Monday, November 21, 2011

Apostolic succession is orthodox, and its denial always heresy - until Protestants come along?

Christ's Charge to Peter
Evangelicals reject the doctrines of apostolic authority and succession. This is of great consequence since (1) it's regarding the constitution of the Church itself and (2) if they are wrong in this rejection, evangelicals have rejected the Church established by Jesus himself.

I have a challenge for evangelicals:
Find one example of a Christian group, or even a single individual, in the first 1000 years of the faith who rejected apostolic authority and succession.

Ok, so that's actually pretty easy. Any student of early Church history knows that there were lots of groups that rejected apostolic authority and succession, e.g. the Montanists, Manicheans, etc. They all had on thing in common: every single one of them would be considered heretical by evangelicals (as well as by Catholics).

So here's my real challenge for evangelicals:
Find one example of an orthodox group or individual in the first 1000 years of the faith that rejected apostolic authority and succession. (I'll allow you to define what's orthodox pretty much however you want, assuming here that the definition would be in the ballpark of what most evangelicals believe today.)

To my knowledge, there is not a single group, not even a single individual, of which we have any historical record in the first 1000 years after Christ who rejected apostolic authority and succession and was not heretical by the standards of evangelicals. Not a single one.

The answer as to why this was the case is also an easy one for any student of early Church history: Every single orthodox Christian believed that apostolic authority and succession was instituted by Jesus, that the successors were guided by the Holy Spirit, and that therefore any teaching that went against the teaching of the apostolic Church must be wrong. In other words, apostolic authority and succession was the means by which orthodoxy was distinguished from heterodoxy. (To be clear, it's not that orthodoxy is made to be true because the bishops taught it. Instead, the bishops, because of their Holy Spirit guided authority, teach the truth - and do so infallibly under certain conditions, e.g. ecumenical council, etc.)

St Paul writing
The authority of the Apostles in the nascent Church is obvious in the New Testament (e.g. all of the Epistles, Acts 15; see Without Our Authorization). The passing on of authority to successors is also evident in the NT (e.g. Acts 1.1-25, 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, Titus 2.15, 2 Timothy 2.2, 1 Timothy 4.11, 14, etc). To see how this played out, let's take an example from the 2nd century:

Among those groups that claimed to be Christian, there were two main groups.
(1) There were those who followed the bishops, which claimed to have authority in the Church passed down in succession from the apostles themselves (see the quote at the end of this post, and The Early Church was Catholic: Apostolic Succession and Authority). Their beliefs and worship practices were early forms of modern day Catholic beliefs and practices (e.g. the Mass as sacrifice, real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, veneration of saints and relics, baptism necessary for salvation, etc; for more, see How Quickly Catholic Heresy Took Over the Church).

(2) There were those who denied that the bishops had authority in the Church from the apostles, but still wanted to follow Christ. These people populated innumerable groups with a wide range of different beliefs, most of which are usually referred to simply as Gnostics, and are considered heretical by evangelicals and Catholics.

Evangelicals must hold that this situation - in which the orthodox were always those following the bishops with authority from the apostles, and the heretics were always those that denied it - continued until the 16th century when innumerable groups with a wide range of different beliefs, most of which are usually referred to simply as Protestants, began denying apostolic authority and succession like all heretics before them...but this time it was somehow okay to do so.

Or maybe it wasn't.

Maybe denying apostolic authority and succession was heresy in the 1st through 15th centuries, and was also heresy in the 16th-21st centuries.

Or put another way, the precedent for breaking off from the bishops and denying apostolic authority and succession is found only among heretics.

St Irenaeus
The great 2nd century Church father St Irenaeus - himself a bishop as well as a disciple of St Polycarp who was a disciple of the Apostle John, and is looked to as a great orthodox theologian by Catholics and evangelicals alike - appeals not only to apostolic authority and succession as a main argument against the Gnostic heretics, but he appeals specifically to the authority of the church at Rome (below is a long quote, but it's worth it):
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. For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries, which they were in the habit of imparting to the perfect apart and privily from the rest, they would have delivered them especially to those to whom they were also committing the Churches themselves. For they were desirous that these men should be very perfect and blameless in all things, whom also they were leaving behind as their successors, delivering up their own place of government to these men; which men, if they discharged their functions honestly, would be a great boon [to the Church], but if they should fall away, the direst calamity. 
Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.

The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome dispatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles, proclaiming the one God, omnipotent, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of man, who brought on the deluge, and called Abraham, who led the people from the land of Egypt, spoke with Moses, set forth the law, sent the prophets, and who has prepared fire for the devil and his angels. From this document, whosoever chooses to do so, may learn that He, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, was preached by the Churches, and may also understand the tradition of the Church, since this Epistle is of older date than these men who are now propagating falsehood, and who conjure into existence another god beyond the Creator and the Maker of all existing things. To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Soter having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.
(Against Heresies, III.3.1-3)


  1. I agree that it isn't historically accurate to deny apostolic succession. I've had a similar discussion with my mother, who admits as much but then says the papacy is no longer needed, in part due to widespread literacy. I've not had occasion to discuss it more with her, but I just keep praying. She loves history, so who knows. In the meantime, I pray for the grace to be a good witness, and pray for the conversion of my family and friends. (I'm a convert).

  2. I have great respect for evangelicals, who in so many ways uphold the faith better than mainline protestants. If they came to understand the truth that you so brilliantly expound in this and previous posts, they could be some of the finest Catholics around.

  3. Brantly, good stuff! Two points however that are often missing in this type of analysis is magnitude and longevity. The heresies of the early Church did not represent the majority of Christians, just as today. Also, not protected by the Holy Spirit, they died out.

  4. Archaelogy Cat,
    Funny that your mom thinks that the Papacy isn't needed, given the massive confusion, disagreement, and division among Protestants! Yes, I will say a prayer for your family.

    Thanks for the compliment. Yes, I do have a great respect for many evangelicals as well. If we could take their zeal, passion, and knowledge of the Bible, and get them to become Catholic and use that for the Church, what a potent combination! There are, of course, more and more evangelicals becoming Catholic. Who knows what plans God has for the Church in the next few decades.

  5. George,
    Good points. I've thought about that too. I don't mention it much though because those two principles don't always hold, e.g. from what I understand, most people think that most Christians were Arian at one point in the 4th century, maybe even most of the bishops? But of course, Arianism has died off for the most part. Those principles certainly hold true for Protestantism, especially longevity. Protestants are still around, but not the same things that the original Reformers started.

    I did make the point you're bring up though in my 7th point in my last post.

  6. Find one example of a Christian group, or even a single individual, in the first 1000 years of the faith who rejected apostolic authority and succession.

