“Acting then in these [Prophets], the Word spoke of Himself. For already He became His own herald, and showed that the Word would be manifested among men. And for this reason He cried thus: ‘I am made manifest to them that sought me not; I am found of them that asked not for me.’<!– initNote("fnf_iii.iv.ii.iv-p74.1"); //– And who is He that is made manifest but the Word of the Father?—whom the Father sent, and in whom He showed to men the power proceeding from Him. Thus, then, was the Word made manifest, even as the blessed John says. For he sums up the things that were said by the prophets, and shows that this is the Word, by whom all things were made. For he speaks to this effect: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made.’ And beneath He says, ‘The world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not; He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.’<!– initNote("fnf_iii.iv.ii.iv-p76.4"); //–' If, then, said he, the world was made by Him, according to the word of the Prophet, ‘By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made,’ then this is the Word that was also made manifest. We accordingly see the Word incarnate, and we know the Father by Him, and we believe in the Son, [and] we worship the Holy Spirit.” – St. Hippolytus of Rome, Against the Heresy of One Noetus, 12
A must-see. For those who missed it:
“Wishing to show that to fulfill every commandment is a duty, whereas sonship is a gift given to men through His own Blood, the Lord said, ‘When you have done all that is commanded you, say: “We are useless servants: we have only done what was our duty”‘ (Luke 17:10). Thus the kingdom of heaven is not a reward for works, but a gift of grace prepared by the Master for his faithful servants. A slave does not demand his freedom as a reward: but he gives thanks as one who is in debt, and he receives freedom as a gift. ‘Christ died on account of our sins in accordance with the Scriptures’ (1 Corinthians 15:3); and to those who serve Him well He gives freedom. ‘Well done, good and faithful servant,’ He says, ‘you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter into the joy of your Lord’ (Matthew 25:21). He who relies on theoretical knowledge alone is not yet a faithful servant: a faithful servant is one who expressed His faith in Christ through obedience to his commandments. He who honors the Lord does what the Lord bids.” – St. Hesychios the Priest, On Watchfulness and Holiness, 79-81
St. Justin Martyr, also called “the Philosopher,” was a follower of Greek pagan philosophies who converted to Christianity. He used his training in rhetoric, logic, and philosophical thought to write several outstanding defenses of the Christian Faith, addressing both Jews and pagans.
After winning a debate against a pagan philosopher, he was exposed by his opponent as a Christian to the authorities and martyred in Rome.
His writings are a strong witness to the Faith and practice of the early Church. One of the most interesting passages in his writings is an outline of Christian worship, which outline is the same as the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church today:
“And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.” – St. Justin Martyr, First Apology, 67
Justin’s position on anything like Sola Scriptura seems to have been very similar to that we saw previously exhibited by Ignatius, namely, that the Scripture-only position of some Jews was antithetical to a true understanding of the Scriptures (at that time, only what we now call the Old Testament), which must be understood in the light of the Gospel, which existed almost entirely in oral Tradition at that time. Here’s a relevant quote:
“For these words have neither been prepared by me, nor embellished by the art of man; but David sung them, Isaiah preached them, Zechariah proclaimed them, and Moses wrote them. Are you acquainted with them, Trypho? They are contained in your Scriptures, or rather not yours, but ours. For we believe them; but you, though you read them, do not catch the spirit that is in them.” – St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 29
To read more of the writings of St. Justin Martyr, click here.
|Father||Not Sola Scriptura||Sola Scriptura|
|St. Clement of Rome|
|St. Ignatius of Antioch|
|St. Papias of Hierapolis|
|St. Polycarp of Smyrna|
|St. Justin Martyr|
The first thing that needs to be said in response to Rhology’s question is that St. Vincent’s canon is not our “rule of Faith.” Our rule of Faith is the Nicene Creed; Vincent’s canon is our rule for maintaining this Faith. And both logic and history show that it is a remarkably reliable one.
Anyone who has done investigations, as I have, knows that collective memory is much stronger than that of any given individual. A robbery is committed; the police question each of the witnesses and assemble the full story. Some of the individual witnesses will err in certain details or not have witnessed everything involved. Combining their testimony, though, we are able to figure out exactly what happened.
It’s the same with the Ancient Christian Faith. Some of the individual Fathers may have erred in certain details or not have had access to certain parts of the full Truth. When we assemble them together, though, we have the full story, and it’s easy to tell where this one slipped or that one was ignorant.
A testimony to the reliability of this rule for maintaining the Faith is found in a comparison of the three most ancient Churches: the Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox, and the Assyrian Church of the East. These three Churches have lacked Communion with each other for the last 1500 years; during that period, they have been separated through language, culture, geography, and mutual hostility, so the possibility of cross-fertilization is out of the question.
