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October 31, 2007

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Woohoo! The Church - One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic - the Bride of Christ, the visible sign of the Kingdom of God on earth, is divided after 1500 years of unity. The People of God, for whom our Lord prayed "That they may be one", are now splintered into 30,000+ denominations, and the Light of the World is now dimmed. That's quite an achievement ...

Mark -

In your reading of Scripture, what lead you to the conclusion that Jesus came to start an organization? In other words, what is the Scriptural evidence for your view that the Church is an particular organization and not a particular group of people called by God to be reconciled unto Himself through Jesus?

Thanks,
John

Friends,

What better way to celebrate Reformation Day than to hear from none other than the father of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther himself!

"There are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads; this one will not admit Baptism; that one rejects the Sacrament of the Altar; another places another world between the present one and day of judgment; some teach that Jesus Christ is not God. There is not an individual, however clownish he may be, who does not claim to be inspired by the Holy Ghost, and who does not put forth as prophecies his ravings and dreams."

(Commentary on the Psalms, bewailing the inevitable outcome of what he started.)

"Accordingly, we concede to the papacy that they sit in the true Church, possessing the office instituted by Christ and inherited from the apostles, to teach, baptize, administer the sacrament, absolve, ordain, etc., just as the Jews sat in their synagogues or assemblies and were the regularly established priesthood and authority of the Church. We admit all this and do not attack the office, although they are not willing to admit as much for us; yea, we confess that we have received these things from them, even as Christ by birth descended from the Jews and the apostles obtained the Scriptures from them."

(Sermon for the Sunday after Christ's Ascension; John 15:26-16:4 [2nd sermon], page 265, paragraph 28, [1522])

"We concede – as we must – that so much of what they [the Catholic Church] say is true: that the papacy has God's word and the office of the apostles, and that we have received Holy Scriptures, Baptism, the Sacrament, and the pulpit from them. What would we know of these if it were not for them?"

(Sermon on the Gospel of St. John, chaps. 14 - 16 [1537])

"I never approved of a schism, nor will I approve of it for all eternity. . . That the Roman Church is more honored by God than all others is not to be doubted. St, Peter and St. Paul, forty-six Popes, some hundreds of thousands of martyrs, have laid down their lives in its communion, having overcome Hell and the world; so that the eyes of God rest on the Roman church with special favor. Though nowadays everything is in a wretched state, it is no ground for separating from the Church. On the contrary, the worse things are going, the more should we hold close to her, for it is not by separating from the Church that we can make her better. We must not separate from God on account of any work of the devil, nor cease to have fellowship with the children of God who are still abiding in the pale of Rome on account of the multitude of the ungodly. There is no sin, no amount of evil, which should be permitted to dissolve the bond of charity or break the bond of unity of the body. For love can do all things, and nothing is difficult to those who are united."

(From a letter to Pope Leo X, January 6, 1519, over a year after the Ninety-Five Theses.)


"It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin."

(Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God." 1527).


"I would rather have pure blood with the Pope, than drink mere wine with the Enthusiasts."

(Luther's Works, 37, 317 - by "enthusiasts" Luther means the Anabaptists and the other radical reformers that spun off from Luther's movement.)


Melinda,
How is your relationship to Christ different than mine because of the Protestation?
I have to agree with Mike. I can't help it. There is only one Body of Christ. The fact that we are fragmented is not a good thing; not something to be celebrated. I can't imagine that heaven will be compartmentalized so that there will be a special place for Methodists, Lutherans, etc.

Mark
could you please cite your source for 30,000 denominations.

Dr. Lyn
What is the body of Christ, who is rightly considered a part of it, and on what basis do you surmise those things?

Aiden
please explain the doctrine of Immaculate Conception from scripture. If it is not there, why then, should I accept it?

Aiden,
you left out one of Luther's quotes:

"“I feel much freer now that I am certain the pope is the Antichrist”"

Dr. Lyn wrote:

"I have to agree with Mike....There is only one Body of Christ."

I think you mean "Mark" and I don't think that is what Mark is saying. Perhaps he'll be along shortly to answer my question and clarify his statement.

In the meantime, as I understand Mark, he is saying the Church is an organization. Specifically the Roman Catholic Church. My understanding of Scripture is that the Church - the Body of Christ is an organism - God's chosen who have inhabited the world in the past and who inhabit the world today.

Dr. Lyn I don't know that your relationship is different to Christ's then mine because you sit in a pew on Sundays and I sit on a collapsible chair. That's exactly my point to Mark.

And Mark - I would also like to know what your source is for the claim that there are 30,000+ denominations.

Thanks,
John

Jesus said in John 17 in his last High Priestly prayer, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you...... May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

Is denomationalism OK? What if we only had 5 denominations under Christianity, let alone 30,000+?

Is Christ pleased with the visible Church when you can open the Yellow Pages and see the competition amongst congregations vying for the seeker and/or believer?

