Who were the early church fathers?

Discussion in 'Other Christian Denominations' started by mojoala, Aug 7, 2006.

  1. mojoala

    mojoala
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    Question: "Who were the early church fathers?"

    Answer: The early church fathers fall into three basic categories, Apostolic Fathers, Ante-Nicene Church Fathers and Post-Nicene Church Fathers. The Apostolic Church Fathers were the ones like Clement of Rome who were contemporary with the Apostles and were probably taught by them, carrying on the tradition and teaching of the Apostles themselves. Linus, mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:21, became the bishop of Rome after Peter was martyred, and Clement took over from Linus. Both Linus and Clement of Rome, therefore, are considered Apostolic Fathers. However, there appear to be no writings of Linus that have survived, while many of the writings of Clement of Rome survived. The actual Apostolic Fathers who were taught by the apostles would have largely all passed from the scene by the beginnings of the second century, except for those few that might have been disciples of John the Apostle, such as Polycarp. John died in Ephesus around 99 A. D.

    The Ante-Nicene Fathers were those who were after the Apostolic Fathers and before the Council of Nicea in 325 A. D. Such luminaries as Iraenus, Ignatius, and Justin Martyr are Ante-Nicene Fathers.

    After the Council of Nicea in 325 A. D. arose the Church Fathers who are considered Post-Nicene. Here, there are such noted men as Augustine, bishop of Hippo, who is often called the father of the Church (Roman Catholic Church) because of his great work in Church doctrine; Chrysostom, the golden-mouthed, for his excellent oratorical skills; and Eusebius, who wrote a history of the Church from the birth of Jesus to 324 A. D., one year before the Council of Nicea. He is included in the Post-Nicea era since he did not write his history until after the Council of Nicea was held. Other Post-Nicene Fathers were Jerome, who translated the Greek New Testament into the Latin Vulgate; and Ambrose, who was largely responsible for the emperor Constantine being converted to Christianity.

    So, what did the Early Church Fathers believe? The Apostolic Fathers were very concerned about the proclamation of the Gospel being just as the Apostles themselves proclaimed it. They were not interested in formulating theological doctrine, for the gospel they had learned from the Apostles was quite sufficient for them as far as orthodoxy was concerned. The Apostolic Fathers were as zealous as the Apostles themselves in rooting out and exposing any false doctrine that began to crop up here and there. The orthodoxy of the message was preserved by the Apostolic Fathers' desire to stay as true to the gospel taught to them by the Apostles as they possibly could.

    The Ante-Nicene Fathers also tried to stay as true to the Gospel they had been taught as possible, but they had an additional worry not present with the Apostolic Fathers. Now there were several spurious writings claiming to have the same weight as established writings from the likes of Paul, Peter, and Luke. The reason for these spurious documents was quite evident, for if the Body of Christ could be persuaded that a spurious document was the same as a document that was seen as genuine, then the spurious document would be seen as genuine also. So the Ante-Nicene Fathers begin to spend a lot of their time defending the Christian faith from false doctrine, and this led to the beginnings of forming church doctrine.

    The Post-Nicene Fathers carried out the mission of the defense of the Gospel against all kinds of heresies and false doctrines, so more and more the Post-Nicene Fathers began to be more interested in the defense of the gospel and less interested in the transmitting of the gospel in a true and pure form, which was the hallmark of the Apostolic Fathers. By the time of Augustine, the father of Catholic doctrine, the need to defend against heresies and false doctrines had reached the point that the true doctrine of the Body of Christ was pretty much settled on. This was the age of the theologian who would discuss arcane topics to death, such as “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin


    Some here have attacked the Early Church Fathers. Why?




     
  2. mojoala

    mojoala
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    A Quote from King James himself

    In The Original King James Version.

    King James himself said "And I believe them in that sense as the ancient Fathers and Councils that made them did understand them, to which three Creeds all the ministers of England do subscribe at their Ordination. And I also acknowledge for Orthodox all those other forms of Creeds that either were devised by Councils or particular Fathers, against such particular heresies as most reigned in their times." [From A Premonition to All Most Mighty Monarchs, Kings, Free Princes, and States of Christendom Works, ed. James Montague, Bp. of Winchester (1616), pp. 301-308.]

    Was King James a heretic as well?

     
  3. mojoala

    mojoala
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    The Early Church Fathers were the leaders and teachers of the early Church. They lived and wrote during the first eight centuries of Church history. Some of their writings were composed to instruct and / or to encourage the faithful. Other writings were composed to explain or defend the faith when it was attacked or questioned. The writings of the Early Fathers are widely available and studied. They are accepted by scholars alike. Thus they provide common ground in establishing the beliefs and practices of the early Church.

