I consider Rod a good friend (full disclosure), and part of my motivation is to see that he is defended from ludicrous and groundless charges, and that the Catholic Church is also vindicated against such patent, relentless absurdities as we find in Ken’s three-part treatment. That’s plenty enough motivation for me to suspend temporarily my policy of not debating anti-Catholics (in place since 2007). This is only the third or fourth time that I have made an exception to my rule, and it is on behalf of a friend, for whom I have a great deal of personal and professional respect.
because of the negative aspects that lead people astray from Biblical truth, I give it a “2 star”.
I hope to show, of course, that this is wrong, and that it is Ken who is straying from biblical truth, not Catholics.
The book is a Roman Catholic apologetic and biased popular introduction to these four men in early church (adding others in also to expand the RC idea that the whole early church agreed with Roman Catholic centuries later doctrines and dogmas).
I can assure everyone, from years of personal experience observing and debating with Protestants concerning the Church fathers, that there is plenty of bias to go around. I’ve seen Ken argue about these things, too, and he — along with the secondary anti-Catholic sources he cites — certainly has a strong bias, that (I will contend) stretches the “patristic facts” (as far as we can ascertain them) beyond the breaking point.
he also leaves out some key parts of Clement (page 87, see below), and especially Irenaeus that actually go against his stated purpose. (to let the early church speak for itself)
Well, that remains to be seen. Anti-Catholic patristic analysis is nothing if not super-selective prooftexting, with other relevant or contradictory (to their purpose) passages being utterly ignored, as if they didn’t exist. This is its leading trait, that I’ve observed every time I refute it. It’s become the usual modus operandi, a given, when anti-Catholics try to futilely mold early history into an argument for their side. The results are always humorous and pathetic, once readers learn the relevant facts that had been ignored (provided by the Catholic debater). Stay tuned! It’s gonna happen again here; I guarantee it.
He skewed Cyprian of Carthage (died, being beheaded, around 258 AD) by leaving out important aspects of his life and writings, that pertain to the whole Roman Catholic vs. Protestantism debate.
Again, we’ll see what Ken comes up with and if it is any evidence against Catholicism.
However his real purpose seems to be – to show that Protestantism is not historical, which is subtle. His main purpose seems to be to show that Sola Scriptura and Protestantism is wrong, especially when we read the afterward and the appendix of all the Roman Catholic distinctive doctrines that are the main issues that Protestants have against the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church.
I’m sure that’s central to the book (or at least its premises), which is historical argumentation. Protestants and Catholics both claim the fathers for themselves, so it’s a battle as to who can more accurately claim them. This is established by the abundance of historical facts / writings that can be brought to bear.
The intro is skewed in a few places toward the RC side of things, as is the Afterward and the Appendix; – the last 2 sections of the book, Afterward, and on “Catholic Teaching in the Early Church” and “Catholic Teaching Today” are very skewed, in that they are trying to show that the doctrines and dogmas of the RCC that Protestants dis-agree with were there from the beginning of church history. They were not.
Well, yes they were, but in more primitive form. All doctrines develop. The classic one that we all agree on is the Trinity, which developed in all its aspects for over 600 years.
The biggest problem is that he leaves out key elements of the quotes from Clement, which would show that Clement treated presbyterois (elders) and episcopais (overseers/bishops) as one church office/same person – as in Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5-7; Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Peter 5:1-4; 1 Timothy chapter 3.
Here’s the first actual argument, rather than merely bald assertion. It is true that in the early Church and the New Testament, the offices were much more “fluent” and overlapping than they are now (I noted this in my first book, completed in 1996; mentioning three of the passages Ken brings up above). We see this clearly in the essentially synonymous use of the different terms in Titus 1:5-7. What is not true, however, is that the Bible teaches no distinctions in these offices at all. It certainly does.
