Tradition I and Sola FideMar 6th, 2011 | By David Anders | Category: Featured Articles
Readers of this website are by now thoroughly familiar with Keith Mathison’s book The Shape of Sola Scriptura. His thesis has already received ample criticism (see articles by Cross & Judisch, Liccione, and Judisch), and I do not wish to add to that particular discussion. In this post, I would like instead to grant Mathison his thesis for the sake of argument and then ask, “Given the doctrine of authority proposed by Mathison, do we have good reason to believe that the Reformation interpretation of Scripture is substantially correct?” In other words, if we follow Mathison’s suggestions about the authority of Church and tradition does this lead us to other characteristic Reformation doctrines (sola fide, imputed righteousness, etc.)? If not, what are the implications for Mathison’s doctrine of Scripture and for Protestantism more broadly?
Tradition I and the Doctrine of Salvation
One Baptism for the Forgiveness of Sins
The Council of Nicaea (325)
For us Men and for our Salvation
Augustine and Justification
Protestants and the Problem of the First Four Centuries
Mathison endorses what he takes to be the Patristic and Reformation doctrine of authority, which he refers to as “Tradition I.” Under this theory, the Fathers and Reformers affirmed the primacy of Scripture, but not the primacy of the individual interpreter. He explains:
Tradition I asserts that Scripture is the sole source of revelation; that it is the only infallible, final and authoritative norm of doctrine and practice; that it is to be interpreted in and by the Church; and that it is to be interpreted according to the regula fidei . . . If ‘tradition” is understood as the regula fidei, then sola scriptura does not assume the Bible can be understood apart from “tradition.”1
I dispute Mathison’s claim that the Fathers embraced only Tradition I. However, as a student of the Reformation I completely accept Mathison’s contention that the early Protestant theologians held a much higher view of Church and tradition than what is common among evangelicals today. In defense of his Eucharistic doctrine, for example, Luther could boldly proclaim:
The witness of the entire holy Christian church (even if we had nothing else) should be enough for us to maintain this doctrine and neither to listen to nor tolerate any sectarian objections. For it is dangerous and terrible to hear or believe anything contrary to the common witness, faith, and doctrine which the entire holy Christian church has maintained from the beginning until now—for more than 1500 years throughout all the world.2
The point I wish to examine in this post is the implication of this doctrine of authority for the chief article of the Reformation (Justification by Faith Alone, “JBFA”).
Mathison tells us to interpret Scripture in light of the 2nd century regula fidei, which eventually found written expression in the ecumenical creeds of Nicaea (A.D., 325), Constantinople (A.D. 381) and Chalcedon (A.D. 451).3 He also gives favorable mention to the Apostles Creed, its predecessor the Old Roman Symbol, and to the Vincentian canon (quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus).4 We must discern if these sources shed any light on the Articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae (the article on which the Church stands or falls).
There are two articles in the creeds which bear upon our inquiry. In his account of the Rule, Irenaeus confesses that Christ “became incarnate for our salvation.”5 This phrase is retained in the Eastern creeds, and eventually is incorporated at Constantinople as the familiar “for us men and for our salvation, He came down from heaven.” The second article is the phrase “in the remission of sins” included in the Old Roman Symbol and the Apostles’ Creed. Cyprian (d. 257) knows the phrase as “remission of sins through the Church.”6 Constantinople, together with other Eastern Symbols, connects this article to baptism in the confession “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” The question before us is how these articles, common to Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox alike, bear upon the principal dispute between Catholics and Protestants.
