Saturday, January 05, 2013

Haggling with Bryan Cross over Ecclesiology

In response to my comment here (which essentially is found in this blog post), Bryan Cross said:

No one is claiming that propagation of the apostolic deposit has been “left to chance.”

Perhaps you can be more consistent in the way you bring up “ecclesial deism”, especially with respect to the Reformed doctrine of the church.

And the fact that there is no opposition between nature and grace, (or between the natural and the supernatural) does not entail that necessarily all men are independently capable of understanding rightly God’s self-revelation.

I disagree. A God who makes “all men”, and who desires to speak to them, can and will do so (Romans 1). Unless they are impaired in some way, but even then you see stories of kids with Down’s syndrome, who are incredibly loving children.

Moreover, just because God chooses to speak through a prophet does not entail that that prophet is an idol.

Of course not. Your suggestion that I may be suggesting that there is any kind of “entailment” at all in that situation is way out of line. I am talking specifically in the instance of the Roman Catholic claims regarding authority, infallibility, and specifically to be “the sacrament of salvation”. That is what is idolatrous.

You point to God speaking directly to Adam in the Genesis narrative, as if therefore that unmediated mode of divine communication to Adam must be exclusive and normative for all time. But that conclusion does not follow, as can be shown by the very fact of the existence of the prophets in the Old Testament.

My pointing to Adam is the first in a long line of individuals to whom God spoke directly, with virtually the same “commission”. I am not through with Beale's account. Beale shows not just Adam, but a history. Stay tuned for a more sustained argument in that area.

If you are hoping to compare Roman authority somehow to that of a prophet, you should be consistent and note the conditions that God placed on prophets; you should also be consistent and note the behavior of the prophets, vis-à-vis Rome:

Hebrews says of the Old Testament prophets, “They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth”.

The world was not worthy of these Godly prophets. On the other hand, Rome must constantly make excuses for the excesses and pure evil to be found in the lineage of the popes. That they had to be popes because of the office; that they “never issued any teachings”, so therefore, there is an “unbroken succession”. This is not how God talks about the prophets.

The prophets, again, are an indication that God deals with individuals as individuals. Not as “a succession”.

The unsoundness of your argument from Adam to the necessary superfluous character of any living “authority which can mediate the formal proximate object of faith” can be shown by the fact that Korah could have made the same argument to Moses. … You are making the very same argument, claiming that since we are all united to Christ, therefore we don’t need any secondary authority having a mediatorial role regarding the right understanding of divine revelation.

You bring up Korah, suggesting that a rejection of Moses’s authority was a rejection of God’s authority. And rightly so.

I am not rejecting “secondary authority”. If I recall, Turretinfan has argued with you that church leadership IS merely a “secondary authority” compared with Scripture. I am on board with that.

But Moses’s “commissioning” wasn’t done in a corner, to borrow a phrase. Moses’s commissioning is done via whole books of Scripture; Moses’s relationship to God was unquestionable; Both the degree and the kind of his authority were unquestionable. And when Moses died, there was no “succession”. Yes, someone was in charge, but he didn’t have the authority that Moses had. Moses’s authority died with Moses.

The Scriptures were careful, too, when any supposed “succession” was to occur, there was one “Prophet” to come who would be greater than Moses. No other prophet in the history of Israel carried the authority of Moses.

On the other hand, the Roman Catholic claim to authority is based on a questionable interpretation of three vague phrases, for which entirely different understandings are not only plausible, but which are far more likely.

God is careful about whom he chooses, and he is explicit about why he chooses them.

This also shows why your claim that any living organ having the role of mediating divine revelation is ipso facto an “idol” is false, since it would make all the prophets and apostles “idols.” Ultimately, the position you are advocating is a form of Docetism, because Christ’s human nature, through which the Apostles received revelation from Christ, was created.

No early church fathers claimed to have “apostolic authority”. Such a claim came later. This is where the usurpation occurred. The Apostles (and the apostolic call to “mediate divine revelation” was unique and unrepeatable. The early church recognized this. Think of Ignatius saying “Peter and Paul commanded you; I am but a slave”.

That is not an attitude that persisted for long. I’ve expanded on this at great length, using exegetical and historical examples provided by Oscar Cullmann, Michael Kruger and others. It was the urge for leaders of the church to say “we are important” or “I am important” that is where the corruption starts.

