Archive for the ‘Schaff’ Category

How Many Popes Does it Take to Deny the Immaculate Conception?

September 3, 2010

During Dr. James White’s debate with Christopher Ferrara on the alleged sinlessness and Immaculate Conception of Mary, Mr. Ferrara questioned the fact that a half dozen popes taught or held a position contrary to the dogma that was later defined as the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Dr. White provided a citation to Schaff, the respected church historian, who identified seven popes, and in turn cited an earlier scholar. Beginning with Schaff, in this post I walk through the evidence.

Schaff on the Immaculate Conception:

The third step, which exempts Mary from original sin as well, is of much later origin. It meets us first as a pious opinion in connection with the festival of the Conception of Mary, which was fixed upon Dec. 8, nine months before the older festival of her birth (celebrated Sept. 8). This festival was introduced by the Canons at Lyons in France, Dec. 8, 1139, and gradually spread into England and other countries. Although it was at first intended to be the festival of the Conception of the immaculate Mary, it concealed the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, since every ecclesiastical solemnity acknowledges the sanctity of its object.

For this reason, Bernard of Clairvaux, ‘the honey-flowing doctor’ (doctor mellifluus), and greatest saint of his age, who, by a voice mightier than the Pope’s, roused Europe to the second crusade, opposed the festival as a false honor to the royal Virgin, which she does not need, and as an unauthorized innovation, which was the mother of temerity, the sister of superstition, and the daughter of levity. [FN228] He urged against it that it was not sanctioned by the Roman Church. He rejected the opinion of the Immaculate Conception of Mary as contrary to tradition and derogatory to the dignity of Christ, the only sinless being, and asked the Canons of Lyons the pertinent question, ‘Whence they discovered such a hidden fact? On the same ground they might appoint festivals for the conception of the parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents of Mary, and so on without end.’ [FN229] It does not diminish, but rather increases (for the Romish stand-point) the weight of his protest, that he was himself an enthusiastic eulogist of Mary, and a believer in her sinless birth. He put her in this respect on a par with Jeremiah and John the Baptist. [FN230]

The same ground was taken substantially by the greatest schoolmen of the Middle Ages till the beginning of the fourteenth century: Anselm of Canterbury (d. 1109), who closely followed Augustine; [FN231] Peter the Lombard, ‘the Master of Sentences’ (d. 1161); Alexander of Hales, ‘the irrefragable doctor’ (d. 1245); St. Bonaventura, ‘the seraphic doctor’ (d. 1274); Albertus Magnus, ‘the wonderful doctor’ (d. 1280); St. Thomas Aquinas, ‘the angelic doctor’ (d. 1274), and the very champion of orthodoxy, followed by the whole school of Thomists and the order of the Dominicans. St. Thomas taught that Mary was conceived from sinful flesh in the ordinary way, secundum carnis concupiscentiam ex commixtione maris, and was sanctified in the womb after the infusion of the soul (which is called the passive conception); for otherwise she would not have needed the redemption of Christ, and so Christ would not be the Saviour of all men. He distinguishes, however, three grades in the sanctification of the Blessed Virgin: first, the sanctificatio in utero, by which she was freed from the original guilt (culpa originalis); secondly, the sanctificatio in conceptu Domini, when the Holy Ghost overshadowed her, whereby she was totally purged (totaliter mundata) from the fuel or incentive to sin (fomes peccati); and, thirdly, the sanctificatio in morte, by which she was freed from all consequences of sin (liberata ab omni miseria). Of the festival of the Conception, he says that it was not observed, but tolerated by the Church of Rome, and, like the festival of the Assumption, was not to be entirely rejected (non totaliter reprobanda). [FN232] The University of Paris, which during the Middle Ages was regarded as the third power in Europe, gave the weight of its authority for a long time to the doctrine of the Maculate Conception. Even seven Popes are quoted on the same side, and among them three of the greatest, viz., Leo I. (who says that Christ alone was free from original sin, and that Mary obtained her purification through her conception of Christ), Gregory I., and Innocent III. [FN233]

And here are the footnotes:

[FN228] ‘Virgo regia falso non eget honore, veris cumalata honorum titulis. . . . Non est hoc Virginem honorare sed honori detraher. . . . Præsumpta novitas mater temeritatis, soror superstitionis, filia levitatis.’ See his Epistola 174, ad Canonicos Lugdunenses, De conceptione S. Mar. (Op. ed. Migne, I. pp. 332–336). Comp. also Bernard’s Sermo 78 in Cant., Op. Vol. II. pp.1160, 1162.

