Tradition Disproves Catholic and Orthodox View of Apostolic Succession: Part II

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Here, we continue through Irenaeus, and a little bit of Jerome, to show that the Early Church Fathers did not teach that Apostolic Succession was a “living institution” which can contradict demonstrably genuine Apostolic teachings, specifically those in the Scripture.

When we speak of tradition, it is a teaching whose origin is historically Apostolic. Anyone can claim that something is “tradition.” As we reviewed previously, Irenaeus’ point was that Apostolic Succession demonstrated historically the origin of the traditions he espoused. Hence, true Apostolic Tradition CANNOT contradict the Scripture or the writings of the Early Church Fathers, as far as they are consistent with the Scripture. For a “tradition” to be legitimate it cannot suddenly appear hundreds of years after the beginning of the Church.

All of this aside, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox claim that historically, only they can lay claim to Apostolic Succession anyway. And, because “the gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church,” this means that Protestants must be schismatics.

However, tradition does not bear out this contention either. In fact, we can find a reference to Apostolic Succession referring clearly to a group of people, though not “Catholics” in the sense of the term we understand. In Book III, Chapter 4, Paragraph 2 of Irenaeus’ Against Heresies he writes:

To which course many nations of those barbarians who believe in Christ do assent, having salvation written in their hearts by the Spirit, without paper or ink, and, carefully preserving the ancient tradition, believing in one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and all things therein, by means of Christ Jesus, the Son of God; who, because of His surpassing love towards His creation, condescended to be born of the virgin, He Himself uniting man through Himself to God, and having suffered under Pontius Pilate, and rising again, and having been received up in splendour, shall come in glory, the Saviour of those who are saved, and the Judge of those who are judged, and sending into eternal fire those who transform the truth, and despise His Father and His advent. Those who, in the absence of written documents, have believed this faith, are barbarians, so far as regards our language; but as regards doctrine, manner, and tenor of life, they are, because of faith, very wise indeed; and they do please God, ordering their conversation in all righteousness, chastity, and wisdom. If any one were to preach to these men the inventions of the heretics, speaking to them in their own language, they would at once stop their ears, and flee as far off as possible, not enduring even to listen to the blasphemous address. Thus, by means of that ancient tradition of the apostles, they do not suffer their mind to conceive anything of the [doctrines suggested by the] portentous language of these teachers, among whom neither Church nor doctrine has ever been established.

From the preceding we can safely conclude three things:

1. These barbarians were saved, and thereby Christians.

2. These barbarians were cut off from the institution of the Church. Not only were they illiterates and thereby had no Scriptures or written communication with the Catholic Church of the ancient world, they also were identified as separate from the institutional church.

Why?

-Irenaeus supposes that there are “many nations of those barbarians who believe in Christ,” but otherwise only speculates “if”  someone preached “the inventions of the heretics…in their own language” then they would act like children and run away. Obviously this is not the response of real people, but speculatory barbarians. This does not sound like people that any Bishop is correspondence with Rome (or any other civilized part of the world) is in contact with.

-Irenaeus’ grammar excludes the possibility these people had a Bishop. He speaks of the barbarians as a mutually exclusive party to the Church: “[B]y means of that ancient tradition of the apostles, they [the barbarians] do not suffer their mind to conceive [of any Marcionite heresy]…among whom neither Church nor doctrine has ever established.” The word “neither” shows that they are not considered part of the Church that Irenaues speaks of in some sense. Yet, they would be in agreement in their faith so that both the historical Church and these barbarians who have remembered what the Apostles taught would both deny the innovations of the heretics.

3. These same barbarians maintained faithful by preserving tradition. Hence, within this whole discussion on Apostolic Succession that spans for chapters (that we covered in Part I), it is possible to be successors of the Apostles without even a recognized Bishop of the institutional Church. How? By preserving tradition. Obviously, this is Irenaeus point, which mitigates against any understanding that Apostolic Succession is a “living institution.”


