Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pope Diotrephes

Nick said...

“I think the main weakness of your response (though you did make some fair points) was that you didn't really address certain key issues. You commented on various points without actually refuting them.”

I wasn’t stating my own position from scratch. I was responding to Wallace on his own terms. That’s not a “weakness.”

“For example, when Wallace quoted scholars as saying ‘Protestantism has no ecclesiology,’ you responded by saying every ecclesiology has flaws, essentially agreeing with his point.”

That’s a fallacious inference from what I said. It also depends on what you mean by “ecclesiology.”

i) The Bible has a lot to say about the theology of the church, beginning with the OT covenant community and the remnant. Then we have the church under the new covenant.

ii) But I suppose you’re really referring to church polity: the formal organization of the church. NT polity is simple, minimal, flexible. It can be developed in more than one direction, depending on the needs of the situation. But extrabiblical developments are pragmatic, not obligatory.

“That Protestantism has no ecclesiology (i.e. ecclesiology is a 'non-essential'…”

You’re piggybacking on a false premise. Imputing to me something I didn’t say or imply.

“Essential” is ambiguous. “Essential” is generally a relative term–essential in relation to what? Are hiking boots essential? If you plan to go hiking, they may be essential, but if you plan to go surfing, they are inessential.

Is a hierarchical polity essential to the preservation of orthodoxy? No. To the contrary, a hierarchical polity frequently facilitates and codifies heresy.

“…and thus not perspicuous)”

You continue to build on a false premise. I didn’t suggest the Bible was unclear on ecclesiology. The Bible is clear in what it says.

The problem is that some folks are always dissatisfied with what it says because they want it to say more. They demand answers that it doesn’t give. They want it to rubberstamp their extrabiblical ecclesiology.

“…is going to have serious ramifications as to how schism and heresy are going to be addressed, both in terms of soteriology and governing policy.”

i) Which I discuss in response to Wallace.

ii) Of course, the traditional way that Rome addressed “schism and heresy” was by killing and/or torturing those it identifies as heretics and schismatics. Do you think that policy should be reinstated?

“It's ridiculous to suggest a hierarchical policy is no better than an autonomous 'non-denominational' type policy and that Christians are free to pick what they feel is best.”

It’s ridiculous for you to say it’s ridiculous. I gave reasons for my position. Your assertion is not a refutation.

“So Wallace is concerned about a real problem, namely unaccountability since Protestantism has no ecclesiology, and you respond by saying no ecclesial structure is the right one.”

Wallace poses a problem and proposes a hypothetical solution. I point out that his solution fails to solve the problem he posed. That’s a perfectly adequate response. That’s how he framed the issue.

4/03/2012 1:12 PM 

"Where are you getting that conclusion?"

From the NT.

"I was speaking of 'essential' in regards to Sola Scriptura making the 'essential' doctrines perspicuous. So whatever is 'essential' for faith and Christian living should be plainly spelled out in Scripture; if not, it's not essential."

You're confusing whether Scripture teaches the essentials of church polity from whether church policy is an "essential doctrine."

"That's not how I was using the term 'essential'. The issue isn't so much 'which ecclesiology is better?' as it is 'which ecclesiology is God's Will?'"

Everything isn't a binary choice between right and wrong. Sometimes there can be more than one practical and/or morally licit option.

"That's the impression I got when you said no polity is perfect."

No polity solves the problem that Wallace posed (or alleged).

"If you are saying the Bible is "clear" that ecclesiology is "simple, minimal, flexible," I'd say that collapses into a relativist ecclesiology and in effect no different than no ecclesiology at all."

That's an illogical inference. Why would a simple, minimal, and flexible polity be no different than no polity at all?

Keep in mind that Roman Catholic polity evolved over the centuries, and continues to evolve. So that's pretty flexible, although it hardly has the virtue of simplicity.

"That's not how the Church itself addressed those issues though."

Historically, that's exactly how the Roman church itself addressed heresy (real or imagined) and schism.

"To say hierarchy is no better than autonomy is to say they are equal..."

Actually, I said hierarchical church polity is generally worse.

"...which means Scripture isn't clear on which of two contradictory ecclesiologies are right."

You're equivocating. The fact that Scripture hasn't said more on a particular issue doesn't mean it's unclear in what it has said.

And it doesn't mean it needs to say more. You beg the question.


"(1) What specific passages from the NT are you getting the simple/minimal/flexible conclusion? Do you have any articles you can link to?"

Roger Beckwith has a good summary and analysis in his little book Elders in Every City.

"(2) I see no substantial difference between Scripture teaching 'essentials of church polity' with polity being an 'essential doctrine'."

It's a pretty elementary distinction, like the difference between the essentials of chess and whether chess is essential.

