Fridays with the Fathers


Tatian the Assyrian – Address to the Greeks, Chap. V: The Doctrine of the Christians as to the Creation of the World –

God was in the beginning; but the beginning, we have been taught, is the power of the Logos. For the Lord of the universe, who is Himself the necessary ground (ὑπόστασις) of all being, inasmuch as no creature was yet in existence, was alone; but inasmuch as He was all power, Himself the necessary ground of things visible and invisible, with Him were all things; with Him, by Logos-power (διὰ λογικῆς δυνάμεως), the Logos Himself also, who was in Him, subsists. And by His simple will the Logos springs forth; and the Logos, not coming forth in vain, becomes the first-begotten work of the Father. Him (the Logos) we know to be the beginning of the world. But He came into being by participation, not by abscission; for what is cut off is separated from the original substance, but that which comes by participation, making its choice of function, does not render him deficient from whom it is taken. For just as from one torch many fires are lighted, but the light of the first torch is not lessened by the kindling of many torches, so the Logos, coming forth from the Logos-power of the Father, has not divested of the Logos-power Him who begat Him. I myself, for instance, talk, and you hear; yet, certainly, I who converse do not become destitute of speech (λόγος) by the transmission of speech, but by the utterance of my voice I endeavour to reduce to order the unarranged matter in your minds. And as the Logos, begotten in the beginning, begat in turn our world, having first created for Himself the necessary matter, so also I, in imitation of the Logos, being begotten again, and having become possessed of the truth, am trying to reduce to order the confused matter which is kindred with myself. For matter is not, like God, without beginning, nor, as having no beginning, is of equal power with God; it is begotten, and not produced by any other being, but brought into existence by the Framer of all things alone.

Tatian the Assyrian – Address to the Greeks, Chap. 11

If you speak of the origin of the gods, you also declare them to be mortal.

Tatian the Assyrian – Address to the Greeks, Chap. 25 – Boastings and Quarrels of the Philosophers –

What great and wonderful things have your philosophers effected? They leave uncovered one of their shoulders; they let their hair grow long; they cultivate their beards; their nails are like the claws of wild beasts. Though they say that they want nothing, yet, like Proteus, they need a currier for their wallet, and a weaver for their mantle, and a wood-cutter for their staff, and the rich, and a cook also for their gluttony. O man competing with the dog, you know not God, and so have turned to the imitation of an irrational animal. You cry out in public with an assumption of authority, and take upon you to avenge your own self; and if you receive nothing, you indulge in abuse, and philosophy is with you the art of getting money. You follow the doctrines of Plato, and a disciple of Epicurus lifts up his voice to oppose you. Again, you wish to be a disciple of Aristotle, and a follower of Democritus rails at you. Pythagoras says that he was Euphorbus, and he is the heir of the doctrine of Pherecydes; but Aristotle impugns the immortality of the soul. You who receive from your predecessors doctrines which clash with one another, you the inharmonious, are fighting against the harmonious. One of you asserts that God is body, but I assert that He is without body; that the world is indestructible, but I say that it is to be destroyed; that a conflagration will take place at various times, but I say that it will come to pass once for all; that Minos and Rhadamanthus are judges, but I say that God Himself is Judge; that the soul alone is endowed with immortality, but I say that the flesh also is endowed with it. What injury do we inflict upon you, O Greeks? Why do you hate those who follow the word of God, as if they were the vilest of mankind? It is not we who eat human flesh—they among you who assert such a thing have been suborned as false witnesses; it is among you that Pelops is made a supper for the gods, although beloved by Poseidon, and Kronos devours his children, and Zeus swallows Metis.

Theophilus of Antoich – To Autolycus, Chap. 1 – Here Theolphilus makes an astute comment about examining the content of ones speech and not merely being taken captive by the rhetorical power of ones speech –

A fluent tongue and an elegant style afford pleasure and such praise as vainglory delights in, to wretched men who have been corrupted in mind; the lover of truth does not give heed to ornamented speeches, but examines the real matter of the speech, what it is, and what kind it is. Since, then, my friend, you have assailed me with empty words, boasting of your gods of wood and stone, hammered and cast, carved and graven, which neither see nor hear, for they are idols, and the works of men’s hands.

