Archive for the ‘Patristics’ Category


In the history of the Catholic Church we have been confronted with both heresy and orthodoxy. We will examine the heretical claims which the church has fought and opposed (Docetism, Arianism, Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, Monophysitism, and Monothelitism), and then offer the orthodox position. We shall also examine the work of Christ and it’s implication in the sacraments he has given unto us, and how the before mentioned heretical positions have implications on them. In essence, how poor a Christology can have dire implications on our sacramentology. Next, we will examine the Roman Catholic sacramental position Transubstantiation and the reformational sacramental position of Memorialism, and examine how these sacramental positions tend to lead into heretical Christology. Then, we will examine the orthodox theology of the sacraments, and pay special attention to Anglican sacramentology on these issues. In conclusion, we will propose an ecumenical way out of these errors, so that Christ’s holy church might worship him rightly.


One of the earliest heresies that the church made war with was that of Docetism. Though there was not one specific person (as far as I am aware) that we can pin this heresy on, we do know that it was most likely combated during the time of the Apostles, and definitely during the time of the Apostolic Fathers, i.e this heresy arose shortly after the start of Christendom. Docetism comes from the Greek word δοκέω which is generally translated “to seem, to be accounted, reputed”.1 In essence Christ appeared (or seemed) to have a physical body, but in reality he did not.2 It should also be noted that Docetism is a Gnostic3 heresy that pins ‘matter vs. spirit’ in a dualistic formula.

The proper view of Christ’s nature in that he had an actual human body (and nature), and a divine (preexistent) nature. As St. John says, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us).”4 This passage not only teaches Christ’s preexistence, but his actual humanity: “our hands have handled”. Also, as St. John records in his Gospel, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”5

Other than having an unorthodox view on Christ (and the Godhead), Docetism had grave implications on sacramentology. The early church (as does the orthodox faith today) believed that they were actually eating Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist. If that is the case, of what good would the meal Jesus gave his followers be? As St. Ignatius said while combating Docetism, “”They [the Docetist] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes”6. As you can see, Ignatius believed that the Eucharist was actually the body and blood, and the Docetist apparently knew that this was the church’s understanding as well. Thus, they refrained because they did not believe that Christ had an actual body. Thus, Ignatius used the Eucharist to defeat the Docetists.

Also, if you have a Docestistic theology, what reason is there to be baptized. In the same way we are united in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection in the Holy Supper, we are like wise united with His death burial, and resurrection in holy baptism. As St. Paul teaches in Romans 6:2-7: “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.”

St. Paul argues that in the sacrament of Holy Baptism, that we ourselves are partakers of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. If Christ only “appeared” to have a body, he would only have “appeared” to suffer in the flesh, he would only have “appear” to, as St. Patrick said, “burst forth from Spiced tomb”, and finally he would have only have “appeared” to ascend bodily into heaven. Not only does this undermine the Sacred Scriptures, but it also undermines the passion, resurrection, and glorification of Christ, in which we become partakers in the blessed sacrament of Baptism.


Another ancient heresy was Arianism. Arianism was propagated by the presbyter Arius in the 300’s AD. The heresy was so controversial that the Emperor Constantine called the first ecumenical council of the church, Nicaea in 325 AD. Arius taught that Christ was a creature, as opposed to preexistent.7 A Creed was proposed by Eusebius of Caeserea at the request of Constantine, but Eusebius’ Christology was also problematic (Subordinationism which he inherited from Origin, which nearly had him excommunicated for heresy by Alexander of Alexandria) using Homoiousios (ὁμοιούσιος), but Constantine recommended the term ὁμοούσιος8 be used rather than ὁμοιούσιος9, to strengthen the fact that the Father and the Son were both of the same substance—Divine. Arianism attacked the divinity of Christ, thus making the catholic faith non-Trinitarian.

St. Athanasius was the major opponent of the Arians, so much so, that a Creed was attributed to him defining proper Trinitarian and Christological catholic faith. Yet, the ultimate enemy of Arian Christology were the sacred biblical texts, which informed the catholic creeds (Nicene and Athanasian). One of the major texts that was used to propagate Arian Christology was St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians: “Who (Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature”.10 Yet, this passage is clearly not teaching that Christ was literally the “firstborn” in the sense that he was the first offspring of God the Father, rather that he was firstborn in His status—the Divine son of God, coequal, not created.11 Also, the Arian interpretation of this text would be contradictory to what St. Paul immediately follows with: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”12 If it were true that Christ was created, then he could not be “before all things”, nor the “creator of all things.”Arius, simply did not understand the concept of “Pre-Eminence” that was given to the firstborn, and how St. Paul understood Jesus as the elect son, the inheritor of all things—though not created, but creator—he did not understand the Trinity.

If Jesus was not fully God, then how could he save us? He would be nothing more than a glorified version of us—as great as that might be, he would not be the creator and sustainer of the cosmos, and thus could not redeem it. Why would we be buried with Christ in baptism if he has no power to save us? A bigger question is (if Arius was correct), “why are you baptizing into the name of a creature since you don’t believe that Jesus is God (i.e. in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit)?” We would be partaking in a religious ceremony by being baptized in the name of a creature, yet this would in a sense go against St. Paul: “…who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.”13 There would be no power of efficacy in the holy sacrament, because the thing signified is created, rather than creator. Logically and biblically Arianism is flawed, and that is why it was defeated at Nicaea.

Also, if Arianism was true, what benefit would the Holy Eucharist be to the Christian? If Jesus is not divine, why on earth would we feast upon a creature in the supper? This seems to undermine Jesus’ own teaching that not only was he divine (I AM), but also His sacramentology the, i.e bread from heaven: “This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. (St. John 6:50-51)” In the Eucharist we are not eating some created being, rather the I AM, who came down as the bread from heaven.


Apollinarianism was an ancient heresy that was battled at the council of Constantinople in 381 AD. It was taught by Apollinaris “the Younger”, who was the Bishop of Laodciea. Apollinarianism taught that it was not possible to have a nature that is not personal.14 Arius, believed that Christ only assumes the “animal side” of humanity, i.e. the body and soul but no mind.’15 Basically, the Divine word becomes a substitute for the normal human mind in Apollinarianism. Many scholars say that this theology presented is what eventually led parts of of the church into Monophysitism.

Apollinarius had problems with the orthodox position, arguing that if Christ were perfect man then there would be two sons of God: One begotten and one adopted.16 In Matthew and Luke’s infancy narratives you see Jesus being conceived by the Holy Ghost and Born of the Virgin Mary. Thus, he has a divine nature and a human nature, and logically as St. Gregory of Nazianzus stated, “What has not been assumed cannot be restored”. So he assumed our nature (perfectly) in the incarnation, but never gave up any of his divine nature. Thus, we have a Messiah who is fully Divine in one nature, and fully human in the other.17

Sacramentaly it is hard to see how this would have a direct implication on any of the Christian sacraments, but as the Very Rev’d. Curtis Crenshaw has pointed out: “If Jesus was not really a man [talking about the logical concussions of Apollinarianism], we have Docetism again.”18 Earlier, taking a patristic position on the Eucharist, the Docetic was incompatible with their understanding of the heavenly meal, thus making the work of Christ given to us in the supper unimportant. Also, it should be noted that if Christ was not truly a human, there would be little to no reason to even come and partake of the blessed Sacrament. We must affirm the physical aspect to the Eucharist, or we are left only with a spiritual meal that requires no action our part, and with a Christ whom has no need of humanity for His work. Thus, neither we nor the elements are required for the Holy Communion.

It should also be mentioned, that we are given the covenant through the ministration of Holy Baptism. We know that we are not only given a new spiritual life in our baptism into Christ Jesus, but a new mind: “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts [minds], and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jeremiah 31:31-33)” How could Christ gives us the promise of the new covenant, a new heart and mind, through the power of baptism? How could we, as St. Paul commands, “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:12)”, if Christ had not assumed a human mind in his Incarnation? Not only is Apollinarianism Christologically flawed, but it bleeds error right into our sacramental theology.


Nestorianism arose as a reaction to the above mentioned heresy. Nestorius (c. 386 – c. 451) was the Archbishop of Constantinople, and was defeated at the Council of Ephesus in 331 AD. Rejecting the impersonal nature found in Apollinarian Christology, Nestorianism taught that each nature was personal.19 Thus as Dr. Crenshaw has pointed out he taught that there was, “moral union between the Logos and the man, a unity of will in which the two persons cooperated fully, but not a hypostatic union, a personal union, a union of nature in one person.”20

But, this is very problematic and undermines the clear teaching of Holy Scripture, because Nestorianism teaches that though God had indwelt Jesus, the Logos did not become flesh, and though in Jesus’ humanity he was virgin born, the Divine Logos was added to him, which denies the incarnation.21 This is easily defeated if we take the words of St. John to be true: “And the Word (λόγος) was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”2223 Another major defeat is that he did not take seriously the infancy narratives that describe the incarnation, in which Christ is born of the Virgin Mary (humanity ex Maria), yet he also has an heavenly origin “conceived by the Holy Ghost.” Thus, he is fully man (from Mary), and yet fully divine (as the Preexistent Son). This would also make Mary the Θεοτόκος,24which Nestorius thought was problematic opting rather for Christotokos.

We have seen that Nestorianism has many problems when employed to describe Christ, yet does it have any implication on sacramentology? St. Cyril of Alexandria thought that it had major implications on Eucharist: “We will necessarily add this also. Proclaiming the death, according to the flesh, of the Only-begotten Son of God, that is Jesus Christ, confessing his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into heaven, we offer the Unbloody Sacrifice in the churches, and so go on to the mystical thanksgivings, and are sanctified, having received his Holy Flesh and the Precious Blood of Christ the Saviour of us all. And not as common flesh do we receive it; God forbid: nor as of a man sanctified and associated with the Word according to the unity of worth, or as having a divine indwelling, but as truly the Life-giving and very flesh of the Word himself. For he is the Life according to his nature as God, and when he became united to his Flesh, he made it also to be Life-giving, as also he said to us: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood. For we must not think that it is flesh of a man like us (for how can the flesh of man be life-giving by its own nature?) but as having become truly the very own of him who for us both became and was called Son of Man. Besides, what the Gospels say our Saviour said of himself, we do not divide between two hypostases or persons. For neither is he, the one and only Christ, to be thought of as double, although of two and they diverse, yet he has joined them in an indivisible union, just as everyone knows a man is not double although made up of soul and body, but is one of both. Wherefore when thinking rightly, we transfer the human and the divine to the same person.”25 Cyril uses the Eucharist, to explain the orthodox position of Christ, and to defeat Nestorius. That Christ indeed has two natures, though both diverse as they may be, two natures (human and divine). Also, St. Cyril uses the Johannine text ( Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood…) to show this union in the Holy Sacrament that flows directly out of the creedal position of the true understanding of the two natures of Christ.


Monophysitism is another ancient heresy that was taught by Euctyches (376-454), who was an abbot living in Constantinople. Monophysitism (or Eutychianism) was defeated at the council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. Euctyches, “regarded Christ as God and Jesus’ human life a manifestation of God.”26 Basically, that Christ had two natures before a union between them, and after only one nature.27 Moreover, the human nature was absorbed into the divine nature, making a sort of hybrid—neither fully divine nor human, a new species (if you will) all together. In essence, we are given another form of the earlier heresy Docetism, because Jesus (according to Euctyches) was only appearing to be human.

This poses almost the same problem as Docetism, against the correct view of Christology. Examine Hebrews 1: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”28 We see a God who has spoken in the last days through his son, yet the author of Hebrew says that the son is creator of the worlds which shows his equality and unity with God the Father (and the Spirit). Also, in Hebrew 1:8 the Father says concerning the Son, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom.” So, we are presented with a Jesus who is fully divine—creator God.

Also, as we have discussed earlier Christ is fully man. Hear what the Angel Gabriel told St. Mary: “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”29 This text says nothing about a transmutation, or a hybrid of divinity and humanity, but presents Jesus simultaneously the Son of the Most High (Divine) and the Son of David and Jacob (Human, ex Maria).30

With the nature of the task at hand we must ask, what this improper view of Christ might have on the holy Sacraments? If we are to take literally the words of Jesus, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you”31 then we are presented with the fact that we must eat and drink Christ. Christ has two natures, thus the meal is not only partaking of the divine nature, nor only partaking of the human, and especially in the case of Eutychianism the Eucharist is not feeding on a hybrid of natures. In the Eucharist we (at least as the Patristics taught) feast of the actual body and blood of Christ—both natures since the incarnation never ends. This is why we see both St. Cyril of Alexandria and St. Ignatius of Antioch using the Eucharist to defeat heretics—the Eucharist is a picture of the incarnation and the work of Christ: the divine Manna coming down from heaven, taking on true (human) body and blood, being broken and spilled out for his people, and letting them feed on him the Incarnate and Divine Manna until his return.

