Thursday, March 31, 2011

John Bugay, Dr. Peter Lampe, and the early ministry of the Christian Church

John Bugay in three recent threads at the Beggars All blog (first; second; third), has been attempting to defend his particular view of the early ministry of the Christian Church, and his use of liberal/revisionist scholars such as Dr. Peter Lampe in doing so. I have shed some light on this issue in previous threads here at AF (LINK), and shall now add to those contributions.

John (and others), continues to ignore the fact that presuppositions have serious implications concerning one's assessment of raw data that can legitimately be interpreted in more than one sense, and there is no question in my mind that this is especially true when one attempts to determine the form/type of ministry that Jesus' apostles had intended/instructed to be functioning after their departure into heaven. And further, it is one's view of the Christian ministry which constitutes one of the preeminent factors in determining the very nature of the Church founded by Jesus and His apostles.

Prior to the Reformation, apart from small, heretical sects, there was little doubt in the minds of Catholic Christians (Western/Latin and Eastern/Greek) just what type of church and ministry was instituted by the apostles—it was a visible society of believers/disciples (and their children), with a structured leadership (i.e. apostles/'bishops', elders/presbyters, and deacons). But the Reformation brought many novel concepts into play, including a new concept of what "the Church" is, and the type of ministry instituted by the apostles of Jesus—the church was no longer primarily conceived of as a visible society, "outside of which there is no salvation", but rather the concept of an "invisible church", was introduced, pushing the visibility of the church into obscurity. Concerning this 16th century innovation, Dr. Herman Bavinck wrote:

Not until the sixteenth century was a fundamentally different concept of the church posited by the Reformation as an alternative to that of Rome...The church was not simply a congregation of the predestined, nor of such people who conducted their lives in keeping with a few rules from the Sermon on the Mount. But it was a congregation of believers, of people who through faith had had received the forgiveness of sins and hence were all children of God, prophets, and priests. For that reason it naturally had an invisible and a visible side. According to Seeberg, this distinction was first made not by Zwingli but by Luther. (Reformed Dogmatics, 4.287 - bold emphasis mine.)

The Anglican scholar, A. J. Mason, in his essay, "Conceptions of the Church in Early Times", confirms Dr. Bavinck's assessment:

The Church was the visible organization which bears that name.

We must proceed to ask whether the fellowship thus denoted was the historical—the ' empiric '—body which passes under the name, or whether it is an ideal quantity, whose very existence is known only by faith. In this enquiry the modern scholar is aided by a very remarkable work. The publication in 1892 of Rudolf Sohm's Kirchenrecht may be said to mark an epoch in the study of the doctrine of the Church. The theory set forth in it has not been left uncriticized, but on certain points the assertions of Sohm will hardly be called in question again. In this work and its sequel Sohm has shewn clearly that the distinction between the Church as a religious conception and the Church as a concrete institution—a distinction upon which he himself insists with vehemence—was wholly unknown to the Christians of early times...The notion of an invisible Church of the Predestinate, Sohm says, came into men's minds before many centuries after Christ had elapsed. Augustine, Wiclif entertained it. But Luther was the first to whom the contrast between the two things became a religious certainty. No one before Luther had been able to emancipate himself in conscience from the visible Church.
(Essays On The Early History of The Church and The Ministry, ed. H.B. Swete, pp. 9, 10.)

The concept of the Church as being primarily a visible society was (and still is) rejected by most of Protestant Christendom, being replaced by the notion that the Church is essentially an "invisible", "spiritual" entity. This 16th century concept of the Christian church not only dominates most 'conservative' scholarship on this issue, but it is also one of the fundamental presuppositions of modern higher critical scholarship, which, applies this presupposition not only to their conceptions and theories of the post-Biblical church/churches, but also to the New Testament period itself. One early representatives of the modern higher critical school summed up this, and some of the other presuppositions, that are not to be questioned:

IN no other department of Church history is the opposition between the ecclesiastical and the historical stand point so great as in that dealing with the earliest constitution of the Church and the history of ecclesiastical law. According to Catholic doctrine Christ founded the Church, placed Peter at its head, associated with Peter a governing body of apostles, who were to be succeeded by the monarchical episcopate just as the primacy was to devolve upon the successors of Peter, and established the distinction between clergy and laity as fundamental. In addition, all the rest of the constitution of the Church as it exists to-day is carried back to Christ Himself, and the only points about which there is a minor controversy are : how much He commanded directly during His earthly life ; how much He ordained as the Exalted Lord in the forty days of His intercourse with the disciples ; how much the apostles added subsequently, led by His Spirit; and what less important and alterable additions have been made in the course of the history of the Church. In any case He founded the Church as a visible kingdom (regnum externum), equipped with a vast jurisdiction, which has its root in the power of binding and loosing, and both pope and clergy derive their authority from Him. He entrusted the Church with the right and duty of universal missionary activity, and thereby gave to her the ends of the earth for her possession, and He granted infallibility to her and to her decrees by promising that through His spirit He would be with her all the days. The Church is thus set over against the secular kingdoms of the present and the future as a kingdom of a unique kind (regnum sui generis), it is true, but yet as a kingdom in face of which the sovereign rights that still belong to the earthly kingdoms can have only the most restricted scope and in all “mixed cases” must yield to the decision of the Church. But, according to the old Protestant doctrine also, the Church is a deliberate and direct foundation of Christ, and although the Catholic conception is radically corrected by the doctrine that the Church is “a congregation of faithful men” (societas fidelium) based on the Word of God, yet in Calvinism and parts of Lutheranism considerable theocratic and clerical elements, although latent, are not entirely absent.

