Tag Archives: Doctrine

The Witness of the Church Fathers With Regard to Catholic Distinctive’s : Part 10 Bishop of Rome

[This portion of the blog post The Witness of the Church Fathers With Regard to Catholic Distinctives is re-posted with permission of Dave Armstrong.  This material is also found in his book: The Church Fathers Were Catholic: Patristic Evidences for Catholicism]

X. The Early Church and the Bishop of Rome

St. Peter in Rome

The final residence of St. Peter in Rome has been questioned, but on inadequate grounds. Babylon, as used in 1 Peter 5:13, is regarded by the early Church and the majority of biblical scholars as a code name (in light of the political situation) for Rome itself, from which this epistle was almost certainly written. Some have also thought that Romans 15:20-22 indicates the presence of another Apostle in Rome before St. Paul wrote to that church.

The Apostolic writing 1 Clement (5), written around 96 A.D. by St. Clement of Rome, implied that St. Peter, like St. Paul, was executed in the Neronian persecution in Rome. St. Ignatius of Antioch, in writing to the Romans around 110 A.D., states, “I do not give you orders like Peter and Paul . . .” (Letter to the Romans, 4,3), and St. Irenaeus, in his Against Heresies (c.199 – 3:1:2, 3:3:1), expressly affirms that these two Apostles founded the Roman church and commenced its apostolic succession.

Finally, the existence and location of the actual tomb of St. Peter and his bones – under the present St. Peter’s cathedral in the Vatican – have been strongly confirmed by archaeological excavation. (253) Continue reading


The Witness of the Church Fathers With Regard to Catholic Distinctive’s : Part 9 Mariology

[This portion of the blog post The Witness of the Church Fathers With Regard to Catholic Distinctives is re-posted with permission of Dave Armstrong.  This material is also found in his book: The Church Fathers Were Catholic: Patristic Evidences for Catholicism]

IX. History of Mariology

In the second century, St. Justin Martyr is already expounding the “New Eve” teaching, which Cardinal Newman regards as a starting-point for much later Marian dogmatic development:

Christ became man by the Virgin so that the disobedience which proceeded from the serpent might be destroyed in the same way it originated. For Eve, being a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the word from the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. The Virgin Mary, however, having received faith and joy, when the angel Gabriel announced to her the good tidings . . . answered: Be it done to me according to thy word. (189)

St. Irenaeus, a little later, takes up the same theme: “What the virgin Eve had tied up by unbelief, this the virgin Mary loosened by faith.” (190) He also views her as the preeminent intercessor for mankind. (191) Continue reading


The Witness of the Church Fathers With Regard to Catholic Distinctive’s : Part 8 Penance

[This portion of the blog post The Witness of the Church Fathers With Regard to Catholic Distinctives is re-posted with permission of Dave Armstrong.  This material is also found in his book: The Church Fathers Were Catholic: Patristic Evidences for Catholicism]

VIII. History of the Doctrine of Penance

The doctrine of penance was indisputably believed and practiced by the early Church, as reputable Protestant Church history reference works admit. (172) Even before the end of the first century, St. Clement of Rome advised his followers to “be subject to the presbyters and . . . accept discipline to penance, bending the knee of the heart.” (173)

In the early second century, St. Ignatius of Antioch expresses the concept of the expiatory offering of himself, as in St. Paul’s teaching (Philippians 2:17, 2 Timothy 4:6): “I am a humble sacrifice for you and I dedicate myself to you Ephesians,” (174) “May I be a ransom on your behalf in every respect, . . .” (175) In the middle of the century, St. Justin Martyr pleads: “Whoever is convinced and believes that what they are taught and told by us is the truth, . . . is instructed to pray and to beseech God in fasting for the remission of their former sins.” (176) Around 190, St. Irenaeus writes of many cases of lapsed Catholics being reconciled to their Church and community after public confession and acts of penance. (177) Continue reading


The Witness of the Church Fathers With Regard to Catholic Distinctive’s : Part 7 Purgatory

[This portion of the blog post The Witness of the Church Fathers With Regard to Catholic Distinctives is re-posted with permission of Dave Armstrong.  This material is also found in his book: The Church Fathers Were Catholic: Patristic Evidences for Catholicism]