Moreover on the topic of a “hybrid” of natures, we should also note that the paschal feast (in an orthodox, non-Monophysite view) is a participation in the divine mysteries in which the human and divine natures of the Son of God are joined together at the sacrament, without merging them. The merging of the natures is a problematic outcome when Monophysitism is carried into sacramental theology—you end up “undoing” creedal Christology by not letting the two natures be distinct, but rather infused, which is not a proper Christological position, nor sacramental.


Monothelitism is the last of the Major heresies debated at the Ecumenical Councils. One of the driving forces behind the heresy was Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople, in the 600’s AD. The pseudo-doctrine that was put forth, reasoned that Christ only had one will. Yet, this posed problems for the orthodox because it seemed to contradict the early formulas that stated the Christ was fully human, and fully divine—this (the orthodox position) would present a Christ with two natures. This heresy was condemned at the 3rd Council of Constantinople in 688. Passages like John 6:38 and Luke 22:42 were used to try to defeat the orthodox teaching of “two wills”, yet Jesus and the father shared the same divine will. The Father does not have a human will, but Christ does, and it is in subjection to the divine will.32

How can scripture get us out of the Monothelitic dilemma? Jesus’ prayer in the garden before his passion puts the orthodox position on full display: “And he (Jesus) was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”33 We have see that Jesus has a human will perfectly here in his suffering, yet we also see that he is putting that into subjection to the Divine will. As Crenshaw records Erickson’s presentation of the fathers, “In the Trinity there are three persons and one nature. Further, there are not three wills within the Trinity, but three persons who have one will. Consequently, the will must pertain to nature, not persons.”34 Thus, the Sixth Ecumenical council ruled that Christ had two will—one divine and one human, to protect His true humanity. Yet, his human will would not work against the will of the Divine.35

This heresy effects the sacraments in a much different way than the other heresies that we have encountered. In Holy baptism we are given new life, because we are buried with Christ and our sins are washed away. But, if Christ had not also assumed a human will, our human will could not be redeemed. Therefore, baptism might be capable of marking us with a covenant, yet it could not accomplish the promise of the New Covenant—God’s Law written on our minds and hearts. Our will and even our humanity (because if Christ had only one will he would not be truly human) could not redeemed. This would also then make the “the Cup of the New Covenant”, not only irrelevant, but non-efficacious to us.

Also, in the sacrament of the Eucharist, which will of Christ would we partake of? The divine, the human, or some merged will, nonhuman, non-divine will. Once again, if we take a patristic view of the real presence of an incarnational view of the Eucharist, this raises red flags because it undermines the incarnation of Christ, and thus leaks into our sacramental theology as well.


Transubstantiation (latin, transsubstantiatio), the medieval Roman view of the Sacrament of the Eucharist teaches that the bread and wine become (corporeally) the body and blood of Christ, though the elements appear unchanged (or they seems to remain bred and wine). As the Council of Trent taught in 1551, “”that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood – the species only of the bread and wine remaining – which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation.” Transubstantiation teaches that at the epiklesis of the bread and likewise the cup, the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ is now the elements.

Though the Patristics widely talked about partaking of the real presence at the Eucharist, reformed theologians thought that the later dogma had gone too far, as Luther said (in the Babylonian Captivity): “Therefore it is an absurd and unheard-of juggling with words, to understand “bread” to mean “the form, or accidents of bread,” and “wine” to mean “the form, or accidents of wine.” Why do they not also understand all other things to mean their forms, or accidents? Even if this might be done with all other things, it would yet not be right thus to emasculate the words of God and arbitrarily to empty them of their meaning.

Moreover, the Church had the true faith for more than twelve hundred years, during which time the holy Fathers never once mentioned this transubstantiation — certainly, a monstrous word for a monstrous idea — until the pseudo-philosophy of Aristotle became rampant in the Church these last three hundred years. During these centuries many other things have been wrongly defined, for example, that the Divine essence neither is begotten nor begets, that the soul is the substantial form of the human body, and the like assertions, which are made without reason or sense, as the Cardinal of Cambray himself admits.” For, Luther it seems that the categories and definitions were problematic for him, and that even though the fathers taught the real presence, the medieval way Rome taught it went beyond that of the fathers.
The Anglican Church, likewise, in the 39 Articles of Religion made it known that they were unhappy with the theology of Transubstantiation: Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.” Likewise, we are left wondering why a branch of Christendom who does indeed believe in the real presence in the Holy Sacrament, would also deny the concept of Transubstantiation. The answer, in my opinion, might be in the implications that transubstantiation and the practices that follow it have on Christology.
In Transubstantiation you have the the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ come down from heaven and change the elements of bread and wine at the praying of an Epiklesis by the Priest. At this point the bread and wine are no longer bread and wine, but is this what the Holy Scriptures teach us about Christ? If we look at the Incarnation, Christ came and took on a nature without giving up his divinity, and both natures were fully present in harmony without merging or disappearing. If transubstantiation teaches that the elements change completely, wouldn’t this also need to be true in the incarnational Christology— in Christ’s coming he could not take on something like human flesh and blood, but would have to completely change it into something else.
Likewise, if Christ comes down a transforms the sacrament into something else, namely his body, blood, soul, and divinity, wouldn’t it either merge his natures (infusing them all into the elements), or separate them from each other (for example, the Body and Soul would be in the host, whilst the Blood and Divinity would be in the cup). If this is true you either compound or infuse the natures, or you separate their everlasting union from each other. It seems that if you merge the natures you have a form of Monophysitism, and if you separate them in a way that is is possible in transubstantiation, you run the risk of having a form of liturgical Nestorianism.

Moreover, another possible problem for the position of transubstantiation is the question of how Christ can be as the Apostles Creed claims, “He ascended into heaven and sittith at the right hand of God the father Almighty from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead”, if he is leaving the heavens every time the Mass is offered? Does Christ have the ability to leave the right hand of God, and descend to the people every time a priest says Mass? Moreover how can Christ’s humanity be at multiple locations all over the world simultaneously, if he has truly bound unto himself our humanity forever?

This also raises a problem with ceremonies that evolve the elements of the Eucharistic sacrifice, while they are not being used (eaten). In the service of the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, there is a time of worship God before his sacramental presence. But, this raises the question: How is Christ before us in the sacrament, if he is up in heavenlies? This is very problematic if we are to take serious the creeds, and an orthodox Christological position. It seems that the Angels made it clear that Christ would be in heaven (both natures) until his coming again: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.(Acts 1:11)” In this text we have the humanity and divinity of Christ assumed into the heavens, and the Angels claim that he will likewise return in the same way he left: Human and Divine. This seems to be problematic, since we know Christ next coming to earth will be at the Parousia. Are Catholics willing to say that the Parousia happens every time they say Mass? Or that Christ is simultaneously on their altar at Mass, likewise being adored in a monstrance in another part of the world, and simultaneously sitting at the right hand of God the Father? How can this be possible if he took on the limitations of the human body?


Memorialism, a position often attributed to the outflowing theology of Ulrich Zwingli finds its roots in 16th century reformed theology. This theological position moved away from a traditional sacramentology, in which Christ met his people is the holy sacraments, to ordinances occasionally done in memorial of Christ. Memorialism is generally seen, not only by Catholics and the Orthodox, but by the Magisterially Reformed as a departure from the biblical and patristic view of the Sacraments.

Memorialism teaches that instead of a sacramental work (a heavenly reality of the earthly sign) happening in the Eucharist and Baptism, they are simply having a memorial or ceremony ordained by Christ. This is problematic for many reasons, but one of the major red flags is that it rips all the power out of the meal and covenant signs the Christ ordained, which goes against the teaching of holy scriptures. For instance, St. Paul claims that, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:28)” If this is true that in baptism we put on Christ (as a garment), and because of this in v.29 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” then we must realize that this is much more than simply a memorial service. It should also be noted that this Galatians text is very mild in its sacramental language, yet we see in Romans (6:3-7) that in holy baptism we are “baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.” For St. Paul, baptism is not only a memorially, but freedom from the old nature—in it we are put to death so that Christ might wash our sins away. Memorialism (though not intentionally) denies the person and work of Christ that is added to us in the ministry of the sacrament of Baptism. Moreover, it can deny the need of Christ actually coming in the flesh—if all that is needed to follow Christ is the mental ability to believe in him, then why on earth would he come in the fullness of our humanity? Rather, he comes and takes on our nature, and in holy baptism we take on his nature. This is more than a mere memorial, but as St. Paul taught “arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16)

Memorialism is especially problematic in the area of the Lord’s Supper. To the memorialists they are simply observing (most often very infrequently), a memorial of the Last Supper. Though it is a memorial, it is much more than a memorial. In the Last Supper we see the gathering of the new tribes of Israel, the twelve apostles, with their new Moses, partaking of the new Passover feast. This supper is an eschatological event, in which the church is made partakers in the Passover feast of the broken body of Christ. St. Luke (22:19-20) records, “And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” We see that in this meal, we are not merely remembering Christ, but we are communing on him and simultaneously partaking in the New Covenant.

In summation, this meal is a feast of the true Paschal Lamb, and likewise by feasting on the Paschal Lamb we are renewing the covenant made in his blood. Memorialism misses the sacrament—they bar themselves from the blessing and petition of Christ, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Sadly, they do not realize that they are not only rejecting the sacrament and covenantal blessings that flow forth, but they are in some way rejecting the passion of Christ, in whom they are called to participate (“Take up your cross and follow me!”).

Memorialism, in regards to the sacrament really undermines the humanity of Christ. If Christ is truly human, which both the Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition of the church teaches, we should expect a spiritual and physical presence of Christ through the Holy Sacrament. The implication of Memorialism is that both natures of his presence are not needed at the Communion, and in reality neither are we. If all that is needed is a memorial, we could could simply give Christ mental recognition, and we would receive him without the elements. This is also problematic in the fact that if Christ is absent from the sacrament we would would not have any sanctified elements in the supper. We would simply have tokens, rather than the “blessed cup” and the manna from heaven—we miss the covenantal presence. Memorialism undoes the the union of the body and divinity of Christ in the blessed supper, which we find does not settle well with the hypostatic union—in other words we have a form of liturgical Nestorianism.

It should also be noted that Memorialism gives us a liturgical Marcionism. Memorialism teaches a break in how and to whom God gave covenantal markers in the Old Testament. In Colossians, St. Paul teaches that baptism is the new circumcision, yet memorialists (or at least those in Baptist/Anabaptist traditions) deny that God would give this new circumcision to Children. In regards to the supper, the Passover (the blood of the Passover Lamb, and the eating of the meal) communicated grace to those in the house, and saved them from the destruction of the firstborn. As you can see, they not only separate Christ from the sacrament, but they divorce Old Testament covenantal theology from the New Testament.

Orthodox View on the Sacraments

Since we have examined the heretical views on the person and work of Christ, it would be fitting to provide an orthodox position on the sacrament. It is in the sacrament the work of Christ is imparted unto us and made tangible (by grace through faith), so we must understand we are approaching Christ Jesus in the sacrament— they are not simply ceremonies we do for Jesus, but a mighty work he does in us and for us in the sacrament. In this section we will examine the two Dominical (Lord’s) sacraments, because they are commanded for saving faith. Historically, the church understands the Dominical sacraments to be the Lord’s Supper, and the Holy Baptism.

Holy Baptism

Holy Baptism is the rite of “new birth” into Christ Jesus, commanded to be done to all nations for saving faith: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”36 We should start our discussion on baptism with a few questions and answers: 1. The outward visible sign? “Water; wherein the person is baptized, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” 2. What is the inward and spiritual grace? A death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness: for being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath, we are hereby made the children of grace.” The catechism then goes on to further explain what is required of the candidate for baptism: “Repentance, whereby they forsake sin; and Faith, whereby they steadfastly believe the promises of God made to them in that Sacrament.”37 Thus, in baptism we die to sin and we are born into righteousness. Hear what St. Paul says, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life”38 and also what Jesus says, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”39 See, it is in Holy Baptism that were are put to death with Christ, but we are also born of water (baptism4) and the Spirit.

St. Clement of Alexandria (202 AD) summarizes the orthodox position on baptism very well: “When we are baptized, we are enlightened. Being enlightened, we are adopted as sons. Adopted as sons, we are made perfect. Made perfect, we become immortal, and sons all of the Most High” [Psalm 82:6]. This work is variously called grace, illumination, perfection, and washing. It is a washing by which we are cleansed of sins; a gift of grace by which the punishments due our sins are remitted; an illumination by which we behold that holy light of salvation — that is, by which we see God clearly; and we call that perfection which leaves nothing lacking. Indeed, if a man know God, what more does he need? Certainly it were out of place to call that which is not complete a true gift of God’s grace. Because God is perfect, the gifts He bestows are perfect.”41 Thus, in Holy Baptism we are clothed in Christ, buried with Christ, washed for regeneration, given the remission of sins and the Holy Spirit, our sins are washed away, given new birth, and saved, to name a few.42 It is Christ doing a Holy Work in us.

