutiny of modern scholarship, there is a vast diversity of conclusions that one can come to. The factors that play in one’s conclusion can be dependent on their personal theological disposition, particular translation preferences even with single words, presuppositions, and others, including a combination of these many things.

    For example, if a modern day baptist reads Revelation 1-3, and keenly notes how Jesus certainly judges each of the local churches, and that each local church is subject to disobedience, heresy, self-condemning tolerance, and apostacy, they immediately find validation for their distrust in any ecclesiastical organization. With this in their spirit, they are constantly reading the history of the Church as a record of fallible men, who may or may not be saved, and who could be totally wrong in their transmission of the truth of the gospel. This affects their reading of history. Everything is loaded with errors, sin, unworthiness. With this approach, one is left with “what is left”, and that is complete subjective religious experience, even when it is called objective science. We will never know that the bible is the “word of God”, for who knows if the Canon collaborators were heretics themselves? In fact, for Protestants, the Canon compilation was conducted by a bunch of heretics. And if the baptist thinks it can get any better by quoting Ireneuas, Polycarp, Clement, Ignatius, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and other early writers trying to prove the existence of a canon, these men were also in gross heresy, according to the Protestants. Their authority is zilch, and their moral lives are suspect because of their heresy. So for the Protestant, an examination of the past is only to further the speculative noise, and it doesn’t actually help to arrive at anything close to objective truth.

    Catholics approach the history of the Church in a totally different manner. Catholics believe that the Church is a divinely established organism which cannot wither away. When Jesus said “I will build my Church”, Catholics understand that something divine has been instituted. Since the prophets speak of the Messianic Church as the “mountain of Zion” (Isaiah) that all nations will flock to, it is something that God intends for all nations to know about. So whatever ecclesiology you are working with, there are some fundamental principles that the Catholics cannot throw away despite what forces of historical record seem to shake those foundations. We also know that the Lord Jesus gave the “keys of the kingdom” to weak and un-educated men, and the use of such “keys” would “bind in heaven what has been bound on earth”, and “loose in heaven what has been loosed on earth”. In other words, the Lord Jesus knew that his abode would soon be “heaven” exclusively, but as the Messianic Lord, he gives the earthly sector of His kingdom a way of corresponding to his rule in Heaven. So he gives divine authority to his subjects on earth who would be representing his authority in heaven. Therefore, we have an indestructible Church that the whole world flocks to for knowledge and wisdom, and such Church is mediating the rule of the absent Messianic Lord who was crucified but was ascended to the right hand of God.

    Just with these 2 fundamental principles, we have some shape for what the “Church” actually is. Now thus far, these 2 principles can be made compatible with Protestant ecclesiology, for nothing about an indestructible Church that reaches out to enlighten all nations necessitates that it is continuously visible, requiring a sort of dynastic succession. Per the baptists, who I believe are the most logically consistent protestant group, Christ as Lord in heaven “raise of prophets” wherever and whenever he wants. And so The visible church can go astray in one area, just to be resurrected in a different area at a different time, and the cycle can repeat itself over and over again. In fact this is how they say it happens. Unless some still hold to a myth call the Trail of Blood, which limits the growth of the true Church to some hidden group always on the run from persecution from the politicized and imperial church of Rome. Aside from that, you have apostacies all over the place, and men like CH Spurgeon are resurrected, and then Arminianism creeps in, but then you have the resurrection of the body of Christ with another teacher, and the cycle continues unto this day, even in small local churches going from dispensa.tionalism, easy-believism, greasy grace, to lordship salvation, Covenantalism, Calvinism, legalism, excommunicating everyone and then back to a mellow program of discipleship in the guise of denominational indifference.

    However, when we continue to search for fundamental principles in ecclesiology, we recognize that in the early Church, the Church continued to grow, not just by the increase number joining the Elect, but through a sacramental ceremony through which Orders were conferred upon another to continue to the mission of Christ. This what was called the episcopate. The rationale behind these sacramental actions was summed up in that Christ conferred divine power upon the Apostles to continue the Mission of Christ, and those outliving the Apostles were need the same conferring in order to continue the mission of Christ. In other words, the Church is not just a concoction of natural men who are like-minded and wish to gather together for the sake of worship. The Church is invested with the very Spirit of God that works over, below, and behind the visible players. When Jesus was ready for lift-off towards heaven in the Holy Ascension, the apostles could not just head out into the world and start preaching, discipling, and writings books. No. They were still mere “men”. Jesus told them to wait for the Promise of the Father in Jersusalem, wherein power would come down from on high. Only then were they equipped for the ministry of Christ for the world. And so keeping in step with this pattern, no man can take to himself what is not his own. Apostolic authority and the Sacramental order were “bestowed” upon others who collaborated with the apostles, in a strict ecclesiastical fashion. We learn this especially from the catholic epistles wherein we see a codified rite for ordaining bishops and presbyters who would govern the household of God. We see that Paul understands that “grace” was given to Timothy through his own hands being laid upon him. This is a clue to the early institution of the sacramental order being not only essential to the Church, but required for the Church to continue growing in the world.

    So when the Christian reads the history of the Church, he is bound to “seek” (at least) this Apostolic society with sacramental order that cannot be destructed. And the problem with protestant historians is that they approach Christ’s kingdom with an inner presupposition that all may be a failure, and it is possible that nothing was a success at any given time. This puts them at a huge disadvantage when doing any meaninfgul ecclesastical history.

    Like

    • John Bugay says:

      Erick:

      When early Christian history is put under the scrutiny of modern scholarship, there is a vast diversity of conclusions that one can come to. The factors that play in one’s conclusion can be dependent on their personal theological disposition …

      I’ve addressed this at multiple points in the past. The same thing happened with Scripture. While many people could and did come to “a vast diversity of conclusions”, what largely happened was something different: “Even “critical scholarship” is confirming the facts of the life and death of Jesus Christ. We have come a long way since the days when the someone like Bertrand Russell could say that Jesus didn’t even exist.” And in the meantime, using an honest and largely (as much as possible) presuppositionless hermeneutic, conservative Christians were strengthened in their faith in Scripture and gained a greater understanding all-around.

      Even “critical scholarship” is confirming the facts of the life and death of Jesus Christ. We have come a long way since the days when the someone like Bertrand Russell could say that Jesus didn’t even exist… With this approach, one is left with “what is left”, and that is complete subjective religious experience, even when it is called objective science.

      Why does no Scripture then talk about “one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”? Not only that Peter is important, but “succession” and a “Petrine ministry” (which could have been a comfort to Christians in the first three centuries, if it existed) – not a word about any of that.

      We will never know that the bible is the “word of God”, for who knows if the Canon collaborators were heretics themselves?

      This is just simply false.

      In fact, for Protestants, the Canon compilation was conducted by a bunch of heretics.

      This is just simply false. Have you looked at Kruger’s “Canon Revisited”? I think this and works like it that are coming out will greatly strengthen not only Baptists, but all types of Christians in their faith.

      Catholics approach the history of the Church in a totally different manner. Catholics believe that the Church is a divinely established organism which cannot wither away.

      This is a relatively new approach – last century-ish. Prior to that, if you read Trent and Vatican 1, it was all about the hierarchy.

      When Jesus said “I will build my Church”, Catholics understand that something divine has been instituted.

      No kidding, but it in no way speaks to what that will look like. I do say, “the one true church today is divinely instituted”. Bryan Cross will tell you that given Protestantism, “that’s ecclesial deism”, but how does he know? The history of Israel is in no way what the Israelites would have expected. Nor is the history of the church. It’s not going to match anyone’s expectations. And meanwhile, the historical scholars are continuing to find sources for all the puzzling things in church history. Causes and effects. The relationship of the Roman lust for power on the papacy. Greek pagan influences, in specific places. You are left mouthing meaningless phrases such as “divinely established organism” with no respect at all for the actual record.

