Wednesday, August 08, 2007

An Ancient Voice For The Day #21

Julianus Pomerius (wrote around the end of the 5th century):

"Let the pursuer of the contemplative life, then, approach his Creator to be enlightened in heart; let him watchfully serve Him by contemplating Him and untiringly enjoying Him; let him desire Him continually; for love of Him let him flee all that could turn Him away; let him rest all his thoughts and all his hope on his pleasure. Let him take time for holy meditations on the Sacred Scriptures; let him, being divinely illumined, delight in them. There let him consider his whole being as in some gleaming mirror; let him correct what he sees disordered; let him hold to what is right; reform what is deformed; cultivate what is beautiful; preserve what is sound; by careful reading strengthen what is weak. Let him not tire of reading the commandments of his Lord, love them without growing weary, fulfill them efficaciously; and, being adequately instructed by them, let him understand what he should avoid and what he should pursue. Let him devote himself to an examination of the mysteries of the same Divine Scriptures, read of Christ there prophesied, see Him represented, understand the perdition of the reprobate people according to prophecy, mourn its fulfillment, rejoice in the salvation of the Gentiles. Let him hold fast the things predicted and accomplished in the past; let him trust future promises."

Source: Mary Josephine Suelzer, trans., ACW, Vol. 4, Julianus Pomerius: The Contemplative Life (New York: Newman Press, 1947), pp. 27-28.

For an excellent compilation of quotes of the Church fathers teaching on the primacy, sufficiency and ultimate authority of Scripture, get a copy of Holy Scripture:The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith Vol III- The Writings of the Church Fathers Affirming the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura.

17 comments:

theo said...

My Dear Brother James,

I continued to be edified by your periodic quotes demonstrating the love of Scripture and its authority as presented by the Church Fathers. Thank you for sharing these tid-bits.

However, I also note that you imply that these fathers supported the Reformed doctrine of sola scriptura. In this I deem you err.

For example, In the same work cited in this article (written in the context of advice from one cleric to another), Father Julianus also affirmed the role and authority of Church doctrine and of her clerics as the "successors of the Lord's Apostles."

He wrote in part:
"... (know) that faith­ful Catholics usually profit more by good example than by brilliant words; and that the best and perfect teaching is that which a spiritual way of life exemplifies, not that which empty speech utters; and that on Judgment Day we shall be asked not for words but for deeds; that it is scarcely possible to persuade what the tongue teaches if one's life does not accord with one's tongue; that, on the other hand, it is possible to gain approval, whether you preach or not, for what you establish as worthy by deeds and impress on people disposed to follow an example, as something they can find delight in achieving."

...and also:
"Who would be so presumptuous as to flatter himself on his justice if he had disregarded the importance of the Church's doc­trine? For we ought not only, according to the Apostle, to show an example to the faithful, but also to teach those faithful who have been divinely entrusted to us for instruc­tion."

"This is what the Lord states through the Prophet Ezechiel under the threat of some fear, when he says to him:
- So thou, O son of man, I have made
- thee a watchman to the house of Israel.
Nor should we give passing heed to the fact that He calls a priest a 'watchman.' It is the work of a watchman to look out from a higher place and to see more than all others: so, too, a priest should stand out above all by the sublimity of his pattern of life."

"These (priests) are the ministers of the word, helpers of God, oracles of the Holy Spirit. Through such men God is re­conciled with His people; the people are instructed unto God. These are the successors of the Lord's Apostles, who, wondrously endowed with apostolic virtues, rule the churches which the former established by sublime miracles; who de­fend the Catholic faith by preaching, or if necessity demands,
by the rending of their limbs."
(Source: [Julianus Pomerius], De vita Contemplativa, Book I, pp 47-51 and ibid. Emphasis, added by me.)

Indeed, these great men such as Doctor Augustine, Pope Clement and Father Julianus stressed the ready availability of God's revelation through Scripture and its great repository of truth from which sound doctrine can be learned, but none espoused sola scriptura. To suggest otherwise is poor retelling of history at best; at worst it is simple falsehood; and in either case, it is not worthy of a man of the Gospel.

