Ligon Duncan’s “Did the Fathers Know the Gospel?”

Jul 17th, 2010 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Dr. Ligon Duncan is an adjunct professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, and also the senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson. At this year’s “Together for the Gospel” conference, held April 10-12 in Louisville, Kentucky, he gave a talk titled “Did the Fathers Know the Gospel?” Here I examine the evidence Dr. Duncan presents that the Church Fathers knew of the Reformed conception of the gospel.

T4G 2010 — Session 7 — Ligon Duncan from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

In this seventy-two minute talk, Dr. Duncan seeks to answer the question: “Did the Fathers Know the Gospel?” Of course there is a good deal of overlap in the Reformed and Catholic doctrines concerning the gospel. But when Dr. Duncan says, “the gospel” he means the Reformed or Calvinistic or at least Protestant conception of the gospel, not the Catholic doctrine of the gospel as defined at the Council of Trent. One reason why he has to mean this is that the basis for the continued separation of Protestants from the Catholic Church is the claim by many Protestants (especially of the sort attending the “Together for the Gospel” conference) that what the Catholic Church teaches is not “the gospel,” and is incompatible with the [Reformed] gospel. So if present-day orthodox Catholics can affirm what the Church Fathers taught about the gospel, then it follows that the Fathers did not have the Reformed conception of the gospel.

Dr. Duncan’s answer to the question “Did the Fathers know the Gospel?” is a qualified ‘yes.’ He thinks they were not as clear as they could have been about the nature of the gospel, especially about things like imputation. But, he thinks that they did know the [Reformed] gospel. In his talk he presents six pieces of evidence from the early Church Fathers that they knew the [Reformed] gospel. He says a great deal in the first part of his talk about the importance of the early Church Fathers and about how to read them. Only in the fifty-sixth minute of his talk does he begin to present his six pieces of evidence that the Church Fathers knew the gospel. Dr. Duncan did his doctoral work in patristics, and we can assume that in picking six pieces of evidence that the Fathers knew the Reformed conception of the gospel, he would pick the strongest pieces of evidence available to make his case. But, as I show below, each piece of patristic evidence to which Dr. Duncan appeals is fully compatible with the Catholic doctrine concerning justification, as taught at the Council of Trent. And therefore these six pieces of evidence do not support the notion that the Church Fathers knew of or believed a Reformed conception of the gospel over or instead of the Catholic doctrine.

Six Pieces of Evidence
I. St. Clement, bishop of Rome
II. Epistle to Diognetus
III. St. Melito, bishop of Sardis
IV. St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon
V. St. Justin Martyr
VI. St. Hilary, bishop of Poitiers

Dr. Duncan’s first piece of evidence is from St. Clement, bishop of Rome. At 56’50” into the video he quotes from the Epistle to the Corinthians by St. Clement of Rome:

On account of the love He bore us, Jesus Christ our Lord gave His blood for us by the will of God; His flesh for our flesh, and His soul for our souls. (Letter to the Corinthians, 49)

Can a Catholic affirm St. Clement’s statement? Most definitely. The Catholic Church believes and teaches that Christ freely gave His life as a sacrifice for us, to save us from our sins. Nothing about this statement from St. Clement supports the Reformed conception of the gospel over the Catholic teaching on the gospel. St. Clement’s statement is fully compatible with everything taught by the Council of Trent, and therefore it cannot justifiably be used to support the claim that the Church Fathers knew the Reformed conception of the gospel.1

Dr. Duncan’s second piece of evidence is from the Epistle to Diognetus. The date for this epistle is not exactly certain, but it was most likely written in the second century, possibly the third. At 57’07” into the video Dr. Duncan quotes from the ninth paragraph of the Epistle to Diognetus:

But when our wickedness had reached its height, and it had been clearly shown that its reward, punishment and death, was impending over us; and when the time had come which God had before appointed for manifesting His own kindness and power, how the one love of God, through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred, nor thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us, but showed great long-suffering, and bore with us, He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, 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 those who 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! (Epistle to Diognetus, 9)

Can a Catholic affirm this quotation from the Epistle to Diognetus? Again, most definitely. That Christ became a ransom for us is taught not only by Scripture, but also by the Catholic Catechism, which reads:

The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through the putting to death of “the righteous one, my Servant” as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free men from the slavery of sin. (CCC 601) … Consequently, St. Peter can formulate the apostolic faith in the divine plan of salvation in this way: “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers. . . with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake.” Man’s sins, following on original sin, are punishable by death. By sending his own Son in the form of a slave, in the form of a fallen humanity, on account of sin, God “made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (CCC 602) The redemption won by Christ consists in this, that he came “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28), that is, he “loved [his own] to the end” (Jn 13:1), so that they might be “ransomed from the futile ways inherited from [their] fathers” (I Pt 1:18). (CCC 622)

When the author of the Epistle to Diognetus says that only Christ’s righteousness was capable of covering our sins, he means that only Christ’s righteousness could make atonement for our sins. The author is not talking about Christians being simul iustus et peccator or possessing Christ’s righteousness by way of an extra nos imputation. The author is writing about Christ’s sacrificial atonement. Christ is the perfect Lamb, and because He is perfect, only He could offer to the Father on our behalf the perfect sacrifice that atoned for our sins, procuring for us the grace by which our sins are removed. The author of the Epistle to Diognetus explains this when he speaks of our wickedness being “hid in a single righteous One.” That is the sense in which Christ’s righteousness was “capable of covering our sins,” through His work of sacrificial atonement offered to God, not through an imputation of righteousness that hides our underlying wickedness. Such a notion would have been entirely repugnant to the Fathers. The doctrine being taught by the author of the Epistle to Diognetus is that Christ took our sins on Himself as our priest and mediator. Our sins were hidden in Him not by imputation, but by mediation. Christ made atonement for them by becoming our sacrificial lamb, and offering Himself in self-sacrificial love to the Father on our behalf. He is both perfect priest and perfect sacrifice. He as priest and perfect sacrifice takes upon Himself the burden of our iniquities, including suffering and death; we in turn receive from Him the grace and agape by which we are justified. That is the nature of the “sweet exchange” to which he refers. Christ freely gave Himself up to the Father, suffering in His body and soul for our sins (see here), and we in return receive the infused grace and agape by which we are justified. So this selection from the Epistle to Diognetus is not evidence of even an implicit Reformed conception of the gospel, because it is fully compatible with the Catholic doctrine of redemption, and best understood as teaching the Catholic understanding of Christ’s redemptive work.

Dr. Duncan’s third piece of evidence is from St. Melito, bishop of Sardis. St. Melito died about A.D. 180. At 58’30” in his talk, Dr. Duncan claims to be quoting from the Homily of the Pascha, given by St. Melito of Sardis in A.D. 167-68. Purporting to be quoting from St. Melito’s homily, Dr. Duncan says:

When our Lord arose from the place of the dead and trampled death under foot and bound the strong one and set men free, then the whole creation saw clearly that for man’s sake the Judge was condemned. In the place of Isaac the just a ram appeared for slaughter in order that Isaac might be liberated from his bonds, the slaughter of this animal redeemed Isaac from death. In like manner the Lord, being slain, saved us, being bound, He loosed us, being sacrificed, He redeemed us; He bought us back.

One problem is that this quotation is not found in St. Melito’s Homily of the Pascha. The first sentence is cobbled together from paragraphs 101-103 of the Homily, which looks like this:

He [i.e. Christ] rose up from the dead, and cried aloud with this voice: Who is he who contends with me? Let him stand in opposition to me. I set the condemned man free; I gave the dead man life; I raised up the one who had been entombed. Who is my opponent? I, He says, am the Christ. I am the one who destroyed death, and triumphed over the enemy, and trampled Hades under foot, and bound the strong one, and carried off man to the heights of heaven. I, He says, am the Christ. Therefore, come, all families of men, you who have been befouled with sins, and receive forgiveness for your sins. I am your forgiveness, I am the passover of your salvation, I am the lamb which was sacrificed for you, I am your ransom, I am your light, I am your saviour, I am your resurrection, I am your king, I am leading you up to the heights of heaven, I will show you the eternal Father, I will raise you up by my right hand. (101-103)

But the rest of the quotation Dr. Duncan attributes to St. Melito is not in St. Melito’s Homily of the Pascha.2 Even so, can a Catholic affirm the quotation Dr. Duncan attributes to St. Melito? Again, most definitely, yes. Christ for our sake allowed Himself to be condemned by the Sanhedrin and by Pilate. Like Isaac, who was a type of Christ, Christ took our place, suffering death by the hands of men, that we might be redeemed from sin, death and the devil. Dr. Duncan is seemingly assuming that any notion of substitutionary atonement (or penal substitution) in the Church Fathers is evidence of a doctrine of extra nos imputation. But that is not a safe assumption. The Catholic Church teaches that in our place Christ freely bore the curse of sin, which is death, so that we might be raised to new life. In other words, there is a Catholic form of the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. Therefore, finding substitutionary atonement in the Fathers is not evidence of a Reformed conception of the gospel in the Fathers. In order to show that there is a Reformed conception of the gospel in what St. Melito says, Dr. Duncan would have to show that St. Melito is teaching something incompatible with the doctrine taught by the Council of Trent. But Dr. Duncan has not done that, and cannot do that, because what St. Melito says here is fully compatible with the teaching of the Council of Trent.

Dr. Duncan’s fourth piece of evidence is from St. Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyon during the latter part of the second century. At 59’11” in the video Dr. Duncan claims that St. Irenaeus could remember the day when he was sitting at Smyrna under a man whom (according to Dr. Duncan) St. Irenaeus calls “a certain elder.” Dr. Duncan says, “It was probably Papias.” But St. Papias was the bishop of Hierapolis. St. Polycarp was the bishop of Smyrna when St. Irenaeus was a young man. St. Irenaeus himself tells us that it was St. Polycarp whom he saw as a young man, writing:

But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom, departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time,— a man who was of much greater weight, and a more steadfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics. (Against Heresies, III.3.4)

Dr. Duncan then quotes the following passage from St. Irenaeus:

For doing away with [the effects of] that disobedience of man which had taken place at the beginning by the occasion of a tree, “He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross;” (Philippians 2:8) rectifying that disobedience which had occurred by reason of a tree, through that obedience which was [wrought out] upon the tree [of the cross]. Now He would not have come to do away, by means of that same [image], the disobedience which had been incurred towards our Maker if He proclaimed another Father. But inasmuch as it was by these things that we disobeyed God, and did not give credit to His word, so was it also by these same that He brought in obedience and consent as respects His Word; by which things He clearly shows forth God Himself, whom indeed we had offended in the first Adam, when he did not perform His commandment. In the second Adam, however, we are reconciled, being made obedient even unto death. For we were debtors to none other but to Him whose commandment we had transgressed at the beginning. Now this being is the Creator (Demiurgus), who is, in respect of His love, the Father; but in respect of His power, He is Lord; and in respect of His wisdom, our Maker and Fashioner; by transgressing whose commandment we became His enemies. And therefore in the last times the Lord has restored us into friendship through His incarnation, having become “the Mediator between God and men;” (1 Timothy 2:5) propitiating indeed for us the Father against whom we had sinned, and cancelling (consolatus) our disobedience by His own obedience; conferring also upon us the gift of communion with, and subjection to, our Maker. (Against Heresies, V.16-17)

A Catholic can affirm everything that St. Irenaeus says here. Christ, by His perfect atonement, propitiates the Father against whom we had sinned, merits for us the grace which is the gift of communion with Him, and by infusion of this grace and agape, confers upon us loving subjection to the Father and the cancellation of our disobedience. All that a Catholic can and should gladly affirm, and therefore it is no evidence that St. Irenaeus knew of or believed the Reformed conception of the gospel. Moreover, what St. Irenaeus means when speaking of “cancelling our disobedience by His own obedience” is not a double extra nos imputaton. For St. Irenaeus, by the infusion of grace and agape, we are made “obedient even unto death;” we are brought into loving subjection to our Maker. St. Irenaeus is describing a Catholic understanding of justification.3 Also problematic for Dr. Duncan’s claim is that St. Irenaeus explicitly taught the Catholic doctrine of justification by baptismal regeneration, a doctrine that, according to Wes White, is “incompatible with the Reformed system.”

Dr. Duncan’s fifth piece of evidence that the Fathers knew the gospel is from St. Justin Martyr, who was martyred about A.D. 165. At 61’28” in his talk Dr. Duncan quotes from St. Justin Martyr. First he quotes from St. Justin’s Second Apology:

For I myself, too, when I was delighting in the doctrines of Plato, and heard the Christians slandered, and saw them fearless of death, and of all other-things which are counted fearful, perceived that it was impossible that they could be living in wickedness and pleasure. For what sensual or intemperate man, or who that counts it good to feast on human flesh, could welcome death that he might be deprived of his enjoyments, and would not rather continue always the present life, and attempt to escape the observation of the rulers; and much less would he denounce himself when the consequence would be death? (Second Apology, 12)

Then at 62’05” he moves to St. Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho, and quotes St. Justin as an example of conversion, saying:

When he had spoken these and many other things, which there is no time for mentioning at present, he went away, bidding me attend to them; and I have not seen him since. But straightway a flame was kindled in my soul; and a love of the prophets, and of those men who are friends of Christ, possessed me; and while revolving his words in my mind, I found this philosophy alone to be safe and profitable. (Dialogue with Trypho, 8)

Again, everything that St. Justin says here a Catholic can affirm. There is nothing here a Catholic cannot affirm. So this cannot be evidence that St. Justin knew of or believed a Reformed conception of the gospel. Yet, problematic for Dr. Duncan’s thesis,  presumably Dr. Duncan denies St. Justin Martyr’s doctrine of justification, because St. Justin taught baptismal regeneration.

Dr. Duncan’s sixth and final piece of evidence is from St. Hilary, bishop of Poitiers. At 62’38” in the video he claims that St. Hilary of Poitier:

was one of the Church Fathers prior to Augustine who highlighted the importance of justification by faith alone. And he did it by going to the gospels. He went, for instance, to the parable of the workers in the vineyard. And he used it as a case for illustrating that salvation is completely God’s gift (Matt. 20: 1–16). Despite the fact that some workers are hired at the eleventh hour of the day, they received the same wages as those who were hired in the morning. The remuneration for those hired last, Hilary says, demonstrates that it was not based on the merit but on grace. He says, Rather, ‘God has freely granted his grace to all through justification by faith.’

Here is what St. Hilary says in this passage about the parable in the gospel of Matthew:

When it began to get late, the workers of the evening hour were the first to obtain the payment as determined by a whole day’s work. Payment is certainly not derived from a gift because it was owed for work rendered, but God has freely granted his grace to everyone by the justification of faith … Thus [God] bestows the gift of grace by faith on those who believe, either first or last.

St. Hilary is here saying that the grace of justification by faith is given not according to merit, but gratuitously. In other words, it is not necessarily those Jews who worked so diligently to keep the law who received the grace of justification. Rather, in many cases it was Gentiles and sinners who were given the grace of repentance and new life. St. Hilary is not here saying that everyone in heaven is rewarded equally. He is not talking about rewards in heaven, but about receiving the gift of grace here in this life. And Catholics also affirm that we are justified by faith. Chapter eight of Session VI of the Council of Trent teaches:

But when the Apostle says that man is justified by faith and freely, [Rom 3:24; 5:1] these words are to be understood in that sense in which the uninterrupted unanimity of the Catholic Church has held and expressed them, namely, that we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God [Heb. 11:6] and to come to the fellowship of His sons; and we are therefore said to be justified gratuitously, because none of those things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification.4

In short, a Catholic can fully affirm what the bishop of Poitiers says here.

