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The Early Church Was Hierarchical

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Was there a golden age at the very beginning of the Church when Christianity was unspoiled by a hierarchical structure? Was there a blessed age when Christians were simply Christian, without authoritative leaders who had the power to govern the Church? Nope. Tim Staples explains.


Cy Kellett:
Hello, and welcome again to Catholic Answers Focus. I’m Cy Kellett, your host. Thank you for being with us. We’ve been doing some early church conversations with Director of Evangelization and Apologetics here at Catholic Answers, Tim Staples. And we’re going to continue with that early church conversation. First of all, welcome Tim. Thanks for being with us.

Tim Staples:
It’s great to be with you Cy.

CK:
Tim, there was a time before the Catholic church was born of a kind of primordial and pure Christianity that lacked hierarchical structures. It was just kind of me and Jesus.

TS:
Yes.

CK:
And can we ever get back to that?

TS:
And unfortunately that evil Catholic church came along.

CK:
Came and destroyed that. Yes.

TS:
Yeah. That is very popular among evangelicals, fundamentalists, and such. That’s kind of what I was raised on, that idea there was this purity.

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
The sort of CS Lewis mere Christianity, although I know CS Lewis wasn’t doing that, but the idea of there was a mere Christianity.

CK:
Right, right.

TS:
And then all this other stuff got added on. And actually that is absolutely false. The Catholic church of course, was instituted by Jesus Christ and one of the arguments is that there was no such thing as a hierarchy that was created. In fact, I got to tell you a quick story. When I was in Bible college at Jimmy Swaggart Bible College, if you’ve heard my conversion story, you’ve heard part of this story. Andrew Caradegas was a teacher, a professor, at Jimmy Swaggart Bible College, and he was a former Catholic priest. And I got in it with him for, oh, a couple of hours, one day, in his office. And he made the argument that the papacy came out of, and I kid you not, Cy, the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476.

CK:
Oh, wow.

TS:
Talk about stretching it here. But the idea was that that’s when the Roman empire fell, then the popes took over where the emperors had left off, and that’s where all the regalia and the power and all of this comes from then. And I remember saying to Brother Caradegas, “Brother Caradegas, you know better than to say that.” Yeah.

CK:
Come on.

TS:
And I went back to the gospels forward and showed, because I had been reading the early church fathers, this is absolutely false. In fact, right from the lips of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, Jesus establishes a kingdom. He didn’t establish a democracy.

CK:
Yeah, right.

TS:
Cy.

CK:
Right.

TS:
He established, you can’t have a kingdom without a hierarchy. Anybody who reads the New Testament with really common sense knows, a kingdom means hierarchy. And when Jesus calls the 12, it’s so obvious, he prays all night in fact, before he calls the 12, and he gives them, as we’ve talked about before Cy, he gives them singular authority, whether it be Peter in Matthew 16, 18 and 19, who in the context of the Kingdom of David, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom.” hearkening back to Isaiah 22:15 through 22, or I’m sorry, Isaiah Chapter 20, verses 15 through 22., where we see in the Old Testament, there was a king, David, and by that time it was Hezekiah, and under him was what’s called the master of the palace, a prime minister who had the authority, the keys given by the king.

CK:
Oh my goodness.

TS:
In fact, we see in Revelation 3:7, Jesus quotes that very verse. “I am he who has the key of the house of David.” In Revelation 1:18, “I am he who has the keys of death and Hades”. Well, who does he give the keys to? Peter. I mean, you see that hierarchy there. And then you see in Matthew 18, he gives a similar authority, only the keys to Peter, but binding and loosing the power to all the apostles.

Now, in the context of establishing a kingdom, this becomes so obvious that we have a hierarchy here, and then once you move into the Book of Acts and the Epistles and such, you see the hierarchy in action, you see them doing exactly what Jesus said. For example, in Matthew 18, 15 through 18, and this is the text of scripture I’ve been trying to get every Catholic to memorize. This is my goal.

CK:
Okay.

TS:
Every Catholic memorize Matthew 18, 15 through 18. “If your brother offends against you, go tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you have gained your brother, if he won’t hear you, take one or two with you than a mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established. If he will not hear them, tell it to the church. And the one who fails to hear the church is to be as a heathen and a publican.” You notice there’s a hierarchy here. Everybody doesn’t have the authority to create their own version of Christianity here.

