Skip to comments.THE CHURCH FATHERS: A DOOR TO ROME (fundamentalist warns saying they sound too Catholic)
Posted on 08/30/2009 2:03:16 PM PDT by NYer
Updated August 18, 2008 (first published June 4, 2008) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article) -
Many people have walked into the Roman Catholic Church through the broad door of the “church fathers,” and this is a loud warning today when there is a widespread attraction to the “church fathers” within evangelicalism.
The Catholic apologetic ministries use the “church fathers” to prove that Rome’s doctrines go back to the earliest centuries. In the book Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic, David Currie continually uses the church fathers to support his position. He says, “The other group of authors whom Evangelicals should read ... is the early Fathers of the Church” (p. 4).
The contemplative prayer movement is built on this same weak foundation. The late Robert Webber, a Wheaton College professor who was one of the chief proponents of this back to the “church fathers” movement, said:
“The early Fathers can bring us back to what is common and help us get behind our various traditions ... Here is where our unity lies. ... evangelicals need to go beyond talk about the unity of the church to experience it through an attitude of acceptance of the whole church and an entrance into dialogue with the Orthodox, Catholic, and other Protestant bodies” (Ancient-Future Faith, 1999, p. 89).
The fact is that the “early Fathers” were mostly heretics!
This term refers to various church leaders of the first few centuries after the apostles whose writings have been preserved.
The only genuine “church fathers” are the apostles and prophets their writings that were given by divine inspiration and recorded in the Holy Scripture. They gave us the “faith ONCE delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). The faith they delivered is able to make us “perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We don’t need anything beyond the Bible. The teaching of the “church fathers” does not contain one jot or tittle of divine revelation.
The term “church fathers” is a misnomer that was derived from the Catholic Church’s false doctrine of hierarchical church polity. These men were not “fathers” of the church in any scriptural sense and did not have any divine authority. They were merely church leaders from various places who have left a record of their faith in writing. But the Roman Catholic Church exalted men to authority beyond the bounds designated by Scripture, making them “fathers” over the churches located within entire regions and over the churches of the whole world.
The “church fathers” are grouped into four divisions: Apostolic Fathers (second century), Ante-Nicene Fathers (second and third centuries), Nicene Fathers (fourth century), and Post-Nicene Fathers (fifth century). Nicene refers to the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 that dealt with the issue of Arianism and affirmed the doctrine of Christ’s deity. Thus, the Ante-Nicene Fathers are so named because they lived in the century before this council, and the Post-Nicene, because they lived in the century following the council.
All of the “church fathers” were infected with some false doctrine, and most of them were seriously infected. Even the so-called Apostolic Fathers of the second century were teaching the false gospel that baptism, celibacy, and martyrdom provided forgiveness of sin (Howard Vos, Exploring Church History, p. 12). And of the later “fathers”--Clement, Origen, Cyril, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, Theodore, and John Chrysostom--the same historian admits: “In their lives and teachings we find the seed plot of almost all that arose later. In germ form appear the dogmas of purgatory, transubstantiation, priestly mediation, baptismal regeneration, and the whole sacramental system” (Vos, p. 25).
In fact, one of the Post-Nicene “fathers” is Leo the Great, the first Roman Catholic Pope!
Therefore, the “church fathers” are actually the fathers of the Roman Catholic Church. They are the men who laid the foundation of apostasy that produced Romanism and Greek Orthodoxy.
The New Testament Scriptures warns frequently that there would be an apostasy, a turning from the faith among professing Christians. The apostles and prophets warned said this apostasy had already begun in their day and warned that it would increase as the time of Christ’s return draws nearer.
Paul testified of this in many places, giving us a glimpse into the vicious assault that was already plaguing the work of God. Consider his last message to the pastors at Ephesus (Acts 20:29-30). Paul warned them that false teachers would come from without and would also arise from within their own ranks. Consider his second epistle to Corinth (2 Cor. 11:1-4, 12-15). The false teachers who were active at Corinth were corrupting three of the cardinal doctrines of the New Testament faith, the doctrine of Christ, Salvation, and the Holy Spirit; and the churches were in danger of being overthrown by these errors. Consider Paul’s warnings to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:1-6 and 2 Timothy 3:1-13 and 4:3-4.
Peter devoted the entire second chapter of his second epistle to this theme. He warned in verse one that there would be false teachers who hold “damnable heresies,” referring to heresies that damn the soul to eternal hell. If someone denies, for example, the Virgin Birth, Deity, Humanity, Sinlessness, Eternality, Atonement, or Resurrection of Jesus Christ he cannot be saved. Heresies pertaining to such matters are damnable heresies. The corruption of the “doctrine of Christ” results in a “false christ.”
John gave similar warnings in his epistles (1 John 2:18, 19, 22; 4:1-3; 2 John 7-11).
In addressing the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, the Lord Jesus Christ warned that many of the apostolic churches were already weak and were under severe stress from heretical attacks (Rev. 2:6, 14-15, 20-24; 3:2, 15-17).
Thus the New Testament faith was being attacked on every hand in the days of the apostles by Gnosticism, Judaism, Nicolaitanism, and other heresies.
And the apostles and prophets warned that this apostasy would increase.
