Monday, October 17, 2011

Defining "Church"

John Bugay's recent post, "Whatever else the “definition of the word church” contains, it must be purged of Roman conceptions of Rome " led me to consider this question: Suppose you were to ask one of the apostles to define the term "the church."  Would that definition have any reference to Rome or her bishop?

If not, isn't Rome's concept of "the church" at odds with that of the apostles?

Read the New Testament for yourself.  Learn what the apostles believed and taught about "the church."  You won't find any reference to the papacy, and certainly not to Roman papacy amongst those pages.



John Bugay said...

Hi TF -- I haven't revisited this for a while, but if I recall, the Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger work "Called to Communion" (1991?) talks about the book of Acts, and its steady progression toward Rome, as if getting the Gospel to Rome was God's chosen method of founding and "developing" the church at Rome. It's a tenuous, if not a nonexistent link there.

Constantine said...

Hi T'Fan,

That is a fascinating question. One of the presuppositions of Rome is that it's (alleged) 2,000 year history gives it legitimacy. Ironically, were the Apostles to have applied that same methodology, they would have been arguing for Judaism.

Another interesting irony, I find, at least, is the RC claim to apostolic succession. As you suggest, the New Testament's instruction show succession from Paul to Timothy who was the bishop at Ephesus. History shows that Peter's sidekick, Mark, established the church at Alexandria. So apostolic succession actually leads away from Rome and not to it!

Applying Rome's standard then, means we should all be Jews or Greek Orthodox!

Have a great day!


terry said...

You are more correct than you probably realize. Jesus started His church in the East(Jerusalem). The 7 churches in Revelation are all in the East. First called christians in
the East(Antioch). The first 4 church councils were all held in the East, and none were attended by a Roman Bishop.
The Nicene Creed was written in the East. The first list of the NT was produced in the East(Athanasius) The NT was written in the language most predominant in the East.

The Roman church came from the Latin speaking West. They followed the Latin speaking St Augustine and his "new" teachings. The West developed the Papacy, Purgatory, Indulgences, Filioque, etc. The West is where the Protestants came from.

The Eastern Church has always been there and was there at the time of the Reformation.
Unfortunately, instead of seeking the Church founded by Christ, the Reformers sought
to develop there own church based on a book, and there own private interpretations
of that book.

John Stebbe said...

Terry, you and I would probably agree that the Bible is God-breathed, and as such carries authority from God, since it is His Word. Is there another God-breathed authority besides the Bible?

I recall the story of the Bereans, who ". . . were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." (Acts 17:11)

Do you think the Bereans are an example for us to follow? Should we not examine the Scriptures every day to see if what our Christian leaders today are saying is true?

The Reformers were not perfect. Nor would they have claimed to be. But they took seriously the example of the Bereans, and we ought to do so as well.

terry said...

Yes, there is. The Apostles had God-breathed authority. Jesus breathed on them and said, "receive the Holy Spirit" I am sending
you, If you forgive anyones sins they are forgiven, if you do not forgive them, they are not"

John Bugay said...

Terry, do you understand what was meant by that statement, "If you forgive anyone's sins they are forgiven, if you do not forgive them, they are not"? Before you can understand what a text means, you have to understand what it actually says. There's a pretty clear explanation of it at the end of this article:

The point is, you want to understand what Jesus was actually saying -- what he had in mind when he spoke the words. And a very important clue to that is what that phrase meant, how it was used, in the culture of first century Palestinian Judaism.

And it's a sound bet that he didn't mean it the way you are using it. The question then is, what is he meaning? What is he intending? What was John trying to convey when he recorded those words?

John Stebbe said...

Terry, I agree that the Apostles had God-breathed authority. But how are their teachings communicated to us? Is it not through the Bible?

terry said...

Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. (2 John 1:12) I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee. (3 John 1:13)
John prefers to share information verbally rather than write it down. Presumably whatever these "many things" are, they are not in the Bible. How can we know about these except by learning what was passed-down to the early church?
His communication was verbal, not written. If Sola Scriptura were correct there would be nothing more for him to say: the written word would be sufficient.
By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. (1 Corinthian 15:2)
Not everything that Paul preached to them was written down yet he considers this information to be essential to salvation. How are we to hear about all of this just from the Bible?
Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. (1 John 2:24)
Notice that they "heard from the beginning" before the Bible was written. This demonstrates that the verbal message is valid. Notice that John doesn't repeat what they heard, he merely assumes they know it or that they will continue to hear it from orthodox church leaders.

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. (2 Thessalonians 2:15)
We are to stand firm in the Traditions of the Apostles, including ORAL traditions. Certainly man-made traditions have no binding spiritual authority, this in contrast to the Traditions and Teachings passed-down from the apostles which are authoritative.

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the Tradition which he received of us. (2 Thessalonians 3:6)

Apostolic Tradition is the measure of true Christian faith.

(Matt 18:8) If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
(1 Timothy 3:15) I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 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 truth.

Obviously the Church has authority.

terry said...

John Stebbe merely asked the question - "Is there another God-breathed authority besides the Bible?"

I simply answered him yes.

You then went on to assume to know what I was thinking and rambled on about things we were not even discussing.
What's up with that??

Natamllc said...


"...John prefers to share information verbally rather than write it down. Presumably whatever these "many things" are, they are not in the Bible. How can we know about these except by learning what was passed-down to the early church?
His communication was verbal, not written. If Sola Scriptura were correct there would be nothing more for him to say: the written word would be sufficient. ...".

What's up with that?

The irony here is simple.

It is 1:56 p.m. and ticking, Saturday , October 22, 2011. What is my frame of reference to what I cite you wrote? Does it not begin by reading what you wrote? Does not what you wrote cause me to contemplate what John's letter embodies?

In "Indian" country (I am a California Indian from Mendocino County) we have adopted a saying from an "Indian" comic who once observed that only in Indian country does an Indian shoot himself in the foot and then reload and shoot himself in the other foot!

I would observe you just shot yourself in the foot. Do you want to reload and do it again? :)

Let's reason together, shall we?

Just how did those thoughts put into John's mind and heart convey to others their intent but by that written letter that you refer to that he prefers being present with them to communicate and fellowship with them in person rather than by letter?

Why make that mystical?

God's intent with sola Scriptura is just that! That by conveyance of John's "written" letters written to later generations far after John was no longer available in person one can also orally communicate the Will of God to His Elect people referencing to the Written Words of God and can orally convey the benefits of this active Living Word [the Written Words of God] that was at work within him, John, that inspired him to write about this Ever Present "Life" that is to be living within all those being saved. And, thus, by being saved by those Written God Words, both written and orally spoken, they too, should come alive to live an active Godly Life in Living participation as Living Epistles as he wrote about Jesus who, He, lived before the Living God, as he had recorded the experiences by his words written down for us to read about. As you well know, the Bible is a cluster of writings about the Kingdom of God by way of oral traditions written down about His Law and His Gospel preached in all the world to subsequent and later generations so that He can validate Salvation Life to us so that by the written Word we would be able to know the way of this Salvation Life living it so that a proper distinction orally being made lines up with His written Word as spoken so the perspicuity of the Written Word can be achieved.

Your claim is derailed by the Written Word not by any oral word you believe you are holding to today that you represent has originated from John orally about John's written Gospel or his epistles and what he recorded as the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ reveal to him on the Island of Patmos.

It is hard to tell a lie orally when the lie is written out to be judged!

I recommend you rest from such nonsense so that some sense of what is Written can come alive within you actively, just as the Apostle Paul is recorded that he taught:

Act 20:32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

I purport to say to you Terry that the word of His Grace is now established as what is purported to be the 66 books of the Bible we hold dear, read and ponder not some oral words tradition says it is!

John Bugay said...

I was, umm, addressing your "proof text," suggesting your "proof text" didn't mean what you thought it meant, and therefore your response to John Stebbe was not really a response. Then I was offering to help you think all of this through. That's what's up.

terry said...

Natamlle said, "God's intent with sola Scriptura is just that!"

So you are assuming to know what God intended - really?? First of all,
Sola Scriptura is not taught in the Bible. You cannot provide one verse
that teaches that.