Now, no one claims that apart from literally seeing the Bible, you cannot be saved. Those of us that espouse what is coined “Reformed Theology,” which is rather the Biblical and traditional doctrines of the Church, assert that we are saved by faith alone. The Bible merely communicates details concerning saving faith in Christ.

Look at what Irenaeus wrote. How do the barbarians have “salvation written on their hearts?” In Irenaeus’ own words, they “believe in Christ,”  and though they are cut off from the Church and its written documents “because of faith, [they are] very wise indeed; and they do please God, ordering their conversation in all righteousness, chastity, and wisdom.” Their wisdom is not that of the learned, but that of faith.

Therefore, Biblical and apostolic faith is what saves, not a connection to an institutional church, according to what we find in Irenaues. Now, I have been told by a Catholic (and correctly so) that Ignatius wrote at an earlier point in time that “[l]et no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop” (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Chapter 8).

It is my opinion that what Irenaues speaks of is a different situation than that of Ignatius. However, what if they contradicted? Being that neither of their writings are Scripture, they can contradict one another and that does not pose us any problems. Nonetheless, it is more likely that Irenaeus was speaking of a peculiar group of people he supposed existed while Ignatius had a literal audience within the civilized world, already part of the Church. The differences in audiences gives us the context of each man’s teachings.

So, while the barbarians might have not had a Bishop recognized by the civilized Catholic Church, they probably would have had “bishops.” Following the model we see in the Scripture, the Elders of their churches were in effect their Bishops (i.e. Overseers,) though not in the Roman Catholic sense.

Such an arrangement would indeed be Apostolic. Paul in Acts 20:17, 28 conflates Elders and Bishops as the same thing. This means that there were no singular Bishops originally in the church, but rather a plurality (as Phil 1:1 would show definitively.) Interestingly enough, St. Jerome concurs with this:

Before parties sprung up in the Christian administration; before such expressions as these were uttered amongst the faithful, I belong to Paul, I to Apollo, I to Cephas; the churches were governed by a common council of their presbyters [elders]. But, when it came to pass, that each individual (presbyter) looked on those whom he had baptized, to be an acquisition for himself, not for Christ; every where it was decided, that one presbyter should be chosen, and placed over the others , and that to him the care of the church at large should appertain, thereby to remove every principle of schism. These instances I have brought, to show that presbyters and bishops were, for those of old, one of the same;but that by degrees, the government was restricted to one, in order to do away the possibility of dissentions in future. As therefore, presbyters should know, that, in virtue of the church usage, they are submitted to their prelate, whosoever he may be; so let bishops understand, that they themselves are greater than presbyters, more from a usage than from the primary ordinance from the Redeemer, and it is their duty to govern their churches by joint deliberation.

So, nothing was done by the barbarians “without the Bishop,” but the bishops were likely not Roman Catholic (or aware that they were “Catholic.”) They were elders appointed the old fashioned way.

All of this is yet another case of how tradition has been misappropriated by supposed “Apostolic” churches that make a practice of propagating teachings unknown by the apostles and disputed by the early church fathers.

Is Ana Marie Cox a Christian? Maybe.

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Usually I would not consider a pro-choice person a “Christian.” Then again, Luther and Calvin have the blood of baptists and peasants on their hands…people will argue that their salvation is assured.

So, what about the Wonkette blogger Ana Marie Cox? She writes, “I am somewhat tempted to embrace the punk-rockness of being a progressive, feminist, tattooed, pro-choice, graduate-educated believer—and then I have to remind myself that believing in God is about as punk rock as wearing pants, maybe even less so.”

Okay, the fact that she thinks she has a masters degree is some sort of credential is a little odd. You will have to Google my name to find mine, I do not think it is relevant. Nonetheless, is being a feminist and pro-killing fetuses discount one from Christianity? I am not sure if it would any more than being pro-killing Anabaptists. So, let’s dig a little deeper into what Cox writes…

I’ve lately observed conservatives questioning Obama’s faith with more than professional interest. Because if Obama’s not Christian, what does that make me?