Mathison himself admits that Protestants cannot simply insist on the basis of Scripture that their interpretation of these articles is the correct one. That would be precisely the kind of private and partisan hermeneutics that he wishes to avoid. If Protestants wish to correct Roman “errors,” he argues, they must do so with reference to the Patristic testimony and the consensus of the Church:
Rome’s aberrations [sic] must be measured against the ancient rule of faith to which she claims adherence. Her errant doctrines and practices must be demonstrated to be inconsistent with these foundational doctrines. Unfortunately the difficult practical reality we face in the present state of the Church, with all of the division that has occurred, is that the Church has not spoken as a completely unified body since at least the eleventh century.7
Mathison seems to suggest that our disagreements over salvation cannot be resolved since “the Church has not spoken as a completely unified body since at least the eleventh century.” However, he seems to ignore the fact that each of our two articles was the subject of extensive discussion in antiquity and that something very like a consensus seems to have been reached in each case. Jaroslav Pelikan once remarked that the doctrine of the means of grace developed earlier than the doctrine of grace itself.8 For the sake of convenience, therefore, I shall begin with the article on “One Baptism for the Forgiveness of Sins.”
The greatest internal controversy over salvation in the early church dealt with the problem of post-baptismal sin. The earliest apologists taught a doctrine of Christian perfection that provided for the complete remission of sin in baptism, but that left little room for lapses thereafter.9 The practical challenges to this doctrine led shortly to allowing for but one instance of post-baptismal penance and absolution.10 Debate raged, however, about whether or not this penance could be allowed for any and all sins, or only for lesser faults. The most famous opponents in this debate were Tertullian and Pope Callistus (d. 223). The Pope held that absolution should be granted even to adulterers. This enraged the puritanical Tertullian, who eventually left the Catholic Church.11
The conflict was revisited in the 3rd century because of the Decian Persecution (249-251). The Church was wracked over what to do with the penitents who had lapsed during the persecution. There were three main positions. The rigorist camp held that repentance should not be permitted to the lapsed. Eventually, this position came to be associated with the Anti-Pope Novatian. There was a “popular” party (not in the sense of a numerical majority, but rather appealing to sentiments of popular devotion) which wished to grant absolution on the basis of the indulgence of the Martyrs and Confessors. Finally, there was the ecclesiastical party, most closely associated with St. Cyprian, that allowed repentance for the lapsed, but demanded that this be administered through the Bishop and not through the Martyrs and Confessors. It is to this conflict that we owe the ultimate consensus in the Church on the means of forgiveness. The letters and treatises of St. Cyprian are our primary witness to the conflict.
The theology of the dispute is not difficult to grasp, and there were remarkable areas of agreement even between the rival camps. All sides agreed that grave sins after baptism seriously imperiled one’s eternal salvation. All sides agreed that the Church, through her sacraments, is the normative means for obtaining forgiveness and grace. And between the popular and ecclesiastical parties, there was substantial agreement that the intercession of the martyrs and confessors was efficacious in reconciling the penitent to God and the Church. What emerged as the official theology, and what was endorsed in the Canons of the Nicaean Council, can be summarized as follows:
- Grave sin is incompatible with membership in the church.12
- There is no salvation outside the church. Perseverance in the Church is the only guarantor of salvation.13
- Readmission to fellowship in the Church after grave sin can be granted only after fitting penance.14
- Penance not only reconciles the believer to the Church, but also makes satisfaction to God for the offense of sin.15
- Granting absolution does not create an incentive to sin, because the threat of purgatory still provides an incentive for righteous living.16
- Absolution is the prerogative of the bishop, and this power is not limited to any particular class of sins.17
- Viaticum, understood as the sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood and presumed necessary for salvation, should be made available to penitents in danger of death.18
- The intercession of martyrs and confessors is efficacious in reconciling the sinner to God and the Church.19
Cyprian, himself, clearly sees this theology as embodied in the Creed:
But, moreover, the very interrogation which is put in baptism is a witness of the truth. For when we say, Do you believe in eternal life and remission of sins through the holy Church? we mean that remission of sins is not granted except in the Church, and that among heretics, where there is no Church, sins cannot be put away.20
The Arian controversy may have provided the occasion for the Council of Nicaea, but it did not exhaust the Council’s scope. Twenty canons have come down to us from the council and several of them treat the theology and practice of the Church’s liturgy and its penitential regime. They impose rules for excommunication, penance, and readmission to prayers and, ultimately, to communion. They provide instructions for reconciling the “Novatianists.” They also shed light on the Church’s Eucharistic theology, and its importance for understanding the doctrine of repentance and salvation. A few citations are in order.