      Since the prophets speak of the Messianic Church as the “mountain of Zion” (Isaiah) that all nations will flock to, it is something that God intends for all nations to know about. So whatever ecclesiology you are working with, there are some fundamental principles that the Catholics cannot throw away despite what forces of historical record seem to shake those foundations.

      The OT was talking about the Kingdom of God – not the Roman Catholic religion. Nothing you have said creates the faintest link between the two. Meanwhile, the thing that “all nations will flock to” is Christ himself – “if I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself”.

      We also know that the Lord Jesus gave the “keys of the kingdom” to weak and un-educated men, and the use of such “keys” would “bind in heaven what has been bound on earth”, and “loose in heaven what has been loosed on earth”. In other words, the Lord Jesus knew that his abode would soon be “heaven” exclusively, but as the Messianic Lord, he gives the earthly sector of His kingdom a way of corresponding to his rule in Heaven. So he gives divine authority to his subjects on earth who would be representing his authority in heaven.

      The text you are citing says nothing about “giving divine authority”. Binding and loosing was a rabbinic function. More than 13 separate possible meanings have been located by commentators from Scripture and rabbinic tradition about specifically what might be meant by that phrase, and the twist is, in the Greek, it’s written in the completed perfect tense, such that his true church would only bind or loose that which had already been bound or loosed in the heavens. R.T. France suggests “that the “future perfect” tense here leaves the impression “that when Peter makes his decision it will be found to have been already made in heaven, making him not the initiator of new directions for the church, but the faithful steward of God’s prior decisions”. It is a promise of divine guidance, and it hints at predestination more than a “Roman Catholic Church”. Further, the repetition of the phrase in Matt 18:18 refers not simply to Peter, but to “the church”, meaning a local church, any local church, of common believers, who would be exercising church discipline.

      Therefore, we have an indestructible Church that the whole world flocks to for knowledge and wisdom, and such Church is mediating the rule of the absent Messianic Lord who was crucified but was ascended to the right hand of God.

      No, we have Christ protecting an indestructible Gospel that the whole world flocks to – Christ died for your sins – and such Christ is mediating his own rule between God and man as he is seated “at the right hand of the Father”.

      Just with these 2 fundamental principles, we have some shape for what the “Church” actually is.

      And using your two same “fundamental principles”, I’ve shown you a completely different “shape” for what the one true church actually is. And it is completely compatible not with “Protestant ecclesiology”, but with the reality of the one true church today.

      an indestructible Church that reaches out to enlighten all nations necessitates that it is continuously visible

      An indestructible Gospel that is offered to all men in all nations … “true worshipers worship in Spirit and in Truth”.

      There are seven billion human beings today. Nothing in what you’ve said necessitates a single governmental structure (which, in its Roman form, mirrors the old Roman imperial structure, but even within the “one true church” today, is just a fraction of a fraction of what it claims to be).

      The one true Gospel enables all people from all over the world to “be Christians” within their own contexts, all the while believing in the one true Christ.

      Per the baptists, who … and the cycle continues unto this day …

      Have you ever looked at the ocean? Constantly restless. If God’s purpose was to create an a sea like glass, why do you suppose that such a thing doesn’t exist on earth, only in heaven (Rev 4:6)?

      a sacramental ceremony through which Orders were conferred upon another to continue to the mission of Christ. This what was called the episcopate.

      You assume what you need to demonstrate.

      We see that Paul understands that “grace” was given to Timothy through his own hands being laid upon him. This is a clue to the early institution of the sacramental order being not only essential to the Church, but required for the Church to continue growing in the world.

      “Laying on of hands” was already known in Judaism, and in the context of the NT, it occurs several times, and it “can cover a range of meanings”. So your attribution of “sacramental orders” amounts to nothing more than wishful thinking, as the concept of “bishop” and “sacrament” are much later.

      The prior verse, “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching”, is the more urgent command. The commentary by Philip Towner says that the phrase “Do not neglect” (“the gift given by the laying of hands”) reflects a transition “from a superior to a subordinate”. That is, the “laying on of hands” is less than the greater charge of “preaching” or “exhorting” or “teaching”.

      So when the Christian reads the history of the Church, he is bound to “seek” (at least) this Apostolic society with sacramental order that cannot be destructed.

      Given what I’ve related above, how is your account to be seen as anything other than wishful thinking on Rome’s part?

      the problem with protestant historians is that they approach Christ’s kingdom with an inner presupposition that all may be a failure

      It’s possible to say that the history of Israel was a failure too – a failure on God’s part. But it was not (Romans 9-11).

      This puts them at a huge disadvantage when doing any meaninfgul ecclesastical history.

      No. It simply shows that we’re honest with the facts of “ecclesiastical history”, and we allow the success and failure to the hands of God, who never fails.

      Like

  3. Why, at any point — and when, and why then — would the Early Church have abandoned the oral teachings of their teachers? Why would she suppose these teachings to be any less valid than they were when first taught? It is an underlying assumption of “sola scriptura” that she did — but on what is this premise based?

    Joseph,

    I’m assuming that the conversation has shifted to this thread now, so I will answer your last post to me here. In the previous thread you said:

    Why, at any point — and when, and why then — would the Early Church have abandoned the oral teachings of their teachers? Why would she suppose these teachings to be any less valid than they were when first taught? It is an underlying assumption of “sola scriptura” that she did — but on what is this premise based?

    There is nothing that was abandoned unless God determined that something ought not to be carried forward. What we know of the oral teachings of Jesus and the Apostles were laid down in Scripture. I don’t see any evidence that there are any other hidden teachings, not written down, but somehow carried forward orally. Do any of the ECF’s give indication that there are such hidden teachings? If so where?

    I hope you appreciate that the scholars cited by John and I were cited at least partly because these scholars delve deeply into what the Early Church had to say about Scripture and tradition. So likewise it would be helpful if you could provide some sort of primary evidence, or scholar who has collected such evidence, to bolser your claim that there is this oral tradition that was not written down but has been carried forward, and mostly importantly that this teaching ought to be considered infallible. Did, for example, Polycarp, indicate that parts of the revelation of God to His people had in some sense been transmitted to him via the Apostle John but not written into Scripture? Or did other Early Church Fathers make such claims?

    You bring up the ecclesiological developments in the 2nd century. But as I read Clement, Irenaeus, Ignatius, and later theologians, I hear them speak of descriptions of church polity and the officers of these churches, but I’m not aware of them attempting to define infallible doctrine about the church. In time the Western and Eastern churches develop different ecclesiologies based on different traditions. So how would we determine which tradition is infallible and which is not? To me the most obvious answer is that these traditions were never meant to be infallible statements of belief, but rather descriptions of how the churches in the East and the West ordered themselves the best they could to coordinate the activities of the various congregations. But if you think that the second century theologians were laying down infallible ecclesiological dogma then it would be good for you to cite something from one of these theologians to back this up.

    I don’t want to speak against oral non-Scriptural tradition per se. There were all sorts of traditions in the history of Christianity which arose for political or economic or philosophical or just plain pragmatic reasons. I don’t doubt that some of these were necessary. But while it is one thing to note that a given tradition in the West was handed down orally (until eventually it was written down), it is a far different matter to say that such a tradition was an infallible statement of belief which ought to bind the conscience of all Christians.

    It’s our observation that Roman Catholics, when pressed for evidence as to dogma that is not laid down in Scripture nor found in any explicit way in the teachings of the ECF’s, will often appeal to oral tradition. But I cannot see how this helps resolve anything.

    Like

    • John Bugay says:

      Hi Andrew, thanks for stopping by.

      I’m assuming that the conversation has shifted to this thread now, so I will answer your last post to me here.

      I just was getting comments in a couple of different threads, and I wanted to keep track of them. Sometimes it’s just easier to gather up my thoughts in a new post.