You also said this: Act 20:32 "And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified".

When that was written the NT did not yet exist. The word of His grace is referring to
the Good News, the Gospel that Paul had been preaching orally.


What you Protestants fail to realize is that the Church of Jesus Christ existed prior
to the writing of the New Testament. That there was an active, functioning, living, organic Church first and that the NT scriptures came later. That the Apostles had authority to preach, teach, and bapitze and to put in place bishops, deacons, elders, presyters, overseers, etc. That the first church council consisted of Apostles and elders who together made a binding decision that affected the entire church. That the oral teaching of the Apostles had just as much authority as anything that they wrote down.

Yes, technically God wrote the NT, but we do not have the original autographs of the Apostles. It was the Church who recognized, copied, preserved, interpreted and passed on the NT to us. So in that aspect, the Church gave us the NT.

The Reformers interpreted the NT outside of and apart from the life of the Church. They based the Church on a book, instead of basing the Church on the Church founded and started by Jesus and the Apostles. That is what you always are forgetting, the Church and the Traditions that were passed on by the Apostles. The NT is simply contained as
part of that Tradition. The thoughts and ideas of Luther, Zwingle and Calvin were outside of the collective mind and authority of the Church which did exist at that time.
(no, I do not mean the Roman church)

Unless of course you are willing to admit that the Church founded by Jesus did not exist anymore and that the Reformation was just the start of a New Church.

terry said...

So are you saying the Apostles had no authority, the first church council had no
authority, the church itself has no authority. God alone is our only authority. So who has the authority to interpret the Bible correctly??

terry said...

"As you can see, in our case here, there seems to be some offense about what is more important is it what is written or is it what is traditional and orally conveyed?"

I am arguing they are of equal importance, you are trying to place the written word above everything. (Actually, not the written word, but
YOUR interpretation of the written word)

That is the difference........

Natamllc said...

Ok Terry,

lay out an oral argument that would be opposed to it, then.

By the way, are you EO?

terry said...

Reply to Stebbe: you said, "But the apostles aren’t around today. So we rely on their writings to know what they thought was important enough to teach us".

This gets to the heart of the matter and displays your presuppostional thinking.

Yes, the Apostles are no longer here, however THE CHURCH THEY LEFT BEHIND is still here. The Traditions they handed down are still here, the Eucharist
is still here, the Sacraments are still here, the liturgy is still here.
The baton they passed on to those first overseers who likewise passed it on to their successors is still here. The NT that
they copied, preserved, and interpreted is
still here.

All these things occurred historically within the LIFE OF THE CHURCH.
Eventually, all the Eastern Bishops got together and formed the Nicene Creed, the statement of what it is that all Christians believe. Anyone that did not believe the Creed was outside of the Church.

You are looking at Christianity from outside of the Church, your only point of reference being the Bible. My point of reference is the historical church, apostolic succession, Holy Tradition & the Holy Scripures - Everything! One is not more or less important than the other, they are all simply parts of the whole.

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying you are not a Christian, just that you are outside of the fullness of the faith that was once and for all delivered to the Saints.

John Bugay said...

Terry: First, I don't see why you think I said "no authority" for apostles, first church council and "the church itself" from anything that I have said. Perhaps you could fill me in on your line of reasoning.

Second, in answer to your question, "who has the authority to interpret the Bible correctly," can you tell me what you mean by "interpret the Bible correctly"?

Francis Turretin said...

Terry wrote: "I am arguing they [the written word and oral tradition] are of equal importance, you are trying to place the written word above everything. (Actually, not the written word, but YOUR interpretation of the written word)"

Terry, you can't really identify the oral tradition for us in any reliable way. Even if we granted apostolic oral traditions the same authority as Scripture, you would have to have some way of reliably identifying these oral traditions for us. Since you don't have that way, whether we give them enough authority is a moot point.

And yes, it is the written word that is our standard. We must, therefore, seek to understand or "interpret" it. But it is the self-interpreting Word of God that is authority, not our own imagination.

Constantine said...

No private interpretation. God given inspiration (Daniel 2:21)