Friends, loved ones, bitter enemies:
Below is my summary statement of the discussion I’ve been having with Tim Troutman, a Roman Catholic over at Called to Communion, an apologetic site for Roman Catholicism against the Reformation. In addition to seeing how he handles Scripture in his article (part III specifically), I invite you to read through the comments. I think you’ll find them interesting. I hope to move the discussion along to part IV of his article next week… we’ll see. In any event, here’s my summary:
I’ll be brief and keep it to the main point. Discussions like this tend to go 20 different directions and get caught up in a bunch of sub-points. Basically, I want to summarize what’s gone on so far in our interactions.
You affirm that the monepiscopacy is of apostolic origin, but you cannot prove it. You can show that the basic notions of your system are there early in church history, but you cannot show that from the writings of the apostles themselves, that is, from the NT. (This, incidentally, is quite strange. Since so much hangs on this point, don’t you think the NT would be crystal clear on such a key point of polity?) In other words, you’ve shown no *necessary* connection, but only a historical connect to them. Further, you cannot even show from the NT that the bishop is a distinct office from the elder, let alone showing that it’s a higher office. You can appeal to church history and find support for your suppositions there, but you cannot draw your conclusions from the preserved (unchanged) teachings of the apostles – the teachings they committed to writing, that is, the inspired Word of God.
Rather than show your doctrine is from the apostolic writings of the NT, you have tried to show that the NT is not at odds with (or, using your terminology, does not contradict) the RC doctrine of monepiscopacy. I have offered counter evidence from the NT. I’ve attempted to show that, since “bishop” and “elder” refer to the same office, the distinction and elevation of the “bishop” in your system is actually at odds with the NT. To defend against my counter-arguments, you’ve consistently appealed to the lack of technicalization in the NT, and thus blurred the NT language to the point where NT language could not possibly contradiction to the RC doctrine.
So much for my view of the summary. I am excited to read the part of your article on ordination and especially the sacrificial priesthood. So far (even if the feeling’s not entirely shared, Tim), I’ve appreciated our interactions, and I’ve learned a great deal. I’ll cross signals with you next week. Happy Independence Day to you and all the Americans here at CtC. Non-Americans are welcome to have a happy Independence Day, too… I don’t want to limit that. 🙂