CHURCH FATHERS: A DOOR TO ROME

By David Cloud (Way of Life Literature)

Many people have walked into the Roman Catholic Church through the broad door of the “church fathers,” and this is a loud warning today when there is a widespread attraction to the “church fathers” within evangelicalism. 

It should be noted that Catholic apologetic ministries will often use the “church fathers” to prove that Rome’s doctrines go back to 

the earliest centuries. ​For instance, David Currie, an outspoken Catholic and author, continually uses the church fathers to support his position. In his book, Born Fundamentalist he says, “The other group of authors whom Evangelicals should read ... is the early Fathers of the Church” (p. 4). The contemplative prayer movement is built on this same weak foundation. The late Robert Webber, a Wheaton College professor who was one of the chief proponents of this back to the “church fathers” movement, said: 

“The early Fathers can bring us back to what is common and help us get behind our various traditions ... Here is where our unity lies. ... evangelicals need to go beyond talk about the unity of the church to experience it through an attitude of acceptance of the whole church and an entrance into dialogue with the Orthodox, Catholic, and other Protestant bodies” (Ancient-Future Faith, 1999, p. 89).

The term “church fathers” is a misnomer that was derived from the Catholic Church’s false doctrine of hierarchical church polity. These men were not “fathers” of the church in any scriptural sense and did not have any divine authority. They were merely church leaders from various places who have left a record of their faith in writing. But the Roman Catholic Church exalted men to authority beyond the bounds designated by Scripture, making them “fathers” over the churches located within entire regions and over the churches of the whole world.

The “church fathers” are grouped into four divisions: Apostolic Fathers (second century), Ante-Nicene Fathers (second and third centuries), Nicene Fathers (fourth century), and Post-Nicene Fathers (fifth century). Nicene refers to the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 that dealt with the issue of Arianism and affirmed the doctrine of Christ’s deity. Thus, the Ante-Nicene Fathers are so named because they lived in the century before this council, and the Post-Nicene, because they lived in the century following the council.


All of the “church fathers” were infected with some false doctrine, and most of them were seriously infected. Even the so-called Apostolic Fathers of the second century were teaching the false gospel that baptism, celibacy, and martyrdom provided forgiveness of sin (Howard Vos, Exploring Church History, p. 12). And of the later “fathers”--Clement, Origen, Cyril, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, Theodore, and John Chrysostom--the same historian admits: “In their lives and teachings we find the seed plot of almost all that arose later. In germ form appear the dogmas of purgatory, transubstantiation, priestly mediation, baptismal regeneration, and the whole sacramental system” (Vos, p. 25). 


The fact is that the “early Fathers” were mostly heretics. The only genuine “church fathers” are the apostles and prophets whose writings were given by divine inspiration and recorded in the Holy Scripture. They gave us the “faith ONCE delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). The faith they delivered is able to make us “perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We don’t need anything beyond the Bible. The teaching of the “church fathers” does not contain one jot or tittle of divine revelation. 


Therefore, the “church fathers” are actually the fathers of the Roman Catholic Church. They are the men who laid the foundation of apostasy that produced Romanism and Greek Orthodoxy..... (truncated).

 

 

SECTION BREAK

CHURCH FATHERS

BACK TO ORTHODOXY OR DEEPER INTO ERROR?

By John Aziza (hisperfectbride.com)

With so many thousands of evangelical denominations competing for attention, it is sometimes tempting to use the writings of the early “Church Fathers” to restore orthodoxy to the Christian Faith. Christians disillusioned by the constant squabbling over proper doctrine and theology find this temptation strongest. Especially so when encountering the Christian writings of the Ante-Nicene period of Church history. It is hoped that the earliest strata of Church history closest to the Apostles' time might produce the most accurate interpretation of the New Testament.

 

But this logic is flawed. It's flawed for the simple reason that we hardly need search beyond the Apostles' own day to locate doctrinal error in the Church. How much more of it should we expect to discover by the second or third centuries? This alone is sufficient reason to reject the writings of the early Church fathers [from any period] as being authoritative. Furthermore, if the teachings and practices of the Ante-Nicene Fathers are to be measured by the perfect standard of inspired Scripture, then why should we measure our own theology by anything inferior? Clearly, the best approach is to go straight to the fountainhead of truth—the inspired Scriptures.

