Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Two Puzzling Patristic Quotes

Every time I read the fathers I always try to see if they are teaching Catholic or Protestant doctrine. At the end of the day, the two main questions I think of the Reformation are: how serious is Original Sin/how free is Free Will, and the issue of Imputation. I like to think that I am still open to Protestantism if anyone can ever make the argument properly (though I wouldn't go beyond Canterbury, I've been spoiled with the beauties of High Church Christianity). Anyway, here are the quotes I found.

While reading patristic commentary on Romans for my Catholic bible study, I found this phrase on Romans 1:17: "he adds also righteousness; and righteousness, not thine own, but that of God; hinting also the abundance of it and the facility. For you do not achieve it by toilings and labors, but you receive it by a gift from above, contributing one thing only from your own store, "believing." Then since
his statement did not seem credible, if the adulterer and effeminate person, and robber of graves, and magician, is not only to be suddenly freed from punishment but to become just, and just too with the highest righteousness; he confirms his assertion from the Old Testament." - St. John Chrysostom (

He seems to be teaching Imputation at the beginning, but later he says the person becomes righteous, which both Catholics and Protestants agree on, but it's that old question: are we judged on Christ's imputed righteousness or the righteousness which he makes our own in us through the Spirit? So depending on how you use this quote it could be manipulated both ways.

It's odd as some Lutherans / Reformers I'd heard thought Chrysostom was semi-pelagian.

Weirder than Chrysostom possibly teaching imputation is the next quote from Augustine teaching that for mature Christians scripture isn't even necessary:

This is where the Reformed will yell at me for reading the Church Fathers because they're all abominable for their manifest popery. The problem seems to be that I find Catholicism and Protestantism both to have biblical arguments, so it becomes then an issue of Tradition. So far I've only seen Anglicans touch patrology. In Newman's Apologia that I'm reading slowly, he has some strong patristic arguments for Anglo-Catholicism, and I'm waiting for him to prove them wrong.

Anyway, today I was at a faith fair with a really cool Lutheran trained, Anglo-Catholic priest and we had fun. I have great hope for Rome and Canterbury, so many good people in both.

Sanctus Augustinus Canterburae Ora Pro Nobis.
(I'm assuming Canterbury is a 1st conj. Fem. noun)