Sunday, January 31, 2010
Saturday, January 30, 2010
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Friday, January 29, 2010
Now that I've finally got my office all set up, I made this video to show it off a little bit and also to answer three questions that continue to reoccur in the comments and messages I receive in response to my videos and blogs posts:
1. Where do I get the information I use in my videos?
2. What are my thoughts on the calendar issue and on ecumenism?
3. Do Orthodox consider non-Orthodox to be part of the Church?
Thanks very much to everyone for watching my videos and thanks especially to those of you who have e-mailed me and sent messages of encouragement. I really do appreciate it.
Click here to see more of my YouTube videos.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
"One type of watchfulness consists in closely scrutinizing every mental image or provocation; for only by means of a mental image can Satan fabricate an evil thought and insinuate this into the intellect in order to lead it astray. A second type of watchfulness consists in freeing the heart from all thoughts, keeping it profoundly silent and still, and in praying. A third type consists in continually and humbly calling upon the Lord Jesus Christ for help. A fourth type is always to have the thought of death in one's mind." - St. Hesychios the Priest, On Watchfulness and Holiness, 14-17
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
Sunday, January 24, 2010
It is completely incomprehensible when sectarians want to talk about canonical and uncanonical books of Holy Scripture. Protestants study the history of the New Testament canon a good deal, but that very history is utterly devastating to the concept of canonicity outside the Church. History shows that the canon has not always and in all the [local] Churches been the same. A few centuries passed before the canon was fixed by conciliar decisions. For us there is nothing tempting in this, since we believe in the Church, and therefore her decisions are equally sacred, whether they belong to the second, fourth or twentieth century. But not so for the Protestants and others who deny the truth of the Church. For them, the history of the New Testament canon casts doubt upon the very concept of canonicity. The more consistent Protestants do not conceal this. For example, Adolf Jülicher concludes his study on the history of the New Testament canon with a very characteristic sentence: “The unassailable fact of the human and gradual genesis of the New Testament canon may serve the purpose of liberating us from the danger that this canon could turn from being a support into being an oppressive yoke.”
It can be said that on the Protestant stock exchange the price of Holy Scripture is highly unstable but never rises to its face value. The price is constantly threatened by an unexpected plunge. Suddenly a scholar proves for a while the lack of authenticity of this or that New Testament book. When the Tübingen school of Baur predominated, all that remained of the entire New Testament were four or five Epistles of the Apostle Paul. At the present time they seem inclined to recognize the authenticity of the majority of the New Testament books. But suddenly, somewhere in Egypt, some papyrus will be discovered which throws a different light on the period, and the value of Holy Scripture among the Protestants will fall headlong. The principle of an approach to Holy Scripture from outside the Church destroys the worth of Scripture itself. All the apostates from the Church—Protestants, sectarians of every kind—speak completely in vain of their respect for Holy Scripture. Their words show only misunderstanding and sometimes even hypocrisy. Is it not characteristic that all the unfavorable and often blasphemous critiques of Scripture come from Protestants, in whose doctrine Scripture has replaced the Church, for whom Scripture is everything? I said above that for a Protestant Scripture is a fetish, a statue, an inanimate idol. I think that an idolater senses that he himself has made the idol. It is said about our uncivilized non-Russian natives that after a successful hunt they try in every way possible to satisfy their idols by smearing their lips with fat from the slain animal and putting into their mouths the best pieces of meat. But if the hunt proves unsuccessful, they start chopping the idol to pieces. The Holy Scripture is handled in the same way by those who approach it in estrangement from the Church. As long as Scripture does not contradict them, does not denounce them, they extol it. But when it does, they start ruthlessly cutting up their idol, tearing Scripture to pieces, some of which they consider to be counterfeit and others they deem unnecessary.
St. Irenaeus of Lyons calls Scripture the Tree of Paradise planted in the midst of the Church. For those expelled from Paradise, however, this tree can only be the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; and after partaking of it, they can be convinced only of the sad truth that they are naked. It is high time for all opponents of the Church to be persuaded of their shameful nakedness and ask the Church’s forgiveness, just as the prodigal son asked his father’s forgiveness! The absurd separation of Scripture from the Church has already produced its lethal fruit. Among Protestants there are some who assert, teach and preach that Christ was never in the world and that the whole Gospel history is a myth. Without the Church, there is neither Scripture nor Christ, since the Church is the Body of Christ.
Thanks very much to Demi for passing me a link to this great article in the comments to a previous post here.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
First, I'll correct the misunderstanding here which is the easiest one to correct. You said:
... since the Church is in fact the infallible interpreter of what Scripture says?That statement is correct in a sense, but not in the sense that you think it is. Here's why:
- "The Church" is not a Bishop or group of Bishops. Bishops bearing Apostolic Succession are the overseers of the Church militant, but not the totality of the Church itself. The Church is the community of all baptized, believing members of the Body of Christ, both living and departed, united by the Holy Spirit in the love of Christ through a shared Eucharist, doctrine, and practice (to summarize in as few words as possible).
- The Church is only the Church insofar as its members cling to the Faith of the Apostles. Apostolic Succession, which is essential to the Church, consists of two parts: 1. the physical link with the Apostles via laying on of hands in ordination of the Bishops and 2. the spiritual link of maintaining the Faith of the Apostles. If any entity lacks either, it is not the Church.
- Because of both 1 and 2 above, the Church lacks the ability to interpret Scripture in any innovative way. Scripture is interpreted not by some "magisterium" or individual Bishop, but by its place in the Church itself, within the Tradition of the Apostolic Faith.
... you would affirm that you and the EOC are under the authority of Scripture ...This is incorrect. The view of the Church being subject to Scripture is a relatively late Western innovation. Due to the corruption of both the Faith and the hierarchy within Roman Catholicism, the Protestant reformers invented the idea of the Scripture standing above the Church, used to judge the Church. This, though, was an extreme counteraction to the extreme corruption within the Western church. As neither the Faith nor the Bishops of the Eastern Church ever fell into such corruption, no such view developed; as a result, the Orthodox Church uniquely retains the ancient Christian view of Church and Scripture.