Theophilus of Antioch – To Autolycus, Chap. 7 – We shall see God when we put on immortality

This is my God, the Lord of all, who alone stretched out the heaven, and established the breadth of the earth under it; who stirs the deep recesses of the sea, and makes its waves roar; who rules its power, and stills the tumult of its waves; who founded the earth upon the waters, and gave a spirit to nourish it; whose breath giveth light to the whole, who, if He withdraw His breath, the whole will utterly fail. By Him you speak, O man; His breath you breathe yet Him you know not. And this is your condition, because of the blindness of your soul, and the hardness of your heart. But, if you will, you may be healed. Entrust yourself to the Physician, and He will couch the eyes of your soul and of your heart. Who is the Physician? God, who heals and makes alive through His word and wisdom. God by His own word and wisdom made all things; for “by His word were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.” Most excellent is His wisdom. By His wisdom God founded the earth; and by knowledge He prepared the heavens; and by understanding were the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the clouds poured out their dews. If thou perceivest these things, O man, living chastely, and holily, and righteously, thou canst see God. But before all let faith and the fear of God have rule in thy heart, and then shalt thou understand these things. When thou shalt have put off the mortal, and put on incorruption, then shall thou see God worthily. For God will raise thy flesh immortal with thy soul; and then, having become immortal, thou shalt see the Immortal, if now you believe on Him; and then you shall know that you have spoken unjustly against Him.

Athenagrous the Athenian – A Plea for the Christians: Chap. 1 – Here is another testimony to the unfair treatment Christians received for their belief in Christ –

But for us who are called Christians you have not in like manner cared; but although we commit no wrong—nay, as will appear in the sequel of this discourse, are of all men most piously and righteously disposed towards the Deity and towards your government—you allow us to be harassed, plundered, and persecuted, the multitude making war upon us for our name alone. We venture, therefore, to lay a statement of our case before you—and you will team from this discourse that we suffer unjustly, and contrary to all law and reason—and we beseech you to bestow some consideration upon us also, that we may cease at length to be slaughtered at the instigation of false accusers. For the fine imposed by our persecutors does not aim merely at our property, nor their insults at our reputation, nor the damage they do us at any other of our greater interests. These we hold in contempt, though to the generality they appear matters of great importance; for we have learned, not only not to return blow for blow, nor to go to law with those who plunder and rob us, but to those who smite us on one side of the face to offer the other side also, and to those who take away our coat to give likewise our cloak. But, when we have surrendered our property, they plot against our very bodies and souls, pouring upon us wholesale charges of crimes of which we are guiltless even in thought, but which belong to these idle praters themselves, and to the whole tribe of those who are like them.

Athenagrous of Athenian – On the Resurrection of the Dead: Chap. 1 – How men corrupt the truth –

By the side of every opinion and doctrine which agrees with the truth of things, there springs up some falsehood; and it does so, not because it takes its rise naturally from some fundamental principle, or from some cause peculiar to the matter in hand, but because it is invented on purpose by men who set a value on the spurious seed, for its tendency to corrupt the truth. This is apparent, in the first place, from those who in former times addicted themselves to such inquiries, and their want of agreement with their predecessors and contemporaries, and then, not least, from the very confusion which marks the discussions that are now going on. For such men have left no truth free from their calumnious attacks—not the being of God, not His knowledge, not His operations, not those books which follow by a regular and strict sequence from these, and delineate for us the doctrines of piety. On the contrary, some of them utterly, and once for all, give up in despair the truth concerning these things, and some distort it to suit their own views, and some of set purpose doubt even of things which are palpably evident.

Athenagrous the Athenian – On the resurrection of the Dead: Chap. 3 – How God’s ability to bring men into existence is the basis for his ability to bring them back to life from the dead –

Moreover also, that His power is sufficient for the raising of dead bodies, is shown by the creation of these same bodies. For if, when they did not exist, He made at their first formation the bodies of men, and their original elements, He will, when they are dissolved, in whatever manner that may take place, raise them again with equal ease: for this, too, is equally possible to Him.

Athenagrous the Athenian – On the Resurrection of the Dead: Chap. 13 Cont. – On the nature of mans resurrected body and the power of God to do so –

 Confident of these things, no less than of those which have already come to pass, and reflecting on our own nature, we are content with a life associated with neediness and corruption, as suited to our present state of existence, and we stedfastly hope for a continuance of being in immortality; and this we do not take without foundation from the inventions of men, feeding ourselves on false hopes, but our belief rests on a most infallible guarantee—the purpose of Him who fashioned us, according to which He made man of an immortal soul and a body, and furnished him with understanding and an innate law for the preservation and safeguard of the things given by Him as suitable to an intelligent existence and a rational life: for we know well that He would not have fashioned such a being, and furnished him with everything belonging to perpetuity, had He not intended that what was so created should continue in perpetuity. If, therefore, the Maker of this universe made man with a view to his partaking of an intelligent life, and that, having become a spectator of His grandeur, and of the wisdom which is manifest in all things, he might continue always in the contemplation of these; then, according to the purpose of his Author, and the nature which he has received, the cause of his creation is a pledge of his continuance for ever, and this continuance is a pledge of the resurrection, without which man could not continue. So that, from what has been said, it is quite clear that the resurrection is plainly proved by the cause of man’s creation, and the purpose of Him who made him. Such being the nature of the cause for which man has been brought into this world, the next thing will be to consider that which immediately follows, naturally or in the order proposed; and in our investigation the cause of their creation is followed by the nature of the men so created, and the nature of those created by the just judgment of their Maker upon them, and all these by the end of their existence. Having investigated therefore the point placed first in order, we must now go on to consider the nature of men.

