What is Apostolic Succession?

JeffLogan's picture

Reply to: the deposit of faith

Reply to: the deposit of faith Submitted by tomgroeneman on Thu, 2012-05-03 11:54.

Hello Tom,

I was vague on purpose, not wanting to engage anyone on specifics. But you asked some very good questions which I'll try to answer so you can gain some insight into where I was heading. I'll embed my indented comments in the context of your post which I've quoted here.

Quoting Tom:
Your question appears to me to imply that the differences in application of Apostolic doctrine proves that no real succession has occurred. It is also leading to assume that in order for adherence to Sacred Tradition to be valid it must be infallible. How Irenaeus and the other Church Fathers who taught Apostolic succession understood and taught on the faith is not in my capacity to judge. Your question also confuses the issue of Sacred Tradition with Apostolic Succession both of which I am guessing you are opposed to.

    I believe that real succession has occurred but that in order to follow it properly one has to follow the path of truth as it originated with Jesus and His apostles. I'll admit that the Catholic faith has retained many of them intact. But the truth is that the Protestant movement would never have caught fire if there had been no reason for its existence. The Catholic church gave spark to that fire when determining the validity of the Protestant movement they decided against Sola Scriptura and opted for blending tradition and scripture. That was an admission on their part that what the Apostles had written could not stand on its own and that there was indeed disagreement between Sola Scriptura and tradition.

    You say it is not yours to judge but yet you have already judged and chosen to accept the blend.

    I am not opposed to either sacred tradition or apostolic succession. I am sure they have both been preserved. What I am addressing is that they have not been rightly preserved in the Catholic church. [Let my statement stand as you have said nothing less in this regard.]

To answer I would say that I hold both to be equally important to my walk as a Christian. I trust in the deposit of faith that has been passed down through the centuries in the Bishops and Priests God has called and ordained. The teachings of the Apostles about God, Christ, the Church etc. are for my guidance, protection and benefit and I firmly believe that same charism of truth is imparted by God in the Pope and hierarchy of the RCC. If a specific tradition (which you have not yet identified) is set aside or not used that does not negate the spiritual authority invested in God's shepherds.

    I hold both to be important as well except for me scripture will always trump tradition.

    What you trust is their word for what you believe since you neither witnessed it nor presume to judge them. What I trust is the Word of God. Yours is a blind trust in men that they speak for God. Mine is a blind trust in the Bible as the Word of God. We both start with the same standard but your method implies that in the end the original standard wasn't sufficient.

    I agree that the teachings are for our guidance, protection and benefit. But as for the charism... we must first prove that it is still one faith, one baptism, one spirit, and one Lord. And to do that we must have a standard. That standard for me is the Bible -- the record by the Apostles of Jesus' words and deeds. Your standard is to judge the truthfulness of the words of men by their own witness of themselves.

    Two of the "traditions" I was referring to that Irenaeus mentions in Book 5, chapters 31-33, are the sacredness of the 7th day Sabbath and that the dead go into their graves awaiting the resurrection rather than departing to heaven. He speaks of those who oppose these doctrines, these sacred traditions, as heretics. Yet the church of today respects neither of them. I would beg to differ with you in that if this "succession" has set aside truth then somewhere the line of succession has been broken and departed from their midst.

If you see a particular doctrinal inconsistency in Irenaeus' 'Against Heresies', and that proves to you that Apostolic Succession is wrong, there is nothing I can say to convince you otherwise. When we get to heaven we can both ask Irenaeus what he meant exactly. In the meantime, I would say that most Protestants reject Apostolic Succession and Sacred Tradition a priori because they do not understand them and are religiously prejudiced.

    Yes, we must agree to meet and discuss this.

    Yet, let me say that "in the meantime, I would say that most [Catholics] reject [true apostolic succession] and [Sola Scriptura] a priori because they do not understand them and are religiously prejudiced."