I for one am concerned and frightened for the visible Church that we are not operating the way we are supposed to.

Jesus also said in Luke 18, "However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"

Scary.

John,

If you can't see the trajectory in scripture of God's covenental plan stretching from the first couple (marriage), to a family (Noah), a tribe (Abraham), a nation (Moses), a kingdom (David), to an international, worldwide, sacramental (Baptism, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Annointing of the Sick, etc.) Kingdom (the Church) - founded upon Peter (the Prime Minister and keeper of the keys) and the Twelve Apostles - then you are missing the big picture of God's plan for restoring the human family. I won't bore you with proof-texts which you'll just say aren't in themselves conclusive but here's a few:

Matthew 16:18-19 "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Luke 22:28 ""You are those who have continued with me in my trials; and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."


1 Timothy 3:15: "I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth."

Patrick,

World Christian Encyclopedia by Barrett, Kurian, Johnson (Oxford Univ Press, 2nd edition, 2001). How many are too many for you?

In my opinion, Greg Koukl is very persuasive on the point that Jesus didn't come to found an institution. The corollary is that Christ's followers need not belong to one particular institution, namely, the Roman Catholic Church. My suspicion is that a student of Luther's life and writings could come up with other quotations that contradict the ones quoted by Aiden Juma, or maybe those quotations would look different in context.

Hi all,

Whether denominations are anathema or a proper congregational form, the cornerstone of the Reformation was justification by grace through faith, NOT denominationalism. There were many by-products of the Reformation, each distinct - the organizational split from Rome, the distribution of the Bible (pre-dating Luther), the decentralization of authority, theological freedom from Rome, etc. Each of these deserves separate consideration.

We must remember that Rome was stringent against opposition from within - anyone who differed from the Magisterium might pay for their views with their life, or their excommunicated soul. Luther's original intent was to reform, not divide; but the Church of Rome was not interested in constructive criticism. Luther was forced out of the Church under threat of death. However, much good has come from his reforms.

BTW, Rome has come around on several Reformation issues, but the cornerstone of justification by faith has not yet been resolved. If "the Church" threatens to excommunicate or execute someone for teaching a Biblically supported variant of salvation, does the disunity lie on Rome's head, or Luther's?

Mark -

Thanks for the reply. I do not specifically take issue with the "trajectory" of God's plan for restoring the human family, as you put it. I actually think this makes my point that the Church is a collection of people and not an organization per se.

Your first post was sarcastic and not that I take issue with sarcasm, however I want to make sure I understand your claim correctly. I'm assuming you're a Roman Catholic and you are defending Rome's authority claim as the only true Church, the only "real" Christian organization in the word today. Is that right?

I don't want to wrongly assume what you're saying here, so please explicitly state your claim and connect the dots of how the verses you quoted support that view.

Also, I know the World Christian Encyclopedia you referenced and it lists closer to 9,000 denominations under protestantism. It also lists a few hundred denominations under Roman Catholicism. Please explain again how you arrived at the 30,000+ figure?

SageS - good post. The denominational argument does not have the force many may think it does in my opinion. I like Koukl's analogy of the different denominations to different baseball teams. And how different baseball coaches emphasize different aspects to varying degrees, but they are all teaching the fundamentals. The difference between sprinkled baptism and full immersion baptism is not the hinge pin of Christianity!....however justification is.

Further question for Mark....I attend a non-denominational Church with my wife and family. I do not consider myself a protestant per se, but I hold a reformed theology, in the sense that I believe I am justified before God by faith alone in Christ's righteousness and the evidence of such to my fellow members is my good works. In your view, am I a Christian, or not? And if not, how does where I attend worship service determine my relationship with Christ?

Thanks,
John

> The fact that we are fragmented is not a
> good thing

But are we really so "fragmented"?

Sure there are many denominations, and each has it's own take on various nuances of scripture and theology, but all within the body believe the same thing regarding the essentials of the faith. Those that diverge from the essentials are considered outside the Pale of orthodoxy.

That we are fragmented on the minor issues is a good thing, I think. The debates that ensue are good for us; it causes us to think and reason about what we believe and why, leading to deeper understanding and appreciation for what God hath wrought.

Mark
I have no problem at all if there are 400,000 denominations. In effect, there probably are that many, for for every person there is some extent to which they diverge at some point on non central things. Denominations are like everything else wherein people (as part of what it means to be human) seek like minded people to form a community.

But the bigger problem is your underlying assumption. First, Rome is not monolithic, as many people take what they want and leave the rest, the just lack the power or resources to break away. Second, you assume that RC is truth. In fact, RC contradicts the scripture on justification, and is therefore one more denomination so called. Reformation was necessary because Rome had perverted the gospel.

