How to Treat the Church Fathers (According to the Church Fathers)

Yesterday, we looked at three common ways of misusing the Church Fathers: (1) ignoring or fearing them; (2) exploiting them; (3) treating them as individually infallible. These may seem like simple points, but a large number of Christians (Catholics and Protestants alike) fall into at least one of these three camps. Given this, what does that leave, exactly? How should Christians treat the writings of the Church Fathers? Fortunately, we can find an answer to that question … in the writings of the Church Fathers themselves.

Don’t worry, it’s not as circular as it sounds. They’re not telling us how to interpret their own writings: they’re telling us how to interpret the writings of the men that they considered Church Fathers. By the time of  men like St. Augustine (354-430), the writings of certain earlier Christians were already being held up as Patristic writings, and the were considered “Church Fathers.” So how did the fourth and fifth century Church Fathers tell their readers to treat the Patristic writings?

Five Lessons from St. Augustine About the Church Fathers

“Pelagius Hereticus and John Chrysostom,”
Woodcut, Nuremberg Chronicles (1493)

In St. Augustine’s fifth-century work Against Julian, he directly confronts a Pelagian by the name of (you guessed it) Julian. Specifically, Julian of Eclanum, who falls into one of the first two camps in his treatment of the Fathers. On the one hand, he freely disregards the consensus of earlier Church Fathers as “a conspiracy of the wicked” (36). These Fathers include, as Augustine notes, “men of such quality and importance, Cyprian, Hilary, Gregory, Ambrose,  and other priests of the Lord” (91). To that extent, he sounds very much like some of the modern Evangelical critics of the Church Fathers.

On the other hand, when it is convenient, Julian appeals to the Church Fathers. Or more accurately, he appeals to one of them,the recently-deceased St. John Chrysostom of Constantinople, to try to prove Pelagianism. Julian does this by proof-texting what John actually said, taking one of his homilies out of context. Augustine laments to John, “in your writings this young man thinks he has found the means to overthrow and make void the opinions of so many of your great fellow bishops.” (28).

Augustine responds by showing that Julian is misappropriating the Church Fathers, and then by using the authority of the Church Fathers to disprove Pelagianism. Here is Augustine’s own summary of the argument (380-81):

In Book 1 of this work I gave an abundant and more certain answer from the testimonies of the Catholic treatises of St. Basil of Caesarea and St. John of Constantinople, although you say these are in accord with your opinion. I showed how by failing to understand some of their words you, with remarkable blindness, attack their teaching, which is the Catholic teaching. And in Book 2 I said enough to show it is no ‘conspiracy of lost men,’ but the pious and faithful consensus of the holy and learned fathers of the Catholic Church which resists your heretical novelties, for the ancient Catholic truth. You say we offer ‘the people’s muttering alone’ against you; but it is not alone, since it rests on the authority of very great teachers, and it is also just, because it does not wish you, who also know this very well, to destroy the salvation of infants, which is in Christ.

Now, what lessons can we learn from all of this?

Lesson 1: The sensus fidelium is infallible. 

Julian makes it clear that he doesn’t think that the dispute over Pelagianism should be settled by popular opinion. Augustine agrees with this, but he distinguishes this from the sensum fidelium, which he describes as protected by divine assistance (100):

But I do not disturb you by the large numbers of the multitude, although by the grace of God, about this faith which you oppose, even the multitude of the Catholics has sound judgment. In this, many, where they can and in whatever way they can, as they are given divine assistance, constantly refute your vain argument.

So there are two lessons here: first, the sensum fidelium is something distinct from popular opinion. For one thing, it only includes Catholics. Second, this sensum fidelium doesn’t just happen to be right. Rather, it is correct through the grace of God and divine assistance.

Lesson 2: The Consent of the Church Fathers is Binding.

