Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Another Ironic thing about Jason Stellman's conversion testimony to Roman Catholicism

Jason Stellman, in the interview at Called to Communion, in his testimony about how he converted to Roman Catholicism, basically asserted that we should be able to find the Protestant paradigm for Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, and church authority in the early church.  He claims that there is no positive case for the Protestant paradigm in the early church after the apostle John died.  Yet, it seems that one of the earliest writings, 1 Clement, if not the earliest, (after the NT books) does indeed have the 3 principles that are closer to the Protestant paradigm than a Roman Catholic one.  I am not saying the early church is or was "Protestant"; that would be anachronistic.  It was neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant; but these three principles found in 1 Clement are closer to the Protestant way of doing things than any Roman Catholic paradigm.  We Protestants can "let the early be the early church" (Dr. White) and when they made mistakes, we confess that they are fallible men and not inspired apostles and their writings are not inspired, and yet, we have an infallible rule - the Scriptures, by which to judge them.  

See Part 3 of Dr. White's response.

At one point, Jason said basically something like, "Jesus would not have set it up with Sola Scriptura as a guiding principle, because Jesus is not stupid."  Yet, as Dr. White pointed out, it is ironic that he has already said that Professors Michael Horton and Steve Baugh were very smart; smarter than he is; and they knew their theology and church history and Greek and exegesis much better than he did.  Jason admitted this; but says that for Jesus to set up Sola Scriptura as a guide for the church is "stupid".  So how does Jason know whether he is being smart enough to know that he understands Jesus properly?  How does he know that Horton, Baugh, White are not correct, since they all believe that Jesus and the apostles did teach that principle.  Jesus' teaches principles in the Gospels of saying things like "thus it is written" and "you make the word of God void by your traditions", and "search the Scriptures" and "have you not read what God said to you?".   How does Jason know that his decision to rely upon his own mind and judgment and call Jesus and the apostles constantly pointing back to the Scriptures as something that is "stupid"? Jason also kept saying things like "He (Jesus) just woudda", "he just woudda" set it up the way that Roman Catholicism says.  "Just woulda" is not good enough; that is just Jason's own subjective personal decision.  He is using his own judgment and understanding of what "should be".   Jason gives no evidence of what he was arguing for, just his own decision, his own opinion - "It should have been this way".  Instead, something closer to the Protestant paradigm is there in the earliest times. 

Well, let's see - 

Earliest writing after the New Testament writings:  I Clement  (96 AD)  

1.  Each Local Church has a college of elders (presbyters)  (No Pope, not even a mono-episcopate yet)  1 Clement 42, 44 - elders and bishops are the same office.

Clement of Rome ( 96 AD) - Presbyters and Bishops are the same office – I Clement 44, confirming Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5-7; I Peter 5:1-4. Clement, with the Biblical passages, along with Philippians 1:1 (bishops and deacons), along with the Didache (15) (bishops and deacons), and with Jerome’s statement that a “A presbyter, therefore, is the same as a bishop” and that the bishops being appointed above the presbyters was “a custom, not by divine appointment” (Jerome, Commentary on Titus, PL 26:562-563, cited by James White in Perspectives on Church Government, Five Views of Church Polity, Broadman and Holman, 2004, p. 251-252) shows that the deepest and oldest history is that local churches had two offices 1. elders (overseers, who teach and shepherd the flock or do the work of pastors) and 2. deacons (servants, ministers); and that it was later that the office of bishop (episcopos/overseer) was separated out from and made above the college of plurality of elders for each church.


The evidence in I Clement is that Clement himself is not a “pope”, as the Roman Catholics claim, but the moderator or secretary spokesman or “president”, in the words of Justin Martyr for the college of elders from the church at Rome. This is one church writing to another church.

