Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Reply to Jason Engwer's "Catholic But Not Roman Catholic" Series on the Church Fathers: Sola Scriptura

An In-Depth Analysis of Ten Church Fathers' Views Pertaining to the Rule of Faith

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Part One
Go to Part Two

Table of Contents

I. Jason's Definition of Sola Scriptura and My Methodology
II. Dionysius of Alexandria (d. c. 264)
III. Theodoret (c. 393 - c. 466)
IV. John Chrysostom (c. 347 - 407)
V. Hippolytus (c. 170 - c. 236)
VI. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 315 - 386)
VII. St. Augustine (354 - 430)
VIII. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 - c. 215)
IX. Justin Martyr (c. 100 - c. 165)
X. Irenaeus (c. 130 - c. 200)
XI. Basil the Great (c. 330 - 379)

Jason's words and the patristic citations he offers will be in blue. See the introductory page for this series.

I. Jason's Definition of Sola Scriptura and My Methodology

On his index for all these citations, anti-Catholic Protestant apologist Jason Engwer describes the views expressed by each Father below as "sola Scriptura" (with the exception of St. John Chrysostom, whose statement below he categorizes as "interpretation of Scripture." St. Basil the Great is listed in the index under "tradition," but Jason attributes sola Scriptura to him). Thus, it is proper and sensible for us to determine the definition of sola Scriptura that Jason is using, and then proceed to determine whether these Fathers held to this notion as he conceptualizes it, or if he is making a false claim and conclusion. This is a simple-enough task. We need merely go to Jason Engwer's website and find out how he defines the term.

In his paper, "Are popes and councils as authoritative as Scripture?", Jason cites Luther and then re-states the classic Protestant formulation of Scripture Alone:

"Since your Majesty and your Lordships ask for a plain answer, I will give you one without either horns or teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture or by right reason (for I trust neither in popes nor in councils, since they have often erred and contradicted themselves) - unless I am thus convinced, I am bound by the texts of the Bible, my conscience is captive to the Word of God" - Martin Luther (cited in R.C. Sproul, Faith Alone [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1995], pp. 54-55)

Advocates of Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and other religions often cite Popes and councils as though they're just as authoritative as scripture. But Popes and councils, even ecumenical councils, have often erred and contradicted one another, . . . Not only is there such evidence that Popes and councils are fallible, but, unlike scripture, there's no reason to believe in the infallibility of Popes and councils to begin with. Scripture can be traced back to Jesus and the apostles, and is supported by prophecy and other evidence. There is no such evidence supporting the Divine authority of Popes and councils.

In his piece, "Why We Should Look to the Bible Rather than the Early Church Fathers," he gives a more precise definition, that we can easily work with (emphasis added):
So how do we today remember what the apostles taught? Do we turn to a group of men in Rome? To an apparent consensus among modern church leaders? To thousands of pages of church father writings, church council declarations, and proclamations from church leaders of the last two thousand years? No, we turn to the teachings of the apostles themselves, the New Testament. Scripture is the Christian's only infallible rule of faith (sola scriptura), to which all other authorities (government, parents, tradition, etc.) are subordinate.
He continues, in the same paper:
The scriptures are sufficient for leading us to salvation, making us adequate, and equipping us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:15-17). The reason why some religions want to go beyond the scriptures is because they can't find support for their false doctrines in the only material we have today that can actually be traced back to the apostles (the New Testament). They let the traditions of the church fathers, the particular church fathers and particular traditions they approve of, determine how they interpret the scriptures and which portions of the scriptures they'll actually obey. What Jesus said of the Pharisees is true of these religions today:

"Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.' Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men . ...You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition....thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down" - Mark 7:6-9, 13

Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and other groups often suggest that following the scriptures alone as a rule of faith - sola scriptura - is a creation of the Protestant reformers, and wasn't taught by many people, if anybody, before the Reformation. Actually, many of the church fathers taught sola scriptura, although some contradicted themselves on the issue, and some were more consistent than others. It's undeniable, though, that the church fathers were familiar with the concept of sola scriptura and sometimes advocated it . . .

Opponents of sola scriptura often respond to such quotes by citing the church fathers referring to tradition. The issue, however, isn't whether they believed in tradition. The issue is what their rule of faith was. Believing in tradition as an authority subordinate to scripture, much as government and parents are authorities subordinate to the authority of God, is not a contradiction of sola scriptura. When the church fathers make comments such as the ones quoted above - and many more could be cited - it's untenable to argue that the church fathers were unfamiliar with sola scriptura, and that they never advocated it.

Even if nobody had advocated sola scriptura before the Reformation, the truth would remain the truth. The scriptures are the only apostolic material we have today. As such, they're the voice of the apostles, and they speak louder than all other traditions.

Likewise, in his paper, "A Historical Examination of Catholicism," he writes:
According to the Catholic Church, not all authoritative teachings of the apostles were recorded in the Bible. Therefore, those traditions not recorded in the Bible were handed down by other means, exclusively through the Roman Catholic Church. Evangelicals, however, maintain that the New Testament represents the only material that can conclusively be traced back to the apostles, thus making scripture the Christian rule of faith. This concept of scripture being the ultimate standard is known as "sola scriptura" . . .

. . . While many church fathers did refer to tradition as authoritative, they generally were not referring to doctrines not found in the Bible, but rather were referring to what the apostles taught as a whole as the tradition of the apostles. With that sort of tradition evangelicals have no problem. The question is always whether any given tradition can actually be traced back to the apostles. Since the New Testament represents the only material that can conclusively be traced back to the apostles, evangelicals adhere to sola scriptura. And when disputes arose in the early church, the church fathers often argued for sola scriptura as well. Some of them were more consistent than others in adhering to sola scriptura, but the concept was known and advocated long before the Reformation, regardless of how consistently.

. . . Even if nobody had advocated sola scriptura during the earliest centuries of Christianity, the fact would remain that nobody advocated the Roman Catholic rule of faith either. Some of the church fathers referred to "tradition", but they defined that "tradition" differently than the Catholic Church defines the term. In the early centuries, there was no one rule of faith that everybody followed. Sometimes sola scriptura was advocated, and sometimes a combination between scripture and something else was advocated. Nobody, however, adhered to the Roman Catholic rule of faith, with a Pope and a Roman Catholic magisterium that interprets scripture for everybody and tells them which non-scriptural traditions to believe in.

This definition is very standard, and understood by Catholic and Protestant apologists, theologians, and other scholars alike, so we need not belabor the point. We accept this definition as an accurate portrayal of the Protestant conception of the Rule of Faith, or "principle of authority" and will therefore utilize it.

In a related paper ("The Sufficiency of Scripture and the Church Fathers - Particularly, St. Athanasius and the Trinity"), I made the following comment:

Entire books are written about the Fathers' supposed belief in sola Scriptura, when in fact they are merely expressing their belief in material sufficiency of Scripture, and its inspiration and sufficiency to refute heretics and false doctrine generally. It is easy to misleadingly present them as sola Scripturists if their statements elsewhere about apostolic Tradition or succession and the binding authority of the Church (especially in council) are ignored. But a half-truth is almost as bad as an untruth (arguably worse, because in most instances the one committing it should know better).
St. Vincent of Lerins, a Father from the 5th century, sums up the patristic understanding in a classic passage:
. . . someone one perhaps will ask, "Since the canon of Scripture is complete,
and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what
need is there to join with it the authority of the Church’s
interpretation?" For this reason, - because, owing to the depth of
Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but
one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that
it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are
interpreters. For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another,
Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another,
Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius,
Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very
necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error,
that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and
apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of
Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.

(Commonitory 2:5).

This will be my methodology below. Contexts of statements will be examined whenever possible and we'll look to see if the person thinks Scripture is formally sufficient for authority without the necessary aid of Tradition and the Church, or if he does not, as indicated in other statements. A thinker's statements must be evaluated in context of all of his thought, rather than having pieces taken out and then claiming that they "prove" something that they do not, in fact, prove at all.

II. Dionysius of Alexandria (d. c. 264)


"Nor did we evade objections, but we endeavored as far as possible to hold to and confirm the things which lay before us, and if the reason given satisfied us, we were not ashamed to change our opinions and agree with others; but on the contrary, conscientiously and sincerely, and with hearts laid open before God, we accepted whatever was established by the proofs and teachings of the Holy Scriptures." - Dionysius of Alexandria (cited in the church history of Eusebius, 7:24)
This is not proof that Dionysius held to sola Scriptura, in and of itself. Catholics, too, accept "whatever was established by the proofs and teachings of the Holy Scriptures." That doesn't mean that Scripture is isolated by itself or self-interpreting, nor that Dionysius neglected the authority of the Church and Tradition. We must look elsewhere to find his opinions on those so that we can determine if he truly accepted sola Scriptura or not. Catholic apologist and patristics expert Joe Gallegos wrote, in responding to anti-Catholic apologist William Webster:
Mr. Webster in an essay titled "Sola Scriptura and the Early Church" has attempted to transform the early Church Fathers into proponents of sola Scriptura. In my contribution in "Not by Scripture Alone" (Santa Barbara:Queenship,1997) chapter 8 and appendix I delineate three approaches used by Protestant apologists in defending sola Scriptura in patristic thought. William Webster has chosen the third approach; equating sola Scriptura with the material sufficiency of Scripture. Mr. Webster writes:
The Reformation was responsible for restoring to the Church the principle of sola Scriptura, a principle which had been operative within the Church from the very beginning of the post apostolic age. Initially the apostles taught orally but with the close of the apostolic age all special revelation that God wanted preserved for man was codified in the written Scriptures. Sola Scriptura is the teaching and belief that there is only one special revelation from God that man possesses today, the written Scriptures or the Bible, and that consequently the Scriptures are materially sufficient and are by their very nature as being inspired by God the ultimate authority for the Church.
Two points are to be noted here. First, Mr. Webster equates sola Scriptura with the material sufficiency of Scripture. Second, according to Mr. Webster, the Reformers were responsible for restoring this narrow understanding of sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura consists of a material and a formal element. First, sola Scriptura affirms that all doctrines of the Christian faith are contained within the corpus of the Old and New Testaments. Hence, Scripture is materially sufficient. Secondly, Scripture requires no other coordinate authority such as a teaching Church or Tradition in order to determine its meaning. Sola Scriptura affirms the formal sufficiency of Scripture. Catholics are allowed to affirm Scripture's material sufficiency, therefore Mr. Webster's case directed at proving the Fathers belief in Scripture's material sufficiency is completely off target. In order for Mr. Webster to make his case for sola Scriptura he must prove that the Fathers affirmed the formal sufficiency of Scripture. The Fathers affirmed both the material sufficiency and formal insufficiency of Scripture.

A bit more surprising is that Mr. Webster has us believe that the Reformers equated sola Scriptura with material sufficiency. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Calvin writes:

But a more pernicious error widely prevails that Scripture has only so much weight as is conceded to it by the consent of the church. As if the eternal and inviolable truth of God depended upon the decision of men! For they mock the Holy Spirit when they ask: Who can convince us that these writings came from God? Who can assure us that the Scripture has come down whole and intact even to our day?...Thus, the highest proof of Scripture derives in general form from the fact that God in person speaks in it...Let this point therefore stand: that those whom the Holy Spirit has inwardly taught truly rest upon Scripture, and that Scripture indeed is self-authenticated; hence, it is not right to subject it to proof and reasoning. And the certainty it deserves with us, it attains by the testimony of the Spirit.

