We need to question the church fathers’ doctrine.
If you’ve been reading this series up to this point and are seriously considering the evidence provided, you’re probably asking yourself a few questions:
- Did the church fathers really teach the “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints”? (Jude 1:3)
- Did the church fathers teach true faith in the unchangeable God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?
- Did the church fathers have a correct understanding of the New Covenant, where God’s law is written on your heart and mind? (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
- Should we accept the church fathers’ interpretation of Scripture and their doctrines as the lens through which we interpret Scripture?
- Is it right for us to teach these doctrines to our children?
If you are unwilling to ask these questions, then it’s a pretty safe bet to say that you’re satisfied with where you are in your walk with Yahweh, and are more than likely complacent. You trust that what you have been handed is 100% true.
The problem is that you’re believing a lie.
I know that probably sounds presumptuous and maybe a little insulting, but it is backed up both historically and scripturally. I’m only being blunt because I actually care about where you end up.
And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
- not the message that we think is true;
- not the message that is palatable to our sense of reality;
- not the message that we can fit within our religious or cultural framework.
People will often try to define truth within these parameters and say that it bears witness with their spirit, when in fact, it’s not their spirit at all. The Father gave us an inner witness to draw us toward the truth (John 16:13) – not something that fits within our current understanding of truth. Many so-called believers will find that their inner witness deceived them because their inner witness was really their flesh. They simply agreed with a lie and accepted it as truth.
Most of the church fathers weren’t bad guys – just deceived.
While it may seem like I am using a broad brush to paint all of the church fathers as these evil, wicked men sitting around a table trying to figure out a way to deceive the masses, let me assure you that this is not the case. For the most part, the church fathers were not bad men at all. They were just normal people like you and me, operating within the paradigm that they grew up in.
Think just for a moment about how perspective can shape your thoughts and actions.
Let’s start with geographic location and culture. If I said to you, “This morning, I went to the market,” and you lived in the Pacific Northwest, your mind would picture me driving through the rain to the local Safeway. If you lived in California, you would probably visualize an image of me on a clear day fighting traffic on a freeway going to a completely different store. If you lived in a third world country, I may be traveling miles on a bike through the jungle to the local market to buy raw fish.
Each of you would have a different mental image, based upon where you are from.
Now, let’s factor in time. 50 years ago, if you had heard me say “This morning, I went to the market” your mental image would have been drastically different than if I had said it to you today. My car would be different. My clothes would be different. I would be listening to the radio instead of music on my cell phone.
Do you see how your perception changes based upon your location, culture and timeframe?
Now… think about the differences in perspective over hundreds of years in different locations and cultures. It’s simply amazing.
This is what the church fathers had to work with.
They were men who probably had the best of intentions, but they took the perversions learned from the preceding church fathers, formulated new teaching around the same erroneous frame of reference handed down to them, and preached those sermons within the framework provided by the spirit of the times.
The only exception to this, I believe, is Ignatius of Antioch (who claimed to be a disciple of John). He lived way too close to the time of the disciples, and made sweeping changes in doctrine (which the disciples and Nazarenes would never have dreamed of accepting), providing the framework for future error to occur. When you read his writings, they do indeed have flowery, religious language that may lead you to believe that Ignatius was a great “man of God” (and, no doubt, your local cemetery student would eagerly support that view), but the apostasy created by this “church father” taints any shreds of truth that he may have written.
Think about it: If Ignatius were a true disciple of John, why would he have abolished the very commandments that John said would define our love and obedience to the Father? (1 John 5:2-3) That would have been the ultimate betrayal.
But most of the church fathers and religious icons who would come after Ignatius were just like today’s christian leaders. They took the material that they were taught, mixed it in with the cultural, religious and sociological biases of the times and taught it as “Holy Spirit” inspired truth. In so doing, they “boasted against the branches” (Romans 11:18) and were “led away with the error of the wicked,” (2 Peter 3:17) establishing themselves as the “grievous wolves” (Acts 20:29) spoken of by Paul.
Our beloved pastors and prophets taught us that the church fathers were “christian leaders” who helped to shape the faith of the church – this is only partially true, and is very misleading. In order to find out the truth about this claim, we need to answer the following question:
“What religious institution was considered ‘the Church’ during the times of the church fathers?”
This question puzzled me for a long time, but when I took a closer look at the affiliations of the church fathers and read a few quotes from them, I found that there is little doubt as to what institution held their loyalties.
Follow your bishop, every one of you, as obediently as Jesus Christ followed the Father. Obey your clergy too as you would the apostles; give your deacons the same reverence that you would to a command of God. Make sure that no step affecting the Church is ever taken by anyone without the bishop’s sanction. The sole Eucharist you should consider valid is one that is celebrated by the bishop himself, or by some person authorized by him. Where the bishop is to be seen, there let all his people be; just as, wherever Jesus Christ is present, there is the Catholic Church. – St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to the Smyrneans 8:2 [A.D. 110]).