Paul said, “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13). This describes the course of the church age in terms of the spread of heresy!
Therefore it is not surprising to find doctrinal error rampant among the churches even in the early centuries.
Further, we only have a very partial record of the early centuries and the surviving writings have been heavily filtered by Rome. The Roman Catholic Church was in power for a full millennium and its Inquisition reached to the farthest corners of Europe and beyond. Rome did everything in its power to destroy the writings of those who differed with her. Consider the Waldenses. These were Bible-believing Christians who lived in northern Italy and southern France and elsewhere during the Dark Ages and were viciously persecuted by Rome for centuries. Though we know that the Waldenses have a history that begins in the 11th century if not before, their historical record was almost completely destroyed by Rome. Only a handful of Waldensian writings were preserved from all of those centuries.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the extant writings from the early centuries are ones that are sympathetic to Rome’s doctrines. This does not prove that most of the churches then held to Roman Catholic doctrine. It proves only that those writings sympathetic to Rome were allowed to survive. We know that there were many churches in existence in those early centuries that did not agree with Roman doctrine, because they were persecuted by the Romanists and are mentioned in the writings of the “church fathers.”
A LOOK AT SOME OF THE CHURCH FATHERS
Ignatius (c. 50-110)
Ignatius was the bishop of Antioch in the early second century. He was arrested in about A.D. 110 and sent to Rome for trial and martyrdom.
1. He taught that churches should have elders and a ruling bishop; in other words, he was exalting one bishop over another, whereas in scripture the terms “bishop” and “elder” refer to the same humble office in the assembly (Titus 1:5-7).
2. He taught that all churches are a part of one universal church.
3. He claimed that a church does not have authority to baptize or conduct the Lord’s Supper unless it has a bishop.
These relatively innocent errors helped prepare the way for more error in the next century.
Justin Martyr (c. 100 – c. 165)
When Justin embraced Christianity, he held on to some of his pagan philosophy.
1. He interpreted the Scriptures allegorically and mystically.
2. He helped develop the idea of a “middle state” after death that was neither heaven nor hell. Eventually this doctrine became Rome’s purgatory.
Irenaeus (c. 125-202)
Irenaeus was a pastor in Lyons, France, who wrote a polemic titled Against Heresies in about A.D. 185.
1. He supported the authority of the bishop as a ruler over many churches.
2. He defended church tradition beyond what the Scripture allows. For this reason he is claimed by the Roman Catholic Church as one of their own.
3. He taught the Catholic heresy of “real presence,” saying, “The Eucharist becomes the body of Christ.”
Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 – c. 230)
1. Clement headed the allegorizing school of Alexandria from 190 to 202. This school was founded by Pantaenus.
2. Clement intermingled the philosophy of Plato with Christianity.
3. He helped develop the doctrine of purgatory and believed that most men would eventually be saved.
Tertullian (c. 155 – c. 255)
Tertullian lived in Carthage in North Africa (located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in modern Tunisia, between Libya and Algeria).
1. Though he fought against Gnosticism, he also exalted the authority of the church beyond that allowed by Scripture. He taught that the church’s authority comes through apostolic succession.
2. He believed that the bread of the Lord’s Supper was Christ and worried about dropping crumbs of it on the ground.
3. He adopted Montanism, believing that Montanus spoke prophecies by inspiration of God.
4. He taught that widows who remarried committed fornication.
5. He taught that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins.
6. He classified sins into three categories and believed in confession of sins to a bishop.
7. He said that the human soul was seen in a vision as “tender, light, and of the colour of air.” He claimed that all human souls were in Adam and are transmitted to us with the taint of original sin upon them.
8. He taught that there was a time when the Son of God did not exist and when God was not a Father.
9. He taught that Mary was the second Eve who by her obedience remedied the disobedience of the first Eve.
Cyprian (? – 258)
Cyprian was the “bishop of Carthage” in Africa.
1. He was tyrannical and wealthy and he wrote against the Novatian churches for their efforts to maintain a pure church membership.
2. Cyprian defended the unscriptural doctrine that certain bishops had authority over many churches and that all pastors must submit to them.
3. He supported the heresy of infant baptism.
No wonder Cyprian was made one of the “saints” of the Catholic Church.
Though he endured persecution and torture for the cause of Christ under the emperor Decius in 250, Origen was loaded with false teachings. Origen’s character is described by the Lutheran historian Mosheim as “a compound of contraries, wise and unwise, acute and stupid, judicious and injudicious; the enemy of superstition, and its patron; a strenuous defender of Christianity, and its corrupter; energetic and irresolute; one to whom the Bible owes much, and from whom it has suffered much.”
We do not agree that the Bible owes Origen much, but there is no doubt that it suffered much at his hands.
Following are some of the strange heresies of Origen:
1. He denied the infallible inspiration of Scripture.
2. He rejected the literal history of the early chapters in Genesis and of Satan taking the Lord Jesus up to a high mountain and offering him the kingdoms of the world (Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. III, p. 614). Durant quotes Origen: “Who is so foolish as to believe that God, like a husbandman, planted a garden in Eden, and placed in it a tree of life ... so that one who tasted of the fruit obtained life?”