St. Peter himself functions as a “super elder” or “super bishop”. He casually assumes this overarching authority in, e.g., his first Epistle. He is exhorting the elders, as if he is higher in authority than they are: “Tend the flock of God that is your charge . . .” (1 Pet 5:2; RSV, as throughout). The letter reads as if it were an early sort of papal encyclical letter. It’s not written to one church, but to people from all over the place. His second Epistle is the same: “. . . To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours . . .” (2 Pet 1:1). I wrote in my book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (Sophia Institute Press, 2003, p. 252):
St. Paul often referred to himself as a deacon or minister (1 Corinthians 3:5; 4:1; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 6:4; 11:23; Ephesians 3:7; Colossians 1:23-25), yet no one would assert that he was merely a deacon, and nothing else. Likewise, St. Peter calls himself a fellow elder (1 Peter 5:1), whereas Jesus calls him the rock upon which He would build His Church, and gave him alone the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:18-19). These examples are usually indicative of a healthy humility, according to Christ’s injunctions of servanthood (Matthew 23:11-12; Mark 10:43-44).Upon closer observation, clear distinctions of office appear, and the hierarchical nature of Church government in the New Testament emerges. Bishops are always referred to in the singular, while elders are usually mentioned plurally.
Bishops (episkopos) possess all the powers, duties, and jurisdiction of priests, with the following important additional responsibilities:1) Jurisdiction over priests and local churches, and the power to ordain priests: Acts 14:22; 1 Timothy 5:22; 2 Timothy 1:6; Titus 1:5.2) Special responsibility to defend the Faith: Acts 20:28-31; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Titus 1:9-10; 2 Peter 3:15-16.3) Power to rebuke false doctrine and to excommunicate: Acts 8:14-24; 1 Corinthians 16:22; 1 Timothy 5:20; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:10-11.4)Power to bestow Confirmation (the receiving of the indwelling Holy Spirit): Acts 8:14-17; 19:5-6.5) Management of Church finances: 1 Timothy 3:3-4; 1 Peter 5:2.In the Septuagint, episkopos is used for “overseer” in various senses, for example: officers (Judges 9:28; Isaiah 60:17), supervisors of funds (2 Chronicles 34:12, 17), overseers of priests and Levites (Nehemiah 11:9; 2 Kings 11:18), and of temple and tabernacle functions (Numbers 4:16). God is called episkopos at Job 20:29, referring to His role as Judge, and Christ is an episkopos in 1 Peter 2:25 (RSV: “Shepherd and Guardian of your souls”).The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-29) bears witness to a definite hierarchical, episcopal structure of government in the early Church. St. Peter, the chief elder (the office of pope) of the entire Church (1 Peter 5:1; cf. John 21:15-17), presided and issued the authoritative pronouncement (15:7-11). Then James, bishop of Jerusalem (kind of like the host-mayor of a conference) gives a concurring (Acts 15:14), concluding statement (15:13-29). That James was the sole, “monarchical” bishop of Jerusalem is fairly apparent from Scripture (Acts 12:17; 15:13, 19; 21:18; Galatians 1:19; 2:12). This fact is also attested by the first Christian historian, Eusebius (History of the Church, 7:19). (pp. 254-255).
If, however, any shall disobey the words spoken by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and serious danger; . . . (Letter to the Corinthians / 1 Clement, 59)
Well, I hate to say it, but hey, I just showed several things — didn’t I? — that Ken conveniently omitted in order to put forth his Protestant case . . .
He is a former Protestant, a Southern Baptist, and evangelical, and by leaving out certain parts of Irenaeus and Clement, at the exact places that balance these men and their writings a little more toward Protestantism, his purpose seems clear.
I’ll deal with those as ken proceeds. But again, I guarantee that Ken will do exactly that which he condemns. I will demonstrate it, as sure as the sun will come up tomorrow.