Last week we introduced the layout of Schaeffer’s He Is There and He Is Not Silent. This week we want to explore the first two areas of metaphysics and morals. As noted last week, Schaeffer is operating on the belief that God exists and that He has spoken – thus, He is there and He is not silent.

Metaphysics

Metaphysics deals with the idea of existence. That which is. In fact, metaphysics can even be discussed at all because something exists rather than nothing and a part of that something, namely, humans, are capable of reflecting on the something that exists of which they are a part of. There are two primary answers to the question of existence, why is there something rather than nothing? There is the impersonal and the personal answer.

The impersonal answer suggests that everything that exists had an impersonal beginning. Off the bat Schaeffer notes that with an impersonal beginning for everything leaves mankind without and answer for or meaning to give to the particulars. Thus, an impersonal beginning of everything is not a universal that can give meaning to the particulars. If the impersonal is the explanation for everything then we cannot make sense of many things, including, most fundamentally, the very personality we find in ourselves.

To the contrary, the personal answer, as presented by the Christian worldview, states that the only answer to the question of existence as we know it is to have a personal beginning, or beginner. Schaeffer states the problem like this,

The dilemma of modern man is simple: he does not know why man has any meaning. He is lost. Man remains a zero. This is the damnation of our generation, the heart of modern man’s problem. But if we begin with a personal and this is the origin of all else, then the personal does have meaning, and man and his aspirations are not meaningless. (p. 285)

But it is not enough to have a personal beginner. This personal beginner must possess certain traits, characteristics or properties that adequately explain the personality of man and everything else that exists. “To have an adequate answer of a personal beginning, we need two things. We need a personal-infinite God (or an infinite-personal God), and we need a personal unity and diversity in God.” (p. 286) Schaeffer points out two major ideas here: (1) God must be infinitely personal and (2) he must be both unified in some way as to be one and diversified in another way as to ground and explain the diversity we see in life. Thus, we need an infinitely personal triune God. We need the God as revealed in Scripture. An infinitely personal triune God is the only being than can adequately explain (1) why something exists rather than nothing and (2) why what exists exists the way it does. Schaeffer boldly states, “Without the high order of personal unity and diversity as given in the Trinity, there are no answers.” (p. 288) With that statement Schaeffer has the following words to say on the close of metaphysics,

Man is made in the image of God; therefore, on the side of the fact that God is a personal God the chasm stands not between God and man, but between man and all else. But on the side of God’s infinity, man is as separated from God as the atom or any other finite of the universe. So we have the answer to man’s being finite and yet personal.

It is not that this is the best answer to existence; it is the only answer.

The only answer to the metaphysical problem of existence is that the infinite-personal God is there; and the only answer to the metaphysical problem of existence is that the Trinity is there. (p. 288-90)

He is there and He is not silent in relation to the question of metaphysics. God has told us who He is and who we are and how we relate to one another; both God to man and man to man.

Morals

Not only is God necessary for the answer to existence but also for the answer of morals. For Schaeffer this naturally flows from the observation that man has “estranged himself from himself and other men.” (p. 293-94) We can discuss morals because while man is wonderful he is also cruel.

Like with metaphysics, the first answer to the question of morals is from an impersonal beginning. While there may be a problem of man’s finiteness and cruelty, which can be separated, an impersonal beginning melds these together. This discussion can be hard to follow so let’s let Schaeffer explain it in his own words:

With an impersonal beginning, morals really do not exist as morals. If one starts with an impersonal beginning, the answer to morals eventually turns out to be the assertion that there are no morals. This is true whether one begins with the Eastern pantheism or the new theology’s pantheism, or with the energy particle. With an impersonal beginning, everything is finally equal in the area of morals. With an impersonal beginning, eventually morals is just another form of metaphysics, of being. Morals disappear, and there is only one philosophic area rather than two. (p. 294)

As Schaeffer notes, Marquis de Sade put it best when he stated that, “What is, is right.” (p. 297) There is no eternal ground for morality. The ground of morality in a world with an impersonal beginning is the ever changing ground of the present spirit of the age. This is a shifting ground which is really no ground at all.