Anglicans have generally talked about Holy Baptism is traditional patristic terms (biblical). We, like the rest of the catholic church, emphasize the regenerating power of Christ to the faithful during Holy Baptism For example, the 39 Articles teach baptism in this way: Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed, Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God.” The Article teaches that baptism is our sign of regeneration, our promise of forgiveness, and our adoption as sons into Christ Jesus. Anglicanism teaches that there is power in the Sacrament, and that it is how we are grafted into the holy church—this is not simply a memorial that is taking place, but the power of Christ being added to the faithful! I think this is the same theology that St. Paul presents in the Epistle to Titus (3:4-7): “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” In this passage St. Paul presents a baptism that through the love of God, regenerates us, renews us with the Holy Ghost, justifies us by grace, and makes us heirs to eternal life.

The Anglican traditions teaches Christ full activity in the sacraments, which I think St. Paul would adamantly agree with. We do not seperate the humanity or divinity of Christ in regards to the sacrament, rather we ourselves become partakers in his human passion, and reap the benefits of his divinity in the promise of the resurrection and eternal life. As the prayer book so eloquently puts it, “Baptism doth represent unto us our profession; which is, to follow the example of our Saviour Christ, and to be made like unto him; that, as he died, and rose again for us, so should we, who are baptized, die from sin, and rise again unto righteousness; continually mortifying all our evil and corrupt affections, and daily proceeding in all virtue and godliness of living. ”

The Lord’s Supper

Likewise, in the Holy Communion, the death and passion of Christ is communicated to us by his body and blood. Jesus says in St. Luke, “And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.”43 First we see, that Jesus fulfilling the passover by his sacrificed body and blood—he becomes the passover feast.44 Next, he blesses the bread, giving them his body as a memorial feast. Then, he takes the chalice and gives them his shed blood, as the means of the new convent.

Just as Christ made his death, burial, and resurrection available to his disciples through Holy Baptism, he also makes his broken body and spilled blood available through the Eucharist. He gives them his sacrifice in a visible and tangible way, which is very likely what Jesus meant in St. Matthew 28 when he said, “Lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the age”. As St. Justin Martyr said so eloquently of both the Eucharist and Baptism: “This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us. For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God’s Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.”45. St. Justin argues that the incarnation of Christ is made accessible to us through the Holy Sacraments, and that our flesh and blood are likewise nourished by the flesh and blood of the Incarnate Jesus. This is not only profound, but it intrinsically ties the incarnation Christology into the holy sacrament.

This sort of theology seems to be what Jesus is teaching in St. John 6:51 (see entire chapter for context), “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” In the sacrament of the Eucharist we feed on Christ, the heavenly bread, and through him, we have eternal life. This is not merely a memorial, rather we are partaking of the divinity and humanity of Christ in a special and mysterious way.

The Articles of Religion teach that the, “Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ’s death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.” In the Holy Supper we partake of the blood and body of Christ—our redemption by Christ’s death. Yet, as we discussed earlier, the corporeal change in the elements of the sacrament that transubstantiation teaches can problematic for creedal Christians. So, how can we be partakers of the body and blood of Christ without committing the potential error transubstantiational theology? Well, the article further clears this up by adding, “The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper, is Faith.” As we see, the Anglican tradition teaches that the Eucharist is a heavenly meal—that we are partakers of the table in heaven. The author of Hebrews (9:11-14) teaches that Christ, “ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” As we see, Christ placed his blood on the heavenly altar—in the perfect tabernacle. If we are to partake of Christ in the Holy Mysteries, that is to eat of the altar of the Lord, we must be brought into the heavenly tabernacle.

In the Eucharist we sing an ancient liturgical prayer of our accent into heaven, the Sursum Corda. The priest chants “lift up your hearts” and the congregation does so and responds “we lift them up unto the Lord”. Then follows the rest of the Sursum Corda, and the Prefatio to the Sanctus, that presents us with the fact that we have ascended together with the “Angels and Archangels, and all the company of heaven”—we have been raptured unto the heavenly altar, and Christ has not left his throne! In transubstantiation you have Christ coming to us in the sacrament. But, how can this be if he is in heaven, and his blood is on the heavenly altar? But, if we are partaking in a heavenly meal, it is we who in spirit come up to feed on him. With this distinction, we are not left wondering how Christ can be everywhere at once, while still possessing the limitations of our humanity. In a sense we, though we are still on earth, are being called up to as St. John records (Revelation 19:9), “Blessed arethey which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb”, to partake in this eschatological banquet. In the same way we die and are resurrected with Christ in holy baptism (though we have not physically died), we feast on Christ in heaven (though we have not physically left earth). We are getting a spiritual foretaste of the future heavenly reality of our physical death and resurrection (in baptism), and our physical feast in the heavenly banquet during the Eucharist.


As we see in the scriptures and the fathers, the sacraments communicate the work and person of Christ to us in a way that unites us with him (salvifically), unites us as one body in him (corporately), and even catechizes us against Christological heresy. The Scriptures and the fathers have effectively defeated heresy, and will continue to do so because of divine revelation (sacred writ), and the Holy Spirit (the Councils of the Fathers). So, as we draw near with faith in Christ through his holy sacraments, let us remember that they and the holy scriptures communicate who it is that were are drawing near to—Jesus the Messiah, the Preexistent Son, King of the Jews, Lord of the nations, Saviour of souls, fully God and fully man.

We must remember not to divorce our sacramentology from our Christology, as we have pointed out in this entire work it will lead us into heresy. Evangelicals and those in the catholic tradition must come together with an open bible, the creeds, the fathers, and the councils and settle these issues. Sacramentology is not a secondary issue if it has direct implications on our creedal heritage—it is a primary issue that must be addressed so that we do not blaspheme Christ’s nature! I truly believe that Anglicans have the bible and creeds on their sides when it comes to the Holy Sacrament; we do not merge the natures of Christ, nor do we diminish them.

In our baptism we participate in the human and divine activity of Christ, and in the holy Eucharist we partake of of Christ in a heavenly manner, not committing the errors of transubstantiation and memorialism which commit Christological heresies. I pray that the Anglican church—a church that is both Catholic and Evangelical can lead the church out of our errors, both Christological and sacramental once and for all. We have the scriptures, we have the creeds, we have the councils, and we have the sacraments; it is time that we sit down and lead the dialogue that could once and for all put an end to error, and bring all of God’s children through the waters of regeneration and unto the table of Christ. I hope that one day we can put the schism to death, and have another ecumenical council examining the holy sacraments, and finally be able to share in Christ’s heavenly table once again, as one holy, catholic, and apostolic church. It is fitting that we end with the Nicene Creed, and next time we think about the sacraments we should ask ourselves, “are we departing from this faith once handed down?”

The Nicene Creed
I believe in one God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth,
And of all things visible and invisible:
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God,
Begotten of his Father before all worlds,
God of God, Light of Light,
Very God of very God,
Begotten, not made,
Being of one substance with the Father,
By whom all things were made;
Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven,
And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary,
And was made man,
And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.
He suffered and was buried,
And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures,
And ascended into heaven,
And sitteth on the right hand of the Father.
And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead:
Whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost,
The Lord and giver of life,
Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son,
Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified,
Who spake by the Prophets.
And I believe one Catholick and Apostolick Church.
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.
And I look for the Resurrection of the dead,
And the life of the world to come.
Amen (Nicene Creed, 1662 Book of Common Prayer)

1Dokeo, Thayer’s Lexicon

2Curtis Crenshaw, Heresies Regarding Christ, p. 1

3Γνῶσις (Knowledge)

41 John 1:1-2, AV

5St. John 1:14, AV

6St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans 7:1

7 Alexander of Alexandria summarized Arius’ views as follows: “God was not always the Father, but that there was a period when he was not the Father; that the Word of God was not from eternity, but was made out of nothing; for that the ever-existing God (‘the I AM’—the eternal One) made him who did not previously exist, out of nothing; wherefore there was a time when he did not exist, inasmuch as the Son is a creature and a work. That he is neither like the Father as it regards his essence, nor is by nature either the Father’s true Word, or true Wisdom, but indeed one of his works and creatures, being erroneously called Word and Wisdom, since he was himself made of God’s own Word and the Wisdom which is in God, whereby God both made all things and him also. Wherefore he is as to his nature mutable and susceptible of change, as all other rational creatures are: hence the Word is alien to and other than the essence of God; and the Father is inexplicable by the Son, and invisible to him, for neither does the Word perfectly and accurately know the Father, neither can he distinctly see him. The Son knows not the nature of his own essence: for he was made on our account, in order that God might create us by him, as by an instrument; nor would he ever have existed, unless God had wished to create us.”

8“Same Substance”

9“Similar Substance”

10 Colossians 1:15, AV

11 Albert Barnes deals with the text in a conservative and thorough matter in his notes on Colossians 1:15: “The first-born of every creature – Among all the creatures of God, or over all his creation, occupying the rank and pro-eminence of the first-born. The first-born, or the oldest son, among the Hebrews as elsewhere, had special privileges. He was entitled to a double portion of the inheritance. It has been, also, and especially in oriental countries, a common thing for the oldest son to succeed to the estate and the title of his father. In early times, the first-born son was the officiating priest in the family, in the absence or on the death of the father. There can be no doubt that the apostle here has reference to the usual distinctions and honors conferred on the first-born, and means to say that, among all the creatures of God, Christ occupied a pre-eminence similar to that. He does not say that, in all respects, he resembled the first-born in a family; nor does he say that he himself was a creature, for the point of his comparison does not turn on these things, and what he proceeds to affirm respecting him is inconsistent with the idea of his being a created being himself.”

12 Colossians 1:16-17, AV

13 Romans 1:25, AV

14 Curtis Crenshaw, Heresies Regarding Christ, p. 6

15 Curtis Crenshaw, Heresies Regarding Christ, p. 6

16 Joseph Pohle, Christology (London: B. Herder Book Co., 1925), 49-50 [Source Crenshaw]

17 Michael Templin, Chart on Heresy, p. 2

18 Curtis Crenshaw, Heresies Regarding Christ, p. 7

19 Curtis Crenshaw, Heresies Regarding Christ, p. 7

20 Curtis Crenshaw, Heresies Regarding Christ, p. 7

21 Curtis Crenshaw, Heresies Regarding Christ, p. 8

22 St. John 1:14, AV

23 In Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible (Notes on John 1:14) he summarizes and defeats the Nestorian position: “And the word was made flesh,” The same word, of whom so many things are said in the preceding verses; and is no other than the Son of God, or second person in the Trinity; for neither the Father, nor the Holy Ghost, were made flesh, as is here said of the word, but the Son only: and “flesh” here signifies, not a part of the body, nor the whole body only, but the whole human nature, consisting of a true body, and a reasonable soul; and is so called, to denote the frailty of it, being encompassed with infirmities, though not sinful; and to show, that it was a real human nature, and not a phantom, or appearance, that he assumed: and when he is said to be “made” flesh, this was not done by the change of one nature into another, the divine into the human, or the word into a man; but by the assumption of the human nature, the word, taking it into personal union with himself; whereby the natures are not altered; Christ remained what he was, and became what he was not; nor are they confounded, and blended together, and so make a third nature; nor are they separated, and divided, so as to constitute two persons, a divine person, and an human person; but are so united as to be but one person; and this is such an union, as can never be dissolved, and is the foundation of the virtue and efficacy of all Christ’s works and actions, as Mediator”

24 Literally “God-bearer or the one who gives birth to God”; Less Literally “Mother of God”

25 St. Cyril of Alexandria, The Ephesian Council’s Corpus (431)

26 Curtis Crenshaw, Heresies Regarding Christ, p. 8

27 Millard Erickson, The Word became Flesh, p. 63 [Crenshaw]

28 Hebrews 1:1-4, AV

29 St. Luke 1:30-33, AV

30 Clarke’s notes (on St. Luke 1:35) explain this more thoroughly: “This evidently means that the body of Jesus would be created by the direct power of God. It was not by ordinary generation; but, as the Messiah came to redeem sinners – to make atonement for “others,” and not for himself it was necessary that his human nature should be pure, and free from the corruption of the fall. God therefore prepared him a body by direct creation that should be pure and holy.”

31 St. John 6:53, AV

32 Curtis Crenshaw, Heresies Regarding Christ, p. 9

33 St. Luke 22:41-42, AV

34 Millard Erickson, The Word became Flesh, p. 74 [Crenshaw]

35 In Gill’s Exposition of the Bible (St. Luke 22:42) more light is shed on the wills of Christ: “”if it be possible”; remove this cup from me; meaning, either his present sorrows and distress, or his approaching sufferings and death, which he had in view, or both: nevertheless not my will; as man, for Christ had an human will distinct from, though not contrary to his divine will.”

