Archive for the ‘Church Fathers’ Category

And in another letter to Jerome (#82), Augustine writes:

“Of all the books of the world, I believe that only the authors of Holy Scripture were totally free from error, and if I am puzzled by anything in them that seems to me to go against the truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either 1) the manuscript is faulty or 2) the translator has not caught sense of what was said or 3) I have failed to understand it for myself.”

Augustine is pretty clear here on his doctrine of Scripture. He understands Scripture as inerrant, but he also recognizes that humans err in 1) manuscript transmission, 2) in translating, or 3) in simply not understanding a passage. I think the way Augustine approaches this is a helpful example for us today. How many times do we counsel people or even find in ourselves a struggle with the difficult things of Scripture and unfortunately rely on human, fallible understanding, and Scripture then loses out. Going all the way back to Augustine’s era, this has clearly been a struggle for centuries.

Read the rest at link below

http://butintheselastdays.com/2013/11/18/inerrancy-the-early-church/

by Michael J. Kruger

 

1. “The New Testament Books are the Earliest Christian Writings We Possess
2. “Apocryphal Writings Are All Written in the Second Century or Later
3.“The New Testament Books Are Unique Because They Are Apostolic Books
4.”Some NT Writers Quote Other NT Writers as Scripture
5.“The Four Gospels are Well Established by the End of the Second Century
6.“At the End of the Second Century, the Muratorian Fragment lists 22 of Our 27 NT Books
7.“Early Christians Often Used Non-Canonical Writings
8.“The NT Canon Was Not Decided at Nicea—Nor Any Other Church Council
9. “Christians Did Disagree about the Canonicity of Some NT Books
10. “Early Christians Believed that Canonical Books Were Self-Authenticating

 

HT:ReformationTHeology

Reprise: The Gospel According to the Church Fathers

After the apostles died, was the gospel hopelessly lost until the Reformation?

That certainly seems to be a common assumption in some Protestant circles today. Thankfully, it is a false assumption.

I’m not entirely sure where that misconception started. But one thing I do know: it did not come from the Protestant Reformers.

The Reformers themselves (including Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and others) were convinced that their position was not only biblical, but also historical. In other words, they contended that both the apostles and the church fathers would have agreed with them on the heart of the gospel.

 

For example, the second-generation Lutheran reformer, Martin Chemnitz (1522-1586), wrotea treatise on justification in which he defended the Protestant position by extensively using the church fathers. And John Calvin (1509-1564), in his Institutes, similarly claimed that he could easily debunk his Roman Catholic opponents using nothing but patristic sources. Here’s what he wrote:

If the contest were to be determined by patristic authority, the tide of victory — to put it very modestly —would turn to our side. Now, these fathers have written many wise and excellent things. . . . [Yet] the good things that these fathers have written they [the Roman Catholics] either do not notice, or misrepresent or pervert. . . . But we do not despise them [the church fathers]; in fact, if it were to our present purpose, I could with no trouble at all prove that the greater part of what we are saying today meets their approval.

Source: John Calvin, “Prefatory Address to King Francis I of France,” The Institutes of the Christian Religion, Section 4.

How could the Reformers be so confident that their understanding of the gospel was consistent with the teachings of the ancient church? Or perhaps more to the point: What did the early church fathers have to say about the gospel of grace?

Here is an admittedly brief collection of 30 patristic quotes, centering on the reality that justification is by grace alone through faith alone. Many more could be provided. But I think you’ll be encouraged by this survey look at the gospel according to the church fathers.

(Even if you don’t read every quote, just take a moment to consider the fact that, long before Luther, the leaders of the ancient church were clearly proclaiming the gospel of grace through faith in Christ.)

1. Clement of Rome (30-100): “And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Source: Clement, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 32.4.

2. Epistle to Diognetus (second century): “He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! That the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!”

Source: The Epistle to Diognetus, 9.2-5.