Now, there is nothing wrong with being selective, and no one can include everything in his or her research,
Of course one can’t do everything. But it is dishonest to omit crucial evidence that can be brought to bear, when discussing a Church father. Protestants habitually do this, in direct proportion to how anti-Catholic and agenda-driven or polemically motivated they are. In doing so, they are not presenting the “whole truth” (as they say in court cases in the swearing in). A half-truth is as good as a lie. This will be (as I’ll prove) Ken’s downfall as he tries to make his case.
And certainly, I realize that I would be accused of the same thing, if I wrote an apologetic for Protestantism and the early church and I leave out some parts of Irenaeus and Tertullian that seem to teach Mary as the New Eve (that, according to R. Catholic claims, provide seeds of the later ideas of the intercession of Mary, prayers to Mary, that she is an advocate for us, a co-mediatrix ideas of Mary); or if I leave out other passages of other early church fathers/writers that seem to teach some kind of baptismal regeneration or apostolic succession.
Yes he would!
Some ancient passages are anachronistically interpreted to be something about the Roman Catholic church, the Pope, etc.; but they do not really teach that at the time of the early church, in the Roman Catholic Papal sense that took centuries to develop.
Likewise, the Protestant polemicist of a certain sort (ahem, Ken‘s sort) will often project or “superimpose” back onto the early Church later Protestant doctrines that would have been completely foreign and utterly unknown to the minds of that period (being inventions of the 16th century).
. . . someone else also the right to come along and show how certain things have been left out, and at just the precise place, so as to seemingly, although innocently, skew the evidence.
Yes! That’s what I’ll be doing here; already have done so. It’s always droningly the same in these discussions of the fathers with anti-Catholic Protestants.
Clement of Rome
In his section on Clement, on page 87, Rod Bennett stops the quote short of confirming that episcopais (overseer or bishop) and presbuteras (elder) are used interchangeabl[y] and teach that they are the same office in the local church. (see I Clement 43:6 – 44:1-4) In 44:3-6, if the quote is allowed to continue, shows that the earliest churches, closest to the written Scriptures, still held to the teaching that elders and overseers were one and the same office in the church, charged with the responsibility of teaching, pastoring, and guarding the flock from false teaching. (Acts 20:17-30, Titus 1:5-7, I Timothy 3, I Peter 5:1-5) All of these passages show that elders and bishops are the same, and that their job is to pastor/ feed/ shepherd the flock, and do the work of “overseeing” (leading).
I’ve already granted that this is sometimes, even often the case, in the New Testament and in the earliest fathers, but I deny that it is always the case, as already shown from both. A very clear case of “super bishops” occurs in the council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-29), comprised of “apostles” and “elders” (15:2, 4, 6, 22-23). Now, when this council finished its business and made its decrees, we see St. Paul and St. Timothy proclaiming it as binding. In order for this to be the case, there had to be an authority overarching the local churches. Thus, the Bible states:
Acts 16:4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem.
That isn’t just ordinary elders. It’s elders who clearly have authority over elders in many other regions. And that is Catholic ecclesiology, not Protestant. The decisions were not optionally received. They were delivered in no uncertain terms “for observance.” If someone tries to argue, “well those were apostles, so it was a special case,” there are two responses:
1) why would God provide an example of a council in Church governance in Scripture, only to be ignored altogether later, as if it has no modeling significance?
2) It is said of Judas that “His office [episkopos] let another take” (Acts 1:20). That was passed on to Matthias. Thus, an apostle was called a bishop and succeeded by another man, which is apostolic succession: another very Catholic (and alas, biblical) doctrine.
Paul himself has authority over many churches. The counter-argument would be, again, that he was an apostle, so that it is a special, temporary case. Yet, even being an apostle, he is subject to the authority of Peter when he went to visit him early in his ministry, and also the the Jerusalem council, that confirmed or ratified Paul’s practice of not circumcising Gentile converts to Christianity and then sent him out to proclaim what the council had decreed. Therefore, Paul was under authority, and we once again see multi-level hierarchy in the Church, right in the New Testament. I fail to see what could be clearer than that. Ken’s conclusions are incomplete, ignore large relevant portions of Scripture, and half-truths. I have presented the whole truth of the matter, granting some of what he claims, but introducing equally important themes that he ignored.
