Saturday, April 5, 2014

A new Lampe apologia

A couple of days ago, whilst browsing the internet, I came upon a new defense of Peter Lampe's, From Paul to Valentinus, by Brandon Addison, a conservative, Reformed gent. Brandon's apologia was, interestingly enough, posted as a "Guest Author" in a recent thread at the conservative Catholic site, Called to Communion - Reformation Meets Rome. [LINK TO THREAD.]

Back on August 27, 2010, I began a series of threads (link to all 10 related threads) that exposed certain weaknesses in Lampe's position. I also brought into question the use of Lampe by some conservative, Reformed Christians as a polemical tool against the Catholic Church. With that said, I am a bit surprised to find yet another conservative, Reformed Christian defending Lampe.

A couple of folk have raised some excellent questions concerning the use of Lampe (and other liberal, critical scholars who side with Lampe on a number of points) in the combox of the thread; see the follow links for two of their cogent posts:

Now, it has been awhile since I last read Lampe (and a number of other critical scholars that Brandon has brought into the mix), but I was able to detect some highly suspect aspects in Brandon's apologia. From Brandon's opening article/post we read:

In my own investigation of this issue I was pressed to look at multiple modern critics of the consensus: Bernard Green and Chrys Caragounis. The arguments of earlier writers like Felix Cirlot and Gregory Dix have been judged as deficient and dated by modern scholars. These men also do not interact with the broader argument of fractionation (arguing against Lampe or Brent) and therefore are not in the scope of this discussion. As such, I won’t interact with them explicitly, though my exegetical work in the Fathers and the Scriptures offers an alternative to their positions.

Dr. Owen touched on this issue in comment #20 (see above link), wherein he wrote:

13. Finally, it was sad to see such a dismissal of Cirlot and Dix. These men were brilliant scholars, and just because they are not taken seriously by modern academics (if that is even universally true) is no reason to dismiss them out of hand. The vast bulk of evangelical biblical scholarship could easily be thrown into the trash bin on the same grounds. You should know better.

I totally agree with Dr. Owen here, and would add that it is not some defective scholarship on the part of men like Felix Cirlot and Gregory Dix that has led to their neglect by the majority of modern, critical, liberal scholars like Lampe, but rather, it is their rejection of certain presuppositions held by Lampe and his guild which has precipitated such neglect. (I wonder if Brandon has even read the contributions of Cirlot and Dix.)

Even more troubling for me is Brandon's assessment of Dr. Robert Lee Williams monograph, Bishop Lists. Once again, from Brandon's opening post we read:

One final scholar bears mention in this discussion of dissent to the academic guild and that is Robert Williams. Williams states that the episcopate probably originated first in Jerusalem and developed in other areas but Williams is clear to state that notions of episcopacy found in Ignatius does not approximate anything close to Apostolic Succession. Williams states:

“The succession of bishops arose in Rome from Jewish Christian interpretation of apostolic plans in reaction to erosion of established presbyterial authority. These developments set the stage for the initial use of succession lists in internal crises rather than in dialogue with Greco-Roman Society."

In addition to affirming what was argued regarding Hegesippus, Williams states that the monarchical episcopate developed from the erosion of presbyterial authority. Once again, William’s conclusions are not conducive to the RCC’s claims and are favorable to the thesis of this paper.

Brandon's isolated quote fails to capture the major import of Dr. Williams broader assessments which in fact do support something, "close to Apostolic Succession". Note the following:

The New Testament, Ignatius, and 1 Clement contributed to the ecclesiastical concept of apostolic succession of monepiscopacy in diverse ways. They contain no complete concept of such and no bishop list. They record in separate developments the emergence of all the constituents of the concept. (Page 45)

The "erosion of presbyterial authority" is not what Brandon seems to think it is (a series of events that precipitated a post-apostolic development of the monepiscopacy), but rather, it was events that actually occured in the apostolic age, giving rise to the implementation of the monepiscopacy by the apostles themselves. Please note the following:

...Paul seems to anticipate defections (v. 30). We therefore conclude that Paul promoted the governing by overseers in some congregations threatened with disunification from external and internal troublemakers, from Paul's viewpoint, but that these overseers were not necessarily submitted to without reservation by their congregations.

The subsequent situation in Titus seems to mark a further stage of church leadership, conceivably developing from such difficulties as were anticipated in Acts 20. Paul has left Titus in Crete with the responsibility of appointing "elders" πρεσβύτεροι "in every city" (1:5). In this context, then, a list of qualifications for "an overseer, as God's steward" follows (vv. 7-9). Campbell proposes that this overseer is an elder appointed to oversee all the house churches in a city, a monepiskopos. From those elders in each city, each of whom oversees a church in his or her household, Titus is to choose one as overseer of all the congregations in the city. This overseer will be required in each city to  teach the apostle's doctrine and to defend it in the face of adversartes. Such a need is envisioned in light of difficulties which have developed similar to the first of the two anticipated in Acts 20:28-30. (page 51)

And a bit later:

Such citywide responsibility is a dramatic development in the role of overseeing. It involves a single Christian leader in a city, suggestive of the second century monepiskopos in Ignatius's letters. Furthermore, it indicates appointment of the overseer by one with apostolic authority, albeit delegated. Such apostolic initiative suggests apostolic succession of bishops, the terminology of which emerges at the end of the first century in 1 Clement. (Page 53)

"Such apostolic initiative suggests apostolic succession of bishops"; that Brandon overlooked this in his reading of Dr. Williams raises some concerns on my part.

Before ending, I would like to share a few thoughts on the following from Brandon's opening post:

In summation, modern scholarship from Allen Brent to Robert Williams agrees that the existence of a monarchical episcopate developed in the second century. There are virtually no scholars in the extant literature who dispute this. I’ve encountered exactly one academic article that suggests that there was a monarchical bishop in Rome in the first century and that article is answered deftly by Francis Sullivan.

A couple of items: first, I have already noted that Dr. Williams does not agree, "that the existence of a monarchical episcopate developed in the second century", but rather, sees its beginning with the apostle Paul (he also adds James, the brother of Jesus), in the first century; and second, Brandon has overstated his belief that, "[t]here are virtually no scholars in the extant literature who dispute this", for in addition to Williams, I know of three more who do in fact "dispute this". Interestingly enough, Brandon himself mentions two of them, David Albert Jones and Oswald Sobrino, with the third being Michael C. McGuckian.

I would like to end here, leaving open the possibility of another thread(s) to address some more of the issues raised by Brandon (and the critical, liberal scholars he invokes).

Grace and peace,