"(3) If the choice is between two mutually exclusive views - e.g. hierarchy vs autonomy - then that's binary, the only alternative is that neither are perspicuous."

I didn't say it was a choice between two mutually exclusive views.

And you continue to foist your idiosyncratic definition on "perspicuous." Once again, there's a rudimentary distinction between clarity in what was said and leaving some things unstated. Try not to chronically confuse the two.

"If a polity is too simple and too minimal, that can be taken as no structures at all (e.g. a self appointed house church)."

What makes you think there weren't "self-appointed house-churches" in NT times? What makes you assume house-church hosts like Lydia or Aquila & Priscilla were/had to be "appointed"?

"(5) I don't see why the Church would have Ecumenical Councils if it were simply a matter of persecuting the weaker camps."

Since you fail to explain why you don't see the connection, there's nothing for me to respond to.

"If you are arguing Scripture teaches something akin to (a), then that doesn't tell us much of anything."

To cut to the chase, Roman Catholic ecclesiology is contrary to Biblical ecclesiology.


"(1) Unfortunately, the Elders in Every City book is $40 (used). There has to be a website or online article stating basically the same thing."

That's not my problem.

"(2) It makes no sense to suggest you can have 'essentials of church polity' without also having polity being essential doctrine."

To claim it makes no sense is not a counterargument.

"They're two sides of the same coin."

Another orphaned assertion.

"The whole point of perspicuity is so that one has sufficient information for Christian living."

i) You're confusing perspicuity of Scripture with the sufficiency of Scripture, which is inept.

ii) You're also assuming that Biblical ecclesiology is insufficient, which begs the question.

"The concept of self-appointed defeats and contradicts the very mission of the Apostles, literally 'the sent' ones. Romans 10 says the Gospel comes by hearing, but those delivering the Gospel are sent."

There's no evidence that Priscilla & Aquila were sent. Sent by whom?

"The various local congregations met in houses because that's the only place they could meet, but none the less there were deacons, bishops, etc, appointed to oversee."

You make assertions bereft of evidence. There were independent missions and missionaries in the NT church. Christians who seized the initiative because there was a need, they were in the right place, and they had something to contribute. Consider the principle articulated in Mk 9:38-40.

"If self appointment were true, then Paul's instructions to Timothy and Titus are nonsense."

His instructions don't require elders to be "appointed." They must simply meet certain minimal qualifications.

"And 3 John 1:9-10 strongly refutes self-appointment and autonomy as well."

There is no 3 John 1:9-10.

"Not according to texts like 3 John 1:9-10."

Aside from your inability to cite the passage properly, this is about someone who refuses to defer to the authority of an apostle.

Nothing there about priests, or the Roman episcopate, much less the papacy.


"(1) All I'm asking for is an article that addresses your view of NT polity. I'm not even asking you to write some long response. If you want to convince someone, it helps to provide proof."

You didn't come here to be persuaded.

"(2) That's like saying the Bible teaches the essentials of chess but that chess isn't an essential game. That's ridiculous, it means perspicuity applies to aspects of doctrines that ultimately are note essential ones."

There's no logical link between perspicuity and essentiality. The Bible is clear on many nonessentials Take extraneous details like the number of water pots at the wedding in Cana. It says there were six. Well, nothing ambiguous about that. It clearly says there were six water pots.

Is it essential to the narrative that John specify the number of water pots? No. It is essential to the miracle that there were six water pots? Would the miracle fail if there were five or seven rather than six? No.

You betray a very insubordinate attitude toward the word of God. You dictate to God what God is supposed to say or refrain from saying.

"(2i) Perspicuity and Sufficiency go hand in hand."

That's a patch-up job on your original claim.

"Priscilla & Aquila heard the gospel first by either Paul or a missionary sent by the Apostles."

You made that up whole cloth. To begin with, they were probably educated Jews who already had a good grasp of OT messianic prophecy.

Also keep in mind that many Christians back then had firsthand knowledge of Jesus' teachings. If you lived in Palestine at the time of Jesus' public ministry, you could go hear him preach. And there were thousands of men and women in that position.

"And from there Paul established a local church in their home."

You have no evidence that Paul established a local church in their home(s). And they maintained more than one house-church. Why not assume he took advantage of a preexisting house-church as a base of operations?

"The concept of self-appointed defeats and contradicts the very mission of the Apostles, literally 'the sent' ones.'"

That's the etymological fallacy.

"There were not 'independent' missionaries in the NT Church."

Philip the evangelist. The church didn't "appoint" him to be a missionary.

"Your position makes every Tom, Nick, and Harry a pastor and missionary."

Only if they're qualified.

