Category Archives: Church Fathers

Welcome to ho-hum Christianity!

Ho Hum!

By Spencer D Gear PhD

I started attending a new evangelical church and had been three times. After 15 minutes of the service on 5 October 2020 I left the service. It was another example of ho-hum Christianity.

1. What’s the meaning of ‘ho-hum’?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary (2020. s.v. ho-hum), it refers to ‘an expression used when someone is bored, or when they accept that something unpleasant cannot be stopped from happening’.

My personal perspective is that in Brisbane, Australia (where I live), there are three prominent expressions of ho-hum Christianity that bore me to sleep. These include:

2. Evangelical Christianity

Yesterday’s church service was an example. It began with canned/data music of a new song. The words of the song were in such small font on the overhead screen that I could not see them, when sitting three-quarters of the way back in the auditorium.

This was compounded when the singers (on DVD) began singing. I couldn’t join the singing as I didn’t know the words to follow.

Then the melody line is typical of what is happening in the Hillsong and Jesus Culture dominated culture of new church music. I can’t remember the name of the song as the lyrics could not be seen by me. An example of this kind of song is HERE. The style is flooding evangelical/charismatic churches. Even the Presbyterian Church I previously attended occasionally sang a Hillsong item (credits were on the screen).

It is ho-hum Christianity because the lyrics of the songs reflect the organisations that promote this music. It’s big business but, even more, it’s big on false doctrine, especially the word of faith doctrine.

2.1 Allegorical teaching

Then there was a second ho-hum rub on 5 October 2020. The leader of the service spoke of Jesus walking on the water towards the disciples in the boat (see Matt 14:22-33 NIV) and his calling to Peter to walk on the water towards him.

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matt 14:28-30 NIV).

The leader (the pastor’s wife) invited the congregation to launch out in faith and walk on the water. That’s my paraphrase of what I heard her say. She used allegorical interpretation of this incident by adding content that was not in the text. That was enough for me so I quietly walked out of the service (using my walking stick).

The pastor phoned me on Monday to ask if I was OK. I proceeded to tell him why I left – the music and the allegorical teaching. He wished me well and said he was available for further contact if I needed it.

2.2 The dangers of allegorical interpretation

The term, ‘allegory’, is used only once in the New Testament at Galatians 4:24. Of this verse, A T Robertson comments:

Which things contain an allegory (atina estin allhgoroumena). Literally, “Which things are allegorized” (periphrastic present passive indicative of allhgorew). Late word (Strabo, Plutarch, Philo, Josephus, ecclesiastical writers), only here in N.T. The ancient writers used ainittomai to speak in riddles.

It is compounded of allo, another, and agoreuw, to speak, and so means speaking something else than what the language means, what Philo, the past-master in the use of allegory, calls the deeper spiritual sense.

Paul does not deny the actual historical narrative, but he simply uses it in an allegorical sense to illustrate his point for the benefit of his readers who are tempted to go under the burden of the law. He puts a secondary meaning on the narrative just as he uses tupikw in 1 Corinthians 10:11 of the narrative. We need not press unduly the difference between allegory and type, for each is used in a variety of ways. The allegory in one sense is a speaking parable like Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:1 ff., the Good Shepherd in John 10:1 ff.

But allegory was also used by Philo and by Paul here for a secret meaning not obvious at first, one not in the mind of the writer, like our illustration which throws light on the point. Paul was familiar with this rabbinical method of exegesis (Rabbi Akiba, for instance, who found a mystical sense in every hook and crook of the Hebrew letters) and makes skilful use of that knowledge here.

Christian preachers in Alexandria early fell victims to Philo’s allegorical method and carried it to excess without regard to the plain sense of the narrative. That startling style of preaching survives yet to the discredit of sound preaching. Please observe that Paul says here that he is using allegory, not ordinary interpretation. It is not necessary to say that Paul intended his readers to believe that this allegory was designed by the narrative. He illustrates his point by it. For these are (autai gar eisin). Allegorically interpreted, he means. From Mount Sinai (apo orou Sina). Spoken from Mount Sinai. Bearing (gennwsa). Present active participle of gennaw, to beget of the male ( Matthew 1:1-16 ), more rarely as here to bear of the female ( Luke 1:13; Luke 1:57 ). Which is Hagar (hti estin Hagar). Allegorically interpreted (Word Pictures in the New Testament: Galatians 4:24).

Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek Lexicon gives the meaning of allhgorew as ‘speak allegorically’ (1957:38).

So, the intent of allegorical preaching or teaching is to present an alternate sense – hidden meaning – to the plain meaning of the text.

These are some examples of allegorical interpretation that have been used in the history of the church. The Alexandrian early church fathers, Clement of Alexandria and Origen were well known for their use of allegorical interpretation.

2.2.1 Clement of Alexandria

He lived from AD 150-211/215 and was a Christian apologist and missionary theologian to the Greek speaking world. He was a leader and teacher in the school of Alexandria.[1]

In one of his publications that survives, he wrote:

Wherefore instruction, which reveals hidden things, is called illumination, as it is the teacher only who uncovers the lid of the ark, contrary to what the poets say, that “Zeus stops up the jar of good things, but opens that of evil…. Similarly David sings: “For, lo, Thou hast loved truth; the obscure and hidden things of wisdom hast Thou showed me.” “Day utters speech to day” (what is clearly written), “and night to night proclaims knowledge” (which is hidden in a mystic veil); “and there are no words or utterances whose voices shall not be heard” by God, who said, “Shall one do what is secret, and I shall not see him?” (The Stromata, or Miscellanies, Bk 5, Ch 10).

2.2.2 Philo

Philo - WikipediaGreek-speaking, Jewish philosopher, Philo (ca 15 BC – AD 50)[2] explained the need for allegorical/figurative interpretation:

If we only prefer the plain words and ignore the figurative interpretation, it will be like considering the body without the soul. ‘Just as we take care of the body because it is the abode of the soul, so also must we take care of the laws that are enacted in plain terms, but they are symbols of : for while they are regarded, those other things also will be more clearly understood, of which these laws are the symbols, and in the same way one will escape blame and accusation from men in general (The Works of Philo, On the Migration of Adam, 16. 93-94).

So, ‘the literal meaning is the body of the Bible, but the allegorical one is its soul; both must be kept in due consideration’ (Marco Rizzi 2019).

However, who chooses the ‘figurative interpretation’? It is the responsibility of the individual preacher-teacher to create the allegory. That’s what the leader did on 5 October 2020.

There is an interesting variation of allegorical preaching – postmodern deconstruction – that I address in my PhD dissertation: Crossan and the resurrection of Jesus : rethinking presuppositions, methods and models.

A couple examples from this thesis demonstrate that deconstruction provides a framework similar to that which Crossan promotes:

  • John Dominic Crossan stated of the race to the empty tomb by Peter and the Beloved Disciple (Jn 20), ‘I do not think that story was ever intended as a historical event, intended to describe something that first Easter morning. It always looked to me like a calculated and deliberate parable intended to exalt the authority of the Beloved Disciple over that of Peter’ (Crossan 2000:165).

· Stated another way, ‘Empty tomb stories and physical appearance stories are perfectly valid parables expressing that faith, akin in their own way to the Good Samaritan story’ (Crossan 1995:216).

Allegorical interpretation adds to the text, according to the preacher’s or leader’s imagination. Crossan’s deconstruction does something similar.

2.2.3 Origen

There is another leading light in the early church fathers who was renowned for his promotion of allegorical interpretation. He was Origen (ca AD 185-254), born in Phoenicia (now Lebanon) and he was ‘the most important theologian and biblical scholar of the early Greek church’. He was a student of Clement of Alexandria according to early church historian, Eusebius.[3]

3. Thrash music

My son is an excellent guitarist and he enjoys thrash’ Christian music. However, currently he’s learning classical guitar. He showed me the excellent lyrics of a ‘thrash’ song and I couldn’t believe how orthodox they were theologically. Then he played the song for me from a CD. I didn’t understand a word that was sung.

A friend invited me to his local Pentecostal church. The service began with thunderous music that caused me to jump in my seat. My friend’s wife was sitting beside me and noticed it, commenting the music does get a ‘bit’ loud.

During the service there was a fellow in the front row hopping and skipping for Jesus as he raised his hands in song. He was bouncing up and down.

I guess that puts a new meaning to ‘Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy’ (Ps 100:1-2 NLT).

4. Incompetent preachers

Leading ethicist, David Gushee, claims, ‘Many ministers play it safe in order to keep their jobs, or are simply not that talented’ (2016). Some of the worst mumbling I’ve heard behind microphones on the pulpit have come from preachers.

