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)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How Quickly Catholic Heresy Took Over the Church (Immediately) [Updated]

UPDATED: After having interacted with a few people over the original post, I have added "A.D. 110 - the necessity of bishops to the Church, and the necessity of submitting to bishops" to the list of dates and the supporting quotes from St Ignatius of Antioch, as well as 3 more paragraphs of comments, and adjusted the order of my comments. The original post is still up.
________________________________

Tertullian, Against Praxeas, ch 2 (~A.D. 200):
Pentecost
“That this rule of faith has come down to us from the beginning of the gospel, even before any of the older heretics, much more before Praxeas, a pretender of yesterday, will be apparent both from the lateness of date which marks all heresies, and also from the absolutely novel character of our new-fangled Praxeas. In this principle also we must henceforth find a presumption of equal force against all heresies whatsoever—that whatever is first is true, whereas that is spurious which is later in date.”
Below is a list of the year of the earliest (of which I am aware) extant extra-biblical witness of various Christian doctrines.

(A.D. 33 - death and resurrection of Christ)
A.D. 90 - the Lord's Supper as a sacrifice
(A.D. 95 - death of the last apostle, John)
A.D. 95 - apostolic succession
A.D. 110 - real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist
A.D. 110 - the necessity of bishops to the Church, and the necessity of submitting to bishops
A.D. 150 - baptismal regeneration and the necessity of baptism for salvation
A.D. 150 - basic structure of the Mass as Christian worship
A.D. 155 - veneration of saints and their relics
A.D. 160 - Mary as the New Eve
A.D. 170 - use of the word 'Trinity'
A.D. 180 - primacy of the bishop of Rome
A.D. 200 - 'Trinity', 'Person', 'Substance' formula
A.D. 367 - today's 27 book New Testament canon
(A.D. 1500s - Protestant Reformation)

(Note: Those that are (underlined) are relevant events to help put the other dates in perspective. Those doctrines in bold are accepted by evangelicals and Catholics and are also listed for the purpose of helping to put the other dates in perspective. Those doctrines not bolded are accepted by Catholics and are rejected by most evangelicals as corruptions of the faith. All dates listed are of course approximate. The quotes showing the witness to these doctrines in those years are at the end of this post.)

I have ten comments:

1) Since it doesn't appear as though any of the authors are proposing a new doctrine in any of the quotes, it can be assumed that all of these doctrines in the very least pre-date by some amount of time their first extant extra-biblical witness. It should be noted that in some cases, the authors were contemporaries of the apostles and most likely knew some of the apostles themselves, e.g. St Clement, who was the bishop of Rome at the end of the 1st century and is traditionally identified with the Clement referred to by Paul in Philippians 4.3. And in other cases, the authors knew disciples of the apostles, e.g. St Irenaeus was a disciple of St Polycarp who was a disciple of the Apostle John.

2) All of the Catholic beliefs listed were maintained from the early Church onward. In other words, I’m not citing anomalies in the early Church and recommending that Catholics should revive them. Catholics have maintained these beliefs/practices since then without a break. Neither am I implying that these beliefs do not have a basis in Scripture. These quotes are merely the first extant extra-biblical witnesses of the doctrines.

3) Remember that evangelicals claim that all of those Catholic beliefs listed above were all invented and did not come from the apostles, even though the Christians immediately following the apostles, including some who knew the apostles personally, thought that those doctrines came from the apostles. In particular, regarding apostolic succession, St Clement - who, as stated above, was surely a contemporary of the apostles and may have also known them personally - explicitly states that apostolic succession was set up by the apostles.

4) Notice the large number of doctrines/practices that are rejected by most evangelicals as Catholic corruptions of the faith that are witnessed to prior to explicit development of the doctrine of the Trinity or even the first extant witness to the 27 book New Testament canon. In other words, if all of those beliefs which most evangelicals tend to view as sure markers of the obviously perverted corruption of the Catholic Church were already there, then the same Church that settled the New Testament canon and fought the Trinitarian and Christological fights of the early Church was already well immersed in corruption, superstition, and heresy.

