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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol 1
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Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.1 > Irenaeus: Against Heresies, Bks. III-V

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Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1429 comments In the preface to his book Orthodoxy, Chesterton wrote,
THIS book is meant to be a companion to “Heretics,” and to put the positive side in addition to the negative. Many critics complained of the book called “Heretics” because it merely criticised current philosophies without offering any alternative philosophy. This book is an attempt to answer the challenge.


To draw a parallel, we might think of Bk. I-II, where Irenaeus refutes the Gnostics, as "Heretics", dealing with the negative side, and Bk. III-V of as "Orthodoxy", where Irenaeus expounds the Christian theology, the positive side.

Nothing is falsifiable, without truth. Heresies cannot be refuted without Orthodoxy.


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Genni | 124 comments Nemo wrote: "In the preface to his book Orthodoxy, Chesterton wrote,
THIS book is meant to be a companion to “Heretics,” and to put the positive side in addition to the negative. Many critics complained of the ..."


I like this parallel.


message 3: by Genni (new)

Genni | 124 comments Book Three:

18- for He bound the strong man, and set free the weak I like this. :-) Interesting point also that if He did not suffer then we would be above him in our suffering.

21.2 For before the Romans possessed their kingdom,3710 while as yet the Macedonians held Asia, Ptolemy the son of Lagus, being anxious to adorn the library which he had founded in Alexandria, with a collection of the writings of all men, which were [works] of merit, made request to the people of Jerusalem, that they should have their Scriptures translated into the Greek language. And they—for at that time they were still subject to the Macedonians—sent to Ptolemy seventy of their elders, who were thoroughly skilled in the Scriptures and in both the languages, to carry out what he had desired.3711 But he, wishing to test them individually, and fearing lest they might perchance, by taking counsel together, conceal the truth in the Scriptures, by their interpretation, separated them from each other, and commanded them all to write the same translation. He did this with respect to all the books. But when they came together in the same place before Ptolemy, and each of them compared his own interpretation with that of every other, God was indeed glorified, and the Scriptures were acknowledged as truly divine. For all of them read out the common translation [which they had prepared] in the very same words and the very same names, from beginning to end, so that even the Gentiles present perceived that the Scriptures had been interpreted by the inspiration of God.3712 And there was nothing astonishing in God having done this,—He who, when, during the captivity of the people under Nebuchadnezzar, the Scriptures had been corrupted, and when, after seventy years, the Jews had returned to their own land, then, in the times of Artaxerxes king of the Persians, inspired Esdras the priest, of the tribe of Levi, to recast3713 all the words of the former prophets, and to re-establish with the people the Mosaic legislation. The legend of the Septuagint!

23.1 It was necessary, therefore, that the Lord, coming to the lost sheep, and making recapitulation of so comprehensive a dispensation, and seeking after His own handiwork, should save that very man who had been created after His image and likeness, that is, Adam, filling up the times of His condemnation, which had been incurred through disobedience,—[times] “which the Father had placed in His own power.”3756 [This was necessary,] too, inasmuch as the whole economy of salvation regarding man came to pass according to the good pleasure of the Father, in order that God might not be conquered, nor His wisdom lessened, [in the estimation of His creatures.] For if man, who had been created by God that he might live, after losing life, through being injured by the serpent that had corrupted him, should not any more return to life, but should be utterly [and for ever] abandoned to death, God would [in that case] have been conquered, and the wickedness of the serpent would have prevailed over the will of God. This struck me as a strange sort of theodicy? God was worried about what we thought?


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A | 225 comments The Bible I received in Confirmation has Deuteronomy and Apocrypha.

I like that about 18.

On 23 it's a bit rich to think God could be conquered, but I guess we weren't the first to believe that, maybe we should rewrite it :)


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Genni | 124 comments David, if you're still around, I'm curious what you found so interesting about recapitulation in Book III?


David Recapitulation is the idea that Jesus undoes the failure/sin of Adam. I know that is way simplified. The earliest quote I have gotten to so far (and I lost my notes on Irenaeus from back in the day so I can't refer back to when I studied it, bah!) is in 3.18. where he writes:

"Wherefore also He passed through every stage of life, restoring to all communion with God."

This is why he said Jesus lived to fifty, it wasn't a historical point as much as a theological one. Jesus lived through all stages of human life to undo all the sin of Adam. I think you can get to the same idea without Jesus living that long.

Its like...its like if the story from creation to Jesus is a long story going in one direction. The direction is the wrong one as the sin of the first humans put us on the wrong track. Jesus turns the whole story of the cosmos around by correcting Adam and Eve. So I see recapitulation as a universe-shaking interpretation of what Jesus did. I think it is an incredibly helpful big picture of the person and work of Jesus; it incorporates Trinity as a central part of the work of Jesus. I'd even say all other atonement theories fit in better, and reinforce each other, when put under the context of the big story. That is, humans are ransomed from Satan, Jesus takes the wrath of the Father (Anselm), Jesus shows us how to live by demonstrating God's love. Those are all kind of human centered, how you and I get right with God. Recapitulation reminds us that God is concerned with the whole cosmos.