Clement agrees with this, with the Scriptures, that elders and bishops are the same,
No he doesn’t, because he himself commands elders in other regions and says that if they disobey it is a sin. In Scripture, Paul, Peter, and the Jerusalem council act similarly.
so this is hardly an early church document in which teaches a papacy or Roman Catholicism.
It’s precisely such (as is Peter’s predominance at the Jerusalem council and precedence in many ways: that I have documented).
Also, in the Irenaeus section, he cuts the quotes and re-arranges them out of order in such a way as to give a false impression.
This appears to be a charge of deliberate deception.
Irenaeus believed in the rule of faith, but how does Irenaeus define the rule of faith?
I’m delighted that Ken asked. Here is how St. Irenaeus defined the rule of faith, according to the prominent Protestant church historian Philip Schaff:
Ken goes on to argue:
On page 246, he leaves out part of the quote that shows that Irenaeus is using Scriptural proofs for his arguments against the Gnostics.
On page 247, Rod claims that the Gnostics always appealed to Scripture for their views:
“To what did they appeal when they offered their various insights? To Scripture always . . . though always to Scripture properly understood of course.”
Where is the proof of this? I have not found this anywhere in Irenaeus. Rod is making it seem like Protestantism is like Gnosticism. Actually, Irenaeus says just the opposite! He says that the Gnostics:
a. gather their knowledge from other sources other than the Scriptures. (Against Heresies, 1:8:1)
b. claim that the Jesus gave the apostles a secret, oral tradition. (3:2:1)
c. accuse the Scriptures of being unclear and ambiguous. (3:2:1)
Thus, according to Schaff, Ken has fundamentally distorted Irenaeus’ views. He tried to make out that Irenaeus was opposing any extrabiblical tradition, or oral tradition, and by extension, apostolic succession. In fact, according to Schaff’s reading, Irenaeus opposed the Gnostics’ false heretical traditions not with Scripture only, but with true, apostolic, oral Catholic tradition, pointing to Rome as the orthodox center and guarantor of true Christian doctrine. It’s all (true) tradition and church authority.
Schaff even goes so far as to say (shockingly to Protestant ears!): “He might conceive of a Christianity without scripture, but he could not imagine a Christianity without living tradition”. That is hardly sola Scriptura, by any stretch of the wildest imagination. So how could Ken get it so wrong? Well, it’s that bias we’ve both been talking about. He saw what he wanted to see in Irenaeus and ignored the rest, and his it from his readers; whereas Schaff, as an honest (still thoroughly Protestant) historian, presents the whole picture and doesn’t try to hide things.
Ken pretends that Irenaeus would deny authoritative apostolic tradition (his take of Against Heresies, 1:8:1). This is a joke. And we can show that it is by looking at he next passage he trots out (3:2:1), which Ken tries to summarize as an “anti-tradition” sentiment. It clearly is not. In 3:2:1 Irenaeus refers to the Gnostics being “confuted from the Scriptures” but then in 3:2:2 he positively endorses Christian / Catholic tradition (my bolding and italics):
2. But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth. . . . It comes to this, therefore, that these men do now consent neither to Scripture nor to tradition.
Once again, then, we see that it is not a “Bible [Protestantism] vs. [evil Catholic] Tradition” scenario. It is, rather, a “bad, false tradition vs. true apostolic tradition scenario”: with the Bible (rightly interpreted in light of the passed-down tradition) being the trump card for the Catholic position. It turns out that Ken has engaged in thoroughly distorted interpretation of fundamental aspects of Irenaeus, making him out to be some sort of primitive or proto-Protestant, when he is not at all. His teaching bears little or no resemblance at all to the Protestant rule of faith, sola Scriptura. He’s not nearly as concerned with prooftexts from Scripture here as he is with apostolic succession and true tradition.