In the ancient Church, which is the Orthodox Church, Scripture is used as a teaching tool (the teaching tool, really) in order to communicate the Faith of the Church. Scripture has not, historically, been used to determine the content of doctrine; the doctrine of the Church was used to determine the content of Scripture.
St. Anthony the Great, the founder of Christian monasticism, and an illiterate, was once approach by some pagan philosophers who taunted him about his lack of learning. He replied, "which came first, the knowledge or the book?" Although the circumstances are different, the question to be answered here is the same, and the answer, obviously, is that the knowledge (that is, the Faith of the Church) came first, then the book (the Bible).
Allow me to use an allegory to explain the proper relationship between Church and Scripture. Imagine a classroom; this classroom is the Church, and the sign outside the door reads "Salvation 101." Inside the classroom there is a teacher; this is the local Bishop. He has been trained by other teachers of the same subject, with a long line stretching back to the great masters in his field, and he has been appointed by them to teach for having learned and applied the subject so well. There are students; these are the faithful. There are posters and diagrams on the walls; these are the Holy Icons and the instruments used for worship. There are beakers and test tubes and other material for doing experiments to learn more and apply the knowledge already learned; these are prayer, charity, and fasting.
There is also a textbook; this is the Bible. The textbook is the center and guide of the learning that goes on in that classroom, but it is not an authority over the classroom. To say that the textbook has authority over the classroom is nonsense; on the contrary, the textbook was written just for this classroom and has meaning only within this classroom. As the teacher teaches, he uses the textbook to explain the topic to the students. As the students do their lab experiments, they constantly reference the textbook for guidance. They also look to those posters and diagrams on the walls for illumination on the information contained in the textbook. Nothing in the posters or diagrams, or in the experiments, or in the teacher's lessons contradicts or rises above the textbook; rather, all of these go hand in hand and without each other they are meaningless.
The textbook contains information about the subject being taught in the classroom; it is, in fact, a grand depository of the knowledge of the subject. It is the subject (that is, the True Christian Faith) that has determined the content of the textbook, not the content of the textbook the subject.
To try to read the Bible outside of the Church is like reading a textbook meant for a biology class without knowing that the study of biology exists. And to try to use that textbook to judge the study of biology which the textbook was written by, in, and for is completely absurd.
Dropping the allegory: the content of the Scriptures was determined by the Church (specifically, the Holy Spirit working through the Apostles and early Fathers) based on the Holy Faith taught by the Apostles. It is intended to be used by, in, and for the Church to teach that Faith, as it was written by, in, and for the Church to teach that Faith. To separate the Scriptures from the Church is absurd; to posit either Church or Scripture as standing one above the other is absurd; to attempt to judge the Faith of the Church based on the Scriptures is absurd.
As I said, your question is a very difficult one for me to answer as it presupposes a Protestant mindset and the history of Western Christianity, a very different situation from that of the Orthodox Church. I hope that I've done at least a decent job of pointing out why this is such and explaining the very different situation found in the Orthodox Church, still clinging to the ancient Faith once taught by the Apostles.
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Friday, January 22, 2010
"The intellect is made blind by these three passions: avarice, self-esteem, and sensual pleasure. These three passions on their own dull spiritual knowledge and faith, the foster-brothers of our nature. It is because of them that wrath, anger, war, murder and all other evils have such power over mankind." - St. Hesychios the Priest, On Watchfulness and Holiness, 57-59
I found out this morning from David Bryan (at Oh Taste and See) that the two ROCOR Priests in Haiti whom I blogged about previously are both alive and well. The mission there, consisting of over 2000 people, however, is going need to need some help. Please read this statement by Metropolitan Hilarion, ROCOR's first hierarch, and help however you can.
(Thanks very much to David for the update)
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Two clergymen of the Patriarchate of Constantinople survived the earthquake in Haiti, reports Sedmitsa.Ru "referring to the Greek site, "Amen. "
January 15 it was reported that an Orthodox priest, Father Barnabas, escaped during the devastating earthquake in Haiti, which took place on 12 January this year.
A connection with another priest on the island, his father Paul, was established earlier.
All family members of both clerics also survived, although their homes completely destroyed.
Father Barnabas and Father Paul are clerics of the diocese of Mexico and Central America of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, established in 1996 and is now headed by Metropolitan Athenagoras.
Both clerics, Haitian by origin, have been performing their ministry for over 12 years in their native island, and providing spiritual guidance to over 1000 Orthodox Christians, among whom there are both new settlers and local residents. They also take care of the three schools, in which are enrolled 1500 children from poor families. One of these schools was destroyed.
The American Orthodox Archdiocese of the Church of Constantinople and many other local Orthodox Churches have already begun collecting funds to help victims of the earthquake, regardless of their religious affiliation.
Metropolitan Athenagoras of Athens on Jan. 15 sent a message to the circular letter, urging all people of goodwill to send money, because the acceptance of things is impossible for the time being, and the cost of assistance is very high.
(These two Priests are not the same as the two ROCOR Priests I mentioned here previously -- I'm still waiting to see if there is any word on their whereabouts and well-being. )
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
"Grace has been given mystically to those who have been baptized into Christ; and it becomes active within them to the extent that they actively observe the commandments. Grace never ceases to help us secretly; but to do good -- as far as lies in our power -- depends on us." - St. Mark the Ascetic, On Those who Think They are Made Righteous by Works, 61
St. Hippolytus was a disciple of St. Irenaeus of Lyons. As a Priest in Rome, he broke communion with the Bishop of Rome in about AD 220, accusing Pope St. Callixtus I of being too lax in the matter of receiving back into the Church those guilty of gross offenses. After this break, he allowed himself to be elected as a kind of counter-Bishop of Rome, becoming the first Antipope. Later, he and the Pope of Rome were exiled together by the Emperor, reconciled with each other, and, eventually, were martyred together.
