Archive for the ‘David King’ Category

David King – Justification and The Auburn Avenue Controversy

November 4, 2014

I know that my friend, David King, would probably prefer for me not to post this, but since it has already been posted by Alpha & Omega Ministries, I wanted to present it for the listeners’ edification:


Chrysostom and Vatican I

December 23, 2011

Back in 2007, James White posted the following quotation from John Chrysostom:

Having said to Peter, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonas, and of having promised to lay the foundation of the Church upon his confession; not long after He says, Get thee behind me, Satan. And elsewhere he said, Upon this rock. He did not say upon Peter for it is not upon the man, but upon his own faith that the church is built. And what is this faith? You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. (In pentecosten 52.806.75 – 52.807.1)


A blogger interested in the Roman communion, going by the handle “The Idler” has posted a response to this quotation.

The Idler writes: “It is a difficult quote for a convert investigating the Catholic Church’s view of the papacy to digest, as it seems upon first glance to outright deny the [Roman] Catholic understanding of Matthew 16:18-19.” (bracketed insertion mine)

It’s not just on first glance.  The quotation specifically denies “upon Peter” as the meaning, but instead insists that the passage refers to his faith.  Vatican I insists that Matthew 16:18 be understood to refer to Peter himself.

The Idler continues: “If we examine what else St. John Chrysostom says in his writings and homilies, we can tell that he does not agree with James White outside of that select passage.”

Before we continue, it’s important to note that there are not just two options “James White” and “Rome.”  Certainly Chrysostom didn’t see it that way (neither James White nor modern Rome was around in his day).  Thus, it is conceivably possible for Chrysostom both to disagree with James White and modern Rome.

The Idler then provides selections from Chrysostom’s Homily 52 on Matthew.  In that homily Chrysostom uses the following flowery description of Peter: “What then saith the mouth of the apostles, Peter, the ever fervent, the leader of the apostolic choir? When all are asked, he answers.”

He goes on to say, later in the homily:

Seest thou how He, His own self, leads Peter on to high thoughts of Him, and reveals Himself, and implies that He is Son of God by these two promises? For those things which are peculiar to God alone, (both to absolve sins, and to make the church incapable of overthrow in such assailing waves, and to exhibit a man that is a fisher more solid than any rock, while all the world is at war with him), these He promises Himself to give; as the Father, speaking to Jeremiah, said, He would make him as “a brazen pillar, and as a wall;” but him to one nation only, this man in every part of the world.
I would fain inquire then of those who desire to lessen the dignity of the Son, which manner of gifts were greater, those which the Father gave to Peter, or those which the Son gave him? For the Father gave to Peter the revelation of the Son; but the Son gave him to sow that of the Father and that of Himself in every part of the world; and to a mortal man He entrusted the authority over all things in Heaven, giving him the keys; who extended the church to every part of the world, and declared it to be stronger than heaven. “For heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away.” How then is He less, who hath given such gifts, hath effected such things?

(Chrysostom, Homily 52 on Matthew)

The Idler argues:

It is important to note that surrounding the above words both before and after, Chrysostom makes a reference to the Arians, a heretical movement that denied the divinity of Christ, referring to them as “those who desire to lessen the dignity of the Son”, and asks them “how then is He less, who has given such gifts, has effected such things?”.  Therefore, it is no surprise in my mind that Chrysostom speaks of St. Peter’s faith being the rock upon which the Church is built.  Simply put, he is showing that it is the faith in Christ as the Son of God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, that is of utmost import, and this profession of faith is why Christ placed St. Peter in the position of authority that he did.  In effect, he is countering the Arians with these passages.

There is nothing especially objectionable about this comment from the Idler.

The Idler then continues:

But see how he does not place the idea of the primacy of St. Peter aside, but rather calls him “the mouth of the apostles”, “the leader of the apostlic choir”, the leader of them all, Peter”, and “makes him a shepherd” that is to guide “every part of the world”.  Further on, we see Chrysostom say, “For the Father gave to Peter the revelation of the Son; but the Son gave him to sow that of the Father and that of Himself in every part of the world.

Of course, none of this contradicts the point that Chrysostom denies that Peter is the rock of Matthew 16.  It simply affirms that Peter is spokesman for the apostles in this instance, and someone who is to bring the gospel to the whole world.

In effect, Chrysostom is still holding St. Peter as the head of the apostles, but it is confession of faith that makes him this head.

He doesn’t say “head of the apostles.”  But even if he had said that (he does call him the “leader” after all), he can still say that without adopting Rome’s view of Matthew 16:18, and certainly without adopting the papacy as a whole.  Certainly, prior to Paul’s calling, Peter is one of the most prominent apostles.

Moreover, Chrysostom certainly doesn’t suggest that Peter’s confession of faith makes him the head.  We could discuss this in more detail, but Peter’s confession makes him an example and representative of all Christians who make that same confession of faith.  But such a role is not the papacy.

Now, maybe I am blind but I simply do not see Chrysostom as somehow against the [Roman] Catholic notion of the primacy of St. Peter, his being the rock by virtue of his confession, and the like.  Obviously, Protestants will not agree with this, nor will the Eastern Orthodox.  But I cannot help but coming to the conclusion that I do. 

When Chrysostom says “He did not say upon Peter” he’s denying Rome’s current view of Matthew 16:18.  That does not mean that Chrysostom is adopting some other view in which he denies absolutely everything modern Rome says about Peter.  

At the same time the Idler should also be careful about getting too exuberant.  Even if Chrysostom thought that Peter was the chief apostle, or the leader of the apostles, that does not mean, imply, or suggest that Chrysostom thought that there was a perpetual office of “head of the church” to be filled by a mere man, or that the person filling such an office was the bishop of Rome.

As my friend, Pastor David King, wrote on a previous occasion:

Chrysostom was ordained by a bishop who was out of communion with Rome. In fact, for the better part of his ministerial life, Chrysostom was, technically speaking, out of communion with Rome. Therefore, he was ordained (as most Roman Catholics would argue if consistent) by someone outside the communion of Rome, also claiming to be part of the Catholic Church. Chrysostom was baptized (AD 369) and ordained to the diaconate (AD 380) by Meletius who at the time was out of communion with Rome, and Chrysostom was ordained to the priesthood (AD 386) by Flavian, whom Rome refused to recognize as bishop, and had been de facto excommunicated some years before the ordination of Chrysostom. According to the standard of Leo XIII’s Satis Cognitum, both Meletius and Flavian were “outside the edifice,” “separated from the fold,” and “exiled from the Kingdom” inasmuch as they were not in communion with the Roman pontiff, who acknowledged only Paulinus as the rightful occupant of the Antiochene see.

By receiving baptism and ordination at their hands, Chrysostom was declaring that he recognized them as the proper bishops in succession from and under the jurisdiction of the see of Antioch. While preaching at his tomb, Chrysostom referenced Meletius as a saint, and said of Flavian that he was not only the successor of Peter, but also the rightful heir of Peter to the see of Antioch. Chrysostom could not have been clearer in his repudiation of Paulinus whom Rome had declared to be the bishop of Antioch. (See his Homily II in Migne PG 52:86).

In similar fashion, when contrary to the canons Paulinus consecrated Evagrius to be his successor upon his death in AD 389, Chrysostom actively declined to recognize him as such, and emphatically warned the people of Antioch against joining the body which recognized Evagrius as bishop.

Moreover, Chrysostom makes reference to this in a sermon delivered in AD 395…


I speak not of you that are present, but of those who are deserting from us. The act is adultery. And if ye bear not to hear these things of them, neither should ye of us. There must be breach of the law either on the one side or the other. If then thou hast these suspicions concerning me, I am ready to retire from my office, and resign it to whomsoever ye may choose. Only let the Church be one. But if I have been lawfully made and consecrated, entreat those who have contrary to the law mounted the episcopal throne to resign it.

NPNF1: Vol. XIII, Homilies on Ephesians, Homily 11, next to the last paragraph.

It wasn’t until after his consecration in AD 398 to the see of Constantinople by Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, that Chrysostom entered into communion with Rome.

Now, most Roman Catholic apologists are not familiar with this information regarding the circumstances of Chrysostom’s baptism and ordinations, but his “orders” as such are denied as proper according to the requirements of Leo XIII’s Satis Cognitum. I think this alone proves that there were in Chrysostom’s day other groups claiming to be every bit as much “Catholic,” but nonetheless out of communion with Rome.

It also serves to show that Chrysostom’s positive comments about Peter are not evidence of papalism in his views.


Justification as Declaration of Righteousness

September 30, 2011

Here are some thoughts on Justification from the early church father John Chrysostom, courtesy of the great Reformer Thomas Cranmer and my friend (and fellow heir to the legacy of Chrysostom and Cranmer) David King:

Chrysostom (349-407): What does he mean when he says: “I have declared your justice?” He did not simply say: “I have given,” but “I have declared.” What does this mean? That he has justified our race not by right actions, not by toils, not by barter and exchange, but by grace alone. Paul, too, made this clear when he said: “But now the justice of God has been made manifest independently of the Law.” But the justice of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ and not through any labor and suffering.

Greek text: Τί ποτέ ἐστιν, Εὐηγγελισάμην δικαιοσύνην; Οὐκ εἶπεν ἁπλῶς, Ἔδωκα, ἀλλ’, Εὐηγγελισάμην. Τί δήποτε; Ὅτι οὐκ ἀπὸ κατορθωμάτων, οὐδὲ πόνων, οὐδὲ ἀμοιβῆς, ἀλλʼ ἀπὸ χάριτος μόνης τὸ γένος ἐδικαίωσε τὸ ἡμέτερον. Ὅπερ οὖν καὶ ὁ Παῦλος δηλῶν ἔλεγε· Νυνὶ δὲ χωρὶς νόμου δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ πεφανέρωται· δικαιοσύνη δὲ Θεοῦ διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, οὐ διὰ καμάτου τινὸς καὶ πόνου.

Adversus Judaeos, VII, §3, PG 48:919; translation in Fathers of the Church, Vol. 68, Discourses Against Judaizing Christians, Disc. 7.3.2 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1979), pp. 186-187.

Dividing Line Program Tomorrow – December 9, 2010

December 8, 2010

Tomorrow, December 9, 2010, I will be guest hosting the Dividing Line webcast. Pastor David King, author of Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of our Faith will be my guest. Lord willing, we will be discussing topics related to Roman Catholicism, particularly some recent blog posts from the Called to [Roman] Communion blog. We will also be taking calls if anyone calls in. We would especially welcome calls from those presently in the Roman communion that have questions about Reformed theology.


Formal Sufficiency of Scripture: The Testimony of Scripture (Guest Series)

October 29, 2010
Formal Sufficiency of Scripture
Stated and Examined from Scripture and the Fathers, with scholarly confirmation regarding the Fathers’ views.

In the introduction (link), we began with some of the testimony of Scripture regarding its own sufficiency. In this section, although our Roman challenger has not requested it, we will discuss what the Bible has to say about its own sufficiency. Formal sufficiency, as understood by the Reformed churches and set forth in the introduction, is an attribute of Holy Scripture that it predicates of itself:

Deuteronomy 30:11 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off.

2 Corinthians 1:13 For we write none other things unto you, than what ye read or acknowledge; and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end;

God’s word is written for the investigation of all:

John 5:39 (NKJV) “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.”