St Athanasius, bishop of
Alexandria, who was ban-
ished five times by the gov't
for preaching the teachings
of the Council of Nicea
regarding the Trinity
5) Ironically, those issues that evangelicals claim to be obvious corruptions of the faith were accepted throughout the early Church with relatively little dissent*. And it was on issues like the New Testament canon and the doctrine of the Trinity - two issues on which evangelicals agree with the early Church - that had the most widespread disagreement and dissent. The confusion/dissent regarding these two issues was so widespread and entrenched that they were only settled for the whole Church when the bishops of the Church wielded their authority from apostolic succession - the same authority who's existence evangelicals deny. In other words, those beliefs for which apostolic authority was not needed to be well established in the Church, evangelicals reject; whereas those beliefs for which apostolic authority was needed to establish them within the Church, evangelicals accept, even though evangelicals reject apostolic authority and succession.

6) If the Catholic beliefs listed here warranted schism in the 16th century, then that means that the Church in the 2nd century already warranted schism. In other words, an evangelical who would justify the 16th century schism of the Reformers by citing these Catholic beliefs, must also hold that the Church by the end of the 2nd century - if not the end of the 1st century due to belief in apostolic succession - was already well corrupted to the point of warranting schism, and that the Church existed in that state, with little dissent on those beliefs which warranted schism, until it was saved in the 16th century.

7) If the Catholic beliefs listed here were truly innovations or corruptions of the faith, the Catholic Church therefore has not been receiving any help from the Holy Spirit in the maintenance of those beliefs. If that is the case, the Catholic Church is far and above the most successful heretic movement in the history of the Church. The Catholic Church has been so successful in promoting its heresy that, for the majority of Church history, it was the closest thing to true orthodoxy (though the little orthodoxy there was still deeply obscured). The Catholic Church, without the aid of the Holy Spirit - nay, with the Holy Spirit working against it - has maintained its corrupted beliefs with far more integrity and for far longer than any of the Protestant communities, which do claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit (for some, to the point of being able to determine, by simple illumination of the Holy Spirit, that the Bible in use for over a thousand years was wrong and that a canon that had never existed before was the correct one). Despite having such clear guidance from the Holy Spirit, the Protestant communities in their short 500 year history have splintered and changed beliefs to a virtually undocumentable degree. One need only look at evangelicals themselves: “on the matters of women’s ordination,abortion, contraception, divorce, eternal punishment, Chalcedonian formulation of the Incarnation, infant baptism, ecclesiology, the nature of God, and even the inerrancy of Scripture, Evangelicals have held a wide variety of views over the past fifty years, all of which are considered by many Evangelical scholars as well within the bounds of orthodoxy.” (Francis J. Beckwith, Mormonism, Catholicism, and the Romney Candidacy)

8) The evangelical must hold that all of this occurred despite the fact that Jesus himself promised to be "with [us] always, to the very end of the age," (Mt 28.20), that, since He would build His Church on the rock, "the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (Mt 16.18), and that Jesus said he would send us the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of Truth” (John 14.16-17, John 15.26, John 16.13).

9) Modern evangelicals, in their rejection of those early Catholic beliefs are largely following traditions that started in the 16th century or later.

10) So, who is more likely to be closer to the original teaching of the Apostles? The Catholic Church, following the beliefs and practices of the early Christians who first received the teaching of the Apostles directly, or those who, 1500 years or more after the fact, reinterpreted the writings of the Apostles to mean things that Christians had never believed before and rule out as corruption and heresy those things that Christians had always believed/practiced from the very beginning?