Canon 13 is perhaps the most interesting. It addresses the case of those who have been excluded from communion while they do penance for sins. It reads as follows:
Concerning the departing, the ancient canonical law is still to be maintained, to wit, that, if any man be at the point of death, he must not be deprived of the last and most indispensable Viaticum. But, if any one should be restored to health again who has received the communion when his life was despaired of, let him remain among those who communicate in prayers only. But in general, and in the case of any dying person whatsoever asking to receive the Eucharist, let the Bishop, after examination made, give it him.21
The historian of the council, Eusebius of Caesarea, recounts a story from Dionysius of Alexandria that leaves little doubt about the significance of the canon:
There was with us a certain Serapion, an aged believer who had lived for a long time blamelessly, but had fallen in the trial. He besought often, but no one gave heed to him, because he had sacrificed. But he became sick, and for three successive days continued speechless and senseless. Having recovered somewhat on the fourth day he sent for his daughter’s son, and said, How long do you detain me, my child? I beseech you, make haste, and absolve me speedily. Call one of the presbyters to me. And when he had said this, he became again speechless. And the boy ran to the presbyter. But it was night and he was sick, and therefore unable to come. But as I had commanded that persons at the point of death, if they requested it, and especially if they had asked for it previously, should receive remission, that they might depart with a good hope, he gave the boy a small portion of the Eucharist, telling him to soak it and let the drops fall into the old man’s mouth. The boy returned with it, and as he drew near, before he entered, Serapion again arousing, said, ‘You have come, my child, and the presbyter could not come; but do quickly what he directed, and let me depart.’ Then the boy soaked it and dropped it into his mouth. And when he had swallowed a little, immediately he gave up the ghost. Is it not evident that he was preserved and his life continued till he was absolved, and, his sin having been blotted out, he could be acknowledged for the many good deeds which he had done?22
Canon 18 addresses an unrelated issue, namely, the proper procedure for administering communion during the liturgy. However, the language is highly significant for understanding why viaticum was presumed necessary for salvation. It seems that some deacons were administering the sacrament to priests. The council fathers were outraged because “neither canon nor custom permits that they who have no right to offer should give the Body of Christ to them that do offer.”
Two points are worthy of note. First, the Council Fathers identified the Eucharist as “The Body of Christ.” Second, they recognized that the Eucharistic rite was a sacrifice. The word “offer” (Latin, offero; Greek, προσφέρω) is clearly a sacrificial term (compare Hebrews 10:11 in Greek and the Latin vulgate).
From the text of the creed, it is clear that the Nicene Fathers, like the Fathers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, associated forgiveness with baptism. It is clear from the canons, moreover, that they followed St. Cyprian in their understanding of post-baptismal sin. They imposed penance on the lapsed as a condition for forgiveness and communion, and that they presumed that communion with the sacrifice of Christ’s Body and Blood was necessary for salvation.