You assume that the unity that Jesus spoke of means we should all be Roman Catholic. There is nothing to substantiate that at all, especially given Rome's contradiction of Jesus and their rejection of the sufficiency of the atonement. As it is, I see the reformation as part of God's ongoing answer to Jesus' prayer for unity. And of course there is diversity in the unity. There is liberty to be enjoyed and various groups gather around those priorities. And of course, there are many denominations that have no genuine unity with Christ and are not in Christ. Luther was right about justification, as right as Paul and the other Apostles. Rome preaches another gospel, and embraces a circular argumentation from which it cannot escape with respect to authority.

To sum up - there may be thousands of Christian faith traditions that emphasize various distinctions without compromising justification by faith alone by grace alone, in Christ alone. Rome is not monolithic, and preaches another gospel. People in RC and various "another gospel" protestant traditions can be saved in spite of the theology proper that those traditions espouse.

I find it funny that I'm asked to supply Scriptures which demonstrate Jesus' intention to found a covenant institution (the fullfillment of the Davidic Kingdom) and then, after doing so, the reply is: "Greg Koukl is very persuasive on the point that Jesus didn't come to found an institution". I thought we were playing 'sola scriptura' (a curiously non-scriptural principle with no patrimony before Martin Luther)?

Once again, Catholics ('monolithic' in the sense of one in faith and morals and in continuity with the Apostles) take the clear sense of Scripture while Reformation Protestants hide behind extra-biblical sources and interpretations). If we are to appeal to authoritative commentary on the Scriptures, how about starting with the Patristic testimony (the men who studied under the Apostles and are the best interpreters of their teachings)?

“Our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned, and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry."
St. Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians, 44:1-2, c. AD 80


"You must follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father, and the presbytery as you would the Apostles. Reverence the deacons as you would the command of God. Let no one do anything of concern to the Church without the bishop. Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there, just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church."
St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 8:1-2, AD 107


"The Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although she is disseminated throughout the whole world, yet guarded it, as if she occupied but one house. She likewise believes these things 'just as if she had but one soul and one and the same heart and harmoniously she proclaims them and teaches them and hands them down, as if she possessed but one mouth. For, while the languages of the world are diverse, nevertheless, the authority of the Tradition is one and the same."
St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1, 10, 2, c. AD 190


Mark,

So what you’re saying is that the writers of those letters would see the current Roman Catholic Church as an extension of the “Church” they are writing about?

It seems really difficult to say this especially because ALL those letters were written before Constantine’s conversion and his declaration to make Christianity the religion of the empire.

I don't think any Protestant would disagree with the sentiments in those letters, where they would draw issue is that they don’t believe the current RCC is the same "Church" as the one referred to in the letters you referred to.

I for one think it would make it much much much better if there were only one “form” of Christianity, assuming that it was evident that these teaching were infallible and inerrant from God (I guess we have to wait for Christ to come back on this one), but from the history of Christianity in general there seems to be continual evidence of human fallibility regardless of what seats of authority they occupy so it is very difficult for me to believe in this idea. And your right you can apply the same argument against my interpretation of Scripture (i.e. the concept of sola scriptura), and I am certain I interpret things incorrectly and I have errors in my theology. I just wish I knew what they were so I could get rid of them.

Your brother in Christ,

-Josh

John,

For a fuller treatment of the biblical foundations for the Church as the fulfillment of the Davidic kingdom, see Scott Hahn, Kingdom and Church in Luke-Acts(http://www.salvationhistory.com/library/scripture/historical/newtestament/KingdomChurchInLukeActs.pdf).

Scott has commented elsewhere: "Every single covenant in the Old Testament was accompanied by a structure, a hierarchy, a family hierarchy where you had a father and under him elders and under them other rulers. You had King David and then his cabinet of ministers and you had elders who ruled over the tribes, just like back in the Mosaic ovenant, you had Moses and Aaron and you had the twelve princes of the twelve tribes and the seventy elders."
"All of these covenants formed unifying structures that would maintain and preserve and protect the unity of God's family. That's one of the most significant reasons for the covenants in the first place: to preserve the unity of the growing family, even to Gargantuan proportions, when the family becomes a nation or an empire or a worldwide body, as it is in the Church."
"So, the New Covenant that Christ forms, what is it? He goes about forming it in such a way as to recapitulate and perfect and complete all the Old Testament covenants. Just like Moses had twelve princes under him from the twelve tribes and he also had seventy elders, (or 72 elders if you included Metheldad and Medad) he had seventy elders underneath him, so Christ appoints twelve. Then Christ appoints seventy others according to the Gospel of Luke. Christ was calling disciples to reform and restructure a new Israel, an Israel that transcended race, and that transcended regions and geographical boundaries; and this third race is one, which by the way is the name of this talk. The third race is unified by Christ Himself. He is the covenant. He is the family. He is the means by which God fathers His family."