      You bring up the ecclesiological developments in the 2nd century.

      Did you hear that Michael Kruger was working on a book about the 2nd century? He made that announcement during his interview with James White. Given his track record, it’ll be a fabulous addition to the discussion.

      Like

      • ajmccallum says:

        Good evening John,

        No I did not hear about Kruger’s new project. Sounds like great stuff!

        Cheers….

        Like

    • Andrew,
      Sorry to be slow slow in replying. I’m gratified to have had some part in eliciting such discussion, and I pray it will be fruitful for someone.

      As I’ve been arguing, I think Protestants, in thinking about “Tradition,” fail to see the forest for the trees. You (and I presume these historians) are looking for “traditions,” “hidden doctrines,” something concretely novel or different from the Word of God in Scripture — but given that, according to the proposition, this “Tradition” came from the very same source and same revelation as Scripture, that isn’t something we should expect to see. You are looking for some separate, concrete body of knowledge which the Early Church hailed as authoritative — some esoteric, “secret” store of privileged revelation — which frankly reeks of Gnosticism. But that isn’t the sort of thing I am talking about at all.

      What I’m talking about is simply the whole teaching of Christ to His Apostles, and of the Apostles to their disciples, and henceforth. In the main, this would have been no different than the content of the New Testament; and yes, we can have faith that God caused the most important points to be written down. But no document of the New Testament purports to be a catechism or compendium of Christian doctrine. In the teaching of the faith, from Jesus to the Apostles, from the Apostles to their disciples, and with each successive generation, even to today, Christian teachers do not simply hand the Bible to new converts and expect them to learn from it alone; Christian discipleship is accompanied by instruction as to how to understand Christian Scripture and doctrine and how to live the Christian life; how to do the things Christians do. By nature of what it is, this teaching carries content not found in Scripture. And the Apostles would have passed on as fully as they could the teaching they received from the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:23), and instructed their own disciples to do likewise (1 Corinthians 11:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, 2 Timothy 2:2). Thus, this body of “Tradition” (παράδοσις [paradosis], lit. teaching that was handed over) was immediately apostolic in origin, if not from the very mouth of God Himself.

      I’ve been pointing out a few visible examples of this. Arguably, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the sacramental efficacy of baptism — i.e. baptismal regeneration; the understanding that the water of baptism washes away sins and gives rebirth in Christ — are clear enough from Scripture itself; but the fact that many Protestants have disputed these doctrines demonstrates either Scripture’s lack of perspicuity or the necessity of Apostolic Tradition: because from the earliest times, as witnessed by diverse Church Fathers, these understandings were universal and unambiguous throughout all the Church, evidently from the teaching all the churches received. Likewise, from the earliest times, universally, even in most Protestant traditions, the Church has transferred the Old Testament Sabbath observance to Sunday, the Lord’s Day, in honor of His Resurrection; and the annual commemoration of the Resurrection has been kept in conjunction with the Passover — but neither is taught by Scripture. The outlines of the liturgical celebrations of baptism and the Eucharist in all churches everywhere appear to stem from the same apostolic tradition. Likewise the testimony to a successive, singular episcopal office is universal. These things complement and guide the practice of the Church, and inform and fill out her doctrine, confirming and supporting the Word of God in Scripture, not contradicting it.

      I could cite numerous testimonies to this παράδοσις of the Apostles from the Church Fathers, but I will pick out only a few of the earliest. I hope these examples will indicate the kind of doctrines and practices which the Church has always held by Tradition. Some of the earliest unambiguous references, appropriately enough, appear in the context of combatting the teachings of heretics, who twist the Scriptures to their own interpretations, arguing that they has received an esoteric tradition of secret knowledge (γνῶσις) — a charge not unlike Protestant caricatures against Catholic teachings about the Apostolic Tradition. These people, Irenaeus argues, reject Scripture:

      When, however, [the heretics] are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. For [they allege] that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but viva voce: wherefore also Paul declared, “But we speak wisdom among those that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world” (1 Corinthians 2:6). And this wisdom each one of them alleges to be the fiction of his own inventing … (Against Heresies III.2.1)

      On the other hand, Irenaeus says, they same heretics also reject apostolic tradition:

      But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the Apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the Apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth. … (Against Heresies III.2.2).

      The key for Irenaeus, therefore — the only sure means by which the heretics can be refuted — is not by Scripture alone, but by Scripture informed by Tradition, verified by Apostolic Succession:

      It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the Apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the Apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about. (Against Heresies III.3.1).

      This tradition is demonstrated clearly, he continues, by the continuous testimony of all the churches of the world in agreement with one another (Against Heretics III.3.2). And as a personal testimony of this tradition, Irenaeus shares:

      But Polycarp also was not only instructed by Apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by Apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdomm, departing this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the Apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time,—a man who was of much greater weight, and a more stedfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics (Against Heretics III.3.4).

      Tertullian actually speaks to the impotence of Scripture alone in refuting heresies:

      But with respect to the man for whose sake you enter on the discussion of the Scriptures, with the view of strengthening him when afflicted with doubts, (let me ask) will it be to the truth, or rather to heretical opinions that he will lean? Influenced by the very fact that he sees you have made no progress, whilst the other side is on an equal footing (with yourself) in denying and in defence, or at any rate on a like standing he will go away confirmed in his uncertainty by the discussion, not knowing which side to adjudge heretical. For, no doubt, they too are able to retort these things on us. It is indeed a necessary consequence that they should go so far as to say that adulterations of the Scriptures, and false expositions thereof, are rather introduced by ourselves, inasmuch as they, no less than we maintain that truth is on their side. (The Prescription against Heretics I.18)

      Rather, one should ask, “With whom lies the very faith to which the Scriptures belong?” And how is this rule of faith known?

      Our appeal, therefore, must not be made to the Scriptures; nor must controversy be admitted on points in which victory will either be impossible, or uncertain, or not certain enough. But even if a discussion from the Scriptures should not turn out in such a way as to place both sides on a par, (yet) the natural order of things would require that this point should be first proposed, which is now the only one which we must discuss: “With whom lies that very faith to which the Scriptures belong. From what and through whom, and when, and to whom, has been handed down that rule, by which men become Christians?” For wherever it shall be manifest that the true Christian rule and faith shall be, there will likewise be the true Scriptures and expositions thereof, and all the Christian traditions. (ibid, I.19)

      It is this tradition, Tertullian argues, that distinguishes the true Apostolic Churches:

      [The Apostles] founded churches in every city, from which all the other churches, one after another, derived the tradition of the faith, and the seeds of doctrine, and are every day deriving them, that they may become churches. Indeed, it is on this account only that they will be able to deem themselves apostolic, as being the offspring of apostolic churches. … Therefore the churches, although they are so many and so great, comprise but the one primitive church, (founded) by the Apostles, from which they all (spring). In this way all are primitive, and all are apostolic, whilst they are all proved to be one, in (unbroken) unity, by their peaceful communion, and title of brotherhood, and bond of hospitality,—privileges which no other rule directs than the one tradition of the selfsame mystery. (ibid, I.20

      Tertullian again speaks, presciently, to the situation between Catholic and Protestant churches: Why should anyone accept practices not found explicitly in Scripture?

      And how long shall we draw the saw to and fro through this line, when we have an ancient practice, which by anticipation has made for us the state, i.e., of the question? If no passage of Scripture has prescribed it, assuredly custom, which without doubt flowed from tradition, has confirmed it. For how can anything come into use, if it has not first been handed down? Even in pleading tradition, written authority, you say, must be demanded. Let us inquire, therefore, whether tradition, unless it be written, should not be admitted. Certainly we shall say that it ought not to be admitted, if no cases of other practices which, without any written instrument, we maintain on the ground of tradition alone, and the countenance thereafter of custom, affords us any precedent. To deal with this matter briefly, I shall begin with baptism. (De Corona 3)

      I gave the same example above before I’d even discovered this passage. He elucidates:

      When we are going to enter the water, but a little before, in the presence of the congregation and under the hand of the president, we solemnly profess that we disown the devil, and his pomp, and his angels. Hereupon we are thrice immersed, making a somewhat ampler pledge than the Lord has appointed in the Gospel. Then … we are taken up (as new-born children)… (ibid.)