At 63’50” in the video Dr. Duncan quotes from D.H. Williams, who wrote:

It is historically important to note that Hilary is the first Christian theologian explicitly to have formulated what Paul left implicit by referring to God’s work of grace in the phrase, ‘fides sola iustificat:’ ‘Because faith alone justifies … publicans and prostitutes will be first in the kingdom of heaven’ (Mt. xxi.15). (“Justification By Faith: A Patristic Doctrine,” p. 660)

Here, in his commentary on the gospel of Matthew, St. Hilary is talking about the fact that the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things Jesus had done, and even saw the children in the Temple crying out “Hosanna to the Son of David,” and yet they became indignant with Jesus. (Matt 21:15) So there are two things to note. First, St. Hilary is here talking about coming to justification, not about the Christian life after regeneration. He is not saying that those who come to faith and continue to live as prostitutes are justified. He is talking about being translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. Second, by the context it is clear that St. Hilary is contrasting those persons in Matthew’s Gospel who believed Christ’s message, and those Jewish priests and scribes who rejected Christ’s message. So when St. Hilary says “faith alone justifies” the ‘alone’ is not unqualified; by ‘alone’ he is saying that coming to justification is not based on the degree to which one has kept the “works of the law.” In other words, justification is not merited by prior law-keeping; that’s what the ‘alone’ is excluding. By ‘alone’ here St. Hilary is not saying that justification is not by agape and not by baptism; he is excluding “works of the law” (done apart from grace) as means by which we merit justification. How do we know that he is not excluding baptism? Because in this same commentary on the gospel of Matthew, he writes:

When therefore, we are renewed in the laver of baptism through the power of the Word, we are separated from the sin and source of our origin (ab originis nostrae peccatis atque auctoribus), and when we have endured a sort of excision from the sword of God, we differ from the dispositions of our father and mother [e.g., Adam and Eve]. (Mt x.24)

And elsewhere St. Hilary clearly affirms a doctrine of baptismal regeneration that Dr. Duncan presumably rejects. Everything that Dr. Duncan quotes from St. Hilary can without inconsistency be affirmed by any orthodox Catholic because it is fully in agreement with what the Church later taught at the Council of Trent.

Then at 64’34” in the video Dr. Duncan again quotes Williams, who wrote:

There is the strong possibility that Hilary’s commentary sparked or fuelled the revival of Pauline studies in the west during the last decades of the fourth century.

Then at 64’52” Dr. Duncan adds:

And what did that set the table for? A man named Augustine. Just in time for him to engage a man named Pelagius. But it’s happening before Augustine; this is why I didn’t go to Augustine. It would be so easy to go to Augustine on justification. But I wanted you to see that before Augustine this stuff was already in the water.

The problem for Dr. Duncan is that St. Augustine’s doctrine of justification is no less Catholic than is St. Hilary’s, as I showed recently here. In short, nothing that Dr. Duncan quotes from the Church Fathers is contrary to the Catholic faith in the least bit. All six pieces of evidence he offers are fully Catholic, completely compatible with the doctrine of justification taught by the Council of Trent. And therefore it is misleading to claim that these patristic quotations are evidence that the Fathers in some nascent way “knew” or affirmed or would have affirmed, the Reformed conception of the gospel over that of the Catholic Church. Such a claim amounts to a proof-texting that attempts to read into the patristic writers a theology that is in no way there. If the reason Protestants cannot return to the Catholic Church is that the Catholic gospel is incompatible with  the Reformed conception of the gospel, and if present-day orthodox Catholics can without contradiction fully affirm the very best patristic evidence Dr. Duncan can find that the Church Fathers knew of the Reformed conception of the gospel, it follows that the Church Fathers did not know the Reformed gospel. My hope and prayer is that Dr. Duncan and other Protestants will see and acknowledge that the Church Fathers did not know or teach the Reformed conception of the gospel. Recognizing that the Reformed conception of the gospel is a theological novum (i.e. novelty) of the sixteenth century is a necessary step, in my opinion, for Reformed Protestants and Catholics to be reconciled in full communion.

  1. Update: See the soteriology section of “St. Clement of Rome: Soteriology and Ecclesiology.” []
  2. St. Melito refers to Isaac in three places in his Homily. Here are all three places:

    Accordingly, if you desire to see the mystery of the Lord, pay close attention to Abel who likewise was put to death, to Isaac who likewise was bound hand and foot, to Joseph who likewise was sold, to Moses who likewise was exposed, to David who likewise was hunted down, to the prophets who likewise suffered because they were the Lord’s anointed. (para. 59)

    This one is the passover of our salvation. This is the one who patiently endured many things in many people: This is the one who was murdered in Abel, and bound as a sacrifice in Isaac, and exiled in Jacob, and sold in Joseph, and exposed in Moses, and sacrificed in the lamb, and hunted down in David, and dishonored in the prophets. (para. 69)

    the one who set in motion the stars of heaven, the one who caused those luminaries to shine, the one who made the angels in heaven, the one who established their thrones in that place, the one who by himself fashioned man upon the earth. This was the one who chose you, the one who guided you from Adam to Noah, from Noah to Abraham, from Abraham to Isaac and Jacob and the Twelve Patriarchs. (para. 83)

    Not one of these is anything like the second part of the quotation Dr. Duncan attributed to St. Melito. []

  3. Update: See “St. Irenaeus on Justification.” []
  4. See here. []
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  1. Bryan,

    I listened to some of this lecture by Dr. Duncan a few weeks back, and thought some of the same things you’ve written here.
    Out of all the quotations he gave as evidence that the church fathers “knew the Gospel,” most of them hardly seem worth bringing up as evidence of their belief in justification by faith alone or imputed righteousness, since these are not even hinted at in any but a few of them. The one passage that I am aware of in the church fathers which seems to sound like something Martin Luther would have written about justification is the passage quoted from the Epistle to Diognetus.

    Admittedly, the language sounds quite similar to the “double imputation” theology that the Reformed embrace. However, I would make two observations on that quotation, and I’m curious to know what you think about them:

    1) I first find it to be quite an example of a double-standard when it comes to church history that the Reformed will bend over backwards to dismiss any quotes from the fathers which seem to imply some distinctively Roman Catholic doctrine (for example, David T. King’s handling of Jerome and the papacy here: http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2009/11/pastor-king-responds-to-bryan-cross.html), but when a single quote among all the fathers is found which sounds like it teaches double imputation on first glance, it is immediately upheld as certain proof that “the Gospel was believed in the early church,” and any attempt to read it in a non-Protestant way is sure to be met with the accusation that we’re “mishandling the fathers!” It seems that if a father says something which sounds distinctively Roman, then of course it’s because we’re being anachronistic; but if he says something that sounds distinctively Genevan, then it’s because they were proto-Protestants in the early church.

    2) I will readily concede that this passage sounds fairly Protestant, though not so much as to be in direct contradiction to anything the Catholic Church teaches. Even so, I don’t think that this is sufficient evidence to believe that the early church held to the Protestant view of justification, for two reasons: first, there are many statements by the early church fathers which are in direct contradiction to the Protestant view of justification and salvation; and second, this is the closest the early church fathers ever come, that I am aware of, to affirming the Protestant doctrine of justification. This is it. This is the one passage which the Reformed like most to “reach for” to prove that the early church held to the Protestant view of justification, and to do so they must not only either ignore or explain away nearly everything else that the church fathers said on salvation, but they must take this one isolated quote, interpret it in a light contrary to how all other historical evidence would incline the reader to interpret it, and then let that biased interpretation serve as the statement of the belief of everyone in the early church. Aside from all theological considerations, this is unacceptable from a historian’s standpoint.

    As a final comment, a little unconnected from the rest of my post, does anyone else find it as ironic as I do that Dr. Duncan appealed to a Protestant version of the “development of doctrine” to explain why the early church didn’t really teach the doctrine of imputed righteousness? I guess development of doctrine is fine as long as what develops is consistent with Westminster Standards. ;)

    Pax Christi,

    Spencer

  2. Good observations Spencer. Re: #1 it reminds me of the lengths liberal scholars are willing to go in order to do violence to what Christianity traditionally teaches.

    Liberal Joe: “Because X mentioned a deaconess in the late 3rd century, we know beyond any doubt that women always held all offices that men did from the very earliest days of the Church until the misogynists oppressed them out of office.”

    Liberal Joe: “Well St. Ignatius mentions the monepiscopacy in the early second century. All we can infer from this is that it is his personal opinion that he is probably trying to force on Asia Minor. At most, it must have recently been invented and was only present in Asia Minor. The rest of the world is apparently completely egalitarian.”

  3. You said, “So if present-day orthodox Catholics can affirm what the Church Fathers taught about the gospel, then it follows that the Fathers did not have the Reformed conception of the gospel.”

    That’s a brilliant non-sequitur. But of course it does not follow since Roman Catholics might be twisting the church fathers out of context!

    Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s treatise on the Lord’s Supper demolished the Roman Catholic reading of the church fathers and proved instead that the Reformed view is actually the view of the church fathers and is therefore the “catholic” one.

    By the way, any solid Reformed believer knows you blog is here to deceive and to recruit weaker Christians from the Reformed camp into the heresy of Rome. It’s a nice way of deceiving people but deception and dissimulation is still a lie. (Galatians 1:6-8; 3:10-12; 2 Corinthians 11:3-4).

    Charlie

  4. Hi Bryan,

    I guess my question is what is the gospel? I’m called to share the gospel, so as a catholic what exactly am I sharing? For example, I’m talking to someone who didn’t have a christian background growing up and I felt prompted by HS to share the gospel, what would I share with him?
    thanks
    Phil

  5. Charlie, (re: #3)

    It is not a non sequitur, and here’s why. If I say “If A then B,” and you reply, “That’s a non sequitur, because if ~A, then possibly ~B,” I will simply point out that the fact that “If ~A, then possibly ~B” does not show that B does not follow from A. The problem, from your point of view, is not a logical problem (about what follows from the premises), but a problem with one of the premises. So instead of saying “non sequitur,” what you mean (if you think I have misrepresented the Fathers) is just that: “you have misrepresented the teaching of the Fathers.” The term ‘non sequitur‘ means that the conclusion does not follow from the premises; the term does not mean that one or more of the premises are false. My statement does not contain a logical error, because the conclusion really does follow from the premises. Your objection is to one of the premises of my argument, not with the logical form of my argument. But, if you think I have misrepresented the teaching of the Fathers regarding the gospel, please show me where I have done so. For example, where in my recent post titled “St. Augustine on Law and Grace” did I “twist” or misrepresent St. Augustine’s teaching on law and grace?

    As for the doctrine of the Eucharist, we’ll be getting to that in the future. When we do get to it, feel free to point out where and how you think the Catholic doctrine deviates from the teaching of the Church Fathers on this subject.

    Lastly, if you think we are intending to deceive our readers, feel free to stick around and explain where exactly you think we are wrong.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  6. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s treatise on the Lord’s Supper demolished the Roman Catholic reading of the church fathers and proved instead that the Reformed view is actually the view of the church fathers and is therefore the “catholic” one.

    The classic phantom argument. If you would just read X then you would be convinced I am right and you are wrong. Can you summarize this treatise? If the argument is so strong why can’t you make it here?

    By the way, any solid Reformed believer knows you blog is here to deceive and to recruit weaker Christians from the Reformed camp into the heresy of Rome. It’s a nice way of deceiving people but deception and dissimulation is still a lie. (Galatians 1:6-8; 3:10-12; 2 Corinthians 11:3-4).

    Are you saying the authors are intentionally trying to deceive people? That they don’t really believe the Catholic faith is true and the arguments they make are true? How do solid Reformed believers know this?

  7. Phil, (re: #4)

    How I explain the gospel to a person depends on where that person is and what he or she already knows. I offered a summary last year in a post titled “The Gospel and the Meaning of Life.” Of course much more could be said; that’s just a start. But perhaps that post might be helpful for answering your question.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  8. I beg to differ, IF the Reformed view is correct, THEN your view is necessarily a non sequitur. Since you have not proved anything but simply made a bare assertion, then logically your view is safely accused of the fallacy of non sequitur. That was another brilliant dissimulation disguised as logic but is in fact not a logical argument at all. It is nothing short of dissimulation. This is why Roman Catholics have no credibility with me.

    Sincerely,

    Charlie

  9. Let me guess, Bryan. You were once a Reconstructionist and/or a Theonomist and a Postmillennialist?

    In my opinion Rome is preaching another gospel and not the same Gospel recorded infallibly and inerrantly in God’s inspired Word.

    If you think your dissimulations can change my mind, you are sadly mistaken. Why would I give up the free gift of salvation for a mess of pottage, for works of the flesh?

    It would make no sense at all. The only chance you have of converting anyone who is Reformed is to convert those who are already moving in your direction through theonomy/reconstruction/postmillennialism, etc. Everyone else knows better.

    Forgive me for being blunt but there is no way I would ever join with your synagogue of satan or bow the knee to an antichristian pope.

    The truth truly does unite. But the truth also divides. It divides true believers from idolaters and those who go about establishing their own righteousness rather than being justified by the imputed righteousness of Christ.

    Charlie

  10. Charlie,

    Whether the Reformed view is correct or not does not make his argument a non-sequitur. He just explained that. It would be better for you to slow down and understand the argument before stating that it’s false. “Non sequitur” doesn’t mean “wrong.” Plenty of arguments are not “non-sequiturs” but are false. (e.g. Every time it rains, I grow an inch. It rained, therefore I grew an inch. This argument is false but is not a non-sequitur.) You are saying that his argument is false, and you are (incorrectly) using the term “non-sequitur” which basically shows that you don’t understand what “non-sequitur” means.

  11. Charlie, (re: #7)

    You wrote:

    IF the Reformed view is correct, THEN your view is necessarily a non sequitur.

    No, that conclusion is a non sequitur. If the Reformed doctrine is correct, it does not follow that the Catholic doctrine is a non sequitur; it would only follow that the Catholic position is false. Hence the apodosis of your conditional is a non sequitur.

    Since you have not proved anything but simply made a bare assertion, then logically your view is safely accused of the fallacy of non sequitur.

    Again, that conclusion is a non sequitur. If I have simply made a bare assertion about the Catholic position, it does not follow that the Catholic position is a non sequitur. It would only follow that the Catholic position has not been substantiated.

    It is important not to confuse “false” and “non sequitur.” “False” applies to propositions on account of their relation to reality, regardless of their relation to other propositions. But “non sequitur” applies to conclusions of arguments, on account of their relation to the premises of that argument.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  12. Charlie, (re: #8),

    No I was never a Reconstructionist or a Theonomist or a Postmillennialist. I became a Catholic because I came to believe through the study of the Church Fathers that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ founded.

    In my opinion Rome is preaching another gospel and not the same Gospel recorded infallibly and inerrantly in God’s inspired Word.

    I understand. Which verses of the Bible do you think that the Catholic doctrine opposes or rejects or denies?

    If you think your dissimulations can change my mind, you are sadly mistaken. Why would I give up the free gift of salvation for a mess of pottage, for works of the flesh?

    Because your deeper desire is for the truth, not just for the most comforting version of the gospel on the ecclesial market.

    Forgive me for being blunt but there is no way I would ever join with your synagogue of satan or bow the knee to an antichristian pope.

    We’ll see. Sometimes God surprises us. I would have said the same thing ten years ago.

    The truth truly does unite. But the truth also divides. It divides true believers from idolaters and those who go about establishing their own righteousness rather than being justified by the imputed righteousness of Christ.

    That raises two questions. First, why do you think that the Catholic Church advocates idolatry? Second, concerning what you say about establishing one’s own righteousness, what Catholics believe is just what St. Augustine teaches (see “St. Augustine on Law and Grace“). So on what basis do you think St. Augustine was in error?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  13. Great article.

