Monday, June 2, 2008

The Regula Fidei.

It is still surprising when I read the Protestant polemical argument that runs as follows, "There is no such thing as a consensus among the fathers. The early church was a patchwork of ideas, a melting pot of doctrines." It is sad that many Christians have fallen into this charade of smoke and mirrors regarding their rich heritage. That this is a scam, a ruse of sorts to kick sand in the eyes of the ignorant is readily seen in the similar tactics employed by the theological cult, the so-called "Jehovas Witnesses." Their M.O. is analagous to the forlorness seen in some Protestant apologists. Ask a "J. Witness" why believe in their particular religion in contrast to the historic Catholic faith and they will answer,

"The Apostles and Jesus Christ were Jehovas Witnesses. But, quickly after their passing the early church fathers fell into darkness, confusion and man-made traditions. There is no such thing as unanymity in the fathers, that's a fantasy. It is not until 1872 that "Pastor" Charles Taze Russell re-discovered this pristine Christian faith in it's truest form."

Does this sophistry sound familiar? This desperation, this historical-revisionism is all too familiar in the schismatic branches of Christianity, the heterodox circles and the suicidal cults. In contrast to all these parlor tricks' stands the quiet and unanimous voice of the Catholic fathers which are beautifully enshrined in Catholic doctrine. The best minds the world has ever known have been Catholic, both theological (St. Augustine and St. Aquinas) and philosophical (Descartes, Leibnitz, Pascal) 1.

From the immense body of doctrine known as historic Christianity, I will choose the holy Eucharist as an example of the monolithic nature of the patristic fathers 2.

· St. Ignatius, blessed martyr and bishop of Antioch writes in the first century that the Eucharist in contrast from mere bread and body is the actual Body and Blood of our Lord,

"I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the Bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire His Blood, which is love incorruptible." 3

· St. Justin Martyr is clear and cannot be mistaken. Instead of squabbling over the meaning of the Eucharist as Luther and Zwingli, Justin concurs with St. Ignatius and the orthodox interpretation (regula fidei),

"We do not recieve these as common bread or common drink. But just as our Savior Jesus Christ was made flesh through the Word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food which has been eucharistized by the Eucaharistic prayer from Him (that food which by change nourishes our flesh and blood) is the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus." 4

This understanding of the real and literal presence of Jesus our God and Lamb of the world is continued in an unbroken line of the patristic fathers; (St. Clement of Alexandria, (Paedagogus. 2, 2, 20), St. Irenaeus, (Adversus haerses. 4, 18, 4), Tertullian, (De carnis resurrectione. 8), St. Cyprian, (De lapsis. 25)).

I conclude with St. Cyril of Jerusalem who passes on the tradition of the fathers concerning the ancient and apostolic understanding of the Eucharist,

"the apparent bread is not bread, even though it is sensible to the taste, but the body of Christ, and that the apparent wine is not wine, even though the taste would have it so." 5

This is but one example of the long litany of doctrines that can be proven to be held in one accord by the Catholic fathers. The honest reader free of bias and theological distortion can let the fathers speak for themselves in context.


1. The incomparable influence of Catholicism on civilization is beautifully captured in visual form at - (browse to the bottom left trailer entitled "epic).

2. And even here a relatively short list of the fathers will be given (mainly the earliest of the Catholic fathers). A full presentation far exceeds the scope of this brief article but I am confident that the sample given suffices.

3. (Epistula ad Romanos. 7, 3).

4. (Apologia prima pro Christianis. 66, 2).

5. (Cat. 22, 1).


George Weis said...

Brother Rick,

I can't help but think this post came from our mini-discussion under your earlier post.

Sounds like you are a bit angry with people?

Thanks for your thoughts!


R. E. Aguirre. said...

In an indirect way I suppose you can say that our mini-discussion triggered something in my mind. But far from being angry I welcome all comments that get me thinking and open up doors for other posts.

But in the main the post was not directed at you're comments but rather against the typical spiel that is all too common by (some) Protestant apologists today.

George Weis said...


You would have to give me further detail on the well known Justin quote. What does the original language tell us? I don't absolutely see this as supporting Transubstantiation.

Also, what say you of Ratramnus in the 9th century? Not considered a heretic, but a monk who supported a view similar to that of Presbys? He and his fellow Benedictine monk differed on their concept of it, but neither was anathematized during their life. According to Wycliffe, it was only after that, that the Roman Church put the stamp of dogma on Transubstantiation. Even Radburtus didn't have a complete Transubstantiation view.

Talk to me Rick!

Lot's of love to you brother!

R. E. Aguirre. said...

Interesting that you point out St. Justin of the fathers that I cited. The Martyr cannot be misunderstood on this point. St. Justin on the Eucharist (as St. Irenaeus and others) is important because he actually speaks about the change in the mystery of the Eucharist.

"...the food which has been Eucharistized by the Eucharistic prayer..." (as cited in the post from Justin's First Apology).

This is exactly what St. Aquinas later formulated as Transubstantiation and what has been believed by the early Catholic Church down to the present day. The only scholars that deny this historical fact do so under pretext.

J.N.D Kelly (Protestant Anglican)regarded as one of the foundational studies of patristic theology (from a Protestant stand point) has this to say about St. Justin and the Eucharist,

"Justin actually refers to the change" and Kelly goes on to translate St. Justin passage in his First Apology in the standard way (as I cite it in my post),"...that the food which has been Eucharistized by the word of prayer..." Kelly then cites St. Irenaeus (in Adv Haer. 4, 18, 5) as also holding to the change in the Eucharist. (J.N.D Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 198).

