15 February 2008

Patristic Passages of Interest for Lutherans

Note, I've offered many of these before but I put it out there now as a resource for folks who are interested. As always I encourage not merely to read the section I quote but to read the document as a whole. I don't believe at any place I've ignored context, but you should check that nonetheless - and there are a couple listed here that I gleaned from a secondary source (and so didn't read the original in context), but that will be clear in the citation.

Many times, Lutherans are challenged with: “Well, where was Lutheranism before Luther?” The implication is that Rome or the Eastern Orthodox have some sort of “corner” on the great church Fathers. But Lutherans have never believed this to be true. The Fathers repeatedly present the same or quite similar approaches to doctrine as the Lutheran Confessions do. Here are some citations from the Fathers that may be of help in dispelling the notion that “Lutheranism” is a johnny-come-lately to the Church scene:


“Regarding the things I say, I should supply even the proofs, so I will not seem to rely on my own opinions, but rather, prove them with Scripture, so that the matter will remain certain and steadfast.” St. John Chrysostom (Homily 8 On Repentance and the Church, p. 118, vol. 96 TFOTC)

"Let the inspired Scriptures then be our umpire, and the vote of truth will be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words." St. Gregory of Nyssa (On the Holy Trinity, NPNF, p. 327).

"We are not entitled to such license, 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. Gregory of Nyssa (On the Soul and the Resurrection NPNF II, V:439)

“What is the mark of a faithful soul? To be in these dispositions of full acceptance on the authority of the words of Scripture, not venturing to reject anything nor making additions. For, if ‘all that is not of faith is sin’ as the Apostle says, and ‘faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,’ everything outside Holy Scripture, not being of faith, is sin.” Basil the Great (The Morals, p. 204, vol 9 TFOTC).

“For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless you receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.” St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures, IV:17, in NPNF, Volume VII, p. 23.)

"It is impossible either to say or fully to understand anything about God beyond what has been divinely proclaimed to us, whether told or revealed, by the sacred declarations of the Old and New Testaments." St. John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, Book I, Chapter 2

"Nevertheless, sacred doctrine makes use of these authorities as extrinsic and probable arguments; but properly uses the authority of the canonical Scriptures as an incontrovertible proof, and the authority of the doctors of the Church as one that may properly be used, yet merely as probable. For our faith rests upon the revelation made to the apostles and prophets who wrote the canonical books, and not on the revelations (if any such there are) made to other doctors. Hence Augustine says (Epis. ad Hieron. xix, 1): "Only those books of Scripture which are called canonical have I learned to hold in such honor as to believe their authors have not erred in any way in writing them. But other authors I so read as not to deem everything in their works to be true, merely on account of their having so thought and written, whatever may have been their holiness and learning."--St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologia, Part 1, Question 1, Article 8


"Similarly we also, who by His will have been called in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, or our own wisdom or understanding or godliness, nor by such deeds as we have done in holiness of heart, but by that faith through which Almighty God has justified all men since the beginning of time. Glory be to Him, forever and ever, Amen." - St. Clement of Rome (Letter to the Corinthians, par. 32)

“To this end has His Grace and Goodness been formed upon us in Christ Jesus, that being dead according to works, redeemed through faith and saved by grace, we might receive the gift
of this great deliverance.” (Ambrose, Letter 76 to Irenaeus, a layman)

“But when the Lord Jesus came, He forgave all men that sin which none could escape, and blotted out the handwriting against us by the shedding of His own Blood. This then is the Apostle's meaning; sin abounded by the Law, but grace abounded by Jesus; for after that the whole world became guilty, He took away the sin of the whole world, as John bore witness, saying: Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. Wherefore let no man glory in works, for by his works no man shall be justified, for he that is just hath a free gift, for he is justified by the Bath. It is faith then which delivers by the blood of Christ, for Blessed is the man to whom sin is remitted, and, pardon granted.” (Ambrose, Letter 73, to Irenaeus, a layman)

“Human beings can be saved from the ancient wound of the serpent in no other way than by believing in him who, when he was raised up from the earth on the tree of martyrdom in the likeness of sinful flesh, drew all things to himself and gave life to the dead.” - St. Irenaeus (Against the Heresies, IV, 2, 7)

"Indeed, this is the perfect and complete glorification of God, when one does not exult in his own righteousness, but recognizing oneself as lacking true righteousness to be justified by faith alone in Christ." - St. Basil the Great (Homily on Humility, PG 31.532; TFoTC vol. 9, p. 479)

“But we all escape the condemnation for our sins referred to above, if we believe in the grace of God through His Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who said: ‘This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto the remission of sins.’” – St. Basil the Great (Concerning Baptism, TfoTC vol. 9, p. 344)

"They said that he who adhered to faith alone was cursed; but he, Paul, shows that he who adhered to faith alone is blessed." - St. John Chrysostom (Homily on Galatians 3)

“But he calls it their 'own righteousness,' either because the Law was no longer of force, or because it was one of trouble and toil. But this he calls God's righteousness, that from faith, because it comes entirely from the grace from above, and because men are justified in this case, not by labors, but by the gift of God.” – St. John Chrysostom (Homily 17 on Romans 10:3)

“Here he shows God's power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only.” Homily 7 on Romans – St. John Chrysostom

"For you believe the faith; why then do you add other things, as if faith were not sufficient to justify? You make yourselves captive, and you subject yourself to the law." - St. John Chrysostom (Epistle to Titus, Homily 3, PG 62.651)

“'To declare His righteousness.' What is declaring of righteousness? Like the declaring of His riches, not only for Him to be rich Himself, but also to make others rich, or of life, not only that He is Himself living, but also that He makes the dead to live; and of His power, not only that He is Himself powerful, but also that He makes the feeble powerful. So also is the declaring of His righteousness not only that He is Himself righteous, but that He doth also make them that are filled with the putrefying sores (katasapentaj) of sin suddenly righteous. And it is to explain this, viz. what is "declaring," that he has added, "That He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." Doubt not then: for it is not of works, but of faith: and shun not the righteousness of God, for it is a blessing in two ways; because it is easy, and also open to all men. And be not abashed and shamefaced. For if He Himself openly declareth (endeiknutai) Himself to do so, and He, so to say, findeth a delight and a pride therein, how comest thou to be dejected and to hide thy face at what thy Master glorieth in?” - St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 3

