I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Calvinism in the Early Church

"It is important to note that the Early Church fathers had certain conceptions that differed from the historical context of the middle ages, or of the Reformation. In this way many of the terms and ideas they utilized 'theologically speaking' are housed differently. For example, 'regeneration' to the early church fathers meant 'the entirety of the Christian life,' or what we might mean as parts of sanctification. This clears up a HUGE amount of problematic passages that most people would not understand if they read them, or would twist to mean something else. In our day, or even as far back as the Reformation, that term 'regeneration' is used more specifically of the initial step of conversion that is wrought by the change of heart by the Spirit of God upon the sinner. Subsequently, many gainsayers against the Gospel go to the early church fathers simply because they believe the early church did not teach what the Reformation taught, or what Westminster taught afterwards. They see theology as progressive. This is a mistake. Christ taught the same Gospel that Augustine, Gottschalk, Luther, Calvin, the Puritans, or Princeton Theology believed – or even you. It is up to the student to work out an historical theology that is consistent based on a thoughtful representation of the historical CONTEXT for each period of church history.

"These quotes are simply that – quotes taken out of context that teach the doctrines of grace. This does not mean that are 'troublesome' areas of Tertullian’s theology, or hard to understand parts of Augustine. It does mean that the student must be careful to take their writings as compendiums, not simply proof texts. but this will be of help nonetheless." Read the Patristics on the Doctrines of Grace...


  1. Thank you for calling attention to these quotes, and for giving them a wider reading through your blog. I hope people will follow the link and actually read them, for they show that the early Fathers stood fast in the faith once delivered to the saints. The Reformation was a return to their faith and practice, not a rejection of them. Time devoted to reading the lives and works of these people would be very profitable to Christians today.

  2. Thank you for the insights, Bishop. It is a shame that there is an artificial disjunct between our patristic and Reformation heritages; it is simply not there in reality, as our recent readings of Oden have also demonstrated. Yes! We must go back to the future...the early fathers have many good things to tell us in the 21st century! Let us drink deeply from this well of old-fresh water!