    I just wanted to think you for acknowleding the fact that there huge numbers of groups that rejected authority of Bishops. Last time I had this argument the whole thing was basically a circular defense:
    no one reject the bishops because anyone who rejected the bishops were heretics as defined by the bishops

    The only think I would say is you are missing how early these strands exist:

    Hermetic Judaism
    Early Mandaeans

    Pauline Churches
    Cerdo's churches

    That's in addition to the 2nd century ones I suspect you were thinking of like:

    Also of note:
    Manichaeans (3rd century)

    Collyridians (4th century, maybe earlier, the Christianity that led to Islam).

  7. Hey CD-Host,

    Yep, you're right, there are tons of groups, as I stated in my post. The key is whether evangelicals would look to them as orthodox, and the answer is no. I wrote this post in part because in my experience there's this idea among evangelicals that everyone orthodox was Catholic because in some way that's all there was. In actuality, the ecclesial position of evangelicals has been very common in history, but only among those we would all consider heretics (except for people like Bart D. Ehrman, but he doesn't seem to believe any of it anyway)

  8. We don't need the Supreme Court either, since we can read the Constitution for ourselves.

  9. Brantly --

    I'm not sure that's true of all evangelicals. On the left of the evangelical spectrum, primarily among the membership there is an openness to alternative revelations and traditions. So for example Elaine Pagels', Beyond Belief where she presents John and Thomas as two equally valid ways of understanding Jesus has a following. In the same way a generation earlier EP Sanders got repackaged for Evangelical audiences by NT Wright and then for the rightwing Evangelicals as the Federal Vision.

    As you go to the right there are Landmark baptists who tie themselves to these alternate groups. For example trail of blood ties baptists to: Jesus -> Montanists -> Donatists -> Cathari (in the late 5th century?) -> Paulicans -> Algigenses -> Ana Baptists -> Baptists. So there are Evangelicals that consider these groups to be their progenitors, though so far most trace themselves back to the Catholic Church.

  10. I certainly would not count Elaine Pagels as an evangelical though! I don't think any evangelicals would, and I'm not aware of her claiming to be an evangelical (correct me here if I'm wrong).

    Regarding baptists who see themselves as a continuation of some groups throughout history, as far as I understand that's held by a very very very small minority among baptists today (again, correct me here if I'm wrong), and it's of course simply absurd and built on extreme ignorance of the groups they claim to be descended from. And the vast majority of evangelicals certainly don't subscribe to that view.

    And regarding EP Sanders and NT Wright, etc, you could be right there - I really don't know enough to comment on that.

  11. Elaine Pagels is a liberal Episcopalian. What I was saying is that the Pagels position that Christianity emerged from a dialog between sects and that the "heretical sects" mean nothing more than the political groups that lost. Sympathy with ideas from Pagels' books, agreeing with her "preaching" if you will, not her personal theology.

    Let me try an example where you are likely on the other side, from roughly the same time period. Western civilization is descended from the Roman Populists like Julius Caesar, Pompey and not from the Roman conservatives like Cato and Cicero. That doesn't require us to embrace Commentaries on the Gallic War as "true", while Questions debated at Tusculum is "false"; we just acknowledge as a point of historical fact one side won and the other lost. This is the point Elaine Pagels with Gnostic literature that it needs to be read as Christian literature of ancient Christian sects in its own terms, not in terms of how it relates to Catholicism and that idea I think is fairly widely embraced by quite a few on the Evangelical left. That's why DaVinci Code had 3 books and hundreds of articles of counter apologetics. Not because DaVinci Code was particularly great but that it was presenting in a popular way many of the theologies that are starting to enter into the popular evangelical culture.

    7.4m people watch the Oprah Winfrey show daily, probably 1/2 are Evangelicals. She speaks on religious topics regularly and ethics on every show. Oprah's Goddess Shift has a chapter by Pagels on how the ancient alternative forms of Christianity provide a model for women in how to resolve the problems of the world.

    Let me close with this. In Pagel's 1979 Gnostic Gospels (by far her most famous work) she lists 6 main areas of disagreement:

    1) Resurrection historical or symbolic
    2) One God / One Bishop (i.e. priestly submission to higher authority)
    3) God is both father and mother
    4) Passion of Christ and martyrology
    5) No one church is the true church
    6) True self knowledge is knowledge of God.

    I'd say all Evangelicals: 2 and 5 today.
    I'd say no Evangelical agrees with 1.

    (3) is a theme of Evangelical Egalitarianism. So there is a movement with millions of members agreeing with 3.

    (4) I have no idea. I don't see much veneration of martyrs. Fox's Book of Martyrs which used to be core evangelical works are not talked about much nor focused on nor replaced with updated martyrology.

    (6) is still seen as new age, a syncretism between Christianity and other ideas, primarily Hinduism. But it is very popular. This is where you see a doctrine that huge populations see as anti-orthodox and true. Just to go back to Oprah though, this is a major theme of her show, arguably the major theme of her show: from overcoming suffering we gain knowledge of our true self which is divine knowledge of truth.

    I'll hit the rest in my next response.

  12. American Baptist Association 2000 churches all explicitly Landmark. They are over 300k strong.

    Baptist Missionary Association of America is a group that split from the ABA (above) also Landmark another 230k.

    Primitive Baptists (I'm very comfortable if you want to disagree) I'll put at another 125k.

    So an absolute floor would be 600k. But I know I'm missing people there, like Mennonites that believe in Landmarkism essentially (they actually believe in a German version, Landmarkism came over from England). For an effective ceiling I'd say the number of IFB which is 7.5m. I agree that's a huge spread, but I don't know of any data on this question specifically. For the purpose of discussion, assuming you are agreeable lets use the log mean i.e. 2.1m as an estimate in the USA. There are about 2.3x as many baptists worldwide as in the USA. So you comfortable with using 5m as a rough estimate for the number of Landmark baptists?

    As for it being a result of "extreme ignorance of the groups they claim to be descended from" .... I'm not so sure I agree with you there. For example here is Christian's description of the Cathari
    They said a Christian church should con-
    sist of good people ; a church had no power to frame any con-
    stitutions ; it was not right to take oaths ; it was not lawful to
    kill mankind ; a man ought not to be delivered up to the officers
    of justice to be converted; the benefits of society belong alike
    to all members of it; faith without works could not save a
    man ; the church ought not to persecute any, even the wicked ;
    the law of Moses was no rule for Christians; there was na
    need of priests, especially of wicked ones ; the sacraments, and
    orders, and ceremonies of the church of Rome were futile, ex-
    pensive, oppressive, and wicked. They baptized by immersion
    and rejected infant baptism. They were decidedly anti-clerical.

    I'd agree with that description. You certainly can argue that things like dualism/bitheism, spiritual marriage and vegetarianism should be mentioned because most baptists would reject those doctrines.

