The Guts of PE's argument against the Catholic Church

Finally we are getting somewhere. In the combox to his apologia below, PE wrote:

In fine, the post conciliar church was false because it was a disconnect with the pre conciliar church, which in turn must be false because it did not endure…

You might say, the pre conciliar church is the true Catholic Church, which is my point on this blog to converts to its post conciliar replacement, however, the true Catholic Church is wrong.

What Lutheran belief added was an explanation for how the church didn’t in fact end, which in turn for me implied maybe there was something to Jesus as Christ after all, and where I was wrong was in thinking the Catholic Church in any era was the only “true” church, or the church in which the fulness of the true church subsists.

And that is about as succint as I think we can ever hope to have it from our dear brother (once-removed) in Christ.

But in fact, it is very interesting because it raises the following questions:

1) in what sense is “continuity” an important concept in ecclesiology? In other words, how does the “Hermeneutic of Continuity” apply here?

2) if we say that the “true Catholic Church is wrong” what do we mean when, in the Creeds, we say “I believe…in the holy Catholic Church/in one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church”? Is the Catholic Church a real entity existing in this world, and are we or are we not obliged to be a part of it if we wish to have a share in Jesus Christ?

For the record, I too left the ecclesial community in which I was raised for the reason that it was discontinuous with what went before it, ie. the Catholic Church. I believed that continuity was necessary for authenticity, in particular the continuity of the apostolic authority of the bishops.

However, PE has attached himself to a community that is clearly discontinuous with the apostolic Church. His argument that “the post conciliar church was false because it was a disconnect with the pre conciliar church”, opens the charge that “the Church of the Reformers was false because it was a disconnect with the pre Reformation church”. By the same argument, the fact that the pre-Reformation Church DID endure after the Reformation should prove that it was the true Church in continuity with the apostles, no?

When he says that “Lutheran belief added…an explanation for how the church didn’t in fact end”, he must have some idea of the existence of “a” church of some kind. What kind exactly? And if it “didn’t in fact end”, it must in some sense be continuous with what went before. How so?

Too many holes in your argument, PE. I can see the experiential, existential side of the matter, but I think we all have the duty to expose our experiences to the rigour of reasoned interrogation.

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50 Responses to The Guts of PE's argument against the Catholic Church

  1. William Weedon says:

    “Clearly discontinuous with the apostolic church.”

    David, what on earth do you mean by that? Exegete please. Are you assuming that which it is incumbent upon you to demonstrate? How do you determine what is in continuity with the apostolic church and what not? What is the basis for your judgment?

  2. Joshua says:

    How about the denial of the sacrificial nature of the Mass/Divine Liturgy, universally acknowledged by the Fathers and enshrined in the very words of the Liturgies offered in both East and West?

    Or the rejection of the episcopate?

    Or the rejection of the invocation of saints?

    I could go on and on…

  3. Jeff Tan says:

    Similar answer for me: “How do you determine what is in continuity with the apostolic church and what not?” — Apostolic succession, which was a living witness even before the New Testament was completed. In the same living tradition of succession practiced by the patriarchs, prophets and judges.

  4. William Weedon says:

    DEMONSTRATE, please, that the Apostles taught apostolic succession, the divine institution of the episcopate as distinct from the presbyterate, the invocation of saints.

    I could go on and on…

  5. William Weedon says:

    I ask my question because as a Lutheran I can demonstrate from the Sacred Scriptures that the Apostles equated the episcopate and presbyterate; that there is no mention of the invocation of saints; that there is no concern evidenced in Scripture for a chain of succession of hands, but there is for a holding to the apostolic Word.

  6. Past Elder says:

    Well David, Joshua and Jeff, you all seem to be operating from a mentality I once shared.

    The continuity of which you speak, and which you seek, is not confined to institutional continuity but institutional continuity validates it.

    IOW, we may examine this or that doctrine, or practice for that matter, to see if it is part of the apostolic deposit of faith, but how shall we know whose conclusions, since there are many, are correct?

    And if one’s conclusion about whose conclusions ar correct is based on an authority seen in that whose conclusions they are, then that authority becomes really the basis of one’s faith.

    In a way, all RCs are heirs of Newman, not about the development of doctrine thing, but about this: in the end, it is the authority of the Roman Catholic Church which settles matters.

    I once fully believed this. Earlier I referenced some of my exchanges with the LCMS pastor who did our wedding. I used to ask him, for example, if we take Scripture as our rule, where in Scripture does Christ ever write anything down, tell anyone else to write anything down, or promise there would be more books? Nowhere! He promised the Spirit, not more books! So on the basis of the NT, we need to get rid of the NT, go with the Hebrew Bible he used and the teaching of the Apostles he sent. Und so weiter. (PW must be having a good laugh if he’s reading this!) You wouldn’t have a clue about a single page of the NT if the Catholic Church didn’t tell you it belongs in the Bible, and we’d still be arguing over Marion’s canon and so forth. But in myself I knew that what calls itself the Catholic Church now doesn’t even teach what it taught me not even (at the time) half a century ago, so who bloody knows about all the way to the Apostolic Age.

    You want to know what is apostolic in the same way one can know my new van and my old van, similar but different, are both Chrysler products — there’s a vehicle identification number coding who made it, where it was made, what model, etc, it was bought from a dealer under contract to the manufacturer etc. You want an external institutional authority. Like I am a doctor because the University of Iowa says I am and they can say such things. You want credentials like that, or like an ambassador might provide.

    Und warum nicht, sind wir not ambassadors for Christ? And what is it of which we are ambassadors? Another earthly power or realm? No. Only if we were would such credentials be proper. The kingdom of God is not an earthly kingdom. There are not physical boundaries, etc. His kingdom, his church, is in this world, but not of this world. And I have come to see the Roman church’s problems since its emergence as an identifiable church body as stemming from appropriating these worldly senses and aspects of kingdom and its religion to that of Christ.

    The Book of Concord, when I first became aware of it, struck me as typical of what happens when one tries to operate outside of what Christ has established — first a statement, then an explanation of the statement, then more stuff, then a formula of concord on all the stuff, then a fractured world of all kinds of denominations saying their stuff is the right stuff. Is the Roman church any different? No. It simply does all that within a single institution. Which is why its Bishop Robinsons et al. don’t leave, and hope to get that authority that is prized over all else to adopt its positions. In the end, it’s always about that institutional authority that settles all things.