Mark wrote:

"I find it funny that I'm asked to supply Scriptures which demonstrate Jesus' intention to found a covenant institution (the fullfillment of the Davidic Kingdom) and then, after doing so, the reply is: "Greg Koukl is very persuasive on the point that Jesus didn't come to found an institution".

Mark -

Because the Bible does not teach the "Bible only" there is nothing inherently wrong with using illuminating resources from thinkers today and years past to inform our discussion. As you have quoted extra-biblical sources yourself - the early church fathers - I find it odd that you would cry foul when an opinion was posted citing Koukl's argumentation on this matter. Koukl may not be in the same category as the early church fathers, however he is still an extra biblical source - and his argument is compelling.

Further, please review the posts above. You will find that your implicit complaint of inconsistency with bouncing from reasoning from the Scripture to "extra-biblical" sources is simply not true. Please notice that 'I' asked you to provide Scriptural evidence that supports what I've assumed you're claiming here. In response to your Scripture postings, I did not write the response you quote above. Instead I asked you the following clarification question:

"....I want to make sure I understand your claim correctly. I'm assuming you're a Roman Catholic and you are defending Rome's authority claim as the only true Church, the only "real" Christian organization in the word today. Is that right?

I don't want to wrongly assume what you're saying here, so please explicitly state your claim and connect the dots of how the verses you quoted support that view."

Again:

1. Please explicitly state your claim, so that I am crystal clear on what your position is.

2. Please explain how the passages you're using support that claim. (For example, with the Matthew passage, please explain what Jesus means when he says "on this rock"...what is the rock? Peter? faith?..something else?)

I look forward to your reply.

Thanks,
John

Mark quoted:

"So, the New Covenant that Christ forms, what is it? He goes about forming it in such a way as to recapitulate and perfect and complete all the Old Testament covenants. Just like Moses had twelve princes under him from the twelve tribes and he also had seventy elders, (or 72 elders if you included Metheldad and Medad) he had seventy elders underneath him, so Christ appoints twelve. Then Christ appoints seventy others according to the Gospel of Luke. Christ was calling disciples to reform and restructure a new Israel, an Israel that transcended race, and that transcended regions and geographical boundaries; and this third race is one, which by the way is the name of this talk. The third race is unified by Christ Himself. He is the covenant. He is the family. He is the means by which God fathers His family."

Mark - how does this support your position? This is actually evidence for my position!

Read that again -

"Christ was calling disciples to reform and restructure a new Israel, an Israel that transcended race, and that transcended regions and geographical boundaries; ...... The third race is unified by Christ Himself."

"Christ is the covenant".
What is Christ Mark? He is a person right?

"He is the family". Again - Christ is a person right?...the Church is consistently referred to as the "bride of Christ" throughout Scripture....so what is "the Church" Mark? The Church is people! It is not an institution or a political hierarchy.

Your thoughts?

ABout the Mathew passage: I heard a great explanation from Dr. MIles Munroe, so heres my attempt at the point. read the verse prior, Jesus is asking who people say he is, when Peter says he is the Christ, then Jesus says upon this rock I will build my church. Church come from the word Ikklesia, now according to Munroe Kings used Ikklesias which were their called out ones who would come to the king as he said his ideas for government , life etc they would write it down and distribute it out to the appropiate areas of the kingdom, so people would have the rules and expectations for living etc. Now only kings had this power and this type of assembly around them. So when Peter identified Jesus as Christ and his right to kingship it follows that Jesus authority to operate in this manner was recognized. His church is his called out ones who will seek his ideas, rules, way of life and distribute it out to his kingdom,... to spread his kingdom over the world. So in a church setting the believers(called out ones) assemble to learn from God/Jesus through the Bible and then apply that out into their lives. This way the Kingdom is constantly being operated under the authority of the King through His called out ones.

With respect to the church, Beth Moore makes a distinction between unity and uniformity. It's relevant to this debate. Aside from that, some of the other commenters here know their history better than I do.

Mark
there is precious little in the RC "faith" that embraces the gospel as preached by the prophets, Jesus and the apostles. There is no scripture to support Rome's sacramental system, and there is no scripture to support its Marian dogmas, purgatory, indulgences and all those things which pervert the gospel and are anathema to Paul. There is no papacy in scripture (the Matt passage has nothing to do with that except at eisegetically forced by those that defy the final authority of scripture, and the many errors of Rome were not in place in the original concept of "catholicism". Roman Catholicism is an aberration and quite easily refuted by the scripture.

John,

You seem to be stumbling on Christ's identification of Himself with the Church. Our Lord himself used the image of the vine "I am the vine, you are the branches", but this is deeper than metaphor, it is metaphysics. When the Risen Lord appears to Saul he says, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?". But Saul was persecuting the Church.

