Church Fathers and Sola Scriptura

I’m in an argument with a Protestant concerning the Church Fathers and sola scriptura. He, of course, believes that the Church Fathers held to the Bible alone and I am trying to tell him that the Church Fathers wrote extensively on the importance of Scripture AND Church Authority. He just sent me a number of quotes from Fathers such as Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Augustine of Hippo, Cyril of Jerusalem, and a few others that back up his claims, yet I know there are quotes from most (if not all) of these Fathers affirming the authority of the Catholic Church.

Can you please direct me to a website or a tract from this site that can help me?

Try Steve Ray’s website, also. He is a Protestant convert to Catholicism and his site has tons of great resources.


This is probably the best website you need…

Early Church Fathers on the Church

Ignatius of Antioch

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 (Letter to the Smyrneans 8:2 [A.D. 110]).

In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and college of the apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a Church. I am confident that you accept this, for I have received the exemplar of your love and have it with me in the person of your bishop. His very demeanor is a great lesson and his meekness is his strength. I believe that even the godless do respect him (Letter to the Trallians 3:1-2 [A. D. 110]).

The Martyrdom of Polycarp

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 ***, 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 (Against Heresies 1:10 [A.D. 189]).

Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account we are bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the things pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there should arise a dispute relative to some important question among us. Should we not have recourse to the most ancient churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary [in that case] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the churches? (ibid. 3:4).


Where was Marcion then, that shipmaster of Pontus, the zealous student of Stoicism? Where was Valentinus then, the disciple of Platonism? For it is evident that those men lived not so long ago – in the reign of Antoninus for the most part – and that they at first were believers in the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in the church of Rome under the episcopate of the blessed Eleutherus, until on account of their ever restless curiosity, with which they even infected the brethren, they were more than once expelled (On the Prescription Against Heretics 22,30 [A.D.200])

Clement of Alexandria

A multitude of other pieces of advice to particular persons is written in the holy books: some for presbyters, some for bishops and deacons; and others for widows, of whom we shall have opportunity to speak elsewhere (The Instructor of Children 3:12:97:2 [pre-A.D. 202]).

Even here in the Church the gradations of bishops, presbyters, and deacons happen to be imitations, in my opinion, of the angelic glory and of that arrangement which, the Scriptures say, awaits those who have followed in the footsteps of the apostles and who have lived in complete righteousness according to the gospel (Stromateis 6:13:107:2 [post-A.D. 202]).


When a deacon is to be ordained, he is chosen after the fashion of those things said above, the bishop alone in like manner imposing his hands upon him as we have prescribed. In the ordaining of a deacon, this is the reason why the bishop alone is to impose his hands upon him: He is not ordained to the priesthood, but to serve the bishop and to fulfill the bishop’s command. He has no part in the council of the clergy, but is to attend to his own duties and is to acquaint the bishop with such matters as are needful. . . . On a presbyter [priest], however, let the presbyters impose their hands because of the common and like Spirit of the clergy. Even so, the presbyter has only the power to receive [the Spirit], and not the power to give [the Spirit]. That is why a presbyter does not ordain the clergy; for at the ordaining of a presbyter, he but seals while the bishop ordains. (Apostolic Tradition 9 [ca. A.D. 215]).


Not fornication only, but even marriages make us unfit for ecclesiastical honors; for neither a bishop, nor a presbyter, nor a deacon, nor a widow is able to be twice married (Homilies on Luke, 17 [ca. A.D. 235]).

Early Church Fathers on Oral tradition


Whenever anyone came my way, who had been a follower of my seniors, I would ask for the accounts of our seniors: What did Andrew or Peter say? Or Phillip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew, or any of the Lord’s disciples? I also asked: What did Aristion and John the Presbyter, disciples of the Lord say. For, as I see it, it is not so much from books as from the living and permanent voice that I must draw profit (The Sayings of the Lord [between A.D. 115 and 140] as recorded by Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 3:39 [A.D. 325]).


For even creation reveals Him who formed it, and the very work made suggests Him who made it, and the world manifests Him who ordered it. The Universal [Catholic] Church, moreover, through the whole world, has received this tradition from the Apostles (Against Heresies 2:9 [A.D. 189]).

