I've been debating some Catholics on Facebook. Here's a sample:
A basic problem with Catholic theology is how evolving dogmas become more specific the further we get away from events, eyewitnesses, and living memory. Dogmas increasingly detailed in inverse proportion to the availability of reliable historical sources. To someone not already committed to the system, that's a wee bit suspicious.
Do you apply this to the differences between Mark and Matthew/Luke? If not, why not?"
The Synoptic Gospels are all 1C documents. Matthew and Luke are maybe 10-15 years later. Eyewitnesses are still alive. Living memory is still in place.
That's hardly comparable to theological traditions that surface generations later, much less centuries later.
Assuming, moreover, traditional authorship (for which defenses are readily available), Matthew and Luke aren't merely dependent on Mark. In addition to Mark, they have independent sources of information. In the case of Matthew, firsthand knowledge. In the case of Luke, his extensive contacts with contemporaries of Jesus.
"Also, doesn't this argument also condemn Trinitarian theology?"
Scholars like Richard Bauckham, Gordon Fee, Simon Gathercole, Sigurd Grindheim, M. J. Harris, Larry Hurtado, Leon Morris, and P. T. O'Brien among others have meticulously documented a high Christology in the NT.
So you would deny the consensus of most scholars that Matthew and Luke are later…
I said in my initial response to you that I think Matthew and Luke are probably about 10-15 years later than Mark. I also explained why I don't think that's significant.
"and that their greater detail on a number of points (including, as it happens, that favorite Catholic prooftext Matthew 16) is the result of early doctrinal development?"
No, I think the main difference is that Mark has a narrative focus. He writes about events, especially spectacular events (miracles, exorcisms).
By contrast, Matthew and Luke include a lot of material from the teaching ministry of Christ. They take over Mark's basic narrative, but they add a pedagogical dimension that's largely lacking in Mark. I don't think that's theological development.
"You find no significance whatever in the fact that neither Mark nor Paul says anything about the virginal conception, while Matthew and Luke do?"
Paul wasn't writing a life of Christ. And he may not have had enough independent information to do so. Paul is mainly concerned with theological interpretation. Jesus as the fulfilment of prophecy. The redemptive significance of Christ's death and Resurrection. Things like that.
It's not just that Mark doesn't discuss the virgin birth. He doesn't have a nativity account in general.
We can speculate on why that's the case. According to Acts 12:12, Mark was a native of Jerusalem. If so, he may well have been an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus on occasions when Jesus was in town. By the same token, he may have tagged along to see and hear Jesus in other parts of Palestine and Samaria. As we know, there were crowds who followed Jesus around. Everywhere Jesus went was within walking distance of Mark's hometown.
What I'm suggesting is that Mark may have largely confined himself to reporting events that he personally observed during the public ministry of Christ. But Christ's nativity were before his time. He wasn't around, at that time and place, to witness that.
Which is not to deny that he probably got some additional information from questioning the disciples. But you can only get particular answers if you know what to ask. So there's some circularity there. Unless you already knew about the virgin birth, it wouldn't occur to you to ask about it.
"You want to bracket out the first century from the rules of historical development that you apply to the rest of church history, even when normal application of historical methodology would lead to seeing the beginnings of later trajectories in the first century."
I don't know quite what that's supposed to mean. If I write a biography, and I'm not making stuff up, then I'm limited to what actually happened. There's no room for developing the past. That's over and done with.
There can be development at the level of theological interpretation. However, to be an authentic development, that must be constrained by what actually happened.
"And I wasn't talking about a generic 'high Christology,' which, defined broadly enough, would cover all the rival theologies of the fourth century, but about the theology enshrined in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed."
I'd say Nicene Christology is actually lower than NT Christology. We could get into that, if you wish.
The circularity of the argument is broken by history.
Actually, the claim of a 1C monepiscopate is broken by history. The claim of apostolic succession is broken by history.
"On the other hand, I would like to hear the argument that will make 'the church' of 1 Tim 3:15 something that didn't appear until the 16th century."
I already explained that. If the church is the people of God, the community of faith, then you always had that.
"The fallacy of the alleged argument is that the text is being used to justify the infallibility of the Catholic church but nothing says that the text was referring to the Catholic Church."
1 Tim 3:15 says nothing about the infallibility of the church. For that matter, churches planted by apostles were hardly infallible. That's why we have so many NT letters correcting errant churches.
"...hence, every local church could determine its own canon of the bible."