"It was the Incarnation that dramatically transformed the reality of the people of God. The Son, who was eternally and spiritually and invisibly one with the Father became visible and physical and human and in His body, He formed the New Covenant. And in His body, He incorporates us and unites us and He identifies His Church with His body and He describes Himself as the one who built the Church: "I will build my Church" (Mt 16:18). It's His Church; He's the builder; and just as the Father made Him visible and physical, so the Body of Christ is visible and physical and one with the supernatural unity that comes ultimately from the Trinity itself." Scott Hahn, "The Church is One" at http://www.chnetwork.org/journals/nesschurch/ness_1.htm

Mark -

Please answer my questions.

Thanks,
John

Patrick,

We were having a discussion about the Scriptural foundations for the Church as a visible, unified institutions (in the sense of One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic - as described in the Apostles creed). I've supplied ample material for discussion but instead you want to change to a debate about justification (except you want to pontificate rather than debate). I see how your mind works ...

The Scriptural testimony is clear. The Church of the New Testament had a visible hierarchy. There are no independent local congregations in the NT. The Apostles met in solemn council and promulgate doctrinal decisions which are binding on the whole Church (Acts 15:1-29). The Apostles excercized their authority by insisting on uniformity of doctrine (Phil 2:1-2), morals (1Cor 7:17), worship (1Cor 7:18ff), and governance (Tit 1:5).

The office of Peter as chief steward is confirmed in many passages such as John 21:15ff, Luke 22:31-32, and Acts 15:1-29 where Peter announces his decision at the Council of Jerusalem. As Protestant scholar F.F. Bruce says,

"And what about the 'keys of the kingdom'? The keys of a royal or noble establishment were entrusted to the chieff steward or major domo; he carried them on his shoulder in earlier times, and there they served as a badge of the authority entrusted to him ... So in the new community which Jesus was to build, Peter would be, so to speak, chief steward".

Mark
it was you that started out with the attack on justification by faith alone, and that with some mocking. You may have taken the discussion in another direction, but that is not the intent of the author's post. One cannot speak of the reformation day without reference to that.

The only hierarchy in the early church was apostolic, and there is nothing in scripture to argue for apostolic succession. Indeed, bishop, elder, and pastor are translations of the same Greek word.

Those things which were promulgated as binding to which you refer, became scripture based on that apostolic authority. There is nothing to suggest otherwise and no further promulgations from a supposed magesterium is binding at all.

I fail to see how the John passage establishes Peter as chief steward at all. Please clarify. Neither does the Luke passage. It was James in Acts that issued forth the decree, and prior to the Jerusalem Council , Paul argued in Galatians against similar issues. Indeed, Peter needed to be rebuked for his hypocrisy.

I will have to research the keys issue, but I do know that in no way does FF Bruce espouse apostolic succession and a papacy. Furthermore, Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles.

Patrick,

I see from your website that you are an apologist. I am just a layman so please, no tricks ;)

I did not mention "justification by faith alone" at all (let alone mock the notion). But now that you bring it up, where is that phrase in scripture (hint - it is not there; the phrase is actually an interpolation of Scripture by Martin Luther)?

In my eyes, the Reformation is akin to a divorce - not something to be celebrated by the children. This in spite of the fact that reform of the Church was needed; but not schism.

So you accept the authority of the Apostles in the Early Church to decide on matters of faith, morals, worship and governance but not apostolic succession? But what about the controversies which needed to be settled authoritatively over the centuries. I assume you are familiar with the fact that the canon of scripture itself took about 400 years to be assembled and promulgated (although the writings of the apostles were a part of the Church's liturgy from the beginning). What about the doctrine of the Trinity? Or the dual natures of Christ? These were highly contested teachings which could not have been settled without Our Lord's promise of inerrancy and the Church's teaching authority.

As Cardinal Newman observed, "To be steeped in history is to cease to be protestant.".

Mark
The apostle Paul speaks of justification especially in Romans and Galatians. In those places, faith is spoken of as the way by which that justification is manifest in the believer. "Alone" is with respect to the salvific act of God - totally monergistic. God saves (See John chapter six, without any merit in the person or based on anything other than the sovereign will of God. So it not merely an interpolation by Martin Luther. He learned what Paul had learned from Jesus Christ (esp. Acts, Galatians).

The controversies that you speak of were settled by deferring to the scriptures. Actually, doctrine of the trinity fit in very well with Jewish Monotheism (see Richard Baukams "God Crucified), and the emphasis in the early was not on merely function, but ontology - Christ had to be divine.

Jesus never promised that the church would be inerrant that I am aware of - neither did he endow a teaching megesterium that would contradict his very words.

Patrick said, "The controversies that you speak of were settled by deferring to the scriptures."

Really? How do you arrive at the Canon of Scripture by appealing to Scripture? Scripture does not contain a list of Canonical books. You have the Catholic Church to thank for preserving the canon.