      This description very much resembles the rite of baptism in Catholic, Orthodox, and even Protestant churches, to this very day — thus is the authority staying power of Tradition. And yet the details of this rite are not described in Scripture. Tertullian goes on to enumerate a number of other traditions, several of which are still very familiar in the Catholic Church, including the Sign of the Cross. Regarding these practices, Tertullian continues:

      If, for these and other such rules, you insist upon having positive Scripture injunction, you will find none. Tradition will be held forth to you as the originator of them, custom as their strengthener, and faith as their observer. That reason will support tradition, and custom, and faith, you will either yourself perceive, or learn from some one who has. … If I nowhere find a law, it follows that tradition has given the [practice] in question to custom, to find subsequently (its authorization in) the apostle’s sanction, from the true interpretation of reason. (Ibid. 4)

      Origen, to add the voice of Alexandria to those of Gaul and Asia Minor (Irenaeus) and Africa and Rome (Tertullian), concurs:

      Since many, however, of those who profess to believe in Christ differ from each other, not only in small and trifling matters, but also on subjects of the highest importance, as, e.g., regarding God, or the Lord Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit, … it seems on that account necessary first of all to fix a definite limit and to lay down an unmistakable rule regarding each one of these, and then to pass to the investigation of other points. … So, seeing there are many who think they hold the opinions of Christ, and yet some of these think differently from their predecessors, yet as the teaching of the Church, transmitted in orderly succession from the apostles, and remaining in the Churches to the present day, is still preserved, that alone is to be accepted as truth which differs in no respect from ecclesiastical and apostolical tradition. (De Principiis, Preface, 2).

      A few more brief quotes from later Fathers, in both the East and the West:

      Let no one interrupt me, by saying that what we confess should also be confirmed by constructive reasoning: for it is enough for proof of our statement, that the tradition has come down to us from our fathers, handled on, like some inheritance, by succession from the apostles and the saints who came after them. (Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius IV.6)

      Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us “in a mystery” by the tradition of the Apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay;—no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? (Basil of Caesarea, On the Spirit 66)

      Basil proceeds to name, like Tertullian, a great list of authoritative traditions held by the whole Church.

      Hence it is manifest, that [the Apostles] did not deliver all things by Epistle, but many things also unwritten, and in like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let us think the tradition of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition, seek no farther. (John Chrysostom, In 2 Thess. hom. IV.14, commenting on 2 Thess. 2:15)

      [The Scriptures] need examination, and the perception to understand the force of each proposition. But Tradition must be used too, for not everything is available from the Sacred Scripture. thus the holy Apostles handed some things down in Scriptures but some in traditions. (Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion LXI.6.4)

      [I believe that this custom (i.e. of not requiring the rebaptism of heretics)] comes from apostolical tradition, like many other things which are held to have been handed down under their actual sanction, because they are preserved throughout the whole Church, though they are not found either in their letters, or in the Councils of their successors. (Augustine of Hippo, Contra Bapt. Donat. II.7.12)

      So I’ve shown that the Church did possess an Apostolic Tradition, “passed down and preserved by all the churches” — and it is their agreement that makes it manifest. But of what authority was this tradition? Was it “infallible”? As John rightly pointed out — “infallibility” is not a concept or category that anybody in this age of the Church would have understood or thought about, and I’m not sure it’s helpful for this conversation. Certainty Christians considered Scripture of the highest authority — there’s no disputing that. But if a doctrine came from the very same source as Scripture, from the mouths of Jesus and the Apostles, would they have accepted it with any less authority, simply because one was written down and the other wasn’t? No less than Paul himself suggests that this distinction wasn’t so important as Protestants have sought to make it (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Why, within living memory of Paul, would anyone have drawn a distinction between what Paul taught by word of mouth or by letter? It is plain that the Early Church did not. Certainly Tradition is not Scripture, which is the very, written Word of God; but with legitimate evidence of its apostolic origin and belief throughout the ages, by the testimony of these Fathers, we can see that the Church accepted it as authoritative. Several of them declare that Tradition is held as of equal value as Scripture. The fact that with regard to so many of these traditions, the Church everywhere has maintained them to this day, testifies to the authority in which they have been held.

      Like

    • Andrew,

      Sorry to be slow slow in replying. I’m gratified to have had some part in eliciting such discussion, and I pray it will be fruitful for someone.

      As I’ve been arguing, I think Protestants, in thinking about “Tradition,” fail to see the forest for the trees. You (and I presume these historians) are looking for “traditions,” “hidden doctrines,” something concretely novel or different from the Word of God in Scripture — but given that, according to the proposition, this “Tradition” came from the very same source and same revelation as Scripture, that isn’t something we should expect to see. You are looking for some separate, concrete body of knowledge which the Early Church hailed as authoritative — some esoteric, “secret” store of privileged revelation — which frankly reeks of Gnosticism. But that isn’t the sort of thing I am talking about at all.

      What I’m talking about is simply the whole teaching of Christ to His Apostles, and of the Apostles to their disciples, and henceforth. In the main, this would have been no different than the content of the New Testament; and yes, we can have faith that God caused the most important points to be written down. But no document of the New Testament purports to be a catechism or compendium of Christian doctrine. In the teaching of the faith, from Jesus to the Apostles, from the Apostles to their disciples, and with each successive generation, even to today, Christian teachers do not simply hand the Bible to new converts and expect them to learn from it alone; Christian discipleship is accompanied by instruction as to how to understand Christian Scripture and doctrine and how to live the Christian life; how to do the things Christians do. By nature of what it is, this teaching carries content not found in Scripture. And the Apostles would have passed on as fully as they could the teaching they received from the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:23), and instructed their own disciples to do likewise (1 Corinthians 11:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, 2 Timothy 2:2). Thus, this body of “Tradition” (παράδοσις [paradosis], lit. teaching that was handed over) was immediately apostolic in origin, if not from the very mouth of God Himself.

      I’ve been pointing out a few visible examples of this. Arguably, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the sacramental efficacy of baptism — i.e. baptismal regeneration; the understanding that the water of baptism washes away sins and gives rebirth in Christ — are clear enough from Scripture itself; but the fact that many Protestants have disputed these doctrines demonstrates either Scripture’s lack of perspicuity or the necessity of Apostolic Tradition: because from the earliest times, as witnessed by diverse Church Fathers, these understandings were universal and unambiguous throughout all the Church, evidently from the teaching all the churches received. Likewise, from the earliest times, universally, even in most Protestant traditions, the Church has transferred the Old Testament Sabbath observance to Sunday, the Lord’s Day, in honor of His Resurrection; and the annual commemoration of the Resurrection has been kept in conjunction with the Passover — but neither is taught by Scripture. The outlines of the liturgical celebrations of baptism and the Eucharist in all churches everywhere appear to stem from the same apostolic tradition. Likewise the testimony to a successive, singular episcopal office is universal. These things complement and guide the practice of the Church, and inform and fill out her doctrine, confirming and supporting the Word of God in Scripture, not contradicting it.