CK:
Yes.

TS:
When you have brothers that disagree and “Man, you’re crazy. You’re a heretic. Cy, you are nuts.” Well, Jesus has a remedy. It’s a hierarchy. All right. Now we move forward, into the Book of Acts, what do we see? The hierarchy in action, where you have real time in Acts 15, 1 and 2, a problem in Antioch. The problem of the Judahizers. These were believers. They were converts of what Saint Luke calls the sect of the Pharisees who believed. And they were basically saying, “Hey, you believe in Jesus. That’s great. But you got to go back to the temple and circumcision and sacrifices and all of that.” And it was a huge argument. What did they do? Well, they got their Bibles out and argued, right? No.

CK:
No.

TS:
Well, they did argue. In fact, they called Paul and Barnabas in to argue there in Acts 15, but they couldn’t settle it. And so they held the first church council, where Peter declares the truth in Acts 15, 7 through 11. All the apostles ten in unison with Peter send out letters to the troubled churches. I mean, the New Testament is dripping with hierarchy. And let me just give you one more in the New Testament before we move forward to the fathers. And that is, if you go to, for example, Ephesians Chapter 4, verse 11, you’ll see the Holy Spirit has placed in the church these offices, the scripture says.

CK:
Right. Yeah.

TS:
“Apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists, and teachers, for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all come to the unity of the faith.” Why? Look at verse 14 and 15, “So that we henceforth be not children tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine.” Notice the hierarchy, apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists, and teachers. And we know the bishops are the successors of the apostles. And we know that from, for example, Acts Chapter 1, verse 20, when Judas had died and they were going to, St. Peter declared, we’re going to replace him. The office of apostle in succession there is called episcopate, the bishopric. And of course, St. Paul teaches on the bishopric and in 1 Timothy 3.

And so you have coming right out of the Book of Acts, you have the bishops as the successors of the apostles, but this is what, as a Protestant, former Protestant, Cy, I can remember the mentality of that pure Christianity. There was no hierarchy, and then the evil Catholics came in, until I was confronted by a Catholic who presented some of what I’m saying to you right now, this is common sense. This is just-

CK:
It’s there. If you read it, it’s there.

TS:
And peruse the New Testament.

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
And it is there, but perhaps even more powerfully, if that’s possible, into the early church-

CK:
Can I ask you about one thing too?

TS:
Yeah, sure.

CK:
It seems to me the apostles even create elements of hierarchy themselves when they create the diaconate.

TS:
Yes.

CK:
That’s the apostles doing that.

TS:
Amen.

CK:
And then now we’ve got deacons, and that becomes a permanent feature, but it’s apostolic, it’s connected to the apostle’s ministry.

TS:
Yeah, absolutely. You have in Acts Chapter 6, you have a problem between the Hebrews and the Greeks in ministering to the widows and those who are in need, and the apostles, it was taking all their time dealing with this, dealing with “How are we going to do this? We’ve got kind of some important things to do, but we got to take care of these widows.”

CK:
Right.

TS:
And there’s fights between the Jews and the Greeks here. Well, they established the diaconate. He says, “It’s not fit for us to leave the word of God and wait on tables.” is what Saint Peter says there. And in Acts Chapter 6, you’re right, you have the ordination of the first seven deacons, and right out of the Book of Acts, you see this in the very earliest Christian writings we had. That’s why it’s so odd, isn’t it, when you look at the church fathers, you look at the New Testament, see it’s dripping with hierarchy, kingdom stuff, right?

CK:
Yeah. Right.

TS:
And bishops and priests and deacons. And then you go right into for 1500 years., this is what the church consisted of until the rebellion comes, the Reformation, which didn’t immediately start by, at least not from Luther’s perspective, throwing off all sorts of hierarchy, because he did, Luther did want, and so did Calvin, wanted to retain at least a little smidgen of hierarchy. In other words, my word goes.

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
We got to maintain that.

CK:
That’s an important part of it.

