APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION IS A COMPLETE FABRICATION
The below information originates from www.biblestudy.net, and can be found under the heading: Bible Study Resources ― 301 Roman Catholicism, which is presented in a twelve part series. For easy reading The Final Word Internet Ministry has correlated the twelve individual documents into one composite document.
The Roman Catholic Church boasts itself to be the true church of Jesus Christ and the sole possessor of authentic Christian teaching. It distinguishes itself from and discriminates against all non-Roman-Catholic forms of Christianity on these grounds.
– Christian church characterized by its uniform, highly developed doctrinal and organizational structure that traces its history to the Apostles of Jesus Christ in the 1st century AD.
Along with Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism, it is one of the three major branches of Christianity.” – Britannica.com
– From the time of the earliest heresies the church has thought of itself as the one and only worshiping community that traced itself back to the group established by Jesus Christ.
” – Britannica.com
“Roman Catholicism – The claim of the Roman Catholic Church to be the one legitimate continuation of the community established by Jesus Christ is based on apostolic succession.
” – Britannica.com
Because the RCC (Roman Catholic Church) has been and is such a significant contributor to modern theology, both Catholic and Protestant, this claim deserves investigation by any Christian who genuinely seeks to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and His teaching.
In order to substantiate these claims the RCC must demonstrate that its essential characteristics, in doctrine, in structure, and in practice were evident in the first century Church, the era in which the Apostles lived and taught. The history of this period of the Church is largely restricted to the New Testament record and a few epistles, which date to this time. To be clear, it is not sufficient for the RCC to merely demonstrate the existence of Roman Catholic traits in the church of later antiquity (the 3rd and 4th centuries). It is not sufficient for the RCC to demonstrate that Roman Catholic scholars and clergy after the 3rd and 4th centuries claimed that the RCC is the true church of Jesus Christ and the sole possessor of authentic Christian teaching.
The prevalence of Roman Catholicism in the church of the 3rd and 4th centuries does nothing to substantiate the claim that the RCC is the authentic, original, and true church of Jesus Christ and the sole possessor of authentic Christian teaching.
Likewise, the beliefs of 3rd and 4th century Roman Catholic scholars and clergy that the RCC was the authentic, original, and true church of Jesus Christ and the sole possessor of authentic Christian teaching does nothing prove that RCC is, in fact, such a thing. It only proves that Roman Catholic scholars believed that it was.
In reality, evidence of Roman Catholicism in the 3rd and 4th centuries only establishes that the RCC was a phenomenon or development of that period. It cannot attest to the presence of Roman Catholicism in the earliest Church or that Roman Catholicism was proclaimed by Jesus Christ and His Apostles.
So, the principle question regarding the claims of the RCC is whether or not Roman Catholicism is a product of the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Apostles contained in the New Testament record or is more accurately understood as a later phenomenon or development. More specifically, with regard to this second option, is Roman Catholicism a product of the 3rd and 4th century merging of Roman imperialism and Neoplatonic paganism with Christianity?
These questions can be answered by examining several fundamental characteristics of Roman Catholicism and determining whether they are derived from the teaching of Jesus Christ contained in the New Testament or of Roman imperialism and Neoplatonic paganism. As we examine the teachings of the RCC we will conclusively demonstrate that while it is extremely difficult, if not completely impossible, to derive Roman Catholicism from the New Testament record of the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Apostles, there is more than ample evidence that Roman Catholicism is a syncretistic blend of Christianity, Roman imperialism, and Neoplatonic paganism.
Scripture and Tradition
As we begin our investigation it is first necessary to discuss the New Testament scripture and the Sacred Tradition of the RCC. Roman Catholicism recognizes two forms of authoritative Christian writing or Apostolic teaching: 1) Sacred Scripture and 2) Sacred Tradition.
“In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them ‘their own position of teaching authority.'”35 Indeed, the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time.
“36 This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture,
though closely connected to it.Through Tradition, “the Church, in her doctrine, life, and worship
perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she [the Church] herself is, all that she believes.