    Well hell’s bells and banana peels. Read the book. Throughout, it demonstrates that this is no new doctrine, no new church. And that’s the continuity, not of men but of message.

  7. Schütz says:

    Dear Pastor Weedon,

    Like all Lutherans, you put all the emphasis on what the apostles taught and ignore what they did.

    The fact is we know that the apostles DID appoint successors, that they DID give them the authority that Christ had given to them, and that they DID teach their successors the the doctrine of Apostolic Authority of Bishops (because their successors, eg. Ignatius of Antioch, did teach it).

    PE, you claim that “continuity of which you speak, and which you seek, is not confined to institutional continuity but institutional continuity validates it”. If this is true, then at least the lack of institutional continuity (ie. apostolic succession of bishops) means that any other claimed continuity is “un-validated” (if not “in-validated”).

    My point to you all is that continuity in the Church is an INCARNATE reality, not some gnostic connection to the original apostles. You CLAIM your teaching to be apostolic and you BASE all your claim to continuity upon this supposition, but you belong to a community that BROKE from (ie. is discontinuous with) the universal communion of the body of Christ. Any claims to continuity in faith must also demonstrate continuity in teaching authority.

    Terry, of course “that authority becomes really the basis of one’s faith”. Whatever we believe, we believe on the basis of some sort of authority. That goes for all and every belief. I believe the bishops because they have received the authority of the apostles. I believe the apostles because they received the authority of Christ. I believe Christ because he received the authority of the Father. Pretty simple, it seems to me.

    If you take the bible as your authority, that’s fine too–so do I. But I take it as my authority becuase the Church has authoritatively recognised in it the authority of the prophets and the apostles, ie. Christ’s authority, ie. the Father’s Authority. Same thing again.

    I would ask you: On what authority do you base YOUR belief? How is it connected to Christ (incarnationally)?

  8. Joshua says:

    How about James v, 14-15, which clearly teaches the practice of the Anointing of the Sick? Which Lutherans observe this teaching of the apostles?

  9. Past Elder says:

    For the cat’s sake.

    The continuity of which you speak, and which you seek, is not confined to institutional continuity but institutional continuity validates it.

    The “you” is you! The continuity of which you, David, speak, and which you, David, seek, is not confined to institutional continuity but institutional continuity validates it. Not continuity per se, or the continuity someone else may seek. The conclusion you make does not follow.

    The BOC amply demonstrates that the “universal communion of the body of Christ” as you put it is not co-extensive with the Roman Catholic Church, nor does a “disconnect” with a human chain nowhere taught in Scripture represent a disconnect with that “universal communion”, and, ascribing to that human chain something not taught in Scripture is the “disconnect”.

    God bless me sideways ten times.

    You do not believe the bishops because they have received the authority of the Apostles, you believe the bishops because you believe they have received the authority of the Apostles. On what authority is that based? Not Scripture because it doesn’t teach it. Wait, the church, on the authority of the church, which teaches it about itself!

    Great Zeus Cloudgatherer!

    Further, I think you go off base in identifying incarnational with institutional.

    And last, in the end, is not the person who says he believes on the authority of Scripture and the person who says be believes on the authority of the Church, both of them understanding themselves to have come across something objectively true, regardless of which one is right, each expressing a private or personal opinion?

    Bless us and save us, Mrs O’Davis.

    PS. Anointing of the Sick, oh yeah, newspeak for Extreme Unction. Hey, I know guys called elders in another church body who never go anywhere without a vial of olive oil in case someone needs anointing by the elders of the church. They Catholic then? Extra credit for anyone correctly identifying why the unction is extreme, for falling down the stairs.

  10. Joshua says:

    PE, please write more clearly, and without wierd exclamations – it makes it very hard to understand your points.

    So, do Lutherans anoint? Put it clearly, please.

    Strange allusions obscure your argument.

  11. Joshua says:

    As for the invocation of saints – everyone knows that the Septuagint was the version of the Bible used among Greek-speakers, i.e., by all who became Christians outside Judæa, and in II Machabees xv, 11-16 one reads the following account of the dream-vision of Judas Machabeus, wherein he sees the deceased high priest Onias, and the prophet Jeremias, interceding for the Jews:

    11 So he [Judas Machabeus] armed every one of them, not with defence of shield and spear, but with very good speeches and exhortations, and told them a dream worthy to be believed, whereby he rejoiced them all. 12 Now the vision was in this manner: Onias who had been high priest, a good and virtuous man, modest in his looks, gentle in his manners, and graceful in his speech, and who from a child was exercised in virtues, holding up his hands, prayed for all the people of the Jews: 13 After this there appeared also another man, admirable for age, and glory, and environed with great beauty and majesty: 14 Then Onias answering, said: This is a lover of his brethren, and of the people of Israel: this is he that prayeth much for the people, and for all the holy city, Jeremias the prophet of God. 15 Whereupon Jeremias stretched forth his right hand, and gave to Judas a sword of gold, saying: 16 Take this holy sword a gift from God, wherewith thou shalt overthrow the adversaries of my people Israel.

    Now I can ask one who is living to intercede for me, and in utterly the same way I can ask the saints who are dead – but ever live in Christ – to intercede for me: for I believe in the communion of saints, as the Creed teaches, and know that the saints who repose are very much alive, and are awake to what is happening on earth, for how else could they be continually praying for us – as we read in the Apocalypse – and not in some vague and unknowing manner, but in the very direct manner they had communication with Judas Machabeus?

  12. William Weedon says:

    Couple comments:

    David – I am not ignoring what the apostles did. I am asking you how you know what the apostles did. I have an answer for knowing what the apostles did and what they taught: the Sacred Scriptures that they and their co-workers wrote.

    Josh – from the LSB Rite for visiting the sick: “Using his right thumb, the pastor anoints the sick person on the forehead while saying: “Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given you the new birth of water and the Spirit and has forgiven you all your sins, strengthen you with His grae to life everlasting.” Followed by Kyrie, Our Father, Preces, and prayer for healing

    Also Josh, you seem to confuse the intercession of the departed for the Church on pilgrimage with the invocation of the saints. Lutherans do not deny the intercession of the departed for the Church on pilgrimage, but take joy and comfort in it. Our Symbols confess: “Granted blessed Mary prays for the Church.”

