Arminian Today

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Short Thoughts on the Early Church Fathers

Thanks to my friend Chris over at his blog,  I have picked back up reading David Bercot’s book, Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up.  This book is an excellent book that shows that the early Church Fathers were not evangelicals.  They are some points of evangelicalism that they would agree to but they would not be Calvinists and would not be Arminians though they would agree with Arminius more so than with Calvin.  Bercot shows what the early Christians believed about various theological issues ranging from salvation by grace to free will to obedience to Christ being necessary for salvation.  Many of these themes have been debated in our times as well but it is interesting to read the early Church Fathers especially over issues such as original sin or free will.

Now before you go and accuse me of placing the Church Fathers on par with Scripture, I assure you that Scripture must be our authority.  Yet to ignore the early Church Fathers in favor of our views is simply misleading.  These were men who lived closer to the time of Apostles than we did and many of them knew some of the Apostles.  While I agree that their views are not infallible, they are worth reading.  For instance, their views on free will.  Nearly every early Church Father believed in free will and it is clear in their writings that they would reject divine determinism.  The writings of Augustine would transform the church from believing in free will to believing in such a view of depravity that robs people of free will.  Let me give you just a few quotes from the Church Fathers on free will to make my point:

Justin Martyr: “And again, unless the human race have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions…”

Minucius Felix: “For God made man free, and with power over himself. …That, then, which man brought upon himself through carelessness and disobedience, this God now vouchsafes to him as a gift through His own philanthropy and pity, when men obey Him. … so, obeying the will of God, he who desires is able to procure for himself life everlasting.”

Tertullian 200-240 A.D. 3:220 “Still there is a portion of good in the soul, of that original, divine, and genuine good, which is its proper nature. For that which is derived from God is rather obscured than extinguished.” 3:301 “Therefore it was proper that (he who is) the image and likeness of God should be formed with a free will and a mastery of himself; so that this very thing – namely, freedom of will and self-command – might be reckoned as the image and likeness of God in him.” 3:303 No doubt it was an angel [Lucifer] who was the seducer; but then the victim of that seduction [Adam] was free, and master of himself;” 3:308 “Who is the author of good, but He who also requires it?” 3:308 “Behold, they [Marcionites] say, how He acknowledges Himself to be the creator of evil in the passage, ‘It is I who created evil.’ They take a word whose one form reduces to confusion and ambiguity two kinds of evils (because both sins and punishments are called evils), and will have Him in every passage to be understood as the creator of all evil things, in order that He may be designated the author of evil.” Against Marcion chap. 14.

Arnobius: “To all, He says, the fountain of life is open, and no one is hindered or kept back from drinking. If you are so fastidious as to spurn the kindly offered gift, … why should He keep on inviting you, while His only duty is to make the enjoyment of His bounty depend upon your own free choice?”

And there are many, many more.  While it is true that the Church Fathers are not equal with Scripture, we must not be so foolish as to think that they cannot provide us with wisdom.  Further, to ignore their words until you get to Augustine would be foolish as well.


Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/19/2013 at 11:13 AM

One Response

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  1. Love David Bercot’s work. One certainly would think the early Church fathers were closer to the truth, literally and actually. I have most of David’s CD’s and both books. They really make you realize how apostate the visible Church is, not that I needed this work to confirm that, but confirm it it does.

    Rj Sauvageau

    04/20/2013 at 11:57 AM

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