“37” – The Catholic Catechism, Part 1, Section 1, Chapter 2, Article 2, Roman Numeral I, verses 35-37
“Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture,
then, are bound closely together and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out of the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one
thing and move towards the same goal.”40 Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own “always, to the close of the age.”41” – The Catholic Catechism, Part 1, Section 1, Chapter 2, Article 2, Roman Numeral II, verses 40 and 41
– But against the Protestant slogan of sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”), itself subject to misinterpretation, the Roman Catholic Church advanced the argument that the church existed before the New Testament. In fact, the church both produced and authenticated the New Testament as the word of God. For this belief, at least, tradition is the exclusive source; and this furnished a warrant for the Catholic affirmation of the body of truth that is transmitted to the church through the college of bishops and preserved by oral tradition (meaning that it was not written in the Scriptures). The Roman Church therefore affirmed its right to find out what it believed by consulting its own beliefs
as well as the Scriptures. The Council of Trent affirmed that the deposit of faith was preserved in the Scriptures and in unwritten (not in the Bible) traditions and that the Catholic Church accepts these two with equal reverence.
The council studiously avoided the statement that they meant these “two” as two sources of the deposit, but most Catholic theologians after the council understood the statement as meaning two sources.
Protestants thought it meant the Roman Catholic Church had written a second Bible.” – Britannica.com
For, Roman Catholics both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition are written forms of Apostolic teaching, are inspired by the Holy Spirit, and are equally authoritative for understanding Christian belief and practice. With all of this in common why are these two authoritative sources yet distinguished from one another?
At least one reason for the continuing distinction between the two is their relative proximity to Jesus Christ and His Apostles. The New Testament was written by the Apostles of Jesus as well as other first century, first generation Christians.
Tradition, on the other hand, is the continued recording of ongoing Apostolic teaching by second, third, and later generation Christian scholars, clergy, and leadership as they expounded on the teachings of Jesus Christ. As such, Tradition starts small with only a few existing first century works. In the second century it gains momentum with a few more significant writings such as Irenaeus and Justin Martyr. By the third and fourth centuries the writing of Sacred Tradition was flourishing through the efforts of men like Origen and Augustine. Since then it has continued to be added to by popes, bishops, and many prominent theologians.
What is important to state as we begin our investigation of Roman Catholic claims is that this discussion will not, at least at first, be predicated upon a denial of Sacred Tradition. While we do reject the Roman Catholic view that Tradition contains Apostolic teaching, is inspired, and is authoritative, our refutation of the claims of the RCC will not be based upon this conclusion. Instead, what we will be doing is examining the record of Church teaching from the New Testament and the early 1st and 2nd century writings of “Sacred Tradition” to see if they reveal a Roman Catholic Church or are conflicting with Roman Catholicism.
If we find evidence of Roman Catholicism within the 1st and 2nd century Church writings we may conclude that the RCC is, in fact, the true church of Jesus Christ and the sole possessor of authentic Christian teaching. However, if sufficient evidence of Roman Catholicism cannot be found in these early 1st and 2nd century writings, but does not emerge until the 3rd or 4th centuries, then we will conclude that the RCC is merely a later phenomenon and seek to find those sources, which contributed to its development.
We will show four things over the course of this examination. First
we will show that the writings of the 1st and 2nd century Church do not support the claims of the RCC, regardless of whether or not they are considered authoritative. Second
, by extension, the claims and teachings of the RCC can only be found in “Sacred Tradition” as we approach the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. Third,
those writings of “Sacred Tradition,” which do contain distinctly Roman Catholic characteristics or claims constitute a clear contradiction within Roman Catholicism by contradicting the Sacred Scripture, which the RCC itself upholds to be the inspired, authoritative, and inerrant Word of God. And fourth
, Roman Catholicism is only accurately understood as a syncretistic blending of Christianity into Roman imperialism and Neoplatonic paganism.
(For more on the idea of ongoing Apostolic teaching and the development of Christian doctrine please see our article entitled “The Foundation of Our Theology” in either the Our Approach or In-Depth Studies sections of our website.)
A Disclaimer about the Protestant Reformation
As a disclaimer, it is not our intention to validate the claims of Protestantism and the Reformation. While this task may inadvertently be accomplished to some degree due to the nature of our study, we do not consider ourselves to be Reformers or Protestants. To be sure, we are grateful to Reformation scholars who did so much to pull the Church away from the deviant developments of Roman Catholicism and allow a return to authentic Christian teaching.
CLICK TO READ MORE – PDF DOC