“But what is the 'law of faith?' It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God's power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only. St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 3

“For the Law requires not only Faith but works also, but grace saves and justifies by Faith. (Eph. ii: 8)
You see how he proves that they are under the curse who cleave to the Law, because it is impossible to fulfill it; next, how comes Faith to have this justifying power? for to this doctrine he already stood pledged, and now maintains it with great force of argument. The Law being too weak to lead man to righteousness, an effectual remedy was provided in Faith, which is the means of rendering that possible which was "impossible by the Law." (Rom. viii: 3) Now as the Scripture says, "the just shall live by faith," thus repudiating salvation by the Law, and moreover as Abraham was justified by Faith, it is evident that its efficacy is very great. And it is also clear, that he who abides not by the Law is cursed, and that he who keeps to Faith is just. But, you may ask me, how I prove that this curse is not still of force? Abraham lived before the Law, but we, who once were subject to the yoke of bondage, have made ourselves liable to the curse; and who shall release us therefrom? Observe his ready answer to this; his former remark was sufficient; for, if a man be once justified, and has died to the Law and embraced a novel life, how can such a one be subject to the curse?” - St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Galatians 3

“God does not wait for time to elapse after repentance. You state your sin, you are justified. You repented, you have been shown mercy.” – St. John Chrysostom, Homily 7 On Repentance and Compunction, p. 95 in FOTC, vol. 96.

“Gain for yourself the pardon coming from faith, since he is his own worst enemy who does not believe that he is given what the very generous Bestower of mercy promises in all kindness.” St. Peter Chrysologus – Sermon 58 (On the Creed), par. 13 (TFOTC, Vol. 109, p. 224)

“Give yourself, O man, pardon by believing, since you fell into all the sins by despairing.” St. Peter Chrysologus – Sermon 62 (On the Creed), par. 16 (TFOTC, Vol. 109, p. 245)

“We need none of those legal observances, he says; faith suffices to obtain for us the Spirit, and by Him righteousness, and many and great benefits.” - Chrysostom, Homilies on Galatians 4

“And he well said, "a righteousness of mine own," not that which I gained by labor and toil, but that which I found from grace. If then he who was so excellent is saved by grace, much more are you. For since it was likely they would say that the righteousness which comes from toil is the greater, he shows that it is dung in comparison with the other. For otherwise I, who was so excellent in it, would not have cast it away, and run to the other. But what is that other? That which is from the faith of God, i.e. it too is given by God. This is the righteousness of God; this is altogether a gift. And the gifts of God far exceed those worthless good deeds, which are due to our own diligence.” Chrysostom, Homily on Philippians 3

Suppose someone should be caught in the act of adultery and the foulest crimes and then be thrown into prison. Suppose, next, that judgment was going to be passed against him and that he would be condemned.

Suppose that just at that moment a letter should come from the Emperor setting free from any accounting or examination all those detained in prison. If the prisoner should refuse to take advantage of the pardon, remain obstinate and choose to be brought to trial, to give an account, and to undergo
punishment, he will not be able thereafter to avail himself of the Emperor's favor. For when he made himself accountable to the court, examination, and sentence, he chose of his own accord to deprive himself of the imperial gift.

This is what happened in the case of the Jews. Look how it is. All human nature was taken in the foulest evils. "All have sinned," says Paul. They were locked, as it were, in a prison by the curse of their transgression of the Law. The sentence of the judge was going to be passed against them. A letter from the King came down from heaven. Rather, the King himself came. Without examination, without exacting an account, he set all men free from the chains of their sins.

All, then, who run to Christ are saved by his grace and profit from his gift. But those who wish to find
justification from the Law will also fall from grace. They will not be able to enjoy the King's loving-kindness because they are striving to gain salvation by their own efforts; they will draw down on themselves the curse of the Law because by the works of the Law no flesh will find justification.

What does this mean? That he has justified our race not by right actions, not by toils, not by barter and exchange, but by grace alone. Paul, too, made this clear when he said: “But now the justice of God has been made manifest apart from the Law.” But the justice of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ and not through any labor and suffering. Chrysostom on Justification, Discourses Against Judaizing Christians. Discourse I:6-II:1:

"Christ is Master by virtue of His own essence and Master by virtue of His incarnate life. For He creates man from nothing, and through His own blood redeems him when dead in sin; and to those who believe in Him He has given His grace. When Scripture says, 'He will reward every man according to his works' (Matt 16:27), do not imagine that works in themselves merit either hell or the kingdom. On the contrary, Christ rewards each man according to whether his works are done with faith or without faith in Himself; and He is not a dealer bound by contract, but our Creator and Redeemer." St. Mark the Ascetic (ca. 425), On those who think that they are made righteous by works.

"Confess Jesus Christ, and believe that He is risen from the dead, and you will be saved. For indeed righteousness is only to be believed; but a complete salvation must also be confessed and knowledge must be added to confidence." - St. Gregory Nazianzus (On Moderation, PG 36.204)

"While I was sick in the flesh, the Savior was sent to me in the likeness of sinful flesh, fulfilling such a dispensation, to redeem me from slavery, from corruption, and from death. And He became to me righteousness, and sanctification, and salvation. Righteousness, by setting me free from sin through faith in Him. Sanctification, in having set me free through water and the Spirit and His word. And salvation, His blood being the ransom of the true Lamb, having given Himself on my behalf." - St. Epiphanios (Against Heresies 3.1,2 PG 42.477)