  13. William Weedon says:

    One more thought: David, I am not ignoring the succession of teachers – I believe that ordination is of apostolic origin – but I deny that you can demonstrate that the Apostles instituted a form of ordination that hinged upon bishops as distinct from prebysters passing on the authority to administer the office of the ministry. I won’t give all the passages from the early writings again, not alone the NT. They weren’t persuasive last time I listed them – though I’m not sure why.

  14. Joshua says:

    So granted the saints pray for us, why is it wrong to ask their prayers? It is insufficient to attack this by saying that Christ is the one Mediator: He is indeed, but that doesn’t mean I can’t ask a person to pray for me, for all prayer goes through Christ. And I contend that if I can ask my neighbour to pray for me, how much the more, in the communion of saints, I can ask those who blessedly have attained heaven to pray for me.

    I take my stand with East and West, with the ancient churches – whether in union with Rome or not – that offer the Eucharistic sacrifice, invoke the saints, pray for the dead, etc.

    A faith that excludes all these and more of what it is to be Catholic is a vitiated, truncated faith.

  15. Joshua says:

    And I might add that, not holding to the unscriptural doctrine of Sola Scriptura, let alone to the hermeneutical key or better narrow keyhole that Luther suggests, I do not agree with claims that all must be cited chapter and verse out of the New Testament to prove any doctrine to be part of the Deposit of Faith. The Lord did not give a book, He gave the Church to be His Body, and graced His Church with many hierarchical and charismatic gifts, among these the inspired Scriptures to be read in medio Ecclesiæ and not otherwise. For it is the Church which is the pillar and bulwark of truth (I Tim. iii, 15), and not the Bible – instead, as II Peter ii, 16 testifies, the unlearned and unstable distort all the Scriptures to their own destruction.

  16. William Weedon says:


    Then you assume that which I don’t. And that’s fine – I’m not faulting you for that. But it’s an assumption nonetheless.

    As Lutheran I confess “prayer for the dead is not useless” and I confess that the Eucharist is indeed a sacrifice of thanksgiving which is offered to the All-holy Father in and through the finished work of His incarnate Son. I disagree with those who teach that the saints should be invoked, for there is in the Sacred Scriptures neither command, promise or example regarding this practice, and it is seems to be rather non-existent in the pre-Constantian church. Further, the extent to which it reaches in actual practice is horrific. For example, in the Antiochian Service Book here in America there is this prayer after communing, addressed the Theotokos:

    “O all-holy Lady Theotokos, light of my darkened soul, my hope, my shelter, my refuge, my consolation and my joy: I thank thee that thou hast accounted me worthy, although unworthy, to be a partaker of the immaculate Body and precious Blood of thy Son. But do thou, who gavest birth to the true Light, enlighten the mental eyes of my heart; O thou who didst bear the fountain of immortality, quicken thou me who lie dead in sin. O compassion-loving Mother of the merciful God, have mercy upon me, and grant me humility and contrition of heart, and meekeness in my thoughts, and deliverance from the bondage of my vain imaginings. And account me worth, even unto my last breath, to receive without condemnation the sanctification of the immaculate Mysteries, unto the healing of both body and soul. And grant unto me tears of repentance and confession, that I may hymn thee and glorify thee all the days of my life; for blessed and glorified art thou unto all ages. Amen.”

    You ask me to think about asking for the intercession of the saints in the same way that as members of the mystical body of Christ here on earth, I might ask you to intercede for me. But, my friend, I would never ask you to do for me the things that this prayer asks Mary to do for the one who prays it. It places her in the position of God Himself. It would be a great prayer directed to the Father of our Lord, but directed to His immaculate Mother it is, well, an abomination.

  17. William Weedon says:

    FWIW – we do pray for the dead during our Funeral liturgy particularly:

    “Give to Your whole Church IN HEAVEN and on earth Your light and Your peace.”

    “Grant that ALL who have been nourished by the holy body and blood of Your Son may be raised to immortality and incorruption and seated with Him at Your heavenly banquet.”

  18. William Weedon says:

    And from that classic of Lutheran spirituality, Starck’s Prayerbook, this is the prayer offered after a person has died:

    O holy and righteous God, it has pleased You to call from this life the departed lying here before us by temporal death. Let us learn from this death that we, too, must die and leave this world, in order that we may prepare for it in time by repentance, a living faith, and avoiding the sins and vanities of the world. Refresh the soul that has now departed with heavenly consolation and joy, and fulfill for it all the gracious promises which in Your holy Word You have made to those who believe in You. Grant to the body a soft and quiet rest in the earth till the Last Day, when You will reunite body and soul and lead them into glory, so that the entire person who served You here may be filled with heavenly joy there. Comfort all who are in grief over this death, and be and remain to the bereaved their Father, Provider, Guardian, Helper, and Support. Do not forsake them, and do not withdraw Your hand from them, but let them abundantly experience Your goodness, grace, love, and help, until You will grant them also a happy and blessed end. Hear us for Your mercy’s sake. Amen.

  19. Past Elder says:

    Maybe Mary herself can clarify this for you – do whatever he tells you. Good advice at Cana, good advice now.

    You always posit the church above all else — first the church, then from that Scripture, the Fathers, etc. So it will come down to this — where is that church, or which one of the churches is that church?

    Even those who agree about the church part do not agree that the Roman church is it, or all of it, or that in which all of it subsists. Eastern Orthodoxy for example. For which reason, the BOC cites the Eastern Church often, not to ratify them, but to make the point that Rome is not anterior to everything else.

    No-one (here, anyway) denies the church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth. The issue is, is the Roman church that church. And the answer is, no, which is not exclusively a Lutheran or even Protestant claim. I might add, the Roman insistence that Orthodoxy is essentially the same thing is as deaf to Orthodoxy as the Roman insistence that Lutheranism in particular and Protestantism in general isn’t essentially the same thing is deaf to Lutheranism.

    PS Howzat for style, Joshua. Still no takers on what is it that is extreme in unction. So a hint: it’s one of the reasons why the RCC gave the “sacrament” a product remake as the Anointing of the Sick at Vatican II.