Humbly, I remain your servant and brother in Christ,'
--Theo

dtking said...

You're right, Julianus Pomerius' words just agree whole-heartedly with Trent...

quote Session XXV: Rule IV of the Ten Rules Concerning Prohibited Books Drawn Up by The Fathers Chosen by the Council of Trent and Approved by Pope Pius:

Since it is clear from experience that if the Sacred Books are permitted everywhere and without discrimination in the vernacular, there will by reason of the boldness of men arise therefrom more harm than good, the matter is in this respect left to the judgment of the bishop or inquisitor, who may with the advice of the pastor or confessor permit the reading of the Sacred Books translated into the vernacular by Catholic authors to those who they know will derive from such reading no harm but rather an increase of faith and piety, which permission they must have in writing. Those, however, who presume to read or possess them without such permission may not receive absolution from their sins till they have handed over to the ordinary. Bookdealers who sell or in any way supply Bibles written in the vernacular to anyone who has not this permission, shall lose the price of the books, which is to be applied by the bishop to pious purposes, and in keeping with the nature of the crime they shall be subject to other penalties which are left to the judgment of the same bishop. Regulars who have not the permission of their superiors may not read or purchase them.
H. J. Schroeder, Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent: Original Text with English Translation (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1955), p. 274-75.end of quote

DTK

Carrie said...

"Let him not tire of reading the commandments of his Lord, love them without growing weary, fulfill them efficaciously; and, being adequately instructed by them, let him understand what he should avoid and what he should pursue."

Direct instruction from Scripture with no infallible interpreter? Sounds like a blueprint for anarchy!

Anonymous said...

Your all missing something!!!

These "fathers" didn t teach or believe in scripture really, specially not in scripture alone. Why try to make them look good? The apostacy began soon after the Bible was written and lasted over 1500 years. That's the fact. The "bibles" they were pushing were not the Word of God, but Alexandrian frauds intended to give power to the RCs. If you paint these people over with whitewash you miss the important fact that they sent millions of people to Hell, and you help them if you also support fraud scriptures. you just take the enemy's side when you quote them like they were real Christians. This is why I stopped visiting "apolgetic" blogs so much. You think you can explain better than the Bible. then bad thinking and "intellectual" aruments replaces saving faith in the Word. John 3:16.

KJ Faithful
John 3:3

Kepha said...

"To suggest otherwise is poor retelling of history at best; at worst it is simple falsehood; and in either case, it is not worthy of a man of the Gospel."

Theo, the Eastern Orthodox would say the exact samething about claims of Papal Succession, Infallibility and Supremacy. Read Orthodox writer Michael Whelton's latest work, Popes and Patriarchs. He does a good job of exposing the Rome's "poor retelling of history."

Thomas said...

KJ Faithful wrote: "That's the fact. The "bibles" they were pushing were not the Word of God, but Alexandrian frauds intended to give power to the RCs."

This would be a strange situation if the Church of Alexandria was purposely corrupting the biblical text in order to empower the Church of Rome! Why would the Patriarch of Alexandria do such a thing for the sake of a foreign potentate? After all, the Bishop of Alexandria was the pope in his own patriarchate. Why would he not have done such a thing � if he did do such a thing � for himself? Why for Rome? Why not for Antioch or Jerusalem or Constantinople?

Saint and Sinner said...

Theo said, "However, I also note that you imply that these fathers supported the Reformed doctrine of sola scriptura. In this I deem you err."

Really?

