What is the “True” church? #2
During this program we attempt to further distinguish between the Protestant understanding of apostolic succession and that of the Catholic and Orthodox churches. In essence, Evangelical Protestants who find their roots in the Reformation define apostolic succession as a succession of teaching not necessarily succession in person. We also discuss theological accountability within the Protestant church. Oh boy . . . this is fun indeed.


Listen to the podcast and feel free to comment here. You can subscribe to this podcast at iTunes. Simply search for “Theology Unplugged.” 

To see previous show, click here.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    14 replies to "Theology Unplugged: What is the “True” Church #2"

    • Felicity

      Oh Lordy Michael…I think I’m the only one who actually listened to this podcast…WOW…where to begin…I took all kinds of notes and just as a foretaste…YIKES!!!!!! You think you are not “anti-Catholic” Well….I guess (according to Greg) we’ll have to wait until next week for “Papa Michael” (AKA: the new Protestant *non-denom* Pope) to let us know if “the Catholic Church is a true church or not…”


      Again…Where exactly should I begin? You choose.

    • C Michael Patton

      Thanks Felicity for listening. Actually, there have been quit a few people who have listened to this. Theology Unplugged is our most accessed ministry at Reclaiming the Mind. People just don’t interact with audio much on the web unless it really strikes a cord.

      Anyway, this is the place for anyone to ask questions or discuss what was said among each other.

    • Felicity

      I actually hope people DO listen to it and see your program for what it is.

      Here is an example of the “wisdom” of Papa Michael referencing Catholicism claim to historical apostolic authority:

      MICHAEL: “all that does is give you a stamp of legitimacy to some degree but it does not guarantee that legitimacy is accountable to anything because the legitimacy itself is unaccountable”

      Ummm WHAT???? (loooong pause…..confused stares… crickets chirping in the distance…)

      Let me get this straight….you are saying, that Catholics have a claim to legitimacy, but that legitimacy isn’t legitimate, because nothing legitimizes it except the legitimacy Catholics claim—and that claim is actually legitimate but not a legitimate legitimacy.


      Brilliant Michael (isn’t that what someone else called you…personally, I like the “Papa Michael” Greg coined).

      So…now to yet another contradiction in your “theology”…

      If history is legitimate, but NOT an “accountable” legitimate, why do you claim later in your interview that, “We (non-denom Protestants) find our accountability and ..our authority in history and in the scripture.” ???

      Seems you find your theology’s accountability in a legitimizing source that YOU YOURSELF fault as NOT accountably legitimate.

      What you have here folks is a man preaching sense to a certain point—and when that sensible speech fails to lead to a conclusion he would like to draw, he tosses in a blob of semi-historical pseudo-theology peppered with leaps of logic and tired rhetoric to dazzle a listener with a deduction that does not follow but seems to wrap up what’s missing through fast talk, garbled language, and loose connections accented by expressive elocution (AKA: hot air).

      This is why Michael cannot present his assertions in writing and evades direct questions concerning his point of view on theological matters. He is supposedly an “authority” on this stuff, and yet he will not clearly articulate point by point the distinctions he makes, and rather relies on a vague “same river, different boats” analogy and a relativistic “fallible” personal choice of beliefs to evade being responsible to the conclusions he posits. Instead, he relies solely on the glib art of rhetorical contortions to mask the inadequacies of his logic.

      I suggest everyone LISTEN to this “Theology Unplugged” (what an appropriate name!) and then take a look at 2 Peter 2, and finally–think long and hard before engaging the “Theology Program.”

    • C Michael Patton

      Thanks for the endorsement Felicity!

    • John Callaghan


      As a Catholic who just listened to the program, I have to disagree with your assessment. I’ve been reading Evangelical blogs and forums for many years now, and this was one of the fairest evaluations of the Catholic Church from a Protestant perspective that I’ve come across.

      Of course it wasn’t perfect. He’s still confused about some things – and, quite amazingly, he is willing to admit that honestly. Such humility is a rare and refreshing quality among those who run their own ministries. I, for one, would much rather have Evangelicals learn about the Catholic Church from someone like Michael Patton than from a better informed teacher who feels no need to present the Church in a fair light.

