Understanding the Faith Received from the Early Church Fathers

Understanding the Religion Obtained from the Early Church Fathers

Dr. Nathan Jacobs has served as a professor at Calvin Faculty and Seminary, Trinity Faculty and Graduate College, and College of Kentucky. His specializations embrace fashionable philosophy and Japanese patristic thought. As well as, he’s a wonderful arts painter and filmmaker. Nathan not too long ago was a visitor on Hank Unplugged. The next is an excerpt from their dialogue on the religion handed to us from the early church fathers.

Hank Hanegraaff: What I really like in regards to the dialog up to now is you retain referring again to the fathers. Perhaps some definitions are so as. So typically we speak in regards to the patristics. We even use the time period pope. That’s offsetting. We are saying, priest. Oftentimes, in Protestant context, that’s an offsetting phrase as nicely. We hear the phrase Father, and folks instantly say, We’re not imagined to name anyone Father. But, we’re saying, Father Steve, or Father John, or whoever. However, Protestants say, Don’t name anyone Father. That’s form of the pondering. Generally it’s useful to acknowledge that there’s a context. Clearly, once we are speaking in regards to the time period Father, there’s a context. There’s extra to the passage than Don’t name anybody on earth father (Matthew 23:9 NIV). Jesus goes on to explicate that. So typically once we hear these phrases, they’re off-putting as a result of we don’t perceive what they imply.

Nathan Jacobs: Proper. Once we are speaking in regards to the church fathers, it is a time period that acknowledges the truth that Paul identifies sure folks as his non secular kids. He’s figuring out himself as their non secular father (1 Corinthians 4:14; Galatians 4:19; 2 Timothy 1:2). John, when he’s writing to folks, he identifies this hierarchy of non secular development: a few of them are little kids and others are full grown (1 John 2:1214).

One of many issues that the church the Japanese Orthodox Church or the Christian church traditionally within the first millennium acknowledged was that there have been sure individuals who went earlier than us who had been totally spiritually mature, who acquired and lived out the issues handed right down to them, and so they had been those who spiritually nurtured and cared for us, and we glance to them as non secular guides and non secular fathers. Once we take a look at that time period patristic, this time period is derived from patros (Greek) or pater (Latin), we’re referring to these Christian writers who went earlier than us, who acquired, lived out, and handed right down to the subsequent era these issues that they acquired in flip, which is what custom refers to that which is handed down.

When I’m referring to the church fathers, I’m referring to these of us, largely and normally, these from the primary millennium. That’s how church fathers is usually used. These are the oldsters who had been early Christian writers, who defended core doctrines of the religion. Oftentimes that is associated to folks like these on the Council of Nicaea (AD 325), who acquired, defended, and upheld towards heretics, the Arians,1 the doctrine of the Trinity. Church fathers at Constantinople defended Christology and the complete humanity of Christ over and towards the Apollinarian2 heresies. Church fathers defended the doctrine that He was really incarnate. At Ephesus, church fathers defended over and towards the Nestorian3 heresies, concluding that Christ is just one individual and that there’s just one Son of God, the one who’s with the Father, and the one who dwelt amongst us.

These people who defended the religion and handed on to us the religion that they acquired, these are the church fathers. This is among the issues that I believe is typically misunderstood. Within the first millennium you had ecumenical councils. Ecumenical refers back to the entire home. These councils occurred solely seven instances within the first millennium previous to the Nice Schism between the Western church and the Japanese church.

You had these seven ecumenical councils and plenty of of us are unaware that there have been seven ecumenical councils (thats seven instances on seven core doctrines). The Church stated that is the religion that was handed right down to us. These councils kind the idea for what is usually referred to as Nicaean Trinitarianism and Chalcedonian Christology, these core doctrines of the Trinity and Christology.

