Friday, July 06, 2012

More about Ignatius and "Apostolic Succession"

Garrison (#392):

You begin your paragraph by assuming the doctrine of sola scriptura in arguing that the New Testament is a witness to all that the Apostles and the early Church believed. You can't have it both ways.

No, I (following Hurtado) begin by assuming that the New Testament writings are an accurate source of information concerning the events and beliefs of the New Testament period.

For you, either there was a succession of teachers teaching with an essentially oral tradition (by which the concept of grace was “misunderstood”) or there was no such thing and Irenaeus, Clement, Ignatius, etc. all had access to the books of the New Testament and knew exactly what they were writing.

Start from “the beginning”. In brief, the argument I am making is that the Apostles were commissioned by Christ in a unique position of “eyewitness”. These alone had the ability to report on the events and articulate the meaning of Christ's life, death, and resurrection.

Per Irenaeus (and Hurtado), this “unique message” was written down. This (in the form of the New Testament scriptures) had divine blessing. The “message ringing in their ears” also had “divine blessing”, but like the Glory of God on Moses’s face, this faded over time.

I’m not saying that what they had gave them “the ability to infallibly posit binding doctrines” in some well-defined (though located after-the-fact) instances. I would rather argue that the concept of “the ability to infallibly posit binding doctrines” is flawed.

I’m saying that what they had was “sufficient”. In God’s purpose, those who were in a position of church leadership during the years 100-150, Clement, Ignatius, Papias, Hermas, all had the living voice ringing in their ears, but that it had (a) faded and (b) become contaminated with other things (per Cullmann, in my comment above). This is why I am able to say they “misunderstood” some things – Grace, to be sure, and other things as well. This did not totally incapacitate them. What they had was sufficient to “turn and be healed” (Acts 28:27).

This is consonant with the history that we know.

Is it not exceedingly arrogant to assume you know better than the men who learned from the Apostles themselves (who were most certainly not heretics) what the concept of grace was?

Interesting that you put it this way. I would suggest that it was “exceedingly arrogant” of Rome to insert itself the way that it did upon the church. The “donum superadditum” comment above illustrates how I believe this happened, not in the case of Rome, but in the case of one particular Roman Catholic doctrine.

It has been repeatedly explained what is meant by development of doctrine as well as infallibility.

And I repeatedly explain why I reject those explanations.

do not keep saying apostolic succession did not exist for Clement or Ignatius without citing direct evidence of such.

I’m not denying that these men understood themselves to be in a position of church leadership. What they denied was that they had anything near the “authority” that the apostles had. Consider Ignatius:

“I do not command you as Peter and Paul: they [were] apostles. I [am] a condemned man; they [were] free, I (am) still a slave”.

You will point to this as some example of what a “bishop” is; you will use this as some kind of affirmation of “succession” in Ignatius.

You will say “this is not inconsistent” with what the Roman Catholic church says about the relationship of apostles and bishops today. Nevertheless, this is NOT a positive articulation of anything near to “the doctrine of succession” – and if you consider the level at which this statement locates bishops vis-à-vis the apostles, there is a huge gulf here, which you will not accept (and I will).

The Roman Catholic doctrine today is found in Lumen Gentium 19f:

calling to Himself those whom He desired, appointed twelve to be with Him, and these apostles … He formed after the manner of a college or a stable group, over which He placed Peter chosen from among them…That divine mission, entrusted by Christ to the apostles, will last until the end of the world …. since the Gospel they are to teach is for all time the source of all life for the Church. And for this reason the apostles, appointed as rulers in this society, took care to appoint successors…. They therefore appointed such men, and gave them the order that, when they should have died, other approved men would take up their ministry…

This is actually an equivocation on what, actually is “that divine mission, entrusted by Christ to the apostles”…

Ignatius has no concept of having this same mission – which Cullmann is careful to describe – how “apostles as the foundation” is completely unique and unrepeatable. Ignatius clearly recognizes this difference. He had no concept that he had been “appointed” as “a ruler” in this society. He knew of himself in a leadership position, to be sure, but also, something completely separate from what the apostles were.

And you are the one who must provide “direct evidence” that Ignatius, in fact, was a bishop in the sense that the modern Roman Catholic Church says that bishops are bishops. Otherwise, Ignatius does not support you in that, and “development”, in this case, is a smokescreen that enables you to avoid fulfilling that obligation on that burden of proof.

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