Where Christ enters, there necessarily is also salvation. May he therefore also be in us: and He is in us when we believe; for he dwells in our hearts by faith, and we are His abode. It would have been better then for the Jews to have rejoiced because Zaccheus was wonderfully saved, for he too was counted among the sons of Abraham, to whom God promised salvation in Christ by the holy prophets, saying, There shall come a Savior from Zion, and he shall take away iniquities from Jacob, and this is my covenant with them, when I will bear their sins. Christ, therefore, arose to deliver the inhabitants of the earth from their sins, and to seek them that were lost, and to save them that had perished. For this is His office, and, so to say, the fruit of His godlike gentleness. Of this will he also count all those worthy who have believed in him. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, Homily 127

What is meant by mercy? and what by sacrifice? By mercy then is signified, Justification and grace in Christ, even that which is by faith. For we have been justified, not by the works of the law that we have done, but by His great mercy. And sacrifice means the law of Moses. - St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, Homily 23

Be not troubled when thou meditatest upon the greatness of thy former sins; but rather know, that still greater is the grace that justifieth the sinner and absolveth the wicked. Faith then in Christ is found to be the pledge to us of these great blessings; for it is the way that leadeth unto life, that bids us go to the mansions that are above, that raises us to the inheritance of the saints, that makes us members of the kingdom of Christ. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 40 on St. Luke.


“Why then are you afraid of drawing nigh, since you have no works demanded of you? Why are you bickering and quarrelsome, when grace is before you, and why keep putting me the Law forward to no purpose whatsoever? For you will not be saved by that, and will mar this gift also; since if you pertinaciously insist on being saved by it, you do away with this grace of God.” – St. John Chrysostom, Homily 18 on Romans 10,11

“After speaking of the wages of sin, in the case of blessings, he has not kept to the same order: for he does not say, the wages of your good deeds, but the gift of God: to show, that it was not of themselves that they were freed, nor was it a due they received, neither yet a return, nor a recompense of labors, but by grace all these things came about. And so there was superiority for this cause also, in that He did not free them only, or change their condition for the better, but that He did it without any labor or trouble upon their part: and that He not only freed them, but also gave them more than before, and that through His Son.” - St. John Chrysostom (Epistle to the Romans, Homily 12, Rom 6:23)

“And if any were to cast in prison a person who owed ten mites, and not the man himself only, but wife and children and servants for his sake; and another were to come and not to pay down the ten mites only, but to give also ten thousand talents of gold, and to lead the prisoner into the king’s courts, and to the throne of the highest power, and were to make him partaker of the highest honour and every kind of magnificence, the creditor would not be able to remember the ten mites; so hath our case been. For Christ hath paid down far more than we owe, yea as much more as the illimitable ocean is than a little drop.” - St. John Chrysostom, Epistle to the Romans, Homily X, Rom 5:17

“Is it possible, Scripture says, for one to repent and be saved? It is absolutely and most certainly the case. What, though, if I have wasted my life in sins and then repent: will I be saved? Yes, indeed! What source indicates this? The philanthropy of your Master. Can I take courage from your repentance? Could it be that your repentance has the power to wipe clean so many evils? If it were only up to repentance, then assuredly be afraid. However, since repentance is mixed together with the philanthropy of God, take courage. For God’s philanthropy is immeasurable, nor can any word provide the measure of his goodness. Your wickedness is measurable, but the medicine is immeasurable. Your wickedness, whatever it may be, is human wickedness; but God’s philanthropy is ineffable. Have courage because it surpasses your wickedness. Just think of one spark that fell into the sea; could it stand or be seen? What one spark is in comparison to the sea, so wickedness is before the philanthropy of God; not even this much, but much more so. For the sea, even though it is vast, has limits; but God’s philanthropy is unlimited.” – St. John Chrysostom, Homily 8 On Repentance and the Church FOTC: vol 96, p. 112,113

“Well done, O Christ, O Wisdom and Power and Word of God, and God almighty! What should we resourceless people give Thee in return for all things? For all things are Thine and Thou askest nothing of us but that we be saved. Even this Thou hast given us, and by Thy ineffable goodness Thou art grateful to those who accept it. Thanks be to Thee who hast given being and grace of well-being and who by Thy ineffable condescension hast brought back to this state those who fell from it!” - St. John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, Book 4, Chapter 4

“And so the power is conquered in the name of him who assumed human nature and whose life was without sin, so that in him, who was both priest and sacrifice, remission of sins might be effected, that is, through the ‘mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus’, through whom we are purified from our sins and reconciled to God. For it is only sins that separate men from God; and in this life purification from sins is not effected by our merit, but by the compassion of God, through his indulgence, not through our power; for even that poor little virtue which we call ours has itself been granted to us by his bounty.”– St. Augustine, City of God, X, Chapter 22


Of faults thus grievous, Christ proved them guilty who professed to be skilled in the law; the scribes, I mean, and lawyers; and for this reason he said unto them, Also to you lawyers, woe! who have taken away the key of knowledge. By the key of knowledge we consider that the law itself is meant, and justification in Christ, by faith I mean in Him. For though the law was in shadow and type, yet those types shape out to us the truth and those shadows depict to us in manifold ways the mystery of Christ. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 86 on St. Luke


And so the human race was lying under a just condemnation, and all men were the children of wrath. Of which wrath it is written: "All our days are passed away in Your wrath; we spend our years as a tale that is told." Of which wrath also Job says: "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble." Of which wrath also the Lord Jesus says: "He that believes in the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him." He does not say it will come, but it "abides on him." For every man is born with it; wherefore the apostle says: "We were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." Now, as men were lying under this wrath by reason of their original sin, and as this original sin was the more heavy and deadly in proportion to the number and magnitude of the actual sins which were added to it, there was need for a Mediator, that is, for a reconciler, who, by the offering of one sacrifice, of which all the sacrifices of the law and the prophets were types, should take away this wrath. Wherefore the apostle says: "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." Now when God is said to be angry, we do not attribute to Him such a disturbed feeling as exists in the mind of an angry man; but we call His just displeasure against sin by the name "anger," a word transferred by analogy from human emotions. But our being reconciled to God through a Mediator, and receiving the Holy Spirit, so that we who were enemies are made sons ("For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God"): this is the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. – St. Augustine, Enchiridion 33