Likewise the doctrine of the Trinity, and the divine and human natures of Christ. While Scripture is the Word of God and the rule of faith, it does not employ the philosophical categories of "nature", "person", "substance", etc. necessary to tease out and define these doctrines. These issues were not settled by a simple appeal to scripture because scripture based arguments were made from both sides of the issues. Church councils were necessary to resolve these disputes; just as Acts records the council of Jerusalem was called to settle the circumcision issue.

The Council Of Nicaea, for example, in 325 A.D. (at which 318 Bishops were present), defined the nature of Christ as CONSUBSTANTIAL with the Father; a teaching which was hotly contested by great numbers of followers of Arius who taught the Son was created by the Father and inferior to Him.

We also have the Council of Nicea to thank for the Nicean Creed, which has served for these many centuries as a yardstick of Orthodoxy (a fact recognized even by Luther).

Mark -

Do you make a distinction between the word "Catholic" and the word "Rome"?....or are they synonymous in your understanding?

And if you do make that distinction, do you think the post you made above is an apologetic for the Catholic (universal) church or for Rome?

Thanks,
John

Nice to see I'm not the only one stirring up trouble around here, bwahaha ^_^

Mark,
the Roman Catholic church as you speak of it did not exist in the way or category you are forcing it into. That, as your friend Cardinal Newman would agree, is historical truth.

There were indeed certain aspects of the recognition of the Canon that came from a knowledge of scripture. For example, the apocrypha was never part of Hebrew or OT scripture, and so it did not find its place in the Church Canon. The early church was concerned with what ought to be accepted as authoritative and "scripture". They had criteria for that. They had the parameters, so to speak. So of course you are right inasmuch as nothing in the NT said "put this together with other letters" to form a NT!

Of course scripture employs nature, persons and substance. All of those considerations are in the tacit awareness of the NT writers at the very least. Phil. 2 is a good example. The Acts 2 council simply realized that the Mosiac law saves nobody. The decision was based on scripture.

Arius was a heretic, and the council formed in part to respond to his heresy. Even if trinitarian terminology was not extant at the time, the philosophical stuff necessary to draw those conclusions was - Jesus being wisdom, etc.

Patrick says, "the Roman Catholic church as you speak of it did not exist in the way or category you are forcing it into."

Do you want to flesh that out a little? There is ample biblical evidence that Our Lord meant to found an earthly, covenental kingdom (a fulfillment of the Davidic kingdom). I have already cited early Christian sources which demonstrate both Apostolic authority and Petrine primacy (yes John, Peter went to Rome and, so Petrine primacy (the Chief Steward talked about by F.F. Bruce in continuity with Isa 22: "On that day I will call my servant Eliakim ... I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut; and no one shall open").

I need not repeat the Patristic testimony to these same truths or the creeds or the councils.

So what's your argument?

Patrick says, "Arius was a heretic, and the council formed in part to respond to his heresy."

Yes, you've got it. The controversy was resolved authoritatively by the Council of Bishops (whose office derived from the Apostles. Remember how the Apostles appointed Matthias as successor to Judas: "... to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place. And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthi'as; and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles").

Hi Mark - please clarify - are you saying that the church in Rome - Roman Catholicism - is the one and only True church ?

If so - what is the position of that church regarding believers who are outside the roman church ? Or does the roman church believe that it alone houses true believers ?

Kind regards,

alan

Hi Mark - please clarify - are you saying that the church in Rome - Roman Catholicism - is the one and only True church ?

If so - what is the position of that church regarding believers who are outside the roman church ? Or does the roman church believe that it alone houses true believers ?

Kind regards,

alan

Mark,

Um...what? You really think that Isaiah passage is referring to Peter? You think *Peter* is the one of whom the prophet spoke, who possesses the "key of David", etc.?

Who then said these words in Revelation 3:7?

"He who is holy, who is true, who has [present tense] the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this..."

Hint: it wasn't Peter.

Sorry, that was me above.

Sadly - yet predictably - Mark disappears when questions become specific.

alan,

I have not fled but I am experiencing computer problems. Thank you for your patience. Paraphrasing from the recent statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Church (http://www.chnetwork.org/responses.html):

Christ established here on earth only one Church and instituted it as a “visible and spiritual community , in which alone are found all the elements that Christ himself instituted. Nevertheless, there are “numerous elements of sanctification and of truth” which are found outside her structure, but which “as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity”. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church”

The significance of the Isaiah passage, in which the keys of the Davidic Kingdom are entrusted to Eliakim as the Chief Steward, is that it sheds light on the actions of Christ in entrusting the keys to Peter.

If you wish to assert that Jesus did NOT intent to found a visible kingdom, I'm waiting to hear that argument. I've provided ample proof that the instituional Church was not an accident but was intended by Christ.

