21 July 2016

Celebration of Citizenship Part 2

A few days ago I posted Part 1 of my Celebration of Citizenship here. That post focused on our son-in-law; this one is on the oath of citizenship:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

I wonder how many natural-born—as opposed to naturalized—citizens have the slightest idea the extent of the obligations undertaken by those who choose to become American citizens? Not many, I’d guess. Most folks born here take our rights and liberties for granted. Those who come from elsewhere have at least some idea of what it might take to secure them.

I was a bit surprised that Judge Beryl Howell omitted the divine malediction, “so help me God.” The Code of Federal Regulations makes this part of the oath optional but that would seem to be at the option of the person to be naturalized, not the judge. Perhaps Judge Howell is an Anabaptist, for whom oath taking in the civil realm is inappropriate. Perhaps she was concerned that variations in the oath-takers’ notions of the Divine made collective reference to “God” ambiguous. Perhaps she thought that reference to God in this assertively secular age was simply out of place.

Or--extraordinarily unlikely--Judge Howell is a closet follower of contemporary Reformed two-kingdoms theology (go here and here for some comments on R2K).

In any event, son-in-law Attilio assured me that the American naturalization ceremony embodied far more solemnity than Italy’s where there is no ceremony at all. He appreciated the importance that America gives to naturalization because, indeed, changing one’s patria is an important moment that should be recognized

19 July 2016

q20 Deletion. Or, Testing Faith



I can without reservation recommend that you read Kenny Ching's memoir, "Shattered Prayers: The Testing of a Father's Faith."

Kenny and I were colleagues at Regent University's law school. We've each since moved on but I knew (and know) Kenny to be a fine lawyer, serious Christian, and an excellent writer. "Shattered Prayers" demonstrates the latter two of those virtues.

Kenny's memoir focuses on two-plus years of his life as he and his wife Erin go from the thrill of her first pregnancy to the birth of special-needs son Joshua and beyond. What makes this 158-age book worth reading is Kenny's clear but understated description of the maddening world of modern medicine as even the best doctors turn out to be in the dark when confronted with an unusual case. Science was important but guesses--right and wrong--and luck as well as trial and error characterized the first two year's of Joshua's life and treatment. Without the dogged persistence of his parents, one can only wonder how Joshua would be today.

But what of God and his power to work miracles? And faith in God which produces peace that passes understanding? Kenny's honest description of his struggles to continue to believe in God's goodness and power in the face of Joshua's persistent problems is what makes me commend his book. A few selected quotes:
That evening, my phone rings again. It's a local pastor.
He asks about Joshua, and I give him a summary.
He doesn't have much to say, but he ends the conversation by telling me, "Remember, God is sovereign."
He's right. Of course God is sovereign. He's in control. He's got the whole world in his hands. He's got the little children in his hands, and from a distance, there is harmony and all that pabulum.
I hope the pastor's son gets hit by a bus. Then he can talk to me about God's sovereignty.
On the other hand,
One of the lawyers at my firm calls. Her name is Ann, and she's senior partner. She tells me not to worry about work, to take as much time as I need, and that my family is in her prayers.
Maybe this month I'll tithe to my law firm. Ann understood what my pastor didn't. My son is sick, and I need help and support, not homilies. A hammer thinks everything needs a nail; pastors think every situating needs a sermon. But Jesus knew better ("Weep with those who weep"), and so did Ann. 
What's wrong with Joshua, you wonder? A lot of things, and I won't take the time to list the results of the deletion of some of the genes on his 20th chromosome (a q20 deletion).

Several things about Kenny's memoir left an impression on me. For all his doubts, there was no sense of self pity. Stuff--lots of stuff--happened and it left Kenny uncertain but not bitter. He continued to complain to God; he didn't give up his faith even in his anger. Second, I appreciated the memoir's matter-of-fact tone. Stuff happened incrementally and Kenny described it fairly; life continued one step at a time, from one uncertainty to another. Third, God's work in the background wasn't artificially brought to the foreground; "Shattered Prayers" is a memoir, not a theodicy. Kenny doesn't pretend any insights into the BIG picture. He clearly and simply recounts his perceptions, external and internal, of a difficult stretch of life. His Christian faith informs his journey; it doesn't explain it.

In short, buy this book.