    In any case my focus was on "all evangelicals". Yes classical Landmarkism is ignorant, but Landmarkism is arguably a high school or less, version of Walter Bauer type theories of Christian origins (to go back to Pagels). The authoritative lexicon used even by Catholics is the Bauer-Danker Lexicon. At this point in the secular world Birger Pearson is arguably the most respected scholar in the field of Christian origins. etc...

    My point is that you may be assuming too much common ground if you are genuinely targeting all evangelicals. Sometimes by "evangelical" apologists mean the views taught at Westminster Theological Seminary, in which I'd agree with your assumptions. But WTS represents a very small slice of the evangelical pie.

  13. Oh ok, regarding Pagels, I thought you were intending to say she was an evangelical. I actually read her book Gnostic Gospels earlier this year and did find it interesting. And yes, I was actually very struck by the similarities in certain areas between the gnostics and evangelicals, primarily with authority. But that's kind of my point in this post: evangelicals would certainly consider the early gnostics to be heretical in many other important ways, but also find themselves disagreeing with the ecclesiology of the Christians that they'd find otherwise orthodox.

    Now you brought up that "self knowledge is knowledge of God" is popular. I'd of course concede that, but I don't think there are any evangelicals out there who would be willing to say that the Gnostics were their orthodox spiritual descendents because of that.

    Also, exactly defining who counts as an evangelical or not is tricky, even for evangelicals. Are Mennonites evangelicals? I don't know, probably depends on the individual mennonite, and what evangelical circles you're in.

    And regarding those groups which still think that there has been a line of baptists all along, I wonder if most evangelicals would tend to think of them as fundamentalists, rather than evangelicals? The distinction exists, but of course is tricky to apply. I was basing my earlier comments about very few evangelicals subscribing to that view today primarily off my own personal experience in evangelicals churches and at Wheaton College, where such a view wasn't at all considered, and when it was, dismissed; so you could be right that there might be more than I thought. 5 million worldwide sounds like a lot of people who would explicitly think they are the continuation of the Cathars, but even still, relatively speaking it would be a very small number.

    Regarding your description of the Cathars, I'm not an expert on them, but my understanding is that yes, there's much more to them, including different levels of Christians, weird Christological stuff, dualism, etc, which of course would be rejected by evangelicals. But yes, as far as I understand, those who have claimed a lineage do so only by limiting their descriptions of the groups to only those things they agree with.

    You may be right that I'm assuming too much. Usually I speak in terms of "most evangelicals" in my post, simply for this fact that you're bringing up; since who counts as an 'evangelical' is almost entirely based on who happens to identify as an evangelical (with *maybe* some other historical considerations, but in my experience, even that no longer matters to most evangelicals if they're even aware of it), you can find someone out there who considers themselves to be an evangelical who believes something weird.

    By the way, I've really appreciated this conversation! You're obviously very learned on this subject, more so than I, so thank you for bringing in your expertise. I checked out your blog the other day and found it very interesting, particularly your graph of the early Church.

  14. (part 1)
    Brantly good conversation here as well. I appreciate your approach on this. There is a book by Philip Lee you might like quite a bit (about 1/2 online for free) Against the Protestant Gnostics. The book is about 20 years old but does a good job of discussing how on issue after issue after issue that separated the Gnostics from the Catholics in the ancient world Protestants are taking the Gnostic position. The latest thing that is starting to falloff (again at the popular level) is belief in a bodily resurrection. Even though Protestants say they accept the creeds a majority considers bodily resurrection (as opposed to spiritual resurrection) ridiculous.

    In terms of the your comments, they essentially boil down to "I haven't met many people who believe that, and therefore I suspect it is rare...". I don't know much about Wheaton. I do know Wheaton kids are smart, so the primitive form of Landmarkism or the Oprah stuff isn't that likely to happen there. However, I do know is that Wheaton is right next to the Olcott Estate with the Theosophy Society and in particular the Olcott library. Students and professors from Wheaton have been active in the Theosophical Society and the library since the 1870s including lectures, readings and occult religious activities. I suspect you had a lot of people at Wheaton who were into the GRS Mead / Helena Blavatsky school of Christian origins. Given that Wheaton fires faculty for heresies like becoming Catholic or being homosexual ... I'm not sure whether faculty could/would discuss these issues in class. I don't know the student culture, but even at the very college you are mentioning I imagine opinion was quite a bit more diverse than universal dismissal. I think if you could get people to be honest about what they actually believe (and I don't know how open the culture was there) I suspect you would discover quite a bit more diversity.... Think of it this way while you got far enough away from the "evangelical norm" to apostatize from Protestantism others went less or more far in their beliefs during those 4 years.

    As far as excluding Fundamentalists from Evangelicals. I would draw the line that Fundamentalists are Evangelicals that practice secondary separation. Pretty much every fundamentalist I know considers himself to be an Evangelical but not a "neo-evangelical" (that is someone who rejects secondary separation). Evangelicals want a Gresham Machen in the fold, in my experience. They might be more indifferent to a Jack Hyles (who was a Landmarkist), but it hard theologically to argue for the one and not the other.

    But yes, as far as I understand, those who have claimed a lineage do so only by limiting their descriptions of the groups to only those things they agree with.

    Let me start by saying if you want to read a place where I interview a particular baptist (not on this topic, but on the bible): KJV interview 1st of 4 parts.

    I haven't really dug in well on Landmarkism, I'd like to but haven't had the chance. However, you have to understand how important credobaptism is to Landmark baptists. The argument they make in writing is fairly simple and similar to the Catholic argument in its points:

  15. (part 2)
    a) There must in every generation be a true church for true Christians to join. Not all Christians will be in the true church and not members of the true church will be saved but God will provide a church to his faithful at every time in history. The bible preaches too much on the importance of church for the church to not be part of God's plan.

    b) A Church practicing paedobaptism cannot possibly be the true church. While it is entirely possible to get saved in such churches, ultimately paedobaptism by its very nature proves the gospel is not being preached correctly, in their view.

    c) From there a baptists looks for churches that accept the core idea of election by faith in Jesus and rejection of the Catholic order. They accept that the particulars are likely to be cultural. The theological issues that concern critics of the theory don't concern them in the same way. Also remember Baptists are open to later revelation, the KJV was delivered by direct divine intervention it was an act of prophetic revelation not merely translation. They also don't expect perfection from the church, the bible is perfects churches err. What separates baptists churches from counterfeit churches is that baptists churches aim and do bring people to God through preaching the proper gospel essentials, while counterfeit churches aim to confuse the faithful and take people away from God.

    I think what has made Landmarkism not fashionable in the last century is that denominations are simply not as hostile to one another in their rhetoric. Landmarkism has the Catholic church actively killing off "true Christianity", you find that kind of rhetoric in the 19th century by the mid 20th the ecumenical movement has been successful and it is out of fashion.