3. Justin Martyr (100-165) speaks of “those who repented, and who no longer were purified by the blood of goats and of sheep, or by the ashes of an heifer, or by the offerings of fine flour, but by faith through the blood of Christ, and through His death.”

Source: Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, 13.

 

read more at the Cripplegate blog

These quotes compiled by Nathan Busenitz    :

1. Clement of Rome (30-100): “And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Source: Clement, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 32.4.

2. Epistle to Diognetus (second century): “He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! That the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!”

Source: The Epistle to Diognetus, 9.2-5. (more…)

Chosen to Believe

Posted: January 24, 2011 by doulos tou Theou in Christian Theology, Christianity, Church Fathers

God chooses us, not because we believe, but that we may believe…   Augustine (354-430)

Below is an excerpt from the introductory section of a work written by Augustine that God used to help lead me into a deeper understanding of God’s grace and my own sinfulness.  I first encountered this work at the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford in 20I’ve attached a link at the bottom where you can click through and read the whole thing.

The book which you sent to me, my beloved sons, Timasius and Jacobus, I have read through hastily, but not indifferently, omitting only the few points which are plain enough to everybody; and I saw in it a man inflamed with most ardent zeal against those, who, when in their sinsthey ought to censure human will, are more forward in accusing thenature of men, and thereby endeavour to excuse themselves. He shows too great a fire against this evil, which even authors of secular literature have severely censured with the exclamation: The human race falselycomplains of its own nature! This same sentiment your author also has strongly insisted upon, with all the powers of his talent. I fear, however, that he will chiefly help those who have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, who, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God. Now, what the righteousness of God is, which is spoken of here, he immediately afterwards explains by adding: For Christ is the end of thelaw for righteousness to every one that believes. This righteousness of God, therefore, lies not in the commandment of the law, which excites fear, but in the aid afforded by the grace of Christ, to which alone the fear of the law, as of a schoolmaster, usefully conducts. Now, the man who understands this understands why he is a Christian. For If righteousness came by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. If, however He did not die in vain, in Him only is the ungodly man justified, and to him, on believing in Him who justifiesthe ungodly, faith is reckoned for righteousness.  For all menhave sinned and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His blood.  But all those who do not think themselves to belong to the all who have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,have of course no need to become Christians, because they that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick; whence it is, that He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

click here to read the whole thing.  Read it carefully and follow the logic.

 

Divine Goodness

Posted: June 17, 2010 by doulos tou Theou in Christianity, Church Fathers, The Christian Life

“The nature of the Divine goodness is not only to open to those who knock. but also to cause them to knock and ask.” – Augustine

Love the sinner, not the sin

Posted: June 4, 2010 by doulos tou Theou in Christianity, Church Fathers

“Love not in the man his error, but the man: for the man God made, the error the man himself made. Love that which God made, love not that which the man himself made.”

St. Augustine, Homilies on the first epistle of John ,7.11

The account begins with Augustine in despair over both his sins and his sinful condition…

I sent up these sorrowful cries: “How long, how long? Tomorrow and tomorrow? Why not now? Why not this very hour make an end to my uncleanness?”

I was saying these things and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when suddenly I heard the voice of a boy or a girl I know not which–coming from the neighboring house, chanting over and over again, “Pick it up, read it; pick it up, read it.”  Immediately I ceased weeping and began most earnestly to think whether it was usual for children in some kind of game to sing such a song, but I could not remember ever having heard the like. So, damming the torrent of my tears, I got to my feet, for I could not but think that this was a divine command to open the Bible and read the first passage I should light upon. For I had heard Doubtless from Ponticianus, in their earlier conversation. how Anthony, accidentally coming into church while the gospel was being read, received the admonition as if what was read had been addressed to him: “Go and sell what you have and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me.”  By such an oracle he was forthwith converted to thee.

