Clarifying: The Apostolic Faith

One of my best friends read a previous post of mine and came away confused.  Now during subsequent conversation it appears that part of the problem was that he was reading in a hurry, but part of the problem was also that I fired the post off without much time for reflection.  I did not make myself very clear, and so I want to clarify what I was getting at in the previous post.  You can read that first if you want to.

There are lots of ways of discussing the truth.  You can talk about the source of the truth, or the medium through which it is transmitted.  You can talk about the certainty of truth, or the response to truth, but what I was really talking about was the content of the truth.  My statement in the earlier post was that Christianity is a revelation, not a deduction.  I don’t think that is sufficiently clear in communicating what I meant, so allow me to break out three foundational assumptions that I am making that are contained in that statement:

  1. Christianity is the result of a revelation by Jesus, delivered to the apostles.
  2. That revelation was complete.
  3. That revelation was final.

Based on that I would reject any version of Christianity that doesn’t match what the apostles taught.  I would reject any version that intends to expand, complete, revise, or improve what the apostles taught.  However I accept the caveat that there is a distinction made between the fundamental elements of the faith, and those elements which may be cultural or disciplinary.

Protestantism, based on the foundation of Sola Scriptura, has lost conformity with the apostolic faith in many regards, and thus my rejection of it.  Hopefully that made more sense of that last post for anyone who might have been confused.

Now for the quote-alanche.  Here’s why I think it’s important to maintain fidelity to the apostolic faith as a revelation once and for all delivered to the saints:

When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.  John 16:13

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:18

O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge” 1 Tim 6:20

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Tim 2:2

But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. 2 Tim 2:23

As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 1 John 2:24

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. Jude 3

“Study, therefore, to be established in the doctrines of the Lord and the apostles.” Ignatius c. 105. Letter to the Magnesians. Chp. 13

“But I wish now to give you a more accurate demonstration, God helping me, of the historical periods, that
you may see that our doctrine is not modern nor fabulous, but more ancient and true than all poets and
authors who have written in uncertainty.” Theophilus c. 180. To Autolycus, Book III, Chp. 16

“Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrines different from these (for no one is greater than the Master); nor, on the other hand, will he who is deficient in power of expression inflict injury on the tradition. For the faith being ever one and the same, neither does one who is able at great length to discourse regarding it, make any addition to it, nor does one, who can say but little diminish it.” Ireneaus c. 108. Against Heresies, Book 1, Chp 10

“For it is unlawful to assert that they preached before they possessed perfect knowledge, as some do even venture to say, boasting themselves as improvers of the apostles. For, after our Lord rose from the dead, [the apostles] were invested with power from on high when the Holy Spirit came down [upon them], were filled from all [His gifts], and had perfect knowledge: they departed to the ends of the earth, preaching the glad tidings of the good things [sent] from God to us, and proclaiming the peace of heaven to men, who indeed do all equally and individually possess the Gospel of God.” Ireneaus c. 108. Against Heresies, Book 3, Chp 1

“In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.” Ireneaus c. 108. Against Heresies, Book 3, Chp 3

“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.” Ireneaus c. 108. Against Heresies, Book 3, Chp 4

“True knowledge is [that which consists in] 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 receiving addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the 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; and [above all, it consists in] the pre-eminent gift of love, 2 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 13 which is more precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy, and which excels all the other gifts [of God].” Ireneaus c. 108. Against Heresies, Book 4, Chp 33

“In the Lord’s apostles we possess our authority; for even they did not of themselves choose to introduce anything, but faithfully delivered to the nations (of mankind) the doctrine which they had received from Christ. If, therefore, even an angel from heaven should preach any other gospel (than theirs), he would be called accursed by us.” Tertullian c. 197. Prescription against Heretics, Chp 6.

“We hold communion with the apostolic churches because our doctrine is in no respect different from theirs. This is our witness of truth.” Tertullian c. 197. Prescription against Heretics, Chp 1.

“In exactly the same way the other churches likewise exhibit (their several worthies), whom, as having been appointed to their episcopal places by apostles, they regard as transmitters of the apostolic seed. Let the heretics contrive something of the same kind. For after their blasphemy, what is there that is unlawful for them (to attempt)? But should they even effect the contrivance, they will not advance a step. For their very doctrine, after comparison with that of the apostles, will declare, by its own diversity and contrariety, that it had for its author neither an apostle nor an apostolic man” Tertullian c. 197. Prescription Against Heretics, Chp. 32.