But these 3 things are what the Roman Catholic church actually does do.
Yes we do; so does (very clearly) Irenaeus.
They have other sources of authority that the Scriptures. Secret oral tradition, historical development of interpretation throughout history, the other councils after the first four ecumenical councils, creeds, and interpretations that grew centuries later, writings of the Popes, and the Apocrapha [sic] books, which are called “Deutero-canonicals”, meaning, “secondarily received into the canon as God-breathed.”
Yes we do. And the fathers and the Bible agree with us all down the line.
Jerome and Athanasius and Melito of Sardis have enough evidence to show the Apocrapha [sic] books were not inspired or part of the canon in the way that Roman Catholic apologists try to make them out to be.
Is that so? Ken misrepresents (we will assume out of ignorance) St. Athanasius, who accepts several deuterocanonical books as canonical. St. Athanasius is one of the favorites of Protestants (probably second to St. Augustine in that regard). It’s true that he did seem to lower the status of the deuterocanonical books somewhat, but not to a sub-biblical level, as noted by my good friend Gary Michuta, in his excellent book, Why Catholic Bibles are Bigger (Port Huron, Michigan: Grotto Press, 2007, 110-112; footnote numbering my own):
Athanasius quotes both Baruch and Susanna right along passages from Isaiah, Psalms, Romans, and Hebrews; he makes no distinction or qualification between them . Wisdom also is used as an authentic portion of sacred Scripture . . .:
But of these and such like inventions of idolatrous madness, Scripture taught us beforehand long ago, when it said, ‘The devising of idols, as the beginning of fornication, and the invention of them, the corruption of life . . .’ [Ws 14:12] 
And later in the same work:
For since they were endeavouring to invest with what Scripture calls the incommunicable name . . . 
This reference to the “incommunicable name” comes from Wisdom 14:21 . . .
Athanasius quotes another passage from Wisdom as constituting the teachings of Christ, the Word of God. He undoubtedly uses it to confirm doctrine.  In another argument against Arians, he calls both the Protocanonical Proverbs and the Deuterocanonical Wisdom “holy Scripture” . . .  . . .
Athanasius also quotes the book of Sirach without distinction or qualification, in the midst of several other scriptural quotations.  . . . Athanasius calls the Book of Judith Scripture.  Tobit is cited right along with several Protocanonical quotations  , and even introduced with the solemn formula “it is written.” 
 Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 1.12.
 Against the Heathen, 11.1. Emphasis added.
 Against the Heathen, 1, 17.3.
 On the Incarnate Word, 4.6; 5.2.
 Defense Against Arius, 1, 3.
 Life of Anthony, 28 and Apology Against the Arians, 66.
 Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 2.35 . . .
 Defense of Constantius, 17. Tobit is cited after Matthew and Isaiah.
 Defense Against Arius, Part 1, 11.
The great Protestant Bible scholar F. F. Bruce confirms Michuta’s analysis (my bracketed comments):
As Athanasius includes Baruch and the ‘Letter of Jeremiah’ in one book with Jeremiah and Lamentations [in his list of the OT canon], so he probably includes the Greek additions to Daniel in the canonical book of that name, and the additions to Esther in the book of that name which he recommends for reading in church [but doesn’t list as a canonical book] . . .
In practice Athanasius appears to have paid little attention to the formal distinction between those books which he listed in the canon and those which were suitable for instruction of new Christians. He was familiar with the text of all, and quoted from them freely, often with the same introductory formula — ‘as it is written’, ‘as the scripture says’, etc.