“The Church of God which sojourns at Rome, to the Church of God sojourning at Corinth, to them that are called and sanctified by the will of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, from Almighty God through Jesus Christ, be multiplied.” ( I Clement preface before paragraph 1)

I Clement rebukes the Corinthian church for deposing the elders there who have served faithfully. (42-44, 47, 54) He calls what the Corinthians have done, by getting rid of the presbyters, “a detestable and unholy schism, so alien and strange to those chosen by God” (paragraph 1) The Corinthians got rid of their elders out of jealousy and arrogance, as the rebuke of jealousy and pride is a major theme of this letter: (paragraphs 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 9; 16; 43-44; 46; 54 ) He exhorts the Corinthians to humility and repentance. (1: 7-8 and 1:13; 48, 57)

“Therefore it is right and holy, brothers, that we should be obedient to God rather than follow those who in arrogance and unruliness have set themselves up as leaders in abominable jealousy.” (1:14 – Michael Holmes’ translation. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations of Their writings. Second Edition. J. B. Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, editors and translators. Micheal Holmes, editor and reviser. Baker Books, 1992, p. 43.)

“It is disgraceful, dear friends, yes, utterly disgraceful and unworthy of your conduct in Christ, that it should be reported that the well-established and ancient church of the Corinthians, because of one or two persons, is rebelling against its presbyters.” (I Clement 47:6)

“Only let the flock of Christ be at peace with its duly appointed presbyters.” ( I Clement 54)

These are principles that Protestants would agree with - local church authority of a plurality or college of elders and another church encouraging them to follow that pattern and the Scriptures.

2.  Sola Scriptura in principle
Clement also exhorted the church of the Corinthians to go back to the Scriptures:
“Let us study the records of the things that have happened from the beginning. Why was our father Abraham blessed? Was it not because he attained righteousness and truth through faith?” (I Clement, 31)

He quotes from the epistle to the Hebrews in I Clement 36, several times, which shows the early church affirmed it as Scripture very early on; even though some others in other places struggled with accepting it as canonical.

In I Clement 45, he gives a good description of inspiration and inerrancy – “You have searched the Scriptures, which are true, which were given by the Holy Spirit; you know that nothing unrighteous or counterfeit is written in them. You will not find that righteous people have ever been thrust out by holy men.”

In I Clement 47, he again points them back to the Scriptures and says, “Take up the epistle of the blessed Paul the apostle. What did he write to you in the beginning of the gospel?  Truly he wrote to you in the Spirit about himself and Cephas and Apollos, because even then you had split into factions.”  If Peter was the first Pope, or if the illustration of Jason's about siding with Peter if there was a tie in voting with 6 apostles vs. 6 apostles on an issue, "they would side with Peter (Cephas)".  Well, if there was any truth to that "Peter principle" - why didn't Paul use it in 1 Corinthians to solve the disunity problem?  Instead Paul said, "do not go beyond what is written".  If that "Peter principle" was true, why didn't Clement use it in 1 Clement?  He didn't, instead he wrote, "Take up the epistle of Paul that he wrote to you, O Corinthians!"  Go back to the Scriptures  "do not go beyond what is written" - 1 Cor. 4:6 - that would solve the issue of the party spirit and schisms and splits and personality cults.  No pope or bishop or bishop of bishops or council is appealed to. 

When we read the Scriptures on this issue and indeed, when we take up the letter of I Corinthians, we find the solution to the problem there. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 4:6, in the same context of the divisions and disunity and factions (1 Corinthians 1:10-11; 3:1-10; 4:1-6), “Do not go beyond what is written.” Paul gives them the Scriptural solution and Clement points them back to the bible. No papal encyclical here. Here in 1 Corinthians, Paul actually uses a general principle of a kind of early form of Sola Scriptura, even though all the Scriptures have not been written yet. “Do not go beyond what is written” surely refers to his exhortations and instructions in the letter itself, in dealing with the factions in the church, since he says, “I have applied these things figuratively to Apollos and myself.” It shows that the final authority is Scripture, not what a bishop or future pope or council says.