  20. Joshua says:


    You make the point that Newman once made to Pusey: that the prayers of the Byzantine Rite include addresses to the saints that are quite extraordinary!

    (Jungmann argues that the Eastern insistence upon the divinity of Christ against the Arians &c. led them to less emphasise the truth that He is our Mediator, so many of their prayers are ad Christum, rather than as in the West ad Patrem per Christum. The ‘space’ left open was then filled with per intercessionem sanctorum.)

    The prayer you quote must be interpreted as saying all those things not as if Our Lady could do any of them by her own ‘power’, but solely by reason of her loving petitioning of Her Son and God.

    However, to use the doxological formula “through the prayers and intercesssions of the glorious Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary and of all Thy saints” seems perfectly usuable so long as one confesses the doctrine that the saints do pray for us in heaven, as you do.

    So Lutherans pray for the dead? I take it that a formula like

    Requiem æternam dona eis Domine et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescant in pace. Amen.

    would be acceptable then. How about the classic prayer from the Canon:

    Memento etiam, Domine, famulorum famularumque tuarum N. et N., qui nos præcesserunt cum signo fidei, et dormiunt in somno pacis. Ipsis, Domine, et omnibus in Christo quiescentibus, locum refrigerii, lucis et pacis, ut indulgeas, deprecamur. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.


    Thanks for your newfound ease of reading. Keep it up!

    Of course there are differences; what I am saying is that the pre-Reformation churches have a number of features and practices and beliefs in common that Reformation denominations do not.

    As David would say, I’m not biting re name-change of the sacrament: everyone knows unction and anointing mean the same thing, and the books still call for it to be done in case of serious illness (I assume the Greek of St James implies as much), not just a minor illness, so sick and extreme imply the same also.

  21. William Weedon says:


    You ask about the part of the canon that prays specifically for the departed. As a Lutheran Christian I can find nothing objectionable about that part of the canon per se. Luther himself did object to this part of the prayer, however, because it went hand in glove with the notion of paying for Masses to be said in which the prayers and the “sacrifice” itself were regarded as especially efficacious for those in whose memory that given mass was offered. I’d agree with Luther that the whole trafficking in masses was (and is) a horrible abuse. But the prayer itself – once that context is set aside – I find rather unobjectionable. It asks only for the fulfillment of God’s promises to the departed, quite similarly to the prayer I cited above from Starck’s Prayer Book.

    Regarding the prayer to the Virgin that I cited, I believe that there is nothing in the prayer at all to indicate that Mary accomplishes these things through her intercession; if that is what is intended, it is most unclear.

  22. Past Elder says:

    No sick and extreme do not imply the same thing. The extreme in Extreme Unction is the extremities. The eyes, ears, nostrils, lips, hands and feet are anointed, with a prayer for pardon for whatever offences the person may have done against God by their use. But because extreme often came to be taken as extreme as in at the point of death, for example in the nickname Last Rites, the character as a sacrament for illness, final or not, was compromised and it was thought Anointing of the Sick might better express that than the phrase Extreme Unction. On the other hand what became of physical healing, did that morph into a metaphor for forgiveness of sin? So you have on the one hand the idea that someone is about to die, and on the other forgiveness of sins dying or not — everyone crying more than ever now that the priest, sign of immanent death, has showed up, or Benny Hinn.

    Here’s something to think about. A lot of what you object to in Lutheranism isn’t very Lutheran either. Much that we do, or rather don’t do, comes as an over-reaction to recoiling from the errors of Rome. Luther spoke of things that may once have had a good intent but passed into little more than superstition at best and idolatry at worst.

    Pastor mentioned such a case in the Prayers For the Dead. But this extends to all sorts of things, frequency of Communion services and making the sign of the cross on to the use of the liturgy itself. This has the odd result for those who favour such things of being called to “come home” by the Romanists and those who don’t accusing us of being Romanists already. Well, Judas H Priest in a trireme, all we were doing is being catholic!

    You might look too at the different but as profound differences that separate Lutheranism from the rest of what is lumped to-gether as Protestantism. Simili modo, we too often in being not Roman equate that with being Protestant, a word which, though originally applied to us only, now generally describes a more or less Reformed landscape.

    Sorry about the trireme thing. I’ll start a novena or something in reparation. Gotta do something though — writing like an academic brings on heartburn and the sinking feeling of once again descending into what Nietzsche, the only philosopher worth reading, once called no longer actually thinking but just thinking about what others have thought.

  23. Joshua says:


    Thanks, I never knew that ‘extreme unction’ signified the anointing of the extremities – which is silly, ‘cos last year I was present when Fr anointed one of the Latin Mass-goers in just such a manner.

    I fully agree with your horror at the Reformed slant of much ‘Protestantism’ – give me Lutheranism any day! Some of the nicest people I know are/were Lutherans…


    You may cringe at this, but your mention of that prayer after Communion reminded me to take my copy of “The Divine Liturgy Explained” to Mass with me, and to pray its fine prayers after Communion, incl. that Marian one! It reminds me somewhat of the Salve Regina, which (with the end of Paschaltide) has just taken over as the seasonal anthem at the end of Compline.

    I suppose that in context of venerating saints and asking their prayers, but always worshipping God alone, the prayer mentioned would be read in a manner consonant with this, while it would not be my choice of devotion to share with Protestant friends.

    Instead, I close with one of my favourite lines, a doxology from one of the Byzantine prayers after Communion:

    ?? ??? ?? ?? ????? ??????, ??? ??????????? ????????? ??? ????????? ??, ?????? ? ???? ????, ??? ?? ????? ???? ? ?????? ??? ???? ??????. ????.

    (For Thou art the One truly sought for, and the unutterable gladness of those that love Thee, Christ our God, and the whole creation hymneth Thee unto the ages. Amen.)

  24. Past Elder says:

    Well, not to get things all confused again, Joshua, but you know what — I kind of like Jimmy Swaggart. Heard him this morning preach on Justification — he even hooped a little of it. Sometimes I don’t know which I’d enjoy more — sitting in (as musicians say for joining in with) with a schola cantorum for some chant, or with Brother Jimmy at the piano for one of those straight-up A-men type hymns.