  16. (part 3)

    So anyway since you have seen the chart, my personal belief about Christian origins and you can see that I've got Gnostic fathers and Church Fathers intermixed in the history of Christianity. I'm not going to claim any numbers, but when I was an Evangelical I believed a much more primitive version of that chart. I already believed that the group that wrote Mark must have been a Jewish magical cult and since I believed (and still do) believe in Markian primacy that said a lot about the early church ... Magick was Jewish not Catholic. I had no problem acknowledging Marcion as the father of the New Testament then, and I understood what Marcion preached about the Old Testament, and the creator God; but what was important about Marcion was that he came from Paul. (Remember I didn't believe in apostolic succession even remotely).

    Since I was an evangelical (and a believer in early dating of the bible books then), and didn't know how long the canon took to put together... the "import" part of Christian history for me was over by the early 2nd century. There is a generation between us and so when I was an evangelical in college Catholics still weren't Christians. I wouldn't have considered St. Athanasius to be an important in the development of Christianity, while fully acknowledging how important he was in the development of Catholicism; not much different from how I would have considered Mohammed's role. Or to put it another way if you asked me who was closer to my views Marcion or John Paul II I wouldn't have had any guilt or hangups in saying Marcion. The creeds were absolutely binding on all Christians but their authority came from the bible not from an ecumenical council. My pastor regularly denounced the meetings of the Lutheran Synod, which was sort of like a modern day ecumenical council in my mind.

    So while I can't say I was every part of a Landmark church myself you can see I wasn't that far away. Which is why I don't think the average Evangelical is tied mentally to the Catholic church. I agree with you the average Evangelical is absolutely incoherent when it comes to their view of history. Perhaps Wheaton spoiled you in that the kids were smart, and you had professors not just pastors so you weren't exposed to the incoherent evangelical Christianity of my college years.

  17. CD-Host,

    Yes, at the same time that I got Pagel's Gnostic Gospels, I got another book on how certain modern day Protestants have incredible similarities with gnosticism. Very interesting.

    Regarding my assessment of how many evangelicals look to the Cathars as their spiritual ancestors, I really haven't met anyone at all in all of the evangelicals churches and college I went to. In fact, I haven't been aware of very many people who even knew about the idea. And actually, I think most people would be very surprised at how open and good-thinking Wheaton College, and yes there might be some bias since the people there are relatively smart and educated. I never even heard it proposed as something to consider or take seriously at all. Any talk of Christian history pre-Reformation centered on the Catholic Church (St Irenaeus, St Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas, St Anselm, etc).

    Regarding the relationship between Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, yes the relationship is fuzzy, and really depends on who you talk to. As far as I understand the history, there were first evangelicals, then evangelicals also adopted the name fundamentalist in the early 20th century in response to liberal Protestantism, but then mid-20th century a subset redefined themselves as neo-evangelicals (think Billy Graham), which now just consider themselves to be evangelicals (I guess for short). At Wheaton College, we were certainly taught that today, evangelicalism is different that fundamentalism. But like you said, because these things are just vague historical movements, it depends on who you talk to. I guess in my post above I was speaking to evangelicals who come from the neo-evangelical movement, which, as far as I understand, don't take these baptist theories seriously at all. But there might be more people out there who do that I'm not aware of.

    You mention that you were evangelical, what are your beliefs today?

  18. You said: "Which is why I don't think the average Evangelical is tied mentally to the Catholic church."

    If they think about pre-Reformation, post-biblical history at all - and a lot of evangelicals don't - then I think they tie themselves to people who were Catholic, though they incorrectly don't think of them as Catholics. I've talked about this in several of my posts ("St Francis of Assisi was as Catholic as they come", "St Augustine was a devout Catholic", "If the Catholic Church Isn't Main-Stream Christianity, I'm Not Sure What Is", "Billy Graham Museum Honors a Pope Alongside Luther As Great Christian Witness", "Heresy Has Always Been An Option", etc)

  19. I had an interesting experience about 5 years ago. An intern of mine was asking how we knew the time in the days before NIST (computers & cellphones with accurate time). I explained how we used to call TIM1212 and a recording would say "At the time of the beep the time will be three twenty seven and 40 seconds ... beep". He didn't believe me.

    On the one hand I'm absolutely delighted that anti-Catholic sentiment in evangelical churches has dropped off so much that you don't believe me it ever existed. On the other hand it is making this discussion difficult.

    Let me just give you a famous part of the "conflict of the ages sermon"...
    Satan once endeavored to form a compromise with Christ. He came to the Son of God in the wilderness of temptation, and showing Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, offered to give all into His hands if He would but acknowledge the supremacy of the prince of darkness. Christ rebuked the presumptuous tempter and forced him to depart. But Satan meets with greater success in presenting the same temptations to man. To secure worldly gains and honors, the church was led to seek the favor and support of the great men of earth; and having thus rejected Christ, she was induced to yield allegiance to the representative of Satan--the bishop of Rome. ....

    Amid the gloom that settled upon the earth during the long period of papal supremacy, the light of truth could not be wholly extinguished. In every age there were witnesses for God--men who cherished faith in Christ as the only mediator between God and man, who held the Bible as the only rule of life, and who hallowed the true Sabbath. How much the world owes to these men, posterity will never know. They were branded as heretics, their motives impugned, their characters maligned, their writings suppressed, misrepresented, or mutilated. Yet they stood firm, and from age to age maintained their faith in its purity, as a sacred heritage for the generations to come.

    The history of God's people during the ages of darkness that followed upon Rome's supremacy is written in heaven, but they have little place in human records. Few traces of their existence can be found, except in the accusations of their persecutors. It was the policy of Rome to obliterate every trace of dissent from her doctrines or decrees. Everything heretical, whether persons or writings, she sought to destroy. Expressions of doubt, or questions as to the authority of papal dogmas, were enough to forfeit the life of rich or poor, high or low. Rome endeavored also to destroy every record of her cruelty toward dissenters. Papal councils decreed that books and writings containing such records should be committed to the flames. Before the invention of printing, books were few in number, and in a form not favorable for preservation; therefore there was little to prevent the Romanists from carrying out their purpose.

    No church within the limits of Romish jurisdiction was long left undisturbed in the enjoyment of freedom of conscience. No sooner had the papacy obtained power than she stretched out her arms to crush all that refused to acknowledge her sway, and one after another the churches submitted to her dominion.

    I don't think my pastor would have gone quite that far in his language but certainly the sentiment was still taught. If I handed that sermon to the people in my church I'd say maybe 80% would have agreed. The way Mormons are thought of today by evangelicals, as nice people who are sorta Christian that belong to a counterfeit church, was how the Catholic church was considered. I'm kinda glad you never experienced this, it is a sign of progress for everyone. One of the great things about your generation is how much less prejudice you have towards the different.