Since Julian has made it clear that he rejects any appeal to the sensum fidelium, Augustine opts for another line of argumentation: the Church Fathers themselves (101):

But because it pleases you not to count numbers but to weigh the few, […] I set against you as judges in this case ten bishops (now deceased) and one priest who passed judgment on this matter while they were alive. If we consider your small numbers, they are many; if we consider the multitude of Catholic bishops, they are very few.

Who were the eleven men Augustine cited to?

17th c. Icon of the Three Holy Hierarchs: Basil the Great (left – #7),
John Chrysostom (center, #9) and Gregory of Nazianzus (right, #6),
  1. St. Irenaeus of Lyons
  2. St. Cyprian of Carthage
  3. St. Reticius of Autun
  4. St. Olympius of Enos
  5. St. Hilary of Poitiers
  6. St. Gregory of Nazianzus
  7. St. Basil of Caesarea
  8. St. Ambrose of Milan
  9. St. John Chrysostom
  10. Pope St. Innocent I, and 
  11. St. Jerome.

Of these, all but Jerome was a Catholic bishop. Augustine has gathered them from both the East and West, and Auguste does not hesitate to use St. John Chrysostom against Julian. These men, Augustine explained, possessed authentic teaching authority within the Church (37):

But see to what I have introduced you: the assembly of these saints is not a popular multitude; they are not only sons but also fathers of the Church. They are of that number of whom it is prophesied: ‘In the place of thy fathers sons are born to thee, thou shalt set them as princes over all the earth.’ [Psalm 45:16] From her, sons are born to learn these things; they became her fathers that they might teach.

And this passage, although lengthy, is a beautiful explanation of why Augustine chose these eleven men in particular (102-103):

If an episcopal synod were gathered from the whole world, it would be surprising if so many men of such calibre could be members of it. For these did not all live at one time, but God, as it pleases Him and He judges expedient, Himself distributes His stewards, faithful, few, more excellent than many, in diverse ages, times and places. So you see them gathered from various periods and regions, from the East and the West, not at a place to which men are obliged to travel, but in a book which can travel to men. The more desirable these judges would be for you if you held the Catholic faith, which they sucked with their mother’s milk, which they took in their food, and they have ministered this milk and food to great and small, openly and bravely defending it against its enemies even you who were not then born; whence you now stand revealed.

With such planters, waterers, shepherds, fosterers, the holy Church grew after the time of the Apostles. This is why she feared the profane voices of your novelty, and, being cautious and sober as a result of the Apostle’s warning, lest, as the Serpent seduced Eve by his cunning, her mind be seduced from the chastity which is in Christ; [2 Cor. 11:3] she shuddered at the toils of your doctrine creeping toward the virginity of the Catholic faith like the head of a serpent; she trod upon it, crushed it, cast it away. 
Therefore, by the statements and the great authority of holy men you will either be cured God’s mercy granting it, and He who may accomplish it knows how much I desire it for you or, what I deprecate, if you persevere in this your wisdom which is really great folly, you will no longer merely seek judges before whom you may justify your cause, but before whom you may accuse so many famous and brilliant holy teachers of the Catholic truth: Irenaeus, Cyprian, Reticius, Olympius, Hilary, Gregory, Basil, Ambrose, John, Innocent, Jerome, and the others, their comrades and colleagues, and, in addition the whole Church of Christ, to which divine family they faithfully ministered the food of the Lord and thus grew famous in the glory of the Lord.

In other words, it’s not just a matter of picking out some random Christian writers from antiquity. The Church Fathers were more than that. They were “saintly men, many and great, learned in sacred letters, brilliant, highly honored and praised for their remarkable government of the Church” (105). They have withstood the test of time, and they rightfully “grew famous in the glory of the Lord.” To oppose the assembled Fathers is therefore to oppose the Church Herself, a point we will address more directly in a moment.

Contrast this with the example from yesterday, in which Dr. Keith Sherlin attempted to prove that “Orthodox Believers of History Have Believed in a Pretribulational View” by appealing to Fra Dolcino of Novara, a thirteenth century heretic who was burnt at the stake.