TS:
As Martin Luther famously said, “If people want to question why I’m doing what I did, you know what, tell him Luther says so. That’s why. And that’s all they need to know.” Oh, okay. So I guess we do have a little hierarchy.

CK:
As we move then from the New Testament itself into the church fathers.

TS:
Yeah.

CK:
Would it be fair to say however that as the church grows, it does in fact need greater clarity about these roles? They become more distinct.

TS:
No doubt.

CK:
Easier to distinguish between.

TS:
Yeah. In the New Testament, the bishop, the episcopate and presbyteros are fluid. Paul has no problem referring to himself as a deacon, where he uses diaconate. Peter in 1 Peter 5:1 refers to himself as a fellow elder, that’s presbyteros. And of course, that’s true, isn’t it? Because if you are a bishop and of course they’re an apostle, well, you have the fullness of Holy orders.

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
So it’s not like something changed. The fathers didn’t change anything, but they certainly clarified the orders of bishop successor to the apostles, priests and deacon. It’s there in seed form in the New Testament, but by the end of the first century, it would be solidified.

CK:
How do we know that? What’s the evidence that this existed by the end of the first century?

TS:
Yeah. Great question. What’s interesting, if you look at Saint Clement of Rome, who’s writing probably 80 to 90 AD. In paragraphs 40 and 41 in that great work, it’s called the Letter to the Corinthians. I recommend everybody read it. It’s a fascinating read, but it’s fascinating how you can see at the time of Clement things are coming into the fullness of the form that we have today.

CK:
Okay.

TS:
In paragraphs 40 and 41, for example, he uses the analogy of the high priest, priest, and Levites, and then he mentions laity. So you clearly have, and it’s wild when you read it, because he’s talking about the high priest, the priest, and the Levites, but he’s saying, we. We have this authority, we have this structure and such, but he’s putting it into Old Testament language. Well, why is he doing that? Because he’s using it as an analogy. He’s talking about the Old Testament, but as it relates to the New, and then that leads right into paragraphs 42 through 44, where he brings it home with regard to the hierarchy, famously in paragraph 44, “The apostles knew, because they had perfect foreknowledge, that there would be strife over the office of Bishop. And therefore they made provision that other men would be elected and take their place in government and such.”

And that’s the bishops for Saint Clement. So it’s really, I know a lot of folks want to say Clement, wasn’t that clear, I think he’s quite clear, and that’s about 80 to 90, but then you get to Saint Ignatius of Antioch in 107 AD. And it’s as clear as a bell.

CK:
Now, for example, if I go see someone made a bishop, I actually see other bishops lay their hands on this bishop.

TS:
Correct.

CK:
Is that in evidence early as well?

TS:
Absolutely. Yeah. We’ll take a look at some examples here, but yeah, this is one, remember when we talked about apostolic succession, we talked about the laying on of hands. That’s one of the foundational doctrines that the inspired author to the Hebrews mentions, in Hebrew 6, verses 1 through 3. He says, “Let us not lay again the foundation of repentance toward God and faith and on, and the laying on of hands.” which is foundational. But yeah, I mean you have here, right from the start, the idea of the laying on of hands. Now that’s pertinent to apostolic succession that we already talked about.

But when Saint Ignatius, for example, in his letter to the Magnesians, which is fascinating, Saint Ignatius’ seven letters are awesome. These were some of the things that brought me into the church all those years ago. I read them when I was Protestant. I read Lightfoot’s Apostolic Fathers, all of them.

CK:
And you believed them to be authentic at the time?

TS:
Yes.

CK:
Because sometimes people say, they’re so Catholic in a way that the people will go, “They’re not really authentic.”

TS:
Well, see, it’s a good question. I had read Jimmy Swaggart’s book. I mean, come on, what else do you need?

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
I read Jimmy Swaggart’s book, Catholicism Versus Christianity. And in that book, his claim is that the Christians of the first 300 years of the Christian era were not Catholic. They were evangelical and Pentecostal believers. Catholicism would come at the time of Constantine. That was his myth. So I kind of believed that. And more and more today among Protestants you see, you still have the fundamentalists that call them church babies, famously, they’re not church fathers, they’re church babies and they got it wrong right from the start.

CK:
Oh.