 

Moreover, while glimpsing into the Apostolic era, we can easily see the errors of Torah observance and Gnosticism infecting the first century Church. Consider the false teachings espoused by the “Judaizers” whom Paul and Barnabas disputed in Acts 15. Consider the Gnostics whom the Apostle Paul warned against in 1 Tim. 6:20. Consider the false teachings of Hymenaeus, Alexander, and Philetus (1 Tim. 1:18-20). In 2 Timothy 2:17-18, it is stated that Hymenaeus and Philetus “as to the truth have gone astray”. Then also consider the foolish Galatians who were “bewitched” away from the truth (Gal. 3:1). Finally, consider the gross error rebuked by Jesus in the seven letters to the Churches contained within the very first chapters of Revelation. So then to establish normative Church practice by surveying the universal Church of the first century would lead one to favor much more error of doctrine than orthodoxy simply because those who clung to the pure Apostolic Faith were few and largely interspersed among the vast sea of apostates. So is this what we desire to establish as normative Christianity in our day??

Now the focus of this article is primarily upon the writings and influence of the Ante-Nicene Fathers. As previously mentioned, that is the time period during which some believe Christianity was still safe from the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church. But to counteract this misconception, I've decided to lift some pertinent quotes from the writings of the Ante-Nicene Fathers in order to demonstrate the gross doctrinal errors espoused by these men. It proves the following often-touted assumptions wrong:

 

A. The Ante-Nicene Fathers had no disagreement of doctrine between themselves.

B. All of their doctrines perfectly reflect the teachings of the Apostles.

C. The Ante-Nicene Fathers were ordained by the Apostles to bear the original tenants of Christian orthodoxy.

 

As we shall soon discover, all three of these assumptions are wrong. They are wrong simply because the recorded teachings of the Church Fathers flatly contradict the inspired Apostolic creed and this will become all the more apparent in the following sections.
 

PAPAL SUPREMACY & EXCLUSIVE AUTHORITY

Contrary to what is taught by the Roman Catholic Church, the New Testament gives no hint of a dichotomy between the clergy and laity. Neither do we find a tiered hierarchy descending from the bishop to the presbytery and from the presbyters to the deacons and so on. What we find instead is simply a difference between the older servants in the Body of Christ, known as the elders, and the younger servants called deacons. Those who are older—the elders—are to lead by example, not through compulsion (Acts 14:23, 20:17, 18, 28, 1 Tim. 3:1-7 5:1, 17, Tit. 1:5, 1 Pet. 2:25, 5:1-5). Note: You can read more about this by clicking here. Now the following quotes will clearly demonstrate how and why the Roman Catholic Church came to possess the dogmas of papal supremacy and exclusive authority. Notice:

 

Ignatius of Antioch (35–108 AD)
See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.” (Smyrn. 8:1, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. I, Roberts and Donaldson)

“Moreover, it is in accordance with reason that we should return to soberness [of conduct], and, while yet we have opportunity, exercise repentance towards God. It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does [in reality] serve the devil.” (Smyrn. 9:1, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. I, Roberts and Donaldson)

“But the Spirit proclaimed these words: Do nothing without the bishop; keep your bodies as the temples of God; love unity; avoid divisions; be the followers of Jesus Christ, even as He is of His Father." (Phil. 7:13, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. V, Roberts and Donaldson)

 

Didache (circa 96 AD)

“The apostles further appointed: Let there be elders and deacons, like the Levites; and subdeacons, like those who carried the vessels of the court o f the sanctuary of the Lord; and an overseer [Bishop], who shall likewise be the Guide of all the people, like Aaron, the head and chief of all the priests and Levites of the whole city.” (S. Did. 5, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, vol. VIII, Roberts and Donaldson)

 

Cyprian of Carthage (200-258 AD)

“…and they are the Church who are a people united to the priest, and the flock that adheres to its pastor. You ought to know that the bishop is in the Church, and the Church in the bishop; and if anyone be not with the bishop, then he is not in the Church…” (Cyprian of Carthage, Letter 68, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. V, Philip Schaff)

 

“If Christ Jesus, our Lord and God, is himself the high priest of God the Father; and if he offered himself as a sacrifice to the Father; and if he commanded that this be done in commemoration of himself, then certainly the priest, who imitates that which Christ did, truly functions in place of Christ.” (Letters 63:14, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. V, Philip Schaff)

 

Hippolytus of Rome (170–235 AD)

