Friday, June 15, 2007

Response to Dave Armstrong's Reply

Response to Dave Armstrong's Reply
to James White's Review of
One-Minute Apologist, by Dave Armstrong

Here's a link to the reply. (Update: Dr. White has provided his own response, here.)

There are several parts to Mr. Armstrong's reply, and doing justice in response requires separating the issues into those parts, and replying to each seriatim. The following is part 1, relating to the Roman Catholic departure from the Scriptural identity between Bishop and Elder.

1. Presbyter / Episcopos (επισκοπους) / Elder / Bishop

A. History:
i. Dave Armstrong had written that Protestants believe that: "The Bible teaches that bishops, elders, and deacons are all synonymous terms for the same office: roughly that of a pastor today."
ii. James White had pointed out that this is absurd, Protestants hold to two offices: elder and deacon.
iii. Dave Armstrong more or less admits that he made a mistake to include "deacon" in the list.

B. Substantive

Dave Armstrong, however, argues in substance, that the point of his argument was directed to the Protestant view that there is no office of Bishop separate from Elder. Dave's presentation also includes tangential arguments related to sola Scriptura and the alleged infallibility of councils. Since those are off-topic here, discussion of them will be reserved for another occassion, should such occasion arise.

Let's examine the arguments Dave Armstrong sets forth in defense (apology) of the Roman Catholic distinction between Bishop and Priest.

i. The Roman Catholic view is "more developed."

Dave Armstrong cites various Scriptures that are alleged to show "fluidity and overlap" among the offices in the apostolic period. Mr. Armstrong then states, "[S]ome Protestants ... adopt this more fluid and primitive New Testament ecclesiology and use the terms interchangeably, whereas Catholics follow a far more developed ecclesiology." This is a startling admission from a Roman Catholic apologist, when we consider how often Rome has fondly claimed to be teaching just what was always taught from the beginning. Nevertheless, we would agree with Dave Armstrong that Protestants are more like the Apostolic church with regard to church offices than are Roman Catholics. It's hard to see how this is a defense at all.

ii. One Bishop, but a plurality of elders

Mr. Armstrong next quotes an old argument of his own, which states that "Bishops are always referred to in the singular, while elders are usually mentioned plurally."

This is simply not true. Philippians 1:1 states: "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons." In case anyone thinks this is a translation error, the Vulgate reads episcopis and the Greek reads επισκοποις, both of which are obviously plural, and the DRB confirms the KJV's translation on this point.

iii. The burdern lies on Dr. White to establish his novel ecclesiology

Mr. Armstrong argues that "Of course, the far greater burden lies on White, to establish his novel ecclesiology of bishops in the New Testament having no higher status than a mere elder or pastor of a local church ... ."

The response is that this argument contradicts argument i above. If the Roman Catholic ecclesiology is "more developed" then it has the burden of justification, not an ecclesiology that is the same as the primitive church.

iv. Council of Jerusalem shows a hierarchical episcopacy

Mr. Armstrong writes: "Hierarchical episcopacy is most apparent in the New Testament in the Council of Jerusalem."

Mr. Armstrong's support of this assertion is the following:

The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-29) bears witness to a definite hierarchical, episcopal structure of government in the early Church. St. Peter, the chief elder (the office of Pope) of the entire Church (1 Peter 5:1; cf. John 21:15-17), presided and issued the authoritative pronouncement (15:7-11). Then James, Bishop of Jerusalem (rather like the host-mayor of a conference) gives a concurring (Acts 15:14), concluding statement (15:13-29). That James was the sole, "monarchical" bishop of Jerusalem is fairly apparent from Scripture (Acts 12:17, 15:13,19, 21:18, Gal. 1:19, 2:12). This fact is also attested by the first Christian historian, Eusebius (History of the Church, 7:19).

I respond:

The problem with Mr. Armstrong's claims are that they are not supported by the Scriptural evidence. The council of Jerusalem is recorded at Acts 15:1-29. Other than that claim, every other Scriptural claim is incorrect.

