Friday, February 19, 2010

The Early Church Was Catholic: Apostolic Succession and Authority

I am unaware of a single orthodox Christian theologian who conceived of the Church apart from the idea of apostolic succession prior to the Reformation in the 16th century. I consider this to be a particularly damning problem for Protestant Christians who wish to see themselves as having any continuity with historic Christianity from its very beginnings.

Apostolic Succession and Authority - what it is and why it's important
God the Father sent Jesus. Jesus chose apostles and gave them authority over the Church. These apostles conferred their authority to others by the laying on of hands, who conferred their authority to others by the laying on of hands all the way down into the present. Those in succession of the apostles have the powers to authoritatively teach and perform certain Sacraments,  among other powers as well. They also serve as visible markers for the presence of the Church. To be fully a part of the Church is to be in communion with those with apostolic authority.

Here is just a sampling of quotations bearing witness to apostolic succession and authority in the early Church:

Matthew 16.16-18, Jesus speaking to Peter:
And I tell you that you are Peter [which literally means rock], and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

John 20.21-22, Jesus speaking to his disciples, sending them and giving them the authority to forgive sins:
Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

In his letters to Timothy:
And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles. (1 Tim 2.7)

Command and teach these things.[...] Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. (1 Tim 4.11, 14)

Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands... (1 Tim 5.22)

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. (2 Tim 1.13-14)

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Tim 2.2)

In his letter to Titus
These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you. (Titus 2.15)

Clement, Bishop of Rome, First Clement 42.1-10, 44.1-3, ~A.D. 70-100
“The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ was sent forth from God. So then Christ is from God, and the Apostles are from Christ. Both therefore came of the will of God in the appointed order. [...] So preaching everywhere in country and town, they appointed their first fruits, when they had proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons unto them that should believe. [...] Our apostles also knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the title of bishop.  For this cause, therefore, since they had received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have been already mentioned, and afterwards added the codicil that if they should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed to their ministry.”

Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, ~A.D. 110
Letter to the Ephesians
"For even Jesus Christ, our inseparable life, is the [manifested] will of the Father; as also bishops, settled everywhere to the utmost bounds [of the earth], are so by the will of Jesus Christ." (3)

"...[you are] joined to [the bishop] as the Church is to Jesus Christ, and as Jesus Christ is to the Father, that so all things may agree in unity! [...] He, therefore, that does not assemble with the Church, has even by this manifested his pride, and condemned himself. For it is written, God resists the proud. Let us be careful, then, not to set ourselves in opposition to the bishop, in order that we may be subject to God." (5)

"It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself. And indeed Onesimus himself greatly commends your good order in God, that you all live according to the truth, and that no sect has any dwelling-place among you." (6)

Letter to the Magnesians
"As therefore the Lord did nothing without the Father, being united to Him, neither by Himself nor by the apostles, so neither do anything without the bishop and presbyters." (7)

"Be subject to the bishop, and to one another, as Jesus Christ to the Father, according to the flesh, and the apostles to Christ, and to the Father, and to the Spirit; that so there may be a union both fleshly and spiritual." (13)

Letter to the Trallians
"In like manner, let all reverence the deacons as an appointment of Jesus Christ, and the bishop as Jesus Christ, who is the Son of the Father, and the presbyters as the sanhedrim of God, and assembly of the apostles. Apart from these, there is no Church." (3)

"He that is within the altar is pure, but he that is without is not pure; that is, he who does anything apart from the bishop, and presbytery, and deacons, such a man is not pure in his conscience." (7)

Letter to the Philadelphians
"For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. [...] Do not err, my brethren. If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If any one walks according to a strange opinion, he agrees not with the passion [of Christ.]." (3)

"For where there is division and wrath, God does not dwell. To all them that repent, the Lord grants forgiveness, if they turn in penitence to the unity of God, and to communion with the bishop." (8)

Letter to the Smyrnaeans
"See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. [...] Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." (8)

"It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does [in reality] serve the devil." (9)

HegesippusMemoirs, cited by Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 4.22, ~A.D. 180:
“When I had come to Rome, I [visited] Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus. And after Anicetus [died], Soter succeeded, and after him Eleutherus. In each succession and in each city there is a continuance of that which is proclaimed by the law, the prophets, and the Lord”

Irenaeus, Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, Against Heresies, ~A.D. 189:
“It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known to us throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors down to our own times, men who neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about.” (3:3:1)

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

“[I]t is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the infallible charism of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory. For all these have fallen from the truth.” (4:26:2)

TertullianDemurrer Against the Heretics, ~A.D. 200:
“[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. Every sort of thing must necessarily revert to its original for its classification. 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, while they are all proved to be one in unity” (20). 