“When a deacon is to be ordained, he is chosen after the fashion of those things said above, the bishop alone in like manner imposing his hands upon him as we have prescribed. In the ordaining of a deacon, this is the reason why the bishop alone is to impose his hands upon him: he is not ordained to the priesthood, but to serve the bishop and to fulfill the bishop’s command. He has no part in the council of the clergy, but is to attend to his own duties and is to acquaint the bishop with such matters as are needful. . . . On a presbyter, however, let the presbyters impose their hands because of the common and like Spirit of the clergy. Even so, the presbyter has only the power to receive [the Spirit], and not the power to give [the Spirit]. That is why a presbyter does not ordain the clergy; for at the ordaining of a presbyter, he but seals while the bishop ordains.... Over a deacon, then, let the bishop speak thus: ‘O God, who have created all things and have set them in order through your Word; Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom you sent to minister to your will and to make clear to us your desires, grant the Holy Spirit of grace and care and diligence to this your servant, whom you have chosen to serve the Church and to offer in your holy places the gifts which are offered to you by your chosen high priests...’”

(Apostolic Tradition 9, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. V, Philip Schaff)

 

INFANT BAPTISM

According to Acts 2:38 and other similar passages, individuals must first repent before being baptized. Obviously, this would exclude children and infants who are simply too young to understand or experience repentance. On account of this, almost all Protestants or Christian evangelicals practice adult baptism. This, however, is not true of the Roman Catholic Church who received the tradition of infant baptism from the Ante-Nicene Church Fathers. Notice:


Hippolytus of Rome (170-235 AD)

Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them.” (Apostolic Tradition 21:16, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. V, Philip Schaff)

 

Origen (185-254 A.D.)

Little children are baptized for the remission of sins. Whose sins are they? When did they sin? Or how can this explanation of the baptismal washing be maintained in the case of small children, except according to the interpretation we spoke of a little earlier? No man is clean of stain, not even if his life upon the earth had lasted but a single day." (Homilies in Luke xiv. 5, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. IV, Philip Schaff)

“Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. . . . In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous.” (Homilies on Leviticus 8:3, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. IV, Philip Schaff)

 

The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit.” (Commentaries on Romans 5:9, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. IV, Philip Schaff)

 

Cyprian of Carthage (200-258 AD)
But in respect of the case of the infants, which you say ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth....if anything could hinder men from obtaining grace, their more heinous sins might rather hinder those who are mature and grown up and older. But again, if even to the greatest sinners, and to those who had sinned much against God, when they subsequently believed, remission of sins is granted -- and nobody is hindered from baptism and from grace -- how much rather ought we to shrink from hindering an infant, who, being lately born, has not sinned, except in that, being born after the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of the ancient death at its earliest birth, who approaches the more easily on this very account to the reception of the forgiveness of sins -- that to him are remitted, not his own sins, but the sins of another. And therefore, dearest brother, this was our opinion in council, that by us no one ought to be hindered from baptism and from the grace of God, who is merciful and kind and loving to all. Which, since it is to be observed and maintained in respect of all, we think is to be even more observed in respect of infants and newly-born persons.” (Epistle 58:2-6. To Fidus, on the Baptism of Infants, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. V, Philip Schaff)


TRANSUBSTANTIATION . THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS . REAL PRESENCE . SALVATION BY THE EUCHARIST
As affirmed in the Gospels and Pauline letters, the elements of communion are merely symbolic for the sacrificial atonement of Jesus Christ and His lifestyle of self-denial. This is how Protestants have always regarded communion. The Roman Catholic view is quite different. The sacrament of communion is referred to as the eucharist and Catholics regard the blessing of the priest over the elements as a transformative action which turns the bread and wine into the actual body and blood of our Lord. This is called transubstantiation. Thus, to the Catholic mind, communion is the veritable or “real presence” of our Savior and the partaking of the elements form the basis of His actual sacrificial death—repeated over and over again at every communion. The writings of the Ante-Nicene Fathers are in clear support of this view as seen in the following quotes:

 

Justin Martyr (100-165)

"This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us. For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God's Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus." (First Apology, Ch. 66, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. I, Philip Schaff)

 

“Moreover, as I said before, concerning the sacrifices which you at that time offered, God speaks through Malachias, one of the twelve, as follows: 'I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord; and I will not accept your sacrifices from your hands; for from the rising of the sun until its setting, my name has been glorified among the gentiles; and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a clean offering: for great is my name among the gentiles, says the Lord; but you profane it.' It is of the sacrifices offered to Him in every place by us, the gentiles, that is, of the Bread of the Eucharist and likewise of the cup of the Eucharist, that He speaks at that time; and He says that we glorify His name, while you profane it." (Dialogue with Trypho 41: 8-10, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. I, Philip Schaff)