[FN229] . . . ‘et sic tenderetur in infinitum, et festorum non esset numerus‘ (Ep. 174, p. 334 sq.)

[FN230] ‘Si igitur ante conceptum sui sanctificari minime potuit, quoniam non erat; sed nec in ipso quidem conceptu, propter peccatum quod inerat: restat ut post conceptum in utero jam existens sanctificationem accepisse credatur, quæ excluso peccato sanctam fecerit nativitatem, non tamen et conceptionem‘ (l.c. p. 336).

[FN231] Anselm, who is sometimes wrongly quoted on the other side, says, Cur Deus Homo, ii. 16 (Op. ed. Migne, I. p. 416): ‘Virgo ipsa . . . est in iniquitatibus concepta, et in peccatis concepit eam mater ejus, et cum originali peccato nata est, quoniam et ipsa in Adam peccavit, in quo omnes peccaverunt.‘ To these words of Boso, Anselm replies that ‘Christ, though taken from the sinful mass (de massa peccatrice assumptus), had no sin.’ Then he speaks of Mary twice as being purified from sin (mundata a peccatis) by the future death of Christ (c. 16, 17). His pupil and biographer, Eadmer, in his book De excellent. beatæ Virg. Mariæ, c. 3 (Ans. Op. ed. Migne, II. pp. 560–62), says that the blessed Virgin was freed from all remaining stains of hereditary and actual sin when she consented to the announcement of the mystery of the Incarnation by the angel.’ Quoted also by Perrone, pp. 47–49.

[FN232] Summa Theologiæ, Pt. III. Qu. 27 (De sanctificatione B. Virg.), Art. 1–5; in Libr. I. Sentent. Dist. 44, Qu. 1, Art. 3. Nevertheless, Perrone (pp. 231 sqq.) thinks that St. Bernard and St. Thomas are not in the way of a definition of the new dogma, ‘because they wrote at a time when this view was not yet made quite clear, and because they lacked the principal support, which subsequently came to its aid; hence they must in this case be regarded as private teachers, propounding their own particular opinions, but not as witnesses of the traditional meaning of the Church.’ He then goes on to charge these doctors with comparative ignorance of previous Church history. This may be true, but does not help the matter; since the fuller knowledge of the Fathers in modern times reveals a still wider dissent from the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

[FN233] The other Popes, who taught that Mary was conceived in sin, are Gelasius I., Innocent V., John XXII., and Clement VI. (d. 1352). The proof is furnished by the Jansenist Launoy, Prœscriptions, Opera I. pp. 17 sqq., who also shows that the early Franciscans, and even Loyola and the early Jesuits, denied the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Perrone calls him an ‘irreligious innovator’ (p. 34), and an ‘impudent liar’ (p. 161), but does not refute his arguments, and evades the force of his quotations from Leo, Gelasius, and Gregory by the futile remark that they would prove too much, viz., that Mary was even born in sin, and not purified before the Incarnation, which would be impious!

(Creeds of Christendom, Volume 1, Chapter 4, Section 29)

Launoy’s work, cited by Schaff, can be found on-line, but only in Latin (link to first page of relevant section). As you will see, if you go through Launoy, he identifies the following list of popes:

  1. Leo I
  2. Gelasius I
  3. Gregory I
  4. Roman Clergy, during a vacant seat time, after the death of Honorius I (attributed to John IV, though not by Launoy)
  5. Innocent III
  6. Innocent V
  7. John XXII (or Benedict XII)
  8. Clement VI

You’ll notice that my list has eight items, rather than the seven that Dr. White mentioned and Schaff listed. That’s because I’m also including the item that Launoy does not specifically attribute to John IV, as I’ll discuss below. Where I have not explained the citation, it is what Launoy cited, but I have added to what Launoy has cited, and have explained my basis for that.

