What teaching, not explicit in Scripture, is there the most unanimity among ECFs?


What teaching, not explicit in Scripture, is there the most unanimity among ECFs?




The Trinity was already mentioned; the Real Presence, and the regenerative function of Baptism are two others that were unanimous.


Maybe I’m misunderstanding you but are you saying the Real Presence is not mentioned in Scripture?
It is in Scripture:

John 6:51-57
51I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. 52 The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?” 53 Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. 54 **Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. **
56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.


Marco << What teaching, not explicit in Scripture, is there the most unanimity among ECFs? >>

I would say the perpetual virginity of Mary since it was held from at least Proto Evang of James (c. 150 AD) and explicitly Origen (c. 200) forward, and all the major orthodox Fathers accepted it, while Scripture appears silent (except for “how can this be” Luke 1:34; and Jesus entrusting his mother to John in 19:25-27, etc). “Helvidius” disputed it in the fourth century, and perhaps Tertullian at the beginning of the 3rd century.

As for most unanimity of any doctrines, “born again” (regeneration) at Baptism would certainly be one, but that is amply testified in Scripture (e.g. Acts 2:38f; John 3:3,5; Titus 3:5ff; Romans 6:3ff). The Real Presence along with its sacrificial aspect is also amply testified in Scripture, and was also unanimous among the Fathers.

“The belief that the Eucharist IS A SACRIFICE is found EVERYWHERE.” (Darwell Stone, A History… on the ante-Nicene writers)

“…the eucharist was regarded as the distinctively Christian SACRIFICE from the closing decade of the first century, if not earlier…The eucharist was also, of course, the great act of worship of Christians, their SACRIFICE. The writers and liturgies of the period are UNANIMOUS in recognizing it as such.” (JND Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines on the same period)

“Nothing is more solid than the UNANIMITY of belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist for the first 1,500 years of the Church.” (New Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 5, page 604)

And a “hostile” source on Baptism: “The doctrine of baptism is one of the few teachings within Roman Catholicism for which it can be said that there is a universal consent of the Fathers…From the early days of the Church, baptism was universally perceived as the means of receiving four basic gifts: the remission of sins, deliverance from death, regeneration, and the bestowal of the Holy Spirit.” (William Webster, The Church of Rome at the Bar of History, page 95-96)

Phil P


This quote by Webster was most unexpected.


I agree with you it is in Scripture. What I was saying was that Baptism as regenerative and the real presence is unanimously confirmed by the Fathers. I see your point about whether it is explicit or implicit. I would say both are explicit, but just wanted to add these two because of the force to which it backs up the witness of 2000 years of the majority of the church holding to those doctrines.


Marco << This quote by Webster was most unexpected. >>

Yeah Webster doesn’t admit much in that book, but baptism is just too overwhelming. So he’ll give us that doctrine. On the Eucharist he gives us a number of Fathers as well:

“As time passed clearer descriptions of the eucharist as the transformation of the elements into the literal body and blood of Christ emerged in the writings of the Fathers such as Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Nazianzen, Chrysostom and Ambrose.” (Webster, Church of Rome at the Bar of History, page 120)

Thanks for those Church Fathers, Bill! :thumbsup: He won’t give us St. Augustine though!

Phil P


On Eucharist certainly…But what the Sacrificial nature and the transubstantiation of the bread?


favorite << But what the Sacrificial nature and the transubstantiation of the bread? >>

My view on that: transubstantiation is obviously a later technical term, it shows up first in the 11-12th century discussions on the Eucharist. The Fathers used different terms for “transform” and “change” and “convert” in Greek and Latin.

On sacrifice, the Catholic teaching incorporates all that the Fathers taught on that: first, the sacrifice of praise (e.g. Hebrews 13:15) –

“The Eucharist, the sacrament of our salvation accomplished by Christ on the cross, is also a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for the work of creation…The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of praise by which the Church sings the glory of God in the name of all creation. This sacrifice of praise is possible only through Christ: he unites the faithful to his person, to his praise, and to his intercession, so that the sacrifice of praise to the Father is offered through Christ and with him, to be accepted in him.” (CCC 1359,1361)

– the re-presentation (making present) of the one propititatory sacrifice of Christ on the cross, with his intercession and presentation of his sacrifice in heaven

“Because it is the memorial of Christ’s Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. The sacrificial character of the Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution…The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit…” (CCC 1365,1366)

– and the uniting of the Christian worship with Christ’s one sacrifice

“The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of the Church. The Church which is the Body of Christ participates in the offering of her Head. With him, she herself is offered whole and entire. She unites herself to his intercession with the Father for all men…The whole Church is united with the offering and intercession of Christ.” (CCC 1368,1369)

All three of these aspects of “sacrifice” are found in the Fathers.