October Magazine Cover Photo of RunnersThere are far too many who mumble, don’t speak clearly and don’t project their voices. As a former radio DJ, TV newsreader, and long-term public speaker, I’m particularly sensitive to this issue. However, it could be easily overcome if preachers would join a Toastmasters’ or Rostrum club. When I started in radio in the 1960s, I joined a Rostrum club to assist my on-air presentations. It was recommended to me by the radio station’s manager. It was extremely helpful in assisting me to become more articulate on-air. However, here in Qld., Toastmasters has become the dominant public speaking club.

Every pastor-preacher should join one of these to help them become more fluent in expressing the Christian faith.

I saw this incompetence again with the preacher at the church I attended last Sunday. He spoke too quickly; his words were not articulated well, and he didn’t give the congregation much eye contact. He mumbled his words too often with slurring.

See my article: It’s a sin to bore God’s people with God’s Word.

5. Theological liberalism

If you want to cause people to exit the church, promote theological liberalism that denigrates Scripture and engages in eisegesis of the text. See my articles that address this topic:

For an example of the promotion of liberal Christianity by an Anglican liberal, see this recent article in On Line Opinion, an Anglican deacon from Perth WA, Australia: The battle of the narratives of origin.

My comment to him as OzSpen was:

Peter,
I enjoy your writing style, but your articulation smothers your presuppositions. In this short piece, you tried to ‘trick’ us into believing Darwin’s view of the origin of the universe was correct, affirmed by cosmologists. You might learn that in your liberal Anglican theological college but it takes more than a few sentences to unpack and then refute.

Then you want us to swallow your line that the veracity of the biblical texts would have been supported if we followed the Wellhausen research, Source Criticism (SC), of 1878. When will you get it? The Graf-Wellhausen SC Documentary Hypothesis (JEDP for authorship of the Pentateuch) has been refuted over and over but your liberal theology keeps on keeping on.

There is internal evidence in the Pentateuch to demonstrate Mosaic authorship and not the 4-source Graf-Wellhausen theory. Space does not permit my going into these, except to say that a serious fallacy of the Hypothesis is that it assumes no part of the Torah was written before the middle of the 9th century BC. This would be the time of the Exile of the Israelites. This flies in the face of archaeological evidence of the last century.

If you continue to promote this kind of theology in your diocese, don’t expect people to flock to your churches. Your views cause people to doubt the authority of Scripture. For a better assessment, I think it’s time for you to engage in discussions with the faculty of Moore College, Sydney, and examine how the Sydney diocese is preventing the kind of decline of your churches.

Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 15 October 2020 8:16:39 AM

6. Conclusion

If you want to be bored with Christianity here is my recipe:

  • Sing contemporary Christian music that promotes unorthodox doctrines and is ‘unsingable’ by the congregation.
  • Engage in interpretation of the Bible that adds to the text, e.g. allegorical or postmodern deconstruction.
  • Put mumbling, incompetent preachers into the pulpit.
  • Then, play music that is so loud that the lyrics are blurred.

7.  Works consulted

Bauer, W; Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[4] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Crossan, J D 1995. Who killed Jesus? Exposing the roots of anti-Semitism in the gospel story of the death of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D 2000. A long way from Tipperary: A memoir. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Gushee, D P 2016. Religion News Service (online). ‘Why is Christianity declining?’ Available at: https://religionnews.com/2016/09/06/why-is-christianity-declining/ (Accessed 15 October 2020).

8.  Notes


[1] Encyclopaedia Britannica (2020. s.v. Clement of Alexandria).

[2] Dates obtained from Encyclopaedia Britannica (2020. s.v. Philo Judaeus).

[3] These details are from Encyclopaedia Britannica (2020. s.v. Origen).

[4] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date:16 October 2020.

Authorship of the Book of Hebrews

File:Kjv-hebrews.png

(Image Book of Hebrews, ch 1, courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

One of the most controversial books of the New Testament to determine authorship is the Book of Hebrews. Statements about who wrote it have included:[1]

coil-gold-sm ‘neither do we know by whom it was sent’;

coil-gold-sm The author was Clement of Rome;

coil-gold-sm ‘an Epistle to the Hebrews under the name of Barnabas’;

coil-gold-sm ‘who wrote the epistle, in truth, God knows’;

coil-gold-sm ‘Luke, who was an excellent advocate, translated it from Hebrew into that elegant Greek’;

coil-gold-sm One made a brilliant guess that Apollos was the author.