      From what I’ve seen here, Michael has only been seriously grappling with the Catholic Church for a few months now – since Francis Beckwith’s reversion. Even for a professional theologian, that’s not a lot of time to familiarize oneself with all the aspects of the Church.

      If, God willing, he is on the same road as Beckwith, then the best thing you or I could do is cut him some slack; offer him a cup of cold water; and do a bit of restrained cheer leading from the sidewalk. Pointing out how far he has yet to go and chiding him for any missteps is more likely to turn him around then to spur him on.

      In Christ,

    • Chad Toney

      Ok. I’m listening now to the show now.

      Felicity, I’m a Catholic too. A convert from cradle Evangelicalism/Plymouth Brethrenism.

      I agree with John and would encourage you to chill a bit. Michael’s stuff is probably the most fair and irenic evangelical response to Catholic stuff online.

    • Vance

      I have been a long-time listener and enjoy the show thoroughly. I am only halfway through this week’s show, and the only fault I have with it is that Rhome said God changed Saul’s name to Paul at the time of his conversion and he overstates the impact of the persecutions on the development of the Church in the second century. Other than that, I think it is right on! 🙂

      I also consider myself a “Catholic-friendly” protestant. I tend toward Arminianism, so many Calvinists would say I am halfway Catholic already! But, since I don’t accept the authority, and disagree with many of the theological accretions that have developed over the years, I could never actually “go there”.

    • Vance

      BTW, Michael, what are your weekly downloads for Theology Unplugged? Or is that confidential?

    • C Michael Patton

      Vance, I don’t really know for certian. We have about 15,000 hits to the feed for TUP each month, but I really don’t know what that means. But that is our highest hit individual feed We are trying to test out a new redirect called Podpress that I hope will help us to be more accurate.

    • Felicity

      Thank you, John, for your comments, but you seem to be operating under a false understanding of Michael’s “grappling” with the Catholic Church. Michael and I have a history dating from two years ago concerning similar issues that he repeatedly and obstinately kept reposting and feigning “interest in” and “confusion on” and “questioning of” Catholic beliefs at the Catholic Answers Forum. This is NOT a “recent” interest in things Catholic triggered by Beckwith’s conversion—it is an ongoing saga of his misrepresentations. Actually, I joined this blog because I believed (even after the experience of two years ago) perhaps Michael was now being sincere. What I have discovered is reason to once again question that sincerity.

      I apologize if anyone finds my posts too assertive, but I believe there is ulterior motive to Michael’s posts at CAF and his recent obsession with all things Catholic on this blog and it’s NOT in the interest of ecumenism nor is it that he is considering taking a swim in the Tiber let alone build a bridge across it as was his original claim at CAF that drew me here to Parchment and Pen.

      Here are the issues that I find to be a “problem” and “misrepresentations” in this particular blog-cast that I can only assume are purposeful since I KNOW Michael is versed in Catholic apologetics per his experiences at CAF. His main error is that he argues from a “negative” position. He does not support his own beliefs, but rather focuses on how the Catholic Church is wrong. He attempts to degrade the authority of the Catholic Church in order to give some sort of credence to his theology. However, if one analyzes the theology presented, the myriad contradictions expose themselves.

      I will list the “issues” that I find problematic in the blog-cast so that there is a better understanding as to why I find Michael’s assessment of the Catholic Church illogical and uninformed at best, and heretical anti-Catholicism at worst:

      #1 Michael claims the recent document from the Pope (which was actually issued from the CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH and not the Pope at all) was not about Protestants, nor directed to them—it was pastoral clarification to members of the Catholic Church concerning the doctrine of the Catholic faith.

      #2 Michael mentions “Pelagius and Vigilantius” as part of Catholic apostolic succession—Pelagius was declared a heretic by the Catholic Church and Vigilantius was the subject of a scathing polemic by St. Jerome and was linked to heretical views. To link Catholic Apostolic Succession to heretical views is erroneous.

      #3 Michael’s calling the Doctrine of Apostolic Succession “window-dressing” does not qualify as “irenic” in my opinion.