“[W]hat it was which Christ revealed to them [the apostles] can, as I must here likewise prescribe, properly be proved in no other way than by those very churches which the apostles founded in person, by declaring the gospel to them directly themselves . . . If then these things are so, it is in the same degree manifest that all doctrine which agrees with the apostolic churches—those molds and original sources of the faith must be reckoned for truth, as undoubtedly containing that which the churches received from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, [and] Christ from God. Whereas all doctrine must be prejudged as false which savors of contrariety to the truth of the churches and apostles of Christ and God.” (21). 

“But if there be any [heresies] which are bold enough to plant [their origin] in the midst of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down by the apostles, because they existed in the time of the apostles, we can say: Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that [their first] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men—a man, moreover, who continued steadfast with the apostles. For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter” (32). 

"Then let all the heresies, when challenged to these two tests by our apostolic Church, offer their proof of how they deem themselves to be apostolic. But in truth they neither are so, nor are they able to prove themselves to be what they are not. Nor are they admitted to peaceful relations and communion by such churches as are in any way connected with apostles, inasmuch as they are in no sense themselves apostolic because of their diversity as to the mysteries of the faith” (32).

Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, Letters 69[75]:3 A.D. 253:
“...Novatian is not in the Church; nor can he be reckoned as a bishop, who, succeeding to no one, and despising the evangelical and apostolic tradition, sprang from himself. For he who has not been ordained in the Church can neither have nor hold to the Church in any way”

Council of Constantinople, 2nd Ecumenical Council, A.D. 381:
"We believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic church" (Creed)

"We define 'heretics' as those who have been previously banned from the church and also those later anathematised by ourselves: and in addition those who claim to confess a faith that is sound, but who have seceded and hold assemblies in rivalry with the bishops who are in communion with us." (Canon 6)

JeromeLetters 14:8, A.D. 396:
“Far be it from me to speak adversely of any of these clergy who, in succession from the apostles, confect by their sacred word the Body of Christ and through whose efforts also it is that we are Christians.”

Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, Against the Letter of Mani Called "The Foundation" 4:5 A.D. 397:
“[T]here are many other things which most properly can keep me in [the Catholic Church’s] bosom. The unanimity of peoples and nations keeps me here. Her authority, inaugurated in miracles, nourished by hope, augmented by love, and confirmed by her age, keeps me here. The succession of priests, from the very see of the apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after his resurrection, gave the charge of feeding his sheep [John 21:15–17], up to the present episcopate, keeps me here. And last, the very name Catholic, which, not without reason, belongs to this Church alone, in the face of so many heretics, so much so that, although all heretics want to be called ‘Catholic,’ when a stranger inquires where the Catholic Church meets, none of the heretics would dare to point out his own basilica or house”


  1. Very well researched and should be a great reference to Catholic apologetics everywhere.

  2. Great job with all the references. It's very easy to say that things like these have evidence in the Church fathers, but rarely have I seen it all put together like that.

  3. Your early Church case is persuasive but all of the texts have more compelling Protestant interpretations that don't require affirming apostolic authority. The Peter "rock" one is the trickiest but I've done some good reading on how Christ was talking about himself there, it has to do with the Greek I think and I don't know Greek so I'll have to look it up again.

    This is why Protestantism and the reformation are legitimate. You can build your case around the Early Church all day (and on this issue I would grant you can go with the Church up to the reformation), but there is just not solid evidence in Scripture. Most of the verses you quoted have a tenuous connection with apostolic authority at best.