“The Fathers of the Church, St. Augustine above all, themselves practiced that devotion derived from Scripture, whose ideal the Protestants steadily upheld; they hardly knew any other. No doubt they were much more careful than many Protestants not to isolate the Word of God in its settled form of Scripture from its living form in the Church, particularly in the liturgy. But, this reserve apart…they were no less enthusiastic, or insistent, or formal, in recommending this use of Scripture and in actually promoting it. Particularly from St. John Chrysostom, one might assemble exhortations and injunctions couched in the most forcible terms; they have often been recalled by those Protestants, from the sixteenth century onwards, the best grounded in Christian antiquity. It would be impossible to find, even among Protestants, statements more sweeping than those in which St. Jerome abounds: Ignoratio scripturarum, ignoratio Christi is doubtless the most lapidary, but not necessarily the most explicit. What is more, in this case just as when the authority of Scripture is viewed as the foundation of theology, the constant practice of the Church, in the Middle Ages as well as in the patristic times, is a more eloquent witness than all the doctors…For them, it was not simply one source among others, but the source par excellence, in a sense the only one.”
-Louis Bouyer, The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism (Cleveland: World Publishing, 1964), pp.132-133. Translated by A.V. Littledale. First published by Les Editions du Cerf, Paris, 1954.

“…it is right to insist that this narrow ‘biblicism’ is by no means to be confused with the affirmation that the Bible, and in one sense the Bible alone, is the ‘Word of God’ more directly and fully than any of its other expressions, since it alone is so inspired by God as to have him for its author. In making their own assertion, and giving it the vigour and emphasis so characteristic of their doctrine, the Protestant reformers did not go beyond the unanimous verdict of Judaism on the Old Testament, once constituted, and of the Fathers and theologians on the Bible as a whole. The cautious reservations introduced by modern Catholic writers, as a result of the controversies of the sixteenth century, cannot disguise the fact that the Protestants, in the positive statements we refer to, say no more than the unanimous ecclesiastical tradition…”
-Louis Bouyer, The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism (Cleveland: World Publishing, 1964), p.129. Translated by A.V. Littledale. First published by Les Editions du Cerf, Paris, 1954.

Theo said...

Saint and Sinner (That is such a neat handle!) wrote in part:

"The Fathers of the Church, St. Augustine above all, themselves practiced that devotion derived from Scripture, whose ideal the Protestants steadily upheld; they hardly knew any other. No doubt they were much more careful than many Protestants not to isolate the Word of God in its settled form of Scripture from its living form in the Church, particularly in the liturgy. But, this reserve apart…they were no less enthusiastic, or insistent, or formal, in recommending this use of Scripture and in actually promoting it."

Dear S&S:
You are 100% correct. This, however, is not sola scriptura, nor is it an endorsement of these men for that doctrine.

I suggest you might consider that each of these men also promoted the apostolic authority of the Church by succession as the means by which we ultimately test the correctness of our doctrine, including our doctrine about what is and is not scripture itself. Though I don't understand Reformed teaching about sola scriptura, If I can trust the explanations of good folks such as those who have tried to help me understand, I believe I grasp enough to reasonably assert that it does not agree with these early fathers.

Respectfully, I remain your humble brother and servant in Christ,
--Theo

theo said...

Kepha wrote in part:
"Theo, the Eastern Orthodox would say the exact samething about claims of Papal Succession, Infallibility and Supremacy."

Dear Kepha:
Were I to claim that all early church fathers believed in the primacy of the Bishop of Rome our dear Orthodox brothers would indeed say the exact same thing, and they would be correct to do so. However, were I to say (and I do) that many of these men did espouse the primacy of the successor of Peter (as did all three of the men mentioned in this tread), then they would be incorrect.

Nevertheless, this has no bearing on the fact that the fathers did not teach, preach or practice the Reformed doctrine of sola scriptura. To assert otherwise is to assert a blatant falsehood.

With humble fear of our Lord who knows my own weakness and every falsehood of my life, I remain only by His grace,
Your servant and brother in Christ,
--Theo

Saint and Sinner said...

Theo,

You are correct in saying that the Fathers believed in using tradition as an interpreter of Scripture AND using apostolic succession (i.e. in terms of the antiquity of a doctrine) as a good rule of thumb (though that might be an understatement) for testing doctrine.

However, as Louis Bouyer noted, the Fathers *believed that neither tradition nor antiquity of doctrine* made something *infallible*.