“The psalmist does not suppose that he is living this life, for he had said, See, I was conceived in iniquities and my mother bore me in sins. He know that he was born from a sinful origin and under the law of sin.” - St. Hilary (Commentary on Psalm 118, 22)

“The words ‘the Jordan turned backward’ (Ps 114:3), signified the future mysteries of the bath of salvation through which the little ones who have been baptized are changed from wickedness back to their original state.” - St. Ambrose (Commentary on Luke 1, 37)

"We then say, that in many things we all of us offend, and that no man is pure from uncleanness, even though his life upon earth be but one day. Let us ask then of God mercy; which if we do, Christ will justify us; by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father, be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, unto ages of ages. Amen." - Homily 120 on Luke 18 - St. Cyril of Alexandria

And if you like to hear what other saints also have felt in regard to physical birth, listen to David when he says, I was conceived, so it runs, in iniquity and in sin my mother hath borne me, proving that every soul which is born in the flesh is tainted with the stain of iniquity and sin.  This is the reason for that saying which we have already quoted above, No man is clean from sin, not even if his life be one day long. To these, as a further point, may be added an enquiry into the reason for which, while the church's baptism is given for the remission of sin, it is the custom of the church that baptism be administered even to infants. Certainly, if there were nothing in infants that required remission and called for lenient treatment, the grace of baptism would seem unnecessary.  (R.B. Tollinton, Selections From The Commentaries And Homilies of Origen, 1929, p. 211)

Brethren, the selection (rom 5:12-14) from the Apostle for today tells us that through one man the whole world received its sentence… The downfall of one man has flowed out to become a punishment of all, and the vice of the parent has brought a sad catastrophe upon the whole race. (Chrysologus, Sermon 111, Original Sin, p. 175 vol. 17 FOTC)

Through a man sin came and clearly through this sin we are seen to have come under the control of death. O sin, you cruel beast – and a beast not content to vent your fury against the human race from merely one head. We have seen this beast, brethren, devouring with a triple head all the highly precious sprouts of the human family. Yes, brethren, with a mouth that is triple: as sin this beast captures, as death it devours, as hell it swallows down. (ibid, p. 176, 177)

For the whole nature of man became guilty in the person of him who was first formed; but now it is wholly justified again in Christ. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 42 on St. Luke


If Phinees, when he waxed zealous and slew the evil-doer, staved the wrath of God, shall not Jesus, who slew not another, but gave up Himself for a ransom, put away the wrath which is against mankind?…Further; if the lamb under Moses drove the destroyer far away, did not much rather the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world, deliver us from our sins? The blood of a silly sheep gave salvation; and shall not the Blood of the Only-begotten much rather save?…Jesus then really suffered for all men; for the Cross was no illusion, otherwise our redemption is an illusion also…These things the Saviour endured, and made peace through the Blood of His Cross, for things in heaven, and things in earth. For we were enemies of God through sin, and God had appointed the sinner to die. There must needs therefore have happened one of two things; either that God, in His truth, should destroy all men, or that in His loving-kindness He should cancel the sentence. But behold the wisdom of God; He preserved both the truth of His sentence, and the exercise of His loving-kindness. Christ took our sins in His body on the tree, that we by His death might die to sin, and live unto righteousness.--St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, XIII

“And the Lamb of God not only did this, but was chastised on our behalf, and suffered a penalty He did not owe, but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins; and so He became the cause of the forgiveness of our sins, because He received death for us, and transferred to Himself the scourging, the insults, and the dishonour, which were due to us, and drew down on Himself the apportioned curse, being made a curse for us. And what is that but the price of our souls? And so the oracle says in our person: “By his stripes we were healed,” and “The Lord delivered him for our sins,” with the result that uniting Himself to us and us to Himself, and appropriating our sufferings, He can say, “I said, Lord, have mercy on me, heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee.” - Eusebius of Caesarea, Demonstratio Evangelica, X.1

“A sacrifice was needed to reconcile the Father on high with us and to sanctify us, since we had been soiled by fellowship with the evil one. There had to be a sacrifice which both cleansed and was clean, and a purified, sinless priest…. God overturned the devil through suffering and His Flesh which He offered as a sacrifice to God the Father, as a pure and altogether holy victim – how great is His gift! – and reconciled God to the human race…Since He gave His Blood, which was sinless and therefore guiltless, as a ransom for us who were liable to punishment because of our sins, He redeemed us from our guilt. He forgave us our sins, tore up the record of them on the Cross and delivered us from the devil’s tyranny." --St. Gregory Palamas, Homily 16, 21, 24, 31

For the wrath of man reaches at most the body, and the death of the flesh is the utmost that they can contrive against us, but when God punishes, the loss reaches not to the flesh alone – how could it – but the wretched soul also is cast along with it into torments. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 87 on Luke

For it was by reason of Adam's transgression of the commandment that we, having our faces turned away from God, returned to our dust; for the sentence of God upon human nature was, Dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return; but at the time of the consummation of this world, the face of the earth shall be renewed; for God the Father by the Son in the Spirit will give life to all those who are laid within it.--St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 36 on St. Luke


Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

You mean that the Orthodox might not be as orthodox as they claim?


: )

Anonymous said...

Thanks for doing all the homework on a subject I have given considerable thought to but could not find the time to come up with the sources.

When teaching the faith I have discovered so many people think Lutheranism began with a nail in the door.

This would be a great book to write and you are probably the one to write it. (You do have enough time don't you?)If you have other writings that pertain to the Patristic influence of Lutheranism it would be great to read them.


Rev. Joshua Hayes said...

A great resource. Multas gratias!

Anonymous said...

I don't have it with me, but were any of those from the Catalog of Testimonies from the back of the BOC?

Anonymous said...