      #4 Michael claims the difference between Catholic claims to authority and Protestant claims of authority is the “difference in succession in person and a succession in teaching.” That statement assumes the Catholic Doctrine of Apostolic Succession precludes that succession in teaching. That is a false assertion about the Catholic Church. The point of Apostolic Succession is to safeguard the teaching of Jesus Christ—and in fact points to authentic authority.

      #5 The claim that Protestants “are in the line of the apostles because [they] are successors of their teaching” with no verifiable evidence to that except Protestant say-so, is in no way a preferable standard to the Catholic position that demonstrates a physical reality of succession and ALSO claims (through that physical line) the teaching is successfully conveyed through the ages. In other words—it is NOT, as Michael claims, that the Catholic Church believes they are successors of the teachings of Jesus BECAUSE we have a physical succession—it is rather that we have more compelling evidence that we have a true teaching of Jesus because we can point to the teachings of individuals over time and demonstrate how that teaching has not been corrupted and we can do so with physical evidence of the preservation of truth.

      #6 Michael claims that Catholic, Anglican, and Eastern Orthodox each have a different view of authority and each have a legitimate claim to that history of authority. What Michael fails to acknowledge is that Catholic, Anglican, and Eastern Orthodox all have the same history at specific points—not similar, as Michael says—the SAME history. The Church is “one, holy, and apostolic” until it splits. Indeed, as Michael says, the teaching must remain pure to have that authentic authority, and that is the claim that the Catholic Church makes—that the teaching remained in its “fullness” in the Catholic Church.

      #7 At this point Michael makes a leap to “Sola Scriptura” which has NO history within any Christian faith until the Protestant “Reformation” that denied apostolic succession and replaced it with this man-made doctrine that had NO precedent in Christendom. His contradictory claims concerning historicity of teaching being paramount certainly calls the doctrine of Sola Scriptura into question—but contradictions don’t seem to concern him—I won’t expound on the contradiction of Sola Scriptura and the removing of Biblical texts supported by Michael elsewhere.

      #8 Michael next claims Catholic “tradition had become so corrupt…” in the Middle Ages, but that statement is made without clarification. Sacred Tradition had NOT become corrupt—there were, indeed, sinners in the Church—in high positions in the Church, but sin is in every man, save Jesus—the “Church” is the Mystical Body of Christ” and the Sacred Tradition (as differentiated from traditional “customs” of the Church) was NEVER compromised by the sin of men. It is FALSE to claim otherwise.

      #9 Catholics DO NOT agree with Michael’s statement (as he indicated they do) that the Church was “lost” during this period of history. In fact, the demonstrable fact that the teaching of the Catholic Church and the practices and worship of the Catholic community remain intact to this day when compared to the early Church Fathers ATTESTS to the Divine protection given the Mystical Body of Christ in weathering the stormy seas of her adolescence.

      #10 Michael asserts that one could “buy” apostolic succession at this time—he says, “Hey, I’ll buy apostolic succession from ya for this amount of money.” This totally misses the point of apostolic succession and what is “mystical” about it. It doesn’t MATTER even IF that happened. The teaching of the Church is protected by the Holy Spirit and, as I stated, the fact that the teachings remained pure (as evidenced by comparison between Catholic Doctrine an Early Church practices and writings) bolsters the Catholic claim to the fullness of truth rather than degrades its credibility. God is beyond the “backdoor deals” of men—and He protects His truth despite the sins of men.

      #11 Characterizing the beliefs that have been the same from the time of Pentecost is in no way Catholics “painting themselves into a corner.” Since the role of the Pope and apostolic succession has been misrepresented from the get-go in the “Theology Unplugged” the “confusion” experienced by Michael, Greg, and Rhome is not surprising. When the basis of the claim is faulty—the conclusion will be faulty.

      #12 Calling Catholic apologetics “silly” and “comical” and that there are “loopholes and acrobats” is in no way “irenic” as Michael claims is his aim.

      #13 To characterize the teachings of the Apostles as a “pragmatic way to ‘do church’” is in no way “irenic” as Michael claims is his aim. Catholics don’t “do Church” It’s Worship.

      #14 Michael claims history does not support apostolic succession FALSE. I’ve given some of the history HERE more than once.