John 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

God’s inscripturated word is written for the explicit purpose of communicating faith, endurance, hope, consolation, teaching, and to keep us from deception, and that we may persevere…

John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

2 Timothy 3:16-17
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

1 John 2:26 These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.

1 John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

And we are encouraged to pray to God to lead us to the truth and light:

Psalm 25:5 Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.

Psalm 43:3 O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.

That light is God’s word:

Psalm 19:8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.

Psalm 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Psalm 119:130 The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.

Proverbs 6:23 For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:

Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

2 Peter 1:19-21
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

And the Spirit illuminates us not only by shining the light of His Word on us, but also by opening our eyes to see it:

Psalm 119:18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

Ephesians 1:15-18
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints …

Acts 26:18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

Isaiah 42:7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

Isaiah 35:5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.

Psalm 146:8 The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous:

Isaiah 29:18 And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.

As hinted at in those last few verses, this inward illumination of the Holy Spirit is necessary, because men have become blind:

2 Corinthians 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

2 Corinthians 3:14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.

Romans 11:7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded

John 12:40 He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

From these passages, we can see that the purpose of Scripture is that it be read and understood, and we can see that although a full and saving understanding of Scriptures may elude fallen men who wander about in blindness, with the Spirit’s healing of that blindness, the light of Scripture can illuminate men, making wise unto salvation even those who are intellectually unsophisticated. We also see that men are exhorted and encouraged to resort to the Scriptures to judge teachers.

(to be continued)

Formal Sufficiency of Scripture: Introduction (Guest Series)

October 28, 2010
Formal Sufficiency of Scripture
Stated and Examined from Scripture and the Fathers, with scholarly confirmation regarding the Fathers’ views.

The Scriptures are the Word of God. Their purpose, among other things, is to bring people who read them to a saving knowledge of God – to bring them to faith in God and repentance from sin.

John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

They accomplish this purpose, as it is written:

Isaiah 55:11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

Scripture, the fathers, and the Reformers all agree that the Scriptures are able to thoroughly furnish the man of God:

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Indeed, the Scriptures themselves illuminate the reader:

Psalm 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

And the Scriptures are capable of educating even those who lack mental sophistication:

Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

This sufficiency of Scripture is hard to deny. Nevertheless, those who follow Rome sometimes try to affirm what they term “material sufficiency,” while denying what they call “formal sufficiency.”

These terms, as such, are not terms that are especially ancient. For example, one does not find a theologian like Thornwell, Dabney, or even Hodge talking about the “formal sufficiency of Scripture.” That’s just not the way they expressed themselves.

Whether the exact expression “formal sufficiency” is an invention of Roman theologians is hard to say for sure. Nevertheless, one influential theologian that brought in the term to distinguish the Roman position from the reformed position was the Roman cardinal Yves Congar.

Congar explained what he meant this way:

Personally, I find no difficulty, and not a little joy, in discovering there the positive affirmation that Scripture contains, at least in the form of suggestion or principle, the entire treasury of truths which it is necessary to believe in order to be saved (provided there is an adequate presentation of the Gospel message).

To say that, in the sense in which the Fathers and the medieval theologians held it, does not in any way amount to a profession of the principle of Scriptura sola demanded by the Reformers. They were reacting against a sovereignty of the Church’s power, more precisely of the papal power, over the word of God contained in Scripture, a sovereignty which they considered exorbitant, as indeed it would have been if in fact it had corresponded to the image they had formulated of it. It was with the intention of restoring the sovereignty of God alone that they presented that of Scripture as exclusive. In order to do this effectively, they affirmed the sufficiency of this Scripture, not uniquely in a material sense, that is to say as the object quod creditur, but in a formal sense, that is to say as the means whereby we know, the constitutive light by which we understand, the principle of the rule of faith, in short, using scholastic terminology, as the object quo. Not only was the whole of faith contained in Scripture, but the Christian, benefiting from the interior witness of the Holy Spirit, could find it there.

Yves M.-J. Congar, Tradition and Traditions: An Historical and a Theological Essay (London: Burns & Oats, 1966), pp. 116-117.(bold emphasis added).

In another place Congar provides a similar definition:

The doctrine that has just been presented is that of all the Fathers of the Catholic tradition, as much in the East as the West. It denied in the Protestant theory of the sufficiency of Scripture, expounded systematically in the Protestant Orthodoxy of the beginning of the seventeenth century. According to this theory, Scripture possesses by itself and in itself, that is, without needing the addition of any other principle, the qualities of a real sacrament of salvation, or rather of saving faith. It possesses authority, making it recognized and developing it unaided; it possesses efficacy, being the principle—and for some the sole—means of Grace; it contains all that is necessary for the Christian; it is clear, explaining itself without help and needing nothing besides itself to make known God’s thoughts.

Yves Congar, The Meaning of Tradition (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1964), pp. 87-88. (bold emphasis added)

While we may disagree with Congar’s view of the fathers, and while we may feel that some further distinctions and explanations are necessary to help explain the difference between the Reformed and Roman positions, Congar’s position provides a helpful illustration of the contemporary Roman position – and its view of the Reformed position.

Yves Congar was a cardinal, but Sean Patrick is a layman of the same church. Sean recently challenged Pastor King to discuss the fathers and sola scriptura, particularly the issue of whether any church fathers held to the formal sufficiency of Scripture.

Sean worded his challenge this way:

Not one father taught the formal sufficiency of scripture. Full stop. If you disagree here is your chance. Tell me which fathers taught the formal sufficiency of scripture. … By the way, can you name one church history scholar . . . who conclude[s] that any father taught that scripture was formally sufficient?


Subsequently, while waiting for this challenge to be met, Sean posted a blog article of his own. In his blog article, Sean wrote:

… for scripture to be formally sufficient, it would not only have to contain all that is needed for salvation, but it would have to be so clear that it does not need any outside information to interpret it (e.g. the church is not needed to interpret scripture.)


You may notice that in the comments above, we had observed that Cardinal Congar’s view might need a little refinement – Sean’s needs a lot of careful qualification. It’s not so much that he’s headed in the completely wrong direction, but his statement “the church is not needed to interpret scripture” is sufficiently vague that it can be easily misunderstood.

There is always a concern in this sort of challenge that the Roman advocate will define the meaning of material and formal sufficiency from his own perspective, and in doing so will essentially be asking us to advocate something we don’t actually advocate. Now, to be sure, scholars can and do often differ, but the challenge is simply to name one father and one church history scholar. Nevertheless, he may move the target of “one” by either dismissing all of the ensuing witnesses, and/or insisting on more (i.e., others) in addition to these which we shall list.

In the same comment box with the challenge Sean also provided his definition:

Formal Sufficiency and Material Sufficiency:

For Scripture to be materially sufficient, it would have to contain or imply all that is needed for salvation. For it to be formally sufficient, it would not only have to contain all of this data, but it would have to be so clear that it does not need any outside information to interpret it.

Now please tell me which fathers taught that scripture was formally sufficient.


Of course, we do not let others decide for us what we mean when we affirm that Holy Scripture is formally sufficient. It is important to understand what the Reformed mean and thus believe with respect to the formal sufficiency of Holy Scripture. We define formal sufficiency in the language of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

6. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

7. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

9. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

(From Chapter 1 of the WCF)

Thus, we differ from Sean’s assertion regarding the meaning of formal sufficiency, because he fails to include in his definition the necessity of the work of the Spirit of God, apart from which no man is ever converted to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, which is presupposed by all members of the early church *who* affirm the principle of the perspicuity of Holy Scripture with respect to those things necessary for the salvation of men. We should note, however, that Congar – at least sometimes – is more careful.

The formal sufficiency of Holy Scripture, as set forth by the Westminster Confession (although the Westminster confession does not use the expression “formal sufficiency”), defines it in the context of the need for “the inward illumination of the Spirit of God,” that “all things necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word,” that “a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them, and that “the infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself. The 17th century Reformed theologian, Francis Turretin, explains further how the concept of formal sufficiency (the doctrine of Scripture’s perspicuity) is to be understood…

Francis Turretin (1623-87):

As to the state of the question, observe: (1) The question does not concern the perspicuity or the obscurity of the subject or of persons. For we do not deny that the Scriptures are obscure to unbelievers and the unrenewed, to whom Paul says his gospel is hid (2 Cor. 4:3). Also we hold that the Spirit of illumination is necessary to make them intelligible to believers. Rather the question concerns the obscurity or perspicuity of the object or of the Scriptures (i.e., whether they are so obscure that the believer cannot apprehend them for salvation without the authority and judgment of the church—which we deny).

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1992), 2.XVII.ii, p. 143.

Francis Turretin (1623-87):

The question is not whether things essential to salvation are everywhere in the Scriptures perspicuously revealed. We acknowledge that there are some things hard to be understood (δυσνόητα) and intended by God to exercise our attention and mental powers. The question is whether things essential to salvation are anywhere revealed, at least so that the believer can by close meditation ascertain their truth (because nothing can be drawn out of the more obscure passages which may not be found elsewhere in the plainest terms).

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1992), 2.XVII.v, p. 144.

Francis Turretin (1623-87):

The question does not concern the perspicuity which does not exclude the means necessary for interpretation (i.e., the internal light of the Spirit, attention of mind, the voice and ministry of the church, sermons and commentaries, prayer and watchfulness). For we hold these means not only to be useful, but also necessary ordinarily. We only wish to proscribe the darkness which would prevent the people from reading the Scriptures as hurtful and perilous and compel them to have recourse to tradition when they might rest in the Scriptures alone.

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1992),, p. 144.

Francis Turretin (1623-87):

The question then comes to this—whether the Scriptures are so plain in things essential to salvation (not as to the things delivered, but as to the mode of delivery; not as to the subject, but the object) that without the external aid of tradition or the infallible judgment of the church, they may be read and understood profitably by believers. The papists deny this; we affirm it.

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1992), 2.XVII.vii, p. 144.

Bauckham offers the following summary.

Richard Bauckham:

The notion of the formal sufficiency of Scripture does not, of course, mean that Scripture requires no interpretation at all—a notion which anti-Protestant writers have frequently and easily refuted, thus missing the real point—but that it requires no normative interpretation. Protestant interpretation of Scripture employed all the ordinary means of interpreting a text, especially the tools which humanist scholarship had developed for interpreting ancient texts, and respected the views of theologians and exegetes of the past as useful, but not normative, guides to understanding Scripture. The real difference between the classic Protestant and the classic Roman Catholic views lies in the Protestant rejection of the view that tradition, expressed in the teaching of the magisterium, possesses a binding authority against which there can be no appeal to Scripture. Behind this difference lies, on the one hand, the Reformation’s originating experience of a rediscovery of the Gospel in Scripture apart from and in contradiction to the teaching of the contemporary church, and, on the other hand, the Roman Catholic trust in God’s promise to maintain his church in the truth.

See Richard Bauckham’s chapter, “Tradition In Relation To Scripture and Reason,” in Benjamin Drewery and Richard J. Bauckham, eds., Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, A Study in the Criteria of Christian Doctrine, Essays in Honour of Richard P. C. Hanson (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1988), p. 123.