Claiming that any created thing through which we are to receive revelation is ipso facto an idol that deflects us from God is in this way a denial of the incarnation, because it denies that God can speak to us through a created nature. Just as Christ’s created human nature does not deflect us from God, but is instead that very instrument through which we know God, so also the Apostles appointed by Christ, and the bishops authorized by them, do not necessarily deflect us from God, but are that very instrument through which we receive and understand rightly the revelation of Christ.

The WCF is very clear that those authorized as leaders of the church have that “secondary” or “ministerial” authority.

It belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially, to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of his Church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to determine the same: which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission, not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God, appointed thereunto in his Word.

This is the right way to view “secondary authorities”. Rome has taken itself out of the role of “secondary authority” and has put itself uniquely in the place of Christ. It makes dogmas and claim to speak for Christ: Something like “the Assumption of Mary” is neither “consonant to the Word of God” nor consonant with history.

You have never, yet, [nor has Rome] made a sound case for the authority of the papacy. You’ve put up a “papacy roundup” which says “Peter was important”, with neither an exegetical nor a “from tradition” case about just how his “office” was anything like what the later papacy became. You simply make the assumption [following Newman] that the authority in place today is precisely that of the early church [after the apostles], except that they didn’t know about it.

And yet, in “proof” of the papacy, you say that “Peter was important”, and then you have a half a phrase from Ignatius stating that Rome was important, Peter was thought to have died in Rome, therefore there was a papacy.

This is laughable, and the history of the papacy would be genuinely funny if it were not so tragic.

There was no figure of the papacy during the harshest and cruelest persecutions that the church ever faced. Even then, they held as the WCF does, “There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ”. No vicar, either of Christ or Peter. Christ alone got them through those persecutions.

This notion [from Bonhoeffer, that says “Communion with Christ is thus a form of isolation from the rest of the world – even from other Christians] epitomizes the essence of Protestant (as Protestant) ecclesiology (or lack thereof). Catholic ecclesiology, by contrast, is portrayed in 1 Corinthians 12:12ff, wherein we see that when one member suffers, all the members suffer, and when one member is honored, all the members rejoice. In Catholic ecclesiology, greater union with Christ entails greater union with His Body, and greater union with His Body entails greater union with Christ.

As I’ve related above, God called and dealt with the Prophets as individuals, and so if it “epitomizes Protestant ecclesiology”, it also has Biblical warrant. This is how God dealt, and this is how God deals with people.

Rome has no monopoly on 1 Cor 12:12ff, and in fact, this verse contradicts the notion that there must be a hierarchy – “all the members, one body” --

That we are treated as individuals is what Paul actually says: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” If there is a hierarchy, it is Paul’s: “God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues”.

There is no mention of “greater union” or “lesser union”. That is a neo-Platonist concept that has no precedent in Scripture. Union with Christ is effected by God, and there are not degrees to it.

Neither is there mention here of popes and cardinals and “patriarchates” etc. There is some serious morphing going on between the time of Paul and the 4th century. This is where the corruption begins to occur (corruption which is perfected in the Medieval popes).

How again is it that you want to claim all of this as somehow the epitome of “Catholic ecclesiology”?

You [JB] wrote:

You deny the very power of God. You remove God in Christ from the direct sight of the believer, and you place “the Church” as an alternative “divine authority”. A secondary “divine authority”.

Nothing any Catholic here has said entails that God is not omnipotent. No Catholic is saying that God cannot speak directly to an individual. Such a claim would make even the Catholic position impossible, since in that case nothing could be revealed even to the Apostles. The claim, rather, as I pointed out in comment #266, is that a divinely authorized magisterium is part of the economy of revelation God in His wisdom has established in the New Covenant, not a Montanist version, according to which each believer is guided entirely through bosom-burning (whether text-mediated or not).

I didn’t say that anyone here said things that “entail that God is not omnipotent”. What I accused you of is placing God into a position where he doesn’t communicate directly with the believer. In spite of many examples I have given to the effect that He does deal directly [in terms of making his will known to people].

I’m not talking about “bosom-burning”. I’m talking about God’s ability to guide individual believers through their lives, to Christ, and through Christ, to their ultimate place with Him.

To this end he gave the Scriptures.

Contrariwise, where, again, in “the economy of revelation”, is the need for (if not an actual instance of) a “divinely authorized magisterium” that is infallible, [if not “infallible in spite of being a horribly corrupt institution”]?

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