The second answer is that there is a personal beginning, or beginner. Schaeffer notes that this can cut two ways. First, one could look at the world as it is presently and conclude that if there is a personal God as the Christians believe then how is this God any different than man himself? That is, if man is finite and cruel, why is God any different? This is problematic for two reasons. First, it makes man the reference point for understanding God and His personality and morality. Second, it gives man no hope of escape in the future from his present condition of cruelty. ” If we say that man in his present cruelty is what man has always been, and what man intrinsically is, how can there be any hope of a qualitative change in man?” (p. 299) The second answer to morals as grounded in a personal beginning is that man as how he is now is not how man always was. This is the answer and this is the answer the Bible gives. Schaeffer put it as follows:

There was a space-time, historic change in man. There is a discontinuity and not a continuity in man. Man, made in the image of God and not programmed, turned by choice from his proper integration point at a certain time in history. When he did this, he became something that he previously was not, and the dilemma of man becomes a true moral problem rather than merely a metaphysical one. Man, at a certain point of history, changed himself, and hence stands, in his cruelty  in discontinuity with what he was, and we have a true moral situation: morals do exist. Everything hangs upon the fact that man is abnormal now, in contrast to what he originally was. (p. 300)

What separates existence and morals is the fact that man was not always what he is now. If this were not so then existence and morals would be the same. What is, as Sade said, would be what is right. Since these two areas are separate man has true moral guilt before the infinite personal triune God. The answer to this guilt is the substitutionary and propitiatory death of Christ. Without either there is no meaning to Christ’s death on the cross (p. 303).

So, in answer to the problems of existence and morals, we need an infinitely-personal God who is unified and diverse (triune) and the way to keep these problems separate is to recognize the Fall that separates man from how he was, how he is now and how he can become because of Christ’s work on the cross.

Next week we will tackle the third area of epistemology by looking at the problem and the answer(s).

Irenaeus – Against Heresies: Book 5, Chap. 36 – On the renewal of creation at the resurrection and not its annihilation –

 For since there are real men, so must there also be a real establishment (plantationem), that they vanish not away among non-existent things, but progress among those which have an actual existence. For neither is the substance nor the essence of the creation annihilated (for faithful and true is He who has established it), but “the fashion of the world passeth away;” that is, those things among which transgression has occurred, since man has grown old in them. And therefore this [present] fashion has been formed temporary, God foreknowing all things; as I have pointed out in the preceding book, and have also shown, as far as was possible, the cause of the creation of this world of temporal things. But when this [present] fashion [of things] passes away, and man has been renewed, and flourishes in an incorruptible state, so as to preclude the possibility of becoming old, [then] there shall be the new heaven and the new earth, in which the new man shall remain [continually], always holding fresh converse with God. And since (or, that) these things shall ever continue without end, Isaiah declares, “For as the new heavens and the new earth which I do make, continue in my sight, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain.” And as the presbyters say, Then those who are deemed worthy of an abode in heaven shall go there, others shall enjoy the delights of paradise, and others shall possess the splendour of the city; for everywhere the Saviour shall be seen according as they who see Him shall be worthy.

Ireaneus – Fragments: Chap. 11 –

The business of the Christian is nothing else than to be ever preparing for death.

Irenaeus – Fragments: Chap. 52 – Irenaeus shows the reader how Scripture presents Jesus Christ as both God and man –

The sacred books acknowledge with regard to Christ, that as He is the Son of man, so is the same Being not a [mere] man; and as He is flesh, so is He also spirit, and the Word of God, and God. And as He was born of Mary in the last times, so did He also proceed from God as the First-begotten of every creature; and as He hungered, so did He satisfy [others]; and as He thirsted, so did He of old cause the Jews to drink, for the “Rock was Christ” Himself: thus does Jesus now give to His believing people power to drink spiritual waters, which spring up to life eternal. And as He was the son of David, so was He also the Lord of David. And as He was from Abraham, so did He also exist before Abraham. And as He was the servant of God, so is He the Son of God, and Lord of the universe. And as He was spit upon ignominiously, so also did He breathe the Holy Spirit into His disciples. And as He was saddened, so also did He give joy to His people. And as He was capable of being handled and touched, so again did He, in a non-apprehensible form, pass through the midst of those who sought to injure Him, and entered without impediment through closed doors. And as He slept, so did He also rule the sea, the winds, and the storms. And as He suffered, so also is He alive, and life-giving, and healing all our infirmity. And as He died, so is He also the Resurrection of the dead. He suffered shame on earth, while He is higher than all glory and praise in heaven; who, “though He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by divine power;” who “descended into the lower parts of the earth,” and who “ascended up above the heavens;” for whom a manger sufficed, yet who filled all things; who was dead, yet who liveth for ever and ever. Amen

Shepherd of Hermas – Book Two, Commandment Second: On Avoiding Evil Speaking

 First, then, speak evil of no one, nor listen with pleasure to any one who speaks evil of another. But if you listen, you will partake of the sin of him who speaks evil, if you believe the slander which you hear; for believing it, you will also have something to say against your brother. Thus, then, will you be guilty of the sin of him who slanders. For slander is evil and an unsteady demon. It never abides in peace, but always remains in discord. Keep yourself from it, and you will always be at peace with all. Put on a holiness in which there is no wicked cause of offence, but all deeds that are equable and joyful.