Hmmm, the President attended a church that preached hatred and not the Gospel and made the comments, “And it’s not surprising then they [small town America] get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

That does not sound like someone who treasures Jesus in his heart more than life itself…

Does Cox treasure Christ in her heart more than the President? Well, she does not spend a lot of time in His word…

What about Bible literacy? Mine is mostly limited to dimly remembered excerpts from the Old Testament we read in my college humanities class and a daily verse email. I read spiritual meditations, but the Word is still a second language I speak less than fluently.

Based upon a “dim” memory of Scripture, she has apparently pieced together the following theology:

I believe I have a personal relationship with my Lord and Savior. I believe in the grace offered by the Resurrection. I believe that whatever spiritual rewards I may reap come directly from trying to live the example set by Christ.

Oh no, works-based salvation! If Christ paid the full penalty for your sins, how do spiritual rewards have a direct relationship with your “trying” to do good things as defined by Christ?

Do good intentions get us in heaven when Christ taught “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt 5:48)? Definitely not. God desires perfect good works, not trying. This is why only Christ’s perfection and His full payment for our sin on the cross makes us right with God.

All of this begs the question, if you really believe Christ, though in the form of God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, emptied Himself and took on the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom 8:3), and lived a life without sin and was punished in place of everyone who has, how can’t you be grateful?

If I was really grateful for my job, wouldn’t I work really hard to make my boss happy out of gratitude? If I was really grateful for my children, wouldn’t I show them love? If I was really grateful for my parents, wouldn’t I help them when they are elderly?

Gratitude results in actions…life-empyting actions. “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

Does Ana Marie Cox show this sort of love and gratitude in her life? If not, I seriously question her faith.

However, she ends her article on a promising note:

I am saved not because of who I am or what I have done (or didn’t do), but simply because I have accepted the infinite grace that was always offered to me.

True. When I was first saved, I had tons of doctrine wrong (though to be honest, my works definitely reflected a divinely directed change in heart.) But we cannot see Cox’s heart. Maybe she has seed-like faith and tons of doctrine wrong. Guess what, God can still save such a person. He can save any person He pleases, as long as he or she trusts in Him that justifies the ungodly (which is all of us.)

My request to Cox: Use up your 15 minutes to preach the Gospel of grace…After that, hit your Bible, find elder mentorship, and walk with Christ. Pray to God for understanding and faith, for if you knock on the door it shall be opened. He said all must carry their cross and follow Him. If you have faith in Christ’s saving work on the cross, your heart will delight in doing the same.

Milk, Honey, Baptism, and the Death of Tradition

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If Catholicism and Orthodoxy have preserved “Tradition,” why isn’t there milk and honey used during baptism?

Believe it or not, tasting a delicious concoction of milk and honey used to be a very important baptismal tradition.

First, why is this a big deal? It is because they claim that a Sola Scriptura view leaves out important traditions and teachings that are not found in the Scripture, but rather in tradition.

To prove this viewpoint the will point to quotes from Fathers such as Basil of Caeserea that say something to the following effect:

Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or enjoined which are preserved in the Church, some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have delivered to us in a mystery by the apostles by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force

If such traditions have the “force” of true religion, why isn’t drinking milk mixed with honey something still required as part of the baptismal rite?

Some apologists will say that maybe milk and honey was never quite so serious. However, it was.

Jerome writes Against the Luciferians:

Do you demand Scripture proof? You may find it in the Acts of the Apostles. And even if it did not rest on the authority of Scripture the consensus of the whole world in this respect would have the force of a command. For many other observances of the Churches, which are due to tradition, have acquired the authority of the written law, as for instance the practice of dipping the head three times in the laver, and then, after leaving the water, of tasting mingled milk and honey in representation of infancy; and, again, the practices of standing up in worship on the Lord’s day, and ceasing from fasting every Pentecost; and there are many other unwritten practices which have won their place through reason and custom. So you see we follow the practice of the Church, although it may be clear that a person was baptized before the Spirit was invoked.