17 July 2016

Celebration of Citizenship Part 1



Here's a picture of the agenda of recent naturalization of 191 new Americans. Ethiopians took the prize at this ceremony for the most new citizens but folks from another 49 countries also took passed the test and took the oath.
As fine as all these folks may be, we made the trek to Our Nation's Capital for only one of them, son-in-law Attilo Arcari.

We have known Attilio for seven years, over five of them as the husband of our daughter Lisa. 
Attilio is a fine husband, an excellent cook, and a leading expert in the field of corrosion. (Paying closer attention to his father-in-law's political advice may perhaps be one of the few areas that have room for improvement.)
I also learned something in preparing for the post-naturalization party. In contemporary English translations of the Philippians 3.20, the Greek word πολίτευμα (politeuma) is translated as citizenship:
20But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
The Italian translation of these verses, however, uses patria, not the more technical cittadinanza:
20La nostra patria invece è nei cieli e di là aspettiamo come salvatore il Signore Gesù Cristo, 21il quale trasfigurerà il nostro misero corpo per conformarlo al suo corpo glorioso, in virtù del potere che ha di sottomettere a sé tutte le cose.
Which is interesting because in the Vulgate, Jerome used conversatio, which found its way in the Authorized (King James) Version as follows:
20For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
What does any this mean? While I’m not sure about Jerome or the translators of the AV, I suspect that the difference between contemporary English and Italian may have to do with a difference in perception of one’s relationship to his native country. Americans generally think of their connection with the United States as primarily consisting of legal rights and liberties.  Not as much Italians whose relative ethnic homogeneity leads first to the idea of fatherland.

Which understanding best gets at Paul’s use of politeuma? Certainly neither is wrong. In the immediate context of his audience in the city of Philippi, a Roman military colony directly related to Rome, the idea of legal citizenship makes good sense. Yet a Christian’s relationship to heaven is more than one of legal status. After all, no legal citizenship in an earthly country can lead to the transformation of one’s body; only an organic (albeit Spiritual) relationship can change who and what we are. In other words, only connection to a new Father(land) can change our real identity.

In any event, we were pleased to welcome Attilio to citizenship in the United States and pray for God’s blessing on both it and the heavenly patria.

13 July 2016

Law, Liberty, and the Constitution. Or, Harry Potter, Author



Like many others, I suppose, the incongruity of the name of the author of "Law, Liberty and the [British] Constitution: A Brief History of the Common Law" (The Boydell Press 2015) immediately caught my eye. The real Harry Potter, while not possessed of magical skills, is an excellent writer who makes over 1000 years of English legal history sufficiently interesting for most anyone who understands that the Anglo-American liberties we take for granted have roots far deeper than the modern human rights movement. 

Indeed, those fascinated with the rights enumerated in the American constitution would do well to read Potter's book for their historical context and their ambivalent position in contemporary Britain.

With too much on my plate to give it a proper review, I can nonetheless commend "Law, Liberty, and the Constitution" to my readers' attention.

06 July 2016

The New Jungle Book

We recently saw Disney's 2016 version of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. The exceptional CGI of the new version make it a far more realistic experience than the animated 1967 version. With only a few musical allusions to the original, the new version avoids unnecessary sweetness in its retelling of a coming-of-age story. Its realism notwithstanding, The Jungle Book is appropriate for all but the youngest of its potential audience.

Bill Murray and Ben Kingsley underplay their voice-overs as Baloo and Bagheera and one would hardly recognize the voices of Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, and Gary Shandling ... at least, I didn't recognize them. Young Neel Sethi was very good as Mowgli playing a live role against what must have been almost exclusively a blue screen.

In short, we highly recommend this film for audiences of almost all ages.

04 July 2016

An Independence Day Meditation--The Future of Religious Liberty

At least the Ontario Court of Appeal was honest when it concluded that denying accreditation to the proposed law school at Trinity Western University violated its religious freedom. Read the news account here.

Those who follow this blog will have read numerous posts about the efforts of TWU to begin offering a degree in law. (For those just catching up, go here, here, here, here, and here.) Of course, offering a degree in law will be of little importance if TWU's graduates cannot practice law, and several of Canada's provincial bar councils have said just that--no bar admission here. On the other hand, several bar councils have concluded that TWU grads are welcome to practice law.