    I have a hard time getting from "Do not be slow with the laying on of hands..." (paraphrase) to this quote you have from Ignatius. "It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself"

    If that quote doesn't concern you I'm shocked, the comparison of a human bishop to the exalted Christ seems extraordinarily heterodox to me. I like a lot of what the early Church has to offer but man that seems really off right there. Paul would have fleed from a statement like that as much as you may try to present him as someone comfortable with the idea of Apostolic succession. It's one thing to say "I have authority and so do other apostles," it's another to compare the apostles to Christ Himself! This just doesn't seem to mesh with the humility and God submissiveness Paul shows when he describes in 1 Corinthians that "I planted the seed, Apollos watered but God made it grow."

    We'll dialogue about this more, very well written and well researched post. You have researched far more than I and I hope you receive this comment as a friendly critique from one Christian brother to another. Feel free to delete it if you think it brings the blog a bad vibe, and thanks for linking me here! I will follow it now.

  4. Grant,

    I'm sure the Greek difference you are talking about is the difference in "Petros" (the masculine form of the word "rock," sometimes interpreted "little rock") and "Petra" (the feminine form, sometimes interpreted "big rock"). Protestants have said that since there is a difference in "Petros" (the name given to Peter) and "petra" (the word used for "on this rock I will build..."), Jesus couldn't have meant Peter was the rock. This is, in actuality, insignificant, because 1) Jesus uses the masculine form of a feminine noun (Petros vs Petra) because the word "rock" is feminine in the Greek, but Peter is a man. So, in order to NAME Peter "Rock" (which he does) he adopts the masculine form, because Peter is... a male. You wouldn't name a man "Rockina." So he uses the masculine form of a feminine noun in order to emphasize that He is, in fact, giving Simon the new name of Rock. This is not inconsistent with Peter being the rock, but actually largely significant; it shows that Christ did in fact intend to name Peter "The Rock." Also, this is the first record ever in antiquity of "Rock" (Petros) being given as a name to a human being. Even more significant.

    Lastly, if Jesus was speaking Aramaic (which scholars are almost 100% certain he was), there would have been no distinction, because there is only one form for the word rock (no masculine or feminine). In Aramaic it would have said "You are Kephas and on this Kephas I will build my Church." As it is, in Greek, it is "You are Petros and on this Petra I will build my Church." But again, it's merely the distinction between masculine and feminine, because Peter was male but the word for Rock is feminine. So it's kind of difficult to make a convincing argument that the distinction is significant.

    Lastly, even if it IS significant (and Christ is not referring to Peter as "the rock"), you still have to find an alternate interpretation for "and I will give you the keys of the kingdom, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you lose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." This "key of the kingdom" and "binding and losing" terminology comes straight out of Isaiah 22, where we find a prophecy referring to authority and, succession of authority (this has to do with the Davidic Kingdom). I have never heard an alternative interpretation of Keys of the Kingdom, which the orthodox view claims that it refers to successive authority.

    I can explain what's going on in Isaiah 22 more if you're interested.

    Also, there is plenty of other evidence in Scripture besides the evidence Brantly listed (which I do think is quite a convincing list), having to do with apostolic succession (including the beginning of Acts when they are actually casting lots to figure out who should succeed Judas in the line of succession, also earlier in Matthew when Jesus instructs the Jewish people to "do whatever the Pharisees tell you, because they sit on the seat (cathedros) of Moses," which was an oral Jewish tradition denoting authority and succession, and plenty more). I think it's actually much harder to find a convincing argument from Scripture that apostolic succession and authority is invalid. The best you can do is an argument from silence, which is hardly an argument. There is no affirmative argument supporting sola scriptura or an egalitarian understanding of authority in the Church, only negative arguments (fighting other people's positive arguments) or arguments from silence.

    I hope this isn't offensive. I have no idea who you are so I'm not trying to be rude. haha. I just think there is a ton, a ton, a ton of Scriptural evidence backing up the things Brantly has said in this blog.

    And it's stuff that is very interesting to talk about. :-)

  5. Hey Grant- Hope you don't mind me chiming in, too. Like Ruth said, this is always fascinating stuff to me to talk about. I thought that your objection to what Ignatius says ("It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself") was interesting. I can clearly see why you would object, but I think that you are too quick to reject Ignatius and what he has to say rather than to dig a little deeper to see if there is any basis for it. After all, who are we, 2000 years later, speaking an entirely different language and living in a different culture, to say that we can interpret better what the apostles meant than Ignatius of Antioch? If I remember correctly, Ignatius died somewhere between 98 and 117. He was born around 50 AD, and there is some good evidence (though no proof) that he, along with Polycarp, learned the faith from John the Apostle. I think that he would have a little better handle on what the apostles really meant than what I do.

