Edge Sanders asks: “Been thinking about some of your responses and the Catholic church being the church. Couldn't Jesus call a man, who is not a member of the RCC or ordained by them, to start a church? If so then how can you make a blanket statement that other churches don't have the same authority?”
Thanks for asking. I am not one to put limitations on what God can do as being our sovereign Lord He can do anything He wishes. However, according to Scriptures this would be highly unlikely.
He was very careful in selecting His 12 yet one betrayed Him out of greed and perhaps jealousy. We see them carrying out the great commission and growing in leadership through the taking of disciples and ordaining them throughout the book of Acts. Approximately 75 years after the birth of the Church at Pentecost we have St. Peters bishopric in Antioch, now under the leadership of St. Ignatius declaring and defining the first century visible Church as those who gather around the Bishop. Not much is taught at this time about an invisible Church that would immerge in doctrine after the Protestant rebellion against the Church. All Christians at that time would definitely fit St. Ignatius’ definition. So, without a doubt all who called themselves Christian and by St. Ignatius’ definition Catholic were still within God’s will stated in His prayer to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus prayed that we all be one just as He and the Father are one.
Up until the Protestant rebellion against Christ’s Church there had not been any thought of a layman starting a Church but only to bring people into the one Church of which I include our separated brethren in the Orthodox Church whom we share apostolic succession and a valid God ordained priesthood. I see absolutely no evidence that Jesus would call someone to start a Church outside of this leadership which He established for good reason and that reason was to fulfill His promises of an enduring Church, free from apostasy and with the fullness of truth.
Now authority is a different issue and here is why. Both ordained and lay people are called to the same great commission and all of us have equal authority in proclaiming the Gospel of our Lord. However, not all people are called to the sacerdotal priesthood but instead as I just eluded to previously the priesthood of all believers. It is the sacerdotal priesthood that has special authority given by Jesus to act “in persona Christi” to deliver the Sacraments to the faithful to assist and ensure in the greatest way that they would endure in their faith without interfering in their free will to choose Him or to reject Him. It is through the Sacraments that the grace is provided as food for the soul. The authority is further given to these sacerdotal priests to bind and to loose with the authority that what they do on earth is done also in heaven under the guidance and inspiration of the Paraclete, of course. And then there is the teaching authority of the Church through the ordained priesthood that gives assurance to the faithful from two essential perspectives; the teaching authority of the priesthood through apostolic succession, which is a visible authority and not just an ethereal authority, and the recorded promises and authority given to this servant class which Christ created from the original twelve.
The early Protestants in their syncretic blending of secular Humanism and Christianity, in particular Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin with considerable resistance from Luther, et al, were faced with a great dilemma in separating from the Church because they were separating from God given authority of both the visible Church and the apostolic leadership which Christ had established. They knew that lay ministers without any authority from Christ through the Church could not deliver the Sacraments or the grace by the means that Christ had provided through the sacerdotal priesthood. There was no way that they could establish a valid priesthood so they decided to abandon the priesthood and its authority for the man-made and declared authority of sola Scriptura. Believe me, the Church in its charity, had it ever imagined such a rebellion with the Bible being the sole source of authority, would have made it more complete in the fullness of the teaching of Jesus but the Church never envisioned that the Bible would ever be used outside of the community that had the teaching authority of Christ. But in reality, that would not have been possible anyway because as the Bible says if all of Jesus’ teaching was written down, all the books in the world could not hold His teaching that is entrusted in the teaching authority of the Church.
Lastly, there is further strong evidence that this is not something Jesus would do because of the evidence of what such a movement has produced in men establishing sects and ecclesiastical groups outside of His authority. What we have are tens of thousands of exponentially increasing schismatic sects all teaching different heresies and truth with each pastor and leader thinking himself a theologian and of also having some God given authority usurped for himself from a source outside of the only authority which is Christ. There is no biblical, Patristic or historical evidence that even suggest in the vaguest of terms that such authority could come from Christ outside of the apostolic priesthood. And we might also ask for what end? Certainly it is not for a lack of doctrinal unity and the confusion such an experiment has created within the Corpus Christi.
So, in conclusion not only do man-made sects and groups not have the same authority to establish churches but, in fact, have no authority. Not only is this authority not given in Scriptures but there is no evidence of it in historical or Patristic evidence as well. However, nothing I have said here is to be construed to give evidence or to say that lay people are not called to have special ministries and also to the greatest calling to be the foot soldiers of the Great Commission. God bless!