When finally he concluded his prayer, after remembering all who had at any time come his way – small folk and great folk, distinguished and undistinguished, and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world – the time for departure came. So they placed him on an ass, and brought him into the city on a great Sabbath. (The Martyrdom of Polycarp 8 [A.D. 110])
The Catholic Church possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world, as we have already said. – Irenaeus (Against Heresies 1:10 [A.D. 189])
“I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but your blessedness [Pope Damasus I], that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built. Whoever eats the Lamb outside this house is profane. Anyone who is not in the ark of Noah will perish when the flood prevails” – St. Jerome (Letter XV to Pope Damasus I [396 AD 396])
“The church here is split into three parts, each eager to seize me for its own. . . . Meanwhile I keep crying, ‘He that is joined to the chair of Peter is accepted by me!’ . . . Therefore, I implore your blessedness [Pope Damasus I] . . . tell me by letter with whom it is that I should communicate in Syria” – St. Jerome (Letter XVI to Pope Damasus I [AD 396])
“If all men throughout the world were such as you most vainly accuse them of having been, what has the chair of the Roman church done to you, in which Peter sat, and in which Anastasius sits today?” – St. Augustine (Against the Letters of Petilani 2:118 [A.D. 402])
“If the very order of episcopal succession is to be considered, how much more surely, truly, and safely do we number them from Peter himself, to whom, as to one representing the whole Church, the Lord said, ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church’ . . . [Matt. 16:18]. Peter was succeeded by Linus, Linus by Clement, Clement by Anacletus, Anacletus by Evaristus . . . ” – St. Augustine (Letters 53:1:2 [A.D. 412])
*** In case it’s not obvious, Clement, Anacletus and Evaristus were all popes. – Kevin Kleint
“We must hold to the Christian religion and to communication in her Church, which is catholic and which is called catholic not only by her own members but even by all her enemies. For when heretics or the adherents of schisms talk about her, not among themselves but with strangers, willy-nilly they call her nothing else but Catholic. For they will not be understood unless they distinguish her by this name which the whole world employs in her regard” – St. Augustine (The True Religion 7:12 [A.D. 390])
“We believe in the holy Church, that is, the Catholic Church; for heretics and schismatics call their own congregations churches. But heretics violate the faith itself by a false opinion about God; schismatics, however, withdraw from fraternal love by hostile separations, although they believe the same things we do. Consequently, neither heretics nor schismatics belong to the Catholic Church; not heretics, because the Church loves God, and not schismatics, because the Church loves neighbor” – St. Augustine (Faith and Creed 10:21 [A.D. 393])
“If you should find someone who does not yet believe in the gospel, what would you [Mani] answer him when he says, ‘I do not believe’? Indeed, I would not believe in the gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so” – St. Augustine (ibid., 5:6, [A.D. 393]).
“In the Catholic Church . . . a few spiritual men attain [wisdom] in this life, in such a way that . . . they know it without any doubting, while the rest of the multitude finds [its] greatest safety not in lively understanding but in the simplicity of believing. . . . [T]here are many other things which most properly can keep me in her bosom. The unanimity of peoples and nations keeps me here. Her authority, inaugurated in miracles, nourished by hope, augmented by love, and confirmed by her age, keeps me here. The succession of priests, from the very see of the apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after his resurrection, gave the charge of feeding his sheep [John 21:15–17], up to the present episcopate, keeps me here. And last, the very name Catholic, which, not without reason, belongs to this Church alone, in the face of so many heretics, so much so that, although all heretics want to be called ‘Catholic,’ when a stranger inquires where the Catholic Church meets, none of the heretics would dare to point out his own basilica or house” – St. Augustine (Against the Letter of Mani Called “The Foundation” 4:5 [A.D. 397])
“[T]his is the way in which the apostolic churches transmit their lists: like the church of the Smyrneans, which records that Polycarp was placed there by John, like the church of the Romans, where Clement was ordained by Peter” – Tertullian (Demurrer Against the Heretics 32:2 [A.D. 200])
“And if you ever are visiting in cities, do not inquire simply where the house of the Lord is – for the others, sects of the impious, attempt to call their dens ‘houses of the Lord’ – nor ask merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the name peculiar to this holy Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God” – St. Cyril of Jerusalem (ibid., 18:26, [A.D. 350])
Living in “the Now” will kill the truth for the next generation.