Pr Weedon,

What would be interesting to flush out, particularly in regard to sola fide, is the Lutheran definition of faith in relation to the patristic definition. For instance, I'm pretty sure that for Augustine faith is seen as a virtue. And if I'm not mistaken -- you would know better than me -- the Lutheran understanding (I believe it's in the Formula?) of faith is grounded in it being the 'means and instrument' by which we receive the promise of the forgiveness of sins -- in contradistinction to any virtue. This definition of faith seems to be at variance with the patristic -- or at least Augustinian -- definition of faith. If this is true, then reading the Lutheran understanding of justification into the Fathers seems to be anachronistic.


Jim Huffman said...

"Many times, Lutherans are challenged with: 'Well, where was Lutheranism before Luther?'"

I wonder if this question doesn't spring from the quasi-catechetical question I've seen on occasion to the effect of, "When was the Lutheran church founded?" and the proper answer is "Oct. 31, 1517."

I know what they're driving at, but this is confusing, both to the kids who are learning, and to others. Better to talk about the birth of the church on Pentecost, and the promises given to Adam and Eve in the Garden.

Timothy May said...

Being justified by faith, I think it is alright to say that Christ Jesus is the key to unlocking the Scriptures. That is, unless, He somehow gets in the way of justification.

William Weedon said...


No, the COT dealt almost exclusively with the two natures in the one person of Christ.


Of course faith is a virtue; what Lutherans argue is that it does not save us in view of its being a virtue, but in view of its laying hold of Christ in the promises. In short, it saves because of what it does, not what it is.



Fr. May,

Amen, also. The terms run interchangeably when they run "full blast" - to quote our beloved Dr. Nagel.


Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

This really is good stuff. There are lots of Protestant folks who are unsatisfied with the direction their church bodies are going who are truly seeking for the Church. While every denomination is flawed, it is wonderfully encouraging to point out that the Lutheran confession did not originate in the 16th century.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

And the amazing thing is you didn't quote my favorite father at all - Ignatius of Antioch. It's not a bad thing to just sit and re-read Ignatius. I'm sure that there are so many more quotes that could be mentioned. Of course, there are also the wild, wacky, and well off the wall quotes as well. The joys of the Early Church!

Also, the birthday of the "Lutheran Church" is June 25th, 1530 - and we are worse off as a people for not knowing the Augsburg Confession.

Anonymous said...

Do you have any quotes by church fathers regarding church polity?
(is the office of bishop distinct from the office of presbyter?)

William Weedon said...

Yup, but I didn't include those here. Sorry about that. And I don't have time to post them up today. If someone wants to post up St. Jerome's take on that, that would be great. What I find of interest is that no one argued with Jerome about that (and I do believe they argued with him about much else). And there are also important passages in Didache, Irenaeus, and Clement. More later, God willing.

William Weedon said...

Oh, also important when reading Ignatius on the question is to note WHAT a bishop is as he defines it: not the head of diocese, but the president of the local eucharistic assembly who is able to hunt up by name the folks who missed attending on the Lord's day!

Anonymous said...

Fr. Weedon,

I've called you on this before and you have not heeded my words so continuing the argument is of no avail. But for those of the people who do not know what I am referencing, I am referring to the taking passages out of context from various holy fathers of the Orthodox Church (excepting Aquinas, of couse) and using those as a buttress for the famous Lutheran solas. It, inherently, serves no purpose except maybe to give Pr. McCain an opportunity to attempt to come off as witty or clever (Hence his Orthodox not being Orthodox comment; really, Pr. McCain, you slay me!). Really, it is intellectual dishonesty.

Perhaps, as an irony, I may offer this to the whole discussion. I find it to be the case, from my own personal research, that the Lutherans and other Protestants will quote the fathers to prove sola scriptura, but don't use the words of scripture itself to prove it. Why? I simply don't think it can be done because the Scriptures were never meant by the Church (when it was still one Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Orthodox) to be compiled as one big book as an all-purpose answer guide. That is why you will never see "bibles" in Orthodox Churches. The Epistles are found in the Apostolos, the Gospels in the Evvangelion. On a tangental note, I don't know why the ORthodox are giving in to such Protestant innovations.

With all of those authors you quoted, how many of them would actually teach against other doctrines that the Lutheran reject such as invocation of the saints and the Theotokos, veneration of icons, metamorphosis, the polity of the church being led by bishops, theosis? I dare say none. Where are these things found in Scripture? No place.

I'm afraid that I am guilty of praeteritio, claiming that I will say nothing of a matter when in fact saying a great deal. I will leave it here. And hopefully, I will never touch this argument again.

--Christopher Palo

William Weedon said...


Bologna! SHOW them to be out of context or stop that silly argument. It is so utterly tiresome. Lutherans instantly are quoting out of context whenever the fathers are cited BECAUSE the Lutherans have no right to cite the Fathers whose only context is the Orthodox Church. Talk about a circular argument - and very convenient for not dealing with whatever it is the Fathers say on a given topic.

Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

I'm thinking that maybe if there were a few more Bibles used in Orthodox parishes and less venerating icons that would be a good thing.

Jim Huffman said...

Pastor Brown, if as you say, "Also, the birthday of the "Lutheran Church" is June 25th, 1530," then Lutherans have become no more than an early variety of the "Restorationist" movement in western Christianity, because if "our church" didn't exist on June 24, 1530, then Christ lied in Matt. 16.18.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Weedon,

Thank you for reiterating my point as to the futility of arguing over and over.

And yes, the fathers are only used when convenient instead of the pillars of wisdom that they were.

ANd I noticed that you did not touch what I said about how you lack Scripture to prove sola scriptura.

Pr. McCain,

So the incarnation is not the Gospel? Wow, the greatest gift given to us (i.e. the incarnation of Christ) we should no longer venerate. Icons are as much windows to heaven and our salvation as the Holy Scriptures and predate them, too! Faith cannot be only realized or actualized by simply reading text! If icons were not theologically important, then maybe Christ would have taken care to write something. Forgive me if fron here on out, I just give a yawn to everything you say and write.

William Weedon said...


I've ALWAYS said that it is TRADITION that teaches us sola Scriptura and that it is SCRIPTURE which teaches us the value of tradition.