Let's take a look at the commonly quoted proof-text presented in favor of Sola Scriptura:
"There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source. For just as a man, if he wishes to be skilled in the wisdom of this world, will find himself unable to get at it in any other way than by mastering the dogmas of philosophers, so all of us who wish to practise piety will be unable to learn its practice from any other quarter than the oracles of God. Whatever things, then, the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us look; and whatsoever things they teach, these let us learn; and as the Father wills our belief to be, let us believe; and as He wills the Son to be glorified, let us glorify Him; and as He wills the Holy Spirit to be bestowed, let us receive Him. Not according to our own will, nor according to our own mind, nor yet as using violently those things which are given by God, but even as He has chosen to teach them by the Holy Scriptures, so let us discern them." - St. Hippolytus of Rome, Against the Heresy of One Noetus, 9What the Sola Scripturists are ignoring here, though, is context. Noetus was the inventor of a heresy which held to the position now called Modalism, claiming that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not distinct Persons within the Godhead, but, instead "modes" or "aspects" of the One God as perceived by the believer.
The statement by Hippolytus above comes at a transition point in his writing against this heresy. He has discussed the history and contents of the heresy, refuting it, and is now moving on to an explanation of the truth of the Trinity. And what he's telling us here is that the true knowledge of God is to be found in the Holy Scriptures, if those Scriptures are rightly interpreted. Take a look at his last sentence: we are not to interpret Scripture "according to our own will, nor according to our own mind," but "even as He has chosen to teach them." And where is the Scripture taught with the right interpretation? Only in the Holy Church, as St. Hippolytus makes clear in the remainder of this writing, closing with this doxology:
"To Him be the glory and the power, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, in the holy Church both now and ever, and even for evermore. Amen." - St. Hippolytus of Rome, Against the Heresy of One Noetus, 18Not only is the Sola Scripturists' proof-text out of context within that single writing of St. Hippolytus, it is also out of context within the entirety of his writings. Here's an example:
"And certain other heretics, contentious by nature, and wholly uninformed as regards knowledge, as well as in their manner more than usually quarrelsome, combine in maintaining that Pascha [Easter] should be kept on the fourteenth day of the first month, according to the commandment of the law, on whatever day of the week it should occur. But in this they only regard what has been written in the law, that he will be accursed who does not so keep the commandment as it is enjoined. They do not, however, attend to this fact, that the legal enactment was made for Jews, who in times to come should kill the real Passover [Pascha]. And this Paschal sacrifice in its efficacy, has spread unto the Gentiles, and is discerned by faith, and not now observed in letter merely. They attend to this one commandment, and do not look unto what has been spoken by the Apostle: 'For I testify to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.' In other respects, however, these consent to all the Traditions delivered to the Church by the Apostles." - St. Hippolytus of Rome, Refutation of All Heresies, 8, 11The individuals here being referred to by St. Hippolytus are a group called the Quartodecimans; they held that Pascha (improperly called "Easter" by most Western Christians), the annual celebration of the Resurrection of Christ, was to be held on the 14th day of Nisan, the first month in the Jewish calendar, no matter what day it fell on. The rest of the Church, as Hippolytus points out, observed Pascha on a Sunday, as that was the day of the week Christ Resurrected on.
There are two things are really important about this quote when it comes to determining whether Hippolytus held to Sola Scriptura:
- In the first sentence, Hippolytus calls the Quartodecimans "heretics," a word applied to those who have chosen to separate themselves from the Church through false belief. Sola Scripturists maintain that every essential matter of Faith is contained in the Bible; no date for Pascha is given in the New Testament, and yet Hippolytus clearly considers it an essential matter of Faith, else the Quartodecimans couldn't be called heretics.
- In his last sentence, Hippolytus tells us that the Quartodecimans observe all of the other Traditions established by the Apostles except the correct date of Pascha. This tells us that Hippolytus believed that the Apostles had established more in the Church that was essential to the True Faith than what is contained in Scripture alone.
"Now, driven by love towards all the saints, we have arrived at the essence of the Tradition which is proper for the Churches. This is so that those who are well informed may keep the Tradition which has lasted until now, according to the explanation we give of it, and so that others by taking note of it may be strengthened against the fall or error which has recently occurred because of ignorance and ignorant people, with the Holy Spirit conferring perfect Grace on those who have a correct Faith, and so that they will know that those who are at the head of the Church must teach and guard all these things." - St. Hippolytus of Rome, The Apostolic Tradition, 1Let's make special note of three things in particular here:
- Hippolytus tells us that Christian must be informed of the Tradition in order to avoid falling into error, that is, heresy.
- Tradition is part of the "correct Faith" (Orthodoxy), and the Holy Spirit confers perfect Grace on those who have this correct Faith.
- Bishops and Priests "must teach and guard all these things" -- none are optional.
Go here to read The Apostolic Tradition for yourself. To read more of St. Hippolytus of Rome's writings, go here.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Support them -- they need it. And remember: what they do isn't just for those far away in Egypt, but for us here too. If Americans don't wake up and listen to what these people are saying, the same thing will be happening here some day. Wait -- it already is.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
(H/T: John Sanidopoulos at Mystagogy)
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Our good friend Beowulf posted a link to this at Turretinfan in the combox to my last post here.
I've been meaning to address this topic for a while, especially in regards to Fred Phelps & co. up at the Westboro Baptist Church, but now is definitely not the time to address it 1. because after reading Turretin's sick, twisted post (and then seeing that demon-possessed semi-psychotic called Pat Robertson spew an old anti-Haitian invented myth [look it up if you care; I'm not repeating it here]) my blood is boiling bad enough to make me want to wretch and 2. because there are still people there in Haiti who are suffering and dying and many, many more who are mourning their newly-dead and/or searching for their lost loved ones. Those two reasons make this an entirely inappropriate time to go over the topic, and I probably shouldn't even be wasting my time writing this post when I could be praying for those people.
But I feel I need to say something. I couldn't find the right words to express just how sick, un-Christian, even anti-Christian these people are, but I posted a comment on Turretin's post nonetheless; I fully expect that by morning (so, by the time most of you are reading this) it will have been deleted by him. And so I want to try again to express myself here.
The sick, twisted statements of these two men (and there are others that I've seen) do not come from anything even remotely resembling charity, love, or even common human decency. There is nothing to be found in their statements of the truth and love of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ. Their statements reflect only their own egoistic pride and the evil one behind it -- who is, in the end, their real god. Harsh? Yes, and I'll probably regret writing all of this in the morning, but it's what's on my heart right now. And my hope is that anyone who might have come across the demon-inspired ramblings of these two and mistaken that for Christianity might also come across what I've said here and know for certain that it isn't.