36 St. Matthew 28:19-20, AV

37 REC, The Book of Common Prayer (Catechism), p. 588

38 Romans 6:3-4, AV

39 St. John 3:5, AV

40 Baptism is the common Patristic understanding of “Born of water”. As St. Irenaeus writes (c. A.D. 190): “And [Naaman] dipped himself…seven times in the Jordan” [2 Kings 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as new-born babes, even as the Lord has declared: “Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Fragment 34)

41 St. Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor of Children 1:6:26:1

42 Gal 4:4, Romans 6:3-4, Titus 3:5, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, John 3:5, and 1 Peter 3:21

43 St. Luke 22:15-20, AV

44 As St. Paul saith in 1 Corinthians 5: “ For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

45 Justin Martyr, First Apology, Ch. 66, inter A.D. 148-155.

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I came across a beautiful hymn somewhat recently, possibly one of the oldest hymns in the church: the Phos Hilaron. It was originally written in Koine and has been used in Vespers (Evening Prayer) for probably 1850 years. Phos Hilaron is widely sung in the Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran church. The Hymn was sung during the lamp lighting in the tomb of Christ in Jerusalem (The light shining showed that He was alive) and later became a song for the lighting of candles, among various other liturgical practices in the church.

Φῶς Ἱλαρόν

Φῶς ἱλαρὸν ἁγίας δόξης ἀθανάτου Πατρός,

οὐρανίου, ἁγίου, μάκαρος, Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ,
ἐλθόντες ἐπὶ τὴν ἡλίου δύσιν, ἰδόντες φῶς ἑσπερινόν,
ὑμνοῦμεν Πατέρα, Υἱόν, καὶ ἅγιον Πνεῦμα, Θεόν.
Ἄξιόν σε ἐν πᾶσι καιροῖς ὑμνεῖσθαι φωναῖς αἰσίαις,
Υἱὲ Θεοῦ, ζωὴν ὁ διδούς· διὸ ὁ κόσμος σὲ δοξάζει.

And the English version “O gracious Light” (BCP1979):

O gracious Light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds.

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Church Fathers on Predestination

St. Justin Martyr ca. 100-165


But lest some suppose, from what has been said by us, that we say that whatever happens, happens by a fatal necessity, because it is foretold as known beforehand, this too we explain. We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, and chastisements, and good rewards, are rendered acc…ording to the merit of each man’s actions. Since if it be not so, but all things happen by fate, neither is anything at all in our own power. For if it be fated that this man, e.g., be good, and this other evil, neither is the former meritorious nor the latter to be blamed. And again, unless the human race have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions, of whatever kind they be. But that it is by free choice they both walk uprightly and stumble, we thus demonstrate. We see the same man making a transition to opposite things. Now, if it had been fated that he were to be either good or bad, he could never have been capable of both the opposites, nor of so many transitions. But not even would some be good and others bad, since we thus make fate the cause of evil, and exhibit her as acting in opposition to herself; or that which has been already stated would seem to be true, that neither virtue nor vice is anything, but that things are only reckoned good or evil by opinion; which, as the true word shows, is the greatest impiety and wickedness. But this we assert is inevitable fate, that they who choose the good have worthy rewards, and they who choose the opposite have their merited awards. For not like other things, as trees and quadrupeds, which cannot act by choice, did God make man: for neither would he be worthy of reward or praise did he not of himself choose the good, but were created for this end; nor, if he were evil, would he be worthy of punishment, not being evil of himself, but being able to be nothing else than what he was made. (First Apology, Chapter XLIII [complete]; ANF, Vol. I)

Mathetes ca. 130 a.d.

He did not, as one might have imagined, send to men any servant, or angel, or ruler, or any one of those who bear sway over earthly things, or one of those to whom the government of things in the heavens has been entrusted, but the very Creator and Fashioner of all things— by whom He made the heavens— by whom he enclosed the sea within its proper bounds— whose ordinances all the stars faithfully observe— from whom the sun has received the measure of his daily course to be observed — whom the moon obeys, being commanded to shine in the night, and whom the stars also obey, following the moon in her course; by whom all things have been arranged, and placed within their proper limits, and to whom all are subject— the heavens and the things that are therein, the earth and the things that are therein, the sea and the things that are therein— fire, air, and the abyss— the things which are in the heights, the things which are in the depths, and the things which lie between. This [messenger] He sent to them. Was it then, as one might conceive, for the purpose of exercising tyranny, or of inspiring fear and terror? By no means, but under the influence of clemency and meekness. As a king sends his son, who is also a king, so sent He Him; as God He sent Him; as to men He sent Him; as a Saviour He sent Him, and as seeking to persuade, not to compel us; for violence has no place in the character of God. As calling us He sent Him, not as vengefully pursuing us; as loving us He sent Him, not as judging us. For He will yet send Him to judge us, and who shall endure His appearing?(Letter to Diognetus Chap. VII)

Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215 a.d.


Now the followers of Basilides regard faith as natural, as they also refer it to choice, representing it as finding ideas by intellectual comprehension without demonstration; while the followers of Valentinus assign faith to us, the simple, but will have it that knowledge springs up in their own selves, who are savd by nature through the advantage of a germ of superior excellence, saying that it is as far removed from faith as the spiritual is from the animal. Further, the followers of Basilides say that faith as well as choice is proper according to every interval; and that in consequence of the supramundane selection mundane faith accompanies all nature, and that the free gift of faith is comformable to the hope of each. Faith, then, is no longer the result of free choice, if it is a natural advantage. (Stromata, II, III)




Valentinian, in a homily, writes in these words: “Ye are originally immortal, and children of eternal life, and ye would have death distributed to you, that ye may spend and lavish it, and that death may die in you and by you; for when we dissolve the world, and are not yourselves dissolved, ye have dominion over creation and all corruption.” For he also, similarly with Basilides, supposes a class saved by nature, and that this different race has come hither to us from above for the abolition of death, and that the origin of death is the work of the Creator of the world. (Stromata, IV, XIII)

Tertullian ca. 160-220 a.d.

Cain and Abel, and Seth, who were in a certain sense the sources of the human race, become the fountain-heads of just as many qualities of nature and essential character. The material nature, which had become reprobate for salvation, they assign to Cain; the animal nature, which was poised between divergent hopes, they find in Abel; the spiritual, preordained for certain salvation, they store up in Seth.In this way also they make a twofold distinction among souls, as to their property of good and evil— according to the material condition derived from Cain, or the animal from Abel. Men’s spiritual state they derive over and above the other conditions, from Seth adventitiously, not in the way of nature, but of grace, in such wise that Achamoth infuses it among superior beings like rain into good souls, that is, those who are enrolled in the animal class. Whereas the material class— in other words, those souls which are bad souls they say, never receive the blessings of salvation, for that nature they have pronounced to be incapable of any change or reform in its natural condition. This grain, then, of spiritual seed is modest and very small when cast from her hand, but under her instruction increases and advances into full conviction, as we have already said; and the souls, on this very account, so much excelled all others, that the Demiurge, even then in his ignorance, held them in great esteem. For it was from their list that he had been accustomed to select men for kings and for priests; and these even now, if they have once attained to a full and complete knowledge of these foolish conceits of theirs, since they are already naturalized in the fraternal bond of the spiritual state, will obtain a sure salvation, nay, one which is on all accounts their due. For this reason it is that they neither regard works as necessary for themselves, nor do they observe any of the calls of duty, eluding even the necessity of martyrdom on any pretence which may suit their pleasure. (Against the Valentinians, XXIX-XXX)


Melito of Sardis died ca. 180 a.d.


There is, therefore, nothing to hinder you from changing your evil manner of life, because you are a free man. (David Bercot, A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs p. 286).

St. Irenaeus of Lyons ca. 2nd cent-202 a.d.


This expression, ‘How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldst not,’ set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free (agent) from the beginning, possessing his own soul to obey the behests of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God, but a good will (toward us) is present with Him continually. And therefore does He give good counsel to all. And in man as well as in angels, He has placed the power of choice (for angels are rational beings), so that those who had yielded obedience might justly possess what is good, given indeed by God, but preserved by themselves…


If then it were not in our power to do or not to do these things, what reason had the apostle, and much more the Lord Himself, to give counsel to do some things and to abstain from others? But because man is possessed of free-will from the beginning, and God is possessed of free-will in whose likeness man was created, advice is always given to him to keep fast the good, which thing is done by means of obedience to God. (Against Heresies XXXVII)


For He who makes the chaff and He who makes the wheat are not different persons, but one and the same, who judges them, that is, separates them. But the wheat and the chaff, being inanimate and irrational, have been made such by nature. But man, being endowed with reason, and in this respect like to God, having been made free in his will, and with power over himself, is himself the cause to himself, that sometimes he becomes wheat, and sometimes chaff. Wherefore also he shall be justly condemned because, having been created a rational being, he lost the true rationality, and living irrationally, opposed the righteousness of God, serving all lusts; as says the prophet, “Man, being in honor, did not understand: he was assimilated to senseless beasts, and made like to them.”(Against Heresies, book 4, chapter 4, paragraph 3)


Theophilus of Antioch ca. 2nd century a.d.


But some one will say to us, Was man made by nature mortal? Certainly not. Was he, then, immortal? Neither do we affirm this. But one will say, Was he, then, nothing? Not even this hits the mark. He was by nature neither mortal nor immortal. For if He had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him God. Again, if He had made him mortal, God would seem to be the cause of his death. Neither, then, immortal nor yet mortal did He make him, but, as we have said above, capable of both; so that if he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as reward from Him immortality, and should become God; but if, on the other hand, he should turn to the things of death, disobeying God, he should himself be the cause of death to himself. For God made man free, and with power over himself. That, then, which man brought upon himself through carelessness and disobedience, this God now vouchsafes to him as a gift through His own philanthropy and pity, when men obey Him. For as man, disobeying, drew death upon himself; so, obeying the will of God, he who desires is able to procure for himself life everlasting. For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption. (To Autolycus XXVII)

Origen ca.185-254 a.d.


Let us begin, then, with those words which were spoken to Pharaoh, who is said to have been hardened by God, in order that he might not let the people go; and, along with his case, the language of the apostle also will be considered, where he says, Therefore He has mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardens. For it is on these passages chiefly that the heretics rely, asserting that salvation is not in our own power, but that souls are of such a nature as must by all means be either lost or saved; and that in no way can a soul which is of an evil nature become good, or one which is of a virtuous nature be made bad. (De Principiis Book III, Chapter I: On the Freedom of the Will VIII)

St. Anthony the Great ca. 251-356 a.d.


Wherefore having already begun and set out in the way of virtue, let us strive the more that we may attain those things that are before. And let no one turn to the things behind, like Lot’s wife, all the more so that the Lord has said, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and turning back, is fit for the kingdom of heaven. And this turning back is nought else but to feel regret, and to be once more worldly-minded. But fear not to hear of virtue, nor be astonished at the name. For it is not far from us, nor is it without ourselves, but it is within us, and is easy if only we are willing. That they may get knowledge, the Greeks live abroad and cross the sea, but we have no need to depart from home for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, nor to cross the sea for the sake of virtue. For the Lord aforetime has said, The kingdom of heaven is within you . Wherefore virtue has need at our hands of willingness alone, since it is in us and is formed from us. For when the soul has its spiritual faculty in a natural state virtue is formed. And it is in a natural state when it remains as it came into existence. And when it came into existence it was fair and exceeding honest. For this cause Joshua, the son of Nun, in his exhortation said to the people, Make straight your heart unto the Lord God of Israel Josh. 24:23, and John, Make your paths straight Matt. 3:3 . For rectitude of soul consists in its having its spiritual part in its natural state as created. But on the other hand, when it swerves and turns away from its natural state, that is called vice of the soul. Thus the matter is not difficult. If we abide as we have been made, we are in a state of virtue, but if we think of ignoble things we shall be accounted evil. If, therefore, this thing had to be acquired from without, it would be difficult in reality; but if it is in us, let us keep ourselves from foul thoughts. And as we have received the soul as a deposit, let us preserve it for the Lord, that He may recognise His work as being the same as He made it. (The Life of St. Anthony Chap. XX written by St. Athanasius the Great)

St. Methodius of Olympus ca.260-martyred 311 a.d.


Now those who decide that man is not possessed of free-will, and affirm that he is governed by the unavoidable necessities of fate . . . are guilty of impiety toward God Himself, making Him out to be the cause and author of human evils. (The Banquet of the Ten Virgins XVI)


Arnobius of Sicca ca. 253-327 a.d.

