Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Apostolic Succession: Various Biblical Arguments Outlined


Icon of the Seventy Disciples

The Bible contains sufficient enough indication of apostolic succession (though probably not "explicit" enough by unbiblical sola Scriptura standards to convince most Protestants: what else is new?):

Apostles Can Become Bishops (Apostolic Succession)

St. Paul appears to be passing his office along to Timothy (1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 1:6, 13-14, 2:1-2, 4:1-6). See, for example:

2 Timothy 2:1-2 (RSV) You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, [2] and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

There are many indirect indications. When Jesus gives His disciples charge to do certain things, it is seen, by and large, by Protestants, as commands to their successors as well (perhaps not always apostolic succession per se, but at least succession as believers in Christ). So, for example, when Jesus tells His disciples to preach the gospel or to baptize, virtually all Christians today think that this applies to all Christians in perpetuity. Yet when Jesus tells the same disciples to "bind and loose" (Matt 18:18; Jn 20:23; also to St. Peter individually in Matt 16:19), somehow that is not seen as a thing that is perpetually relevant through history, and is relegated to their time only.

This makes no sense. For one to take such a position, they have to establish a solid reason why they regard one instance as perpetual and the other as temporary. I contend that it can't be done; that any such criterion would be completely arbitrary. Often, sadly, it comes down to merely a contra-Catholic mentality and rationale: "Catholics believe thus-and-so, and so we must oppose it, no matter what the Bible may state on the subject."

The "send" motif in Scripture is right to the point:

Luke 9:1-2 And he . . . gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal.

John 17:18 As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

John 20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”

Luke 10:1-3 After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”


The latter passages appears to imply that there are many others involved besides just the 70 (which is already an expansion upon the original twelve). This implies succession and perpetuity.

Acts 1:8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Sama'ria and to the end of the earth.


This is interesting in its implications. Who was Jesus talking to here? The earlier part of the chapter refers to "the apostles whom he had chosen. To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God" (1:2-3). He then encourages them to wait to receive the power of the Holy Spirit (1:4-5, 8). It's unclear how many people saw Jesus ascend to heaven (1:9-11).

The text then talks about the early Christians fellowshiping together; including "women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers" (1:12-14). In the next verse the "brethren" are said to be "about a hundred and twenty" (1:15). Later in the chapter we see explicit proof of apostolic succession (as discussed in my linked paper above): Judas was replaced by Matthias (1:17-26), and an OT passage is cited: "His office let another take" (1:20).

But getting back to the "send" motif: Jesus "sends" His disciples and they in turn "send" others by means of the established practice of ordaining and calling men to ministry through the Church (by the laying on of hands). So, for example:

Acts 13:1-4 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyre'ne, Man'a-en a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleu'cia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

Acts 15:22, 25 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsab'bas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,

Romans 10:15 And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!”

1 Timothy 4:14-16 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the council of elders laid their hands upon you. Practice these duties, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (cf. Heb 6:2)

1 Timothy 5:22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands . . .

2 Timothy 1:6 Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands;

Disciples and their successors (priests and bishops) are direct representatives of Jesus:

Matthew 10:40 He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me.

Luke 10:16 He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.

John 13:20 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives any one whom I send receives me; and he who receives me receives him who sent me.

2 Corinthians 5:20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.


"Binding and loosing" itself as a perpetual practice has several indications:

Luke 24:47 . . . repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.


This was not just an abstract proclamation that sins are forgiven. It was also a "transactional" procedure of confession and absolution. Thus the following passage:

Acts 19:18 Many also of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. (cf. James 5:14-15; 1 John 1:8-9)


This perhaps hearkens back to John the Baptist's baptism for forgiveness of sins:

Matthew 3:6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. (cf. Mk 1:4-5)


And that in turn was a precursor of baptismal regeneration (a physical act or rite by which forgiveness is granted to the penitent or baby with original sin, thus similar to binding and loosing):

Mark 16:16 [disputed biblical manuscript] He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; . . .

Acts 22:16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit,

1 Peter 3:20-21 . . . God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,


We see St. Paul binding (1 Cor 5:3-5 and 1 Tim 1:18-20) and loosing (2 Cor 2:6-11: which is also, by the way, an explicit biblical proof for indulgences).