Again, much of this is memory of previous reading and my own interpretation, so I may be taking Irenaeus to conclusions he himself did not draw.

JND Kelly from his book Early Christian Doctrines:
"Running through almost all the patristic attempts to explain the redemption there is one grand theme which, we suggest, provides the clue to the fathers’ understanding of the work of Christ. This is none other than the ancient idea of recapitulation which Irenaeus derived from St. Paul, and which envisages Christ as the representative of the entire race. Just as all men were somehow present in Adam, so they are, or can be, present in the second Adam, the man from heaven. Just as they were involved in the former’s sin, with all its appalling consequences, so they can participate in the latter’s death and ultimate triumph over sin, the forces of evil and death itself. "


David 3.21.10:

"10. For as by one man’s disobedience sin entered, and death obtained [a place] through sin; so also by the obedience of one man, righteousness having been introduced, shall cause life to fructify in those persons who in times past were dead. And as the protoplast himself Adam, had his substance from untilled and as yet virgin soil (“ for God had not yet sent rain, and man had not tilled the ground” ), and was formed by the hand of God, that is, by the Word of God, for “all things were made by Him,” and the Lord took dust from the earth and formed man; so did He who is the Word, recapitulating Adam in Himself, rightly receive a birth, enabling Him to gather up Adam [into Himself], from Mary, who was as yet a virgin."

(I am way behind you guys...you're booking through this!"


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Genni | 124 comments David wrote: "Recapitulation is the idea that Jesus undoes the failure/sin of Adam. I know that is way simplified. The earliest quote I have gotten to so far (and I lost my notes on Irenaeus from back in the day..."

Thanks, David. When I was reading Book III, I kept feeling like I was hearing my grandfather's sermons over again. So I guess this is what I was taught growing up, I just never knew the concept was called "recapitulation"! But, even though this was taught, there was more emphasis on individual salvation, so, as you point out, it is good to be reminded of the bigger picture.


message 9: by David (last edited Feb 02, 2017 03:56PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

David 3.22.4 notes Mary's role:

Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” But Eve was disobedient; for she did not obey when as yet she was a virgin. And even as she, having indeed a husband, Adam, but being nevertheless as yet a virgin (for in Paradise “they were both naked, and were not ashamed,” inasmuch as they, having been created a short time previously, had no understanding of the procreation of children: for it was necessary that they should first come to adult age, and then multiply from that time onward), having become disobedient, was made the cause of death, both to herself and to the entire human race; so also did Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race.

Not only does Jesus undo the failure of Adam, Mary undoes the failure of Eve. You can even see an order here - Eve took the fruit and gave it to Adam; Mary first was obedient so Jesus could be born. It also shows, and I. does not necessarily note this, the role of both sexes in the incarnation. A woman gave birth to a man. Diminishing the role of Mary ends up diminishing the role of women, in my opinion.


Kerstin | 317 comments David wrote: "A woman gave birth to a man. Diminishing the role of Mary ends up diminishing the role of women, in my opinion."

How do you see Mary diminished?


David I meant in church history in general women have been second class citizens. I didn't mean to imply Irenaeus is diminishing women (at least here, can't speak for the rest of his work).


David Yeah, I totally wasn't clear! I see Irenaeus as lifting women up quite highly by emphasizing Mary's role. Let women use all their gifts, let women lead!


Kerstin | 317 comments David wrote: "Yeah, I totally wasn't clear! I see Irenaeus as lifting women up quite highly by emphasizing Mary's role. Let women use all their gifts, let women lead!"

That has always been part of the teaching. In Fides et Ratio: On the Relationship Between Faith and Reason Pope John Paul II writes the following,
"Christianity proclaimed from the first the equality of all men and women before God"

I used to believe as well that women were poorly treated in the past, but as I get to know history better I am discovering that this is not universally true. In European history we find that women in the Middle Ages earned the same as men for equal work. Women had their own guilds, for instance. There are just as many women saints as men. Women who entered convents, such as St. Hildegard von Bingen, were often higher educated than men of high rank (many of whom were illiterate) and these civil authorities relied on the knowledge and expertise of the women and men behind cloistered walls in all sorts of ways.

One of my favorite saints is St. Angela Merici (1474-1540). She is the foundress of the Ursulines, now found all across the globe. She asked for and got permission from the pope to educate poor girls. The amazing thing was, that the pope granted her the as yet unheard of liberty of not being cloistered. The pope was very concerned about the safety of the sisters, but she argued successfully that if girls, and thereby families, are to be lifted out of poverty she had to go educate them where they were.
Just as an aside, in the 1720s the King of France ordered some Ursuline nuns to go to New Orleans and found a school. It still exists today.