These two men, who sit in safety here in America, a safety bought at the price of the blood and suffering not of their own but of the millions of Soldiers who have gone in their place and stead and of those Soldiers' families, think they have the right to play God. They take it upon themselves to judge the alleged misdeeds and iniquities of the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere, and which has now gone through one of the greatest catastrophes our generation has ever seen. God, the real God (not the idol they create in their own perverted hearts), is clear enough about where the real judgment lies:
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)
If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail; Or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof; If I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering; If his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep; If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless, when I saw my help in the gate: Then let mine arm fall from my shoulder blade, and mine arm be broken from the bone. (Job 31:16-22)
Finally, Christ himself:
“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:41-46)There was a time, long ago, when I believed that particular ideologies were unimportant so long as we all held to faith in Christ. The more I've learned about some of those "particular ideologies" the more I've realized that they are not unimportant precisely because we do not all hold to faith in Christ -- the real Christ, not the one we create in the depths of our evil hearts, "for out of our hearts come evil thoughts, murder, ... false testimony, slander," all four of which I've seen spoken tonight by these two men.
Lord, have mercy!
Friday, January 15, 2010
This from OBL News:
Thanks be to God!
Fr. Gregoire Legoute, one of two priests in Haiti alive
Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
January, 15, New York – According to Matushka Sophia McKenzie (Miami), Fr. Gregoire Legoute is alive. She spoke with him for a moment before the line dropped.
“I only know that he was alive at the moment. He said things are bad and then we were cut off,” she said in a telephone interview.
Nothing is known about his family or Fr. Jean Chenier-Dumais, the other ROCOR priest in Haiti.
We ask you to continue to pray for the well-being of our suffering brethren in Haiti!
The Fund for Assistance to ROCOR first began supporting the Haiti mission after a series of hurricanes devastated the island nation in 2008.
According to matushka Sophia McKenzie, Fr. Gregoire called the hirricanes, which claimed the lives of thousands of people, “a blessing from God.”
“Oh yes, matushka, he said. They were a blessing. Because then the world paid attention, people helped us’. That made them move and collect money for them. But this is much worse,” said matushka.
Donations are coming in to FFA for the Haiti mission from concerned people all over the world.
I've also learned from my friend John Sanidopoulos at Mystagogy that on this date, 15 January, in 1822, Haiti became the first nation to officially recognized the newly-freed Greek Democratic Republic.
And thanks be to God for that as well.
Don't forget to pray for the people, nation, and Church of Haiti. And, if you haven't already, help them.
Read this post by Bekkos at his blog (De unione ecclesiarum) about the disaster in Haiti and reflecting on death in general. A quote:
... Jesus, unlike Socrates, does not sit around philosophizing calmly with his disciples when faced with the prospect of imminent death; he sweats blood (Lk 22:44). He comes to destroy death, not to help us accept it. Death is an enemy, and it is the last enemy to be destroyed (1 Cor 15:26). That last enemy still has to be put down under Christ’s feet.
(The picture above is from the website of a ROCOR mission in Haiti. The website doesn't appear to have been updated in a quite a while [since 2007, it seems]; I pray for their safety and their efforts.)
Thursday, January 14, 2010
I'm sure that everyone has heard by now about the earthquake in Haiti. Here is a link to the page at the International Orthodox Christian Charities' website about their response to the disaster there. The page also a link to contribute to their efforts; please do so. And please pray for the people of Haiti and for the Church there.
My good friend Wan Wei Hsien (his blog: Torn Notebook) shared this link to Yele.org, an organization specifically formed to provide disaster relief for this earthquake. On the front page of their website, they explain how to donate to the relief fund through through a text message from your cell phone, the amount being charged to your next cell phone bill.
Fr. Jonathan Tobias, an Orthodox Priest, has a blog post on his blog (Second Terrace) explaining how can Orthodox Christian should respond to the disaster in Haiti. A quote:
Pray for mercy, repeatedly, profligately. Do not wait for detailed information to give to the Lord, as He knows it already. Do not wonder whether one should pray for non-Christians or non-Orthodox. Do not try to figure out how your prayers may make a difference. Now is not a good time to be deterministic or gnostic.
Give. Repeatedly. Profligately. Give through the IOCC, through the American Red Cross, through the MCC, Friends Disaster Service, World Vision. Do not wait for detailed information. Do not wonder whether one should give to secular or Christian or Orthodox organizations. Do not try to figure out how your gifts will make a difference. Now is not a good time to be an accountant.
Lord, have mercy!
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I've read Richard Dawkins' stunningly boring writings, and, while he is a brilliant scientist, his propensity for logical and philosophical thought barely rivals that of my four year old. I've delved deep into the endlessly interesting bibliography of Bart Ehrman, and, while he is a brilliant historian, the rather juvenile shock, followed by despair, of an evangelical early-20-something learning about early Christianity for the first time, and seeing nothing of his own in it, resounds throughout his corpus. I've seen Zeitgeist, The Movie, and nearly fell over laughing when I pulled up the citations page on its website and saw that the most frequently cited "sources" were the "spirit-possessed" ramblings of a 19th century occultist. I've read The DaVinci Code, and shook my head both at Dan Brown's lack of writing abilities and his even greater lack of knowledge of history.
We're all familiar, also, with the common stories of the Crusades and Inquisitions and the burning of the Great Library of Alexandria and all of the other stories about those mean Christians picking on everybody. Of course, there's two obvious problems with all of these great myths of modern atheism; first, they're completely unhistorical, and, second (the important point which nobody seems to catch), it's rather absurd to object to Christianity based on the modern moral sense which is entirely a product of Christianity.
The various objections I've seen to the Church, from both atheists and their Protestant cousins, come in much the same shape. James White, Max Webster, and company demonstrate a sometimes shocking willingness to completely distort the meaning of a given Father's words; this should, however, come as no surprise, given Protestants' willingness, since their inception, to do the same even with Holy Writ.