The same argument is made against papal succession: as if all the mountain of biblical data concerning Peter and his primacy has no implications for later ecclesiology. I have written a second paper defending papal succession:

The Biblical and Rational Argument for Papal Succession / False Analogy of Israelite Kings to the Papacy


See also the related papers:

Bishops in the New Testament and the Early Church

Apostolic Succession Based on Biblical Data / Supposed "Prooftexting" & Protestant Reluctance to Discuss Bible Text Interpretations With Catholics (+ Discussion) (vs. Jonathan Bonomo)

Dialogue on Apostolic Succession and the Definitions of "Protestant" and "Church" 

The Visible, Hierarchical, Apostolic Church

A person asked a follow-up question on the CHNI forum:

I think most non-denominational Christians would take your first argument and say that all Christians are supposed to do both: All Christians are supposed to go forth and preach and baptize and all Christians are supposed to forth and bind and loose. They would argue that the Bible teaches all disciples of Christ to do the work of Christ, and not an "elite" few, such as bishops and priests. How would you counter that argument?

Good question. I think it would be the exception for the average evangelical to say that all Christians are to bind and loose. To them it makes no sense for one Christian to offer forgiveness to another, for a sin not done against them (as St. Paul did in 2 Cor 2:6-11), and also to bind by imposing a penance (as he did in 1 Corinthians 5:3-5, and later relaxed in the previous passage).

So they either restrict it to the apostles, or if they try to apply it in the present, what I have heard some of them say, and what I probably would have said myself in the 80s, if asked, is that "loosing" is only forgiving what God has forgiven already. But then how do they account for binding and imposing a penance?: because they don't accept penance (far less so than "transactional" forgiveness). Penance doesn't fit into the categories of Protestant theology, except for traditional Anglicans (C. S. Lewis believed in purgatory) and perhaps a few other strains.

But generally speaking, I would argue that certain functions are consigned to the clergy, or leaders, in the NT. By and large, Protestants agree with us that clergy baptize, while in theory all layman have a responsibility to evangelize. They do the same with marriage, and (pretty much) presiding over the Eucharist. They recognize "pastoral" functions and general duties of all Christians.

Once they accept a clergy / laity distinction, then, it can be applied to binding and loosing. I think it is shown to be a more exclusive duty also by the fact that Jesus gave the power to Peter individually. Historically, it was a rabbinic function.

Some pentecostals apply "binding and loosing" to the practice of "freeing from demonic oppression", but I think this is a distortion of the original NT meaning, incorporating the rabbinic background.

In the NT, the forgiveness of sins is often "contractual." When John the Baptist baptized (Mk 1:4; Lk 3:3), it involved repentance and remission of sins. The person repented, and demonstrated repentance by undergoing the rite, presided over by an authoritative figure. Post-Pentecost baptism had the same elements (Acts 2:38, 22:16). Likewise, confession of sins involves a rite with a priest, by which he can impose a penance and pronounce absolution. Binding and loosing (Matt 16:19 and 18:18) is expressly tied in with forgiveness of sins and penance (Jn 20:23).

Deliverance from a demon is not the same thing at all. That is not a matter (at least not always) or forgiving a sin. So I think the pentecostal "deliverance" use of these passages is very loose and an example of eisegesis (reading into Scripture one's prior opinions).

ADDENDUM:

"Laying on of Hands" for Commissioning Purposes in the Old Testament

Numbers 8:10-11 When you present the Levites before the LORD, the people of Israel shall lay their hands upon the Levites, [11] and Aaron shall offer the Levites before the LORD as a wave offering from the people of Israel, that it may be theirs to do the service of the LORD.

Numbers 27:22-23 And Moses did as the LORD commanded him; he took Joshua and caused him to stand before Elea'zar the priest and the whole congregation, [23] and he laid his hands upon him, and commissioned him as the LORD directed through Moses.

Deuteronomy 34:9 And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands upon him; so the people of Israel obeyed him, and did as the LORD had commanded Moses.

19 comments:

Randy said...

Nice post Dave. I noticed tham many of your previous posts have no comments either. No protestant wants to defend the notion that apostolic office disappeared and bishops come out of nowhere without the apostles blessing. I can understand why.

The choices are few:

1. The apostles ordained successors and essentially taught by their actions, and likely also with their words, the doctrine of apostolic succesion.

2. Some other force in the early church installed these bishops. They somehow did so without creating a controversy or showing up in the written record at all. Then they somehow made future generations believe they were successors of the apostles.

I think the only reasonable strategy for protestants is to not think about these questions too long. If they did they would realize that the apostles themselves had a very Catholic view of church government. How important can that be?

Ken said...

Randy:
I noticed tham many of your previous posts have no comments either. No protestant wants to defend the notion that apostolic office disappeared . . .