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Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1429 comments Kerstin wrote: "... I used to believe as well that women were poorly treated in the past, but as I get to know history better I am discovering that this is not universally true."

Why did you believe that women were ill-treated in the Church?


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Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1429 comments Irenaeus' description of the Apostolic Succession reminds me of the idea of "provenance", which is used in the art world to determine the authenticity of a work of art, whether it is produced by a virtuoso or a forger.

Both Gnosticism and Orthodoxy claim that they have received divine revelation from Christ, and they also share many similarities, just as a forgery also shares similarities with the original, but they can't both be genuine, for their doctrines contradict each other. How then does the Christian discern the truth?


message 16: by Susan (new)

Susan David wrote: "3.22.4 notes Mary's role:

Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” But Eve was disobedient; for she did not obey when as y..."


Speaking again from a Catholic background, cause that is all I know, although some always make an issue about women not being allowed to become priests, among other things I guess, as proof of Catholicism's diminishing of women, Catholicism could not be more honoring of women. We have a profound appreciation for Mary and respect and honor her as the greatest saint. Yes, her obedience contrasts Eve's disobedience but as we were just studying in John, the wedding at Cana, it is Mary who prompts Jesus with, "They have no wine." Thus indicating Mary's role in Redemption. The Navarre Bible explains, "The episode of Cana reveals a new dimension of Mary's motherhood:...a new kind of motherhood according to the spirit and not just the flesh, that is to say Mary's solicitude for human beings, her coming to them in the wide variety of their wants and needs...At Cana, ...apparently a small one of little importance, but it has symbolic value: this coming to the aid of human needs means, at the same time, bringing those needs within the radius of Christ's messianic mission and salvific power. Thus, there is a mediation: Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and sufferings. She puts herself 'in the middle,' that is to say she acts as a mediatrix not as an outsider, but in her position as mother....Her mediation is thus in the nature of intercession: Mary 'intercedes' for mankind...As a mother she also wishes the messianic power of her Son to be manifested, that salvific power of his which is meant to help man in his misfortunes, to free him from the evil which in various forms and degrees weighs heavily upon his life" They attribute the last long quote to John Paul II in Redemptoris Mater 21. And then, the study of Jesus' "O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come." Although it initially appears disrespectful, shows such honor and obedience to His mom...Mary and women are not diminished in the slightest.


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A | 225 comments I have a question is this (in regards to diminishing women) about Paul "Corinthians 1 14:35 (YLT): and if they wish to learn anything, at home their own husbands let them question, for it is a shame to women to speak in an assembly."?

Or is this about how Clergy has governed and shared power with the monarchies over time? I think without specifics it would be equivalent to judging the Constitution of the United States by the actions of the administrations. So Gospels one thing, Government another thing.


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Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1429 comments Aaron wrote: "I have a question is this (in regards to diminishing women) about Paul "Corinthians 1 14:35 (YLT): and if they wish to learn anything, at home their own husbands let them question, for it is a sham..."

I'm going to follow Irenaeus' method of exegesis: interpreting and harmonizing difficult passages with those passages that are clear.

First, Paul clearly teaches equality between man and woman in Christ
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:27-28

Second, he also models the relationship between husband and wife on that between Christ and the Church: husbands ought to love and give themselves for their wives, and wives ought to love and obey their husbands.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
Ephesians 5:22-27


Third, woman ought to acknowledge the priority and authority of man, as Christ acknowledges the authority of the Father, but man and woman are inter-dependent on and inseparable from each other.

But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
...
For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.
1 Corinthians 11:3,8-12

Women can pray and prophesy in the Church, as long as they acknowledge the authority of men (1 Corinthians 11:4-5), but they are forbidden to speak in the spirit of disobedience (1 Corinthians 1 14:35 ), disrupting the order and peace in the Church.


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Kerstin | 317 comments Nemo wrote: "Kerstin wrote: "... I used to believe as well that women were poorly treated in the past, but as I get to know history better I am discovering that this is not universally true."

Why did you belie..."


Oh! ... I phrased this badly. I meant generally. This is the mantra one hears all the time in our culture today. I agree with Susan, women have been treated very well in the Church.


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A | 225 comments There I go not being clear to who I'm talking to again... sorry guys. David that one was for you.

I agree with Kerstin and Susan and Nemo to a point within the confines of a Patriarchal religion which Christianity is. We could probably spend all day nit picking the "actions of the Church" as a body or the veneration of Saintly women and those called to duty, but... that's getting us no where.

So for David, did you mean when you brought up the Church in this topic and I believe RC in another that you would like to see a female Pope one day?

I'm just wanting to be sure I understand your thoughts.