    The earliest of the fathers are known as the Apostolic Fathers. Their writings come to us from the first two centuries of Church History. They were the immediate successors of the Apostles. Three of them were disciples of one or more of the Apostles. Clement of Rome was a disciple of the apostles Peter and Paul. Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna were disciples of the Apostle John. Naturally we would expect that those who were taught directly by the Apostles would themselves believe and teach correctly.
    Protestantism is based on the allegation that the Catholic Church became corrupt shortly after 312 AD. That’s when the emperor Constantine converted and made Christianity the state religion. It is alleged that pagan converts came into the Church bringing with them many of their pagan beliefs and practices. According to Protestant historians the pagan practices that were brought into the Church became the distinctive doctrines of Catholicism. Thus the Catholic Church was born and true Christianity was lost until the Reformation. But history tells us a different story.
    Shortly after the death of the apostle John, his disciple, Ignatius of Antioch, referred to the Church as the Catholic Church. In his Letter to the Smyrnaeans he wrote: "Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" (8:2 [A.D. 107]).
    In reading the Early Fathers we see a Church with bishops in authority over priests and deacons. We see a church that baptized infants and believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. We see a Church that believed in the primacy of Rome, the intercession of the saints in heaven and the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Thus we are lead to the inescapable conclusion that the early Church was the Catholic Church.
    As you can see, the writings of the Early Fathers are especially helpful in refuting the Protestant claim that many Catholic doctrines were invented in later years. Although they are wrong concerning the age of Catholic doctrines their reasoning is sound. If a teaching appears after the apostolic age without evidence of previous support it must be false. Curiously enough though, they abandon this line of reasoning when it comes to many of their own beliefs such as the doctrine of Scripture Alone (mid 1500’s), The Rapture (late 1800’s), the licitness of artificial contraception (1930) and many others.
    It is important to note that some doctrines existed in a primitive form during the early years. These doctrines would develop over time. One example is the Doctrine of the Trinity. All of its elements were present at the beginning but it wasn’t clearly defined the way it is today. It wasn’t until later that it was fully understood. This would not make it a late teaching as all of the information was there from the beginning. Other doctrines were developed in this same way.

    Also worthy of note is the fact that the Early Fathers occasionally disagreed on minor issues that were not yet settled by the Church. This does not present us with a problem as we do not claim that the Fathers were infallible. While they were not infallible they were unmistakably Catholic. They clearly illustrate the fact that the early Church had no resemblance to Protestantism.

    John Henry Newman was one of the more famous converts to Catholicism. After studying the Early Fathers he wrote: "The Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If ever there were a safe truth it is this, and Protestantism has ever felt it so; to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant" (An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine).
    Christianity was started by Christ 2000 years ago and it has existed for 2000 years. It didn’t go away for 1200 years and come back. Indeed that would have rendered Jesus’ words impotent. In Matthew 16:18 as He was establishing His Church Jesus gave us a guarantee. He said: "I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." If the Protestant hypothesis is correct, the gates of hell did some serious prevailing and Jesus Christ is a liar. But of course such is not the case.
     
  4. bound

    bound
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    Grace and Peace mojoala,

    I'm not sure who you preceive to be 'attacking' the 'Fathers' of the Church so I'll thow in my 2 cents as to the possibility that might be arising here on a Baptist Forum in this regard.

    With regard to the traditions and articulations that evolved in the Latin and Greek Churches after Constantine seized control of the Roman Empire I can only say that not everyone would agree that such acts were ultimately the work of God. Constantine elevated to sainthood as "equal to the Apostles" is something I ultimately cannot accept regardless as to his role in 'Christianizing' the Roman Empire. I'm not alone in this criticism for many God-Fearing Christian to the desert as the Church became more 'worldly' due to the envolvement within the Empire.

    We have to be careful as we start to idolize these early 'brothers' as 'Fathers'. Once you delve deeper into the history of these traditions I am confident that you will find that there exist 'two' traditions with very different views of what Christianity was and is and although I not here to suggest that they were always wrong I am here to suggest that just because tradition affords them a position of authority it is not necessary that they were rightly guided by the Holy Spirit.

    I reflect on the Early Church writings myself and surely there is a lot of good stuff there but it is my opinion that can't take everything or anything that they have said as authoritative on par with Scripture.

    Regardless Peace and God Bless.
     
  5. mojoala

    mojoala
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    On occasion I have posted excerpts from the ECFs. There have been those that say they are heretics because they contradict scripture.

    I really don't think many are trying to idolize them.

    But the facts that remain are this:

    They had full knowledge of the customs and cultures of the Early Christian Church.

    They had full knowledge of the lingo, axioms, jargons, and the figure of speech of the Early Christian Church.

    They had full knowledge of the language that was used to write the NT books.

    They had a better track on what was meant by the authors, especially Ignatius of Antioch who is known as a desciple of John the Apsotle.


    Why should one take the interpretation of a modern day person over those that lived and breathed during the early church.

    Does anybody ever consider that their own interpretation is actually the real heresy because it differs from what the early church believed?
     
  6. bound

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    Grace and Peace mojoala,

    First note that proximity doesn't mean objectivity. A gnat sitting on the back of an elephant may know much less than the one who sees the totality of the elephant from a distance.

    One of the advantages which we share as elder brothers of the Way is that we can draw from a wealth of knowledge including the early church writings and those works from later reflections on Scripture and the earlier works to glean more clarity as to what the Christian Revelation actually means.

    I can honestly appreciate the romance that you are experiencing exploring the infancy of Christianity. I am confident that if you explore with real objectivity you will enjoy the journey but will realize that in the end it's all about encountering the Almighty in a personal relationship and that His Revelation of Himself within the Scriptures is the mightiest means to encounter Him right now in your personal life.

    Peace and God Bless.
     
  7. mojoala

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    Amen! Amen! Amen!
     
  8. mojoala

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    P.S. I bit the bullet and paid 1500 for a brand new set of the Writings of the ECF. 38 volumes!
     

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