Added later Tuesday morning (10:00am), Dec. 11: 
1 Corinthians 4:6 - after saying "do not exceed what is written", the inspired apostle gives the reason and purpose for the command to not go beyond Scripture:  "so that no one of you may become arrogant in behalf of one against another."  There it is.  Too bad Stephen, bishop of Rome in 258 AD did not read nor obey the Scriptures here.  Cyprian, Firmillian and 85 other bishops from all over had to rebuke Stephen for his arrogance in claiming to be "bishop of bishops".   This is something very clear in early church history that proves that the Papal doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church is wrong and Jason Stellman should have known this.  Too bad Pope Boniface VIII in 1302 did not read nor obey 1 Corinthians 4:6 when he said "It is necessary for every human creature to be submitted to the Roman Pontiff in order to be saved."  (Papal encyclical "Unam Sanctum") 


Many other times Clement says, "thus it is written" and quotes from the OT extensively (all of Psalm 51 and Isaiah 53), and some from the NT and has many allusions from the NT.  

There are a couple of unknown quotes(23:4 and 46:2), and a couple that seem to be from the Apocrypha book of Wisdom of Solomon, but even those 2 are similar to canonical passages (one (Wisdom of Solomon 2:24 at 1 Clement 3:4) is close to Romans 5:12 and the other (Wisdom of Solomon 12:12 at 1 Clement 27:5).  Even so, Clement is not infallible and so we don't have to justify the mistakes that early church fathers and writers made.  1 Clement 25 and the use of the legend of the Phoenix bird is indeed strange, but all this proves that 1 Clement is not canonical Scripture, and shows how the early church has mixtures of false ideas within it.   Clement is not infallible nor a Pope (there was no such office or idea in the early centuries); and it also shows the important of using Scripture to judge the early church writers and never accept them as infallible; as only the Scriptures are infallible. 

3.  Justification by Faith Alone
Clement also has an early statement on justification by faith apart from good works wrought by us within us. Mediate on these beautiful biblically based words - 

“All these, therefore, were highly honored, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” I Clement 32

It is clear that one of the earliest, if not the earliest non-canonical early church writings, 1 Clement, has 3 principles that are closer to the Protestant paradigm of "doing church" than the Roman Catholic paradigm. 

17 comments:

John said...

Protestant churches with a group of equal elders is pretty rare in Protestantism, as far as I've seen. I realise it is de-rigeur in some academic circles though. Most Protestant churches have one person above the others. Whether they slap the term "bishop" on them, is really pretty irrelevant.

Ken said...

Even though many Protestant churched don't have have or function with a plurality of elders - Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5-7 are clear that they should and that that is the Biblical pattern.

Acts 20:17 - elders (plural)
Acts 20:28 - what those same elders are to do -
shepherd the flock of God (pastoring)
whom the Holy Spirit has made you (talking to the elders) overseers/bishops/episcopos

1 Peter 5:1-5
Peter calls himself "fellow elder" - NOT Pope or "bishop of bishops", etc.

exhorts the elders to "shepherd the flock" (feed, pastor, guard against false teachers/wolves)

"excercising oversight" - verbal form of the word where we get "episcopate" and concept of bishop from.

So the Bible is clear that each church is to have a college or plurality of elders who do the work of shepherding and over-seeing.

The two earliest documents after NT is written confirm this as the pattern.

1 Clement confirms this.

The Didache confirms this also.

The Shepherd of Hermas also confirms the plurality of elders at the church in Rome.

Protestant churches who don't have a plurality of elders are disobeying the Scriptures.

Ken said...

Even though many Protestant churched don't . . .

should have been

Even though many Protestant churches don't

Jawed Ali said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

Where to begin...I suppose I should start by quoting the final words of your opening post:

==1 Clement, has 3 principles that are closer to the Protestant paradigm of "doing church" than the Roman Catholic paradigm.==

In handful of past threads, I have provided a number of PROTESTANT scholars who take issue with your final conclusion. Having participated in most (if not all) of those threads, it is a bit disconcerting to find that you have ignored every PROTESTANT scholar that I referenced in those threads.

Ultimately, I am left wondering how much impact threads like this one will have on folk who convert to the RCC, for I think it is safe to conclude that those converts will follow your lead and ignore contributions that do not fall in line with their paradigm.

Sincerely hope you do not find my comments harsh, for my intent is not 'mean-spirited'; instead, my goal is to get you to understand that such apologetic methods are in need of some improvement.