TS:
But that’s a dwindling minority. Most evangelicals today have recognized that look, because you get in trouble. If you’re going to say all these guys were phonies, well, these are the guys that gave us the New Testament. Without them, you don’t have it, because they wrote it. They’re not the original authors, but they preserved it.

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
And then canonized it. So be careful if you start saying these guys, “Oh, they’re a bunch of heretics.” Well, what does that say about your canon?

CK:
Yeah. Right. Okay. So Ignatius around 107.

TS:
Yes, 107 AD. Notice the level of development here, and this is in paragraph six, or in section six, paragraph one, “Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons who are most dear to me entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning, and is at last made manifest.” And I have a whole boatload of quotes, Saint Ignatius is fascinating because he’s consistent, and you do nothing apart from the bishop. The bishop is the vicar of Christ. He stands in the place of Christ. You get that clear. And so he exhorts all of those seven churches to whom he writes to obey the bishop because the bishop is Jesus Christ. And guess what? You’re not. So you obey the bishop.

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
Cy, that’s the definition of hierarchy.

CK:
Right.

TS:
Okay?

CK:
Right.

TS:
You know, without getting into the apostolic succession, which we already talked about, that’s hierarchy. And in fact, I’ll toss this in, even though we’re not talking about the papacy, it’s kind of hard not to. When you look at his letter to the Romans, his language changes completely. Whereas if you look at, for example, in his letter to the Magnesians paragraph six that we just quoted, he talks about the bishop who has authority over all in of the Magnesians. Because he is in the place of Christ for them.

CK:
Yes.

TS:
But the church of Rome, his language completely changes. Now he says that the church of Rome presides, whereas he’ll say that, let me read it again. “Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God. And with the presbyters in the place of the council.” he specifies this is for the church of the Magnesians, whereas when he talks about the church of Rome, he says the church itself, not the bishop presiding over the Magnesians, he says the church itself presides in love, implication over all the other churches.

See the bishop presides over the people in his diocese, back then it would be cities, they were basically cities, but the Church of Rome presides over who? All the churches.

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
See the church presides over the other churches. But now you go down, let me just grab this real quick here, St. Clement of Alexandria, in a great catechetical work. This was for new converts and people coming into the church called the Instructor of Children. He says, “a multitude of other pieces of advice to particular persons is written in the Holy Books. Some for presbyters, some for bishops, some for deacons, and others for widows, of whom we shall have opportunity to speak elsewhere.” Fascinating here, you know, St. Paul there’s sort of an office of widows in 1 Timothy 5, verses 9 through 11. And that would continue in the early church. It was actually an office. It was not ordained.

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
But they were consecrated. Was kind of precursors to nuns.

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
And that’s what he’s referring to here. But look at this, another work of Saint Clement in his Miscellanies, “Even here in the church, the gradations of bishops, presbyters and deacons happened to be imitations in my opinion of the angelic glory and of that arrangement which the scripture say awaits those who have followed in the footsteps of the apostle.” So he’s talking about the three levels of glory, and all of that being imitated by that. Now that’s not Catholic doctrine, but it’s fascinating, isn’t it?

CK:
It shows that threefold structure definitely.

TS:
The threefold structure that he says, and notice, he says, Now this is my opinion.” As far as it being a reflection of the three levels of glory in heaven. But what was not a matter of opinion is the fact that we have bishops, priests, and deacons.

And then you have Saint Hippolytus who goes into detail, I don’t know if we want to get into a whole lot of this, but in his Apostolic Tradition, which is also fantastic. He’s writing about AD 215, when he says, “When a deacon is to be ordained, he is chosen after the fashion of those things set above, the bishop alone in like manner imposing his hands upon him as we have prescribed in the ordaining of a deacon. This is the reason why the bishop alone is to impose his hands upon him. He is not ordained to the priesthood, but to serve the bishop, and to fulfill the bishop’s command. He has no part in the counsel of the clergy, but is to attend to his own duties and is to acquaint the bishop with such matters as are needful.” I mean, extraordinarily detailed, isn’t it?

CK:
Yes, extraordinary.