I reply: does not He free all alike who invites all alike? Or does He thrust back or repel any one from the kindness of the Supreme who gives to all alike the power of coming to Him? To all, He says, the fountain of life is open, and no one is hindered or kept back from drinking…


Nay, my opponent says, if God is powerful, merciful, willing to save us, let Him change our dispositions, and compel us to trust in His promises. This then, is violence, not kindness nor the bounty of the Supreme God, but a childish and vain strife in seeking to get the mastery. For what is so unjust as to force men who are reluctant and unworthy, to reverse their inclinations; to impress forcibly on their minds what they are unwilling to receive, and shrink from… (Against the Heathen:LXIV-LXV)


Archelaus ca. 277 a.d.

For all creatures that God made, He made very good, and He gave to every individual the sense of free-will in accordance with which standard He also instituted the law of judgment. To sin is ours, and that we sin not is God’s gift, as our will is constituted to choose either to sin or not to sin. (The Acts of the Disputation with Manes)


St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 312-386 a.d.


Next to the knowledge of this venerable and glorious and all-holy Faith, learn further what you yourself art: that as man you are of a two-fold nature, consisting of soul and body; and that, as was said a short time ago, the same God is the Creator both of soul and body. Know also that you have a soul self-governed, the noblest work of God, made after the image of its Creator : immortal because of God that gives it immortality; a living being, rational, imperishable, because of Him that bestowed these gifts: having free power to do what it wills. For it is not according to your nativity that you sin, nor is it by the power of chance that you commit fornication, nor, as some idly talk, do the conjunctions of the stars compel you to give yourself to wantonness. Why do you shrink from confessing your own evil deeds, and ascribe the blame to the innocent stars? Give no more heed, pray, to astrologers; for of these the divine Scripture says, Let the stargazers of the heaven stand up and save you, and what follows: Behold, they all shall be consumed as stubble on the fire, and shall not deliver their soul from the flame Isa. 47:13.


And learn this also, that the soul, before it came into this world, had committed no sin, but having come in sinless, we now sin of our free-will. Listen not, I pray you, to any one perversely interpreting the words, But if I do that which I would not Rom. 7:16: but remember Him who says, If you be willing, and hearken unto Me, you shall eat the good things of the land: but if you be not willing, neither hearken unto Me, the sword shall devour you, etc. Isa. 1:19-20: and again, As you presented your members as servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now present your members as servants to righteousness unto sanctification. Rom. 6:19 Remember also the Scripture, which says, Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge Rom. 1:28: and, That which may be known of God is manifest in them Rom. 1:19; and again, their eyes they have closed. Matt. 13:15 Also remember how God again accuses them, and says, Yet I planted you a fruitful vine, wholly true: how are you turned to bitterness, thou the strange vine Jer. 2:21?


The soul is immortal, and all souls are alike both of men and women; for only the members of the body are distinguished. There is not a class of souls sinning by nature, and a class of souls practising righteousness by nature : but both act from choice, the substance of their souls being of one kind only, and alike in all. I know, however, that I am talking much, and that the time is already long: but what is more precious than salvation? Are you not willing to take trouble in getting provisions for the way against the heretics? And will you not learn the bye-paths of the road, lest from ignorance thou fall down a precipice? If your teachers think it no small gain for you to learn these things, should not thou the learner gladly receive the multitude of things told you?


The soul is self-governed: and though the devil can suggest, he has not the power to compel against the will. He pictures to you the thought of fornication: if you will, you accept it; if you will not, you reject. For if you were a fornicator by necessity, then for what cause did God prepare hell? If you were a doer of righteousness by nature and not by will, wherefore did God prepare crowns of ineffable glory? The sheep is gentle, but never was it crowned for its gentleness: since its gentle quality belongs to it not from choice but by nature. (Catechetical Lectures IV)

St. Basil of Caesarea ca. 300-379 a.d.

If the origin of our virtues and of our vices is not in ourselves, but is the fatal consequence of our birth, it is useless for legislators to prescribe for us what we ought to do, and what we ought to avoid; it is useless for judges to honour virtue and to punish vice. The guilt is not in the robber, not in the assassin: it was willed for him; it was impossible for him to hold back his hand, urged to evil by inevitable necessity. Those who laboriously cultivate the arts are the maddest of men. The labourer will make an abundant harvest without sowing seed and without sharpening his sickle. Whether he wishes it or not, the merchant will make his fortune, and will be flooded with riches by fate. As for us Christians, we shall see our great hopes vanish, since from the moment that man does not act with freedom, there is neither reward for justice, nor punishment for sin. Under the reign of necessity and of fatality there is no place for merit, the first condition of all righteous judgment. But let us stop. You who are sound in yourselves have no need to hear more, and time does not allow us to make attacks without limit against these unhappy men. (Hexaemeron – Homily VI, Chap VII)

St. Simeon, Bishop of Ctesiphon (died ca. 341 a.d.)


The goal of human freedom is not in freedom itself, nor is it in man, but in God. By giving man freedom, God has yielded to man a piece of His divine authority, but with the intention that man himself would voluntarily bring it as a sacrifice to God, a most perfect offering.


St. Jerome ca. 347-420 a.d.


It is in vain that you misrepresent me and try to convince the ignorant that I condemn free-will. Let him who condemns it be himself condemned. We have been created endowed with free-will; still it is not this which distinguishes us from the brutes. For human free-will, as I said, depends upon the help of God and needs His aid moment by moment, a thing which you and yours do not choose to admit. Your position is that once a man has free-will he no longer needs the help of God. It is true that freedom of the will brings with it freedom of decision. Still man does not act immediately on his free-will but requires God’s aid who Himself needs no aid. (Letters CXXXIII)


But when we are concerned with grace and mercy, free-will is in part void; in part, I say, for so much depends upon it, that we wish and desire, and give assent to the course we choose. But it depends on God whether we have the power in His strength and with His help to perform what we desire, and to bring to effect our toil and effort. (Against the Pelagians Book III, 10)

St. John Chrysostom ca. 347-407 a.d.

John 6:44 No man can come unto Me, except the Father which has sent Me draw Him.


The Manichæans spring upon these words, saying, that nothing lies in our own power; yet the expression shows that we are masters of our will. For if a man comes to Him, says some one, what need is there of drawing? But the words do not take away our free will, but show that we greatly need assistance. And He implies not an unwilling comer, but one enjoying much succor. Then He shows also the manner in which He draws; for that men may not, again, form any material idea of God, He adds,


John 6:46 Not that any man has seen God, save He which is of God, He has seen the Father.


How then, says some one, does the Father draw? This the Prophet explained of old, when he proclaimed beforehand, and said,


John 6:45 They shall all be taught of God. (Isa. 54:13)


Do you see the dignity of faith, and that not of men nor by man, but by God Himself they shall learn this? And to make this assertion credible, He referred them to their prophets. If then ‘all shall be taught of God,’ how is it that some shall not believe? Because the words are spoken of the greater number. Besides, the prophecy means not absolutely all, but all that have the will. For the teacher sits ready to impart what he has to all, and pouring forth his instruction unto all. (On the Gospel of John, Homily 46)

Rom. 9:20-2l Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why have You made me thus? Hath not the potter power, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?


Here it is not to do away with free-will that he says this, but to show, up to what point we ought to obey God. For in respect of calling God to account, we ought to be as little disposed to it as the clay is. For we ought to abstain not from gainsaying or questioning only, but even from speaking or thinking of it at all, and to become like that lifeless matter, which follows the potter’s hands, and lets itself be drawn about anywhere he may please. And this is the only point he applied the illustration to, not, that is, to any enunciation of the rule of life, but to the complete obedience and silence enforced upon us. (On the Epistle to the Romans, Homily XVI)

St. Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430 a.d.

He who made you without your consent does not justify you without your consent. He made you without your knowledge, but He does not justify you without your willing it. (Sermons, 169, 3; Jurgens, III, 29)


Free will is not taken away because it is assisted, but is assisted in order that it not be taken away. (Ep 152, 2, 10)


If grace does not exist, how does he save the world? If there is no free will, how does he judge the world? (Ep 214, 2)


Someone says to me: “Since we are acted upon, it is not we who act.” I answer, “No, you both act and are acted upon; and if you are acted upon by the good, you act properly. For the spirit of God who moves you, by so moving, is your Helper. The very term helper makes it clear that you yourself are doing something.” (Sermons 156, 11; Jurgens, III, 28)


. . . It is not the case, therefore, that because God foreknew what would be in the power of our wills, there is for that reason nothing in the power of our wills. For he who foreknew this did not foreknow nothing. Moreover, if He who foreknew what would be in the power of our wills did not foreknow nothing, but something, assuredly, even though He did foreknow, there is something in the power of our wills. Therefore we are by no means compelled, either, retaining the prescience of God, to take away the freedom of the will, or, retaining the freedom of the will, to deny that He is prescient of future things, which is impious. But we embrace both. We faithfully and sincerely confess both. The former, that we may believe well; the latter, that we may live well. For he lives ill who does not believe well concerning God. Wherefore, be it far from us, in order to maintain our freedom, to deny the prescience of Him by whose help we are or shall be free.


Consequently, it is not in vain that laws are enacted, and that reproaches, exhortations, praises, and vituperations are had recourse to; for these also He foreknew, and they are of great avail, even as great as He foreknew that they would be of. Prayers, also, are of avail to procure those things which He foreknew that He would grant to those who offered them; and with justice have rewards been appointed for good deeds, and punishments for sins. For a man does not therefore sin because God foreknew that he would sin. Nay, it cannot be doubted but that it is the man himself who sins when he does sin, because He, whose foreknowledge is infallible, foreknew not that fate, or fortune, or something else would sin, but that the man himself would sin, who, if he wills not, sins not. But if he shall not will to sin, even this did God foreknow. (City of God, Book V, Chapter X; NPNF 1, Vol. II)

St. John Cassian ca. 360-435 a.d.

And so these are somehow mixed up and indiscriminately confused, so that among many persons, which depends on the other is involved in great questionings, i.e., does God have compassion upon us because we have shown the beginning of a good will, or does the beginning of a good will follow because God has had compassion upon us? For many believing each of these and asserting them more widely than is right are entangled in all kinds of opposite errors. For if we say that the beginning of free will is in our own power, what about Paul the persecutor, what about Matthew the publican, of whom the one was drawn to salvation while eager for bloodshed and the punishment of the innocent, the other for violence and rapine? But if we say that the beginning of our free will is always due to the inspiration of the grace of God, what about the faith of Zaccheus, or what are we to say of the goodness of the thief on the cross, who by their own desires brought violence to bear on the kingdom of heaven and so prevented the special leadings of their vocation? But if we attribute the performance of virtuous acts, and the execution of God’s commands to our own will, how do we pray: Strengthen, O God, what You have wrought in us; and The work of our hands establish Thou upon us? We know that Balaam was brought to curse Israel, but we see that when he wished to curse he was not permitted to. Abimelech is preserved from touching Rebecca and so sinning against God. Joseph is sold by the envy of his brethren, in order to bring about the descent of the children of Israel into Egypt, and that while they were contemplating the death of their brother provision might be made for them against the famine to come: as Joseph shows when he makes himself known to his brethren and says: Fear not, neither let it be grievous unto you that you sold me into these parts: for for your salvation God sent me before you; and below: For God sent me before that you might be preserved upon the earth and might have food whereby to live. Not by your design was I sent but by the will of God, who has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his house, and chief over all the land of Egypt. And when his brethren were alarmed after the death of his father, he removed their suspicions and terror by saying: Fear not: Can you resist the will of God? You imagined evil against me but God turned it into good, that He might exalt me, as you see at the present time, that He might save much people. And that this was brought about providentially the blessed David likewise declared saying in the hundred and fourth Psalm: And He called for a dearth upon the land: and broke all the staff of bread. He sent a man before them: Joseph was sold for a slave. These two then; viz., the grace of God and free will seem opposed to each other, but really are in harmony, and we gather from the system of goodness that we ought to have both alike, lest if we withdraw one of them from man, we may seem to have broken the rule of the Church’s faith: for when God sees us inclined to will what is good, He meets, guides, and strengthens us: for At the voice of your cry, as soon as He shall hear, He will answer you; and:  Call upon Me, He says, in the day of tribulation and I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me. And again, if He finds that we are unwilling or have grown cold, He stirs our hearts with salutary exhortations, by which a good will is either renewed or formed in us.