Lesson 3: To Reject the Consensus of the Fathers is Self-Destructive

St. Cyprian of Carthage

Julian was aware that the Church Fathers spoke against his Pelagian positions, but he claimed that this just proved that they were heretics (an argument that may sound familiar today). Specifically, Julian dismissed these Fathers as Manicheans. It’s no small irony that this same argument is frequently raised today by Protestants who dismiss these same Fathers as Pelagians. In any event, Augustine answers this line of argument definitively (136):

For, if Manichaeans have ravished the Church through holy bishops of God, and through the memorable doctors Irenaeus, Cyprian, Reticius, Olympius, Hilary, Ambrose, Gregory, Basil, John, Innocent, and Jerome, then tell me, Julian, who gave birth to you? Was she a chaste woman or a harlot who through the womb of spiritual grace brought you into the light you have deserted? Is it to defend the Pelagian dogma that you defame the womb of the bride of Christ, who is your mother, by a wicked impulse not of error, but of madness?

The argument works just as well today. If the Church Fathers were heretical, you cannot trust the Bible, since it these same Fathers who tell us which Books belong in the Bible; nor can you trust the Gospel, since it is from these same Fathers who preserved the Church from heresy (or didn’t). This is similar to the argument Augustine makes elsewhere, that to reject the Catholic Church is to reject the Bible.

Lesson 4: Individual Church Fathers Can Err On Certain Issues

In response to Julian’s citation of a sermon by St. John Chrysostom to support Pelagianism, Augustine makes two arguments in rapid succession: that the Fathers should be read in a manner harmoniously with one another (particularly on issues at the “foundations of the faith”), and that on there are other issues on which the Fathers may nevertheless disagree (25-26):

Do you, then, dare to set these words of the holy bishop John in opposition to so many statements of his great colleagues, and separate him from their most harmonious society, and constitute him their adversary? Far be it, far be it from us to believe or say such an evil thing of so great a man. Far be it from us, I say, to think that John of Constantinople, on the question of the baptism of infants and their liberation by Christ from the paternal handwriting, should oppose so many great fellow bishops, especially the Roman Innocent, the Carthaginian Cyprian, the Cappadocian Basil, the Nazianzene Gregory, the Gaul Hilary, the Milanese Ambrose. 

There are other matters on which at times even the most learned and excellent defenders of the Catholic rule do not agree, without breaking the bond of the faith, and one speaks better and more truly about one thing and another about another. But this matter about which we are now speaking pertains to the very foundations of the faith.

So individually, the Church Fathers aren’t infallible, and disagree with each other on some of the less-important aspects of the Faith. This directly answers the error of the third camp (which seeks to treat the Fathers as individually infallible, forming some sort of super-Magisterium).  But we find them in harmony on the more important issues, like infant Baptism.  To reject their teachings on these issues is to reject “the very foundations of the faith.” (This should make it obvious why Baptists, who reject the early Christian’s unanimous witness on infant Baptism, typically aren’t fond of the Church Fathers).

Lesson 5: Listen to the Pope

On of the first arguments Augustine makes is that this whole controversy could have been avoided if Julian had just listened to “blessed Pope Innocent” in the first place. While Augustine ends up citing to a whole litany of Eastern and Western Fathers, his original argument had relied entirely upon Fathers from the West. He argued that this should have been sufficient, since these Fathers were in communion with the Bishop of Rome, the head of the Apostolic See (14):

Pope St. Innocent I

Again I admonish you, again I ask, look at the great number of defenders and doctors of the Catholic Church; see on whom you inflict so serious and so wicked an injury. Or do you think that they are to be despised because they all belong to the Western Church and I have not mentioned any Eastern bishops among them? What, then, shall we do, since they are Greek and we Latin? I think that that part of the world should suffice for you in which the Lord wished to crown with glorious martyrdom the first of His Apostles. If you had been willing to listen to the head of that Church, blessed Innocent, you would already have withdrawn your perilous youth from the Pelagian snares. For, what could that holy man answer the African councils except what the Apostolic See and the Roman Church together with the others have steadfastly held from of old?