3. He accepted infant baptism.
4. He taught baptismal regeneration and salvation by works. “After these points, it is taught also that the soul, having a substance and life proper to itself, shall, after its departure from this world, be rewarded according to its merits. It is destined to obtain either an inheritance of eternal life and blessedness, if its deeds shall have procured this for it, or to be delivered up to eternal fire and punishment, if the guilt of its crimes shall have brought it down to this” (Origen, cited by W.A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers).
5. He believed the Holy Spirit was possibly a created being of some sort. “In His case [that of the Holy Spirit], however, it is not clearly distinguished whether or not He was born or even whether He is or is not to be regarded as a Son of God” (Origen, cited by W.A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers).
6. He believed in a form of purgatory and universalism, denying the literal fire of hell and believing that even Satan would be saved eventually. “Now let us see what is meant by the threatening with eternal fire. ... It seems to be indicated by these words that every sinner kindles for himself the flame of his own fire and is not plunged into some fire which was kindled beforehand by someone else or which already existed before him. ... And when this dissolution and tearing asunder of the soul shall have been accomplished by means of the application of fire, no doubt it will afterwards be solidified into a firmer structure and into a restoration of itself” (Origen, cited by W.A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers).
7. He believed that men’s souls are preexistent and that stars and planets possibly have souls. “In regard to the sun, however, and the moon and the stars, as to whether they are living beings or are without life, there is not clear tradition” (Origen, cited by W.A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers).
8. He believed that Jesus was a created being and not eternal. “He held an aberrant view on the nature of Christ, which gave rise to the later Arian heresy” (Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, “Origen”). That Origen believed Jesus Christ had an origin is evident from this statement: “Secondly, that Jesus Christ Himself, who came, was born of the Father before all creatures; and after He had ministered to the Father in the creation of all things,--for through Him were all things made” (Origen, quoted by W.A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers).
9. He denied the bodily resurrection, claiming that the resurrection body is spherical, non-material, and does not have members. “He denied the tangible, physical nature of the resurrection body in clear contrast to the teaching of Scripture” (Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, “Origen”). He was condemned by the Council of Constantinople on this count.
10. Origen allegorized the Bible saying, “The Scriptures have little use to those who understand them literally.” In this he was one of the fathers of the heretical amillennial method of prophetic interpretation, which was given further development by Augustine and later adopted by the Roman Catholic Church. This destroyed the apostolic doctrine of the imminency of the return of Christ (Mt. 24:42, 44; 25:13; Mk. 13:33) and the literal Tribulation and Millennial Kingdom. It also did away with a literal fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel and set the stage for the persecution of the Jews by the Roman Catholic Church.
Eusebius of Caesarea (270-340)
1. Eusebius collected the writings of Origen and promoted his erroneous teachings. “Whatever proof exists that Origen and his school deteriorated the correctness of the text, it is to the same extent clear that Eusebius accepted and perpetuated that injury” (Discussions of Robert Lewis Dabney, I, p. 387).
2. Constantine the Great, who had joined church and state in the Roman Empire and had thereby laid the foundation for the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church, hired Eusebius to produce some Greek New Testaments. Frederick Nolan and other authorities have charged Eusebius with making many changes in the text of Scripture. “As it is thus apparent that Eusebius wanted not the power, so it may be shewn that he wanted not the will, to make those alterations in the sacred text, with which I have ventured to accuse him” (Nolan, Inquiry into the Integrity of the Greek Vulgate, p. 35).
3. Many of the noted omissions in the modern versions can be traced to this period, including Mark 16:9-20 and John 8:1-11. After intensive investigation, Frederick Nolan concluded that Eusebius “suppressed those passages in his edition” (Nolan, p. 240). In fact, many textual authorities have identified Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, the manuscripts so revered by modern textual critics, as two of the copies of the Greek New Testament made by Eusebius. These manuscripts also contained the spurious apocryphal writings, Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas. Origen had considered these two uninspired and fanciful books as canonical Scripture (Goodspeed, The Formation of the New Testament, p. 103).
Jerome (Sophronius Eusebius Hieronymus) (340-420)
Jerome was called upon by Damasus, the Bishop of Rome, to produce a standard Latin Bible. This was completed between A.D. 383 and 405 and became the Bible adopted by the Roman Catholic Church. It is commonly called the Latin vulgate (meaning common).
Modern textual critic Bruce Metzger says that the Greek manuscripts used by Jerome “apparently belonged to the Alexandrian type of text” (Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, p. 76). This means they were in the same family as those underlying the modern versions. Kenyon and Robinson also affirm this (Kenyon, The Text of the Greek Bible, p. 88; Robinson, Ancient Versions of the English Bible, p. 113).
This means that the Jerome Latin vulgate adopted by Rome represents the same type of text as the critical Greek text underlying the modern versions. These commonly remove “God” from 1 Timothy 3:16 and contain many other corruptions.
Jerome was deeply infected with false teaching:
1. Jerome followed the false teaching of asceticism, believing the state of celibacy to be spiritually superior to that of marriage, and demanding that church leaders be unmarried. James Heron, author of The Evolution of Latin Christianity, observed that “no single individual did so much to make monasticism popular in the higher ranks of society” (Heron, 1919, p. 58).