      I could cite numerous testimonies to this παράδοσις of the Apostles from the Church Fathers, but I will pick out only a few of the earliest. I hope these examples will indicate the kind of doctrines and practices which the Church has always held by Tradition. Some of the earliest unambiguous references, appropriately enough, appear in the context of combatting the teachings of heretics, who twist the Scriptures to their own interpretations, arguing that they has received an esoteric tradition of secret knowledge (γνῶσις) — a charge not unlike Protestant caricatures against Catholic teachings about the Apostolic Tradition. These people, Irenaeus argues, reject Scripture:

      When, however, [the heretics] are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. For [they allege] that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but viva voce: wherefore also Paul declared, “But we speak wisdom among those that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world” (1 Corinthians 2:6). And this wisdom each one of them alleges to be the fiction of his own inventing … (Against Heresies III.2.1)

      On the other hand, Irenaeus says, they same heretics also reject apostolic tradition:

      But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the Apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the Apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth. … (Against Heresies III.2.2).

      The key for Irenaeus, therefore — the only sure means by which the heretics can be refuted — is not by Scripture alone, but by Scripture informed by Tradition, verified by Apostolic Succession:

      It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the Apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the Apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about. (Against Heresies III.3.1).

      This tradition is demonstrated clearly, he continues, by the continuous testimony of all the churches of the world in agreement with one another (Against Heretics III.3.2). And as a personal testimony of this tradition, Irenaeus shares:

      But Polycarp also was not only instructed by Apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by Apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdomm, departing this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the Apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time,—a man who was of much greater weight, and a more stedfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics (Against Heretics III.3.4).

      Tertullian actually speaks to the impotence of Scripture alone in refuting heresies:

      But with respect to the man for whose sake you enter on the discussion of the Scriptures, with the view of strengthening him when afflicted with doubts, (let me ask) will it be to the truth, or rather to heretical opinions that he will lean? Influenced by the very fact that he sees you have made no progress, whilst the other side is on an equal footing (with yourself) in denying and in defence, or at any rate on a like standing he will go away confirmed in his uncertainty by the discussion, not knowing which side to adjudge heretical. For, no doubt, they too are able to retort these things on us. It is indeed a necessary consequence that they should go so far as to say that adulterations of the Scriptures, and false expositions thereof, are rather introduced by ourselves, inasmuch as they, no less than we maintain that truth is on their side. (The Prescription against Heretics I.18)

      Rather, one should ask, “With whom lies the very faith to which the Scriptures belong?” And how is this rule of faith known?

      Our appeal, therefore, must not be made to the Scriptures; nor must controversy be admitted on points in which victory will either be impossible, or uncertain, or not certain enough. But even if a discussion from the Scriptures should not turn out in such a way as to place both sides on a par, (yet) the natural order of things would require that this point should be first proposed, which is now the only one which we must discuss: “With whom lies that very faith to which the Scriptures belong. From what and through whom, and when, and to whom, has been handed down that rule, by which men become Christians?” For wherever it shall be manifest that the true Christian rule and faith shall be, there will likewise be the true Scriptures and expositions thereof, and all the Christian traditions. (ibid, I.19)

      It is this tradition, Tertullian argues, that distinguishes the true Apostolic Churches:

      [The Apostles] founded churches in every city, from which all the other churches, one after another, derived the tradition of the faith, and the seeds of doctrine, and are every day deriving them, that they may become churches. Indeed, it is on this account only that they will be able to deem themselves apostolic, as being the offspring of apostolic churches. … Therefore the churches, although they are so many and so great, comprise but the one primitive church, (founded) by the Apostles, from which they all (spring). In this way all are primitive, and all are apostolic, whilst they are all proved to be one, in (unbroken) unity, by their peaceful communion, and title of brotherhood, and bond of hospitality,—privileges which no other rule directs than the one tradition of the selfsame mystery. (ibid, I.20

      Tertullian again speaks, presciently, to the situation between Catholic and Protestant churches: Why should anyone accept practices not found explicitly in Scripture?

      And how long shall we draw the saw to and fro through this line, when we have an ancient practice, which by anticipation has made for us the state, i.e., of the question? If no passage of Scripture has prescribed it, assuredly custom, which without doubt flowed from tradition, has confirmed it. For how can anything come into use, if it has not first been handed down? Even in pleading tradition, written authority, you say, must be demanded. Let us inquire, therefore, whether tradition, unless it be written, should not be admitted. Certainly we shall say that it ought not to be admitted, if no cases of other practices which, without any written instrument, we maintain on the ground of tradition alone, and the countenance thereafter of custom, affords us any precedent. To deal with this matter briefly, I shall begin with baptism. (De Corona 3)

      I gave the same example above before I’d even discovered this passage. He elucidates:

      When we are going to enter the water, but a little before, in the presence of the congregation and under the hand of the president, we solemnly profess that we disown the devil, and his pomp, and his angels. Hereupon we are thrice immersed, making a somewhat ampler pledge than the Lord has appointed in the Gospel. Then … we are taken up (as new-born children)… (ibid.)

      This description very much resembles the rite of baptism in Catholic, Orthodox, and even Protestant churches, to this very day — thus is the authority and staying power of Tradition. And yet the details of this rite are not described in Scripture. Tertullian goes on to enumerate a number of other traditions, several of which are still very familiar in the Catholic Church, including the Sign of the Cross. Regarding these practices, Tertullian continues:

      If, for these and other such rules, you insist upon having positive Scripture injunction, you will find none. Tradition will be held forth to you as the originator of them, custom as their strengthener, and faith as their observer. That reason will support tradition, and custom, and faith, you will either yourself perceive, or learn from some one who has. … If I nowhere find a law, it follows that tradition has given the [practice] in question to custom, to find subsequently (its authorization in) the apostle’s sanction, from the true interpretation of reason. (Ibid. 4)

      Origen, to add the voice of Alexandria to those of Gaul and Asia Minor (Irenaeus) and Africa and Rome (Tertullian), concurs:

      Since many, however, of those who profess to believe in Christ differ from each other, not only in small and trifling matters, but also on subjects of the highest importance, as, e.g., regarding God, or the Lord Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit, … it seems on that account necessary first of all to fix a definite limit and to lay down an unmistakable rule regarding each one of these, and then to pass to the investigation of other points. … So, seeing there are many who think they hold the opinions of Christ, and yet some of these think differently from their predecessors, yet as the teaching of the Church, transmitted in orderly succession from the apostles, and remaining in the Churches to the present day, is still preserved, that alone is to be accepted as truth which differs in no respect from ecclesiastical and apostolical tradition. (De Principiis, Preface, 2).

      A few more brief quotes from later Fathers, in both the East and the West:

      Let no one interrupt me, by saying that what we confess should also be confirmed by constructive reasoning: for it is enough for proof of our statement, that the tradition has come down to us from our fathers, handled on, like some inheritance, by succession from the apostles and the saints who came after them. (Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius IV.6)

      Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us “in a mystery” by the tradition of the Apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay;—no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? (Basil of Caesarea, On the Spirit 66)

      Basil proceeds to name, like Tertullian, a great list of authoritative traditions held by the whole Church.

      Hence it is manifest, that [the Apostles] did not deliver all things by Epistle, but many things also unwritten, and in like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let us think the tradition of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition, seek no farther. (John Chrysostom, In 2 Thess. hom. IV.14, commenting on 2 Thess. 2:15)

      [The Scriptures] need examination, and the perception to understand the force of each proposition. But Tradition must be used too, for not everything is available from the Sacred Scripture. thus the holy Apostles handed some things down in Scriptures but some in traditions. (Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion LXI.6.4)

      [I believe that this custom (i.e. of not requiring the rebaptism of heretics)] comes from apostolical tradition, like many other things which are held to have been handed down under their actual sanction, because they are preserved throughout the whole Church, though they are not found either in their letters, or in the Councils of their successors. (Augustine of Hippo, Contra Bapt. Donat. II.7.12)

      So I’ve shown that the Church did possess an Apostolic Tradition, “passed down and preserved by all the churches” — and it is their agreement that makes it manifest. But of what authority was this tradition? Was it “infallible”? As John rightly pointed out — “infallibility” is not a concept or category that anybody in this age of the Church would have understood or thought about, and I’m not sure it’s helpful for this conversation. Certainty Christians considered Scripture of the highest authority — there’s no disputing that. But if a doctrine came from the very same source as Scripture, from the mouths of Jesus and the Apostles, would they have accepted it with any less authority, simply because one was written down and the other wasn’t? No less than Paul himself suggests that this distinction wasn’t so important as Protestants have sought to make it (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Why, within living memory of Paul, would anyone have drawn a distinction between what Paul taught by word of mouth or by letter? It is plain that the Early Church did not. Certainly Tradition is not Scripture, which is the very, written Word of God; but with legitimate evidence of its apostolic origin and belief throughout the ages, by the testimony of these Fathers, we can see that the Church accepted it as authoritative. Several of them declare that Tradition is held as of equal value as Scripture. The fact that with regard to so many of these traditions, the Church everywhere has maintained them to this day, testifies to the authority in which they have been held.