True knowledge is the doctrine of the Apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved, without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither addition nor curtailment [in truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the Word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy… (ibid. 4:33 [A.D. 189]).


For wherever both the true Christian rule and faith shall be shown to be, there will be the true Scriptures, and the true expositions, of all the true Christian traditions (The Prescription of Heretics 19 [A.D. 200]).


Seeing there are many who think they hold the opinions of Christ, and yet some of these think differently from their predecessors, yet as the teaching of the Church, transmitted in orderly succession from the Apostles, and remaining in the churches to the present day, is still preserved, that alone is to be accepted as truth which differs in no respect from ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition (On First Principles Bk. 1 Preface 2 [circa A.D. 225]).


While [Ignatius of Antioch] was making the journey through Asia under the strictest military guard, he strengthened the diocese in each city where he stayed by spoken sermons and exhortations, and he especially exhorted them above all to be on their guard against the heresies which then for the first time were prevalent and he urged them to hold fast to the tradition of the Apostles to which he thought it necessary, for securities sake, to give form by written testimony (Ecclesiastical History, 3:36 [A.D. 325]).


Without prefixing Consulate, month, and day, [the Fathers] wrote concerning Easter, “It seemed good as follows,” for it did then seem good that there should be a general compliance; but about the faith they wrote not, “It seemed good” but, “Thus believes the Catholic Church”; and thereupon they confessed how they believed, in order to show that their own sentiments were not novel, but Apostolic; and what they wrote down was no discovery of theirs, but is the same as was taught by the Apostles (Letter on the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia [A.D. 359]).


Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us “in mystery” by the tradition of the Apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will contradict; - no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in these matters… (On the Holy Spirit 27 [A.D. 375]).


Don’t you know that the laying on of hands after baptism and then the invocation of the Holy Sirit is a custom of the Churches? Do you demand Scripture proof? You may find it in the Acts of the Apostles. And even if it did not rest on the authority of Scripture the consensus of the whole world in this respect would have the force of a command. For many other observances of the Churches, which are do to tradition, have acquired the authority of the written law (The Dialogue Against the Luciferians 8 [A.D. 382]).

John Chrysostom

“So then brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word, or by epistle of ours” (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Hence it is manifest, that they did not deliver all things by epistle, but many things also unwritten, and in like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let us think the tradition of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition, seek no farther (Homilies on Second Thessalonians [circa A.D. 400]).

These were probably taken out of context. The best way is to get the qoute itself, and see for yourself the actual writing…and look at the whole letter and context.

here is an old thread…

Ask him what the early Christians did for the first 300 years before the Bible was put together.

Thanks guys. I really do appreciate your replies.

Amen, best answer and thing to tell Protestants. That normally stumps them.

Jimmy akin also had a book about the early church fathers it’s great info.

Their answer to that is that although the canon wasn’t ratified by the Church for 300 years, the basic 27 books of the NT were in use long before then.

They were, along with other texts that did not make the eventual canon, and along with as many as 400 “sacred” texts claiming to be inspired by God, some of them Gnostic creations. Some of the texts read in early Masses in various places did not make the canon.

Some books that did make the canon were hotly disputed consistently throughout the first three centuries.

The only way SS can work is if the authority of the Church is denied, and yet, it was the authority of the Church that settled the canon. :shrug:

SS is also not found in the Scriptures (which are also missing the inspired list of books that belong in the NT). It is self refuting.

Protestants also like to cherry pick from Augustine, when they find verses that suit them, and refuse the ones that indicate he is thoroughly Catholic.

It is important in respect to these claims to be vigilant in distinguishing between what these ancient writers said and what your opponent is trying to establish. The difference becomes apparent from the conclusion. What kind of Church did the Fathers believe in versus your opponent? Even the most high-church Protestant around does not believe as they did. At best they are just one legitimate branch among many. Take St. Augustine for example. He believed in one visible Catholic Church. Unlike Protestants who claim authority directly from the Bible or some extraordinary mission directly from God himself, St. Augustine believed that someone could possess all the elements of salvation outside the Church (Gospel, sacraments, liturgy etc.), but that for those who dwell in schism outside the visible Church, none of it would avail them to salvation. Here are some examples of points to keep in mind.

