Various quotes from church history

“And so we, having been called through His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified through ourselves or through our own wisdom or understanding or piety or works which we wrought in holiness of heart, but through faith, whereby the Almighty God justified all men that have been from the beginning; to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.” – Clement of Rome (c. 96 AD)

“But permit the prophets to offer thanksgiving as much as they desire.” – The Didache (c. 100 AD)

“O the exceeding great kindness and love of God, He hated us not, neither rejected us, nor bore us malice, but was long-suffering and patient, and in pity for us took upon Himself our sins, and Himself parted with His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy for the lawless, the guileless for the evil, the just for the unjust, the incorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for the mortal. For what else but His righteousness would have covered our sins? In whom was it possible for us lawless and ungodly men to have been justified, save only in the Son of God? O the sweet exchange, O the inscrutable creation, O the unexpected benefits; that the iniquity of many should be concealed in One Righteous Man, and the righteousness of One should justify many that are iniquitous!” – Letter of Mathetes to Diognetus (c. 130 AD)

“For the prophetical gifts remain with us, even to the present time…Now, it is possible to see among us women and men who possess gifts of the Spirit of God.” – Justin Martyr (c. 155 AD)

“In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God, whom also the apostle terms spiritual, they being spiritual because they partake of the Spirit, and not because their flesh has been stripped off and taken away, and because they have become purely spiritual.” – Irenaeus (c.180 AD)

“Now all these signs (of spiritual gifts) are forthcoming from my side without any difficulty, and they agree, too, with the rules, and the dispensations, and the instructions of the Creator; therefore without doubt the Christ, and the Spirit, and the apostle, belong severally to my God.” – Tertullian (c.208 AD)

“The Holy and Inspired Scriptures are sufficient of themselves for the preaching of the Truth.” – Athanasius (c. 296–373 AD)

“I believe that in the end the truth will conquer.” – John Wycliffe (c. 1320 – 1384 AD)

“Outward baptism avails nothing so long as we are not inwardly renewed, regenerated, and baptized of God, with the heavenly fire and the Holy Ghost.” – Menno Simons (1496 –1561 AD)

“Christ bids us to recognise prophets not by miraculous signs but by their fruits.” – Pilgram Marpeck (d. 1556 AD)

My articles published by Premier Christianity

I have had a number of articles published by Premier Christianity. They are available online here:
3 ways Christians living on Mars could view themselves in God’s story
My attempt to answer the question of how Christians living on the planet Mars could see themselves as part of God’s story.
Holy Fire: The biggest miracle you’ve (probably) never heard of
My investigation into the Holy Fire miracle that happens every year on Holy Saturday in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

My friend Tim Bechervaise has also written a lot for Premier Christianity. His articles are available online here:
We’ve learned to be realistic about England’s chances. It’s a good attitude for us to adopt
Why we should welcome Benny Hinn’s stunning admission about the Prosperity Gospel
This church is praising God for its ‘miracle carrots’. But a BBC documentary is casting doubt on the claim
A £10,000 Advent calendar? The meaning of Christmas has been well and truly forgotten
What can we learn from this record breaking, nugget winning US teenager?
This BBC documentary on a Franciscan friary will change the way you shop
Dude Perfect – the YouTube trick-shot stars who love Jesus even more than bottle flipping
Reviewed: The new Christian documentary everyone’s talking about
What Pixar’s Inside Out teaches us about lament
Elon Musk: what the tech genius is teaching the church

 

Scripture and Authority

Protestants who have had any debate with Catholics or Orthodox believers usually end up talking about authority and the role of tradition, after all those are the main reasons for our separation. Catholics and Orthodox believers accept many practices to do with Baptism, the Breaking of Bread, the priesthood and the honouring of the Saints because of tradition.

Let us begin with some logic:

Premise 1: Scripture is the sole infallible rule of faith and practice.
Premise 2: Scripture nowhere lists which books are Scripture.
Conclusion: There is no way of knowing which books are an infallible rule of faith and practice.

Premise 3: Gospels and Letters were written by the genuine Apostles.
Premise 4: Churches planted by the genuine Apostles kept the genuine Apostles writings.
Conclusion: The Gospels and Letters belonging to the genuine Apostles were passed down through the churches planted by the genuine Apostles.

Premise 5: Gospels and Letters were written by false Apostles.
Premise 6: Churches planted by false Apostles kept the false Apostles writings.
Conclusion: The Gospels and Letters belonging to the false Apostles were passed down through the churches planted by the false Apostles.

Premise 7: The Church Fathers of the 4th Century believed in baptismal regeneration, infant baptism, the Breaking of Bread as a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and the concept of an established priesthood.
Premise 8: The Church Fathers of the 4th Century codified the list of 27 books of the New Testament.
Conclusion: The list of 27 books of the New Testament was codified by churchmen who believed in baptismal regeneration, infant baptism, the Breaking of Bread as a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and the concept of an established priesthood.

Premise 9: The Gospels and Letters belonging to the genuine Apostles were passed down through the churches planted by the genuine Apostles. The Gospels and Letters belonging to the false Apostles were passed down through the churches planted by the false Apostles.
Premise 10: The list of 27 books of the New Testament was codified by churchmen who believed in baptismal regeneration, infant baptism, the Breaking of Bread as a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and the concept of an established priesthood.
Conclusion: The genuine apostolic writings are the 27 books of the New Testament that were passed down through the churches planted by the genuine Apostles. Those churches practised baptismal regeneration, infant baptism, the Breaking of Bread as a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and the concept of an established priesthood.