  14. Yes, God sometimes saves Roman Catholics out of their heresy. Unless you drop dead first, it could be that you’re one of God’s elect. I have no way of knowing:)

    Regarding the church fathers, the devil is in the details. Your assertion is a non sequitur whether or not you want to admit it. The church fathers do not support Roman Catholic views–unless Rome gets to twist, redefine, and revise the church fathers to fit the Roman Catholic presupposition. But you’re wasting your time either way. Scripture alone is the infallible Word of God and that’s not going to change:) I have everything I need to know to be saved recorded in Holy Scripture:) 2 Timothy 3:15-17. Now you can come up with all the sophisticated reasons in the world for me to commit apostasy and become a papist. But to put it in common language: “It ain’t happenin’.” In fact, I’ve dedicated my life to exposing false prophets and dissimulators like yourself.

    May God grant you the grace to repent before it is too late:)

    Charlie

  15. Not to pile it on but I am of course a convert and was also never once a theonomist, reconstructionist or postmillenialist. In fact, I know dozens of Reformed converts, none of whom were ever theonomists, reconstructionists or postmillenialists.

  16. Look, if you’re going to keep saying I’m wrong, I’ll just keep saying you’re wrong. It is absolutely false that the church fathers support medieval doctrines developed centuries later because you think they are implicit in them when in fact they are not.

    The Gospel is recorded for all to see in the Bible. I can read it just fine. I don’t need the church fathers to be saved and the church fathers support the Reformed view, though they are an inconsistent and fallible witness.

    Whether or not you will admit it or not a non sequitur is still a non sequitur. You are only making yourselves look foolish by denying the obvious. If the church fathers support the Reformed and Protestant “catholic” view then the Roman Catholic view is wrong and your premise is wrong and therefore it does not follow since the premise is false. It is a non sequitur any way you try to spin it, dice it or slice it. What part of wrong do you not understand? :D

    Charlie

  17. “The church fathers support the Roman Catholic view of the gospel, therefore the Protestant view is wrong.” The premise is wrong since Ligon Duncan is arguing this: “The church fathers support the Protestant view of the Gospel, therefore the Catholic view is wrong.”

    Following from Ligon’s talk then your brilliant sleight of hand is still a non sequitur.

    But you said: “if present-day orthodox Catholics can affirm what the Church Fathers taught about the gospel, then it follows that the Fathers did not have the Reformed conception of the gospel.” The premise is ambiguous since obviously “if the Catholics… affirm what the church fathers taught” they would agree with the Reformed understanding since the church fathers taught the same view of the Gospel as the Bible and the Reformers. It does not follow that the church fathers did not have the Reformed understanding of the Gospel simply because Roman Catholics affirm what the church fathers taught. Roman Catholics would be affirming the Reformed understanding of the Gospel and therefore it does not follow that “the church fathers did not have the Reformed understanding” just on that basis alone. The statement is a blatant non sequitur.

    It does not take a genius to figure this out.

  18. A “Reformed” person who converts to Rome is still an apostate whatever his or her reasons for converting to that view:

    They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. (1 John 2:19 ESV)

    They went out from
    Deu 13:13 that certain worthless fellows have gone out among you and have drawn away the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which you have not known,
    Act 20:30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

    if they had been
    Joh 17:12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

    that it might become
    1Co 11:19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.

  19. Charlie:
    Also not to pile on, but given your claims in #15 (that the Church Fathers taught the Reformed understanding), I wonder if you wouldn’t mind detailing which of the Fathers you’ve read, and which works? I read quite a bit when I (as an Reformed believer) was in seminary, and yours was decidedly not my understanding of any of them.

  20. […] and critique you will have to visit the amazingly helpful website full of scholarly research: Called to Communion: Reformation meets Rome. All six pieces of evidence he offers are fully Catholic, completely compatible with the doctrine […]

  21. Hey Charlie, :-)

    I’m one of the Reformed Protestants that lurks around here, and I just wanted to encourage you to keep dialoguing with these Catholic guys. If you hang around here long enough, one sees lots of Protestants who show up, sound off, and wander off after posting just a few comments – they don’t want to have a conversation, in other words. You’ve obviously got some strong opinions on this whole Catholic vs. Protestant debate, which means you are probably very interested in pursuing God’s Truth too. The way I see it, you’re just strongly convinced that the RC position is far outside of God’s Truth.

    I can assure you that the overwhelming majority of Catholics on here (particularly the “big names” like Bryan, etc) are NOT ideologues – they are Roman Catholics because they believe it to be True, but if you give strong enough arguments, they are perfectly reasonable and are willing to give the other side a fair hearing and change their views as appropriate. So stick around, give good arguments for your views, and we’ll all understand God’s Truth a wee bit better together. :-)

    Sincerely,
    Benjamin :-)

  22. A blanket question–the implication here is that Dr. Duncan and Reformed scholars in general are exhibiting a tendency to read a Reformed doctrine of imputation (which for the Reformed is part-and-parcel of, if not synonomous with, “the Gospel”) into these writings of the church fathers. I think that may well be the case, as many of these verses can at best be used to show that the Reformed view is *consistent with* what was written in these citations, but not that these individual fathers actually held to a Lutheran/Calvinist/Reformed view of forensic imputation. In other words, if one already accepts that the “development of doctrine” leading to the Westminster Confession was correct, then one can say that it at least isn’t inconsistent with these particular citations from the fathers.

    However, isn’t this analysis also reading a Catholic Anselm-style “satisfaction theory” of atonement back into these same citations? That may not be fair–I think the aim of the article was to show that such a view of the atonement also is not incompatible with these patristic quotes said. In the earlier fathers is seems that what they did say was, in a sense, general enough that it could be construed to be a logical predecessor to later views, whatever they may be. The fact that multiple but differing theologies could all claim to be consistent with these fathers just then presses the question back to authority, doesn’t it? Who has the authority to define which of these more developed theologies is correct.

    As to Charlie–I also am Reformed, but I would say in charity that we accomplish nothing by slinging “synagogue of Satan” at these men, anymore than Catholics accomplish by slinging “heretic” or “schismatic” back at us. Let’s please substantiate what we claim and try to do so with charity, focusing on the topic at hand. Otherwise we just make ourselves look like antagonists.

  23. BT,

    The point is a little stronger, I think, than just saying that both Catholics and Protestants have soteriological views that can be found in these few passages that Dr. Duncan selected for his talk. In several of Bryan’s paragraphs above, he points out that Dr. Duncan is not only adducing passages that any Catholic could easily affirm, but also that Dr. Duncan is reading these passages in an extreme isolation (my words). So, for example, even if a Calvinist reads one of these passages and gives it his hearty “amen,” he’s actually only giving his amen to the bare letter of the text. He can’t be giving his amen to the spirit of what Clement or Justin wrote, to the real substance of what they meant, because, as Bryan points out, patristic soteriology does not exist apart from ecclesiology and sacramentology. The spirit of these authors can’t be understood even as a purely vague description which could produce any number of later legitimate refinements, one of which is Reformed soteriology, since these authors believed in baptismal regeneration, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the reality of apostasy, etc. And yet even if we were to confine ourselves to “purely” soteriological categories (which is a bit of a concession for a Catholic since we see justification and the sacraments as being linked in some way) we know from the broader patristic context not that they did not believe, to give one example, that justification was by extra nos imputation. They may not come out and say that specifically since they’re not responding to that particular question, but their positive statements make it clear that their theologies, when read as thought-out wholes, cannot be understood as legitimate precursors to Reformed imputation theology.

    This is why I was, to be honest, just a bit irked by the whole thing. I found his use of Clement at the beginning and his confident remarks about Augustine at the end to be particularly off-putting. He literally took one line out of Clement and declared that we have the Protestant gospel in seed-form (Bryan and I are actually discussing Clement with Jason in another article’s com-box if you’re interested). Then Dr. Duncan mentions at the end that we could “easily” go to Augustine, but Augustine has to be the worst place for someone to go if they are convinced that the Protestant Gospel is found in seed form in the patristic literature, since Augustine is more specific than any of the people Dr. Duncan actually quoted, and, as Anglican historian McGrath shows, uses categories to describe justification that were preserved throughout the middle ages and from which Luther et al. represent a decisive break. It just concerns me that people who have never and may never actually read the fathers for themselves in more than snippets and proof-texts are going to have their consciences falsely assuaged by Dr. Duncan’s talk (I’d say “have their ears tickled by teachers who tell them what they want to hear” but I’m trying to give them and Dr. Duncan the benefit of the doubt here) that the categories developed in the 16th century are not actually as novel as they really are.

  24. My observations as an Anglican, seriously considering RC:

    How do we know Calvin and Luther both interpreted the fathers correctly?

    How do we know Calvin and Luther interpreted scripture correctly?

    What measure can be used to determine these things?

    Whatever that measure is, it cannot be scripture alone, because that would be in actuality, merely human reason alone. Or, our theologically bent educated understanding of Scripture alone.

    Sola Scriptura cuts its own throat. To pick and chose what we like from the Church father’s because it agrees with our interpretation, is not making Scripture the highest authority.

  25. Enemies of the Gospel don’t deserve “charity.” What they deserve is honest, straightforward confrontation. As the old saying goes, “Turn or burn.”

    There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13:1-3 ESV)

  26. @Benjamin Keil,

    I sincerely doubt that you are Reformed. If you were, you would know that the natural man cannot understand the simple Gospel and the Word of God. Only the elect are drawn to believe. Not many wise men, not many nobles, not many scholars are called. But God chooses whom He will choose.

    For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV)

  27. There is only one authority that is infallible and inerrant. It is God’s Word. So simply claiming your church is an infallible authority is simply to give yourself a fake badge. Everyone with a brain knows that all authority is derived. If the church fathers disagree with Scripture, then they are wrong as everyone else is.

    Charlie

  28. David, (#21) I concur. This morning Dr. Duncan responded to my post, writing:

    For instance, recently a Roman Catholic apologetics site has published a blog post that purports to refute my address, but which, in fact, completely misses its point. My little talk at T4G was not a polemic against Roman Catholicism, but a commendation of the Church Fathers to Bible-believing evangelicals. Had I wanted to polemicize against Rome from the Church Fathers, I could have, easily.

    Apparently, the point of his talk was not to show that the Church Fathers knew the [Reformed] gospel. He only wanted to commend the Church Fathers to Bible-believing evangelicals. Apparently, if he had wanted to show that the Church Fathers held a Reformed (and not Catholic) conception of the gospel, he could have easily done so, but just chose not to do it at this conference of 7,000+ young Reformed men. He didn’t want to bore them at 8 AM, so apparently he gave them six weaker points of evidence, even though he could have easily given them much stronger evidence. It seems to me that if he didn’t want to bore his audience, he would have given them the strongest evidence he could find. It seems to me that when these 7,000+ find out that the Church Fathers didn’t hold a Reformed conception of the gospel, they will feel deceived by this talk. It used to be that denominations could get away with this sort of thing, because this sort of communication mostly stayed in-house. But now, because of the new media, you just can’t get away with this sort of thing anymore.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  29. I generally don’t waste my time with determined reprobates–whether they be Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, OR Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, or whatever.

    The Catholics in here are not interested in the doctrines of grace. The purpose of the blog is to evangelize Protestants;) DUH! The very thought that they might be lost and on the way to hell has not even occurred to them. Ever tried witnessing to a dead man?

    The discussions here will die the death of a thousand qualifications. No matter how many arguments I submit the fact is even if I am correct they would not and could not accept even one of them unless God regenerated them first.

    Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil. (Jeremiah 13:23 ESV)

    Mat 19:26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

  30. Bryan, your satire directed at Dr. Ligon Duncan is silly. First of all, EVEN IF the church fathers were 100% Roman Catholic as you say, it would not change a thing. SCRIPTURE is the only infallible, inerrant and authoritative source of doctrine. SO if Scripture condemns justification by works, then so do I.

    Charlie

  31. Well, I’m glad that he is commending the fathers to 7000+ young Reformed man. I was a young Reformed man a couple years ago. Let us pray that those young Reformed men will become excited to read the fathers for themselves in-depth.

  32. Scott B,

    I have read little of the church fathers and have no interest in doing so. Why? Because my interests lie with Scripture, exegesis, and Reformed theology.

    I have read Cranmer’s book on the Lord’s Supper. He quotes extensively from the church fathers and demolishes the doctrine of transubstantiation. Calvin also quotes from the fathers often, especially Augustine.

    But I have read the City of God, and Augustine’s Confession. I have read portions of Justin Martyr’s polemics against the pagan gods and gnosticism as well.

    But what does that have to do with anything?

    Who cares what you “think” the church fathers say? Salvation is through God’s Word, the Bible.

    and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15-17 ESV)
    And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:15-16 ESV)

    Btw, I did read James White’s book, The Roman Catholic Controversy sometime back and I’ve read and listened to debates between Patrick Madrid and White and Gerry Matatics and White. I was impressed with James White’s debates and with his book. Sorry but I find Rome’s position untenable. Why do I need to blindly follow the blind when I can read God’s very words for myself?

    Charlie

  33. Charlie,

    Twenty-two comments in about eight hours breaks the previous record by any guest, which was sixteen in a twenty-four hour period. That record was set in 2009. We all reason more carefully when we slow down and take our time, and are sensitive to the other participants in the conversation. If you need a number, perhaps about five comments per day would be good max. Also, because my time is limited, I can’t adequately respond to twenty-two comments from one person in one day. So, try to be sensitive to the time constraints of your interlocutors here, if you want to engage in this dialogue. We’re not going to resolve this thing in a day. Let’s take a longer-term approach to resolving this, and slowly work our way through the underlying points of disagreement.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  34. I have no problem reading the church fathers. I have a complete searchable antenicene fathers set in Bibleworks. So what?

    Reading the church fathers isn’t going to change my opinion one whit. Why? Because the Bible is the final word, not the church fathers:)

    I have been reading the Bible since I was 8. Why would I let some charismaniac apostle or prophet tell me what the Bible says when I can read it myself? The same applies to the Watch Tower, Ellen White, Joseph Smith AND Roman Catholicism. Origen was condemned post humously as a heretic and even taught universal salvation. So what’s your point?

  35. Charlie,
    Re: your post #30, I can tell you why I was interested to read more of the Fathers when I was in seminary. A friend of mine asked me a question to which I couldn’t offer a good answer: why do I imagine my understanding of Scripture (or the understanding of Luther or Calvin) is better or more accurate, coming 2000 years after the New Testament was written, than the understanding of those Christian leaders who lived and learned at the feet of the Apostles themselves? If the writings of the Apostolic Fathers in particular, who were disciples of the Apostles, teach Catholic doctrines, why do I imagine that I know better now than they did then? This cuts to the very heart of Scripture exegesis, so it should be something of great interest to you. If you believe the Fathers were theologically Protestant, it should be easy to show it by reading them; if not, it should at least give you pause to consider that (assuming Reformed theology is correct) God apparently abandoned the post-Apostolic-age church immediately to heresy, and didn’t raise up a leader to correct that heresy for nearly 1500 years.

  36. Bryan, well since you have insisted from the get go to misrepresent the other side, I thought I would draw the lines clearly. Here’s the line: I’m a Christian. You are not.

    Need I say more?

    Personally, I find your blog offensive because its title is misleading and basically a lie. There is nothing “Reformed” about Roman Catholicism. Christianity and Roman Catholicism are two entirely different religious faiths. One follows man and his traditions. The other follows God and His word as He spoke through the prophets and apostles.

    Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:1-3 ESV)

    While your intellectual babble and double talk might impress the less informed, any plow boy who reads the Bible knows more than you do.

    Charlie

  37. Actually, the antenicene church fathers were NOT disciples of the apostles. They were further down the line than that. Only a couple of them were eyewitnesses to the actual apostles of Jesus. Tradition, like gossip, gets distorted by word of mouth. Only what is written is infallible and trustworthy.