  25. Schütz says:

    Pastor Weedon wrote:

    “David – I am not ignoring what the apostles did. I am asking you how you know what the apostles did. I have an answer for knowing what the apostles did and what they taught: the Sacred Scriptures that they and their co-workers wrote.”

    There is a simple reply to that, old boy. And you should be expecting it: Sacred Tradition!

    Indeed, Sacred Scripture can be relied upon to show what the apostles and their co-workers taught and did–and Jesus himself for that matter–but there is nothing anywhere that says that EVERYTHING they did and taught was recorded in the scriptures (St Paul wrote letters, not a comprehensive dogmatic theology), any more than the Gospels purport to have written all that Jesus said and did.

    We so no “break in transmission” between the Apostles, the earliest post-apostolic witnesses (eg. Clement and Ignatius) and the later Ante-Nicene Fathers (Justin, Ireneaus etc), but rather a smooth development of the original deposit of faith received from the apostles themselves.

    The problem with your approach is that you do have to assume such a “break” from authentic apostolic teaching or “invention” of new teaching to explain the reason for the development of the monarchical episcopate.

    Whereas we take the development of Sacred Tradition–which was no more than speaking the authentic apostolic teaching into new circumstances–as continuous, valid, and authoritative.

  26. William Weedon says:


    Not at all. I do happen to see the development of the monarichical episcopate as a legitimate development – no break at all. But legitimate does not make a post-apostolic distinction divine. If the apostles did not teach a distinction between presbyters and bishops as instituted and established by our Lord, and so constitutive of the very nature of the Church, then neither may we. And your appeal to tradition in this case is rather dicey. You’ve got witnesses in the tradition speaking to either side. I won’t cite them all again, but St. Jerome is not the isolated voice that some make him out to be. So when there are both voices in the tradition, how do you determine which is the authentic voice of tradition speaking? The Lutheran answer is always the one that says what the Sacred Scriptures say. That would be Jerome and company, on this particular question. Your determination is based, I believe, rather on the assumption that whatever voice in the tradition gains the ascendancy and triumphs over time must be the legitimate voice. The problem with that approach was pointed out already by St. Cyprian long ago: Custom without truth is merely the antiquity of error.

  27. Past Elder says:

    Scripture itself says it does not record everything Jesus said and did.

    The world is full of other and/or additional accounts of things Jesus supposedly said and did.

    So, which ones do we accept, or need we accept any of them?

    Your answer is, the ones the church (ie the Roman Church) says we should. And why? Because that tradition you claim validates the Roman church. Ich bin amaziert.

    And even that tradition is not uniform on everything, as Pastor points out.

    We do not day therefore it is of no value. We say it is not of the value you ascribe to it. The church herself has said, among the many writings speaking of God, here are the ones inspired of God upon which you can rely. So we cannot count anything extra-Biblical apostolically valid that does not agree with the Bible, and that in the sense that it contradicts the Bible. We are quite happy to accept tradition are revere it, but not if it contradicts Scripture.

    No doubt you will say, but who decides if it contradicts Scripture? Ha. Do you really suppose God is so unclear in his revelation upon which salvation itself depends that it should only be clear after two millennia of scholars and bishops. Nietzsche, the only philosopher worth reading, once said God clearly isn’t omnipotent because he can’t speak clearly (which for our non-dancing friends means, all the various things out there claiming to be from God, even within the same tradition). So you are back to you Newman paradigm: hopeless confusion, or Roman Catholicism.

    We believe in the Bible because we believe in Jesus. Now there’s a radical thought. Our “evangelical” friends argue “the Bible says” to a world for whom that carries no weight whatsoever, and our “Catholic” friends argue “the Church teaches” to a world for whom that carries no weight whatsoever.

    Maybe, just maybe, belief in Jesus looks a little different when it is not gained through the prism of first believing in the Bible or the Church, and maybe, just maybe, the Bible and the Church look a little different that way too.

  28. Schütz says:

    Jerome Schmerome, Pastor Bill. That old furphy. St Jerome’s thesis was rejected by his contemporaries and by the church ever since as being false a false interpretation of the matter.

    It comes to this. The Ancient Church (including the ante-Nicene fathers and both Eastern and Western traditions) were of the almost universal conviction that the monarchical episcopate and the idea of apostolic succession was more than a “legitimate” development–they affirmed it as binding upon the whole church.

    You and I would agree that not only dominical, but apostolic commands are binding upon the Church, because the Apostles were given such authority by Christ. It is this authority that makes the NT Scriptures binding.

    Now, I ask, what, after all, is “apostolic authority”? When Jesus said to his apostles “He who hears you hears me”, did he just mean those twelve? Did that promise die out with the last apostle, or did it continue in some way? If it continued, did it continue for all Christians or just some?

    The Catholic Church has always believed that the “he who hears you hears me” promise was given specifically to the apostles (not to all Christians) and that the promise continued because the Apostles gave this very authority to their successors. Thus the teaching of the apostles’ successors remains binding in every age of the Church.

    Could these successors err? Obviously, individually, yes–we know this from experience. But not as a whole. Yes, of course I assume that whatever voice gained the ascendancy and triumphs is the legitimate voice. To hold otherwise would be a very dicey matter.

    If you do not assume that the form of Christianity which “gained the ascendancy and triumphed” was the true form of Christianity, you open yourself up to all kinds of horrors. You would not even be able to be certain of the Scriptural canon! Why not the Gospel of Thomas? Why not the Gospel of Judas? Because the voice of the Church “gained ascendancy and triumphed” over error and refused to recognise it.

    Re Cyprian’s “custom without truth” statement, of course it is possible for customs and ideas to be ancient and yet untrue. I am currently studing the doctrine of Purgatory. There are many customs surrounding this doctrine that are ancient, but not true (or at least not accurate). However, there is a minimum data which the Church has defined regarding purgatory which is to be accepted as true and which does not of necessity include the errors of ancient custom. Thus, ancient though they are, the errors can be removed without discarding what is essential to the dogma itself.

    So you see there is a distinction to be made. What the Church recognises and declares to be true must be received by all as true and as coming from apostolic authority. We are not, on the other hand, required to entertain all ancient ideas simply because they are ancient (eg. Jerome’s theories regarding the episcopate).