Shepherd of Herman – Book Two, Commandment Seventh: On Fearing God, And Not Fearing the Devil

“Fear,” said he, “the Lord, and keep His commandments. For if you keep the commandments of God, you will be powerful in every action, and every one of your actions will be incomparable. For, fearing the Lord, you will do all things well. This is the fear which you ought to have, that you may be saved. But fear not the devil; for, fearing the Lord, you will have dominion over the devil, for there is no power in him. But he in whom there is no power ought on no account to be an object of fear; but He in whom there is glorious power is truly to be feared. For every one that has power ought to be feared; but he who has not power is despised by all. Fear, therefore, the deeds of the devil, since they are wicked. For, fearing the Lord, you will not do these deeds, but will refrain from them. For fears are of two kinds: for if you do not wish to do that which is evil, fear the Lord, and you will not do it; but, again, if you wish to do that which is good, fear the Lord, and you will do it. Wherefore the fear of the Lord is strong, and great, and glorious. Fear, then, the Lord, and you will live to Him, and as many as fear Him and keep His commandments will live to God.” “Why,” said I, “sir, did you say in regard to those that keep His commandments, that they will live to God?” “Because,” says he, “all creation fears the Lord, but all creation does not keep His commandments. They only who fear the Lord and keep His commandments have life with God; but as to those who keep not His commandments, there is no life in them.”

Irenaeus – Against Heresies: Book Three, Chap. 23 – Here Irenaeus makes a case for why God would have saved Adam after he fell:

For if man, who had been created by God that he might live, after losing life, through being injured by the serpent that had corrupted him, should not any more return to life, but should be utterly [and for ever] abandoned to death, God would [in that case] have been conquered, and the wickedness of the serpent would have prevailed over the will of God. But inasmuch as God is invincible and long-suffering, He did indeed show Himself to be long-suffering in the matter of the correction of man and the probation of all, as I have already observed; and by means of the second man did He bind the strong man, and spoiled his goods, and abolished death, vivifying that man who had been in a state of death. For as the first Adam became a vessel in his (Satan’s) possession, whom he did also hold under his power, that is, by bringing sin on him iniquitously, and under colour of immortality entailing death upon him. For, while promising that they should be as gods, which was in no way possible for him to be, he wrought death in them: wherefore he who had led man captive, was justly captured in his turn by God; but man, who had been led captive, was loosed from the bonds of condemnation.

But this is Adam, if the truth should be told, the first formed man, of whom the Scripture says that the Lord spake, “Let Us make man after Our own image and likeness;” and we are all from him: and as we are from him, therefore have we all inherited his title. But inasmuch as man is saved, it is fitting that he who was created the original man should be saved. For it is too absurd to maintain, that he who was so deeply injured by the enemy, and was the first to suffer captivity, was not rescued by Him who conquered the enemy, but that his children were, —those whom he had begotten in the same captivity. Neither would the enemy appear to be as yet conquered, if the old spoils remained with him.

Irenaeus – Against Heresies: Book Four, Preface – Irenaeus on the importance of knowing ones opponent (in his case the teachings of the heretics) in order to be able to defeat their false doctrine with the goal of converting them to the true gospel:

The man, however, who would undertake their conversion, must possess an accurate knowledge of their systems or schemes of doctrine. For it is impossible for any one to heal the sick, if he has no knowledge of the disease of the patients. This was the reason that my predecessors—much superior men to myself, too —were unable, notwithstanding, to refute the Valentinians satisfactorily, because they were ignorant of these men’s system; which I have with all care delivered to thee in the first book in which I have also shown that their doctrine is a recapitulation of all the heretics. For which reason also, in the second, we have had, as in a mirror, a sight of their entire discomfiture. For they who oppose these men (the Valentinians) by the right method, do [thereby] oppose all who are of an evil mind; and they who overthrow them, do in fact overthrow every kind of heresy.

Irenaeus – Against Heresies: Book Four, Chap. 6 – Irenaeus explains the relationship between the Father and the Son, namely, that the Son reveals the Father:

For no one can know the Father, unless through the Word of God, that is, unless by the Son revealing [Him]; neither can he have knowledge of the Son, unless through the good pleasure of the Father. But the Son performs the good pleasure of the Father; for the Father sends, and the Son is sent, and comes. And His Word knows that His Father is, as far as regards us, invisible and infinite; and since He cannot be declared [by any one else], He does Himself declare Him to us; and, on the other hand, it is the Father alone who knows His own Word. And both these truths has our Lord declared. Wherefore the Son reveals the knowledge of the Father through His own manifestation. For the manifestation of the Son is the knowledge of the Father; for all things are manifested through the Word. In order, therefore, that we might know that the Son who came is He who imparts to those believing on Him a knowledge of the Father, He said to His disciples: “No man knoweth the Son but the Father, nor the Father but the Son, and those to whomsoever the Son shall reveal Him;” thus setting Himself forth and the Father as He [really] is, that we may not receive any other Father, except Him who is revealed by the Son.