How is that worse than one man (the pope) determining the canon of Scripture for everyone, if that one man is actually fallible?
i) To begin with, the way you frame the question is prejudicial. You beg the question by assuming that an authority figure must make these determinations.
It's not an issue of who decides, but the basis on which decisions are make. Having good reasons.
ii) You then quote 1 Tim 3:15, but that doesn't say anything about the church's authority or prerogatives. You imported those categories into your prooftext.
iii) In addition, it's funny when Roman Catholics quote Bible verses about "the Church," because, for them, "the Church" instantly shrinks down to the papacy or current pope or so-called ecumenical councils.
But, of course, Paul didn't say anything about the pope or papacy or a episcopal council in 1 Tim 3:15.
iv) Moreover, Paul doesn't say the church is the source of truth. And he doesn't say the church has the authority or prerogative to determine the truth. Rather, the church is tasked with the responsibility of upholding the truth.
"Determine" is ambiguous. That can mean "ascertain" or "arbitrate". Those are two very different concepts. To ascertain is an act of understanding. To arbitrate is an act of authority. To obligate other people.
v) In Pauline ecclesiology, the church is the people of God. Christians. Hence, Christians have a duty to uphold the truth.
So, for instance, you had mid-1C churches planted by Paul. It was incumbent on individual members comprising the congregation to uphold what Paul taught them. They received the truth from St. Paul. Their duty was to remain faithful to what he taught them–or in some cases his handpicked deputies.
BTW, you yourself had to determine what your prooftext (1 Tim 3:15) meant for you to use it in an argument. Your denomination (i.e. the church of Rome) can't very well determine that for you, because you have to know if it's even applicable to your denomination. Unless it refers to your church, or includes your church, then your church isn't a ground and pillar of truth. In which case it isn't qualified to interpret that passage on your behalf.
That's a Catholic conundrum. You can't rely on your denomination to determine what is true before you determine that your denomination is a rightful candidate for that distinction.
The ‘Church’ is not set up as a democracy so that every Christian has an equal vote as to ‘what is and is not’ the case regarding doctrines and beliefs of the Christian tradition.
I didn't frame the issue in terms of every Christian having an equal voice, but in terms of the quality of the evidence or argumentation that's given in support of doctrine and belief. Not all arguments are equal in value. There are good arguments and bad arguments, reliable evidence and unreliable evidence, or no evidence at all.
"Authority was handed to certain (persons) by Christ. The power to bind and loose is a unique authority given to the disciples…"
Not doubt the apostles had authority. They are dead.
"Surely, you don’t think that somehow any baptized Christian has an authoritative say so about the nature of the hypostatic union of Jesus, for example."
You keep recasting the issue in terms of authority rather than truth, evidence, or reason. I reject the imposition of your categories.
It's not a question of whether any particular Christian has the right, but whether what he say is right.
"So the question is… who does? Well, as Catholic’s we can point historically to an unbroken chain of authority that has existed since the first century."
You can point to claimants. Even at that level, you can't distinguish a pope from an antipope.
"So was there no such thing as a legitimate authority residing in the church until the reformation?"
You keep making authority the standard of comparison. That's something you argue from, rather than something you argue for.
BTW, the church fathers themselves were often members of the upper class. Minimally, they were drawn from the educated classes–or sometimes Roman aristocrats. Even if they weren't nobility, they were socially conditioned by a cultural milieu that had emperors, kings, and aristocrats. So it's not surprising that they view ecclesiology in autocratic terms.
"I’m addressing the epistemic problem of how we know what to believe and what not to believe."
Which you can't exegete from your prooftext (1 Tim 3:15).
"Where should we go today?"
If it can't be resolved by exegesis, then it can't be resolved. Some questions remain open questions.
"Whenever the issue could not be handled in a small community, it then would be taken to a larger council as seen throughout Christian history. Many of their declarations, I would imagine you actually think are binding on all Christians."
They're only binding insofar as they are true, and not because they are authorities.
"The salient point is that Jesus established a single Church. Within this body he gave the authority to certain people to shepherd the flock. So, for example, in the book of Acts when the it had been decided that gentiles needed not to be circumcised to be included into the new covenant people of God, you and me and the rest of the Church are bound to that decision, despite there being possibly very good reasons why circumcision should have remained."
i) That was long before the NT was completed.
ii) The people calling the shots in Acts 15 are apostles, plus a stepbrother of Jesus. They're dead.