    And I can quite understand your need to defend the ancient but erroneous idea of presbyteral succession. The contemplation of the consequence should such a theory be invalid would be for you (as it was once for me) somewhat stark.

  29. William Weedon says:


    Account please for the saints I mentioned previously who ordained while in the Presbyterate. Account please for the popes who permitted abbots in the presbyteral ranks to ordain. Show me a contemporary of Jerome who repudiates his teaching on this question.

    I don’t ask you to entertain Jerome’s ideas because they are ancient; I ask you to entertain them because they actually accord with the Sacred Scriptures, and we may not make necessary what the Holy Spirit did not see fit to make necessary in the Sacred Scriptures. I’d remind you again of the wise words of St. Thomas Aquinas and invite you to consider applying them to this particular question:

    “Nevertheless, sacred doctrine makes use of these authorities as extrinsic and probable arguments; but properly uses the authority of the canonical Scriptures as an incontrovertible proof, and the authority of the doctors of the Church as one that may properly be used, yet merely as probable. For our faith rests upon the revelation made to the apostles and prophets who wrote the canonical books, and not on the revelations (if any such there are) made to other doctors. Hence Augustine says (Epis. ad Hieron. xix, 1): “Only those books of Scripture which are called canonical have I learned to hold in such honor as to believe their authors have not erred in any way in writing them. But other authors I so read as not to deem everything in their works to be true, merely on account of their having so thought and written, whatever may have been their holiness and learning.”–St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologia, Part 1, Question 1, Article 8

  30. Schütz says:

    Bill, do you know this essay on Apostolic continuity in the Church of the first five Centuries by Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamum?

    He has some interesting points.
    He asks, as you do, at one point: “But the embarrasing thing is that in Ignatius’ description of the structure of the Church the place of the apostles is occupied by the college of presbyters. Does this mean that for Ignatius apostolic succession passes through the presbyters and not through the bishops?”

    He says “this would be a hasty conclusion to arrive at.” He replies in two ways. Firstly, he points out that “it is noteworthy that there has been no presbyteral succession lists in the first centuries” (footnote 28).

    Secondly, he distinguishes between a strictly “linear” succession (which he calls the Western theory) and a more “communal” or “eucharistic” succession (which in fact accords with some stuff that Cardinal Kasper wrote a while back). In this model, the succession is passed on by the community as a whole, which is in full communion with the bishops.

    This could be an answer to you regading your examples of presbyters and abbots who have performed presbyteral ordinations–they have done this in full communion with the episcopal church. The difference here in regard to Lutheran orders should be obvious.

    Hence Cardinal Kasper’s speculation that if an entire body of separated Christians were to be received into the Catholic Church, reordination might not be necessary. Their ordination would be validated by their communion with the Church. However, this is only speculation. The fact that we do reordain individual convert clergy would call this into question.

    Any way, I commend Metropolitan John’s essay to you for consideration.

    And regarding Jerome’s opinion? Show me someone BEFORE the Lutherans who accepted it.

  31. William Weedon says:

    I’m not familiar with that essay by Zizioulas (though I have read his *Being as Communion* some years back). I’ll have to check it out.

    About Jerome’s opinion, I thought I did demonstrate those that accepted it: Sts. Luidiger and Willehad who ordained as a presbyters; Popes Boniface IX, Martin V, Innocent VIII – all before Luther ever arrived on the scene did not treat ordination as of divine necessity as arising from and only from the episcopate.

  32. Schütz says:

    Ah, that is a somewhat different matter. Sts Luidiger and Willehad (you’ll have to excuse me laughing at the citation of these “authoritative” individuals–somewhat reminds me of those who quote various “historical” cases of the ordination of women) and Popes Boniface etc., were not affirming Jerome’s doctrine that the episcopate arose out of the presbyterate. Their actions demonstrated that bishops could authorise and delegate presbyters acting in communion with them to ordain other presbyters. That is not the same thing.

    And it is quite different from the history of Lutheran orders in which the authority to ordain not only presbyters but also bishops was claimed by a bunch of presbyters in rebellion against their bishops. I think even Jerome would have had a thing or two to say about that!

  33. William Weedon says:

    Jerome WOULD have had a couple things to say about the teaching those “bishops” held to as they pursued their fox hunts and let their dioceses fall into ruin. I would dearly love to hear what St. Jerome would have said to Albrecht of Mainz!

    But to your first point. IF a bishop can authorize a presbyter to administer ordination, then a presbyter must intrinsically possess the competence to ordain – though such competence was not ordinarily exercised save in extraordinary circumstances. Lutherans, of course, argue that the Reformation was precisely such an extraordinary circumstance. That we never returned to the traditional canonical polity is indeed a crying shame and the cause of not a little of the problems we Lutherans continue to face. After all, our own Symbols confess that the Church cannot be better governed than by having all the bishops equal in office and united in doctrine, faith, prayer, and works of love.

  34. Past Elder says:

    Another function Catholic thought reserves only to bishops is confirmation — yet in our time, in fact before my eyes, I have seen Roman rite priests confirm, presumably with the same OK from the bishop.

    In fact, all priestly function derives from the OK of the bishop, “faculties of the diocese” being the phrase once upon a time, maybe there is a new one. We were told the bishop is truly the only one who is fully priest. So we have the matter whether priest/bishop is a valid distinction or not. The Catholic will argue that the priest’s competence is not instrinsic but imputed by the bishop — no imputation, no power.

    Interesting that, if the “Church” is actually the authority behind Scripture, that it defined a book that left such a supposedly vital matter less than clear as to validating a continuing monarchical hierarchy.

    Kind of deja vu here — the “he who hears you hears me, he who rejects you rejects me” was one of my favourites once upon a time.

  35. Schütz says:

    No, Catholics have never held that only a bishop can confirm. This is easily demonstrated, but most simply by the fact that we have always recognised the sacrament of chrismation in the East, which has been done by priests. BUT always in communion with and delegated by the bishop ie. with oil blessed by the bishop. Any attempt of a priest to confirm on his own authority would be invalid.

    And the same applies to ordination. The “ordinary” minister of ordination and confirmation is the bishop. Today the canons allow confirmation by a priest delegated by the bishop, just as the examples Pastor Weedon cites demonstrate that (at least on the rare occasion) bishops have been known to delegate ordination to a presbyter. However, this is very rare and certainly does not give any presbyter the right to think that there could ever be such an “emergency” or “extraordinary” situation that would enable him to validly ordain in defiance of his bishop.

