the Church Fathers and Protestants


#1

I am curious if anyone (Catholic or Protestant) can tell me what weight is given to the writtings of our Church Fathers by members of protestant churches?..as i read some of their writtings, they put to rest so many questions, disputes or misunderstandings of the Catholic faith. How do protestants view them and their writtings?

Also, I am unaware of any resources/books/documents… that would give clear teachings of any of the Protestant churches, as does the CCC…is there a catechism-type reference for people to study or refer to regarding Protestantism?..I thought maybe Luther had a catechism. Is that true? If so, is it regarded only by Lutherans, or by members of other denominations as well?

i am always so baffeled by the MANY misconceptions regarding Catholic teachings (by both “catholics” and non catholics)…when we have an actual reference book, which is available for ANYONE to read, that clearly states our teachings…I just find is so crazy that people, especially “leaders” of different faiths, would preach their views of the teachings of the Church, will pass their opinions off as facts, when, with minimal effort or research, they can find the true teachings of our faith.
And i do realize that not all protestants purposely pass on misleading information about the Church, but some do.
I am just wanting to understand all of this better.
-jen


#2

Actually I never heard of the Early Church Fathers in any of my CCD classes, Catholic high school or Catholic college. I found out about them in my own personal studies as an adult. I would not be surprised if a lot of Protestants are unfamiliar with them because even though I’m a Catholic, with a lot more religion classes than many Catholics, I had to search them out on my own.


#3

I am curious if anyone (Catholic or Protestant) can tell me what weight is given to the writtings of our Church Fathers by members of protestant churches?..

Depends on the Church and the individual protestant.

is there a catechism-type reference for people to study or refer to regarding Protestantism?..I thought maybe Luther had a catechism. Is that true? If so, is it regarded only by Lutherans, or by members of other denominations as well?

There are many different flavors of protestantism so one all inclusive book of protestantism probably doesnt exist, but you are right, Luther had a Catechism. I am not sure how it is regarded among other protestant denominations.

i am always so baffeled by the MANY misconceptions regarding Catholic teachings (by both “catholics” and non catholics)…when we have an actual reference book, which is available for ANYONE to read, that clearly states our teachings…

You would be suprised. I have seen anti-Catholics use the CCC against us. They of course take passages out of context but I have seen some who use the CCC to strengthen their argument.

God Bless


#4

Outside of intellectual circles and these apologetics forums, Protestants pay little or no attention to the early church fathers. St. Augustine would be one of few exceptions…perhaps. I suspect that the same is true of the average Catholic as well, although the Catholic Church itself certainly puts much emphasis on the writings of the early church fathers.


#5

I can tell you that as a FC Methodist I have heard more about St. Augustine and John Wesley than anyone else who isn’t in the Bible.
I know of course Father Wesley isn’t “early” enough to be considered an early church father. I have never heard Luther mentioned in sunday school or church.
WP


#6

In my twenty years as an evangelical Protestant, the only early Church Fathers I ever heard mentioned were St. Jerome, St. Augustine and St. Irenaeus. St. Augustine was a favorite in the Reformed churches I attended since he wrote quite a bit on predestination, but he was always very selectively quoted to sound like a pre-Reformation Calvinist.


#7

Hi Jpool, our CC would be Systematic Theologies

christianbook.com/Christian/Books/easy_find?Ntk=keywords&Ntt=systematic+theology&action=Search&N=0&Ne=0&event=ESRCN&nav_search=1&cms=1

I think it may be this one that uses the fathers
christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=560360&netp_id=419676&event=ESRCN&item_code=WW

maybe someone who has a set can tell us.


#8

I think most Protestants stay clear of the Church Fathers as much as possible because they seemed to endorse much of what the Catholic Church teaches today. Justin Martyr on the Eucharist, for example, would be a hard nut for the Protestants to crack.