  20. You wrote before you had trouble believing in 5m landmark baptists. A lot of what you are talking about are beliefs that would be rejected by all 28.1 baptists in the USA (37m world wide). And then (not evangelicals) but.. there are another 16m seventh-day adventists, 14m LDS, 7.5m Jehovah's Witnesses. Those are groups of Christians that believe in restorationism, that the true church either essentially or completely died.

    And then on top of these 19th century groups there are 20th century groups. Like the UPCI (another 3m) hold that Justin, Tatian,
    Theophilus, and Athenagoras paganized Christianity and as a consequence the early ecumenical councils decided many issues wrongly. They incidentally explicitly do identified with Montanus, arguing against legalism (like no remarriage under any circumstances) while supporting speaking in tongues, and prophecies. As aside they are iffy on the Cathars, they believe the Cathars to have been people loyal to Jesus trying to restore Christianity in theological error fighting people loyal to Innocent III who were not in any meaningful sense Christian bad guys vs. worse guys. The Babylonian Captivity and resultant papal schism was God's judgement....

    I think your articles on Saint Francis... are great. And I have run into this nonsense that the church fathers were really Protestant and that Protestantism is not a 16th century invention, or really IMHO in its modern form a 19th century invention, many times. But I don't think it is accurate to speak nearly so generally of Evangelical opinion about the centuries before the reformation.

    To pick a more recent and more mainstream example Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna was the number one evangelical selling book in 2008 and that attacks: seminary / ordination, clergy / laity distinction, church owned property, eucharist as a ritual rather than meal... as all being part of the fall of Christianity. And they are quite open this dates back to the late first century. Essentially they look at Paul as showing that Christianity was going downhill fast in the generation after Jesus and their book argues in the next generation it got even worse.

    So in short, I agree with you 100% you can go after a Mark Driscoll with this argument. Mark's theories depend crucially on a church that is basically correct on the one hand and basically in grave error on the other. There is an obvious contradiction that you can hammer away at. Your "who says that Rob Bell is a heretic" post is a great example. Mark wants the ability to speak for Christianity, but of course historical Christianity rejects 4 of the 5 solas and the ULP of TULIP. To a Saint Francis Mark Driscoll is as much of a heretic as Rob Bell. I agree with you 100% that the apologetic you present undermines Mark Driscoll, and if Wheaton basically has the same problem this apologetic works against Wheaton.

    But I'll disagree with you are numbers of people who are evangelicals that hold totally different assumptions than you are making. There is a joke about a southerner who says, "I like both kinds of music country and western".

  21. Hey CD-Host,

    I think we've miscommunicated here, because I'm not sure what I said that you're responding to: "On the one hand I'm absolutely delighted that anti-Catholic sentiment in evangelical churches has dropped off so much that you don't believe me it ever existed."
    I guess I don't know what I said that you're responding to. I'm very very aware of anti-Catholicism today, but especially in previous generations.

    Regarding everything else, I'll give you that there might be more Landmarkist baptists out there than I'm aware. But it's still a very small percentage of Christians, let alone evangelicals if they even count, which is debatable depending on who you talk to.

    Regarding your comments: "But I don't think it is accurate to speak nearly so generally of Evangelical opinion about the centuries before the reformation. "
    "But I'll disagree with you are numbers of people who are evangelicals that hold totally different assumptions than you are making."

    As I've said before, evangelicalism is so vague (for what they believe or who even counts as an evangelical) that a person can find any exemption. If a particular argument doesn't apply to someone, it doesn't apply to them.

    Maybe you missed this in my last comment, but what are you current beliefs?

  22. I agree we are miscommunicating. Let me use a description I used recently for Mormons on a similar question, a scale if you will:

    1) Catholic — The modern church is a continuation of the ancient and doesn’t disagree in anything meaningful. Where it appears to disagree it is general a result of different context, or statements that were “unofficial”, official positions have never changed.

    2) Original Reformers — The modern church is only marginal different than what existed in the ancient world. Most of the corruption happened recently and is surface. The church needs a mild corrective reform, but not a wholesale overhaul. The current leadership is blocking this and that’s bad but we need to not throw the baby out with the bathwater and open the doors to every ancient heresy because of problems like excessive papal authority or indulgences (or for more modern Protestants the extra 9 books of the canon..).

    3) Modern Reformer — Create a mythic group of Protestants religiously and mostly ignore everything we know about the 2nd through 16th centuries in their teaching and preaching. They want the authority of the ancient church over other sects while they themselves get to pick and choose doctrines freely. They gut the meaning from the creeds they pay lip service to.

    4) Landmarkism — The ancient church was a faithful remnant that has existed alongside the Catholic church down through the centuries. God engages in continual revelation keeping his faithful remnant alive while allowing the mass church to fall counterfeit Christianity.

    5) Restorationism — Takes Landmarkism a step further, understanding its spirit. The ancient church was either completely destroyed or almost entirely destroyed and its teachings along with it. A counterfeit Christianity took its place, there was no faithful remnant of note.

    Essentially you are arguing that the almost all evangelicals hold to positions (2) and (3) while I'm arguing a substantial fraction believe in (4) and (5). And I've been presenting evidence of that:

    1) I presented some data to generate a rough estimate of 5m landmark baptists. That is a group of Christians that explicitly identify with an the entire chain of heretical Christianity as a core distinctive of their faith.

    1a) And Ana-baptists go on top of that, another 4.5m.

    2) I've mentioned another group of evangelicals (might be disagreement on whether to include them), the 3rd largest Pentecostal denomination in the world, the UPCI that openly identify with Montanism and do break with Catholicism mostly, I'd consider restorationist on the scale above.

    2a) The point of the UPCI was to start opening up the discussion of Pentecostals. I just thought about New Apostolic Church which is a group that is explicitly restorationist and another 11m.

    3) And then of course the question becomes how indictative are these small sub denominations of their larger cousins. The personal anecdotes, an understanding of the context... To start to discuss sub-denominations with big numbers like:
    Assemblies of God (whom I believe are very close to the UPCI position)
    Southern Baptists (whom I believe are very close to the Landmarkism)
    If you will grant those sorts as leaning 4/5 (and I agree they aren't explicit) that mostly gets us around 1/2 of all Evangelicals, right there.

    4) If we are going to start discussing Protestant and not just evangelicals... the big group to consider is Methodists.

    Finally on personal beliefs, atheist.

  23. CD-Host,

    Interesting list there! Thanks for sharing.

    Including ana-baptists and pentecostals in evangelicalism is certainly a stretch, though I admit that in certain circles, some of them would be considered evangelical. As I've said, these distinctions are very fuzzy, and I'm ok disagreeing with you on them.

    Other than that, I guess I'm not sure what we're still disagreeing on. I've given you that there are more people out there who identify as evangelical that believe in a remnant line than I thought before, which means that posts such as this one would simply apply to some self-identified evangelicals, and not all, which is true of pretty much everything I write.