Irenaeus – Against Heresies, Book 2: Chap. 34 – Irenaeus on the eternality of the soul:

The Lord has taught with very great fulness, that souls not only continue to exist, not by passing from body to body, but that they preserve the same form [in their separate state] as the body had to which they were adapted, and that they remember the deeds which they did in this state of existence, and from which they have now ceased,—in that narrative which is recorded respecting the rich man and that Lazarus who found repose in the bosom of Abraham. In this account He states that Dives knew Lazarus after death, and Abraham in like manner, and that each one of these persons continued in his own proper position, and that [Dives] requested Lazarus to be sent to relieve him—[Lazarus], on whom he did not [formerly] bestow even the crumbs [which fell] from his table. [He tells us] also of the answer given by Abraham, who was acquainted not only with what respected himself, but Dives also, and who enjoined those who did not wish to come into that place of torment to believe Moses and the prophets, and to receive the preaching of Him who was to rise again from the dead. By these things, then, it is plainly declared that souls continue to exist that they do not pass from body to body, that they possess the form of a man, so that they may be recognised, and retain the memory of things in this world; moreover, that the gift of prophecy was possessed by Abraham, and that each class [of souls] receives a habitation such as it has deserved, even before the judgment.

Irenaeus – Against Heresies, Book 3: Chap. 4 – Irenaeus points to universal Catholic Church as the source of unchanged apostolic doctrine:

Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account are we bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the thing pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, [in that case,] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches?

Irenaeus – Against Heresies, Book 3: Chap. 6 – From Ps. 110:1, Irenaeus defends the oneness of God and that both the Father and the Son share this oneness:

Therefore neither would the Lord, nor the Holy Spirit, nor the apostles, have ever named as God, definitely and absolutely, him who was not God, unless he were truly God; nor would they have named any one in his own person Lord, except God the Father ruling over all, and His Son who has received dominion from His Father over all creation, as this passage has it: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at my right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” Here the [Scripture] represents to us the Father addressing the Son; He who gave Him the inheritance of the heathen, and subjected to Him all His enemies. Since, therefore, the Father is truly Lord, and the Son truly Lord, the Holy Spirit has fitly designated them by the title of Lord.

Irenaeus – Against Heresies, Book 3: Chap. 11 – Here, Irenaeus presents an interesting argument for the existence of the 4 gospels:

 It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the “pillar and ground” of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh. From which fact, it is evident that the Word, the Artificer of all, He that sitteth upon the cherubim, and contains all things, He who was manifested to men, has given us the Gospel under four aspects, but bound together by one Spirit. As also David says, when entreating His manifestation, “Thou that sittest between the cherubim, shine forth.” For the cherubim, too, were four-faced, and their faces were images of the dispensation of the Son of God. For, [as the Scripture] says, “The first living creature was like a lion,” symbolizing His effectual working, His leadership, and royal power; the second [living creature] was like a calf, signifying [His] sacrificial and sacerdotal order; but “the third had, as it were, the face as of a man,”—an evident description of His advent as a human being; “the fourth was like a flying eagle,” pointing out the gift of the Spirit hovering with His wings over the Church. And therefore the Gospels are in accord with these things, among which Christ Jesus is seated.

At the tail end of last weeks posting we began the works of Irenaeus with book one of Against Heresies. So far, much of these works are comprised of Irenaeus explaining the heretical beliefs of various Gnostic groups. He follows up these explanations with correction, instruction and warning to those who are or might be lead astray from the true Gospel of Christ.

Irenaeus – Against Heresies: Book One, Chap. 341-42: Absurd interpretations of the Marcosians

 I well know, my dear friend, that when thou hast read through all this, thou wilt indulge in a hearty laugh over this their inflated wise folly! But those men are really worthy of being mourned over, who promulgate such a kind of religion, and who so frigidly and perversely pull to pieces the greatness of the truly unspeakable power, and the dispensations of God in themselves so striking, by means of Alpha and Beta, and through the aid of numbers. But as many as separate from the Church, and give heed to such old wives’ fables as these, are truly self-condemned; and these men Paul commands us, “after a first and second admonition, to avoid.”And John, the disciple of the Lord, has intensified their condemnation, when he desires us not even to address to them the salutation of “good-speed;” for, says he, “He that bids them be of good-speed is a partaker with their evil deeds;” and that with reason, “for there is no good-speed to the ungodly,” saith the Lord.

Irenaeus – Against Heresies: Book Two, Chap. 1: There is but one God. The following paragraph has a striking similarity to St. Anselm’s famous statement, “God is that, than which nothing greater can be conceived.”