Grace and peace,

David

P.S. Not long ago, I noticed that Perry Robinson has made substantial use of one of the scholarly works that I referenced in a couple of my own posts at AF—you may want to look into those threads:

Links to Perry's threads

Ken said...

Thanks David -
I know I have participated in a lot of com box discussions over these Patristic issues with you - yes.

I confess don't want to try and track down the exact ones you are referring to - (was it specifically about 1 Clement or about Justification or Irenaeus or the EFCs in general or what? or the Anthony Lane article ? ) would you do me a favor and list/link to them so I can review them and my participation?

I don't mind you linking to the specific ones and I would sincerely like to review what you referring to.


Ken said...

Thanks for the links to Perry Robinson's articles - it will take me a while to digest all of that; but I hope to maybe study them and Lord willing, respond.

Ken said...

David,
Ok, I thought I would look under your categories at your blog under Clement of Rome and there are 2 articles there on Clement of Rome.

There was a lot in the com boxes in the first one between you and Jason Engwer and Catholic Nick and Perry Robinson came in later. I don't remember reading all of that - but I did read some of it - I even asked why PR uses the evil Emporer Palpatine/Sith lord Sidious as his "Avatar", but he didn't answer.

Are those the 2 you are talking about specifically about Clement of Rome, or are you referring to the more general idea of the ECF in general?

This part of 1 Clement - chapter 30 -
“Let us clothe ourselves with concord and humility, ever exercising self-control, standing far off from all whispering and evil-speaking, being justified by our works, and not our words.” (ch. 30)

the only way I can see as the right way to interpret that, given what he says in chapter 32 - is the same meaning that Evangelical/Protestants understand James 2 and Luke 7:35 - that just saying one has faith is not enough; and that good works vindicate or prove that one really has true justifying faith.

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

Thanks much for responding; don't have much time today for the internet, so any detailed response(s) on my part will have to wait until tomorrow. In your last comment, you posted:

==Ok, I thought I would look under your categories at your blog under Clement of Rome and there are 2 articles there on Clement of Rome.

There was a lot in the com boxes in the first one between you and Jason Engwer and Catholic Nick and Perry Robinson came in later. I don't remember reading all of that - but I did read some of it - I even asked why PR uses the evil Emporer Palpatine/Sith lord Sidious as his "Avatar", but he didn't answer.

Are those the 2 you are talking about specifically about Clement of Rome, or are you referring to the more general idea of the ECF in general?==

Me: Those two threads are devoted to the issue of justification. Two important points can be culled from those threads: first, patristic scholars like McGiffert, Richardson and Torrance believe it is a mistake to read the Reformation understanding of justification back into Clement of Rome; and second, even if one were to allow that the anachronistic reading of Clement is the correct/valid one, it would be an anomaly, which was ignored for nearly 1,500 years.

==This part of 1 Clement - chapter 30 -
“Let us clothe ourselves with concord and humility, ever exercising self-control, standing far off from all whispering and evil-speaking, being justified by our works, and not our words.” (ch. 30)

the only way I can see as the right way to interpret that, given what he says in chapter 32 - is the same meaning that Evangelical/Protestants understand James 2 and Luke 7:35 - that just saying one has faith is not enough; and that good works vindicate or prove that one really has true justifying faith.==

Me: As Torrance points out in his book, Clement of Rome places much more emphasis on the works aspect of justification than any Reformer would be comfortable with. When one places this aspect of Clement into general/overall thought of the second century writers, a Reformation understanding becomes precarious.

Now, moving on to church offices/officers in Clement (and the NT), in the following threads I referenced conservative Protestant works that defend a threefold church ministry in the NT and early CFs:

http://articulifidei.blogspot.com/2010/09/lampe-vs-williams-vs-kirk-farrer-and.html

http://articulifidei.blogspot.com/2011/03/john-bugay-dr-peter-lampe-and-early.html

[Perry's threads expand on what I wrote.]

As for sola scriptura, that will have to wait until Friday, the Lord willing.


Grace and peace,

David

Ken said...

