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Apostolic succession

December 17, 2011

There is a huge misconception about what constitutes authority to teach what the truth is today. Many people in America seem to be under the impression that education is what gives one the authority to teach the scriptures in a church. Simply studying the Greek and Hebrew and a small amount of church history grants one the ability to instruct spiritual infants towards adulthood in the Christian faith.The problem with this is that once one becomes more educated than their authority, then they themselves now can take  the thrones of authority for themselves, and authority is also then not authority at all, since one who is not educated, must determine for themselves what is proper and true teachings first before being instructed. Others believe that it is merely one that has true faith, and as long as one is a true believer, God then gives them words of wisdom to instruct others, making infants instructors, and those who are in adulthood hearers, which brings about anarchy. These two systems are the very reason as to why protestantism is such a mess. Once someone in the Calvinist church knows more than their pastor, what is stopping them from starting another church under the same banner of authority? It can’t be that they were not granted authority from their pastors, since Calvin and Luther were granted no such authority, and such a claim would require succession. As for having authority simply upon having faith,  we must assume that when someone professes faith, which is merely predicated, they now have an ability to instruct without restraint.

However, can anyone have authority outside of being sent? Can one just pick up a microphone, or put the words “Church” on a building and determine that they are now able to preach and teach what their hearts tell them? This is precisely what has turned Christianity into a joke today. The secular world understands such ideas as foolish, and they see right through the confusion. What? You don’t believe in evolution because pastor Bob who has “true faith” told you it was wrong?  You are sitting under the gospel, because your pastor went to college, and spent a semester learning Greek?

Jesus didn’t even come into this world under his own authority, but the Father who sent him. To put one’s faith into Jesus Christ, who was sent by the Father, and turn around and trust a man who was sent by nobody, is to put men above Christ. Jesus Christ chose apostles, and those apostles he chose he also commissioned to go out into the world and preach the gospel.  So, Christ sent by the Father, the apostles sent by Jesus Christ, and the Apostles….hmmm?….what’s next?  Something needs to be considered here. It seems as though a road block needs to be cleared in order to proceed with the connection of early church authority and onto modern times. Since it is so, that many believe that scripture is bound by the dying of the final apostle, it requires another topic to be considered.

What is authority? Or, more precisely, what is authority in regards to the Christian faith?  Is the type of authority that bishops, priests and deacons have, the same as the type of authority politicians have, or bosses in the workplace have?  It seems that they are different, or should be different, however, the way people first think of authority when addressed in Christianity, is without restraint, or as most protestants assume, wrongly I might add, like Roman Catholicism, who’s pope demands their obedience.  But there is something else at play here. We submit to something no matter what. The scripture for example is considered infallible by protestants, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodoxy, but in different ways.  What is it that gets us to look at the scripture and think that it should be considered infallible? Or better yet, what is infallibility anyways?  It seems as though we can all agree that if something is infallible, that it needs to be recognized as such, and submitted to.

How is it that St Paul wrote infallibly? Did God merely possess Paul’s body to write the gospels like Greek pagan oracles?

St Augustine denies such thoughts. However, it makes sense in regards to protestantism and how salvation works for this to be so. If nothing separates me, the new believer in the eyes of God, since Christ’s perfect life covers over me, then it seems as though the only way he could have written with such divine knowledge, and I am not able to, is if God intervened and directed his pen. But, that is completely pagan. Why then does God even need man to do such a thing?  Why couldn’t God just, I don’t know, write his will with his finger on table

This is interesting. We actually do see God write something with his own hand. The famous story of Moses and his accent up Mt Sinai, where Moses would go stay for 40 days and 40 nights. During this time, God instructed Moses to inform the people to not even touch the edge of the mountain, or they would die. Not even animals could touch the mountain without dying. This proves that the it wasn’t just God’s pride that would get hurt if someone didn’t obey, but that Moses was in some way different, and was able to stand in the presence of God without being destroyed by God’s presence. The coincides perfectly with the Essence/Energy distinction found in St Gregory of Nyssa. Obviously, if one is to understand this distinction, we can experience God’s operations but not His essence. Even in heaven, since we will remain creatures, God’s essence will still be unknowable, but His energies will be knowable, but as fury to some, or, hell.  St Theophanes said: “the divine light will be perceived as the punishing fire of hell”,  However, it is taught in the early church, and still in Eastern Orthodoxy today, that those who are Holy experience the divine light.