So I quickly returned to the bench where Alypius was sitting, for there I had put down the apostle’s book when I had left there. I snatched it up, opened it, and in silence read the paragraph on which my eyes first fell: “Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.” I wanted to read no further, nor did I need to. For instantly, as the sentence ended, there was infused in my heart something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away.

Augustine, Confessions Book VIII Ch. XII

Just in case you found yourself thinking about the incarnation this time of year, whether you’re a preacher preparing for your Christmas sermon or a lay person looking to get introduced to a deep mystery, I have handily provided below several past posts from this blog on the incarnation for your reading pleasure.  Enjoy!

Kierkegaard: A parable of a king and a maiden a heart wrenchingly beautiful parable on the nature of God becoming man

Jesus, Puberty, and the Mid-Life Crisis:  this is a short post I wrote some time ago teasing out some of the implications of the incarnation on various stages of life.  Heavily leaning on the early church theologian Irenaeus, this focuses on the doctrine of recapitulation.

Abraham Kuyper: on the Incarnation Kuyper was a highly intelligent and influential theologian in the Dutch Reformed tradition.  Kuyper’s is a very earthy description of the incarnation, pointing out that once the Son of God took on flesh, his body was nourished with the blood of Mary, a child of fallen Adam.

Octavius Winslow: Jesus Wept Winslow was a puritan theologian.  His focus is principally on the human emotions the eternal Word wed himself to at the incarnation.

Spurgeon:  The Incarnation and Birth of Christ Spurgeon, famous Baptist preacher from London and “last Puritan” holds a kingly picture of the child in Bethlehem.  This one in particular is easy to get lost in worhsip.

Milton: Paradise Lost In this excerpt from Milton’s famous Paradise Lost we see the intra-Trinitarian conversation between God the Father and God the Son about how to go about redeeming sinful humanity.  Deeply moving stuff.

Augustine: City of God In this excerpt Augustine here draws out the logical conclusion of sola Christus (I know it is an anachronism) through the incarnation.

Theodore Beza:   in this excerpt Beza demonstrates why the Christ must be fully God and fully man

Calvin’s Christology:  This is a longer essay I wrote on Calvin’s Christology, dealing chiefly with his complex view of the incarnation

Thanks to Sami for sending this my way

“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Now you love yourself suitably when you love God better than yourself. What, then, you aim at in yourself you must aim at in your neighbor, namely, that he may love God with a perfect affection. For you do not love him as yourself, unless you try to draw him to that good which you are yourself pursuing. For this is the one good which has room for all to pursue it along with thee. From this precept proceed the duties of human society….

Augustine, Of the Morals of the Catholic (Universal) Church, chapter 26

You will find below my reading list for 2009.  You might call it my bibliography for the year.  I have tried to start the list out with things that people would find the most interesting, which for the readers of this blog I think would be the “average joe” section and “church leadership”.  However, for the resident theology nerds you will find a reading list for Biblical theology and exegetical works, as well as theological readings (primary and secondary) from the Patristic period all the way to the modern.  If I felt that a comment might be helpful, or if I wanted to strongly recommend a book I left my remarks next to the bibliograhical information in bold.  If you have any questions about the books themselves I would be happy to answer them.  Enjoy!  To see the list simply click through… (more…)

Not much, apparently. I remember the first time I read Augustine’s “The Spirit and the Letter” in the spring of 2004. It started a trajectory in my life and in my thinking that was nothing short of life changing as it was a reintroduction to the Gospel. The excerpt below is from the introductory bits of Augustine’s “Spirit and the Letter”. I’ve lifted it off of the NewAdvent website so that I wouldn’t have to type it out of my church father’s edition. The NewAdvent translation is at times a bit dissapointing, but you’ll still get the gist either way. Below Augustine is combating the Pelagian heresy by exploring what is called “the use of the law.” By the law, Augustine means the commands of God, that is “do this,” or “don’t do that.” In our fallen human nature, Augustine believes that unless we are assisted by divine grace no good can come from us. So what’s the point of saying “don’t do this,” or “do that?” This is the “letter that kills,” that is, the law only brings guilt and shame for those who can’t accomplish it. Augustine contrasts this (as St. Paul does!) with “the Spirit which gives life.” For Augustine, the Spirit is God’s power freely given to transform dead, sinful hearts into new living hearts. The Spirit is received when the Gospel (“Christ died for sinners”) is proclaimed and believed in. You can read his whole work here. Don’t worry, it’s short 🙂