2. Jerome believed in the veneration of “holy relics” and the bones of dead Christians (Heron, pp. 276, 77).
3. Jerome “took a leading and influential part in ‘opening the floodgates’ for the invocation of saints,” teaching “distinctly and emphatically that the saints in heaven hear the prayers of men on earth, intercede on their behalf and send them help from above (Heron, pp. 287, 88).
4. Jerome taught that Mary was the counterpart of Eve, as Christ was the counterpart of Adam, and that through her obedience Mary became instrumental in helping to redeem the human race (Heron, p. 294). He also taught that Mary was a perpetual virgin (Heron, pp. 294, 95).
5. Jerome believed in the blessing of water (Heron, p. 306).
6. Jerome justified the death penalty for “heretics” (Heron, The Evolution of Latin Christianity, p. 323).
As for his spirit and character, Jerome is described, even by a historian who had high respect for him, with these words: “such irritability and bitterness of temper, such vehemence of uncontrolled passion, such an intolerant and persecuting spirit, and such inconstancy of conduct” (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, III, p. 206).
It is obvious that Jerome had imbibed many of the false teachings and attitudes that eventually became the entrenched dogmas and practices of the Roman Catholic Church.
Ambrose was bishop of Milan, in Italy, from 374-397. Because of his commitment to many early doctrinal heresies, his writings have been appealed to by popes and Catholic councils. Ambrose had a strong influence upon Augustine. The Catholic Church made him a saint and a doctor of the church.
1. Ambrose used the allegorical-mystical method of Bible interpretation, having been influenced by Origen and Philo.
2. He taught that Christians should be devoted to Mary, encouraged monasticism, and believed in prayers to the saints.
3. He believed the church has the power to forgive sins.
4. He believed the Lord’s Supper is a sacrifice of Christ.
5. He taught that virginity is holier than marriage and whenever possible he encouraged young women not to marry. His teaching in this helped pave the way for the Catholic monastic system.
6. He offered prayers for the dead.
Augustine was polluted with many false doctrines and helped lay the foundation for the formation of the Roman Catholic Church. For this reason Rome has honored Augustine as one of the “doctors of the church.”
1. He was a persecutor and the father of the doctrine of persecution in the Catholic Church.
The historian Neander observed that Augustine’s teaching “contains the germ of the whole system of spiritual despotism, intolerance, and persecution, even to the court of the Inquisition.” Augustine instigated persecutions against the Bible-believing Donatists who were striving to maintain pure churches after the apostolic faith. He interpreted Luke 14:23 (“compel them to come in”) to mean that Christ required the churches to use force against heretics.
2. He was the father of a-millennialism, allegorizing Bible prophecy and teaching that the Catholic Church is the kingdom of God.
3. He taught that the sacraments are the means of saving grace.
4. He was one of the fathers of infant baptism. The ‘council’ of Mela, in Numidia, A.D. 416, composed of merely fifteen persons and presided over by Augustine, decreed: “Also, it is the pleasure of the bishops in order that whoever denies that infants newly born of their mothers, are to be baptized or says that baptism is administered for the remission of their own sins, but not on account of original sin, delivered from Adam, and to be expiated by the laver of regeneration, BE ACCURSED” (Wall, The History of Infant Baptism, I, 265). Augustine thus taught that infants should be baptized and that the baptism took away their sin. He called all who rejected infant baptism “infidels” and “cursed.”
5. He taught that Mary did not commit sin and promoted her worship. He believed Mary played a vital role in salvation (Augustine, Sermon 289, cited in Durant, The Story of Civilization, 1950, IV, p. 69).
6. He believed in purgatory.
7. He accepted the doctrine of “celibacy” for “priests,” supporting the decree of “Pope” Siricius of 387 that ordered that any priest that married or refused to separate from his wife should be disciplined.
8. He exalted the authority of the church over that of the Bible, declaring, “I should not believe the gospel unless I were moved to do so by the authority of the Catholic Church” (quoted by John Paul II, Augustineum Hyponensem, Apostolic Letter, Aug. 28, 1986, www.cin.org/jp2.ency/augustin.html).
9. He believed that the true interpretation of Scripture was derived from the declaration of church councils (Augustine, De Vera Religione, xxiv, p. 45).
10. He interpreted the early chapters of Genesis figuratively (Dave Hunt, “Calvin and Augustine: Two Jonahs Who Sink the Ship,” Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views by Dave Hunt and James White, 2004, p. 230).
11. He taught that God has pre-ordained some for salvation and others for damnation and that the grace of God is irresistible for the true elect. By his own admission, John Calvin in the 16th century derived his TULIP theology on the “sovereignty of God” from Augustine. Calvin said: “If I were inclined to compile a whole volume from Augustine, I could easily show my readers, that I need no words but his” (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, chap. 22).
12. He taught the heresy of apostolic succession from Peter (Hunt, ibid., p. 230).
John Chrysostom (347-407)
Chrysostom was a leader in Antioch, in the Greek part of the Catholic church of that day, and became “patriarch” of Constantinople in 398.
1. He believed in the “real presence” of the mass, that the bread literally becomes Jesus Christ.
2. He taught that church tradition can be equal in authority to the Scriptures.
Cyril was the “patriarch” of Alexandria and supported many of the errors that led to the formation of the Catholic Church.