Let’s examine some of the evidence from church history. This is not meant to be an extensive examination, but an overview of some of the most prominent people suggested since the time of the early church fathers.

Some of the evidence

To accept Clement as the author of Book of Hebrews,[2] supposed author of First Clement (ca 80-140 AD), would place the dating of Hebrews in the late first century (Clement was martyred in ca. 100 AD). No author’s name is officially attached to First Clement. F F Bruce in his commentary on the Book of Hebrews has a sound discussion of the authorship options (Bruce 1964:xxxv-xlii).

Clement of Rome (ca. 30-100)[3]

Pope Clement I.jpg(image courtesy Wikipedia)

Of the authorship of Hebrews, Bruce wrote,

‘If we do not know for certain to whom the epistle was sent, neither do we know by whom it was sent. If Clement of Rome had any inkling of the author’s identity, he gives us no indication of it. But we can be quite sure that he himself was not the author, although it has been suggested at various times that he was. In spite of Clement’s familiarity with the epistle, he “turns his back on its central argument in order to buttress his own arguments about the Church’s Ministry by an appeal to the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament’ (Bruce 1964:xxxv-xxxvi).

Bruce cites T W Manson’s statement that describes Clement’s procedure in regard to the Church’s Ministry as ‘a retrogression of the worst kind’ (in Bruce 1964:xxxvi, n 57).

Barnabas

Barnabas.jpgTertullian (ca. 155/160-220)[4] appealed to the Epistle to the Hebrews as having greater authority than the Shepherd of Hermas, a second century writing, because of the eminence of the author of Hebrews. He wrote, ‘For there is extant withal an Epistle to the Hebrews under the name of Barnabas— a man sufficiently accredited by God, as being one whom Paul has stationed next to himself in the uninterrupted observance of abstinence’ (On Modesty ch 20).

(icon of St Barnabas, courtesy Wikipedia)

 Only God knows

The church father, Origen (ca. 185-254),[5] stated,

Origen3.jpg(image of Origen, courtesy Wikipedia)

‘If I gave my opinion, I should say that the thoughts are those of the apostle, but the diction and phraseology are those of some one who remembered the apostolic teachings, and wrote down at his leisure what had been said by his teacher. Therefore if any church holds that this epistle is by Paul, let it be commended for this. For not without reason have the ancients handed it down as Paul’s.

But who wrote the epistle, in truth, God knows. The statement of some who have gone before us is that Clement, bishop of the Romans, wrote the epistle, and of others that Luke, the author of the Gospel and the Acts, wrote it. But let this suffice on these matters’ (cited in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 6.25.13-14).

Paul or Luke

Bruce further notes that from the Festal Letter of AD 367 [by Athanasius, Letter XXXIX],

from then on the Pauline ascription became traditional in the west as in the east, although commentators of critical judgment continued to speak of Clement of Rome or Luke as translator or editor of the epistle. Thus Thomas Aquinas says that “Luke, who was an excellent advocate, translated it from Hebrew into that elegant Greek…. Calvin thought of Luke or Clement of Rome as the author, not merely translator or editor; while Luther was apparently the first to make the brilliant guess that the author was Apollos – a guess which has commended itself to many since his day (Bruce 1964:xxxix).

Conclusion

Therefore, after 2,000 years no definitive answer has been found to the question: Who wrote the Book of Hebrews? I am happy to conclude that Hebrews was firmly established in the NT canon when the NT was affirmed in the late fourth century. F F Bruce rightly stated the issue:

The first ecclesiastical councils to classify the canonical books were both held in North Africa — at Hippo Regius in 393 and at Carthage in 397 — but what these councils did was not to impose something new upon the Christian communities but to codify what was already the general practice of those communities (Bruce 1959:ch 3).

designRed-small See ‘The Canon of the New Testament’ by F F Bruce.

Works consulted

Bruce, F F 1959. ‘The canon of the New Testament’, Chapter 3 in The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (5th ed, Leicester: Intervarsity Press). Available at: http://www.bible-researcher.com/bruce1.html (Accessed 5 April 2016).

Bruce, F F 1964. The Epistle to the Hebrews (The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the Centuries, rev ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Notes


[1] These citations are identified below.