  24. Cool now we are making progress. Where we were disagreeing was your comment:

    Yep, you're right, there are tons of groups, as I stated in my post. The key is whether evangelicals would look to them as orthodox, and the answer is no. I wrote this post in part because in my experience there's this idea among evangelicals that everyone orthodox was Catholic because in some way that's all there was.

    I'm going to use the term Landmarkism-lite for this sort of ambiguous combination of restorationism and Landmarkism, intermixed with an appreciation for the creeds. My argument was that this is a huge chunk of evangelicals, even possibly a slim majority.

    To which you are now replying essentially "well so what, this argument applies to the rest those that see themselves as the continuation of the Catholic church". And I'll grant that. For example, the apologetic behind your "When did heresy emerge post", which is actually how I found this site, depends absolutely crucially on the idea that refuting the idea that things like the Marion dogmas were late proves these doctrines are true. And I would say that's a pretty good example of the fallacy of the excluded middle.

    Generally when I run into the Catholic apologetic I have to have an argument about history. I'm having to argue that there were many Christians all throughout history prior to the Reformation who held many of the opinions that Protestants do today. It was nice being able to start one level beyond and and jump directly into the next point of departure. As an aside this has been educational for me in that I had never realized that most Catholic apologists had never come in contact with Landmarkism-lite which, even though I no longer believe, is to my mind a fundamental of the Protestant faith. The position you were (and is quite often) asserted as the Protestant position struck me as essentially a weak strawman put forth. But when I would use Landmarkism-lite, "real Protestantism" as the counter tended to be seen as "preaching Gnosticism" rather than preaching Protestantism. So this has been useful in that I understand what has happened on other occasions.

    Anyway... for me, there needs to be a better reason for permanent separation than Henry VIII having the hots for Anne Boleyn. Obviously whatever the Reformation was going to accomplish in terms of reform it sought, it did mainly in the counter-reformation. So either the aim is deep structural reform or more likely revolution. The Protestant and Catholics faiths over the last five centuries are growing apart not together. Either that is desirable, that is the medieval and ancient Catholic dogmas need to fully re-examined in the light of day, or its time to do what the ECLA and the Anglicans are doing and negotiate terms to rejoin.

  25. Yeah, see this is very interesting for me as well. I just joined the Catholic Church in the Spring of 2010, and in all my time prior to that in different churches, reading evangelical books, at Wheaton College, I never once encountered a person who believed in the "always a faithful remnant alongside the Catholic Church" theory. Not one. I had heard about it, but only in the context that it was something that that in the past some baptists had asserted, but that only a few wacky cooks hold on to today, but certainly not in the main at all.

    Although I fully admit that I have no hard stats to back this up, and that you could certainly be right, a large part of me still finds it unbelievable that a majority of evangelicals see themselves as spiritual descendents of the Cathars. But, certainly, thank you for bringing this more to my attention, and I will certainly keep it in mind.

  26. OK well then repeat this back to you. What you are essentially saying is, "I can believe that 200m+ evangelicals hold to something like Landmarism-lite because the theory is so incredibly stupid".

    So.... I don't think I was all that stupid of a guy at 20. Let me use a little Judo here and respond like I would have then:

    a) The bible unambiguously teaches Protestant doctrine, 5 Solas... (use typical Evangelical apologetic to prove)

    b) The Catholic church unambiguously rejected these doctrines through its history (your own website does a good job here)

    c) In crucial matters of form (like church structure) and function (like paedo baptism) the Catholic church fails to be a New Testament church, "discard immersion and adopt affusion for baptism, and infants and unregenerate sinners for proper subjects, and accept a hierarchical or aristocratic form of church government, and a ministerial prelacy" (historical details undisputed)

    conclusion 1) Therefore the Catholic church cannot be the church of the bible.

    c) Many of the heretics were biblical and based their theology on the bible and applied to the bible. Further the bible originally arose from Marcion, Valentinus popularized Paul within the Catholic church. (standard history of the 2nd century. You might object to this one, we'll see)

    conclusion 2) Paul came from heretical not "orthodox" (i.e. Catholic) Christianity.

    d) The churches of the Johanne community appear to have been overrun by some non-biblical heresy during biblical times. We know from history that by the late 2nd century they were solid Catholic (epistles 1-3 John and Jude).

    conclusion 3) Johanne literature came from "heretical" Christianity
    conclusion 4) Catholicism (or Polycarp proto-Catholocism) was most likely the non-biblical heresy overrunning the churches as described in the bible.

    e) So because the gates of hell shall not prevail there must have been some congregations which were practicing the New Testament faith hidden away within the Catholic world. (same interpretation that Catholics use for that verse). Lets call these congregations ancient baptist.


    As for the Cathars let me just quote from Foxe's book of Martyrs (updated spelling): The rule of faith and conduct held by the Roman catholic is, "The Bible or written word, and tradition or the unwritten word, and both propounded and expounded by the Church." Now the two last limbs of this triple rule have been dyed in blood, They have been the fountain-heads out of which the Inquisition drew numerous precedents, Dominic most ample instruction, and the fourth Lateran its anti-social canons. The rule of faith held by protestants, on the other hand, is, THE BIBLE ALONE, in which we defy the acutest sceptic or bitterest papist to extract one precept to persecute, or one precedent for ecclesiastical extirpation of heretics.....

    This man [Dominic] was employed by Pope Innocent III. to trace out and punish those heretics the pious and holy Albigenses. His weapons were persecution, the blood of saints is on his robes, and were the papacy improved such a collect as that we have extracted would be expunged from the Missal.

    Nothing indicates the deceit of Satan or the blindness of men more clearly, than the fact that the devil was allowed to seal up the Bible under the pretence of its tendency to mislead men, and to keep them in the most palpable darkness, lest peradventure they should die through the excess of the light and the wisdom of God. Has Satan nevertheless triumphed here, and escaped unscathed? We say no. The Book of Martyrs is a living witness that the power of religion, during the iron reign of the papacy, was exemplified most gloriously in the sufferings of faithful men; and the constancy, to death, of the Albigenses and the Waldenses showed

    Foxe's book of Martyrs is up there with Calvin and Luther in terms of influence and importance.

  27. CD-Host,
    I didn't say I couldn't believe that there were that many evangelicals who believed it *because* it's stupid. I said I can't believe that because in all my years in evangelicalism, different churches across denominations, reading evangelical books, attending the top evangelical college in the world, I never came across believe who did believe it. I admit to you that this isn't scientific, and that you certainly could be right.

  28. Brantly, I believe you in terms of not having come in contact with it. But you understand I'm not quoting some obscure evangelical work... My question to you is are you sure you weren't selecting from a very narrow branch of Christianity in your reading and your conferences? I agree your college should have broadened this out, and I have some trouble considering them a top college if they didn't.