…but one very good reason why I would argue that the Catholic’s and Orthodox has something of a unique claim to legitimate authority is the mere fact that they were simply the only game in town. There wasn’t any such thing as Baptists, Anglicans, Lutherans, Calvinists etc. Protestant shoots didn’t spring up for another 1,500 years.
i) Since dissenters were often severely persecuted, that's a disincentive to rival views springing up.
ii) There wasn't such a thing as Roman Catholics who believed what Vatican II says about non-Christian religions in Nostra Aetate until the mid-20C. There wasn't such a thing as Roman Catholic theistic evolutionists until Darwin. There wasn't such a thing as Catholics who redefined tradition as development until Newman. There wasn't such a thing as Catholic pacifists or Catholic opponents of capital punishment until the late 20C. There have been a number of striking theological innovations or reversals in Catholic theology that post-date the Reformation. So you play with fire when you attack Protestant theology as theologically innovative. You're setting a wildfire that will burn down your own position.
This argument actually stands opposition to the scriptures themselves. The OT 'scriptures' known to the apostles would have commanded that circumcision still be in place. And yet without any *scriptural precedent* the leaders of the Church decided that no such requirement would continue in Church for gentiles coming in. It seems to me if the first century church didn't function under SS, why think we should? Odd."
Nice illustration of people who don't grasp the position they presume to attack. The Protestant position is that not sola Scriptura was operative during the period of public revelation.
We have to logically recognize that it's the Church that Christ gave the power to 'bind and loose', (as protected by the Holy Spirit)"
Unfortunately for you, that promise isn't made to popes, bishops, and priests.
"The 'scriptures' are a product of the Church, not the other way around."
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel would be fascinated to learn the Church produced their oracles.
Even in NT times, De Luca's statement is demonstrably false. The church didn't produce the letters of Paul–Paul did. The church didn't produce John's Gospel–John did. And so on and so forth.
Catholics constantly operate with this illicit substitution.
How are you so sure about this? Care to provide an argument ??
The onus is not on me to disprove a claim for which you provide no evidence. You alluded to Mt 18:17. There's nothing in that verse, or the pericope, or the whole Gospel of Matthew, that unpacks "the church" in terms of popes, bishops, and priests. Likewise, there's nothing in that verse, or the surrounding context, that limits the binding and loosing to a subset of church members. This is you reading the Bible through Catholic glasses, where you see Catholicism in you prooftexts, not because it's there, but because Catholicism is etched on your glasses, so wherever you look, that's projected onto the object. It's in the lens, not the text.
"I was referencing the NT."
Then you shouldn't say "the scriptures," since that designation includes the OT.
"This seems to be a bit muddleheaded. Folks like John and Paul and the other authors of the NT who are unknown are presumably members of the ‘Church’."
And Peter was a husband. That doesn't mean his wife is married to the church. John was a fisherman. That doesn't mean the church is a fisherman.
It's your own equation that's hopelessly muddleheaded.
"One precedes the other. Christ didn’t establish a book, he established a Church."
He established more than one thing. For instance, he established the Apostolate. That's not the church.
And some of them wrote Scripture, as a part of their apostolic duties.
"with authority that would eventually write stuff down."
"The church" didn't write the NT. You repeated the same fallacy.
"You keep taking stabs at the CC. (with rather weak objections but nevertheless) however, I’ve yet to see one argument as to why you think the tradition you hold is correct."
Maybe you should complete unfinished business on other comment threads before changing the subject.
When interacting with Protestants (or at least with me), your approach takes the following form. In essence you say, "Given the Catholic paradigm, how would a Protestant answer this question?" Or, "Given the Catholic paradigm, how would a Protestant solve this problem?"
That's a nonstarter for me since I can't give the right answer to the wrong question. I don't grant your paradigm. From my perspective, you're asking the wrong questions. Your questions are conditioned by your Catholic paradigm. Likewise, you find Protestant theology problematic based on your Catholic frame of reference.
Now, that's understandable given your viewpoint, but you're not arguing for Catholicism; rather, you're arguing from Catholicism, which gives me no reason to accept that frame of reference.
For instance, you keep appealing to your authority source, but you haven't begun to demonstrate how you verify your authority source in the first place. In philosophy, your approach is called the problem of the criterion. If you think you need a criterion to know anything, then you can't know anything because you can't establish your criterion. If you think you always need a referee to arbitrate theological disputes, that generates an infinite regress, for by what criterion do you determine the right arbiter? That's a preliminary judgment you'd have to be able to make apart from an arbiter.