    I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. (1 Corinthians 4:6 ESV)

  38. (1 Clement 45:2 APE) Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit.
    (1 Clement 53:1 APE) Ye understand, beloved, ye understand well the Sacred Scriptures, and ye have looked very earnestly into the oracles of God. Call then these things to your remembrance.
    (Ignatius to the Magnesians (long. 9:1 APE) If, then, those who were conversant with the ancient Scriptures came to newness of hope, expecting the coming of Christ, as the Lord teaches us when He says, “If ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed Me, for he wrote of Me;” and again, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad; for before Abraham was, I am;”
    (Ignatius to the Philadelphians (. 4:5 APE) Fathers, “bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord;” and teach them the holy Scriptures, and also trades, that they may not indulge in idleness. Now|the Scripture¦ says, “A righteous father educates|his children¦ well; his heart shall rejoice in a wise son.” Masters, be gentle towards your servants, as holy Job has taught you; for there is one nature, and one family of mankind. For “in Christ there is neither bond nor free.”
    (Ignatius to the Philadelphians 8:2 APE) And I exhort you to do nothing out of strife, but according to the doctrine of Christ. When I heard some saying, If I do not find it in the ancient Scriptures, I will not believe the Gospel; on my saying to them, It is written, they answered me, That remains to be proved. But to me Jesus Christ is in the place of all that is ancient: His cross, and death, and resurrection, and the faith which is by Him, are undefiled monuments of antiquity; by which I desire, through your prayers, to be justified.
    (Polycarp to the Philippians 12:1 APE) For I trust that ye are well versed in the Sacred Scriptures, and that nothing is hid from you; but to me this privilege is not yet granted. It is declared then in these Scriptures, “Be ye angry, and sin not,” and, “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” Happy is he who remembers this, which I believe to be the case with you.

  39. Looks like the church fathers are not going to change my mind after all. They merely confirm a high view of Scripture. Where’s the pope mentioned in the church fathers?

    Hmmmmm….

  40. I couldnt find a 4.10.13 in Augustines confessions by the way…perhaps a slip of the tongue on Duncans part…? Or mine? Not sure, but i looked for the quote and couldnt locate it.

  41. RE#35

    I have “Augustine Of Hippo” by Peter Brown in front of me. On page 50, for footnote #8 he cites Confessions IV.IX.13 . . . that is incorrect. It should read IV.VIII.13

    BOOK IV CHAPTER VIII

    13. Time never lapses, nor does it glide at leisure through our sense perceptions. It does strange things in the mind. Lo, time came and went from day to day, and by coming and going it brought to my mind other ideas and remembrances, and little by little they patched me up again with earlier kinds of pleasure and my sorrow yielded a bit to them. But yet there followed after this sorrow, not other sorrows just like it, but the causes of other sorrows. For why had that first sorrow so easily penetrated to the quick except that I had poured out my soul onto the dust, by loving a man as if he would never die who nevertheless had to die? What revived and refreshed me, more than anything else, was the consolation of other friends, with whom I went on loving the things I loved instead of thee. This was a monstrous fable and a tedious lie which was corrupting my soul with its “itching ears”[99] by its adulterous rubbing. And that fable would not die to me as often as one of my friends died. And there were other things in our companionship that took strong hold of my mind: to discourse and jest with him; to indulge in courteous exchanges; to read pleasant books together; to trifle together; to be earnest together; to differ at times without ill-humor, as a man might do with himself, and even through these infrequent dissensions to find zest in our more frequent agreements; sometimes teaching, sometimes being taught; longing for someone absent with impatience and welcoming the homecomer with joy. These and similar tokens of friendship, which spring spontaneously from the hearts of those who love and are loved in return–in countenance, tongue, eyes, and a thousand ingratiating gestures–were all so much fuel to melt our souls together, and out of the many made us one.

  42. […] For the catalyst for this post, see Bryan Cross’s post about Ligon Duncan’s lecture: Did the Father Know the Gospel?, which contains (in the thread) […]

  43. While your intellectual babble and double talk might impress the less informed, any plow boy who reads the Bible knows more than you do.

    Charlie – I was Reformed for 20 years – Calvinist, in the Dutch tradition – am Catholic now. During my Reformed years I read the Bible about 30 times, in the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, since I read those languages, as well as in English in several versions, and in several other languages. Since becoming a Catholic about fifteen years ago then I have added another 10-15 times. I just don’t understand where your certainty about the Scriptures comes from. How come you are sure the Catholic Church is wrong and I am sure it is right, when we both read the same Scriptures?

    jj

  44. @ Charlie J. Ray
    For a man whose blog is entitled http://www.reasonablechristian.blogspot.com/ [ed.] …oh the irony…

    BTW what about the gospel of the Arminians, do you believe them to be damnable heretics because of their views on the Gospel? Also do you sing psalms only like the real reformed puritans did? Because you will find precious little in the new testament on making up your own hymns and bringing them before God…after all Knox says whatever is offered as worship that isn’t prescribed for us in Holy writ as so, is idolatry. That’s the regulative principle of worship (RPW). If you dont hold to it, you are not reformed, despite whatever conception of the “doctrines of Grace” that you hold to. Early Lutherans believed those doctrines of grace, they weren’t called reformed. Only those adhering to the RPW were considered reformed. Do you hold to the RPW?

    -Justin-

  45. Cross,

    I sympathize with your points. I have now posted a more in depth look at the Epistle to Diognetus on my website to further collaborate your point: http://theophilogue.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/does-the-letter-to-diognetus-teach-imputation-a-response-to-ligon-duncans-analysis/

    I hope you find it a delight to read. I am Reformed, yet I believe that my Reformed brothers are always reading Reformed doctrine back into the Fathers (and back into everything Pre-Reformation for that matter).

    I also believe they have misunderstood Martin Luther: http://theophilogue.wordpress.com/2010/04/30/luther-vs-catholics-on-justification-2/

    Pax,

    Bradley

  46. Charlie,

    If Scripture is as crystal-clear as you claim, why did you have to go through a process that led you from Arminian, Pentecostal Christianity to five-point Calvinism and a rejection of Pentecostal beliefs? Why did you not simply read the Scripture for what you claim that it clearly says, and become a five-point Calvinist upon your first reading of the Bible?

    Similarly, if you now think that you were about wrong about Arminian, Pentecostal beliefs from your reading of the Bible, why do you have seemingly unshakable confidence that you are right about five-point Calvinism, or for that matter, what you believe that the Scriptures teach about justification?

  47. @Christopher Lake

    The Protestant churches preach the Gospel of grace. Some are more pure than others. My journey from less pure preaching of the Word to more pure is providential and in God’s hands. Even the thief on the cross was saved at the last possible moment. Does it surprise you that God is able to save the elect through long processes rather than “instant” conversions?

    Since you don’t believe in God’s absolutely predestination and providence, it would not surprise me that you think starting off in less pure churches cannot in the end lead to the doctrines of grace. As RC Sproul puts it, everyone is born a pelagian:)

    If I have left pelagianism behind, why would I return like a dog to its own vomit???

    Charlie

  48. John Thayer Jensen,

    Does the acronym K I S S mean anything to you? It means, Keep It Simple Stupid.

    So how does throwing in another cog in the wheel solve anything? The Bible is self interpreting, although some passages are more difficult than others. All that we need to know to be saved is recorded in the Bible–even the OT Scriptures!

    So why do I need another interpreter of the Bible that is allegedly infallible and inerrant? “I” remain fallible so how do I know if your claim that Rome is infallible is true or not????

    You might be lying or you might just be plain wrong. How do I know the difference?

    So for all practical purposes Rome’s doctrinal interpretations have no more weight pragmatically than the Reformed Confessions. Your additional interpreter solves absolutely nothing. It’s rather like declaring yourself to be Jesus Christ when everyone knows you really are not Jesus Christ.

    But one thing is for sure. We have the Bible. It is agreed by all that it is God’s inspired Word and the recorded, written words of God. I don’t need to read Greek and Hebrew to be saved:) I read the Bible long before I learned Greek and Hebrew.

    But knowing the original languages is a bonus for those who are able to learn them. I don’t need a seminary degree to be saved or know God’s word.

    However, knowing the Reformed Confessions and the original languages has made my faith richer, deeper and satisfying. I see nothing in Rome that I want. Why would I trade the sovereignty of God who insures His elect will endure to the end for a man-made tradition that takes away everything and leaves me with nothing but empty promises and no hope at all????

    Charlie

  49. Justin,

    I never claimed to be “tolerant”. I claimed to be reasonable. :) But to answer your question, I’m not a Puritan. I’m a Reformed Anglican with Puritan leanings. Huge difference. I like the 39 Articles of Religion and Cranmer’s 1552 Book of Common Prayer, although the 1662 BCP is the official formulary and thoroughy Reformed.

    I personally prefer the 1662 lectionary with the daily Psalter readings. Whether or not one sings hymns is adiaphora as long as the hymns are biblical.

    Regarding Arminians, they are a secondary heresy provided they do not cross over into outright pelagianism as Charles Finney did. Albeit, the Arminians and the Amyraldians in some ways have more in common with Rome than with the English and Continental Reformers. The Remonstrandts were a move back toward Rome, which explains why Methodists and Pentecostals and Charismatics are semi-Catholic in their theology.

    Charlie

  50. Bradley, since none of the footnotes in your blog post refer to anything, I have to wonder if you didn’t pull a rabbit out of your hat?

    I’m convinced. Where do I sign up with Rome? Point me to the nearest synagogue.

    I read Luther’s Bondage of the Will and nothing Luther said there was in the least bit compatible with Rome. Methinks you’re taking the same approach of the Tractarians in Anglicanism. Just revise, re-write and dissimulate so the stupid will blindly follow.

    As my redneck grandfather used to say, “I ain’t stupid.”

    Charlie

  51. Luther’s diatribe against Erasmus on “Free Will” sums it up nicely. Pelagianism versus the Bondage of the Will is the very crux of the matter:

    Sect. 168.—AND now, my friend Erasmus, I entreat you for Christ’s sake to perform what you promised. You promised ‘that you would willingly yield to him, who should teach you better than you knew.’ Lay aside all respect of persons. You, I confess, are great and adorned with many, and those the most noble, gifts of God; (to say nothing of the rest,) with talent, with erudition, and with eloquence to a miracle. Whereas I, have nothing and am nothing, excepting that, I glory in being almost a Christian!

    In this, moreover, I give you great praise, and proclaim it—you alone in pre-eminent distinction from all others, have entered upon the thing itself; that is, the grand turning point of the cause; and, have not wearied me with those irrelevant points about popery, purgatory, indulgences, and other like baubles, rather than causes, with which all have hitherto tried to hunt me down,—though in vain! You, and you alone saw, what was the grand hinge upon which the whole turned, and therefore you attacked the vital part at once; for which, from my heart, I thank you. For in this kind of discussion I willingly engage, as far as time and leisure permit me. Had those who have heretofore attacked me done the same, and would those still do the same, who are now boasting of new spirits, and new revelations, we should have less sedition and sectarianism, and more peace and concord.—But thus has God, by the instrumentality of Satan, avenged our ingratitude!

    The Bondage of the Will

  52. @ Charlie
    Then historically speaking your not “reformed”. The Reformed believed in the RPW. You are anglican, not Reformed.
    The 39 articles state “The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies” Where do they get this from scripturally? The RPW is about all you can leave the scripture with from cover to cover if you are coming at it from a strict sola scriptura approach. That The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies is certainly not square with scripture, given your starting and ending points of sola scriptura. To say that hymn singing is adiaphora is to ignore the fact that, from a strict sola scriptura position, which the puritans you lean towards all held, you can only conclude that you must do what is prescribed as elements of worship, and not add or subtract from them. Singing any songs not prescribed by scripture and calling them worship songs, in the mind of say Knox, would have been idolatry. Because to him, you added a new element to worship, not merely a circumstance. The scripture does explicitly command the singing of psalms, but not extra-biblical man-made hymns(col 3:16 and eph 5:19 refer to the psalter). Unless you find in scripture a defense for the 39 articles assumption of ecclesial authority, you should be a exclusive psalm-singer by your own sola scriptura standard.

    -Justin-

  53. Charlie, in comment #42, you replied to me,

    “My journey from less pure preaching of the Word to more pure is providential and in God’s hands. Even the thief on the cross was saved at the last possible moment. Does it surprise you that God is able to save the elect through long processes rather than “instant” conversions?”

    Actually, Charlie, this long process of God saving the elect doesn’t surprise me at all. It has happened, and is happening, in my own life. God has taken me from being 1. a poorly catechized Catholic convert (from agnosticism) to 2. a general evangelical Protestant, to 3. a Reformed Baptist, and strongly anti-Catholic, Protestant, and finally, to 4. a correct, Biblical, rightly informed understanding and embrace of all that the Catholic Church teaches. My journey is also providential, and it has required me admitting that Scripture is not “self-interpreting.” God never intended it to be so.

    He also never intended Sola Scriptura to be the “Biblical paradigm” through which His people could understand the Bible. I invite you to read the Called to Communion article on Sola Scriptura, which has over 800 comments, and as far as I can tell, has still not been refuted. http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/11/solo-scriptura-sola-scriptura-and-the-question-of-interpretive-authority/

  54. @ Justin,

    Cranmer was not a Puritan:) But he was Reformed in his theology of the sacraments and in his soteriology. The regulative principle of worship is a later development and not part of Calvin’s Insitutes or the 39 Articles or even the 3 Forms of Unity of the Dutch Reformed Churches.

    I would argue that legalism leads back to Rome. The genius of Cranmer was the 1552/1662 Book of Common Prayer where the law of God and the doctrines of grace, including justification by faith alone, were taught weekly in the liturgy.

    See Samuel Leuenberger’s book, Archbishop Cranmer’s Immortal Bequest.

    Charlie

  55. How come you are sure the Catholic Church is wrong and I am sure it is right, when we both read the same Scriptures?

    Charlie, what about this? Since you and I both read the same Scriptures, how can we differ?

    I should mention that when I became a Christian, I read a great deal of the Reformers – Luther, Calvin – fairly quickly became Calvinist – but slowly moved toward Catholicism. Since you call yourself a “Reformed Anglican,” refer to a “redneck grandfather” (which makes you sound American), and talk about Reconstructionism and Theonomy, you may be familiar with some of what I went through, as it was Jim Jordan, Gary North, Greg Bahnsen, Rushdoony, and others whom I was involved with for a while.

    For what it’s worth, my own story is in this. I have a notion I know where you are coming from – but I could be wrong :-)

    jj

    PS – Jim Jordan personally excommunicated me, so at least not all of the Reconstructionist/Theonomist camp became Catholics – but Mike Gilstrap, part of that crowd whom I knew a bit back in 1980 in Tyler, became an Anglican priest – and eventually, a little before me, a Catholic.

  56. link appears to be broken

  57. @John Thayer Jensen

    We read the same Scriptures and you follow Rome rather than Scripture. Also, you reject the Reformed Confessions of Faith and I do not:)

    But let me ask you a question. If you are fallible and I am fallible and the Bible is infallible, what good is another infallible? I would need to be infallible myself for an infallible interpreter of the Bible to be valid. Otherwise, I can just go straight to the Bible. We Protestants read the Bible together and not independent of the church. We simply say that the Scriptures are the final authority and our confession together is subject to correction since churches, councils and individuals can and do err. Rome is especially prone to error given the fact that it has officially condemned the Gospel in the canons of the Council of Trent. I am officially anathema along with all Protestants who believe the Gospel.

    Shoot.

    Charlie

  58. Charlie.

    I am officially anathema along with all Protestants who believe the Gospel.

    Actually you are not as has been explained to you in the comments on another blog today here.

    This article explains in lay terms what ‘anathema’ means and how it applies to Protestants today.

    Further, as the blog moderator, I must ask you to read the posting guidelines which are found here.

    Ad hominems are not allowed.

  59. It’s working now. We had a temporary problem with the site.

  60. Charlie J.,

    Your rhetoric is condescending and uncharitable, while the substance of your rhetoric was entirely false. Which footnotes are you talking about? Name the post and footnote number so I can sift through your accusation.