The quotes themselves are below. In a few cases, if the earliest witness is not without any doubt stating the doctrine, then I've listed another early witness that is more clear.
____________________________________________________________

A.D. 90
Offering the Sacrifice of the Mass
The Lord's Supper as a Sacrifice
Didache, 14:
"But every Lord's day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations. [Malachi 1.11,14]"
If the above is unclear:
A.D. 150
St Justin the Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 41:
"He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us, who in every place offer sacrifices to Him, i.e., the bread of the Eucharist, and also the cup of the Eucharist"
A.D. 95
Apostolic Succession
St Clement, bishop of Rome, First Clement 42, 44 (for more, see The Early Church Was Catholic: Apostolic Succession and Authority):
"The apostles have preached the gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. [...] Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry."
A.D. 110
Necessity of Bishops to the Church
and Necessity of Submitting to Bishops
St Ignatius of Antioch, bishop of Antioch
Letter to the Ephesians, 3, 5
"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." 
"...[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."
Letter to the Trallians, 3
"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."
Letter to the Philadelphians, 3
"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.]."
A.D. 110
Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist
St Ignatius of Antioch, bishop of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 6-7 (for more, see 1500 years of Gospel-compromising heresy and idolatry...or not):
"Let no man deceive himself. ...[I]f they believe not in the blood of Christ, shall, in consequence, incur condemnation. [...] But consider those who are of a different opinion with respect to the grace of Christ which has come unto us, how opposed they are to the will of God. [...] They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes."
If the above is unclear::
A.D. 150
St Justin the Martyr, First Apology, 66:
"And this food is called among us the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh."
A.D. 150
Baptismal Regeneration (baptism is not merely symbolic)
and Baptism Necessary for Salvation
St Justin the Martyr, First Apology, 61, 66:
"Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, Unless you be born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. [John 3.3]"
"And this food is called among us the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined."
If the necessity of baptism is unclear in the quotes above:
A.D. 200
Tertullian, On Baptism, 12:
"...the prescript is laid down that without baptism, salvation is attainable by none (chiefly on the ground of that declaration of the Lord, who says, Unless one be born of water, he has not life [John 3.5])"
A.D. 150
Basic structure of the Mass
St Justin the Martyr, First Apology, 67:
"[O]n the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons."
A.D. 155
Veneration of Saints and their Relics
Martyrdom of Polycarp
Author unknown, Martyrdom of Polycarp, 17 (for more, see Relics of Saints and the Early Church):
"[After Bishop Polycarp was martyed in a Roman stadium] But when the adversary of the race of the righteous, the envious, malicious, and wicked one, perceived the impressive nature of his martyrdom, and [considered] the blameless life he had led from the beginning, and how he was now crowned with the wreath of immortality, having beyond dispute received his reward, he did his utmost that not the least memorial of him should be taken away by us, although many desired to do this, and to become possessors of his holy flesh. For this end he suggested it to Nicetes, the father of Herod and brother of Alce, to go and entreat the governor not to give up his body to be buried, lest, said he, forsaking Him that was crucified, they begin to worship this one. This he said...being ignorant of this, that it is neither possible for us ever to forsake Christ, who suffered for the salvation of such as shall be saved throughout the whole world (the blameless one for sinners ), nor to worship any other. For Him indeed, as being the Son of God, we adore; but the martyrs, as disciples and followers of the Lord, we worthily love on account of their extraordinary affection towards their own King and Master, of whom may we also be made companions and fellow disciples!"
A.D. 160
Mary as the New Eve
St Justin the Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 100 (for more, see Early Church Mariology: Mary as the New Eve):
"[Jesus] became man by the Virgin, in order that the disobedience which proceeded from the serpent might receive its destruction in the same manner in which it derived its origin. For Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the word of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy, when the angel Gabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her: wherefore also the Holy Thing begotten of her is the Son of God; and she replied, 'Be it unto me according to your word.'"
A.D 170
Use of the word 'Trinity'
Theophilus, patriarch of Antioch, Theophilus to Autolycus 2.15:
"In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity, of God, and His Word, and His wisdom. And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Word, wisdom, man."
A.D. 180
Primacy of the Bishop of Rome
Some take the attitude and posture of St Clement, bishop of Rome, in his letter First Clement written around A.D. 95 to the church in Corinth as indicating an early understanding of the primacy of the bishop of Rome (see First Clement, 1, 58-59, 63). Some also see an indication of the primacy of the bishop of Rome in the writings of St Ignatius of Antioch circa A.D. 110 (see Letter to the Romans, 1, 3). The date listed above - A.D. 180 - is for the quote from St Irenaeus below. His is the first clearly explicit witness to the primacy of the bishop of Rome of which I am aware:

The crucifixion of St Peter
St Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.3.2:
“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."
A.D. 200
'Trinity', 'Person', 'Substance' Formula
Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 2:
"...especially in the case of this heresy, which supposes itself to possess the pure truth, in thinking that one cannot believe in One Only God in any other way than by saying that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are the very selfsame Person. As if in this way also one were not All, in that All are of One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation is still guarded, which distributes the Unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three Persons— the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in aspect; yet of one substance, and of one condition, and of one power, inasmuch as He is one God, from whom these degrees and forms and aspects are reckoned, under the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. How they are susceptible of number without division, will be shown as our treatise proceeds."
A.D. 367
27 book New Testament Canon
St Athanasius, Easter Letter of 367, 5:
"Again it is not tedious to speak of the [books] of the New Testament. These are, the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Afterwards, the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles (called Catholic), seven, viz. of James, one; of Peter, two; of John, three; after these, one of Jude. In addition, there are fourteen Epistles of Paul, written in this order. The first, to the Romans; then two to the Corinthians; after these, to the Galatians; next, to the Ephesians; then to the Philippians; then to the Colossians; after these, two to the Thessalonians, and that to the Hebrews; and again, two to Timothy; one to Titus; and lastly, that to Philemon. And besides, the Revelation of John."
*Except perhaps with the primacy of the bishop of Rome, but the early dissent was small compared to the confusion/dissent regarding the Trinity and the New Testament canon. Major dissent regarding the role of the bishop of Rome came much later.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

How Quickly Catholic Heresy Took Over the Church (Immediately)

UPDATE: I have taken this post and expanded it, which you can find at "UPDATED: How Quickly Catholic Heresy Took Over the Church (Immediately)".
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Pentecost
Tertullian, Against Praxeas, ch 2 (~A.D. 200):
That this rule of faith has come down to us from the beginning of the gospel, even before any of the older heretics, much more before Praxeas, a pretender of yesterday, will be apparent both from the lateness of date which marks all heresies, and also from the absolutely novel character of our new-fangled Praxeas. In this principle also we must henceforth find a presumption of equal force against all heresies whatsoever—that whatever is first is true, whereas that is spurious which is later in date.
Below is a list of the year of the earliest (of which I am aware) extant extra-biblical witness of various Christian doctrines.

(A.D. 33 - death and resurrection of Christ)
A.D. 90 - the Lord's Supper as a sacrifice
(A.D. 95 - death of the last apostle, John)
A.D. 95 - apostolic succession
A.D. 110 - real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist
A.D. 150 - baptismal regeneration and the necessity of baptism for salvation
A.D. 150 - basic structure of the Mass as Christian worship
A.D. 155 - veneration of saints and their relics
A.D. 160 - Mary as the New Eve
A.D. 170 - use of the word 'Trinity'
A.D. 180 - primacy of the bishop of Rome
A.D. 200 - 'Trinity', 'Person', 'Substance' formula
A.D. 367 - today's 27 book New Testament canon
(A.D. 1500s - Protestant Reformation)

(Note: Those that are (underlined) are relevant events to help put the other dates in perspective. Those doctrines in bold are accepted by evangelicals and Catholics and are also listed to help put the other dates in perspective. Those doctrines not bolded are accepted by Catholics and are rejected by most evangelicals as corruptions of the faith. All dates listed are of course approximate. The quotes showing the witness to these doctrines in those years are at the end of this post.)