(Institutes of the Christian Religion, I:7:1,4,5)

Similarly Luther writes:
[T]he truth is that nobody who has not the Spirit of God sees a jot of what is in the Scriptures...[N]othing whatsoever is left obscure or ambiguous, but that all that is in the Scripture is through the Word brought forth in the clearest light and proclaimed to the whole world.

(Bondage of the Will, 175)

. . . The Reformers' position affirmed both the formal and material sufficiency of Scripture. Mr. Webster has misrepresented the faith of the Reformers by having us believe that they affirmed his narrow definition of sola Scriptura. The doctrine of sola Scriptura requires no other coordinate authority such as Tradition or a teaching Church in order to interpret all of its doctrines in an orthodox manner. In contrast, Mr. Webster narrows the definition of sola Scriptura to only mean material sufficiency. However, this caricature of sola Scriptura is innocuous since Catholics can affirm the material sufficiency of Scripture. Likewise, Mr. Webster's use of the Fathers in support of material sufficiency is off target. Catholics agree that the Fathers affirmed the material sufficiency of Scripture. However, in the same breath, these very same Fathers affirmed the formal insufficiency of Scripture. I will provide passages from the very same Fathers that are cited by Mr. Webster that affirm the formal insufficiency of Scripture.

("The Fathers know best Not Mr. Webster!")

We don't have much writing from Dionysius of Alexandria. But we do have his opinion on the book of Revelation. Note Calvin's opinion above: "Scripture indeed is self-authenticated; hence, it is not right to subject it to proof and reasoning." And Luther's: "in the Scriptures...nothing whatsoever is left obscure or ambiguous . . . " Jason writes in a section in his same work, on St. John Chrysostom: "John Chrysostom said that each individual should read scripture and interpret it for himself," and contrasted this with the Catholic position. If these notions are part and parcel of sola Scriptura, Dionysius does not agree with them, for in the same excerpt and source that Jason cites above, he gives his opinion on the book of Revelation:
Some of our predecessors rejected the book . . . But I myself would never dare to reject the book, of which many good Christians have a very high opinion, but realizing that my mental powers are inadequate to judge it properly, I take the view that the interpretation of the various sections is largely a mystery, something too wonderful for our comprehension. I do not understand it, but I suspect that some deeper meaning is concealed in the words; I do not measure and judge these things by my own reason, but put more reliance on faith, and so I have concluded that they are too high to be grasped by me.

(cited in Eusebius, The History of the Church, 7:25, p. 309 in 1965 Penguin Books edition; translated by G.A. Williamson)

Dionysius calls the author or Revelation a "prophet" and "a holy and inspired writer" (ibid., 310). But the obscurity of interpretation of Revelation appears to be the reason why Martin Luther rejected its apostolicity, along with that of Hebrews, James, and Jude, although he does say they are "fine" books. In his Preface to Revelation, from 1522 - from the time period in which he was translating the Bible), Luther pontificates:
I miss more than one thing in this book, and this makes me hold it to be neither apostolic nor prophetic. . . . I think of it almost as I do of the Fourth Book of Esdras, and can nohow detect that the Holy Spirit produced it . . .

It is just the same as if we had it not, and there are many far better books for us to keep.

. . . Finally, let everyone think of it as his own spirit gives him to think. My spirit cannot fit itself into this book. There is one sufficient reason for me not to think highly of it, - Christ is not taught or known in it; but to teach Christ is the thing which an apostle is bound, above all else, to do, as He says in Acts 1, 'Ye shall be my witnesses.' Therefore I stick to the books which give me Christ, clearly and purely.

(Works of Martin Luther, Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1932, copyrighted by the United Lutheran Church in America, vol. 6. 488-489, translated by C.M. Jacobs)

It is clear what is going on in Luther's mind, I think. He presupposes that all of Scripture is perspicuous and self-interpreting. He then looks at Revelation and does not see this. Therefore, he concludes - based on his axiomatic, unproven presuppositions -, that the book is not apostolic, because he himself cannot figure it out and thus he has "sufficient reason" to question and reject it, based on his own purely subjective "spirit." His argument starts with an unprovable axiom and ends in radical circularity and subjectivism. If Dionysius had had Luther's mindset, he would have drawn the same conclusion about Revelation. But he did not. He accepted the book, precisely because he was relying not on sola Scriptura and its aspect of perspicuity, but on Church Tradition.

III. Theodoret (c. 393 - c. 466)


"I shall yield to scripture alone." - Theodoret (Dialogues, 1)

Theodoret shows that he accepts the authority of Tradition and apostolic succession in many places in the same work. He does not believe in sola Scriptura:. One might falsely assume that he does, if they have only the six words above to go by, but this is the whole point: unless one considers what he also wrote about Tradition and the Church and apostolic succession, one cannot "prove" that he held to sola Scriptura as Protestants conceptualize it. For he also writes:

I ask you in the next place not to suffer the investigation of the truth to depend on the reasonings of men, but to track the footprints of the apostles and prophets, and saints who followed them.

. . . following the definitions of the Holy Fathers, we say that hypostasis and individuality mean the same thing.

. . . do we acknowledge one substance of God, alike of Father and of the only begotten Son and of the Holy Ghost, as we have been taught by Holy Scripture, both Old and New, and by the Fathers in Council in Nicaea, or do we follow the blasphemy of Arius?

Theodoret (represented by Orthodoxos) dialogues with the heretic Eranistes:
Orth.-Better were it for us to agree and abide by the apostolic doctrine in its parity. But since, I know not how, you have broken the harmony, and are now offering us new doctrines, let us, if you please, with no kind of quarrel, investigate the truth.

Eran.-We need no investigation, for we exactly hold the truth.

Orth.-This is what every heretic supposes. Aye, even Jews and Pagans reckon that they are defending the doctrines of the truth; and so also do not only the followers of Plato and Pythagoras, but Epicureans too, and they that are wholly without God or belief. It becomes us, however, not to be the slaves of a priori assumption, but to search for the knowledge of the truth.

Eran.-I admit the force of what you say and am ready to act on your suggestion.

Orth.-Since then you have made no difficulty in yielding to this my preliminary exhortation, I ask you in the next place not to suffer the investigation of the truth to depend on the reasonings of men, but to track the footprints of the apostles and prophets, and saints who followed them . . .

(all the above excerpts from: Dialogue I.-The Immutable)
In other writings, he makes his position all the more clear:
[B]ut up to now I have ever kept the faith of the apostles undefiled . . . So have I learnt not only from the apostles and prophets but also from the interpreters of their writings, Ignatius, Eustathius, Athanasius, Basil, Gregory, John, and the rest of the lights of the world; and before these from the holy Fathers in council at Nicaea, whose confession of the faith I preserve in its integrity, like an ancestral inheritance, styling corrupt and enemies of the truth all who dare to transgress its decrees. I invoke your greatness, now that you have heard from me in these terms, to shut the mouths of my calumniators.

(To Florentius, Epistle 89 [ante A.D. 466], NPNF 2, III: 283)

This is the confession of the faith of the Church; this is the doctrine taught by evangelists and apostles. For this faith, by God's grace I will not refuse to undergo many deaths. This faith we have striven to convey to them that now err and stray, again and again challenging them to discussion, and eager to show them the truth, but without success.

The slander of the libellers that represent me as worshipping two sons is refuted by the plain facts of the case. I teach all persons who come to holy Baptism the faith put forth at Nicaea . . .

This is the doctrine delivered to us by the divine prophets; this is the doctrine of the company of the holy apostles; this is the doctrine of the great saints of the East and of the West . . .

In a word I assert that I follow the divine oracles and at the same time all these saints. By the grace of the spirit they dived into the depths of God-inspired scripture and both themselves perceived its mind, and made it plain to all that are willing to learn. Difference in tongue has wrought no difference in doctrine, for they were channels of the grace of the divine spirit, using the stream from one and the same fount.

(To the Monks of the Euphratensian, the Osrhoene, Syria, Phoenicia, and Cilicia; Epistle 151 [A.D. 431] NPNF 2, III: 332)

"Therefore, brethren, standfast, and hold the traditions which you have learned, &c." (2 Thess 2:15). Have as a rule of doctrine the words which we have delivered unto you, which both when present we have preached, and when absent we have written to you.

(Interpretation of the 14 Epistles of Paul, On 2 Thessalonians [ante 466] )
(From: Joseph Berington and John Kirk, The Faith of Catholics, three volumes, London: Dolman, 1846; from Vol. I: 448)

But the colophon of our union is our harmony in faith; our refusal to accept any spurious doctrines; our preservation of the ancient and apostolic teaching . . .

(To the Clergy of Beroea, Epistle 75 NPNF 2, III: 272)

. . . apostolic doctrines . . . follow the footsteps of the holy Fathers and preserve undefiled the faith laid down at Nicaea in Bithynia by the holy and blessed Fathers, as summing up the teaching of Evangelists and Apostles.

(To the Bishops of Cilicia, Epistle 84 NPNF 2, III: 280-281)

I follow the laws and rules of the apostles. I test my teaching by applying to it, like a rule and a measure, the faith laid down by the holy and blessed Fathers at Nicaea.

(To Lupicinus, Epistle 90 NPNF 2, III: 283)

[NPNF = A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 28 volumes in two series. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, editors; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1952-1956 - available online, as indicated]

IV. John Chrysostom (c. 347 - 407)


[pertaining to the "interpretation of Scripture" rather than sola Scriptura, according to Jason]

Roman Catholics tell us to look to the hierarchy of their denomination to interpret scripture for us.

The proper sense in which the Church does this must be understood (and more often than not, this is not the case). See my paper: The Freedom of the Catholic Biblical Exegete.

But John Chrysostom said that each individual should read scripture and interpret it for himself:

"Let us not therefore carry about the notions of the many, but examine into the facts. For how is it not absurd that in respect to money, indeed, we do not trust to others, but refer this to figures and calculation; but in calculating upon facts we are lightly drawn aside by the notions of others; and that too, though we possess an exact balance, and square and rules for all things, the declaration of the divine laws? Wherefore I exhort and entreat you all, disregard what this man and that man thinks about these things, and inquire from the Scriptures all these things" (Homilies on Second Corinthians, 13, c. 7, v. 1)

Let's assume with Jason, for the sake of argument, that this indicates his belief in a key plank of sola Scriptura: the ability of the individual to interpret for himself without necessary aid from some semblance of binding corporate Christian authority. Now, assuming that, how does a person holding to his alleged beliefs on the subject explain the following "counter-evidence"?:

"That ye remember me in all things, and hold fast the traditions, even as I delivered them to you." It appears then that he used at that time to deliver many things also not in writing, which he shows too in many other places. But at that time he only delivered them, whereas now he adds an explanation of their reason: thus both rendering the one sort, the obedient, more steadfast, and pulling down the others' pride, who oppose themselves.

