So far we have established that there is a need for authoritative definitions of the articles of faith, and that Christ has established an authoritative body for that purpose. Today’s final installment will show what that body is and where we can find it.
Catholic or Invisible
One might be tempted to ask the question “Is the authoritative church the Catholic Church or the general worldwide church composed of thousands of denominations?” Let us consider each answer.
The authoritative church could be the composition of thousands of denominations. First, how would or does this church make authoritative proclamations about the doctrines of faith? Who within the church makes these decisions? Does each Christian share in this or is it delegated to a certain group of persons? From where do these persons receive the power to make such dogmatic statements? Furthermore, is there any evidence of this actually occurring?
The authoritative church could be the Catholic Church. First, how does the Catholic Church make authoritative proclamations about doctrines of faith? Who within the Catholic Church makes these decisions? Where do these persons receive the power to make dogmatic statements?
The problem with considering the interdenominational church as a cohesive authoritative body is that there is no consensus among them as to what the truth is…and that’s the truth. If the loose accumulation of denominations is supposed to be the church that can bind and loose it has utterly and completely failed to do its job because it never makes binding dogmatic statements nor can anyone claim to have such authority to do so. Besides, it it did make universal binding dogmatic statements, the doctrinal divisions would cease to exist and any that remained would be considered heretics. But this is just not the case.
The reason that looking at the Catholic Church as the authoritative body makes complete sense is that there is a strong evidence of such a system from the early days of Christianity.
Through countryside and city [the apostles] preached, and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this a novelty, for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier. . . . Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry.
St. Clement I (c. A.D. 80)
When I had come to Rome, I [visited] Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus. And after Anicetus [died], Soter succeeded, and after him Eleutherus. In each succession and in each city there is a continuance of that which is proclaimed by the law, the prophets, and the Lord
Hegesippus (A.D. 180)
It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known to us throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors down to our own times, men who neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about.
St. Irenaeus (A.D. 189)
The Scriptures (as shown in the previous posts) delegate authority to the apostles and here, within the first 150 years of Christianity we see what the apostles have done with this authority, how this authority was passed on and made present to all generations and all peoples for the salvation of souls through the forgiveness of sins which comes from Jesus, from Truth.
Of course placing one’s trust in either the interdenominational church or the Catholic Church takes a leap of faith. However, our faith can and must be formed by reason and wisdom. It simply is unreasonable to believe that the interdenominational church has any real authority or has exercised authority of any kind. It is wise follow the ways of Christ who gave authority to the twelve. It is wise to follow the ways that the Apostles showed us through the Holy Spirit binding and loosing through them.