The Church fathers

Discussion in 'Free-For-All Archives' started by Doubting Thomas, Feb 24, 2005.

  1. Doubting Thomas

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    Often in the course of debates on this board, mention is made of the earliest post-apostolic Christian leaders and their writings in defense or refutation of a particular point. Those who reference these early Church fathers do so under the reasonable assumption that because of their proximity to and personal acquaintance with the apostles; their shared cultural background (into which the Church was established and the NT was written); and their virtuous lives and martyrdoms, that what they wrote should have some significant weight in considering how Scriptures might ought to be interpreted.

    OTOH, there are those who seem to recoil at the mere mention of this possibility, and whenever church fathers are brought up they reflexively make the charge of "wolves in sheeps clothing!", especially when the father made statements which may not jive with certain modern day scriptural interpretations.

    So my questions are:

    (1)Is there any known early post-apostolic Christian writer who could be considered a bona fide "New Testament" Christian? If so, who, and why do you think so?

    (2)Which early fathers in particular would you consider to be a "wolf in sheep's clothing" and why do you think that?
     
  2. DHK

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    Try Origen for size--known by many as the father of Arianism, he was excommunicated by the church for the heresies that he did hold.
     
  3. Doubting Thomas

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    (So I guess this applies to question #2). Origen seems to be an obvious possibility for #2. Although not all of his views were unorthodox, he and some of his more questionable views (universalism, pre-existance of the souls) were condemned as heresy by the Church at the 5th Ecumencial Council. Though not an Arian per se, the particularly way he viewed the Trinity certainly could have led to the development of Arianism.

    Okay...How about for Question #1?
     
  4. pastorjeff

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    I don't think this is a fair assessment of the thought of Origen. Yes, he was off in areas, but we must see that Arius himself was a student of Origens and his views were in opposition to Origen's. For a greater handeling of this than I can give, seach Christian History and Biography's latest issue for the article called"The Road To Nicaea"

    As for me having a better understasnding of Scripture than the Church fathers, that would be an erogant statement. There is much to be learned from the fathers.

    I also want to point out that Origin is technically not considered a Church father because of some of his "unorthodox" views.( See chapter 3 "Who is a Church Father" in the book by Christopher A. Hall titled " Reading Scripture With The Church Fathers" for an excellent look at who the fathers are.)
     
  5. Doubting Thomas

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    Well put, Pastorjeff. Good post. There is much to be learned from the fathers.

    Anyone else? Origen had some heretical views, but wasn't completely unorthodox in his thinking. He wasn't an Arian. Perhaps it's unfair to call him a "wolf in sheep's clothing" then. He just got carried away in some of his speculations, and was posthumously condemned for those and is therefore not technicallly considered a Church Father

    So the question remains who among the church fathers was a "wolf in sheep's clothing"? I mean, that seems to be the mantra of those who discount the possiblity that the early church fathers were in a better position than us to know apostolic teaching and thus how the apostles interpreted Scripture. Conversely, who among the ECFs would be considered genuine NT Christians?
     
  6. Kiffen

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    My Favorite of the Church Fathers

    1. Athanasius
    2. Augustine
    3. Ambrose
    4. John Chrysostom

    Most modern Christians do not know how much the Church Fathers have both directly and indirectly influenced Church theology. The earliest Protestant Confession "The Augsburg Confession" quotes Ambrose (Not Luther) saying that we are justified by Faith Alone. So the Protestant battle cry "Faith Alone" is actually derived from Ambrose and not Luther. Luther and Calvin quote much from the Fathers and especially Augustine and I would also say Ambrose influence should not be over looked.

    The Church Fathers are not infallible but neither should they be ignored. Their Christology, teachings on the Trinity influence all Christian churches be they Roman Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox etc..
     
  7. Saveferris

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    St. Ambrose, as well as Athanasius, Augustine, and Chrysostom affirmed the necessity of baptism for salvation.

    You have me curious as to your source as their writings are sitting on my bookshelf and they conflict with your information.
     
