I wasn’t going to blog today; I don’t have time. Nonetheless, I simply can’t let this pass.
I couldn’t believe it when I read this:
This is what stuck in Alex’s mind, and it led him to make a fateful mistake: He started to read the Fathers of the Church. In a short time it was all over for him. He realized that the earliest Christians were, uh, Catholics! Alex saw the continuity between what the writers of the early centuries professed and what the Christians who saw our Lord professed. There was a straight line connecting them. The sacraments, the papacy, authority, Mary and the saints—the whole works. (Restless Pilgrim)
Mary? The papacy? In the church fathers?
If this blog were talking about 5th and 6th century Christians, I could understand that. After virtually the whole Roman empire became "Christians" in the 4th century, all sorts of idolatry come roaring in. The emperor Julian the Apostate commented that Christians were more into hero worship than the pagans, and that was just A.D. 360 or so.
However, this blog specifically mentioned "the Fathers of the Church, those earliest Christian writers who lived in the first, second, and third centuries."
The Pope Before Nicea
In the first, second, and third centuries, there is dead silence on the matter of the pope because there was no pope. Oops, sorry … the bishop of Alexandria was being called "The Papa"—the pope—by the mid-3rd century.
So what made Alex think there was a pope in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd century fathers?
- Was it Clement of Rome’s use of elder and bishop interchangeably to indicate that there was no individual bishop in Rome in A.D. 96?
- Was it that Ignatius’ letter to Rome is astonishingly silent on the matter of a bishop there, when he praises and extols the bishop of every other church he writes to?
- Was it the 7th Council of Carthage, where "Saint" Cyprian led 82 bishops in rejecting a decision of Stephen, bishop of Rome in A.D. 250?
- Was it the comment made by "Saint" Cyprian at that council that no bishop could set himself up as a bishop over other bishops?
- Was it Irenaeus comment that Rome was a really important church because it was founded by Paul and Peter, but any apostolic church would do for showing that truth was passed down from the apostles to his time (A.D. 185 or so)?
- Was it Firmilian’s letter to "Saint" Cyprian commenting that it was unconscionable for Stephen to set himself up as the successor of Peter? Or was it perhaps Cyprian’s teaching, On the Unity of the Church, which says that every bishop inherited the authority of Peter?
Mary Before the Council of Nicea
Admittedly, I’m a little uninformed on the fathers from the late 3rd century. In the 2nd century, however, Mary is simply ignored. The same with Tertullian and Origen from the early 3rd centuries. There is simply no indication that she was venerated in any way.
I just did a search on Catholic sources. They have one quote from Justin (A.D. 150) and one from Irenaeus (A.D. 185) saying approximately the same thing. Eve, the virgin, fell by disobedience, and Mary, the virgin, corrected this by her obedience.
Recapitulation is found here and there in the fathers, and it’s an inspiring teaching. Adam sinned through a tree; Jesus obeyed through a tree. Adam sinned in a garden; Jesus gave himself to God in a garden. There’s a lot of other such symbology, which is really awesome to read about.
But none of that gives the slightest indication of Mariology in the early church fathers!
Were the Early Church Fathers Catholic?
I have to suppose that if you are Protestant, and you have major objections to the Lord’s Supper as being more than symbolic, you could react and call the early church fathers Catholic. Ignatius calls the bread and wine the "medicine of immortality." Justin says that Christians received the meal as more than mere bread and wine.
Otherwise, I’m at a loss as to how anyone reading the 2nd century fathers could count them Catholic. There’s not a hint of it.
Even infant baptism isn’t mentioned–at least not specifically. It has to be read into a passing comment by Irenaeus about those who are born again, a list that includes infants. On the other hand, Justin—before Irenaeus—says that the apostles taught that baptism was a new birth since we had no choice in our natural birth, being too young to decide for ourselves. Tertullian—after Irenaeus—says that rushing children before they’re young enough to answer for themselves is a bad idea.
Someone needs to say that the early church fathers were not Catholic.
More importantly, someone needs to say that attending a Roman Catholic congregation will not teach you about God’s ways, will not give you a real family, God’s family, that the new covenant promises (though most Protestant churches won’t, either; a new Gospel, which is nothing but the apostles’ old one, is needed), and will not provide the strength you need to continue as self-forsaking disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our call is that those who obey the Gospel of Jesus—that those who hear would forsake their own lives to follow Jesus Christ together—would quit attending clubs with weekly meetings and would join together into one family, dependent upon the Spirit of God as their guide and teacher, and that we could forget about denominations, which are nothing more than fleshly divisions, and forget about the rule of a pompous prelate in a faraway land.