Apostolic Succession

Discussion in 'Sacraments and Holy Orders' started by Toma, Aug 7, 2012.

  1. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I suppose the issue of Apostolic Succession might be a vexed question. Is there any real answer to it?

    The claim itself seems rather ridiculous. There are men saying they have a direct spiritual genealogy to the Apostles, by laying-on-of-hands, for 2000 years; yet, I guarantee you won't find one bishop who can show records of his predecessors' consecrations as far back as, say, AD 800? How are we supposed to believe them valid if they aren't even able to prove it?

    I find it hard believe this was something initiated by Christ. Why would God, so majestic & true, institute such a frail plan: reliant on lying men, who can easily forge ancient documents, to carry on the valid presence of His very own Body and Blood? Before you know it you're eating a stale bit of bread because a certain consecration never occurred.

    It seems more secure & reliable that Apostolic Succession is passing on of right belief, rather than proper ceremony. "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." - Acts 2:4

    Isn't this "public show vs. inner heart" conflict precisely the point our Lord Jesus got to, against the Pharisees?

    Any really good arguments for the physical apostolic succession from the Fathers or Anglican Divines would be much appreciated. I am anxious to lay this to rest in my conscience.
     
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  2. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    -Archbishop Bramhall, defending the Anglican apostolic succession (in treatise Protestants' Ordination Defended Against the Objections of S.N.)
     
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  3. Scottish Knight

    Scottish Knight Well-Known Member

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    Some concise clear statements on a particular anglican opinion but I don't see any supporting evidence
     
  4. Gordon

    Gordon Well-Known Member

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    I don't believe Christ went on about apostolic succession, given that I bring out the bs meter.

    Wishful thinking again on those who would be advantaged by such a system.
     
  5. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    SK, Bramhall often made summary statements at the end of his long arguments. Perhaps Stalwart was only posting those. The problem is that almost all our historical resources on the ordination of priests and consecration of bishops come from the 6th-9th centuries, from monasteries and the like. This hurts their credibility to many Christians like yourself.

    Gordon, Christ said that this generation (of faithful Christians) will not taste death until He comes in His Kingdom. It's near the end of Christ's words in Luke on the Last Judgment. I presume this is seen as a justification for solid apostolic succession. Either way, it's dashedly important to know if the valid celebration of the Lord's Supper requires someone with a certain lineage or power. If a minister is lacking that power (be it extant), blasphemy is committed every Communion-time.
     
  6. The Hackney Hub

    The Hackney Hub Well-Known Member

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  7. Adam Warlock

    Adam Warlock Well-Known Member

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    Every ancient church teaches that it is true. I'll accept their testimony.
     
  8. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Hackney, the first 1600 years of that list is just the bishops of Rome. Many who occupied that seat from the Carolingian era through the Ottonian Renaissance (800-1000) were placed there by nobility as pawns, or as willing agents of their respective houses. It's doubtful that such Mafia-like bishops cared much about observing lawful consecration, given the romps they went on.

    Relying on a list of the Bishops of Rome for anyone's apostolic succession makes no sense anyway, because each new "Pope" was consecrated bishop by another man, not by the previous Pope (who had to be dead first). The first 4-5 popes may even be legendary; there's little proof Linus succeeded Clement, except tradition.

    What really matters in that list, is whether the consecrator of Antonio Cardinal Barberini in 1655 (Giovanni Battista Scanaroli) was himself validly consecrated. Since there are no records of Scanaroli's consecration - or his own ordination goes back to Cardinal Rebiba (the bottleneck of the 16th century - look him up) - we can't just rely on a list of Popes for help.

    EDIT: http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/bishop/bscang.html Indeed, Scanaroli goes back to the mysterious Rebiba, as do 90% of all R.C. bishops, apparently.

    Maybe that's a difference between Anglo-Catholics and evangelicals? You have implicit trust that God preserves the hierarchy of the Church?

    I, at least, find the claims of all men unreliable at the starting point, and open to scrutiny. I am informed by the Scriptures that men are inherently untrustworthy in our fallenness. There's no way to prove a valid line to an Apostle; since it's so difficult and ultimately a pedantic legalistic thing, somehow I doubt Christ ordained it.

    We must never rely on the testimony of those who benefit greatly from it.

     
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  9. The Hackney Hub

    The Hackney Hub Well-Known Member

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    I'm going to go with Adam here, Christ said he would preserve the Church. I have no reason to doubt him.
     
  10. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Christ said He would preserve "this generation" (this lineage, this genealogy) in Luke 21: "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away." His words will never pass away; the faith shall not, but might bishops?

    Christ never said He would preserve bishops, but the Church. Did He mean that which is institutional & visible, or that which is essential, undying, spiritual, and of faith?

    If we believe Peter's confession of faith is the rock upon which the House of the Lord is founded, it is the spiritual which will never die. There shall never be a time lacking at least two on Earth to gather in His Name. For the rest, evidence is needed that it is essential. We cannot just rely on strong statements and bold assertions, can we?
     
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  11. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    In principle, Christ preserves the Church (by a continual succession of bishops?) Practically-speaking, there is no way to know that any given bishop has the lineage. We are left to have faith in something that Christ never directed us to have faith in (I think).