1. He promoted the veneration of Mary and called her the Theotokos, or bearer of God.
2. In 412, Cyril instigated persecution against the Donatist Christians.
A WARNING OF THE POWER OF THE CHURCH FATHERS TO LEAD TO ROME
Having seen some of the heresies that leavened the “church fathers,” it is not surprising that a non-critical study of their writings can lead to Rome. That is where they were all headed! And for the most part we have only looked at the more doctrinally sound “church fathers”!
In the late nineteenth century JOHN HENRY NEWMAN (1801-90) walked into the Roman Catholic Church through the door of the church fathers. Newman, an Anglican priest and one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement in the Church of England, is one of the most famous of the Protestant converts to Rome. He said that two of the factors in his conversion were his fascination with the church fathers and his study of the lives of the “English saints,” referring to Catholic mystics such as Joan of Norwich. He converted to Rome in 1845 and was made a Cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in 1879.
In more recent days many are following Newman’s lead.
SCOTT AND KIMBERLY HAHN, Presbyterians who joined the Roman Catholic Church, were influenced by the church fathers. In their influential autobiography, Rome Sweet Rome, Kimberly recalls how that Scott studied the “church fathers” when he was still a Presbyterian minister.
“Scott gained many insights from the early Church Fathers, some of which he shared in his sermons. This was rather unexpected for both of us, because we had hardly ever read the early Church Fathers when we were in seminary. In fact, in our senior year we had complained loudly to friends about possible creeping Romanism when a course was offered by an Anglican priest on the early Church Fathers. Yet here was Scott quoting them in sermons! One night Scott came out of his study and said, ‘Kimberly, I have to be honest. I don’t know how long we are going to be Presbyterians. We may become Episcopalians’” (Rome Sweet Rome, p. 56).
In fact, they became Roman Catholics, and the influence of the “church fathers” on that decision is obvious.
In 1985 THOMAS HOWARD became another famous Protestant convert to Rome. In his 1984 book Evangelical Is Not Enough Howard had called upon evangelicals to study the church fathers. Howard was a professor at Gordon College for 15 years and is from a family of prominent evangelicals. His father, Philip, was editor of the Sunday School Times; his brother David Howard was head of the World Evangelical Fellowship; and his sister Elizabeth married the famous missionary Jim Elliot, who was martyred by the Auca Indians in Ecuador.
The church fathers were also instrumental in the conversion of PETER KREEFT to Rome from the Dutch Reformed denomination. Kreeft, a very influential Catholic apologist, studied the church fathers as a student at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He writes:
“My adventurous half rejoiced when I discovered in the early Church such Catholic elements as the centrality of the Eucharist, the Real Presence, prayers to saints, devotion to Mary, an insistence on visible unity, and apostolic succession. Furthermore, THE CHURCH FATHERS JUST ‘SMELLED’ MORE CATHOLIC THAN PROTESTANT, especially St. Augustine, my personal favorite and a hero to most Protestants too. It seemed very obvious that if Augustine or Jerome or Ignatius of Antioch or Anthony of the Desert, or Justin Martyr, or Clement of Alexandria, or Athanasius were alive today they would be Catholics, not Protestants” (“Hauled Aboard the Ark,” http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/hauled-aboard.htm).
Kreeft is absolutely right. Many of the “church fathers” do smell more Catholic than Protestant!
The books Surprised by Truth edited by Patrick Madrid and The Road to Rome edited by Dwight Longenecker and Journeys Home edited by Marcus Grodi contain many examples of this phenomenon. One of the testimonies is by SHARON MANN, who says,
“I started reading the early Church Fathers and realized that whatever they believed, they surely were not Protestant. Catholic themes peppered the landscape of Church history. I couldn’t deny it...” (Journeys Home, 1997, p. 88).
This is true, of course. Catholic themes do pepper the landscape of the “church fathers.” What she should have understood is that they were not doctrinally sound and they have absolutely no authority. Whatever they were, they are not our examples and guides. She should have compared them to the infallible truth in the Bible and rejected them as heretics.
Instead, she allowed the “church fathers” to stir up her curiosity about Roman Catholicism and she ended up at a Mass. There she had a powerful emotional experience when the crowd knelt to idolatrously “adore” the blessed host as it passed by in its “monstrance.” She began weeping and her throat tightened and she couldn’t swallow. She said:
“If the Lord was truly passing by, then I wanted to adore and worship Him, but if He wasn’t, I was afraid to be idolatrous. That weekend left a very powerful imprint on my heart, and I found myself running out of good arguments to stay Protestant. My heart was longing to be Catholic and be restored to the unity with all Christendom” (Journeys Home, p. 89).
When she speaks of the Lord passing by, she is referring to the Catholic doctrine that the wafer or host of the Mass becomes the actual body and blood of Jesus when it is blessed by the priest and thereafter it is worshipped as Jesus Himself. Following the Mass the host is placed in a box called the tabernacle and Catholics pray to it. The host is the Catholic Jesus.