      Like

  4. Erick Ybarra says:

    Andrew,

    The ecclesiology of the 2nd century bears witness to a wide belief in a visible body of Christ on earth which is governed by properly ordained presbyters in succession to the Apostles. There is also many clues to the importance of the Eucharist as the true presence of Christ and its relation to the unity of the Church Catholic. The early Christians “believed in the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”, rather than what Steve Lawson said recently, something like Salvation is not a code, a teaching, or a church, it is Christ!. This is not the faith of the early Christians. One entered into salvation by entering into Christ, who is the Head of the Church, and so no one is saved outside the Church.

    Like

    • Eric,

      Although it certainly could be a derivative conversation, we were not talking about the connection between the Apostles and second century presbyters. The question was whether there is an infallible oral tradition handed down by the Apostles, and how we go about assessing oral traditions as to their validity. Does that make sense? I believe Joseph has read a number of the ECF’s in his road to Rome, and so I was asking Joseph to point us to the ECF’s who he believes argue for this infallible infallible oral tradition.

      Cheers….

      Like

      • Erick Ybarra says:

        Just as the expansive explanation for Covenant theology, the points of Calvinism, and the rationale for infant baptism require hashing out what seems to be only “implications”, it is the same with the Fathers.

        In the fathers of the Church, fundamentally, they believe in a visible teaching Church which has a perpetual unity based upon Christ’s giving the keys of the kingdom to the Church. In other words, the Fathers believed that there would always be an authoritative teaching Church, and implicit to this is an infallible oral tradition, which can only be known and monitored by an ongoing submission to the leadership of the Church, who have, under certain conditions, these charisms. It is not a “look here is the list” kind of thing.

        Like

        • the Fathers believed that there would always be an authoritative teaching Church, and implicit to this is an infallible oral tradition,

          Eric – I posted some examples of Protestant scholars who have gone to great lengths to show from the corpus of the ECF’s that there is no reason to believe that this is true. So I thought it might be helpful to get Joseph’s observations on what ECF’s he has read that would support the RCC contention.

          My observation is that RCC’s tend to read back the Medieval RCC assumptions on Scripture and tradition into the thoughts of the early theologians of the Church. But the only way I know how to adjudicate the matter is to read through and evaluate the relevant writings.

          As I see it the only significant form of theological analysis in the early centuries of the Church was biblical exegesis. See again the Florovsky quote I cited – the authority of the Scriptures reigned sovereign and supreme among the ECF’s. The tradition of the Church outside of what is clearly stated in Scripture, or could be derived from Scripture, while very important, was never granted infallible status.

          Like

          • Erick Ybarra says:

            Yes it is true that the early Fathers were primarily exegeting scripture. Sham on any Catholic for not doing so. However, if you see the conclusions that the Fathers came to from their reading of the Scripture, much of it depended on “what had been taught to them orally”. For instance, when St Justin Martyr teaches that during the course of the Lord’s Supper, a prayer is prayed over the elements of bread and wine, and that through the prayer, in a similar way for how the eternal Word became flesh in the womb of Mary, the bread and the wine become the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, he adds “we have been taught” this. So when he is exegeting Scripture, he is under the influence of the oral tradition that he received.

            Oral tradition is not to be set aside from the written tradition, systematically. This is how systematicians think. Rather, oral tradition and written tradition are mixed in ways that cannot be drawn by man.

            The Scriptures teach us of a divine order to the Church. “the Church of God, which is the pillar and bulwark of the truth”, and so the Church is not to be refused assent any less than Christ or the Apostles. After all the early heretics appealed to the fallibility of the Apostles.

            Like

            • Oral tradition is not to be set aside from the written tradition, systematically.

              Main problem being Eric, that RC’s can’t identify this oral tradition. In your example above you don’t know if Justin Martyr held to his position because he had received it from source that could be traced to the Apostles, or whether he got it from another source.

              The debates over so-called oral tradition are not really debates at all because the debate never gets started, because the Catholics can never really cite their source. All we get is vague references.

              Like

        • John Bugay says:

          Erick:

          … the expansive explanation for Covenant theology,…

          This is only “expansive” because the OT is “expansive”. But this is true revelation, and not something that’s merely assumed.

          … the points of Calvinism,…

          Again, this is derivative from a doctrine of God based on a thorough study of both OT and NT.

          …the rationale for infant baptism …

          Again, all based on a thorough understanding of OT and NT in context

          Just as [these other items= require hashing out what seems to be only “implications” …]

          Here is where criticisms of Newman and “development” take their full force. The WCF talks about “the consent of all the parts [of Scripture], the scope of the whole [of Scripture] (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it [Scripture] makes of the only way of man’s salvation,…”

          Thus, when the WCF acknowledges that its doctrines are “either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture], it is talking about something that is completely different with what you are talking about in this next statement:

          it is the same with the Fathers.

          In the fathers of the Church, fundamentally, they believe in a visible teaching Church which has a perpetual unity based upon Christ’s giving the keys of the kingdom to the Church.

          You are getting this wrong. You are not beginning here with “all the Scriptures” to arrive at your conclusion. You are taking a Roman concept (The keys were given to Peter as a kind of seal of the later concept of the papacy) and reading that back into one single verse.

          But “the Fathers” didn’t hold to that Roman concept of the papacy. Luther followed Origen in holding that “the keys” were given to all believers. (Notwithstanding the verb tense in the original Greek).

          You are not arriving at your concept of “visible teaching church” from “all of Scripture”. You are beginning with the concept “visible teaching church” and then mining “the fathers” for kinds of proof texts.

          Finding something “implicit in” is in no way “deducing by good and necessary consequence”.

          Your problem is that you are using a faulty hermeneutic.

          Like

  5. Erick Ybarra says:

    Hi John,

    I really appreciate your interaction. Perhaps I will gain something from this. Allow me to respond.

    You said

    Erick:

    When early Christian history is put under the scrutiny of modern scholarship, there is a vast diversity of conclusions that one can come to. The factors that play in one’s conclusion can be dependent on their personal theological disposition …

    I’ve addressed this at multiple points in the past. The same thing happened with Scripture. While many people could and did come to “a vast diversity of conclusions”, what largely happened was something different: “Even “critical scholarship” is confirming the facts of the life and death of Jesus Christ. We have come a long way since the days when the someone like Bertrand Russell could say that Jesus didn’t even exist.” And in the meantime, using an honest and largely (as much as possible) presuppositionless hermeneutic, conservative Christians were strengthened in their faith in Scripture and gained a greater understanding all-around.

    Even “critical scholarship” is confirming the facts of the life and death of Jesus Christ. We have come a long way since the days when the someone like Bertrand Russell could say that Jesus didn’t even exist…

    Just because scholarship can prove something of the Christian faith historically does not mean that their methodology is now sufficient to discover everything that is true within the laws of historical research. The truth of the gospel and the Church of Christ are not validated via the methods of modern research, despite its ability from time to time to hit the nail on the head. I am glad that we have more proof today of things which before were more uncertain, but this does not mean we change the principle of divine truth into something only validated through the study of history. The truth of Christian revelation is one thing, and it cannot be turned into something else because of “documents” that we have.