[2] I posted this information at Christianity Board, ‘Common Ground’, 5 April 2016, OzSpen#117. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/22418-common-ground/page-4?hl=%20common%20%20ground (Accessed 5 April 2016).

[3] Lifespan dates are from Cairns (1981:73).

[4] Lifespan dates from Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016. s v Tertullian).

[5] Lifespan dates from Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016. s v Origen).

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 7 May 2020.

Women in ministry in church history

 

clip_image002

A female Quaker preaches at a meeting in London in the 18th century (courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

Is there support for this kind of statement that I picked up on a Christian forum:

If we go by what the Scripture says, how the earliest Christians that actually read and wrote in Koine Greek interpreted, and how Christian tradition for nearly 2,000 years interpreted until people 50 years ago thought they knew better than all those people read the same Bible, then know women should not be ordained pastors.[1]

Carolyn Osiek’s research has uncovered support for silence and non-silence of women in ministry in the early church fathers. See:

Image result for clipart small arrow public domainThe Ministry and Ordination of Women According to the Early Church Fathers‘.

Image result for clipart small arrow public domain See also her assessment, ‘The Church Fathers and the Ministry of Women’.

Elizabeth Hooton (1628-1671) was the first Quaker woman preacher.

How do you think that that person would respond to the first article by Carolyn Osiek? Here goes:

Did you actually bother reading that link? It provided no evidence that within the catholic/orthodox tradition that there have ever been female preachers. There were heretical female preachers, however, as the link points out…

Quakers had heretical beliefs. Then you have Quaker offshoots called Shakers who believed that the second Jesus already came, and its a woman. If all you have are a few odd occurrences amongst the vast preponderance of Christian practice, it does not help your case.

Again, you probably don’t really care about how the vast majority of interpreters for all time have viewed the subject. You are more concerned about modern notions of egalitarianism than the view that is in simple terms presented in the Bible.[2]

My response was:[3]

Yes, I did read the link, but it seems that you have missed this part of the link that does not support your view:

In support of the second interpretation, i.e., that deaconesses did receive an actual ordination, are three additional pieces of evidence. First, they appear with other members of the clergy, for example in the distribution of leftover gifts from the offerings of the faithful; even though they are mentioned last, they are the only group of women included in a list that stops with rector or cantor.(27) Second, a later Epitome or summary of this part of the Apostolic Constitutions entitles the two sections on deaconesses (Ap. Const. 8.19-20) “About the Ordination (Cheirotonia) of a Deaconess” and “Prayer for the Ordination (Cheirotonia) of a Deaconess.”(28) Third, Canon 15 of the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) directs that a woman shall not receive the ordination (cheirontonia) of a deaconess until she is at least 40 years of age, and she must remain unmarried.(29) Here in an independent source from approximately the same period the ordination of deaconesses is taken for granted.

This person provided not one example of Quaker ‘heretical’ beliefs. I don’t take generalised statements as an indicator of heresy. I need specifics. Then we can discuss them when compared with Scripture.

Extreme examples do not define the regular

As for mentioning Shakers as an offshoot from the Quakers, have you not heard of offshoots from evangelical Christianity today? I’m thinking of the Pensacola & Toronto ‘blessings’ within Pentecostalism. Do these invalidate the legitimacy of evangelical and/or Pentecostal beliefs? I think not. Extremists should not be used to redefine the norm.

Are the actions of Rick Warren and the Pope meant to contaminate evangelical Christianity? It represents one leader and his actions.
See Carolyn Osiek’s assessment: The Church Fathers and the Ministry of Women
Why did he make this kind of false allegation against me?

You probably don’t really care about how the vast majority of interpreters for all time have viewed the subject. You are more concerned about modern notions of egalitarianism than the view that is in simple terms presented in the Bible.

When tradition is allowed to dictate

I am not the slightest bit interested in ‘modern notions of egalitarianism’ – a secular approach to egalitarianism. I’m interested in the equality of all people before God (see Galatians 3:28 NLT).

I support a high view of Scripture and I’m interested in careful exegesis of the biblical text, including consideration of culture and context. When I pursue this approach, I come out with a version of women in ministry that is different from the one this person promoting on this Forum.

