Apostolic Succession and Civic Freedom (pt. 2)

As our conversation continues, we have witnessed a transformation in the accidents of Mary Campion.  Though her substance is still the same, she is now Michael, and so it seems that I should shift the names accordingly.  We have now, in my opinion, gotten to the bottom of the disagreements in defining the church.  The Protestant view is that the essence of the Church is the Word, found in the preaching and sacraments, as well as embodied in the people of God by the immediate action of the Holy Spirit.  This allows for a distinction in terms, with “the visible Church” typically referring to the Church as institution, complete with polity and laws, and the “invisible Church” referring to all believers wherever they may be.  For Protestants, the “Church” and the “State” (better termed the “Commonwealth”) can inhabit the same space and time without displacing or doing violence to one another.  There is no need for a hierarchical arrangement because the two entities are different in quality, jurisdiction, and telos.

Our second question then was, “What is apostolic succession, and is it a valid theory?”  Michael suggests that Apostolic Succession (hereafter AS) is the key to a harmonious society, and he also points (rightly) to Unam Sanctam’s claim that the civic arena must be subordinate to the Church.  Unam Sanctam, however, goes further and says that princes must be in submission to the clergy:

Both, therefore, are in the power of the Church, that is to say, the spiritual and the material sword, but the former is to be administered  for  the Church but the latter by the Church; the former in the hands of the priest; the latter by the hands of kings and soldiers, but at the will and sufferance of the priest.

Unam Sanctam goes on to say that the spiritual powers may not be judged by the temporal powers.  When you combine this with the particular view of “spirituality of the Church” that Thomas Becket posthumously won over King Henry and the Investiture Contest’s Dictatus Papae (which states that the Pope alone can call general councils, that the Pope cannot be judged by anyone, and that the Pope can remove the magistrate’s authority over his subjects), you get a clear picture of the Roman position.

AS then enters into the picture as a proof of who the “spiritual rulers” are and from where they get their commission.  AS is also a sort of lynch-pin argument for Roman Catholic apologists in defining the Church.  It often serves the function for Roman Catholics what sola fide does for traditional Protestants.  I also know from personal experience that AS can be the single decisive issue in Protestant conversions to Roman Catholicism.  I’ve seen it on more than one occasion.  But I have a few concerns about AS, some of which seem to be significant enough to warrant its dismissal from consideration.

1) What exactly is meant by “Apostolic Succession”? Continue reading

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Apostolic Succession and Civic Freedom (pt. 1)

In our previous discussion, our Roman Catholic friend Mary Campion raised a new question regarding the theory of Apostolic Succession.  Fearful that much of the modern political settlement is a byproduct of non-Christian philosophy (it is a product of the Enlightenment after all) she suggests that apostolic succession would be a more desirable safeguard to the notion of Christian citizenship.  Mary writes:

Apostolic succession avoids the flaws of the modern “separation of church and state” approach, as held by Darryl Hart, as I read him, in that the church is divinely instituted as a historical presence. God has, through his church instituted by Christ (“and I will give to thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven”) been given, in the words of the Bard, “a local habitation and a name.” An address if you will. As a result, the state must be subordinate to the church. However, as formulated in Unam Sanctum, the “Two Swords” are not to be conflated. Rather, “it belongs to the spiritual power to establish the terrestrial power and pass judgment if it has not been good.” This means that the Spiritual power only rules the Temporal power mediately, as opposed to immediately, as it does within the church. What this usually means in practice is subordination on questions of “faith and morals.” This makes the church/state relationship complimentary rather than either 1) merged, such as in Islam or a theocracy or 2) alienated, as in modern liberal “wall of separation” thinking.

Apostolic succession also avoids what I believe are the weaknesses in the approach of reformer’s view. For because of the two radically different loves of the heavenly and earthly cities, the two cities seem destined to be always at war to some degree. Jesus seems to accept this state of affairs when he advises to “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s,” and speaks of his Kingdom as “not of this world.” History certainly bears this out as well. As such, while the invisible church, which will be the bride of Christ at the Great Wedding, is not simply to be identified with the visible church in this world, there is however an inseparable link through apostolic succession. This gives God’s church an anchor and sticking point, if you will, which no totalitarian regime, or soft despotism of consumer degradation- indeed, not even the gates of hell- can prevail against. In short, it seems to me that the idea of making the Magistrate a Christian, while admirable, and perhaps possible and hoped for, is not to be relied on or expected.

As with many of my posts, this is hopefully an elaborate ploy to entice Peter Escalante to write in public, but I will take the first opportunity to offer a response.

Mary here offers the classic Roman Catholic position.  This is most welcome in the face of too many modern RCs who wish to evade the teaching of their own church through various “developments.”  Mary lays it out for us: “the state must be subordinate to the church.”  The Reformers all rejected this position out of hand, and I continue to do so today.

1) What precisely constitutes “the church”?  Mary begins with what seems to be the inescapable concept of the institutional church, the one with an address.  She also says that the invisible church is linked to the visible church through apostolic succession.  Thus we’ve got an additional question to field as well.  2) What is apostolic succession, and is it a valid theory?  3) Mary also concludes with the question, “[Do] you think that modern democratic liberalism is inherently the regime most compatible with Christianity?”

We’ll handle these one at a time in individual posts.  To the first question:

1) a) Since the kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:20-21) and the true mother church is the Jerusalem that is above (Gal. 4:26), Continue reading