    With this approach, one is left with “what is left”, and that is complete subjective religious experience, even when it is called objective science.

    Why does no Scripture then talk about “one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”? Not only that Peter is important, but “succession” and a “Petrine ministry” (which could have been a comfort to Christians in the first three centuries, if it existed) – not a word about any of that.

    Scripture does speak about the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, implicitly. The same way in which you would affirm that Calvinism is in Romans 9 is similar to the way that Catholic who affirm the unicity, Catholicity, holiness, and apostolicity of the Church. The essence of the Church is Christ Himself, the incarnated Word. Within himself, the very Vine, is the essential nature and characteristic of the Church. Since He Himself was the first Apostle (martyr) sent from the Father, since He Himself is Holy, because He is the Lord of all nations, and because he One Lord and Groom, the Church is thus. All the branches that are united to the Vine become the receiving end of what Christ is, life eternal, in these very forms. The Church must be Apostolic because Christ made the school of the Apostles the only teaching that leads to salvation. It is through “their word” that the world is “sanctified”. Since there is one Teacher (Christ), and one School (the Apostles), there can only be one Teaching (that which comes from the Apostles), and the plan of Christ was for this one School to spread from Jersusalem to the ends of the earth.

    Since the essence of the Church is her head, the Sacred Vine Christ, no one is saved outside the Church, because no one is saved without being “in Christ”. To be “in Christ” is to be “in the Church”, defacto. Understandably, the reformed have this understanding as well, in the collection of the Elect. So to be baptized into the Church and to be within Christ are a matter of consequence, and not mere sequence.

    We will never know that the bible is the “word of God”, for who knows if the Canon collaborators were heretics themselves?

    This is just simply false.

    How is this false? How is an American convert to the Baptist Church to be shown what the Bible truly is, if He is also instructed that no man or “church community” can carry infallible authority? And also, is instructed that heretics are to be avoided and not heeded? You quote Clement of Rome? He was an early Catholic deceived by the early heresy of the sacrificial nature of the Church’s liturgy. You quote Ignatius? He believed in the Eucharist as the flesh/blood of Christ, as well as the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist, given his use of the word “altar”. What takes place on altars? It is not some “spiritual sacrifice” where the Holy Spirit brings a “spiritual” presence of Christ’s flesh/blood, as the Reformed believe. Rather, it is the body and blood of Christ, the same body which was crucified and was raised. You quote Clement of Alexandria? He was an early Catholic. You quote Tertullian? He would have ecommunicated the reformed protestants and baptists for denying that the water of sacramental baptism regenerates the soul (See his work on the heretics who deny such), and thus a modern day innocent Baptist convert has no business trusting in his testimony to the Scriptures. You quote Origen? The same, and more.

    In fact, for Protestants, the Canon compilation was conducted by a bunch of heretics.

    This is just simply false. Have you looked at Kruger’s “Canon Revisited”? I think this and works like it that are coming out will greatly strengthen not only Baptists, but all types of Christians in their faith.

    Well, it is good to be strengthened in what is true. And we both hold to the 27 book of the NT, which is good. But where in “Canon Revisited” has Kruger depended on Christians who would be in fellowship with the Protestant reformed?

    Catholics approach the history of the Church in a totally different manner. Catholics believe that the Church is a divinely established organism which cannot wither away.

    This is a relatively new approach – last century-ish. Prior to that, if you read Trent and Vatican 1, it was all about the hierarchy.

    That is false. The Church has always understood itself as the visible manifestation of Christ’s rule on earth. And since His rule can never diminish, the Church can never diminish. This gets us right back into what the Church would “look like” to us on earth. See below.

    When Jesus said “I will build my Church”, Catholics understand that something divine has been instituted.

    No kidding, but it in no way speaks to what that will look like. I do say, “the one true church today is divinely instituted”. Bryan Cross will tell you that given Protestantism, “that’s ecclesial deism”, but how does he know? The history of Israel is in no way what the Israelites would have expected. Nor is the history of the church. It’s not going to match anyone’s expectations. And meanwhile, the historical scholars are continuing to find sources for all the puzzling things in church history. Causes and effects. The relationship of the Roman lust for power on the papacy. Greek pagan influences, in specific places. You are left mouthing meaningless phrases such as “divinely established organism” with no respect at all for the actual record.

    It is interesting that you mention the history of Israel, for the covenant of Horeb/Sinai was always one and the same, despite her unfaithfulness. The Priesthood? always one. The line of David? Always one. The writings of the Prophets? Always one. The Temple? Always one. At any point, if these things diminished, it was not resusitated with an entirely different essence. In fact, they were destined to fail, to give way for the anti-types, whose essence matches nonetheless. In the Church, there is the Ark of Noah, the Temple of Solomon, the Priesthood of Aaron, the Messiahship of David, the Office of the Prophets, the New Moses, etc,etc,etc,. In the age of the Church, it is the “ends of the ages”, and so we should see a straight line of the essence of the Church of God. Within the reformed paradigm, we have a start, and an immediate fall around 150 AD (or with the last Apostle), and then apostacy from 150 AD to 1500 AD (with a few genuine efforts to reform in the middle). From Dr. Luther onward, we no longer have one essence of God’s plan. From thence we have a complete break from the Petrine priesthood established with the giving of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, we have a break from the one Headship of Christ over the Church since each local protestant church has its own polity from which can be found mutual excommunications from each other (even if not formal), we have a break from the Apostolic tradition which was always one.

    To compare Israel’s history into fragments to the Protestant reformation onward is rather unwarranted in my opinion.

    As for the historical record. As I said earlier, the Church of Christ is something I am asked to assent to. Read closely on “assent to”. We are asked by the Church to “believe in the…..Catholic Church”. This means that the Church is something divine, higher than human, even miraculous. To believe in the Church is put oneself under the Church as a divinely established reality, despite the weak nature of her players throughout the ages. When Christ chose the 12 Apostles, they were the last men who could be thought worthy of the task of continuing the mission of Christ. I would have picked scholars, scribes, politicians, and strong/intellectual minds. To choose uneducated fisherman, a tax collector Levi? What was Jesus thinking? And yet we have the solution to this problem in Matthew 10-11, when Christ sent out the Apostles for the first time….”he gave them power”. The harvest if plentiful but the laborers are few, therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers. And then we see Jesus sending out the 12. Now these 12 men were still boggled down with self-interest. They wanted to be first above the other. And even Judas was given the power to heal the sick and to cast out demons. In fact, many in history will speak to the glorified Lord saying they casted out demons, and yet they go straight to hell. Peter denied that he even knew Christ! And the 12 were greatly stumbled, but not unto death.

    And these were to continue to mission of Christ? Not a good start huh? But you see, it doesn’t depend on man! It is not of the will of the man! The Church is higher and travels way above the course of human history, at speeds unknown to man. And yet, we get into problems when we get stuck looking at one ugly fish after the next, forgetting that the Lord will cast these into the furnce when He gets His chance. The Apostles were mere men, but when the Spirit of God was poured out upon them in Jerusalem, they were from then onward traveling with divine assistance. So what if Peter taught that Gentiles needed to be circumcised in order to be saved? Soon enough, he would be shown that he is wrong. And so he causes scandal with the Gentiles, teaching them that they must live like Jews. Soon enough, the Lord brings correction for the whole Church in one way or the other.