1. Leo I (aka Leo the Great)

First Sermon on Nativity (Sermon 21), Chapter 1

There is for all one common measure of joy, because as our Lord the destroyer of sin and death finds none free from charge, so is He come to free us all.

Personally, I think an even more compelling item from this same sermon, same chapter, on the same topic is this:

Truly foreign to this nativity is that which we read of all others, “no one is clean from stain, not even the infant who has lived but one day upon earth.” [Job 14:4-5, Septuagint version] Nothing therefore of the lust of the flesh has passed into that peerless nativity, nothing of the law of sin has entered.

Second Sermon on the Nativity (Sermon 22), Chapter 3.

And to this end, without male seed Christ was conceived of a Virgin, who was fecundated not by human intercourse but by the Holy Spirit. And whereas in all mothers conception does not take place without stain of sin, this one received purification from the Source of her conception.

Fifth sermon on the Nativity (Sermon 25), Chapter 5.

… when by the condition of birth, there is one cause of perishing for all. And so among the sons of men, the Lord Jesus alone was born innocent, since he alone was conceived without the pollution of carnal concupiscence.

My friend, Pastor King, pointed out that this may well have been drawn from Augustine and Ambrose:

Ambrose (c. 339-97) commenting on Luke 1:35:

For wholly alone of those born of woman was our Holy Lord Jesus, Who by the strangeness of His undefiled Birth has not suffered the pollutions of earthly corruption, but dispelled them by heavenly majesty.

– Saint Ambrose of Milan, Exposition of the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke, trans. Theodosia Tomkinson (Etna: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1998), Book II, §56, p. 59. (Expositio Evangelii secundum Lucam, 2.56, PL 15:1572D-1573A.)

Augustine (354-430 AD):

Moreover, when expounding the Gospel according to Luke, he [i.e. Ambrose] says: “It was no cohabitation with a husband which opened the secrets of the Virgin’s womb; rather was it the Holy Ghost which infused immaculate seed into her unviolated womb. For the Lord Jesus alone of those who are born of woman is holy, inasmuch as He experienced not the contact of earthly corruption, by reason of the novelty of His immaculate birth; nay, He repelled it by His heavenly majesty.”

– NPNF1: Vol. V, Augustine’s Anti-Pelagian Works, The Grace of Christ And on Original Sin, Book II On Original Sin, Chapter 47-Sentences from Ambrose in favor of Original Sin.

One of my readers, Fredericka, pointed out an additional reference in Leo’s Sermons:

Third sermon on the Epiphany (Sermon 33), Chapter 1

For as justice was everywhere failing and the whole world was given over to vanity and wickedness, if the Divine Power had not deferred its judgment, the whole of mankind would have received the sentence of damnation. But wrath was changed to forgiveness, and, that the greatness of the Grace to be displayed might be the more conspicuous, it pleased God, to apply the mystery of remission to the abolishing of men’s sins at a time when no one could boast of his own merits.

Jason Engwer, at the Triablogue, pointed out a further example from Leo the Great.

Eighth Sermon on the Nativity (Sermon 28), Chapter 3

And therefore in the general ruin of the entire human race there was but one remedy in the secret of the Divine plan which could succor the fallen, and that was that one of the sons of Adam should be born free and innocent of original transgression, to prevail for the rest both by His example and His merits. Still further, because this was not permitted by natural generation, and because there could be no offspring from our faulty stock without seed, of which the Scripture saith, ‘Who can make a clean thing conceived of an unclean seed? is it not Thou who art alone?’

