USA Today: apostolic succession a fiction

In a May 16, 2011 editorial in USA Today, regular contributor Oliver Thomas writes “Apostolic succession, the belief that church leaders derive authority via direct succession from Jesus, Peter and the apostles themselves, is largely fiction…In fact, there were no professional clergy in the early church. The Apostle Paul was a tent-maker.”

Wasn’t it Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman who said “to be deep in scripture is to cease to be Protestant”?
USA Today’s editorial page on Mondays is always a focus on religion in contemporary culture (and often features Catholic writers). Mr.Thomas (Rev. Thomas) is a regular, progressive (Protestant) contributor. The May 16 editorial is just another in a long series by Mr. Thomas pushing for the remaking of the (Protestant) “church experience” into a more culturally relevant, lay-led, contemporary event with a heavy emphasis on social justice. (Heaven forbid any respect for tradition, as that’s so medieval. It MUST be about me and my comfort, it MUST incorporate electric guitars and allow worshipers to take center stage.)

I believe the forum has the requirement for a link when you post this type of post.

Also you are attributing it to USA Today, but it doesn’t appear to be the case. The writer might do somr writing for USA today, but he also appears to do his own works.

It is humorous to see what the secular media and “writers” will on occasion state about the catholic church. You can tell by these articles their conscience is suffering by the existence of the church. They want to dismantle it, presuming they will feel better once the church is gone.

Jesus said however, the winds of hell will blow against the church but it will never be defeated.

I recommend praying for these people, and cancelling any subscription you have.

Succession can be seen in the Bible. Matthias succeeded Judas and Peter, “Keys to the Kingdom” led the other Apostles in determining. Furthermore, the “Keys to the Kingdom” is clearly a reference to an office. See Isaiah 22:22 (Electing a Prime minister, Keys to the House of David). The Apostles were also given the authority to Bind and Loos but not the keys.

We also see succession in the Early Church Father, Ireaneus, Ignatious, etc…

lame. yet another example of the press being out of touch.

Perhaps to be deep in USA Today is to cease to be Christian.

Or rather, to be deep in USA Today is also to be deep in something else…

USA Today.

I ain’t surprised. Don’t make me go all medieval on 'em! :stuck_out_tongue:

lol and up it without a paddle. :wink:

Look at the source Oliver Thomas cites to base his conclusions on.
This guy, Harvey Cox, comes out and states that the Gospels are forgeries and THAT is how we know that Apostolic succession did not exist.

A: Well, I think the evidence is now in that the whole idea of apostolic authority, apostolic succession, came in much later, let’s say in the 200s and 300s, when Christianity was growing and people were looking around for some way to assert, especially the early bishops, their own authority, and you can see this emerging. The bishops would say, “Well, I go back to Matthew” or “I go back to Peter,” and they would even construct or write gospels and statements that were really—we would call them forgeries. They didn’t have that term in those days. And the interesting thing now is we’re beginning to find these things. You know, that whole stash of documents in Nag Hammadi, the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Peter, and all those things, which are late. They’re not early. They’re not the apostles doing that. But it was an invention. It was an invention to secure the authority of the church leaders who needed to have some kind of historical backing. I think it means a rather serious rethinking of the basis on which churches that claim the apostolic authority continue to assert their authority. Now, whether they are going to do that or not is another whole question. But when you find out that the historical basis for this is a little shaky, does that affect the way you exercise authority today? I think it should.

Cox reaches this faulty conclusion on the dating of the Gnostic “gospels” of “Judas”, “Mary”, and “Peter”, the Nag Hammadi documents, etc. This is like going to your library, finding a copy of “The Odyssey” copy written in 1957 and saying, there was nothing before it… and therefore all Greek writings are modern contrivances.

Let’s sum up this trail of “facts”:
-Apostolic succession is false because the gospels are “forgeries”.
-The gospels are forgeries because actual forged documents claiming to be “gospels” were found with “copy write dates” only going back to the 200’s.

From beginning to end, this is a sham of an example of “research”. Why anyone would subscribe to a paper that asserts this shabby research as “fact” is the real question. I am very disappointed in PBS as well.

When I encounter assertions like Thomas’, my first thought is: did he even read the New Testament? In the case of this “editorial”, my concluding thought is did Mr. Thomas even read his own references, or did he manage to find just the “Cliff Notes” version?

It’s sad when people get away with this kind of cherry-picking. Thomas only asserts the “problem” with Apostolic succession, he doesn’t follow through with the coupled “fact” that the New Testament itself is a complete “forgery” designed by Bishops to control their flocks.

My question for Mr. Thomas is:
Which is it;
-is Apostolic succession and the Bible itself a complete contrivance;
-or maybe, just maybe, there is something behind the whole idea of Hierarchy and Authority (which is fully supported in the Old Testament as well)
and maybe, just maybe 2000 years of a system that has overcome every kind of problem thrown its way has some actual substance behind it?

I know what my conclusion is.

Wow. The author must not read much, he certainly couldn’t have read anything written by the early christians.