  8. El_Guero

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    Short list: Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, and Polycarp. Clement Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Cyprian, Alexander, Athanasius, Hilary, Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, Ambrose, Augustine, Chrysostom, and Jerome.

    Favorites: Ignatius of Antioch, and Polycarp, Alexander, Athanasius, Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, Ambrose, Augustine, Chrysostom
     
  9. Matt Black

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    You forgot Papias. The fragments of his commentary on Matthew's Gospel and in particular Matt 19:1-6 helped me to make up my mind to divorce my first wife for her adultery. Invaluable.

    On a more general point, the ECFs' proximity not just to NT times but also, more importantly, to the writers of the NT and the fact that some eg: Ignatius, Polycarp and Papias were personally discipled by the authors, is absolutely vital, which is why in my book their opinions and interpretations of the Scriptures carries far more weight than those of today (or the 16th century for that matter...!).

    Point to ponder: Ignatius refers to the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence as early as 110AD - that's within a decade of the death of the apostle John with his reference to the Bread of Life discourse in his Gospel, and written by his disciple....Hmmm...

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  10. pastorjeff

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    Most of the fathers who seem to be held in high regard here are the ones from the Antiocian(sp) school of exegesis. This causes me to wonder why?

    I to have higher regard for their work because of their approach to interpretation, but I still say there are things to learn from those fathers of Alexandria.

    Is it the allagory thing that has some concerned?
     
  11. Matt Black

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    &lt;Pedant mode on&gt; I think it's 'Antiochene'&lt;pedant mode off&gt;. I think anything coming out of Alexandria is viewed with extreme suspicion by some conservative/ fundamentalist evangelicals (a) because it was in the pre-Christian era the birthplace of the LXX with its horrid Catholic Apocrypha ("nassty cruel Catholicses; we hates 'em, we hates 'em forever!") and (b) because it was the centre of allegorical commentaries, interpretations etc in the Early Christian Era.

    But it also produced that great champion of Trinitarian orthodoxy, Athanasius...

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  12. pastorjeff

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    I had to set aside bias when I approached the Alexandrian writings. There is something to be gained from medatation on the Word that we "enlightened" ones have missed by approaching the Scripture as any other text. I am not a fan of Allagory, but once again there is a great deal to be learned from the fathers.

    Also, I just got my "Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers" 1st series. I'm pretty excited.
     
  13. Doubting Thomas

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    That city also produced Cyril whose writings regarding Christ's human and divine natures, (along with the Tome of Leo) played a big part in the formation of the Definition of Chalcedon.
     
  14. eschatologist

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    Clement of Rome may be the only bonafide New Testament figure with the credentials that merit his writing as deserving of the Canon of scripture. Though personally I do not view his writing as inspired, therefore deserving to be omitted, yet it is very accurate with the period of the church at that time from a historical aspect. His Epistle appears to be authenic and probably even pre dates the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

    On the other hand, Irenaeus has written some good accounts regarding various issues, yet there are several that are definetly far from accurate. For instance when he mentions his belief that Jesus was in His fifties when He was crucified. And since Irenaeus is from a fairly early period(he was a disciple of Polycarp and Polycarp was a disciple of John)you would expect him to have not been so far off base, so he gets my negative writer award! As you progress further away from the 1st and 2nd century, so does the accuracy of many of these writers regarding scripture, although fussed throughout these writtings there are nuggets of spectacular information.
     
  15. El_Guero

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    I still like those brothers ... hehehe
     
  16. El_Guero

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    Now can you imagine what some of those men would add to a discussion on this board ...

    Poly? I think he could get to the point in a HURRY.

    Basil - unfortunately, those eyebrows won't show through the bits of the datastream, but his words would thunder!

    And John with that eloquence that earned him the moniker ...
     
  17. Doubting Thomas

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    So, eschatologist, would you consider Irenaeus, despite this one glaring inaccuracy about how old Christ was, a genuine Christian or a "wolf in sheep's clothing"?