2. Gelasius I

Launoy cites Gelasius’ fifth letter. I found it elsewhere identified as his seventh letter. Regardless, it is written to the Picenian Bishops. It states:

Accordingly whatever those parents produced of their stock, is indeed the work of God, according to the institution of nature, but not without the contagion of that evil which they derived through their own transgression

Launoy also cites Gelasius “Lib. contra Pelagium,” which I found elsewhere cited as as “dicta adv. Pelag. haeresin.,” which in any event means it is a work against the Pelagians. It states:

It belongs alone to the immaculate Lamb to have no sin at all.

3. Gregory I

Book of the Morals, an exposition of Job, Book 18, on Job 27 (and quoted by Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologiae, 3rd part, question 34, article 1, reply to objection 3)

For we, though we are made holy, yet are: not born holy, because by the mere constitution of a corruptible nature we are tied and bound, that we should say with the Prophet, Behold, I was shapen in wickedness, and in sin hath my mother conceived me. But He only is truly born holy, Who in order that He might get the better of that same constitution of a corruptible nature, was not conceived by the combining of carnal conjunction.

My friend, Pastor David King also noted some additional quotations from Gregory:

Gregory the Great (Gregory I c. 540-603):

Moreover, since no one among men in this world is without sin (and what else is sinning but flying from GOD?), I say confidently that this my daughter also has some sins.

NPNF2: Vol. XII, Selected Epistles, Book VII, Epistle 30.

Gregory the Great (Gregory I c. 540-603):

And what a thing it would be, were we to neglect for the salvation of the soul what we carefully attend to in matters of earthly concern! And so, since, according to the words of the Apostle John, no one is without sin, let us call to mind enticements of thought, incontinence of tongue, deeds of transgression; and let us, while we may, with great knocking, do away with the stains of our iniquities, that our just and loving Redeemer may not execute vengeance according to our deservings, but according to His mercy be bent to pardon.

NPNF2: Vol. XIII, Selected Epistles, Book XII, Epistle 1.

4. Roman Clergy, post Honorius I (John IV before his reign)

Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, Book 2, Chapter 19:

And in the first place, it is blasphemous folly to say that man is without sin, which none can be, but only the one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, Who was conceived and born without sin; for all other men, being born in original sin, are known to bear the mark of Adam’s transgression, even whilst they are without actual sin, according to the saying of the prophet, “For behold, I was conceived in iniquity; and in sin did my mother give birth to me.”

However, this same quotation is, as my friend Pastor King pointed out, elsewhere attributed to John IV, because it was apparently written by him and three other high-ranking clergy while he was Rome’s bishop-elect (see this source).

John IV, Bishop of Rome (d. 642):

And in the first place it is foolish blasphemy to say that man is without sin; which can by no means be, except the one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, Who was conceived and born without sin. For other men born with original sin, even though living without actual sin, are known to bear testimony to the prevarication of Adam; according to the Prophet saying: “For behold in iniquities was I conceived, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5).

Latin text: Et primum quidem blasphemia et stultiloquium est, dicere esse hominem sine peccato, quod omnino non potest, nisi unus mediator Dei et hominum homo Christus Jesus, qui sine peccato est conceptus et partus. Nam caeteri homines cum peccato originali nascentes, testimonium praevaricationis Adae (etiam sine peccato actuali existentes) portare noscuntur, secundum prophetam dicentem: Ecce enim in iniquitatibus conceptus sum, et in peccatis concepit me mater mea (Psal. L).

John IV, Epistola I, ad Episcopos et Presbyteros Scotiae, PL 80:602B-C; see John Harvey Treat, The Catholic Faith, or Doctrines of the Church of Rome Contrary to Scripture and the Teaching of the Primitive Church (Nashotah, WI: The Bishop Welles Brotherhood, 1888), p. 22.