    Every blog post I’ve ever written on Luther is overwhelmed with footnotes of primary sources (i.e. the pen of Luther himself).

    Look again:

    http://theophilogue.wordpress.com/2010/04/30/luther-vs-catholics-on-justification-2/

    http://theophilogue.wordpress.com/2009/01/17/what-martin-luther-really-said-luthers-sola-fide/

    http://theophilogue.wordpress.com/2008/07/23/luthers-doctrine-of-baptism-intro/

    http://theophilogue.wordpress.com/2008/07/29/luthers-doctrine-of-baptism-the-large-catechism/

    http://theophilogue.wordpress.com/2008/08/05/luthers-doctrine-of-baptism-a-critique-part-1/

    http://theophilogue.wordpress.com/2008/08/28/luthers-doctrine-of-baptism-a-critique-part-2/

    http://theophilogue.wordpress.com/2008/09/08/was-martin-luther-even-a-christian-a-critique-of-his-defense-of-infant-baptism/

    http://theophilogue.wordpress.com/2008/09/19/brothers-let-us-embrace-heresy/

    My brother, I hope you will be more specific and less condescending in your next comment.

    Bradley

  61. Bradley,

    His next approved comment will be less condescending – I can assure you of that much. We are lenient on newcomers to a point, but as Sean pointed out, we do have posting guidelines that all guests are required to comply with.

    Thanks for bearing with us – we want to make this a place for respectable and charitable dialogue.

  62. Bradley, your article on Luther has footnotes with empty links. I would like to see the context of your alleged sources.

    Charlie

  63. But let me ask you a question. If you are fallible and I am fallible and the Bible is infallible, what good is another infallible? I would need to be infallible myself for an infallible interpreter of the Bible to be valid. Otherwise, I can just go straight to the Bible. We Protestants read the Bible together and not independent of the church. We simply say that the Scriptures are the final authority and our confession together is subject to correction since churches, councils and individuals can and do err. Rome is especially prone to error given the fact that it has officially condemned the Gospel in the canons of the Council of Trent. I am officially anathema along with all Protestants who believe the Gospel.

    A very worthwhile question, Charlie. You are quite right that at some point we must use our own private judgement to decide whom we are to believe. No infallible authority can help us in the preliminary task of deciding to believe that authority.

    Here is (very briefly) why I believe the Scriptures are true:

    – I believe in God – my own reason tells me that

    – I believe Jesus is the unique Son of God – basically C. S. Lewis’s “Liar, Lunatic, Lord” argument

    – the same historical evidence that tells me about Jesus – the New Testament – tells me that He intended to establish a Church that would be (a) United, (b) authoritative, and (c) infallible – that is, if I had lived in Jerusalem in AD30 and I had come to believe in Jesus, it would have been my duty to join myself to those same apostles and disciples in the Upper Room – and to obey their teachings.

    – Reason, history, and Jesus’s own words (“the gates of Hell will not prevail against [My Church]”) tell me that this same United, authoritative, infallible Church was intended by Him to continue through the ages.

    – There is only one possible candidate for that Church – the Church that is in union with the Bishop of Rome, the heir of Peter

    – That Church tells me which writings are Scripture, and that I must believe them.

    Now it’s your turn. How do you know the writings you honour are Scripture, that they are authoritative and infallible, and that when your understanding of Scripture is in conflict with that of the Roman Catholic Church, your understanding of Scripture is correct and the understanding of the Roman Catholic Church is wrong?

    jj

  64. Charlie J.,

    Thanks for being more specific and less condescending. I think I now understand your mishap. They are not links; they are footnotes. You have to scroll down to the end of the blog post to see them.

    Bradley

  65. Tim,

    Thanks for your sensitivity and value for charitable dialogue.

    Bradley

  66. Those looking for a thorough and wider treatment of patristic/medieval thought of justification and its attendant doctrines (merit, supererogation, concupiscence, etc) brought forth as support for the Protestant view of the gospel and against the RC view might be interested in Davenant’s treatise on justification. It still seems to me at least one of the most extensive and detailed works even today, and is one of the few volumes in english that cites much from Bellarmine’s untranslated Disputations which allows one to really see how Trent was being defended at the time (and Bellarmine’s patristic citations are also examined). Both volumes are fully available on google books (table of contents helpfully separate out each topic’s points/arguments)
    vol1
    vol2

  67. Not to back Charlie’s apologetic method, but I do fail to see how this statement is not a non sequitur.
    Maybe RC’s can affirm what the Fathers say because the Fathers are obscure in their soteriological language. Hence, both RC’s and Reformed folk can affirm what they say. Maybe they can affirm what they say because the Fathers are not monolithic, or what they affirm is selective. The conclusion, therefore, is a non sequitur. It does not logically follow that B is the necessary conclusion of A.

  68. Hi JJ,

    Sorry to intrude on a tangent here, but if you don’t mind I would like to hear you elaborate on your system some more:

    “He intended to establish a Church that would be (a) United, (b) authoritative, and (c) infallible”

    Would you elaborate on (a) United, and (c) infallible? My stumbling block with (a) is I don’t know whether to believe God’s intention for the Church to be United was “absolute” will or “contingent” will. And, why do you believe the Church is infallible?

    If you can get my e-mail from the moderators, feel free to respond privately – since this is off topic.

  69. Just a question… why is it that when it comes to the ECF, it seems that some RCs can understand them of what a certain text means from their writings. I can see confidence in asserting that “this text from the ECF” means this and not this. Is the ECF corpus self-interpreting and self-authenticating? What authoritative basis then can some RCs say that his interpretation of the ECF is the correct one? Is there a corpus of infallible interpretations of what certain a certain text from an ECF means?

    Thanks.

  70. Bryan Hodge,

    Which argument are you referring to that you believe is a non-sequitur? Also, do you think this is a non-sequitur: [Every time it rains, I grow an inch. It rained, therefore I grew an inch. ]

  71. Maybe RC’s can affirm what the Fathers say because the Fathers are obscure in their soteriological language. Hence, both RC’s and Reformed folk can affirm what they say. Maybe they can affirm what they say because the Fathers are not monolithic, or what they affirm is selective. The conclusion, therefore, is a non sequitur. It does not logically follow that B is the necessary conclusion of A.

    I answered this in #22. It may be, well, it is obviously the case that no single patristic passage is as explicit with regard to certain issues as the canons of Trent on justification or the articles of the Westminster Confession of Faith. The difference is that the Fathers, when their words are not read in small snippets and proof-texts, are not ambiguous in a way that can be understood as a legitimate precursor to the imputational theology of the 16th and 17th centuries.

  72. I am a broad, sacramental, liturgical and ecumenical Calvinist–there I got those adjectives in to not confuse anyone . . . ha! Anyway, I do see the merit of the observation already made here and it comports with Cardinal Newman’s now infamous adage, “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” It is easy for Lig Duncan to pick through the Fathers–like Augustine–and say [a] here is a statement that could easily agree with Westminster so we’ll quote him or [b] that is too Catholic, and we know that they are wrong, so we will overlook them as we know them to be fallible men, blah, blah, blah and the bleeting sheep in our fold all swallow the coolaid.

    I am a Teaching Elder in a presbyterian denomination and this sort of haphazard scholarship on the part of Rev’d Duncan irritates me and it continues to do so as the “scholarly elite” of the reformed world continue to publish books with assertions that sound too much like “I’m right because I said I’m right and any poor fool who has a Bible can see that I’m right.” But the problem for us that is quickly being discovered is that there are 33,000+ “protestant” denominations with an infallible Bible and 33,000 interpretations to the “truth.” This is why I am interested in the ecumenical discussions currently being held between the Vatican and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches: http://www.nccbuscc.org/seia/journey.shtml

  73. Many of the Fathers quoted by Duncan explicitly adhered to the view of baptismal regeneration. I think that is what Bryan stated in his article and what has been reiterated at least more than once in this thread. That alone should be enough to diffuse any attempt of Duncan’s to apply Reformed implications to the very few quotations he managed to cherry-pick for his speech. It seems that Bryan’s point was totally missed. That said, I’m very pleased that he is suggesting that Protestants study the ECF.

  74. Tim,
    No, this is a non sequitur: If Arius can affirm biblical statements concerning Christ’s divine status, the Bible obviously does not teach the Athanasian view. Arius can affirm biblical statements even as the Bible may support the Athanasian interpretation. That’s because the Bible can be interpreted in a variety of ways. We can argue over context, but that has to be established separately from this proposition. Hence, the statement that “if present-day orthodox Catholics can affirm what the Church Fathers taught about the gospel, then it follows that the Fathers did not have the Reformed conception of the gospel” is a non sequitur. I can simply be that there is ambiguity and both can affirm what they taught, since this is not an issue for the Fathers. It’s anachronistic and a fool’s errand to embark on a line of argumentation that seeks to support one’s soteriology from the Father’s statements. The truth of the matter is that both views can be seen in the Fathers because the Fathers don’t clarify their positions. Again, they are not addressing this issue. Where is the treatise against sola Fidei? Where is the treatise in support of it? It doesn’t exist. Hence, pretending that one group is taking these quotes out of context and the other group is not is just apologetic, and not serious scholarship. They’re both taking them out of context. But whether anyone agrees with me on that point or not, it should be made clear that stating B as the necessary result of A when C, D, or E could be the result instead is in fact a non sequitur.

  75. BTW, I would also classify it as a false dichotomy.

  76. Bryan H,

    Ok I gotcha. The reason the statement is not a non-sequitur (ultimately) is because it is assuming some other things that you should agree with. Once those things are in place, I think we can come to an agreement. Let me try to fill in the blanks.

    “So if present-day orthodox Catholics can affirm what the Church Fathers taught about the gospel, then it follows that the Fathers did not have the Reformed conception of the gospel.”

    P1 – Reformed gospel is incompatible with Catholic gospel (assumed)
    P2 – The Fathers wrote on the very topics on which the Catholics and Protestants disagreed (also assumed – but supported elsewhere. e.g. this post)
    p3 – Catholics can affirm what the fathers wrote about the gospel (which includes P2)
    p3.a. – “Affirm” in this sense means to be in actual agreement, not merely a nominal nodding of the head. e.g. Arius affirmed Scripture nominally but did not actually. (assumed)
    p4 – Therefore the Fathers did not hold the Reformed conception of the gospel

    With those extra pieces, I think we can agree that it is not a non-sequitur. I suppose where you might take issue is with the p3.a. assumption. That is, perhaps you don’t believe the Catholics actually agree with the fathers or that they merely claim to be in agreement. If all we mean by “can affirm” is that the party claims to agree, then you’re right, it is a non-sequitur. But I don’t think that’s what Bryan meant. I think he meant that the Catholic doctrine actually is the doctrine of the fathers.

    For example, when the Catholic Cathecism explains the Catholic (synergistic) doctrine of co-operation with God’s grace (which the Reformed reject), the Church does not merely quote St. Augustine in support of said doctrine, the Church quotes St. Augustine as the said doctrine simpliciter. i.e. The catechism entry is simply a quote from St. Augustine.

  77. Bryan Hodge,

    If Catholics can affirm the statements of the fathers, then at best the Reformed can only say that the statements of the fathers are ambiguous and we don’t know whether they believed the gospel or not. If a Reformed person asked me whether I believe that we are saved by grace I would say yes. If he then asked me to give my specific view of justification he might conclude that I don’t know the Gospel. So when he asked me if I believe we are saved by grace and I affirmed it, the Reformed inquirer could only believe there’s a chance that I believe the Gospel, since “believing the Gospel” for a Reformed person requires the affirmation of several very nuanced, novel views that may or not be present in the simple statement that I believe we are saved by grace. But that’s not what Dr. Duncan said. He didn’t say “it seems quite possible that the Fathers had the Gospel.” He said that the Fathers did have the Gospel, but that they were “not as clear as they could have been.” That qualification makes all the difference. If Catholics can affirm the views of the fathers, and Dr. Duncan can admit that they were not as clear as they could have been (on things like imputation, i.e. on things Catholics reject), then Dr. Duncan cannot conclude that the Fathers had the Gospel, he can only continue to affirm that it was possible that they had the Gospel. Furthermore, as I have pointed out twice, these passages have been cherry-picked and do not represent broader patristic thought. If we read these statements in context, we find out that we can’t even say that the Fathers knew the Gospel in a “seed form” that could legitimately be said to grow into the imputation theology of the 16th and 17th centuries. There doesn’t need to be a treatise against sola fide. We know that the Fathers believed that justification was transformative; we know that they believed in baptismal regeneration and the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist; we know that they believed in the reality of apostasy. All of these are enough for us to conclude that their thought cannot be considered a forerunner of 16th and 17th century imputational theology. If you disagree, I suggest you begin to expand your familiarity with the fathers by reading, if you haven’t, Allister McGrath’s history of the doctrine of justification, wherein he shows that the medieval Catholic Church preserved the patristic thought on this subject, and Luther et al. represent a decisive break.

  78. P2 above is necessary because it is possible that the Reformed and Catholics disagree on the gospel but both can affirm what the fathers wrote (if what the fathers wrote was sufficiently ambiguous). But that is not the case as shown by several posts on this site e.g. the one linked to above.

    Just to clarify.

  79. David,

    I’m too well read in the Fathers to just take your assessment at face value. The quotes have been cherry picked because that is all that can be done. Furthermore, I didn’t say that the Fathers didn’t know the gospel. I said they are ambiguous about it in their writings because it’s not an issue they are addressing. Hence, any attempt to marshal their writings in one’s favor is flawed. I would say that whether I was Reformed or RC. That’s just the honest conclusion to make beyond the polemics.

    You said: “There doesn’t need to be a treatise against sola fide. We know that the Fathers believed that justification was transformative; we know that they believed in baptismal regeneration and the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist; we know that they believed in the reality of apostasy.”

    Let me give you another non sequitur with your statement: If the Fathers believed that justification was transformative, believed in baptismal regeneration and the real presence, then the Fathers were obviously Lutheran.

    Tim,
    Augustine is, of course, the closest we’re going to get to this debate; but even he is pretty ambiguous. I think his commentary on Galatians is a good example of that. However, is Augustine talking about justification via sola Fidei? He’s not in our debate. He’s in his own with the Pelagians and antinomians.

    P2 and P3a are the two I would question, but if Bryan had included these, his statement would not have been a non sequitur. Unfortunately, going back and putting in propositions can save any non sequitur. The point remains one and should be taken out completely. The added propositions, of course, beg the question. That can be established (although I don’t think the article concerning Augustine establishes the point that is desired, i.e., that the Fathers [plural] addressed this issue or that Augustine as a Father [singular] was addressing this issue specifically).

    So I could redo the syllogism like this:

    P1 – Reformed gospel is incompatible with Catholic gospel (assumed)
    P2 – The Fathers were ambiguous when writing comments that only anachronistically seem to address the very topics on which the Catholics and Protestants disagreed
    p3 – Catholics can affirm what the fathers wrote about the gospel and so can the Reformed (which includes P2)
    p3.a. – “Affirm” in this sense means to be in actual agreement, not merely a nominal nodding of the head.
    p4 – Therefore it is impossible to say that the Fathers did not hold the RC or Reformed conception of the gospel

    BTW, I think that Arius would say the reverse of this statement about Athanasius, i.e., “e.g. Arius affirmed Scripture nominally but did not actually. (assumed)”
    Although you do say that this is an assumption. I could actually argue the Arian position quite well from Scripture, as I believe Bryan or someone else on this post has argued before.

    I don’t think I’ll convince anyone here to take the more probable approach, i.e., that the Fathers are not addressing a sixteenth century controversy anymore than they are addressing whether airplanes can exist due to their views of gravity; but I do think it should be noted that these arguments on people who have a superficial, or non-existent, knowledge of the subject (and I mean that in either camp).

  80. Bryan Hodge (re: #64)

    You wrote:

    Not to back Charlie’s apologetic method, but I do fail to see how this statement is not a non sequitur.