In fact, if you look at the Pelagian controversy, you will find out that Coelestius could cite more Fathers (such as Chrysostom!) in his favor than could Augustine.

I believe that Vincent of Lerins was the first to espouse such a view of Tradition now held in the Roman Church.

Tradition can be a good guide, and the Fathers used it much more often than modern Protestants. However, the Fathers would definitely agree that Scripture was the only *infallible* authority for the post-apostolic church.

theo said...

S&S wrote in part:
"However, the Fathers would definitely agree that Scripture was the only *infallible* authority for the post-apostolic church."

Dear S&S:
I humbly suggest that you are unwise to assert what these men "definitely" believed when their own testimony speaks against your assertion. All of these men confessed faith in the active and ongoing apostolic succession and authority of the Church as the pillar of truth.

I encourage you to seek the truth. Let the fathers speak for themselves. Read these writings yourself in their entire context rather than scan excerpts provided by others, myself included. I expect you will easily conclude that asserting that these men believed, taught or practiced the Reformed doctrine of sola scriptura is pure fiction.

I remain your servant and brother in Christ,
--Theo

Saint and Sinner said...

"I expect you will easily conclude that asserting that these men believed, taught or practiced the Reformed doctrine of sola scriptura is pure fiction."

I believe, that you, along with so many Roman Catholics that I have run into, are reading the church fathers anachronistically, importing definitions and ideas of a later time into words and phrases of a previous era.

My reading of church history scholars is limited, but from what I have read, the only people that believe that the church fathers denied that Scripture was the only *infallible* authority (note: NOT the ONLY authority) were Roman Catholic lay apologists.

Sorry. Not buying it.

“As a priest, a bishop, and a Christian intellectual, Augustine was convinced that the Bible was the “foundation” of all religious teachings…Wherever the Bible is unclear, nothing definite can be asserted, though of course Augustine believed deeply that one might do one’s utmost to make the meaning of the text as clear as possible.”
-Jacques Le Goff, The Birth of Purgatory, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1984), p.63.

http://www.lightshinesindarkness.com/scripture_early_church.htm

GeneMBridges said...

I suggest you might consider that each of these men also promoted the apostolic authority of the Church by succession as the means by which we ultimately test the correctness of our doctrine, including our doctrine about what is and is not scripture itself. Though I don't understand Reformed teaching about sola scriptura, If I can trust the explanations of good folks such as those who have tried to help me understand, I believe I grasp enough to reasonably assert that it does not agree with these early fathers.

>>>If you don't understand Reformed teaching about Sola Scriptura, then how can you say the quote provided doesn't refer to Sola Scriptura.

I'd also point out that Augustine very clearly placed the Chair of St. Peter in many sees, not Rome. So much for claims him believing in the Roman view of "apostolic succession."

And I'd point out for you that Reformed theology does not deny "apostolic succession." Rather, it denies that succession is by way of a claim through Rome; rather it is by way of teaching in accordance with Scripture - which does not differ with the Fathers.

theo said...

S&S Wrote:

"I believe, that you, along with so many Roman Catholics that I have run into, are reading the church fathers anachronistically, importing definitions and ideas of a later time into words and phrases of a previous era."

It is interesting that you provide an astoundingly accurate description of what I would assume about Reformed theology defenders who read 16th-century doctrines into the writings of these men.

Regardless, what I think they said is not as important as what they did indeed say. Again, I suggest you read them in their entirety and in context both textually and historically. Were I betting man (and I am not) I'd bet my pay for a year that you have not done so: that your "take" on the church fathers is solely via filters such as our brother James provided. I need not warn you against taking my word for it: that is a "given." See for yourself whether when Augustine said that were it not for the authority of the Catholic Church, he would not believe scripture, he actually meant what he seemed to say. See for yourself whether Clement's letter to the Corinthians was primarily written to assert Church authority over local whims and interpretation of scripture--almost the exact opposite of what our brother James' post implied.

