Apostolic Tradition & Spirituality
The preceding year we dedicated our studies to the patristics and compared their teaching to that which is most common in today’s western church. Below are key quotes that shaped our study.
Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, [in that case,] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches? To which course many nations of those barbarians who believe in Christ do assent, having salvation written in their hearts by the Spirit, without paper or ink, and, carefully preserving the ancient tradition, believing in one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and all things therein, by means of Christ Jesus, the Son of God; who, because of His surpassing love towards His creation, condescended to be born of the virgin, He Himself uniting man through Himself to God, and having suffered under Pontius Pilate, and rising again, and having been received up in splendor, shall come in glory, the Savior of those who are saved, and the Judge of those who are judged, and sending into eternal fire those who transform the truth, and despise His Father and His advent. St Iranaeus of
The Vincentian Canon
Some one perhaps will ask, since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church’s interpretation? For this reason,—because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters.
For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation. Moreover, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense “Catholic,” which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. (A Commonitory (A Reminder), Vincent of Lerins, 434 AD)
The Seven Ecumenical Councils
The doctrinal decisions and formulations of the seven ecumenical councils between 325 and 787 stand as the formal deposit of normative dogma. One reason for this is that no later actions of any church lay claim to the title “ecumenical.” (Credo, Jaroslav Pelikan, 2003)
The Spiritual Disciplines
My critique then of the three prominent forms of evangelical spirituality, is simply this: they all situate spirituality the self. “I keep the rules”; “I know God in a system of thought”; “I had a born again experience”. In contrast, historic Spirituality situates spirituality in the story of the Triune God, who creates, became incarnate, took my humanity up into his, entered suffering by the cross, and rose from the grave. God drew me up into himself, and did for me what I could not do. He Himself restored my union with Himself. Now having been baptized into that great mystery, I contemplate God’s work for me and the whole world, and I participate in God’s purposes for the world revealed in Jesus Christ. Spirituality is a gift, and the spiritual life is a surrendered life. (The Divine Embrace, Robert Webber)
According to the apostles and the early church fathers the gospel is comprised of the three following parts:
Trinity: The one true God exist in three persons: Father & creator, Son & victor, Spirit & giver of life. There exists within the triune God, a life that is primarily characterized by a communion of love. Hence, God is love.
Incarnation: God the Son took on flesh, and became one of us. So that even after the human race had turned way from God under the enticement of evil (sin & death), the Son might still bring the love of God to us, destroy evil by dying to destroy sin and death (sacrifice), He rose from the grave the victor (Savior), and He gave life eternal to all mankind (the final resurrection).
Restoration: The Son now has the authority to draw all mankind back into God’s Trinitarian family by pouring out upon mankind His life giving Spirit (baptism), which places the presence of God’s power within humans, making those persons incarnations of God (Christians- little Christs), here and now, healing & restoring (saving) them to dwell within the Trinity.