"(4c) Your view makes nonsense out of every text speaking of appointment and laying on of hands. Those become mere hand-waving."

i) The imposion of hands was applied to men who were already in Christian ministry (e.g. Acts 13:1-3).

ii) The fact that some men were appointees doesn't mean everyone had to be. Your inference is fallacious.

"You didn't exegete 3 John 9-10 adequately enough. Diotrephes clearly had ecclesial authority that couldn't simply be overturned or overthrown at the whim of those who disagreed, no matter how wrong they considered him."

You just invent what you need. But that's not what the text says or implies.

i) He doesn't have to have "ecclesiastical authority." He could be a rich man, a Roman official, or a Roman aristocrat. Any one of those would give him clout.

ii) Actually, Diotrephes is a type of pope. Like the pope, he usurps apostolic authority.

"Further, it would entail the author of this Letter was of a higher rank, further establishing hierarchy within the church. That the author was John the Apostle is not found in the text."

That artificially isolates 3 John from 1-3 John and the Gospel of John.


“I've been persuaded by Protestants offering fair and solid arguments before. It's not like I'm closing my eyes to evidence.”

As a Catholic epologist, your mind is made up before you even crack open the pages of Scripture. You will automatically discount any interpretation that runs counter to what your denomination teaches.

“That's false based on numerous Protestant sources I've consulted over the years. It's false based on even the WCF's definition. _To say ‘the Bible is clear on many nonessentials’ (such as the 6 jars at Cana) is equivocation on the term ‘Perspicuity’, since Perspicuity specifically refers to essentials, not referring to 'specific details' in general of any given text.”

You’re the one who’s equivocating. That’s why I asked at the outset, “essential for what?”

According to the WCF, this is the scope of perspicuity:
 “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.”

So it has special reference to “those things which are necessary for salvation.” And even then, it’s contingent on “a due use of the ordinary means.”

Unless church polity is essential to salvation, your argument fails.

“The first time P&A are mentioned is in Acts 18:1-3, where it says they were Jews recently expelled from Rome when they met Paul. That strongly implies they weren't Christians yet. To say that they were educated Jews who had a good grasp of OT messianic prophecy is irrelevant (cf 18:24f). There is no mention of a church in their home until much later (1 Cor 16:19). In Romans 16:3, Paul calls them "my helpers" indicating ecclesial subordination.”

My contention is supported by Catholic NT scholar Joseph Fitzmyer, in his commentaries on Romans (735) and 1 Corinthians (619-20). As usual, we have a lay Catholic apologist who’s out of step with mainstream Catholic scholarship.

“Didn't you just get on my case for assuming and now you make this unsupported assertion? The Biblical facts don't support this.”

i) Don’t be stupid. I can’t respond to something before you say it.

ii) Fitzmyer’s argument is better than yours.

“How is it an etymological fallacy? To suggest the term ‘Apostle’ has no deep significane makes a mockery of Scripture's terminology and description about them.”

It’s fine with me if you have to build your case for Catholicism on stock semantic fallacies. Moral of the story: the argument for Roman Catholicism is fallacious. Thanks for highlighting that fact.

“False, the Church explicitly ordained and appointed Philip as a Deacon to be of service to the Apostle's needs (Acts 6:5f).”

You’re equivocating (again). What were the duties of the deaconate? To “serve tables” (Acts 6:2). That’s set in contrast to the “ministry of the word” (6:4).

So he was not appointed to preach the word. He was not appointed to be an evangelist.

Rather, he did that at his own initiative (8:5). He wasn’t “sent” to do that. He was a “Lone Ranger” missionary in that regard.

“Your Acts 13:1-3 text says nothing about imposing hands to men already in authority.”

Paul was already an apostle, with a direct commission from God to evangelize the Gentiles (9:15). He was already a missionary (11:26; 12:25).

“But the fact the text says the Holy Spirit specifically wanted certain men selected and says these men were ‘sent’ goes totally against your Lone Ranger Polity.”

Once again, you’re equivocating. He wasn’t sent by a bishop. He was sent by the Holy Spirit (13:4). Very charismatic.

“None of those (e.g. rich, aristocrat, public official) give one the authority to receive or cast out members of a congregation. He could have ‘clout’ to convince another, but not do the receiving or casting out himself.”

You’re recasting the issue in terms of his (alleged) “authority,” although the text doesn’t frame the issue in those terms.

Diotrephes wouldn’t need “ecclesiastical authority” to throw his weight around. You need to bone-up on Greco-Roman patronage. Power is not the same thing as authority, much less ecclesiastical authority.

“If Lone Ranger Polity were in place, then Diotrephes is actually on firm ground and not being insubordinate to John at all.”