He then describes Pope Innocent, a latecomer to the Pelagian controversy, as having superior rank even to the other Fathers (15):

Consider what you will reply to St. Innocent, who knows nothing else of this matter except the opinion of those into whose company I introduced you, if that is of any avail. He, too, is on their side; though later in time, yet higher in place.

The Testimony of the Other Fathers
I should emphasize that, while I’ve chosen to highlight St. Augustine’s writings on this issue, he was by no he wrote:
means alone. Just as Augustine sought to correct Julian’s misuse of St. John Chrysostom, St. Athanasius (296-373) prevented the Arian heretics from claiming that the Fathers (and specifically, St. Dionysius of Alexandria) were Arians. To one reader,

I approved of the right opinion entertained by your piety concerning our blessed fathers, while on the present occasion I once more recognise the unreasonableness of the Arian madmen. For whereas their heresy has no ground in reason, nor express proof from holy writ, they were always resorting to shameless subterfuges and plausible fallacies. But they have now also ventured to slander the fathers: and this is not inconsistent, but fully of a piece with their perversity.

Saint Basil (329-379), #7 on Augustine’s list, explained that he did not “venture to propound the outcome of my own intelligence, lest I make the words of true religion merely human words.” Instead, “what I have been taught by the holy Fathers, that I announce to all who question me.”

Vasily Surikov, Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (1876)

We also see this commitment to the Church Fathers (and the pope) at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Council that defined Christ as being fully Human and fully Divine. At the Council, Bishop Paschasinus described Pope Leo as “the most blessed and apostolic bishop of the Roman city, which is the head of all the churches.” When the Council Fathers were asked to adjudicate an unjust condemnation of St. John of Constantinople, the Acts of the Council report the following responses:

Paschasinus the most reverend bishop, representing the Apostolic See, said; “Flavian of blessed memory hath most holily and perfectly expounded the faith. His faith and exposition agrees with the epistle of the most blessed and apostolic man, the bishop of Rome.”

Anatolius the most reverend archbishop of Constantinople said; “The blessed Flavian hath beautifully and orthodoxly set forth the faith of our fathers.”

Lucentius, the most reverend bishop, and legate of the Apostolic See, said; “Since the faith of Flavian of blessed memory agrees with the Apostolic See and the tradition of the fathers it is just that the sentence by which he was condemned by the heretics should be turned back upon them by this most holy synod.”

Maximus the most reverend bishop of Antioch in Syria, said: “Archbishop Flavian of blessed memory hath set forth the faith orthodoxly and in accordance with the most beloved-of-God and most holy Archbishop Leo. And this we all receive with zeal.”

Thalassius, the most reverend bishop of Cæsarea in Cappadocia said; “Flavian of blessed memory hath spoken in accordance with Cyril of blessed memory.”

All of these responses emphasize two common themes: agreement with the pope, and agreement with the Church Fathers. I could give other examples, but I think that this suffices to demonstrate what a proper respect for the Church Fathers looks like.

21 Comments

  1. So the “unanimous witness” states that God burns innocent unbaptised babies in hell?!? Well then take the whole “unanimous witness” and trash it because it’s wrong.

    In fact, you sum it up by saying listen to the popes, yet Ratzinger says he never believed in limbo, and I don’t know what “call me Jorge” has to say, but I’m guessing he’d root for the babies at least as much as he has for the atheists.

    – Mack.

    1. Where are you getting the claim that “the “unanimous witness” states that God burns innocent unbaptised babies in hell?!?” The unanimous witness Augustine cites is that original sin exists, and that infants should be baptized.

      When you say that we should just “take the whole “unanimous witness” and trash it,” you’re putting yourself above the entire early Church. Not just a handful of Church Fathers. You’re saying that you understand Scripture better than all of them, and that they’re heretics. And you base all of this off of your novel interpretation of Scripture… Scriptures that you believe in because they were handed by these supposed heretics. Can you not see the absurdity of that view?