(Homily XXVI on 1 Corinthians; commenting on 1 Cor 11:2)

Thus, St. John Chrysostom is stating that some of these "traditions" St. Paul refers to were "not in writing." And the Bible says we are to "hold fast" to them. This is impossible in a sola Scriptura view because it would be considered "unbiblical" by definition and therefore not binding; therefore one could not "hold it fast." Conclusion: he cannot possibly believe in sola Scriptura if this is his opinion. He comments in similar fashion on the related verse, 2 Thessalonians 2:15:
"So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye were taught, whether by word, or by Epistle of ours."

Hence it is manifest, that they did not deliver all things by Epistle, but many things also unwritten, and in like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let us think the tradition of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition, seek no farther. Here he shows that there were many who were shaken.

(On Second Thessalonians, Homily IV)

Not by letters alone did Paul instruct his disciple in his duty, but before by words also which he shows, both in many other passages, as where he says, “whether by word or our Epistle” (2 Thess. ii. 15.), and especially here. Let us not therefore suppose that anything relating to doctrine was spoken imperfectly. For many things he delivered to him without writing. Of these therefore he reminds him, when he says, “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me.”

(Homily III on 2 Timothy - on 2 Tim 1:13-18)

He even appeals to an apostolic unwritten tradition of intercessory prayers for the dead:
Not in vain did the Apostles order that remembrance should be made of the dead in the dreadful Mysteries. They know that great gain resulteth to them, great benefit; for when the whole people stands with uplifted hands, a priestly assembly, and that awful Sacrifice lies displayed, how shall we not prevail with God by our entreaties for them? And this we do for those who have departed in faith, . . .

[NPNF Editor's note: "The reference doubtless is to the so-called 'Apostolical Constitutions,' which direct the observance of the Eucharist in commemoration of the departed"]

(On Philippians, Homily 3)
Concerning the "sacred writers," St. John Chrysostom commented:
. . . it was no object with them to be writers of books: in fact, there are many things which they have delivered by unwritten tradition.

(On Acts of the Apostles, Homily 1)

V. Hippolytus (c. 170 - c. 236)


Roman Catholics tell us that scripture is insufficient,

Only formally insufficient, as a rule of faith over against (and unbiblically pitted against) Church and Tradition, not materially insufficient for the ascertaining of theological and spiritual truth . . . . .

and they often refer to scripture being unclear.

If it is so clear in all respects, then one would expect Protestants to resolve their multitude of differences (at least some of them, anyway). But this is another involved discussion. See my papers:

  • The Perspicuity (Clearness) of Scripture

  • "Me, My Bible, and the Holy Spirit" (The Relationship of the Church to the Judgment of Individuals in the Matter of Authoritative Biblical Interpretation. Does the Church Require a Particular Meaning for Each Passage?)
  • We're often told that Trinitarian doctrine, for example, either is unbiblical or is unclear in scripture. But Hippolytus, a church father of the second and third centuries, who lived in Rome, disagreed. In the process of refuting anti-Trinitarian heresies, he advocated sola scriptura and explained that scripture itself (not scripture and an infallible interpreter) is sufficient to refute these heresies:

    I dealt with this exact question in the course of one of my discussions with several Protestants:
    "The Sufficiency of Scripture and the Church Fathers (Particularly, St. Athanasius and the Trinity)."

    "Some others are secretly introducing another doctrine, who have become disciples of one Noetus, who was a native of Smyrna, and lived not very long ago. This person was greatly puffed up and inflated with pride, being inspired by the conceit of a strange spirit. He alleged that Christ was the Father Himself, and that the Father Himself was born, and suffered, and died....But the case stands not thus; for the Scriptures do not set forth the matter in this manner....the Scriptures themselves confute their senselessness, and attest the truth...The Scriptures speak what is right; but Noetus is of a different mind from them. Yet, though Noetus does not understand the truth, the Scriptures are not at once to be repudiated....The proper way, therefore, to deal with the question is first of all to refute the interpretation put upon these passages [of scripture] by these men, and then to explain their real meaning....For whenever they wish to attempt anything underhand, they mutilate the Scriptures. But let him quote the passage as a whole, and he will discover the reason kept in view in writing it....if they choose to maintain that their dogma is ratified by this passage [of scripture], as if He owned Himself to be the Father, let them know that it is decidedly against them, and that they are confuted by this very word....Many other passages [of scripture], or rather all of them, attest the truth. A man, therefore, even though he will it not, is compelled to acknowledge God the Father Almighty, and Christ Jesus the Son of God, who, being God, became man, to whom also the Father made all things subject, Himself excepted, and the Holy Spirit; and that these, therefore, are three. But if he desires to learn how it is shown still that there is one God, let him know that His power is one....What, then, will this Noetus, who knows nothing of the truth, dare to say to these things? And now, as Noetus has been confuted, let us turn to the exhibition of the truth itself, that we may establish the truth, against which all these mighty heresies have arisen without being able to state anything to the purpose. There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source. For just as a man, if he wishes to be skilled in the wisdom of this world, will find himself unable to get at it in any other way than by mastering the dogmas of philosophers, so all of us who wish to practise piety will be unable to learn its practice from any other quarter than the oracles of God. Whatever things, then, the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us took; and whatsoever things they teach, these let us learn; and as the Father wills our belief to be, let us believe; and as He wills the Son to be glorified, let us glorify Him; and as He wills the Holy Spirit to be bestowed, let us receive Him. Not according to our own will, nor according to our own mind, nor yet as using violently those things which are given by God, but even as He has chosen to teach them by the Holy Scriptures, so let us discern them." (Against the Heresy of One Noetus, 1-4, 7-9)

    Here Hippolytus is asserting the material sufficiency of the Scriptures, with which Catholics wholeheartedly agree. I utilize this method myself in almost all of my exegetical discussions with Protestants, and in papers such as my lengthy treatments of the Trinity and the Deity of Jesus. I argue that issues can be resolved by recourse to Scripture Alone (material sufficiency), while at the same time I deny that Scripture Alone is sufficient for maintaining Christian truth and unity in its fullness (the denial of formal sufficiency). When I refute heresies such as Mormonism or the Jehovah's Witnesses, I argue from Scripture. I don't cite Catholic magisterial sources, as those would be meaningless to them.

    Jason is here assuming that an assertion of the material sufficiency of Scripture implies an espousal of the formal system of sola Scriptura. This does not follow logically, and it doesn't occur historically, with regard to the Fathers. With Hippolytus, as with any of the Fathers, it is easy to find proofs that (far from accepting it) , he rejected the Protestant novel innovation of sola Scriptura. He refers to an authoritative, binding apostolic Tradition:

    We have set forth as was necessary that part of the discourse which relates to the
    spiritual gifts, all that God, right from the beginning, granted to people according to his will, bringing back to himself this image which had gone astray. Now, driven by love towards all the saints, we have arrived at the essence of the tradition which is proper for the Churches. This is so that those who are well informed may keep the
    tradition which has lasted until now, according to the explanation we give of it, and so that others by taking note of it may be strengthened (against the fall or error which has recently occurred because of ignorance and ignorant people), with the Holy Spirit conferring perfect grace on those who have a correct faith, and so that they will know that those who are at the head of the Church must teach and guard all these things.

    (The Apostolic Tradition, 1, - c. 215 - translation of Kevin P. Edgecomb, based on the work of Bernard Botte and Gregory Dix)

    In the same work, he expressly accepts the notion of apostolic succession, which runs counter to sola Scriptura:
    Thus, if these things are heard with grace and correct faith, they bestow edification on the Church and eternal life on the believers. I counsel that these things be observed by all with good understanding. For if all who hear the apostolic tradition follow and keep it, no heretic will be able to introduce error, nor will any other person at all. It is in this manner that the many heresies have grown, for those who were leaders did not wish to inform themselves of the opinion of the apostles, but did what they wanted according to their own pleasure, and not what was appropriate. If we have omitted anything, beloved ones, God will reveal it to those who are worthy, steering Holy Church to her mooring in the quiet haven.

    (Ibid., 43)

    Elsewhere, he chides the heretics for being insufficiently Scriptural (as all the Fathers did, and as Catholics do), and also for ignoring apostolic succession:
    Since, however, reason compels us to plunge into the very depth of narrative, we conceive we should not be silent, but, expounding the tenets of the several schools with minuteness, we shall evince reserve in nothing. Now it seems expedient, even at the expense of a more protracted investigation, not to shrink from labour; for we shall leave behind us no trifling auxiliary to human life against the recurrence of error, when all are made to behold, in an obvious light, the clandestine rites of these men, and the secret orgies which, retaining under their management, they deliver to the initiated only. But none will refute these, save the Holy Spirit bequeathed unto the Church, which the Apostles, having in the first instance received, have transmitted to those who have rightly believed. But we, as being their successors, and as participators in this grace, high-priesthood, and office of teaching, as well as being reputed guardians of the Church, must not be found deficient in vigilance, or disposed to suppress correct doctrine . . .

    In order, then, as we have already stated, that we may prove them atheists, both in opinion and their mode (of treating a question) and in fact, and (in order to show) whence it is that their attempted theories have accrued unto them, and that they have endeavoured to establish their tenets, taking nothing from the holy Scriptures-nor is it from preserving the succession of any saint that they have hurried headlong into these opinions;-but that their doctrines have derived their origin from the wisdom of the Greeks, from the conclusions of those who have formed systems of philosophy, and from would-be mysteries, and the vagaries of astrologers,-it seems, then, advisable, in the first instance, by explaining the opinions advanced by the philosophers of the Greeks, to satisfy our readers that such are of greater antiquity than these (heresies), and more deserving of reverence in reference to their views respecting the divinity; in the next place, to compare each heresy with the system of each speculator, so as to show that the earliest champion of the heresy availing himself of these attempted theories, has turned them to advantage by appropriating their principles, and, impelled from these into worse, has constructed his own doctrine.

    (Refutation of All Heresies, Book I, Preface)

    In his Book V of the same work, Hippolytus severely criticizes heretics for not appealing to the Scriptures. This is what all Christians do. The Fathers do it, Catholics do it (it is the overwhelming emphasis of my own apologetics and evangelistic apostolate), Protestants and Orthodox do. What else would we expect? So, for example, he writes:
    And what are the tenets of the Peratae, and that their system is not framed by them out of the holy Scriptures, but from astrological art.

    What are the tenets of Justinus, and that his system is framed by him, not out of the holy Scriptures, but from the detail of marvels furnished by Herodotus the historian.

    They do not, however, (on this point) institute an inquiry from the Scriptures, but ask this (question) also from the mystic (rites).

    Adopting these and such like (opinions), these most marvellous Gnostics, inventors of a novel grammatical art, magnify Homer as their prophet-as one, (according to them,) who, after the mode adopted in the mysteries, announces these truths; and they mock those who are not indoctrinated into the holy Scriptures, by betraying them into such notions.

    Note, however, that Hippolytus then adds a very interesting twist in his next mention of Holy Scripture in this work:
    Justinus was entirely opposed to the teaching of the holy Scriptures, and moreover to the written or oral teaching of the blessed evangelists, according as the Logos was accustomed to instruct His disciples, saying, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles; " and this signifies that they should not attend to the futile doctrine of the Gentiles. This (heretic) endeavours to lead on his hearers into an acknowledgment of prodigies detailed by the Gentiles, and of doctrines inculcated by them. And he narrates, word for word, legendary accounts prevalent among the Greeks, and does not previously teach or deliver his perfect mystery, unless he has bound his dupe by an oath. Then he brings forward (these) fables for the purpose of persuasion, in order that they who are conversant with the incalculable trifling of these books may have some consolation in the details of these legends.