I have seven comments:

1) Notice the large number of doctrines/practices that are rejected by most evangelicals as Roman Catholic corruptions of the faith that are witnessed to prior to explicit development of the doctrine of the Trinity or even the first extant witness to the 27 book New Testament canon. In other words, if all of those beliefs which most evangelicals tend to view as sure markers of the obviously perverted corruption of the Catholic Church were already there, then the same Church that settled the New Testament canon and fought the Trinitarian and Christological fights of the 4th century was already well immersed in corruption, superstition, and heresy.

2) Remember that evangelicals claim that all of those Catholic beliefs listed above - the Lord's Supper as sacrifice, apostolic succession, veneration of saints and their relics, etc - were all invented and did not come from the apostles, even though the Christians immediately following the apostles, including some who knew the apostles personally, did think that those doctrines came from the apostles.

St Athanasius, bishop of
Alexandria, who was ban-
ished five times by the gov't
for preaching the teachings
of the Council of Nicea
regarding the Trinity
3) Ironically, those issues that evangelicals claim to be obvious corruptions of the faith were accepted throughout the early Church with relatively little dissent*. And it was on issues like the New Testament canon and the doctrine of the Trinity - two issues on which evangelicals agree with the early Church - that had the most widespread disagreement and dissent. The confusion/dissent regarding these two issues was so widespread and entrenched that they were only settled for the whole Church when the bishops of the Church wielded their authority from apostolic succession - the same authority who's existence evangelicals deny.

4) As I stated in a previous postthe evangelical must hold that all of this occurred despite the fact that Jesus himself promised to be "with [us] always, to the very end of the age," (Mt 28.20) as well as that, since He would build His Church on the rock, "the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (Mt 16.18).

5) Modern evangelicals, in their rejection of those early Catholic beliefs are largely following a tradition that started in the 16th century.

6) So, who is more likely to be closer to the original teaching of the Apostles? The Catholic Church, following the beliefs and practices of the early Christians who first received the teaching of the Apostles directly, or those who, 1500 years or more after the fact, reinterpreted the writings of the Apostles to mean things that Christians had never believed before and rule out as corruption and heresy those things that Christians had always believed/practiced from the very beginning?

7) Since it doesn't appear as though any of the authors are proposing a new doctrine in any of the quotes, it can be assumed that all of these doctrines in the very least pre-date by some amount of time their first extant historical witness. It should be noted that in some cases, the authors most likely knew some of the apostles themselves, e.g. St Clement, who was the bishop of Rome at the end of the 1st century and is traditionally identified with the Clement referred to by Paul in Philippians 4.3. And in other cases, the authors knew disciples of the apostles, e.g. St Irenaeus was a disciple of St Polycarp who was a disciple of the Apostle John.

The quotes themselves are below. In a few cases, if the earliest witness is not without any doubt stating the doctrine, then I've listed another early quote that is more clear.
____________________________________________________________