For how can there be any other Fulness, or Principle, or Power, or God, above Him, since it is matter of necessity that God, the Pleroma (Fulness) of all these, should contain all things in His immensity, and should be contained by no one? But if there is anything beyond Him, He is not then the Pleroma of all, nor does He contain all. For that which they declare to be beyond Him will be wanting to the Pleroma, or, [in other words,] to that God who is above all things. But that which is wanting, and falls in any way short, is not the Pleroma of all things. In such a case, He would have both beginning, middle, and end, with respect to those who are beyond Him. And if He has an end in regard to those things which are below, He has also a beginning with respect to those things which are above. In like manner, there is an absolute necessity that He should experience the very same thing at all other points, and should be held in, bounded, and enclosed by those existences that are outside of Him. For that being who is the end downwards, necessarily circumscribes and surrounds him who finds his end in it. And thus, according to them, the Father of all (that is, He whom they call Proön and Proarche), with their Pleroma, and the good God of Marcion, is established and enclosed in some other, and is surrounded from without by another mighty Being, who must of necessity be greater, inasmuch as that which contains is greater than that which is contained. But then that which is greater is also stronger, and in a greater degree Lord; and that which is greater, and stronger, and in a greater degree Lord—must be God.

Irenaeus – Against Heresies: Book Two, Chap. 25 – The following statement is made concerning numerology and when it is proper to make a theological inference to numbers and when it is not.

 If any one, however, say in reply to these things, What then? Is it a meaningless and accidental thing, that the positions of names, and the election of the apostles, and the working of the Lord, and the arrangement of created things, are what they are?—we answer them: Certainly not; but with great wisdom and diligence, all things have clearly been made by God, fitted and prepared [for their special purposes]; and His word formed both things ancient and those belonging to the latest times; and men ought not to connect those things with the number thirty, but to harmonize them with what actually exists, or with right reason. Nor should they seek to prosecute inquiries respecting God by means of numbers, syllables, and letters. For this is an uncertain mode of proceeding, on account of their varied and diverse systems, and because every sort of hypothesis may at the present day be, in like manner, devised by any one; so that they can derive arguments against the truth from these very theories, inasmuch as they may be turned in many different directions. But, on the contrary, they ought to adapt the numbers themselves, and those things which have been formed, to the true theory lying before them. For system does not spring out of numbers, but numbers from a system; nor does God derive His being from things made, but things made from God. For all things originate from one and the same God.

Irenaeus – Against Heresies: Book Two, Chap. 26

It is therefore better and more profitable to belong to the simple and unlettered class, and by means of love to attain to nearness to God, than, by imagining ourselves learned and skilful, to be found [among those who are] blasphemous against their own God, inasmuch as they conjure up another God as the Father. And for this reason Paul exclaimed, “Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth:” not that he meant to inveigh against a true knowledge of God, for in that case he would have accused himself; but, because he knew that some, puffed up by the pretence of knowledge, fall away from the love of God, and imagine that they themselves are perfect, for this reason that they set forth an imperfect Creator, with the view of putting an end to the pride which they feel on account of knowledge of this kind, he says, “Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth.” Now there can be no greater conceit than this, that any one should imagine he is better and more perfect than He who made and fashioned him, and imparted to him the breath of life, and commanded this very thing into existence. It is therefore better, as I have said, that one should have no knowledge whatever of any one reason why a single thing in creation has been made, but should believe in God, and continue in His love, than that, puffed up through knowledge of this kind, he should fall away from that love which is the life of man; and that he should search after no other knowledge except [the knowledge of] Jesus Christ the Son of God, who was crucified for us, than that by subtle questions and hair-splitting expressions he should fall into impiety

Irenaeus – Against Heresies: Book Two, Chap. 28 – Here, Irenaeus points out a simple rule of Biblical interpretation that can also apply to the evaluation of religions – we move from the known to the unknown. We move from the generals to the particulars.

1. Having therefore the truth itself as our rule and the testimony concerning God set clearly before us, we ought not, by running after numerous and diverse answers to questions, to cast away the firm and true knowledge of God. But it is much more suitable that we, directing our inquiries after this fashion, should exercise ourselves in the investigation of the mystery and administration of the living God, and should increase in the love of Him who has done, and still does, so great things for us; but never should fall from the belief by which it is most clearly proclaimed that this Being alone is truly God and Father, who both formed this world, fashioned man, and bestowed the faculty of increase on His own creation, and called him upwards from lesser things to those greater ones which are in His own presence, just as He brings an infant which has been conceived in the womb into the light of the sun, and lays up wheat in the barn after He has given it full strength on the stalk. But it is one and the same Creator who both fashioned the womb and created the sun; and one and the same Lord who both reared the stalk of corn, increased and multiplied the wheat, and prepared the barn.

2. If, however, we cannot discover explanations of all those things in Scripture which are made the subject of investigation, yet let us not on that account seek after any other God besides Him who really exists. For this is the very greatest impiety. We should leave things of that nature to God who created us, being most properly assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit; but we, inasmuch as we are inferior to, and later in existence than, the Word of God and His Spirit, are on that very account destitute of the knowledge of His mysteries. And there is no cause for wonder if this is the case with us as respects things spiritual and heavenly, and such as require to be made known to us by revelation, since many even of those things which lie at our very feet (I mean such as belong to this world, which we handle, and see, and are in close contact with) transcend our knowledge, so that even these we must leave to God.