    (Refutation of All Heresies, Book V)

    Hippolytus (like St. Paul and other apostles and biblical writers) casually assumes that the oral teaching of the apostles was as binding and authoritative as the written teaching (cf. Mk 6:34, Jn 20:30, 21:25, Acts 1:2-3, 1 Cor 11:2, 2 Thess 2:15, 3:6, 2 Tim 1:13-14, 2:2). It is true that he cites a teaching which was recorded in the Bible (Matthew 10:5), but it was originally delivered orally by Jesus and recorded in writing.

    What Hippolytus does not conclude, however (and which Protestants do falsely conclude), is that an apostolic teaching is less authoritative simply because it was not written down or because it didn't make it into the Bible. Also, there is no indication that he considered such oral apostolic teaching as "legendary" (as many Protestants do) - while at the same time he decries the "fables" and "legends" of the pagan Greeks. If he had believed in this distinction between oral and written teaching, this was the place where he could have easily pointed it out. But he did not. And that is very telling indeed.

    Jason Engwer contends that Hippolytus, in his noble battles againt anti-trinitarians, "advocated sola scriptura and explained that scripture itself (not scripture and an infallible interpreter) is sufficient to refute these heresies." The above excerpts prove this to be untrue. He appealed also to authoritative apostolic tradition; even oral tradition, and apostolic succession. Patristics scholar Johannes Quasten concurs with this judgment:

    Throughout his refutation of heresy, he purposes to prove the Church the bearer of truth and the apostolic succession of the bishops the guarantee of her teaching.

    (Patrology, four volumes, Vol. II: The Ante-Nicene Literature after Irenaeus, Allen, Texas: Christian Classics; division of Thomas More Publishing, no date, p. 202)

    That is not sola Scriptura, but it is entirely consistent with Catholicism as traditionally and presently-understood, or one could argue that it is also consistent with traditional Anglicanism and Orthodoxy. But it is not consistent with the anti-Catholic Reformed or otherwise evangelical viewpoint on these matters. So Jason's assertion about Hippolytus vis-a-vis his supposed espousal of sola Scriptura utterly collapses.

    VI. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 315 - 386)


    "For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell thee these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures." - Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures, 4:17)

    This is again a statement of material sufficiency and does not prove that Cyril held to sola Scriptura. Theoretically, he might hold to it and write like this (which is why Jason cites him, in vain hopes that he can be drafted as an ally to the Cause), but - as always - consideration of his other statements on the general issue of authority will disabuse any fair-minded inquirer of the opinion that he did so in fact. Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid comments on this passage:

    Sometimes Protestant apologists try to bolster their case for
    sola scriptura by using highly selective quotes from Church
    Fathers such as Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Jerusalem,
    Augustine, and Basil of Caesarea. These quotes, isolated from the
    rest of what the Father in question wrote about church authority,
    Tradition and Scripture, can give the appearance that these
    Fathers were hard-core Evangelicals who promoted an unvarnished
    sola scriptura principle that would have done John Calvin proud.
    But this is merely a chimera. In order for the selective "pro-
    sola scriptura" quotes from the Fathers to be of value to a
    Protestant apologist, his audience must have little or no
    firsthand knowledge of what these Fathers wrote. By considering
    the patristic evidence on the subject of scriptural authority in
    context, a very different picture emerges . . .

    And consider this quote from Cyril of Jerusalem's Catechetical
    Lectures, a favorite of the nouveau Protestant apologists [he then cites the passage] . . . How should we understand this? Catholic patristic scholars would
    point out that such language as Cyril uses here is consistent with
    his and the other Fathers' high view of Scripture's authority and
    with what is sometimes called its material sufficiency (more on
    that shortly). This language, while perhaps more rigorously
    biblical than some modern Catholics are used to, nonetheless
    conveys an accurate sense of Catholic teaching on the importance
    of Scripture. Even taken at face value, Cyril's admonition poses
    no problem for the Catholic. But it does, ironically, for the

    The proponent of sola scriptura is faced with a dilemma when he
    attempts to use Cyril's quote. Option One: If Cyril was in fact
    teaching sola scriptura, Protestants have a big problem. Cyril's
    Catechetical Lectures are filled with his forceful teachings on
    the infallible teaching office of the Catholic Church (18:23), the
    Mass as a sacrifice (23:6-8), the concept of purgatory and the
    efficacy of expiatory prayers for the dead (23:10), the Real
    Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (19:7; 21:3; 22:1-9), the
    theology of sacraments (1:3), the intercession of the saints
    (23:9), holy orders (23:2), the importance of frequent Communion
    (23:23), baptismal regeneration (1:1-3; 3:10-12; 21:3-4), indeed a
    staggering array of specifically "Catholic" doctrines.

    These are the same Catholic doctrines that Protestants claim are
    not found in Scripture. So, if Cyril really held to the notion of
    sola scriptura, he certainly believed he had found those
    Catholic doctrines in Scripture. One would then have to posit that
    Cyril was badly mistaken in his exegesis of Scripture, but this
    tack, of course, leads nowhere for Protestants, for it would of
    necessity impugn Cyril's exegetical credibility as well as his
    claim to find sola scriptura in Scripture.

    Option Two: Cyril did not teach sola scriptura; the Protestant
    understanding of this passage is incorrect. That means an attempt
    to hijack this quote to support sola scriptura is futile (if not
    dishonest), since it would require a hopelessly incorrect
    understanding of Cyril's method of systematic theology, the
    doctrinal schema he sets forth in Catechetical Lectures, and his
    view of the authority of Scripture. Obviously, neither of these
    options is palatable to the Protestant apologist.

    Were there time and space to cycle through each of the patristic
    quotes proffered by Protestants arguing for sola scriptura, we
    could demonstrate in each case that the Fathers are being quoted
    out of context and without regard to the rest of their statements
    on the authority of Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium. It
    will suffice for now, though, to remind Catholics that the Fathers
    did not teach sola scriptura, and no amount of clever "cut-and-
    paste" work by defenders of sola scriptura can demonstrate

    (online article, Sola scriptura: A Blueprint for Anarchy)

    Protestant anti-Catholic apologist James White utilizes the same passage for the same purpose in his chapter in the book, Sola Scriptura! The Protestant Position on the Bible (edited by Don Kistler, Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1995, p. 27). In the same work and same lecture, Cyril also states:
    Of these read the two and twenty books, but have nothing to do with the apocryphal writings. Study earnestly these only which we read openly in the Church. Far wiser and more pious than thyself were the Apostles, and the bishops of old time, the presidents of the Church who handed down these books. Being therefore a child of the Church, trench thou not upon its statutes.

    (Catechetical Lectures, IV, 35)

    Two sections earlier, he had written: "Learn also diligently, and from the Church, what are the books of the Old Testament, and what those of the New." But Cyril, who died in 386 (only eleven years before the canon was finalized by the Church), did not believe that Revelation was part of the New Testament, as noted Protestant scholar F.F. Bruce notes in his book, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988, 213). Thus, there is all the more reason to believe that the Church was necessary to determine the canon of Scripture, as Cyril himself notes. Even he couldn't know exactly what books were Scripture without the Church.

    Protestants, with the benefit of hindsight, may think it is quite easy to know what books are biblical, inspired books, and which are not, but the actual history of the development of the canon suggests otherwise (to put it very mildly). It's difficult to follow a principle of Scripture Alone when one can't even be sure what Scripture is. It is what it is, apart from proclamation (and Catholics fully agree with that, as stated in Vatican I and elsewhere), yet the Church had to pronounce authoritatively the parameters of the canon, because men could not totally agree, and that necessity is part and parcel of the Catholic rejection of the formally sufficiency of the Bible as a rule of faith. The Church is necessary in this fashion and in others (such as in matters of biblical interpretation and determination of orthodoxy, creeds, etc.)

    In his Catechetical Lecture V, "On Faith," Cyril shows that he fully accepts the Catholic understanding of authority; the three-legged stool of Bible, Church, and Tradition, and apostolic succession, which is a different conception from sola Scriptura:

    But in learning the Faith and in professing it, acquire and keep that only, which is now delivered to thee by the Church, and which has been built up strongly out of all the Scriptures. For since all cannot read the Scriptures, some being hindered as to the knowledge of them by want of learning, and others by a want of leisure, in order that the soul may not perish from ignorance, we comprise the whole doctrine of the Faith in a few lines. This summary I wish you both to commit to memory when I recite it , and to rehearse it with all diligence among yourselves, not writing it out on paper , but engraving it by the memory upon your heart , taking care while you rehearse it that no Catechumen chance to overhear the things which have been delivered to you. I wish you also to keep this as a provision through the whole course of your life, and beside this to receive no other, neither if we ourselves should change and contradict our present teaching, nor if an adverse angel, transformed into an angel of light should wish to lead you astray. For though we or an angel from heaven preach to you any other gospel than that ye have received, let him be to you anathema. So for the present listen while I simply say the Creed , and commit it to memory; but at the proper season expect the confirmation out of Holy Scripture of each part of the contents. For the articles of the Faith were not composed as seemed good to men; but the most important points collected out of all the Scripture make up one complete teaching of the Faith. And just as the mustard seed in one small grain contains many branches, so also this Faith has embraced in few words all the knowledge of godliness in the Old and New Testaments. Take heed then, brethren, and hold fast the traditions which ye now receive, and write them on the table of your heart.

    Guard them with reverence, lest per chance the enemy despoil any who have grown slack; or lest some heretic pervert any of the truths delivered to you. For faith is like putting money into the bank, even as we have now done; but from you God requires the accounts of the deposit. I charge you, as the Apostle saith, before God, who quickeneth all things, and Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession, that ye keep this faith which is committed to you, without spot, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. A treasure of life has now been committed to thee, . . .

    (sections 12-13)

    As Patrick Madrid mentions, he also upholds the infallibility of the Catholic Church:
    It is called Catholic then because it extends over all the world, from one end of the earth to the other; and because it teaches universally and completely one and all the doctrines which ought to come to men's knowledge, concerning things both visible and invisible, heavenly and earthly ; and because it brings into subjection to godliness the whole race of mankind, governors and governed, learned and unlearned; and because it universally treats and heals the whole class of sins, which are committed by soul or body, and possesses in itself every form of virtue which is named, both in deeds and words, and in every kind of spiritual gifts.

    . . . Concerning this Holy Catholic Church Paul writes to Timothy, That thou mayest know haw thou oughtest to behave thyself in the House of God, which is the Church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

    . . . And while the kings of particular nations have bounds set to their authority, the Holy Church Catholic alone extends her power without limit over the whole world . . .

    . . . In this Holy Catholic Church receiving instruction and behaving ourselves virtuously, we shall attain the kingdom of heaven, and inherit Eternal Life; . . .

    (Catechetical Lecture XVIII, sections 23, 25, 27, 28)

    Cyril explicitly teaches apostolic succession, referring to:
    . . . that apostolic and evangelic faith, which our fathers ever preserved and handed down to us as a pearl of great price.