    For example Foxe's book of Martyrs is arguably the single most influential Protestant book originally authored in English. After 1571 it was mandatory that an Anglican church have it in the cathedral. It is far and away the best source we have for understanding the proto-Protestantism of England during the few centuries before the Act of Supremacy. What was Wheaton teaching you was happening during the 13th, 14th, 15th centuries? What did they tell you was going on?

    To pick England which it covers best. Where did the Wycliff bible come from? Who were the Lollardy? Luther's first books in English are published in 1519. By 1522 the royal court is loaded with Lutherans in open rebellion against Cardinal Wolsey. In their version of history did all this happen in 3 years with no work beforehand? Where in their view are these Lutherans coming from, the Protestant fairy?

    Call me an academic bigot but any college level history of the Reformation that doesn't mention Foxe, is by definition not happening in the best college. Sorry, I don't mean to be insulting, and I hope you don't take it that way but... one of:

    a) They suck at their job, they simply don't know any history.
    b) They were lying to you.
    c) You weren't paying attention in class.

    I'm not sure what else to say other than, there is no reason to keep your eyes closed for the rest of your life just because you didn't get a good historical grounding in college.


  29. Evangelical conferences are highly sectarian. What people even care about varies tremendously. Most evangelicals don't understand the history of 1820 New York much less the history of 1208 Italy. As far as your average YRR goes the Holiness movement never happened.

    And as for Evangelical books...

    During exactly the period of time you are talking about Pagan Christianity was the #1 selling Evangelical book in the United States. So if you were just reading the "what's hot" section you would have hit this book. That's why I picked that one to quote.

    Moody literally wrote the book on Landmarkism. Darby, Scofield, Riley are not obscure figures in evangelical circles. As far as I can tell, every evangelical website with bible study tools includes the Scofield notes. You never watched the 700 Club?

    To pick the last work I quoted Conflict of the Ages is over 150 years old, translated into something like 100 languages. No one know how many copies were printed but literally in 1911 they had to replace the plates because they had printed so many the friction had sanded the plates to nothing. I'm not sure how to even begin to count copies here, but if someone told me it was the #1 selling evangelical book written originally in the United States, I wouldn't be shocked.

    What were you reading? I want you to try something on for size. What I suspect really happened was you got was no education on the pre-reformation at all. It was barely if ever mentioned. Then when you started studying to become a Catholic, you ran into Catholic apologetics. The Catholics told you what Protestants believe and you accepted it because you didn't have any contradictory evidence. That unfortunately is the way human memory works. You have been fed a straw man position.

    Think back carefully. Try and picture when you were still a Protestant, learning about the middle ages church in any sort of detail. Try and picture yourself learning anything. I've probably jogged your memory regarding the English reformation. So you actually have any memories at all of ever having it be discussed with you? Do you have any memories at all of being taught what you have been told you were taught?

  30. CD-Host,

    I've read Foxe's Book of Martyrs myself, and I haven't disputed that this idea has been there in evangelical history, or even been very popular in the past. I'm not sure how this is relevant necessarily since we are talking about evangelicals *today*.

    Regarding the history of Christianity, my studies of it started based on what I was taught at Wheaton College by evangelicals themselves, and then from my own study. I have actually read very little Catholic apologetics.

    And even if you are right that half of evangelicals subscribe to this Landmark view, my argument would not be a straw man. A straw man, as I understand it, is when you attack your opponents worst argument or a caricature of it, or a bad formulation of it. In this case, I'd be attacking something that many evangelicals actually hold, but not what all of them hold (which is true of virtually every post I've ever written since 'evangelicalism' is so diverse).

    Regarding the book 'Pagan Christianity' by Viola and Barna, does it argue that there has always been a remnant line, including groups such as the Cathars, or that paganism has creeped into Christianity from the beginning? I have not read it, but it appears to me from your descriptions and the publisher's description that it's the latter (correct me here if I'm wrong), which means that it wouldn't be in support of what you're saying.

    As I've said in previous comments, I think defining who counts as an evangelical is really important here. To me, 'evangelical' does not mean any Protestant, or even any non-mainline Protestant. And I would even argue that there is a distinction between 'evangelicalism' and 'fundamentalism' today, even though in the past those were more connected if not synonyms. I would even see a distinction between 'evangelicalism' and 'pentecostalism'. There is even a kind of distinction, although it's not nearly as strong and has a lot more overlap, between 'evangelicals' and those in the 'emergent church movement'. On top of that, I'm only talking about 'evangelicals' today, not of the past. This is fairly limiting, and admittedly very fuzzy regarding exactly who counts, and since 'evangelicalism' is just a historical movement and not a specific organization, it is understood differently in different circles.

    My only assertion any more is that most evangelicals *today* do not believe in a small remnant alongside the Catholic Church that includes groups like the Cathars. I've already admitted several times that I have no hard statistics to back this up right now, and I admit that it's possible that you're even right, though I would be very surprised given my experience.

    At any rate, I've appreciated our discussion. Thank you for what you've added here. You can respond to this comment, and then I think I'll let that be that here.

  31. Brantley --

    You are obviously frustrated. I get that. What I don't get is how you don't see the contradictions in your theory. You you stated quite clearly:

    I never even heard [Landmarkism] proposed as something to consider or take seriously at all. Any talk of Christian history pre-Reformation centered on the Catholic Church (St Irenaeus, St Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas, St Anselm, etc).

    But then when I point out that:
    1) Landmarkism is founded in key founding documents of Protestantism 2) It continues being heavily preached in some of the best selling and most heavily used bible study guides of the last century
    3) The theory you are proposing about the reformation can't even answer basic questions about how it happened.

    I was obviously being rhetorical with my questions about the English Reformation. Where did the Wycliff bible come from? Who were the Lollardy? Luther's first books in English are published in 1519. By 1522 the royal court is loaded with Lutherans in open rebellion against Cardinal Wolsey. In their version of history did all this happen in 3 years with no work beforehand? Where in their view are these Lutherans coming from, the Protestant fairy?

    But those are serious questions, the sorts of questions anyone not advancing a straw man theory would be expected to be able to answer. And I'm happy to go with calling this theory you are presenting of Protestantism a caricature. For the very reason it falls apart the second you start looking at any kind of detail. It is simply impossible to believe that any historian could hold it.

    Sure if you stay in the clouds about "justification by faith alone" you can avoid running into the contradictions. But if you start asking specifics like "when did Thomas Boleyn start advocating for the dissolution of the monasteries" the theory falls apart. You start seeing his family having been a long supporter of this and very quickly you are back in 1450 and the disputes over who controls parish churches. Luther isn't even born until 1483 so you can't blame him.

    It comes up other places. Henry VIII's grandmother Lady Margaret Beaufort
    is advocating for what religious position. Again she is dead by 1509 so it ain't Luther that's influencing her. Of course in reality she's a Lancaster and the Lancasters were opposed to the church since the 14th century. The 14th century Duke of Lancaster hated Bishops far from being willing to submit to their authority. wanted to kick them out of England. I wanted to take us full circle to the "opposition to Bishops".