So what is my point with all of this? What if Moses could receive revelation because he was holy?  Why is it that Moses wasn’t destroyed by God’s glory, and even stood in God’s presence multiple times, and didn’t die? Yet, animals would have if they unknowingly wondered to close? What if infallibility is not pagan oracles, such as statues talking to us, or just merely men being used as conduits for the transferring of information? What if the apostles were writing from experiencing God, which is unknown to others who have not? What if the bible is a compilation of writings from Moses to St John who walked in high places, and brought down what they knew to be true, because they had experienced the presence of God? What if this is what is known as Glorification?

This extremely changes things in regards to how we would understand why it is we see the scripture as infallible.  Now the question is, how does this change our understanding of authority?

The ecumenical councils are clear about the requirements of priests, deacons and bishops. It is not centered on academics, merely the profession of faith, but on noetic prayer. It is true, that in the early church, a theologian was someone who prayed, not one who was educated. This was one shift in Rome which led to the schism. Augustine had a passion for knowledge, yet had a concubine:

“It was a sweet thing to be loved, and more sweet still when I was able to enjoy the body of a women” (Confessions 3, 51)

This shift, slowly changed what it was to be a teacher of God. It went from those who know God through prayer and participation, to academic understanding. This led to sermons becoming worship. This is by far, the worst part of the great schism in my mind.

So who then determines who is fit to preach the gospel?  Ourselves?  Even more, how can we even understand the bible, unless someone who walks in the high places can explain such writings to us?

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

We see here in Acts 8, that St Phillip is speaking with an Angel, which clearly illustrates that he is deified. As he goes over to the Ethiopian eunuch, who was a very educated man historian claim, since his position in regards to the Queen of the Ethiopians was that of a very educated man during this time, and he of all people, is honest enough to know that he needs to be instructed by someone who is holy.

Apostolic succession then, is not just authority, in a sense of academics, or having a certificate. It is the passing down of authority, after being examined by those who were deemed holy by other holy men before them, as men with the prayer of heart, and know God through participating in God’s divine energies. This is exactly why it does not matter what Calvin thinks the bible says, or Luther feels is true. If it is true, that we are all totally depraved, why trust Calvin, Luther, or more importantly, yourself ?  Why let your emotions guide you?  With the above illustration of infallibility and the passing down of authority, through proper confession, prayer and participation in God, we see a continuity that is not matched anywhere else in Christianity. We have an explanation as to how men wrote the bible, but it is infallible, how we can rely on the scriptures because of apostolic succession, and the Holy Spirit guiding these men through the laying on of hands, and how councils, in which bishops who are blameless among others in the church, can come to a collective consensus on what is true pertaining to God and His church. There is not problem between the continuity of why we see these things to be consistent, and to be honest, all other stances on scripture and tradition are faulty, and completely open for secular criticism, since they are off the wall, and not logical, and quite frankly, pagan in origin.

If protestants want to say that we rely on men rather than God, I wonder how it is they even believe Moses’s words, or the patristic fathers words on scripture, that it was in fact the bible passed down through the succession of bishops? I think that is called the law of contradiction.

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5 Comments
  1. “There’s always money in the banana stand!”, 🙂 This authoritative statement warrants immediate recognition and I approve.

  2. Eric Castleman permalink

    The person who edited the picture spelled the word “banana” wrong, but I am fine with it. I think the infallible oracle’s original language was Greek, and Bannana, rather than Banana will now create a schism

  3. reyjacobs permalink

    Authority is based on politics; when Rome ruled the world it could set its priests up as authority but now they’re just homosexual predators you warn your kids to stay away from. They pass something down, but its not apostolic; its perversion.

  4. reyjacobs permalink

    “However, can anyone have authority outside of being sent? …. The secular world understands such ideas as foolish, and they see right through the confusion.”

    Forget the modern pastor who starts a church right out of seminary–what about Paul? The people of his day surely also laughed him to scorn (if he ever existed; I’m inclined to think he is a literary character invented by Marcion)–but if he was a real man, coming around saying “Yeah Jesus chose 12 apostles while he was alive — but don’t listen to them! Peter, James, and John seem to be pillars but what they really are doesn’t matter to me because I’m the super-apostle! [see Galatians] Seriously, you guys, I saw a talking light! And it *said* it was Jesus. So forget that works-based gospel that the *real* apostles are teaching and listen to *me* and my faith-onlyist crap.” No wonder nobody bought it for a long span of time between Paul’s life and Marcion (assuming Marcion didn’t invent him). Its ludicrous. Here were 12 men people knew had been with Jesus on one side; and some lunatic who smoked too much marijuana one day on the other.

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