Jim Huffman said...

Our brother Christopher says, "Maybe Christ would have taken care to write something"

Those of us who believe that the pericope de adultera is genuine Scripture know that He did: John 8.6-8. OK, so He wrote in the sand. But He did write ...

: )

Anonymous said...

Birthday of the Church is perhaps an unfortunate term - however the gauntlet against heterodoxy is well and thoroughly thrown down in 1530 -- and I think that is a more instructive date. Will that suffice.

Also - just as a thought - why should Weedon, when compiling a list of the fathers, provide a list of scriptural citations. That would go on a list of scriptural citations.

Eric the Brown - not signed in.

123 said...

I'm glad you pulled these together; it's an important resource for your 'side'. It's a continuation of the work done by Chemnitz and that can be seen in the Catalog of Testimonies appended to some editions of the Book of Concord.

I would note that 'context' is only partially related to the work that a quotation comes from. More importantly is the context of the totality of that saint's extant work, their life and work, as well as the ecclesial and intellectual context within which they lived. Otherwise, we moderns - any of us who use ancient documents to 'prove' our points - are in danger of interpreting a text according to our own premises quite apart from the self-understanding of the author. Kesich points out in his Formation and Struggles, that "a modern scholar has remarked that their [our?] interpretation is like 'a picnic to which the evangelist brings his text', and they [we?] supply the meanings."

Anonymous said...

Pr Weedon,

'Of course faith is a virtue; what Lutherans argue is that it does not save us in view of its being a virtue, but in view of its laying hold of Christ in the promises. In short, it saves because of what it does, not what it is.'

What you give with one hand, you take away with the other. If faith is in fact a virtue, then God justifies us because of some virtue in us. If you admit to faith being a virtue, then your position is in fact Augustine's, and then I don't see how the Lutheran doctrine is any different than the Catholic.

Could you point to where in the Lutheran Confessions faith is called a virtue? Because in my reading of the Solid Declaration, faith is not called a virtue; in fact, the whole point seems to be there's nothing virtuous in faith at all -- it only lays hold of Christ's merit.


Rev. Paul T. McCain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Weedon said...


Just consider this statement from the SA: "We say that if good works do not follow, the faith is false and not true." Here faith is clearly a virtue. If I may be so bold, faith that isn't a virtue, that doesn't flow forth into good works, isn't saving faith at all. It is the "historical knowledge" which our Symbols specifically reject as saving faith. But the key is that real faith, faith that is a virtue, doesn't save by being a virtue, but by reason of what it does: laying hold of the promise of forgiveness in Christ. Such faith begets love and all that is good in the Christian.

123 said...

Paul, your tone always saddens me - not for the invective you throw at Orthodoxy and others that do not agree with you, but for the Confessional Lutheranism I was raised in and cherish for all its good, and which men such as Pr Weedon image quite well. You bring such disrepute to the faith you defend and teach with such mis-expressed, passionate, loveless, uncharitable (hopefully not sinful) zeal. Perhaps your gifts are best expressed in the publishing of other peoples' works rather than sharing your own thoughts in writing.

Anonymous said...

Pr Weedon,

'Here faith is clearly a virtue.'

I may be thickheaded, but what is clear to you is not so clear to me. That passage says nothing about the essence of faith; it only distinguishes between true faith and false faith. And perhaps you should take a look again at the Solid Declaration on the Righteousness of Faith; it seems there that faith is specifically not called a virtue -- 'no great virtue' or something like that. This was used to score polemical points against the Catholics of the day who were calling faith a virtue.

Anyway, I can tell this isn't really going to go anywhere, so I'll drop it. I do know this though: I can think of a few theology professors at a certain Concordia University that would be up in arms if faith were called a virtue; and from my reading, they seem to have the confessional upper hand.


Fr John W Fenton said...

...unless, He [Christ] somehow gets in the way of justification

Perhaps I'm missing the intended humor here. Irony rarely comes off well in this medium.

If the above was not intended to be ironic, then this statement reveals much.

John Hogg said...

Rev. Weedon,

Just to be clear, are you claiming that the Church Fathers in question *believed* in sola scriptura, as the Lutherans do, or only that the quotes in question resemble the Lutheran teaching?

Grace and peace,

William Weedon said...

Fr. John,

Not sure what that meant.


I believe that the Lutheran teaching in regards to Scripture is of a piece with what has come before; that it was not a novelty and that this is borne our not only by the passages from the earlier fathers, but most precisely stated by St. Thomas Aquinas.

John Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon,

I'm not sure I entirely understand the answer in terms of the question.

Are you claiming that the Fathers that you quoted believed in sola scriptura?

Grace and peace,

William Weedon said...

Yes, John, that they believed that whatever dogma the Church proclaimed needed to be founded in and evident from the Sacred Scriptures. And yes, I am well aware of St. Basil's words about "unwritten Tradition" and note that in the self-same document that they appear, in an earlier paragraph he notes: "But we are not content simply because this is the tradition of the Fathers. What is important is that the Fathers followed the meaning of Scripture, beginning with the evidence which I have just extracted from the Scriptures and presented to you." (par. 16) Given his numerous statements about the importance of all doctrine being grounded in Scripture, I think it is clear that his words in par. 66 need to be understood in harmony with that, and the words in par. 66 should NOT be taken out of the context in which they were written.

123 said...

Thanks for that summary of your position on Basil's and other's similarly, seemingly paradoxical statements on this and other disputed questions. It gets back to the same hermeneutic that underlies "Scripture interprets Scripture". The problem, of course, being whether one is using the appropriate key thus interpreting Scripture the right way round from the appropriate a priori 'assumptions' and experiences. The history of Christianity is replete with examples of both the orthodox catholic position is attacked by Jews and heretics using Scripture. The important context with Basil is not De spiritu sanctu but the way he lived his life and worked in the Church, as he understood it. The question isn't whether he said things that can be construed as "pro Tradition first" or "sola Scriptura", etc. it is how we explain so much that he taught, practiced and believed that isn't found in "Scripture alone", at least as that has commonly come to be understood. Each of us must make our choices as best we can, questioning ourselves and the clarity of our vision, as well as our familiarity with the texts and persons in question. Your recommendation that we all search the Fathers' writings ourselves is thus quite important, I would add also their lives, Church and liturgical history, as well as the books they considered to be canonical Scripture. Prayerful, humble readings of these texts will guide us to where we should be - and underline the difficulty with which a true perception of the fullness of the Christian faith is grasped thus teaching us patience and understanding with those with whom we disagree.

