The Methodist pastor messaged me back with a good reply. Here it is, along with my response below it:
Thank you for your response. I appreciate your thoughts on the matter.
Personally, I don’t think that apostolic succession is a crucial matter. For one, it is very clear to me that since the RCC has had internal schisms, multiple Popes simultaneously, and other irregularities it seems likely that the “hands-on” succession is secondary to the spiritual one. It is not the laying on of hands from Peter to X to Y that matters (although it did for Timothy). It is the Church that matters, regardless of the hands-on thing. That seems to me to be a mere symbol, not an efficacious act.
Thus, Protestants argue that their leaders are also ordained spiritually and thus carry a similar “weight”. I am not so sure of this, to be honest, but that is the claim.
As far as the Papal infallibility found in “seed” form in the early church…I am not so sure. That the bishop in Rome argue primacy is one thing. Infallibility is another. Where do you find that “seed”?
The Mary thing has most assuredly developed a lot from the early church and has NO Biblical background (The “Full of grace” doesn’t count as it is not a proper translation/mistranslated by the Vulgate). Coupled with Augustine’s idea of original sin being coupled with sex and we have a lot of weird and unnecessary stuff about “perpetual virginity” and “immaculate conception”. They are additions that are not needed and only supported due to a limited perspective on original sin. As such, they hinder.
I do enjoy the Tradition of the Church and I find that most of it is obviously Roman or Eastern. The Methodist tradition is rather short and full of Roman things anyway. I guess a problem for me is that the RCC have dogmas that I have to believe if I join but I don’t find any good reasons for believing them except that the RCC says so. Most of them I find faith to believe in, but some I don’t. Granted, this is true about Methodist as well.
The Eucharist is a tricky question. I think that Methodists have it right and actually one-up the RCC. See, we believe like you that Jesus is actually present in the bread and the wine. He is there spiritually, which is just as real as “trans-substantiation”, which is (to me) a little medieval “hocus-pocus” since it can’t be proved or found out. It seems to me that they argued about “what is and what can be seen” since they failed to understand spiritually present as truly present. There is no need for Trans… if you believe that spiritual existence is as real as physical. This of course pertains to other practices such as holy water, holy oil and so on.
Regarding the statue…no matter who it is supposed to be I find that it represents a RCC problem that I have found in many places. I am talking about the monumental gap between dogma and perception. I know a lot of the RCC dogmas and they make sense to me. Sure, it is forbidden to worship Mary or a Saint or pray to a statue…but when entering a church or listening to the people that is what they do. It is one thing to have a dogma and another to teach it well enough for people to understand the difference between “venerate” and “worship”. I find that the RCC is dangerously straddling the fence and allowing people to flirt with idol worship without knowing it. Imagine what would happen if the Pope said that prayers to Mary do not save you or anyone else, or that prayers to a saint does not heal you or protect you or anyone else. What would happen?
Respectfully and with blessings,
Thank you for your thoughtful reply.
You wrote: Personally, I don’t think that apostolic succession is a crucial matter.
Allow me to challenge this statement. Okay, so to you, apostolic succession is not crucial. But what if it was crucial in the early Church? What if the Apostles and their direct successors thought that apostolic succession was a crucial matter? I would hope that you would then reconsider your opinion.
A great book on the subject is Four Witnesses, by Rod Bennett: http://www.amazon.com/Four-Witnesses-Early-Church-Words/dp/0898708478
This book is based on the writings of the early Fathers St. Clement, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Justin Martyr, and St. Irenaeus. Not only do we see the succession in the Bible–like with St. Timothy as you mentioned–but it continues in the early Church as the critical way to know where to find the Church and to know what she taught.
You wrote: For one, it is very clear to me that since the RCC has had internal schisms, multiple Popes simultaneously, and other irregularities it seems likely that the “hands-on” succession is secondary to the spiritual one.
But you’re making a big leap here: Because the Catholic Church had internal schisms, then apostolic succession is not crucial. Instead, some kind of “spiritual” succession is important. It is instead “the Church’ that matters you claim. But that just pushes the question back a step: how, exactly, do we know what “the Church” is and where to find her, if not through apostolic succession? All the heretics quoted Scripture and claimed to be teaching the truth; they all claimed to be the real Church in some way.
Nowhere does God say that internal divisions would stop apostolic succession. Instead, we see in history that apostolic succession continued to be the way to know where to find the Apostolic Church, the true Church. Note that Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches (that is, all the ancient Churches) agree on this matter. (Also, there can only be one pope at a time; the others were anti-popes.)
Regarding papal authority, you wrote: As far as the Papal infallibility found in “seed” form in the early church…I am not so sure. That the bishop in Rome argue primacy is one thing. Infallibility is another. Where do you find that “seed”?
I would recommend a book by Adrian Fortescue on papal primacy and infallibility to learn about those seeds: http://www.amazon.com/The-Early-Papacy-Synod-Chalcedon/dp/1586171763
Consider this classic quote from St. Ireneaus’ Against Heresies:
Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.
Protestants deny that the Church in Rome was founded by St. Peter. Yet St. Irenaeus affirms it. Protestants usually deny papal primacy, yet St. Irenaeus affirms it. Protestants and Eastern Orthodox deny papal infallibility, yet in this passage we see that St. Irenaeus maintains that every Church should agree with the Church in Rome because of its authority–and how could they all agree if the bishop of Rome formally taught error as truth? St. Irenaeus also demonstrates the necessity and crucial importance of apostolic succession and the Church’s Tradition which is inextricably connected with it.
This is admittedly a landmark and powerful passage. But so many others exist by the great saints in the early Church that the evidence becomes a landslide. Try to refute one if you can, but hundreds more await. This is what I realized as a Protestant.
If God did not protect the Church from error, how can it be the pillar and bulwark of the truth? Most Protestants believe God inspired the Bible and protected it from error (in some way, to some degree), so the precedent is already there to believe He did even more than that. If God did not protect the Bible or the Church from error, then we cannot have assurance that we know what the content of divine revelation is.
I would like to wait and discuss apostolic succession more before delving into Mary and the saints and the Eucharist.