I have deep respect for my Protestant brothers and sisters. It is to my personal shame that my own imitation of Christ so often is pitiful in comparison with theirs. Yet in this regard, even a lowly beggar such as I (who I suspect truly is not worthy to serve you) is astounded that anyone of honesty and integrity who actually read the fathers would at the same time claim these men believed, practiced or preached sola scriptura. I am being absurdly bold when I ask: why argue with a truly limited and admittedly biased person like me about what the fathers said when you do not actually know what they said themselves? –and I deem you do not know. Find out what they wrote and why.

May Jesus bless you in all good gifts to the glory of God and for the coming of His kingdom.

With fear of God the Son who shall judge me, and upon whose mercy and intercession alone I hope for my salvation, I remain your humble servant and brother in Christ,
--Theo

theo said...

Our brother Gene wrote in part:
"If you don't understand Reformed teaching about Sola Scriptura, then how can you say the quote provided doesn't refer to Sola Scriptura."

Dear brother:
Please re-read the statement I made. You will see I addressed this in it's formation:
"Though I don't understand Reformed teaching about sola scriptura, If I can trust the explanations of good folks such as those who have tried to help me understand, I believe I grasp enough to reasonably assert that it does not agree with these early fathers."

Please forgive my limitations; however, I don't know how to phrase it more clearly.

Humbly,
--Theo

Theo said...

Gene also wrote:
"I'd also point out that Augustine very clearly placed the Chair of St. Peter in man sees, not Rome. So much for claims him believing in the Roman view of "apostolic succession."

Dear brother Gene:

Your comment puzzles me. What document are you talking about? I'd like to see it in context. Augustine affirmed "The Holy See" of the Church as the Seat of Peter (and its administration) regardless of location.

Perhaps one could say that his view and modern Catholic understanding of the Papacy are not identical; however, it is pure fiction to argue that he taught, believed or practiced sola scriptura.

In fact, in Augustine's day, the Donatists insisted that they alone correctly interpreted scripture. In his treatise against the Donatists, Augustine taught that though Holy Scripture was always a reliable and inerrant source of truth (primera scriptura) the Church through direct succession is sole arbiter and final authority in disputes, especially about the cannon, content and interpretation of scripture based on Apostolic Tradition. It was he who insisted that it is solely by the authority of the Holy See of the Church that scripture has its authority and that priests and bishops retain Apostolic authority.

Regardless, unless you're about to affirm that you're converting to Orthodox Catholicism, I fail to see your point. Are you saying if he were with us today Augustine would be more aligned with the Eastern Orthodox Catholic teaching than with that of the Roman rite? Perhaps; however, would he teach sola, scriptura? As our friend S&S says, I don't buy it.

With sincere prayers for true unity in Christ who alone is Lord, I remain by his mercy and grace,
your servant and brother in Christ,
--Theo

theo said...

In an earlier post, our friend S&S quotes Jacques Le Goff to say Augustine believed the following:
"Wherever the Bible is unclear, nothing definite can be asserted."

This is an excellent example of why one ought to read Augustine himself if one wishes to know what he believed.

I can't imagine where Jacques Le Goff got the notion that Augustine found the cannon of Scripture clearly stated in the Bible. If Augustine did not find it clearly in the Bible, (and he did not), then Le Goff claims Augustine believed the cannon cannot definitely be asserted. But if so, then how would Augustine claim anything is definitely scripture?

This reasoning reminds me of that of the relativist who asserts "There absolutely are no absolutes." In order to assert such a thing, he violates his own assertion.

In order to assert that nothing outside of scripture is definite and also assert that one definitely knows what is and is not scripture, one must assert the opposite of the original assertion: that the cannon, which is something outside of scripture, is definite.

If "Wherever the Bible is unclear, nothing definite can be asserted." is what "sola scriptura" means, then not only did Augustine not practice, preach or believe it, it is in itself utter nonsense. ...which leads me wonder if I'm not so all alone in my not understanding "sola scriptura".

I remain your bewildered servant and brother in Christ,
--Theo