Or as Bavinck has expressed it…

Herman Bavinck (1854-1921):

The doctrine of the perspicuity of Holy Scripture has frequently been misunderstood and misrepresented, both by Protestants and Catholics. It does not mean that the matters and subjects with which Scripture deals are not mysteries that far exceed the reach of the human intellect. Nor does it assert that Scripture is clear in all its parts, so that no scientific exegesis is needed, or that, also in its doctrine of salvation, Scripture is plain and clear to every person without distinction. It means only that the truth, the knowledge of which is necessary to everyone for salvation, though not spelled out with equal clarity on every page of Scripture, is nevertheless presented throughout all of Scripture in such simple and intelligible form that a person concerned about the salvation of his or her soul can easily, by personal reading and study, learn to know that truth from Scripture without the assistance and guidance of the church and the priest. The way of salvation, not as it concerns the matter itself but as it concerns the mode of transmission, has been clearly set down there for the reader desirous of salvation. While that reader may not understand the “how” (πῶς) of it, the “that” (ὅτι) is clear.

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 1, Prolegomena (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), p. 477.

We may also add that the Westminster Confession of Faith is not the only Reformed confession to make this kind of claim. The Belgic Confession states:

Article 5: The Authority of Scripture

We receive all these books and these only as holy and canonical, for the regulating, founding, and establishing of our faith.

And we believe without a doubt all things contained in them– not so much because the church receives and approves them as such but above all because the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that they are from God, and also because they prove themselves to be from God.

For even the blind themselves are able to see that the things predicted in them do happen.

Article 7: The Sufficiency of Scripture

We believe that this Holy Scripture contains the will of God completely and that everything one must believe to be saved is sufficiently taught in it. For since the entire manner of service which God requires of us is described in it at great length, no one– even an apostle or an angel from heaven, as Paul says– ought to teach other than what the Holy Scriptures have already taught us. For since it is forbidden to add to or subtract from the Word of God, this plainly demonstrates that the teaching is perfect and complete in all respects.

Therefore we must not consider human writings– no matter how holy their authors may have been– equal to the divine writings; nor may we put custom, nor the majority, nor age, nor the passage of time or persons, nor councils, decrees, or official decisions above the truth of God, for truth is above everything else.

For all human beings are liars by nature and more vain than vanity itself.

Therefore we reject with all our hearts everything that does not agree with this infallible rule, as we are taught to do by the apostles when they say, “Test the spirits to see if they are of God,” and also, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house.”

Article 30: The Government of the Church

We believe that this true church ought to be governed according to the spiritual order that our Lord has taught us in his Word. There should be ministers or pastors to preach the Word of God and administer the sacraments. There should also be elders and deacons, along with the pastors, to make up the council of the church.

By this means true religion is preserved; true doctrine is able to take its course; and evil men are corrected spiritually and held in check, so that also the poor and all the afflicted may be helped and comforted according to their need.

By this means everything will be done well and in good order in the church, when such persons are elected who are faithful and are chosen according to the rule that Paul gave to Timothy.

Perhaps the great theologian John Owen sums it up well:

Protestants suppose the Scripture to be given forth by God, to be unto the church a perfect rule of that faith and obedience, which he requires at the hands of the sons of men. They suppose that it is such a revelation of his mind or will, as is intelligible unto all them that are concerned to know it, if they use the means by him appointed to come unto a right understanding of it. They suppose that what is not taught therein, or not taught so clearly, as that men who humbly and heartily seek unto him, may know his mind therein, as to what he requireth of them, cannot possibly be the necessary and indispensable duty of any one to perform. They suppose that it is the duty of every man to search the Scriptures with all diligence, by the help and assistance of the means that God hath appointed in his church, to come to the knowledge of his mind and will in all things concerning their faith and obedience, and firmly to believe and adhere unto what they find revealed by him. And they moreover suppose that those who deny any of these suppositions, are therein, and so far as they do so, injurious to the grace, wisdom, love, and care of God towards his church, to the honour and perfection of the Scripture, the comfort and establishment of the souls of men, leaving them no assured principles to build their faith and salvation upon.

Now from these suppositions, I hope you see that it will unavoidably follow, that the Scripture is able every way to effect that, which you deny unto it a sufficiency for. For where, I pray you, lies its defect? I am afraid, from the next part of your question, ‘Has it ever done it?’ that you run upon a great mistake. The defect that follows the failings and miscarriages of men, you would have imputed unto the want of sufficiency in the Scripture. But we cannot allow you herein.

The Scripture in its place, and in that kind of cause which it is, is as sufficient to settle men, all men, in the truth, as the sun is to give light to all men to see by: but the sun that giveth light doth not give eyes also. The Scripture doth its work, as a moral rule, which men are not necessitated or compelled to attend unto or follow. And if through their neglect of it, or not attendance unto it, or disability to discern the mind and will of God in it, whether proceeding from their natural impotency and blindness in their lapsed condition, or some evil habit of mind contracted by their giving admission unto corrupt prejudices and traditional principles, the work be not effected; this is no impeachment of the Scripture’s sufficiency, but a manifestation of their weakness and folly.

Besides, all that unity in faith that hath been at any time, or is in the world, according to the mind of God, every decision that hath been made at any time of any difference in or about religion in a right way and order, hath been by the Scripture, which God hath sanctified unto those ends and purposes. And it is impossible that the miscarriages or defects of men can reflect the least blame upon it, or make it esteemed insufficient for the end now inquired after. The pursuit then of your inquiry which now you insist upon, is in part vain, in part already answered.

In vain it is that you inquire ‘whether the written word can settle any man in a way that neither himself, nor present adherents, nor future generations shall question:’ for our inquiry is not after what may be, or what shall be, but what ought to be. It is able to settle a man in a way, that none ought to question unto the world’s end: so it settled the first Christians. But to secure is that none shall ever question the way whereinto it leads us; that it is not designed for, nor is it either needful or possible that it should be so: the oral preaching of the Son of God, and of his apostles, did not so secure them whom they taught.

The way that they professed, was everywhere questioned, contradicted, spoken against, and many, after the profession of it, again renounced it: and I wonder what feat you have to settle any one in a way that shall never be questioned. The authority of your pope and church will not do it: themselves are things as highly questioned and disputed about, as any thing that was ever named with reference unto religion.

If you shall say, But yet they ought not to be so questioned, and it is the fault of men that they are so: you may well spare me the labour of answering your question, seeing you have done it yourself.

And whereas you add, ‘or with as much probability dissent from it either totally or in part, as himself first set it,’ when the very preceding words do not speak of a man’s own setting, but of the Scriptures settling, the man only embracing that what settleth and determineth. It is answered already; that what is so settled by the Scripture, and received as settled, cannot justly be questioned by any.

And you insinuate a most irrational supposition, on which your assertion is built, namely, that error may have as much probability as truth. For I suppose you will grant, that what is settled by the Scripture is true, and therefore that which dissents from it must needs be an error; which, that it may be as probable indeed as truth (for we speak not of appearances, which have all their strength from our weaknesses), is a new notion, which may well be added to “your many other of the like rarity and evidence.

But, why is not the Scripture able to settle men in unquestionable truth? When the people of old doubted about the ways of God wherein they ought to walk, himself sends them to the law and to the testimony for their instruction and settlement; Isa. viii. 20. And we think the council of him, who cannot deceive nor be deceived, is to be hearkened unto, as well as his command to be obeyed. Our Saviour assures us, that if men will not hear Moses and the prophets, and take direction from them for those ways wherein they may please God, they will not do whatsoever they pretend from any other means, which rather approve of; Lukexvi. 29.31.

Yea, and when the great fundamental of Christian religion, concerning the person of the Messiah, was in question, he sends men for their settlement unto the Scriptures; John v. 39. And we suppose that that which is sufficient to settle us in the foundation, is so, to confirm us also in the whole superstructure. Especially considering that it is able ‘ to make the man of God perfect, and to be thoroughly furnished unto all good works ;’ 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17.

What more is required unto the settlement of any one in religion we know not; nor what can rationally stand in competition with the Scripture to this purpose; seeing that is expressly commended unto us for it by the Holy Ghost, other ways are built on the conjectures of men. Yea, the assurance which we may have hereby is preferred by Peter, before that which any may have by an immediate voice from heaven; 2 Pet. i. 19.

And is it not an unreasonable thing, now for you to come and tell us, that the Scripture is not sufficient to give us an unquestionable settlement in religion? Whether it be meet to ‘hearken unto God or men,’ judge you.

For our parts, we seek not for the foundation of our settlement, in long uncertain discourses, dubious conclusions and inferences, fallible conjectures, sophistical reasonings, such as you would call us unto; but in the express direction and command of God. Him we can follow, and trust unto, without the least fear of miscarriage. Whither you would lead us we know not, and are not willing to make desperate experiments in things of so high concernment.

John Owen, Works, Volume 18, A Vindication of the Animadversions on Fiat Lux, Chapter VI

(to be continued)

Note: David King is the prime mover and shaker on this series, but I (TurretinFan) have done a significant amount of editing. So, please blame me for any errors that have crept in, while giving credit to Pastor King for the hard work that went into it.

>Rome’s Translation Record

September 30, 2010

>Over at Greenbaggins, Roman Catholic Taylor Marshall threw out one of the standard lines about Luther changing Scripture. I noted that this Roman propaganda has been debunked already (debunked oncedebunked twice). In response, Mr. Marshall tried to come up with some new angles to the old slur.

He stated: “One might even say that these mistakes in translations only prove that the Catholic Church must authorize translations so as to avoid errors.”

This is actually an old contention of Rome. Translators were persecuted, and their translations were burned, for allegedly badly translating the Bible without Roman approval. Moreover, the Council of Trent saw it fit to declare a particular version authentic:

But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema.

(Trent, Session IV)

And in case that was not clear enough:

Moreover, the same sacred and holy Synod,–considering that no small utility may accrue to the Church of God, if it be made known which out of all the Latin editions, now in circulation, of the sacred books, is to be held as authentic,–ordains and declares, that the said old and vulgate edition, which, by the lengthened usage of so many years, has been approved of in the Church, be, in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions, held as authentic; and that no one is to dare, or presume to reject it under any pretext whatever.

(Trent, Session IV)

You might think that the “Old Latin Vulgate” was a version currently in existence. It wasn’t. It was a version about to be published:

(this Synod) ordains and decrees, that, henceforth, the sacred Scripture, and especially the said old and vulgate edition, be printed in the most correct manner possible

(Trent, Session IV)

The real Francis Turretin asked the obvious question:

The decree of the Council of Trent canonized an edition which at the time had no existence and appeared forty-six years afterwards. The decree was made in 1546. In 1590, the work was finished and published by Sixtus V; two years after that it was published by Clement VIII. Now how could a council approve and declare authentic an edition which it had not examined and in fact had yet been made?

– Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 3 Vols., trans. George Musgrave Giger and ed. James T. Dennison (Phillipsburg: reprinted by Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1992), Vol. 1, XV.ix, p. 134.

Moreover, as David King explains in Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, Volume 1, pp. 162-65, when Pope Sixtus V finally published the edition, it was full of errors. It was so full of errors that Pope Gregory XIV, acting on the suggestion of Bellarmine, suppressed the Sixtus V 1590 edition, destroyed the copies of it, and ordered a revision. The revision was eventually published under the authority of Clement VIII, although initially the edition only identified Pope Sixtus V by name.