    In order to resolve this, you will need to specify which statement (of mine) you think is a non sequitur. Are you talking about the following statement?

    So if present-day orthodox Catholics can affirm what the Church Fathers taught about the gospel, then it follows that the Fathers did not have the Reformed conception of the gospel.

    If so, my syllogism looks like this (which you can find in my post):

    (1) The reason Protestants cannot yet return to the Catholic Church is that the Catholic gospel is incompatible with the Reformed conception of the gospel.

    (2) Present-day orthodox Catholics can without contradiction fully affirm what the Church Fathers taught about the gospel.

    Therefore

    (3) The Church Fathers did not know the Reformed gospel.

    So, if you think that (3) is a non sequitur, then how could (3) be false if (1) and (2) were true? Do you think the Church Fathers knew about the Reformed conception of the gospel, but only wrote down the Catholic conception of the gospel?

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  81. Bryan Hodge,

    You said:

    Let me give you another non sequitur with your statement: If the Fathers believed that justification was transformative, believed in baptismal regeneration and the real presence, then the Fathers were obviously Lutheran.

    You’re comparing apples to oranges. It may be a non-sequitur that the Fathers were obviously Lutheran because they shared some points in common with Luther’s theology, but that’s not what I said. I said “16th and 17th century imputational theology.” This blog is made up of almost all ex-Calvinists, ex-Presbyterians, i.e. ex-WCF-confessing folk, not Lutherans, and this particular post is responding to statements made by a Reformed (Presbyterian) theologian and pastor. I’m well aware that Luther differed in many things from later Lutherans and from the English/Scottish presbyterians. In most of those differences he was much more Catholic than Protestant. The point I made, however, is that a conception of justification that holds to infusion, baptismal regeneration, real apostasy, and monergism is logically incompatible with the imputational theology of the 16th and 17th centuries.

  82. Sorry, that should say “synergism,” not “monergism” above.

  83. Bryan,

    This is precisely why you’re not seeing the non sequitur. You are equating the ambiguous language of the Fathers when speaking about a subject that is not addressing the controversy or distinctions you are wishing to make with the RC view of soteriology. My point is that you may be able to affirm the Father’s soteriology precisely because it is ambiguous and looks like it teaches some RC soteriology just like it looks like it teaches some Reformed theology when taken out of context. Take my analogy with Athanasius and Arius. According to your proposition if the Athanasian view is incompatible with the Arian view, and the Arians can fully affirm what the Bible teaches, then the Athanasian view is clearly not taught by the Bible. That’s the non sequitur. The ambiguity of the source allows later views to anachronistically impose their positions upon it. Hence, what is more likely when two contradictory views claim the same source but that the source is ambiguous and/or can be interpreted differently due to its affirmation of various aspects of a theology that are later adopted by differing views. Docetic and Adoptionist views of Christ were held for a reason, i.e., the Bible taught aspects of both the deity and humanity of Christ.

    Great name BTW.

  84. David,

    Yes, when you add all of Reformed theology and make it incompatible with RC theology, of course it is incompatible. But you had to add imputation to the argument, and that is something the Fathers do not address. Everyone believes in infusion: Fathers, Reformers, RC’s, etc. So I don’t you’re get argument at this point. It moved from the incompatibility of the Fathers with Reformed theology, which I illustrated was not true, since Luther could affirm all of those, to the incompatibility of the RC position with the Reformed position. We are not in disagreement there.

  85. I don’t think I’ll convince anyone here to take the more probable approach, i.e., that the Fathers are not addressing a sixteenth century controversy anymore than they are addressing whether airplanes can exist due to their views of gravity

    You describe the reformation as a “sixteenth century controversy”? Is that fair? I mean protestants feel the controversy was important enough to break up the church. Are you saying it is not important enough to have been addressed by the ECF’s? If they could avoid it then why couldn’t Luther and Calvin not just avoid it and keep the body of Christ together?

    When I was protestant I understood that the issues of Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura went right to the center of the Christian faith. They were not the pet doctrines of Luther can Calvin. They were things we had to get right or we were not Christian. The idea that the church existed for so long without addressing these topics does not seem compatible with that.

  86. Bryan Hodge, (re: 80)

    I read everything in your paragraph in #80, but none of it showed how conclusion (3) [in #77] could be false if (1) and (2) are true. But, in order to show that (3) is a non sequitur, you would have to show how (3) could still be false even if (1) and (2) are true. So, you have not yet shown that (3) is a non sequitur.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  87. Bryan Hodge ~

    You asked where the treatise against sola fide is. There are several that treat against the positions of sola fide but not directly as “sola fide” does not appear in full until Luther and only then do full treatise against sola fide appear. We should expect otherwise. Let me give you some examples of ECF writings that are largely against the main principles of sola fide.

    Augustines’ ON GRACE AND FREE WILL which is against Pelagianism and “sola fide”.
    Chapter 18.— Faith Without Good Works is Not Sufficient for Salvation.
    Unintelligent persons, however, with regard to the apostle’s statement: “We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law,” Romans 3:28 have thought him to mean that faith suffices to a man, even if he lead a bad life, and has no good works. Impossible is it that such a character should be deemed “a vessel of election” by the apostle, who, after declaring that “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision,” Galatians 5:6 adds at once, “but faith which works by love.” It is such faith which severs God’s faithful from unclean demons—for even these “believe and tremble,” James 2:19 as the Apostle James says; but they do not do well. Therefore they possess not the faith by which the just man lives—the faith which works by love in such wise, that God recompenses it according to its works with eternal life. But inasmuch as we have even our good works from God, from whom likewise comes our faith and our love, therefore the selfsame great teacher of the Gentiles has designated “eternal life” itself as His gracious “gift.” Romans 6:23

    Cyprians Treatise 8, WORKS AND ALMSGIVINGS —- Chapter 5. The remedies for propitiating God are given in the words of God Himself; the divine instructions have taught what sinners ought to do, that by works of righteousness God is satisfied, that with the deserts of mercy sins are cleansed. And in Solomon we read, “Shut up alms in the heart of the poor, and these shall intercede for thee from all evil.”(Sirach 29:12) And again: “Whoso stoppeth his ears that he may not hear the weak, he also shall call upon God, and there will be none to hear him.”(Prov. 21:13) For he shall not be able to deserve the mercy of the Lord, who himself shall not have been merciful; nor shall he obtain aught from the divine pity in his prayers, who shall not have been humane towards the poor man’s prayer. And this also the Holy Spirit declares in the Psalms, and proves, saying, Blessed is he that considereth of the poor and needy; the Lord will deliver him in the evil day.”(Ps. 12:1) Remembering which precepts, Daniel, when king Nebuchodonosor was in anxiety, being frightened by an adverse dream, gave him, for the turning away of evils, a remedy to obtain the divine help, saying, “Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to thee; and redeem thy sins by almsgivings, and thine unrighteousness by mercies to the poor, and God will be patient(6) to thy sins.”(Dan. 4:27) And as the king did not obey him, he underwent the misfortunes and mischiefs which he had seen, and which he might have escaped and avoided had he redeemed his sins by almsgiving. Raphael the angel also witnesses the like, and exhorts that alms should be freely and liberally bestowed, saying, “Prayer is good, with fasting and alms; because alms doth deliver from death, and it purgeth away sins.”(Tobit 12:8, 9)

  88. OK, Bryan. Well, I can’t give eyes to see. I guess Arius has a great argument in claiming that since he can affirm the Bible without contradiction in his theology, and his theology is incompatible with Athanasius’s, it must not teach the Athanasian view. I can’t do anymore than that, and I don’t want to get involved in these religious wars.

    Pax

  89. Nathan,

    And I fully affirm both of those comments. Please understand the position against you are arguing before you trot these passages out. Again, cutting and pasting in an anachronistic manner is not going to convince scholars who are prone to a better methodology of inquiry. With that, I’m out. Thanks for the conversation.

  90. Bryan H,

    I agree that St. Augustine was not addressing sola fide by imputation because, as David Pell has pointed out, following McGrath, it was a theological novum which had not yet surfaced. It wasn’t on the table. However, he was talking about the gospel – and that’s what we’re talking about. If he didn’t talk about imputation, (and it’s as important as the Reformed claim) then that’s highly problematic (for the Reformed). But in fact, he did say plenty of things which were incompatible with imputation. We’ve shown that in several places here on CTC. So Bryan’s statement is correct.

    “Unfortunately, going back and putting in propositions can save any non sequitur. ”

    Yes but if the propositions are true then they do no harm to the argument and do not change it substantially (especially when the propositions should have been known like in this case).

    e.g.
    1. All apples are fruits
    2. This is an apple
    3. Therefore it is not a kangaroo

    objection: thats a non sequitur! Well yes but, its built on some common assumptions that everyone should know.. namely:

    1. All Apples are fruits
    2. No fruit is also a kangaroo
    3. This is an apple
    4. Therefore it is not a kangaroo

    The objector should have known 3 just as you should have known the assumptions in Bryan’s argument. P2 was the most controversial and thats why I provided substantiation. Let’s look at them since you claimed that they beg the question:

    P1 – Reformed gospel is incompatible with Catholic gospel

    Obviously that does not beg the question. Its a widely known fact – thats why we’re not in communion.

    P2 – The Fathers wrote on the very topics on which the Catholics and Protestants disagreed (also assumed – but supported elsewhere. e.g. this post)

    Also does not beg the question. I provided support for it and we’ve argued at length for it. Furthermore, the question is whether or not it follows that the fathers did not hold the Reformed doctrine if Catholics affirm what the Fathers said. p2 in no way assumes that this is actually true. Take, for example, the possibility that P2 is absolutely correct and that (lets call this X) the fathers stated explicitly that imputation was correct. p2 is compatible with X. But how can p2 be begging the question which [question] is incompatible with X (as you claim) yet at the same time be compatible with X? That is impossible. Therefore P2 does not beg the question. I know this is confusing, but I think its pretty obvious that p2 does not beg the question and we really dont need all these Ps and Xs to see that.

    p3.a. – “Affirm” in this sense means to be in actual agreement, not merely a nominal nodding of the head. e.g. Arius affirmed Scripture nominally but did not actually. (assumed)

    Again, no begging of the question here. This is simply a clarification of what (I think) Bryan meant. This, again, should have been generally known and should not be a point of contention.

    You said the propositions “of course” beg the question. Instead, I’ve argued that they don’t at all beg the question. But if you think one or more of them do, please explain which ones and why.

    The syllogism you wrote is problematic in that P2 is pretty debatable, and p3 is false as we’ve shown e.g. with St. Augustine who was not ambiguous and did in fact say plenty of things manifestly incompatible with the Reformed gospel. But the conclusion you wrote does seem to follow from the premises.

  91. Bryan Hodge (re: #85),

    All you have to do, to show that (3) is a non sequitur, is construct a scenario in which (3) is false, and (1) and (2) are both true. So, don’t let the worry of “religious wars” stop you. We have no reason to believe that your constructing a scenario in which (3) is false and (1) and (2) are both true, would start a religious war.

    When you accuse someone of committing a non sequitur, and then you can’t show how the conclusion does not follow from the premises, the honest thing to do is not to accuse your interlocutor of being blind, but to retract your initial accusation.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  92. Bryan H,

    I see from your comment now that you think ‘infusion’ in St. Augustine is compatible with imputation. Well that does change things – and we’d have to hash that out. So its a (potential) contradiction of what I said in p2. So you think that p2 is false (hence the rest of the syllogism breaks down as I mentioned in 75). If the fathers were actually ambiguous on this stuff, then the premises are wrong. The argument (considered with the assumptions) was not a non-sequitur though, and the assumptions did not beg the question.

    I think I see now why you said they beg the question – because you consider the question to be inclusive of the (supposed) fact that the fathers were ambiguous. But that was not part of the question and hence it does not beg the question (although you might be right and we’d have to flush that out).

  93. Bryan,

    Because you feel that I’ve “accused” you of something, for your benefit of knowing that it is not my intention to accuse you, I’ll give it one more go:

    (1) The reason Protestants cannot yet return to the Catholic Church is that the Catholic gospel is incompatible with the Reformed conception of the gospel.

    (2) Present-day orthodox Catholics can without contradiction fully affirm what the Church Fathers taught about the gospel.

    (2a) RC’s can do this because the language is ambiguous enough to be inclusive of both RC and Reformed views of salvation (i.e., Reformed believers can fully affirm the statements made by the Fathers as they do those in the Bible that carry both aspects to them).

    OR

    (2a) RC’s are confused as to what the Fathers taught and so affirm their teachings.

    OR

    (2a) People tend to read ancient documents according to their presuppositions and both filter and confuse terminology in accordance with them, and that is what both RC and Reformed folk may be doing.

    Therefore

    (3) The Church Fathers did not know the Reformed gospel. FALSE CONCLUSION

    Hence, in understanding that there are multiple reasons for premise 2, not just that of 3, one can see that a non sequitur has been made. 3 does not logically follow and it has a disconnect from 1 and 2. The same goes for my Arian/Athanasius argument. I could ask you to find a scenario where Arius’s conclusion and two premises are false, and I think you might give the same reasons, would you not?

  94. Tim,

    Thanks. I think you get me now. We would obviously have to flesh everything out, and I just don’t want to get into a big conversation right now (which is why I just wanted to point out the one fallacy). Thanks again for your thoughtful responses.

  95. Sorry, in my post to Bryan, this should read: “Arius’s conclusion is false and two premises are true.”

  96. @Bryan (#27):

    Hmm…well, I definitely didn’t get vibes that his talk was a “commendation of the Church Fathers to Bible-believing evangelicals,” but I also watched his talk after reading your introduction (so that might have introduced some framing bias; I knew that Intro to Psych class would come in useful someday). ;-)

    But even if I’m not quite sure I buy it, I’ve also got no reason to doubt Dr. Duncan’s honesty, either. So I say “More power to ‘ya”, since this would be the first time (that I can recall) in my whole life as a Protestant that someone has straightforwardly recommended reading the Church Fathers. I mean, I’ve heard the usual sermons on how Augustine was a proto-Reformer, etc, and one on how Aquinas would’ve approved of the Reformation (…that one was a stretch…) :-p But I’ve never before heard of a Protestant just commending the reading of the Church Fathers.

    Speaking of which, I’ve been making my way through Benedict XVI’s series of books on the Church Fathers. It has fewer primary source quotes than I’d like, but it’s also not designed to be an in-depth introduction to the Church Fathers either. Definitely would recommend them to anyone interested in getting a broad introduction to the Church Fathers. Once I get done with Benedict’s shorter introduction to the Fathers, do you (or anyone else) have suggestions for books (ideally with more primary source quotations) to read as a more in-depth followup? Or should I just jump right into the primary texts themselves? Thanks :-)

    ~Benjamin

  97. Benjamin,

    I highly recommend Robert Louis Wilken’s “The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God.”

  98. Bryan H (re: #90)

    Thanks for your reply. I think this (#90) is a more reasonable and charitable reply. Here you offered three alternate versions of my (2), and you called them all (2a). I’m going to call them (2a), (2b), and (2c), for the sake of clarity.

    So here’s (2a):

    (2a) RC’s can do this because the language is ambiguous enough to be inclusive of both RC and Reformed views of salvation (i.e., Reformed believers can fully affirm the statements made by the Fathers as they do those in the Bible that carry both aspects to them).