What's the problem with TWU? Holding students to a covenant (code of conduct) that limits sexual activity to marriage. And why is this such a problem? According to the Ontario Court of Appeal, “The part of TWU’s Community Covenant in issue in this appeal is deeply discriminatory to the LGBTQ community, and it hurts.” “It hurts”! Someone needs to remind the jurists, as I occasionally must remind my students, that there's no right not to be offended.

In short, feeling hurt trumps religious freedom in Canada.

This sort of back-door persecution is not limited to Canada. The gradual tightening of the Title IX noose around educational institutions in the United States means it’s only a matter of time until Christian colleges south of the border will face the same decision: submit or perish.

24 June 2016

Love & Friendship

Whit Stillman’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan (a novella I’ve never read) as Love & Friendship starring Kate Beckinsale was a delight. Understood as a comedy of manners, it brought pleasant laughter throughout. In comparison with the recent unpleasant experience of Me Before You (my comments here), Love & Friendship revealed a principal character (Lady Susan Vernon, exquisitely played by Beckinsale) every bit as self-centered as Will Traynor and even more venal. After all, Traynor merely hurt those who loved him by taking his own life. Lady Susan engaged in a tawdry manipulation of her young daughter and various and sundry friends to achieve a suitable match. Suitable in her case meant a rich dunderhead who suspected nothing amiss when told that he would be a father one day after the wedding.

The difference between the films doesn’t so much lie in their characters but in the moral universes in which those characters operate. Or, perhaps more accurately, in the very presence of a moral universe in Love & Friendship. Instead of the will o’ the wisp of personal autonomy, Austen proves the truism that hypocrisy is the tribute vice plays to virtue. Oh for a return to the days of rampant hypocrisy instead of the contemporary paeans to treacly authenticity!

In any event, we highly recommend Love & Friendship. But see it soon. In spite of its quality and critical acclaim, it looks to be in for a short first run in theaters.

22 June 2016

Me Way Beyond You

We couldn’t think of a more apt title for director Thea Sherrock’s film Me Before You. Various sources had decried it as promoting assisted suicide (here and here) and disability groups have their own critical reactions (here and here). Neither negative stance is incorrect but neither gets to the heart of the moral abyss that sits at the core of this film.

Based on a novel and screenplay by JoJo Moyes, the plot of Me Before You begins with a flashback of Will Traynor, apparently something of a vulture capitalist, who is struck by a motorcycle and rendered a quadriplegic. The film quickly switches to a perky sweet thing, Lou Clark, who loses her job as a waitress. The loss of Lou’s income throws her extended family into financial distress so she takes a job as one of Traynor’s caregivers.

By this point Traynor has given up hope for recovering any of his motor skills beyond moving two fingers with which he controls his electric wheelchair. Bitter at the loss of his physical prowess, Traynor has already tried to take his own life. His initial failure is followed by a decision to go to a death clinic in Switzerland but his mother persuades him to wait six months before letting someone else kill him.

Lou eventually breaks through Traynor’s icy bitterness and, once she learns of his decision to die, does all she can to demonstrate the wonder of life, family, and friendship. Indeed, Lou falls in love with Traynor and, so it appears, he with her. Nonetheless, a man of his word, Traynor goes through with his assisted suicide.

Me Before You is an adept portrayal of the vacuum of the contemporary moral universe. The only “moral good” is autonomy, although why autonomy is good goes unexamined. On the film’s terms, Traynor’s self-centered but freely chosen decision to end his life cannot be criticized. When there is no good except that to which consent is given there is nothing—love of family and friends or the beauty of the world or the possibility of a years of valuable service—that can or even should be counted against what the will freely choses. There is, in other words, no moral law.

Which raises the question, why should we care about autonomy? Why should autonomy be prized if there is no moral law that supplies the “oughtness” that makes autonomy a good? One might suppose an answer: that human beings have an inherent, if inexplicable, moral sense that requires that there be some standard of right and wrong, even one as deracinated as autonomy. Rather thin gruel for a well-nourished moral life, and one which will quickly succumb to a vigorous utilitarianism in due course. “Encouraged” suicide, anyone?

Me before you is no better or worse than you before me so long as “me” chooses.

Easy evidence of self über alles can be found in the current American presidential contest. Even though few of his supporters have the will or the means to live in disregard of the interests of others, Donald Trump is the avatar of the (psycho)logical end of ethical autonomy.