    A statement like that I think is easier to understand if you consider the culture of the day. There were no phones, letters were very slow, travel was slow and dangerous. Important people (let's say a king) could not be everywhere that they needed to be, so they sent envoys in their name. That envoy was given the authority to act on the behalf of the king in the king's absence and as such was given respect like would be given to the king. That is why so much respect is given to the bishop. After our King ascended into heaven, He left envoys to speak on His behalf.

    And yes, I know that God is present to all of us, but the apostles and their successors were given a particular authority. Without that authority everyone ends up interpreting things for themselves, and you might end up with something like 30,000 different "Bible-believing" churches that all believe their own variations of what the Bible is teaching! :) I'm glad you shared your thoughts and hope you don't mind me sharing mine.

  6. Hey Grant,
    Thanks for reading and responding! lol If you think this is negative or something, check out the comment conversations to previous posts. This is great discussion.

    I think you missed the whole argument of the post. The point of the post was to show what the early church was thinking, and that it was clearly Catholic, not Protestant.
    Let's go along with your protestant reading of Scripture though for a moment. If you think the apostles in the New Testament didn't believe in apostolic succession, then you must believe that almost immediately after their deaths (or even before) the whole church fell into deep, horrible, pervasive error and sin. It lasted in this for 1500 years until the Reformeres came to save the day, restore the truth that had been lost since the first apostles, and has miraculously been able to preserve the truth for 500 years this time around.
    This is problematic intellectually and theologically. Intellectually speaking, it's chronological snobbery to think we can understand what Paul really meant while everyone from right after he died for 1500 years was unable to. But it's even more problematic theologically speaking. Where was the Holy Spirit? Where was God's Church, his Truth? I am unwilling to break from the first 1500 years of the faith.
    In the early Church, you really only have the apostolic Church and the gnostics. The gnostics didn't believe in apostolic authority and made up their own readings of Scripture. Every single theologian that is considered 'orthodox' historically speaking believed in and was a part of the apostolic church. In fact, as these quotes point out, people such as Irenaeus and Tertullian argued against heresies on the basis of the fact that they weren't a part of the apostolic Church.

    Even the Council of Constantinople is quote up there. As you know, the Council of Constantinople is what gave us the 3rd Article (on the Holy Spirit) of the Nicene Creed. Are you willing to give up the doctrines of the Trinity and the dual nature of Christ which has been given to us by the apostolic church?

    I'm going to go with all orthodox theologians prior to the Reformation.

  7. Also, I just had another thought:

    It's important that when these early Church people like Clement and Ignatius are writing, they aren't looking at Scripture, trying to figure out what the Church should look like, and then setting up an institution like it. They are bearing witness to simple what was the case. Clement, in his writing, is bearing witness to the fact that, from his perspect as Bishop of Rome around A.D. 100, this apostolic structure, passed on from the disciples (John might have actually still been alive at this time to bear witness to this, or at least had only died recently) is simply the way things were and were supposed to be. This is simply what Christianity was, passed on from the apostles, passed on from Jesus, who was sent from God.

    Question for Protestants: Where did the structure and everything come from? Why was Clement the Bishop of Rome? Why did he think that he had received an ordination from someone who had been ordained by the apostles? This merits explanation.

  8. Another question for Protestants:

    how do we get an infallible canon (collection of Scriptural writings) from a fallible church that doesn't have authority? and where do we get the idea that the Bible is the sole deposit of faith and doctrine since this is mentioned nowhere in Scripture?

  9. "The Peter "rock" one is the trickiest but I've done some good reading on how Christ was talking about himself there, it has to do with the Greek I think and I don't know Greek so I'll have to look it up again."

    While that certainly is a possible reading of that passage of scripture, I would be reticent to call it a “good” reading. Besides the problem that you and I (and just about anyone) have widely different standards of what a “good” reading is, it seems that the sheer number of different readings of any given scripture necessitate an authority to appeal to in interpretation: some appeal to the Holy Spirit, some the “context,” some to scripture itself, ad infinitum.