Both views have the whole historical development of the apostolic and post-apostolic age against them, and besides, they stand or fall with the question of the authenticity of a few New Testament passages (especially in the Gospel of Matthew). If we put these aside—and by all the rules of historical criticism we are compelled to do so—then every direct external bond between Jesus and the “Church” and its developing orders is severed. There remains the inner spiritual bond, even if Jesus neither founded nor even intended the Church.
(Adolf von Harnack, Constitution and Law of the Church In the First Two Centuries, 1910 English ed., trans. F.L. Pogson, pp. 1-4).

To sum up, the idea that Jesus and His apostles, "founded the Church as a visible kingdom", must be rejected; such a concept did not exist in the minds of either Jesus, nor his apostles. Biblical texts which seem to support "the Catholic conception", cannot be apostolic (i.e. written by one of Jesus apostles), and hence, texts like the Pastorals, 1 and 2 Peter, etc. are essentially 'forgeries', not written by any of the apostles, and belong to a later period than any texts deemed to be written by one of the apostles. One of the greatest Biblical textual scholars of our modern era, Kurt Aland, fully embraces these assessments of the modern higher critical school, and adds yet another presupposition to the mix:

If we attempt to summarize the internal development of Christianity in the early centuries, we discover a decisive turning point in the second half of the second century. The second century is not only a watershed, but her there is also something decisive for the development of the Christian church. In a manner of speaking, what comes before the end of the second century can be called the "prehistoric" age of Christianity. Up until the middle of the second century, and even later, Christians did not live in and for the present, but they lived in and for the future; and this was in such a way that the future flowed into the present, that future and present became one—a future which obviously stood under the sign of the Lord's presence. It was the confident expectation of the first generations that the end of the world was not only near, but that it had already come. It was the definite conviction not only of Paul, but of all Christians of that time, that they themselves would experience the return of the Lord. (A History of Christianity, vol. 1, p. 87).

Dr. Aland then goes on to comment on the authorship and dates of the NT corpus, rejecting apostolic authorship for the Pastorals, and most of the other NT texts. All this helps to form his theory (accepted by the vast majority of critical scholars) that the original Christian ministry consisted of "charismatic offices" and that these "offices" were "gradually" replaced by the offices of presbyters, bishops and deacons—"In place of these charismatic offices, what gradually enters is presbyters, bishops and deacons."

Enter Dr. Peter Lampe and John Bugay: A careful reading of Dr. Lampe demonstrates that he sides with Dr. Aland and the modern higher critical school in accepting the following presuppositions: first, the Pastorals were not written by Paul, and were composed at a much a later date; second, the original Christian ministry consisted of "charismatic offices"; third the "Catholic" concept of the ministry did not have apostolic warrant, and was an evolutionary development that took place at different times in different geographical areas, with the churches at Rome being one of the last regions to fully endorse the "Catholic" development. John accepts the last of these presuppositions, seemingly ignoring the fact that it is built upon the foundation of the other presuppositions, which John rejects. I have gone on record as maintaining that John is being inconsistent, and none of my continuing research into this important issue suggests otherwise.

Grace and peace,


P.S. I was in a bit of a hurry to publish this post, and have not fully edited the grammar, spelling and other possible typos; expect some editing after my coffee and breakfast.

Google's infamous 'spam filter' in a new thread at Beggars All

Over at the Beggars All blog, I have been attempting to respond to certain allegations that have been directed towards me by John Bugay, Tim Enloe, and others in THIS THREAD. Unfortunately, some my responses have been getting caught in Google's infamous 'spam filter', and it seems that only James Swan (who is not participating in thread) has the ability to restore those posts that have been deleted, making it quite difficult to carry on a cohesive discussion. I am currently working on a thread that will attempt address a number of the recent issues that have been raised by John Bugay, but for now, would like repost one of my deleted responses. Yesterday, in response to a post by Tim Enloe (LINK) I penned the following:

Hi Tim,

Thanks for responding; you wrote:

>>I don't reject the entire body of a man's work because of his "presuppositions" - another scare word, by the way, that frequently is used by many people as a substitute for real, reflective thought.>>

Me: Nor do I, but presuppositions become extremely important when the evidence being weighed can legitimately be interpreted (without violence) more than one way. For instance, I mentioned the Pastoral Epistles, because the authorship (and related dating) of these epistles are extremely important in determining just what type of ministry (or lack thereof) the apostles meant to leave behind. Early missteps and judgments will severely hinder later assessments.