    (To Celestine, Epistle 9; from Joseph Berington and John Kirk, The Faith of Catholics, three volumes, London: Dolman, 1846; Vol. I: 446)

    The Church plays a role in authoritative interpretation:
    Now these things we teach, not of our own invention, but having learned them out of the divine Scriptures used in the Church, and chiefly from the prophecy of Daniel just now read; as Gabriel also the Archangel interpreted it, speaking thus: The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall surpass all kingdoms. And that this kingdom is that of the Romans, has been the tradition of the Church’s interpreters.

    (Catechetical Lecture 15, section 13)

    I think we can safely conclude that Jason is guilty of selective presentation and fallacious reasoning once again, in the case of St. Cyril of Jerusalem. What Jehovah's Witnesses do with the Scriptures, he does with the Church Fathers: he selects isolated passages which appear, prima facie, to fit into his preconceived Protestant notions of sola Scriptura, (whereas their thing is Arianism), but examination of further related passages proves otherwise and makes the claim untenable and utterly implausible.

    VII. St. Augustine (354 - 430)

    8/6/02 [Augustine]

    "In order to leave room for such profitable discussions of difficult questions, there is a distinct boundary line separating all productions subsequent to apostolic times from the authoritative canonical books of the Old and New Testaments. The authority of these books has come down to us from the apostles through the successions of bishops and the extension of the Church, and, from a position of lofty supremacy, claims the submission of every faithful and pious mind....In the innumerable books that have been written latterly we may sometimes find the same truth as in Scripture, but there is not the same authority. Scripture has a sacredness peculiar to itself." - Augustine (Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, 11:5)

    This is self-evident: Scripture is inspired; other writings are not. Jason overlooks St. Augustine's espousal of apostolic succession and the authority of the Church, which suggest that the great Father's view is exactly as the Catholic Church's view always has been. So the refutation to the argument is right within the "argument" itself. And elsewhere in the same work we find more of the same:

    . . . if you acknowledge the supreme authority of Scripture, you should recognise that authority which from the time of Christ Himself, through the ministry of His apostles, and through a regular succession of bishops in the seats of the apostles, has been preserved to our own day throughout the whole world, with a reputation known to all.

    (Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, 33:9, NPNF I, IV:345)

    The Lord, indeed, had told His disciples to carry a sword; but He did not tell them to use it. But that after this sin Peter should become a pastor of the Church was no more improper than that Moses, after smiting the Egyptian, should become the leader of the congregation."

    (Reply to Faustus the Manichean, 22:70; in NPNF I, IV:299)

    The authority of our books [Scriptures], which is confirmed by agreement of so many nations, supported by a succession of apostles, bishops, and councils, is against you.

    (Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, 13:5, NPNF I, IV:201)

    8/23/02 [Augustine]

    "Every sickness of the soul hath in Scripture its proper remedy." - Augustine (Expositions on the Psalms, 37:2)

    Of course. We would fully expect this, but it proves nothing one way or the other, with regard to our present dispute. It is merely a statement of the material sufficiency of Scripture, in matters of spirituality and the soul.

    Where does one begin with St. Augustine, concerning his high regard for Tradition, Scripture, and Church (it's like trying to count the number of grains of salt in a full saltshaker)? I shall now compile several of his more noteworthy and irrefutable statements (categorized by general subject), and also note the opinions of scholars:

    As to those other things which we hold on the authority, not of Scripture, but of tradition, and which are observed throughout the whole world, it may be understood that they are held as approved and instituted either by the apostles themselves, or by plenary Councils, whose authority in the Church is most useful, . . .

    For often have I perceived, with extreme sorrow, many disquietudes caused to weak brethren by the contentious pertinacity or superstitious vacillation of some who, in matters of this kind, which do not admit of final decision by the authority of Holy Scripture, or by the tradition of the universal Church

    (Letter to Januarius, 54, 1, 1; 54, 2, 3; cf. NPNF I, I:301)

    I believe that this practice [of not rebaptizing heretics and schismatics] comes from apostolic tradition, just as so many other practices not found in their writings nor in the councils of their successors, but which, because they are kept by the whole Church everywhere, are believed to have been commanded and handed down by the Apostles themselves.

    (On Baptism, 2, 7, 12; from William A. Jurgens, editor and translator, The Faith of the Early Fathers, 3 volumes, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1970, vol. 3: 66; cf. NPNF I, IV:430)

    . . . the custom, which is opposed to Cyprian, may be supposed to have had its origin in apostolic tradition, just as there are many things which are observed by the whole Church, and therefore are fairly held to have been enjoined by the apostles, which yet are not mentioned in their writings.

    (On Baptism, 5,23:31, in NPNF I, IV:475)

    The Christians of Carthage have an excellent name for the sacraments, when they say that baptism is nothing else than "salvation" and the sacrament of the body of Christ nothing else than "life." Whence, however, was this derived, but from that primitive, as I suppose, and apostolic tradition, by which the Churches of Christ maintain it to be an inherent principle, that without baptism and partaking of the supper of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and everlasting life?

    (On Forgiveness of Sins and Baptism, 1:34, in NPNF I, V:28)

    [F]rom whatever source it was handed down to the Church - although the authority of the canonical Scriptures cannot be brought forward as speaking expressly in its support.

    (Letter to Evodius of Uzalis, Epistle 164:6, in NPNF I, I:516)

    The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants [is] certainly not to be scorned, nor is it to be regarded in any way as superfluous, nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except Apostolic.

    (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis, 10,23:39, in William A. Jurgens, editor and translator, The Faith of the Early Fathers, 3 volumes, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1970, vol. 3: 86)

    God has placed this authority first of all in his Church.

    (Explanations of the Psalms, Tract 103:8, PL 37:520-521, in Yves Congar, Tradition and Traditions: An Historical and Theological Essay, New York: Macmillan, 1967, 392)

    But those reasons which I have here given, I have either gathered from the authority of the church, according to the tradition of our forefathers, or from the testimony of the divine Scriptures, or from the nature itself of numbers, and of similitudes. No sober person will decide against reason, no Christian against the Scriptures, no peaceable person against the church.

    (On the Trinity, 4,6:10; NPNF I, III:75)

    It is obvious; the faith allows it; the Catholic Church approves; it is true.

    (Sermon 117, 6)

    Will you, then, so love your error, into which you have fallen through adolescent overconfidence and human weakness, that you will separate yourself from these leaders of Catholic unity and truth, from so many different parts of the world who are in agreement among themselves on so important a question, one in which the essence of the Christian religion involved . . . ?

    (Against Julian I:7,34; in Robert B. Eno, Teaching Authority in the Early Church, Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1984, 136)

    And thus a man who is resting upon faith, hope, and love, and who keeps a firm hold upon these, does not need the Scriptures except for the purpose of instructing others. Accordingly, many live without copies of the Scriptures, even in solitude, on the strength of these three graces.

    (On Christian Doctrine, I, 39:43, in NPNF I, II:534)

    And if any one seek for divine authority in this matter, though what is held by the whole Church, and that not as instituted by Councils, but as a matter of invariable custom, is rightly held to have been handed down by apostolical authority, still we can form a true conjecture of the value of the sacrament of baptism in the case of infants.

    (On Baptism, 4, 24, 31; NPNF I, IV:461)

    It is not to be doubted that the dead are aided by prayers of the holy church, and by the salutary sacrifice, and by the alms, which are offered for their spirits . . . For this, which has been handed down by the Fathers, the universal church observes.

    (Sermon 172, in Joseph Berington and John Kirk, The Faith of Catholics, three volumes, London: Dolman, 1846; I: 439)

    To be sure, although on this matter, we cannot quote a clear example taken from the canonical Scriptures, at any rate, on this question, we are following the true thought of Scriptures when we observe what has appeared good to the universal Church which the authority of these same Scriptures recommends to you; thus, since Holy Scripture cannot be mistaken, anyone fearing to be misled by the obscurity of this question has only to consult on this same subject this very Church which the Holy Scriptures point out without ambiguity.

    (Against Cresconius I:33; in Robert B. Eno, Teaching Authority in the Early Church, Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1984, 134)

    [L]et the reader consult the rule of faith which he has gathered from the plainer passages of Scripture, and from the authority of the Church . . .

    (On Christian Doctrine, 3,2:2, NPNF I, II:557)

    Let us not listen to those who deny that the Church of God is able to forgive all sins. They are wretched indeed, because they do not recognize in Peter the rock and they refuse to believe that the keys of heaven, lost from their own hands, have been given to the Church.

    (Christian Combat, 31:33; from William A. Jurgens, editor and translator, The Faith of the Early Fathers, 3 volumes, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1970, vol. 3: 51)

    For if the lineal succession of bishops is to be taken into account, with how much more certainty and benefit to the Church do we reckon back till we reach Peter himself, to whom, as bearing in a figure the whole Church, the Lord said: 'Upon this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it !' The successor of Peter was Linus, and his successors in unbroken continuity were these: - Clement, Anacletus, Evaristus, Alexander, Sixtus, Telesphorus, Iginus, Anicetus, Pius, Soter, Eleutherius, Victor, Zephirinus, Calixtus, Urbanus, Pontianus, Antherus, Fabianus, Cornelius, Lucius, Stephanus, Xystus, Dionysius, Felix, Eutychianus, Gaius, Marcellinus, Marcellus, Eusebius, Miltiades, Sylvester, Marcus, Julius, Liberius, Damasus, and Siricius, whose successor is the present Bishop Anastasius. In this order of succession no Donatist bishop is found.

    (Letter to Generosus, 53:2, in NPNF I, I:298)

    Among these [apostles] it was only Peter who almost everywhere was given privilege of representing the whole Church. It was in the person of the whole Church, which he alone represented, that he was privileged to hear, 'To you will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven' (Mt 16:19)... Quite rightly too did the Lord after his resurrection entrust his sheep to Peter to be fed. It's not, you see, that he alone among the disciples was fit to feed the Lord's sheep; but when Christ speaks to one man, unity is being commended to us. And he first speaks to Peter, because Peter is first among the apostles.

    (Sermon 295:2-4, in John Rotelle, editor, The Works of St. Augustine - Sermons, 11 volumes, Part 3, New Rochelle: New City Press, 1993, 197-199)

    Here is a passage in which Cyprian records what we also learn in holy Scripture, that the Apostle Peter, in whom the primacy of the apostles shines with such exceeding grace, was corrected by the later Apostle ... I suppose that there is no slight to Cyprian in comparing him with Peter in respect to his crown of martyrdom; rather I ought to be afraid lest I am showing disrespect towards Peter. For who can be ignorant that the primacy of his apostleship is to be preferred to any episcopate whatever?"

    (On Baptism 2:1,1, in NPNF I, IV:425-426)

    For in the Catholic Church, not to speak of the purest wisdom, to the knowledge of which a few spiritual men attain in this life, so as to know it, in the scantiest measure, deed, because they are but men, . . . - not to speak of this wisdom, which you do not believe to be in the Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep, down to the present episcopate. And so, lastly, does the name itself of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house. Such then in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian name which keep a believer in the Catholic Church, as it is right they should, though from the slowness of our understanding, or the small attainment of our life, the truth may not yet fully disclose itself. But with you, where there is none of these things to attract or keep me, the promise of truth is the only thing that comes into play. Now if the truth is so clearly proved as to leave no possibility of doubt, it must be set before all the things that keep me in the Catholic Church; but if there is only a promise without any fulfillment, no one shall move me from the faith which binds my mind with ties so many and so strong to the Christian religion.

