Catholicity

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The Doctrine of Apostolic Succession

Posted by on 29 Aug 2011 | Tagged as: Apostolic Succession, Catholicity

Apostolic Authority and Character  

It has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, . . .

Acts 15:25 ESV

Apostolic Succession is historic continuity with the apostles imparted through the laying on of hands in ordination; thereby, receiving the apostles’ authority while simultaneously experiencing the Holy Spirit’s anointing to embody apostolic character and teach apostolic doctrine. This ancient succession grants to the bishops the same authority, commission, and responsibility as the apostles. Also, this ancient continuity extends special grace and authority to the clergy from the Holy Spirit to advance the gospel throughout the world. An Anglican theologian defines the doctrine of apostolic succession:

As our blessed Lord ordained the twelve to be his representatives when He left the earth, so the apostles chose others to take their place when they in turn were withdrawn by death. … During this long period, successors of the apostles, first receiving, and then in turn handing on the divine power and authority which Christ gave to the twelve, have never been wanting. The apostolic succession is the link or bond that connects the Church of the 20th century with that of the 1st century.

Vernon Staley, The Catholic Religion (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Press, 1983), 15.

The doctrine of apostolic succession has both Petrine and Pauline qualities. Petrine in that the bishop’s consecration and ministry must be in historic continuity with the church catholic and Pauline in that the bishop should be governed by the Holy Spirit and has an individual (not individualistic) walk with the Lord exemplified by the “faith that works through love” (Gal. 5:6).

If a bishop is not Pauline then he is not apostolic. In other words, no matter the fact of his ordination, he is not a representative of the church if he is not living a holy life and does not believe the historic doctrines of the apostles. However, when a bishop is Pauline and not Petrine, he lacks authority in his ministry. That deficiency keeps him from speaking from and to the church. As one presbyter stated:

When I received Christ, I discovered the grace of God. When I received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, I discovered the power of God. When I received the laying on of hands in apostolic succession of the government of God, I discovered the authority of God.”

Ed Wills, “Sensitive to the Holy Spirit,” Sursum Corda (November 1994), 2.

Reformed Catholicity

Posted by on 27 May 2011 | Tagged as: Catholicity, Church, John Calvin

Catholic Not Roman Catholic

If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.

1 Tim. 3:16

Catholicity was and is a mark of both the true church and the embodiment of truthful doctrine, both catholicity and the church catholic are considered one and the same. The church catholic is not confined to a particular location, but every local church is a full expression of the entire church. The church catholic is not limited by time: it indestructibly moving through the centuries by the power of the Spirit defeating all its foes. The church catholics’ membership is comprised of those who have trusted in Christ: both those who have died in Christ and those who are currently serving Christ in this life.

Distinctive doctrines of the church catholic include apostolic succession, episcopacy, Eucharistic life, liturgical worship, Trinitarian faith, sacramental worldview, and creedal commitment. Catholicity is Spirit empowered, Christ exalting, and liturgically centered: thereby, charismatic, evangelical and sacramental.

Patristics scholar, D.H. Williams defines further, “Genuine catholicity is that which pertains to everything necessary for the justification and sanctification of the believer. It is a wholeness of faith that offers the complete counsel of God to all people in all times and places.” [D. H. Williams, Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), 225.]

What would it look like to restore the Trinitarian core to Reformed Christianity? Such a Christianity would understand that the gospel itself has a Trinitarian logic: as sinners, it is not until we encounter Jesus Christ that we know that God is a gracious Father who pardons our sin; by faith, we are united to Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, who forms us deeper and deeper into the image of Christ. When we come together for worship, we are not simply giving God his “due,” or acting in obedience to the divine command (though we are also doing that), we are encountering life as it really is: we are sinners who find ourselves gratuitously adopted, freely taken by God, filled with the Spirit, participating in Christ. We confess our sins, receive the nourishment of the Word and Sacrament, and go out to love God and neighbor in gratitude. In all of these, we are empowered by the Spirit to partake of Christ, to encounter a gracious, pardoning Father and simultaneously go and serve the neighbor and the stranger.