    The fact that consecration-genealogy is very easily faked and thus uncertain, should give us a hint that Christ's preservation of the Faith might not be by mechanical succession effected by ceremony, but rather is determined by right doctrine? :)

    EDIT: I think the only way to know if a bishop is actually sent by God, commissioned, is if he preaches right doctrine. Is that not the only possible test? If so, why make it reliant on lay-on-of-hands only?
     
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  12. mark1

    mark1 Active Member

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    So you believe that Jesus gave us the Church and promised that at least two people would always be in the world to maintain the faith? That seem a pretty weak form of the doctrine of Jesus being with us through his Church and ordinances/sacraments.

     
  13. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    It is very weak indeed, but at least it has precedent ("where two or three are gathered..."), unlike the other doctrine. Nowhere does Jesus say, at least, that He shall always be with us through the ordinances and/or sacraments. He said He would lead the Apostles all truth via His most holy Spirit. The words "who's sins you forgive, they are forgiven; who's sins you retain, they are retained" were spoken to all the disciples in John only, and "disciples" refers to both Apostles and disciples in that Gospel. Who knows whether the command was spoken to all the 120?

    I am not trying to undermine or attack Anglicanism in this thread. What I am trying to do is: 1. find out the truth without preconceived notions of what is "most fitting", and 2. try to abolish any biases toward history.
     
  14. The Hackney Hub

    The Hackney Hub Well-Known Member

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    You're presenting the classic Low Church position.
     
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  15. Robert

    Robert Active Member

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    If bishops are not important then why did the Apostles feel it necessary to consecrate them and place them in charge of local churches (what later will be deemed a diocese)? Surely they exercized their ministry and the power of the keys by doing this. And is it not just as adventaguous for those against the episcopate( or the sacraments or church order) to have them done away with?
     
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  16. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Not intentionally, I assure you. I was shocked when Mr. John Stott explained this, at first. It's just that he made so much sense, and the 'other side' isn't all that convincing to me yet. I'd love not to be a presbyterian, because bishops have always been integral - but if we teach something wrong about bishops, I cannot be in on that.

    I never said bishops are not important; to clarify, my doubt is that the essence of a bishop is laying-on-of-hands, rather than holding correct and godly Doctrine. Very clearly, Paul orders Timothy to appoint the episkopos, Overseer (literally epi (above) + watcher (skopos, root of "scope") Under the Overseer was to be the elders, Presbyters.

    This is a very good way of organizing things, obviously, but was it something mechanical, or was episcopal status also dependent upon keeping the good doctrine handed down by the Apostles? Could a man be called a bishop any more if he was dethroned for heresy? Did he retain some "indelible mark" forever, mechanically, because of a prayer and laying on of hands?

    I've heard that Peter exercised his own ministry of the keys by opening the Gospel first to the Jews (those present at Pentecost), then opening the Gospel to the Gentiles (Cornelius & his family). He opened the doors, as it were, loosing the fetters of the world. I'm not sure if I believe that, but it is interesting.

    In a way, it is advantageous for anti-episcopal people to do away with all that, because it furthers their own power within the system that inevitably replaces it. On the other hand, it's just as advantageous for pro-episcopal people to remain where they are, being called "my Lord Bishop" or "your Grace". That's pretty much my only fear: the ease of legalism, Pharisee-ism. Those things kill the soul. We should do all and only that which is most edifying of every precious soul. :)
     
  17. Robert

    Robert Active Member

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    I agree with your point that we must always be concerned with legalism and pharisee-ism. I do think that the canons from very early on stipulate that a bishop must be consecrated by 2 or preferably 3 bishops. As to whether they were enshrining the practice they received I cannot say for sure. If a bishop is teaching heresy they are accountable to their brother bishops and face an ecclesiastical court and possible deposition from orders. At least that is how it works in the Orthodox Church which is what I am most familiar. Others will have to let you know whetehr this is similar to what happens in the AC.
     
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  18. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    No one is able to question the fitness or antiquity of Episcopacy.

    The "Low Church" position does not consider this: even if the Lord & the original Apostles made no mention of this Succession, Paul (equal to the other Apostles) commanded the existence of Bishops and Presbyters. Paul did this by the very Spirit of Jesus Christ. This means Christ was ordaining Bishops and Presbyters through the Inspiration of the Spirit, by the mouth of Paul, even after His earthly Ministry ended.

    The Gospel truth of Bishops is quite clear; the purpose of this thread is to identify how it is passed on and maintained.
     
  19. Adam Warlock

    Adam Warlock Well-Known Member

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    Uh...Evangelical Anglicans have bishops in succession too. I didn't know that this was even an issue of debate. I'm not sure why you're bringing modern skeptical "proof" and sola Scriptura into this?
     
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  20. Toma

    Toma Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I don't believe Evangelicals trust in the "change of character" or "indelible mark" in ordination. They argue that it can be removed and the clergyman becomes a layman after that. If this is untrue, I repent of falsehood.

    Sola scriptura is not really the reference. We still need Scripture to give us an idea of the earliest ordinances, though. :)

    We have to be skeptical when it comes to claims men make about positions of great power. Bishops and Dukes are much the same in this regard, especially since Constantine's day. Lines of succession are carefully measured out in the realm of nobility and aristocracy. Why not in Episcopacy? Seems dreadfully sloppy & untrustworthy.
     

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