Various Fathers on Scripture

1.
I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings.
Gregory of Nyssa, On the Soul and the Resurrection
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf205.x.iii.ii.html
2.
That which the holy Scripture has not said, by what means should we receive and account it among those things that be true?
St. Cyril Glaphyrorum, in Genesis, lib. ii.
3.
Orth.—Do not, I beg you, bring in human reason. I shall yield to scripture alone.
Eran.—You shall receive no argument unconfirmed by Holy Scripture, and if you bring me any solution of the question deduced from Holy Scripture I will receive it, and will in no wise gainsay it.
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf203.iv.ix.ii.html
Theodoret, Dialogue I. The Immutable
Orth.—I would not so say persuaded only by human arguments, for I am not so rash as to say anything concerning which divine Scripture is silent.
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf203.iv.ix.iii.html
Theodoret, Dialogue II. The Unconfounded
One day when he had gone forth because all the monks had assembled to him and asked to  hear words from him, he spoke to them in the Egyptian tongue as follows: ‘The Scriptures are  enough for instruction, but it is a good thing to encourage one another in the faith, and to stir up  with words.
Spoken by St. Anthony in St. Athanasius’ Life of St. Anthony
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204/Page_200.html
The novice was required not merely to read Scripture but to learn passages from it by heart
“that he may have full assurance in his piety and may not form his conduct according to the traditions of men.”
Basil Reg. Brev. 95.

Gregory of Nyssa, On the Soul and the Resurrection:

I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings.

St. Cyril, Glaphyrorum, in Genesis, lib. ii.

That which the holy Scripture has not said, by what means should we receive and account it among those things that be true?

St. Theodoret, Dialogue I. The Immutable

Orth.—Do not, I beg you, bring in human reason. I shall yield to scripture alone.

Eran.—You shall receive no argument unconfirmed by Holy Scripture, and if you bring me any solution of the question deduced from Holy Scripture I will receive it, and will in no wise gainsay it.

Theodoret, Dialogue II. The Unconfounded

Orth.—I would not so say persuaded only by human arguments, for I am not so rash as to say anything concerning which divine Scripture is silent.

One day when he had gone forth because all the monks had assembled to him and asked to  hear words from him, he spoke to them in the Egyptian tongue as follows: ‘The Scriptures are  enough for instruction, but it is a good thing to encourage one another in the faith, and to stir up  with words.
St. Basil, Basil Reg. Brev. 95.
The novice was required not merely to read Scripture but to learn passages from it by heart  “that he may have full assurance in his piety and may not form his conduct according to the traditions of men.”

Chrysostom on Scripture

St. Chrysostom says those who don’t use the Scriptures to establish doctrine are thieves:

Observe the marks of a robber; first, that he doth not enter openly; secondly, not according to the Scriptures, for this is the, “not by the door.” … And with good cause He calleth the Scriptures “a door,” for they bring us to God, and open to us the knowledge of God, they make the sheep, they guard them, and suffer not the wolves to come in after them. For Scripture, like some sure door, barreth the passage against the heretics, placing us in a state of safety as to all that we desire, and not allowing us to wander; and if we undo it not, we shall not easily be conquered by our foes. By it we can know all, both those who are, and those who are not, shepherds. But what is “into the fold”? It refers to the sheep, and the care of them. For he that useth not the Scriptures, but “climbeth up some other way,” that is, who cutteth out for himself another and an unusual way, “the same is a thief.”

Seest thou from this too that Christ agreeth with the Father, in that He bringeth forward the Scriptures? On which account also He said to the Jews, “Search the Scriptures” and brought forward Moses, and called him and all the Prophets witnesses, for “all,” saith He, “who hear the Prophets shall come to Me”; and, “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me.” But here He hath put the same thing metaphorically. And by saying, “climbeth up some other way,” He alluded to the Scribes, because they taught for commandments the doctrines of men, and transgressed the Law ( Matt. xv. 9 ); with which He reproached them, and said, “None of you doeth the Law.”

–  Homily LIX., John ix. 34–36

The Loss of Assurance

McLaughlin describes a transition from the believer’s assurance of salvation in the early days of the Church to fearing God’s wrath in the medieval period.