      #15 Michael claims Apostolic Succession has not worked. FALSE. If it had not worked, we would not have the lineage that even Michael admits gives Catholics a degree of legitimacy. The Catholic Church has remained for 2000 years—that is evidence of it “working.”

      #16 Michael claims there is no Scriptural evidence to warrant the adherence to Apostolic Succession. FALSE. Again, I have offered evidence—the most obvious being Matthias ascending to Apostleship after Judas.

      #17 Claiming that Catholics “try to worm [their] way out of all these ‘contradictions’” is in no way “irenic” as Michael claims is his aim.

      #18 The Galileo incident should be studied rather than claiming the Church made a “wrong” infallible claim. Michael makes a blanket statement without backing it up. The fallacious claim perpetrated against the Church on this issue is well documented.

      #19 Rhome claims the Bible never gives us a position beyond the local Church. FALSE. In Acts the Jerusalem council is evidence of hierarchy beyond the local Church.

      #20 Although, as Rhome points out in an example, that the Church at Ephesus would go to Paul if there was a problem within the local Church, Rhome fails to acknowledge that when there was a doctrinal issue such as concerning the admittance of Gentiles to the Christian faith, Paul goes to a higher authority. There IS evidence of a structured Church authority within the pages of Scripture.

      #21 Rhome’s description of the hierarchy of the early Church supports the Catholic view—UNTIL he starts talking about Constantine. He does not explain in clear detail, but Rhome implies that the “bishops legitimized” by Constantine and his son, were corrupted by the influx of power granted them through the legitimacy of the Christian religion. He says “That’s where all of this now builds from…and this is what we now wrestle with”

      #22 In Michael’s explanation of Apostolic Authority being a good thin in the early Church as a protection against “novel interpretation of the Scriptures, he fails to recognize, that is the very same purpose the Church serves today against the heresies promoted in Christian communities that simply read the Bible and interpret as they please. What Michael describes at this point is EXACTLY the claim the Catholic Church makes today concerning it’s legitimacy through apostolic succession. –It seems Michael is explaining Catholic authority—but he claims it is Protestant. That’s confusing.

    • Felicity

      Michael ADMITS there needs to be an ultimate authority in interpreting Scripture and guess what he places on that throne—a hermeneutic. And what hermeneutic? History and Scripture. That’s FINE—as long as one looks at it appropriately and looks to find that “rich history” that Michael longs for and Rhome speaks of as old, traditional and central—it’s found in its fullness in the Church founded by Christ and preserved by the Advocate: The Catholic Church.

      As GK Chesterton noted in his collection of essays called “Orthodoxy”:

      “I have often had a fancy for writing a romance about an English yachtsman who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was a new island in the South Seas.

      “What could be more delightful than to have in the same few minutes all the fascinating terrors of going abroad combined with all the humane security of coming home again? ….What could be more glorious than to brace one’s self up to discover New South Wales and then realize, with a gush of happy tears, that it was really old South Wales.

      “… if this book is a joke it is a joke against me. I am the man who with the utmost daring discovered what had been discovered before. If there is an element of farce in what follows, the farce is at my own expense; for this book explains how I fancied I was the first to set foot in Brighton and then found I was the last. It recounts my elephantine adventures in pursuit of the obvious. …..I did, like all other solemn little boys, try to be in advance of the age. Like them I tried to be some ten minutes in advance of the truth. And I found that I was eighteen hundred years behind it. ….And I was punished in the fittest and funniest way, for I have kept my truths: but I have discovered, not that they were not truths, but simply that they were not mine…… I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy. ….things that I might have learnt from my catechism — if I had ever learnt it.”

    • C Michael Patton

      While I appreciate the discussion, please keep comments shorter and don’t use the blog response area as a place to post your own blog. You are more than welcome to use the forum for such.

      Thanks all.

    • C Michael Patton

      Oh, and thanks guys for being able to see the intentions of the broadcast.

    • C Michael Patton

      BTW: For those reading, you can go here and see all my interaction on Catholic.com. I don’t think you will find anything unlike you find here. You will have to sign on to see this page. If it does not work, just register, sign on, and search for “michaelp.” I have had quite a bit of valuable interaction there over the years.

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