I would if I had time. Where has Grubb been lately? Pilgrimsarbour is only other (that I recall) Protestant that comes here and makes comments regularly. He still won't answer Turrentinfan's question, so I cannot think of others.

There is just no time to keep up with Dave. He is a writing machine.

Too busy with life and ministry and work; the issue of the Perpetual Virginity is enough when I have time. I may come back later on this one.

Ken said...

He (meaning Dave) still won't answer Turrentinfan's question, so I cannot think of others (protestants who actually come here to comment).

Randy wrote:
No protestant wants to defend the notion that apostolic office disappeared and bishops come out of nowhere without the apostles blessing.

The apostolic office did cease with the death of the last apostle. Probably John.

The apostles/missionary team of Paul ordained elders (Presbuteros) in Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5. Bishops or overseers are another Greek word for the same office, (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5-7ff; I Peter 5:1-5; I Timothy 3) emphasizing the leadership; superintendent aspect of leadership, whereas elder emphasized maturity and pastor emphasizes the teaching and shepherding aspect. All three are the same office.

The earliest records still reflect that presbyters and bishops were the same office. (I Clement. Polycarp, and the Didache seem to point to this also.)

Scholars have pointed out that Rome had a plurality of elders until around 140 AD.

Ignatius is the first where we see the transition from a plurality of elders to a mono-episcopate.

Churches are to train ministers/missionaries and send them out. ( Acts 13:1-4)

Ken said...

We see St. Paul binding (1 Cor 5:3-5 and 1 Tim 1:18-20) and loosing (2 Cor 2:6-11: which is also, by the way, an explicit biblical proof for indulgences).

Local, Biblical Protestant churches do the same thing and have that authority to do church discipline and call people to repentance and have heresy trials.
Matthew 18:15-18 is the same thing. We do these things.

Not all do them; but they should.
It is local church authority, based on Scripture.

That is not an "indulgence" at all. The RCC indulgence has no biblical support.

That is repentance/reconciliation/restoration; not indulgences.

Ken said...

Dave wrote:
Deliverance from a demon is not the same thing at all. That is not a matter (at least not always) or forgiving a sin. So I think the pentecostal "deliverance" use of these passages is very loose and an example of eisegesis (reading into Scripture one's prior opinions).

I agree with you here.

Ken said...

If the RCC had inherent authority to bind and loose as you say; why did so many local RCCs allow so much pedophila and sexual sins among the priesthood, etc.

If the gift, the charism was given them by the laying on of hands down through the centuries and it is ex opere operato (by doing the rite, it works; has inherent power by performing the ritual); why did it not work with power?

Dave Armstrong said...

That is not an "indulgence" at all. The RCC indulgence has no biblical support.

Well! Thanks for setting us straight with this compelling argument.

Adomnan said...

Let's see. I could have Ken tell me what apostolic doctrine is or I could have the magisterium of the Catholic Church tell me. Of course, Ken can explain the implications for doctrine of the Greek progressive present with prefect force. Hm. Tough choice.

Maybe I could start my own church. Any takers?

Giovanni A. Cattaneo said...

Adomnan,

As long as we follow the Pope and the Magisterium I am in.

Ken said...

Monument to indulgences, the historical proof of the time aspects of Purgatory, the treasury of merit and intercession of dead saints, etc. -- all man-made traditions (Matthew 15, Mark 7; Colossians 2:8; Galatians 4:9) and additions to/corruptions of the "once for all delivered to the saints faith":

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Petersdom_von_Engelsburg_gesehen.jpg

Since you admit the abuse of indulgences was wrong; and St. Peter's was actually built upon the teachings of the time elements of purgatory and having one's time lessened in purgatory; why has the RCC not done Penance for those sins and torn the building down and done works that would expiate the temporal punishments for those sins - thousands, millions of dollars?

confession is not enough

Adomnan said...

Giovanni: As long as we follow the Pope and the Magisterium I am in.

Adomnan: Maybe we could have both the Magisterium and Ken. You know: Point/Counterpoint. That would keep it lively.

However we do it is fine as long as I preside and take up the collection. I would dismiss everyone from the service, not with "Ite. Missa est," but by proclaiming "We report. You decide" in Latin:

"Nos referimus. Vos dijudicatis!"

Ken said...

compelling argument against indulgences, treasury of merit, prayers of saints, purgatory

http://www.carm.org/religious-movements/roman-catholicism/indulgences

Adomnan said...

Ken:...and torn the building down

Adomnan: Vandal!

Why doesn't the U.S. tear the Capitol down? It was built by slaves, you know.