    You hinted at yours there, which is that if we just understand what the original language actually said, then we would understand scripture properly. Either we don’t need to make an interpretation and the meaning is just there or the correct interpretation is so clear as to be obviously present to anyone who understands the language.

    Unfortunately, this is not the case as two Greek scholars in disagreement can show . St Vincent of Lerin made clear just this issue:

    "Here perhaps, someone may ask: Since the canon of the Scripture is
    complete and more than sufficient in itself, why is it necessary to
    add to it the authority of ecclesiastical interpretation? As a matter
    of fact, [we must answer] Holy Scripture, because of its depth, is not
    universally accepted in one and the same sense. The same text is
    interpreted different by different people, so that one may almost gain
    the impression that it can yield as many different meanings as there
    are men. Novatian, for example, expounds a passage in one way;
    Sabellius, in another; Donatus, in another. Arius, and Eunomius, and
    Macedonius read it differently; so do Photinus, Apollinaris, and
    Priscillian; in another way, Jovian, Pelagius, and Caelestius; finally
    still another way, Nestorius. Thus, because of the great distortions
    caused by various errors, it is, indeed, necessary that the trend of
    the interpretation of the prophetic and apostolic writings be directed
    in accordance with the rule of the ecclesiastical and Catholic

    Now this is not to appeal to his authority as a Church Father, but just to show the fundamental problem of interpretation outside of the tradition: Anyone can appeal to scripture to prove their point, orthodox, heretic, or otherwise. The Arian church( uses the same scriptures to prove Arianism, that we do to refute it (Phil. 2:6-9, Heb. 1:3-4, John 14:28). How do we decide who’s reading of scripture is the right one?

    Some appeal to the leading of the Holy Spirit as the arbiter that helps us interpret. Yet, this must mean that other Christians who interpret in variance to our own personal interpretation either do not have the Holy Spirit or ignore it. If two, completely well intentioned, pious protestants disagree on a reading of scripture that essential to the faith and engenders mutually exclusive positions, how do you decide who has the Holy Spirit?

    You can appeal to good readings all day, just as the Arians do, but there must be some authority by which interpretation is judged.

    (removed my first post for formatting errors and readability)

  10. All right I'm clearly outnumbered and undereducated here but here goes me getting through some responses before I have to tend to my own blog haha.

    I appreciate the dialogue, friendly even though I'm clearly in the minority. There were simply too many good rebuttals made to my points for me to be able to work through all of them, I'll pick a few that really grabbed my attention and than pose a few more questions.

    @Ruth- I appreciate you taking the time to explain the language issues surrounding the "rock" point. The Aramaic point is particularly persuasive. Since I can't argue against language stuff I don't know enough about let me redirect the argument if you don't mind. I think what makes Protestants so uncomfortable with this is the idea that it seems a Catholic would have to affirm (and I think you're suggesting Brantly), that the Church will not be overcome by Hades because it is built on Peter (and those who would succeed him.) This seems very strange to me, that Christ would be telling Peter that it would be his and those who succeeded him's abilities and character that would keep Satan, the "Prince of the earth" from overcoming the Church. It's hard for me to imagine within the context of the rest of Christ's ministry and the Biblical witness (where I would argue the central theme is the glory of God, a bit reductionistic I know but I figure every attempt to nail that theme will be) that Christ would then say that HUMANS, not His atoning work, not His victory over sin and Satan, not His sinless life, would be the key to keeping the Church from being overcome in the world. Why would Christ point away from Himself and toward Peter and other humans when talking about the Church when Christ is the head of the Church? Actually I guess the simplest way to put this is how do you reconcile Christ putting Peter at the "head" of the Church with Ephesians 5 where Paul puts Christ in that position?

    As for the "keys to the Kingdom" part of the verse it's an interesting one that I haven't done any reading on, your question is excellent, I wish I had an answer.