 

Irenaeus of Lyons (140 - 202 AD)
“When, therefore, the mixed cup and the baked bread receives the Word of God and BECOMES THE EUCHARIST, THE BODY OF CHRIST, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life -- flesh which is nourished BY THE BODY AND BLOOD OF THE LORD…receiving the Word of God, BECOMES THE EUCHARIST, WHICH IS THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST…” (Against Heresies 5:2:2-3, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. I Roberts and Donaldson)

 

Cyprian of Carthage (200-258 AD)

"Listen to what happened in my presence, before my very eyes. There was a baby girl, whose parents had fled and had, in their fear, rather improvidently lift it in the charge of its nurse. The nurse took the helpless child to the magistrates. There, before the idol where the crowds were flocking, as it was too young to eat the flesh, they gave it some bread dipped in what was left of the wine offered by those who had already doomed themselves. Later, the mother recovered her child. But the girl could not reveal or tell the wicked thing that had been done, any more than she had been able to understand or ward it off before. Thus, when the mother brought her in with her while we were offering the Sacrifice, it was through ignorance that this mischance occurred. But the infant, in the midst of the faithful, resenting the prayer and the offering we were making, began to cry convulsively, struggling and tossing in a veritable brain-storm, and for all its tender age and simplicity of soul, was confessing, as if under torture, in every way it could, its consciousness of the misdeed. Moreover, when the sacred rites were completed and the deacon began ministering to those present, when its turn came to receive, it turned its little head away as if sensing the divine presence, it closed its mouth, held its lips tight, and refused to drink from the chalice. The deacon persisted and, in spite of its opposition, poured in some of the consecrated chalice. There followed choking and vomiting. The Eucharist could not remain in a body or mouth that was defiled; the drink which had been sanctified by Our Lord's blood returned from the polluted stomach. So great is the power of the Lord, and so great His majesty!" (The Lapsed" Ch. 25, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. V, Philip Schaff)
 

"The priest who imitates that which Christ did, truly takes the place of Christ, and offers there in the Church a true and perfect sacrifice to God the Father." (Letters 63:14, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. V, Philip Schaff)
 

"There was a woman too who with impure hands tried to open the locket in which she was keeping Our Lord's holy body, but fire flared up from it and she was too terrified to touch it. And a man who, in spite of his sin, also presumed secretly to join the rest in receiving sacrifice offered by the bishop, was unable to eat or even handle Our Lord's sacred body; when he opened his hands, he found he was holding nothing but ashes. By this one example it was made manifest that Our Lord removes Himself from one who denies Him, and that what is received brings no blessing to the unworthy, since the Holy One has fled and the saving grace is turned to ashes." (The Lapsed" Ch. 26, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. V, Philip Schaff)
 

“Christ as He Himself declares, saying: 'I am the bread of life which came down from heaven. If any man eat of my bread he shall live forever. Moreover, the bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world.' Since then He says that, if anyone eats of His bread, he lives forever, as it is manifest that they live who attain to His body and receive the Eucharist by right of communion, so on the other hand we must fear and pray lest anyone, while he is cut off and separated from the body of Christ [excommunicated], remain apart from salvation, as He Himself threatens, saying: 'Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you.' And so we petition that our bread, that is Christ, be given us daily [communion], so that we, who abide and live in Christ, may not withdraw from His sanctification and body." (The Lord's Prayer chapter 18, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. V, Philip Schaff)

 

Hippolytus of Rome (170-235 AD)

“‘And she [Wisdom] has furnished her table’ [Prov. 9:2] . . . refers to his [Christ’s] honored and undefiled body and blood, which day by day are administered and offered sacrificially at the spiritual divine table, as a memorial of that first and ever-memorable table of the spiritual divine supper [i.e., the Last Supper]” (Commentary on Proverbs, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. V, Roberts and Donaldson)

 

Origen (185-254 AD)

“I wish to admonish you with examples from your religion. You are accustomed to take part in the divine mysteries, so you know how, when you have received the Body of the Lord, you reverently exercise every care lest a particle of it fall and lest anything of the consecrated gift perish. You account yourselves guilty, and rightly do you so believe, if any of it be lost through negligence.” (Homilies on Exodus 13:3, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. IV, Roberts and Donaldson)

