God the Father passed His authority on to Jesus (cf. Matthew 28:18), Who passed it on to the apostles (cf. Luke 10:16 and Matthew 28:19), who passed it on to their successors.That’s the shorthand view that a fairly knowledgeable (and formerly Reformed) Roman Catholic cited to me on a discussion board. But is the God of the universe, the “Covenant Lord,” our “jealous God” One who would wind up giving “His” authority to someone like Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI?
Calvin famously began his work, Institutes of the Christian Religion , with these words:
Nearly all the wisdom we posses, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves (1.1.1). … It is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face, and the descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself. For we always seem to ourselves righteous and upright and wise and holy—this pride is innate in all of us—unless by clear proofs we stand convinced of our own unrighteousness, foulness, folly, and impurity. Moreover, we are not thus convinced if we look merely to ourselves and not also to the Lord, who is the sole standard by which this judgment must be measured … So it happens in estimating our spiritual goods. As long as we do not look beyond the earth, being quite content with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue, we flatter ourselves most sweetly, and fancy ourselves all but demigods … As a consequence, we must infer that man is never sufficiently touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state until he has compared himself with God’s majesty (1.1.2).Just as a personal note, I have handwritten in the margin of my copy of Institutes, “This is the main problem I see with the RCC.” The Roman Catholic Church does not truly consider its own state in comparison with God’s majesty. Oh, to be sure, they say plenty of good things about God.
Others have written about Aquinas and his “Platonism/Plotininianism/Dionysianism (the notion that there is a sort of chain of being in the universe on which God is at the top and we at the bottom and we climb it by grace and cooperation with grace).” Without going too deeply into this topic, we see that our old friend Pseudo-Dionysius (and his NeoPlatonism) made it into Aquinas’s theology in a big way. Pseudo-Dionysius is one of those works of fiction that was viewed as authentic during the Medieval era, and which subsequently was adopted virtually wholesale into Roman dogma. And there was no shortage of popes who waxed at length about how wonderfully close to God that they were.
More properly, the Reformers, following a Scriptural investigation of God, came to understand the absolute gulf between God and man.
Just to illustrate this, let’s look at a simple mental exercise. On one side of an equation, you have one. On the other side, you have infinity.
One / InfinityThat’s a pretty big gulf.
Then consider how you might, on the numerical side, come closer to “infinity”.
One / InfinityIn this “great chain of ratios,” do you ever, on the left hand side, come closer to reaching the limits of the right hand side? No, you can’t. This is a “category” error. And so is the “great chain of being” theology that posits God not as “wholly other,” but merely at the top of some kind of “great chain of being”.
Two / Infinity
Three / Infinity
Ten / Infinity
One Hundred / Infinity
One Thousand / Infinity
One Million / Infinity
The Roman Catholic Faith, with its emphasis on “the Church” as “the Ongoing Incarnation of Christ,” has succumbed to the error of those who tried to build the Tower of Babel. They said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves” (Gen 11:2-4). What a tragedy.
Here’s a selection from the works of A.A. Hodge that I have, for years, used as my personal signature on discussion boards:
And the sphere of a creature's knowledge, be it that of an infant, or of a man, or of a philosopher, or of a prophet, or of saint or archangel in heaven, will float as a point of light athwart the bosom of that God who is the infinite Abyss for ever; From A.A. Hodge, Evangelical Theology, God-His Nature And Relation to the Universe, pg 16.In the first place in the Roman Catholic chain of succession, a misunderstanding of God and His nature are fundamental to its whole system of authority.