5. Innocent III

Sermon on the Purification of the Virgin

But forthwith [upon the Angel’s words, ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee’] the Holy Ghost came upon her. He had before come into her, when, in her mother’s womb, He cleansed her soul from original sin; but now too He came upon her to cleanse her flesh from the ‘fomes’ of sin, that she might be altogether without spot or wrinkle. That tyrant then of the flesh, the sickness of nature, the ‘fomes’ of sin, as I think, He altogether extinguished, that henceforth any motion from the law of sin should not be able to arise in her members.

(I’ve presented the translation from the linked source, which omits the first phrase that Launoy includes, but includes subsequent phrases that Launoy omits)

Sermon on the Assumption, Sermon 2 (aka Second Discourse on the Assumption)(see the alternate translation here)

Eve was produced without sin, but she brought forth in sin; Mary was produced in sin, but she brought forth without sin.

There’s at least one additional quotation from Innocent III that we can bring to bear on the topic:

On the Feast of John the Baptist, i (Sermon 16 on Feast Days)

Of John the Angel does not speak of the conception but of the birth. But of Jesus he predicts alike the Birth and the Conception. For to Zechariah the father it is predicted, ‘Thy wife shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John,’ but to Mary the mother it is predicted, ‘Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bear a Son, and shalt call His Name Jesus.’ For John was conceived in fault, but Christ Alone was conceived without fault. But each was born in grace, and therefore the Nativity of each is celebrated, but the Conception of Christ Alone is celebrated.

6. Innocent V

Commentary on Peter Lombard’s Sentences, Book 3, Distinction 3, Question 1, Article 1

The nearer any one approaches to the Holy of Holies, so much the greater degree of sanctification ought he to have, for there is no approach to Him, except through sanctification. But the mother approaches more than all to the Son, Who is the Holy of Holies; therefore she ought to have a greater degree of sanctification after her Son. The degree of sanctification may be understood as fourfold: either that one have sanctity (1) before conception and birth; (2) after conception and birth; (3) in the conception itself and birth; (4) in birth, not in conception. For, ‘in conception and not in birth’ is impossible. The first degree is not possible, both because personal perfection (like knowledge or virtue) is not transfused from the parents; and also because in children the being of grace cannot take place, before the actual being of nature, upon which it is founded. The second degree is common to all, according to the common law of sanctification through sacraments. The third is peculiar to the Holy of Holies, in Whom Alone all sanctification took place at once, conception, sanctification, assumption. There remains then the fourth. But this has four degrees; because the foetus, when conceived in the womb, may be understood to be sanctified either before animation, or in the animation, or soon after the animation, or long after the animation. The first degree is impossible, because according to Dionysius (de div. nom. c. 12) ‘Holiness is cleanness free from all defilement, and perfect and immaculate;’ but the uncleanness of fault is not expelled except through ‘grace making gracious’ [acceptable], as darkness by light, of which grace the reasonable creature only is the subject. The second degree was not suitable to the Virgin, because either she would not have contracted original sin, and so would not have needed the universal sanctification and redemption of Christ, or if she had contracted it, grace and fault could not have been in her at once. The fourth degree also was not suitable to the Virgin, because it did suit John and Jeremiah, and because it did not suit so great holiness that she should have lingered long in sin, as others; but John was sanctified in the sixth month (Luke i.). But the third seems suitable and piously credible, although it be not derived from Scripture, that she should have been sanctified, soon after her animation, either on the very day or hour, although not at the same moment.

(Only the final portion, regarding the suitability of the third condition is provided by Launoy, but I’ve provided some expanded context.)

7. John XXII (or Benedict XII)

Sermon 1 on the Assumption

She (the Virgin) passed, first, from a state of original sin, second, from a state of childhood to maternal honor, third, from misery to glory.

8. Clement VI

Sermon One of the Lord’s Advent (aka “Sigua erunt in sole.”)

