Who Has Authority?


I originally posted this in a thread about Sola Scriptura, but it got no response so I thought I’d start a new thread with it.
From reading the debates between Protestants and Catholics on this forum, it seems Protestants believe the following (implicitly, if not explicitly; and as a former Protestant I accepted it unconciously):
*]The Holy Spirit was able to prevent error when the sacred writers wrote Holy Scripture.
*]The Holy Spirit was able to prevent error when the Church leaders compiled Holy Scripture.
*]But the Holy Spirit was unable to prevent error when teaching the true meaning of Holy Scripture.[/LIST]Protestants believe that Catholicism became corrupted and thus necessitated the Reformation. I want ask something: If the Catholic Church erred in its teaching, to where is the Christian to go to to find the Scriptures expounded without error?
I am being serious, deadly serious. There is nothing in this world more important than the salvation of our souls. I am not interested in a “close-enough Christianity.” That is not what our Savior intended.
The Apostles taught for years before a word of Scripture was written, and did not have the New Testament as we know it today, but were able to teach the faith without error. Who teaches with their authority today? If there is a Church outside the Catholic Church (not counting the Orthodox) that teaches with the same authority today, then I will abandon the Catholic Church for that church.


Oriental Orthodox?


The Catholic Church never erred in its teaching as far as dogma or doctrine. Some of its members were abusing their positions and erred in their actions. The Reformation was a lot more than a refuttal of abuses. It was one man’s theology dictating how he felt Christianity should be. The abuses he was right about. Many of his other beliefs, no!!! He started a snowball of self-proclaimed “authorities” and a complete mess of Christian unity.

There is only One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.


Hi Ahimsa! When I excluded the Orthodox, I forgot about the Oriental Orthodox. Our Protestant friends would probably reject them too.



An invisible, meandering, believe whatever feels right church Jesus Christ did not establish.


I think the main thing with Protestants not liking today’s Catholic Church is due to some of our bad popes in history corrupting the seat of Rome. That’s just what I’ve heard from some Protestants on these threads. Please correct me if I’m wrong. :o


That’s part of it, but it is not a valid argument. If we rejected the Catholic Church because of some bad Popes, then we’d have to reject every Protestant sect that had a bad leader (Martin Luther comes to mind- he had some serious scrupulosity issues, and near the end of his life wrote some vile tracts against Catholics and Jews). Popes should lead moral lives and will be called to account for their behavior, but that does not affect the ability of the Holy Spirit to safeguard them from teaching error.


oh I knew I was missing something . . . I forgot about papal infallibility. Thanks RNRobert! :slight_smile:


You’re welcome! :tiphat:


I also wish to get in on this bet. :smiley:


That would only be true if they believed in the same kind of leadership as Catholics do.

To be Catholic, you must be in communion with the Pope in Rome.

To be a Protestant you might only need have a personal relationship with God, so no matter how corrupt your own teachers are, they’d reason that it doesn’t matter because there’s no ‘mediator’ between them and God.


This seems a strange kind of ‘wager’. For one, it implies that the Orthodox have the same authority as the Catholic Church, which begs the question “Why not be Orthodox?”

Secondly, how do you measure “Levels of authority”? Is there a scale to test a church against?


Very well said Montalban. Understanding that as a Methodist I am not operating under the same framework as a sola scripture proponent, IF I were to adopt a Orthodox/Catholic paradigm, I would then have to decide between Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and to fair I suppose the Assyrian church of the East or other “Thomas groups”(I do not mean that term in a negative sense as I have just become interested in their fascinating history)


The Catholic Church recognizes that the leaders of the Orthodox Church have genuine apostolic succession, unlike the Protestant sects. Also, many of the things that Protestants rejected from the Catholic Church (hierarchical leadership, seven sacraments, Real Presence in the Eucharist, the deutrocanonical books, prayers for the dead, invocation of Mary and the saints, importance of Tradition) have been rejected by Protestants as well (otherwise they probably would have turned Orthodox instead). Protestants are the ones that claim the Catholic Church “went off the rails” so that’s why I directed this challenge towards them specifically.
I was a very anti-Catholic Protestant when I started to learn more about the Orthodox Church. It was different enough from the Catholic Church for me to listen to explanations of the Real Presence, Mary, etc. without my “Protestant Pride” shutting it out. In the end, I decided to become Catholic as the Orthodox Churches seemed mostlty ethnic/national oriented, plus I saw the Pope as a visible representative of Christianity to the world.


Yes, one chooses Orthodoxy over Catholicsm (if one is to do so) not based upon the idea that these are the only two candidates for “Apostolic churches”

HOWEVER they are Apostolic churches, and the Methodist one is not.


Orthodoxy is sadly heavily ethnic-based. My own Antiochian church is Arabic-speaking, and I’m a Celt.


If anyone interested.