How did the Church Fathers understand the phrase, “For us Men and for our Salvation?” As we have seen, this phrase enters the creeds of the Church very early, in the “Rule of Truth” proposed by Irenaeus in A.D. 190. The context here is the Gnostic denial that Jesus Christ was truly flesh, truly God, and truly one with the God of the Old Testament. Fortunately, Irenaeus wrote extensively about the work of redemption and the nature of salvation, and even if later theologians speculated freely about the atonement, they all share basic Irenaean ideas.23
As early as A.D. 110 Ignatius of Antioch had written that the Eucharist was the “the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but [which causes] that we should live forever in Jesus Christ,” and he castigated the Docetists “who confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ.”24 Ignatius’s statement that salvation is transmitted through contact with the Body of Christ is the first hint of what would later be called the “physical theory” of the atonement. Irenaeus will echo Ignatius, explaining simply that Jesus became “what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.”25 Athanasius, in turn, the chief proponent of Nicene Orthodoxy, will follow Irenaeus in the early fourth century with his famous phrase, “For He was made man that we might be made God.”26
The rather simple idea shared by all these fathers is that union with Christ (through the sacraments) supernaturally transforms the believer. In the work of redemption, God was “perfecting man after the image and likeness of God.”27 Irenaeus explains, “He furnished us . . . with salvation, so that what we had lost in Adam – namely, to be in the image and likeness of God – that we might recover in Jesus.”28 To employ a more technical vocabulary, Irenaeus holds to an infusion rather than an imputation of righteousness.
Like the apologists, Irenaeus knows nothing of a salvation that leaves one simul iustus et peccator, nor does he know anything of justification by faith alone. On the contrary, He makes plain that God confers immortality “on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His commandments.”29 He explains, “The Lord did not abrogate the natural [precepts] of the law, by which man is justified.” The moral demands of the New Covenant, for Irenaeus, are even greater than those of the old.30
At the time of the Nicene Council, Athanasius will follow the exact same line of reasoning. Indeed, his interest in the Arian controversy was not purely speculative or metaphysical. It was profoundly soteriological.31 He insisted on the divinity of the Son precisely to guarantee this infusion of righteousness. In his Discourses against the Arians, the saint explains that a redemption that leaves man in actual sin is no redemption at all. He argues that God could have simply forgiven sin without imparting this moral renovation, but that would have been absurd:
If God had but spoken, because it was in His power, and so the curse had been undone, the power had been shown of Him who gave the word, but man had become such as Adam was before the transgression, having received grace from without, and not having it united to the body; (for he was such when he was placed in Paradise) nay, perhaps had become worse, because he had learned to transgress. Such then being his condition, had he been seduced by the serpent, there had been fresh need for God to give command and undo the curse; and thus the need had become interminable, and men had remained under guilt not less than before, as being enslaved to sin; and, ever sinning, would have ever needed one to pardon them, and had never become free, being in themselves flesh, and ever worsted by the Law because of the infirmity of the flesh.32
Until Augustine and the Pelagian controversy in the 5th century, the Church Fathers rarely spoke of justification. Augustine was the first to articulate a comprehensive account of Christian salvation in terms of this Pauline concept. However, this does not mean that Augustine broke from earlier tradition. On the contrary, he took for granted the church’s liturgical, disciplinary, and sacramental tradition and he expressed his doctrines in light of that tradition.
Augustine knew of the Novatianists and he condemned them for denying “that the church can forgive all sins.”33 Furthermore, in his Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed, Augustine explains the article “On the remission of sins” completely in light of the Church’s sacramental and liturgical tradition:
You have [this article of] the Creed perfectly in you when you receive Baptism . . . When you have been baptized, hold fast a good life in the commandments of God, that you may guard your Baptism even unto the end. . . For the sake of all sins was Baptism provided; for the sake of light sins, without which we cannot be, was prayer provided. . . Only, do not commit those things for which you must needs be separated from Christ’s body: which be far from you! For those whom you have seen doing penance, have committed heinous things, either adulteries or some enormous crimes: for these they do penance. Because if theirs had been light sins, to blot out these daily prayer would suffice. In three ways then are sins remitted in the Church; by Baptism, by prayer, by the greater humility of penance.34