TS:
Exactly. And I have to say this, Cy. When I was reading the church fathers as a Pentecostal who was trying to disprove Catholicism, I read stuff like this. And I can remember, honestly, I can remember reading that and saying “Brother Swaggart, I don’t think you’ve actually read these guys, because you would not say these are Pentecostal and evangelical believers. I’m sorry.” You know what the bottom line is? Most Protestants you talk to have never read, they might have read a couple of excerpts here and there. You know what I did? I sat down and I read.

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
In fact, next time you come to the house, I got to show you my volume one of the 38 volume set of church fathers, it’s actually falling apart because I read through it so many times.

CK:
Is it the Apostolic Fathers?

TS:
Yeah. Yeah. And it goes behind the Apostolic Fathers because it goes to Tertullian and Saint Uranus and Justin Martyr. But it has all the apostolic fathers as well.

CK:
But they’re so wonderful, because they’re a window on-

TS:
They are.

CK:
Do you really want to know what the early church was like? These guys, they’re a little window onto it.

TS:
That’s right. But the good news is, there is this move now, especially among evangelicals to read the fathers. And this has been a boon for conversions to the Catholic faith because you now have courses being taught at like Biola and Fuller Theological Seminary where Michael Barber got his PhD, Dr. Michael Barber, a phenomenal, first Catholic to get a PhD from Fuller Theological Seminary. And he’ll tell you if he was here, it’s extraordinarily exciting that we have these evangelicals and stuff diving in the fathers and encouraging people to read the fathers and their mass exodus, they’re all becoming Orthodox or becoming Catholic in the process.

So, as far as the hierarchy goes, I mean, we could go as far as you want to go, but it goes literally all the way back. But can I mention one pushback?

CK:
Yeah, sure.

TS:
That I think is important because, and I didn’t bring the quote with me, but in The Didache, which by the way, scholars used to think generally was written about AD 140. Today most scholars believe it’s 1st Century. The Didache was probably written around 80 AD. It’s extraordinary. I mean the Apostle John was still alive, and it’s a wonderful document, but in section 15, and I think it’s paragraph one, there’s a quote that a lot of evangelicals now, because what happens is, you have evangelicals now that are combing over the fathers and trying to find some quotes they can use to make these people evangelical.

CK:
Right.

TS:
Unfortunately, that is true. I mean, I don’t want to get into motives and whatnot. I think most just quote the other guy who gave him this quote. You know what I mean?

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
But there are those who, Dr. Phillip Shaffs of the world, sorry, but that guy knows better than to say a lot of the nonsense he says, but you have a few guys like that, and most of the others are just followers. But in paragraph 15, as I said, it says, “Choose from among yourselves good and holy men for the office of bishop, presbyter, and deacon.” or just, I think it’s bishop and deacon there. And so they say, “See, choose for yourselves. These were Presbyterians here.”

CK:
Yeah. Right, right.

TS:
We don’t have a hierarchy here, because it says you choose from among yourselves. So be careful, for my Catholic friends, those who will take that out of context to mean, “Oh see, there’s no hierarchy.” No. The fact is there has been sort of a morphing over the centuries as to how the individual successors or the apostles would be chosen. That has changed. For example, the Pope. In the early centuries, he was chosen among the clergy at Rome.

CK:
Yeah. Right.

TS:
And it was all done there.

CK:
Locally. Yeah.

TS:
Now, I mean, he’s chosen from all over the world. Like Bergoglio, who is now Pope Francis. But that is an accidental sort of change. And the Catholic church never says that the sacraments don’t change in an accidental sense, understanding the difference between substance and accidents. The substance is the core of a thing that makes it what it is, the accidents like Cy Kellett, he could change his hair color, in fact, it changes every day because it’s getting more and more gray all the time. That doesn’t change the substance of-

CK:
Of who I am. Yeah.

TS:
Right?

CK:
Right.

TS:
He’s deteriorating.

CK:
It feels like it changes the substance sometimes, but it doesn’t. Yeah.

TS:
That’s right. And so in the same way, as an example, if you go to Acts Chapter 1, Saint Peter, and remember the Pope is the only one who has the authority to change the way future popes are going to be chosen and such. And you see that in Acts Chapter 1, it’s Peter who declares the method, this is how we’re going to do it, we’re going to choose his successor, and all of that. Only the Pope can do that. And there you have it. But would you guys like to bring back Peter’s method?