Bishops in the United Methodist Church do not claim to be within the historic episcopate in the same way as Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox bishops. They do, however, claim a corporate (“connectional”) and theological form of Apostolic succession, and are not adverse to ecumenical acts which would further establish their ministry within the historic episcopate, though such would have to be accomplished without repudiating or otherwise questioning the validity of their current orders and ministries. Methodist episcopal succession derives from John Wesley, who was an ordained presbyter of the Church of England but not himself a bishop and thus not officially authorized to consecrate others. Wesley justified his practice of ordaining bishops (which he called “general superintendents”) and elders (i.e., presbyters) for the methodists in the new United States of America in 1784 by appealing to a perceived need and by citing a minority opinion among the early Church Fathers (and an ancient precedent from the Church of Alexandria) which held that presbyters (“priests” or “elders”) could, at least collectively, indeed ordain other such presbyters and even consecrate, or “set apart” bishops in certain emergency situations. Based upon this argument, the United Methodist Church understands all of its Elders, not just its Bishops, as being part of an Apostolic succession of the entire body (or “conference”) of ministers: “In ordination, the church affirms and continues the apostolic ministry through persons empowered by the Holy Spirit.” (Book of Discipline paragraph 303). In other words, they understand apostolic succession as being rooted within the Presbyterate. This does not mean, however, that all elders may ordain; quite the contrary, only those elders who have been elected and consecrated as bishops can further the apostolic succession through the ordination of bishops, elders, and deacons within the United Methodist Church. In this way, the United Methodist episcopacy functions as if it were within the historic episcopate.


Accepting, but moving beyond, this position a few Methodists do affirm that their bishops stand in a form of the historic, as well as theological, Apostolic Succession (i.e., in the Anglican fashion); their argument is that Wesley’s ordinations, and therefore the subsequent line of Methodist bishops, are legitimate due to the critical nature of the circumstances extant at that time. Some Methodists even make an appeal to the “Legend of Erasmus,” which asserts that, while on a visit to London in 1763, the Greek Orthodox bishop of the Diocese of Arcadia, Crete, secretly consecrated Wesley to the episcopacy. That Wesley actually met with Bishop Erasmus during the bishop’s visit to London is not questioned; what is questioned is that Erasmus did more than simply “confirm Wesley in his ministry among the methodists in England and America.” When Wesley was asked if Erasmus had made him a bishop, he offered no personal response but, rather, took the unusual course of authorizing a representative to reply that he had not requested episcopal consecration within the Greek Orthodox line. Many take this as a sufficient denial, and it was enough to keep Wesley out of jail, but those who believe that Wesley was actually consecrated make the following arguments to the contrary: (1) Wesley personally remained silent on the subject, (2) Wesley took the unusual step of having someone to speak on his behalf, and (3) Wesley never actually denied being consecrated a bishop, what he denied was requesting consecration from Erasmus. This distinction may seem meaningless to us today, but it is actually quite substantive given the circumstances of the 1700s. Were Wesley actually consecrated a bishop by Erasmus, he would not have been able to publicly affirm such without falling prey to the stipulations of the English Acts of Supremacy (1534 & 1559). To keep from being charged with treason, and to keep his head, it is argued that Wesley skirted the question altogether by offering a “non-denial denial.” Given the circumstances, the argument actually makes some sense: Wesley was asked if he had been made a bishop by Erasmus; his response was that he had not requested consecration … which actually doesn’t answer the original question! After all, episcopal consecration could have been Erasmus’ idea, not Wesley’s. If Wesley had affirmed that he had been made a bishop, or even if he had just confessed that he had requested consecration, he would have been placing himself in jeopardy of treason against the crown! Wesley was a self-professed Whig and a faithful “son of the English Church,” to publicly violate the Oaths of Supremacy would have been entirely repugnant to him on both political and theological grounds … not to mention that he was understandably fond of his own neck. Hence, the argument concludes that Wesley obfuscated the entire issue by distancing himself from the question and by answering in such a way as to deflect further inquiry. Despite the beliefs of many Methodists and other Anglicans – beliefs which were finally articulated after Wesley’s death – it worked; while the question never died out entirely, Wesley remained a presbyter of the Church of England until the day he died. Contrary to the “Legend of Erasmus” stands the undeniable fact that, beginning with the American Revolution in the 1770s, Wesley did request episcopal consecration for several of his preachers and, indeed, for himself, so as to provide sacramental ministry for the Methodists in the break-away colonies. Had Wesley already been consecrated a bishop by Erasmus, why would he have requested such consecrations for others or for himself? Nevertheless, the “Legend of Erasmus” remained a very popular argument throughout much of the 1800s and, while still garnering a following among some proponents today, it is not accepted by a vast majority of Methodists nor even by most of those who affirm a form of Apostolicity for their bishops. (see the External Links below)


To me this is much the same as when Otto I declared himself Holy Roman Emperor in 962. He had no real connection with ‘the’ Roman Empire.*

Likewise, with an ahistorical sense one can declare one’s church “Apostolic”, and even take on other terminology such as ‘bishop’

Right at the very beginning of Methodism there was a split into Calvinistic Methodists and the Wesleyan Methodists

Interestingly they believe man is inclined to evil
Articles of Religion
Article 7

*-not even with the earlier Holy Roman Empire of Charlemagne!

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