I racked my brain for some time before I started writing this post, and I've continued to do so as I've sat and typed here and I keep finding the same conclusion: I've never yet seen a truly honest objection to Christ or to Orthodoxy. To me, this is very revealing. It reminds me of high school, in a way. I'm sure all of you went to high school with that guy (or girl) -- you know, the perfect one. He or she was the quarterback of the football team (or head of the cheerleading squad), the homecoming king (or queen), got straight-A's all through school, and then got a scholarship to go to an Ivy League university. Everybody else was envious, and so came the rumors. If there's nothing to actually criticize about that person, you've got to make something up! Mr. Perfect actually cheats on his tests and that's why he gets such good grades; Ms. Perfect slept with the whole football team -- in one night! (you didn't hear?).
It's the same with Christ and his Church -- nothing to actually criticize them about? Just make something up -- it works every time!
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
When you type something into the search box there, a drop-down list will appear with other words and phrases that people frequently search for which are similar to what you've typed.
Now, try this...
Type "Christianity is" and amongst the results in the drop-down you'll see "Christianity is bull****" (without the stars, of course); "Christianity is a cult"; "Christianity is a lie"; and "Christianity is false."
Now type "Judaism is" and amongst the results you'll see "Judaism is false" and "Judaism is not a race."
Now try "Buddhism is;" "Baha'i is;" "Hinduism is;" and "Catholicism is." They've all got a list of searched terms and, as is to be expected on the internet, most of them are rather offensive.
Now, here's the kicker. Try "Islam is" and you get ...
And yet again the West bows before the Ottoman onslaught.
Thanks to Abu Daoud at Islam and Christianity for telling us all about this in his very appropriately titled post Google: dhimmi cowards with no balls.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Friday, January 8, 2010
Although he is not a Father, I've decided to address him here because of his importance to the history of early Christianity. He is often called "the father of Latin Christianity" for having been the first significant Christian author to write in Latin, writing as an Orthodox Christian from about AD 197 to AD 207 and, after that, until AD 220 as a Montanist. In his writings he did a great deal to defend the Christians from the various accusations of immorality that had been leveled against them, including charges that Christians cannibalized infants and committed incest during their services. And not only did he defend Christianity from false accusations, he also went on the offensive against pagans and heretics.
One of his most interesting tracts against heretics, which has great bearing on the issue of whether or not he might have held to Sola Scriptura, is a relatively short writing called The Prescription Against Heretics, in which Tertullian provides "the prescription against heretics": the Church! He argues that, in a dispute between the Church and some heretical group which has broken off therefrom, the burden of proof lies strictly with the heretical group, as the Church's very existence, being the only Christian body with a direct physical link to the Apostles, verifies its Truth. I'll let Tertullian speak for himself on this point:
"Now, what that was which they [the Apostles] preached—in other words, what it was which Christ revealed to them—can, as I must here likewise prescribe, properly be proved in no other way than by those very Churches which the Apostles founded in person, by declaring the Gospel to them directly themselves, both vivâ voce, as the phrase is, and subsequently by their epistles. If, then, these things are so, it is in the same degree manifest that all doctrine which agrees with the Apostolic Churches—those moulds and original sources of the Faith must be reckoned for truth, as undoubtedly containing that which the (said) Churches received from the Apostles, the Apostles from Christ, Christ from God. Whereas all doctrine must be prejudged as false which savours of contrariety to the Truth of the Churches and Apostles of Christ and God. It remains, then, that we demonstrate whether this doctrine of ours, of which we have now given the rule, has its origin in the Tradition of the Apostles, and whether all other doctrines do not ipso facto proceed from falsehood. We hold communion with the Apostolic Churches because our doctrine is in no respect different from theirs. This is our witness of truth." - Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, 21 [emphasis mine]He also makes clear, in the chapter before the quote above, that in order for a new Church to be valid it must have a line of succession which it can trace to an Apostolic Church. No one can simply found a brand new Church all on their own -- for Tertullian, they've got to have credentials, and those credentials are found in Apostolic Succession. Let's take a look:
"They [the Apostles] then in like manner founded Churches in every city, from which all the other Churches, one after another, derived the Tradition of the Faith, and the seeds of doctrine, and are every day deriving them, that they may become Churches. Indeed, it is on this account only that they will be able to deem themselves Apostolic, as being the offspring of Apostolic Churches. Every sort of thing must necessarily revert to its original for its classification. Therefore the Churches, although they are so many and so great, comprise but the one primitive Church, (founded) by the Apostles, from which they all (spring). In this way all are primitive, and all are Apostolic, whilst they are all proved to be one, in (unbroken) unity, by their peaceful communion, and title of brotherhood, and bond of hospitality,—privileges which no other rule directs than the one Tradition of the selfsame mystery." - Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, 20 [emphasis mine -- note that Tertullian's words here mention all four of the "marks of the Church": One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic]As we can see, Tertullian held that there was a single, visible Church which was founded by the Apostles and within this Church was uniquely preserved the Ancient Christian Faith. In fact, for Tertullian, Apostolic Succession was a necessity in determining whether one held to the Ancient Christian Faith; if you didn't have Apostolic Succession, according to Tertullian, you didn't have the Faith:
"But if there be any (heresies) which are bold enough to plant themselves in the midst of the Apostolic Age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down by the Apostles, because they existed in the time of the Apostles, we can say: Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that [that first bishop of their] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the Apostles or of Apostolic men,—a man, moreover, who continued stedfast with the Apostles. For this is the manner in which the Apostolic Churches transmit their registers." - Tertullian, The Prescription Against the Heretics, 32Now, let's take a look at what Tertullian has to say about Scripture's relationship to this Church:
"But even if a discussion [with the heretics] from the Scriptures should not turn out in such a way as to place both sides on a par, (yet) the natural order of things would require that this point should be first proposed, which is now the only one which we must discuss: “With whom lies that very Faith to which the Scriptures belong. From what and through whom, and when, and to whom, has been handed down that rule, by which men become Christians?” For wherever it shall be manifest that the true Christian rule and Faith shall be, there will likewise be the true Scriptures and expositions thereof, and all the Christian Traditions." - Tertullian, The Prescription Against the Heretics, 19 [emphasis mine]In fact, according to Tertullian, not only could the heretics not rightly interpret Scripture, but they shouldn't even be allowed by members of the Church founded by the Apostles to use the Scriptures in debates at all -- in fact, according to Tertullian, if you're not in the Church you're not even a Christian! Let's read:
"Since this is the case, in order that the truth may be adjudged to belong to us [the Church], 'as many as walk according to the rule,' which the Church has handed down from the Apostles, the Apostles from Christ, and Christ from God, the reason of our position is clear, when it determines that heretics ought not to be allowed to challenge an appeal to the Scriptures, since we, without the Scriptures, prove that they have nothing to do with the Scriptures. For as they are heretics, they cannot be true Christians, because it is not from Christ that they get that which they pursue of their own mere choice, and from the pursuit incur and admit the name of heretics. Thus, not being Christians, they have acquired no right to the Christian Scriptures; and it may be very fairly said to them, 'Who are you? When and whence did you come? As you are none of mine, what have you to do with that which is mine?'"- Tertullian, The Prescription Against the Heretics, 37According to Tertullian, the Scriptures belong to the Church which holds the True Faith, and we've seen what he says about this Church above. Without this True Church which holds the True Faith, we don't have the "true Scriptures and expositions thereof." In other words, as the Orthodox continue to say today, Scripture cannot be interpreted outside of the context of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
In fact, Tertullian, in The Prescription Against the Heretics, advises us that, when debating with heretics, we shouldn't argue with them out of Scripture at all, as they simply twist it to their own whims and refuse to understand it properly. In fact, he says, we shouldn't argue with them at all; we should admonish them and if they persist in error, rebelling against Christ and his Church, leave them in their error. And he tells us also what our admonishment should consist of, which is pointing them in the direction of the Church founded by the Apostles and uniquely preserving their Faith.