But before I divide the theme, it seems that that Conception ought not to be celebrated, first, on the authority of Bernard, who, in his Epistle to the Lyonnese [canons], gravely reprehends them, because they had received the feast and held it solemnly. Because no feast ought to be celebrated, except for reverence of the sanctity of the person as to whom it is celebrated, since such honor is shown to saints on account of the [relation] which they have to God above others; but this is on account of holiness; and not actual sin only, but original sin also [separates] from God. But the Blessed Virgin was conceived in original sin, as many saints seem to say, and may be proved by many grounds. It seems that the Church ought not to hold a festival of her Conception. Here, being unwilling to dispute, I say briefly that one thing is clear, that the Blessed Virgin contracted original sin in the cause. The cause and reason is this, that, as being conceived from the coming together of man and woman, she was conceived through passion, and therefore she had original sin in the cause, which her Son had not, because He was not conceived of seed of man, but through the mystic breathing (Luke i.), ‘The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee.’ And therefore not to have original sin is a singular privilege of Christ Alone. But whether she had ‘in form’ original sin, or was by Divine virtue preserved, there are different opinions among Doctors. But however it was, I say, that if, in form and not in cause only, she had original sin, we may still very reasonably keep festival of her Conception, supposing that, according to all most opposed, it was but a little hour that she was in original sin, because according to all she was sanctified as soon as she could be sanctified.

Launoy only provides the portion beginning with “But whether she had ‘in form’ original sin …,” but I’ve provided the remainder of the context, so that the sense is reinforced. Note that this too is something that was written before his reign. I have not checked in every case above whether the writing was before or after the man became the bishop of Rome.

– TurretinFan

Believing About the Holy Catholic Church

September 10, 2009


A perennial issue in our discussions with Roman Catholics is the issue of whether, in addition to believing God’s word in Scripture, we ought also to trust (in a similar way) in the church. While nothing in Scripture suggests that the church is another rule of faith in addition to Scripture, such that we would accord the church the same credence we give to God and his written word, we are sometimes presented with folks who want to latch onto the creeds.

The so-called Apostles’ Creed (not formulated by them, as some have supposed, but taken from the Scriptures that they left behind for us) includes a phrase regarding the “Holy Catholic Church,” which is often seen as problematic for those who are unfamiliar with the meaning of the creed. The usual way in which this section of the creed is recited in English-speaking churches that recite it is thus:

I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.

Grammar of the Creed
The grammar of the creed makes a distinction that is not immediately apparent in English. What we “believe in” is God. He is the one in whom we trust. Thus, we “believe in” the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. In contrast, we believe that there is a holy catholic church (not the Roman Catholic church, but the universal body of Christ: all those who believe on the name of the Lord), that the saints (by which mean again those who believe) ought to commune together until the Lord’s return, that sins are forgiven by God on the merits of Christ, that the body will be resurrected and re-united to the soul, and that heaven will be eternal. Thus, we are not saying that we trust in the church despite the ambiguity of the English wording (as well as the ambiguity of the wording of the Constantinoplean Creed).

Schaff’s Explanation

Perhaps it would be helpful to have more than the word of a pseudonymous blogger on this grammatical point. In Creeds of Christendom, historian Philip Schaff explains it this way:

Then, changing the language (credo in for credo with the simple accusative), the Creed professes to believe ‘the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the remission of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.’

– Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, Volume 1, Chapter 2, Section 7

Paschasius’ or Faustus’ Testimony

The significance of this distinction was not lost on the ancients. Indeed, when we draw this distinction (which today we refer to as Sola Scriptura) we are in agreement with those ancient Christians whose writings have survived (even one from the Rome of that day, which had not descended to the depths of Rome today):

Paschasius, Deacon of Rome (flourished about A.D. 491 – 512) wrote:

Therefore thou sayest, ‘I believe in the Holy Catholic Church,’ because, in supplying the little syllable in, dost thou attempt to produce great darkness? We believe the Catholic Church as the mother of regeneration; we do not believe in the Church as in the Author of salvation. For when the universal Church confesses this of the Holy Ghost, can she also believe in herself? … He who believes in the Church believes in man. For man is not of the Church, but the Church began to be from man. Desist therefore from this blasphemous persuasion, to think that thou oughtest to believe in any human creature: since thou must not in anywise believe in an angel or archangel … We believe the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the remission of sins, the resurrection of the flesh, everlasting life … The unskillfulness of some have drawn, and taken the preposition ‘in’ from the sentence going next before, and put it to that which follows, imprudently adding thereto more than needed.