    @cm- I agree I was probably a bit harsh with Ignatius, he's a wonderful theologian who was critical to the advancement of the Orthodox faith. I also understand he was fighting heretics and doing so necessarily requires that one perhaps overreact on the opposite side of the heresy. I know that at this time many were rejecting any authority of the Church or Bishops so it makes sense that he would swing the other way. I also buy your cultural envoy argument to an extent.

    That said though I still think it's fair of me to question how Ignatius quote fits in with the rest of the Canon. Granted he was taught pretty directly by John we still have a fuller Canonical view than he ever would have had. It's based on that fuller Canonical view we have that he wouldn't have had that I was drawing my argument from. How do we fit his statement in with Paul's overwhelming emphasis that it be Christ who is highlighted and glorified and not man? I think it does the perfect Christ a great injustice to directly compare His authority and power to that of the human Bishops who are only able to "plant" and "water" (to use Pauline language) because HE is giving the growth!

  11. @Brantly- We've dialogued on this before but let me put it this way. I think it's ridiculous you accuse me of chronological snobbery but then go on to pretty much imply that everything the early Church says is right b/c they are the early Church and they always have more authority than the Reformers. This seems blatantly hypocritical. My perspective is that the Reformers and the Early Church have their theological blinds spots, yours seems to be that it's just the Reformers who do, correct me if I'm wrong here but your language pointed me to that conclusion.

    And you're caricaturing my position a little too much for me to be comfortable with. I probably just did that with yours, but whatever it's revenge. This idea that I have to believe that the Church fell into "deep, horrible, pervasive error and sin" is somewhat true, but I would rephrase it that the Church took a wrong theological position on what is largely a secondary issue in the big picture of things. It did this because it's human, sure it's Spirit led but its conclusions are human and it will make mistakes, this just doesn't concern me that much.

    I just can't understand how you want to completely embrace the early church solely because they are the early church. The true intellectual snobbery here is that, that you give well thought out Biblical arguments less credit solely because they took 1500 years to come out.

    I wish I could respond to your Holy Spirit objection now but I just don't have time, I also have to skip over you Boethius sorry. You did sort of imply that I read Scripture like an Arian so I guess I'm not too upset I won't get to reply though :)

    All right I have to go work on my own blog. Brantly gave me permission to do some self promotion so even though it's a baby blog I plan on updating it regularly and Brantly thinks I'm smart and you all here clearly know your stuff so you all should swing by some time.

  12. My eyes are bleeding from the huge amount of quotes you threw in there - I saw very little original thought in the post.

    Your argument bears all the maturity of the people who post "FIRST!" on message boards. You seem to be saying that only the earliest believers are the right ones and that's YOUR team, so suck on that, Protestants! I mean, ideas develop over time (I know, you're about to slap me with a thousand Bible quotes such as I AM THE LORD, I CHANGE NOT, et cetera), and the church is no exception. The people who run it are human and they're going to screw up.

    Section 2.4 is going to be of most interest to you.

  13. Well Brantly now I know what you meant when you said my comments weren't insulting compared to some other ones, geez.

  14. Jenna, funny you should mention that "ideas develop over time" as a point for the Protestant camp (I'm assuming you're a Protestant? maybe I'm wrong). The reason I find that ironic is because at the Reformation (mostly with Calvin) almost everything that did "develop over time" was thrown out and that's why we were left with only whatever we saw explicitly in the Bible. Of course the Church developed over time. Of course humans screwed up. Of course there are popes who were sexually active and what have you. That's not the question, or the point. The question is, what is God's plan and purpose? A book, or a Church?

    Which leads into your question, Grant (and by the way Grant, you are incredibly friendly and not defensive and that's awesome enough for me to be interested in your blog :-).

    I think your question/concern is very valid, the one about the Church not falling because it's built on Peter. That's not what we believe at all. We believe the Church won't be overcome by Hades because CHRIST is the Builder! It's CHRIST'S Church, HIS Bride, HE is the One who is building it--indeed, He is the One who is sustaining it. That's why Peter CAN screw up and deny Christ three times, be hypocritical in his behavior toward uncircumcised Gentiles, be rash and full of all sorts of sin, and yet the Church still stands: because it is Christ, not man, who is the builder. Christ IS the Head of the Church, but Peter-the Pope-is the physical representation of that, if you will. It is only because of Christ that Peter and his successors have any authority at all.