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A | 225 comments *Also I'll just tack on that the Protestant Church(s) especially American evangelicals, Baptists and non-denominationals in my experience pretty much exclude a Marian tradition.


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Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1429 comments I don't know much about modern Popes, except what has been related by the media, that Pope Benedict XVI wears prada and Pope Francis likes pizza. I suppose a female pope would set new fashion trends around the world, among other things.


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A | 225 comments I'm staying outta this one!! :)


Kerstin | 317 comments Nemo wrote: " I suppose a female pope would set new fashion trends around the world, among other things."

Female clergy in the Catholic Church, while much discussed, is an exceedingly remote proposition. It was John Paul II, if I remember correctly, who ordered a commission to look into this to give the issue some clarity. The gist of the result was, that there is no precedence for female clergy all the way back to Melchizedek. This is what I've been told. I never read the document.


message 25: by Susan (new)

Susan Kerstin wrote: "Nemo wrote: " I suppose a female pope would set new fashion trends around the world, among other things."

Female clergy in the Catholic Church, while much discussed, is an exceedingly remote propo..."


I agree that there will not be female clergy/Pope in the Catholic Church.


David Am I the only non-Roman Catholic here?

When I use terms like "we" and "us" I am referring to the entire Christian church which in my mind includes Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestants, Pentecostals and so on. So I do not think Irenaeus belongs only to Roman Catholics. I'd even argue it is anachronistic to speak of Roman Catholics as we think of the institutional Catholic church today in the world of Irenaeus. But that's another discussion...

I think in general Irenaeus spoke highly of Mary here. I do not recall if he said anything else about women. From his writing though, I was thinking that he has a high view of women. I also think that, again in general, the Christian church has done a less than decent job of lifting up women. Sure there are examples of women doing great things at different times. All I can say is I wouldn't want my daughter to live in any other era as a woman, with the opportunities she will have in our world. I think Jesus lifted up women incredibly highly and that the people of God in scripture consistently lifted women higher than the surrounding culture. At some point in the Christian church, this lifting up of women was lost as men took on all the leadership roles.

(As a sidenote, we named our daughter Junia from Romans 16:7 where she was called an apostle. Translators did not think women could be apostles, so for centuries this was translated as Junias, a male name. The truth is, this woman is called an apostle. Later church leaders could not handle that.)

As for a female Pope, I guess I couldn't care less since I am not Roman Catholic. But I do think women should be pastors if they feel called. I'd probably say if I ever felt a desire to convert to Catholicism, the refusal to ordain women equally to men would be a primary roadblock.


message 27: by Susan (new)

Susan David wrote: "Am I the only non-Roman Catholic here?

When I use terms like "we" and "us" I am referring to the entire Christian church which in my mind includes Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestants, P..."


David, do you think the only way women can be respected is to have leadership roles?


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A | 225 comments Sorry David I was compounding two of your comments, an earlier one mentioning something similar about the RCC. No you are not the only non-Roman Catholic in here.

Thanks for the clarification though. I look forward to what you all may find in your readings of the Fathers on this question.


David David, do you think the only way women can be respected is to have leadership roles?

Hmmm....good question. I guess not. I just see the trajectory of scripture as pointing to equality in all things and I don't think that equality is achieved if leadership roles are limited to men.

Aaron, I didn't speak to your comment on 1 Corinthians. I do know that is a tough passage to interpret and scholars have a variety of ideas. I do think part of the problem was that Paul had preached freedom and equality in Christ and some women in the church were misusing that freedom. Women did not have the same educational opportunities as men, so there may have been women disrupting the meetings. Paul wanted them to learn in home and in silence. He was okay with both men and women prophesying in 1 Corinthians 11 so whatever he meant by silence in chapter 14 was not a permanent, universal in all churches, silence.

That's my way too brief off the cuff quick response.


Kerstin | 317 comments David wrote: "Am I the only non-Roman Catholic here?

Not entirely :) Though I think the subject matter of the Church Fathers attracts Catholics to a greater degree. Whether cradle Catholic or convert, the Church Fathers are never far as they are an integral part of the Catholic "fabric."
During my Lutheran past I don't remember any of them mentioned by pastors or in sermons aside from St. Augustine.

So I do not think Irenaeus belongs only to Roman Catholics. I'd even argue it is anachronistic to speak of Roman Catholics as we think of the institutional Catholic church today in the world of Irenaeus.

I wouldn't designate Irenaeus as 'belonging' to the Catholic Church, it just happens that historically that's who Christians were. Linguistically separating Catholics from other Christians is a development of the Reformation and Protestantism.

In our readings we've already read the historic succession of bishops/popes leading the Church of Rome. Without Irenaeus we wouldn't have such a grasp of the early Church leadership at the time. So the institution, while still in its infancy, was already there.