 

PURGATORY . SACRIFICES & PRAYERS FOR THE DEAD

Cyprian of Carthage (200-258 AD)

“...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 be cleansed 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 of God at the day of judgment; another to be at once crowned by the Lord.” (Letters 51:20, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. V, Philip Schaff)

 

Tertullian (155-240 AD)

We offer sacrifices for the dead on their birthday anniversaries...” (The Crown 3:3, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. III, Philip Schaff)

 

A woman, after the death of her husband . . . prays for his soul and asks that he may, while waiting, find rest; and that he may share in the first resurrection. And each year, on the anniversary of his death, she offers the sacrifice.” (Monogamy 10:1–2, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. III, Philip Schaff)

Origen of Alexandria (185-254 AD)

“...who are called the devil and his angels....after having undergone heavier and severer punishments...improved by this stern method of training, and [are] restored...and thus advancing through each stage to a better condition, reach even to that which is invisible and eternal...” (De Prin. I.6.3 Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. IV, Roberts and Donaldson)

 

MARIOLOGY

Irenaeus of Lyons (140 - 202 AD)

“And if the former did disobey God, yet the latter was persuaded to be obedient to God, in order that the Virgin Mary might become the patroness (advocata) of the virgin Eve. And thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so is it rescued by a virgin; virginal disobedience having been balanced in the opposite scale by virginal obedience.”

(Against Heresies, bk. 5, chap. 19:1, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. I, Philip Schaff)

 

THE CHURCH AT ROME'S PREEMINANCE . PAPAL SUCCESSION

Irenaeus of Lyons (140 - 202 AD)

“Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority . . .” (Against Heresies bk. 3, chap 3:2, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. I, Philip Schaff)

 

SALVATION BY WORKS (ALMSGIVING)

Clement of Rome (35-99 AD)
“Almsgiving therefore is a good thing, even as repentance from sin fasting is better than prayer, but almsgiving better than both. And love covereth a multitude of sins, but prayer out of a good conscience delivereth from death. Blessed is every man that is found full of these. For almsgiving lifteth off the burden of sin”. (2 Clem. 16:4, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. I, Philip Schaff)

 

DEIFICATION/DIVINIZATION
Clement of Alexandria (AD 150-215)
“...yea, I say, the Word of God became a man so that you might learn from a man how to become a god.” (Exhortation to the Greeks Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. I, Roberts and Donaldson)


UNIVERSALISM
Origen of Alexandria (185-254 AD)
“...who are called the devil and his angels....after having undergone heavier and severer punishments...improved by this stern method of training, and [are] restored...and thus advancing through each stage to a better condition, reach even to that which is invisible and eternal...” (De Prin. I.6.3 Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. IV, Roberts and Donaldson)

 

EXTREME ALLEGORIZATION OF SCRIPTURAL TEXT

Origen of Alexandria (185-254 AD)

“Nay, the narratives of the events which are said to have happened either to the nation of Israel, or to Jerusalem, or to Judea, when assailed by this or that nation, cannot in many instances be understood as having actually occurred...” (De Prin. I.6.3 Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4, Roberts and Donaldson)

"For who that has understanding will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars? and that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life? and again, that one was a partaker of good and evil by masticating what was taken from the tree? And if God is said to walk in the paradise in the evening, and Adam to hide himself under a tree, I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally." (On First Principles Bk. IV, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4, Roberts and Donaldson)

 

UNITY OF DOCTRINE BETWEEN THE ANTE-NICENE FATHERS

Did the Ante-Nicene Fathers disagree with each other on matters of doctrine? They sure did! For instance, on the issue of baptism Tertullian differed from Hippolytus, Origen, and Cyprian (as quoted above) in that he believed adults were better qualified for baptism than children. Notice:

 

Tertullian (155-240 AD)

"Let them come, then, while they grow up, while they learn, while they are taught to whom to come; let them become Christians when they will have been able to know Christ! Why does the innocent age hasten to the remission of sins? ...For no less cause should the unmarried also be deferred, in whom there is an aptness to temptation -- in virgins on account of their ripeness as also in the widowed on account of their freedom -- until they are married or are better strengthened for continence. Anyone who understands the seriousness of Baptism will fear its reception more than its deferral. Sound faith is secure of its salvation!" (Treatise on Baptism 18:4, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. III, Philip Schaff)
 