Phil P


Your right to place the Hebrews view as first, wouldn’t you agree the view of a propiatory sacrifice came significantly later?


favorite << wouldn’t you agree the view of a propiatory sacrifice came significantly later? >>

Not really since Origen (c. 200) was explicit:

“You see how the ALTARS are no longer sprinkled with the blood of oxen, but consecrated BY THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST.” (Origen, Homilies on Josue 2:1)

“But if that text (Lev 24:5-9) is taken to refer to the greatness of what is mystically symbolized, then there is a ‘commemoration’ which has an EFFECT OF GREAT PROPITIATORY VALUE. If you apply it to that ‘Bread which came down from heaven and gives life to the world,’ that shewbread which ‘God has offered to us as a means of reconciliation, in virtue of faith, ransoming us with his blood,’ and if you look to that commemoration of which the Lord says, ‘Do this in commemoration of me,’ then you will find that this is the unique commemoration WHICH MAKES GOD PROPITIOUS TO MEN.” (Origen, Homilies on Leviticus 9)

Of course Catholics interpret the Eucharist institution narrative itself as sacrificial and one with the sacrifice of the cross. Since the cross was propitiatory (1 John 2:1-2; Romans 3:25), the Mass is too since the Mass applies the fruits of Christ’s one sacrifice. And that one sacrifice “continues to cleanse us” from all sin and unrighteousness, whenever it is applied (1 John 1:7-9).

“[The Mass/Eucharist is called…]…The Holy Sacrifice, because it MAKES PRESENT the ONE sacrifice of Christ the Savior and includes the Church’s offering…The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit.” (Catechism CCC 1330, 1366).

The Fathers saw that too, at least Origen forward. And St. Cyril of Jerusalem even more explicit:

"Then, upon the completion of the spiritual sacrifice, the bloodless worship, over that PROPITIATORY victim we call upon God for the common peace of the Churches, for the welfare of the world, for kings, for soldiers and allies, for the sick, for the afflicted; and in summary, we all pray and OFFER THIS SACRIFICE FOR ALL WHO ARE IN NEED.

"Then we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, Apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition; next, we make mention also of the holy fathers and bishops who have already fallen asleep, and, to put it simply, of all among us who have already fallen asleep; for we believe that it will be of very great benefit to the souls of those for whom the petition is carried up, while this HOLY AND MOST SOLEMN SACRIFICE IS LAID OUT.

“For I know that there are many who are saying this: ‘If a soul departs from this world with sins, what does it profit it to be remembered in the prayer?’…[we] grant a remission of their penalties…we too offer prayers to Him for those who have fallen asleep though they be sinners. We do not plait a crown, but OFFER UP CHRIST WHO HAS BEEN SACRIFICED FOR OUR SINS; AND WE THEREBY PROPITIATE THE BENEVOLENT GOD FOR THEM AS WELL AS FOR OURSELVES.” (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, 23 [Mystagogic 5], 8, 9, 10)

James White was answered on this long ago in an article “Fatally Flawed Thinking” (June 1993 This Rock). Even White agrees that Christ’s work and sacrifice continues in heaven through his intercession and presentation before the Father. White says the fruit is applied through “faith alone” and the “limited [or definite] atonement” while Catholics (and the early Fathers) extend this to the sacraments.

“…White admits Christ’s work is still being presented to God. ‘His work of intercession is not another or different kind of work, but is the presentation of the work of the cross before the Father… by presenting his finished work on Calvary before the Father, he assures the application of the benefits of his death to those for whom he intercedes.’…This shows White’s argument, that the Mass adds to Christ’s sacrifice, is wrong. The Mass does not accrue any new merit on Christ’s part; it serves as the means by which Christ’s work on the cross is applied to us, just as in White’s scheme it is applied to us through Christ’s intercessory ministry apart from the Mass. The fact that Christ’s merits remain to be applied to us does not mean one is adding to the sacrifice of the cross, just that the results of the cross are being played out over time.” (“Fatally Flawed Thinking” by Akin)

Apolonio Latar has an article on this on my site: “The Relationship of the Cross and the Mass”

Phil P


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