>One has to weigh scholarly arguments, not merely count them or demonstrate proficiency in typing by reproducing them because they happen to jive with one's own preexisting views (one's "presuppositions," if you will).>>

Me: Amen!

>>It's not proper to reject the whole of a book because a "Liberal" wrote it, or to accept the whole of a book because a "Conservative" wrote it. These are relative terms. WHAT is the "conservative" conserving? WHAT is the "liberal" liberating?>>

Me: Agreed.

>>There is enormous sloppiness in online apologetics discussions caused by simplistic, moralizing, approaches to scholarly works. I've noticed this for years: there is this love/hate relationship amongst amateur apologists regarding scholarly works. If the works support the "conservative" views, they are lauded to the skies. If the works injure the "conservative" views, they are condemned, and anyone who uses them in any fashion is swept up in a big net of condemnation.>>

Me: Once again, I agree.

>>You're not as bad as some folks in this respect, but frankly, you are bad enough. Just the mere fact that you ask me whether I agree with Lampe's conclusions about the pastorals just because I (may) think he's right about some other areas of history…>>

Me: Once again I brought up the Pastorals because one’s conclusions about these epistles (and others) directly determines the type of trajectory one will proceed along concerning the type of ministry instituted by the Apostles. I found a good deal of Lampe’s research to be interesting and informative, but remain convinced that the bulk of his work does not directly address the foundational issues at stake.

>>… begs for me to ask you: Do you exercise discernment when you read scholarly works? Do you weigh scholarly arguments, or just count and reproduce them? Weighing arguments is not easy, nor is it an exact science. It takes patience and discernment to wade through a body of scholarship, and alas, online apologetics warriors have little of either.>>

Me: I believe that I sincerely try to do so Tim. You mentioned Frank (kepha) earlier, have you so soon forgotten the ‘heat’ I received from his pen during our discussions on subordinationism and development concerning my willingness to challenge the ‘conservative’ take on the pre-Nicenes? (And it was not just Frank, but a number of posters here at BA have taken me to task because I do weigh scholarly arguments.)

Grace and peace,


Sunday, March 20, 2011

"The Lutheran Landslide" - recent conversions of Lutherans into the Catholic Church

I have followed with a good deal of interest the numerous conversions of Evangelical and/or Reformed pastors and seminarians, over the course of the last couple of decades, into the Roman Catholic Church. In addition to the notable conversions of Dr. Scott Hahn (see his Rome Sweet Home) and Dr. Francis Beckwith (see his Return to Rome), a number of other conversions have been related in Patrick Madrid's, Surprised By Truth (now three volumes), and at the Called To Communion website.

Unknown to me, that is until yesterday (with the exceptions of Richard John Neuhaus and Robert Wilken), are the numerous conversions of Lutherans into the Roman Catholic Church. I learned of these conversions via an article posted last Friday at the National Catholic Register website (LINK). From that entry by Tim Drake we read:

One of the most under-reported religious stories of the past decade has been the movement of Lutherans across the Tiber.

What first began with prominent Lutherans, such as Richard John Neuhaus (1990) and Robert Wilken (1994), coming into the Catholic Church, has become more of a landslide that could culminate in a larger body of Lutherans coming into the collectively.

In 2000, former Canadian Lutheran Bishop Joseph Jacobson came into the Church.

“No other Church really can duplicate what Jesus gave,” Jacobson told the Western Catholic Reporter in 2006.

In 2003, Leonard Klein, a prominent Lutheran and the former editor of Lutheran Forum and Forum Letter came into the Church. Today, both Jacobson and Klein are Catholic priests.

Over the past several years, an increasing number of Lutheran theologians have joined the Church’s ranks, some of whom now teach at Catholic colleges and universities. They include, but are not limited to: Paul Quist (2005), Richard Ballard (2006), Paul Abbe (2006), Thomas McMichael, Mickey Mattox, David Fagerberg, Bruce Marshall, Reinhard Hutter, Philip Max Johnson, and most recently, Dr. Michael Root (2010).

“The Lutheran church has been my intellectual and spiritual home for forty years,” wrote Dr. Root. “But we are not masters of our convictions. A risk of ecumenical study is that one will come to find another tradition compelling in a way that leads to a deep change in mind and heart. Over the last year or so, it has become clear to me, not without struggle, that I have become a Catholic in my mind and heart in ways that no longer permit me to present myself as a Lutheran theologian with honesty and integrity. This move is less a matter of decision than of discernment.”

And a bit later:

Now, it appears that a larger Lutheran body will be joining the Church. Father Christopher Phillips, writing at the Anglo-Catholic blog, reports that the Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church (ALCC) clergy and parishes will be entering into the U.S. ordinariate being created for those Anglicans desiring to enter the Church.

According to the blog, the ALCC sent a letter to Walter Cardinal Kasper, on May 13, 2009, stating that it “desires to undo the mistakes of Father Martin Luther, and return to the One, Holy, and True Catholic Church established by our Lord Jesus Christ through the Blessed Saint Peter.” That letter was sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Very interesting...

Grace and peace,