William Weedon said...


Good points, all. We need also to beware of imagining that St. Basil's canon, just to pick that example, is the same as the one currently operated with. Assuming that St. Basil would share the same approach to the canon as St. Gregory of Nazianzus, we have something that does not match exactly either the "Protestant" or the "Orthodox" canon of today. According to St. Gregory, the Hebrew canon is the same as the Protestant canon, minus Esther. And the NT canon lacks Revelation. He says: "If there is anything else besides these, it is not among the genuine." (Concerning the Genuine Books of Scripture, *On God and Man* p. 85). Similarly, one's understanding of the liturgy that St. Basil knew should not import "the Great Entrance" and "Cherubic Hymn" - Wybrew is very good for giving a picture of what worship was like in those developing years of the 4th century.

123 said...

Of course, the difficulty in appealing to a Gregory, Basil or Jerome is in the underlying assumption that they represent the height of orthodox, catholic Christianity - a canonical golden age of some sort. Except, this is arbitrary. Should we take the 2nd century as 'pure' Christianity, then we are faced with the (seemingly) divergent ecclesiologies of Ignatius, Clement and Hermas. And why should 'early' necessarily be 'better'? This is the same argument leveled against Christians by Jews and pagans? Why should the age (or persons) of Athanasius, Gregory (Nazianzus or the Dialogist), Basil, Leo or Maximos be 'pure' over and against any that fall later?

Arguments such as this result in agnosticism or historical relativism, and are always based on one's own need to 'prove' a more modern preoccupation.

In reality, what we are looking for are all these other things (the visible) matched with the signs of the Spirit Who changes we individuals into persons/members of the Body of Christ. This is no less circular in its reasoning at the end of the day, but places the focus on where it should be - the person of Christ Himself and not on our scholarship and argumentation based on our pet hermeneutical lenses. Where do we see a Church body with the signs and acts of the earlier Church we all seek to emulate and be members with? Where do we see miracles and martyrs, confessors and hymnographers, ascetics and theology rooted in the experience of the Risen Christ Himself and his saints?

Similar to the way Jews and Christians read the same Law, Psalms and Prophets differently based on their answers to questions like those I posed, our answers to these questions today determine what we see when we open Scripture and the Fathers. God help us all to use proper lens that make us see rather than fun-house glasses distorting texts according to our own sinful, uncomprehending, fallen desires.

123 said...

Sorry, got carried away and missed a point. Why should the canon of Gregory or Athanasius or the Damascene or that approved by the Sixth Ecumenical Council or that in common use beyond the 7th Century be 'better' or 'worse'? It is as if we make the argument that little Bill in NC is somehow more 'Bill' than is Pastor Weedon today. The key is in finding the Body of Christ - however we might answer that question - and not being ashamed of the way in which Christ has grown in wisdom and stature; we must also beware pretenders such as 'Anastasia' claiming royal birth, but who are in the end self-deluded - though likely well-intentioned and honest.

Fr John W Fenton said...

A recap:

Pr May wrote:

...unless, He [Christ] somehow gets in the way of justification

I wrote:

Perhaps I'm missing the intended humor here. Irony rarely comes off well in this medium.

Pr Weedon wrote:

Not sure what that meant.

I now reply:

I apologize. It was not my intent to be obtuse. Rather, it was my intent to point out what I believe was an infelicitous phrase. You see, if "by Christ everyone who believes is justified" (Acts 13.39), then I find it eye-brow raising that "He somehow gets in the way of justification."

In brief, that remark drew me up short, and suggested that I see it, as I have said, as infelicitously ironic.

(Where is the irony, one asks? Perhaps from the perspective that oddly claims that AC IV trumps, rather than builds on, AC III.)

William Weedon said...

Dear Christopher,

I never said a thing about a "golden age." You brought up the understanding of canon - and I think you were wise to do so. It's important to understand the assumptions that a given father operated from and in. So we learn that St. Basil, when urging the importance of testing doctrine by Scripture, had a canon slightly smaller than the typical Protestant canon today. It's just a matter of that contextualizing, which is quite important when reading the Fathers.

William Weedon said...

Fr. John,

I meant, I was not sure what Fr. May meant with the original comment. And congratulations on Holy Incarnation moving into a building!

Sch├╝tz said...

At the end of all that, I simply must throw in my ten cents worth.

1) I agree with orrologion that the context must be the whole of the saints life. From what perspective were they teaching? Obviously their membership in the Catholic Church (or Orthodox, as orrologian would have it) is a part of that context.

2) All you have proved is that certain doctrines held by Lutherans (in particular, the three solas) are also Catholic doctrines. What you have not proved is why holding these teachings should necessitate a schism?

On this matter I strongly urge the reading of Louis Bouyer's Spirit and Forms of Protestantism. He treats each of these doctrines and points out that 1) they are Catholic, and 2) why Protestants have nevertheless ended up outside the Catholic Church.

William Weedon said...

Now, David, why did I know you'd say that? Of course, from our perspective, we've done nothing of the sort - for the catholic Church to us is not and never will be coterminous with submission to the papal throne (or, if you prefer, communion with the papal see).

William Weedon said...