    A (quick) exposition on Isaiah 22 might help explain this a bit.

    So in the Davidic Kingdom, there is the Vizier of the Royal Household--aka, the King. David or one of his successors. The King's representative, if you will, is the Royal Steward--and his authority is represented with this "keys of the kingdom" language. When the Royal Steward is acting on behalf of the King, he basically has the King's authority to "bind and loose." He acts in the King's stead, and has the authority of the King (only because of the King, though; all of his authority finds its source in the King). In Isaiah 22, we see the "key of David" being torn from Shebna and given to Eliakim--one royal steward to the next. Hezekiah is king, but Shebna is the royal steward.

    So, fast forward to the New Testament. Jesus is the King. He is the Head. He is the "Vizier" of the Kingdom of God. In Revelation 3:7, we see that the "key of David" belongs to Jesus. But what happens in Matthew 16? He gives the keys to Peter--Peter is His "royal steward," the representative of Christ, the "head" of the body of Christ on earth. But this doesn't mean Peter trumps Jesus, or that the success of the Church falls to Peter. Quite the opposite--ALL of Peter's authority comes from Jesus, and Jesus alone.

    That's an incredibly brief overview. You can find lots of information on it elsewhere though, if you're interested. I just thought your question was really good and wanted to offer any help if I could.

    By the way, Brantly, I hope you don't think I'm a loser for commenting on your blog so much lately. I'm just not doing what I'm supposed to and procrastinating on here.

  15. To Jenna and Grant,
    Now, Grant, I'm not putting your comments at the level of Jenna's. But you both are hitting on somewhat somewhat similar themes: So what if this is what the first Christians believed?
    This question only works if you're viewing it as a Protestant 2000 years later. We have the Bible. We read it, try to interpret it, and then put it into practice. This is not what Clement of Rome is doing in what I quoted from him. He is not exegeting Scripture here.
    I'm using him as an historical witness to simply what was the case. I'm repeating here much of what I wrote in my 2nd comment because I think you've missed it. Clement, as an example, is the Bishop of Rome at some point at the end of the 1st century. At most, this is written about 70 years after Jesus died. John the apostle is either still alive or just died recently. And Clement seems to think he is standing in succession from the apostles who were sent from Jesus sent from God.
    My question, and the central question of this post which wasn't made super explicit because I thought it would be implied and the post was already too long, is this: Why is this the case? Where did this come from? If the apostles didn't indeed set up this structure, then Clement, Ignatius, Hegesippus, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Jerome, Augustine, and all other Christians from the 1st century to the 16th century are gravely misinformed historically and theologically speaking. Who set it up, then? Because it is clearly there by the time Clement is writing his letter. And he seems to think it's been like that from the beginning so it's actually AT LEAST been there a while before the letter was written. So then who set it? If it's not the apostles,then it must've been set up by frauds, which means that all "orthodox" Christians from the time of the apostles until the 16th century were really apart of the church of frauds. Irenaeus' argument against the Gnostics that they're wrong because they disagree with the teachings of the authoritative apostolic Church just don't hold up anymore then. Councils, which defined such things as the Trinity, dual-nature of Christ, nature of the Holy Spirit, etc, are all done by a fraud church that doesn't have any authority anyways. Everything is up for grabs.
    I'm trying to show that this has major major implications. If one, after seeing this mere sampling of evidence that the early church had apostolic authority as an assumption, still disagrees that the apostolic Church is THE Church, you will have to offer quite an explanation. You can't just disagree like you'd disagree with another theologian today and let that be that.

  16. Also, I actually wrote a post somewhat on this idea:
    "Revealed not Discovered: Christianity as a Religion of History":

  17. Also! (Sorry for spamming my own blog)
    I really just want to reiterate that we appreciate everyone taking the time to read and comment on the blog, especially those who disagree. So Jenna, Grant, thanks for bringing your perspective! We really mean that.

  18. Are there any non-christian sources that can verify these claims?

    The early church fathers were fighting an idealogical battle with the gnostics and others. I think it's likely that their claims that they were given authority by the apostles themselves were a little exaggerated to make themselves seem more legit than their enemies.

    I'd be very interested if a non-biased source could confirm any early church history.