Why doesn't the Southern Baptist Convention abolish itself after paying out billions in reparations? It came into being when the Baptists of the South endorsed slavery at the time of the Civil War and split from their anti-slavery brothers in the North. A denomination built on slavery. Tsk. Tsk.

(I hasten to add that these are rhetorical questions.)

Knock off the anti-Catholic ranting, Ken, or you'll get it right back.

Ken said...

Another compelling argument against indulgences:

http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=3467

Ken said...

Good examples, for just being feisty, with a quick "gotcha back" kind of answer, Adomnan.

"Vandal!" - I couldn't help but laugh out loud last night as I read that.

Only problem is the US government does not see itself as the infallible institution on earth for God who also teaches penance and indulgences for the satisfaction for the consequences of sin; and adds Purgatory and merit and the prayers of the saints in order to get money out of people and/or keep them tied to the sacramental system.

The Southern Baptists also don't claim to be the infallible church structure and they don't teach penance and indulgences.

But the RCC does teach that when there is sin, even after that sin is forgiven, there must be actions of penance, indulgences, satisfactions of the consequences of those sins.

St. Peter was built based on the promises to thousands of getting time lessened in purgatory.

now the new modern post Vatican II RCC is saying "there is no time" element in Purgatory, etc.

So, apology and confession is not enough, according to your own church and theology; not the US government and Southern Baptists; they don't teach that. Obviously the US government doesn't even claim any religious element in this, so that was a bad parallel.

If the RCC is truly the reprensentative for God on this earth and the Pope is the vicar of Christ, then they are also required to do penance and get indulgences for the sins of the abuses, Crusades, and lying to all those people who gave their money in hopes of getting less time in Purgatory. They lied, since the modern RCC is saying there is not time element. That is very big sin and mistake for the church that claims it is infallible.

Adomnan said...

Ken: St. Peter was built based on the promises to thousands of getting time lessened in purgatory.

Adomnan: I see where you're coming from: Selling indulgences is worse than slavery. Oookay.

And maybe burning the toast is worse than murder.

Time to move on.

Dave Armstrong said...

Whatever excesses occurred with indulgences (that were rectified at Trent and that general period of the Catholic reformation), at least we built our own churches instead of stealing those of our pronounced "enemies" by the multiple thousands:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2008/04/how-early-protestants-stole-thousands.html

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2008/04/reformation-theft-of-catholic-church.html

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/02/dialogue-on-16th-century-christians.html

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/02/dialogue-on-16th-century-religious.html

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2007/05/lutheran-josh-s-attempts-to-rationalize.html

I wonder if Ken, e.g., would advocate the Anglicans in England giving back all the magnificent cathedrals that they stole and raped? And giving back the thousands of monasteries as well, or rebuilding the ones they destroyed?

Too much money tied up in all the noble families of gentlemen, I reckon, that got rich off the labor of many thousands of relatively poor Catholics. Best to leave it the way it is . . .

Historians are now pretty much agreed that the lower classes of England suffered far more as a result of this destruction of the Catholic social system of benevolence, for several centuries, than they ever did before that.

Randy said...

There is just no time to keep up with Dave. He is a writing machine.

Talk about pot/kettle issues! I often have though the same about you. But things do get long quickly.

Ignatius is the first where we see the transition from a plurality of elders to a mono-episcopate.

Ignatius show the mono-episcopate. It shows no transition from anything else. The elder/bishop thing is just words. The point is they were put in place by the apostles to do the work of the apostles after they died. What they were called is not so essential. The mono/plurality issue does not matter much either.

So you seem to have conceded the apostles appointed successors. Why would their appointments not be considered authoritative in some way. The apostle's writings were respected as authoritative. Why not their appointments?

The early church seemed to respect them. So much so that when it came time to hold a council there was no debate about who should get invited. Precisely those who were successors of the apostles. Can you imagine today's protestants ever agreeing on who should attend a council like that?

Randy said...

compelling argument against indulgences, treasury of merit, prayers of saints, purgatory

Compelling argument? He just claims the doctrines are false and quotes a proof text. He does not engage the catholic argument at all. I am not even convinced he understands the doctrine. He does not get into enough detail to tell.

Not sure why you blame the church for the sins of a few churchmen. The people who donated money for the souls in purgatory were bless for their sacrifices. Do you think the widow who put her last 2 coins in the temple box lost her blessing because the pharisees abused the funds?

The church is about God writing straight with crooked lines. Infallibility is just one way He does that. St Peter's is another. As a protestant I had no trouble believing God could use not only fallible men but even bad men to do great good. This is still very true of the catholic church despite the blessings she has.