When Augustine does expound the meaning of justification, he does so in a way fully consistent with this tradition. He insists that faith alone does not save, and that those in the church who commit gross sins must “wash it away in penitence,” or “redeem it by almsgiving.”35 Furthermore, Augustine defines justification as simply “being made just.” Once again, it is a question of infusion and not of imputation.36
The evidence that the early church fathers did not hold JBFA is fairly straightforward and uncontroversial. Leading Protestant historians have conceded this for well over a century. Thus, the Protestant McGrath can write, “The first centuries of the western theological tradition appear to be characterized by a ‘works-righteousness’ approach to justification . . . The pre-Augustinian theological tradition is practically of one voice in asserting the freedom of the human will . . . The Protestant understanding of the nature of justification thus represents a theological novum.”37 T.F. Torrance similarly complains, “The plain fact is that the Church of the Apostolic Fathers has but a very feeble understanding of the great truths of the Gospel [sic].”38 And finally, the legendary Harnack concludes: “The moralistic view, in which eternal life is the wages and reward of a perfect moral life . . . took the place of first importance at a very early period.”39
How do Protestant apologists deal with the embarrassing absence of their chief article from the earliest years of the Christian tradition? McGrath, to take one example, suggests that this fact “has little theological significance today, given current thinking on the nature of the development of doctrine.”40 Mathison seems to take a similar position. His book contains an extended discussion on whether or not the Roman Catholic communion can be considered a “true church.” It is astonishing that he never mentions the topic of justification in this context. This is in stark contrast to other Reformed apologists, like R.C. Sproul, who consider the doctrine the sine qua non of a “true church.”41
Mathison argues that by the rule of Tradition I, Protestants cannot simply anathematize Catholics for disagreeing with Protestant interpretations of Scripture (presumably including disagreements over the doctrine of justification). This would be an instance of the very kind of private theological opinion-mongering that he wishes to avoid. On the contrary, Mathison explains:
Rome has veered way off course doctrinally, but if Tradition I (sola scriptura) is true, then Rome’s interpretation cannot be measured only against another branch’s interpretation of Scripture . . . we cannot simply assert that our communion is the correct branch because our communion’s interpretation of Scripture comes closest to our interpretation of Scripture.42
Mathison, like McGrath, seems to want to place JBFA within the category of disputed questions that were not settled by the early Church. Given that the Church today “does not speak with one voice,” (as Mathison sees it) this supposedly absolves him of the responsibility of proving JBFA on the basis of Tradition I.
I see two problems with the Mathison/McGrath approach. The first is that both writers dismiss the very substantial body of evidence that the early church did have a clear doctrine of salvation. It is true that no ecumenical council formally defined the doctrine of justification until Trent, but it is false to assert that the church lacked a consensus on the nature of redemption or the means of grace. The creeds and canons address these issues, and the fathers commented on the relevant articles. Although the Fathers rarely employed the term ‘justification,’ they wrote extensively on sin, forgiveness, redemption, and the conditions of eternal life.
The second problem with the Mathison/McGrath approach is that it leaves JBFA within the realm of private theological opinion, and not dogma. If I accept the Mathison/McGrath account of doctrinal development and authority, then there is no body competent to adjudicate the dispute between Catholics and Protestants over the nature of salvation. At best, JBFA is one possible interpretation of Scripture but clearly not one that can be demonstrated on the basis of Tradition I.
Keith Mathison has urged us to unite around the Ecumenical Creeds and the consensus of the Church (defined as all those who hold the Ecumenical Creeds). He claims that this gives the only authoritative interpretation of Scripture, the ultimate authority. In this post, I have asked whether or not this view of religious authority can contribute to our understanding of the Reformation doctrine of salvation.
When I consider the creeds, councils, and the regula fidei, I find that they are replete with soteriology. They address the nature of redemption and the means of grace. Moreover, they are situated in a historical context that is full of discussion of these issues. The Fathers of the Church explained the meaning of the creed, and ruled and legislated on the basis of that explanation.
The Fathers held that salvation is a moral renovation through union with the Body of Christ. They held that continuing sacramental communion with that Body is necessary for salvation. They held that baptism effects the remission of all past sins. They taught that post-baptismal sin threatens that salvation, and must be atoned for through penance. They held that faith without works cannot justify. They embodied these convictions in their canons, creeds, preaching, and discipline. Protestant historians have discovered this as well as Catholics.