Reading the quotes above should inspire you to ask some questions. Why did things get so messed up? Why did the ekklesia go from being a simple faith in the Messiah to being so entangled with a pagan-influenced state religion? I’ll tell you why… because the enemy took advantage of a simple dynamic of human nature – the tendency and preference to “live in the now” without consideration for how we got where we are.
This is why the Father was so adamant about making sure that we teach His truth (not our truth) to future generations.
Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.
Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.
We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.
That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:
One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.
Because the church fathers were unable (and unwilling) to consider how and why their perspectives on the faith had changed, their allegiance was not to the “ekklesia” who walked in the original faith handed down to the disciples. By their own choosing, they were well indoctrinated into the perversion handed down to them by their fathers, complete with the conviction that the Catholic church was “The Church” and that the popes were God’s representatives here on earth, along with all the ritual and paganism incorporated into that faith.
Because of this, Satan used these fallible men to plant seeds of lawlessness early on in Christianity’s timeline, (Matthew 13:24-30, 2 Thessalonians 2:7) and we are seeing the fruit of those seeds today as both the Catholic and the Protestant churches are being saturated with idolatry, apostasy, compromise and iniquity.
The doctrines taught by the church fathers excluded Yah’s “higher ways” (Psalm 81:13, 103:7, Isaiah 55:8-9) and relegated those ways to Old Testament triviality. Their students and listeners continued to propagate the perversion, and it worked its way down to our modern day seminaries (cemeteries), where our illustrious leaders-to-be lap it up without a second thought.
This was part of the enemy’s plan all along. Remember, he “deceiveth the whole world,” – not just a few lemmings. (Revelation 12:9)
True to the character of her father (John 8:36-37, 44-45), the Mother church was all-too-eager to get behind these men, because they only taught their students Greek-infused, hyper-spiritual doctrines void of anything that they thought was “too Jewish.” She was also intelligent enough to figure out that once you set a doctrine in motion and teach it to future generations, it will quickly become accepted truth. This is simply how the human brain works.
We trust… we follow… we accept what we are taught… and we convince ourselves that all of it is revealed by the “Holy Spirit” because everyone else in the church is thinking somewhat along the same lines.
The Mother had time on her side, so the ruse was accepted and established in the minds of subsequent generations.
But the cold, hard truth is these men were not known as “church fathers” because true believers in the Messiah decided to honor them and set them up as people to look up to, nor was it because they formulated righteous doctrines. They were only known by that title because the Catholic church elevated them to that place. We revere these icons and their ideals only because we were taught to do so throughout the generations by the Protestant religious hierarchy who (ever since Martin Luther) have “protested” the authority of the Catholic church but never really “protested” the doctrine of the Catholic church (more on this topic in a future post), and they made it a point to hammer this twisted version of Pauline doctrine into our heads from the moment we walked the aisle.
In a further twist of irony, many of the church fathers were awarded the title of “saint,” a distinguished label given by Paul to the Nazarenes – the very group of people the church fathers refused to emulate.
Nonetheless, their warped interpretations of Scripture would spread like wildfire because of the false authority and reverence bestowed upon them by the Catholic church, and by mankind’s inclination to accept what they are taught, rather than study the Word for themselves.
Quotes from Our Beloved Church Fathers
If you look deeper into the lives of the church fathers, rather than just accept what you’ve been taught, you will find a reasonable amount of righteous-sounding teaching, but you will also find a lot of arrogance and error. This is unsurprising – arrogance and error is what man-made religion produces.
“For if we are still practicing Judaism, we admit that we have not received God’s favor… it is wrong to talk about Jesus Christ and live like Jews. For Christianity did not believe in Judaism, but Judaism in Christianity.” – Ignatius Bishop of Antioch (98-117A.D.) Epistle to the Magnesians
“Take heed to yourselves and be not like some piling up you sins and saying that the covenant is theirs as well as ours. It is ours, but they lost it completely just after Moses received it.” – “Epistle of Barnabas” Chapter 4 vs 6-7 (between 130A.D. and 138 A.D.)
“We too, would observe your circumcision of the flesh, your Sabbath days, and in a word, all your festivals, if we were not aware of the reason why they were imposed upon you, namely, because of your sins and the hardness of heart.
The custom of circumcising the flesh, handed down from Abraham, was given to you as a distinguishing mark, to set you off from other nations and from us Christians. The purpose of this was that you and only you might suffer the afflictions that are now justly yours; that only your land be desolated, and your cities ruined by fire, that the fruits of your land be eaten by strangers before your very eyes; that not one of you be permitted to enter your city of Jerusalem. Your circumcision of the flesh is the only mark by which you can certainly be distinguished from other men … as I stated before it was by reason of your sins and the sins of your fathers that, among other precepts, God imposed upon you the observance of the sabbath as a mark.” – Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho (Between 138A.D. and 161 A.D.)
