Free Republic
Browse · Search
Religion
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

The Time Machine Challenge (Protestants / Catholics / Church Fathers)
Catholic Defense ^ | June 11, 2013

Posted on 06/12/2013 2:50:41 PM PDT by NYer

There are certain Church Fathers (mostly St. Augustine) that are loved by both Protestants and Catholics. And we Catholics are inclined to point out that these Church Fathers were Catholics then, and if they were roaming the earth these days, would be Catholics now. They were members of the Catholic Church, and they held to Catholic doctrines.

There are a number of Protestants who agree with us. They tend to either (1) convert to Catholicism, or (2) reject the Church Fathers as heretics. But there are other Protestants who challenge this description, who deny that the Fathers were Catholic then, or would be Catholic now. In this latter category falls my friend, Rev. Hans Koschmann, a Lutheran pastor from the Kansas City area. Here is his argument, in his own words:

The TARDIS
The Early Church Fathers were neither Catholic nor Protestant as those labels retain to the original issues of sixteenth century Europe and the continued fracture of the church. It is anachronistic to make the Early Church Fathers into modern day Catholics or Protestants. It is intellectually dishonest to place a label upon someone that lived many centuries before simply because we do not know what the Early Church Fathers would think about the issue of indulgences or other issues of the Reformation. We can make arguments and assumptions, but these anachronistic arguments are more likely to reveal our own opinion than those of the actual Church Fathers.
This is a reasonable objection, and Rev. Hans is right that the Fathers had no way of foreseeing the future, of knowing what would happen in the Church in the centuries after their death. But I think that the Catholic answer is stronger than this objection. In a nutshell, the Church Fathers articulated an ecclesiology that made membership in the visible Catholic Church a non-negotiable principle. To leave the Church was to leave Christ. So we have no reason to believe that any intervening changes would cause them to reject their own beliefs and abandon the Church.

Still, without a time machine, there’s no way to prove that this answer is correct. We can’t bring the Church Fathers into the present, and see how they’d react to all of the changes within the Church and within the world. But it occurs to me that there is an easy solution to this problem: simply throw our (hypothetical) time machine in reverse. Instead of trying to bring the Fathers into the present, place yourself in the past. Unlike the future, the past is fixed and certain, and the Church Fathers were prolific writers. If you want to know what the Church was like then, you can find out easily.

Herein lies the challenge: if you took a time machine back to the millenium from 200-1200, what Church would you be in communion with?

I’m not asking about if you were a seventh century peasant who’d never known about any other form of Christianity. I’m asking about you, dear reader, today, knowing what you know now. If you could hop in the TARDIS and jump back in time, what church’s doorway would you darken, come Sunday? Would you treat the Church Fathers as your coreligionists? Or as heretics, even if (perhaps) well-meaning ones?

Given that, I’m curious to how my Protestant readers in particular would respond to this. Would you be comfortable being in full communion with someone who believes in transubstantiation? With someone who venerates Mary? With someone who believes that justification involves faith and works? With someone who believes that the papacy is the visible head of the Church, and that all Christians owe the Bishop of Rome their allegiance?

If your answer to these questions is no, there are implications to that answer:
Sandro Botticelli, The Last Communion of St. Jerome (detail) (1495)

  1. If you would reject the Church Fathers as heretics, this seems to undermine your ability to rely on them to prove disputed doctrines. It seems illogical to take someone you reject as a heretic (whether that be Athanasius or Pope Francis) and then use their witness as proof of a particular doctrine. Certainly, you can say, “even these heretics agree with me!” But it doesn't seem credible to, for example, cite to Augustine to prove original sin, while holding that Augustine was a heretic.

  2. It also undermines your ability to use Scripture. If the early Christians are heretics, there’s no more reason to trust the Bible than, say, the Book of Mormon. No Protestant group would dream of relying on a book as Sacred Scripture solely on the testimony of the Mormon Church. If Catholics, including the early Church Fathers, are in a similar position, then there’s no external reason to trust the New Testament. As for the Old Testament, different canons of Scripture were determined by (1) the Catholic Church and (2) post-Apostolic Jews. If both of these groups are heretically in the wrong, even the Old Testament is now in serious question.