DA: "St. Peter [was] the chief elder (the office of Pope) of the entire Church (1 Peter 5:1; cf. John 21:15-17)."

Truth: 1 Peter 5:1 does not say that Peter is the chief elder, but "also an elder" (Vulgate reads consenior and the Greek reads συμπρεσβυτερος, both of which indicate parity, not supremecy.)

Truth: John 21:15-17 does not say that Peter has any relative authority at all, it simply records Jesus asking whether Peter loves Jesus, and commands Peter to feed the sheep. There's not even the slightest original language question involved here, so a detailed linguistic analysis is omitted.

DA: "St. Peter ... presided and issued the authoritative pronouncement (15:7-11).

Truth: Actus 15:7-11 neither states that Peter presided, nor that he gave an authoritative pronouncement. In fact, Peter testified to the salvation of the Gentiles through grace. This was immediately followed by Paul's and Barnabus' testimony regarding the work of God among the Gentiles. There is no indication that Peter presided, nor is there indication that Peter's pronouncement was authoritative.

DA: "Then James, Bishop of Jerusalem (rather like the host-mayor of a conference) gives a concurring (Acts 15:14), concluding statement (15:13-29)."

Truth: James it not called the "Bishop of Jerusalem" but simply James. His statement in verse 14 does not concur with Peter's statement, but instead refers to the testimony of Simeon who by inspiration of the Holy Spirit declared

Luke 2:25-32
25And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. 26And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, 28Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Some have doubted that this Simeon was intended. There is another Simeon of whom we know, a fellow Antiochan elder of Barnabus' (Acts 13:1), who may very well have been at the council. This seems less likely, because we are not told that Simeon spoke with Paul and Barnabus in verse 12.

But even supposing (as some do) that James meant Simon Peter, not one of the Simeons, James does not simply "concur" with Simeon, James states what Simeon said, and then appeals to the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures, the testimony of the prophets.

Furthermore, James' words are not a "concluding" statement, but a statement of his opinion, based on Scripture, vs. 19-21.

DA: " That James was the sole, "monarchical" bishop of Jerusalem is fairly apparent from Scripture (Acts 12:17, 15:13,19, 21:18, Gal. 1:19, 2:12). "

Truth: Not one of the cited passages supports either the view that James was the sole bishop, that James was a monarchical bishop, or that James was the sole bishop that was a monarchical bishop.

Acts 12:17 simply makes mention of James and the fact that he was at Jerusalem. Acts 15:13,19 does not portray James acting monarchical, and he is far from alone, but again is at Jerusalem. Acts 21:18 mentions Paul coming to James and all the other elders, who then respond to Paul collectively, though again, they are at Jerusalem. Galatians 1:19 mentions that the only other apostle that Paul saw in Jerusalem was James (of course, this is in addition to Peter in verse 18). Galations 2:12 merely mentions that certain men came from James.

In short, all that the verses show was that James was resident in Jerusalem, that he was an apostle.

The remainder of Dave Armstrong's argument relies on the testimony of Eusebius who was born more than two centuries after the council of Jerusalem.

Before the conclusion of this topic, Mr. Armstrong quotes from D. G. Dunn who, as quoted, states that, "Timothy and Titus ... begin to assume something of the role of monarchichal bishops...." Of course, this is only tangentially related to this portion of the post, and - more importantly - it Dunn is speaking of their relationship to the community, not to the other bishops or elders.

At the conclusion of this topic, Dave Armstrong links in four previous posts of his.

The first relates the Roman Catholic office of priests. Its opening statement of the extensive reply portion of the post,

The priesthood as we know it today is not a strong motif in the New
Testament. But this can be explained in terms of development of doctrine: some
things were understood only in very basic or skeletal terms in the early days of Christianity.

is enough to render it moot for our discussion here.

The second relates to a debate between Mr. Armstrong and [eastern, presumably] Orthodox reader about whether Apostles became bishops. This discussion is not germane to our discussion here.

The third is a dialogue regarding ecclesiology, but does not address the alleged distinction between elders and bishops, except to reiterate DA's argument i above, about the Roman Catholic doctrine being a development.