(The Canon of Scripture, Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1988, 79-80; my bracketed comments, based on the larger context of Bruce’s analysis)
St. Jerome submitted to the Church with regard to the canon. That’s something a guy like, say, Luther, would never do. He would go his own way. But because St. Jerome believed in Church authority (not sola Scriptura), he submitted. Nor was St. Jerome consistent. His view (already isolated and against that of unbroken tradition) had several anomalies (or changes of mind or vacillations?), of such a nature that the would shock many a Protestant who rely on him as a “champion” in opposing the Deuterocanon. Gary Michuta enumerates several of these curious inconsistencies:
He . . . flatly denies that Tobit is part of the canon,  although elsewhere he cites it without qualification!  . . . Jerome adopts the popular convention in his Letter to Oceanus by quoting Baruch as a voice made by “the trumpets of the prophets.”  Sirach is both rejected and quoted as Scripture,  although it is formally quoted  and occasionally used without qualification.  Wisdom is also occasionally formally quoted.  Jerome even attributes the passages from Wisdom to the Holy Spirit.  Maccabees is used without distinction.  Jerome at times alludes to the Deuterocanonical sections of Daniel in his letters.  Deuterocanonical passages from Esther are likewise quoted.  . . . he lists Judith as one of the virtuous women of sacred Scripture . . . .
 Prologue to John.
 Commentary in Eccles. 8.
 Letter 77:4.
 Commentary on Isaiah, Book 2, 3:12; Letters 77:6: 108:22; 118:1; 148:2,16,18.
 Commentary on Jeremiah, Book 4, 21:14; Commentary on Ezekiel, Book 6, 18:6; and Letter 64:5.
 Commentary on Isaiah, Book 8, 24:4; Commentary on Ezekiel, Book 6, 18:6; Letter 57.1 To Pammachius; and Letter 125.19, To Rusticus.
 Commentary on Isaiah, Book 1, 1:24; Commentary on Zechariah, Book 3, 14:9; and Commentary on Malachi, 3:7 ff.
 Commentary on Galatians, Book 1, 3:2 . . . and Breviarium in Psalmos, Ps 9.
 Against Pelagians, Book 2:30; Letter 7, To Chromatius, Jovinus and Eusebius.
 Letter 3, 1 To Rufinus the Monk; Letter 22,9-10, To Eustochium; Letter 1, 9 to Innocent.
 Letter 48, To Pammachius, 14.
 Letter 65,1.
(Michuta, ibid., 149-150; again, my own footnote numbering)
Certainly these guys do not offer “slam dunk data” in favor of a “Protestant” interpretation. Ken brings up Melito of Sardis also. But his canon list omits Lamentations and Esther, and includes the book of Wisdom. There is a good reason that Ken doesn’t bring up someone like St. Augustine, in reference to the canon issue. He knows that that great father and dozens of others do not agree with him, so he trots out three, and even with those it is by no means all in the Protestant’s favor. Pick and choose, and selectively even with the ones chosen: conveniently omitting all anomalous facts.
Roman Catholics say the Scriptures are unclear, whereas Protestantism says that the Scriptures are clear to those who are born again by God’s Spirit and are willing to honestly look at them and do proper exegesis. (“My sheep hear My voice . . . ” John 10:27-30)
We don’t say that the Bible is unclear per se or as a general trait, but we say that it is complex, nuanced, and that one needs to study it carefully in order to understand, in conjunction with the tradition that was passed-down from the beginning. The heretic disregards that tradition (just as Ken did with the deuterocanon, citing three ambiguous “witnesses” for his side and ignoring all the others). The heretic, as a result, eisegetes and reads into Scripture what he wants to see and not what is really there.