    In taking that view, Catholic theology judges that Lutherans have taken a false step not authorised by the faith of the Church.

    Nevertheless, one may ask why it should be regarded as a “crying shame”, Pastor Weedon, if in fact you do not feel yourselves conscience-bound to return to the polity of the ancient canons? What have you lost in not having the episcopate that would cause you either tears or shame?

  36. Past Elder says:

    Aw Geez, Dave, you aren’t about to tell me Orthodox chrismation and Catholic confirmation are really the same thing I hope.

    Only a bishop can confirm. Well let’s refine that then: only by episcopal authority can confirmation be done. Which is to say, only a bishop can confirm, whether personally or by delegate. Howzat?

    You might find an interesting take on this sort of stuff here:

    While it does not relate directly, I might say something like this was the basis of my doctoral dissertation on Boethius — that when the specific content of what he called musica was surpassed, it was taken to mean that the category of knowledge he called musica was surpassed also, however, unlike Aristotle, his basic orientation did not endure, so it was my effort to resurrect it and re-assemble current knowledge within the Boethian category musica (along with the other so-called liberal arts). I really should revise the bleeder: I thought Luther was a victim in theology of the fragmentation of a unified view of knowledge. Oh well, that was 1980!

    Really though, the Fearsom Pirate bears a look on this.

    To have to find in the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church the fullness of the apostolic ministry — now THAT would indeed produce tears and shame.

  37. Schütz says:

    Yes, PE, I am telling you that Orthodox Chrismation and Confirmatio are really the same thing. I expected you to know that. If you didn’t, you do now.

    Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 695: “In Christian initiation, anointing is the sacramental sign of Confirmation, called “chrismation” in the Churches of the East.”

    para 1113 “There are seven sacraments in the Church: Baptism, Confirmation or Chrismation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony”

    para 1210 “1210 Christ instituted the sacraments of the new law. There are seven: Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrismation), the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony.”

    para 1242 “1242 In the liturgy of the Eastern Churches, the post-baptismal anointing is the sacrament of Chrismation (Confirmation)”

    para. 1289 “Very early, the better to signify the gift of the Holy Spirit, an anointing with perfumed oil (chrism) was added to the laying on of hands. …This rite of anointing has continued ever since, in both East and West. For this reason the Eastern Churches call this sacrament Chrismation, anointing with chrism, or myron which means “chrism.” In the West, Confirmation suggests both the ratification of Baptism, thus completing Christian initiation, and the strengthening of baptismal grace – both fruits of the Holy Spirit.”


  38. William Weedon says:

    It’s a crying shame, David, for what we put in its place has failed, especially in the superintendency of doctrine and practice. Nevertheless, David, a Lutheran can rejoice in the ancient polity and wish to see it restored for what it *is* – not for what our romantic notions of development would dream it is – a good, solid human arrangement. But it is not something that the Lord Jesus mandated for His Church. FWIW.

  39. Christine says:

    You make the point that Newman once made to Pusey: that the prayers of the Byzantine Rite include addresses to the saints that are quite extraordinary!

    True. The East’s devotional language is often very flowery and highly evocative.

    You might look too at the different but as profound differences that separate Lutheranism from the rest of what is lumped to-gether as Protestantism. Simili modo, we too often in being not Roman equate that with being Protestant, a word which, though originally applied to us only, now generally describes a more or less Reformed landscape

    I could accept that if all Lutherans had remained firmly rooted in the BOC. But they haven’t. And it may not agree with PE, but many Lutherans do define themselves as “Protestant.” Not only in the LCMS but also in the other Lutheran bodies some border on the “evangelical” model while others are what I would call “catholic lite.”

  40. William Weedon says:

    I have no problem with Lutherans as Protestants; I just have trouble with others using that name and then having Lutherans lumped under the same category with them. Shoot, my Methodist mother’s Sunday School teacher got that. She taught them: Lutherans are the only ones who should be called Protestants! Amazing.

  41. Christine says:

    Maybe Mary herself can clarify this for you – do whatever he tells you. Good advice at Cana, good advice now.

    Aw, let’s not be so limiting. The ecclesiastical art, whether Eastern or Western that depicts Mary gathered with the disciples waiting for the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is simply ripe for plumbing.

    Lutherans are the only ones who should be called Protestants!

    Of course, in the American denominational milieu the term “Protestant” has come to have many more layers of meaning than it originally did in Europe at the Reformation.

    Amazing that we’ve come down to our day when some Pentecostals deny the doctrine of the Trinity, even.

  42. Past Elder says:

    Chrismated any babies yet in your Roman parish?

    Of course confirmation as Westerns call it and chrismation as Easterns call it trace themselves to the same origin. That was not the point. The point is, one could not be baptised as an infant, go to first communion, then be confirmed, as I was in the RCC, under the Eastern understanding of any of these. It is an utter disruption in the logic of Christian initiation.

    Then again, at one of the RCIA debacles it was my misfortune to have had a hand in, the person’s Methodist confirmation was held valid, since we now know Baptism and Confirmation to be parts of a single whole, and if the Baptism were valid then so is the Confirmation.

    Oh but that’s not what the church REALLY teaches — again. That’s what the church REALLY did, not in some renegade Call To Action thing, but a normal parish by a priest operating under the authority of his bishop.

    My theory is, the divergence in practice between the Western and Eastern church derives from the change from a church of primarily adult converts to infant baptisms, the East continuing the older practice infant or not, and the West separating them, Baptism for infants and Confirmation as a kind of Christian bar-mitzvah.

    My confirmation name, BTW, is Patrick.

    As to Protestant, that has been my point all along — the term is fine as long as one means by it what it originally meant, but that is not how it is used now, and as used now contains no information, and serious misinformation, about what is Lutheran. And in that sense, many Lutherans have become all-too-Protestant, to paraphrase Nietzsche, the only philosopher worth reading.

  43. Joshua says:

    I must say I’d not heard of that particular abuse, but it’s rather like the Australian saying “It could only happen in America”, which is said of any utterly wierd occurrence: it’s simply because in any large group (the Church, the U. S. of A.) one is bound to find wierd goings-on. In a small group, everything can be tightly controlled; but the larger the group, the more chances there are for people to get away with things that they shouldn’t.