    I think (2a) is false. For example, I can affirm what St. Augustine says about law and grace, but Reformed people cannot affirm it. They have to say that St. Augustine was a heretic about this matter. They also think he was a heretic about co-operating grace leading to justification. If you have read through that page (i.e. St. Augustine on Law and Grace), can you affirm everything that St. Augustine says there? (If you say ‘yes,’ I’ll bring up some particular examples, and ask you how you can possibly reconcile them with any Reformed confession.) Likewise, as a Catholic I can affirm what the Church Fathers taught about baptismal regeneration, but Reformed people cannot. One Reformed seminarian read through that post on the Church Fathers and Baptismal Regeneration, and wrote back to me and said, “The Church Fathers were all wrong about baptismal regeneration.” At least he was honest; he didn’t dare claim that the Church Fathers were ambiguous. It is the same thing with apostolic succession, the doctrine of the Eucharist and the sacrificial character of the mass, the sacramental character of Holy Orders and the ministerial priesthood, the priestly authority to absolve penitents of sins, the communion of the saints, the sanctity of relics, the necessity of confirmation (chrismation), the superiority of the consecrated virginity, etc. When the Church Fathers teach these things, Reformed people cannot say “They’re being ambiguous.” If they have read the Fathers, they often say, like David Cloud, that the Church Fathers were “mostly heretics.” I’ve been told that (or something equivalent to it) time and time again. This is why Jim Jordan calls the Church Fathers “Church babies.”

    But let’s say (for the sake of argument) that the Church Fathers held a position about the gospel that was potentially Catholic and potentially Reformed; it had yet to be developed into either one. (I think that’s false and impossible, but I’m just posing it for the same of argument.) That undeveloped, undifferentiated form of the gospel would still not be Reformed, because the Reformed doctrine is by its very nature incompatible with any [comprehensive] account of the gospel that is compatible with Trent. Therefore if persons who affirm Trent can without contradiction affirm the undifferentiated patristic gospel, then the undifferentiated patristic gospel is not the Reformed gospel, because no one who affirms Trent can affirm the Reformed gospel. John 3:16, for example, is not the Reformed gospel. So, likewise, any undifferentiated form of the gospel that was compatible with Trent, and had nothing distinctively Reformed about it, would not be the Reformed gospel. And therefore (3) would still be true.

    OR

    (2b) RC’s are confused as to what the Fathers taught and so affirm their teachings.

    Now you’ve actually changed my premise (2) into a difference premise. So if you want to go with (2b), the appropriate charge (against me) is not that I’ve committed a non sequitur, but that my argument is not sound, because one of the premises of my argument is false. However, if you think that, for example, I’m confused about what the Church Fathers taught about baptismal regeneration, or what St. Augustine taught about the relation of law and grace, please enlighten me, and I mean that sincerely. How exactly, am I misreading or misinterpreting the Church Fathers?

    OR

    (2c) People tend to read ancient documents according to their presuppositions and both filter and confuse terminology in accordance with them, and that is what both RC and Reformed folk may be doing.

    This does the same as (2b). My premise (2) claims that Catholics can affirm what the Church Fathers actually taught. But your (2c) denies that Catholics can affirm what the Church Fathers actually taught, but only affirm some projection of their own presuppositions onto the Fathers. So, again, in this case if you think (2) is false, I wouldn’t have committed a non sequitur, but rather, I would have constructed an unsound argument, because in that case the second premise [i.e. premise (2)] is false. But this idea (that we really can’t get to the Fathers), is rather skeptical, don’t you think? I don’t think the Fathers are everywhere equally perspicuous, but over the course of numerous writings over a thirty-five year period, St. Augustine is very clear, in my opinion, about the relation of law and grace. And the same in the case of the patristic consensus on baptismal regeneration. A broad, wholesale skeptical stance toward the Fathers seems unjustified, in my opinion.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  99. Benjamin (re: #93)

    For reading the Church Fathers themselves, I highly recommend Jurgen’s three volume set titled Faith of the Early Fathers. It is mostly all primary sources, providing important selections from various Fathers. If you are looking for something more comprehensive (and much more expensive), I recommend the Ancient Christian Writers series (the link is to the first volume in the series).

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  100. IF Bryan H’s #90 (2a) holds, Bryan C.’s #77 (3) would still be a sequitur but an incomplete one (3a), as it could also be stated: (3b) “The Church Fathers did not know the Catholic gospel.”

    An analogous case with a hypothetical history of Chemistry would be:

    First there were the Alchemists, who said: “air has lots of oxygen and nitrogen”.

    Then came the Nitrogenists, saying: “air has more nitrogen than oxygen”,
    and the Oxygenists, saying: “air has more oxygen than nitrogen”.

    The correct statements in this case would be:

    (1) Nitrogenists and Oxygenists are not compatible with each other.

    (2) Both Nitrogenists and Oxygenists can affirm what Alchemists said.

    (3) Alchemists did not know either Nitrogenism or Oxygenism.

    So the key is to demonstrate that Bryan H’s #90 (2a) is false.

  101. Hi JJ,

    Sorry to intrude on a tangent here, but if you don’t mind I would like to hear you elaborate on your system some more:

    “He intended to establish a Church that would be (a) United, (b) authoritative, and (c) infallible”

    Would you elaborate on (a) United, and (c) infallible? My stumbling block with (a) is I don’t know whether to believe God’s intention for the Church to be United was “absolute” will or “contingent” will. And, why do you believe the Church is infallible?

    If you can get my e-mail from the moderators, feel free to respond privately – since this is off topic.

    Jonathan – glad to, though it is pretty simple – I think the Church was expected by the Lord to be United (One) because of all that I see in the New Testament – e.g. from St Paul, and then from the early Fathers, who often seemed to see schism as one of the worst of crimes; and Infallible because if it were not, how could it be authoritative? If St Paul, let us say, tells us in his letters something – but it might be wrong – what other authority could we go to to test it?

    You have, perhaps, the unspoken assumption that the fallibility of the Church ceased with the death of the Apostles. Certainly revelation ceased with the death of the Apostles. But if the Church was fallible after their death, then there is no authority – even on the critical question of what books constitute the New Testament – much less on the questions of interpretation (Trinitarianism or Arianism? Nestorianism or Chalcedonianism?) of the Scriptures.

    I recall telling my wife, when I was struggling with the whole of issue of Catholicism, that if I did not end up being a Catholic, I thought I would never be able to believe in Church authority again. I might be some sort of free-lance Christian, kind of like the Quakers, maybe – but authority implies infallibility – or so it seems to me.

    You are welcome to e-mail me at:

    j dot jensen at auckland dot ac dot nz

    jj

  102. Charlie J. Ray,

    If you don’t care what the fathers say then why are you posting on a blog post specifically about the issue of what the church fathers had to say?

    Also, if you only read a number of quotes by way of John Calvin and Cranmer, and if you only read the city of God by Saint Augustine as well as a few other stuff by Justin and maybe somebody else, then how in the world can you say that the church fathers taught what Reformed protestantism teaches? How can you say that Bryan Cross was wrong if you don’t really read them?

    And what makes it even worse is that you didn’t even try to show why he was wrong…….not that you could really prove him wrong in regards to this issue for I too read the early fathers and I know what a good number of them had to say in this regard. And it’s not what you wish to believe as a Reformed Anglican.

    But the fact that you didn’t even try tells me that you really have no interest in the Truth of the matter. You just wanted to troll!

    Kyrie Eleison!

  103. Joseph Johnson (re: #69),

    Welcome to Called to Communion, and thanks for your comment. Some of our future posts will be addressing issues involving ecumenical reconcilation. I noticed from your site that you are not that far from Greenville. I hope you get to make the acquaintance of Fr. Dwight Longenecker of St. Mary’s in Greenville. He’s got a very interesting story, coming out of Bob Jones, and then through Anglicanism in England.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  104. JoeyHenry (re: #66)

    I don’t know if anyone answered your question. Different writings have different degrees of perspicuity, and that’s true even with the works of the Church Fathers. That does not mean that any text is “self-interpreting” or “self-authenticating.” No text is self-interpreting; all texts require the activity of a reader for their interpretation. Nor does my interpretation of the Church Fathers have any ecclesial authority, let alone infallibility. The more we understand the general consensus of the Church Fathers, and the Tradition of the Church, the easier it is to understand what they are saying, because for the most part it all fits together. (Generally speaking, heresy sticks out precisely because it doesn’t fit with what they are saying.) They are using the same terms and phrases, as members of the same broader community. That’s why after studying what they all say about baptismal regeneration, for example, it is much easier to interpret a particular Church Father writing on the subject of baptism, because he is speaking within that same broader community in which he has received these terms and concepts. (See my “The Tradition and the Lexicon.”) And so it is easier to understand what he means by those words and phrases, and grasp not only what he assumes his readers already know, but also what he assumes his readers will infer from what he is writing.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  105. Hi Bryan,

    You said: “Different writings have different degrees of perspicuity, and that’s true even with the works of the Church Fathers. That does not mean that any text is “self-interpreting” or “self-authenticating.” No text is self-interpreting; all texts require the activity of a reader for their interpretation. Nor does my interpretation of the Church Fathers have any ecclesial authority, let alone infallibility. ”

    Let me get this straight then. Your interpretation of the church fathers has no ecclesial authority and infallibility. It is just your own opinion and therefore there is no absolute assurance that you are correct. What makes your interpretation better than Dr. Duncan then? Why should we trust your interpretation when it has no ecclesial authority and is not infallible?

    You said: “The more we understand the general consensus of the Church Fathers, and the Tradition of the Church, the easier it is to understand what they are saying, because for the most part it all fits together.”

    But this requires us to wear your own opinion of how to interpret the Church Fathers. You built your own hermeneutical system on how to read a certain ancient text but the fact of the matter is, all your study, for example about baptismal regeneration and other stuff in the ancient text, is just as subject to error than anyone else. This is because, these are all your OWN OPINION about what a particular text of the ancient literature means.

    Now, if what you said is true i.e. “No text is self-interpreting; all texts require the activity of a reader for their interpretation” then why should I even believe that your interpretation of the text of the Council of Trent is even the correct one? You read the text of Trent and read the Church Fathers and interpret it on your own fallible understanding. What better certainty can you offer then against Dr. Duncan’s or anyone else’s for whose interpretation is correct or not?

    Regards,
    Joey

  106. JoeyHenry (re: #102)

    You wrote:

    Your interpretation of the church fathers has no ecclesial authority and infallibility. It is just your own opinion and therefore there is no absolute assurance that you are correct.

    Correct.

    What makes your interpretation better than Dr. Duncan then?

    The question misses the point of my post. The thesis of my post is that a Catholic can affirm these six pieces of evidence he offers, and this fact shows that these six pieces of evidence do not show that the Church Fathers believed or knew of the Reformed conception of the gospel.

    Why should we trust your interpretation when it has no ecclesial authority and is not infallible?

    I don’t expect you to take what I say only on trust. Examine the evidence and argumentation I have provided, and judge for yourself.

    You built your own hermeneutical system on how to read a certain ancient text but the fact of the matter is, all your study, for example about baptismal regeneration and other stuff in the ancient text, is just as subject to error than anyone else. This is because, these are all your OWN OPINION about what a particular text of the ancient literature means.

    Implicit in your paragraph here is the assumption that all opinions are equally likely to be false. That’s not a true claim. The opinions about x of those who have studied x, are more likely to be true than the opinions about x of those who have not studied x, all other things being equal.

    Now, if what you said is true i.e. “No text is self-interpreting; all texts require the activity of a reader for their interpretation” then why should I even believe that your interpretation of the text of the Council of Trent is even the correct one? You read the text of Trent and read the Church Fathers and interpret it on your own fallible understanding. What better certainty can you offer then against Dr. Duncan’s or anyone else’s for whose interpretation is correct or not?

    When not appealing to articles of faith, scholars appeal to evidence and argumentation to show that an hypothesis is true (or likely to be true) and its contrary false (or likely to be false). You are apparently moving from the fact that all humans are fallible, to the faulty conclusion that all the conclusions of humans are equally unreliable and equally untrustworthy. That’s a non sequitur. In my post I have provided evidence and reasons showing that a Catholic can affirm the six pieces of evidence Dr. Duncan puts forward, and showed that this fact means that these six pieces of evidence do not do what Dr. Duncan claims they do. To refute the argument in my post, you would need to show either that Catholics cannot affirm those six pieces of evidence, or that even if Catholics can truly affirm them, that does not mean that those quotations from the Fathers are not teaching specifically the Reformed gospel.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  107. Joey Henry asks Bryan: “What makes your interpretation better than Dr. Duncan then?”

    What sort of answer do you expect to this question? It really can’t be answered at the high level of abstraction at which you ask it. These sorts of issues–whether or not one is interpreting an author better than another reader–can only be resolved by getting your hands dirty. Pick the author, the relevant texts, and each make his case.

    Suppose I were arguing with Mr. X over whether the Bible is discussing tennis when it states in Genesis that Joseph served in Pharoah’s Court. If I say “no” and Mr. X says “yes,” it’s just strange to then ask me, “What makes your interpretation better than Mr. X’s then?” The only thing that “makes” it better is that it explains and accounts for more than Mr. X’s and is consistent with everything else we know about ancient Hebrew and Egyptian practices. Bryan is making such a case contra Dr. Duncan’s case. After he makes the case you don’t ask “What makes your interpretation better than Dr. Duncan then?” since, for Bryan, it’s his case that does it. So, if you think he’s wrong, get your hands dirty. But short of that, asking conversation-stopping non-questions at levels of abstraction not appropriate to the inquiry is a complete waste of time.

    I apologize if that sounds snitty, but if I roll my eyes one more time I’m not sure I will be unable to remove them from underneath by forehead. :-)

  108. I am very late to this having been following on my phone but unable to comment while on vacation.

    When I initially read:

    If the reason Protestants cannot return to the Catholic Church is that the Catholic gospel is incompatible with the Reformed conception of the gospel, and if present-day orthodox Catholics can without contradiction fully affirm the very best patristic evidence Dr. Duncan can find that the Church Fathers knew of the Reformed conception of the gospel, it follows that the Church Fathers did not know the Reformed gospel.

    I also immediately thought it looked like a non sequitur and I agreed initially with the arguments that it is. I wondered why Bryan insisted on defending the logic.

    Now I think I understand why the conclusion does follow from the premise. It helps not to conflate the proof of the Catholic position into the point of this sylogism. That the Father’s held clearly and perfectly every nuance of the Catholic sotorology is not part of the conclusion. That would be another argument. This conclusion only addresses the Reformed Gospel, the “Catholic Gospel” is only a reference point.

    If “very best patristic evidence Dr. Duncan can find that the Church Fathers knew of the Reformed conception of the gospel” is indistinguishable from Catholicism then the Father’s simply couldn’t have been Reformed. The differences between “reformed” and Catholic and significant and obvious enough that if the Father’s were “reformed” there would necessarily be at least one belief of the Father’s that Calvinists could affirm and Catholics could not. If no such belief exists, then the Father’s couldn’t possible have been reformed.

    An analogy: Looking at a faded Polaroid picture of a car taken in 1968. One person claims it is a 1957 Chevy Belair and another that it is a 1966 Mustang. Of course there could be other possibilities like a ’56 chevy or a ’66 Mercury Cougar, but that doesn’t matter. A ’57 Chevy is clearly identifiable and distinctly different that a ’66 Mustang. If there is not one feature of the car that is consistent with a ’57 Chevy and inconsistent with a ’66 Mustang it can’t possibly be a ’57 Chevy! And a ’57 Chevy is different enough from a ’66 Mustang that if the photo is really so poor that the two are totally indistinguishable then you would be looking at an almost formless blob and I don’t think anyone can argue the Father’s left us that little evidence of what they believed.

    If Reformed is incompatible and distinctly different than Catholic AND the Father’s were Reformed (even is a nascent or proto sense) THEN there must exist some teaching of he the Fathers that affirmed positively by the Reformed and is simultaneously denied by Catholics.