J. Todd Billings, “The Promise of Catholic Calvinism”

 

 

 

Christus Victor

Posted by on 26 Sep 2010 | Tagged as: Catholicity, Early Church Father, Jesus Christ, John Stott, The Cross

christus-victor

Recapitulating the Enemy

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4:15

Christus Victor, Christ is Victorious, was the favorite expression of the Ancient Church. Why? The world, the flesh, sin , death, and the devil were defeated by Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection. Christus Victor is the declaration that Christ undid Adam’s tragic choice of sin. Jesus has taken back this fallen world for the Father’s glory by defeating Satan’s grip on humankind. Christus Victor means that this fallen world is now retaken from Satan’s domain, redeemed, and brought under Christ’s Lordship. Therefore, God the Father is summing up of all things in Christ (Eph. 1:10, Col. 1:15-20).

Adam came forth from innocence and was tempted by Satan bringing sin and death into the world through disobedience at that awesome tree (Rom. 5:15). By contrast, Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, stood fast against Satan’s wiles, and was victorious over sin through obedience to God by hanging on that cursed tree. Christ passed through every phase of our lives-redeeming birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and even death-so that we might be set apart unto him as lights to the world. Every aspect of the life of Christ was lived in order to undo the work of Satan. The temptation in the wilderness is Christ passing the ultimate test of temptation when Adam and Israel had failed to obey God’s commands. Jesus’ finished work on Calvary’s Hill defeated death, sin and Satan and his resurrection was the ultimate declaration of that victory.

According to the theory of recapitulation (the Christus Victor view of the atonement), Christ’s shed blood on the cross was the ransom paid that brought about our release from Satan’s captivity. God the Father used the deception of Jesus being God incarnate in human flesh to trick Satan. Satan did not know that Jesus was God. In exchange for sin-trapped humankind, the devil took Jesus as ransom payment. Unwittingly, Satan was deceived for he did not know that Jesus would triumph by overthrowing sin and death.

Without equivocation, I affirm Jesus defeat of Satan’s power over believers’ lives, but the theory of recapitulation leaves much to be desired. The theory gives Satan more power than he has, makes Christ death on the Cross a transaction with the devil, and the Lord’s defeat of Satan is described in terms of deception and trickery [John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 112.]

However, the strength of the Christus Victor understanding is that the doctrine of the incarnation is stressed along with the death of Christ in the overall atoning work of Jesus in conquering sin and defeating the devil.

At the risk of oversimplification, the theme of Christ as bringer of victory can be compared with a child who has been kidnapped. In such a  case, the object of the parent’s anger will be directed not toward the child, but rather it is the kidnappers who must be dealt with . . . . As a result of the Fall, they became the captives of the kidnappers: sin, death, and the devil . . . . Christ came to do battle with humanity’s enemies and thus open the way for us to return to our rightful home.

Jaroslav Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition, Vol. I, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 149.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through his transcendent love, become what we are, that he might bring us to be even what he is himself.

Bishop Irenaeus of Lyon (2nd century AD – c. 202)

The missing link in Western theology is a deep appreciation for the incarnation and subsequent Christus Victor theme of how God incarnate won a victory over sin and death. . . . Christus Victor was the primary atonement view of the early church fathers (this view does not in any way deny the sacrifice of Christ).

Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008), 170.

CEC Theological Summit

Posted by on 25 Apr 2009 | Tagged as: Catholicity, Charismatic Episcopal Church, Charismatic Movement, Theology

cec-theological-summit

A Summit of a Different Sort

Just in case you have been wondering what I have been doing all week, I attended the first annual CEC Theological Summit in Orlando, Florida.  The theme of our conference was *Toward a Theology of Convergence.* Our summit focused on the three streams of the historic faith: evangelical, charismatic, and sacramental. I wrote an essay on the evangelical stream and I shared those Reformed theological truths on Wednesday morning. My talk/address/sermon focused on the Cross, the exchanged life, evangelism and mission, priesthood of all believers, penal substitution, total depravity, heart conversion, imputed and imparted righteousness, and sola scriptura. You can see that I covered many doctrines in my hour and fifteen minutes, the time flew by quickly. I greatly enjoyed the experience: special thanks to Bishops Bates and Simpson for the opportunity.

The Charismatic Episcopal Church is part of a growing movement, which recognizes that for the church to be truly catholic in its faith and practice, it needs to integrate the three major streams of the Christian tradition: the evangelical, the charismatic, and the sacramental. I enjoyed hearing the four addresses which focused on the theological truth of each stream and a wrap-up talk on convergence. The talks revealed among our clergy a passionate love for Jesus combined with deep commitment to the historic truths of our faith: a rare combination indeed. The depth of theological thinking was quite amazing for a small communion. In addition, the spirit of unity and camaraderie among our clergy who hail from diverse theological backgrounds was personally encouraging.