– Paschasius, Deacon of Rome, Two Books on the Holy Spirit, Book 1, Chapter 1 (This work is sometimes alternatively ascribed to Faustus of Riez who flourished from about A.D. 433 – 485)

Rufinus’ Testimony

We see the same thing from Rufinus, about a century earlier, who made roughly the same point.

Tyrannius Rufinus (lived about A.D. 344 – 410) explains with reference to the Apostles’ creed:

“The Holy Church; The Forgiveness of Sin, the Resurrection of This Flesh.” It is not said, “In the holy Church,” nor “In the forgiveness of sins,” nor “In the resurrection of the flesh.” For if the preposition “in” had been added, it would have had the same force as in the preceding articles. But now in those clauses in which the faith concerning the Godhead is declared, we say “In God the Father,” and “In Jesus Christ His Son,” and “In the Holy Ghost,” but in the rest, where we speak not of the Godhead but of creatures and mysteries, the preposition “in ” is not added. We do not say “We believe in the holy Church,” but “We believe the holy Church,” not as God, but as the Church gathered together to God: and we believe that there is “forgiveness of sins;” we do not say “We believe in the forgiveness of sins;” and we believe that there will be a “Resurrection of the flesh;” we do not say “We believe in the resurrection of the flesh.” By this monosyllabic preposition, therefore, the Creator is distinguished from the creatures, and things divine are separated from things human.

– Rufinus of Aquileia, A Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed, Section 36

(for a larger context, see here)

Aquinas’ Testimony

While we would certainly have some disagreements with the much later writings of Thomas Aquinas, we find some similar sentiments in his discussion:

Objection 5. Further, Augustine (Tract. xxix in Joan.) expounding the passage, “You believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1) says: “We believe Peter or Paul, but we speak only of believing ‘in’ God.” Since then the Catholic Church is merely a created being, it seems unfitting to say: “In the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.”

Reply to Objection 5. If we say: “‘In’ the holy Catholic Church,” this must be taken as verified in so far as our faith is directed to the Holy Ghost, Who sanctifies the Church; so that the sense is: “I believe in the Holy Ghost sanctifying the Church.” But it is better and more in keeping with the common use, to omit the ‘in,’ and say simply, “the holy Catholic Church,” as Pope Leo [Rufinus, Comm. in Sym. Apost.] observes.

– Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part 2b, Question 1, Article 9

Notice how Aquinas agrees with the substance of the objection while seeking to find an acceptable sense for the words.


The idea of arguing that one should be “believe in” the church from the creed is an anachronistic misuse of the creed. It is as anachronistic as supposing that the term “Holy Catholic Church” was supposed to refer to the Roman Catholic church. Both the grammar of the creed (as noted by Schaff) as well as early Christian authors and even the most notable medieval scholastic.

With Alexander of Alexandria (died about A.D. 326), we affirm that we believe in the existence of only one body of Christ, relying on the authority of Scripture:

“And in addition to this pious belief respecting the Father and the Son, we confess as the Sacred Scriptures teach us, one Holy Ghost, who moved the saints of the Old Testament, and the divine teachers of that which is called the New. We believe in one only Catholic Church, the apostolical, which cannot be destroyed even though all the world were to take counsel to fight against it, and which gains the victory over all the impious attacks of the heterodox; for we are emboldened by the words of its Master, ‘Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world [John xvi. 33].’ After this, we receive the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead, of which Jesus Christ our Lord became the first-fruits; Who bore a Body, in truth, not in semblance, derived from Mary the mother of God (ἐκ τῆς Θεοτόκου Μαρίας); in the fulness of time sojourning among the race, for the remission of sins: who was crucified and died, yet for all this suffered no diminution of His Godhead. He rose from the dead, was taken into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

The Ecclesiastical History of Theodoret, Chapter III, The Epistle of Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria to Alexander, Bishop of Constantinople.