Roger Oakland describes an experience he had in Rome at the feast of Corpus Christi when Pope Benedict XVI worshipped at the Major Mary basilica:
“Finally, after almost three hours of standing and waiting, the pope and his entourage arrived. The pope was carrying the Eucharistic Jesus in a monstrance. Earlier that day during a mass at St. Peter’s, this Eucharistic Jesus had been created from a wafer that had been consecrated. Later in the say, the same Jesus was transported to St. John’s for another ceremony. Finally, for a finale, the pope transported Jesus to the Major Church of Mary. The pope took the monstrance, ascended the stairs of the church, and held Jesus up for the masses to see. Then this Jesus was placed on an altar temporarily erected at the top of the steps. A cardinal then opened the glass window of the monstrance, removed the consecrated wafer (Jesus), and hustled him inside the church where he placed Jesus in a tabernacle. This experience gave me a sobering reminder of this terrible apostasy” (Faith Undone, p. 126).
Mother Teresa exemplified this. She stated plainly that her Christ was the wafer of the Mass. Consider the following quotes from her speech to the Worldwide Retreat for Priests, October 1984, in Vatican City:
“I remember the time a few years back, when the president of Yeman asked us to send some of our sisters to his country. I told him that this was difficult because for so many years no chapel was allowed in Yemen for saying a public mass, and no one was allowed to function there publicly as a priest. I explained that I wanted to give them sisters, but the trouble was that, without a priest, without Jesus going with them, our sisters couldn’t go anywhere. It seems that the president of Yemen had some kind of a consultation, and the answer that came back to us was, ‘Yes, you can send a priest with the sisters!’ I was so struck with the thought that ONLY WHEN THE PRIEST IS THERE CAN WE HAVE OUR ALTAR AND OUR TABERNACLE AND OUR JESUS. ONLY THE PRIEST CAN PUT JESUS THERE FOR US” (Mother Teresa, cited in Be Holy: God’s First Call to Priests Today, edited by Tom Forrest, C.Ss.R., 1987, p. 109).
“One day she [a girl working in Calcutta] came, putting her arms around me, and saying, ‘I have found Jesus.’ ... ‘And just what were you doing when you found him?’ I asked. She answered that after 15 years she had finally gone to confession, and received Holy Communion from the hands of a priest. Her face was changed, and she was smiling. She was a different person because THAT PRIEST HAD GIVEN HER JESUS” (Mother Teresa, Be Holy, p. 74).
It is a great spiritual blindness to think that the Lord Jesus Christ can be worshipped legitimately in the form of a piece of bread!
A more recent convert to Rome is FRANCIS BECKWITH, former president of the Evangelical Theological Society. In May 2007 he tendered his resignation from this organization after converting to Rome. His journey to Rome was sparked by reading the church fathers. He said, “In January, at the suggestion of a dear friend, I began reading the Early Church Fathers as well as some of the more sophisticated works on justification by Catholic authors. I became convinced that the Early Church is more Catholic than Protestant...” (“Evangelical Theological Society President Converts,” The Berean Call, May 7, 2007).
Again, he is correct in observing that the church fathers were very Catholic-like, but that proves nothing. The truth is not found in the church fathers but in the Bible itself.
This is a loud warning to those who have an ear to hear the truth. We don’t need to study the “church fathers.” We need to make certain that we are born again and have the indwelling Spirit as our Teacher (1 John 2:27), then we need to study the Bible diligently and walk closely with Christ and become so thoroughly grounded in the truth that we will not be led astray by the wiles of the devil and by all of the fierce winds of error that are blowing in our day.
“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14).
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“Y’all understand that instinctively already. That’s why you quote Spurgeon and Calvin to one another. Once you do that, you’re already admitting the utility of tradition. Now the only question becomes ... whose tradition. “
Completely false. In my 35+ years as a Protestant, I’ve never heard anyone say, “Luther/Calvin/Spurgeon said it; I believe it!” We quote COMMENTATORS who provide ARGUMENTS, not AUTHORITIES.
If the arguments are persuasive, then we change. If not, we do not.
“To reject tradition means that you have to assert, in effect, that the Holy Spirit guides you, but hasn’t been guiding other Christians continuously over the past two millennia. If he did guide them, you should listen to them.”
The Holy Spirit guides, but we are all men of flesh who find reasons not to listen. ALL men discussing doctrine mix good and bad. That is why our rule of truth is scripture - it alone comes from God without human error.
Luther’s writings (and Augustine’s) are interesting. God’s writings are revealed truth. The latter judges the former.
Using the practice of those who deny scripture to judge those of us who do not is like judging the Catholic Church for the positions of Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi.
Sola Scriptura doesn’t mean evil men cannot twist words for their purposes. On the contrary - it is repeatedly predicted in scripture, so Sola Scriptura anticipates it.
“So we confidently look to our older brothers and sisters for their wisdom and guidance, because we are not so afraid that God will abandon us, His family. We are not afraid.”
Here! Here! Very beautifully said! Thank you.
Which would include everything following said by the author or commentary by any Protestant pastor or author, no?
When words are taken out of context and misinterpreted it causes confusion and that is why all Scripture can be used to help in our understanding of it. Not just reading one verse, but starting at the beginning of a chapter of the book to get the sense of purpose for the writings. The Holy Spirit is the must important part because, as we study the Word he brings understanding to us.