Each of these Churches utilizes the same method for maintaining the Faith, the one spelled out by Vincent and which Rhology holds is unreliable. And, yet, other than those points on which they departed from each other 1500 years ago (the Miaphysitism of one; the Nestorianism of the other), they maintain exactly the same Faith and practice as the Orthodox. Here we have three Churches that have each individually used the same rule for maintaining the Faith, and prove the rule to be remarkably reliable through their agreement 1500 years later.
Now that I’ve answered Rhology’s cross-examination question, I’d like to take this opportunity to address four atrociously illogical “points” Rhology raised in his answer to my question.
- With no well-defined grounds for corrective authority, the enemy has a much easier time taking a group of people off-course, and it doesn’t have to happen all at once.
First, we do have “well-defined grounds for corrective authority;” in fact, we have several of them, including our Bishops, our historical Faith, and each and every Orthodox Christian. Yes, every Orthodox Christian has the responsibility of preserving the Faith. It’s hard to open up a cabinet and rearrange the items inside when everyone is holding a key and you need all the keys to open it. That said, Rhology’s point is moot unless he can show us a single way that Orthodoxy has changed in the last thousand years or so (to look at a well-documented era of history). If it hasn’t (it hasn’t, by the way), then Rhology has to answer why our rule of Faith has worked so well for the last millennium but didn’t work for the first 200 years or so of Christianity; as Rhology alleges, along with his Protestant brethren the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, some “Great Apostasy” of the Church (of course, Rhology refuses to name it such for fear of being associated with these pseudo-Christian cults, but it’s essentially the same idea). If the Orthodox Church has changed in the last thousand years, Rhology needs to tell us in what way(s).
- … the Church Fathers and other early Christian writers didn’t, on the whole, agree on much of anything besides monotheism.
Seriously, Rho, where do you get this stuff from? Only someone who has never read the Fathers’ writings could say something like this. Here’s a few things the Church Fathers all agreed on:
- Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist
- Ever-virginity of Mary
- Mary as New Eve
- Visible unity of the Church
- Apostolic succession
- Baptismal Regeneration
- Works being a necessary part of true Faith
- Eucharist as sacrifice
- Salvation as process
- Liturgical worship
I could go on, but I’ll stop here because I think I’ve proved my point; Rhology disagrees with all of these things and yet they were believed in by all of the Church Fathers without exception, including the Apostolic Fathers, that class of Fathers who knew Apostles or close associates of Apostles. This presents a serious problem for Rhology; either all of these men simultaneously misunderstood the Apostles and just so happened to be in complete agreement with each other in their misunderstandings OR they all conspired together to distort the true message of the Apostles — so, which is your take on the “Great Apostasy,” Rho?
Also, this “argument” that the Fathers are inconsistent with each other is one Rhology frequently uses, and every time he’s used it on me (about a dozen times thus far) I’ve made the obvious request: show me on what matters they disagreed. So, I’ll say it again “publicly”: Rhology, show us a single issue of any weight or significance that the Fathers disagreed on. You continue to smear their names by using this line — prove it. Show us all something, anything, that the Fathers are inconsistent on. Please.
- Show an EO that Basil or Athanasius pointed to Scripture as the final authority?
“Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church1″); //–> some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us “in a mystery” by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay;—no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more.” – St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, 27, 66
But I’m sure that Rhology will now do as he did when his quote from St. Athanasius was shown to be a distortion of Athanasius’ real beliefs; he’ll claim that Basil, too, is being inconsistent. I have to wonder, though, what’s a more logical explanation: that two of the greatest minds of all time were both independently inconsistent on the same matter or that Rhology is [willfully?] misunderstanding them both?
- The well-attended council at Constantinople in 754 says that veneration of icons in worship is wrong?
Here’s why no one accepts the legitimacy of the Council of Hieria:
- Not a single Patriarch, or even representative of a Patriarch, was present at, or even invited to, the Council. In fact, Emperor Constantine V intentionally called the council shortly after the death of the Patriarch of Constantinople, and before appointing a new one, in order to avoid opposition from a Patriarch and in order to coerce the Bishops of the council to follow his orders with hopes they might be the next Patriarch. The real Seventh Ecumenical Council, on the other hand, was attended by two legates from the Pope of Rome, the foremost Patriarch, and even presided over by the Patriarch of Constantinople, the second-ranking Patriarch, himself! Invitations were sent to the other Patriarchs, but were unable to be delivered due to Muslim dominion over their respective cities.