Justin Martyr – On the Resurrection: Chap. 7 – The body valuable in God’s sight:

For does not the word say, “Let Us make man in our image, and after our likeness?” What kind of man? Manifestly He means fleshly man, For the word says, “And God took dust of the earth, and made man.” It is evident, therefore, that man made in the image of God was of flesh. Is it not, then, absurd to say, that the flesh made by God in His own image is contemptible, and worth nothing? But that the flesh is with God a precious possession is manifest, first from its being formed by Him, if at least the image is valuable to the former and artist; and besides, its value can be gathered from the creation of the rest of the world. For that on account of which the rest is made, is the most precious of all to the maker.

Justin Martyr – The Martyrdom of Justin Martyr: Chap. 1 – Examination of Justin by the prefect: This is the beginning part of Justin’s testimony before Rusticus. His words here ring with similarity to that of Polycarp.

 And when they had been brought before his judgment-seat, said to Justin, “Obey the gods at once, and submit to the kings.” Justin said, “To obey the commandments of our Saviour Jesus Christ is worthy neither of blame nor of condemnation.” Rusticus the prefect said, “What kind of doctrines do you profess?” Justin said, “I have endeavoured to learn all doctrines; but I have acquiesced at last in the true doctrines, those namely of the Christians, even though they do not please those who hold false opinions.” Rusticus the prefect said, “Are those the doctrines that please you, you utterly wretched man?” Justin said, “Yes, since I adhere to them with right dogma.” Rusticus the prefect said, “What is the dogma?” Justin said, “That according to which we worship the God of the Christians, whom we reckon to be one from the beginning, the maker and fashioner of the whole creation, visible and invisible; and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who had also been preached beforehand by the prophets as about to be present with the race of men, the herald of salvation and teacher of good disciples. And I, being a man, think that what I can say is insignificant in comparison with His boundless divinity, acknowledging a certain prophetic power, since it was prophesied concerning Him of whom now I say that He is the Son of God. For I know that of old the prophets foretold His appearance among men.”

The examination continues

The prefect says to Justin, “Hearken, you who are called learned, and think that you know true doctrines; if you are scourged and beheaded, do you believe you will ascend into heaven?” Justin said, “I hope that, if I endure these things, I shall have His gifts. For I know that, to all who have thus lived, there abides the divine favour until the completion of the whole world.” Rusticus the prefect said, “Do you suppose, then, that you will ascend into heaven to receive some recompense?” Justin said, “I do not suppose it, but I know and am fully persuaded of it.” Rusticus the prefect said, “Let us, then, now come to the matter in hand, and which presses. Having come together, offer sacrifice with one accord to the gods.” Justin said, “No right-thinking person falls away from piety to impiety.” Rusticus the prefect said, “Unless ye obey, ye shall be mercilessly punished.” Justin said, “Through prayer we can be saved on account of our Lord Jesus Christ, even when we have been punished, because this shall become to us salvation and confidence at the more fearful and universal judgment-seat of our Lord and Saviour.” Thus also said the other martyrs: “Do what you will, for we are Christians, and do not sacrifice to idols.”

Irenaeus – Against Heresies Book 1: Chap. 6 – Here, Irenaeus points out the abuse some of the teachers of the Valentinian Gnostic heresy have taken advantage of the women under their teaching.

Wherefore also it comes to pass, that the “most perfect” among them addict themselves without fear to all those kinds of forbidden deeds of which the Scriptures assure us that “they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” For instance, they make no scruple about eating meats offered in sacrifice to idols, imagining that they can in this way contract no defilement. Then, again, at every heathen festival celebrated in honour of the idols, these men are the first to assemble; and to such a pitch do they go, that some of them do not even keep away from that bloody spectacle hateful both to God and men, in which gladiators either fight with wild beasts, or singly encounter one another. Others of them yield themselves up to the lusts of the flesh with the utmost greediness, maintaining that carnal things should be allowed to the carnal nature, while spiritual things are provided for the spiritual. Some of them, moreover, are in the habit of defiling those women to whom they have taught the above doctrine, as has frequently been confessed by those women who have been led astray by certain of them, on their returning to the Church of God, and acknowledging this along with the rest of their errors. Others of them, too, openly and without a blush, having become passionately attached to certain women, seduce them away from their husbands, and contract marriages of their own with them. Others of them, again, who pretend at first to live in all modesty with them as with sisters, have in course of time been revealed in their true colours, when the sister has been found with child by her [pretended] brother.

Irenaues – Against Heresies Book 1: Chap. 8 – This passage reminds me of 1 Peter 3:16 –

Such, then, is their system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the apostles delivered, but of which they boast that beyond all others they have a perfect knowledge. They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures; and, to use a common proverb, they strive to weave ropes of sand, while they endeavour to adapt with an air of probability to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked art in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions.

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