The following letter was printed in this evening's Effingham Daily News:
Salvation found in Scriptures
On July 10, the Effingham Daily News published an article titled "Other Christians" stating Pope Benedict XVI has declared all Orthodox churches as defective and other Christian denominations are not true churches adn they do not have the "means of salvation." Although that particular statement is in general a true statement [sic], it is made in the premise the Catholic Church is the one and only true church.
First of all, I must state that the "one true church" existed and continues to exist without the need for the Pope's or any other man's approval and that neither have the authority to approve or disprove any institution that God has created. The Pope's approval or dispoval [sic] has no effect on anyone seeking salvation through Jesus Christ. It only has effect on the Pope's soul andthe souls of the Pope's disciples.
So what does constitute the "true church" and what constitutes the "means of salvation."
God choose [sic] the Scriptures (the Bible, the Gospels) as the medium where the true church is described for us today. This is the only place a person can go to find out how to become a member of the true church that Christ established. It is also the only place where a person can find out how to achieve salvation and how to live and maintain a Christian life.
Paul wrote in Romans 16:17-18 to mark and avoid those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine they had been taught. It would have been impossible to do that if that doctrine did not already exist. We, as Christians, can mark and avoid those same people using the same doctrine that they had by holding them up to the Scriptures.
So why should we accept a man-made document rather than the words of God as our guide to salvation. By accepting the documents "approved by Benedict" you are placing your eternal salvation in the hands of a man rather than God. And yet, when the so called "Universal Church" is held up to the Scriptures, it becomes almost totally unrecognizable. This being true, then the "Universal Church" is the one that has caused divisions and offense contrary to Scripture. So how could they be the "one true church"?
The article also says, "The other communities cannot be called churches in the proper sense because they do not have apostolic succession - the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ's original apostles." Will someone please tell me what book, chapter and verse of Scripture requires that the church, that Christ established, have "apostolic succession" as a means of salvation? I cannot find it. Where is the orindation of prests or the primacy of the Pope? If it is not in the Scriptures, it is a distortion or Scripture, it is a lie.
The article did have at least one statement of truth, "Christ established here on earth only one church." So how do you know if you are a member of that "one true church"? Hold it up to the Scriptures. You cannot be born into the church. You can only be born again (John 3:5-7).
If all Scripture (the will of God) is inspired by God (II Timothy 3:16); and we have the knowledge of all things pertaining to life and godliness (II Peter 1:22); and the Scriptures are the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16), and the same Scriptures that save us had already been declared at the time of Paul (I Corinthians 15:11); what do we need the Pope or the Pope's doctrine for?
Paul warned sternly, before any Pope or Catholic church ever existed, not to accept any other doctrine (Galatians 1:6-8). How could we do that if we needed to wait until after the Pope declared "Apostolic succession" as means of salvation? If we are not to accept any other doctrine, as Paul states in this verse, then we must have already been able to receive salvation and to become a member of the church that Christ created. Acts chapter 2 clearly indicates the one and only true church already existed and that as many as 3,000 souls, being baptized, had salvation. This was before any "Apostolic succession" documents existed.
If we are to follow the pattern that Paul stated in Philippians 3:16-17, then that pattern must have already existed. Philippians 2:12 indicates that they had the ability to "work out their salvation." So how can we know what the true church is and how to have true salvation? The same way the Bereans did in Acts 17:11; they studied the Scriptures.
Jesus states in Mark 16:16 "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned." We have all the documentation we need in the Scriptures in order to believe - John 20:31.
We have all the documentation we need in the Scriptures to know how we are added to the one true church, Acts 2:38, Acts 2:41, and Acts 2:47. The Church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22), and we are baptized into that body (Romans 6:3-5). Therefore, if we believe in Christ and have been baptized into Christ, into His body, into the Church, and we walk in newness of life; we will be raised again just as He was. That is God's promise. Once again I ask "What do we need the Pope or the Pope's doctrine for"?
Any person on this earth can pick up the Bible, the Scriptures, and study how to be saved, how to become a member of the "one true Church." No one will find salvation in the Pope's doctrine.
It is way past time we held our churches up to the Scriptures. If the Apostles and the 3,000 souls on the first day of the church can have salvation without "Apostolic succession," so can we.
Of coarse [sic], as usual, the newspaper article and the television news (and I assume the documents the Pope released) did not have any Scriptural references to back up their claims. The obvious reason is that Scriptural references oppose the Pope's doctrine and would expose the Pope's doctrine as an untruth.
Name printed in paper
Withheld by me
My response, as of this moment, is as follows. Your comments and suggestions are most welcome.
Primacy and Apostolic Succession in the Scriptures
Mr. Michael Antrim [yes, I know; I realized it after I posted this and hoped nobody would notice; maybe you haven't ;)] posits several erroneous claims in his letter, “Salvation found in Scriptures,” published in the 20 July 2007 issue of the Effingham Daily News titled.” Many of his questions are, no doubt, rhetorical. Nevertheless, they do have answers and these I will endeavor to provide. If these prove unsatisfactory, he would do well to consult Catholic Answers at www.catholic.com/library/ or to consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church. There he will find at least, on average, eight Scriptural references per page (and in the Catholic Mass 90% of the Scriptures are proclaimed, recited and sung).
