Skip to comments.The Early Church Fathers
Posted on 01/27/2007 6:12:35 AM PST by NYer
The Early Church Fathers were the leaders and teachers of the early Church. They lived and wrote during the first eight centuries of Church history. Some of their writings were composed to instruct and / or to encourage the faithful. Other writings were composed to explain or defend the faith when it was attacked or questioned. The writings of the Early Fathers are widely available and studied. They are accepted by Catholic and non Catholic scholars alike. Thus they provide common ground in establishing the beliefs and practices of the early Church.
The earliest of the fathers are known as the Apostolic Fathers. Their writings come to us from the first two centuries of Church History. They were the immediate successors of the Apostles. Three of them were disciples of one or more of the Apostles. Clement of Rome was a disciple of the apostles Peter and Paul. Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna were disciples of the Apostle John. Naturally we would expect that those who were taught directly by the Apostles would themselves believe and teach correctly.
Protestantism is based on the allegation that the Catholic Church became corrupt shortly after 312 AD. Thats when the emperor Constantine converted and made Christianity the state religion. It is alleged that pagan converts came into the Church bringing with them many of their pagan beliefs and practices. According to Protestant historians the pagan practices that were brought into the Church became the distinctive doctrines of Catholicism. Thus the Catholic Church was born and true Christianity was lost until the Reformation. But history tells us a different story.
Shortly after the death of the apostle John, his disciple, Ignatius of Antioch, referred to the Church as the Catholic Church. In his Letter to the Smyrnaeans he wrote: "Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" (8:2 [A.D. 107]).
In reading the Early Fathers we see a Church with bishops in authority over priests and deacons. We see a church that baptized infants and believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. We see a Church that believed in the primacy of Rome, the intercession of the saints in heaven and the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Thus we are lead to the inescapable conclusion that the early Church was the Catholic Church.
As you can see, the writings of the Early Fathers are especially helpful in refuting the Protestant claim that many Catholic doctrines were invented in later years. Although they are wrong concerning the age of Catholic doctrines their reasoning is sound. If a teaching appears after the apostolic age without evidence of previous support it must be false. Curiously enough though, they abandon this line of reasoning when it comes to many of their own beliefs such as the doctrine of Scripture Alone (mid 1500s), The Rapture (late 1800s), the licitness of artificial contraception (1930) and many others.
It is important to note that some doctrines existed in a primitive form during the early years. These doctrines would develop over time. One example is the Doctrine of the Trinity. All of its elements were present at the beginning but it wasnt clearly defined the way it is today. It wasnt until later that it was fully understood. This would not make it a late teaching as all of the information was there from the beginning. Other doctrines were developed in this same way.
Also worthy of note is the fact that the Early Fathers occasionally disagreed on minor issues that were not yet settled by the Church. This does not present us with a problem as we do not claim that the Fathers were infallible. While they were not infallible they were unmistakably Catholic. They clearly illustrate the fact that the early Church had no resemblance to Protestantism.
John Henry Newman was one of the more famous converts to Catholicism. After studying the Early Fathers he wrote: "The Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If ever there were a safe truth it is this, and Protestantism has ever felt it so; to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant" (An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine).
Christianity was started by Christ 2000 years ago and it has existed for 2000 years. It didnt go away for 1200 years and come back. Indeed that would have rendered Jesus words impotent. In Matthew 16:18 as He was establishing His Church Jesus gave us a guarantee. He said: "I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." If the Protestant hypothesis is correct, the gates of hell did some serious prevailing and Jesus Christ is a liar. But of course such is not the case.
But wouldn't you say that paganism corrupts all religions?
However, I do think the historical connotation was toward the Catholic Church. The Letters to the Churches by John in Revelation are an excellent indication that paganism has been around forever!
(Yes, I know there are examples even before the time when Revelation was written.)
**However, it also served as a hit piece on Protestants**
Freep-mail me to get on or off my pro-life and Catholic Ping List:
Please ping me to all note-worthy threads on Pro-Life or Catholic threads.
What does this have to do with "pro life"?
In America, paganism has chipped away at all faiths. Plenty of articles and exxamples to show that, from not holding a worship service on Chirstmas (large Protestant non-denominational church) to weirdo masses in certain dioceses.
Please ping me to all note-worthy threads on Pro-Life or Catholic threads.Now do you get it?
If you are planning on posting them anyway, I sure don't care as to the order. Go for it. The fact is that most of us don't have the time to really study these early writings in any depth, so we depend on others to break them down for us.
As an aside, if anything good came of The DaVinci Code, it may have inspired people (it did me) to check out some of these early writings to see just how far Dan Brown went off the deep end. There is a wealth of wisdom in those early writings that any Christian with an eye for history should find engrossing.
Don't you have a "Catholic" ping list apart from your "pro-life" ping list?
And why were you pinging them to my post?
As noted above, this article was posted for purposes of education to both Catholics and Protestants, alike. Catholics are sometimes talked into leaving the Church by those who claim that many of its teachings are unbiblical. They contend that such teachings were late inventions and not part of the original deposit of faith. StayCatholic.com features essays and articles that refute such contentions by presenting the patristic and biblical evidence for Catholicism. Hence, it was posted as a 'Catholic Caucus' thread. It is apologetic in nature.
Can someone please show me where there is any attack on protestantism in this article?
Why do you ask me these question again and again? I post as I see fit within the TOS of this site. Those who want can be added to or removed from my ping list at will. Your constant attempts at division grow wearisome. If you haven't figured this out yet, let me be clear - you cannot control me.
Narses maintains two ping lists - one 'catholic', the other 'pro-life'.
Veritas. Truth attacks falsehood.
Actually I keep one list. :)
Wesley was also not a fan of Purgatory. His views reflect those of the Church of England of his time. I haven't seen the "anti-christ" reference. Interestingly, Catholics seem to more intuitively understand Methodism than they do the Baptists or Presbyterians; that is, at least in my own interactions with friends.
None of which were ID'd as a Proddie Caucus.
RCs were welcome to post on those threads and show me the err of my ways.
Discussing protestant reaction to catholic teaching from a CAtholic point of view isn't a slam on Protestants, per se. It is a working to understanding where the differences lie, and that's why it's in the Catholic Caucus concept. You can go start a thread of similar content from the Protestant point of view, where we can't run in and say, "You're being mean to me!" because it would be for your enlightenment more than ours.
Or, you could start a thread in the open area where it would be free-for-all.