Several times now Jeff, I have read your posts attacking the truths that Catholics consider essential to their spiritual life. Repeatedly, you will cite the sins of the Roman Catholic Church over history but ignore the tremendous contribution the Church has made to education, medicine, the sciences and civilization in general. What about the sins of the Protestant Church? Is there a history there? Or have all Protestant ministers been perfectly faithful to the example of the Savior? Personally, I have learned a great deal from both branches of Christianity and do not think that those truths are invalidated by the sins of some of the leaders of those Churches. The miracle of Christianity is that God takes sinners, imperfect, weak people and uses them to advance His Kingdom and fulfill His plan.

    Let's be totally honest, Tom. Whenever a Catholic asserts on behalf of their faith the supremacy claimed in their church dogma they are in fact "attacking the truths that [Protestants] consider essential to their spiritual life." So you will get no sympathy here. You can't play that bigotry card and expect us to hold ours.

    Regarding the great works of the Catholic church... it would behoove you to speak of those rather than posting these antagonistic OPs that seems to be the forte of your attack on Protestantism. If you want to speak of those in another post we will do so. But here the question is regarding Apostolic Succession. And, certainly there are sins in all sects. However, the like is not to be found among Christians.

    Yes, "God takes sinners, imperfect, weak people and uses them to advance His Kingdom and fulfill His plan." But the miracle is that He is able to "cleanse them from all iniquity" to reconciles them to Himself by the blood of Jesus. The miracle is not that He uses sinners, but that He redeems sinners from their past life and uses them to glorify His name through the evidence of His power to redeem them from a life of sin all the while respecting their gift of free moral agency.

In Protestantism, and especially contemporary evangelicalism, any person can pick up a Bible, invent their own system, and start a Church. Catholics believe that Jesus and the Apostles started the Church and authorized His chosen Bishops and Deacons and Priests through the means of Apostolic Succession to do the work Christ commissioned. The deposit of faith guarantees that the Apostle's doctrine is faithfully and responsibly administered. That is how I understand it anyway.

    We also believe that Jesus started His church using the Apostles and authorized them to establish Pastors, Elders, Deacons, and the like through the means of apostolic succession to do the work Christ commissioned. But we place the emphasis on the succession of the truth rather than the positions held by men. With our method, a man upon whom hands has been laid who turns from the truth is considered to have excluded himself from the office. Thus, the truth survives though men fall. Your method places the supremacy on the position claiming that whomever holds that position cannot err. We believe it is because of this type of thinking that error has crept into the various churches -- the masses esteem their leaders above the Word of God.

    And that is how I understand it.

End quote (and embedded comments)

It is obvious that any charge that can be leveled at the Catholic church can also be leveled at the Protestant churches except of course for certain dogmas which are unique to the Catholic church. In those cases we can only compare and contrast the two systems. If you are certain that you are correct, we are no less certain. If you have the right to profess your sincerity and your faith, then we too have that right. If you can claim foul when someone attacks your faith simply by asserting their beliefs, then we too can call foul when you attack our faith simply by asserting your beliefs.

Closing Remarks:

It is scandalous for us to bicker in this end-time about who is the greatest or who will sit on Christ's left or right. I am certain that Jesus gave the church gifts to mature them past the stage he found the disciples in while on earth. Jesus did not say that we would know His disciples by the denomination they attended, nor did He mention anything about apostolic succession being the determining factor. But what He did say was that people would know them by their love for one another.

I would think then that the true church would be measured by Christ's standard and not those men have invented to prove themselves better than their neighbors. Scripture says we are to esteem others above ourselves but we are too caught up in abasing others and elevating ourselves to benefit from this teaching of Christ. In that very thing we prove we love ourselves more than our neighbors. And this "lessor love" is in reality hatred because true love isn't dispensed in degrees. It is either love or it is not. So in fact we all show ourselves to be a murderous lot by our words and actions. Thus, we must conclude that if we hate our neighbor, e.g. love them less, we cannot also love him as ourselves. Therefore, we admit by our words and deeds that if anyone is looking for Christ's disciples they should look elsewhere, He is not here.

Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions. -Proverbs 18:2 NIV