Before rushing to rash conclusions about what somebody or some group says in a particular or in general, the wise person always reads first what the other says and then responds, rather than relying on hearsay or somebody else’s account.
Mr. Antrim claims that “By accepting the documents ‘approved by Benedict’ you are placing your eternal salvation in the hands of a man rather than God.” The same could be said of those who following Mr. Antrim’s teachings in this letter, his own document. The same could be said of those who follow the teachings of Saint Paul – as all Christians do, or should; his claim is unfounded.
If what Mr. Antrim says is true, that “If it is not found in the Scriptures, it is a distortion of Scripture, it is a lie,” then the mode through which he reads the Scriptures– that of sola Scriptura - is also a lie. This phrase, “Scripture alone”, so beloved of Martin Luther and the “reformers” is not found in the Scriptures. Mr. Antrim would do well to recognize that Christ established a teach Church (Matthew 28:19-20), not the principle of Scripture alone. Even within the New Testament there seems to be a clear preference for teaching orally rather than through the written text (II John 12 and III John 13).
It is the Protestant denominations who have “caused divisions and offenses contrary to Scripture” when they broke away from the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century. The Catholic Church – together with the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches - is the only Church that can trace itself –authentically and accurately – to the Apostles. No Protestant denomination existed prior to the sixteenth century. An truthful search of history alone will clearly and easily demonstrate this.
Mr. Antrim asks, “Will someone please tell me what book, chapter and verse of Scripture requires that the church, that Christ established, have ‘apostolic succession’ as a means of salvation?” Very well. He need look no further than II Timothy 2:2: “…and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
Notice that Saint Paul does not tell Saint Timothy to hand on what he has read, but rather what he has heard. If these sayings were unimportant there would be no need to hand them on. Here, then, is a Scriptural basis for the Apostolic succession. The Apostle does not tell Timothy to tell everybody but only some so that Paul’s own teaching may continue after him. These passages might also be consulted: I Corinthians 11:2; II Thessalonians 2:15 and 3:6.
The Apostolic succession is necessary for salvation in that Christ has given it to the Church and he does not give useless or needless gifts.
From early historical evidence – which is documented outside of the Scriptures because the Scriptures concern the life of Christ Jesus and the Apostles – we learn for certain that as Christ entrusted his ministry to the Apostles, the Apostles entrusted their ministry to specific men who succeeded them. The Apostles handed on the authority Christ gave them to continue the mission of Christ until he comes in glory. These chosen men in turn handed on the authority given to them by the Apostles. This is the Apostolic succession.
Mr. Antrim asks, “Where is the ordination of priests or the primacy of the Pope?” If Mr. Antrim is looking for the rite of ordination of priests in the Scriptures, he will not find it. Then again, he will also not find the rite of baptism described. What he will find, however, are numerous references to the New Covenant priests (often called presbyters to maintain a distinction with the Jewish priesthood; the New Covenant priesthood has three ranks, bishop, priest and deacon). Some of the references are found in these passages: Acts 6:1-6; II Corinthians 3:6, 6:4 and 11:23; Ephesians 3:7; I Timothy 5:17 and 19-22; II Timothy 4:5; Titus 1:5; James 5:14-15 and I Peter 5:1. There are many others besides and a good knowledge of Greek together with a good knowledge of Old Testament terminology will most useful if not essential.
As for the second part of this question, Saint Peter, as the first Bishop of Rome and the one upon whom Christ established his Church, is the first Pope and there is a large body of evidence demonstrating Peter’s primacy among the Twelve. Peter is always listed first in the lists of the Apostles (Matt. 10:1-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:14-16, Acts 1:13); the Apostles are sometimes called "Peter and those who were with him" (Luke 9:32). It was Peter who spoke on behalf of the Apostles (Matt. 18:21, Mark 8:29, Luke 12:41, John 6:68-69), and he who is present in the most dramatic passages (Matt. 14:28-32, Matt. 17:24-27, Mark 10:23-28). It was Peter who first preached to the crowds in Jerusalem on Pentecost (Acts 2:14-40), and the first healing in the Church was worked through Peter (Acts 3:6-7). Peter’s faith will strengthen the brethren (Luke 22:32) and Christ Jesus gives his flock to Peter (John 21:17). An angel announced the resurrection to Peter (Mark 16:7), and Christ, risen from the dead, appears to Peter first (Luke 24:34). Peter presided at the election of Matthias to replace Judas (Acts 1:13-26), and he received the first converts (Acts 2:41). Peter inflicted the first punishment (Acts 5:1-11), and excommunicated the first heretic (Acts 8:18-23). He presided over the first council in Jerusalem (Acts 15), and proclaimed the first dogmatic decision of the Church (Acts 15:7-11). It was to Peter that the revelation came that Gentiles were to be baptized and accepted as Christians (Acts 10:46-48). From these passages it is clear that Peter holds the primacy within the Apostles, and because the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, is successor to the ministry of Peter, he retains the primacy of Saint Peter among the successors of the Apostles, the Bishops.