But even the Clementine Vulgate was riddled with errors, though they are not all as severe as those in the Sixtus V edition, or in the prior Vulgate editions. Nevertheless, we now have the Nova Vulgata which corrected at least one famous mistranslation (Genesis 3:15 – a feminine pronoun was used, and this mistranslation was later used as a basis for the definition of a Marian dogma) and actually introduced at least one new mistranslation (Leviticus 16:26 – transliteration of “Azazel” instead of translation to “scapegoat”). As to parts of the text, the Comma Johanneum (in 1 John 5:7-8) has been removed by the New Vulgate, but the Pericope Adulterae (John 7:53-8:11) remains in the text.

So, yes – this claim that “the Church” is needed to give someone an authentic translation is an old claim – but if it is a correct claim, then Rome is not “the Church,” because the editions that Rome has produced have always had errors – not just printing errors.

– TurretinFan

>A Discussion on Newman’s Pre- and Post-Conversion Positions on the Historical Legitimacy of Roman Catholic Patristic Work (Guest Post by David King)

September 30, 2010


In On Bits and Pieces, Mark Escobar cites an article having the title of the present article allegedly written by me (On Bits and Pieces, p. 193, footnote 146). This initially puzzled me, as I could not recall having written any such article. However, upon further investigation I discovered that a paper of sorts had been constructed from a web forum discussion in which I had participated (that document may be found archived here). At TurretinFan’s request, I have converted this document into a paper that may now serve perhaps as a document for reference to those who read Mr. Escobar’s book.

David King

In an article from “First Things,” the Journal of Religion and Public Life: How I Became the Catholic I Was, Richard John Neuhaus wrote:

Recall Cardinal Newman’s reflection on the development of doctrine, a reflection that has been incorporated by magisterial teaching. He suggested seven marks of authentic development: authentic development preserves the Church’s apostolic form; it reflects continuity of principles in testing the unknown by the known; it demonstrates the power to assimilate what is true, even in what is posited against it; it follows a logical sequence; it anticipates future developments; it conserves past developments; and, throughout, it claims and demonstrates the vigor of teaching authority. And thus it is, said St. Vincent of Lerins in the fifth century, that in authentic development of doctrine nothing presents itself in the Church’s old age that was not latent in her youth. Such was the truth discovered by Augustine, a truth “ever ancient, ever new.”

For all the talk about the connection between Newman and Vincent of Lerins, and how they “agreed” on the development of doctrine, I’ll never forget Newman’s own words regarding the formula of Vincent as he was converting to Rome…

It does not seem possible, then, to avoid the conclusion that, whatever be the proper key for harmonizing the records and documents of the early and later Church, and true as the dictum of Vincentius must be considered in the abstract, and possible as its application might be in his own age, when he might almost ask the primitive centuries for their testimony, it is hardly available now, or effective of any satisfactory result. The solution it offers is as difficult as the original problem. John Henry Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (New York: Longmans, Green and Co., reprinted 1927), p. 27.

In short, Neuhaus’ comments are less than helpful. Newman knew that Vincent’s formula could not be reconciled with Rome’s position on dogma. It is true that in his days as a Tractarian in the Anglican Church, Newman made a great deal of Vincent’s formula, but he abandoned it for an appeal to dogmatic development that was a far cry from development as enunciated by Vincent. Anyone who has read Vincent carefully understands this.

Those who may be unaware of some of Newman’s comments on the Roman communion, prior to his conversion to Rome, may find some of the following quotations interesting. In these quotations, Newman echoes some of the same experiences that some of us in the Reformed churches have experienced in our exchanges with Roman Catholics.

John Henry Newman: My new book is going through the Press and has cost me an immense deal of trouble. It is on the Pastoral Office of the Church, as opposed to Romanism and Popular Protestantism. I treat of Romanism’s neglect of the Fathers; of infallibility; of Private Judgment; of the Indefectibility of the Church; of Fundamentals of Faith, and of Scripture as its foundation. Dated Jan. 13, 1837, taken from Gerard Tracey, ed., The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman: Vol. VI, The Via Media and Froude’s Remains January 1937 to December 1838, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), 13.

John Henry Newman: We differ from the Romanists . . . They profess to appeal to primitive Christianity; we honestly take their ground, as holding it ourselves; but when the controversy grows animated, and descends into details, they suddenly leave it and desire to finish the dispute on some other field. John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church: Viewed Relatively to Romanism and Popular Protestantism, 2nd ed. (London: Gilbert & Rivington, 1838), p. 59.

John Henry Newman: I am but showing how Romanists reconcile their abstract reverence for Antiquity with their Romanism,—with their creed, and their notion of the Church’s infallibility in declaring it; how small their success is, and how great their unfairness, is another question. Whatever judgment we form either of their conduct or its issue, such is the fact, that they extol the Fathers as a whole, and disparage them individually; they call them one by one Doctors of the Church, yet they explain away one by one their arguments, judgments, and testimony. They refuse to combine their separate and coincident statements; they take each by himself, and settle with the first before they go to the next. And thus their boasted reliance on the Fathers comes, at length, to this,—to identify Catholicity with the decrees of Councils, and to admit those Councils only which the Pope has confirmed. John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church: Viewed Relatively to Romanism and Popular Protestantism, 2nd ed. (London: Gilbert & Rivington, 1838), pp. 70-71.

But someone may say that the quotations above do not provide a complete picture. In the introduction to his famous essay — written right at the time that Newman was contemplating apostatizing to Rome — Newman seems to argue that Vincent’s formula, overly narrowly understood, would not be reconcilable with the doctrine of the Trinity:

(1) Let us allow that the whole circle of doctrines, of which our Lord is the subject, was consistently and uniformly confessed by the Primitive Church, though not ratified formally in Council. But it surely is otherwise with the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity. I do not see in what sense it can be said that there is a consensus of primitive divines in its favour… . John Henry Newman, “An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine,” Image Books edition published September, 1960, Garden City, New York, p. 40 (Part I, Introduction, No. 10).

(2) Let it not be for a moment supposed that I impugn the orthodoxy of the early divines or the cogency of their testimony among fair inquirers; but I am trying them by that unfair interpretation of Vicentius, which is necessary in order to make him available against the Church of Rome. John Henry Newman, “An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine,” Image Books edition published September, 1960, Garden City, New York, p. 44 (Part I, Introduction, No. 13).

We may respond to Newman that the doctrine of the Trinity was not a novel development in St. Vincent’s time, and Vincent had good reason to believe that it qualified as Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus creditum est.

Vincent of Lerins gives fairly extensive expression to the doctrine of the Trinity, which indicates it was commonly understood in his day, which certainly demonstrates it gave him good ground to understand it as falling under the category of ‘Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus creditum est.’ This is a far cry from the attempt to justify the dogmatic accretions of modern day Rome on the basis of development.

The heresy of Photinus, then, is as follows: He says that God is singular and sole, and is to be regarded as the Jews regarded Him. He denies the completeness of the Trinity, and does not believe that there is any Person of God the Word, or any Person of the Holy Ghost. Christ he affirms to be a mere man, whose original was from Mary. Hence he insists with the utmost obstinacy that we are to render worship only to the Person of God the Father, and that we are to honor Christ as man only. This is the doctrine of Photinus. Vincent of Lerins in NPNF2: Vol. XI, Commonitor, Chapter 12, §33.

In these ways then do these rabid dogs, Nestorius, Apollinaris, and Photinus, bark against the Catholic faith: Photinus, by denying the Trinity; Apollinaris, by teaching that the nature of the Word is mutable, and refusing to acknowledge that there are two substances in Christ, denying moreover either that Christ had a soul at all, or, at all events, that he had a rational soul, and asserting that the Word of God supplied the place of the rational soul; Nestorius, by affirming that there were always or at any rate that once there were two Christs. But the Catholic Church, holding the right faith both concerning God and concerning our Savior, is guilty of blasphemy neither in the mystery of the Trinity, nor in that of the Incarnation of Christ. For she worships both one Godhead in the plenitude of the Trinity, and the equality of the Trinity in one and the same majesty, and she confesses one Christ Jesus, not two; the same both God and man, the one as truly as the other. One Person indeed she believes in Him, but two substances; two substances but one Person: Two substances, because the Word of God is not mutable, so as to be convertible into flesh; one Person, lest by acknowledging two sons she should seem to worship not a Trinity, but a Quaternity But it will be well to unfold this same doctrine more distinctly and explicitly again and again. In God there is one substance, but three Persons; in Christ two substances, but one Person. In the Trinity, another and another Person, not another and another substance (distinct Persons, not distinct substances); in the Savior another and another substance, not another and another Person, (distinct substances, not distinct Persons. How in the Trinity another and another Person (distinct Persons) not another and another substance (distinct substances)? Because there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Ghost; but yet there is not another and another nature (distinct natures) but one and the same nature. How in the Savior another and another substance, not another and another Person (two distinct substances, not two distinct Persons)? Because there is one substance of the Godhead, another of the manhood. But yet the Godhead and the manhood are not another and another Person (two distinct Persons), but one and the same fist, one and the same Son of God, and one and the same Person of one and the same Christ and Son of God, in like manner as in man the flesh is one thing and the soul another, but one and the same man, both soul and flesh. In Peter and Paul the soul is one thing, the flesh another; yet there are not two Peters, — one soul, the other flesh, or two Pauls, one soul, the other flesh, — but one and the same Peter, and one and the same Paul, consisting each of two diverse natures, soul and body. Thus, then, in one and the same Christ there are two substances, one divine, the other human; one of (ex) God the Father, the other of (ex) the Virgin Mother; one co-eternal with and co-equal with the Father, the other temporal and inferior to the Father; one consubstantial with his Father, the other, consubstantial with his Mother, but one and the same Christ in both substances. There is not, therefore, one Christ God, the other man, not one uncreated, the other created; not one impassible, the other passible; not one equal to the Father, the other inferior to the Father; not one of his Father (ex), the other of his Mother (ex), but one and the same Christ, God and man, the same uncreated and created, the same unchangeable and incapable of suffering, the same acquainted by experience with both change and suffering, the same equal to the Father and inferior to the Father, the same begotten of the Father before time, (“before the world”), the same born of his mother in time (“in the world”), perfect God, perfect Man. In God supreme divinity, in man perfect humanity. Perfect humanity, I say, forasmuch as it hath both soul and flesh; the flesh, very flesh; our flesh, his mother’s flesh; the soul, intellectual, endowed with mind and reason. There is then in Christ the Word, the soul, the flesh; but the whole is one Christ, one Son of God, and one our Savior and Redeemer: One, not by I know not what corruptible confusion of Godhead and manhood, but by a certain entire and singular unity of Person. For the conjunction hath not converted and changed the one nature into the other, (which is the characteristic error of the Arians), but rather hath in such wise compacted both into one, that while there always remains in Christ the singularity of one and the self-same Person, there abides eternally withal the characteristic property of each nature; whence it follows, that neither doth God (i.e., the divine nature) ever begin to be body, nor doth the body ever cease to be body. The which may be illustrated in human nature: for not only in the present life, but in the future also, each individual man will consist of soul and body; nor will his body ever be converted into soul, or his soul into body; but while each individual man will live for ever, the distinction between the two substances will continue in each individual man for ever. So likewise in Christ each substance will for ever retain its own characteristic property, yet without prejudice to the unity of Person. Vincent of Lerins in NPNF2: Vol. XI, Commonitor, Chapter 13, §36-37.

