Anne Rice’s recent announcement has stirred up some very interesting debate and discussion. A recent face book posting of a YouTube video of Fr. Barron, speaking of Anne’s announcement led to another posting of a video by him on Protestantism and authority. These videos pose interesting questions about what is the church and where does it get its authority. So, on the one hand we have the Roman Catholic Church and the various branches of the Orthodox Churches claiming apostolic succession. On the other hand, the Protestant Churches claim that scripture alone is authoritative. Thus the question; Who has authority?
In fairness to the Roman Catholics and Orthodoxy, scripture alone... sola scriptura... has allowed the development of thirty thousand plus denominations. But, equally problematic is the schism of 1054 which divided the Eastern Church from the western church. Let’s just say that it is uncertain which of the factions were right... I lean to the eastern side but still, authority?
Yet, the New Testament suggests that there was at least in the first century church an authoritative apostolic doctrine or teaching. Act 2:42 “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Also, Paul said this to the Thessalonians (2Th 2:15) Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. It is pretty clear that one needed two things for correct doctrine; (1) The epistles written and, (2) the traditions that they were taught by word of mouth. It therefore seems obvious to me that there was at one time an apostolic doctrine. So the question remains; what was the apostolic doctrine and who has it? Was it handed down or was it lost?
Are there ideas that can be clearly seen from scripture that show that the current church doctrine whether Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or protestant is incorrect? The answer is yes indeed! First, the apostolic definition of the phrase the word of God meant gospel or Jesus and did not mean scripture. This was to establish the authority of Jesus and the gospel. Yet, when you listen to or, read about the debates over sola scriptura both sides, the Roman Catholic and, the Protestants both refer to the scripture as the word of God. That was the Pharisaic emphasis but was certainly not the apostolic emphasis. The true authority was the interpretation that Jesus gave to the scripture and, aside from that interpretation there was not scriptural authority.
Secondly, the apostolic teaching about scripture emphasized that it was solely redemptive; pointing to the work and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ. When one examines 2Tim 3:16 it must be placed in its wider context of verse 15 and 17. It is only profitable for doctrine when it makes one wise for salvation. This again is a solely redemptive purpose. It is only good for doctrine, reproof, etc. in its redemptive context. Scripture used outside of its redemptive focus is in reality the leaven of the Pharisees.
So, the question remains what is the apostle’s doctrine and what happened to the church? The apostle’s doctrine always puts grace and forgiveness first. This is the catalyst for all of the benefits of the gospel. That is why it is truly good news and, no one can out sin grace. This is the foundational premise. Paul stated that where sin abounded grace abounded all the more and James proclaimed that mercy always triumphs over judgment. This is the source of the Sabbath Rest.
Unfortunately for the truth, this does not make sense to the natural mind steeped in the knowledge of good and evil. The good news, when stated as it actually is, sounds too good to be true. Secondly, when one understands the truth of the gospel... really believes it.... it becomes harder to control people. The leaven of the Pharisees and the current church doctrine emphasize controlling people. However, the gospel states that it is the love of Christ that constrains or controls (2Corn5:14). Therefore, current doctrine is used to control or constrain behavior. This inhibits the natural love for God that flows from the true gospel.
We will look at this more in the next post.