Below, Bishop Epps conveys better than I ever could the spirit, tone, and tenor of our conference.

Christus Victor,

Cn. Glenn

IMPRESSIONS OF A THEOLOGICAL CONFERENCE

Bishop David Epps

One would think that a week-long meeting on theology would not be a riveting affair. At least, that was my assumption before I traveled to Orlando, FL a few days ago to be an observer at our denomination’s International Theological Conference.

The participants were tasked with presenting to the Bishops of our Church and to the larger communion a coherent and understandable “convergence theology,” which has to do with the synthesis of the evangelical, sacramental/liturgical, and Pentecostal/charismatic expressions of the Christian faith. Not very interesting, perhaps, for the average person, but the transmission of theology is vital for the future orthodoxy, survival, and prosperity of any denomination or movement. I came away with several impressions:

My first impression was how brilliant the “presbyter/theologians” of our denomination are. For us, a “presbyter” is a priest and these men are not ivory tower people who study for a living. They are pastors who, every week, visit the sick, preach, celebrate the Sacraments, deal with commissions and committees, counsel, hear confessions, and consistently do the “grunt work” of ministry in their home parishes. But “theologians” they truly are. The theological position papers they presented were as thorough and profound as any I have ever seen.

These men are Doctors of Philosophy, Doctors of Ministry, Doctors of Theology, Canons, Theologians, seminary professors-all of whom have extensive background in both academics and pastoral ministry. Though reasonably well-educated, I was not the smartest guy in the room-not by a long shot!

My second impression was how passionate these men were in their presentations. Like many people, I have been in academic or ecclesial settings in which papers, presentations, or sermons were presented in a way that sucked the very moisture out of the air-they were, in other words, dry as dust and dead as nails. Not so in Orlando. The presbyter/theologians almost “preached” their papers with as much passion as a Baptist evangelist. One could sense that the papers had been bathed in prayer and that the presenters had been empowered by a divine encounter.

My third impression concerned the respect and civility demonstrated toward conflicting points of view. I have been in many arenas where egotism was the order of the day and opposing views were not tolerated. The presenters listened to each other with a serious intensity and, even when disagreements were expressed during the open discussion time, there was a fraternal respect and a brotherly love and concern demonstrated. True humility was in abundance.

The fourth impression was how long it takes to “do theology.” The Church stills struggles with concerns that have been on the table for two thousand years. We are in a “quick-fix” society but serious theological grappling may take years, decades, or even centuries. The Church must be committed to the long view and eschew shortcuts.

The fifth impression was that the denomination in which I serve is in good theological hands. We will make mistakes, as we have in the past, but I am confident in the future. I believe that our children and grandchildren will be left a very good legacy, which, in turn, they will pass on.

I can imagine that the Church Fathers, the theologians of days past, and the faithful scholars and bishops of the early Church had little concept of the impact they would have on the future generations. Putting quill to parchment, writing by lamps filled with oil, suffering heat and cold, privation and persecution, those early leaders struggled to communicate the faith to their present generation and their works and influence remain with us today. I could imagine that, prior to coming to Orlando, these presbyter/theologians, though blessed with modern technology and comforts, were in a long line of people who were, quietly and without reward or fanfare, seeking to communicate timeless truth. God bless the scholars and theologians among us!

Bishop David Epps is the founding pastor of Christ the King Church, 4881 Hwy 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. He also serves as a Bishop to the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org).

Apostolic Succession: Is It for Real?

Posted by on 26 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: Apostolic Succession, Catholicity, Church Fathers

nicaea_icon

Apostolic Succession Defined

Apostolic succession is historic continuity with the apostles imparted through the laying on of hands in ordination; thereby, receiving the apostles’ authority while simultaneously experiencing the Holy Spirit’s anointing to embody apostolic character and teach apostolic doctrine.

This ancient succession grants to the bishops the same authority, commission, and responsibility as the apostles. Also, an apostolic anointing extends special grace and authority to the clergy from the Holy Spirit to advance the gospel throughout the world. Succession is a gift which must be lived as well as believed.