On Ratramnus.

1. It is the standard consensus of Patristics that the fathers' terminus ad quem ends in the West in the seventh century and the eigth for the East. Ratramnus therefore does not qualify as a patristic father.

2. Instead of picking obscure voices that are the manifest exception rather than the rule, Protestants must deal with the fathers en toto. The sum total understanding of the unified Catholic episcopate is what must be dealt with. If I was to disprove Calvin's view of the "Lord's Supper" I would not go after say John Piper of the 21st century but rather would interact with the primary source (Calvin of the 16th century).

There is no need to do hermeneutical gymnastics or to revise plain history (as some Protestants do). Much more sober are the Protestant scholars who acknowledge the perspicuity of the Catholic fathers (as does Kelly et. al) and argue that in some sense the fathers were wrong in what they held and it took the Reformation to "clean up the mess".

But to hi-jack the fathers and bolster foreign ideas on them is simply, unbecoming.

George Weis said...


My point on Ratramnus wasn't that he was a Father... I know that... but my point is, that if this guy in the 9th century who was raised by nuns had no clear mention of the accidents in the transubstantiation sense, but the other did... perhaps we are reading things back into the fathers. If the dogma was established after this (when two held differing views) then could it be that the dogma made concrete that which was not concrete before that? As in earlier discussion I have heard from one source that if read purely objectively, one would find all the positions on the Eucharist in the Early Fathers.

Talk to me some more :)


R. E. Aguirre. said...

Brother George, I know that you were not claiming Ratramnus as a patristic father I just wanted to make that clear for the readers.

My point is just that, that modern Protestant's are reading too much into the fathers that is not there.

The logic behind Transubstantiation is clear and resistless and flows from the principle of the development of doctrine, it goes as follows;

1. The Catholic fathers believed in the literal presence of Jesus Christ our Lord in the Eucharistic mystery. They also believe in a change that occurs in the prayer of consecration.

2. St. Thomas Aquinas crystalized this patristic understanding using philosophical language.

3. The Catholic Church later codified St. Aquinas' model as the de fidei view of the Catholic fathers understanding of the Eucharist and labled it "Transubstantiation".

Hence, there is no corruption in this example of development of doctrine.

Most Catholic theology is reactionary in formulation. Doctrines such as the Trinity, the Deity of Christ and the Personhood and Deity of the Holy Spirit, etc were only announced officially after heretical attacks and/or counter claims. It is not that the Church did not believe these tenets of Christianity before the Creedal formulations but that the Catholic Church did not see a reason to codify them before the attacks.

If you read a good overview that is non polemical in nature of the Catholic fathers, you can see the golden thread that runs across them all - they are unified in doctrine and very clear.

World's apart from the theological anarchy of the Protestant Reformational fathers.

George Weis said...

Brother Rick,

I feel like to read a non polemical overview is virtually impossible. I would like to read a work by someone with no connection to either side of the argument. Someone who simply through intellect shows the facts without sway.

Is such a work out there?


R. E. Aguirre. said...

Well I find J.N.D Kelly a stable guide through most early Christian doctrines (even though at times his Protestant stripes come out) but on the whole he is a very neutral commentator.

George Weis said...


How does someone hold the view that the early Fathers were in line with the current RCC and not convert? Do they in general believe that the Fathers went that far astray from NT Christianity?

I do believe there was a shift early on. You can see a difference as early as 1 Clement. Hellenism seemed to be more evident in his words and thoughts. Pauline Christianity, was still visible, but there does seem to be some leaning in the way of thought towards Hellenism.


R. E. Aguirre. said...

George, I'm not really clear as far as what you are asking here-

"How does someone hold the view that the early Fathers were in line with the current RCC and not convert? Do they in general believe that the Fathers went that far astray from NT Christianity?"

Perhaps you can re-word the question, sorry bud.

As far as you're comments on the Hellenization of early Christianity, that there were influences of the philosophies of the age on Christian thinkers (even up to today) there is no doubt. But you cannot press that point too much. The father of such dichotomies was the German liberal scholar F.C Baur and his Tubingen disciples which posited a whole host of such "schools" in early Christianity all fighting for control of the Church.

I'd rather side with the majority of New Testament scholarship (conservative at least) that rejects such a liberal view of the history of the Church.

George Weis said...


I suppose what I am saying, is that if someone realizes that the Early Christian Fathers fit perfectly with the RCC, why don't they convert? Is it because they think that Christianity went COMPLETELY ESCUE?

Thanks for your thoughts on the other points!


R. E. Aguirre. said...

Alright, thanks for the clarification George. Well, the strict answer to you're question is, I don't know. I can't really understand why a person won't convert to Catholicism (if he understood the patristic fathers to completely dovetail with modern Catholic teaching).

What I do know that is related to this question is that there are many people/scholars who do not convert to Catholicism because they think modern Catholicism does not agree 100% with the patristic fathers. For example, the Anglicans would say they adhere to the 'original patristic faith' (Catholicism before it became Roman Catholicism).

But that my friend, is an entirely different question, for perhaps, another post in the future.

God bless on this beautiful Friday.

George Weis said...

Brother Rick,

As always, I am thankful for your kindhearted remarks and thoughts. I sense no level of arrogance in you, even though you have knowledge on the subjects that is worth a great deal!

It is an incredible day out there, although here it is very humid. We have had an abundance of rain, and therefore our humidity sky-rockets.

I pray all is well with you and your family.

In Him,