By the way, on the St. Basil passage I discussed earlier a friend shared this very insightful quote from Florovsky, with which I couldn't agree more:

"At first glance one may get the impression that St. Basil introduces here a double authority and double standard - Scripture and Tradition. In fact he was very far from doing so." ....."It would be a flagrant mistranslation if we render it (unwritten tradition) as "in secret". The only accurate rendering is "by the way of mysteries" - that is, under the form of rites and liturgical usages or habits. In fact, it is precisely what St. Basil says himself "Most of the mysteries are communicated to us by an unwritten way." ......."Indeed, all instances quoted by St. Basil in this connection are ritual or liturgical in nature. The use of the sign of the cross in the rite of admission of catechumens, the orientation toward East at prayer, the habit to keep standing at worship on Sunday, the epiclesis in the Eucharistic rite, the blessing of water and oil, the renunciation of Satan and his pomp, the triple immersion in the rite of Baptism. There are many other "unwritten mysteries" of the church says St. Basil. They are not mentioned in Scripture. But they are of great authority and significance. They are indispensensable for the preservation of the right faith. They are effective means of witness and communication. According to St. Basil, they come from a "silent" and "private" tradition."

"Thus, the "unwritten tradition" in rites and symbols, does not actually add anything to the content of the scriptural faith : it only puts this faith in focus"

123 said...

Your use of the work of Archpriest Georges elucidates well the way in which you understand and use St Basil.

We none of us can see as clearly as we think we do; there is no such thing as an objective observer. The Lord help us to see since only in His Light can we see light.

William Weedon said...


You are SOOOOO post-modern. ;)

What on earth were those ancient folks ever thinking, imaging that you could communicate meaning through words?

Timothy May said...

Fr. Fenton, Pr. Weedon, et al,

I believe that Fr. Fenton picks up rightly on the irony in my response. The reduction of theology to formulas brings accompanying dangers. In this case, if justification (formula) is that on which the church stands or falls where does Christ fit in? The usual response is that these are two sides of the same coin as Pr. Weedon notes. This is a fair answer. However, in practice one can teach or preach justification / salvation without mentioning the word "justification" as one is teaching or preaching Christ. The irony is that, nowadays, one may be considered theologically suspect for teaching / preaching Christ and His salvation (or salvation in Him) if one fails to spell out correctly the formula on every occasion. I hope this clarifies a bit my intention in the earlier brief response. In other words, Christ does not get in the way of justification but it seems sometimes, in our circles, that looking for justification gets in the way of seeing Christ.
I think the same danger exists
with the 3 "solas.")

Fr. May

PS I apologize for not returning to the conversation sooner.

Augustinian Successor said...

"However, in practice one can teach or preach justification / salvation without mentioning the word "justification" as one is teaching or preaching Christ. The irony is that, nowadays, one may be considered theologically suspect for teaching / preaching Christ and His salvation (or salvation in Him) if one fails to spell out correctly the formula on every occasion."

And you got that idea from Paul? Luther? Are you or are you not a LUTHERAN? Or just a something else dressed up like one?

Augustinian Successor said...

I have lost count the number of times in which you, Mr. May have made risible statements. And you claim to be a religious instructor affiliated to the LCMS. But you're not alone. The owner of Cyberbrethren is known to do so too.

Augustinian Successor said...

This partly explains why the LCMS is losing its former lustre as a "centre" of confessional Lutheranism. What an insult to the memory of the late Rev. Dr. Robert D. Preus. What a letdown, what betrayal!

William Weedon said...

Sigh... A.S. may your Holy Week be blessed. As one often hears from the Orthodox about Orthodoxy, that it is perhaps only truly understood from within; so might I suggest that merely being a Protestant does not enable a person to understand the Lutheran Confession. Fr. May speaks truly from WITHIN that Confession and to my ears he is quite faithful to it; in fact, he was just about paraphrasing C.F.W. Walther in one of the famous lectures on the Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel.

Rob Olson said...

Thanks, Pastor Weedon, for this post. It was very helpful.

Rob Olson

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all the quotes. Since I have been reading the apostolic and church fathers I have started doubting the protestant faith. The quotes you cited proof some insight, but what to do with sayings like these:

Let us therefore root this out quickly, and let us fall down before the Master and pray to him with tears, so that he may be merciful and be reconciled to us, and restore us to the honorable and pure conduct that characterizes our love for others. For this is an open gate of righteousness leading to life.
[1 Clement 48:1-2a]

In love all the elect of God were made perfect; without love nothing is pleasing to God.
[1 Clement 49:5b]

Blessed are we, dear friends, if we continue to keep God's commandments in the harmony of love, so that our sins may be forgiven us through love.
[1 Clement 50:5]

Let us, therefore, obey his most holy and glorious name, thereby escaping the threats spoken by Wisdom long ago against those wo disobey, so that we may dwell safely, trusting in his most holy and majestic name. Accept our advice and you will have nothing to regret. For as God lives, and as the Lord Jesus Christ lives, and the Holy Spirit (who are the faith and hope of the elect), so surely the one who with humility and constant gentleness has kept without regret the ordinances and commandments given by God will be enrolled and included among the number of those who are saved through Jesus Christ, through whom is the glory to God for ever and ever. Amen.
[1 Clement 58:1-2 Notices how this simply shows faith + works for salvation]

I haven't even quoted the other apostolic fathers. Can you clarify these statements of st. Clement in light of protestant hallmark Sola Fide?



William Weedon said...


I don't usually allow comments on posts that are as old as this, but I didn't know any other way to answer your query.

I don't know what you mean by "protestant faith." I'm a Lutheran, obviously, and Lutherans disagree with most folks that go by the name "Protestant" in significant ways.

Faith alone (literally by means of faith alone) is simply a confession that the means whereby we lay hold on God's gracious promise of forgiveness is only by believing it, which belief we also confess is a gift of God. Lutherans in their Confessions clearly reject any notion of salvation by faith alone where the faith is only notional. In fact, it is a Lutheranism aphorism that while faith alone saves, the faith that saves is never alone; it is always accompanied by love (which is the final and real test of that faith's genuineness). That seems to be the heart of 1 Clement's concern.

But do note how St. John Chrysostom repeatedly speaks in terms of "faith alone" and then will insist as well on that faith being living and not dead by showing itself in works of love.

Hope that is of some help.