    I can't stop you from believing that the best schools in the country would teach a theory that obviously wrong, the second you ask a detailed question. Maybe I shouldn't have speculated as much as I did about why you believed it. I was trying to help you burst through this idea you have that you were well educated about the reformation.

    You write a Catholic apologetics blog dealing with history. You can continue to write a blog that everyone was a happy Catholic and then Luther came along and suddenly millions of people said, "What, the Pope doesn't speak for Jesus. I can read the bible for myself. I can be justified by faith. Wow!" or we can deal with real history and what real Protestants actually think happened.

    In the real world what Luther did was provide a mainstream theological justification for a rebellion that had been going on and building for centuries because the Catholic church was deeply deeply flawed, truly dysfunctional and doing a terrible job of providing religious leadership. And many of the structural problems that existed then, continue to exist now and manifest themselves in Catholic countries.

    I get that having that debate about bishops is much more challenging then debating a straw man. But what does it accomplish?

    Nice talking to you Brantley.

  32. CD-Host,

    I know I said I wouldn't continue to comment, but I have one last thing here.

    I have only asserted that *evangelicals* *today* do not subscribe to the Landmark view in large numbers. I have not been attacking a straw man if it's true that most evangelicals today hold the view I've said that they do (whether or not the view makes sense, but that's the point of my post), and I know that in the very least many do since all of the evangelicals I've ever come in contact with do.

    I really don't know what all of this other stuff about Luther or England in the 15th century or anything else has anything to do with what we've been talking about or about the post.

    And I don't know what contradictions in "my theory" you're talking about, seeing I believe in apostolic succession from Jesus all the way to the present, so I don't know what all of this other Reformation history would have to bear on that or what contradictions it would be showing.

  33. Lets try this.

    Theory A: There exists a tradition of sects and societies dissenting from the Catholic church stretching back centuries before 1517 from which Protestantism came (landmarkism-lite). This movement was primarily about money and power.

    Theory B: Protestantism was created essentially x-nihilo around 1517 and was primely about justification.

    Theory C: Knowledgeable protestants teach and believe theory B.

    Theory D: Knowledgeable protestants teach and believe theory A.

    My contention is you have absolutely defended theory C. I further believe that you have strongly hinted at believing in Theory B. It is entirely irrelevant to either of those theories whether Jesus did or did not establish a church, the Catholic church is or is not faithful... Now those things might be important in evaluating the legitimacy of dissenting movements, but their existence is a matter of historical record. A Muslim, a Jew, a Protestant and a Catholic historian should be able to say identical things presenting evidence for A or B.

    If we assume that the historical evidence is overwhelming for A over B then we would expect C to hold. If we assume the historical evidence is overwhelming for B over A then we would expect D to hold.

    Your argument for C is that you had a good education about the Reformation and were never exposed to theory A. My argument for D is:

    X-1) A large number of books that are extremely important, even foundational for Protestantism that do in fact teach A.

    X-2) That the evidence for B is so overwhelming that is is impossible to teach European history of the reformation in anything more than a surface way without teaching B. Major events occur in the Reformation because of groups whose source of opposition to the Catholic church existed prior to 1517 and thus if you try and teach these events you disprove B.

    X-1 has been argued at length and you have now conceded it. You are now asserting that D to C happened in last hundred years.

    I gave two response.

    1) I presented a modern bestselling and influential book with a Landmark theory (a church that owns property is essentially a fake church and real Christians throughout history met in house churches)

    2) X-2 Protestants still have to teach the history of the Reformation. And I gave you some examples of some questions that need to be asked.


    Now there is finally one more point. To a certain extent you are conflating the above (which are statements about history without theological content) and these theological theories:

    Theory E: The church was mostly Protestant until about the 14th century when it adopted a bunch of Catholic heresies. At which point God raised up Luther to bring the Church to reform and the Reformation happened. Current day Catholics are those loyal to those newly introduced and often heretical doctrines.

    Theory F: The church started falling into deep serious heresy from the earliest days. Current day Catholics are the children of those heretical movements of the very early centuries. Most of "Christian tradition" is offense to Christ.

    Theory G: The church is a continuation of the teachings of Jesus and the apostles.

    You'll notice those are all theological theories not historical theories. From a historical perspective there is no such thing as "heresy" in an absolute sense only a relative sense. Those sorts of statements need to be reworded before they can be meaningfully true or false in an absolute sense.

    The rewordings of E, end up looking like B and thus that reduces to the argument above.

  34. That the evidence for B is so overwhelming that is is impossible to teach European history of the reformation in anything more than a surface way without teaching B. Major events occur in the Reformation because of groups whose source of opposition to the Catholic church existed prior to 1517 and thus if you try and teach these events you disprove B.

    Sorry this should read

    That the evidence for A is so overwhelming that is is impossible to teach European history of the reformation in anything more than a surface way without teaching A. Major events occur in the Reformation because of groups whose source of opposition to the Catholic church existed prior to 1517 and thus if you try and teach these events you disprove B.

  35. Is Tertullian an acceptable answer to the question?

  36. Hey Anon,
    I'm not sure what you mean. Could you explain?

  37. First about me, I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian formally Conservative Baptist.

    Your Question: Find one example of an orthodox group or individual in the first 1000 years of the faith that rejected apostolic authority and succession.

    Good question, they simply do not exist as far as I personally know, but it is possible some can trace their Bishops back to the Apostles and are outside of Apostolic succession, Oriental Orthodox for example are in Schism. There was a lot going on during that time, plagues, wars, but those were happening in the East also but never experience a reformation. I believe the introduction of philosophical humanism aka scholasticism in the west triggered much of what has occurred in the west.

    What are your thoughts?

    1. Hey Anon,
      Well, there were lots of groups that called themselves Christian in the first 1000 years of the faith that also rejected apostolic succession, but I don't think any of them would be considered orthodox by evangelicals today. Regarding what caused all the trouble in the west, it's a great question. I have purchased but not read Michael Allen Gillespie's The Theological Origins of Modernity, but I've heard that that book has some good things to say about it. I also found Brad Gregory's new book The Unintended Reformation helpful, and he traces some of the problems back to nominalism specifically rather than scholasticism as a whole.

  38. Its not that im against apostolic succession but i have a hard time understanding persona christi and priest only having direct authority to bring absolution of mortal sin. I would really like to be Catholic. I actually have thought about the priesthood, but I can't get around the idea of apostolic succession and the authority it has over the Eucharist and confession. Especially being a missionary, i couldn't imagine not allowing a group.of people to be forgiven and also take communion because a catholic priest isn't there. please help me understand. This website rebuttaled the catholic doctrine well. could you rebuttal it?