“The departed faithful were always represented in the early medieval liturgy as the servants of God, as his devoted followers and the subjects of his tremendous power. They were very often represented as sinners, threatened with eternal damnation unless God forgave their faults. This had not been the case during the early Christian era. Early Christian apologetic writings and prayers had sometimes depicted humanity as sinful and lost without God’s mercy. However, in the first few centuries, while Christians remained a minority group within Roman society, the emphasis had been on redemption offered through faith in Christ and baptism. Those who remained faithful to the redeemer despite the threat of persecution, it had been argued, could anticipate an assured reward in heaven. Such assurance began to fade, however, in late antiquity, with the end of the persecutions and the growth in conversions.   Gradually the focus shifted from the sinful unbeliever cleansed through baptism, to the sinful Christian, who must repent or forfeit the redemption Christ has offered.
In the early middle ages, it was no longer assumed that those who died in the faith deserved to be welcomed into heaven. Only if their faults were forgiven or purged away could they hope to enter the company of the elect. Thus, early medieval funerary prayers freely acknowledged the sins of the dead, even as they asked for those faults to be remitted:”

Do not enter into judgment with your servant N., Lord, for no one is justified before you, unless through you remission of all sins is granted. Therefore, we ask that your judicial sentence not bear hard on one whom the true supplication of Christian faith commends to you. Rather, with the help of your grace, let one who was marked in life with the sign of the Trinity deserve to evade avenging judgment.

McLaughlin says that the hope of the believer shifted from an assured salvation to group salvation – being united to the entire church as a means of right standing more or less. Here are a couple of prayers that exemplify this trend:

Grant this mercy, we pray, Lord, to your departed servant N., that the who upheld your will in his mind not receive in suffering the recompense of his deeds. Just as the true faith bound him here to the company of the faithful, so let your pity join him there with the angelic choirs.

God-who made your servant N. flourish with pontifical dignity among the apostolic priests-we ask that you join him to their perpetual fellowship.

You can see that the assurance of the believer had fled away in this schema of salvation. It seems to me that the modern Catholic Church deals with these fears via a soft universalism. Pretty much everybody will “get in” because God is Love. This is the flip side of the medieval error.

Prayer for the Dead

Megan McLaughlin traces the development of prayer for the dead in stages as follows (all the quotes are from her book):

1. Christians replace pagan funeral rites with the Eucharist. “…the central rite of the church – the celebration of the eucharist – was also associated with the funerals of Christians from at least the second century on. What part it played in those funerals is less clear…the practice of offering the eucharist for the dead after they were laid to rest is well attested. It seems to be related to pre-Christian customs, common throughout the Mediterranean region, which called for sacrifices at the tomb of a dead person on set days after the burial. The Christian communities substituted eucharistic sacrifices for these traditional ones at an early date.”burial-of-st-lucy-caravaggio
2. The main functions of the liturgy were clericalized and the laity retreated from the liturgy after Constantine. “…the laity began to lose their active role in the services of the ecclesia from the fourth century on. They retained some liturgical functions, but as time passed their presence was no longer necessary for the performance of the liturgy. Gradually, then, liturgical prayer became an activity that the clerical orders performed on behalf of the Christian community, rather than in concert with the order of the laity.” Continue reading “Prayer for the Dead”

On Purgatory

In her book Consorting with Saints, Megan McLaughlin discusses the development of purgatory in relation to prayers for the dead. She writes:

Historians have traditionally sought the meaning of prayer for the dead in the medieval West within the theological tradition, as formulated in the later middle ages and debated during the Reformation. In other words, prayer for the dead has been associated primarily with the doctrine of purgation after death.Souls Released from Purgatory

She has a footnote at this point which is also worth quoting:

This is true of the most important recent treatment of the ideas associated with prayer for the dead in the early middle ages, Arnold Angenendt’s “Theologie und Liturgie,” in Schmid and Wollasch, Memoria, pp. 79-199. The title of this essay is somewhat misleading, since in fact Angenendt is concerned with the ways in which the commemoration of the dead was understood during the period of theological decline between the death of Gregory the Great in the seventh century and the revival of theology in the twelfth.  Continue reading “On Purgatory”

Augustine: Respect only the Scripture

St. Augustine writes to St. Jerome:

For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the Ms. is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it. As to all other writings, in reading them, however great the superiority of the authors to myself in sanctity and learning, I do not accept their teaching as true on the mere ground of the opinion being held by them; but only because they have succeeded in convincing my judgment of its truth either by means of these canonical writings themselves, or by arguments addressed to my reason. I believe, my brother, that this is your own opinion as well as mine.

St. Jerome on Apocryphal Books

“All times by everyone”…?

St. Jerome writes:

As, then, the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees, but does not admit them among the canonical Scriptures, so let it read these two volumes for the edification of the people, not to give authority to doctrines of the Church.

Who is in line with this statement today? Not Rome or the East, but Protestant churches.