Mr. Antrim asks, “So how can you know if you are a member of that ‘one true church’? Hold it up to the Scriptures. You cannot be born into the church. You can only be born again.” Mr. Antrim is mistaken to say that you cannot be born into the church. You can only become a member of the Church if you are “born of water and spirit” (John 3:5) and this baptism is necessary for salvation (Mark 16:15; John 3:5; I Peter 3:21; and Romans 6:3-4). This is why Jesus commanded the Apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Here, again, is another reference to the Apostolic succession. Jesus does not say to teach what the Apostles have read, but what he has taught them.
On a side note, Mr. Antrim claims that the Scriptures (by which he largely means the writings of the New Testament) “had already been declared at the time of Paul.” He then references I Corinthians 15:11: “Whether then it was I or they [the Apostles], so we preach and so you believed.” As you can see, this passage does not match of his argument. (This is the case with many of his references. His seems to confuse what Paul calls the Gospel with the Scriptures in their totality; he forgets that for Paul the Scriptures meant only the Old Testament.) In point of fact, the writings of the Paul and the Gospels were not recognized as part of the Scriptures at the time of Saint Paul. Not all of the Churches read all of Paul’s letters or all of the four the Gospels in their Liturgies for the first decades of the Church. Paul wrote to particular Churches who copied his letters – because they liked them, learned from them and were inspired by them – and sent them to other Churches, but not to all. The same is true of the four Gospels. There were other letters and other gospels read during the liturgies of the early Churches, but for various reasons not all of these were included in the canon (the measuring rod) of Scripture when it was finalized by the Church in in the fourth century when the matter was disputed (the Catholic Church does not define a teaching until is contested, and even so only defines doctrine to correct heresy). To what were the accepted books and letters compared? To the tradition of the Apostles handed on through the Apostolic succession, all under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Mr. Antrim demonstrates a false understanding of history when he claims “Paul warned sternly, before any Pope or Catholic ever existed, not to accept any other doctrine.” Saint Peter is the first Pope and the Catholic (the universal) Church is founded upon him by Christ, as we have seen. As for the Pope “declaring” Apostolic succession, we have already seen how Saint Paul commands to Timothy to keep the succession and how doctrines are not defined until confronted by heresy (if there is no heresy there is no reason to define a teaching). Even if no “Apostolic documents existed” at this time, it does not at all imply that the notion of the Apostolic succession was present in the mind of Christ and in the minds of the Apostles and disciples; it implies, rather, that Apostolic succession was accepted by all. Christ Jesus was raised from the dead, after all, some twenty years before Paul wrote his first letter and some thirty years before the Gospels were written, and Christians accepted the Resurrection straight away.
Mr. Antrim asks, “Acts chapter 2 clearly indicates the one and only true church already existed and that as many as 3,000 souls, being baptized, had salvation. This was before any ‘Apostolic succession’ documents existed.” He is right that the only true church existed at the Pentecost event because Christ already established the Church on Peter. Mr. Antrim’s timeline is again mistaken.
Mr. Antrim asks, “So how can we know what the true church is and how to have true salvation?” One might well follow the words of Christ Jesus who said to Peter, “Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter [rock], and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:17-19).
Mr. Antrim asks, “What do we need the Pope or the Pope’s doctrine for?” For starters, Christ Jesus gave the Pope to the Church through Saint Peter (see John 21:15-17). What better need have we for the Pope? At the same time, the Pope’s doctrine is not his own but is the teaching of the Church, who speaks on behalf of Christ. We need the Pope to strengthen the brethren (Luke 32:22) and maintain the integrity of the faith, to be the visible sign of our unity in the Body of Christ. Indeed, all people will find salvation in the “Pope’s doctrine” for his doctrine is the doctrine of Christ and not his own.
In the future, Mr. Antrim – and others – might do well to follow the suggestion I gave in my letter to the editor, wrongly titled “Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel,” published 19 July 2007, and read the actual documents of the Church for her teaching. Trusting the secular media for an accurate and correct presentation of the teachings of the Catholic Church is quite foolish and will only lead to lies, falsehood and misrepresentation.
The Scriptural references Mr. Antrim puts forth no more “oppose the Pope’s doctrine and would expose the Pope’s doctrine as an untruth” any more than prove Mr. Antrim’s own claims; in many cases, the passages seem to contradict his positions. It is the true that the Scriptures do refute what Mr. Antrim thinks the Pope teaches; but then again, contrary to the media’s portrayal, that it is not what the Pope teaches.
I will have to split this letter into two parts; your suggests here are certainly requested (if anybody read all of it ;c] ).