Fathers of the Church...inerrant?


Would someone please explain to me why particular
individuals have been deemed Fathers of the Church?

In short, if I must hold that the scriptures are
divinely inspired, why must I hold that, say,
Augustine is necessarily correct on any given
subject? I mean, one day I said to myself,
as if awakening from a trance: Why would
I accept that someone who is termed a
Father of the Church is necessarily inerrant?

Finally, I have brought my doubt forward.

If the response is: because the Church, in
various councils, declared these individuals
to be…what?..inerrant, then I’ve got a real
problem to deal with.

Thanks, in advance, for any replies.


PS I’m realizing, with increasing alarm, that my
own heart and mind is much more compatible
with Judaism than Christianity.

If God looked at me right now and said:
In your heart, what do you believe…truly…
I’d say, with relief: “I’ve always loved you, God.
I hope that You love me if I tell you I never
thought that original sin was true, or that
the “eternal fires of hell” was true [that seems to me
to be a perfectly insane idea]. What the Jews
say about You and Who you are resonates
within my heart. Do You still love me?”


[quote=reen12]Would someone please explain to me why particular individuals have been deemed Fathers of the Church?

I am FAR from an expert on the early Church Fathers but I will attempt to explain it as best I am able. The Church does not see the writings of the Church Fathers in the same view as the Bible (infallible). In fact, some Church Fathers actually slipped into heresy (Tertullian who slipped into Montanism). When this happened the other Fathers rallied to set the record straight. A good resource that you may want to start with is Why Do Catholics Do That? byKevin Orlin Johnson. The first chapter of the book talks about Tradition and how Christ, when He was on earth, “never wrote down any of His teachings. Even the Apostles converted thousands by word of mouth… long before the Bible was assembled (Gal 3:2).” Many of those that knew and followed the Apostles became Chruch Fathers. Intellectuals who lived several hundreds of years after the Apostles also became Church Fathers. These men (from the 1st to the 6th centuries) were dedicated to the Church. They often disagreed on issues yet they maintained the universal belief in Christ and what was passed down to them from Scripture and Tradition. They attempted to explain those things which the early Church taught so that the “common folk” might better understand the teachings. They were not infallible. However, through their writings (which we have many of) we can better understand how the Church began and what the people of their time understood and were going through. I once heard an analogy on EWTN that went something like this:
If someone writes a letter to a friend and says “its raining cats and dogs here in Dallas, Texas” and that letter is found 2000 years later by some future archeologist; what will his interpretation of the letter be? Will he believe that some miracle happened where cats and dogs actually fell from the sky? One of the things that our early Church Fathers did was to explain and make things clearer for those that came after them. Since we as Catholics know and understand that while the Bible is 100% true and accurate there exists things outside the Bible which are true and accurate as well. We can accept the teachings of some of those who lived, taught with, and knew the Apostles. We can likewise accept the teachings of those who lived, taught with, and knew those who knew the Apostles etc. God promised us in Is 9:5-7, Mt 16:18, Mt 7:24, and Lk 1:32-33 that God’s Church will forever survive. Have faith that God will keep His promise and protect His Church from going in the wrong direction.


Don’t forget Origen who slipped as well toward the end of his life into what would later become Arianism. I always viewed Origen as someone who if he knew he had drifted into heresy, would have recanted, alas, his theological hypothesizing might have cost him.

As for the Church Fathers. They just shine light on Scripture and Tradition. They are an excellent view of how the early church viewed certain doctrines and make great Apologetic Tools. Peter – (don’t remember name) – Ignatius of Antioch – Polycarp. You can see Apostolic Succession in action and you can see just how Catholic the early Church was. That doesn’t make them like scripture, merely they provide theological insight that is relevant to how we understand certain doctrines today.

At least that is how I’ve viewed them. My two cents for what it was worth.


Good morning Tietjen and NWUArmyROTC,

God bless you both for your clear, concise replies
to my question.
I wonder whether Origen got into difficulty, not
because he speculated, but because he "proclaimed"
his speculations, without consulting with those
responsible for the kerygma?

By the way, Horray Army ROTC !!



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