Today there is a tendency to look at the Catholic Church as the institution only. That's the same as looking at the United States as only being the White House.


message 31: by Nemo (last edited Feb 06, 2017 11:54PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1429 comments When Irenaeus writes of Mary, he praises her highly for her obedience. Apostles Peter and Paul also exhort women in the Church to be obedient to their husband as their head. Husband and wife are equal in terms of their individual humanity and their mutual affections, but the husband is the head in terms of priority. As I quoted in msg. 18 above, Paul likens the relation of priority between woman and man to that between Christ and the Father. Christ is equal with the Father, and yet "He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death" (Phil. 2:5-11).

I'm not a Roman Catholic, and never felt a desire to "convert" either, but I happen to agree with their stance on this issue of leadership, coming from a doctrinal perspective.

Since the very beginning of the Church, there have always been women serving (alongside men) in various important capacities throughout history. Christianity is not a patriarchal or matriarchal religion, if by it a religion dominated and ruled by one sex is meant, but neither is it a bi-triarchal religion. There is not only equality between man and woman, but also deference of authority to man. It is a religion that embodies the relational nature of the Trinity, imo.


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Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1429 comments Kerstin wrote: "During my Lutheran past I don't remember any of them mentioned by pastors or in sermons aside from St. Augustine...."

The first church I attended was a non-denominational church. I remember the pastor mentioning both Calvin and Aquinas in his sermons. Having read Calvin's magnum opus recently, I'm planning to read Summa Theologica, hopefully in the near future. Anyone want to join me? :)


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A | 225 comments Nemo wrote: "Christianity is not a patriarchal or matriarchal religion, if by it a religion dominated and ruled by one sex is meant, but neither is it a bi-triarchal religion. There is not only equality between man and woman, but also deference of authority to man. It is a religion that embodies the relational nature of the Trinity, imo."

Fourth-wave Feminists would likely disagree with you :)

I think when I say it's Patriarchal it's in the sense that it's structured that way i.e. God is a Father not a Mother Goddess, and so on with 'the Son' and males as the Church leaders, and heads of households.

But for salvation yes everyone is equal it's just highly role based, which some segments of secular and spiritual society today is bucking hard against.


David Though I think the subject matter of the Church Fathers attracts Catholics to a greater degree

I think there is a shift though as more evangelicals and Protestants are drawn to reading the church fathers. I've seen this at my seminary and any other places. At the same time, I think the draw to the fathers is also a draw to Eastern Orthodox thinking and theology.

it just happens that historically that's who Christians were.

It seems this would be a big difference in how we see things. I assume you would see a sort of straight line from Jesus - contemporary Catholicism with all other branches of Christianity as separations from the true church? I see all branches, including Catholicism, as growing out of one common root but no church can claim to be the exact off-shoot of the earliest church. Even the diversity in the early church illustrates this for me, they were never monolithic.

I guess the question is, do you think there is room for disagreement? Are the rest of us non-Catholics just contemporary gnostic heretics of another variety? How much can we disagree and where and still consider one another brothers and sisters in faith.

I'm planning to read Summa Theologica, hopefully in the near future. Anyone want to join me

I gave Aquinas a try a while back and got about halfway through book One. Its interesting and thought provoking of course. Maybe in 15 years when my kids are in college and I (hopefully) have more free time...till then, good luck :)

God is a Father not a Mother Goddess, and so on with 'the Son' and males as the Church leaders, and heads of households.

Okay, so I forget if Irenaeus mentioned this, but I do think there is a recognition in early church theology that though God is Father, God is not male. I mean, I think we need to be careful about reading too much into such terms. God as the infinite ground of being is beyond gender. Yes, God incarnated as a man (through a women, lifting up both genders). But to some degree, "Father" and "Son" are words we use to emphasize a relationship. Unfortunately some have read into this an idea that God the Father had sexual relations with Mary to produce the Son (I've heard Muslims think that is what Christians believe).


message 35: by Susan (new)

Susan David wrote: "Though I think the subject matter of the Church Fathers attracts Catholics to a greater degree

I think there is a shift though as more evangelicals and Protestants are drawn to reading the church ..."


It is so enlightening and helpful to read others' views. I just realized that maybe others don't know what Catholics believe, just as I don't know what other faiths believe (which I find extremely interesting by the way, so share away). Yes, we believe the early church is the Catholic Church. From all the way back, straight from Jesus. No interruption. Just as there were people who saw things differently then, there are those that see things differently now. I worry when you say, is there room for disagreement. How could there not be? I thought that was the whole point of the group and conversation. As I get older and see/understand the state of discourse, in this country at least, it is bordering on crazy. If one says what they feel, it should not be taken as an affront to another. If so, one can never be honest and genuine conversations can not be had. We are all free to believe what we want to believe. We can disagree a lot, and yet respect each other's own personal life journey; it is everyone's individual life and individual salvation. I personally am never 'offended' by anyone explaining, describing what they believe. I find it clarifying and interesting. I don't feel it will ever change my views, as after decades of study I have yet to come to a question that Catholicism hasn't answered seamlessly with the rest of the faith, but I am always open and eager to ponder about it. There is but one Truth and following all the twists and turns in the quest is intriguing, and quite possibly our eternal life depends on it.