Now that we've looked at exactly what Tertullian believed about the Scriptures, the Church, and the relationship and authority of the two, let's take a look at one last quote which should leave no doubt as to where he stood on the matter of Tradition and its authority, in which he nearly seems to be arguing against the Sola Scripturists of today:
"And how long shall we draw the saw to and fro through this line, when we have an ancient practice, which by anticipation has made for us the state, i.e., of the question? If no passage of Scripture has prescribed it, assuredly custom, which without doubt flowed from Tradition, has confirmed it. For how can anything come into use, if it has not first been handed down? Even in pleading Tradition, written authority, you say, must be demanded. Let us inquire, therefore, whether Tradition, unless it be written, should not be admitted. Certainly we shall say that it ought not to be admitted, if no cases of other practices which, without any written instrument, we maintain on the ground of Tradition alone, and the countenance thereafter of custom, affords us any precedent. To deal with this matter briefly, I shall begin with Baptism. When we are going to enter the water, but a little before, in the presence of the congregation and under the hand of the president, we solemnly profess that we disown the devil, and his pomp, and his angels. Hereupon we are thrice immersed, making a somewhat ampler pledge than the Lord has appointed in the Gospel. Then when we are taken up (as new-born children), we taste first of all a mixture of milk and honey, and from that day we refrain from the daily bath for a whole week. We take also, in congregations before daybreak, and from the hand of none but the presidents, the sacrament of the Eucharist, which the Lord both commanded to be eaten at meal-times, and enjoined to be taken by all alike. As often as the anniversary comes round, we make offerings for the dead as birthday honours. We count fasting or kneeling in worship on the Lord’s day to be unlawful. We rejoice in the same privilege also from Easter to Whitsunday. We feel pained should any wine or bread, even though our own, be cast upon the ground. At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign. If, for these and other such rules, you insist upon having positive Scripture injunction, you will find none. Tradition will be held forth to you as the originator of them, custom as their strengthener, and Faith as their observer. That reason will support Tradition, and custom, and Faith, you will either yourself perceive, or learn from some one who has." - Tertullian, The Chaplet, 3-4 [emphasis mine -- also, compare the list of Traditions which Tertullian mentions here with those still to be found only in the Orthodox Church today]I highly recommend a reading of The Prescription Against the Heretics for yourself; Tertullian not only provides the prescription against the heretics of his own day, but ours as well. If you'd like to read it, you can do so here; you can also read The Chaplet here. And everything else Tertullian wrote, both Orthodox and Montanist, can be found here.
|Father||Not Sola Scriptura||Sola Scriptura|
|St. Clement of Rome|
|St. Ignatius of Antioch|
|St. Papias of Hierapolis|
|St. Polycarp of Smyrna|
|St. Justin Martyr|
|St. Melito of Sardis|
|St. Irenaeus of Lyons|
|St. Clement of Alexandria|
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Since becoming Orthodox myself, though, I've realized something: this is exactly as it should be; and, to the thinking mind, it stands as a testament to the Truth of Orthodoxy. Whereas I was formerly disturbed by the unwillingness of the Orthodox to budge on even seemingly inconsequential matters, I'm now deeply disturbed by Western Christians' insistence that the Orthodox should compromise on anything, or that they themselves should be willing to compromise in any way what they consider to be the Gospel.
Relativism is an ugly thing, especially amongst Christians. Unfortunately, though, the Protestant Reformation, and ensuing large-scale break-up of Western Christendom, has necessitated a form of "Christian" relativism. Outside of the Restorationist movement, each individual Christian sect knows that it individually has no legitimate claim, theologically or historically, to being the One True Church, and so they've had to invent the patently false doctrine of a "Church of all true believers," in which all true Christians of whatever sect are the "real One True Church." This, though, is a stark departure not only from historic Christian thought on the subject, but Scriptural injunctions demanding visible unity and commonality of doctrine.
Pentecostals, Methodists, and Baptists, to compare just three of the dozens of strains of thought in Protestanism, each hold to doctrines and practices, both essential and non-essential, in mutual contradiction to the others. Historically, Scripturally, and logically speaking, then, they cannot be members of the same Church.
And this is why the Orthodox are just so darn stubborn and bigoted. We're so stubborn because we're just not willing to compromise the True Faith; when we say we're Orthodox ("right-believing") we really mean it. And this is why we're so bigoted; when we say we're Orthodox ("right-believing") we take this to its logical conclusion: if we're right, anyone who disagrees with us is, necessarily, wrong.