CK:
Draw lots.

TS:
Let’s cast lots.

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
We’re going to cast lots. But remember, that’s the way the priests in the orders, the various orders, what is it? 1 Chronicles, I think, Chapter, I want to say 24, right around there, where you have all the different orders of priests, they were chosen by lot. That’s the way it was done in the Old Testament. And the idea was in the Old Testament, you roll the dice so to speak. That’s what lots are. And you give it to God.

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
So Peter was really functioning out of that Old Testament mentality. This is the way we’re going to do it. We have a new priesthood. Let’s cast lots. And of course, God honors it because he’s the Pope, but I’m kind of glad the popes have changed that.

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
You know, we don’t do it by casting lots anymore. And so the accidentals of choosing the successors of the apostles, the bishops, and even popes change. But what hasn’t changed is the hierarchy that there is a pope, the successor of Peter, and there are bishops, the successors of the apostles, is clear. It’s in the New Testament, certainly in seed form. And you see it for 2000 years into our own age. And I got to say this as well, because one of the things that blew my mind when I first learned this, all those years ago, is that the Catholic church, every priest in the world can trace his ordination back to one of the apostles. I mean, that is phenomenal. And that isn’t, I know we keep getting back to apostolic succession.

CK:
Well, they’re so close to one another.

TS:
They are.

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
They are. But that is amazing. And it’s absolutely true. And that is why, Anglican orders, for example, are not valid. And the church can give you the reasons why. When you look at, okay, let’s talk about this church over here. Well, yep. They have valid orders. Why? Because you can trace them all the way back. That is amazing to me. 2000 years, and we can still do that. But see that to me, Cy, tells you how important the hierarchy was right from the 1st Century, because from the 1st Century somebody was keeping notes.

CK:
Yes. Right. Exactly.

TS:
And they did. And those notes have been preserved for 2000 years, even in the midst of persecutions and such, we still have those archives.

CK:
So when you get to the Constantinian toleration, or later, you talked about the fall of the Roman Empire in 476, you really have institutions that have already been well established for hundreds of years coming out into public.

TS:
Exactly.

CK:
More than you, there’s no fundamental change to those structures at those times. At least there’s no evidence of it.

TS:
No. And what’s phenomenal is, as we said, when you look at Saint Clement of Alexandria writing in 200 and the level of the, it’s just like you’re reading the catechism today.

CK:
Today, yeah.

TS:
The way he talks about the bishop having the fullness of Holy orders and the priest participate in, and then the deacons are not clergy. They’re not, or they’re not priests. They are clergy. They’re not priests, but they are members of the clergy. It’s laid out right there 1800 years ago. Think about it. I mean, this is what, 1,300 years before Protestantism.

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
And I have to say again, that is what blew my mind, bro. When I’m reading these fathers of the church 32 years ago and going, “Oh my gosh, no, this is not an evangelical. This is not a Pentecostal man. This sounds awful Catholic.” You know why? Because they were.

CK:
Yeah. Yeah. So right from the very beginning the hierarchy is gift, really, that’s given to us because Jesus is never impractical.

TS:
Yes.

CK:
But he’s the most, I think it was CS Lewis who said, “The most practical person who ever lived.” It’s not pie in the sky stuff with Jesus. He provides for us.

TS:
It’s not. And when you look at that language, to go back to Ephesians 4:11, the Holy Spirit has placed into the church these offices, apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists, and teachers. I mean, those were words of consolation for the early church. We’re looking here in the first century, a fledgling little church that’s being persecuted by pagans and Jews, struggling for its existence.

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
You can imagine how powerful those words were back then.

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
And as the persecutions intensified, you see even in the Book of Hebrews, the inspired author talks about, “Many of you have been displaced. Your homes have been taken from you. But stand firm.” You can imagine how reassuring that is when you hear the Holy Spirit has placed this hierarchy where it is. And it will be here until the end of time. You have this comfort so that you don’t have to worry about being tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine. As John said it in 1 John Chapter Four, verse six, he says, “This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. If they hear us, they’re of God, if they don’t, they’re not.” Ah! I love that.

