Sunday, January 17, 2010

Beware The Church Fathers

They just might make you Catholic.

This is the warning sounded by this guy, David Cloud, on his web site. He appears to be a variety of Baptist. He is also refreshingly honest (about some things).

Basically, he has noticed all these fairly well-known converts to Catholicism who first stuck their toe in the Tiber's waters via an exposure to the Fathers. He's alarmed by this and so has taken it upon himself to make sure that as many Protestants as possible remain ignorant of how novel their own beliefs really are.

Let's review what is really his jumping off point:

The fact is that the “early Fathers” were mostly heretics!

Ok, well, at least he's willing to use the h-bomb. I can respect that.

The only genuine “church fathers” are the apostles and prophets their writings that were given by divine inspiration and recorded in the Holy Scripture. They gave us the “faith ONCE delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). The faith they delivered is able to make us “perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We don’t need anything beyond the Bible. The teaching of the “church fathers” does not contain one jot or tittle of divine revelation.

So we can chalk up sola scriptura as perhaps the root of his errors. Ironically, the book shelf behind his picture contains many books, but I don't see a single Bible among them.

All of the “church fathers” were infected with some false doctrine, and most of them were seriously infected. Even the so-called Apostolic Fathers of the second century were teaching the false gospel that baptism, celibacy, and martyrdom provided forgiveness of sin (Howard Vos, Exploring Church History, p. 12). And of the later “fathers”--Clement, Origen, Cyril, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, Theodore, and John Chrysostom--the same historian admits: “In their lives and teachings we find the seed plot of almost all that arose later. In germ form appear the dogmas of purgatory, transubstantiation, priestly mediation, baptismal regeneration, and the whole sacramental system” (Vos, p. 25).

I'm sure at some point he'll provide a thorough review of all the early Christians who denounced these doctrines and were Bible-believing Baptists.

Ignore for a moment that there was no Bible when most of these guys were alive.

In fact, one of the Post-Nicene “fathers” is Leo the Great, the first Roman Catholic Pope!

Ok, so we're also going to have to ignore the previous 400 years of popes.

Peter devoted the entire second chapter of his second epistle to this theme. He warned in verse one that there would be false teachers who hold “damnable heresies,” referring to heresies that damn the soul to eternal hell. If someone denies, for example, the Virgin Birth, Deity, Humanity, Sinlessness, Eternality, Atonement, or Resurrection of Jesus Christ he cannot be saved. Heresies pertaining to such matters are damnable heresies. The corruption of the “doctrine of Christ” results in a “false christ.”

I think it's great that Mr. Cloud can differentiate the damnable heresies from the non-damnable ones, especially since the Scriptures don't really break them down for us that way. I wonder if he also caught St. Peter's comments about how you aren't supposed to rely on private interpretation of Scripture.

Rome did everything in its power to destroy the writings of those who differed with her. Consider the Waldenses. These were Bible-believing Christians who lived in northern Italy and southern France and elsewhere during the Dark Ages and were viciously persecuted by Rome for centuries. Though we know that the Waldenses have a history that begins in the 11th century if not before, their historical record was almost completely destroyed by Rome. Only a handful of Waldensian writings were preserved from all of those centuries.


Let's take people from centuries after the last of the Fathers died to show why the Fathers were wrong. By the way, here's some stuff on the Waldenses. They were about as Baptist as I am.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the extant writings from the early centuries are ones that are sympathetic to Rome’s doctrines. This does not prove that most of the churches then held to Roman Catholic doctrine. It proves only that those writings sympathetic to Rome were allowed to survive. We know that there were many churches in existence in those early centuries that did not agree with Roman doctrine, because they were persecuted by the Romanists and are mentioned in the writings of the “church fathers.”

What did logic ever do to Mr. Cloud to deserve such rough treatment at his hands? It seems his point goes something like this: We've never read anything by these "many churches," but we can know that they are right because they disagree with Catholics. I wonder if he has ever read anything Waldensian.

Oddly enough, Mr. Cloud provides no real analysis for how these other churches were Baptists.

Not to let facts get in his way, Mr. Cloud then provides a synopsis of some of the Fathers and their alleged heresies. He actually gets some of them right. No Catholic, for example, would endorse a lot of the views ascribed to Origen. But then you've also got stuff like this:

Augustine instigated persecutions against the Bible-believing Donatists who were striving to maintain pure churches after the apostolic faith.

This is even funnier than the bit on the Waldenses. Does Mr. Cloud think that the sacraments can only be administered by those in a state of grace? I'm going to guess not. The Donatists did, though.

The article concludes with a long denunciation of folks like the Hahns, Thomas Howard, Peter Kreeft, Sharon Mann, and Francis Beckwith.

I'm wrapping up here with an appeal for everyone to pray for Mr. Cloud. He is clearly deceived by a number of pretty bad heresies and needs the intercessions of ourselves and the saints he has slandered in his writing.

All you holy Fathers, pray for Mr. Cloud and those who may be misled by his writings.

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