    We cannot “restart” the game. The Church is a Pentecostal Church, because its birth is the day of Pentecost, and from then onward the Sacramental order was established. The Spirit of God was not given to the Samaritans, nor anyone else, except through the laying on of hands. How stupid of me to pass over the Gentiles in Acts 9! But you may point this out, but there were clear reasons as to why these received the Spirit upon faith alone. Because no Jew would have ever baptized them!! This was a miraculous exception that bore testimony to the “ABNORMAL”, and which was used as an supernatural case to convince the Jews who rejected Gentile conversion as Gentile. And so we cannot deny what is at the very foudnation of the Church, namely, that the Spirit is bestowed upon the world through the power of the episcopate, precisely because the episcopate is the bearer of Apostolic power, precisely because Christ gave this to the Apostles.

    Since the prophets speak of the Messianic Church as the “mountain of Zion” (Isaiah) that all nations will flock to, it is something that God intends for all nations to know about. So whatever ecclesiology you are working with, there are some fundamental principles that the Catholics cannot throw away despite what forces of historical record seem to shake those foundations.

    The OT was talking about the Kingdom of God – not the Roman Catholic religion. Nothing you have said creates the faintest link between the two. Meanwhile, the thing that “all nations will flock to” is Christ himself – “if I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself”.

    In Catholic ecclesiology, there is an essential “unicity” between Christ and the Church. St Paul spoke to the Jews and referred himself and his fellow missionaries as the “light to the world” of Isaiah, which is singularly given to the Servant. So how can what is said of the Servant be referring to the Apostles? Because the apostolic mission is the mission of the Servant, and they are one. There are many works which seek to demonstrate this “all-in-one” motif in both the testaments. Look up Corporate Personality.

    Aside from that, Christ lifting up himself to draw all men to himself has no reality without the Church. It is the Church who brings the light of Christ and the blood of His cross to all nations. This is why he said “you will be my witnesses unto all nations, unto the ends of the earth”, because it is through them that men are drawn to Christ.

    A huge mistake it is to bifurcate the work of the Church from the work of Christ. In fact, it is precisely because both are co-op that she is called the body of Christ.

    We also know that the Lord Jesus gave the “keys of the kingdom” to weak and un-educated men, and the use of such “keys” would “bind in heaven what has been bound on earth”, and “loose in heaven what has been loosed on earth”. In other words, the Lord Jesus knew that his abode would soon be “heaven” exclusively, but as the Messianic Lord, he gives the earthly sector of His kingdom a way of corresponding to his rule in Heaven. So he gives divine authority to his subjects on earth who would be representing his authority in heaven.

    The text you are citing says nothing about “giving divine authority”. Binding and loosing was a rabbinic function. More than 13 separate possible meanings have been located by commentators from Scripture and rabbinic tradition about specifically what might be meant by that phrase, and the twist is, in the Greek, it’s written in the completed perfect tense, such that his true church would only bind or loose that which had already been bound or loosed in the heavens. R.T. France suggests “that the “future perfect” tense here leaves the impression “that when Peter makes his decision it will be found to have been already made in heaven, making him not the initiator of new directions for the church, but the faithful steward of God’s prior decisions”. It is a promise of divine guidance, and it hints at predestination more than a “Roman Catholic Church”. Further, the repetition of the phrase in Matt 18:18 refers not simply to Peter, but to “the church”, meaning a local church, any local church, of common believers, who would be exercising church discipline.

    Sure the Rabbi’s used this terminology. But which of them used “heaven” and “earth” in the formula? Heaven/Earth is special in Matthew’s gospel. Binding on earth and binding in heaven is related to what was given to Christ. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. GO THEREFORE”. The men to whom he is speaking will be living on earth, and yet the authority is from him who has authority both in heaven and on earth. So the earthly ambassadors carry the authority of the one in heaven.

    Secondly, the “future perfect” is only a possible, not definitive. It is much more reasonable to understand is in the revers. For what point is it to give someone else the keys of the kingdom if what they “bind” is only what someone else has “bound”? The function of the key is to “bind” or “loose”. In the “future perfect” it would have been much more consistent if Jesus said “I myself have the keys of the kingdom, and whatever I bind in heaven, you will bound on earth”. But this is not what is said of course. Because keys bind and loose, and because it is reasonable to believe that Jesus intended Peter to use these keys, it is a much more coherent to believe that what Peter himself binds on earth will have the effect of being bound in heaven. This is further demonstrated in matthew 18 where a sinning member of the Church is cut off from communion with the kingdom of God. The Church is the one binding such a man in such state. While it is possible that the Church is only binding what God/Christ foresaw and previously bound in heaven, this makes much less sense.

    Lastly, the powers of binding and loosing are given to the whole Church. In fact, the charism of infallibility is charism of the whole Church. The bishop of Rome has a special and unique position in carrying this gift out on behalf of the Chuch. But the binding and loosing powers, or the function of the keys, is universal for the episcopate, and so exists in every parish/diocese. This is totally consistent with Catholic theology.

    Therefore, we have an indestructible Church that the whole world flocks to for knowledge and wisdom, and such Church is mediating the rule of the absent Messianic Lord who was crucified but was ascended to the right hand of God.

    No, we have Christ protecting an indestructible Gospel that the whole world flocks to – Christ died for your sins – and such Christ is mediating his own rule between God and man as he is seated “at the right hand of the Father”.

    Just with these 2 fundamental principles, we have some shape for what the “Church” actually is.

    And using your two same “fundamental principles”, I’ve shown you a completely different “shape” for what the one true church actually is. And it is completely compatible not with “Protestant ecclesiology”, but with the reality of the one true church today.

    an indestructible Church that reaches out to enlighten all nations necessitates that it is continuously visible

    An indestructible Gospel that is offered to all men in all nations … “true worshipers worship in Spirit and in Truth”.

    There are seven billion human beings today. Nothing in what you’ve said necessitates a single governmental structure (which, in its Roman form, mirrors the old Roman imperial structure, but even within the “one true church” today, is just a fraction of a fraction of what it claims to be).

    The one true Gospel enables all people from all over the world to “be Christians” within their own contexts, all the while believing in the one true Christ.

    Per the baptists, who … and the cycle continues unto this day …

    Have you ever looked at the ocean? Constantly restless. If God’s purpose was to create an a sea like glass, why do you suppose that such a thing doesn’t exist on earth, only in heaven (Rev 4:6)?

    a sacramental ceremony through which Orders were conferred upon another to continue to the mission of Christ. This what was called the episcopate.

    You assume what you need to demonstrate.

    We see that Paul understands that “grace” was given to Timothy through his own hands being laid upon him. This is a clue to the early institution of the sacramental order being not only essential to the Church, but required for the Church to continue growing in the world.

    “Laying on of hands” was already known in Judaism, and in the context of the NT, it occurs several times, and it “can cover a range of meanings”. So your attribution of “sacramental orders” amounts to nothing more than wishful thinking, as the concept of “bishop” and “sacrament” are much later.

    The prior verse, “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching”, is the more urgent command. The commentary by Philip Towner says that the phrase “Do not neglect” (“the gift given by the laying of hands”) reflects a transition “from a superior to a subordinate”. That is, the “laying on of hands” is less than the greater charge of “preaching” or “exhorting” or “teaching”.

    So when the Christian reads the history of the Church, he is bound to “seek” (at least) this Apostolic society with sacramental order that cannot be destructed.

    Given what I’ve related above, how is your account to be seen as anything other than wishful thinking on Rome’s part?

    the problem with protestant historians is that they approach Christ’s kingdom with an inner presupposition that all may be a failure

    It’s possible to say that the history of Israel was a failure too – a failure on God’s part. But it was not (Romans 9-11).

    This puts them at a huge disadvantage when doing any meaninfgul ecclesastical history.

    No. It simply shows that we’re honest with the facts of “ecclesiastical history”, and we allow the success and failure to the hands of God, who never fails.

    See above.

    Like

  6. Pingback: The hermeneutic of the WCF vs the hermeneutic of Newman | Reformation500

  7. Pingback: Some Early Testimonies to the Authority of Apostolic Tradition | The Lonely Pilgrim

Comments are closed.