There are plenty of biblical indications that Scripture is not crystal-clear at all times, provided one is open to it. In my 2012 book. 100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura (Catholic Answers), I had 14 distinct arguments from Scripture against perspicuity (clearness). Here is just one of the 14:
51. The Bible Asserts that Its Teachings Have to Be “Opened”In Luke 24:32, two disciples on the road to Emmaus marveled how Jesus “opened to us the scriptures.” The Greek word for “opened” is dianoigo (Strong’s word #1272). According to Joseph Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, it means “to open by dividing or drawing asunder, to open thoroughly (what had been closed).” This meaning can be seen in other passages where dianoigo appears (Mk 7:34-35, Lk 2:23, 24:31, 45, Acts 16:14, 17:3).Here then, Scripture itself appears to be informing us that some parts of it were “closed” and “not plain” until the infallible teaching authority and interpretation of our Lord Jesus opened it up and made it plain. This runs utterly contrary to the Protestant notion of perspicuity of Scripture and its more or less ubiquitous self-interpreting nature.
This is not to say that all things are equally clear; (granted some secondary and minor things are unclear), but only to say that the main things necessary for salvation are clear. This is called the Protestant doctrine of the “perspicuity of Scripture”, which the Roman Catholic denies.
Yes we do, because it is inherent. Baptism is very important in Christianity, and to salvation, according to the Bible. Yet Protestants cannot agree on it at all, and have five distinct major camps on this score. Ken himself, being a Baptist, would have been drowned (capital punishment) as an insufferably heretical seditionist by both Luther and Calvin, whereas I would have been allowed to practice my Catholicism (banished at worst). And that is his fellow Protestants. That happened because Protestants couldn’t (still can’t) figure out the truth of baptism by the supposedly always “clear” Scripture alone.
But with the help of history and tradition (that Luther himself followed and even appealed to), it’s quite clear: baptism regenerates, and is to be given to infants. Tradition provides the authoritative answer as to what Scripture teaches. Without it, we get five different views and Protestants drowning each other as rank heretics. Ken, in the early Protestant setting that he so champions and loves, would have been drowned, ending up as food for the fish in Lake Geneva or the Elbe River, as a result of this Protestant chaos and inability to arrive at unified doctrinal truth.
Knowledgeable Evangelical Protestants do not hate the word, “tradition”, nor “Eucharist”, nor “catholic”. Properly understood, there is no problem with these words as originally meant. When reading the early church fathers, those words come up a lot; but that does not mean that the early church was Roman Catholic.
Naw; it just so happens that we are finding at every turn, with every example, that it indeed was quite strikingly Catholic. After seeing dozens, scores of such examples, it is difficult to resist the obvious conclusion, and many Protestants, such as Rod and myself, must conclude that they had been given a bill of goods, and that Catholicism really was there from the beginning (with development of doctrine); hence, is worthy of any Christian’s allegiance today, as the fullness of apostolic Christianity.
The tradition that Irenaeus is talking about, is the right Biblical tradition, he defines it, in context (belief in One God, who created all things, Jesus as Son of God, the same God in OT as NT, against Gnosticism, etc.) (See, Against Heresies, 1:10:1 and 1:10:2; 3:4:2)
Okay, if Ken insists, we’ll play this game some more with him. It won’t end up as a net gain for his side, as in all the other examples above. One has to virtually enter the theater of the absurd (as with St. Augustine) to even have to deal seriously with a claim that Irenaeus held to sola Scriptura. Many dozens of passages can easily be found countering such a claim. Here are some of the clearest and most indisputable:
It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about. (Against Heresies, 3, 3, 1; ANF, Vol. I)Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre- eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere. (Against Heresies, 3, 3, 2; ANF, Vol. I)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. (Against Heresies, 3, 3, 3; ANF, Vol. I)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 are we bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the thing 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 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? (Against Heresies, 3, 4, 1; ANF, Vol. I). . . carefully preserving the ancient tradition . . . by means of that ancient tradition of the apostles, they do not suffer their mind to conceive anything of the [doctrines suggested by the] portentous language of these teachers, among whom neither Church nor doctrine has ever been established. (Against Heresies, 3, 4, 2; ANF, Vol. I)[W]e refute them out of these Scriptures, and shut them up to a belief in the advent of the Son of God. But our faith is stedfast, unfeigned, and the only true one, having clear proof from these Scriptures, which were interpreted in the way I have related; and the preaching of the Church is without interpolation. For the apostles, since they are of more ancient date than all these [heretics], agree with this aforesaid translation; and the translation harmonizes with the tradition of the apostles. (Against Heresies, 3, 21, 3; ANF, Vol. I)For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is truth. (Against Heresies, 3, 24, 1; ANF, Vol. I)
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; . . . (Against Heresies, 4, 33, 8; ANF, Vol. I.)