Faced with this evidence, it seems to me, the Protestant who respects “Tradition I” has three choices. First, he can give up the Protestant doctrine of salvation, acknowledging that Tradition I does not support it. Second, he can attempt to argue (as Mathison seems to) that Tradition I is silent on JBFA. Unfortunately, this seems to be a case of special pleading and involves a very narrow and ad hoc construal of Tradition I. Furthermore, it commits the Protestant to the position that JBFA is at best private opinion and not dogma. Finally, he could try to demonstrate JBFA on the basis of Tradition I – a hard sell, I think.
- Keith Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura (Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 2001), 299. [↩]
- WA 30iii, 552. Cited in Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, trans. Robert C. Schultz (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), 334. [↩]
- Mathison, Shape, 337. [↩]
- Mathison , Shape, 26, 43-46. [↩]
- Cited in John Leith, ed. Creeds of the Chruches: a Reader in Christian Doctrine from the Bible to the Present (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1982), 21. [↩]
- Epistle 69.2. All citations from the Fathers taken from the Schaaf edition, publically available at http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/. [↩]
- Mathison, Shape, 334. [↩]
- Jaroslav Pelikan, Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 155. [↩]
Ignatius to the Ephesians 14:2 “No man who professes faith sins.”
Tertullian, Apology 21: “Christians alone are without sin because they expect eternal punishment for sin.”
Hermas 4.31.1-6: “For the one who has received forgiveness of sins ought never to sin again, but to live in purity.”
2.12.3: “Now I say to you, If you do not keep them [the commandments], but neglect them, you will not be saved, nor your children, nor your house, since you have already determined for yourself that these commandments cannot be kept by man.”
2 Clement :“What assurance do we have of entering the kingdom of God if we fail to keep our baptism pure and undefiled? Or who will be our advocate, if we are not found to have holy and righteous works?”
Tertullian (On Repentance, 5): “That the repentance which, being shown us and commanded us through God’s grace, recalls us to grace with the Lord, when once learned and undertaken by us ought never afterward to be cancelled by repetition of sin.”
Clement of Alexandria (Stromata 2:13): “He, then, who has received the forgiveness of sins ought to sin no more.”
“If one should escape the superfluity of riches, and the difficulty they interpose in the way of life, and be able to enjoy the eternal good things; but should happen, either from ignorance or involuntary circumstances, after the seal and redemption, to fall into sins or transgressions so as to be quite carried away; such a man is entirely rejected by God. . . of past sins, then, God gives; but of future, each one gives to himself.”
Justin Martyr (Apology, 61,65): I will also relate the manner in which we dedicated ourselves to God when we had been made new through Christ . . . As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water . . . [We] may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed. [Emphasis mine] . . .
But we, after we have thus washed him who has been convinced and has assented to our teaching, bring him to the place where those who are called brethren are assembled, in order that we may offer hearty prayers in common for ourselves and for the baptized [illuminated] person, and for all others in every place, that we may be counted worthy, now that we have learned the truth, by our works also to be found good citizens and keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation. [Emphasis mine]. [↩]
- Only one more opportunity
Hermas : Mandate 4:31:1-6: “But the Lord, however, who is exceedingly merciful, had mercy on his creation and established this opportunity for repentance…But I am warning you,’ he said, ‘if, after this great and holy call, anyone is tempted by the devil and sins, he has one opportunity for repentance. But if he sins repeatedly and repents, it is of no use for such a person, for he will scarcely live.” Cited in R.A. Baker, “’Second Repentance’ in the Early Church:
The Influence of The Shepherd of Hermas.” http://www.churchhistory101.com/docs/Hermas-2ndRepentance.pdf
Tertullian (Penance 7,9): “Although the gate of forgiveness has been shut and fastened up with the bar of baptism, has permitted it still to stand somewhat open. In the vestibule He has stationed the second repentance for opening to such as knock: but now once for all, because now for the second time; but never more because the last time it had been in vain.” . . . “It commands (the penitent) to lie in sackcloth and ashes, to cover his body in mourning, to lay his spirit low in sorrows, to exchange for severe treatment the sins which he has committed; moreover, to know no food and drink but such as is plain—not for the stomach’s sake, to wit, but the soul’s; for the most part, however, to feed prayers on fastings, to groan, to weep and make outcries unto the Lord your God; to bow before the feet of the presbyters, and kneel to God’s dear ones; to enjoin on all the brethren to be ambassadors to bear his deprecatory supplication (before God). . . . stand in the stead of God’s indignation, and by temporal mortification (I will not say frustrate, but) expunge eternal punishments.”