Over 150 years previous, Tertullian wrote on another continent in De Corona in reference to baptism that “we taste first of all a mixture of milk and honeyand that is
sufficiently plain that you can vindicate the keeping of even unwritten tradition established by custom; the proper witness for tradition when demonstrated by long-continued observance.”

Elsewhere, Hippolytus records the practice in his book “The Apostolic Tradition.” Doesn’t that mean it is Apostolic Tradition to have milk and honey with baptism? Or is he lying?

Clement of Alexandria is an early, Eastern witness to the practice, just as Chromatius is a later western witness.

Isn’t it clear that all of these men attest to the practice over centuries and that it was precisely the sort of extra-biblical tradition Basil was talking about. So, this begs the question, why do we not do it anymore when it was so clearly practiced as Apostolic Tradition in both the east and the west?

Yet, the tradition died. Christ states that “[h]eaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Luke 21:33). Clearly milk and honey could not be originally his words.

Of course, all of this begs the question: how do we know that another tradition attested to by such a wide witness is actually legitimate? The truth of the matter is, apart from the Scripture (which is defined as “God breathed” in 2 Tim 3:16), no tradition can be held with the same degree of certainty. You heard straight from the horse’s mouth, milk and honey had “the authority of the written law.” Yet now, it doesn’t.

This is because there is not a single extra-biblical tradition that defines itself as literally breathed out by God. If God Himself did not breath it out, then how do you even know it is actually true with the same degree of certainty? Plain answer: you don’t.

Tradition Disproves Catholic and Orthodox View of Apostolic Succession: Part I

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Catholics and Orthodox teach that the Apostles named Bishops, and these Bishops named subsequent Bishops, and only men from this continuous line can administer sacraments necessary for salvation. Oftentimes, this “transmission of grace” gives these church the ability to reevaluate tradition and refine doctrine, arguably devising new ones that were absent in the first few centuries of the Church. Protestants contend that Apostolic Succession “may also be understood as a continuity in doctrinal teaching from the time of the apostles to the present.”

Who’s right?

One of the big defenders of the Catholic/Orthodox view of Apostolic Succession is supposedly Irenaeus. However, what does Irenaeus actually write?

It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known to us throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors down to our own times, men who neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about (Against Heresies Book 3, Chapter 3, Paragraph 1).

From the context, we can see that Irenaeus is clearly not talking about profound apostolic powers inherited by those bishops in the Apostolic churches. Rather, he is saying that the churches which were apostolic all had the same doctrines and traditions, while all the zany heresies he is writing against have not coincidentally originated outside the established churches.

Hence, his contention makes perfect sense. If all the churches which literally received letters from Paul and such (Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, etc) all taught X and had Y doctrines from A and B Scriptures, but the heretics from totally different places taught R and S doctrines from C and D Scriptures, wouldn’t it make sense that X and Y, A and B were legit from the Apostles and not R and S, C and D?

Elsewhere in Irenaeus’ Against Heresies this interpretation is apparent. For example, in Book 3, Chapter 4, Paragraph 3, he makes clear that Apostolic Succession is a safeguard against heresy because it historically proves that the heresies come from times that could not have been Apostolic. For example, Irenaeus asserts, “For, prior to Valentinus, those who follow Valentinus had no existence; nor did those from Marcion exist before Marcion; nor, in short, had any of those malignant-minded people, whom I have above enumerated, any being previous to the initiators and inventors of their perversity…[A]ll these (the Marcosians) broke out into their apostasy much later, even during the intermediate period of the Church.” Yet, in Book 3, Chapter 3 Irenaeus at length can show how the Church of Rome, Ephesus, and even he himself have received teaching from men who have known the Apostles directly.

