Tuesday, July 08, 2003

The question of church authority has been around a long time. In fact, it was a central issue of the early church. Three questions occupied the minds of Ignatius of Antioch and Tertullian: What was the true interpretation of the Old and New Testament?; Who is rightly placed in the seat of the apostles to guide the believers?; and What evidence is there of what the apostles and Jesus actually taught? The heretical teachings that the early church guarded against were perhaps more clearly divergent from what most of us would consider the Church’s teachings at the time, but the issue of authority and finding a RULE by which to judge who IS and who IS NOT a true believer or Church member is very similar to what we find ourselves discussing today.

Ignatius’ Rule (as stated by Henry Chadwick, historian) is that “the whole Church believes ‘in one God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth ….and in one Christ Jesus the Son of God, who was made flesh for our salvation, and in the Holy Spirit who through the prophets preached the dispensations and the comings and the virgin birth and the passion, and the rising of the dead…’” you can guess the rest. Tertullian would add that the due to the complexity in interpreting Scripture, one must take into consideration Tradition as a source for revelation.

And we know what Tradition tells us. Some folks just don’t like tradition or Tradition. Nonetheless, we do believe, do we not, that the Holy Spirit is alive and well in all of us and not just the bishops. The early church believed it is so. And based the belief on Scripture (Acts) with a nod to Paul’s order of hierarchy (1Cor 12:28). It does not appear that much has changed since then.

Mark Shea [in the comments to a 7.7.03 blog] is wise in pointing out that though any of us may disagree or challenge the authority of the church, or find it difficult at times to adhere totally to absolute doctrine coming out of Rome, our culpability is not to be judged by one another.

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