Clement (Strom. 2:13):” And the Lord, knowing the heart, and foreknowing the future, foresaw both the fickleness of man and the craft and subtlety of the devil from the first…Accordingly, being very merciful, He has vouchsafed, in the case of those who, though in faith, fall into any transgression, a second repentance; so that should any one be tempted after his calling, overcome by force and fraud, he may receive still a repentance.” Cited in Baker, “2nd Repentance.” [↩]
- Tertullian’s dispute with the Pope (On Purity, 19): “It is a fact that there are some sins which beset us every day and to which we all are tempted. For who will not, as it may chance, fall into unrighteous anger and continue this even beyond sundown, or even strike another or, out of easy habit, curse another, or swear rashly, or violate his pledged faith, or tell a lie through shame or the compulsion of circumstances? In the management of affairs, in the performance of duties, in commercial transactions, while eating, looking, listening — how often we are tempted!
So much so that if there were no pardon in such cases, no one would be saved. For these sins, then, pardon is granted through Christ who intercedes with the Father. But there are also sins quite different from these, graver and deadly, which cannot be pardoned: murder, idolatry, injustice, apostasy, blasphemy; yes, and also adultery and fornication and any other violation of the temple of God. For these Christ will not intercede with the Father a second time.” Cited in Baker, “2nd Repentance.”
(On Modesty, 1): “In opposition to this (modesty), could I not have acted the dissembler? I hear that there has even been an edict set forth, and a peremptory one too. The Pontifex Maximus — that is, the bishop of bishops — issues an edict: I remit, to such as have discharged (the requirements of) repentance, the sins both of adultery and of fornication. O edict, on which cannot be inscribed, Good deed! And where shall this liberality be posted up? On the very spot, I suppose, on the very gates of the sensual appetites, beneath the very titles of the sensual appetites. There is the place for promulgating such repentance, where the delinquency itself shall haunt. There is the place to read the pardon, where entrance shall be made under the hope thereof. But it is in the church that this (edict) is read, and in the church that it is pronounced; and (the church) is a virgin! Far, far from Christ’s betrothed be such a proclamation! She, the true, the modest, the saintly, shall be free from stain even of her ears. She has none to whom to make such a promise; and if she have had, she does not make it; since even the earthly temple of God can sooner have been called by the Lord a den of robbers, than of adulterers and fornicators.” [↩]
- Epistles, 9. [↩]
- Epistles 51.17. See also his famous treatise De unitate ecclesiae, especially c.21-23. [↩]
- Epistle 29. [↩]
- De lapsis 16 says that penance appeases God for the offense of sin. See also Epistle 29.3: The lapsed “by due honour for God’s priest should draw forth upon themselves the divine mercy.” Epistle 51.18 “[God] will then ratify what shall have been here determined by us.” [↩]
- Epistle 51.21: It is one thing to stand for pardon, another thing to attain to glory: it is one thing, when cast into prison, not to go out thence until one has paid the uttermost farthing; another thing at once to receive the wages of faith and courage. It is one thing, tortured by long suffering for sins, to becleansed and long purged by fire; another to have purged all sins by suffering. It is one thing, in fine, to be in suspense till the sentence ofGod at the day of judgment; another to be at once crowned by the Lord.” [↩]
- Epistle 51.21. [↩]
