How can the church exist without a succession of apostles?
I happened upon your website today and you mention a few things I've been wondering about. I've studied Catholicism quite a bit, and am continually searching for Truth, and you seem to be headed there as well. Of course, Jesus is Truth, but how well has that Truth been handed down in 2000 years? As you have mentioned, Catholics call it Apostolic Succession.
In your article "What is wrong with Catholicism" you mention the separation of clergy from laity that happened in the second century. How is that different from Jesus selecting twelve men to whom he gave special responsibilities and abilities, such as the forgiveness of sins?
Also, what do you think Jesus meant when he gave Peter the Keys to Heaven and built His Church? Why didn't Jesus give us all keys? Jesus seems to be creating a hierarchy here. Do you think our modern world has lost touch with the Church that Jesus started? If He's God, wouldn't His church last forever?
I'm sorry if this is a ton of questions all at once. I love learning from a dialog and hope you will have some answers for me.
You ask how truth could be handed down over the years. Jesus said, "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17). It is by learning this truth that a person develops faith. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). Roman Catholicism minimizes this because the obvious conclusion is that it doesn't take a middle man for someone to learn the truth.
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life -- the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us -- that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full" (I John 1:1-4).
"For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles -- if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)" (Ephesians 3:1-4).
Jesus did have a special role for the apostles. "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone" (Ephesians 2:19-20). For that role, they were given special knowledge. "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (John 14:26). What you are overlooking is that the position of apostle could not be inherited. There aren't men in succeeding generations who learned from Christ. That is why we have the apostle's writings. "Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease" (II Peter 1:13-15). "Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior" (II Peter 3:1-2). The Bible makes no mention of a succession of apostles. See Apostolic Succession and Apostleship.
The apostles did bring in the church, that is open the door for salvation. Peter was granted the privilege of preaching the first sermon, as recorded in Acts 2. But now the door is opened that no man can shut. The idea that someone must inherit the keys doesn't match the symbolism nor has support in the Scriptures.
Yes, the Roman Catholic church has lost touch with the Kingdom of Christ. But it doesn't have to stay that way. The original plan for the church still exists and anyone can return to the start. See: We Are Simply Christians Without Being Members of Any Denomination, You Can be Too! It is because the church springs up wherever and whenever men read and follow the apostles' teachings that the church is eternal and cannot be destroyed.
Under the Old Testament, there was a two-level system of priests and the common man. One of the things Peter points out is that is no longer true. All Christians are priests. "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy" (I Peter 2:9-10). We no longer need middlemen between the worshiper and God. Each Christian can approach the Lord directly.