A.D. 90
The Lord's Supper as a Sacrifice
Didache, 14:
Offering the Sacrifice of the Mass
"But every Lord's day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations. [Malachi 1.11,14]"
If the above is unclear:
A.D. 150
St Justin the Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 41:
"He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us, who in every place offer sacrifices to Him, i.e., the bread of the Eucharist, and also the cup of the Eucharist"
A.D. 95
Apostolic Succession
St Clement, bishop of Rome, First Clement 42, 44 (for more, see The Early Church Was Catholic: Apostolic Succession and Authority):
"The apostles have preached the gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. [...] Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry."
A.D. 110
Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist
St Ignatius of Antioch, bishop of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 6-7 (for more, see 1500 years of Gospel-compromising heresy & idolatry...or not):
"Let no man deceive himself. ...[I]f they believe not in the blood of Christ, shall, in consequence, incur condemnation. [...] But consider those who are of a different opinion with respect to the grace of Christ which has come unto us, how opposed they are to the will of God. [...] They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes."
If the above isn't clear enough:
A.D. 150
St Justin the Martyr, First Apology, 66:
"And this food is called among us the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh."
A.D. 150
Baptismal Regeneration (baptism is not merely symbolic)
and Baptism Necessary for Salvation
St Justin the Martyr, First Apology, 61, 66:
"Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, Unless you be born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. [John 3.3]"
"And this food is called among us the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined."
If the necessity of baptism is not clear enough in the above quotes:
A.D. 200
Tertullian, On Baptism, 12:
"...the prescript is laid down that without baptism, salvation is attainable by none (chiefly on the ground of that declaration of the Lord, who says, Unless one be born of water, he has not life [John 3.5])"
A.D. 150
Basic structure of the Mass
St Justin the Martyr, First Apology, 67:
"[O]n the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons."
A.D. 155
Veneration of Saints and their Relics
Martyrdom of St Polycarp
Author unknown, Martyrdom of Polycarp, 17 (for more, see Relics of Saints and the Early Church):
"[After Bishop Polycarp was martyed in a Roman stadium] But when the adversary of the race of the righteous, the envious, malicious, and wicked one, perceived the impressive nature of his martyrdom, and [considered] the blameless life he had led from the beginning, and how he was now crowned with the wreath of immortality, having beyond dispute received his reward, he did his utmost that not the least memorial of him should be taken away by us, although many desired to do this, and to become possessors of his holy flesh. For this end he suggested it to Nicetes, the father of Herod and brother of Alce, to go and entreat the governor not to give up his body to be buried, lest, said he, forsaking Him that was crucified, they begin to worship this one. This he said...being ignorant of this, that it is neither possible for us ever to forsake Christ, who suffered for the salvation of such as shall be saved throughout the whole world (the blameless one for sinners ), nor to worship any other. For Him indeed, as being the Son of God, we adore; but the martyrs, as disciples and followers of the Lord, we worthily love on account of their extraordinary affection towards their own King and Master, of whom may we also be made companions and fellow disciples!"
A.D. 160
Mary as the New Eve
St Justin the Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 100, ~A.D. 160:
"[Jesus] became man by the Virgin, in order that the disobedience which proceeded from the serpent might receive its destruction in the same manner in which it derived its origin. For Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the word of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy, when the angel Gabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her: wherefore also the Holy Thing begotten of her is the Son of God; and she replied, 'Be it unto me according to your word.'"
A.D 170
Use of the word 'Trinity'
Theophilus, patriarch of Antioch, Theophilus to Autolycus 2.15:
"In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity, of God, and His Word, and His wisdom. And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Word, wisdom, man."

A.D. 180
Primacy of the Bishop of Rome
Some take the attitude and posture of St Clement, bishop of Rome, in his letter First Clement written around A.D. 95 to the church in Corinth as indicating an early understanding of the primacy of the bishop of Rome (see First Clement, 1, 58-59, 63). Some also see an indication of the primacy of the bishop of Rome in the writings of St Ignatius of Antioch circa A.D. 110 (see Letter to the Romans, 1, 3). The date listed above - A.D. 180 - is for the quote from St Irenaeus below. His is the first clearly explicit witness to the primacy of the bishop of Rome of which I am aware:

