Friday, May 15, 2009

FATHERS: Apostolic Tradition

The truth is found nowhere except in the catholic church, the sole depository of apostolic doctrine. The apostles like a rich man depositing money in a bank, have lodged in their hands most copiously all things pertaining to truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her water of life, for, she is the entrance of life, and all others are robbers. Among us we have recourse to the most ancient churches which the apostles held constant intercourse, and from them we learn what is certain and clear in regard to present questions. (Against Heresies, Iranaeus, ca 150 AD)

The church was plagued with error from its very start. However, in God’s kindness we have recorded the words of a man who was the student of Poloycarp, who was the student of John the apostle. He writes this about 60 years after John death, and explains to his readers that the treatment of heresies belongs in the hands of the one apostolic, ancient church with whom the apostles had regular communication and discipleship occurring. This is astounding. Would we commend the same thing? Well, it depends upon who one asks. Perhaps this question really gets us to ask another: “what is the role of apostolic teaching other than what is found in scripture?” It is obvious that there existed such a thing; the fact is that most churches did not have the final canon of the New Testament yet, they only had pieces, and they also had books that were not canonical along with them. The canon was not finally agreed upon until the 4th century. So what was this other knowledge? It was the liturgical practice and piety that was handed down by the apostles, a practice which was practiced day by day in the life of the church at the time of this writing. It was songs and hymns, prayers and liturgies, creeds and ritual acts, and acts of piety, many of which are recorded in the scriptures. In summary, it was the life of the early church that was spread throughout the world by word and deed, and eventually canonized in Holy Scripture. Apostolic tradition and the apostolic New Testament are not two different things; they come from the same fountain, contain the same truth and work towards the same end.

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. 2 Thess 2: 15


  1. I would wager, that more has been written- by Churchmen and non-Churchmen- about Iranaeus and his treatise "Against Heresies", than have been written about any other Church figure, excepting the Lord Jesus Christ himself, and the Apostles Paul, Peter, John and James.
    I will grant Iranaeus, and thereby the Catholic Church what he claims. That the Church is "The" repository of Truth with a capital T on earth. For Truth with a capital T is not mere data. Or information. Nor is it wisdom and knowledge. While Truth with a capital T contains data, information, wisdom and knowledge, it is none of those things in particular. Hence, Iranaeus' proscription against those who, he claims, boasted of having a secret knowledge, or gnosis in the Greek, which contained the Truth with a capital T in the teaching of it, and without which, one could NOT have the Truth.
    A better writer than me, and more learned as well once wrote, that unfortunately, looking to Iranaeus as the source of what the Gnostics believed in the second century AD, would be like relying on Joseph McCarthy tp describe what Communists believed in the 1950's. Enough said on that account.
    Truth with a capital T is the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He dwells mysteriously, utterly and unquestionably, but at the same time voluntarily and by invitation, in no other particular form as that when He dwells on Earth in the form of the Church.
    Like Paul in the Roman world a century earlier, Iranaeus wrote his treatise in a time and culture that was suspicious of, if not downright antagonistic (and deadly) to Christians.
    "Catholic Church" meant something then, that, at its roots, differs from, and is thereby radically different from what "Catholic Church" means to the modern Churchman.
    I will grant Iranaeus his statement, if the Church will grant me this statement.
    The Church he was speaking of was the Universal, Invisible church. NOT the one that we "see" today with its bishops buildings, baptisms, budgets, and bank accounts. These things are a means- not an end- in the life of that Church on Earth in our own time.
    The Catholic Church Iranaeus is speaking about, in my humble opinion, is "the church NOT made with hands."
    I will grant Iranaeus' statment that Truth can only be found in the Church and the Apostolic Tradition, if the Church will grant me that The Apostle and High Priest Christ Jesus' statement, "The kingdom of God cometh NOT with observation" belongs to that selfsame Apostolic Tradition. And that if someone should come and tell others, "Lo here, or lo there", not to follow them. Christ's assertion, "For the Kingdom of God is within you" is part of that selfsame Apostolic Tradition too.
    (Please, no specious argument that "within you" should be translated "among you")
    I will grant Iranaeus' statment that Truth is only found in the Church and the Apostolic Tradition, if the Church will grant me that Paul's words to the Galatians. "the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ" is part of that selfsame Apostolic Tradition.
    Or his assertion that "God was in Christ, reconciling the World to Him, NOT COUNTING THEIR SINS AGAINST THEM." is part of that selfsame Apostolic Tradition.
    I will grant Iranaeus' statment that Truth is only found in the Church and the Apostolic Tradition, if the Church will grant me that Peter's words to the Pagan Roman Centurion Cornelius "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him" are part of that selfsame Apostolic Tradition.
    I am not telling any student of Church History anything new, when I say that Iranaeus' words, like Christ's, Paul's and Peter's words before him, and Luther's, Hus' and Calvin's words after him, have been used to murder.
    In God's name.
    I have no quarrel with his words, but with those who over the last eighteen hundred years of Church history have twisted them.
    Who were NOT of the Universal Church, and who did NOT have the Truth with a capital T, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, within (or among) them.
    That being said, anyone coming to me, telling me that they have the "real" slant on Jesus, (I have heard everything under the sun from claiming He was an angelic being, to an Egyptian Priest and Magician, to claims that he was a work of fiction and never existed) but consider the Church only an earthly institution created by power hungry politically motivated men and women, reveal themselves -axiomatically- as heretics.
    There are those too, today, who spew violence, hatred and intolerance out of one side of their mouths when it comes to those of the Universal Catholic Church who do not pronounce "shibboleth" exactly like them, and talk to me of Love and Forgiveness out of the other.
    By separating themselves from the Universal, Invisible Catholic Church, and the Apostolic Traditions handed down to us from the Great Apostle Himself and those He has sent, they reveal themselves to be heretical. As heretical as Iranaeus' so-called Gnostics were in the second century.

  2. Markus, I will be dealing with this subject in Sunday'sermon. I will be addresses Acts 9:32 to 10: 43. The centurion's visitation, Peter' s vision, and his treatment on the universal church.

  3. To those visiting this blog, welcome. If you have not had the opportunity to hear Father Carlos Miranda address the King of Glory Anglican Church congregation go to and follow the links to listen to the audio files of his sermons.