    (Against the Epistle of Manichaeus 4:5, in NPNF I, IV:130)

    Perhaps you will read the gospel to me, and will attempt to find there a testimony to Manichaeus. But should you meet with a person not yet believing in the gospel, how would you reply to him were he to say, I do not believe? For my part, I should not believe the gospel except moved by the authority of the Catholic Church. So when those on whose authority I have consented to believe in the gospel tell me not to
    believe in Manicheus, how can I but consent?

    (Against the Epistle of Manichaeus 5,6; in NPNF, IV:131)

    My brothers and sisters, please share my anxiety and concern. Wherever you find such people, don't keep quiet about them, don't be perversely soft-hearted. No question about it, wherever you find such people, don't keep quiet about them. Argue with them when they speak against grace, and if they persist, bring them to us. You see, there have already been two councils about this matter, and their decisions sent to the Apostolic See; from there rescripts have been sent back here. The case is finished; if only the error were finished too, sometime! So, let us all warn them to take notice of this, teach them to learn the lesson of it, pray for them to change their ideas.

    (Sermon 131, 10, in John Rotelle, editor, The Works of St. Augustine - Sermons, 11 volumes, Part 3, New Rochelle: New City Press, 1993, Vol. 4:322; the saying, "Rome has spoken; the case is finished" is a paraphrase of part of this sermon)

    [H]e [Celestius] should yield his assent to the rescript of the Apostolic See which had been issued by his predecessor [Pope Innocent] of sacred memory. The accused man, however, refused to condemn the objections raised by the deacon, yet he did not dare to hold out against the letter of the blessed Pope Innocent.

    (On Original Sin, 7:8,in NPNF I, V:239)

    This was thought to have been the case in him when he replied that he consented to the letters of Pope Innocent of blessed memory, in which all doubt about this matter was removed . . .

    [T]he words of the venerable Bishop Innocent concerning this matter to the Carthaginian Council ... What could be more clear or more manifest than that judgment of the Apostolical See?

    (Against Two Letter of the Pelagians, 3:5, in NPNF I, V:393-394)

    [T]he Catholic Church, by the mercy of God, has repudiated the poison of the Pelagian heresy. There is an account of the provincial Council of Carthage, written to Pope Innocent, and one of the Council of Numidia; and another, somewhat more detailed, written by five bishops, as well as the answer he [Pope Innocent] wrote to these three; likewise, the report to Pope Zosimus of the Council of Africa, and his answer which was sent to all the bishops of the world.

    (Letter to Valentine, Epistle 215, in Ludwig Schopp and Roy J. Defarri, editors, The Fathers of the Church, Washington D.C.: CUAP: 1948 - , 32:63-64)

    . . . In these words of the Apostolic See the Catholic faith stands out as so ancient and so firmly established, so certain and so clear, that it would be wrong for a Christian to doubt it.

    (Letter to Optatus, Epistle 190, in Ludwig Schopp and Roy J. Defarri, editors, The Fathers of the Church, Washington D.C.: CUAP: 1948 - , 30:285-286)

    And because of this it is unlikely that this case can be closed here while ill feelings and unavoidable necessity require that it be concluded by the judgment of the apostolic see.

    (Letter to Alpyius, Epistle 22*:11, in Ludwig Schopp and Roy J. Defarri, editors, The Fathers of the Church, Washington D.C.: CUAP: 1948 - , 81:161)

    Protestant Church historian Heiko Oberman notes concerning St. Augustine:
    Augustine's legacy to the middle ages on the question of Scripture and Tradition is a two-fold one. In the first place, he reflects the early Church principle of the coinherence of Scripture and Tradition. While repeatedly asserting the ultimate authority of Scripture, Augustine does not oppose this at all to the authority of the Church Catholic . . . The Church has a practical priority: her authority as expressed in the direction-giving meaning of commovere is an instrumental authority, the door that leads to the fullness of the Word itself.

    But there is another aspect of Augustine's thought . . . we find mention of an authoritative extrascriptural oral tradition. While on the one hand the Church "moves" the faithful to discover the authority of Scripture, Scripture on the other hand refers the faithful back to the authority of the Church with regard to a series of issues with which the Apostles did not deal in writing. Augustine refers here to the baptism of heretics . . .

    (The Harvest of Medieval Theology, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, revised edition of 1967, 370-371)

    J.N.D. Kelly, the great Anglican patristic scholar, wrote:
    According to him [St. Augustine], the Church is the realm of Christ, His mystical body and His bride, the mother of Christians [Ep 34:3; Serm 22:9]. There is no salvation apart from it; schismatics can have the faith and sacraments . . . but cannot put them to a profitable use since the Holy Spirit is only bestowed in the Church [De bapt 4:24; 7:87; Serm ad Caes 6] . . .

    It goes without saying that Augustine identifies the Church with the universal Catholic Church of his day, with its hierarchy and sacraments, and with its centre at Rome . . .

    (Early Christian Doctrines, HarperSanFrancisco, revised 1978 edition, 412-413)

    The three letters [Epistles 175-177] relating to Pelagianism which the African church sent to innocent I in 416, and of which Augustine was the draughtsman, suggested that he attributed to the Pope a pastoral and teaching authority extending over the whole Church, and found a basis for it in Scripture.

    (Ibid., 419)

    According to Augustine [De doct. christ. 3,2], its [Scripture's] doubtful or ambiguous passages need to be cleared up by 'the rule of faith'; it was, moreover, the authority of the Church alone which in his eyes [ C. ep. Manich. 6: cf. de doct. christ. 2,12; c. Faust Manich, 22, 79] guaranteed its veracity.

    (Ibid., 47)

    For Augustine the authority of 'plenary councils' was 'most healthy', [Ep. 54, 1]

    (Ibid., 48)

    Protestant Church historian Philip Schaff comments on St. Augustine's views of Scripture and Tradition:
    Augustine, therefore, manifestly acknowledges a gradual advancement of the church doctrine, which reaches its corresponding expression from time to time through the general councils; but a progress within the truth, without positive error. for in a certain sense, as against heretics, he made the authority of Holy Scripture dependent on the authority of the catholic church, in his famous dictum against the Manichaean heretics: "I would not believe the gospel, did not the authority of the catholic church compel me." . . . The Protestant church makes the authority of the general councils, and of all ecclesiastical tradition, depend on the degree of its conformity to the Holy Scriptures; while the Greek and Roman churches make Scripture and tradition coordinate.

    (History of the Christian Church, Vol. III: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity: A.D. 311-600, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974; reproduction of 5th revised edition of 1910, Chapter V, section 66, "The Synodical System. The Ecumenical Councils," pp. 344-345)

    He adopted Cyprian's doctrine of the church, and completed it in the conflict with Donatism by transferring the predicates of unity, holiness, universality, exclusiveness and maternity, directly to the actual church of the time, which, with a firm episcopal organization, an unbroken succession, and the Apostles' Creed, triumphantly withstood the eighty or the hundred opposing sects in the heretical catalogue of the day, and had its visible centre in Rome.

    (Ibid., Chapter X, section 180, "The Influence of Augustine upon Posterity and his Relation to Catholicism and Protestantism," pp. 1019-1020)

    The renowned Lutheran Church historian Jaroslav Pelikan concurs with this general assessment of St. Augustine's views:
    This authority of orthodox catholic Christendom . . . was so powerful as even to validate the very authority of the Bible . . . But between the authority of the Bible and the authority of the catholic church (which was present within, but was more than, the authority of its several bishops past and present) there could not in a real sense be any contradiction. Here one could find repose in "the resting place of authority," [Bapt. 2.8.13] not in the unknown quantity of the company of the elect, but in the institution of salvation that could claim foundation by Christ and succession from the apostles.

    (The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine: Vol. 1 of 5: The
    Emergence of the Catholic Tradition: 100-600, Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1971, 303-304)

    Augustine, writing against the Donatists, had coined the formula, "the judgment of the whole world is reliable [securus judicat orbis terrarum]." [Parm. 3.4.24] Catholicity was a mark both of the true church and of the true doctrine, for these were inseparable.

    (Ibid., 334)

    Finally, Catholic patristics scholar Agostino Trape sums up Augustine's outlook on Scripture, Tradition, and Church:
    I. Theological method

    . . . 1. The first principle is the strict adherence to the authority of the faith which, one in its origins, the authority of Christ (C. acad. 3,20,43) is expressed in Scripture, in tradition and in the church . . .

    b) Augustine read the Scriptures in the church and according to tradition . . . he reminded the Donatists of the two qualities of Apostolic tradition: universality and antiquity (De bapt. 4,24,31). He replied to the Pelagians that it was necessary to hold as true that which tradition has passed on even if one does not succeed in explaining it (C. Iul. 6,5,11), because the Fathers "taught the church that which they learned in the church" (C. Iul. op. imp. 1, 117; cf. C. Iul. 2,10,34).

    c) It is in fact the church which determines the canon of Scripture (De doct. chr. 2,7,12), which transmits tradition and interprets both of the above (De. Gen. ad litt. op. imp. 1,1), which settles controversies (De bapt. 2,4,5) and prescribes the regula fidei (De doct. chr. 3,1,2). Therefore, "I will rest secure in the church," writes Augustine, "whatever difficulties arise" (De bapt. 3,2,2), because "God has established the doctrine of truth in the cathedra of unity" (Ep. 105,16)

    (in Johannes Quasten, Patrology, four volumes, Vol. IV: The Golden Age of Latin Patristic Literature From the Council of Nicea to the Council of Chalcedon, Allen, Texas: Christian Classics; division of Thomas More Publishing, no date, edited by Angelo di Berardino; translated by Placid Solari, 425-426)

    VIII. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 - c. 215)

    8/7/02 [Clement of Alexandria]

    "But those who are ready to toil in the most excellent pursuits, will not desist from the search after truth, till they get the demonstration from the Scriptures themselves." - Clement of Alexandria (The Stromata, 7:16)

    Just as with the other "proofs," this poses no problem for the Catholic outlook. Catholics, too, "demonstrate" things from the Scriptures. Jason ought to look over the Vatican II documents sometime, or any recent papal encyclical. Scripture is consulted at every turn. But does this mean that Clement adopted the sola Scriptura position, whereby Scripture is somehow pitted against the Church, tradition, and apostolic succession? No. When we examine his writings more closely, we find that he takes the same view as the other Fathers, and it is not sola Scriptura as the regula fidei, or Rule of Faith. Let's start with this same work, and take a look at the context of the above statement. Note especially how Clement explicitly asserts that Christian oral tradition is as authoritative as written tradition:

    "Thou, therefore, be strong," says Paul, "in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things which thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." And again: "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

    If, then, both proclaim the Word-the one by writing, the other by speech-are not both then to be approved, making, as they do, faith active by love? It is by one's own fault that he does not choose what is best; God is free of blame. As to the point in hand, it is the business of some to lay out the word at interest, and of others to test it, and either choose it or not. And the judgment is determined within themselves. But there is that species of knowledge which is characteristic of the herald, and that which is, as it were, characteristic of a messenger, and it is serviceable in whatever way it operates, both by the hand and tongue. "For he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well-doing." On him who by Divine Providence meets in with it, it confers the very highest advantages,-the beginning of faith, readiness for adopting a right mode of life, the impulse towards the truth, a movement of inquiry, a trace of knowledge; in a word, it gives the means of salvation.