      I.X.,

      Joe

    2. Joe,

      No, you’re mistaken, I’m not vaunting myself at all – I’m nothing. What I am doing is giving proper reverence to the Holy Bible above men’s opinions.

      You call a broadly held opinion that unbaptized babies are damned a “witness” – but it is not a witness to the words of scripture. It is just the “witness” of men affirming that they agree with other old churchmen.

      On the other hand I can “witness” exactly what the Bible says because I have a King James Bible right here next to me and I can quote passages directly from it.

      So whose “witness” is greater? I submit that if I quote the Bible correctly then my witness is equal to any “church father” who did the same. My own opinions, however, are worthless, and I wouldn’t demand that anybody pay attention to them.

      But if I quote what the Bible says then I know that I am quite capable with those words to hack the opinions of all the “church fathers” into confetti with them.

      And God blesses me when I do.

      – Mack.

    3. What I am doing is giving proper reverence to the Holy Bible above men’s opinions.

      Let’s start right there. Which version of the Bible are you referring to? The King James Version? The New International Version? The New American Standard Bible? The Geneva Bible? The Revised Standard Version? Wycliffe’s Bible? Which one? All of them disagree with each other on at least one or two points, which one should a person follow?

      Every argument you can make for one, I can make an argument against it and in favor of another version.

      “I submit that if I quote the Bible correctly…”

      Prove you’re quoting the correct Bible correctly. Prove that your Bible has the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, and only his words, handed down to the Apostles, handed down to us today without error. If Sola Scriptura is true, this should be relatively easy.

      You seem to favor the King James Version of scriptures. Why is that? Why should I follow a translation made 1611 years after the birth of Jesus? That seems a little out of date. It’s also over 400 years old in the English language, being out of date from that perspective as well.

      I agree that it is good poetry, yes, but it is an outdated translation in many places that people today can’t relate to. What do you say to someone who can’t read, write, or speak English? What do you say to people who lived their entire lives never knowing English? What do you say to the vast number of people who are illiterate on the Earth? Through the first centuries of Christianity the Faith was spread orally.

      The Chinese translate “λόγος”, which is translated as “word” in English, from John 1:1 as “道” “dào” (which carries its own theological and philosophical meanings) which means “road” or “way”, which one is correct? If my eternal soul really is on the line, I think I have a right to know which word is correct.

      The Catholic Church makes the argument: Jesus never gave us a definitive list of books, nor did he ever write down a book himself that we know of. What he gave us was a infallible Church, and it is that Church which we as Christians should look to to make the final call on matters of Faith.

    4. Rob,

      Come on. Be serious. All your arguments about the ambiguity of translations also work against the Catholic church, which is all based around interpretation of a particular translation (the Vulgate) and around translations of the church fathers, which can be as equally full of ambiguities as the translations of the Bible. And if the church were infallible it would never have fallen for the interpretation that Adam’s sin damns to hell rather than death; an interpretation unsustainable in light of Genesis 3’s actual text. Aside from that obvious mistake, a large portion of the rest of the Catholic church’s interpretation of Romans 5:12 is based on a bad translation in the Vulgate, where the Latin language uses one ambiguous word both for “which” and “whom.” Thus, Augustine based on the obscure Latin argues that the text said “because in him all sinned” whereas others making reference to the Greek say it as saying “because of which all sinned.” An ‘infallible’ church that makes Romans 5:12 contradict Genesis 3 turns out to not be infallible after all; its that simple. The only infallible standard is morality; so long as ceremony and dogma are involved, there is no infallibility because its all just superstition pliable to the needs of those who make money off of others being forced to believe it on pains of eternal torment. You’re both wrong.

    5. Mack,

      You say: You call a broadly held opinion that unbaptized babies are damned a “witness.”

      That’s nearly the opposite of what I said. I showed that your earlier claim (that Augustine had made this claim) was false. You then falsely accused me of it. It’s all right there in the text. Your accusation appears to be baseless. Each of us claimed a unanimous Tradition regard infant Baptism, not infant damnation.

      I.X.,

      Joe

  2. Mack, I can appreciate your level of frustration, but I disagree with some of your conclusions.

    It’s simply not true that there is a unanimous witness in the Early Church Fathers, in reality or alleged, that states that God burns ‘innocent’ unbaptised babies in ‘hell.’

    Now the ECFs go pretty crazy here. Some say, ‘Ah hell, even the demons get saved eventually!’ [“The annihilation of evil, the restitution of all things, and the final restoration of evil men and evil spirits to the blessedness of union with God, so that He may be ‘all in all,’ embracing all things endowed with sense and reason…”–Gregory of Nyssa] Which just isn’t so. Augustine says, “such infants as quit the body without being baptized will be involved in the mildest condemnation of all. That person, therefore, greatly deceives both himself and others, who teaches that they will not be involved in condemnation;” The Church is really really really sure that’s not so either, but won’t say so definitevly, because the only thing that’s been revealed to us is that baptism is the narrow pathway to Heaven so to speak, and while the principle has come down to us for cases where one desires baptism but can’t get it (thief on the cross for example) or as soon as one’s heart is stirred to the Christian faith, one is martyred–our tradition has those circumstances covered…but there’s really not an explicit statement on what happens to unbaptised persons who haven’t made an intellectual assent to faith who have also not committed any personal sin.

    So ultimately there’s some related questions here.

    Is the actual literal guilt of Adam inherited to us at conception?

    See for example, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” And, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.”

    The Council of Trent says, “5. If anyone denies that by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted, or says that the whole of that which belongs to the essence of sin is not taken away, but says that it is only canceled or not imputed, let him be anathema.”

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church however says:

    Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called “sin” only in an analogical sense: it is a sin “contracted” and not “committed” – a state and not an act.

    So to summarize:

    1) We know babies die.
    2) We know death is a product of ‘sin.’
    3) We know babies don’t personally commit sin.

    The way the Church puts those 3 facts together today is under a theory that we are really really really sure of that says that unbaptized babies have contracted the state of original sin which is to say the effects of Adam’s actual literal sin, and therefore die. But because of no personal sin, this doesn’t effect their soul, and therefore go to Heaven. Probably.

    How do you resolve this controversy from the KJV alone, Mack?

    1. Don’t confuse death and hell. The Calvinist argues that babies die and death is the penalty of sin, therefore babies are sinners. Rather, the fact is, God imposed mortality on all humans for Adam’s sin, but only mortality (and pain in childbirth, and having to combat weeds to be successful at agriculture) but not hell. There is no passage anywhere that says Adam’s sin damned adults or infants either one to hell. Its not in the Old Testament, and its not in the New. The Calvinists pretend (lie is what they do) that Romans 5:12 talking about death is about hell, which it is not, and yet when they must get down to the nitty gritty to prove that it applies to infants, how do they do it? They appeal to the fact that infants are physically mortal!!!!! What a laughable load of idiots. You can’t have it both ways: Do you believe what the Bible says, and what our experience demonstrates to be correct, that Adam’s sin brought physical death on us all? Or do you believe the arch-heretic Augustine who taught that infants are born damned to hell?

    2. > How do you resolve this controversy
      > from the KJV alone, Mack?

      Daniel,

      The scriptures alone (King James Bible) do explain it.

      Paul wrote, “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” Romans 7:9 KJV.

      Therefore the spirit of a man “dies” by guilt when he reaches the age of accountability and sins against God, however babies are “alive” in the spirit by innocence and their souls don’t need saving.

      The alleged imputing of Adam’s guilt by so-called “original sin” to innocent babies who don’t know right and wrong is incorrect:“(For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.”, Romans 5:13.

      What babies inherit from Adam’s sin is mortal human flesh that is weak and dies, but their is no moral culpability in their spirits or souls (“I was alive once without the law…”7:9).

      Perhaps Roman Catholics should lay off the “church fathers” and ecumenical councils and Catechisms and simply read the epistle that is addressed to Rome.

      Man has three parts: body, soul, and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23 KJV; Genesis 2:7 KJV). As Christ said, the death of the body is not the concern, but the soul’s death (Matthew 10:28 KJV).

      By the new birth (John 3:3 KJV) we don’t get new souls, we get a reborn spirit by and with the Holy Spirit, “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.” Hebrews 15:45 KJV.

      Christians get new bodies and reign with Christ prior to the millennium, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” Romans 8:11 KJV.

      Babies can’t get the new birth because they aren’t sinners and can’t believe on Christ (Galatians 3:22 KJV), yet they don’t need the new birth since they are still “alive”.

      The souls of babies (and of those ignorant pagans who were ignorant of Christ but died trying their best to please God – Romans 2:10 KJV; Acts 10:35 KJV; Ezekiel 18:27 KJV) will return from “death” (i.e., paradise in the heart of the earth were Old Testament saints went, Luke 16:22) and live in new bodies at the last resurrection (Revelation 20:13 KJV). At that judgment other categories of souls come from “hell” and from the “sea” — “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.”)

      You can see that these matters are all dealt with directly in just 1 authoritative book – the Holy Bible. That is all we need. There is no need to resort to taking a census of the speculative theories of the various “church fathers” to figure out a “probably” answer. What is necessary is to stick to the holy scriptures alone and “any man” (James 1:5 KJV) can and should mine in them prayerfully for the answers.

      If a “church father” is helpful in that process, fine. But too often their opinions are made to eclipse the scriptures or to bolster long-standing traditions that are unscriptural.

      – Mack

  3. “men of such quality and importance, Cyprian, Hilary, Gregory, Ambrose, and other priests of the Lord”

    These guys really are late. Cyprian is the earliest of these and he’s as late as 250. There are a slew of fathers all on Julian’s side that Augustine ignores who are much earlier. The problem, however, is they were Greek fathers and Augustine was as ignorant as a stone at reading Greek. But these favorites of Augustine are all Latins, aren’t they? Late Latins. I think I agree with Julian on calling this sort nonsense “a conspiracy of the wicked.” The Latin fathers brought us Calvinism and the never-ending trouble its caused since the 5th century when Augustine first brought it forth from hell. May God burn them in hotter flames and longer duration even than Hitler. Amen.

    1. “The Latin fathers brought us Calvinism and the never-ending trouble its caused since the 5th century when Augustine first brought it forth from hell”

      What a patently ridiculous thing to say. You may not like the precedent St. Augustine set with his legalistic approach to theology, but that hardly gives you license to say it made Calvin’s heresies an inevitability, any more than St. Cyrpian (of Alexandria) made the monophysite schism inevitable. And how do you get off hoping anyone burns in hot flames? I don’t know if Joe will allow this, but what a completely asinine thing to say in purported defense of proper Christian theology.

    2. James Jordan,

      This critique seems completely unhinged. You want Augustine to burn in “hotter flames and longer duration” for … what? Disagreeing with your theology? Absolutely bizarre.

    3. Augustine’s theology has lead directly to the destruction of all morality and justice. And for that, he should burn in the hottest hell. Arius’ theology, or Socinus’, or any other person like that doesn’t destroy the very foundations of morality. In fact, Socinian and Arian Christians tend to place morality on a higher plane than Trinitarians since by viewing Jesus as a real man rather than a demigod, they hold his example to be followable and try to follow it, while Trinitarians bar the way “It cannot be followed, don’t even try! Jesus was GOD; we can’t be good like that!” So Arius theology hurts nothing. Augustine’s theology that makes God the author of evil and requires a welfare-state predestination and leads to Protestant faith alonism has destroyed everything and it is the reason why the West has ultimately been inundated with homosexuality and all over sexual perversion: anything goes when you’re convinced you can’t be good unless God zaps you with grace and thus you give up waiting for a zapping that will never happen because the whole concept is hogwash. In fact, I will go further in my statement: not only Augustine but everyone who venerates him and pushes his idiotic ‘original sin’ doctrine deserves to burn in the hottest flames and for more than one full eternity.

    4. > Augustine’s theology has lead directly to the destruction of all morality and justice.

      That’s a pretty big statement right there. What evidence do you have to support it?

      >Arius’ theology, or Socinus’, or any other person like that doesn’t destroy the very foundations of morality

      …but demoting Jesus to creature rather than creator is okay?

      In fact, Socinian and Arian Christians tend to place morality on a higher plane than Trinitarians since by viewing Jesus as a real man rather than a demigod…

      Jesus, a demigod?!

      …, they hold his example to be followable and try to follow it, while Trinitarians bar the way “It cannot be followed, don’t even try! Jesus was GOD; we can’t be good like that!”

      When have Trinitarians ever said this?

      So Arius theology hurts nothing

      Aside from causing massive problems with the Trinity, salvation…

      Augustine’s theology that makes God the author of evil and requires a welfare-state predestination and leads to Protestant faith alonism has destroyed everything and it is the reason why the West has ultimately been inundated with homosexuality and all over sexual perversion…

      Are you seriously blaming Augustine for Protestantism and the rise of sexual perversion?!

      > …anything goes when you’re convinced you can’t be good unless God zaps you with grace and thus you give up waiting for a zapping that will never happen because the whole concept is hogwash.

      From this caricature are we to conclude that you believe man can be saved apart from grace?

      > In fact, I will go further in my statement: not only Augustine but everyone who venerates him and pushes his idiotic ‘original sin’ doctrine deserves to burn in the hottest flames and for more than one full eternity.

      That leaves a pretty small Church.

    5. Lord are there few who will be saved? Strive to enter the narrow gate, Peter, you know, the one where Paul and Augustine are nowhere to be seen; for wide and broad is the way of Paul and Augustine that leads to destruction and many there be that go in thereat.

    6. James,

      Contrary to the Scriptural passage that you made up in your prior comment, the real St. Peter endorsed St. Paul’s Letters as Scripture. 2 Peter 3:15-16,

      “And count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.

      And what canon do you endorse? If I’m not entirely mistaken, Arius accepted the Catholic canon of Scripture, treating St. Paul’s Epistles as inspired.

      I’m curious both as to your canon of Scripture and your whole view of the faith. You think Christ came to start, what, Ariainism? And that He utterly failed to do so? And that the earliest witnesses that we have to Him and His Gospel are false?

      I.X.,

      Joe

  4. Marcion’s the one who wrote the first draft of the Pauline epistles. That’s why to the fictional character “Paul” Jesus came “in the LIKENESS of man” and that’s why there are two gods in 1st (or is it 2nd) Corinthians 4, the God who said let the glorious light of the gospel shine into the world (Marcion’s/Paul’s god) and the “god of this world” who has chosen the Jews as his people and keeps them from accepting Christ (the dreaded OT God, the Demiurge). Anyone with half a brain recognizes that “Paul” is just a literary character created by Marcion to be an “apostolic” mouthpiece of Gnosticism. Jesus was a Jewish reformer, not a Christian. He wasn’t walking around claiming to be God or trying to turn people against the Law and its God.

    1. James,

      a) None of what you just claimed is true. Nor are you providing any warrants: give me proof of these claims!
      b) What do you hold to be Scripture (if anything)?
      c) You’re talking about what you don’t believe in, but without explaining what you do believe in (or why).

      I.X.,

      Joe

    2. Wait, you think Paul is fictional(?!)…yet also want to damn him to Hell?! I’m not sure fictional people make very good kindling.

      I concur with Joe – I’d like to see you put forward a positive case for your position. Your position (whatever it is) appears to be extremely uncommon. At the moment I’m rather confused as to what you believe and why.

      A good starting point would be the canon. What books are in your Bible? Why do you include those and exclude others?

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