  3. It also undermines faith in the Holy Spirit.  After all, if He abandoned the truth to heretics for that long, what reason have we to think that He’s not still doing that? By that logic, we might as well conclude that all Christians everywhere today are heretics.
If your answer to these questions is yes, there are implications to that answer, as well:

  1. If these doctrines aren’t a reason to be in schism from the Catholic Church then, they’re not a good enough reason to be in schism from the Catholic Church now. In other words, come home to the Catholic Church!

  2. The Catholic Church can offer you Communion with the Church Fathers. We have something better than a time machine. We have the Eucharist, in which we are united, through the Body and Blood of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, with the whole Communion of Saints. This Sacrament transcends all time and space. Thus, we have the ability, at each and every Mass, to be nearer to Augustine and Athanasius than we could ever be with a simple time machine.
As always, I invite discussion in the comments below. Are there specific Fathers you definitely would (or wouldn’t) be in communion with?


TOPICS: Catholic; Ecumenism; History
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 06/12/2013 2:50:41 PM PDT by NYer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; SumProVita; ...

Ecumenical Ping!


2 posted on 06/12/2013 2:51:15 PM PDT by NYer ( "Run from places of sin as from the plague."--St John Climacus)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer

Great and Powerful Line:

“We have the Eucharist, in which we are united, through the Body and Blood of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, with the whole Communion of Saints”

God Bless


3 posted on 06/12/2013 2:59:24 PM PDT by jafojeffsurf (Return to the Constitution)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: NYer

I disagree. The Church Fathers would be absolutely horrified if they were transported to today at what their “Church” has transformed into.


4 posted on 06/12/2013 3:03:54 PM PDT by fwdude ( You cannot compromise with that which you must defeat.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer

False premise. False results. Sorry. Not rising to the bait.


5 posted on 06/12/2013 3:26:47 PM PDT by JT Hatter (Who is Barack Obama? And What is He Really Up To?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: JT Hatter

Correct response.


6 posted on 06/12/2013 3:29:26 PM PDT by Mr. Lucky
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: All
2. It also undermines your ability to use Scripture.
3. It also undermines faith in the Holy Spirit.

What about my ability and the Holy Spirit together. Why are they separate and not enough?

7 posted on 06/12/2013 3:32:14 PM PDT by BipolarBob (Jesus gave us His life, His Word and His Spirit. Catholics made it a franchise.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer

Fantastic post.


8 posted on 06/12/2013 3:40:02 PM PDT by JCBreckenridge (Un Pere, Une Mere, C'est elementaire)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: NYer
If the Prots actually understood the ECFs they would become Catholics now wouldn't they.
9 posted on 06/12/2013 3:51:23 PM PDT by verga (A nation divided by Zero!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: fwdude
I disagree. The Church Fathers would be absolutely horrified if they were transported to today at what their “Church” has transformed into.

This is what I was thinking. I wonder whether they would even recognize it. At the very least, they sure as heck would be horrified with the fact that bishops/cardinals allow pro-abortion/gay marriage politicians to receive communion...and the Pope does nothing to stop it.

10 posted on 06/12/2013 4:45:27 PM PDT by piusv
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: JCBreckenridge; NYer
"Fantastic post."

I agree -- a great post!

Even the most ardent "Sola Scriptura" advocate has to rely on those human men, the early Church fathers, who God chose to bring the "Scriptura" part to all of us. Some apparently rely on the guidance the Holy Spirit gave to those men for their selection of what texts belong in the Bible, but do not rely on the guidance the Holy Spirit gave them for teaching and handing on their faith. (We should all remember that God does not appreciate those who reject the human beings God specifically chooses to pass on God's teachings, even though God knew they would be rejected, as Jesus plainly spoke about.)

(By the way, your tagline looks like a short pro-traditional-marriage poem -- do those words all rhyme?)

(Going to go watch Father Mitch on EWTN now.)