If Newman’s insistence that the doctrine of the Trinity defies Vincent’s category were correct, then Vincent could not have honestly asked the questions, “Who ever before sacrilegious Arius dared to rend asunder the unity of the Trinity? Who before impious Sabellius was so audacious as to confound the Trinity of the Unity?” Vincent of Lerins in NPNF2: Vol. XI, Commonitor, Chapter 24, §62.

Augustine (354-430) himself informs us that the doctrine of the Trinity is “obvious… to see” and “plainly” conveyed in the New Testament account of our Lord’s baptism:

The lesson of the Gospel hath set before me a subject whereof to speak to you, beloved, as though by the Lord’s command, and by His command in very deed. For my heart hath waited for an order as it were from Him to speak, that I might understand thereby that it is His wish that I should speak on that which He hath also willed should be read to you. Let your zeal and devotion then give ear, and before the Lord our God Himself aid ye my labor. For we behold and see as it were in a divine spectacle exhibited to us, the notice of our God in Trinity, Conveyed to us at the river Jordan. For when Jesus came and was baptized by John, the Lord by His servant (and this He did for an example of humility; for He showeth that in this same humility is righteousness fulfilled, when as John said to Him, “I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?” He answered, “Suffer it to be so now, that all righteousness may be fulfilled”), when He was baptized then, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit came down upon Him in the form of a Dove: and then a Voice from on high followed, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Here then we have the Trinity in a certain sort distinguished. The Father in the Voice, — the Son in the Man, — the Holy Spirit in the Dove. It was only needful just to mention this, for most obvious is it to see. For the notice of the Trinity is here conveyed to us plainly and without leaving room for doubt or hesitation. Augustine in NPNF1: Vol. VI, Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament, Sermon 2, §1.

The doctrine of the trinity expressed by even earlier men before Vincent, such as Dionysius, bishop of Rome (260-268):

Now truly it would be just to dispute against those who, by dividing and rending the monarchy, which is the most august announcement of the Church of God, into, as it were, three powers, and distinct substances (hypostases), and three deities, destroy it. For I have heard that some who preach and teach the word of God among you are teachers of this opinion, who indeed diametrically, so to speak, are opposed to the opinion of Sabellius. For he blasphemes in saying that the Son Himself is the Father, and vice versa; but these in a certain manner announce three gods, in that they divide the holy unity into three different substances, absolutely separated from one another. For it is essential that the Divine Word should be united to the God of all, and that the Holy Spirit should abide and dwell in God; and thus that the Divine Trinity should be reduced and gathered into one, as if into a certain head — that is, into the omnipotent God of all. For the doctrine of the foolish Marcion, which cuts and divides the monarchy into three elements, is assuredly of the devil, and is not of Christ’s true disciples, or of those to whom the Savior’s teaching is agreeable. For these indeed rightly know that the Trinity is declared in the divine Scripture, but that the doctrine that there are three gods is, neither taught in the Old nor in the New Testament. Dionysius of Rome in ANF: Vol. 7, Against the Sabellians, §1.

The attempt by Roman apologists to suggest that the development of the papacy, and other accretions like the Marian dogmas, can be justified on the grounds of development the same as that of the doctrine of the Trinity is simply ludicrous and ahistorical. The baptismal formula of Matthew 28 makes clear that belief in the Triune God was delivered to the primitive Church by none other than our Lord Himself. There is absolutely no comparison to development here, and the number of times that Roman apologists assert it cannot change the facts that militate against it.

But we can go farther with Newman, because perhaps the preceding demonstrations did not go far enough.

In his days as a Tractarian, Newman was well aware that the Rome of his day was utterly bereft of the patristic moorings she pretended to grasp. To this end, one should consider these quotations of Newman from a work published in 1838, prior to his conversion to Rome in 1845.

In the foregoing remarks I have not been attempting any systematic discussion of the arguments from Antiquity, which is unnecessary for our present purpose, but have said just so much as may open a way for illustrating the point in hand, viz., the disrespect shown towards it by Romanists. In theory, indeed, and in their professions, as has already been noticed, they defer to the authority of the Rule of Vincent as implicitly as we do; and commonly without much hazard, for Protestantism in general has so transgressed it, that, little as it tells for Rome, it tells still more against the wild doctrines which go under that name. Besides, Romanists are obliged to maintain it by their very pretensions to be considered the One True Catholic and Apostolic Church. At the same time there is this remarkable difference, even of theory, between them and Vincentius, that the latter is altogether silent on the subject of the Pope’s Infallibility, whether considered as an attribute of his see, or as attaching to him in General Council. If Vincentius had the sentiments and feelings of a modern Romanist, it is incomprehensible that, in a treatise written to guide the private Christian in matters of Faith, he should have said not a word about the Pope’s supreme authority, nay, not even about the Infallibility of the Church Catholic. He refers the inquirer to a triple rule, difficult, surely, and troublesome to use, compared with that which is ready furnished by Romanism. Applying his own rule to his work itself, we mau unhesitatingly conclude that the Pope’s supreme authority in matters of Faith, is no Catholic or Apostolic truth, because he [i.e. Vincent] was ignorant of it. John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church: Viewed Relatively to Romanism and Popular Protestantism, 2nd ed. (London: Gilbert & Rivington, 1838), pp. 67-68.

Here, however, we are concerned with the Romanists. For instance: if some passage from one of the Fathers contradicts their present doctrine, and it is then objected that what even one early writer directly contradicted in his day was not Catholic at the time he contradicted it, they unhesitatingly condemn the passage as unsound and mistaken. And then follows the question, is the writer in question to be credited as reporting the current views of his age, or had he the hardihood though he knew them well, to contradict, yet without saying he contradicted them? and this can only be decided by the circumstances of the case, which an ingenious disputant may easily turn this way or that. They proceed in the same way, though a number of authorities may be produced; one is misinterpreted, another is put out of sight, a third is admitted but undervalued. This is not said by way of accusation here, though of course it is a heavy charge against the Romanists; nor with the admission that their attempts are successful, for, after all, words have a distinct meaning in spite of sophistry, and there is a true and a false in every matter. I am but showing how Romanists reconcile their abstract reverence for Antiquity with their Romanism,—with their creed, and their notion of the Church’s infallibility in declaring it; how small their success is, and how great their unfairness, is another question. Whatever judgment we form either of their conduct or its issue, such is the fact, that they extol the Fathers as a whole, and disparage them individually; they call them one by one Doctors of the Church, yet they explain away one by one their arguments, judgments, and testimony. They refuse to combine their separate and coincident statements; they take each by himself, and settle with the first before they go to the next. And thus their boasted reliance on the Fathers comes, at length, to this,—to identify Catholicity with the decrees of Councils, and to admit those Councils only which the Pope has confirmed. John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church: Viewed Relatively to Romanism and Popular Protestantism, 2nd ed. (London: Gilbert & Rivington, 1838), pp. 69-71.

Newman comments on the modus operandi of former RC controversialists Milner and Bellarmine.

It seems from these passages [i.e. some quotes from Milner], that the writings of Antiquity are to be considered as limitations and safeguards put upon the Church’s teaching, records by which she is ever bound to direct her course, out of which she ascertains and proves those doctrinal statements in which, when formally made, she is infallible. The same view is contained in the following extracts from Bellarmine, except that, writing, not an Apology, but in controversy, he insists less pointedly upon it. For instance: “We do not impugn, rather we maintain against impugners, that the first foundation of our faith is the Word of God,” that is, written and unwritten, “ministered by Apostles and Prophets: . . . only we add, that, besides this first foundation, another secondary foundation is needed, that is the witness of the Church. For we do not know for certain what God has revealed, except by the testimony of the Church.” [We see here where Cardinal Manning got his statement to the same effect] John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church: Viewed Relatively to Romanism and Popular Protestantism, 2nd ed. (London: Gilbert & Rivington, 1838), pp. 72-73.

John Henry Newman comments also on the Roman controversialist Petavius:

But to return to Petavius. This learned author, in his elaborate work on the Trinity, shows that he would rather prove the early Confessors and Martyrs to be heterodox, than that they should exist as a court of appeal from the decisions of his own Church; and he accordingly sacrifices, without remorse, Justin, Clement, Irenaeus, and their brethren, to the maintenance of the infallibility of Rome. Or to put the matter in another point of view, truer, perhaps, though less favourable still to Petavius,—he consents that the Catholic doctrine of the Holy Trinity should so far rest on the mere declaration of the Church, that before it was formally defined, there was no heresy in rejecting it [which RC apologists suggest today], provided he can thereby gain for Rome the freedom of making decrees unfettered by the recorded judgments of Antiquity. John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church: Viewed Relatively to Romanism and Popular Protestantism, 2nd ed. (London: Gilbert & Rivington, 1838), pp. 74-75.

Newman comments further on Bellarmine’s use of the Fathers:

Now, do I mean to accuse so serious and good a man as Bellarmine of willful unfairness in this procedure? No. Yet it is difficult to enter into the state of mind under which he was led into it. However we explain it, so much is clear, that the Fathers are only so far of use in the eyes of Romanists as they prove the Roman doctrines; and in no sense are allowed to interfere with the conclusions which their Church has adopted; that they are of authority when they seem to agree with Rome, of none if they differ. . . . A Romanist then cannot really argue in defense of the Roman doctrines; he has too firm a confidence in their truth, if he is sincere in his profession, to enable him critically to adjust the due weight to be given to this or that evidence. He assumes his Church’s conclusion as true; and the facts or witnesses he adduces are rather brought to receive an interpretation than to furnish a proof. His highest aim is to show the mere inconsistency of his theory, its possible adjustment with the records of Antiquity. John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church: Viewed Relatively to Romanism and Popular Protestantism, 2nd ed. (London: Gilbert & Rivington, 1838), p. 84.