    Sure none of these men were individually infallible, and they did make occassional inaccurate statements, but I submit that they agreed on much more than they disagreed. The question is do these inaccuracies automatically qualify them for false prophet ("wolf in sheep's clothing") status? I mean, are these really the men Paul had in mind as the savage wolves that would come in and ravage the flock? (Acts 20:29--or was he referring to heretics such as the Ebionites, Gnostics, Arians, etc). If not, shouldn't we at least give their views consideration given their proximity to the apostles, especially on the points in which they are in substantial agreement, even when these views may disagree with some of our modern day interpretations of Scripture?

    (BTW--I agree with you about Clement's epistle. I'm in the process of reading it again. It's interesting to know that it was in some parts of the Church considered part of the NT for a time. Good stuff. [​IMG] )
     
  18. Link

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    How do we know how old Christ was at the crucifixion anyway? It seems to me that our theories come from piecing together _at least_ three years worth of ministry from the Gospels. If we don't have any ancient witnesses to Christ's age, then how do we know that He didn't minister for decades? I don't see anything in the New Testament that limits the number of years Christ ministered. Does it create a problem for all eschatological time charts? Is three and a half years necessary for all interpretations of Daniel. Not saying I believe Ireneaus on this but I wouldn't call him a heretic.

    Imagine this, you minister faithfully as a missionary, teacher, fighting against heresies and preaching the Lord Jesus, and you repeat a wrong tradition or piece of historical information you think you got from a good source, which was wrong, and thousands of people decry you as a heretic for it? I don't think we should do that to Ireneaus. I haven't read about any _heresy_ associated with Ireneaus, though he may have repeated some bad history.

    Btw, if you think that people in the CoC movement are all going to hell because of their beliefs in baptism, then you probably won't find anyone you consider to be a Christian among the writings of the so-called 'church fathers' if they wrote anything on Baptism. I don't think we should be so hard on them, since in Acts, Ananias tells Paul to be baptized and wash away his sins, calling on the name of the Lord. We have to look at the whole Bible, and accept those who believe the parts that may seem a little uncomfortable.

    As far as Clement goes, if he is the one mentioned in scripture, then we can't say he was a wolf in sheep's clothing, not unless you believe God erases names from the book of life. When Paul wrote his letter, he said that Clement's name was in the book of life. I've looked over I Clement. It's a good message on humility and on other issues. It also refers to the plurality of elders in Corinth as 'bishops,' a good argument against the monarchical bishop system that would evolve.
     
  19. Link

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    Have you ever met a hardcore OSAS baptist who believed that people who didn't believe in OSAS were going to hell?

    If Clement's name was in the book of life.
    and
    Clement wrote II Clement
    then this quote is a good argument against the idea that those who do not believe in OSAS are going to hell because they don't trust Christ for their salvation:

    From Lightfoot's translation of II Clement:

    Now, if men so eminently righteous are not able by their righteousness to deliver their children, how can we hope to enter into the royal residence of God unless we keep our baptism holy and undefiled? Or who shall be our advocate, unless we be found possessed of works of holiness and righteousness?
     
  20. Logan

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    I believe all the groups you mentioned could and indeed do fit the "wolf in sheep's clothing" label. But so far in my reading of the Church Father's (sill a lot to read!) I would have to say they were referring to the Gnostics. In particular about a man named Simon Magus who is credited with muddying the waters, so to speak, of early Christianity. He was well versed in Old Testamant Scripture and was considered a magician. He preached that the Apostles "got it wrong" about what Jesus really taught and twisted Scripture to make his points.
    Irenaeus, in Against Heresies, wrote this man was the one Luke was referring to in Acts 8:9-11. Justin Martyr also addresses this Simon and his followeres in his First Apology. Justin goes on to provide the actual names of some of Simon's co-conspirators of an insidious "anti-church" in actual competition with Peter's work at Rome. They believed these people were truly sent by Satan to confuse the Truth. They refer to them as "devils."
    Very interesting reading.
     

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