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
You mean I don’t have to get the Bible out and prove every point that John says, “Hey, that’s a good thing.”

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
If you want to go that route, that’s good. But if you have the faith-

CK:
You can trust in the church.

TS:
-and you understand. You can trust Jesus. It always gets back to Jesus, doesn’t it?

CK:
Right.

TS:
But think about Jesus in John Chapter 10, verse 30, “I and the Father are one.” And people are like, “What? Did he just say? All right, give me a rock.”

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
“I’m a bounce it off his head.” And down to verse 37 and 38, Jesus in essence says, “I know this is hard, me saying, I’m God and all this. But if you can’t believe my word, believe for the work’s sake. Believe. Have you seen anybody else raise the dead lately? I’m just asking.”

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
“You seen anybody else walk on water, like you just saw me do?” Because he had done that a little bit earlier. I think I’ll go with Jesus, and yes, you can, even when you struggle intellectually, really for me as a Protestant, this is an important point, Cy. St. Anselm famously said, [foreign language 00:33:53]. Faith seeking understanding, or [foreign language 00:33:58], I believe in order that [foreign language 00:34:05] I might believe. [foreign language 00:34:08] faith seeking understanding. Everything begins with the faith. You believe in Jesus Christ because you saw him raise the dead. All right, I’m following him.

CK:
Yes.

TS:
Your name is Peter. Your name is John. And then you are given this authority. Then you go out and of course they raised the dead as well. That kind of helps.

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
But they have the faith. And so everything’s not determined by your intellect digging in and having to find, “I got to get in the Greek and to the Hebrew and see if Peter’s right.” And again, you can do that.

CK:
Right. Right.

TS:
But that is not necessary for being a Christian. We’re not Gnostics. Christianity is not all about knowledge.

CK:
Yes.

TS:
Knowledge is important, but it’s ultimately about love. It’s ultimately about trusting in someone else, and their declaration of faith, and the reasons to do it are the same as they were 2000 years ago for those folks struggling with Jesus saying he’s God. I believe it, because Jesus demonstrated He is God and God can neither deceive or be deceived. I believe. And all of the successors to the apostles have that same message that John did in 1 John 4:6. “This is how you determine the spirit of truth from the spirit of error. If they hear us, they’re of God, if they don’t, they’re not.” It’s not this thing of, in Protestantism you’re basically robbed of this. You’re robbed of real faith because everything is on you.

CK:
You got to figure it out.

TS:
You have to figure it out because nobody has any more authority. There’s no hierarchy. It’s on you, and my Protestant friends, if you’re watching this, you say, “No, no, no. It’s the word of God.” Hogwash. I’ve been there. It’s your interpretation of the word of God ultimately.

CK:
Right.

TS:
Because your pastor has no authority than you do. There’s no hierarchy and such. So there is no one who can truly speak for God. And you can’t either because you’re not infallible either. That was one of the biggest blessings for me. And the irony is, even though I came to that place where I saw, “Oh my gosh, I can trust the bishops in union with the Pope. I can really trust them.”

CK:
Yes. Yes.

TS:
I can hear that word of John in 1 John 4:6, “If you hear me you’re of God.” And I can apply that to Pope Francis and all the bishops in union with him.

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
Wow. It’s like a huge weight goes off your shoulders, but you know what it did for me? It empowers me at the same time because I know I’m right.

CK:
Yeah. Right. It’s not just Tim.

TS:
Yeah. I want to dive in, and I want to learn from all of the, I’m standing on the shoulders of all these great men in apostolic succession for 2000 years, and it makes me want to dive in, but at the same time, now it fired me up like I’ve never been fired up before. And I haven’t stopped for 32 years, being fired up.

CK:
Yeah.

TS:
And it’s because it’s not me. This is the faith. It’s outside of me. I’m just tapping into it and I want to give it to everybody.

CK:
Thank you so much, Tim.

TS:
Amen.

CK:
Tim Staples, our guest. Thank you for joining us here on Catholic Answers Focus. Give us the five stars. It really helps. It helps to grow the podcast. Or share it with other people. Tell them they can find out about Catholic Answers Focus at catholicanswersfocus.com. I am Cy Kellett your host and God willing we’ll see you again right here on Catholic Answers Focus.

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