As our blessed Lord ordained the twelve to be his representatives when He left the earth, so the apostles chose others to take their place when they in turn were withdrawn by death.  . . . During this long period, successors of the apostles, first receiving, and then in turn handing on the divine power and authority which Christ gave to the twelve, have never been wanting. The apostolic succession is the link or bond that connects the Church of the 20th century with that of the 1st century.

Vernon Staley, The Catholic Religion (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Press, 1983), 15.

The doctrine of apostolic succession has both Petrine and Pauline qualities. Petrine in that the bishop’s consecration and ministry must be in historic continuity with the church catholic and Pauline in that the bishop should be governed by the Holy Spirit and has an individual (not individualistic) walk with the Lord exemplified by the “faith that works through love.” If a bishop is not Pauline then he is not apostolic. In other words, no matter the fact of his ordination, he is not a representative of the church if he is not living a holy life and does not believe the historic doctrines of the apostles. However, when a bishop is Pauline and not Petrine, he lacks authority in his ministry. That deficiency keeps him from speaking from and to the church. As one presbyter stated,

When I received Christ, I discovered the grace of God. When I received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, I discovered the power of God. When I received the laying on of hands in apostolic succession of the government of God, I discovered the authority of God.

Ed Wills, “Sensitive to the Holy Spirit,” Sursum Corda (November 1994), 2.

Yes, the doctrine of apostolic succcession is for real: not magic, just the gracious work of the Holy Spirit empowering his church to be the Church.

Eucharistic Adoration

Posted by on 10 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: Catholicity, Holy Eucharist

john-paul-ii-with-monstrance

Definition

Eucharistic Adoration is a sign of devotion to and worship of Jesus Christ, who is believed to be present in the consecrated host. The consecrated host is the physical presence of Christ in the sanctified bread and wine which Roman Catholics (and Anglo-Catholics) believe to be the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Transubstantiation

The consecrated host/bread is placed in a monstrance and stationed on the altar for viewing at regular times during the week. The devotional and worship practice of adoring and praying to the consecrated host is practiced in local parishes, shrines, and monasteries. The belief that Christ is physically the wafer/host as displayed in the monstrance and is present in the midst of the congregation is a theological extension of the doctrine of transubstantiation. Without exception, those Roman Catholic (and Anglo-Catholic) churches who endorse Eucharistic adoration accept as true the doctrine of transubstantiation.

The doctrine of transubstantiation is the belief of the Roman Catholic Church that the outward (accidents) appearance of the bread stays the same after consecration, but the host’s inner nature (substance) is changed into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ. These categories of accidents and substance are the thought of Aristotle not the theological workings of the Ancient Fathers of the Church or the biblical teaching of Jesus Christ and Paul the Apostle.

Medieval Development

Eucharistic adoration is not an ancient practice; it began in Avignon, France on September 11, 1226. Public adoration of the Blessed Sacrament began as a thanksgiving celebration for the victory of France and the Roman Catholic Church over the Albigensians in the later battles of the Albigensian Crusade. King Louis VII desired that the sacrament be placed on display at the Chapel of the Holy Cross. The multitude of adorers brought the local diocesan bishop, Pierre de Corbie, to suggest that the display continue indefinitely. With the permission of Pope Honorius III, the idea was approved and adoration continued mostly uninterrupted until the French Revolution.

Genuine Catholicity?

Eucharistic adoration is not encouraged in the Orthodox churches of the East neither has this form of worship been practiced everywhere for all the time by all churches. For a practice or doctrine to be considered orthodox: it must have been received by the undivided Church (East and West), stood the test of time, and agreed upon by the consensus of the early fathers. This triple test of ecumenicity, antiquity, and consent is called the Vincentian canon and it is the overarching test for genuine Catholicity. In my view, the practice of Eucharistic devotion, that is displaying a monstrance containing a consecrated host for worship and prayer, does not pass the test of the Vincentian canon. Therefore, Eucharistic devotion does not meet the criterion as an acceptable practice within the Great Tradition and is not to be considered a theological conviction of the Ancient Faith.

Russian Orthodox theologian, Alexander Schmemann, states that Eastern Orthodoxy does not practice the elevation of the bread and wine for special adoration.

The Purpose of the Eucharist lies not in the change of the bread and wine, but in the partaking of Christ, who has become our food, our life, the manifestation of the Church as the body of Christ. This is why the gifts themselves never became in the Orthodox East an object of special reverence, contemplation, and adoration, and likewise an object of special theological “problematics”: how, when, in what manner their change is accomplished.