Now there is also the difference of opinion between Tertullian and Origen on the literal interpretation of the Genesis account as seen in the bellow quote. Notice:

Tertullian (155-240 AD)

"Now, with regard to this rule of faith … that which prescribes the belief that there is one only God, and that He is none other than the Creator of the world, who produced all things out of nothing through His own Word, first of all sent forth; that this Word is called His Son." (Prescription Against Heretics Ch. 13, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. III)

But their disagreements didn't stop at baptism or the Genesis account. According to their own admission, many other issues of disagreement existed between them over doctrine and theology. Notice:

 

Justin Martyr (100-165 AD)
"I and many others are of this opinion [premillennialism], and [believe] that such will take place, as you assuredly are aware; but, on the other hand, I signified to you that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise." (Dialogue with Trypho Ch. 80, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. I, Philip Schaff)

Origen (184-253 AD)
Since many, however, of those who profess to believe in Christ differ from each other, not only in small and trifling matters, but also on subjects of the highest importance, as, e.g., regarding God, or the Lord Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit; and not only regarding these, but also regarding others which are created existences, viz., the powers and the holy virtues; it seems on that account necessary first of all to fix a definite limit and to lay down an unmistakable rule regarding each one of these, and then to pass to the investigation of other points. ...so, seeing there are many who think they hold the opinions of Christ, and yet some of these think differently from their predecessors...” (De Prin. Preface 2, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. IV, Philip Schaff)

So as we can see, there were many varieties of interpretation among the Ante-Nicene Fathers concerning doctrine and theology. It is interesting to note that even in respect to the deity of Christ, differences of understanding persisted. For example, some of the Fathers were adoptionist like Theodotus of Byzantium, while many others were monarchian or modalist, as noted by Tertullian. And still others, like Ignatius and Irenaeus, believed in the three in one paradigm, later known as the trinity. There were also eschatological differences among the Fathers concerning the return of Christ. Irenaeus and Origin are as different from each other concerning their view of the return of Christ, as summer is from winter. Below you will find defense of both Amillennial and Premillennial eschatology as proposed by Origen and Irenaeus:
 

Irenaeus (130–202 AD)
Premillennial
“And therefore, when in the end the Church shall be suddenly caught up from this, it is said, 'There shall be tribulation such as has not been since the beginning, neither shall be.' For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which, when they overcome they are crowned with incorruption.” (Against Heresies, 5.29, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. I, Philip Schaff)

“Christ Jesus, the Son of God.... rising again, and having been received up in splendour, shall come in glory, the Saviour of those who are saved, and the Judge of those who are judged, and sending into eternal fire those who transform the truth, and despise His Father and His advent.” (Against Heresies III. 4:2, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. I, Philip Schaff)

Origin (184-253 AD)
Amillennial
"He comes every day with great power to the mind of the believer in the clouds of prophecy, that is, in the Scriptures of the Prophets and the Apostles, who utter the word of God with a meaning above human nature. Also we say that to those who understand He comes with great glory, and that this is the mole seen in the second coming of the Word which is to the perfect. And so it may be, that all which the three Evangelists have said concerning Christ's coming, if carefully compared together and thoroughly examined would be found to apply to His continual daily coming in His body, which is the Church, of which coming He said in another place, Hereafter shall you see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the power of God, and coming in the clouds of heaven...” (Aquinas, Catena on Matt. 24:30, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. IV, Philip Schaff)

“We do not deny, then, that the purificatory fire and the destruction of the world took place in order that evil might be swept away, and all things be renewed; for we assert that we have learned these things from the sacred books of the prophets…” (Contra Celsum, 4.21,22, Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 4, Philip Schaff)

“Likewise, Dionysius of Alexandria (died 264 AD) argued that Revelation was not written by John and could not be interpreted literally; he was amillennial.” Wikipedia

 

FABLES

Clement of Rome (35-99 AD)
The Phoenix an Emblem of our Resurrection
"Let us consider that wonderful sign [of the resurrection] which takes place in Eastern lands, that is, in Arabia and the countries round about. There is a certain bird which is called a phoenix. This is the only one of its kind, and lives five hundred years. And when time of its dissolution draws near that it must die, it builds itself a nest of frankincense, and myrrh, and other spices, into which, when the time is fulfilled, it enters and dies. But as the flesh decays a certain kind of worm is produced, which, being nourished by the juices of the dead bird, brings forth feathers. Then, when it has acquired strength, it takes up that nest in which are the bones of its parent, and bearing these it passes from the land of Arabia into Egypt, to the city called Heliopolis. And, in open day, flying in the sight of all men, it places them on the altar of the sun, and having done this, hastens back to its former abode. The priests then inspect the registers of the dates, and find that it has returned exactly as the five hundredth year was completed." (I Clem. to the Cor. Ch. 25, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. I, Philip Schaff)