How can we know whether a church is part of the Church? If it is apostolical. How can we tell if something is apostolical? Look at the books left behind by the apostles. Human successors can pervert the path of those who went before them, but the unchanging Word of God found in Scripture is the alone reliable measure of apostolicity and catholicity (in the true sense of the term).


>The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Schaff) – Index Page

March 12, 2009

>The Ante-Nicene Fathers (also available at CCEL – except volume 10)

This is the first segment of Schaff’s famous patrology.

1. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (Clement of Rome, Mathetes, Polycarp, Ignatius, Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus.) (Google)(Google 2)(Archive)

2. Fathers of the Second Century (Hermas, Tatian, Theophilus, Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria) (Google)(Archive)

3. Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian (Three Parts: I. Apologetic; II. Anti-Marcion; III. Ethical) (Google)(Google 2)(Archive)

4. The Fathers of the Third Century (Tertullian Part IV; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen) (Google)(Google 2)(Google 3)(Google 4)(Archive)

5. The Fathers of the Third Century (Hippolytus; Cyprian; Caius; Novatian; Appendix) (Google)(Google 2)(Google 3)(Archive)

6. The Fathers of the Third Century (Gregory Thaumaturgus; Dinoysius the Great; Julius Africanus; Anatolius and Minor Writers; Methodius; Arnobius) (Google)(Google 2)(Google 3)(Archive)

7. The Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries (Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, Liturgies)(Google)(Google)(Google 2)(Archive)

8. The Twelve Patriarchs, Excerpts and Epistles, The Clementia, Apocrypha, Decretals, Memoirs of Edessa and Syriac Documents, Remains of the First Ages (Google)(Archive)

9. Recently Discovered Additions to Early Christian Literature; Commentaries of Origen (The Gospel of Peter, The Diatessaron of Tatian, The Apocalypse of Peter, The Visio Pauli, The Apocalypses of the Virgin and Sedrach, The Testament of Abraham, The Acts of Xanthippe and Polyxena, The Narrative of Zosimus, The Apology of Aristides, The Epistles of Clement (Complete Text), Origen’s Commentary on John, Books I-X, Origen’s Commentary on Mathew, Books I, II, and X-XIV)(Google)(Google 2)(Google 3)(Google 4)(Archive)

10. Bibliographic Synopsis; General Index (Google)(Google 2)(Google 3)(Archive)



Premature Exultation – Semi-Augustinianism

March 18, 2008

David Waltz seems excited by a quotation from R.C. Sproul regarding labeling Roman Catholic doctrine.

Waltz writes: “The fact that the Catholic Church maintains that it is impossible to accept the gospel without grace (gratia praeveniens), this separates Her teaching from “all forms of semi-Pelagianism”; instead, embracing “moderate-Augustinianism, or of what might be called Semi-Augustinianism, in distinction from Semi-Pelagianism.”” (first quotation is from Sproul, second quotation is from Schaff, and the emphasis was provided by Waltz) (source)

Waltz’s exultation at being distinguished from “all forms of semi-Pelagianism,” is a bit premature. You see, Sproul – like the others we’ve examined (link) (link) – is careful to distinguish between Augustine’s correct position and Rome’s incorrect position – although I do not think that Sproul was necessarily thinking of Rome in the discussion he was conducting.

What one wishes to call the position is the wrapper: Semi-Augustinian with Sproul or Schaff (in his narrowest sense, see here, for example); Semi-Semi-Pelagian with Warfield; or Semi-Pelagian with Schaff (in the broadest sense in which he uses the term). The content inside the wrapper is the problem: the erroneous position of Rome. It’s not wrong because it disagrees with Augustine, of course. It’s not wrong because it leans toward Peliagius, either. It’s wrong because it disagrees with Scripture, as noted here (link).


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