  109. Hi Dr. Beckwith,

    You asked: “What sort of answer do you expect to this question?” — Nothing. I just wanted to see how a Roman Catholic responds to the same kind of questions they throw at a protestant. I wondered why certain Roman Catholics are so confident that their reading of a certain ancient text is the correct one and on that basis criticizes others. It is as if there is a default doctrine on the “perspicuity of the writings of the church fathers.” But as Cross admitted, his own efforts to interpret some of the ancient text are just as fallible as the guy next door. At this point, Cross functions like a protestant who fallibly interprets a body of text from ancient times and telling others that his interpretation is the correct one! Note that Cross’ main selling point in this post is that these texts from the Fathers can be affirmed by Catholics. But in reality, what Cross is really saying is that “his own fallible interpretation of these texts from the Fathers can be affirmed by Catholics”. Note further that what he really means by “can be affirmed by Catholics” is defined by his own fallible interpretation of the supposedly infallible text of the Canons of Trent. I asked him therefore why I should trust his own interpretation of the text of the Canons of Trent or other councils is the correct one over my own or other people?

    Moreover, I wonder — if the subject matter is not a text from the Fathers but a text from an Apostle of Christ — would Cross still appeal at his own private interpretation or would he appeal to his chosen infallible magisterium for interpretation?

    Regards,
    Joey

  110. Joey,

    The difference between the charge you bring up as leveled by Catholics against Protestants and the charge as leveled by Protestants as Catholics is great, indeed, and has been discussed and refuted already in several places on this site.

    The charge holds against Protestants because the source of Protestant theology, the bible, was not written to answer all of the questions that Protestants bring to it. The New Testament, for example, contains no systematic treatise on baptism. This is why Protestants have always differed so vehemently over the nature and mode of baptism; they come to a text not designed to tell them what they want to know about baptism and treat as if it is an instruction manual for baptism. But the New Testament is not like the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. In the Fathers, on the other hand, we find writings that could fall into the genre of “systematic treatise.” Interpretation of the fathers on baptism is therefore easier than interpretation of the New Testament on baptism. It’s not just that the same methods, when applied to the New Testament, can’t produce the results Protestants want – it’s that they should never have been expected to produce the result that Protestants want. So likewise the charge against Catholics, i.e. that we are in the same boat as Protestants because we have to interpret the authoritative declarations of the magisterium, while true in one sense (i.e. we have to interpret), does not hold water because our magisterial documents say things like “justification comes through baptism.” So whereas Protestants argue endlessly over whether Paul is talking about water baptism or “spirit baptism” when he says things like “do you not know that those of you who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into his death,” Catholics have statements that address our questions specifically because we have an authoritative teaching on the meaning and mode of baptism. To come back full circle to your statements about the fathers, it makes sense to read and interpret a treatise called “On Baptism” as a systematic treatise on baptism; it does not make sense to read and interpret anything in the New Testament as a systematic treatise on baptism.

  111. Dr. Beckwith,

    Well said. Thanks for following the conversation and adding a timely word.

    Bradley

  112. I guess Protestant apologist and Reformed Baptist James White wouldn’t agree with Dr. Duncan. He recently stated in an interview on a CARM radio program that the only thing the early Church Father’s agreed upon was monotheism. You can listen at feed://feeds.feedburner.com/carmorgpodcasting. It’s the program dated 7/13. The comment begins at 17:10.

  113. Mistake – the James White Church Fathers comment begins at 40:35.

  114. Jason Stewart,

    Thanks for posting that. The actual comments in context are between ~40 mins and ~43 mins in so all who want to hear exactly what James White says regarding the Fathers of the Church can start around there. I did listen to it because I didn’t want to comment and have not heard it myself in context.

    This isn’t in the middle of an actual debate, it’s more of a comment along the way in a editorial / conversation with the host, so it is projecting a bit to call it a claim or an argument, but I think it is likely we will hear or read James White arguing something along these lines soon.

    J. W. is painting a picture for the listeners here that has two “claims” 1) that Catholic Apologist “man handle” the ancient texts and are “getting away” with distorting the teachings and 2) the Church Fathers were “all over the place” on everything and you can find just about anything taught by one or another of them somewhere. What I’m guessing that will boil down to is claiming that the Father’s and references to them irrelevant there is no consistent voice or teaching and by selective quoting and interpretation Catholics are creating something that isn’t really there.

    In the interview he uses on example from Irenaeus regarding Apostolic Tradition reporting the age of Jesus at the time of his death as over 50 years old (he didn’t cite the text and claimed it was from 180. So, I expect he would be happy to take Dr. Duncan’s points. Not that he would be holding up the Father’s and the texts as a useful source for supporting Calvanism, but simply because it will be useful to him in discrediting Catholic references to the Fathers.

    Both claims are going to be challenging for Catholic apologists to refute well. We do selectively quote and virtually no Father is right on everything and many of them have some wild statements. Catholicism is complicated. The fathers individually were not infallible and we don’t claim they were. The discernment of what is worthwhile from the Fathers judging by what over time became orthodox is exactly what J.W. is going to call “man handling” the texts.

    Of course what that opens up is that even when the Apostles were alive heresies and errors were arising. How did the Church deal with that confusion? Authority! Apostolic succession! Communion with the Bishop of Rome – the successor of Peter! and Councils! Clearly from the very beginning, without AUTHORITY to teach the truth and cut away the garbage the Church was doomed to be completely lost in various sects – not too much different from the Protestant world today.

  115. Joey,

    You seem to jump from saying a process is fallible to saying it is a complete waste of time. That is just not true. Almost everything in life is fallible. Still it is profitable. Engaging Bryan’s analysis at length is one such thing. You would either find you agree with him or find reasons you disagree. That would allow the discussion to proceed productively. Either you admit Ligon Duncan failed to find the Reformed gospel in the ECF’s or you try and show his quotes actually do imply a reformed understanding of salvation and see how Bryan responds. Just pointing out that infallibility is not related to this post does nothing.

    If it helps you can pretend Bryan Cross is a protestant. He is just a guy who is claiming that Ligon Duncan failed to make his case. Then the infallibility thing goes away.

  116. I know that it is out of topic and place here, since other would follow due comments and I dont want to interrupt them, but wanted to post this excerpt from the last chapter of De Sales’s Catholic Controversy. No need for comment!

    SAILING thus then without needle, compass or rudder an the ocean of human opinions, you can expect nothing but a miserable shipwreck. Ah! I implore you, while this day lasts, while God presents you the opportunity, throw yourselves into the saving bark of a serious repentance, and take refuge on the happy vessel which is bound under full sail for the port of glory.

    If there were nothing else, do you not recognize what advantages and excellences the Catholic doctrine has beyond your opinions ? The Catholic doctrine makes more glorious and magnificent the goodness and mercy of God, your opinions lower them. For example, is there not more mercy in establishing the reality of his body for our food than in only giving the figure and commemoration thereof and the eating by faith alone? All seek the things that are their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s (Phil. ii. 21). Is it not more honourable to concede to the might of Jesus Christ the Power to make the Blessed Sacrament, as the Church believes it, and to his goodness the will to do so, than the contrary? Without doubt it is more glorious to Our Lord. Yet because our mind cannot comprehend it, in order to uphold our own mind, all seek the things that are their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s.
    Is it not more, in justifying man, to embellish his soul with grace, than without embellishing it to justify him by a simple toleration (connivence) or non-imputation? Is it not a greater favour to make man and his works agreeable and good than simply to take man as good without his being so in reality? Is it not more to have left seven Sacraments for the justification and sanctification of the sinner than to have left only two, one of which serves for nothing and the other for little? Is it not more to have left the Power of absolving in the Church than to have left it not? Is it not more to have left a Church visible, universal, of striking aspect, perpetual, than to have left it little, secret, scattered and liable to corruption? Is it not to value more the travails of Jesus Christ when we say that a single drop of his blood suffices to ransom the world, than to say that unless he had endured the pains of the damned he would have done nothing? Is not the mercy of God more magnified in giving to his saints the knowledge of what takes place here below, the honour of praying for us, in making himself ready to accept their intercession, in having glorified them as soon as they died, than in making them wait and keeping them in suspense, according to Calvin’s words, until the judgment, in making them deaf to our prayers and remaining himself inexorable to theirs. This will be seen more clearly in our treatment of particular points. Our doctrine [then] makes more admirable the Power of God in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, in justification and inherent justice, in miracles, in the infallible preservation of the Church, in the glory of the Saints.

    The Catholic doctrine cannot have its source in any passion, because nobody follows it save an this condition, of captivating his intelligence, under the authority of the pastors. It is not proud, since it teaches not to believe self but the Church. What shall I say further? Distinguish the voice of the dove from that of the crow. Do you not see this Spouse, who has nought but honey and milk under her tongue, who breathes only the greater glory of her Beloved, his honour and obedience to him?

    Ah! then, gentlemen, be willing to be placed as living stones in the walls of the heavenly Jerusalem. Take yourselves out of the hands of there men who build without a rule, who do not adjust their conceptions to the faith, but the faith to their conceptions. Come and offer yourselves to the Church, who will place you, unless you prevent her, in the heavenly building, according to the true rule and Proportion of faith. For never shall any one have a place there above who has not been worked and laid, according to rule and square, here below.

    All the ancient sacrifices of a farinaceous nature were as it were the condiment of the bloody sacrifices. So the Sacrifice of the Eucharist is as it were the condiment of the Sacrifice of the Cross, and with most excellent reason united to it.

  117. Didn’t Jesus command “call no man on earth father” and isn’t it also written “Do not go beyond what is written”? For judgment resides in “If you love me KEEP My commandments.” Neither you nor your “fathers” have the slightest idea of what you are talking about.

  118. Theodore,

    Welcome to CTC. St. Paul refers to himself as a “father” to those whom he brought into the faith. St. John refers to his readers as “my little children”. It might be worth considering that Jesus also says that it would be better to pluck out an eye or cut off a hand rather than commit certain sins. Is this a strategy which you typically promote? Understanding sacred scripture in context, as well as recognizing literary devices such as “hyperbole”, are helpful in properly handling the word of God.

    As to your other concern, the wider context of your quote is:

    “Therefore, judge not before the time: until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts. And then shall every man have praise from God. 6 But these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollo, for your sakes: that in us you may learn that one be not puffed up against the other for another, above that which is written.

    The admonition seems to be directly related to the issue of pride in personal relationships – not as a formal definition as to the scope of God’s revelation. In fact, even if you were to take it as such, it would prove too little for you; for at the time it was written, only the OT scriptures were recognized as inspired. Surely you would not want to see your proof text as an obstacle to the accepted canonicity of the NT would you?

    Both of the above comments (whether you agree with them or not) show that a correct understanding of scripture is not quite as simple and straightforwad as you might like it to be. You will unavoidably interpret the content of the bible according to many outside factors which influence your peculiar take on the text. In fact, that problem sets the stage for the entire content of the above article. Who has the correct interpretation of scripture with regard to the content of the Gospel? – early christian “fathers” living within a lifetime of the apostles, or Protestant reformers living 1500 years later? I hope you will continue to contribute to the discussion.

    Pax et Bonum,

    Ray

  119. The student has become greater than his teacher, I suppose?

  120. Theodore,

    From the Secpnd book of Peter:

    And account the longsuffering of our Lord, salvation: as also our most dear brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, has written to you: 16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction.

    I have simply described for you a problem, the reality of which, is explicilty established within sacred scripture itself. Some of the scriptures (especially Pauline) contain things hard to be understood. As a result, some persons who are unlearned and unstable distort such Pauline writings as they do also the other scriptures. The student, in order to emmulate his Teacher, must listen to all that the Teacher has to say – the problem of interpretive errors arising from an improper handling of the sacred text is very much part of what the teacher has taught through His holy apostles.

    Pax et Bonum,

    Ray

  121. oops – “the Second book of Peter

  122. “It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who OBEY the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13 Hard to understand? But which law is he talking about? Listening to the Teacher is one thing. but obeying him to the demanded exactitude stated is a different matter entirely. There are two trees says the Teacher. Fruit from the good tree obeys the Teacher, but to fruit from the bad tree, His command is objectionable. Is this the problem your are referring too?

  123. Fruit from the good tree obeys the Teacher, but to fruit from the bad tree, His command is objectionable. Is this the problem your are referring too?

    No, Theodore. The passage from 2nd Peter quoted doesn’t refer to things ‘hard to be obeyed’ but things ‘hard to understand.’ Your assumption that you understand things like ‘call no man Father’ might benefit from a little examination.

    jj

  124. T4G (Together for the Gospel) hasn’t even defined a succinct Gospel summary.

    However, didn’t the Fathers know the Nicene Creed (or its prototype, the Apostles’ Creed), the Gospel in a nutshell?

    What Christian worth his salt can deny this?

    Since no Reformation Gospel summary supplants it, mustn’t we all also acknowledge that Church –the Catholic Church and its leader the Pope — which formulated the Nicene Creed — our common family story?

    Otherwise we’re called to communion, but under what Gospel?

  125. Thank you.

    I listened to Dr Duncan and generally enjoyed the experience.

    I noted that Dr Duncan referred to people who read the fathers to what was deemed detriment. I also noted that, on several occasions, Dr Duncan noted that one could opt out of what the early Church fathers were saying if it conflicted with scripture.

    Having read the fathers and found them to be Catholic, I suspect that Dr Duncan was opting out in any place where Catholicity was to be found. I found Catholicity to be scriptural (no surprise there), especially where it conflicted with the place I left.

    Dr Duncan was obviously offering a flavor he particularly likes: The early Church fathers lite. God can use anything to get His message home. If the early Church fathers lite is the starting place, hallelujah!

    Cordially,
    dt

  126. Donald (#125),

    Having returned to the Catholic Church myself, last year, after serious (agonizing at times) prayer and study of Scripture, the historical Church Fathers, and apologetics (Protestant and Catholic), your conclusion about Professor Duncan is (I write with all respect to him) my conclusion.

    How Ligon Duncan can read the early Fathers and not see the Catholic, Biblical understanding of the Gospel and salvation (which I believe Reformed Christians actually affirm and live out much more than they think that they do, thank God!) is almost unfathomable to me.. now, that is.. but I can fathom it, because for some time, before my return to the Church, I lived what he *appears*, to me, at least, to be living.. the acceptance of the Fathers’ writings, when they did not conflict with *my* interpretation of the Scriptures, and the rejection of the Fathers’ writings, when they appeared to contain anything “Catholic.” Little did I understand, at that time, that “Catholic” was short-hand for apostolic, historical, and yes, *Biblical* Christianity. I learned though. How I learned!

    I was so (unconsciously) prideful, as a Calvinist Protestant, in what I thought was my correct understanding of the Gospel– which did, I thought at the time, leave faithful, consistent Catholics either damned to Hell, or in serious danger of damnation. God seriously humbled me to show me otherwise. I was the one who was in rebellion against Christ’s Church (unknowingly though), which has taught and defended the Gospel for 2, 000 years. Mea culpa, mea culpa!

    Faithful Catholics are not in bondage to a “false gospel.” Not at all. The Catholic Church teaches, defends, and protects the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because He founded her and will not allow the gates of Hell to prevail against her. This does not mean that serious Protestants are not Christians too. They are imperfectly joined to the Church, by Trinitarian baptism, or by such a baptism by desire. However, when one realizes that such an imperfect joining is still, objectively, schism from Christ’s Church, one must come Home. To not do so is to be in conscious rebellion against Christ. Last year, my unwittng rebellion finally became conscious to me, and thus, I had to return to the Catholic Church. For this return, I say, with joy, Soli Deo Gloria!

  127. To clarify, when I write of my “conclusion” about Dr. Duncan, I write only of what *appears* to be the case to me in his study of the Fathers. I certainly do not judge his heart and his motives. I love him as one of our separated brothers in Christ.

    I pray that Dr. Duncan’s reading and study of Scripture and the Church Fathers will bring him from an “imperfect (though real) joining” to Christ’s Church (the Catholic Church, from whence the Church Fathers came, on earth, and in which they abide, forever, in eternity) to the conscious, lived-out reality of visible, joyful membership in her.

  128. […] has been asserted by some that in order for Protestants to prove their case, we have to prove that the statements of the […]

  129. My reply to #128.

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