David Waltz wrote:

"Me: Those two threads are devoted to the issue of justification. Two important points can be culled from those threads: first, patristic scholars like McGiffert, Richardson and Torrance believe it is a mistake to read the Reformation understanding of justification back into Clement of Rome; and second, even if one were to allow that the anachronistic reading of Clement is the correct/valid one, it would be an anomaly, which was ignored for nearly 1,500 years."

I don't think Reformers are reading back into Clement, rather 1 Clement 32 reflects the true meaning of Galatians, Romans, Ephesians, Philippians, John, Acts forward and 1 Clement 30 reflects the proper understanding of James 2 and Luke 7:35 forward.

Same for Mathetes Epistle to Diognetes 9.

After that, later, except for Ambrosiaster's excellent "faith alone" statements; and sometimes it would come out when a commentator was concentrating on a verse in Galatians or Romans, but for centuries, justification by faith alone began to be eclipsed by the addition of baptismal regeneration, infant baptism, penance, mono-episcopate authority, priests, ex opere operato priestly powers, indulgences, treasury of merit, visiting graves and relics, prayers to Mary, giving alms as meritorious for salvation, over-exalting of virginity and asceticism - all of that stuff did overshadow and dominate. (except sometimes some writers seemed to have both in their writings - Chrysostom, Augustine, Bernard of Clairvoux, until Luther and Calvin and Zwingli recovered the true meaning.

Ken said...

add to the list that overshadowed and eclipsed "faith alone" is purgatory.

Joe said...

Hi Ken.

You said: ..but for centuries, justification by faith alone began to be eclipsed by the addition of baptismal regeneration, infant baptism, penance, mono-episcopate authority, priests...

Me: I agree that many of these you list have the potential and do eclipse the teaching of "faith alone". But, infant baptism and bapt regeneration specifically do not. They rather support it and grace alone more than Credo-baptism only and the denial of BR, IMHO.

in Him,

Joe

Ken said...

The Roman Catholic versions of Infant baptism and baptismal regeneration (the come with ex opere operato priestly powers ideas) do eclipse justification by faith alone, but the Lutheran versions don't; and the Presbyterian version of infant baptism does not do that.

John said...

Certainly in terms of terminology, the NT makes bishop and elder the same. But there's a lot of verses that could be deployed to say that one elder is above the others. That makes the terminology of calling the top guy "bishop" a mere quibble over words. Words don't matter, concepts matter. So all the presbyterians trotting out the arguments about words, really bypass the issues.

Ken said...

John,
Both 1 Peter 5:1-5 and Acts 20:17, 28 tells the elders to do the work of overseeing ("bishop-ing") [exercising oversight] and pastoring [shepherd the flock of God]. In Ignatius and beyond, we see one of the gifted elder-bishops rise to the top. That is a human, natural, practical phenomenon - but if that one person who is the gifted preacher/teacher/leader is not also accountable to a group of other elders, the danger is that they would become something that they are not supposed to be - not accountable, secret sins, authoritarian, legalistic, prideful, etc. - that happens a lot in ministry where there is only one pastor and is not accountable.

Any one who has attempted to plant a church in a new culture (as I have and done with a missionary-church planting team with others), especially a more patriarchal/authoritarian one, will understand how one of the gifted elders who is the more stronger one in personality and leadership gifts and also a good teacher/preacher, will naturally rise to the top.

That's what happened with our ministry and eventually the others who aspired to be elders left and started their own little churches, unfortunately. They all wanted to be in charge. Same kind of struggles/issues I saw when I was on staff in a large Baptist church before becoming a missionary.

That is what seems to have happened from Ignatius onward. That is what happens in most Evangelical churches today. Jerome and others said that it happened "by custom/practice" - as a practical management kind of thing - it is just easier for one man to make the decisions rather than having to have consensus with a college of elders all the time.

Lvka said...

It was neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant


Oh, I agree: it was Orthodox ! :-)

Ken said...

Eastern Orthodoxy was also a later development. While the Eastern Orthodox are right in rejecting Papal authority claims, and we Protestants and Orthodox use the same historical evidence against the Papal claims; there are other issues that Eastern Orthodoxy has that make it un-biblical - denial of inherited guilt and sin of Adam is a big problem, among other things.