the Church Fathers

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THE “CHURCH
FATHERS”
“Apostolic
Fathers”
325 A.D.
“Ante - Nicene
Fathers”
“Post - Nicene
Fathers”
THE “CHURCH FATHERS”
I. SOME POSITIVE THINGS
 They made abundant use of the writings of the
N.T.
"If all other sources for our knowledge of the
text of the New Testament were destroyed,
[quotations made by the Church Fathers]
would be sufficient alone for the reconstruction of practically the entire New Testament."
(Metzger, Bruce M., The Text of the New Testament, p. 86)
THE “CHURCH FATHERS”
I. SOME POSITIVE THINGS
 They witness in their own imperfect way that
the first Christians preceded them.
THE “CHURCH FATHERS”
I. SOME POSITIVE THINGS
 The evidence they give of the canon of the N.T.
“…They were trained by that earlier generation
which they surpassed. They inherited the
doctrines which it was their task to arrange and
harmonize. They made no claims to any
discoveries in Christianity, but with simple
and earnest zeal appealed to the testimony of
the Apostolic Church to confirm the truth of
their writings.” (B.F. Westcott, A General Survey of
the History of the Canon of the New Testament, p. 336)
THE “CHURCH FATHERS”
I. SOME POSITIVE THINGS
 They show the great influence the N.T. had on
the generations immediately following it, Mk.
16:15
THE “CHURCH FATHERS”
I. SOME POSITIVE THINGS
 Their defense of the faith.
THE “CHURCH FATHERS”
I. SOME POSITIVE THINGS
 There are many examples of them confessing
Bible truths.
Purpose of baptism:
“…Our transgressions being taken away by
one Paeonian medicine, the baptism of the
Word. We are washed from all our sins,
and are no longer entangled in evil.” (Clement
of Alexandria, 150-215 A.D., The Instructor Book, ch. 6,
Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson editors, The
Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the Writings of
the Fathers down to A.D. 325, p. 423, The Sage Digital
Library)
One church:
“Since, also, there is but one … God, even
the Father; and one only-begotten Son, God,
the Word and man; and one Comforter, the
Spirit of truth; and also one preaching, and
one faith, and one baptism; and one Church
which the holy apostles established from one
end of the earth to the other by the blood of
Christ…” (Ignatius, Epistle to the Romans, ch. 5, 50-117
A.D., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, V. 1, p. 161, Alexander Roberts
and James Donaldson editors)
II. SOME PROMINENT ERRORS OF THE CHURCH
FATHERS
 Action of baptism
“…Nor ought it to trouble any one that sick
people seem to be sprinkled or affused,
when they obtain the Lord’s grace…. it
appears that the sprinkling also of water
prevails equally with the washing of
salvation…” (Cyprian [200-258 AD], Epistle 75, 12,
ANF, V. 5, pp. 826,827)
II. SOME PROMINENT ERRORS OF THE CHURCH
FATHERS
 Church government
“Wherefore it is fitting that ye should run
together in accordance with the will of your
bishop, which thing also ye do. For your
justly renowned presbytery, worthy of God,
is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the
strings are to the harp.” (The Epistle Of Ignatius To
The Ephesians, ANF V. 1, p. 100 of Apostolic Fathers)
II. SOME PROMINENT ERRORS OF THE CHURCH
FATHERS
 Church government
“Damas, the bishop of Magnesia, salutes
you. Polybius, bishop of the Trallians,
salutes you.” (The Epistle Of Ignatius To The
Antiochians, CH. 13, ANF, V. 1, P. 217)
Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28
Councils
END OF SECOND CENTURY
Church government: COUNCILS
“From that time councils became frequent;
but as they consisted only of those who
belonged to particular districts or countries,
they are usually termed diocesan,
provincial, patriarchal, or national
councils, in contradistinction to ecumenical
or, general councils, i.e. supposed to
comprise delegates or commissioners from
all the churches in the Christian world…”
(McClintock and Strong, v. 2, C-D, Ages Software)
Church government: COUNCILS
“The second series of councils in the second
century was caused by the controversy
regarding the time of celebrating Easter.”
(A History Of The Christian Councils, From The Original
Documents, To The Close Oe The Council Of Nicaea,
A.D. 325, By Charles Joseph Hefele, Pp. 80-83)
Matt. 26:26-28; 1 Cor. 11:23-25; Acts 20:7
Church government: COUNCILS
END OF SECOND CENTURY
“The subject (of time of celebrating Easter,
sw) was therefore again discussed and
acted upon by the Ecumenical Council of
Nice, which decreed that Easter should be
celebrated throughout the Church after the
equinox, on the Friday following the 14th of
Nisan.” (McClintock and Strong, v. 3, E-G,
Ages Software)
II. SOME PROMINENT ERRORS OF THE CHURCH
FATHERS
 The Lord’s Supper
“…Have we been taught that the food which
is blessed by the prayer of His word, and
from which our blood and flesh by
transmutation are nourished, is the flesh
and blood of that Jesus who was made
flesh.” (Justin Martyr, 110-165 A.D., ANF, v. 1, ch. 66,
pp. 340,341, Ages, my emph, sw)
II. SOME PROMINENT ERRORS OF THE CHURCH
FATHERS
 Marriage and divorce
“CAN. 9. A baptized woman who leaves a
baptized husband on the ground of his
adultery and marries again, is to be
prohibited from marrying; if she marry, she
is not to be received into communion, until
the husband whom she has left be departed
out of this life, unless perchance extremity of
sickness require it to be given her.” (“Council of
Elvira,” [305 or 306] in Documents Illustrative of the
History of the Church, edited by B.J. Kidd) Matt. 19:9?
III. THE “CHURCH FATHERS” IN LATER HISTORY
 Developed into the Roman Catholic church.
1. Church government.
Church government: COUNCILS
END OF SECOND CENTURY
catholic =
“universal in
extent; involving all.”
“The subject (of time of celebrating Easter,
sw) was therefore again discussed and
acted upon by the Ecumenical Council of
Nice, which decreed that Easter should be
celebrated throughout the Church after the
equinox, on the Friday following the 14th of
Nisan.” (McClintock and Strong, v. 3, E-G,
Ages Software)
III. THE “CHURCH FATHERS” IN LATER HISTORY
 Developed into the Roman Catholic church.
1. Church government
“…While your bishop presides in the place of
God” (Ignatius, The Epistle Of Ignatius To The Magnesians,
Ch. 6, ANF, P. 123)
III. THE “CHURCH FATHERS” IN LATER HISTORY
 Developed into the Roman Catholic church.
1. Church government
2. Sprinkling as baptism, Acts 8:38,39; Rom. 6:4
3. Lord’s supper = Mass
4. Marriage – Roman Catholic teaching on
divorce; celibacy, 1 Tim. 4:1-3
III. THE “CHURCH FATHERS” IN LATER HISTORY
 The Church Fathers and the Protestant
Reformation
“The Bible was not the only text at stake in
the sixteenth century. The Reformation
was almost as much an argument about
the meaning of the early Christian fathers –
especially St Augustine – as it was about
the Bible.” (David C. Steinmetz and David Bagchi,
“Conclusion: directions of further research,” The
Cambridge Companion To Reformation Theology, p.
252, 253)
III. THE “CHURCH FATHERS” IN LATER HISTORY
 The Church Fathers and the Protestant
Reformation: Martin Luther
“Our theology and St Augustine are
progressing well, and with God’s help rule at
our university …. Indeed no one can expect to
have any students if he does not want to teach
this theology, that is, lecture on the Bible or
on St Augustine or another teacher of
ecclesiastical eminence.” (Scott Hendrix, “Luther,”
CCRT, pp. 41, 42)
III. THE “CHURCH FATHERS” IN LATER HISTORY
 The Church Fathers and the Protestant
Reformation: John Calvin, Ezek. 18:20
“The roots of Calvin's theology lie in his
conception of human nature as corrupt and
impotent towards good. Observation and
experience told him that the corruption and
impotence were universal, and closely
following Augustine he connected their
universality with the sin of Adam.” (Hugh Y.
Reyburn, John Calvin: His Life, Letters, And Work , p. 359)
The Church Fathers and
the Protestant Reformation
 Most of the reformers thought nothing of the
corrupt form of church government which had
been handed down from the church fathers.
 Luther had an erroneous view of the Lord’s
Supper.
 Calvin argued for infant baptism.
 Luther believed that celebrating Easter was
not necessary to salvation but had no problems
with its celebration.
IV. WHY ARE THE “CHURCH FATHERS” NOT
AUTHORITATIVE?
 They were not inspired; they were just fallible
men.
“Is there no contradiction amongst them? Is
there even a general consistency of opinion?
By no means. Not only is one Father
opposed to another Father, but not
unfrequently to himself.” (“The One Source Of
Religious Truth,” A Protestant To The Douay Bible, And
Other Roman Catholic Standards In Support Of The
Doctrines Of The Reformation, by John Jenkins. 1853,
pp. 21,22)
IV. WHY ARE THE “CHURCH FATHERS” NOT
AUTHORITATIVE?
 The problem of chronological extent.
When do they cease to be authoritative??
With Augustine??
IV. WHY ARE THE “CHURCH FATHERS” NOT
AUTHORITATIVE?
 The problem of chronological extent.
When do they cease to be authoritative??
With Thomas Aquinas?
(13th century)
IV. WHY ARE THE “CHURCH FATHERS” NOT
AUTHORITATIVE?
 The problem of chronological extent.
When do they cease to be authoritative??
With Martin Luther?
(16th century)
IV. WHY ARE THE “CHURCH FATHERS” NOT
AUTHORITATIVE?
 Their writings contradict clear teaching of the
Bible.
 “…It appears that the sprinkling also of
water prevails equally with the washing of
salvation…”
 “Damas, the bishop of Magnesia,
salutes you.”
 “…Decreed that Easter should be
celebrated throughout the Church…”
I. SOME POSITIVE THINGS
 They made abundant use of the writings of the
N.T.
 They witness in their own imperfect way that
the first Christians preceded them.
 The evidence the give of the canon of the N.T.
 They show the great influence the N.T. had on
the generations immediately following it, Mk.
16:15
 Their defense of the faith.
 There are many examples of them confessing
Bible truths.
II. SOME PROMINENT ERRORS OF THE CHURCH
FATHERS
 Action of baptism
 Church government
 The Lord’s Supper
 Marriage and divorce
III. THE “CHURCH FATHERS” IN LATER HISTORY
 Developed into the Roman Catholic church.
 The Church Fathers and the Protestant
Reformation.
IV. WHY ARE THE “CHURCH FATHERS” NOT
AUTHORITATIVE?
 They were not inspired; they were just fallible
men.
 The problem of chronological extent.
 Their writings contradict clear teaching of the
Bible.
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