Bryan Cross has been responding to John Bugay over at Stellman’s blog. Let’s see how well he’s faring:
I beg to differ. An unbroken succession can exist even if those at the end of the chain cannot themselves verify that it is unbroken. We should be careful not to confuse ontology and epistemology.
i) Of course, Bugay didn’t say it couldn’t exist absent verification. Bugay’s point is that you have no right to assert its existence unless you can verify its existence.
ii) And notice that Bryan dodges that issue, even though it’s absolutely crucial to his case. How, if it all, does Bryan propose to verify apostolic succession? If he can’t, then he’s in no position to assert apostolic succession.
But He did promise that the gates of hell would not prevail over the Church. For us (Catholics) this promise includes the promise of preserving Apostolic succession.
How do you exegete apostolic succession from 16:18? You can’t. Notice that Bryan doesn’t even try to exegete apostolic succession from 16:18. He falls back on the statement that “for Catholics,’ this promise includes apostolic succession.”
All he’s doing here is to assert his belief in Catholicism. He doesn’t give anyone a reason to believe in Catholicism.
That Lampe and Johnson use words like "fictive construction" does not show that the unbroken succession is a "fictive construction". It just shows that that is what Lampe and Johnson think it is. On my blog, you referred to St. Ignatius's statements regarding bishops as "wishful thinking". So if it is permissible to dismiss the testimony of the second bishop of the Church of Antioch on his way to martyrdom by wildbeasts, then surely you will understand if we Catholics treat the opinions of Lampe and Johnson as what they are, their opinions.
i) Lampe and Johnson don’t merely opine. They argue for their position. Where is Bryan’s counterargument?
ii) Again, to say “we Catholics” fails to give anyone a reason to be Catholic in the first place. How is that any improvement over “we Mormons” or “we Scientologists”?
Treating us to an exposition of what Catholics believe is a sorry substitute for defending what Catholics believe.
Behind your accusation is an implicit philosophical assumption, called monocausalism. You assume that if Mary does something, then Christ can't also do it. The Church isn't limited by philosophical monocausalism, as I have pointed out on my blog a number of times.
i) The question at issue is not what is hypothetically possible, but what is actual. Even if it were hypothetically possible for Mary to be Mediatrix or Co-Redemptrix, that’s irrelevant to the factual question. It’s hypothetically possible that Jesus was born in Bombay. Would drawing attention to that hypothetical be an adequate response to the evidence that Jesus was born in Bethlehem?
John,__the church is the sum total of the "elect" individuals.__"On this rock I will build my [set of all the elect], and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. ... And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the [set of the elect]; and if he refuses to listen even to the [set of all the elect], let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer."
i) Of course, Mt 16:18 and 18:17 don’t give us a full-blown doctrine of the church, one way or the other They simply use the word ecclesia, and say a few things about the ecclesia.
When Bugay equates the church with the elect, that’s a theological construct based on a whole range of Scriptures.
ii) BTW, what’s wrong with saying the gates of hell will not prevail against the elect?
At what point does the Scripture itself testify against this docetic reduction of the Church? If your ecclesiology weren't docetic, how would it be any different?
Bryan is now resorting to demagoguery. “Docetism” is a formally defined Christological heresy. Bryan is taking it upon himself to redefine standard theological jargon, and then apply his redefinition to Protestant ecclesiology as if the term carries the same stigma in his idiosyncratic usage as it does in its traditional usage. This is pure sophistry.
And it’s quite high-handed of a Catholic layman like Bryan to presume that he has the right to unilaterally redefine a traditional classification of heresy.
If you pull your Berkhof off the shelf and open it up to page 565, you will read this regarding the distinction between the visible and an invisible Church: "It is said that Luther was the first to make this distinction, but the other Reformers recognized and also applied it to the Church."__The notion that the Church is merely the set of all the elect is a sixteenth century novelty that allows for visible divisions not to 'count' as schisms, since the set (or "sum total") of all the elect cannot itself be divided.
i) The claim that Protestant theology is false because it’s innovative represents a throwback to the polemical strategy of Bellarmine and Stapleton. But that’s a double-edged sword. If we apply Bryan’s criterion to theological novelties like the Assumption of Mary, then Bryan has falsified his own denomination.
In fact, in his autobiography, then-Cardinal Ratzinger mentions that at the time Pius XII was contemplating whether he should formalize the Assumption of Mary, “all the theological faculties of the world” were opposed because it lacked sufficient traditional pedigree. Cf. Milestones, 58.
ii) The visible/invisible distinction is equivalent to Paul’s distinction between the outward/inward Jew in Romans. Not all Jews who were members of the covenant community were elect.
iii) And there’s no reason to suppose that the elect always agree about everything. Divisions are possible between true believers.
Does Bryan deny that? What about the division between Rome and Constantinople? Does he regard the Orthodox church as a false church? Does he think the members of the Orthodox church are all reprobates?
But the fact that in the NT we are warned against schism shows that the NT conception of the Church was not the "set of all the elect", as I argued here, and here.
How would that follow? You have true believers and nominal believers—some of whom are schismatics.
John,__So now "docetic" is merely a label? Do you deny that docetism is heresy?__My question to you was this: if your conception of the Church as the [set of all the elect] were not docetic, how would it be any different?
Once again, Bryan falls back on his demagogic ploy. Note the equivocation: is Docetism heretical? Yes. Does this mean that Bryan’s made up category or “ecclesial docetism” is heretical? No. That is Bryan taking a heresy, then concocting a do-it-yourself category, then using the old label to designate his do-it-yourself category, than transferring the odium of the actual heresy to his ersatz heresy. This tactic is both fallacious and unscrupulous.
If you want to propose a position, then you should either defend it or admit that you can't defend it.
I agree. And if we measure Bryan by his own yardstick, he comes up short. When, if ever, is he going to start defending Catholicism rather than begging the question?
If you say, "Well, I can't defend the position I'm proposing, but I know there is someone who can", or "I can't defend my position but I know there is a knock-down defense out there somewhere", that's called the phantom argument fallacy.__You have put forward your ecclesiology, but then when you are asked to defend it, you say, don't "argue with little old me; take on the likes of someone like Turretin".
Bryan is the one who keeps attacking the Protestant Reformers and their successors. So why shouldn’t he directly engage the arguments of a theologian like Turretin?
But that's precisely the phantom argument fallacy, because I could just say the same sort of thing back to you: "Don't argue with me, take on the likes of Pope Benedict", etc.
Actually, there’s some truth to that. Bryan is not entitled to pose as a spokesmen for Roman Catholicism.