11 posted on 06/12/2013 4:59:22 PM PDT by Heart-Rest ( | www.ncregister.com | www.catholic.com | www.ewtn.com | www.newadvent.org |)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: NYer
The Early Church Fathers were neither Catholic nor Protestant as those labels retain to the original issues of sixteenth century Europe and the continued fracture of the church. It is anachronistic to make the Early Church Fathers into modern day Catholics or Protestants. It is intellectually dishonest to place a label upon someone that lived many centuries before simply because we do not know what the Early Church Fathers would think about the issue of indulgences or other issues of the Reformation. We can make arguments and assumptions, but these anachronistic arguments are more likely to reveal our own opinion than those of the actual Church Fathers.

Makes sense to me.

12 posted on 06/12/2013 5:03:28 PM PDT by sargon (I don't like the sound of these here Boncentration Bamps!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: BipolarBob
It also undermines faith in the Holy Spirit.

On the contrary, it affirms the fact that the Holy Spirit continues to guide the church founded by Jesus Christ.

13 posted on 06/12/2013 5:17:23 PM PDT by NYer ( "Run from places of sin as from the plague."--St John Climacus)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: NYer

I was responding to the points in your post. I didn’t write that - I responded to it. Ephesians 6:11-17 tells me what I need.


14 posted on 06/12/2013 5:23:34 PM PDT by BipolarBob (Jesus gave us His life, His Word and His Spirit. Catholics made it a franchise.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: fwdude; NYer; piusv
The Church Fathers would be absolutely horrified if they were transported to today at what their “Church” has transformed into.

I agree with you.

But I would wager that we wouldn't agree on the reasons why they'd be horrified. Just a guess.

15 posted on 06/12/2013 5:53:28 PM PDT by markomalley (Nothing emboldens the wicked so greatly as the lack of courage on the part of the good -- Leo XIII)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: NYer

“Herein lies the challenge: if you took a time machine back to the millenium from 200-1200, what Church would you be in communion with?”


Indeed! WHICH church WOULD you be in communion with? The Romanist assumption is that the Pope in Rome was the visible center amongst all the churches, but this false unity in a particular Universal Bishop was simply not a reality even in the days when the Primacy of Peter was seriously and widely believed.

From my stock reply to this constant and false assertion by Rome:

Does the RCC have a 2,000 year tradition that there is a Pope in Rome who is head over the entire church? Even in the days when the alleged supremacy of Peter came into vogue, not even the Bishop in Rome believed he was the only man who was the successor of Peter.

According to the Catechism, the Roman Bishop is:

882 ... the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.”402 “For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.”403

883 “The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head.” As such, this college has “supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff.”404

It was this same idea of “General Father” or a ‘Universal Bishop” that Gregory condemned in the then Bishop of Constantinople who had taken the title Universal Bishop:

“What then, dearest brother, will you say in that terrible scrutiny of the coming judgment, if you covet to be called in the world not only father, but even general father? Let, then, the bad suggestion of evil men be guarded against; let all instigation to offense be fled from. It must needs be (indeed) that offenses come; nevertheless, woe to that man by whom the offense comes Matthew 18:7. Lo, by reason of this execrable title of pride the Church is rent asunder, the hearts of all the brethren are provoked to offense. What! Has it escaped your memory how the Truth says, Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a mill stone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea (Ib. 5:6)? But it is written, Charity seeks not her own 1 Corinthians 13:4. Lo, your Fraternity arrogates to itself even what is not its own. Again it is written, In honour preferring one another Romans 12:10. And you attempt to take the honour away from all which you desire unlawfully to usurp to yourself singularly. Where, dearest brother, is that which is written, Have peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord Hebrews 12:14? Where is that which is written, Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God Matthew 5:9?”

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/360205018.htm

Some Catholics can read this letter and say that Gregory only condemned the title, but not the power they claim he still possessed. However, there are other instances where Gregory could have embraced his power as “universal” Bishop of the entire church. While at this time the idea of the “Primacy of Peter” was in vogue, yet this same primacy was not translated to a supremacy over the entire church. And, in fact, there wasn’t just one person who held the “throne” of Peter; according to Gregory, it was held by one Apostolic see ruled by divine authority by THREE separate Bishops, which is that of Antioch, Alexandria and Rome. Here is the letter in full, but first I am going to quote the RCC abuse of it:

The link to the whole letter first
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/360207040.htm