[Alexander Schmemann, The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 1998), 226.]

Eastern Orthodoxy’s Eucharistic focus is not on the change in the elements, but on the presence of Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the mystery of faith encountered in the ancient liturgy. Eastern Christians do not adore the consecrated bread outside the liturgy itself.

The Reformation

As would be expected, the Evangelical Reformers of the sixteenth century had grave doubts about the practice of Eucharistic adoration. They decried its use, discouraged participation, and condemned the practice within Reformed churches. John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli and their colleagues in Geneva and Zurich, respectively, issued a statement as to their common agreement concerning the nature of the Lord’s Supper. The document, Heads of Agreement on the Lord’s Supper, was written after the failure of the Marburg Colloquy.

The Marburg Colloquy was an attempt to achieve a concord between Martin Luther and Zwingli over the nature of the Eucharist. Luther believed in Real Presence of Christ (physical) and Zwingli declared the elements of bread and wine to be merely symbolic. Luther and Zwingli’s disagreement was volatile and very public. Their discord was rending  the Protestant movement at its very heart.

John Calvin felt that Protestantism needed at the very least to declare its unity on some matters regarding the Lord’s Supper. Article Twenty-Six states Geneva and Zurich’s condemnation of Eucharistic adoration:

If it is not lawful to affix Christ in our imagination to the bread and the wine, much less is it lawful to worship him in the bread. For although the bread is held forth to us as a symbol and pledge of the communion which we have with Christ, yet as it is a sign and not the thing itself, and has not the thing either included in it or fixed to it, those who turn their minds towards it, with the view of worshipping Christ, make an idol of it.

The rejection of the practice of Eucharistic Adoration by the Magisterial Reformers continues to be doctrinal belief of all Evangelical churches everywhere.

Idolatry

Many Roman Catholic (and Anglo-Catholics) are sincere in their desire to dwell in Christ’s presence, but it takes very little effort on the part of the Enemy to turn this sincere devotional activity into a form of idolatry. Roman Catholics describe the consecrated host as “the physical Body of Jesus” and that the presence of the host increases the anointing in the sanctuary, because Christ himself is contained in the physical object of the wafer. It is said, if the monstrance is removed, God’s presence is removed. If “the host and precious blood” are returned to the sanctuary, it is said that Christ presence has returned.

To state that God’s presence is contained or limited within a physical object is a form of idolatry (Exodus 20:4-6). Idolatry reduces God the Creator to a material object of creation thereby limiting his attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence. The Lord is no longer Spirit, but an object which can be controlled by human beings (Isa. 40:18-23). It grieves me as a believer, pastor, and theologian, that God’s precious gift to us of Holy Communion has been twisted and made into an object of limited worship. I have no doubt that that the adorers are sincere in their desire to be in the presence of Christ. However, it will not take long for the flesh, or the Enemy, to bring misunderstanding about the nature of the Holy Trinity causing much personal sorrow and emotional pain to all involved. Arguments that Eucharistic adoration is a blessing to parishioners by increasing the presence of God in the church building is experiential and subjective without basis in scripture or tradition.

The Ancient Liturgy

Instead of the Table of the Lord being a place of participation in Christ, it becomes a night stand for observing God from a distance. Adoration confuses the physical object with its Author, and the location of God with a material entity, and limits God’s attributes to a place and time. Alexander Schmemann’s main criticism of Eucharistic adoration is that the practice isolates the Eucharist from its purpose: communion with God (pg. 227). The Eucharist is removed from its context in the liturgy as the communion of the Church with Christ and places Christ at a distance, objectifying the Eucharist in a manner not consistent with the whole meaning of the Lord’s Supper.

Holy Eucharist is intended to be place of an encounter with the living resurrected Christ. In Scripture, seven theological images or truths of the Eucharist are revealed: remembrance, communion, forgiveness, covenant, nourishment, anticipation, and thanksgiving. These truths cannot be experienced if we are watching instead of participating.

Summary

Eucharistic adoration as a belief and practice is erroneous: it does not reflect the teaching of the Bible or life of worship found in the Ancient Church. The practice is not promoted in the Orthodox East and is not consistent with full and complete participation in the Holy Eucharist.

Caveat: The views expressed in this blog post are entirely my own and are not necessarily the views of the Central Gulf Coast Diocese, Southeast Province, or the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church (C.E.C.).