Here we have a story of a bird that lives up to 500 years, dies, has a worm come out of its carcass which turns into the same kind of bird, and then this bird flies off to an idolatrous altar carrying with it the nest and bones of its parent. It places the nest and bones of its parent on the altar of the sun; and then the priests (no doubt, of the sun) inspect the dates and say, "Yep, it's been 500 years." Paul said to Timothy, “as I urged you when I went into Macedonia remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables . . .” (1 Tim. 1:3-4). This story would definitely qualify as a fable.


“For the Lord Himself, being asked by a certain person when his kingdom would come, said, 'When the two shall be one, and the outside as the inside, and the male with the female, neither male or female.'” (II Clem. 12:2, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. I, Philip Schaff)

 

Nowhere can we find this story recorded in the Gospels. Nor does it correspond with any of the teachings of the apostles. In fact, Paul tells us that in Christ, we are already one Body composed of Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:15). Also, we are cleansed within by the blood of Jesus Christ so what has the outside to do with the inside, what does that even mean, “the outside as the inside”??? And regarding the last piece of that quote, Paul said that there is no distinction in God's eyes between men and women RIGHT NOW (Gal. 3:28).

 

“At length, when those wicked men perceived that his body could not be consumed by the fire, they commanded an executioner to go near and pierce him through with a dagger. And on his doing this, there came forth a dove, and a great quantity of blood, so that the fire was extinguished; and all the people wondered that there should be such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect, of whom this most admirable Polycarp was one...” (Martyrdom of Polycarp Ch. 16, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. I, Philip Schaff)

 

ANTISEMITISM

Now it is also worth mentioning that the Ante-Nicene Fathers were directly responsible for planting within the Roman Catholic Church the very seed of antisemitism which later produced the deliberate and systematic genocide of millions of Jews throughout Europe in the form of the pogroms, inquisitions, and later the holocaust. Notice:

 

Ignatius of Antioch (35–108 AD)

“If anyone fasts on the Lord’s Day or on the Sabbath, except on the paschal Sabbath only, he is a murderer of Christ. . . . If any one celebrates the Passover along with the Jews, or receives the emblems of their feast, he is a partaker with those that killed the Lord and his apostles.” (Phil. 8:1, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. I, Roberts and Donaldson)

Note: It is of great significance that Ignatius here clearly indicates a custom of Sabbath observance by the early Church often denied by Catholics and Evangelicals alike.

 

Didache (circa 96 AD)

“That whosoever loves the Jews, like Iscariot, who was their friend, or the pagans, who worship creatures instead of the Creator, should not enter in amongst them and minister.” (S. Did. 15, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. 8, Roberts and Donaldson)

 

Justin Martyr (100-165)

"The custom of circumcising the flesh, handed down from Abraham, was given to you as a distinguishing mark, to set you off from other nations and from us Christians. The purpose of this was that you and only you might suffer the afflictions that are now justly yours; that only your land be desolated, and you cities ruined by fire, that the fruits of you land be eaten by strangers before your very eyes; that not one of you be permitted to enter your city of Jerusalem. Your circumcision of the flesh is the only mark by which you can certainly be distinguished from other men…as I stated before it was by reason of your sins and the sins of your fathers that, among other precepts, God imposed upon you the observence of the sabbath as a mark." (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, Ante-Nicene Fathers I, Vol. I, Philip Schaff)

 

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, I hope we have seen enough evidence to persuade us against the misconception that the Church Fathers held to the original teachings of the Apostles or that they lacked any type of disagreement between each other. As seen in the above quotes, even the writings from the earliest strata of Church Fathers (Ante-Nicene period) are littered throughout with Roman Catholic theology and doctrine. They are thoroughly corrupt and will lead many astray from the simple truths of God's Word. So while it may be tempting to use them as our historical standard of Christian orthodoxy, it is ill advised and would only further perpetuate Rome's ancient errors. Therefore, like the Reformers before us, I also urge the Church to use the Scriptures alone (sola scriptura) in defending and upholding the timeless truths of the Bible.

In Christ alone,

John A.