Perhaps, though, there are examples of the valorization of ethical autonomy closer to home. Hardly a week goes by when I do not evaluate a moral decision in terms of my self-identified rights. “The heart is deceitful above all things,” the Preacher wrote, and the desire for autonomy has never been far from the fallen human heart. While relatively few put our “me” as far before our collective “yous” as did Will Traynor, many of us live closer to the line than we’d care to think. And, when pressed to justify our own atrophied moral sense, how many could provide much more than autonomy with a thin Christianized gloss to justify our decisions?

15 June 2016

The Parable(s) of the Talents and the Law of Fiduciary Duties

Stephen Bainbridge has recently published an interesting legal and economic analysis of Jesus’ Parable of the Talents. You can download it here. I’ll assume my readers’ basic familiarity with the parable, which is found in two places (Mt. 25.15-30 and Lk. 19:11-27), albeit with some differences that Bainbridge notes.

Bainbridge is the William D. Warren Distinguished Professor of Law at UCLA and is well-known as a scholar of corporate law. His list of publications is enormous. He is a conservative (in the modern American sense) and has followed the path of a significant number of Evangelical academics to the Roman communion.

His piece is not theological as typically understood. Instead, Bainbridge sets out to answer some legal questions: “What was the relationship between the master and the servant? What were the servants’ duties? How do the likely answers to those questions map to modern relations, such as those of principal and agent?” These questions are not merely some jejune inquiries from someone with nothing better to do. As Bainbridge notes, the modern common law of fiduciary relations is grounded more directly than any other field of private law on distinctly moral and even religious notions of duty. To understand the modern notion of fiduciary (= faithful) relationships, Jesus’ parable(s) in light of the legal backdrop of first-century Judea might prove helpful.

Bainbridge begins by making a distinction between Anglo-Australian fiduciary law and that of the of America and Canada. The formal Anglo-Australian understanding of the duty of the fiduciary is essentially negative, i.e., she must not have an interest in conflict with the other party. The negative is certainly part of the American understanding which, however, goes further and requires the fiduciary to act affirmatively on behalf of the other party. Passive vs. passive+active, in my words.

This distinction between the negative and positive duties of a fiduciary might be operating in the background of Jesus’ parable, especially when we consider the differences between the Matthean and Lukan accounts. In Matthew, the wicked servant buried the talents entrusted to him but in Luke, Jesus has the servant store it away in a handkerchief, an insecure form of storing a large amount of money. In Matthew the wicked servant is cast into outer darkness but in Luke, the master takes the single mina from him and gives it to the better investor of the two other servants.

In both versions of the parable, however, it is clear the master expected the servants to do something, not merely safeguard what had been entrusted to them. Thus, the background legal rule of which his initial auditors would have been acquainted seems closer to the American understanding of affirmative fiduciary duties than to the negative duty of Anglo-Australian law.

Why might this be the case? Bainbridge speculates that an understanding of fiduciary duties in the negative sense was associated with an agrarian society in which investment for profit was largely unknown. By way of contrast, as the Jews in Palestine came under the domination of Rome and its large-scale commercial economy, the background understanding of fiduciary obligation took on an affirmative sense. This might be the case although I would think that the shift from an agrarian to a commercial economy would have begun under Greek domination.

Even so, what accounts for the greater condemnation of the first servant, who at least stored the talents safely? Why should he be cast into outer darkness when the servant in Luke, who hardly exercised the baseline duty of care, merely loses what had been entrusted to him? Bainbridge again draws on the changing economic order—agrarian to commercial—to argue that Jesus was making the point that the fundamental spiritual background rules (which, after all, are the point of the parable) also had to change with the times.

In my words, for God’s people in the about-to-be-inaugurated messianic age, the pattern of life would no longer be the pattern of the nation of Israel as a relatively static exemplar of God’s rule in the world. Instead, with the decoupling of God’s people from a single ethnic group and a single piece of land, and with the empowering of the Spirit, God’s people were to adopt an affirmative, outward-directed understanding of their place in the world. To be sure, Jesus wasn’t advocating a crass health-and-wealth gospel, such is to reduce the eschatological to the material, but he was (and is) urging on his followers a mission that will be characterized by world-wide growth and expansion with “profits” measured in terms of increasing numbers of followers from every tribe, tongue, and nation.