Now here are the Roman quotations of this letter, wherein they assert that Gregory is a champion of the Primacy of Rome. Take special note of the clever use of ellipses:

Pope Gregory I

“Your most sweet holiness, [Bishop Eulogius of Alexandria], has spoken much in your letter to me about the chair of Saint Peter, prince of the apostles, saying that he himself now sits on it in the persons of his successors. And indeed I acknowledge myself to be unworthy . . . I gladly accepted all that has been said, in that he has spoken to me about Peter’s chair, who occupies Peter’s chair. And, though special honor to myself in no wise delights me . . . who can be ignorant that holy Church has been made firm in the solidity of the prince of the apostles, who derived his name from the firmness of his mind, so as to be called Peter from petra. And to him it is said by the voice of the Truth, ‘To you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven’ [Matt. 16:19]. And again it is said to him, ‘And when you are converted, strengthen your brethren’ [Luke 22:32]. And once more, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me? Feed my sheep’ [John 21:17]” (Letters 40 [A.D. 597]).

http://www.catholic.com/tracts/the-authority-of-the-pope-part-ii

“Who does not know that the holy Church is founded on the solidity of the Chief Apostle, whose name expressed his firmness, being called Peter from Petra (Rock)?...Though there were many Apostles, only the See of the Prince of the Apostles...received supreme authority in virtue of its very principate.” (Letter to the Patriarch Eulogius of Alexandria, Ep. 7)

http://credo.stormloader.com/Ecumenic/gregory.htm

I provide their versions of the quotations only to highlight for you the parts they omit. And, really, there is no reason for them to omit them. The lines they remove are small sentences, and then they continue quoting right after they finish. It’s quite an embarrassing display!

In this letter, Gregory is specifically attributing to the Bishops of Alexandra and Antioch the “Chair of Peter” and its authority that they bestowed upon him. In the first quotation, the Romans omit the sentence which says: “And, though special honour to myself in no wise delights me, [they omit here] yet I greatly rejoiced because you, most holy ones, have given to yourselves what you have bestowed upon me. [They rebegin here]” After telling them about the “special honor” that is respectively given to both parties, Gregory immediately goes into a discussion on what that special honor is... which is the authority of Peter they all enjoy:

“Wherefore though there are many apostles, yet with regard to the principality itself the See of the Prince of the apostles alone has grown strong in authority, which in three places is the See of one. For he himself exalted the See in which he deigned even to rest and end the present life. He himself adorned the See to which he sent his disciple as evangelist. He himself established the See in which, though he was to leave it, he sat for seven years. Since then it is the See of one, and one See, over which by Divine authority three bishops now preside, whatever good I hear of you, this I impute to myself. If you believe anything good of me, impute this to your merits, since we are one in Him Who says, That they all may be one, as You, Father, art in me, and I in you that they also may be one in us John 17:21.”

Notice how different this reads when one does not omit what the Romans omit! Gregory declares that the See of Peter is one see... but in THREE places, over which THREE Bishops preside, which is Rome, Antioch and Alexandria, the latter of which he was now writing to.

So while the Romans insist that the Primacy of Peter refers to the Bishop of Rome, Gregory applies the Primacy of Peter to ALL the major Bishops of the See. They are, in effect, ALL the Church of Peter, and possess his chair and authority.

And Gregory, of course, isn’t alone in this. Theodoret references the same belief when he places the “throne of Peter” under the Bishop of Antioch:

“Dioscorus, however, refuses to abide by these decisions; he is turning the See of the blessed Mark upside down; and these things he does though he perfectly well knows that the Antiochene (of Antioch) metropolis possesses the throne of the great Peter, who was teacher of the blessed Mark, and first and coryphæus (head of the choir) of the chorus of the apostles.” Theodoret - Letter LXXXVI - To Flavianus, Bishop of Constantinople.

So while you may have particular people saying that the Roman Bishop has authority, or has the chair of Peter, yet these same accolades are given to multiple Bishops, all said to have the “throne” or authority of “Peter.” Furthermore, this authority, at best, consisted only as a place of honor, and not one that the various Christian churches across the world took as the “final say” on matters of doctrine or canonicity (just ask the Eastern Orthodox, the other guys who claim to be THE Holy and Apostolic Church of God on Earth).