    . . . But the husbandry is twofold,-the one unwritten, and the other written. And in whatever way the Lord's labourer sow the good wheat, and grow and reap the ears, he shall appear a truly divine husbandman.

    . . . they preserving the tradition of the blessed doctrine derived directly from the holy apostles, Peter, James, John, and Paul, the sons receiving it from the father (but few were like the fathers), came by God's will to us also to deposit those ancestral and apostolic seeds. And well I know that they will exult; I do not mean delighted with this tribute, but solely on account of the preservation of the truth, according as they delivered it. For such a sketch as this, will, I think, be agreeable to a soul desirous of preserving from escape the blessed tradition.

    . . . The dogmas taught by remarkable sects will be adduced; and to these will be opposed all that ought to be premised in accordance with the profoundest contemplation of the knowledge, which, as we proceed to the renowned and venerable canon of tradition, from the creation of the world, will advance to our view; setting before us what according to natural contemplation necessarily has to be treated of beforehand, and clearing off what stands in the way of this arrangement. So that we may have our ears ready for the reception of the tradition of true knowledge; the soil being previously cleared of the thorns and of every weed by the husbandman, in order to the planting of the vine.

    (The Stromata, Book I, Chapter I: "Preface-The Author's Object-The Utility of Written Compositions")

    For the whole Scripture is not in its meaning a single Myconos, as the proverbial expression has it; but those who hunt after the connection of the divine teaching, must approach it with the utmost perfection of the logical faculty.

    (The Stromata, Book I, Chapter XXVIII.-"The Fourfold Division of the Mosaic Law")

    The liars, then, in reality are not those who for the sake of the scheme of salvation conform, nor those who err in minute points, but those who are wrong in essentials, and reject the Lord and as far as in them lies deprive the Lord of the true teaching; who do not quote or deliver the Scriptures in a manner worthy of God and of the Lord; for the deposit rendered to God, according to the teaching of the Lord by His apostles, is the understanding and the practice of the godly tradition. "And what ye hear in the ear " - that is, in a hidden manner, and in a mystery (for such things are figuratively said to be spoken in the ear) - "proclaim," He says, "on the housetops," understanding them sublimely, and delivering them in a lofty strain, and according to the canon of the truth explaining the Scriptures; for neither prophecy nor the Saviour Himself announced the divine mysteries simply so as to be easily apprehended by all and sundry, but express them in parables. The apostles accordingly say of the Lord, that "He spake all things in parables, and without a parable spake He nothing unto them;" and if "all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made," consequently also prophecy and the law were by Him, and were spoken by Him in parables. "But all things are right," says the Scripture, "before those who understand," that is, those who receive and observe, according to the ecclesiastical rule, the exposition of the Scriptures explained by Him; and the ecclesiastical rule is the concord and harmony of the law and the prophets in the covenant delivered at the coming of the Lord.

    (The Stromata, Book VI, Chapter XV: "Different Degrees of Knowledge"; cf. ANF II:509)

    (Note: ANF = The Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325, edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, A. Cleveland Cox, and A. Menzies, 10 volumes, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1951-1956)

    In the same Book VII of the Stromata which Jason cites, in the chapter (XV) before his citation above, Clement writes:
    . . . so also are we bound in no way to transgress the canon of the Church. And especially do we keep our profession in the most important points, while they [the heretics] traverse it. Those, then, are to be believed, who hold firmly to the truth.

    . . . it is necessary to condescend to questions, and to ascertain by way of demonstration by the Scriptures themselves how the heresies failed, and how in the truth alone and in the ancient Church is both the exactest knowledge, and the truly best set of principles (airesis).

    He then begins the next chapter (just three paragraphs later) with the words Jason cites:
    But those who are ready to toil in the most excellent pursuits, will not desist from the search after truth, till they get the demonstration from the Scriptures themselves.
    But context, of course, shows conclusively that he is not conceiving Holy Scripture as a formally sufficient principle in and of itself, over against the Church and Tradition, since he also states - a mere three paragraphs previously - that "in the ancient Church is . . . the exactest knowledge." In other words, he writes and thinks precisely as Catholics and Orthodox do, not as Protestants, who would scarcely ever say that the ancient Church possessed "exactest knowledge," as it believed in a host of things which many or most Protestants reject (baptismal regeneration, infused justification, merit, the office of the priesthood, invocation and intercession of saints, prayers for the dead, penance, various tenets of Mariology, episcopacy, the Eucharistic sacrifice, the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, etc., etc.). One could not hope to find a clearer proof that Clement would reject sola Scriptura as Protestants conceive and apply it (as a Rule of Faith and formal principle), and in the immediate context of the alleged "prooftext," at that.

    Shortly afterwards (five paragraphs later), he writes about how the heretics pervert the true meaning of Scripture, which must be determined by the Church and Tradition. This is strictly contrary to sola Scriptura as Protestants understand it, and is exactly the way that Catholics then and now view such matters:

    Now all men, having the same judgment, some, following the Word speaking, frame for themselves proofs; while others, giving themselves up to pleasures, wrest Scripture, in accordance with their lusts. And the lover of truth, as I think, needs force of soul. For those who make the greatest attempts must fail in things of the highest importance; unless, receiving from the truth itself the rule of the truth, they cleave to the truth. But such people, in consequence of falling away from the right path, err in most individual points; as you might expect from not having the faculty for judging of what is true and false, strictly trained to select what is essential. For if they had, they would have obeyed the Scriptures.

    As, then, if a man should, similarly to those drugged by Circe, become a beast; so he, who has spurned the ecclesiastical tradition, and darted off to the opinions of heretical men, has ceased to be a man of God and to remain faithful to the Lord.

    He then follows up with a superb description of how the heretics (particularly the Gnostics) do not know how to interpret Holy Scripture properly. Catholics would not disagree with a single word of it. Note, however, how he freely incorporates in his discussion of solid hermeneutics, the standard and criterion of orthodoxy, the Church, and Sacred Tradition:
    Seeing, therefore, the danger that they are in (not in respect of one dogma, but in reference to the maintenance of the heresies) of not discovering the truth; for while reading the books we have ready at hand, they despise them as useless, but in their eagerness to surpass common faith, they have diverged from the truth. For, in consequence of not learning the mysteries of ecclesiastical knowledge, and not having capacity for the grandeur of the truth, too indolent to descend to the bottom of things, reading superficially, they have dismissed the Scriptures.
    . . . So, then, they are not pious, inasmuch as they are not pleased with the divine commands, that is, with the Holy Spirit. And as those almonds are called empty in which the contents are worthless, not those in which there is nothing; so also we call those heretics empty, who are destitute of the counsels of God and the traditions of Christ; bitter, in truth, like the wild almond, their dogmas originating with themselves, with the exception of such truths as they could not, by reason of their evidence, discard and conceal.
    Near the end of the chapter, he sums up the approach of the orthodox Christian, who:
    . . . having grown old in the Scriptures, and maintaining apostolic and ecclesiastic orthodoxy in doctrines, lives most correctly in accordance with the Gospel, and discovers the proofs, for which he may have made search (sent forth as he is by the Lord), from the law and the prophets . . . nothing but deeds and words corresponding to the tradition of the Lord.

    (The Stromata, Book VII, Chapter XVI: "Scripture the Criterion by Which Truth and Heresy are Distinguished"; cf. ANF II:550-554)

    The next chapter (XVII) is entitled, "The Tradition of the Church Prior to That of the Heresies." I shall cite almost all of it:
    Those, then, that adhere to impious words, and dictate them to others, inasmuch as they do not make a right but a perverse use of the divine words, neither themselves enter into the kingdom of heaven, nor permit those whom they have deluded to attain the truth. But not having the key of entrance, but a false (and as the common phrase expresses it), a counterfeit key (antikleis), by which they do not enter in as we enter in, through the tradition of the Lord, by drawing aside the curtain; but bursting through the side-door, and digging clandestinely through the wall of the Church, and stepping over the truth, they constitute themselves the Mystagogues of the soul of the impious.

    For that the human assemblies which they held were posterior to the Catholic Church requires not many words to show.

    . . . it is evident, from the high antiquity and perfect truth of the Church, that these later heresies, and those yet subsequent to them in time, were new inventions falsified [from the truth].

    From what has been said, then, it is my opinion that the true Church, that which is really ancient, is one, and that in it those who according to God's purpose are just, are enrolled. For from the very reason that God is one, and the Lord one, that which is in the highest degree honourable is lauded in consequence of its singleness, being an imitation of the one first principle. In the nature of the One, then, is associated in a joint heritage the one Church, which they strive to cut asunder into many sects.

    Therefore in substance and idea, in origin, in pre-eminence, we say that the ancient and Catholic Church is alone, collecting as it does into the unity of the one faith - which results from the peculiar Testaments, or rather the one Testament in different times by the will of the one God, through one Lord - those already ordained, whom God predestinated, knowing before the foundation of the world that they would be righteous.

    But the pre-eminence of the Church, as the principle of union, is, in its oneness, in this surpassing all things else, and having nothing like or equal to itself. But of this afterwards.

    Of the heresies, some receive their appellation from a [person's] name, as that which is called after Valentinus, and that after Marcion, and that after Basilides, although they boast of adducing the opinion of Matthew [without truth]; for as the teaching, so also the tradition of the apostles was one. Some take their designation from a place, as the Peratici; some from a nation, as the [heresy] of the Phrygians; some from an action, as that of the Encratites; and some from peculiar dogmas, as that of the Docetae, and that of the Harmatites; and some from suppositions, and from individuals they have honoured, as those called Cainists, and the Ophians; and some from nefarious practices and enormities, as those of the Simonians called Entychites.

    J.N.D. Kelly expounds upon Clement's conception of the Church, which had both an invisible and a visible element, but yet is far closer to Catholic ecclesiology than Protestant:
    . . . at Alexandria, as we might expect, while the visible Church received its meed of recognition, the real focus of interest tended to be the invisible Church . . . Clement, for example, is ready enough to use the empirical categories and to distinguish [Strom. 7,17,107] 'the ancient and Catholic Church' from heretical conventicles. This is the Church in which the apostolic tradition is enshrined, and to which those whom God predestines to righteousness belong. Like God Himself, it is one [Paed. I,4,10]; it is also the virgin mother of Christians, feeding them on the Logos as holy milk [Ib. I,6,42; cf. I,5,21] . . .

    Platonizing influences were clearly at work in Clement's distinction between the visible but imperfect Church and the perfect spiritual one . . .

    (Early Christian Doctrines, HarperSanFrancisco, revised 1978 edition, 201-202)

    In describing both Clement's and Origen's views, Kelly notes how they both presupposed Christian Tradition in their quest for gnosis (deeper knowledge):
    [They] went so far as to distinguish two types of Christianity, with two grades of Christians corresponding to them. The first and lower type was based on 'faith', i.e. the literal acceptance of the truths declared in Scripture and the Church's teaching, while the second and higher type was described as 'gnosis', i.e. an esoteric form of knowledge. This started with the Bible and tradition, indeed was founded on them, but its endeavour was to unravel their deeper meaning.