From the First Apology:
*On finishing the prayers we greet each other with a kiss. Then bread and a cup of water mixed with wine are brought to the leader and he, taking them, sends up praise and glory to the Father of the Universe through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and offers thanksgiving at some length that we have been deemed worthy to receive these things. When the leader has finished the prayers and thanksgivings, the whole congregation assents, saying, “Amen.” (“Amen” is Hebrew for “So be it.”) Then those whom we call deacons give to each of those present a portion of the consecrated bread and wine and water, and they take it to the absent. *


#9

I think it would be worthwhile reading some of the early church fathers and, in that vein, will be starting Augustine’s Confessions soon. However, I am somewhat doubtful as to the relative usefullness of reading the ECFs in the context of discussions between Catholics and Protestants. Catholics gleefully point out references in these writings that support Catholic theology. Yet, when Protestants point out references that support Protestant positions, the Catholic response is a simple “well, the ECF does not speak for the Church on that issue.” This sort of response allows Catholics to “pick and choose” among the ECF writings, just as they accuse Protestants of doing the same. It’s D— if you do, d— if you don’t…


#10

As a Pentecostal, we never investigated the early church fathers. It was assumed that the church went into error pretty early. However, I do remember hearing about the martyrdom of Polycarp in one sermon. But I think this was taken from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. The first step I took toward a more historical faith was when my associate pastor asked me to look into the early church fathers to find support for the Pentecostal holiness teachings on personal modesty. I started reading Tertullian (who was very staunch on such issues), but that just opened up an whole new world for me.

rusty


#11

rr1213

Yet, when Protestants point out references that support Protestant positions, the Catholic response is a simple “well, the ECF does not speak for the Church on that issue.”

Which of the Early Church Fathers do Protestants point to when they want to counter Justin Martyr on the Eucharist?


#12

tizzidale

As a Pentecostal, we never investigated the early church fathers. It was assumed that the church went into error pretty early.

Why was that assumption made without first examining the Early Church Fathers?


#13

Why was that assumption made without first examining the Early Church Fathers?

The whole premise of the early pentecostal movement was to ‘recapture’ what the early church had. Starting from that premise, and the belief that scripture alone would be that guide -why would they look for what they saw as lacking. Now later you would see the pentecostal movement look to early church documents to prove certain positions - such as the continuation of the gifts of the spirit. But there’s a reason most pentecostal churches maintain that they are ‘apostolic’ - in their mind they are the inheriters of theapostolic position.


#14

As you can see from my post above, I was speaking in broader terms, not specifically about Martyr on the Eucharist. However, as an aside, I see nothing in the quotation from Martyr that you set forth above that would be counter to Protestant understanding. Now, the man may have said something different in other writings, I don’t know…


#15

Tizzidale

in their mind they are the inheriters of theapostolic position.

You mean the apostolic tradition died immediately and was resurrected only 2,000 years later by the Pentacostals?


#16

However, as an aside, I see nothing in the quotation from Martyr that you set forth above that would be counter to Protestant understanding.

More from that passage: "And this food is called among us Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. "

rusty


#17

rr1213

This is what else Justin had to say in the same letter. Doesn’t sound Protestant to me.

*And this food is called among us ukaristia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. *

Oops, Tizzidale got there first. Well done.


#18

You mean the apostolic tradition died immediately and was resurrected only 2,000 years later by the Pentacostals?

Probably to the early Pentecostals this was the understanding. Later, more investigation probably led them to hold the belief that Constantine ushered in a period of apostacy. I wouldn’t put too much stock in the theological or historical depth of the early Pentecostal pioneers. Later generations have read the Fathers, but I can certainly say that I never was encouraged to until I was in my 20s and only then to find supporting texts.

rusty


#19

I doubt that traditional Anglicans and Lutherans would have any trouble whatsoever with that passage. Those who believe in a symbolic Eucharist might find it troubling.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that reading the ECFs can be a worthwhile enterprise. Still, there is enough in those writings that both Protestants and Catholics can find support for their relative positions on various issues. In these forums at least, Catholics seem to quote the ECFs only when they want to beat Protestants over the head with them. Any counter-citation by a Protestant is generally dismissed as simply a case where the ECF quoted is not authorative on that particular subject. Double standard?


#20

Any counter-citation by a Protestant is generally dismissed as simply a case where the ECF quoted is not authorative on that particular subject. Double standard?

Well, indidividual ECF’s are not authoritative. When you speak about a topic like the Eucharist, for example, it helps to look and see what the preponderance of belief was in the early church. That there were those who may disagree or who may describe it differently shouldn’t surprise anyone.

rusty


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