“…so that no other teaching will have the right of being received as apostolic than that which is at the present day proclaimed in the churches of apostolic foundation. You will, however, find no church of apostolic origin but such as reposes its Christian faith in the Creator. But if the churches shall prove to have been corrupt from the beginning, where shall the pure ones be found?” Tertullian c. 207. Against Marcion, Chp 21.

“On the whole, then, if that is evidently more true which is earlier, if that is earlier which is from the very beginning, if that is from the beginning which has the apostles for its authors, then it will certainly be quite as evident, that that comes down from the apostles, which has been kept as a sacred deposit in the churches of the apostles.” Tertullian c. 207, Against Marcion, Book 5, Chp 4

“That this rule of faith has come down to us from the beginning of the gospel, even before any of the older heretics, much more before Praxeas, a pretender of yesterday, will be apparent both from the lateness of date 7781 which marks all heresies, and also from the absolutely novel character of our new-fangled Praxeas. In this principle also we must henceforth find a presumption of equal force against all heresies whatsoever—that whatever is first is true, whereas that is spurious which is later in date.” Tertullian c. 213. The Catholic Doctrine… Chp 2.

Clarifying: The Apostolic Faith

A small sola scriptura gotcha

Icon Apocalypse

A friend of mine, in responding to a Sola Scriptura claim, launched this interesting little gotcha.  It’s a small criticism, but one that I had never considered, so I’ll include it here.  The context is a discussion of 2 Timothy 3:15-17, which is the standard SS proof text.  So, read the following in light of that passage.

But what if we could somehow grant that all existing NT Scripture is also included in Paul’s statements here?  Still, using this passage to argue for SS is disastrous.  Surely you agree that the book of 2 Timothy was inerrant from the very moment Paul wrote it.  The same day Paul wrote 2 Timothy, the book of 2 Timothy was 100% true.  Yet, at the moment Paul finished writing 2 Timothy, the book of Revelation (and possibly some other NT books) had not even been written yet!  So if Paul taught that “all currently existing Scripture is utterly sufficient for all the Church’s needs“, then you must believe that the Church has absolutely no need whatsoever to read the book of Revelation!  After all, if the pre-Revelation inspired Scriptures are 100% sufficient for the Church, then what need does the Church have of additional books?

That was an interesting thought exercise, but that’s the sort of absurdity that SS leads to.  In case you’re wondering what books were written after 2 Timothy, no one can say absolutely, but that would probably include Titus, 2 Peter, and Revelation.

Another gem:

Finally, consider the fact that apostles were still alive for decades after 2 Timothy was written.  It would have been disastrous for a Christian to adhere to SS at that time!  Just imagine someone in 65 A.D. suggesting that we “ask the apostles about some doctrine”, and someone else responding, “No, we don’t need to ask the apostles anything.  The Scriptures alone are all we need.  The oral teaching of the apostles is irrelevant.”  What appalling hubris that would be!

A small sola scriptura gotcha

Chrismation coming

We’re in the final countdown to Chrismation.  We had to get some proof that we were baptized with a trinitarian formula.  That turned out to be somewhat difficult for both me and my wife, since our denominations don’t keep central records on that.  But the hurdle has been jumped.  Now we just have to lock in some sponsors and we’re set.  :o)

Chrismation coming


Novelty, the new, the different has captivated protestantism.  Perhaps captured is the better term.  I’m not sure, but I’ve long thought that there was something wrong when you ask any protestant who their favorite author/speaker is and 99% of the time it will be someone who is currently alive.  Their favorite book will be one that was just published.  Did you hear their latest sermon or ideas?

I was thinking about novelty this morning.  And I thought about the gnostics, going around in the late first early second centuries “fixing” Christianity.  Taking the ridiculous story of Christ and it’s obviously embarrassing ties to reality and correcting it.  In response you have (among others) Ireneaus.  He writes a few treatises that still exist on this topic, and to put a fine point on this response he says, “Your ideas are hog-wash.  We know they are hog wash because they weren’t handed down to us from the apostles.”

Why is that so important that ideas come from the apostles?  That they be traceable?  Because the faith was once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude).

Christianity is a revelation, not a deduction.

If your Christianity wasn’t handed down to you from the apostles (and no, just having a copy of some of their writings emphatically does NOT count), then what you have is the result of deduction and speculation, not revelation.  And that’s important.