Interestingly enough, the heretics he wrote against when “confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority” (Book 3, Chapter 2, Paragraph 1). And so, they claimed that “the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but vivâ voce” (Book 3, Chapter 2, Paragraph 1). Hmmm, what “churches” argue that the Scripture is insufficient and argue that doctrines surrounding prayers to the dead and the assumption of Mary, though absent in the historical record for hundreds of years, were taught viva voce?

Further, the dichotomous view of Scripture and tradition that Catholics and Orthodox hold to would be completely alien to Irenaeus. He writes, “Since, therefore, the tradition from the apostles does thus exist in the Church, and is permanent among us, let us revert to the Scriptural proof furnished by those apostles who did also write the Gospel, in which they recorded the doctrine regarding God, pointing out that our Lord Jesus Christ is the truth, John 14:6 and that no lie is in Him” (Book 3, Chapter 5, Paragraph 1).

From the above reading of Irenaeus, I believe we are right in saying this: Any assertion, or implication, that any man can claim to be an inheritor of the title “Apostle” and yet contradict the Scripture stands in clear contradiction of tradition. Apostolic Succession is only legitimate if the doctrines taught by the institution that lays claim to such inheritance is consistent with the Scripture, which Irenaeus defines as “the tradition from the apostles.” Further, they cannot contradict (or add) to the beliefs of the Early Church Fathers, who themselves laid claim to succession, and expect anyone to take them seriously.

“Out of the Closet” Transgenderism Increases Your Risk of Suicide

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If you listen to what society tells you, we need to be more accepting of “transgenderism.” This is supposedly so true and “scientifically” proven, that society finds it compelling to take taxpayer money and pay for pseduo-gender reassignment surgery and hormone treatment that messes with your brains.

Being that I do not hate people that identify themselves with the terms “transgender” or “gay,” I think it is important to warn them that you need to be careful what you wish for.

If transgenderism is so real, and the modern “medical’ treatments are so good (and you are evil if you are like me and think they are barbaric and cruel), explain to me the following (the higher the percentage, the higher the suicide risk):

Table 6: Lifetime suicide attempts by perceived recognition by others Have Attempted Suicide

People can tell I’m transgender/GNC Frequency:

Always 42%

Most of the time 45%

Sometimes 41%

Occasionally 41%

Never 36%

Table 8: Lifetime suicide attempts by disclosure of transgender/gender non-conforming status

I tell people that I’m transgender/GNC Have Attempted Suicide Frequency

Never 33%

Tell people who are close friends 40%

Tell people who are casual friends 41%

Tell work colleagues 40%

Tell family 41%

Tell everyone 50%

What does the preceding teach us? If you want to decrease your risk of suicide, for the love of God, do not buy into the Satanic lie and pursue “transitioning.” The more transitioned looking you are too others, and the more that know you are transitioned, the more suicidal statistically you will be.

Being that “transgenderism” is a spectrum, not everyone who identifies themselves as transgender has had surgery, hormone treatments, or even cross dresses. So, the study does not tell us this, but I think it would be safe to say the more drastic outward changes the individual has made to look like a different gender, the more likely that person appears to others as transgendered (i.e. Table 6) and has told others he/she is transgendered (i.e. Table 8.)

Now, why do supposed compassionate “allies” of LBGTQ people support enabling them to partake in an activity that increases their risk of killing themselves? They are deceived by the devil, who is the Father of Lies. The devil has no interest in your happiness, he just wants you to be miserable like him. He loves nothing more than to drag you to hell because misery loves company.

There is victory over transgenderism, homosexuality, sex addiction, and all other lies through Jesus Christ, our Lord. It does not turn off like a light switch. It takes a lot of effort, even years. It takes years of prayer. Only God can save you from yourself. You must seek Him to truly know the truth and live forever.

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