Protestants especially Pentecostals today accept Scripture as their sole infallible rule of faith and practice. They should however be honest in admitting that the Church Fathers who were guided by the Holy Spirit in affirming the true and rejecting the false apostolic writings believed some different things to them. They practised baptismal regeneration, infant baptism, the Breaking of Bread as a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and the concept of an established priesthood. In some forms of Protestantism many of these practices are still accepted especially in certain strands of Anglicanism and Lutheranism.

Pentecostals believe that many if not all of those practices arose within the first three hundred years of the church. All of the oldest churches and denominations in the world practice those same things and as such they must have been very early developments.

Of the books now accepted as the New Testament there were disputes over the acceptance of the Hebrews, James, II Peter, II John, III John, Jude and Revelation. No book in the final list of 27 books was ever declared spurious or heretical, except for Revelation which the Council of Laodicea in 363-364 AD rejected. It is speculated that this rejection was based upon the Montanists use of Revelation.

There were many Gospels and Epistles being passed around in early Christian communities. Many of them were written by pious Christians presenting their own ideas as if they had been written by the apostles. There were other letters linked to Paul such as the Third Epistle to the Corinthians, the Epistle to the Laodiceans and the Acts of Paul and Thecla. There is even an Epistle of the Corinthians to Paul. There were many other gospels: Gospel of the Ebionites, Gospel of the Hebrews, Gospel of the Nazarenes, Gospel of Marcion, Gospel of Mani, Gospel of Apelles, Gospel of Bardesanes, Gospel of Basilides, Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Peter, Gospel of Nicodemus, Gospel of Judas Iscariot, Gospel of Mary Magdalene and the Gospel of Philip.

That is just naming a few! Some books were even listed as Scripture by some Church Fathers: 1 Clement, 2 Clement, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas, and the Didache.

The classic Protestant view has been expressed by R.C. Sproul that the collection of Scripture that we have is a fallible collection of infallible books. He said:

Though Protestants believe that God gave special providential care to ensure that the proper books be included, he did not thereby render the Church itself infallible. Protestants also remind Roman Catholics that the Church did not “create” the Canon. The church recognized, acknowledged, received, and submitted to the canons of Scripture…The church did not create the canon, but merely recognized the books that bore the marks of canonicity, and were therefore authoritative within the Church” (Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, pages 22-23)

Many of the additional beliefs of the oldest churches come some of these extra writings. The name of Mary’s parents for example are from the ‘Protoevangelium of James’. The whole early life of Mary is given in this book. The Assumption of Mary is taken from ‘The Book of Mary’s Repose’. The Church Fathers did not receive these additional books as Scripture but they did read them and view them highly. It is no wonder then that Protestants who only use the 27 books of the New Testament would naturally have different practises than those who place their authority more widely.

Mormons and Christians have different Scriptures and so have different practises in the same way although Catholics and Protestants use them same New Testament books many Catholic traditions are to be found in the books that were never finally recognised as Scripture.

Pentecostal churches are an example of restorationism. Pentecostals seek to restore to the church that which they believe has been lost and remove those things which they believe have been added. Pentecostal churches share beliefs and practices common with other groups within restorationism such as believers baptism and a congregational polity.

Pentecostals acknowledge that by the 4th Century Christians had started to practise baptismal regeneration, infant baptism, the Breaking of Bread as a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and the concept of an established priesthood. We do however think that some of these ideas and practises are developments and so seek to return to the earliest Christian writings (the New Testament) and base our beliefs and practises on the first generation of Christians as revealed in the Scriptures.

The Rapture in the Early Church

It might come as a surprise to many but before the time of Augustine virtually all the Church Fathers who wrote about the end times were all premillennial. Examples include:

Justin Martyr (100-165 AD)
“But I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then he built, adorned, and enlarged, as the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare.” Dialogue With Trypho, chapter 80

Tertullian (c. 155 – c. 240 AD)
“But we do confess that a kingdom is promised to us upon the earth, although before heaven, only in another state of existence; inasmuch as it will be after the resurrection for a thousand years in the divinely-built city of Jerusalem, ‘letdown from heaven,’ which the apostle also calls ‘our mother from above;’ and, while declaring that our citizenship is in heaven, he predicts of it that it is really a city in heaven. This both Ezekiel had knowledge of and the Apostle John beheld.” Against Marcion, book 3 chapter 25.

Some (but by no means all) also show signs of believing in the rapture as a distinct event from the second coming of Christ. Examples include:

Irenaeus (120-202 AD)
“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.’ Matthew 24:21 For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which, when they overcome they are crowned with incorruption.” Against Heresies, Book 5:29

Victorinus of Pettau (died 303 or 304 AD)
“And the heaven withdrew as a scroll that is rolled up.’ For the heaven to be rolled away, that is, that the Church shall be taken away.Commentary on the Apocalypse 6:14
“And I saw another great and wonderful sign, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is completed the indignation of God.’ For the wrath of God always strikes the obstinate people with seven plagues, that is, perfectly, as it is said in Leviticus; and these shall be in the last time, when the Church shall have gone out of the midst. Commentary on the Apocalypse 15:1

Ephraem of Nisibis (306-373)
All the saints and elect of God are gathered together before the tribulation, which is to come, and are taken to the Lord, in order that they may not see at any time the confusion which overwhelms the world because of our sins.” On the Last Times, the Antichrist and the End of the World

Whilst a pre-trib rapture is up for debate we must acknowledge that as a doctrine it is far older than John Nelson Darby.

Further reading:
The Rapture of the Church: A Doctrine of the Early Church or a Recent Development of the Dispensational Movement?
The Rapture in Twenty Centuries of Biblical Interpretation
A Brief History of Early Premillennialism