The crucifixion of St Peter
St Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.3.2:
“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.”
A.D. 200
'Trinity', 'Person', 'Substance' Formula
Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 2:
"...especially in the case of this heresy, which supposes itself to possess the pure truth, in thinking that one cannot believe in One Only God in any other way than by saying that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are the very selfsame Person. As if in this way also one were not All, in that All are of One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation is still guarded, which distributes the Unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three Persons— the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in aspect; yet of one substance, and of one condition, and of one power, inasmuch as He is one God, from whom these degrees and forms and aspects are reckoned, under the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. How they are susceptible of number without division, will be shown as our treatise proceeds."
A.D. 367
27 book New Testament Canon
St Athanasius, Easter Letter of 367, 5:
"Again it is not tedious to speak of the [books] of the New Testament. These are, the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Afterwards, the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles (called Catholic), seven, viz. of James, one; of Peter, two; of John, three; after these, one of Jude. In addition, there are fourteen Epistles of Paul, written in this order. The first, to the Romans; then two to the Corinthians; after these, to the Galatians; next, to the Ephesians; then to the Philippians; then to the Colossians; after these, two to the Thessalonians, and that to the Hebrews; and again, two to Timothy; one to Titus; and lastly, that to Philemon. And besides, the Revelation of John."
*Except perhaps with the primacy of the bishop of Rome, but the early dissent was small compared to the confusion/dissent regarding the Trinity and the New Testament canon. Major dissent regarding the role of the bishop of Rome came much later.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Protestant Defense of Mary's Perpetual Virginity; or Evangelical Mariology as a peculiar historical aberration

The Annunciation
The Catholic Church teaches that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was not only a virgin before Jesus was born, but remained a virgin perpetually thereafter.

Most evangelicals find this to be just another silly Catholic belief that can be quickly dismissed by anyone with a basic knowledge of the Scriptures, seeing as the Bible mentions that Jesus had brothers and sisters.

One such example is Matthew 12.46: "While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him." Other examples include Matthew 13.55, Mark 6.3 (this is the one that mentions sisters), John 2.12, John 7.3, John 7.5, John 7.10, Acts 1.14, 1 Corinthians 9.5, and Galatians 1.19.

Here's a traditional response:
"The word brothers, we have formerly mentioned, is employed, agreeably to the Hebrew idiom, to denote any relatives whatever; and, accordingly, Helvidius displayed excessive ignorance in concluding that Mary must have had many sons, because Christ’s brothers are sometimes mentioned."
There is another passage usually brought up as a evidence that Mary was not perpetually a virgin, Matthew 1.24-25: "When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus."

To say that Joseph "knew her not until she had given birth to a son", many evangelicals argue, seems to imply very strongly that Joseph did "know" Mary after she had given birth to Jesus. Another traditional response:
"This passage afforded the pretext for great disturbances, which were introduced into the Church, at a former period, by Helvidius. The inference he drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband. Jerome, on the other hand, earnestly and copiously defended Mary’s perpetual virginity. Let us rest satisfied with this, that no just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words of the Evangelist, as to what took place after the birth of Christ. 
He is called first-born; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin. It is said that Joseph knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son: but this is limited to that very time. What took place afterwards, the historian does not inform us. Such is well known to have been the practice of the inspired writers."
St Jerome
Who's this Helvidius that keeps getting mentioned? He was a 4th century theologian who taught that Mary was not a virgin after the birth Jesus and based this belief on the very same verses that we have brought up. Helvidius' view was immediately condemned in the Church as newly-invented blasphemy, with a famous defense of Mary's perpetual virginity given by St Jerome in his work The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary: "Pray tell me, who, before you appeared, was acquainted with this blasphemy? Who thought the theory worth two-pence?" (18)

The explanations quoted above in defense of the perpetual virginity of Mary, while accurate, are fairly poignant (and at times even a bit harsh). So who are they from?

None other than the great Protestant Reformer John Calvin.

The first quote is from from his Commentary on Matthew, Mark, Luke, Vol 2, Matthew 13.53-58 and Mark 6.1-6, and the second is from his Commentary on Matthew, Mark, Luke, Vol 1, Matthew 1.18-25.

For full disclosure, Calvin seems to indicate in a sentence following the second quote that, while he doesn't think there is Scriptural warrant for denying the perpetual virginity of Mary, he doesn't think the question is of much importance either:
"Certainly, no man will ever raise a question on this subject, except from curiosity; and no man will obstinately keep up the argument, except from an extreme fondness for disputation."
But notice that Calvin thought that "Helvidius displayed excessive ignorance in concluding that Mary must have had many sons, because Christ’s brothers are sometimes mentioned," (my emphasis) - the very same conclusion that many evangelicals today make from those passages.