Newman comments further on the Jesuit Bellarmine:

I consider, then, that when he first adduces the above-mentioned Fathers in proof of Purgatory, he was really but interpreting them; he was teaching what they ought to mean,—what in charity they must be supposed to mean,—what they might mean, as far as the very words went,—probably meant, considering the Church so meant,—and might be taken to mean, even if their authors did not so mean, from the notion that they spoke vaguely, and, as children, that they really meant something else than what they formally said, and that, after all, they were but the spokesmen of the then existing Church, which, though in silence, certainly held, as being the Church, that same doctrine which Rome has since defined and published. This is to treat Bellarmine with the same charity with which he has on supposition treated the Fathers, and it is to be hoped with a nearer approach to the matter of fact.—So much as to his first use of them; but afterwards, in noticing what he considers erroneous opinions on the subject, he treats them not as organs of the Church Infallible, but as individuals, and interprets their language by its literal sense, or by the context, and in consequence condemns it. The Fathers in question, he seems to say, really held as modern Rome holds; for if they did not, they must have dissented from the Church of their own day; for the Church then held as modern Rome holds. And the Church then held as Rome holds now, because Rome is the Church, and the Church ever holds the same. How hopeless then is it to contend with Romanists, as if they practically agreed with us as to the foundation of faith, however much they pretend to it! Ours is Antiquity, theirs the existing Church. Its infallibility is their first principle; belief in it is a deep prejudice quite beyond the reach of anything external. It is quite clear that the combined testimonies of all the Fathers, supposing such a case, would not have a feather’s weight against a decision of the Pope in Council, nor would matter at all, except for the Fathers’ sake who had by anticipation opposed it. They consider that the Fathers ought to mean what Rome has since decreed, and that Rome knows their meaning better than they themselves did. That venturesome Church has usurped their place, and thinks it merciful only not to banish outright the rivals she has dethroned. By an act, as it were, of grace, she has determined that when they contradict her, though not available now as witnesses against her, yet as living in times of ignorance, they are only heterodox and not heretical; and she keeps them around her to ask their advice when it happens to agree with her own. Let us then understand the position of the Romanists towards us; they do not really argue from the Fathers though they seem to do so. They may affect to do so in our behalf, happy if by an innocent stratagem they are able to convert us; but all the while in their own feelings they are taking a far higher position. They are teaching, not disputing or proving. They are interpreting what is obscure in Antiquity, purifying what is alloyed, correcting what is amiss, perfecting what is incomplete, harmonizing what is various. They claim and use all its documents as ministers and organs of that one infallible Church, which once forsooth kept silence, but since has spoken; which by a divine gift must ever be consistent with herself, and which bears with her, her own evidence of Divinity. John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church: Viewed Relatively to Romanism and Popular Protestantism, 2nd ed. (London: Gilbert & Rivington, 1838), pp. 85-87.

It is not surprising, with these sentiments, that Romanists should have undertaken before now to suppress and correct portions of the Fathers’ writings. An edition of St. Austine published at Venice contains the following most suspicious confession: “Besides the recovery of many passages by collation with ancient copies, we have taken care to remove whatever might infect the minds of the faithful with heretical pravity, or turn them aside from the Catholic and orthodox faith.” And a corrector of the press at Lyons, of the middle of the 16th century, complains that he was obliged by certain Franciscans to cancel various passages of St. Ambrose, whose works he was engaged upon. The Council of Constance furnishes us with a memorable instance of the same disregard for Antiquity, to which the whole Roman Communion is committed, in the decree by which it formally debars the laity from participation of the Cup in the Lord’s Supper. John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church: Viewed Relatively to Romanism and Popular Protestantism, 2nd ed. (London: Gilbert & Rivington, 1838), p. 94.

Enough perhaps was said in the last Lecture to show that Romanism, however it may profess a reverence for Antiquity, does not really feel and pay it. There are in fact two elements in operation within the system. As far as it is Catholic and Scriptural, it appeals to the Fathers; as far as it is a corruption, it finds it necessary to supersede them. Viewed in its formal principles and authoritative statements, it professes to be the champion of past times; viewed as an active and political power, as a ruling, grasping, ambitious principle, in a word, as what is expressly called Popery, it exalts the will and pleasure of the existing Church above all authority, whether of Scripture or Antiquity, interpreting the one and disposing of the other by its absolute and arbitrary decree. We must take and deal with things as they are, not as they pretend to be. If we are induced to believe the professions of Rome, and make advances towards her as if a sister or a mother Church, which in theory she is, we shall find too late that we are in the arms of a pitiless and unnatural relative, who will but triumph in the arts which have inveighed us within her reach. No; dismissing the dreams which the romance of early Church history and the high doctrines of Catholicism will raise in the experienced mind, let us be sure that she is our enemy, and will do us a mischief when she can. In speaking and acting on this conviction, we need not depart from Christian charity towards her. We must deal with her as we would towards a friend who is visited by derangement; in great affliction, with all affectionate tender thoughts, with tearful regret and a broken heart, but still with a steady eye and a firm hand. For in truth she is a Church beside herself, abounding in noble gifts and rightful titles, but unable to use them religiously; crafty, obstinate, willful, malicious, cruel, unnatural, as madmen are. Or rather, she may be said to resemble a demoniac; possessed with principles, thoughts, and tendencies, not her own, in outward form and in natural powers what God made her, but ruled within by an inexorable spirit, who is sovereign in his management over her, and most subtle and most successful in the use of her gifts. Thus she is her real self only in name; and, till God vouchsafe to restore her, we must treat her as if she were that evil one who governs her. John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church: Viewed Relatively to Romanism and Popular Protestantism, 2nd ed. (London: Gilbert & Rivington, 1838), pp. 102-103.

Of course religion has its greater and its lesser truths; but it is one thing to receive them so far as Scripture declares them to be so, quite another to decide about them for ourselves by the help of our own reasonings. However, it is not wonderful that Romanism should claim authority over the work of its own hands; it has framed the system and it proceeds to judge of it. John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church: Viewed Relatively to Romanism and Popular Protestantism, 2nd ed. (London: Gilbert & Rivington, 1838), p. 119.

We now see, in a measure, in what this difference consists, viz., in Romanism adopting a minute, technical, and imperative theology, which is no part of Revelation, and which produces a number of serious moral evils, which is shallow in philosophy, as professing to exclude doubt and imperfection, and dangerous to Christian spirit, as encouraging us to ask for more than is given us, as fostering irreverence and presumption, confidence in our reason, and a formal or carnal view of Christian obedience. John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church: Viewed Relatively to Romanism and Popular Protestantism, 2nd ed. (London: Gilbert & Rivington, 1838), p. 127.

Rome claims to be infallible; she dispenses with the Fathers, and relies upon abstract reasoning, because she is infallible; but how does she prove she is so? To speak simply, she does not prove it at all. At least, she does not prove it argumentatively, but she acts upon the assumption, she acts as if she were infallible, and in this way persuades the imaginations of men into a belief of her really being so. John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church: Viewed Relatively to Romanism and Popular Protestantism, 2nd ed. (London: Gilbert & Rivington, 1838), p. 139.

The case stands as follows: Romanism first professes a common ground with ourselves [i.e. the Tractarians], a readiness to stand or fall by Antiquity. When we appeal to Antiquity accordingly, it shifts its ground, substituting for Ancient Testimony abstract arguments, it falls back on its infallibility, it can but attempt to overpower the imagination by its attempt at system, by the boldness, decision, consistency, and completeness with which it urges and acts upon its claim. John Henry Newman, Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church: Viewed Relatively to Romanism and Popular Protestantism, 2nd ed. (London: Gilbert & Rivington, 1838), p. 153.

Nonetheless, for all of Newman’s insights into the errors of Rome, he fell prey to the same sophistries herein condemned. He would have done well to heed the advice of another ancient witness who declared, “For custom without truth is the antiquity of error.” ANF: Vol. V, The Epistles of Cyprian, Epistle 73, §9. (Nam consuetudo sine veritate vetustas erroris est. Epistola LXXIV – Ad Pompeium, PL 3:1134.)

Newman came to realize that Rome’s claims could not be substantiated on the basis of patristic evidence or the history of the early Church. Thus he found refuge in his “development of doctrine,” which got Rome off the hook from having to substantiate its claims by means of the early Church.

But if development proceeds from the seed to the tree (e.g., acorn to the Oak), there has to be, at the very least, the seed itself from the beginning. But the anachronistic planting of seeds that were never there in the first place is just as barren as the field in which they are imagined.

One might well ask how Newman justified his Roman conversion in light of all he had previously written? How is it that he bought the Roman line?

This is a simple question that requires a complicated answer, and we must not pretend to have any hidden insights into Newman’s mind on why he converted to Rome. But he and the Tractarian party in the Anglican Church were a small minority, and their principles soon met with very able opposition from evangelical Anglicans, and this might have pushed Newman over the edge toward Rome.

One of the most notable Anglicans who responded to Newman (as well as Newman’s friends, Pusey & Keble) was William Goode. Goode’s The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, first published in 1842 in two volumes, with a second edition in 1853, which was revised and enlarged, being published in three volumes. His work was a response to the writers of The Tracts for the Times, published by the nineteenth century proponents of Tractarianism, often called The Oxford Movement within the Anglican Church, whose sentiments were understood by their Evangelical counterparts as the elevation of Church Tradition above Holy Scripture. Representing the Evangelical majority within the Anglican Church, Goode’s work was one of many replies (Toon lists some 128 volumes by Evangelical Anglicans) to the Tractarian theology of John Henry Newman, Edward B. Pusey and John Keble.

Newman, as predicted by Goode, converted to Rome in the year 1845, the same year in which his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine was published. In the book, Evangelical Theology, 1833-1856: A Response to Tractarianism, Church historian Peter Toon observed that “the Tractarians were only a minority in Oxford and though their developing teaching was widely read and appreciated it soon met the opposition of able men of different churchmanship.” (Peter Toon, Evangelical Theology 1833-1856: A Response to Tractarianism (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1979), p. 1).

Of Goode’s work, Toon writes:

Without any doubt the most learned and elaborate reply to the Tractarian doctrine of Tradition came from the pen of William Goode. Taking over 1200 pages The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice . . . defended the position that Holy Scripture has been and is the sole, divine Rule of Faith and practice to the Church. Edward Hawkins, Provost of Oriel, from whom Newman had learned to look carefully at Tradition . . . appreciated Goode’s work calling it ‘a learned discussion’; . . . Evangelicals thought it struck a death-blow at Tractarianism. Peter Toon, Evangelical Theology 1833-1856: A Response to Tractarianism (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1979), p. 117.

Concerning Goode, Gareth Vaughan Bennett states that Goode

was virtually the only Evangelical to be a distinguished patristic scholar. In The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice . . . he was scathing about Tractarian learning. They made extensive use of the Fathers and seemed to handle them confidently, but none of them were experts in the field and few of them were even well-read; they seemed to have no grasp of the critical problems involved . . .” Gareth Vaughan Bennett, “Patristic Tradition in Anglican Thought, 1660-1900” in Oecumenica (1971/2) Tradition in Lutheranism and Anglicanism, p. 83.

Newman is often cast as an open-minded individual, and indeed frequently portrayed himself in such a light in his own writings. But the only response of Newman to Goode’s work, as far as I’ve been able to ascertain, is found in a brief letter to Thomas Mozley, dated March 12, 1842. After referring to works by both Keble and Wallis, he simply makes the abrupt remark, “I do not want Mr. Goode’s book.” (The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman: Vol. VIII, Tract 90 and the Jerusalem Bishopric January 1841-April 1842, ed. Gerard Tracey (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), p. 483).

That Goode’s work had a profound impact on the contemporary observers of the controversy is noted by Roundell Palmer, the Earl of Selborne. He first addressed himself to the adherents of the Tractarian policies, and wrote:

The voice of “the Fathers” (treated as if they had spoken with one voice) was represented as that of the Church, and the real meaning of Scripture as inaccessible, or not safely accessible, except through them. It was not uncommon to hear the teaching of those who (with the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England) found in the Scriptures a “Rule of Faith,” or test of doctrine, called Bibliolatry. Very few were already familiar with the Fathers; and many, who felt the difficulty of accepting their traditions at second-hand from a small number of learned men, were led to wish for that kind of learning. It was in such a desire that the “Patristic” association [i.e. the Oxford Movement] in London, of which I have spoken, originated. We read together the Apostolical Fathers and Justin Martyr, and some works of the Alexandrian writers. For my own part, when I came to perceive the real nature and magnitude of the field before us, and the extremely wide difference between the idea of half-inspired wisdom with which I had begun, and the true character of the works of the Alexandrian school upon which I was entering, I retired from an attempt, as to which I saw clearly that it would not bring the satisfaction expected from it, while its accomplishment would be impossible without too great an encroachment upon the time required for my proper duties. Roundell Palmer, Memorials, Part I: Family and Personal, 1766-1865 (London: MacMillan and Co., 1896), Vol. 1, pp. 209-210.