The fourth is essentially an attempted proof that many historians agree that episcopacy was an earlier development in the church. Of course, again, this would relate to DA's argument i above.

C. Conclusion

What may we conclude from the analysis above? What we have seen is that the main thrust of Armstrong's attempted reply is that the Roman Catholic doctrine is a development. Protestants willing grant that it is a development, and reject it as lacking Scriptural basis. The limited Scriptural interaction that Mr. Armstrong provides for the most part misrepresents Scripture. Thus, we can see that Mr. Armstrong's attempted apology for the Roman Catholic doctrine of the separation of the role of Bishop and Elder has failed on Scriptural grounds.

More parts to follow, if the Lord wills,



Gojira said...

That was a good reply, brother. I look forward to reading more.

Turretinfan said...

Thanks Doug!

May God's blessing rest on you,


GeneMBridges said...

A. Notice the obvious refutation over which he glosses in Acts.

1. Peter does not "preside." He merely gives his testimony.

2. Nowhere does the text present him as an elder or chief elder.

3. Elders are associated with single local churches, not entire groups of them, even in a monarchial episcopate.

a. Over which church did he preside as an elder. I would remind Dave that the Pope is also the Bishop of Rome, so, at this council over which church was Peter presiding?

4.Presbyterians appeal to this text to prove connectionalism, so the council is a synod of elders from the local churches/presbyteries. On this view, a presbytery is made up of elders from local churches, so the elders are still depicted as elders of local churches.

5. Further, Baptists can appeal to this text to refute the liberal notion of the absoluteness of local church autonomy in their own ranks, so this text does not select for the monarchial episcopate. Ergo, Dave must deal with each of these views. Instead, he deals with a generic "Protestant" ecclesiology, but there isn't a single version of polity among us.

6. Which leads us here, for the monarchial episcopate and the papal system are parallel, but not identical. Where's the argument for identity?

You wrote: In short, all that the verses show was that James was resident in Jerusalem, that he was an apostle.

I would caution against making that statement, as it it isn't clear if this James is the Apostle that lived after the other James the Apostle was martryred or the brother of Jesus, the author of the epistle. As I recall, tradition (as you can find in Foxes Book of Martyrs) identifies James the Just as the brother of the Lord and "the bishop of Jerusalem," not James son of Alphaeus, the other Apostle James. There were 2 apostles named James, remember. One was martyred very early (Acts 12), Scripture says this was the brother of John, and presumably the other survived, but was he the one here? We really don't know, it may have been James the Just, eg. the author of the epistle.

Turretinfan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Turretinfan said...

Dear Mr. Bridges,

Thanks for your further input on this interesting issue.

As an aside, I appreciate your comments. I was recently (actually this very morning) reading Barrett's Companion to the Greek Testament, which touches on the Jameses issue.

Article 267, at pages 294-296 of the edition I'm reading, provides an interesting summary of the debate up to that time on the number of Jameses referred to in the New Testament, and specifically whether there were two or three (or more).

The topic of whether James, the brother of our Lord, and James the son of Alphaeus/Clopas is one that we may not find ourselves ultimately being dogmatic about. Or perhaps I am being too cautious.

In any event, it is good of you to point out that not every Jacobian reference is a reference to one of the two Apostles James.


Churchmouse said...

Great response! It only goes to prove all the more, at least to me, that in the grand scheme of things, DA really isn't the apologist he purports himself to be. And it appears, if one has the time to sort and cut through the muck and mire of his voluminous postings, that this can be readily exposed.

By the way, I believe he wrote that you post on his blog, but run away whenever you are challenged? Maybe, someday, he'll receive the revelation that what makes his opponents run away is the time needed to sift through his responses, to find the heart of the matter and the substance, if any, of whatever it is that he is trying to say.

Keep up the good work :)


Turretinfan said...

Dear Ray,

Thanks for your encouragement.

May God's blessing rest on you,


Al said...

Well said T-Fan! And a link/complement from James White as well...

May your blogginess continue to prosper.

al sends

Turretinfan said...

Thanks Al!

May God bless yours as well!