And regarding the other common evangelical argument from Matthew 1.24-25, Calvin thought "that no just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words of the Evangelist, as to what took place after the birth of Christ" and that "[w]hat took place afterwards, the historian does not inform us. Such is well known to have been the practice of the inspired writers."

Calvin was not alone among the Reformers in defending the perpetual virginity of our Blessed Mother.

Martin Luther
Martin Luther wrote:
"When Matthew says that Joseph did not know Mary carnally until she had brought forth her son, it does not follow that he knew her subsequently; on the contrary, it means that he never did know her . . . This babble . . . is without justification . . . he has neither noticed nor paid any attention to either Scripture or the common idiom." (That Jesus was Born a Jew)
"Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb . . . This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that. [...] Christ . . . was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him . . . I am inclined to agree with those who declare that 'brothers' really mean 'cousins' here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers." (Sermons on John)
Huldrych Zwingli wrote:
"I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the gospel as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin." (Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Berlin, 1905, v. 1, p. 424)
Even John Wesley, in 1749, wrote:
"I believe that He [Jesus] was made man, joining the human nature with the divine in one person; being conceived by the singular operation of the Holy Ghost, and born of the blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as before she brought Him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin." (Letter to a Roman Catholic)
Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, and Wesley were simply maintaining the long-standing traditional belief on the matter. Here are just a few witnesses:

St Gregory of Nyssa, On the Holy Generation of Christ, 5 (4th century):
"For if Joseph had taken her to be his wife, for the purpose of having children, why would she have wondered at the announcement of maternity, since she herself would have accepted becoming a mother according to the law of nature?"
St Augustine, Sermons 186.1 (early 5th century):
“It was not the visible sun, but its invisible Creator who consecrated this day for us, when the Virgin Mother, fertile of womb and integral in her virginity, brought him forth, made visible for us, by whom, when he was invisible, she too was created. A Virgin conceiving, a Virgin bearing, a Virgin pregnant, a Virgin bringing forth, a Virgin perpetual. Why do you wonder at this, O man?”
St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III.28.3 (13th century):
"Without any hesitation we must abhor the error of Helvidius, who dared to assert that Christ's Mother, after His Birth, was carnally known by Joseph, and bore other children. 
For, in the first place, this is derogatory to Christ's perfection: for as He is in His Godhead the Only-Begotten of the Father, being thus His Son in every respect perfect, so it was becoming that He should be the Only-begotten son of His Mother, as being her perfect offspring. 
St Thomas Aquinas
Secondly, this error is an insult to the Holy Ghost, whose "shrine" was the virginal womb, wherein He had formed the flesh of Christ: wherefore it was unbecoming that it should be desecrated by intercourse with man. 
Thirdly, this is derogatory to the dignity and holiness of God's Mother: for thus she would seem to be most ungrateful, were she not content with such a Son; and were she, of her own accord, by carnal intercourse to forfeit that virginity which had been miraculously preserved in her. 
Fourthly, it would be tantamount to an imputation of extreme presumption in Joseph, to assume that he attempted to violate her whom by the angel's revelation he knew to have conceived by the Holy Ghost. 
We must therefore simply assert that the Mother of God, as she was a virgin in conceiving Him and a virgin in giving Him birth, did she remain a virgin ever afterwards."
Of course, most Christians today still believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary (think Catholics and Orthodox). The practice of evangelicals today of denying the perpetual virginity of Mary is a fairly recent innovation - a peculiar historical aberration, particularly since evangelicals would consider themselves to be conservative Christians - that can't even find historical precedent among the primary magisterial Reformers; for that, one can only look to a hand-full of 4th century teachers who were otherwise universally rejected as heretics. Catholics, on the other hand, have maintained the 2000 year tradition that our blessed and holy mother Mary was indeed not only a virgin before Jesus' birth but also perpetually a virgin thereafter.