    The position of both of them, it is true, is complicated by the fact that, in addition to the Church's public tradition, they believed they had access to a secret traditin of doctrine. Clement . . . regarded [E.g., Strom. 6,7,61; 6,8,68; 6,15,131] it as stemming from the apostles and including quasi-Gniostic speculations, while for Origen it seems to have consisted of an esoteric theology based on the Bible; in both cases it was reserved for the intellectual elite of the Church. Although Clement seems to have confused his secret Gnostic tradition with 'the ecclesiastical canon', he had clear ideas about the latter, and defined [Ib. 6.15.125] it as 'the congruence and harmony of the law and the prophets with the covenant delivered at the Lord's parousia'. According to Origen, the rule of faith, or canon, was the body of beliefs currently accepted by ordinary Christians; or again, it could stand for the whole content of the faith . . . he meant by it the Christian faith as taught in the Church of his day and handed down from the apostles. Though its contents coincided with those of the Bible, it was formally independent of the Bible, and indeed included the principles of Biblical interpretation.

    (Ibid., 5, 43)

    Note in the last sentence how Origen - much like Clement and the other Fathers - distinguished between the formal and material sufficiency of the Bible. The "rule of faith" or "canon" or Sacred Tradition or orthodox teaching or apostolic deposit of the Church was "formally independent" of the Bible, yet its contents "coincided" with Scripture (which includes all the necessary theological tenets and teaching), and also included principles of hermeneutics or biblical interpretation. This is precisely the Catholic view. Kelly then sums up Clement's position, citing a passage we have examined above:
    . . . the ancient idea that the Church alone, in virtue of being the home of the Spirit and having preserved the authentic apostolic testimony in her rule of faith, liturgical action and general witness, possesses the indispensable key to Scripture, continued to operate as powerfully as in the days of Irenaeus and Tertullian. Clement, for example, blamed [Strom. 7,16,103] the mistakes of heretics on their habit of 'resisting the divine tradition', by which he meant their incorrect interpretation of Scripture; the true interpretation, he believed, was an apostolic and ecclesiastical inheritance.

    (Ibid., 47)

    Historian Jaroslav Pelikan essentially concurs with Kelly's judgment:
    . . . no one can fail to be reminded of Gnosticism when he reads Clement's claim to possess a secret tradition, neither published in the New Testament nor known to the common people; one of his terms for the secret tradition was "gnosis." . . . would one be justified in regarding Clement and Origen as the right wing of Christian Gnosticism rather than as the left wing of Christian orthodoxy? A consideration of the entire body of their thought makes such an interpretation, however attractive it may be, finally untenable . . .

    (The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine: Vol. 1 of 5: The
    Emergence of the Catholic Tradition: 100-600, Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1971, 96)

    Thus Dr. Pelikan, a great scholar who knows how to examine the entirety of a thinker's outlook, doesn't fall into the foolish trap of finding isolated snippets which sound "Gnostic," and concluding that Clement was a heretic. In other words, he doesn't make the same fundamental methodological mistake that Jason Engwer makes: extreme neglect of context leading to a radically mistaken notion of what Clement believed (in this instance, on the relationship of Bible, Tradition, and Church). Unfortunately, Jason doesn't do this only in Clement's case, but in all the examples that he produces in a completely futile effort of trying to prove that the Fathers believed in sola Scriptura - we have shown above and will continue to demonstrate below.

    The eminent Protestant Church historian Philip Schaff describes the perspective of the Ante-Nicene Fathers generally, concerning Scripture, Church, and Tradition, and includes Clement among their number:

    Nor is any distinction made here between a visible and an invisible church. All catholic antiquity thought of none but the actual, historical church . . .

    The fathers of our period all saw in the church, though with different degrees of clearness, a divine, supernatural order of things, in a certain sense the continuation of the life of Christ on earth, the temple of the Holy Spirit, the sole repository of the powers of divine life, the possessor and interpreter of the Holy Scriptures, the mother of all the faithful . . .

    Equally inseparable from her is the predicate of apostolicity, that is, the historical continuity or unbroken succession, which reaches back through the bishops to the apostles, from the apostles to Christ, and from Christ to God. In the view of the fathers, every theoretical departure from this empirical, tangible, catholic church is heresy, that is, arbitrary, subjective, ever changing human opinion; every practical departure, all disobedience to her rulers is schism, or dismemberment of the body of Christ; either is rebellion against divine authority, and a heinous, if not the mosty heinous, sin. No heresy can reach the conception of the church, or rightly claim any one of her predicates; it forms at best a sect or party, and consequently falls within the province and the fate of human and perishing things, while the church is divine and indestructible.

    This is without doubt the view of the ante-Nicene fathers, even of the speculative and spiritualistic Alexandrians . . .

    Even Clement of Alexandria, and Origen, with all their spiritualistic and idealizing turn of mind, are no exception here.

    (History of the Christian Church, Vol. II: Ante-Nicene Christianity: A.D. 100-325, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970; reproduction of 5th revised edition of 1910, Chapter IV, section 53, "The Catholic Unity," pp. 169-170, 172)

    Schaff's characterization of the views of the Fathers in this same period concerning Tradition is also perfectly consistent with the Catholic perspective and my own general thesis throughout this paper. His natural (somewhat charming) Protestant bias is obvious (e.g., "traditions of later origin, not grounded in the scriptures," "blind and slavish subjection of private judgment to ecclesiastical authority"), yet he fairly cites the facts of history, as always:
    Besides appealing to the Scriptures, the fathers, particularly Irenaeus and Tertullian, refer with equal confidence to the "rule of faith;" that is, the common faith of the church, as orally handed down in the unbroken succession of bishops from Christ and his apostles to their day, and above all as still living in the original apostolic churches, like those of Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, and Rome. Tradition is thus intimately connected with the primitive episcopate. The latter was the vehicle of the former, and both were looked upon as bulwarks against heresy.

    Irenaeus confronts the secret tradition of the Gnostics with the open and unadulterated tradition of the catholic church, and points to all churches, but particularly to Rome, as the visible centre of the unity of doctrine. All who would know the truth, says he, can see in the whole church the tradition of the apostles; and we can count the bishops ordained by the apostles, and their successors down to our time, who neither taught nor knew any such heresies. Then, by way of example, he cites the first twelve bishops of the Roman church from Linus to Eleutherus, as witnesses of the pure apostolic doctrine. He might conceive of a Christianity without scripture, but he could not imagine a Christianity without living tradition; and for this opinion he refers to barbarian tribes, who have the gospel, "sine charta et atramento," written in their hearts.

    Tertullian finds a universal antidote for all heresy in his celebrated prescription argument, which cuts off heretics, at the outset, from every right of appeal to the holy scriptures, on the ground, that the holy scriptures arose in the church of Christ, were given to her, and only in her and by her can be rightly understood. He calls attention also here to the tangible succession, which distinguishes the catholic church from the arbitrary and ever-changing sects of heretics, and which in all the principal congregations, especially in the original sects of the apostles, reaches back without a break from bishop to bishop, to the apostles themselves, from the apostles to Christ, and from Christ to God. "Come, now," says he, in his tract on Prescription, "if you would practise inquiry to more advantage in the matter of your salvation, go through the apostolic churches, in which the very chairs of the apostles still preside, in which their own authentic letters are publicly read, uttering the voice and representing the face of every one. If Achaia is nearest, you have Corinth. If you are not far from Macedonia, you have Philippi, you have Thessalonica. If you can go to Asia, you have Ephesus. But if you live near Italy, you have Rome, whence also we [of the African church] derive our origin. How happy is the church, to which the apostles poured out their whole doctrine with their blood," etc.

    To estimate the weight of this argument, we must remember that these fathers still stood comparatively very near the apostolic age, and that the succession of bishops in the oldest churches could be demonstrated by the living memory of two or three generations. Irenaeus in fact, had been acquainted in his youth with Polycarp, a disciple of St. John. But for this very reason we must guard against overrating this testimony, and employing it in behalf of traditions of later origin, not grounded in the scriptures.

    Nor can we suppose that those fathers ever thought of a blind and slavish subjection of private judgment to ecclesiastical authority, and to the decision of the bishops of the apostolic mother churches. The same Irenaeus frankly opposed the Roman bishop Victor. Tertullian, though he continued essentially orthodox, contested various points with the catholic church from his later Montanistic position, and laid down, though at first only in respect to a conventional custom - the veiling of virgins - the genuine Protestant principle, that the thing to be regarded, especially in matters of religion, is not custom but truth. His pupil, Cyprian, with whom biblical and catholic were almost interchangeable terms, protested earnestly against the Roman theory of the validity of heretical baptism, and in this controversy declared, in exact accordance with Tertullian, that custom without truth was only time-honored error. The Alexandrians freely fostered all sorts of peculiar views, which were afterwards rejected as heretical; and though the [Greek] plays a prominent part with them, yet this and similar expressions have in their language a different sense, sometimes meaning simply the holy scriptures. So, for example, in the well-known passage of Clement: "As if one should be changed from a man to a beast after the manner of one charmed by Circe; so a man ceases to be God's and to continue faithful to the Lord, when he sets himself up against the church tradition, and flies off to positions of human caprice."

    In the substance of its doctrine this apostolic tradition agrees with the holy scriptures, and though derived, as to its form, from the oral preaching of the apostles, is really, as to its contents, one and the same with those apostolic writings. In this view the apparent contradictions of the earlier fathers, in ascribing the highest authority to both scripture and tradition in matters of faith, resolve themselves. It is one and the same gospel which the apostles preached with their lips, and then laid down in their writings, and which the church faithfully hands down by word and writing from one generation to another.

    (History of the Christian Church, Vol. II: Ante-Nicene Christianity: A.D. 100-325, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970; reproduction of 5th revised edition of 1910, Chapter XII, section 139, "Catholic Tradition," pp. 525-528 {complete, minus footnotes: see the web version below} )

    Note again how material sufficiency of Scripture is wholeheartedly accepted:
    1. "In the substance of its doctrine this apostolic tradition agrees with the holy scriptures"
    2. "as to its contents, one and the same"
    3. "Cyprian, with whom biblical and catholic were almost interchangeable terms"
    4. "It is one and the same gospel which the apostles preached with their lips, and then laid down in their writings"
    The formal sufficiency of Scripture as a Rule of Faith, on the other hand, is denied:
    1. "the 'rule of faith;' that is, the common faith of the church, as orally handed down in the unbroken succession of bishops from Christ and his apostles"
    2. "unadulterated tradition of the catholic church"
    3. [For Tertullian] "the holy scriptures arose in the church of Christ, were given to her, and only in her and by her can be rightly understood"
    4. [Clement's words] "so a man ceases to be God’s and to continue faithful to the Lord, when he sets himself up against the church tradition"
    My thesis could not be any more explicitly upheld, and by a Protestant historian: one who (I highly suspect) has never been accused of Catholic bias . . .

    End of Part One
    Go to Part Two

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