    Obviously the traditional order of the sacraments – baptism, then confirmation, then Communion – should be restored, as is happening in piecemeal fashion. Otherwise confirmation is confused with bar mitzvah, though no Jewish lad would ever be bar mitzvah’d on such a low level of religious understanding…

    This talk of the troubles lurking in corners of large groups reminds me somehow (help, I’ve caught PE disease!) of the old Soviet jokes about “Radio Armenia”, whose hapless responses to listeners’ questions betrayed the inability of the Communist Party to suppress all dissent. A sample: listener’s query – “Will France ever go Communist?” – and Radio Armenia’s reply – “Yes, unfortunately”!

  44. Christine says:

    Oh but that’s not what the church REALLY teaches — again. That’s what the church REALLY did, not in some renegade Call To Action thing, but a normal parish by a priest operating under the authority of his bishop.

    PE, please be forthright and name the bishop under whose auspices this occurred (if it was in Minnesota I have my suspicions as to who it was). It may well have been practiced in that parish and under that bishop but it is certainly NOT the teaching of the Universal Church nor have I ever encountered that situation in any other Catholic parish and I’ve attended baptisms, confirmations, etc. since I converted.

    When I was received into the Church I was most definitely confirmed before receiving my first Eucharist as a Catholic.

    Does the wacky Jefferson Hills church (or the LCMS Community of Hope in my area, who get around to “the Lutheran stuff” at some point) represent you as an LCMS Lutheran?

    I think not.

  45. Past Elder says:

    No one said it was the teaching of the “Universal” (read: Roman Catholic) Church. And that’s the whole point. You guys wax on about these men in funny clothes and what they really teach, and the fact is what actually happens is little influenced by them. I don’t give a flaming damn what they really teach, unless it results in what they do. Silence, goes the maxim, implies consent.

    I have no idea who the bishop in Minneapolis was at the time, which was in the early 1980s. I suppose you’re thinking Shannon. No, he was happily married by that time I think. Who bloody cares.

    There’s all kinds of stuff that goes on in LCMS churches that does not represent me as an LCMS Lutheran. The issues that raises are entirely different in ecclesiology, since the ecclesioligy is entirely different, than the state of this or that parish in the RCC.

  46. M. M. Regan says:

    So let me get this straight, Past Elder: you don’t care what Catholic hierarchs teach, unless it results in what they do, but you will cling to the purity of confessional Lutheran teaching regardless of what it results in your co-religionists doing? Why the double standard? Could you elaborate on what you see as the ecclesiological issues here?

  47. Past Elder says:

    It was a less than precise statement coming out of utter frustration.

    As a Catholic, about 99% of life since the Council was trying to take comfort in “what the church really teaches” in the face of what is happening right around one, trying to impose an image from documents on the reality of observation.

    That’s all life is as a Catholic, unless one gets so into the fantasy “what the church really teaches” that one no longer really registers with what is going on in reality and can just dismiss it as “private opinion” or some other phrase for “not what the church really teaches”.

    The church, the church, the church. It’s all there is, which is not recognised because church is equated with everything else.

    So what I mean is, I am sick to death of hearing what the church really teaches, not for its own sake, but as an answer to what the church really does. If that’s what the church really teaches, then why is it necessary so often to explain that in the face of actual experience.

    As to the other question, no-one would take the president of the Missouri Synod to be the pontifex maximus (no-one should take anyone to be the pontifex maximus, but that’s another story) or the Lutheran pope. We have district presidents, not bishops. It’s a human arrangement. So are bishops, but that’s another story too. Point being, Lutheran teaching does not see its validity in having been proclaimed or in being preached by a bunch of guys in anachronistic clothing who couldn’t buy a loaf of bread in a grocery story without an aide who supposedly are the successors to the apostles and guarantors of the truth of faith.

    The “bishops” of the RCC, including the bishop of Rome, don’t guarantee a damn thing, except there will be their version among the many others of what the church really teaches floating around the varied and contradictory practices of the church, all of them OK in practice because they remain within the only god this church worships, itself.

  48. M. M. Regan says:

    Obviously, Lutherans have no equivalent to the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium of the Catholic Church, so that even if all Lutheran pastors, always and everywhere, agreed on a point of doctrine then this would not mean, ipso facto, that the doctrine were true. But even in the Catholic Church the presence of the Ordinary Magisterium does not guarantee that (nominal) Catholic believers will follow orthodox practice, except to the extent that ‘heretics and schismatics are not members of the Body of Christ’. Indeed, the most important Catholic practices of all, namely the Sacraments, are of course confected ‘ex opere operato’. Given that this was known long before Vatican II, I still don’t understand your rancour, Past Elder, regarding the frequent disharmony between Catholic doctrine and Catholic practice.

  49. Christine says:

    m.m. regan, it seems to me that Past Elder is VERY frustrated — first of all by what he sees as the betrayal of the Second Vatican Council of what he understands “true” Catholicism to be, secondly, now being a member of Confessional Lutheranism as the LCMS understands it, he is seeing it eroded by the inroads of American Evangelicalism (I had heard rumors of this as far back as the late 70’s/80’s but at that time I was still a member of an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation, although I had attended LCMS services in the past).

    It does seem to be a very double standard to criticize the Catholic Church for harboring weak or nominal Catholics while simply dismissing heterodox LCMS Lutherans as ones who “don’t speak for me.”

    But then, my journey from Lutheran to Catholic has been very different from PE’s journey from Catholicism to Lutheran.

  50. Past Elder says:

    Nobody says that the Synod President with the Council of (District) Presidents constitute a Christ-given and Christ-mandated college of overseers with authority in direct succession from the Apostles who guarantee that what they teach will be the Truth and who cannot teach other than the Truth.

    Nobody says the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod IS the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, or where its fulness exclusively subsists.

    When I made my profession of faith, both times, in either synod to which I have belonged, I did not profess any such thing. Makes a world of difference.

    We believe in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church as you do. We do not identify it as you do. One of us is, to be blunt, wrong. Be that as it may, absent the kind of indentification you make, let alone the particular identification you make, the matters to which you refer come across entirely differently.

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