VII. History of the Doctrine of Purgatory

In the Catacombs, Christian burial caves which extend for hundreds of miles underneath Rome, and date from the beginning of Christianity, there are numerous examples of inscriptions representing prayers for the dead (which only make sense given some conception of purgatory, however vague), for blessings, peace, and refreshment upon these souls. Among these inscriptions are the following sayings: “Refresh, O God, the soul of . . .,” “Peace to thy soul,” “Thy spirit in peace,” “May you live in the Holy Spirit.” (137)

With regard to ancient Christian liturgies, James Cardinal Gibbons summarizes the evidence:

A Liturgy is the established formulary of public worship, containing the authorized prayers of the Church . . . The principal Liturgies are the Liturgy of St. James the Apostle, who founded the Church of Jerusalem; the Liturgy of St. Mark the Evangelist, founder of the Church of Alexandria, and the Liturgy of St. Peter, who established the Church in Rome. These Liturgies are called after the Apostles who compiled them. There are, besides, the Liturgies of St. Chrysostom and St. Basil, which are chiefly based on the model of that of St. James . . . all these Liturgies, without exception, have prayers for the dead. (138)

In the late 2nd century, in the apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla (28 ff.), Thecla prays: “Thou God of the Heavens, Son of the All-Highest grant to her (to the Mother Tryphaena), according to her wish, that her daughter Falconilla may live in eternity.” (139) In the same period, the epitaph of Abercius, bishop of Hierapolis in central Turkey, reads: “. . . May everyone who is in accord with this and who understands it pray for Abercius . . .” (140) Continue reading


The Witness of the Church Fathers With Regard to Catholic Distinctive’s : Part 6 Communion of Saints

[This portion of the blog post The Witness of the Church Fathers With Regard to Catholic Distinctives is re-posted with permission of Dave Armstrong.  This material is also found in his book: The Church Fathers Were Catholic: Patristic Evidences for Catholicism]

VI. History of the Doctrine of the Communion of Saints

In the Catacombs underneath Rome (which date back to the earliest Christian period), inscriptions are frequently found on tombs which appeal to dead Christians, such as: “Ask for us in thy prayers, for we know thou art with Christ.” Even the eminent Protestant church historian Philip Schaff, who is openly hostile to such practices, admits this. (110)

The oldest testimony in the Fathers for the veneration of saints occurs around 156 in The Martyrdom of Polycarp (17:3):

[Christ] we worship as the Son of God; but the Martyrs we love as disciples and imitators of the Lord; and rightly so, because of their unsurpassable devotion to their own King and Teacher.

In the same work (18:2), it is recounted how the Christians of Smyrna collected the bones of St. Polycarp, “more precious than the richest jewels and more tried than gold.” (111) Continue reading


The Witness of the Church Fathers With Regard to Catholic Distinctive’s : Part 5 Sacrifice of the Mass

[This portion of the blog post The Witness of the Church Fathers With Regard to Catholic Distinctives is re-posted with permission of Dave Armstrong.  This material is also found in his book: The Church Fathers Were Catholic: Patristic Evidences for Catholicism]

V. History of the Doctrine of the Sacrifice of the Mass

From the earliest times, Christians freely applied the Old Testament terminology of sacrifice and gift to their Eucharistically-centered gatherings, and from the beginning, this language was established in the ecclesiastically-sanctioned liturgies.

St. Clement of Rome, writing around 80 A.D., refers to those in the priesthood “who blamelessly and holily have offered its Sacrifices.” (90) The Didache, an apostolic writing which has been dated as early as 60 to 80 A.D., or, in the most critical estimates, not much later than 150, cites Malachi 1:11,14 and instructs Christians to “gather together, break bread and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions so that your sacrifice may be pure.” (91)

In the second century, St. Justin Martyr, commenting on the same passage, refers to “the sacrifices offered to Him in every place by us, the gentiles, that is, of the Bread of the Eucharist.” (92) Likewise, St. Irenaeus believed that “He [Jesus] taught the new sacrifice of the new covenant, of which Malachias . . . had signified beforehand,” (93) and says, “There are sacrifices now, sacrifices in the Church.” (94) Continue reading


The Witness of the Church Fathers With Regard to Catholic Distinctive’s : Part 4 Eucharist

[This portion of the blog post The Witness of the Church Fathers With Regard to Catholic Distinctives is re-posted with permission of Dave Armstrong.  This material is also found in his book: The Church Fathers Were Catholic: Patristic Evidences for Catholicism]