Apostles (e.g. John) outrank elders and laymen. That’s the operative polity. And it’s not Roman Catholic polity. 3 John doesn’t have a hierarchy of priests, bishops, and popes.


“You zeroed in on simply the WCF focus of ‘necessary for salvation.’”

That’s because you were the one who cited the WCF, but then ignored the stated scope of perspicuity. That’s how the WCF qualifies perspicuity. So you’re burning a straw man.

“On the contrary, my argument is now effectively proven. Since no Protestant would say polity is essential to Salvation, that means it's non-essential and thus Wallace's point is made: there is no Protestant ecclesiology.”

That’s a complete non sequitur. To say church polity is inessential to salvation hardly entails the claim that there’s no Protestant ecclesiology. Your inference is patently fallacious.

“Don't hide behind Fitzmyer - present Biblical proof! It's ironic that I'm the one appealing to Scriptural evidence while you're appealing to ipse dixit.”

i) Ironic to have a Catholic apologist accuse a Protestant of hiding behind Catholic scholarship. More like a Catholic apologist is running away from Catholic scholarship. It’s your problem when Catholic scholarship is a threat to your argument for Catholicism.

ii) It’s a false dichotomy to oppose scriptural evidence/Biblical proof to Fitzmyer’s exegesis of passages concerning Aquila and Priscilla.

“Philip was estranged from the Apostles due to persecution (8:4), he was not out starting his own church apart from the care of those above him. Note that this work was not autonomous from the Apostles, for the text plainly says the preachers in Samaria called the Apostles to come and Confirm the new converts(8:14).”

You’re backpedaling from your original claim. You initially said:

"There were not 'independent' missionaries in the NT Church."

I replied:

Philip the evangelist. The church didn't ‘appoint’ him to be a missionary.

He was not appointed to preach the word. He was not appointed to be an evangelist. Rather, he did that at his own initiative (8:5).

You failed to demonstrate that the church appointed him to be a missionary.

You’re also trying to smuggle in the sacrament of Confirmation, as if 8:14 describes the sacrament of Confirmation.

“Two things: (a) not everyone receives divine revelation like Paul did, so that's an exception not the rule.”

Once again, you’re backpedaling from your original argument. You initially said:

“Your view makes nonsense out of every text speaking of appointment and laying on of hands… Your Acts 13:1-3 text says nothing about imposing hands to men already in authority.”

I’ve documented your error. Whenever I do that, you change your argument.

“(b) Acts is clear that Paul always operated with union to the Apostles and central body.”

That’s far from clear. To the contrary, Paul normally acts on his own initiative, or at the direction of the Holy Spirit.

 “Your ‘sent by the Holy Spirit’ Lone Range polity is a total distortion of the text.”

Really? The text says:

“Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.2 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.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.”

i) So the Holy Spirit was the primary. The Holy Spirit was the ultimate sender. The church of Antioch only sent them at the direct instigation of the Holy Spirit.

ii) In addition, this didn’t involve a hierarchy of priests and bishops. Rather, NT “prophets” were the intermediaries.

“If Diotrephes had no ecclesial authority, then John could have said ignore him and submit to the true authorities (who would be even more culpable for taking bribes).”

You need to bone up on social class in the Greco-Roman world. If Diotrephes was their social superior, then he doesn’t need ecclesiastical authority to throw his weight around.

House-churches were sponsored by a wealthy Christian host or hostess. Authority is built into the patron/client relationship.

Since the house-church was private property, belonging to the host or hostess, the householder could determine membership. Who got in. Who was excluded. Which itinerate teachers were allowed to speak there.

4/08/2012 10:01 AM 

"Note that this work was not autonomous from the Apostles, for the text plainly says the preachers in Samaria called the Apostles to come and Confirm the new converts(8:14)."

i) No, the text doesn't plainly say "the preachers in Samaria called the Apostles to come..."

Rather, the text says "when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down..."

The text doesn't say Philip sent for them. And the very fact that the church of Jerusalem sent representatives to investigate proves that Philip's action took place without the prior approval or supervision of the Apostles.

ii) But since you bring it up, notice that the church of Jerusalem sent Peter. You think Peter was the first pope and the prince of the apostles. Yet he was sent by the other apostles. So by your logic, he's subordinate to the Apostolate. He can't act on his own. He needs permission, authorization, from the other apostles.

4/08/2012 10:39 AM 

"Instead, we see Diotrephes 'loved to be first among them,' meaning he held an authoritative spot and is spoken of in singular when it came to casting out of the church."

In other words, Diotrephes was the first pope. Benedict XVI is the lineal successor to Diotrephes.

1 comment:

  1. Your position makes every Tom, Nick, and Harry a pastor and missionary.

    Pastor, no. Missionary, yes.