For we should not hold that God made man such that he can never will or be capable of what is good: or else He has not granted him a free will, if He has suffered him only to will or be capable of evil, but neither to will or be capable of what is good of himself. And, in this case how will that first statement of the Lord made about men after the fall stand: Behold, Adam has become as one of us, knowing good and evil? Gen. 3:22 For we cannot think that before, he was such as to be altogether ignorant of good. Otherwise we should have to admit that he was formed like some irrational and insensate beast: which is sufficiently absurd and altogether alien from the Catholic faith. Moreover as the wisest Solomon says: God made man upright, i.e., always to enjoy the knowledge of good only, But they have sought out many imaginations, for they came, as has been said, to know good and evil. Adam therefore after the fall conceived a knowledge of evil which he had not previously, but did not lose the knowledge of good which he had before. Finally the Apostle’s words very clearly show that mankind did not lose after the fall of Adam the knowledge of good: as he says: For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things of the law, these, though they have not the law, are a law to themselves, as they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to these, and their thoughts within them either accusing or else excusing them, in the day in which God shall judge the secrets of men. Rom. 2:14-16 And with the same meaning the Lord rebukes by the prophet the unnatural but freely chosen blindness of the Jews, which they by their obstinacy brought upon themselves, saying: Hear you deaf, and you blind, behold that you may see. Who is deaf but My servant? And blind, but he to whom I have sent My messengers? Isa.42:18-19 And that no one might ascribe this blindness of theirs to nature instead of to their own will, elsewhere He says: Bring forth the people that are blind and have eyes: that are deaf and have ears; and again: having eyes, but you see not; and ears, but you hear not. The Lord also says in the gospel: Because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not neither do they understand. Matt. 13:13 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: Hearing you shall hear and shall not understand: and seeing you shall see and shall not see. For the heart of this people is waxed fat, and their ears are dull of hearing: and they have closed their eyes, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart, and be turned and I should heal them. Isa. 6:9-10 Finally in order to denote that the possibility of good was in them, in chiding the Pharisees, He says: But why of your own selves do you not judge what is right? Lk. 12:57 And this he certainly would not have said to them, unless He knew that by their natural judgment they could discern what was fair. Wherefore we must take care not to refer all the merits of the saints to the Lord in such a way as to ascribe nothing but what is evil and perverse to human nature: in doing which we are confuted by the evidence of the most wise Solomon, or rather of the Lord Himself, Whose words these are; for when the building of the Temple was finished and he was praying, he spoke as follows: And David my father would have built a house to the name of the Lord God of Israel: and the Lord said to David my father: Whereas you have thought in your heart to build a house to My name, you have well done in having this same thing in your mind. Nevertheless you shall not build a house to My name. 1 Kings 8:17-19 This thought then and this purpose of king David, are we to call it good and from God or bad and from man? For if that thought was good and from God, why did He by whom it was inspired refuse that it should be carried into effect? But if it is bad and from man, why is it praised by the Lord? It remains then that we must take it as good and from man. And in the same way we can take our own thoughts today. For it was not given only to David to think what is good of himself, nor is it denied to us naturally to think or imagine anything that is good. It cannot then be doubted that there are by nature some seeds of goodness in every soul implanted by the kindness of the Creator: but unless these are quickened by the assistance of God, they will not be able to attain to an increase of perfection, for, as the blessed Apostle says: Neither is he that plants anything nor he that waters, but God that gives the increase. 1 Cor. 3:7 But that freedom of the will is to some degree in a man’s own power is very clearly taught in the book termed the Pastor, where two angels are said to be attached to each one of us, i.e., a good and a bad one, while it lies at a man’s own option to choose which to follow. And therefore the will always remains free in man, and can either neglect or delight in the grace of God. For the Apostle would not have commanded saying: Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, had he not known that it could be advanced or neglected by us. But that men might not fancy that they had no need of Divine aid for the work of Salvation, he subjoins: For it is God that works in you both to will and to do, of His good pleasure. Phil. 2:12-13 And therefore he warns Timothy and says: Neglect not the grace of God which is in you; and again: For which cause I exhort you to stir up the grace of God which is in you. Hence also in writing to the Corinthians he exhorts and warns them not through their unfruitful works to show themselves unworthy of the grace of God, saying: And we helping, exhort you that you receive not the grace of God in vain: 2 Cor. 6:1 for the reception of saving grace was of no profit to Simon doubtless because he had received it in vain; for he would not obey the command of the blessed Peter who said: Repent of your iniquity, and pray God if haply the thoughts of your heart may be forgiven you; for I perceive that you are in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity. Acts 8:22-23 It prevents therefore the will of man, for it is said:  My God will prevent me with His mercy; and again when God waits and for our good delays, that He may put our desires to the test, our will precedes, for it is said: And in the morning my prayer shall prevent You; and again: I prevented the dawning of the day and cried; and: My eyes have prevented the morning. For He calls and invites us, when He says: All the day long I stretched forth My hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people; Rom. 10:21 and He is invited by us when we say to Him: All the day long I have stretched forth My hands unto You. He waits for us, when it is said by the prophet: Wherefore the Lord waits to have compassion upon us; Isa. 30:18 and He is waited for by us, when we say: I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined unto me; and: I have waited for your salvation, O Lord. He strengthens us when He says: And I have chastised them, and strengthened their arms; and they have imagined evil against me; Hos. 7:15 and He exhorts us to strengthen ourselves when He says: Strengthen the weak hands, and make strong the feeble knees. Isa. 35:3 Jesus cries: If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink; John 7:37 the prophet also cries to Him: I have laboured with crying, my jaws have become hoarse: my eyes have failed, while I hope in my God. The Lord seeks us, when He says: I sought and there was no man. I called, and there was none to answer; Songs 5:6 and He Himself is sought by the bride who mourns with tears: I sought on my bed by night Him whom my soul loved: I sought Him and found Him not; I called Him, and He gave me no answer.  Songs 3:1


And so the grace of God always co-operates with our will for its advantage, and in all things assists, protects, and defends it, in such a way as sometimes even to require and look for some efforts of good will from it that it may not appear to confer its gifts on one who is asleep or relaxed in sluggish ease, as it seeks opportunities to show that as the torpor of man’s sluggishness is shaken off its bounty is not unreasonable, when it bestows it on account of some desire and efforts to gain it. And none the less does God’s grace continue to be free grace while in return for some small and trivial efforts it bestows with priceless bounty such glory of immortality, and such gifts of eterna bliss. For because the faith of the thief on the cross came as the first thing, no one would say that therefore the blessed abode of Paradise was not promised to him as a free gift, nor could we hold that it was the penitence of King David’s single word which he uttered: I have sinned against the Lord, and not rather the mercy of God which removed those two grievous sins of his, so that it was vouchsafed to him to hear from the prophet Nathan: The Lord also has put away your iniquity: you shall not die. 2 Sam. 12:13 The fact then that he added murder to adultery, was certainly due to free will: but that he was reproved by the prophet, this was the grace of Divine Compassion. Again it was his own doing that he was humbled and acknowledged his guilt; but that in a very short interval of time he was granted pardon for such sins, this was the gift of the merciful Lord. And what shall we say of this brief confession and of the incomparable infinity of Divine reward, when it is easy to see what the blessed Apostle, as he fixes his gaze on the greatness of future remuneration, announced on those countless persecutions of his? for, says he, our light affliction which is but for a moment works in us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 2 Cor 4:17 of which elsewhere he constantly affirms, saying that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the future glory which shall be revealed in us. Rom. 8:18 However much then human weakness may strive, it cannot come up to the future reward, nor by its efforts so take off from Divine grace that it should not always remain a free gift. And therefore the aforesaid teacher of the Gentiles, though he bears his witness that he had obtained the grade of the Apostolate by the grace of God, saying: By the grace of God I am what I am, yet also declares that he himself had corresponded to Divine Grace, where he says: And His Grace in me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: and yet not I, but the Grace of God with me. 1 Cor. 15:10 For when he says: I laboured, he shows the effort of his own will; when he says: yet not I, but the grace of God, he points out the value of Divine protection; when he says: with me, he affirms that it cooperates with him when he was not idle or careless, but working and making an effort. (Conferences XI, XII, XIII)

Prosper of Aquitaine ca. 390-455 a.d.


We must confess that God wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Secondly, there can be no doubt that all who actually come to the knowledge of the truth and to salvation, do so not in virtue of their own merits but of the efficacious help of divine grace. Thirdly, we must admit that human understanding is unable to fathom the depths of God’s judgements, and we ought not to inquire why He who wishes all men to be saved does not in fact save all.  (The Call of All Nations, 2.1)

St. Faustus of Riez ca. 407-493 a.d.


We assert that whoever is lost is lost by his own volition, but that he could have obtained salvation by grace had he cooperated with it. On the other hand, whoever, by means of [this] cooperation attains perfection may, of his own fault, his own negligence, fall and lose it and [become] lost. Certainly we exclude all personal boasting, for we declare that all that we have has been gratuitously received from God’s hand” (Epistle to Lucidus, LIII:683).

St. Vincent of Lerins ca. 445 a.d.


But some one will say, What proof have we that the Devil is wont to appeal to Holy Scripture? Let him read the Gospels wherein it is written, “Then the Devil took Him (the Lord the Saviour) and set Him upon a pinnacle of the Temple, and said unto Him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning thee, that they may keep thee in all thy ways: In their hands they shall bear thee up, lest perchance thou dash thy foot against a stone.” What sort of treatment must men, insignificant wretches that they are, look for at the hands of him who assailed even the Lord of Glory with quotations from Scripture? “If thou be the Son of God,” saith be, “cast the, self down.” Wherefore? “For,” saith he, “it is written.” It behoves us to pay special attention to this passage and bear it in mind, that, warned by so important an instance of Evangelical authority, we may be assured beyond doubt, when we find people alleging passages from the Apostles or Prophets against the Catholic Faith, that the Devil speaks through their mouths. For as then the Head spoke to the Head, so now also the members speak to the members, the members of the Devil to the members of Christ, misbelievers to believers, sacrilegious to religious, in one word, Heretics to Catholics.


But what do they say? “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down;” that is,. If thou wouldst be a son of God, and wouldst receive the inheritance of the Kingdom of Heaven, cast thyself down; that is, cast thyself down from the doctrine and tradition of that sublime Church, which is imagined to be nothing less than the very temple of God. And if one should ask one of the heretics who gives this advice, How do you prove? What ground have you, for saying, that I ought to cast away the universal and ancient faith of the Catholic Church? he has the answer ready, “For it is written;” and forthwith he produces a thousand testimonies, a thousand examples, a thousand authorities from the Law, from the Psalms, from the apostles, from the Prophets, by means of which, interpreted on a new and wrong principle, the unhappy soul may be precipitated from the height of Catholic truth to the lowest abyss of heresy. Then, with the accompanying promises, the heretics are wont marvellously to beguile the incautious. For they dare to teach and promise, that in their church, that is, in the conventicle of their communion, there is a certain great and special and altogether personal grace of God, so that whosoever pertain to their number, without any labour, without any effort, without any industry, even though they neither ask, nor seek, nor knock, have such a dispensation from God, that, borne up by angel hands, that is, preserved by the protection of angels, it is impossible they should ever dash their feet against a stone, that is, that they should ever be offended. (Commonitory Chap. XXVI)


St. Maximus ca. 580-662 a.d.

After quite some time, three men of high rank, Theodosius, Bishop of Caesarea in Bithynia, and the patricians Paul and Theodosius, were sent by Constans and Patriarch Peter to win over the saint. They were joined by the Bishop of Bizye, and alternately flattered and threatened Maximus, testing his faith and posing various questions. They began by introducing themselves, then requested Maximus to sit down. Bishop Theodosius asked, “How are you faring, my lord Abba Maximus?”


“Exactly as God knew I would before the ages,” replied the saint. “He foreordained the circumstances of my life, which is guarded by providence.”


“How can that be?” objected Theodosius. “Did God foreknow and actually foreordain our deeds from eternity?”


The saint said, “He foreknew our thoughts, words, and deeds, which nevertheless remain within our power to control; and He foreordained what befalls us. The latter is not subject to our control, but to the divine will.”


“Explain more exactly what is in our power, and what is not,” requested Bishop Theodosius.

“My lord, you know all this,” answered Saint Maximus. “You only ask to try your servant.”


The Bishop admitted, “Truly, I do not know. I wish to understand what we can control and what we cannot, and how God foresaw one and foreordained the other.”


The venerable Maximus explained, “We do not directly control whether blessings will be showered upon us or chastisements will befall us, but our good and evil deeds most certainly depend on our will. It is not ours to choose whether we are in health or sickness, but we make determinations likely to lead to one or the other. Similarly, we cannot simply decide that we shall attain the kingdom of heaven or be plunged into the fire of Gehenna, but we can will to keep the commandments or transgress them.” (The Life of Our Holy Monastic Father Maximus the Confessor and Martyr)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749 a.d.

We ought to understand that while God knows all things beforehand, yet He does not predetermine all things. For He knows beforehand those things that are in our power, but He does not predetermine them. For it is not His will that there should be wickedness nor does He choose to compel virtue. So that predetermination is the work of the divine command based on fore-knowledge. But on the other hand God predetermines those things which are not within our power in accordance with His prescience. For already God in His prescience has prejudged all things in accordance with His goodness and justice.