13 June 2016

Convivial Thoughts Part 5: Francis Turretin and the Possibility of Pagan Virtue


I was moderator for the presentation by Stephen Wolfe on Francis Turretin and the Possibility of Pagan Virtue. Wolfe undertook two significant arguments. First, he wanted to correct the continuing misapprehension of many contemporary theologians and political philosophers about early modern Calvinist political thought. And, second, he articulated Turrentin's rationale for the conclusion that pagans could produce real civic good(s) yet even so stand condemned as unrighteous before God.

Michael Walzer and, to a lesser extent, Charles Taylor were the objects of Wolfe's first argument. Walzer's classic "The Revolution of the Saints" continues to stand for the proposition that John Calvin's political philosophy was proto-Hobbesian, a world in which the effects of sin were so devastating, both morally and epistemically, that the post-lapsarian social life of human beings could be arranged only by rulers who imposed their will on the recalcitrant masses. According to Walzer, Calvin's only addition was to add God's revealed positive law to the mix to the end that a Christian ruler would rule by imposing God's will on an atomized political community.

Walzer's account clearly fails to do justice to Calvin. My own take on the subject can be found by reading God's Bridle: John Calvin's Use of the Natural Law (download here) published in 2007 in the Journal of Law and Religion. My 2007 review of David VanDrunen's "Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms: A Study in the Development of Reformed Social Thought" (download here) also sheds light on this topic.

In short, Turretin, like Calvin, argued for a natural-law basis for human society, one in which pagans and Christians (and pagans at least as often as Christians) could arrange their individual and communal lives in accordance with the pattern implanted in them by nature and observable from the successes and failures of human societies in general. Turretin asserted that human beings were not utterly fallen with respect to the ends of creation; man can naturally do good with respect to earthy goods, those that pertain to our essential human nature. With the Fall, however, humanity’s orientation toward God was gone so that our accidental nature has been lost. It is thus in the distinction between essence and accidents that Turretin finds the power of the pagan to do good while simultaneously being unrighteous.

Wolfe went on to drawn four contemporary applications from Turretin. First, and what should be obvious to anyone, the external actions of those converted to the Christian religion may not be any different than those of unbelievers. Second, that the long-forgotten appeal to the “consent of the nations” should be revitalized as a means of discerning right political and social order. Third, focused as it is on the accidents of human nature, Christianity is not so much world-forming as it is world-perfecting. And, finally, contemporary Christians in the secularizing West should emphasize the revitalization of their local communities rather than on national politics.

Wolfe’s conclusions were met with varying degrees of assent by those who listened to him present his paper but it seems that everyone in attendance had concluded that triumphal “Christian transformationalism,” whether of the Left or the Right, had obscured more than it had accomplished. Whether the now-passing generation of the Religious Right or the momentarily ascendant Social Justice Warriors, the power of the Christian faith to restore our Godward orientation is often downplayed in an effort to change the world. Gaining the levers of power is not the means of bringing the Kingdom of God. Thus, a two-fold account of human nature like Turretin’s may provide a better platform for moving forward on both human essentials and accidentals.


Part 5 is the final of these Convivial posts. All in all, I adjudge the Convivium Irenicum 2016 to have been a great success. I know I had a great time and I’m confident others in attendance were encouraged as well. Kudos to The Davenant Trust for its work to bring ressourcement to the Reformed world.


09 June 2016

Convivial Thoughts Part 4: Hypothetical Universalism and Libertarian Free Will

(For Parts 1, 2, and 3 of my comments on The Davenant Trust’s Convivium Irenicum 2016 go here, here, and here.)

What is hypothetical universalism (HU)? And what do the Reformed confessions and theologians have to say about it? There were the subjects of Michael Lynch’s paper. The original answer to the first questions is straightforward. Peter Lombard’s pithy aphorism sums up HU: Christ’s death is sufficient for all but efficient only for the elect. But what does it mean to say Christ’s death is “sufficient for all”? And, for those who subscribe to the Westminster standards, is there any sense in which “sufficient for all” can be cabined so as to remain consistent with those standards?

Lynch carefully worked his way through the post-Westminster arguments in England that pitted Richard Baxter against William Cunningham in their disputations over the meaning of Westminster Confession of Faith 3.8, 8.5, and 8.8. Perhaps my lack of focus on the details of the debate says more about me than the importance of the issue. In any event, some form of HU is consistent with the WCF but it’s not precisely clear how it should be stated.