Let's put the same point another way; either you think arguments are adequate to determine the best position or not. If you deny that arguments are adequate, then you can't argue for Catholicism.
Let me ask you a question. Is there a specific place or institution that has held authority since the time of the Church's inception??
No. At the inception there was apostolic authority. But that kind of authority died with the apostles.
"If you reject the CC claims to authority and presumably that of the Orthodox as well, can you tell me if there is indeed a line of authority since the beginning and where to find it today??"
i) We need to define "authority". Ecclesiastical authority is conditional. Elders have disciplinary authority, but that's fallible. Church discipline is sometimes mistaken. There's no duty to submit to error.
Elders and denominations have the right and duty to teach revealed truth. Creeds and sermons are authoritative insofar as they are true, since truth is authoritative. We have an obligation to believe the truth. Creeds and sermons are not authoritative insofar as they are false.
ii) Ecclesiastical authority needn't be a continuous line of authority. It exists when the conditions exist. And that can come and go. For instance, if missionaries plant churches, those churches have church officers. Church officers have authority (as I defined it). But if Christianity dies out at that time or place, then there's a "break" in the authority. It can, however, be restarted at any time or place.
You have yet to explain why you're obsessed with authority rather than truth and evidence.
So when in Church history did SS become operative?
Scripture was always operative, beginning with the Pentateuch. Sola scripture was operative during the Intertestamental period. And Sola Scripture once again became operative after there was no other comparable evidence. Initially, that would be person-variable. Initially, you had some Christians who learned Christian theology direct from the apostles. Even in that case, Scripture was more reliable than memory.
And your memories die with you. You can share memories, like family lore is passed down by word of mouth. But that dwindles with the passage of time.
Why think this assertion is true? Can you provide some ‘scriptural’ evidence or perhaps cite some church fathers that hold this view? I’m curious.
Because you can't have apostolic authority without apostles. So unless you think the Apostolate is a continuous office, it died with the apostles. And what were criteria for an apostle?
21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection" (Acts 1:21-22)."The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works" (2 Cor 12:12).
Acts 1:21-22 manifestly has a chronological cutoff, barring a miraculous exception, like Paul's Christophany (Acts 9).
Likewise, Rome doesn't even claim that 2 Cor 12:12 is a condition for the episcopate.
"In fact, speaking of the fathers, don’t you find it odd that within church history the VAST majority of Christians actually hold to a form of apostolic succession throughout the ages?"
How in hell would you know that the vast majority of Christians held to a "form" (weasel word alert) of apostolic succession? Do you have polling data on what the vast majority of Christians believed about apostolic succession? What percentage of Christians ever wrote about that?
"Your view seems to be quite novel in light of what we know of Christian history."
You're repeating the same mistake I corrected you on before. Roman Catholic theology is hardly monolithic. There are notable novelties in Catholic theology. I gave examples. You better wear steel-plated boots when you shoot yourself in the foot that way.
"Did the fathers and the existing church of the time get this entire bit wrong for over 1,500 years?"
You mean like Tertullian?
BTW, you keep dodging the dilemma posed by your own position. If you think we must always begin with an authority source, how do you establish your authority source? Do you need another authority to authorize your authority source? If so, an infinite regress ensues. If not, then you concede that we can and must have a starting-point independent of ecclesiastical authority.
Surely you don’t think the Catholic and Orthodox position is that we having living apostles among us today. So the scriptures you provided is simply a non starter. The Catholic and Orthodox (sans the pope) belief of apostolic succession is as follows: An uninterrupted transmission of spiritual authority from the Apostles through successive popes and bishops.
Yes, you try to have it both ways. Apostolic authority minus apostles. You drive a wedge between apostles and apostolic prerogatives by contriving a fake category of "spiritual" authority from the apostles through successive popes and bishops. Those are face-saving distinctions that can be deployed to render any position unfalsifiable.
"This clear ancient belief can be traced back as early as 80 A.D."
You didn't quote any documents from 80 AD. Oh, and Clement wasn't a pope. You're salting the mine.
Moreover, you repeat the usual equivocations of usage and semantic fallacies by failing to distinguish between the meaning of words and the meaning of concepts. You need to bone up on lexical semantics. But of course you won't.
"Steve, I don’t need a polling station to claim that the majority of Christians believed in a linage of authority that could be traced back to the apostles themselves."
Actually, you do need to have evidence commensurate with the scope of your claim. You need to show that your sample is representative.
"Let’s use some common sense here."
That would be a refreshing change on your part.