Mark
you have misunderstood the scripture. you said

"Yes, you've got it. The controversy was resolved authoritatively by the Council of Bishops (whose office derived from the Apostles"

That is merely an assertion which you have not proven. There is nothing in scripture to denote apostolic succession. The example of Matthias you provided does not argue for any continuous apostolic succession. the full context is

" 21 "Therefore, from among the men who have accompanied us during the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day He was taken up from us—from among these, it is necessary that one become a witness with us of His resurrection."

Unless you are willing to accede that all bishops and popes since that day were witnesses of the resurrection, then you should abandon that argument.

Patrick,

I've supplied both scriptural and patristic evidence that Our Lord founded a visible, apostolic Church. History, likewise, testifies to an institutional Church responsible for spreading and protecting the faith, establishing the Canon of Scripture and promulgating authoritative doctrine like the Nicean Creed ("We believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church...").

You have provided a series of blanket assertions with no sustained argument. By what justification do you posit discontinuity between the visible structures of the Old Testamnet covenants and the "New and everlasing covenant" of the New? Where did the Canon come from, if not the Church? How was Arianism put down, if not by a Church council?

Regarding Apostolic succession, Paul says,

"What you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). In this passage he refers to the first three generations of apostolic succession—his own generation, Timothy’s generation, and the generation Timothy will teach.

Mark
you and I cannot have a discussion if you are going to summarize my arguments in the way you have. In my last post, I corrected your erroneous biblical assertion regarding apostolic authority. In no way have I posited discontinuity between the covenants. I suspect, as the apostle Paul said, "that there must indeed be factions so that those that are approved would be known."

It was not the Roman Catholic Church that gave the Canon, the canon existed in the mind of God communicated through the apostolic writings as Jesus promised. The church recognized it much in the same way man recognizes there is a God through creation.

But that is a far cry from papacy and apostolic succession. Your last assertion is perhaps the most bold and least sustainable:

""What you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). In this passage he refers to the first three generations of apostolic succession—his own generation, Timothy’s generation, and the generation Timothy will teach."

That passage can only be forced in to an argument for apostolic succession by eisegesis. The only thing that succeeds from generation to generation is the teaching of the apostles encapsulated in scripture - nothing at all in scripture speaks of succession of the office. Indeed it was that pretension that led to many schisms and abuses that scar the history of the church, and led Luther to denounce the pope as anti-Christ.

Hi Mark - Thanks for your partial response. You neglected to address this question that I asked:

If so (that Rome is the one true church) - what is the position of that church regarding believers who are outside the roman church ? Or does the roman church believe that it alone houses true believers ?

Patrick says, "In no way have I posited discontinuity between the covenants."

If you're saying, the Old Testament shows God's people organized into visible structures (tribe, nation of 12 tribes, kingdom) with ritual forms (e.g. passover) and leadership (priest, prophet, king) but the New Testament Church founded by Christ does not have visible structures, ritual forms or leadership - then you are using a hermenutic of discontinuity.

You want to reduce Christianity to a religion of the Book (alone) instead of a person (Christ) and a community (the Church). Among the many problems this creates are the following: the Book (or rather collection of books) does not contain a list of it's own contents and so an extra-biblical authority (the Bishops in Council) had be invoked to certify which writting to include and which to exclude. If you think there was not a highly contentious human, deliberative, and ultimately authoritative process in the formation of the canon then you are either ignorant of history or hopelessly naieve.

Patrick also says, "The only thing that succeeds from generation to generation is the teaching of the apostles encapsulated in scripture - nothing at all in scripture speaks of succession of the office."

Consider Ephesians 2: "Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

Note that Paul does NOT SAY "built on the TEACHINGS of the Apostles and Prophets" but "built on the FOUNDATION of the Apostles and Prophets" - The word "foundation" illustrates that authority does not die with apostles, but carries on through succession.

Here are other examples of apostolic authority being transferred in the New Testament:

Acts 6:6 - apostolic authority is transferred through the laying on of hands (ordination). This authority has transferred beyond the original twelve apostles as the Church has grown.

Acts 9:17-19 - even Paul, who was directly chosen by Christ, only becomes a minister after the laying on of hands by a bishop.

Acts 13:3 - apostolic authority is transferred through the laying on of hands (ordination).

Acts 14:23 - the apostles and newly-ordained men appointed elders to have authority throughout the Church.

Acts 15:22-27 - preachers of the Word must be sent by the bishops in union with the Church. We must trace this authority to the apostles.

Col 1:25 - Paul calls his position a divine "office." An office has successors. It does not terminate at death. Or it's not an office. See also Heb. 7:23 – an office continues with another successor after the previous office-holder’s death.

1 Tim. 4:14 - again, apostolic authority is transferred through the laying on of hands (ordination).

1 Tim. 5:22 - Paul urges Timothy to be careful in laying on the hands (ordaining others). The gift of authority is a reality and cannot be used indiscriminately.