Like many before him and surely more to follow, Paul Nidelisky took a shot at answering the question of the relationship between a strong doctrine of God’s providence and the meaning of free will. Nidelisky had the advantage(?) of not being a theologian and approached the issue as an analytic philosopher of metaphysics. His first of three points—and one with which I fully concur—is to define “free will” in terms of a power. In other words, my will is free so long as I have the power to do otherwise even though I will never actualize that power apart from God’s providential decree. (The so-called irrefragability of Christ’s bones is the prototypical biblical example.)


Moving the argument another step down the chain of how God brings his decrees to fruition in human affairs is more problematic. Nidelisky took the position that God so decrees all of the multiple contingencies of each person’s life that she will inevitably choose in accordance with his decree with respect to matters in the domain of the will. While not entirely clear how this differs from Molinism, Nidelisky contended that it did. In any, his too was a working paper so we can all look forward to the published version to learn how Nedilisky works out all the multitude of perplexing details.

08 June 2016

Convivial Thoughts Part 3: George Carleton and the Synod of Dort

(For Parts 1 and 2 of my comments on The Davenant Trust’s Convivium Irenicum 2016 go here and here.)

It was good to see Andre Gazal again. As best as we could recall, we hadn’t seen each other since 1997 or 1998 in our Geneva School days. Andre presented his work-in-progress titled “George Carleton’s Reformed Doctrine of Apostolic Succession at the Synod of Dort.” I knew of the 1619 Synod of Dort from my days in the Christian Reformed Church; it’s the one famously identified with the so-called Five Points of Calvinism. I also generally recalled that Dort was an international synod, one in which there were Reformed delegates from nations outside the Dutch Republic. I was a blank slate, however, when it came to who those delegates were and what influence they had.

Several of the non-Dutch delegates at Dort were from England who attended at the direction of James I on behalf of the Church of England. And one of the English delegates was George Carleton, then bishop of Llandaff in Wales. James had carefully instructed the English delegates to remain firm in their advocacy for distinctively Anglican teaching and practices, which included an episcopal form of church government where bishops ruled. Thus, it should be of no surprise that Carleton and the others came in for some strong criticism on their return to England because the Synod had reaffirmed Article 31 of the Belgic Confession, which provided that the Reformed churches of the Netherlands would have a Presbyterian form of church government in which there were no bishops, and ministers and elders had equal ruling authority.

Two interesting points followed. First, Carleton protested that the English delegates had vigorously pressed the Dutch to modify their church order to provide for episcopacy and that the Hollanders claimed they wanted rule by bishops but that their civil magistrates were unalterably opposed. Such an admission by the Dutch greatly surprised me, especially when in Scotland it was the magistrate—James VI—who distrusted a Presbyterian form of church government and in England—as James I—he liked having bishops. In other words, if the English civil magistrate preferred episcopacy, why wouldn’t the magistrates in the Netherlands likewise want it?

Second, and of more general interest, was Carleton’s rational for episcopacy: only bishops could maintain a legitimate claim to authority via apostolic succession. My notes regarding Carleton’s argument as relayed by Gazal are sketchy but it went something like this: #1—Christ delegated to his apostles governing authority over (i) doctrine (i.e., creation of Scripture) and (ii) the church (guaranteeing correct teaching by ordaining clergy (presbyters) and, if necessary, removing them if they began to teach heresy); #2—this two-fold authority is perpetual; #3yet with the close of the canon, revelation of doctrine (#1(i)) is complete; #4someone (the apostles’ successors) had to have continuing jurisdiction over the church (#1(ii)) since the need for godly teachers and the danger of heresy remain; #5the clergy couldn’t have jurisdiction over themselves; thus, #6only bishops today have that residual apostolic authority.

Whatever the substantive merits of Carleton’s rationale, it suggests another question: Why don’t the bishops of the Church of Rome have this residual apostolic authority? Because, Carleton argued, they forfeited that authority by wrongfully delegating it to the Pope. According to Christ's apostolic order the Church is to be governed by a plurality of bishops, not a single “super-bishop,” and thus there had to be a “reset” after the failure of the Conciliar Movement in the 15th century.

Altogether, Gazal’s was one of the most intricate of papers presented at the Convivium and it certainly left everyone with plenty of food for thought.