Bear in mind, too, that virtue is a gift from God implanted in our nature, and that He Himself is the source and cause of all good, and without His co-operation and help we cannot will or do any good thing, But we have it in our power either to abide in virtue and follow God, Who calls us into ways of virtue, or to stray from paths of virtue, which is to dwell in wickedness, and to follow the devil who summons but cannot compel us. For wickedness is nothing else than the withdrawal of goodness, just as darkness is nothing else than the withdrawal of light While then we abide in the natural state we abide in virtue, but when we deviate from the natural state, that is from virtue, we come into an unnatural state and dwell in wickedness. (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book II, Chap XXX)

St. Symeon the New Theologian 942-1022 a.d.:


You say, “What is the cause that one is hardened, and another readily moved to compunction?” Listen! It springs from the will, in the latter case a good will, in the former an evil one. It springs also from the thoughts, in the former case evil thoughts, in the latter from the opposite; and similarly from actions, in the former case actions contrary to God, in the latter godly ones. Examine, if you wish, all who have ever lived and you will find that it from these three causes only that many who were good became evil, and many who were evil became good. To recount them from the beginning, why did Lucifer fall (cf. Is. 14:12)? Was it not by consenting to evil in will and thought? Why did Cain become a fratricide (Gen. 4:8)? Was it not by his evil will? He preferred himself to his creator and followed after evil thoughts and so became abandoned to envy and committed muder. Why did Saul seek to apprehend and kill David whom he formerly honored as himself and greatly loved as benefactor (cf. 1 Sam. 18:24ff.)? Was it by nature or an evil will? Obviously it was out of ill will. No one is born evil by nature, since God did not create evil works but things that were very good (Gen. 1:31) …Thus it is not, as some think, by nature but by will that every man becomes either humble, and apt for compunction, or hard-hearted, hardened, and insensitive. (Symeon the New Theologian, The Discourses. The Classics of Western Spirituality, trans. C.J. deCatanzaro. Chap IV [On Tears of Penitence] pp. 71-72, 73)

St. Thephan the Recluse 1815–1894 a.d.


“What is the relationship between the Divine provision and our free will?”


Answer: The fact that the Kingdom of God is “taken by force” presupposes personal effort. When the Apostle Paul says, “it is not of him that willeth,” this means that one’s efforts do not produce what is sought. It is necessary to combine them: to strive and to expect all things from grace. It is not one’s own efforts that will lead to the goal, because without grace, efforts produce little; nor does grace without effort bring what is sought, because grace acts in us and for us through our efforts. Both combine in a person to bring progress and carry him to the goal. (God’s) foreknowledge is unfathomable. It is enough for us with our whole heart to believe that it never opposes God’s grace and truth, and that it does not infringe man’s freedom. Usually this resolves as follows: God foresees how a man will freely act and makes dispositions accordingly. Divine determination depends on the life of a man, and not his life upon the determination. (An Explanation of Certain Texts of Holy Scripture, as quoted in Johanna Manley’s The Bible and the Holy Fathers for Orthodox: Daily Scripture Readings and Commentary for Orthodox Christians, pg. 609.)

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A  brother in Christ, Maximus Scott, has allowed me to use some of his notes on the Ancient Church vs. the Reformation Church, in regards to the idea of the Cross. I would like to ask my protestant friends the question, “where is Penal Substitution?”. I don’t mean this in a condescending way, but would like you to step up and show it in both Scripture and in the Patristics.

The Cross: A Short Comparison

St. Athanasius of Alexandria: Whence neither can the Lord be forsaken by the Father, who is ever in the Father, both before He spoke, and when He uttered this cry. Nor is it lawful to say that the Lord was in terror, at whom the keepers of hell’s gates shuddered and set open hell, and the graves did gape, and many bodies of the saints arose and appeared to their own people. Therefore be every heretic dumb, nor dare to ascribe terror to the Lord whom death, as a serpent, flees, at whom demons tremble, and the sea is in alarm; for whom the heavens are rent and all the powers are shaken. For behold when He says, ‘Why have You forsaken Me?’ the Father showed that He was ever and even then in Him; for the earth knowing its Lord who spoke, straightway trembled, and the veil was rent, and the sun was hidden, and the rocks were torn asunder, and the graves, as I have said, did gape, and the dead in them arose; and, what is wonderful, they who were then present and had before denied Him, then seeing these signs, confessed that ‘truly He was the Son of God. (Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse III)

St. Hilary of Poitiers: To grasp this divine mystery we must see the God in Him without ignoring the Man; and the Man without ignoring the God. We must not divide Jesus Christ, for the Word was made flesh: yet we must not call Him buried, though we know He raised Himself again: must not doubt His resurrection, though we dare not deny He was buried. Jesus Christ was buried, for He died: He died, and even cried out at the moment of death, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Yet He, Who uttered these words, said also: Verily I say unto you, This day shall you be with Me in Paradise (Luke 23:43), and He Who promised Paradise to the thief cried aloud, Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit; and having said this He gave up the Ghost.

It is one and the same Lord Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, Who expresses Himself in all these utterances, Who is man when He says He is abandoned to death: yet while man still rules in Paradise as God, and though reigning in Paradise, as Son of God commends His Spirit to His Father, as Son of Man gives up to death the Spirit He commended to the Father. Why do we then view as a disgrace that which is a mystery? We see Him complaining that He is left to die, because He is Man: we see Him, as He dies, declaring that He reigned in Paradise, because He is God. Why should we harp, to support our irreverence, on what He said to make us understand His death, and keep back what He proclaimed to demonstrate His immortality? The words and the voice are equally His, when He complains of desertion, and when He declares His rule: by what method of heretical logic do we split up our belief and deny that He Who died was at the same time He Who rules? Did He not testify both equally of Himself, when He commended His Spirit, and when He gave it up? But if He is the same, Who commended His Spirit, and gave it up, if He dies when ruling and rules when dead: then the mystery of the Son of God and Son of Man means that He is One, Who dying reigns, and reigning dies. (On the Trinity, Bk. X)

St. Gregory Nazianzus: And thus, He Who subjects presents to God that which He has subjected, making our condition His own. Of the same kind, it appears to me, is the expression, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? It was not He who was forsaken either by the Father, or by His own Godhead, as some have thought, as if It were afraid of the Passion, and therefore withdrew Itself from Him in His sufferings (for who compelled Him either to be born on earth at all, or to be lifted up on the Cross?). But as I said, He was in His own Person representing us. For we were the forsaken and despised before, but now by the Sufferings of Him Who could not suffer, we were taken up and saved. Similarly, He makes His own our folly and our transgressions; and says what follows in the Psalm, for it is very evident that the Twenty-first Psalm refers to Christ. (Fourth Theological Oration,” 30.5, Patrologia Græca, Vol. XXXVI, col. 109A).

St. John Chrysostomos: He saith, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that unto His last breath they might see that He honors His Father, and is no adversary of God. Wherefore also He uttered a certain cry from the Prophet, even to His last hour bearing witness to the Old Testament, and not simply a cry from the Prophet, but also in Hebrew, so as to be plain and intelligible to them, and by all things, He shows how He is of one mind with Him that begat Him. (Homilies on St. Matthew, 88.1, Patrologia Græca, Vol. LVIII, col. 776).

St. Cyril of Alexandria: The cry My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? is the utterance of Adam, who trampled on the commandment given to him and disregarded God’s Law; thus did God abandon human nature, which had become accursed. When the Only-begotten Word of God came to restore fallen man, the abandonment entailed by that curse and corruption had to come to an end. My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? is the voice of Him Who destroyed our forsakenness, as if He were imploring the Father to be gracious to mankind. When, as man, He asks for something, it is for us; as God, He was in need of nothing. (Second Oration to the Empresses on the True Faith, 18, Patrologia Græca, Vol. LXXVI, col. 1357A.) Elsewhere, St. Cyril interprets this verse as proof that Christ was truly man (Thesaurus Concerning the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity, 24, Patrologia Græca, Vol. LXXV, col. 397D) and portrays Christ as the Second Adam, Who cleansed human nature of the corruption to which it became subject through Adams fall into disobedience and Who restored it to its pristine purity and dignity (That Christ Is One, Patrologia Græca, Vol. LXXV, cols. 1325C-1328A).

Pope St. Leo: Christs cry of Forsaken on the Cross was to teach us the insufficiency of the human nature without the Divine. Hence it is that the Lord Jesus Christ, our Head, representing all the members of His body in Himself and speaking for those whom He was redeeming in the punishment of the Cross, uttered that cry which He had once uttered in the Psalm, O God, My God, look upon Me; why hast Thou forsaken Me? That cry, dearly-beloved, is a lesson, not a complaint. For since in Christ there is one Person of God and man, and He could not have been forsaken by Him from Whom He could not be separated, it is on behalf of us, trembling and weak ones, that He asks why the flesh that is afraid to suffer has not been heard. (Homily, 67.7, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. XII [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978], p. 179).

St. John of Damascus: Further, these words, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? He said as making our personality His own. For neither would God be regarded with us as His Father, unless one were to discriminate with subtle imaginings of the mind between that which is seen and that which is thought, nor was He ever forsaken by His Divinity: nay, it was we who were forsaken and disregarded. So that it was as appropriating our personality that He offered these prayers. (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, III.24, Patrologia Græca, Vol. XCIV, col. 1093A).

Amen. Amen. Amen. I believe, I believe, I believe and confess to the last breath, that this is the life-giving body that your only-begotten Son, our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ took from our lady, the lady of us all, the holy Theotokos Saint May. He made it one with his divinity without mingling, without confusion and without alteration. He witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate. He gave it up for us upon the holy wood of the cross, of his own will, for us all. Truly I believe that his divinity parted not from his humanity for a single moment nor a twinkling of an eye. Given for us for salvation, remission of sins and eternal life to those who partake of him. I believe, I believe, I believe that this is so in truth. Amen. (Coptic Liturgy of St. Basil, The Confession)

*A Jewish Contextual Note*

The person who is dying, whose soul is ebbing from its home in the body, is draped in a tallit. The bystanders help them to wash their hands ritually, three times over the right, three times over the left. The dying person then does a little Yom Kippur either verbally or in their thoughts, reflecting on their life, asking for forgiveness for having wronged people, etc., and if they are able to, they recite Psalms 4, 6, 121, 145. As they feel themselves at the door of death, they recite Psalm 22 and 29 (13th-century Rabbi Moshe ibn Nachmon, quoted in Choch’mat Ahdam, No. 151). Quoted from Death By Rabbi Gershon Winkler


Martin Luther: So then, gaze at the heavenly picture of Christ, who descended into hell for your sake and was forsaken by God as one eternally damned when he spoke the words on the cross, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani!” – “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” In that picture your hell is defeated and your uncertain election is made sure. (Luther, Martin. “Treatise on Preparing to Die.”)

John Calvin: Nothing had been done if Christ had only endured corporeal death. In order to interpose between us and God’s anger, and satisfy his righteous judgment, it was necessary that he should feel the weight of divine vengeance. Whence also it was necessary that he should engage, as it were, at close quarters with the powers of hell and the horrors of eternal death…Hence there is nothing strange in its being said that he descended to hell, seeing he endured the death which is inflicted on the wicked by an angry God. It is frivolous and ridiculous to object that in this way the order is perverted, it being absurd that an event which preceded burial should be placed after it. But after explaining what Christ endured in the sight of man, the Creed appropriately adds the invisible and incomprehensible judgment which he endured before God, to teach us that not only was the body of Christ given up as the price of redemption, but that there was a greater and more excellent price—that he bore in his soul the tortures of condemned and ruined man. (Calvin, John. “Institutes of the Christian Religion.” Book 3:Chapter 16.