Kerstin | 317 comments David wrote: " I see all branches, including Catholicism, as growing out of one common root but no church can claim to be the exact off-shoot of the earliest church. Even the diversity in the early church illustrates this for me, they were never monolithic."

I agree with you, the Church was never monolithic. Though I take this a step further, the Catholic Church never was nor is monolithic. The historical realities, Apostolic Succession, liturgy, Magisterium, etc. are not synonymous with being monolithic. There is a dizzying variety of spiritual and cultural expressions within the Church, for the Church has never denied people their cultural heritage nor individuals their spirituality and devotions as long as these are in accordance with the teachings. She is truly global.

I guess the question is, do you think there is room for disagreement? Are the rest of us non-Catholics just contemporary gnostic heretics of another variety? How much can we disagree and where and still consider one another brothers and sisters in faith.

It depends. Where does the Truth end and apostasy start? That's a loaded question and needs to be approached with sensitivity. There have been talks on the ecumenical level for decades. They have made quite some strides in finding common language. In our current cultural environment there is an expectation to allow relativism, which is the antithesis to Truth, and then it gets very difficult to find common ground.

Of course all believers in Jesus Christ are Christians. Here it is more the fundamentalist Protestants, some of which are quite serious when claiming that Catholics aren't Christians -- which is the pinnacle of absurdity.


Kerstin | 317 comments Susan wrote: "I don't feel it will ever change my views, as after decades of study I have yet to come to a question that Catholicism hasn't answered seamlessly with the rest of the faith, but I am always open and eager to ponder about it. There is but one Truth and following all the twists and turns in the quest is intriguing, and quite possibly our eternal life depends on it."

This never ceases to amaze me! But then, if God is truly the Creator, then nothing less suffices.


message 38: by Nemo (last edited Feb 07, 2017 09:21AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1429 comments Kerstin wrote: "... we've already read the historic succession of bishops/popes leading the Church of Rome. Without Irenaeus we wouldn't have such a grasp of the early Church leadership at the time. ..."

If I understand Irenaeus correctly, there was also apostolic succession in the Church of Ephesus where John resided, and other places around the world. Those Churches were equal, but they defer to the Church of Rome in matters of doctrine, because both Paul and Peter founded it.

When speaking of Apostolic succession, Irenaeus always stresses Apostolic doctrine at the same time. They cannot and should not be considered separately. On the one hand, Apostolic doctrines must be received from the Apostles personally, on the other hand, contradiction to Apostolic doctrines is a sign of deviation from Apostolic succession.

(The Reformers believed that the leaders of the Catholic Church back in the 16th century had deviated from the Apostolic doctrines and therefore from the Apostolic succession.)

Irenaeus' view is consistent with that of Ignatius of Antioch, stressing both personal authority and the truth of doctrine. This is, I think, a characteristic distinguishing Christianity from all other religions. Christianity is both personal and objective, just as Christ is both Person and Truth.

Unfortunately, we have not imitated Christ's perfection and tend to fall off at the extremes. Some have much knowledge of doctrine but lack personal reality, while others have saintly character, but no clear knowledge of doctrine.


David Beautiful responses. Thank you.

I worry when you say, is there room for disagreement. How could there not be?

Sorry to make you worry! It is always a question of when we move beyond disagreeing but seeing each other as fellow Christians and moving into heresies. And as Kerstin noted, unfortunately it is fundamentalist Christians who have built up the largest walls and said horrific things about Catholics.

Funny story, the seminary I attended had a picture on the wall with a line right from Jesus to their denomination with everyone else (including Catholics) branching off!

I do admire the Catholic church for being rather inclusive - more accepting of modern science (theistic evolution), really good philosophers (Charles Taylor, Alasdair MacIntyre) and also great spiritual writers (Richard Rohr). I'd much rather look to Pope Francis as a spiritual leader than any evangelicals who are selling out to Trump. Heck, maybe Catholics could educated evangelicals of the mistakes that come from baptizing the state. So yeah, I admire the Catholic church in many ways. That said, I love my little Anabaptist community too much to ever leave.

(The Reformers believed that the leaders of the Catholic Church back in the 16th century had deviated from the Apostolic doctrines and therefore from the Apostolic succession.)