For that teaching which brings to us the command to live in chastity and righteousness is the letter that kills, unless accompanied with the spirit that gives life. For that is not the sole meaning of the passage, The letter kills, but the spirit gives life, 2 Corinthians 3:6 which merely prescribes that we should not take in the literal sense any figurative phrase which in the proper meaning of its words would produce only nonsense, but should consider what else it signifies, nourishing the inner man by our spiritual intelligence, since being carnally-minded is death, while to be spiritually-minded is life and peace. Romans 8:6 If, for instance, a man were to take in a literal and carnal sense much that is written in the Song of Solomon, he would minister not to the fruit of a luminous charity, but to the feeling of a libidinous desire. Therefore, the apostle is not to be confined to the limited application just mentioned, when he says, The letter kills, but the spirit gives life; 2 Corinthians 3:6 but this is also (and indeed especially) equivalent to what he says elsewhere in the plainest words: I had not known lust, except the law had said, You shall not covet; Romans 7:7 and again, immediately after: Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Romans 7:11 Now from this you may see what is meant by the letter that kills. There is, of course, nothing said figuratively which is not to be accepted in its plain sense, when it is said, You shall not covet; but this is a very plain and salutary precept, and any man who shall fulfil it will have no sin at all. The apostle, indeed, purposely selected this general precept, in which he embraced everything, as if this were the voice of the law, prohibiting us from all sin, when he says, You shall not covet; for there is no sin committed except by evil concupiscence; so that the law which prohibits this is a good and praiseworthy law. But, when the Holy Ghost withholds His help, which inspires us with a good desire instead of this evil desire (in other words, diffuses love in our hearts), that law, however good in itself, only augments the evil desire by forbidding it. Just as the rush of water which flows incessantly in a particular direction, becomes more violent when it meets with any impediment, and when it has overcome the stoppage, falls in a greater bulk, and with increased impetuosity hurries forward in its downward course. In some strange way the very object which we covet becomes all the more pleasant when it is forbidden. And this is the sin which by the commandment deceives and by it slays, whenever transgression is actually added, which occurs not where there is no law. Romans 4:15

-Augustine, “On the Spirit and the Letter” ch. VI

Honoring Christ

Posted: June 22, 2009 by limabean03 in Christianity, Church Fathers, Discipleship, The Christian Life

This past weekend I was humbled and blessed to speak at New Wine at St. Andrews, Mount Pleasant. My theme was on living a life of worship to the glory of Christ. I concluded with this verse from Phillipians “as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1.20-21).

This morning, Iain shared with me an e-mail he received some time ago about Thomas, the Bishop of Marash around the time of the Nicaean Council.  Unfortunately I have no reference for you but if someone will track it down I will put it up.  If you want to know what it means to honor Christ with your body, think on Thomas, the Bishop of Marash. 

“The General Council having thus received authority from the King (Constantine I), the fathers directed that there should be gradations in teh assembly and that each Bishop should sit in his place according to his rank.  Charis were there made for all and the king entered and sat with them.  He kissed the spots which were the marks of Christ in their bodies.  Of the 318 fathers, only 11 were free from such marks…but all the others were more or less maimed in their persecution from heretics.  Some had their eyes taken out; some had their ears cut off.  Some had their teeth dug out by the roots.  Somd had the nails of their fingers and toes torn out; some were otherwise mutilated; in a word there was no one without marks of violence; save the above mentioned 11.  But Thomas, Bishop of Marash was an object almost frightful to look upon; he had been mutilated by teh removal of his eyes, nose and lips; his teeth had been dug out and both his legs and arms had been cut off.  He had been kept in prison 22 years by the Armanites who used to cut off a member of his body or mutilate him in some way every year, to induce him to consent to their blasphemy, but he conquered in this fearful context to the glory of believers and to the manifestation of the unmercifulness of the heretics.”