Charles Hodge: The penalty of the divine law is said to be eternal death. Therefore if Christ suffered the penalty of the law He must have suffered death eternal; or, as others say, He must have endured the same kind of sufferings as those who are cast off from God and die eternally are called upon to suffer. (Hodge, Charles. “Systematic Theology.” Vol. 2, Part 3, Ch 6, Sec 3)

John MacArthur: To [Jesus] was imputed the guilt of their sins, and He was suffering the punishment for those sins on their behalf. And the very essence of that punishment was the outpouring of God’s wrath against sinners. In some mysterious way during those awful hours on the cross, the Father poured out the full measure of His wrath against sin, and the recipient of that wrath was God’s own beloved Son. In this lies the true meaning of the cross. (MacArthur, John. “The Murder of Jesus.” Pg. 219)

R.C. Sproul: What prevents us from seeing God is our heart. Our impurity. But Jesus had no impurity. And Thomas said He was pure in heart. So obviously He had some, some experience of the beauty of the Father. Until that moment that my sin was placed upon Him. And the one who was pure was pure no more. And God cursed Him. It was if there was a cry from Heaven – excuse my language but I can be no more accurate than to say – it was as if Jesus heard the words ‘God damn you’, because that’s what it meant to be cursed, to be damned, to be under the anathema of the Father. As I said I don’t understand that, but I know that it’s true.” (R.C. Sproul. Together for the Gospel. April 17, 2008. Louisville, KY. Session V – The Curse Motif of the Atonement. Minute 55:01)

John Piper: Hell is all about echoing faintly the glory of Calvary. That’s the meaning of hell in this room right now. To help you feel in some emotional measure the magnificence of what Christ did for you when he bore not only your eternal suffering, but millions of people’s eternal suffering when His Father put our curse on Him. What a Saviour is echoed in the flames of hell. So that’s what I mean when I say hell is an echo of the glory of God, and an echo of the Savior’s sufferings, and therefore an echo of the infinite love of God for our souls. (John Piper. Resolved Conference 2008. Session 8 – The Echo and Insufficiency of Hell. Min 40:00)

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A Brief Background:

It was the year 325 AD at the council of Nicea. Approximately 300 bishops from around the reaches of Christendom had gathered to discuss: 1. the nature of God (the Father), and God the Son (Jesus); Arius’ Christological error, 2. the date of Easter, 3. very early canon law, 4. The Nice Creed

Saint Nicholas of Myra:

While Arius was explaining his position, a Bishop form Myra, St. Nicholas (Άγιος Νικόλαος) was angered by his heresy and he arose a slapped Arius across the face. The council had St. Nicholas stripped of his episcopate, and chained in jail (where he was expected to stay until the end of the council)

During the night, while Nicholas was weeping in repentance and shame for his actions, the Lord Jesus and Mary appeared to him. Jesus asked Nicholas, “Why are you in chains?” and Nicholas replied, “because of my love for you”. Mary then gave Nicholas his priestly omophorion, and Jesus gave him a book of the Gospels. In the morning other bishops (and some sources claim Constantine), went to Nicholas because they had had the same dream. The bishops and jailers found him dressed as a priest, and studying the gospel book. Needless to say, he was reinstated as a bishop and the council progressed.

[1] Arius’ Heresy: Christ was a created being, that is, he did not eternally exist. He was inferior to the Father.


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The First Epistle of Clement to Corinth (Κλήμεντος πρὸς Κορινθίους) or 1 Clement as we will refer to it, is one of the earliest works of the Apostolic Fathers. It is a sixty-five [1] chapter letter to the Corinthian church, near the end of the 1st century AD during a time of persecution and turmoil. The work has many themes including escaping envy, looking to the Apostles whom suffered, some mysticism in the form of the Phoenix, and a dispute among the younger Bishops and older Bishops to name a few.

Content: Chapters 1-3 letter occasion, Chapters 4-39 exhortations against turmoil, Chapters 40-58 dispute among the Presbyters, and Chapters 59-65 prayer, summary, and salutation.

Authorship: Probably Clement, the third successor of St. Peter to the Episcopal See of Rome (earliest church tradition)[2]. This same Clement may also be the Clement mentioned by St. Paul in Phil. 4:3 [3]. Not much more is known than that. If Pope Clement 1 was indeed the author, we have the some of the earliest Papal material available, other than St. Peter.

Date: End of the 1st century. 96 or 97 AD, near or at the end of the reign of Domitian, Caesar of Rome.

Origin: Probably Rome with Corinth as the recipient.

Status: It was included into the Codex Alexandrinus and the Canons of the Apostles, and found use among the Fathers.Though it was eventually not accepted into the New Testament.

Work Cited:

[1] Full Greek and English text diglot http://earlychurchtexts.com/public/apostfaths/clem_i.html

[2 and3] ]Drobner, Hubertus. The fathers of the Church. P.47-49

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One of the earliest non-canonical Christian works is what is known by many scholars and churchman as the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (ΔΙΔΑΧΗ ΤΩΝ ΔΩΔΕΚΑ ΑΠΟΣΤΟΛΩΝ) or simply just the Didache. The work is a collection of communal and liturgical rules of the 1st or 2nd century Christian community. The work is now include within the Apostolic Fathers in the Roman Church, and the Broader Canon in the Ethiopian Church.

Content: The Didache is broken into sixteen sections. Chapter 1. The Two Ways and the First Commandment, Chapter 2. The Second Commandment: Grave Sin Forbidden, Chapter 3. Other Sins Forbidden, Chapter 4. Various Precepts, Chapter 5. The Way of Death, Chapter 6. Against False Teachers, and Food Offered to Idols, Chapter 7. Concerning Baptism, Chapter 8. Fasting and Prayer (the Lord’s Prayer), Chapter 9. The Eucharist, Chapter 10. Prayer after Communion, Chapter 11. Concerning Teachers, Apostles, and Prophets, Chapter 12. Reception of Christians, Chapter 13. Support of Prophets, Chapter 14. Christian Assembly on the Lord’s Day, Chapter 15. Bishops and Deacons; Christian Reproof, and Chapter 16. Watchfulness; the Coming of the Lord. [1]

Date: 1st [2] or 2nd [3] century A.D.

Origin: Most likely Syria/Palestine

Status: The Didache has had a very interesting status like many other early Christian books. It is listed in some early canons apparently: “Let there be placed among the spurious works the Acts of Paul, the so-called Shepherd and the Apocalypse of Peter, and besides these the Epistle of Barnabas, and what are called the Teachings of the Apostles, and also the Apocalypse of John, if this be thought proper; for as I wrote before, some reject it, and others place it in the canon.” [4] Though regularly used in the early church, it did not receive canonical status in the final formulation of the NT canon.

Works Cited:

[1] Full Greek text http://www.ccel.org/l/lake/fathers/didache.htm and English text http://earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-roberts.html

[2] Witherington, Ben. The Act of the Apostles p.372: “The earliest extra-canonical book”. This would thus predate Clement at very late 1st cent. Work, placing the Didache in the 1st century.

[3]Drobner, Hubertus. The fathers of the Church p.56

[4]Historia Ecclesiastica III, 25

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Much has been said about baptism in the two-thousand plus years of church history. There are many perspective whether Easter or Western, Paedo or Credo, immersion or christening, etc. My task here has less to do with the previous list, and more to do with baptisms role in the early church concerning salvation.

A Very Brief History and Introduction

Baptism in the Jewish world seems to very much related to the Mikvah, or purity bath that Jews would partake in before Sabbath, festival, or holy event. So, when John came baptizing it was not some new or unique rite that he created.  It should also be noted that immersion, like in the Jewish Mikvah, was in preference though it was not an absolute necessity:

“And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.” (Didache, section 7)[1]

So in summary: Baptism was done to believers and their children in the early church, preferably by immersion.

Baptism in the New Testament

In the NT there seems to be a very strong connection between baptism and salvation, ie more than just a sacrament after conversion.

1. With John, you have baptism involved in repentance and the forgiveness of sin.[2] 2. In Jesus’ baptism you have the giving of the Spirit, and his anointing as elect son, and king.[3] 3. In Acts you have baptism and repentance bringing about the liberating gift of the Holy Spirit, and the washing away of sins[4] 4. In Paul you have identification with Jesus’ death through baptism, and the promise of resurrection and life.[5] 5. And in Peter you have Baptism that saves you, and is the pledge of a good conscience toward God.

As you can see I have briefly went through a few of the NT text and we see that baptism: Is part of repentance, fills with the Spirit, anoints/elects, washes away sins, associates you with with Jesus’ death and resurrection, and it saves you. A straight forward reading of the text challenges many protestant positions on baptism, specifically Symbolism as the primary purpose of baptism.

Now that we have textual evidence that the early church might have viewed things differently, we could safely assume from the NT textual evidence that the Apostles taught some form of baptismal regeneration. But, many protestants cringe at this thought we must take it a step further and examine what the early Patristics thought about baptism.

The Ante-Nicene Fathers[6]

Now let us see if the Lord has been at any pains to give us a foreshadowing of the waters of Baptism and of the cross. Regarding the former, we have the evidence of Scripture that Israel would refuse to accept the washing which confers the remission of sins and would set up a substitution of their own instead [Jer 22:13; Isa 16:1-2; 33:16-18; Psalm 1:3-6]. Observe there how he describes both the water and the cross in the same figure. His meaning is, “Blessed are those who go down into the water with their hopes set on the cross.” Here he is saying that after we have stepped down into the water, burdened with sin and defilement, we come up out of it bearing fruit, with reverence in our hearts and the hope of Jesus in our souls. (11:1-10)

“I have heard, sir,” said I, “from some teachers, that there is no other repentance except that which took place when we went down into the water and obtained the remission of our former sins.” He said to me, “You have heard rightly, for so it is.” (The Shepherd 4:3:1-2)
They had need [the Shepherd said] to come up through the water, so that they might be made alive; for they could not otherwise enter into the kingdom of God, except by putting away the mortality of their former life. These also, then, who had fallen asleep, received the seal of the Son of God, and entered into the kingdom of God. For, [he said,] before a man bears the name of the Son of God, he is dead. But when he receives the seal, he puts mortality aside and again receives life. The seal, therefore, is the water. They go down into the water dead [in sin], and come out of it alive. (ibid 9:16:2-4)

ST. JUSTIN MARTYR (inter A.D. 148-155)
Whoever is convinced and believes that what they are taught and told by us is the truth, and professes to be able to live accordingly, is instructed to pray and to beseech God in fasting for the remission of their former sins, while we pray and fast with them. Then they are led by us to a place where there is water; and there they are reborn in the same kind of rebirth in which we ourselves were reborn: In the name of God, the Lord and Father of all, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they receive the washing with water. For Christ said, “Unless you be reborn, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” …The reason for doing this, we have learned from the Apostles. (The First Apology 61)

Moreover, those things which were created from the waters were blessed by God, so that this might also be a sign that men would at a future time receive repentance and remission of sins through water and the bath of regeneration — all who proceed to the truth and are born again and receive a blessing from God. (To Autolycus 2:16)

ST. IRENAEUS (c. A.D. 190)
“And [Naaman] dipped himself…seven times in the Jordan” [2 Kings 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as new-born babes, even as the Lord has declared: “Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Fragment 34)

TERTULLIAN (inter A.D. 200-206)
A treatise on our sacrament of water, by which the sins of our earlier blindness are washed away and we are released for eternal life will not be superfluous…..taking away death by the washing away of sins. The guilt being removed, the penalty, of course, is also removed…..Baptism is itself a corporal act by which we are plunged in water, while its effect is spiritual, in that we are freed from sins. (On Baptism 1:1; 5:6; 7:2)
…no one can attain salvation without Baptism, especially in view of the declaration of the Lord, who says: “Unless a man shall be born of water, he shall not have life.” (On Baptism 12:1)

When we are baptized, we are enlightened. Being enlightened, we are adopted as sons. Adopted as sons, we are made perfect. Made perfect, we become immortal….”and sons all of the Most High” [Psalm 82:6]. This work is variously called grace, illumination, perfection, and washing. It is a washing by which we are cleansed of sins; a gift of grace by which the punishments due our sins are remitted; an illumination by which we behold that holy light of salvation — that is, by which we see God clearly; and we call that perfection which leaves nothing lacking. Indeed, if a man know God, what more does he need? Certainly it were out of place to call that which is not complete a true gift of God’s grace. Because God is perfect, the gifts He bestows are perfect. (The Instructor of Children 1:6:26:1)

But you will perhaps say, “What does the baptism of water contribute toward the worship of God?” In the first place, because that which has pleased God is fulfilled. In the second place, because when you are regenerated and born again of water and of God, the frailty of your former birth, which you have through men, is cut off, and so …you shall be able to attain salvation; but otherwise it is impossible. For thus has the true Prophet [Jesus] testified to us with an oath: “Verily, I say to you, that unless a man is born again of water….he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Recognitions 6:9)

ST. CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE (c. 200 – 258 A.D.)
But afterwards, when the stain of my past life had been washed away by means of the water of re-birth, a light from above poured itself upon my chastened and now pure heart; afterwards through the Spirit which is breathed from heaven, a second birth made of me a new man… Thus it had to be acknowledged that what was of the earth and was born of the flesh and had lived submissive to sins, had now begun to be of God, inasmuch as the Holy Spirit was animating it. (To Donatus 4)
[When] they receive also the Baptism of the Church…then finally can they be fully sanctified and be the sons of God…since it is written, “Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (Letters 71[72]:1)
[It] behooves those to be baptized…so that they are prepared, in the lawful and true and only Baptism of the holy Church, by divine regeneration, for the kingdom of God…because it is written, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (Letters 72[73]:21)

And in the gospel our Lord Jesus Christ spoke with his divine voice, saying, “Except a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” …Unless therefore they receive saving Baptism in the Catholic Church, which is one, they cannot be saved, but will be condemned with the carnal in the judgment of the Lord Christ.


1 Roberts-Donaldson English Translation of the Didache

2  Mark 1:4, Matt 3:11, and Luke 3:3

2 Matt 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:21-22, John 1:32-34

4  Acts 2:38, Acts 13:24, Acts 22:16

5  Romans 6:3-7, Col 2:12

6 Taken from a collection/essay: http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/num2.htm

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