Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Was the 'one bishop per city' model of church leadership an unbiblical corruption by Catholicism? (A brief look at the monespiscopate)

One anti-Catholic argument I'm seeing come up more and more frequently is the claim that Scripture describes church governance (polity) as done by a plurality of elders/bishops who are co-ruling over a city/church, whereas the notion of authority concentrated into the hands of one elder/bishop ruling over a city/church is a later invention. The goal of this anti-Catholic argument is to suggest the office of Papacy grew out from this earlier one-bishop (monepiscopacy) corruption of true Biblical polity.

The Protestant/Liberal argument is basically this: in the New Testament, the term "bishop" ("elder") is always used in the plural, and that it wasn't until AD150 that the monepiscopate (i.e. one bishop per city) model arose in some places. At first, this claim seems to have some plausibility, but looking at it with the right glasses on will reveal the desperation of these Protestant/Liberal folks to do whatever they can to smear Jesus' one and only Catholic Church.

The first thing I noticed about this anti-Catholic argument is that it claims this major heresy arose as "late" as 75 years after the Apostles died, around AD150. It is unlikely that such a significant error would arise that early on, only to be universally embraced by even the great Church Fathers, and nobody to oppose it. Further, this small window of time doesn't leave much room for a fair look at the evidence, since the early Christian writings for this period are minimal. This kind of argument is essentially based on the Liberal/Protestant notion that Christianity as we know it was invented over the centuries by the workings of men, who corrupted Christ's simple teachings early on and invented basically every doctrine we now affirm. If it can be argued that Christianity is a series of inventions, like the monespiscopate, then this leaves Christianity with little credibility before the world. It's sad that Protestants would want to go there, but Liberalism is quite literally an outworking of this kind of Protestant thought. Just looking at the Council of Nicaea in AD325, which historically Protestants pretend to accept when Catholics aren't looking, in Canon 6 it explains there is a head bishop in Alexandria, Antioch, and Rome - the three biggest Christian metro areas. Are these Protestants seriously going to say Nicaea espoused both orthodoxy and heresy? Sadly, many Protestants would rather throw out Nicaea than grant any points to Catholicism. I call this the ABC mindset - Anything But Catholic - wherein an opponent of Catholicism would rather accept the most absurd conclusions (e.g. throwing out Nicaea) rather than admit Catholicism got something right.