“We may thus assert in utter confidence that the Jews will not return to their earlier situation, for they have committed the most abominable of crimes, in forming this conspiracy against the Savior of the human race… hence the city where Jesus suffered was necessarily destroyed, the Jewish nation was driven from its country, and another people was called by God to the blessed election.” – Origen of Alexandria (185-254 A.D.) – An ecclesiastical writer and teacher who contributed to the early formation of Christian doctrines
“The synagogue is worse than a brothel… it is the den of scoundrels and the repair of wild beasts… the temple of demons devoted to idolatrous cults… the refuge of brigands and debauchees, and the cavern of devils. It is a criminal assembly of Jews… a place of meeting for the assassins of Christ… a house worse than a drinking shop… a den of thieves, a house of ill fame, a dwelling of iniquity, the refuge of devils, a gulf and a abyss of perdition. …I would say the same things about their souls… As for me, I hate the synagogue… I hate the Jews for the same reason.” – John Chrysostom (344-407 A.D.) One of the ‘greatest’ of church fathers; known as ‘The Golden Mouthed.’ A missionary preacher famous for his sermons and addresses.” – John Chrysostom (344-407 A.D.) – One of the “greatest” of church fathers; known as “The Golden Mouthed.” A missionary preacher famous for his sermons and addresses. From “The Roots of Christian Antisemitism” by Malcolm Hay
“How hateful to me are the enemies of your Scripture! How I wish that you would slay them (the Jews) with your two-edged sword, so that there should be none to oppose your word! Gladly would I have them die to themselves and live to you!” – St. Augustine (c. 354-430 A.D.), Confessions, 12.14
“Yes, you Jews. I say, do I address you; you, who till this very day, deny the Son of God. How long, poor wretches, will ye not believe the truth? Truly I doubt whether a Jew can be really human… I lead out from its den a monstrous animal, and show it as a laughing stock in the amphitheater of the world, in the sight of all the people. I bring thee forward, thou Jew, thou brute beast, in the sight of all men.” – Peter the Venerable – known as “the meekest of men, a model of Christian charity” from “The Roots of Christian Antisemitism” by Malcolm Hay
Boasting Against the Branches
This is only a smattering of quotes from our esteemed church fathers directed against the “peculiar people” who were entrusted with the very Words of God. (Acts 7:38, Romans 3:1-2) These same people were referred to as “the natural branches” of “the olive tree.”
And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
Now, in nature, a tree produces natural branches. The natural branch’s rightful place is to be a part of that tree – there is a direct relationship. A grafted-in branch, however, was not produced by the tree in question. Honestly, it really has no right to be there. It took an outside party to come in, graft the branch, and make it work.
If you are a believer (unless you were born a Jew), you (like me) are a “grafted in” branch. What should our attitude be towards the natural branches and the olive tree? Let’s look at the next few verses.
Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
If we truly revere the words of Paul (which the church fathers claimed to do), we should tread very lightly in our relationship with the Jewish people. What’s more, they, being “natural branches,” have a better idea as to what it means to live in harmony with the olive tree than we do, as the “grafted in.” Even more so, as the “grafted in branches,” we should be doing what we can to be like the “natural branches” in order to “partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree.” (Romans 11:17)
Now, don’t freak out. I’m not saying that we should all “become Jewish.” In fact, much of the present day Jewish culture is influenced by “the East” (Isaiah 2:6). But I am saying that we should have respect unto the Words given to Israel and obey them, if we are to be counted among “the Commonwealth of Israel.” (Ephesians 2:12)
This should be common sense.
We’ve already established in a prior post that Israel at Sinai was made up of “Jews” and “Gentiles.” It’s the same in the New Covenant. If you are part of “the Commonwealth of Israel,” you have His law “in your inward parts” and “written on your hearts.” (Jeremiah 31:33)
But those responsible for formulating the christian faith conveniently overlooked these verses penned by Paul because they didn’t match up with their worldview. They had grown up in a world that was decidedly “anti-Israel,” and because of this hatred for Yahweh’s people, they sought out ways to erase any trace of their influence from the faith… but it was a futile effort. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was so connected with the children of Israel, so intertwined, that it was impossible to separate them, so the church fathers did the next “best” thing… they spiritualized the covenant aspects of the faith that they could not erase (discussed in the next post).
This false spiritualization of the practical, covenant aspects of the faith remains with the church to this day. They are so deluded in their understanding of what it means to “walk in the spirit” that they don’t realize the faith they proclaim, stand on and live their lives by is based upon a false doctrine that curses the very people they are called to emulate… the very land they are called to inhabit and the very practices that they are called to obey.
We’ll explore these claims in greater detail with the next installment.
For the Truth,