16 posted on 06/12/2013 6:03:30 PM PDT by Greetings_Puny_Humans
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer

The Catholic Church gave the world the Holy Bible.


17 posted on 06/12/2013 7:40:13 PM PDT by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Biggirl

Be prepared for in-coming? LOL.


18 posted on 06/12/2013 8:18:54 PM PDT by NKP_Vet
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: All
Herein lies the challenge: if you took a time machine back to the millenium from 200-1200, what Church would you be in communion with?

Better still, what would/could you do once you got there?

Related time-travel thread:
THE GREATEST ACTION STORY EVER TOLD

19 posted on 06/12/2013 10:30:17 PM PDT by Alex Murphy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: markomalley

How about sharing some of those reasons why then?


20 posted on 06/13/2013 2:10:15 AM PDT by piusv
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: Biggirl
The Catholic Church gave the world the Holy Bible.

Is the Bible the word of the Catholics or the Word of God (as the Holy Spirit moved them)? The early church was instrumental in the compilation and preservation, but such work is for the glory of God not self aggrandizement. The louder this proclamation goes forth, the less God likes it. He who is first shall be last in the Kingdom of God. It is liken to the Pharisee who prayed, "at least I'm not as bad as my neighbor" Luke 18:10. You do not please God when you repeat this thing and boast on your church. So why do it?

21 posted on 06/13/2013 3:50:04 AM PDT by BipolarBob (Jesus gave us His life, His Word and His Spirit. Catholics made it a franchise.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: BipolarBob

Because it is the TRUTH.


22 posted on 06/13/2013 4:24:42 AM PDT by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: Biggirl
Because it is the TRUTH.

That is a poor excuse if I have ever heard one. Do you go up to overweight people and say "You're fat"? Or go to a nursing home and say "Don't worry you don't have long to live"? It may be the TRUTH but it is a poor example of which to do. Eph 2:9 and many other places in the Bible tells us not to boast. And that is what most of the Catholic threads are - boasting. Look at us!! We are the Church!! We have a superior church and are a superior people. Balaams donkey spoke the TRUTH but he was still a donkey. If the fact that boasting is abhorrent in Gods eyes does not deter you, I will pray for your soul.
Peace be to you

23 posted on 06/13/2013 6:21:15 AM PDT by BipolarBob (Jesus gave us His life, His Word and His Spirit. Catholics made it a franchise.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 22 | View Replies]

To: NYer

Odd. The “Church Fathers” agree on very little, and used terms that are confusing because the terms were later redefined to mean something else. Real presence & transubstantiation are not the same...


24 posted on 06/13/2013 6:35:32 AM PDT by Mr Rogers (Liberals are like locusts...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer

“Would you be comfortable being in full communion with someone who believes in transubstantiation? With someone who venerates Mary? With someone who believes that justification involves faith and works? With someone who believes that the papacy is the visible head of the Church, and that all Christians owe the Bishop of Rome their allegiance?”

Again, the early church fathers didn’t all believe in those things, either. Transubstantiation is a term invented around 1100 AD. Since the Apostles didn’t venerate Mary, why should I? I believe someone who is born again WILL live a changed life, but not that you are born again by trying to be good. And Augustine, IIRC, was willing to reject the Bishop of Rome’s authority.

The problem was when the church rejected the authority of scripture and sought to trust men instead. The change from an Elder into a Bishop was a disaster! And the evil lives of many Bishops, the selling of the office, etc PROVES the evil of the system. You cannot be truly saved and continue to rejoice in sin, yet Catholic theology says you can be a Bishop and rejoice in sin...


25 posted on 06/13/2013 6:42:51 AM PDT by Mr Rogers (Liberals are like locusts...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer
Very interesting post, and I am glad to see that it even provoked some thoughtful dialogue.

I must say, however, that the Church Fathers, while certainly not Protestant, are not (contemporary) Catholics either. They are Orthodox!

Well, maybe Augustine qualifies as primarily Catholic.

26 posted on 06/13/2013 7:19:43 AM PDT by Martin Tell (Victrix causa diis placuit sed victa Catoni.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Religion
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson