Thursday, October 23, 2014

Appealing to the Early Church Fathers

In the letters to the Seven Churches there is only one Doctrine Jesus said he hates.  The Doctrine of the Nicolatians.  Which means "conquerors of the lay people".

Appealing to Church Authority or Tradition, no matter how old, is this Doctrine.  Yet even people who are correct in identifying what that doctrine is fall into the trap of doing just that.

People want to cite various passages from The Epistles foretelling the arising of False Doctrines as relevant to their objections to what are viewed as inherently modern heresies.  But Paul said ravenous wolves would arise teaching these doctrines as soon as he departed (Acts 20:29).  And he dealt with people teaching wrong things during his life also, as did John. 

There is a tendency to view Catholicism as beginning with Constantine, but that's not true.  Pergamos had all the basic qualities of Catholicism when Revelation was written.  All the people we call Early Church Fathers were trying to reconcile Christianity with Rome.  The book called 1 Clement teaches Apostolic succession and the supremacy of the Roman Bishop is heavily implied.

Critics of Eternal Security love to insist no one taught it before Calvin, and the non Calivnist form (what I believe) emerged in America in the 1800s.

Clement of Rome is the only of the "Apostalic fathers" who's words we have directly that we have Scriptural verification did in fact know the Apostles.  Ignatias and Polycorp we think knew them based on their own word or their followers words.  Only First Clement is legit, the other works attributed to him are forgeries.

But even in First Clement he's teaching Apostolic Succession, that's the point of the letter actually.  And implying the supremacy of Rome since he thinks it's his business to tell the Corinthians what to do.  And he believed the pagan myth of the Phoenix to be true, he cited it as a fact and tried using it prove a point.

Still, Clement did teach by Faith Alone how Protestants and Evangelicals define it in chapters 32-33.  And the things quoted from him used against Eternal Security do not really say that, he encourages us to do good works, but says nothing to imply he thinks it's possible for a person to be Saved yet later wind him in Hell.

As I said in an earlier post the epistle of Barnabas was not written by Barnabas.  That epistle fails to even properly teach Salvation by Faith alone.

Maybe it is true all the Church Fathers seem to have been unanimous against Eternal Security.  But to say the doctrine didn't exist is wrong. Origen clearly refers to it being taught by "Heretics".
“Certain ones of those [heretics] who hold different opinions misuse these passages. They essentially destroy free will be introducing ruined natures incapable of salvation and by introducing others as being saved in such a way that they cannot be lost.” ~ Origen (c. 225)
At first glance this might sound like the Claivnist form.  But he may have been misrepresenting what they taught.  And on the incapable of Salvation part he perhaps only meant what many non Calvinists theorize about the Unpardonable Sin (that a person can become "Reprobate" and unsaveble).  Or it could be these were two beliefs Origen considered wrong "Belief in Salvation that can't be lost, and belief in people who can't be saved", that he affiliates with each other here, but weren't necessarily believed by the same people, or at least not always.

History is written by the winners.  The Nag Hamadi collection seems to have shown Irenaus to have been basically accurate in how he represented the Gnostics (his critics nitpick some things he said of course).  The problem is there is a tendency to confuse the Gnositics with other groups.  And that may have existed among some of their contemporary critics as well.

My point is, we should maybe consider that some groups like the Montanists were completely misrepresented.   And perhaps were really hated mainly for believing in Eternal Security, and/or that the Covenant with Israel as a nation still stood.  Or simply in some way threatening the church hierarchy.

If you're against Replacement Theology and appeal to the Church Fathers in opposition to Eternal Security, you're a hypocrite.  They were equally unanimous on that.  Likewise if you believe in Eternal Security and appeal to the Church Fathers to back up your support of Replacement theology.

And if you disagree with them on either of those positions, but especially both, and then appeal to the Church Fathers to express your disagreement with my views on Sexual Morality, especially Homosexuality.  You're very hypocritical.  Because there is far less they said on Homosexuality then on those issues.  See the Post I already linked back to.

Also if KJV only you shouldn't like the Church Fathers on the Old Testament, they favored the Septuagint over the Masoretic text. until Jerome at least.

I don't question any of their salvation, many were Martyred for the Faith and I don't consider it possible for a fake believer to become a Martyr.  But they were not Biblically sound.

Eternal Security is perhaps a more valid issue to consider them relevant.  Since those who hold it see it as foundational to the Gospel itself.  But to me the evidence it existed is sufficient.

At least one Early Church Father's main quote on saying Salvation can be lost is one that most honest opponents to Eternal Security must agree is the weakest of all verses they use.  The phrase "He that Endureth to the End shall be Saved" from Matthew 10 and 24, which are Eschatological and about surviving Persecution to be Saved by Christ's return, NOT Eternal Salvation.  And even then the verses don't say who doesn't wont be saved, that's just something read into it.  The point is that failing to endure isn't Sin in those verses but dying.

The point is, no matter how unanimous Church Opinions may have seemed.  Scripture alone is the Inspired Infallible Word of God.

I don't know whether or not John Chrysostom believed in Eternal Security.  But he does have a quote that speaks to how I'd respond to those who view Calvinism and Eternal Security inseparable.  Who assert that you can't believe we're Saved by our Free Will if we can't also lose it.
“All is in God’s power, but so that our free-will is not depends therefore on us and on Him. We must first choose the good, and then He adds what belongs to Him. He does not precede our willing, that our free-will may not suffer. But when we have chosen, then He affords us much help...It is ours to choose beforehand and to will, but God’s to perfect and bring to the end.” (On Hebrews, Homily 12)
Here is another blogger on this subject.  But I do not agree with everything he says. Here is one on what I must qualify is a Calvinist blog.  It's about Justification by Faith alone not specifically Eternal Security.  But some quotes alluding to it's existence are there.  Contrary to Catholic and Orthodox critics the Early Church absolutely DID teach Justification by Faith Alone, as we Evangelicals define it.  Here the same Calvinist blog deals with Eternal Security.

My annoyance on the Eternal Security issue is how the mere fact that the Church Fathers themselves didn't teach it is considered proof that it didn't exist, and yet I have found examples of those same Church Father teaching against it.

Augustine of Hippo in City of God, 21:17-27 addresses many varied views of Salvation that existed at this time.  In 26 he says.
"But, say they, the catholic Christians have Christ for a foundation, and they have not fallen away from union with Him, no matter how depraved a life they have built on this foundation, as wood, hay, stubble; and accordingly the well-directed faith by which Christ is their foundation will suffice to deliver them some time from the continuance of that fire, though it be with loss, since those things they have built on it shall be burned. Let the Apostle James summarily reply to them: ‘If any man say he has faith, and have not works, can faith save him?’”
His misuse of James here is common in modern attacks on Eternal Security and Salvation by Faith alone.  He is quoting a question not an answer.

After Augustine's day, Bede writes against those who believe "that it does not matter whether they live evil lives or do wicked and terrible things, as long as they believe in Christ, because salvation is through faith" (JPJ, 31).

Jerome's writings seem to have contradictions.  Sounding sometimes like a Universalist and sometimes like he believes in a very Non-Calvinist Eternal Security.
"Just as we believe that the torments of the Devil, of all the deniers of God, of the ungodly who have said in their hearts, 'there is no God,' will be eternal, so too do we believe that the judgment of Christian sinners, whose works will be tried and purged in fire will be moderate and mixed with clemency.' Furthermore, 'He who with all his spirit has placed his faith in Christ, even if he die in sin, shall by his faith live forever."
But he also said things contradicting that elsewhere.

It seems Hilary, Jerome, Abmrose and Abmrosiaster taught an early form of Purgutory.  Dividing people's fate at the Judgment into 3 Camps.  The Ungodly who with he Devil will burn forever.  The Sanctified who go directly to Heaven.  And the average Christians who need to be "Purged by fire".  They probably got this "purged by fire" notion from a misunderstanding of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:15 about the Bema Judgment.  That there will be believers who get no rewards because their good deeds were all burned up, but they are still saved.

Tertullian truly proves problematic in Against Marcion, where he goes overboard in opposing Marcion's use of Paul to assert Paul is not a valid Apostle at all, and in that work he seems to oppose even By Faith Alone.  He also does not even consider the Four Gospels equal.

Also a number of these early fathers cited for their opposition to Eternal Security were Universalists.

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