One of many issues that’s attention-grabbing is, for no matter motive, the presumption is whenever you hear the phrase council, it will need to have been a bunch of teachers or one thing like that, or bishops sitting round hashing out what they thought was the most effective reply to a given query. However whenever you take a look at these councils and what they need to say, what’s fascinating is that the query is rarely What’s the most philosophical savvy reply? or What’s the newest development within the academy? The query is all the time What’s the religion we acquired? What did the apostles hand down? That’s the reason the declaration is all the time That is the religion of Peter. That is the religion that Cyril taught. They all the time deferred again to the prior generations who had acquired and handed down the religion. They by no means noticed themselves as teachers attempting to resolve riddles or provide you with new, progressive, and inventive insights. The query has all the time been What have we acquired? They had been curators, which is the easiest way to place it.

Hank: By the best way, simply parenthetically, isn’t that precisely what the apostle Paul does in 1 Corinthians 15: What I acquired I handed on to you as of first significance (v. Three NIV)?

Nathan: Completely! That’s the reason he exhorts others to do the identical. To carry on to what has been handed down. That’s the reason in Jude Three there’s reference to the religion as soon as given over to the saints. That is essential as they noticed it. Staying the course in Christianity finally meant sticking with and defending and being a preserver of the religion that was handed down, which is why it was so essential for the church fathers to look again at what was handed right down to us as a result of that’s what we’re entrusted with. That is the pearl of nice worth. What has been stated about it? What’s that pearl? It’s our job to guard it, and to not innovate. Innovate is a really dangerous phrase among the many church fathers as a result of that’s the epitome of what you aren’t imagined to be doing.

Hank: You might be imagined to perpetuate not innovate.

Nathan: That’s proper. That will be an effective way of placing it. That is among the the reason why with a number of points, sure, I have a tendency to return. I look, and I say, Properly, what did the church fathers need to say on this matter? What did they hand down? As a result of on the finish of the day, if I’m a doctrine, and I can not discover it advocated by the church fathers, it’s a medieval doctrine that emerges, say like from Anslem or somebody like that, that’s problematic theologically, since that might be prima facia, face worth proof, of an innovation, and it isn’t the religion that was handed right down to us.

Take heed to the complete interview right here.

Learn Nathans article Understanding Nicene Trinitarianism within the Christian Analysis Journal quantity 41, quantity 4 (2018). To subscribe to the Journal, click on right here.

We additionally suggest the film Turning into Actually Human: Neither This Path Nor This Model of Me Is My Vacation spot, directed by Nathan Jacobs, which is a documentary on the nones (religiously unaffiliated) and the seek for non secular wholeness.

A useful overview on the false teachings about Christ and the Trinity, which the early church fathers addressed, may be present in Know the Fact: A Handbook of Christian Perception by Bruce Milne. For a extra in depth and superior remedy on this topic, please seek the advice of Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy within the Historical past of the Church by Harold O. J. Brown. Each of those assets can be found by means of the Christian Analysis Institute.

For additional associated studying, we suggest the next articles on equip.org:

Jesus as God within the Second Century by Paul Hartog

Is the Son Eternally Submissive to the Father? An Egalitarian-Complementarian Debate by Robert Letham and Kevin Giles

Jesus as God: Scriptural Truth or Scribal Fantasy? by Brian J. Wright

Begotten of the Father earlier than All Ages by Charles Lee Irons

Deciding Who Jesus Was by H. Wayne Home


  1. Arians had been these embracing the false educating of Arius of Alexandria (AD 246336). Arius taught that the Son was created, and that there was a time when Christ was not. This was a denial of Christs full divinity.
  2. Apollinarian refers back to the false teachings of Apollinarius or Apollinaris (AD 310390). Apollinarius taught that the everlasting Logos (Phrase), i.e., God the Son, changed the human soul of Jesus. In different phrases, the Lord was the divine Phrase residing in a soulless human physique. This was a denial of Christs full humanity.
  3. Nestorian refers back to the false educating of Nestorianism, which is the concept the 2 natures in Christ had been separate. In different phrases, the God-man was two individuals versus one. Nestorianism denied the unity of Christ, who’s one individual versus two. Nestorianism is related to Nestorius of Syria (386450), Archbishop of Constantinople. Whereas Nestorius was against figuring out Mary because the theotokos (bearer of God), preferring to make use of both anthropotokos (bearer of man) or Christotokos (bearer of Christ), it’s debatable whether or not or not Nestorius affirmed and taught the unconventional dichotomy between Christs humanity and divinity recognized as Nestorianism.

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