I'll admit; it sounds stubborn, even a little bigoted. But it's how we've guarded the Gospel for the last 2000 years, and it hasn't failed us yet.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Clement's writings, which he penned during his time in Alexandria from about AD 180 to AD 200, are some of the most difficult of the writings of the early Fathers. He never attempts, in any of his writings, to explicate a cohesive, overarching argument; he instead jumps from topic to topic, often without any logical transition, following his thoughts wherever they take him. His writings have also been the subject of some controversy in the Church, even into modern times, as he drew freely on pagan and heretical works and ideas, using them to support his own theses; but more on this in a moment.
First, let's look at the common proof-text presented by Protestant apologists:
"But those who are ready to toil in the most excellent pursuits, will not desist from the search after truth, till they get the demonstration from the Scriptures themselves." - St. Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, 7, 16Sounds like a good proof-text in support of Sola Scriptura at first read, but if we dig anywhere below surface level, we start to encounter some major problems. First, these apologists apparently didn't finish the chapter this quote comes from. Here's Clement a few paragraphs later on what heretics do with the Scriptures:
"And if those also who follow heresies venture to avail themselves of the prophetic Scriptures; in the first place they will not make use of all the Scriptures, and then they will not quote them entire, nor as the body and texture of prophecy prescribe. But, selecting ambiguous expressions, they wrest them to their own opinions, gathering a few expressions here and there; not looking to the sense, but making use of the mere words. For in almost all the quotations they make, you will find that they attend to the names alone, while they alter the meanings; neither knowing, as they affirm, nor using the quotations they adduce, according to their true nature." - Stromata, 7, 16And again, seeming to actually argue against Protestants nearly 1300 years before Protestants even existed:
"For those are slothful who, having it in their power to provide themselves with proper proofs for the divine Scriptures from the Scriptures themselves, select only what contributes to their own pleasures. And those have a craving for glory who voluntarily evade, by arguments of a diverse sort, the things delivered by the blessed Apostles and teachers, which are wedded to inspired words; opposing the divine tradition by human teachings, in order to establish the heresy. For, in truth, what remained to be said—in ecclesiastical knowledge I mean—by such men, Marcion, for example, or Prodicus, and such like, who did not walk in the right way? For they could not have surpassed their predecessors in wisdom, so as to discover anything in addition to what had been uttered by them; for they would have been satisfied had they been able to learn the things laid down before." - Stromata, 7, 16 [emphasis mine]According to Clement, then, the heretics introduce innovations and contradict the Apostles by falsely believing that they can interpret Scripture for themselves; they disregard the Apostolic Traditions which, according to Clement, have been "wedded" to the Scriptures, and produce their own necessarily false interpretations. And what is Clement's answer to this problem? The Church.
"Now, since there are three states of the soul—ignorance, opinion, knowledge—those who are in ignorance are the Gentiles [pagans], those in knowledge, the true Church, and those in opinion, the Heretics. Nothing, then, can be more clearly seen than those, who know, making affirmations about what they know, and the others respecting what they hold on the strength of opinion, as far as respects affirmation without proof." - Stromata, 7, 16And again, on membership in the Church being necessary to correctly interpreting Scripture, a few paragraphs later:
"Our Gnostic [not referring to the heretical groups of the same name, but to an Orthodox Christian with True Knowledge of God] then alone, having grown old in the Scriptures, and maintaining apostolic and ecclesiastic orthodoxy in doctrines, lives most correctly in accordance with the Gospel, and discovers the proofs, for which he may have made search (sent forth as he is by the Lord), from the law and the prophets. For the life of the Gnostic, in my view, is nothing but deeds and words corresponding to the tradition of the Lord." - Stromata, 7, 16And Clement closes this chapter with an indictment of the heretics as having corrupted the truth and stolen the Holy Scriptures, which properly belong to the Church:
"For we must never, as do those who follow the heresies, adulterate the truth, or steal the canon of the Church, by gratifying our own lusts and vanity, by defrauding our neighbours; whom above all it is our duty, in the exercise of love to them, to teach to adhere to the truth." - Stromata, 7, 16When we move into the next chapter, chapter 17, Clement tells us more about this Church, in fact, he uses many of the same arguments we encountered with St. Irenaeus of Lyons previously. Here's a few quotes (although I strongly encourage you to read Clement's arguments for yourself here):
"But not having the key of entrance, but a false (and as the common phrase expresses it), a counterfeit key , by which they [heretics] do not enter in as we enter in, through the Tradition of the Lord, by drawing aside the curtain; but bursting through the side-door, and digging clandestinely through the wall of the Church, and stepping over the truth, they constitute themselves the Mystagogues [those who initiate into the mysteries] of the soul of the impious." - Stromata, 7, 17Now let's look at the opening chapter from the same writing, The Stromata, in which Clement explains how he came to the knowledge of the True Faith, and how the True Faith is passed down, namely, through Apostolic Succession. Let's take a look:
"From what has been said, then, it is my opinion that the true Church, that which is really ancient, is one, and that in it those who according to God’s purpose are just, are enrolled. For from the very reason that God is one, and the Lord one, that which is in the highest degree honourable is lauded in consequence of its singleness, being an imitation of the one first principle. In the nature of the One, then, is associated in a joint heritage the one Church, which they strive to cut asunder into many sects." - Stromata, 7, 17
"But the pre-eminence of the Church, as the principle of union, is, in its oneness, in this surpassing all things else, and having nothing like or equal to itself." - Stromata, 7, 17
"Well, they [the three men whom Clement learned of the Faith from -- probably Tatian the Syrian, Theodotus of Byzantium, and Pantaenus of Alexandria] preserving the Tradition of the blessed doctrine derived directly from the Holy Apostles, Peter, James, John, and Paul, the sons receiving it from the father (but few were like the Fathers), came by God’s will to us also to deposit those ancestral and apostolic seeds. And well I know that they will exult; I do not mean delighted with this tribute, but solely on account of the preservation of the Truth, according as they delivered it. For such a sketch as this, will, I think, be agreeable to a soul desirous of preserving from escape the blessed Tradition." - Stromata, 1, 1So, we can see that using the proof-text from Clement's Stromata to support Sola Scriptura is taking his words out of context. But there's also another problem with a Protestant using his quote this way. Clement's idea of what constitutes "Scripture" is very, very different from a Protestant's; in fact, it's very different from mine as well. Essentially, Clement believed that anything that agreed with the Faith of the Church could be considered Scriptural, no matter by whom it was written, when, or where. Here's Bruce Metzger (a Presbyterian, by the way), one of the most famous and widely respected historians of early Christianity, in his book The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance:
"He [Clement] refers to [pagan poet] Orpheus as 'the theologian', and speaks of [pagan philosopher] Plato as being 'under the inspiration of God'. Even the Epicurean [pagan philosopher] Metrodorus uttered certain words 'divinely inspired'. It is not surprising then that, that he can quote passages as inspired from the epistles of Clement of Rome and of Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the Apocalypse of Peter." (page 134)In all, of the approximately 8000 citations of other works in Clement's writings, about one-third of them are from pagan authors. He cites 359 pagan writings, 70 biblical writings (including all of the deuterocanonical books and some apocryphal ones -- all as authoritative), and 36 patristic or New Testament apocryphal writings, including those of heretics.