- Constantine V told the Bishops what decrees to issue — there was no discussion or debate, as in the Ecumenical Councils, nor was the Holy Spirit’s guidance invoked and waited for — there was a dictation from the Emperor as to what the Bishops should proclaim. All who disagreed were deposed and publicly humiliated — even tortured and/or martyred! Compare this with the statements of the Empress St. Irene which opened the real Seventh Ecumenical Council:
To every one is given the utmost freedom of expressing his sentiments without the least hesitation, that thus the subject under enquiry may be most fully discussed and truth may be the more boldly spoken, that so all dissensions may be banished from the Church and we all may be united in the bonds of peace.
- And the most important point: the robber council departed from the Faith of the Fathers; the real Seventh Ecumenical Council did not. Icons have been in use in the Church since its earliest days — the archaeological evidence (see Dura Europos and the Roman catacombs, for instance) and written evidence (see Eusebius of Caesarea’s “History of the Church,” for instance) is solid. I’m sure Rhology, though, is going to try to assert that these all crept in later than the Apostles — in the second and third centuries — that’s fine, as that’s not the issue right now. Such an objection to the Apostolicity of images is only a tacit admission of the fact that the use of images was already firmly established in the whole Church by the second half of the eighth century, when these councils were held. Hieria departed from the Faith of the Fathers; Nicaea preserved it — that’s why one’s wrong and the other’s right. And the same can be said in the debate between Protestants and Orthodox today.
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St. Polycarp of Smyrna was a disciple of St. John the Apostle and a friend of both Sts. Papias of Hierapolis and Ignatius of Antioch, who were also disciples of the Apostle John. He was martyred by being burned at the stake in about AD 155 and a very interesting firsthand account of his martyrdom survives to us today, which we’ll look at after his letter.
Unfortunately, only one writing of St. Polycarp survives to us today: a letter he addressed to the church in Philippi around AD 110. Let’s look at some quotes:
“For neither am I, nor is any other like unto me, able to follow the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, who when he came among you taught face to face with the men of that day the word which concerneth truth carefully and surely; who also, when he was absent, wrote a letter unto you, into the which if ye look diligently, ye shall be able to be builded up unto the faith given to you.” – Letter to the Philippians 3:2 [emphasis mine]
Read that whole passage carefully, paying special attention the parts I’ve bolded. Notice what Polycarp is saying: that St. Paul came to Philippi and taught the people “face to face,” that is, orally, then, after he had left, wrote them a letter. And then Polycarp tells them that if they read that letter “diligently” they “shall be able to be builded up unto the faith given to you.” Note that: “given to you.” Polycarp is saying exactly what the Orthodox say today about Scripture’s relationship to the Faith: not that it is the sole source, but that it builds us up in that Faith already given to us orally through our teachers.
It is with this letter by Polycarp that we also begin to see Protestant proof-texting of the Fathers in their attempts to make it appear that they believed in Sola Scriptura. I have seen this sentence quoted in support of that position:
“For I am persuaded that ye are well trained in the sacred writings, and nothing is hidden from you.” – Letter to the Philippians 12:1
But is Polycarp really supporting anything like Sola Scriptura here? No, he’s not. Let’s note that he’s not making a logically exclusive connection between the “sacred writings” and “nothing is hidden from you.” He says “and,” not “so.” And he also says nothing about the Scriptures alone.
In fact, his whole point in writing this letter was to attach it as a cover letter to copies of the seven letters written by St. Ignatius which he was sending to the church at Philippi. And here’s what he has to say about Ignatius’ letters:
“The letters of Ignatius which were sent to us by him, and others as many as we had by us, we send unto you, according as ye gave charge; the which are subjoined to this letter; from which ye will be able to gain great advantage. For they comprise faith and endurance and every kind of edification, which pertaineth unto our Lord.” – Letter to the Philippians 13:2
And, no doubt, if he had made this statement about some of the writings contained in Scripture Protestants would be proof-texting this in support of Sola Scriptura as well.
Now, we’ll take a look at a quote from the firsthand account of his martyrdom, which records for us two ancient Christian practices preserved in the Orthodox Church today, the veneration of relics and the commemoration of the saints’ feast days:
“Thus we [the Christians], having afterwards taken up his [Polycarp’s] bones, more valuable than precious stones, laid them where it was suitable. There, so far as is allowed us, when we are gathered together in exultation and joy, the Lord will enable us to celebrate the birthday [actually the death day; their ‘birthday’ into heaven] of the martyrs, both for the memory of those who have contended, and for the exercise and preparation of those to come.” – The Martyrdom of Polycarp, 18, 2-3
|Father||Not Sola Scriptura||Sola Scriptura|
|St. Clement of Rome|
|St. Ignatius of Antioch|
|St. Papias of Hierapolis|
|St. Polycarp of Smyrna|