Good point.


message 40: by A (last edited Feb 07, 2017 12:34PM) (new) - added it

A | 225 comments David wrote: "Okay, so I forget if Irenaeus mentioned this, but I do think there is a recognition in early church theology that though God is Father, God is not male. I mean, I think we need to be careful about reading too much into such terms. God as the infinite ground of being is beyond gender. Yes, God incarnated as a man (through a women, lifting up both genders). But to some degree, "Father" and "Son" are words we use to emphasize a relationship. Unfortunately some have read into this an idea that God the Father had sexual relations with Mary to produce the Son (I've heard Muslims think that is what Christians believe)."

Heresy! ...just kidding :)

I do think there is a much older societal tradition that arose from primitive culture which is also mimicked throughout nature among various mammalian social groups of the animal kingdom.

I agree males have both reinforced and abused this power throughout history to their benefit (whether that be a conscious effort or not).

But why stress male predominance in the first place if God (or "His" writers) didn't mean it?

From the beginning God creates man first in "His" image and then creates woman from man to be man's companion. From this we recieve the line of Patriarchs. There is no importance placed on the line of Matriarchs other than their value in propagating the lineage of men.

I'm only arguing the traditional view that I know and have heard expressed. I'm open to learning how this does not translate into the early Church however.



Kerstin wrote: "Of course all believers in Jesus Christ are Christians. Here it is more the fundamentalist Protestants, some of which are quite serious when claiming that Catholics aren't Christians -- which is the pinnacle of absurdity."

Something I think most any Catholic that hasn't lead and entirely sheltered life growing up in the United States will experience at some point or another. Although my parents put me through CCD they couldn't afford to send me to private school so I've heard it all.

The reference to being Catholic Idol-worshipers, that Catholics are not Christian, they make up their own rules, the Church is corrupt: of course that's a big point of contention which is hard to argue against with someone who only sees the news, knows only the inquisition as the Church model, but a major point of distrust none the less.

I can remember a couple of girls in my sophomore class having a conversation with my English teacher who were appalled by this family who had a statue of Mary in their yard. I usually pipe up, but I think I let that one go... I bet they would have been shocked to see my grand aunt's little shrines around the house to Jesus and the blessed mother and St Anthony and others and of course the paintings that hung about her walls of the sacred heart in thorns and Jesus with eyes rolled to heaven and small cuts from his crown of thorns.

It's religious bigotry that has a long history, we've yet to entirely overcome.


message 41: by Susan (new)

Susan Nemo wrote: "Kerstin wrote: "... we've already read the historic succession of bishops/popes leading the Church of Rome. Without Irenaeus we wouldn't have such a grasp of the early Church leadership at the time..."

I thought all the churches of the early church showed apostolic succession as the apostles started them or Bishops ordained by apostles or by other Bishops who could be traced back to the apostles started them, as it is with every Catholic Church we have currently today? Also, by the Reformers in the 16th century that said the Catholic Church deviated etc., is that what some Protestants I know refer to as the Great Apostasy? I don't really know much about it.


message 42: by Susan (new)

Susan David wrote: "Beautiful responses. Thank you.

I worry when you say, is there room for disagreement. How could there not be?

Sorry to make you worry! It is always a question of when we move beyond disagreeing ..."


I would be careful with people like Richard Rohr etc....I looked into him a bit in the past and I was surprised at some of what I saw. There seems to be an ever widening gulf between the more progressive Left 'Catholics' who agree with abortion and homosexual marriage/active lifestyle and the more orthodox (I would personally just say 'Catholic') Catholics. There are also some very vocal dissident nuns and priests. It probably can be pretty confusing to a non-Catholic. (Or maybe to Catholics!) I don't know if the Evangelicals "sold out" to Trump as much as they saw in Hillary, a pro-abortion, true love of State etc., that they were trying to avoid (and I agree with them!).
I would love to know more about Anabaptists. I regret to admit that I do not know much about them.


message 43: by Erick (new)

Erick (panoramicromantic) This is actually a subject that comes up with my girlfriend a lot. She is involved in ministry and she has received a lot of backlash due to that fact. I personally do not feel that a woman should be barred from that vocation, but that's just me. I know that certain Protestant branches are more open to that than others; and, obviously, Catholicism and Orthodoxy allow this only in a very specific sense. Someone's perspective on the issue would not be problematic for me.


message 44: by A (last edited Feb 07, 2017 02:35PM) (new) - added it

A | 225 comments Erick wrote: "This is actually a subject that comes up with my girlfriend a lot. She is involved in ministry and she has received a lot of backlash due to that fact. I personally do not feel that a woman should be barred from that vocation, but that's just me. I know that certain Protestant branches are more open to that than others; and, obviously, Catholicism and Orthodoxy allow this only in a very specific sense. Someone's perspective on the issue would not be problematic for me."