This Bible study, reading should never be done for idle curiosity but prayerfully and meditatively with a heart seeking after God's truth. As an example, I can tell you the Bible says "god is dead". But the verse actually says "A fool in his heart says God is dead." That's a simple way of showing the point of words in context meaning what they say. Another way may be you read something Jesus said that doesn't make sense to you. You could look up the verse where Jesus spoke maybe in another Gospel about the same subject and see if the wording is a little clearer.
As far as what Scripture were meant for which group, etc. we should read it all because there are parts that God is using to speak directly to a person about something but the truth of what is spoken applies to us as well. How many people quote the 23 Psalm when they are in a bad place. It was written by David to the Lord yet anyone who reads it feels like it was meant for them personally. I see it as God's Love Letter to US and he will ensure it is preserved for all Eternity.
Isaiah 40:8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
Because Christ founded the Catholic Church and protects it from error in teaching to this day. It is His promise.
It's all right there in Scripture.
Where does Scripture say sola Scriptura?
Oh wait, it doesn't......how ironic: a doctrine which fails its own test.
Precisely! And that's exactly the problem with the article.
You seem like a curious, open-minded person, who wants to know when and why such an idea can take root in the Church. Well, the only way to answer that question is to study history. Christian history specifically. We need to go back to the earliest generations of Christians, read what they wrote, and trace the development of their ideas down the centuries. In other words, you have to study Patristics. The Church Fathers.
Now here's the problem that many people, including the author of this article, run up against.
When you read the Church Fathers, you find something that is, to many people including myself, rather surprising. You very often see distinctively Catholic idea *right from the beginning*. So you'll read, for instance, Irenaeus of Lyons writing already in the 160s-170s that it was a matter of necessity--necessity--that every Church be in agreement with the Church of Rome because of its foundation by Peter and Paul and because it preserved the Apostolic doctrine in its purity from the very beginning. You read Clement of Rome in the 90s writing to the Corinthians taking an unusually authoritative tone with them. You see Ignatius of Antioch writing with authority to all these different sees until he writes to Rome, where he suddenly becomes deferential. You read in Eusebius that Victor, bishop of Rome in the 190s was threatening to excommunicate the East for its Quartodeciman observance of Easter date.
And this is all way before Constantine. Way before Christianity was even legalized in the Empire. This was the time of the catacombs, of the persecutions.
Basically, most people who read these writings find that they show a much more "Catholic" Church than they might expect. And there's a range of responses to that. Some people adopt a little more of a tolerant attitude and respect toward the Catholic distinctives (I think C.S. Lewis is in this class). Others actually convert. What the author of this article has done, however, I think is a little goofy. He looks at these early Christian writings saying these things that he finds a little too "Catholic" and he says..."Well...they are obviously heretics! We shouldn't listen to them!"
That's what's wrong with the article. Instead of revisiting his own assumptions about what the early Church was like, he just labels these folks heretics. Which begs the question--if all these guys were heretics, then who back then was orthodox?
So if you think it would indeed be helpful to find out when all these Roman Catholic ideas originated, I would advise you to do what others have done who have looked into this question and read the Church Fathers yourself. I can't know of course what your response will be to what you read. But not a few people, myself included, who have done so have come to the conclusion that these ideas were contained in the Church from the very beginning.
No Churches, no preachers, no pamphlets, and tracts. No posts on FR asserting Sola Scriptura. No "homecomings", no "Revivals, no stewardship campaigns.
Jesus says to Martha, "One thing is needful; Mary has chosen the good portion," but strangely fails to mention that the "one thing" is the Bible.
And, of course, the whole conversation displays the "binary" preoccupation of the crypto-Manicheans. "Only this one thing." "If it's not necessary, it is harmful."
Oh well. If people are offered butter and insist on margarine, we can still love them, and let them know there's butter for their bread should they ever want it.
Also, technically, we hold that revelation stopped when the last Apostle shuffled off the mortal coil. So the writers assertion:
The teaching of the church fathers does not contain one jot or tittle of divine revelation.is a yawner for us. We never said it did.
Then he suggests a meaning of "Church Fathers" which is nonsense to us -- and argues against it.
Similarly, mostly the disagreements are disagreements of emphasis, and the persistent problem of the what I am coming to think of as the protestant binary view, an insistence on a simple-minded interpretation and evaluation of a proposition. E.G.: He suggests we teach the false doctrine that Martyrdom provides forgiveness. Now, IF that means that we think the martyr has no need of faith in Christ, of the Holy Spirit in his life, or of Christ's once for all redeeming sacrifice, then it is inaccurate.
But he will be able to find instances of our asserting that we can be confident that, say, Polycarp is in heaven because of his martyrdom. He will spin that one way, while we hear something quite different.
His citing (without references) Tertullian gives an example of the problem of the sledge-hammer approach. Why doesn't he mention that while we look at Tertullian's earlier works as a picture of Xtian thought in his time, we also think that Tertullian became a heretic? It is dishonest to fail to mention that, or to suggest that we teach that "there was a time when the Son of God did not exist."
So he starts this rant by arguing against something we do not think or teach, and then presents evidence for his argument. The entire thing is built on a shaky foundation.
If I were to start an argument against you by saying "There is NO evidence that The apostle Paul was a red-headed parrot," and then provided reams of evidence that Paul was NOT a red-headed parrot, would you take me seriously? That is more or less what this guy does, and that's why I'm laughing.
Your entire post was excellent, but the part above was outstanding!
The author's ENTIRE thesis is that, "if it sounds Catholic" it's automatically heresy and this seems to based upon a predetermined conclusion that Catholicism is heresy. It really is the most intellectually hollow thesis someone can ever have.
It all means nothing if the church does not teach people to be still like Jesus did and the fhu.com is doing today. The church is weak in our society because it has lost the true way to pray where in all power comes through.
I think you might be surprised if you looked into what the Church actually teaches about prayer.
Very well summarized wagglebee, thanks!
The author is judging the Fathers by his own theological standards. That's a fair theological position. It's a horrible *historical* position though. If these beliefs were heresy, why were they never corrected by later Fathers, Fathers who were happy to correct people like Origen or Tertullian on other matters. If they were out of the mainstream of Christian thought, why didn't mainstream Christian thought repudiate them as it repudiated Cerinthus and Arius and everyone else?
The simpler historical explanation is that the Fathers weren't the heretics. Way of Life are the heretics. ;)
Ping for the orthodox laugh of the day. The posts are funny too and not only the protestant ones.... :)
They weren't even "corrected" by any of the Protestant Reformers.
From a historical perspective, modern-day anti-Catholicism requires one to deliberately IGNORE verifiable facts. Here are a few FACTUAL instances:
1. If the Rapture and Dispensationalism is so obvious, why didn't ANYONE make mention of it prior to the 19th century?
2. The basis of sola scriptura is predicated on two fundamental necessities, FIRST that everyone actually has a Bible to read and SECOND that they can actually read it (I'm not talking about having the capacity to interpret it, I mean the simple ability to read it). And the FACT is that neither of these conditions existed for well over 90% of the population prior to the 15th century. Before Gutenberg Bibles simply were unaffordable to all but the wealthiest families, this was not because of some conspiracy by the Church it was simply because the cost of inscribing them by hand was incredible (a true handwritten Torah costs around $40,000 today, but keep in mind that this really only contains the first five Books of what would go into a Bible). Because books were basically unavailable prior to the 15th century, the average person had neither the opportunity nor the reason to learn to read, people learned math that was necessary to their commerce and that was about it. Now, God obviously would have known that Gutenberg would not invent the printing press for fourteen hundred years after the Resurrection; so one must wonder why, if sola scriptura was so vital, He would be so cruel as to wait so song before it became genuinely possible.
“When you read the Church Fathers, you find something that is, to many people including myself, rather surprising. You very often see distinctively Catholic idea *right from the beginning*.”
Incorrect. What you find is that people who read church fathers thru a modern lens can see pretty much whatever they want. There are passages showing they believed in a spiritual approach to Eucharist, and passages from the same authors showing a more literal approach.
Augustine wrote 4 books on how to develop your own personal interpretation of scripture. He argued that difficult passages of scripture should be interpreted by other passages of scripture - not by resorting to the ‘church’ interpretation. Did that make him a Protestant?
No, but both Protestants and Catholics can read modern phrases into writing that had nothing to do with it.
When they wrote of the Catholic Church, they did NOT mean the Roman Catholic Church, with the Pope over all. When someone under Rome’s jurisdiction talked of the Bishop of Rome being supreme, it didn’t mean supreme over other jurisdictions.
It is also obvious that many church fathers had some pretty screwed up doctrine. You don’t have traditions passed down from the Apostles. You have traditions that developed over hundreds of years as various men tried to explain their beliefs.
My reply is to put those traditions to the test of scripture, which seems fair enough if they are to be given equal regard. What is the canon? Which writings are traditions, and which are not? For scripture, the tests were acceptance by all the believers, and intimate association if not directly coming from the hand of an Apostle.
So when people go from praying for the dead - which I’ve done, since the God who knows the future before it happens knew I was going to pray that prayer before the person died - to a belief in Purgatory, with temporal punishment for sins which were forgiven but still need punishment...sorry, that is a leap from faith into denial of the power of God.
All believers didn’t accept Purgatory - see the Orthodox Church, or various others outside Rome’s influence. No Apostle taught it. All scripture denies its basic premise - that God punishes in the afterlife those whom he has forgiven.
Real presence? I see no indication it was widely taught or even thought about by church fathers. And why believe a church father writing in 350 AD over the words of Christ, or the Apostles?
Those who believe tradition is equal to scripture ought to show tradition meets as rigorous a test as scripture. Where is the Apostolic authority for traditions developed hundreds of years later?
“The basis of sola scriptura is predicated on two fundamental necessities, FIRST that everyone actually has a Bible to read and SECOND that they can actually read it”
Incorrect. Sola Scriptura does NOT say everyone has to read the Bible and form their own opinion. It DOES say that church doctrine must be in agreement with scripture.
A teacher who teaches illiterate people from scripture allows all of his listeners to grow IAW Sola Scriptura.
The problem the young church faced wasn’t illiteracy, but vain philosophical fancies.
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” ( referring to things that all perish as they are used)according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” - Colossians 2
Too many have ignored that to their eternal peril.
You mean like the words of John 6 and 1st Corinthians 11?
The reality is that NOBODY even questioned the Real Presence until Calvin came along.
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