 As many of you know I continue my studies for a Masters in Theology.  This essay was for a course called “Calvin and Accommodation.”  It principally deals wiht the Christological implications of Calvin’s doctrine of accommodation.  Don’t worry, I’m told it is far easier to understand than the last paper I posted.  Enjoy! 

Dowey writes “Calvin’s theology exalts the category of knowledge.”[1] Dowey’s assertion is easily defensible considering Calvin’s opening statement of his famous Institutes on the Christian Religion concerns the nature of true wisdom as resting upon the double knowledge of God and ourselves (Inst 1.1.1).  And though Calvin’s theology placed enormous emphasis on the category of knowledge, this category nevertheless faced profound difficulties.  Calvin was an inheritor of a medieval epistemology that having departed from the more present epistemology of the early medieval period[2] refused a natural, unmediated knowledge of God.[3]  It was crucial therefore, for the knowledge of God to be mediated to humans through the material creation as well as through the special revelation of God’s spoken word.  The later Reformed maxim finitum no capax infiniti (“the finite is not capable of the infinite) came to articulate this important principle of late medieval and Reformed epistemology.[4] Because the finite is not capable of the infinite, it was necessary for God to reduce himself in order that he might in some small way be grasped by his creation.  For Calvin, as for many of the church’s theologians before him this process of reduction was known as accommodation.[5] 

                Though accommodation was used before Calvin, many Calvin scholars note that for Calvin accommodation is less peripheral and more central to the theological development of the reformer.  For example, Battles writes “Calvin makes this principle (accommodation) a consistent basis for his handling not only of Scripture but of every avenue of relationship between God and man.”[6]  Similarly, Paul Helm regards accommodation as the “central idea” of Calvin’s religious epistemology.[7]  If accommodation is at the center of Calvin’s epistemological program, what then might be at the center of accommodation?  Battles writes that the incarnation of the eternal Word in the person of Jesus of Nazareth is for Calvin the “accommodating act par excellence of our divine father, teacher, physician, judge and king.”[8]  So too does Dowey write that the “final accommodation to human sinfulness” was in the person of Christ.[9]  Though Balserak comes to the conclusion cautiously, he nevertheless also writes “the incarnation still seems to be…the unquestioned highpoint of his (Calvin’s) sphere of accommodating activity.”[10] 

                Whether accommodation is the epistemological principle of Calvin’s theology or that Christology ought to find itself at the center of Calvin’s theology of accommodation is debatable and beyond the scope of this paper.  What is clearly evident within Calvin’s corpus is that both accommodation and Christology hold privileged positions within the theological agenda of the reformer.  The question is thus prompted, how do Calvin’s thoughts on accommodation and his Christology interact with one another?  The organizing argument of this paper is that the doctrine of accommodation as employed by Calvin has significant influence on his Christology.  Calvin’s employment of the doctrine of accommodation determines his precise and innovative articulation of the incarnation, the atonement, redemption and the offices and actions of the mediator.  It will further be shown that in the incarnation, Calvin has articulated an accommodation that threatens neither God’s essence nor man’s nature in the condescension of the Word.  A serious treatment of one of these theological categories and their relationship to accommodation could fill twenty pages (and more!) of research.  Therefore these will be treated after an introductory fashion only, hoping to relate the parts to the whole to give a bird’s eye view of the effect Calvin’s epistemological concerns in accommodation have on his Christology. (more…)