Palmer then adds in the next paragraph these reflections:

My Father once said to my brother William—repeating, unless I am mistaken, some words of Bishop Horsley, who knew the Fathers well—that “the Fathers must be read with caution.” When Isaac Taylor, in his Ancient Christianity, collected out of the Fathers many things tending to disturb the ideal conception of a golden primitive age of pure faith and practice; and when William Goode, afterwards Dean of Ripon, in his Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, called the Fathers themselves as witnesses in favour of the direct use of Scripture for the decision of controversies, some of those who placed confidence in the Oxford divines, but were themselves ignorant of the Fathers, waited anxiously for answers which never came. I remember a reply once made to myself, when I asked whether anybody was going to answer Isaac Taylor, whose work I perceived to be producing in some quarters a considerable effect. I was told that in a little time he would answer himself, which he never did. It seemed plain that, although the advocates of Patristic authority might be powerful in attack, they were weak in defence. Roundell Palmer, Memorials, Part I: Family and Personal, 1766-1865 (London: MacMillan and Co., 1896), Vol. 1, p. 210.

Now, why did Newman convert? Some say this, some say that. But one thing is for sure, William Goode saw it coming, even when Newman was all the while denouncing Rome.

It has been the frequent boast of some Roman apologists that their much admired hero, Newman and his colleagues, have never been answered. But, as alluded to above, the bibliography in Peter Toon’s book, Evangelical Theology 1833–1856: A Response to Tractarianism, lists some 128 Anglican Evangelical works, and another 14 Non–Anglican writings, all of which were contemporary replies to the Tractarian party of the day. Goode’s two editions of The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice were replies to Newman both before (1842) and after (1853) his conversion to Rome.

(post by David King)

Chrysostom – Passages Inconsistent with an Idea of Purgatory

June 27, 2010

Chrysostom, in the following passages, provides evidence suggesting that he knows nothing of any kind of post-mortem experience as purgatory…

Chrysostom (349-407) commenting on Matthew 6:12:

Let us know these and let us remember that terrible day and that fire. Let us put in our mind the terrible punishments and return once for all from our deluded road. For the time will come when the theater of this world will be dissolved, and then no one will be able to contend anymore. No one can do anything after the passing of this life. No one can be crowned after the dissolution of the theater. This time is for repentance, that one for judgment. This time is for the contests, that one for the crowns. This one for toil, that one for relaxation. This one for fatigue, that one for recompense.

FC, Vol. 96, St. John Chrysostom on Repentance and Almsgiving, Homily 9.5 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1998), p. 129.

Chrysostom (349-407):

Anticipate the exodus of the soul with repentance and correction, because when death comes suddenly, at absolutely no time will the therapy of repentance be fruitful. Repentance is powerful upon the earth; only in Hades is it powerless. Let us seek the Lord now while we have time. Let us do what is good so that we will be delivered from the future endless punishment of Gehenna, and will be made worthy of the Kingdom of the Heavens.

FC, Vol. 96, St. John Chrysostom on Repentance and Almsgiving, Homily 9.7 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1998), p. 130.

Chrysostom (349-407):

I testify and affirm, that if any of us who have offended shall forsake his former sins, and promise to God with sincerity that he will turn to them no more, God will require no further satisfaction from him.

For translation, see William John Hall, The Doctrine of Purgatory and the Practice of Praying for the Dead (London: Henry Wix, 1843), p. 203.
Greek text:

Ἐγὼ διαμαρτύρομαι καὶ ἐγγυῶμαι, ὅτι τῶν ἁμαρτανόντων ἡμῶν ἕκαστος, ἂν ἀποστὰς τῶν προτέρων κακῶν ὑπόσχηται τῷ Θεῷ μετὰ ἀληθείας μηκέτι αὐτῶν ἅψασθαι, οὐδὲν ἕτερον ὁ Θεὸς ζητήσει πρὸς ἀπολογίαν μείζονα.

De Beato Philogonio (On the Blessed Philogonius), Homilia VI, §4, PG 48:754.

– TurretinFan (with the assistance of Pastor David King)

Prayers to God Alone (and Worship to God Alone, in general) in the Early Church

June 26, 2010

To whom should prayers be addressed? They should be addressed to God alone.

Augustine (354-430):

As for those spirits who are good, and who are therefore not only immortal but also blessed, and to whom they suppose we should give the title of gods, and offer worship and sacrifices for the sake of inheriting a future life, we shall, by God’s help, endeavor in the following book to show that these spirits, call them by what name, and ascribe to them what nature you will, desire that religious worship be paid to God alone, by whom they were created, and by whose communications of Himself to them they are blessed.

NPNF1-02 St. Augustine’s City of God and Christian Doctrines, City of God, Chapter 23

Leo the Great (400-461):

From such a system of teaching proceeds also the ungodly practice of certain foolish folk who worship the sun as it rises at the beginning of daylight from elevated positions: even some Christians think it is so proper to do this that, before entering the blessed Apostle Peter’s basilica, which is dedicated to the One Living and true God, when they have mounted the steps which lead to the raised platform, they turn round and bow themselves towards the rising sun and with bent neck do homage to its brilliant orb. We are full of grief and vexation that this should happen, which is partly due to the fault of ignorance and partly to the spirit of heathenism: because although some of them do perhaps worship the Creator of that fair light rather than the Light itself, which is His creature, yet we must abstain even from the appearance of this observance: for if one who has abandoned the worship of gods, finds it in our own worship, will he not hark back again to this fragment of his old superstition, as if it were allowable, when he sees it to be common both to Christians and to infidels?

This objectionable practice must be given up therefore by the faithful, and the honour due to God alone must not be mixed up with those men’s rites who serve their fellow-creatures. For the divine Scripture says: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve [S. Matt. iv. 10.].”

NPNF2-12 Leo the Great, Gregory the Great, Sermon 27 of Leo the Great, Sections 4-5

Chrysostom (349-407) commenting on Psalm 7, v. 3:

This must everywhere be our concern, not simply to pray but to pray in such a way as to be heard. It is not sufficient that prayer effects what is intended, unless we so direct it as to appeal to God.

Robert Charles Hill, St. John Chrysostom Commentary on the Psalms, Volume 1, Psalm 7 (Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1998), p. 117.

Athanasius (293-373):

This was the advice he gave to those who came to him. And with those who suffered he sympathised and prayed. And oft-times the Lord heard him on behalf of many: yet he boasted not because he was heard, nor did he murmur if he were not. But always he gave the Lord thanks and besought the sufferer to be patient, and to know that healing belonged neither to him nor to man at all, but only to the Lord, who doeth good when and to whom He will. The sufferers therefore used to receive the words of the old man as though they were a cure, learning not to be downhearted but rather to be long-suffering. And those who were healed were taught not to give thanks to Antony but to God alone.

NPNF2-04. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, Life of Anthony, Section 56

Cyprian of Carthage (died 258):

Moreover, when we stand praying, beloved brethren, we ought to be watchful and earnest with our whole heart, intent on our prayers. Let all carnal and worldly thoughts pass away, nor let the soul at that time think on anything but the object only of its prayer. For this reason also the priest, by way of preface before his prayer, prepares the minds of the brethren by saying, “Lift up your hearts,” that so upon the people’s response, “We lift them up unto the Lord,” he may be reminded that he himself ought to think of nothing but the Lord. Let the breast be closed against the adversary, and be open to God alone; nor let it suffer God’s enemy to approach to it at the time of prayer. For frequently he steals upon us, and penetrates within, and by crafty deceit calls away our prayers from God, that we may have one thing in our heart and another in our voice, when not the sound of the voice, but the soul and mind, ought to be praying to the Lord with a simple intention. But what carelessness it is, to be distracted and carried away by foolish and profane thoughts when you are praying to the Lord, as if there were anything which you should rather be thinking of than that you are speaking with God! How can you ask to be heard of God, when you yourself do not hear yourself? Do you wish that God should remember you when you ask, if you yourself do not remember yourself? This is absolutely to take no precaution against the enemy; this is, when you pray to God, to offend the majesty of God by the carelessness of your prayer; this is to be watchful with your eyes, and to be asleep with your heart, while the Christian, even though he is asleep with his eyes, ought to be awake with his heart, as it is written in the person of the Church speaking in the Song of Songs, “I sleep, yet my heart waketh.” [Cant. v. 2.] Wherefore the apostle anxiously and carefully warns us, saying, “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same;” [Col. i. 2.] teaching, that is, and showing that those are able to obtain from God what they ask, whom God sees to be watchful in their prayer.

ANG05. Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Caius, [and] Novation, Treatises of Cyprian, Treatise IV (On the Lord’s Prayer)

What did the ancients think of prayers to angels and saints? Undoubtedly there are a variety of ancient views about that subject. Here are a few of them.

Irenaeus (c. 130-c. 200):

Nor does she [the church] perform anything by means of angelic invocations, or by incantations, or by any other wicked curious art; but, directing her prayers to the Lord, who made all things, in a pure, sincere, and straightforward spirit, and calling upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, she has been accustomed to work miracles for the advantage of mankind, and not to lead them into error. If, therefore, the name of our Lord Jesus Christ even now confers benefits [upon men], and cures thoroughly and effectively all who anywhere believe on Him, but not that of Simon, or Menander, or Carpocrates, or of any other man whatever, it is manifest that, when He was made man, He held fellowship with His own creation, and did all things truly through the power of God, according to the will of the Father of all, as the prophets had foretold. But what these things were, shall be described in dealing with the proofs to be found in the prophetical writings.

ANF: Vol. I, Against Heresies, 2:32:5.

Tertullian (c. 160-c. 220):

For we offer prayer for the safety of our princes to the eternal, the true, the living God, whose favour, beyond all others, they must themselves desire. They know from whom they have obtained their power; they know, as they are men, from whom they have received life itself; they are convinced that He is God alone, on whose power alone they are entirely dependent, to whom they are second, after whom they occupy the highest places, before and above all the gods. Why not, since they are above all living men, and the living, as living, are superior to the dead? They reflect upon the extent of their power, and so they come to understand the highest; they acknowledge that they have all their might from Him against whom their might is nought. Let the emperor make war on heaven; let him lead heaven captive in his triumph; let him put guards on heaven; let him impose taxes on heaven! He cannot. Just because he is less than heaven, he is great. For he himself is His to whom heaven and every creature appertains. He gets his scepter where he first got his humanity; his power where he got the breath of life. Thither we lift our eyes, with hands outstretched, because free from sin; with head uncovered, for we have nothing whereof to be ashamed; finally, without a monitor, because it is from the heart we supplicate. Without ceasing, for all our emperors we offer prayer. We pray for life prolonged; for security to the empire; for protection to the imperial house; for brave armies, a faithful senate, a virtuous people, the world at rest, whatever, as man or Caesar, an emperor would wish. These things I cannot ask from any but the God from whom I know I shall obtain them, both because He alone bestows them and because I have claims upon Him for their gift, as being a servant of His, rendering homage to Him alone, persecuted for His doctrine, offering to Him, at His own requirement, that costly and noble sacrifice of prayer dispatched from the chaste body, an unstained soul, a sanctified spirit, not the few grains of incense a farthing buys —tears of an Arabian tree,—not a few drops of wine,—not the blood of some worthless ox to which death is a relief, and, in addition to other offensive things, a polluted conscience, so that one wonders, when your victims are examined by these vile priests, why the examination is not rather of the sacrificers than the sacrifices. With our hands thus stretched out and up to God, rend us with your iron claws, hang us up on crosses, wrap us in flames, take our heads from us with the sword, let loose the wild beasts on us,—the very attitude of a Christian praying is one of preparation for all punishment. Let this, good rulers, be your work: wring from us the soul, beseeching God on the emperor’s behalf. Upon the truth of God, and devotion to His name, put the brand of crime.

