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Apostle (entered heaven in the first century)
I only have a minute to answer your latest missive. Something’s going on in the prison today, and in a matter of mere moments they will be escorting me into some kind of temporary cubicle for an undetermined amount of time. Pray that it is more temporary than typical university temporary housing.
In any case, your friend’s argument that the hierarchical structure of the Church (organized under the authority of the Pope – successor to St Peter – and the Bishops – successors of the other Apostles) was a fourth-century invention designed by Constantine to usurp the Church and use it for secular ends is totally ridiculous. Besides the gargantuan ignorance of history illustrated by such a preposterous theory, it explicitly contradicts Scripture. Just take today’s saint, for example.
After Judas had committed suicide, Peter and the other Apostles, under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, appointed Matthias to take his place. The Book of Acts records the event.
After quoting some Old Testament texts that point towards the perpetuity of the apostolic offices, St Peter said, “Out of the men who have been with us the whole time that the Lord Jesus was living with us, from the time when John was baptizing until the day when he was taken up from us, one must be appointed to serve with us as a witness to his resurrection.” Then the community nominated two candidates, Joseph known as Barsabbas, and Matthias, and then they prayed, “Lord, you can read everyone’s heart; show us therefore which of these two you have chosen to take over this ministry and apostolate, which Judas abandoned to go to his proper place.” When they drew lots, Matthias won. From then on, as the Book of Acts puts it, “he was listed as one of the twelve apostles.” (Acts 1:21-26)
That clearly shows that the very first Christians understood the ministry of the twelve apostles (the ministry carried out by popes and bishops through the ages) as something that was essential to the Christian community. It was supposed to last even after Christ had finished his earthly mission. It is not antithetical to the work of the Holy Spirit.
I don’t have time to recap the many historical arguments, but this Scriptural one is pretty irrefutable, in my opinion. Ask St Matthias to enlighten your buddy, and count on my prayers as well – unless they knock me unconscious when they move me to my “temporary” new home.
Your loving uncle,