The most interesting case I've read for empowering female leader ship is Karen L. King's interpretation of the fragmented non-canonical Coptic Gospel of Mary titled: "The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle"


message 45: by Erick (last edited Feb 07, 2017 03:17PM) (new)

Erick (panoramicromantic) Aaron wrote: "The most interesting case I've read for empowering female leader ship is Karen L. King's interpretation of the fragmented non-canonical Coptic Gospel of Mary titled: "The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle"

I remember seeing the book before. I wouldn't mind reading it. Seems like it falls under the genre of Gnostic apologetics. I am fairly well read on the subject of Gnosticism; in fact, I was reading the Gospel Of Truth from the Nag Hammadi Library this week. Gnostic apologetics often rubs me the wrong way though. Aside from the fact that my Christianity is orthodox, most Gnostic apologists (e.g. Elaine Pagels) miss almost no opportunity to criticize orthodox Christianity needlessly, and that's always a bit annoying. It doesn't make for insightful reading usually either. I usually prefer to read something a bit less opinionated and a bit more scholarly.

One should note as well that even in orthodox Christianity women had a prominent role even in the early church; and maybe even more so in idiosyncratic Christian sects like Tertullian's Montanist one.


message 46: by Nemo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1429 comments Susan wrote: "I thought all the churches of the early church showed apostolic succession as the apostles started them or Bishops ordained by apostles or by other Bishops who could be traced back to the apostles started them, as it is with every Catholic Church we have currently today?"

As I understand it, the Apostolic Succession describes how in the early church the Apostles personally commit their teaching to faithful people and they in turn teach others. That's different from the current Catholic Church, where the last three Popes were elected, not appointed by their predecessor.


message 47: by A (last edited Feb 07, 2017 06:40PM) (new) - added it

A | 225 comments Erick wrote: "I remember seeing the book before. I wouldn't mind reading it. Seems like it falls under the genre of Gnostic apologetics. I am fairly well read on the subject of Gnosticism; in fact, I was reading the Gospel Of Truth from the Nag Hammadi Library this week. Gnostic apologetics often rubs me the wrong way though. Aside from the fact that my Christianity is orthodox, most Gnostic apologists (e.g. Elaine Pagels) miss almost no opportunity to criticize orthodox Christianity needlessly, and that's always a bit annoying. It doesn't make for insightful reading usually either. I usually prefer to read something a bit less opinionated and a bit more scholarly."

I feel ya, I think Karen's knowlege of Gnosticism permeates her narrative in the book with Gnostic interpolation on Christ, as she fills in quite a few gaps.

I like that she provides the photo copies of the frags in the book, and when I looked for another book on this Gospel at the time I think hers was considered to be one of the better treatments, but that was a decade ago. I should probably re-read it now and see if I feel the same way. I do remember thinking where is she getting some of this stuff from so little of material??

But for simply reading it for the story that shows Mary as having an equal place among the Apostles was what I found interesting.

If I could read just a straight take on it I would, but I haven't pursued it further. I think Pagels on the otherhand is lightweight from what I've read of hers. Karen seem to have her ideas fleshed out a bit more. Where Pagels seems happier just encouraging doubt.


David The most interesting case I've read for empowering female leader ship

I can recommend all kinds of books for you, if you wish. I'm at the point where it seems patently obvious that Jesus' vision for his community was one of men and women serving together and the church in the NT with leaders like Junia, Phoebe, Priscilla and more bears this out.

I would be careful with people like Richard Rohr

Well, I have moved more to the progressive side of things over the years...maybe my liking of Rohr (I've read five of his books) illustrates that.


message 49: by A (last edited Feb 07, 2017 07:29PM) (new) - added it

A | 225 comments I honestly haven't read anything else specifically discussing the subject of female leadership. Karen's Gospel of Mary wasn't exactly an in depth treatise on it either. Feel free to send me some recommendations through GRs. I'm not personally invested in the structure of the RCC, as a Culturally Catholic Agnostic, but I do appreciate the positives of its institution which preserved Christian lit for all of us over the centuries.


message 50: by Nemo (last edited Feb 07, 2017 08:34PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1429 comments David wrote: "...it seems patently obvious that Jesus' vision for his community was one of men and women serving together and the church in the NT with leaders like Junia, Phoebe, Priscilla and more bears this out. ..."

I think the issue is not whether women and men serve together -- both the Scripture and Church history have shown that they should serve and have served together. Our culture tends to turn everything into the battle of the sexes, and the rights of individuals. But, that's not what ordination is all about, as I understand it. Ordination is about serving God in a way ordained by and well-pleasing to Him. As such, it seems that God has given priority, and with it heavier responsibility, to man in the Scriptures. Women are often forced into taking upon themselves heavy burden, because of failings on the part of men.

Well, I have moved more to the progressive side of things over the years

"Progress" implies a standard of good. We cannot know if we're really moving forward not backward, if we don't know where we're going. The question is, which standard are we measuring ourselves against?


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