"How many Catholic and Orthodox Christians are in the world compared to the number of Protestants who deny apostolic succession?"
Keep in mind that those figures count anyone who's baptized Catholic or Orthodox. That includes nominal Catholics and Orthodox as well as children.
"The denial of AS did not come about until relatively recently in Church history and is held by small minority."
Yes, it started to come about during the Renaissance, when people learned the original languages, went back to the sources, and had increasing freedom to exercise their own judgment without fear of being tortured to death by agents of the papacy.
"You stand in stark opposition to a great and long standing tradition of the Church. This should give you great pause my friend."
And most Jews said the same thing about that schismatic minority group called Christians. By your logic, you'd be part of the lynch mob demanding the crucifixion of Jesus.
Likewise, devout Jews were often a minority remnant in OT times. To be in the majority is hardly a reliable index of truth. And this should give you great pause, but of course, it won't.
People resort to majoritarian appeals because they can't give good reasons for their position.
This, in my perspective is answered rather easily. Much can be said, but I’ll be brief. Jesus is the source of ALL authority. Jesus gave authority to his apostles to do great things, like preach the Gospel, forgive sins, raise the dead shepherd his flock (the Church) This special kind authority is passed down from the apostles to their successors in order to effectively shepherd and sanctify his flock that would come into God’s covenant family in the future generations. There is no fallacy of regress at all."
You still don't get it. Try again. Do you know that with or without the aid of the Magisterium? Do you rely on the Magisterium to interpret the evidence? But unless you already know that the Magisterium has that authority, you can't justifiably rely on its self-serving interpretations, now can you? If, on the other hand, you're competent to interpret and evaluate the evidence on your own, without the aid of the Magisterium, then you put the Magisterium out of business.
"The NT scriptures for example, are authoritative in so far as to who it was doing the writing."
Authority is your only conceptual category. The only tool in your toolbox.
"Jesus never commanded anyone to write anything down."
What an ignorant statement Try Rev 1:11.
Moreover, your comment is shortsighted. Jesus sent the Spirit. The Spirit inspires writers. Jesus doesn't have to command anyone to write for him to intend people to write. Jesus conveys his intentions as much by what he does as what he says.
"This Church is comprised of baptized men, women, babies leaders (bishops, priests) , prophets, teachers, healers). From these folks, came along writings(NT) that we as Christians conform and meditate on. However, we should be very careful about ripping the scriptures out of the authoritative bosom of the Church, categorizing it as our highest authority."
You have no check against a "church" becoming a cult, with unaccountable leaders.
"You continue say well why can’t we go with what’s 'true' as opposed to trying to figure out where might we find authority. That is the perennial problem with SS. EVERYONE is claiming that they know what is ‘true’ with the bible in hand."
You're in the same boat. You had to exercise your private judgment when you compared and contrasted various options, then determined by yourself and for yourself that Rome was the way to go.
"Do we trust what ‘you’ think the scriptures teach or maybe Jerry’s interpretations? What about James White? Perhaps you can see where I’m going with this."
Where you're going with this is that you're blindly contradicting yourself. You landed in the church of Rome based on your personal interpretation and evaluation of the documentary evidence. Your private interpretation of Biblical and patristic prooftexts.
BTW, it's not a question of trust, but reason. And you continue to contradict yourself. You play both sides of the fence. If you don't think sifting arguments and evidence is a reliable way to arrive at the truth, then you can never defend Catholicism. You're a selective skeptic. You're skeptical about the ability of reason to prove Protestant claims and disprove Catholic claims while you're confident in your powers of reasoning when it comes to proving Catholic claims and disproving Protestant claims.
"This linage is unbroken"
That's unverifiable even in principle. Among other things, apostolic succession depends on valid ordination. Valid ordination depends on both officiant and ordinand having the right intention. But that's a state of mind. An outsider can't read another person's state of mind.
It only takes one broken link to interrupt the chain of succession. Everything after the break is invalid. And it could break down at any point, given vicissitudes of ordination (see above).
You're oblivious to the paradox of your position. You say Jesus gave us a church, not a book. He didn't command anyone to write. Rather, he established a church.
How do you know what Jesus said and did? You're getting that from…a book! The NT is the primary source of information regarding the life and teaching of Jesus. There's precious little putative Agrapha. The church fathers quote the NT, but that's because they have a NT to quote. That's because someone wrote it down. You keep demoting Scripture and promoting "the Church" even though you are utterly dependent on Scripture as your primary source of information about Jesus.