Copy, "I think Jesus started a single Church with authority and succsssion." You are wrong. Matt 28:18 "Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." Note He didn't say all authority has been given to the RCC. The word "succession" is not found in the Bible. It is another word dreamed up by the RCC to show they are "it" and they are not 'it."
IMO, here's the key
For ME, the epiphany was my study of the early LDS and of several American "Christian" cults..... In each case, there is a need to be able to condemn all others as apostate, heretical, terribly WRONG in order to condemn and to call people out of these "false" (or at least inadequate, incomplete) denominations: This MANDATES that all OTHERS be fully and immediately and passionately accountable - right here, right now - typically by self alone (the LDS or the cult). There NEEDS some basis to say, "All others are WRONG!"
But then, there NEEDS to be some shield, some absolute protection for SELF, an absolute exception to all the above in the sole, singular, exclusive, particular, unique case of SELF (the denomination or cult) so that SELF doesn't get examined, self isn't accountable. "YOU are fully and immediately accountable - to me, and yup, you are all WRONG! I - on the other hand - am absolutely, completely, totally exempt from accountability - in MY case, truth is moot cuz I got AUTHORITY/POWER and you are to jsut submit to ME as unto God!" Read the epistemology of virtually any cult. Read the early LDS Apostles and Prophets (Bruce McConkie is probably the most clear on this - and the language he used in STUNNING in being almost verbatim the same as Catholicism, stunning because Bruce McConkie knew almost nothing about Catholicism - he just defends the 180, the absolute double standard, in virtually verbatim words and thoughts).
HOW TO JUSTIFY this 180, this absolute reversal, this total double standard for Christian teachers? Ben, it's always done EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. The following NEEDS to be done to uphold this....
1. A paradigm shift from Christian to denomination, the denomination NEEDS the power to interpret, arbitrate, declare. There needs to be a very, very strong sense of the DENOMINATION, the institutional entity. We see this in the LDS (especially early on) and in every cult known to me. The DENOMINATION becomes the focus. There needs to be a ME vs. THEM mentality, insiders and outsiders. And a POWER base centered in self.
2. Accountability NEEDS to be embraced - strongly - because of the need to condemn others and underpin the "us vs. them" mentality. So, when OTHERS (others)
- speak or teach, THEY are accountable. Now. Totally. When OTHERS speak, truth is the issue.
3. But SELF must be exempt. This is the critical factor! The bright light shined on OTHERS must be turned off - turned completely off - when self speaks. Self must be shielded from the very thing it passionately insists upon for all OTHER Christians and Christian teachers. You'd think this would be hard! Especially for intelligent, thinking, investigating people! Turns out, it's not. The early LDS and todays cults are FILLED with smart, intelligent, educated people. How to "Justify" the contradiction, the 180, the absolute double standard, the insistence that all OTHERS must stand in the bright light of full accountability, they must PROVE their stance - and yet turn all that off for self? Here's out it's done:
4. SELF (note #1, the shift from people to denomination) was established by GOD. This - I alone was founded by God - is the foundation of this whole argument, the one point that will NEVER be surrendered because the whole thing crashes to the ground without it. GOD created, founded, established the denomination or cult or sect. Then (so the argument always goes.....) because GOD created this denomination/cult/sect - it stands to reason that He will especially guide, lead and protect it (actually, this is profoundly ILLOGICAL and UNBIBLICAL - but it seems to work). Thus, SELF is special. In fact, SELF may well be defined in God-like terms, a kind of self-deification, essentially making the denomination equal to God. "When I speak, God speaks!" "God cannot err, thus I cannot err!"
5. Thus, we have two SEPARATE issues: Truth (applying to every OTHER teacher) and POWER (applying to self exclusively). To all others - the sole issue is "is it true!" Self designates self as the sole arbiter to answer that question, and self designates the view of self as the standard/rule that defines what is true: if the other agrees with self, such is true - but of course, none do: so the goal is met: All OTHERS are wrong and can me condemned as errant, apostate, heretical, imcomplete or whatever title is needed. But what about SELF? How to turn off that bright light for self? Because SELF cannot be wrong, SELF - by virtue of being God's Church especially protected and guided by God - cannot be wrong and thus it's silly to subject it to accountability ("Do you question Jesus? Then do not question the Church, His Voice" said LDS Apostle Bruce McConkie). Thus, there is a clear paradigm shift to POWER. P.O.W.E.R. the POWER card is played by self every time the issue of self comes up. Some call this power "Authority." Some call it "Divine Voice." Whatever it is called, it is the POWER that self claims that self has so that self is exempt from the bright light of accountability that it insists is mandated for all OTHERS. There are two very, very, very different issues here: TRUTH - the issue for every other Christian teacher (including denominations) and POWER - the issue for self exclusively. Because SELF has this POWER - it is exempt from the very thing SO critical for Christian teachers.
6. I got interested in all this during my Catholic days quite by accident. On a website, I met a man who heads up a "rescue ministry" focused on a particular cult. Formerly in that cult, he works with other former cultists in trying to "liberate" people from it - especially since the cultists tend to be college educated, smart and typically pretty techie, on the net. The problem, he noted STRONGLY, is that the entire epistemology of the cult is a PERFECT CIRCLE that simply CANNOT be broken. "The Cult is divine - divinely founded, divinely lead, divinely protected - the leader is infallible (in certain cases anyway) and is the vicar of God (or Christ). It has POWER so that it is INCAPABLE of error - and thus, no matter what is brought up, no matter what, it's moot since the cult CANNOT be wrong whereas the one "outside" not only CAN be wrong - but is. Besides, what ALONE determines who is right? The cult. And what ALONE determines what is correct teachings? The cult. It's a perfect circle of self-authorization, self-authentication. "The cult is right so the cult is right when the cult says the cult is right....." There's no way to break that. The claim of self for self has been embraced - and the perfect circle established. It's a perfect tool to protect self. Whether that is done sincerely because self actually believes that self cannot be wrong (in this case, the cultist leader seemed entirely sincere) or simply as a way to protect a false teacher from what he demands of all others.
I hope that helps.