I can’t remember who said it but the more I study pre-bible christianity the more I agree with it-

“To know Church history is to become Catholic”

I highly recommend the three volume series “Faith of the Early Fathers”, it clearly demonstrates that things like the Real Presence in the Eucharist, infant baptism, and apostolic succession were taught from the earliest days of the Church. It’s the best $60 I ever spent in my life.

The statement- '…they would even construct or write gospels and statements that were really—we would call them forgeries. They didn’t have that term in those days. .And the interesting thing now is we’re beginning to find these things. You know, that whole stash of documents in Nag Hammadi, the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Peter, and all those things,…" is disingenous to say the least. It implies these things only recently came to light,

Yes, the Gospel of Peter (as well as an apocalypse of Peter), Gospel of Judas, Gospel of Mary, as well as other works are mentioned in the writings of early christians, mostly as why they were to be ignored, and note that all of those were rejected as scripture. I don’t know why he mentions these here as they seem to undercut his argument vice support it-- forged documents to support apostolic succession were rejected as scriptural shows… what? The Church’s claim to authority does not rest on the texts he mentions.

As you noted, Oliver Thomas is a Baptist minister. No doubt that colors his views.

But it is also important to note that his views are not necessarily those of USAToday. He is simply one member of the “Board of Contributors” who submit opinion pieces to USAToday on a regular basis. They seem to be selected to present a diversity of views.

Don’t you think that there is an expectation from people, even when reading an “opinion” piece, that “facts” that are put forth actually conform to reality on some level?

Regardless of the desire for diversity, there is some onus on the part of the NEWSpaper to not publish fiction and wild speculation under the guise of “opinion” as if people are capable of distinguishing “facts” on page A1 from “facts” on page B1.

Even our little local paper adds “editors notes” to correct these little gaffs.
Ah, but USA Today is not about news, I suppose, or even facts. So I’m back to wondering why anyone with bother to read any of their garbage, regardless of the number of pie charts involved.

BTW: I’ve been thinking about Thomas’ very first statement:
The tricky thing about present trends is that they never continue. Things change — law, politics, medicine, transportation, all of it. Even religions must change. As soon as a religion fails to meet human needs — or even to connect with its audience — it begins to die. History is strewn with the wreckage of once vibrant faiths that became irrelevant.
2000 years of overall consistency makes a pretty huge statement as far as Catholicism being about something other than “present trends” never mind those trend setters, the Jews.

Additionally Thomas’ assertion is that religion is about meeting human needs. Forget being a “Baptist minister” I have to wonder if this guy is even really Christian.

Alas, this truth will be lost on anyone and everyone who is unfamiliar with this aspect of our faith.

It’s interesting how this kind of piece serves a twofold purpose: to erode the relationship between and among fellow Christians (:blackeye:); and to openly demonstrate that so-called “Christians” aren’t intelligent enough to get simple facts straight for their arguments, or comprehend simple logic. (:blackeye::blackeye:).

How is this demonstrating “diversity”?
No, it’s portraying *Christians in general *in a subtle yet very ugly light.

It was never about diversity. It was always about divide-and-conquer.

I think it would be a mistake to simply accept anything in an op-ed article as being accurate. Of course, some opinion writers are more objective than others. However, all of them are seeking to advance their point of view, and cherry-pick information which is favorable while ignoring information which is opposed to the author’s point of view.

I am disturbed by the idea that many people would read B1 without a critical eye. However, I wonder what exactly do you consider fiction and wild speculation in the Thomas article. Certainly his statement on apostolic succession is offensive to our eyes, however he does cite the prominent Harvard Divinity School professor Harvey Cox (now retired) in support of that view.

The bulk of the article seems to be the standard thinking which is behind the mega-church movement which has been popular among Evangelicals for the past 20 years: downplay theology and creed, and focus on meeting human needs.

However, that approach has not worked well for the mainline Protestant churches, with attendance among the young falling off and the size of the denominations shrinking. I suspect that in another generation, the mega-churches will have a similar fate. The persons who are currently children will, as adults, find they can meet their human needs without attending church.

Mistake, yes; but one that is easily made when the “opinion” is asserted as fact in a paper that contains real facts as facts.

Surely you know this to be true, however. Studies have been done… Otherwise, why bother to make the assertions in the first place?

I addressed this in my original post. Sorry my style is so thick for most eyes. I’m trying to improve… Please re-read my post as I haven’t the wherewithal to simplify it at this point.

Not offensive: ignorant. Plain and simple.

Did you read what this crackpot disguised as a “prominent professor” actually said?
It’s ludicrous to the nth degree. Again, please refer to my post.

The “Baptists” I know all point to that sort of thinking as anti-Christian as should we all. You can “downplay theology and creed” w/o completely altering Christ’s message. Being a Christian is about following Christ, not “human needs”. But you are correct that IS what prosperity gospel proports.

Well, when you take God out of the equation, it’s no surprise such fatalistic conclusions are reached.

I totally agree.

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