On page 250, leaves out a key part of Irenaeus that defines what the “faith”, the preaching, the tradition is. He quotes 1:10:2 and makes it seem like what Irenaeus is saying is that tradition that the church protects is some thing different from the basic doctrines of the apostles creed, and the Nicean Creed.
Basically, Irenaeus is presenting an Apostles’ Creed-sort of basic outline of tradition (since he is pretty early in Church history), but he does allude to very unProtestant things in his writing like the Real Bodily Presence in the Eucharist, Mary as the Second Eve and indirect participant in human redemption, and the elements of tradition and the rule of faith that we have already seen; also strong suggestions of the papacy and primacy of Rome. And of course, he believed in baptismal regeneration, as all the fathers did.
The way he treated Cyprian (bishop of Carthage, lived around 200-258 AD) was very problematic (pages 272-273, as part of Irenaeus), leaving out key aspects and historical information. While Cyprian operated on the mono-espiscopate principle, which started with Ignatius; he did not agree with any kind of “universal bishop over all other bishops”, that Rod skews it toward. The chair of Peter, the faith of Peter, only meant the doctrinal content of Matthew 16, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. It did not mean any kind of “ex cathedra Papal sense” of the 1870 dogma. Cyprian, Firmillian and 85 other bishops from all over the Christian empire in the 7th Council of Carthage wrote; “no one has the right to claim he is bishop over all the other bishops” – the claim that Stephen, bishop of Rome, made. This was an arrogant claim, and those 86 bishops rightly rebuked Stephen. There is no such office as “Pope” in the early centuries of Christianity. Even Gregory, bishop of Rome in 601 AD argued against the concept in his disagreement with John of Constantinople.
I agree that St. Cyprian had some “anti-papal” elements in his thinking (as do many fathers in the east). I strongly disagree that there was no pope at all in the earliest centuries of Christianity. Thats a much more ambitious (and absurd) claim and is a gigantic discussion in itself. Fortunately, I have a paper that has a huge section on the papacy as taught in the fathers and in the early Church (final section). Nor does Pope St. Gregory the Great disagree with the papacy, as Ken ridiculously claims, as I have documented. Pope St. Leo the Great also very strongly asserted papal supremacy 150 years earlier. Many more historical evidences can be found in various paper on my Papacy website.
In summary, it remains the case that Ken cannot show us even one Church father who would qualify as a teacher in his own Baptist congregation. They would all fail the “admission / qualifications” test. They would flunk the courses in a Baptist seminary. He can’t find a single straight up “evangelical Protestant” in the whole lot — who “gets” what he thinks is so utterly obvious in theology and in the Bible — , none who don’t present any “embarrassing” or “Catholic-sounding” passages in their works. Surely this is most telling against his position.
Anti-Catholic polemicists like Ken always point to “evangelical-sounding” passages in what were in reality thoroughgoing Catholic writers and thinkers, but when push comes to shove they cannot produce one completely “sound” teacher (according to their Protestant perspective) in the whole bunch of Church fathers. They desperately search the brilliant writings of these men (or, more often, utilize the same old passages that they inherit from polemical works of the past) in order to find something — anything — that appears on the surface to sound “Protestant” and can be used as a prooftext in the usual half-truth, hyper-selective manner that has become the anti-Catholic polemicist’s stock-in-trade.