It's to be noted, though, that 1. he doesn't quote all of these various writings as Scriptural, though he quotes many that neither you nor I would consider Scriptural as such; and 2. even though Clement's definition of "Scripture" was a little wider than that used by your or I, he does seem to have attributed more authority to the writings of Apostles than to other writings. Even here, however, his list of books differed significantly from our current 27-book New Testament (the New Testament being, as it is, an attempt at a complete library of Apostolic writings).
St. Clement believed all of the following books were Apostolic writings, in addition to what we have in our New Testament today:
- Gospel of the Egyptians
- Gospel of the Hebrews
- Traditions of Matthias
- Preaching of Peter
- 1 Clement
- Epistle of Barnabas
- Shepherd of Hermas
- Apocalypse of Peter
- 2 Peter
- 2 John
- 3 John
If you'd like to read the writings of St. Clement of Alexandria for yourself, check them out here.
|Father||Not Sola Scriptura||Sola Scriptura|
|St. Clement of Rome|
|St. Ignatius of Antioch|
|St. Papias of Hierapolis|
|St. Polycarp of Smyrna|
|St. Justin Martyr|
|St. Melito of Sardis|
|St. Irenaeus of Lyons|
|St. Clement of Alexandria|
Monday, January 4, 2010
Sunday, January 3, 2010
The answer is an emphatic YES! Blessed Augustine of Hippo, the father of Western Christendom, introduced many Gnostic concepts into his writings which later became key elements of Western Christian belief. A little background information is necessary here. Augustine, who lived in North Africa during the years 354-430, was a member of a Gnostic sect before becoming a member of the Orthodox Church. He was also working with a flawed Latin translation of the Scriptures, not the original Greek, due to his own ignorance of Greek. In addition, due to a combination of geographic, cultural, political, and linguistic factors, he was cut off from the Greek-speaking half of the Church.
All in all, Augustine found himself in a bad situation, but he worked with what he had. Unfortunately, what he had were false assumptions informed by his time as a Gnostic and that already-mentioned flawed Latin translation of Scripture. As would be expected, the theology that he put together was flawed and Gnostic-tinged.
An example of such a flawed, Gnostic-tinged theology is Augustine's idea of predestination, that God had elected from eternity to save some while condemning the rest to damnation. Anyone familiar with Gnostic theology can see the influence of the Gnostic belief in the saved pneumatikoi versus the damned somatikoi. Adding to these Gnostic assumptions on Augustine's part was his flawed Latin translation of Scripture, which translated the Greek word "proorizein" to the Latin "praedestinare." The Latin verb is much stronger in its meaning than the Greek -- and Augustine naturally took this strong Latin word to its logical conclusion, a conclusion which none of the Fathers who worked with the original Greek text reached.
Accordingly, he interpeted other passages of Scripture in this light. For instance, he read Romans 9-11 as if St. Paul were talking about the concept of predestination regarding who would be saved and who damned. There's no justification for this in the text itself, and no other Father of the Church read it this way. Augustine's interpretation was entirely novel, and based on his Gnostic assumptions.
Another example of such flawed, Gnostic-tinged theology is Augustine's introduction of the concept of Original Sin. The closest that we come to such a concept in Christian writings pre-Augustine is in the writings of the Gnostics, who supported the idea that the material world was "utterly depraved." Sound familiar? It should -- this idea, along with predestination, carried over into the grandchild of Gnosticism: Calvinism, and became one of the essential principles thereof. Augustine based his belief in Original Sin on both his Gnostic assumptions and, again, his flawed Latin translation of Scripture. In this flawed translation, Romans 5:12 read as if it were saying that "in Adam all sinned." The original Greek text, though, says that through Adam's sin, all die. The key difference between Augustine and Paul is that Augustine claims we are born guilty of evil; Paul claims we are born guilt-free but subject to the consequence of sin -- death.
Augustine's innovations and Gnostic-lite heretical ideas were seen as what they were by Orthodox Christians, and so the Orthodox have duly rejected them. Unfortunately, though, these ideas caught on in the West and became foundational beliefs for all later Western theologies, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, achieving their fullest form in the theology of John Calvin.
This should be deeply troubling to Western Christians, and especially Calvinists. The Gnostics were liars and frauds who claimed to possess "secret teachings" given them by the Apostles. The Gnostics actively and explicitly fought against the early Church Fathers, those who had been appointed by the Apostles as heirs to guide the Churches.
This is, of course, why Protestants today find themselves fighting against the Church Fathers -- because they are the spiritual heirs of the original heretics. Many Protestants today find themselves doing exactly what the Gnostics did 1800 years ago. They twist the words of those who came before them in the Faith to make it seem they haven't altered the Apostolic message or, when they realize that this is a dead end, they find themselves saying that the early Christians misunderstood or distorted the message.
In the end, though, the conclusion that logic and history provides for us is one that should make every Protestant take a second look at himself and what he believes. This conclusion is that the reason they find themselves struggling with the Church Fathers is that these are not their Fathers at all; their Fathers are Valentinus, Basilides, Cerinthus, Mani, Simon Magus, and Marcion of Sinope.