ANF: Vol. III, The Apology, Chapter 30.

Chrysostom (349-407) said the incantation of Angels was introduced by the devil:

Therefore the devil introduced those of the Angels [requests in the name of angels], envying us the honor. Such incantations are for the demons. Even if it be Angel, even if it be Archangel, even if it be Cherubim, allow it not; for neither will these Powers accept such addresses, but will even toss them away from them, when they have beheld their Master dishonored. “I have honored thee,” He saith, “and have said, Call upon Me”; and dost thou dishonor Him?

NPNF1: Vol. XIII, Homilies on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians, Homily 9.
Greek text:

Διὰ ταῦτα ὁ διάβολος τὰ τῶν ἀγγέλων ἐπεισήγαγε, βασκαίνων ἡμῖν τῆς τιμῆς. Τῶν δαιμόνων τοιαῦται αἱ ἐπῳδαί. Κἂν ἄγγελος ᾖ, κἂν ἀρχάγγελος, κἂν τὰ Χερουβὶμ, μὴ ἀνέχου· ἐπεὶ οὐδὲ αὗται αἱ δυνάμεις καταδέξονται, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἀποσείσονται, ὅταν ἴδωσι τὸν Δεσπότην ἀτιμαζόμενον. Ἐγώ σε ἐτίμησα, φησὶ, καὶ εἶπον· Ἐμὲ κάλει· καὶ σὺ ἀτιμάζεις αὐτόν;

In epistulam i ad Colossenses, Caput III, Homily IX, §3, PG 62:365.

Council of Laodicea (363-364 A.D.):

Christians ought not to forsake the Church of God, and depart aside, and invocate (οὐνομάζω) angels, and make meetings, which are things forbidden. If any man therefore be found to give himself to this privy idolatry, let him be accursed, because he hath forsaken our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and betaken himself to idolatry.

For translation, see James Ussher, An Answer to a Challenge Made by a Jesuit (Cambridge: J. & J. J. Deighton, 1835), p. 406.
Greek text:

Ὅτι οὐ δεῖ Χριστιανοὺς ἐγκαταλείπειν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ Θεοῦ, καὶ ἀπιέναι, καὶ ἀγγέλους ὀνομάζειν, καὶ συνάξεις ποιεῖν, ἅπερ ἀπηγόρευται. Εἴ τις οὖν εὐρεθῇ ταύτῃ κεκρυμμένῃ εἰδωλολατρείᾳ σχολάζων, ἔστω ἀνάθεμα, ὅτι ἐγκατέλιπε τὸν Κύριον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν, τὸν Υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ, καὶ εἰδωλολατρείᾳ προσῆλθεν.

Synodus Laodiciae (Synod of Laodicea), Canon XXXV.

Chrysostom also speaks on the absence of need for any intermediaries between us and God to present our requests.

Chrysostom (349-407):

There is in fact no need either of doorkeepers to introduce you, or of managers, guardians or friends; rather, when you make your approach in person, then most of all he will hear you, at that time when you ask the help of no one. So we do not prevail upon him in making our requests through others to the degree that we do through ourselves. You see, since he longs for our friendship, he also does everything to have us trust in him; when he sees us doing so on our own account, then he accedes to us most of all. This is what he did too in the case of the Canaanite woman: when Peter and James came forward on her behalf, he did not accede; but when she persisted, he promptly granted her petition. I mean, even if he seemed to put her off for a while, he did it not to put the poor creature aside but to reward her more abundantly and render her entreaty more favorable.

Robert Charles Hill, St. John Chrysostom Commentary on the Psalms, Volume 1, Psalm 4 (Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1998), pp. 48-49.

Chrysostom (349-407):

Prayer is a great weapon, prayer is a wonderful adornment, security and haven, a treasury of good things, wealth beyond threat. When we make requests of human beings, we need an outlay of money, servile flattery, much to-ing and fro-ing and negotiating. Often, in fact, it is not possible to make a direct approach to their lordships personally to grant a favor: it is necessary first to wait upon their ministers or managers or administrators with money and words and every other means, and only then through them to be in a position to receive the request. With God, on the contrary, it is not like this: it not so much on the recommendation of others as on our own request that he grants the favor. In this case, too, both the one receiving it and the one not receiving it are better off, whereas in the case of human beings we often come off worse in both cases.

Since, then, for those approaching God the gain is greater and the facility greater, do not neglect prayer: it is then in particular that he will be reconciled with you when you on your own account appeal to him, when you present a mind purified, thoughts that are alert, when you do not make idle petitions, as many people do, their tongue saying the words while their soul wanders in every direction — through the house, the marketplace, the city streets. It is all the devil’s doing: since he knows that at that time we are able to attain forgiveness of sins, he wants to block the haven of prayer to us, and at that time he goes on the attack to distract us from the sense of the words so that we may depart the worse rather than the better for it

Robert Charles Hill, trans., St. John Chrysostom, Old Testament Homilies, Volume Three: Homilies on the Psalms (Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2003), Homily on Psalm 146.1, p. 125.

Chrysostom (349-407):

And even if you do not confess, He [i.e., God] is not ignorant of the deed, who knew it before it was committed. Why then do you not speak of it? Does the transgression become heavier by the confession?—nay, it becomes lighter and less troublesome. And it is for this reason that He would have you confess, not that you should be punished, but that you should be forgiven; not that He may learn thy sin, (how could this be, since He has seen it,) but that you may learn what favour He bestows. He wishes you to learn the greatness of His grace, that you may praise Him perfectly, that you may be slower to sin, that you may be quicker to virtue. And if you do not confess the greatness of the need, you will not understand the exceeding magnitude of His grace. I do not oblige you He [God] saith, to come into the midst of the assembly before a throng of witnesses; declare the sin in secret to Me only, that I may heal the sore and remove the pain.

F. Allen, trans., Four Discourses of Chrysostom, Chiefly on the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, 4rd Sermon, §4 (London: Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer, 1869), p. 102. Cf. also Catharine P. Roth, trans., St. John Chrysostom On Wealth and Poverty, 4th Sermon on Lazarus and the Rich Man, §4 (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984), p. 89. Cf. Concionis VII, de Lazaro 4.4 PG 48:1012.

Chrysostom (349-407):

For things which often we have not strength to perform successfully from our own exertions, these we shall have power to accomplish easily through prayers. I mean prayers which are persevering. For always and without intermission it is a duty to pray, both for him who is in affliction, and him who is in relief from it, and him who is in dangers, and him who is in prosperity — for him who is in relief and much prosperity, that these may remain unmoved and without vicissitude, and may never change; and for him who is in affliction and his many dangers, that he may see some favorable change brought about to him, and be transported into a calm of consolation. Art thou in a calm? Then beseech God that this calm may continue settled to thee. Hast thou seen a storm risen up against thee? Beseech God earnestly to cause the billow to pass, and to make a calm out of the storm. “Hast thou been heard? Be heartily thankful for this; because thou hast been heard. Hast thou not been heard? Persevere in order that thou mayest be heard. For even if God at any time delay the giving, it is not in hatred and aversion; but from the desire by the deferring of the giving perpetually to retain thee with himself; just in the way also that affectionate fathers do; for they also adroitly manage the perpetual and assiduous attendance of children who are rather indolent by the delay of the giving. There is to thee no need of mediators in audience with God; nor of that much canvassing; nor of the fawning upon others; but even if thou be destitute, even if bereft of advocacy, alone, by thyself, having called on God for help, thou wilt in any case succeed. He is not so wont to assent when entreated by others on our behalf, as by ourselves who are in need; even if we be laden with ten thousand evil deeds. For if in the case of men, even if we have come into countless collisions with them, when both at dawn and at mid-day and in the evening we show ourselves to those who are aggrieved against us, by the unbroken continuance and the persistent meeting and interview we easily demolish their enmity — far more in the case of God would this be effected.

NPNF1: Vol. IX, Concerning Lowliness of Mind and Commentary on Philippians 1:18, §11.

Chrysostom (349-407) commenting on John 16:22, 23:

“And ye now therefore have sorrow — [but I will see you again, and your sorrow shall be turned into joy].” Then, to show that He shall die no more, He saith, “And no man taketh it from you. And in that day ye shall ask Me nothing.”

Again He proveth nothing else by these words, but that He is from God. “For then ye shall for the time to come know all things.” But what is, “Ye shall not ask Me”? “Ye shall need no intercessor, but it is sufficient that ye call on My Name, and so gain all things.

NPNF1: Vol. XIV, Gospel of St John, Homily 79, §1.

Notice also in the following passage from Chrysostom how he emphasizes that if one gives himself to prayer frequently and fervently, then one (generally speaking) needs no instruction from an intermediary, because God enlightens one’s mind. In other words, he knows nothing of some human infallible interpreter to act as one’s mediator in to understand Holy Scripture.

Chrysostom (349-407):

Besides, what benefit would there be in a homily when prayer has not been joined to it? Prayer stands in the first place; then comes the word of instruction. And that is what the apostles said: “Let us devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.” Paul does this when he prays at the beginning of his epistles so that, like the light of a lamp, the light of prayer may prepare the way for the word. If you accustom yourselves to pray fervently, you will not need instruction from your fellow servants because God himself, with no intermediary, enlightens you mind.

FC, Vol. 72, On the Incomprehensible Nature of God, Homily 3.35 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1984), pp. 111.

I offer also this testimony of Ambrose who says that the Lord alone is to be invoked in prayer…

Ambrose (c. 339-97):

My heart is worn out, because a man has been snatched away, whose like we can hardly find again; but yet Thou alone O Lord, art to be invoked, Thou art to be entreated, that Thou mayst supply his place with sons.

Herbert Mortimer Luckock, After Death: An Examination of the Testimony of Primitive Times respecting the State of the Faithful Dead, and Their Relationship to the Living, 2nd Ed. (London: Rivingtons, 1880) pp. 192-193.
Latin text:

Conteror corde; quia ereptus est vir, quem vix possumus invenire: sed tamen tu solus, Domine, invocandus es, tu rogandus, ut eum in filiis repraesentes.

De obitu Theodosii oratio (Funeral Oration for Theodosius, §36, PL 16:1397A-1397B.

– TurretinFan (with assistance from Pastor David King)

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