Many Catholics believe that all Catholic doctrine is contained in Scripture. This view is often called the “material sufficiency” of Scripture. To assert that all doctrine should be proved from Scripture is not the same as asserting that Scripture is the only rule of faith whatsoever. Some of the Fathers expressed a sentiment like this, but remember too that figures like Irenaeus and Augustine read Scripture completely different from the Protestants. Luther himself said that Augustine didn’t even understand the Gospel (or the Gospel according to Luther at any rate).

Asserting a primacy of Scripture does not deny the authority of the Church as the Protestants do. After all, Scripture is called the breath of God, whereas infallible declarations of general councils are merely preserved from error. That’s quite a difference. Nevertheless, that does not mean that councils are not authoritative. Each has their place. St. Francis de Sales said that the sole rule of faith is the word of God preached by the Church of God.

Even saying that councils and popes are subject to Scripture does not deny the authority of the Church, since the Catholic Church teaches in accordance with the Scriptures, and the popes and councils are not free to contradict Scripture. That is certainly not contrary to infallibility and authority.

When you see these bold assertions from Protestants, exercise a little critical thinking. Are these authors really saying what my opponent claims they are saying? Evaluate the meaning of the quotation. Look at the quotation in its context. Look at that work in the context of the author’s life. Is there any serious suspicion that Augustine was actually some Baptist or Presbyterian?

Milasol posted a quotation from Irenaeus where he states that doctrine should be learned from the mouths of the successors of the Apsotles. Along the says this of the heretics outside the Church who set themselves up as teachers.

Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, [looking upon them] either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory. For all these have fallen from the truth. And the heretics, indeed, who bring strange fire to the altar of God— namely, strange doctrines— shall be burned up by the fire from heaven, as were Nadab and Abiud. Leviticus 10:1-2 But such as rise up in opposition to the truth, and exhort others against the Church of God, [shall] remain among those in hell (apud inferos), being swallowed up by an earthquake, even as those who were with Chore, Dathan, and Abiron. Numbers 16:33 But those who cleave asunder, and separate the unity of the Church, [shall] receive from God the same punishment as Jeroboam did. 1 Kings 14:10
(Adv. Haer. IV.26.2)

Sounds like his words apply against the Protestants who broke from the Church and taught a new Gospel that had never been preached before.

Most Protestants do not really care what the Fathers thought. They only make use of them inasmuch as they say things agreeable to what they already believe from their Protestant traditions. They will try to use them against Catholicism, but in the face of inconvenient facts such as that the Father held views on the sacraments and justification that are absolutely opposed to the Protestant doctrine of “faith alone,” they will simply dismiss the Fathers as being heretics who are much stupider than the Protestants who came 1,000+ years later. They do not care what the Fathers really believed and practiced as a rule to inform their own belief and practice.

Great post. :thumbsup:

Where is my “like” button?

In the NT there 2 verses in particular, that when you read it, you should be like wait a second, what, in regards to Sola Scriptura.

•1 Corinthians 5:9-11 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men; not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber – not even to eat with such a one.

*Colossians 4:16 This letter that St. Paul sent to Laodicea never made it on the Canon of Scripture, yet Paul says, pay attention to what it states as it has the same weight as this letter. But yet, that letter didn’t make it to Scripture. What happened?

A church, a magisterium needed to sit down and say, Ok this needs to go in and this will not go in. These men were guided by the Holy Spirit, and these men belonged to the Catholic Church. I totally agree with what you said.

Those people who undermine the Early Church Fathers, especially the Magisterium, in my humble opinion, are deeming themselves.

This is a favorite tactic of sola scripturists. What they do is cherry pick the writings. They take what they want and leave the rest. What they should do is take everything in context. Favorite case in point is Cyril. He writes a lenghty instruction to catechumens and in one chapter extols the virtue of scripture. The sola scripturists are all over this as you can imagine. However, what they ignore is the very next chapter in which Cyril extolds the virtue of Tradition. But if you listen to the sola scripturists they will have you believe Cyril was a sola scripturist and didn’t care for Tradition. Can you imagine how ridiculous this is? Here is a man, proclaimed by the Church to be a Doctor of the Church and sola scripturists say he did not believe in Tradition.

thank you for the great references!

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