2 Tim. 1:6 - Paul again reminds Timothy the unique gift of God that he received through the laying on of hands.

2 Tim. 4:1-6 - at end of Paul's life, Paul charges Timothy with the office of his ministry .

alan,

The paragraph from the CDC should answer your question. The CDC was clarifying a phrase from Vatican II's Lumen Gentium that the Church of Christ "subsits" in the Catholic Church. The CDC said there are "elements of sanctification" found outside her visible boundaries and of extra-ecclesial bodies.

Also, "the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation ..."

Futhermore, the Church recognizes non-Catholic Christians as brethern in the Lord and accepts the validity of Baptism celebrated with the Trinitarian form:

"one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers . . . . All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church."

Patrick,

You're an apologist right? Don't you want to help me to "forsake (my) unbelief"? By the way, I notice on your site you have the Nicean creed. I think that is a good choice. But what is your interpretation of the following phrase:

"We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church"

I've already indicated above what the Patristics meant by this. Here's what Irenaeus says (he was an apologist too):

"It is possible, then, for every Church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the Apostles which has been made known throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the Apostles, and their successors to our own times…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 ... 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 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."
St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3, 3, 1-2, c. AD 190

Mark
I think it says what the scripture says in a verse you quoted earlier:"
19Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord."

My point has repeatedly been that the catholic church ( universal, united, as in the Eph. passage) is not the same as the Roman Catholic Church. Neither does the quote from Irenaeus suggest apostolic succession of office. There are no apostles today, and furthermore, it confirms my point that there can be no other foundation laid than Christ Jesus.

I am unsure as to what you are arguing against at this point.

I would also mention that the NT is loaded with the teaching of elders, bishops and pastors. That is all the same office, as the language does not differentiate.

I do not even know if yo have unbelief, so I cannot answer your first question. If you have visited my website and read the home page, and agree, then what are you pressing for?

There is no way however, that anything of the scripture you have provided offers an explanation, biblical or otherwise, of the hierarchy that attends Roman Catholicism, much less an infallible bishop of Rome. Neither Peter or Paul knew of such a thing; indeed Peter considered himself merely on and equal with other elders.

Patrick,

I know what you are saying, I'm just asking you to back it up. I've given you biblical, patristic and historical evidence that Christ intended to found one, visible, historical Church with the Apostles as the leaders of the geographical Churches and Peter and the principle of unity. All you have done is said "no, it can't be". That's because you are starting with an assumption (that Jesus did not found a visible Church) and interpreting the scriptures accordingly.

What about the Patristic testimony? Are they fools? Or liars? What makes your interpretation more reliable than the Apostolic Fathers: Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement, Mathetes, Polycarp, Ignatius. Or the Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Theophilus, Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria. etc.?

What about St. Augustine? Was he wrong too:

“There is nothing more serious than the sacrilege of schism because there is no just cause for severing the unity of the Church.”
St. Augustine, Treatise On Baptism Against the Donatists, Bk 5, Ch. 1, A.D. 400

One other point, although the terms "bishop," "priest," and "deacon" were somewhat fluid in the apostolic age, by the beginning of the second century they had achieved the fixed form in which they are used today to designate the three offices whose functions are clearly distinct in the New Testament.

The early Church Fathers recognized all three offices and regarded them as essential to the Church’s structure. Especially significant are the letters of Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, who traveled from his home city to Rome, where he was executed around A.D. 110. On the way he wrote letters to the churches he passed. Each of these churches possessed the same threefold ministry. Without this threefold ministry, Ignatius said, a group cannot be called a church.

"Indeed, when you submit to the bishop as you would to Jesus Christ, it is clear to me that you are living not in the manner of men but as Jesus Christ, who died for us, that through faith in his death you might escape dying. It is necessary, therefore—and such is your practice that you do nothing without the bishop, and that you be subject also to the presbytery, as to the apostles of Jesus Christ our hope, in whom we shall be found, if we live in him. It is necessary also that the deacons, the dispensers of the mysteries [sacraments] of Jesus Christ, be in every way pleasing to all men. For they are not the deacons of food and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They must therefore guard against blame as against fire" (Letter to the Trallians 2:1–3 [A.D. 110]).

Mark
you need to stop framing my points as if they are "no, that can't be".

I guess to be as clear as I can and move on, there is no question that Christ is the head of the church which is his body. How you surmise I don't see that is beyond me at this point. There still is one visible church, and Rome has forsaken the gospel message of that church.

I do believe that Augustine was wrong on baptism. You are also starting with a presupposition, one that has no authority over me at all, nor any man for that matter.

There is no priest in the NT (the way you use it) and the promulgations of Rome have resulted in forsaking the apostolic message. And you are entirely wrong in your understanding of eldership as recorded in the NT - you cannot make a biblical case for the three offices being distinct as there are only two - overseers and deacons, with no hierarchy of overseers. It is merely the praise of men that such a contrary system seeks. It is Rome that denied apostolic succession, parasitically embracing the authority, while denying the message.

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