IV. History of the Doctrine of the Eucharist

In the early second century (before 110 A.D.), St. Ignatius of Antioch held that “the Eucharist is the Flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ.” (61) In the middle of the same century, St. Justin Martyr distinguishes the Eucharist from “common” bread and drink and calls it “both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.” (62) A little later, St. Irenaeus writes, “The bread over which thanks have been given is the Body of (the) Lord, and the cup His Blood.” (63)

In the third century, Tertullian says that Jesus at the Last Supper took bread “and made it into His body by saying: ‘This is My body.'” (64) Origen speaks of “receiving the Body of the Lord” and taking care “lest a particle of it fall.” (65) St. Cyprian believed that “Christ is our bread, we who touch His Body.” (66) Also, already in this period, ancient Christian liturgies, inscriptions and art (both eastern and western) bear plain witness to the Real Presence and even (in some fashion) transubstantiation. Continue reading


The Witness of the Church Fathers With Regard to Catholic Distinctive’s : Part 3 Development of Doctrine

[This portion of the blog post The Witness of the Church Fathers With Regard to Catholic Distinctives is re-posted with permission of Dave Armstrong.  This material is also found in his book: The Church Fathers Were Catholic: Patristic Evidences for Catholicism]

III. History of the Idea of Development of Doctrine

In the late second century, St. Irenaeus speaks of Christian doctrine as “everywhere the same.” Yet he goes on to assert that:

. . . constantly it has its youth renewed by the Spirit of God, as if it were some precious deposit in an excellent vessel; and it causes the vessel containing it also to be rejuvenated.” (52)

Tertullian, writing c.206, states that “the grace of God works and perfects up to the end.” (53)

St. Vincent of Lerins, writing around 434, gave the classic exposition found in the Church Fathers:

In the Catholic Church herself every care must be taken that we may hold fast to that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all. For this is, then truly and properly Catholic . . . (54)Will there, then, be no progress of religion in the Church of Christ? Certainly there is, and the greatest . . . But it is truly progress and not a change of faith. What is meant by progress is that something is brought to an advancement within itself; by change, something is transformed from one thing into another. It is necessary, therefore, that understanding, knowledge and wisdom grow and advance strongly and mightily . . . and this must take place precisely within its own kind, that is, in the same teaching, in the same meaning, and in the same opinion. The progress of religion in souls is like the growth of bodies, which, in the course of years, evolve and develop, but still remain what they were . . . Although in the course of time something evolved from those first seeds and has now expanded under careful cultivation, nothing of the characteristics of the seeds is changed. Granted that appearance, beauty and distinction has been added, still, the same nature of each kind remains. (55) Continue reading


The Witness of the Church Fathers With Regard to Catholic Distinctive’s : Part 2 Justification

[This portion of the blog post The Witness of the Church Fathers With Regard to Catholic Distinctives is re-posted with permission of Dave Armstrong.  This material is also found in his book: The Church Fathers Were Catholic: Patristic Evidences for Catholicism]

II. History of the Doctrine of Justification

No theologian or Christian figure of any note believed in forensic, imputed justification until Luther and Calvin came onto the scene of Church history in the 16th century. It is simply implausible and incredible (and unbiblical: Matthew 16:18, John 14:26) to think that a theological concept considered so absolutely crucial by Protestants could have been lost immediately after the Apostles and for fifteen centuries thereafter. We have seen how Protestant notions of justification, absolute assurance of a salvation which can’t be lost, eradication of free will, double predestination, and so forth, are unbiblical. Now we shall establish that the unbroken Tradition of Catholic Christianity up until Luther’s time also bears witness to the above outlined view of soteriology. Continue reading


The Witness of the Church Fathers With Regard to Catholic Distinctive’s : Part 1 Tradition and Scripture

[This portion of the blog post The Witness of the Church Fathers With Regard to Catholic Distinctives is re-posted with permission of Dave Armstrong.  This material is also found in his book: The Church Fathers Were Catholic: Patristic Evidences for Catholicism]

I. History of the Doctrines of Tradition and Scripture

Many prominent Protestant scholars and historians agree that, for the early Church, Scripture and Tradition freely coexisted and were not in the least mutually exclusive. (0) While the early Church Fathers constantly assert the supreme authority of the Bible, they do not oppose the Scriptures to the Church, which had for them a necessary practical priority. In this way they are much nearer in spirit to the continuous Catholic view than to the classic Protestant outlook. Protestant polemicists tend to impose upon the early Church categories of thought which have only been prevalent from the 16th century to the present time. This is a common error, since everyone has their preconceived notions which they would like to see substantiated. Continue reading