Selling Church Offices

St. Augustine writing to St. Jerome mentions wealthy candidates for church offices being favored over poor candidate with better credentials:

Nor, indeed, in my opinion, are we to esteem it a trifling sin “to have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ with respect of persons,” if we take the difference between sitting and standing, of which mention is made in the context, to refer to ecclesiastical honours; for who can bear to see a rich man chosen to a place of honour in the Church, while a poor man, of superior qualifications and of greater holiness, is despised?

Ramsay MacMullen says, “In eastern episcopal elections in the same decade or so, candidates were promoted (i.e. it was assumed they would be broadly favored) on the basis of their pedigree or money…or as fugitives from other, earlier fueds. MacMullen refers to St. John Chrysostom in his “On the Priesthood” 3.15 (here), who says:

Come, then, and take a peep at the public festivals when it is generally the custom for elections to be made to ecclesiastical dignities, and you will then see the priest assailed with accusations as numerous as the people whom he rules. For all who have the privilege of conferring the honor are then split into many parties; and one can never find the council of elders of one mind with each other, or about the man who has won the prelacy; but each stands apart from the others, one preferring this man, another that. Now the reason is that they do not all look to one thing, which ought to be the only object kept in view, the excellence of the character; but other qualifications are alleged as recommending to this honor; for instance, of one it is said, “let him be elected because he belongs to an illustrious family,” of another “because he is possessed of great wealth, and would not need to be supported out of the revenues of the Church,” of a third “because he has come over from the camp of the adversary;” one is eager to give the preference to a man who is on terms of intimacy with himself, another to the man who is related to him by birth, a third to the flatterer, but no one will look to the man who is really qualified, or make some test of his character.

Converts can’t let it go

It seems that often when Protestants convert to becoming Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox they do the following:
– Convert their blogs into a constant stream of Patristic quotes. You’ll see a fine example of this here. Do they think no one has ever read these quotes before? Do they think people are hanging on these words and converting themselves due to reading them? Or does it merely feed their own self-narrative of being part of the new, most correct church? How is it that a brand new convert is best qualified to teach the world about his newfound Church?
– Turn all of their energy to attacking their previous, woefully mistaken ways as Protestants. Protestants had this, that and the other wrong. Augustine was bad, preaching was over-emphasized, art was neglected, Tradition ignored, Authority not thought through, etc.
These attempts at converting other Protestants who have not made whatever leap these individuals have made are puzzling. Do they need the justification of others making the same choice that they have made in order to feel better? Why is it that you never (in my experience) see these bold new converts out in the world evangelizing the lost? Where is the Great Commission in their new life? So let’s just say to them:
“Hey, you converted, that’s great. Now why don’t you go fulfill our Lord’s command and evangelize the lost world? Get back to us and tell us how that goes. Until then, lay off the constant attempts at proselytization of Protestants.”
It seems that often when Protestants convert to becoming Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox they do the following:
– Convert their blogs into a constant stream of Patristic quotes. You’ll see a fine example of this here. Do they think no one has ever read these quotes before? Do they think people are hanging on these words and converting themselves due to reading them? Or does it merely feed their own self-narrative of being part of the new, most correct church? How is it that a brand new convert is best qualified to teach the world about his newfound Church?
– Turn all of their energy to attacking their previous, woefully mistaken ways as Protestants. Protestants had this, that and the other wrong. Augustine was bad, preaching was over-emphasized, art was neglected, Tradition ignored, Authority not thought through, etc.
These attempts at converting other Protestants who have not made whatever leap these individuals have made are puzzling. Do they need the justification of others making the same choice that they have made in order to feel better? Why is it that you never (in my experience) see these bold new converts out in the world evangelizing the lost? Where is the Great Commission in their new life? So let’s just say to them:
“Hey, you converted, that’s great. Now why don’t you go fulfill our Lord’s command and evangelize the lost world? Get back to us and tell us how that goes. Until then, lay off the constant attempts at proselytization of Protestants.”

Romanism and Orthodoxy

Steven Wedgeworth’s lectures on the subject are now available here. The subjects are:

“Why I’m Not A Roman Catholic”
“Lost in the Shamayim: A Psychology of Conversion”
“The Eternal City and the Seven Councils: Just Who is the Church?”
“What’s a Reformed Catholic to Do?: Towards an Equilibrium of Christendom”
“Why I’m Not A Roman Catholic”
“Lost in the Shamayim: A Psychology of Conversion”
“The Eternal City and the Seven Councils: Just Who is the Church?”
“What’s a Reformed Catholic to Do?: Towards an Equilibrium of Christendom”