- Epistle 53: “should undergo a long and full repentance; and if the risk of sickness should be urgent, should receive peace on the very point of death. For it was not right, neither did the love of the Father nor divine mercy allow, that the Church should be closed to those that knock, or the help of the hope of salvation be denied to those who mourn and entreat, so that when they pass from this world, they should be dismissed to their Lord without communion and peace; since He Himself who gave the law, that things which were bound on earth should also be bound in heaven, allowed, moreover, that things might be loosed there which were here first loosed in the Church.” [↩]
- De lapsis 17: “We believe, indeed, that the merits of martyrs and the works of the righteous are of great avail with the Judge.” See also Epistles 9,10,12,and 13. [↩]
- Epistle 69.2. [↩]
- For Greek and Latin texts and commentary, see Canons of Nicea. [↩]
- Eccl. Hist., VI.44. [↩]
- J.N.D. Kelly remarks, “Running through almost all the patristic attempts to explain the redemption there is one grand theme which, we suggest, provides the clue to the fathers’ understanding of the work of Christ. This is none other than the ancient idea of recapitulation which Irenaeus derived from Saint Paul.” Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco: Harper, 1978), 376. [↩]
- Ignatius’s letter to the Ephesians, 20, Letter to the Smyrneans, 7. [↩]
- Book 5, preface. [↩]
- De incarnatione, 54,3. [↩]
- Ireneaus, Adv. Haer. 5.21.2. [↩]
- Adv. Haer., 3.18.1. [↩]
- Adv. Haer., 1.10. [↩]
- Adv. Haer., 4.13.1. [↩]
- Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 243, 284. [↩]
- Discourses against the Arians, 2.21.68. [↩]
- De agone christiano, 30.32. [↩]
- C. 15-16. [↩]
- Enchiridion, 67. For Augustine’s contention that faith without works does not justify, see also De Fide et Operibus, PL 40: 14.21. [↩]
- De spiritu et littera, 15: “It is by God’s gift, through the help of the Spirit, that a man is justified . . . It is not, therefore, by the law, nor is it by their own will, that they are justified; but they are justified freely by His grace — not that it is wrought without our will; but our will is by the law shown to be weak, that grace may heal its infirmity; and that our healed will may fulfill the law.”
(De spiritu et lit, 45): “For what else does the phrase being justified signify than being made righteous—by Him, of course, who justifies the ungodly man, that he may become a godly one instead?”
(To Simplician 1.13): “Grace justifies so that he who is justified may live justly. Grace, therefore, comes first, then good works.” The translation is that of John H. S. Burleigh, Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History, University of Edinburgh and was published in Augustine: Earlier Writings, Volume VI of the Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1953.)
(On grace and free will, 6.13): “Thus, it is necessary for a man that he should be not only justified when unrighteous by the grace of God—that is, be changed from unholiness to righteousness—when he is requited with good for his evil; but that, even after he has become justified by faith, grace should accompany him on his way, and he should lean upon it, lest he fall.
(On grace and Free will, 6.15): “If, indeed, they so understand our merits as to acknowledge them, too, to be the gifts of God, then their opinion would not deserve reprobation . . . It is His own gifts that God crowns, not your merits,— if, at least, your merits are of your own self, not of Him. If, indeed, they are such, they are evil; and God does not crown them; but if they are good, they are God’s gifts . . . then, your good merits are God’s gifts, God does not crown your merits as your merits, but as His own gifts.” [↩]
- McGrath, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 34,215. [↩]
- T.F. Torrance, The Doctrine of Grace in the Apostolic Fathers (Edinburgh, 1948). [↩]
- Adolph von Harnack, History of Dogma, trans. Neil Buchanan (London, 1894) ,I: 170. [↩]
- McGrath, Iustitia, 218. [↩]
- See R.C. Sproul’s book Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999). [↩]
- Mathison, Shape, 334. [↩]