(Painting of Martin Luther, courtesy Wikipedia)

clip_image004I’m very concerned that God’s gifts should be allowed to function and not closed down by faulty hermeneutics. I find it interesting that you claim that I’m interested in modern notions of egalitarianism. I wonder what the interpreters of the traditional way would have thought about the history of interpretation when Martin Luther promoted justification by faith and nailed his 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg. I wonder what had been taught in the centuries preceding Luther about justification by faith.

I’m not going to allow the traditional teaching against women in ministry in the centuries prior to my lifetime to stop me from carefully examining the biblical text to find what it states in the inerrant text (in the autographa). I’m excited about what I’m finding from the biblical text that contradicts the traditional view. It gives me insights into how Martin Luther might have felt after he discovered in Scripture, justification by faith, after centuries of a different interpretation.

This is a range of my articles on women in ministry (there may be a repeat of information in some of them):

Related image Anti-women in ministry juices flowing

Related image Women in ministry in church history

Related image Women in ministry: an overview of some biblical passages

Related image Women in ministry in I Corinthians: A brief inquiry

Related image Women wrongly closed down in ministry

Related image Amazing contemporary opposition to women in public ministry

Related image The heresy of women preachers?

Related image Women bishops – how to get the Christians up in arms!

Related image Are women supposed to be permanently silent in the church gathering?

Related image Must women never teach men in the church?

Notes


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, Women’s pastors, abacabb3#155. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7856138-17/#post66790550 (Accessed 18 December 2014).

[2] Ibid., abacabb3#169.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#170.

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 July 2019.

Salvation by faith according to the Church Fathers

StClement1.jpg   Justin Martyr.jpg  Burghers michael saintpolycarp.jpg  Johnchrysostom.jpg  Augustinus 1.jpg

(Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, Polycarp, Chrysostom, Augustine – courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

Justification or salvation by faith is taught by these church fathers:

Clement of Rome (ca 30-100):

‘All these, therefore, have been glorified and magnified, not through themselves or through their works, or through the righteousness that they have done, but through his will.And we who through his will have been called in Christ Jesus are justified, not by ourselves, or through our wisdom or understanding or godliness, or the works that we have done in holiness of heart, but by faith, by which all men from the beginning have been justified by Almighty God, to whom be glory world without end. Amen’ (The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians 32:3-4).

Justin Martyr (ca 100-165):

‘For Isaiah did not send you to a bath, there to wash away murder and other sins, which not even all the water of the sea were sufficient to purge; but, as might have been expected, this was that saving bath of the olden time which followed s those who repented, and who no longer were purified by the blood of goats and of sheep, or by the ashes of an heifer, or by the offerings of fine flour, but by faith through the blood of Christ, and through His death, who died for this very reason, as Isaiah himself said’ (Dialogue with Trypho, ch 13).

Polycarp (ca 70-155):

‘Though you did not see him, you believed in unspeakable and glorified joy,” — into which joy many desire to come, knowing that “by grace ye are saved, not by works” but by the will of God through Jesus Christ. (Polycarp to the Philippians chap. 1, v. 3).

Chrysostom (ca 347-407):

‘But no one, he says, is justified by works, in order that the grace and loving-kindness of God may be shown. He did not reject us as having works, but as abandoned of works He has saved us by grace; so that no man henceforth may have whereof to boast. And then, lest when you hear that the whole work is accomplished not of works but by faith, you should become idle, observe how he continues’ (Homilies on Ephesians, Homily 4, ch 2, v 9).

Augustine (ca 354-430):

“Having now to the best of my ability, and as I think sufficiently, replied to the reasonings of this author, if I be asked what is my own opinion in this matter, I answer, after carefully pondering the question, that in the Gospels and Epistles, and the entire collection of books for our instruction called the New Testament, I see that fasting is enjoined. But I do not discover any rule definitely laid down by the Lord or by the apostles as to days on which we ought or ought not to fast. And by this I am persuaded that exemption from fasting on the seventh day is more suitable, not indeed to obtain, but to foreshadow, that eternal rest in which the true Sabbath is realized, and which is obtained only by faith, and by that righteousness whereby the daughter of the King is all glorious within” (Letter 36, ch 11, v 25).

(Courtesy Loyal Books)

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 November 2015.

Did St Augustine say this to a prostitute?

Augustinus 1.jpg

By Spencer D Gear

 

Augustine of Hippo (image courtesy Wikipedia)

This is a story floating around the Internet about St. Augustine, his former sinful life and what a prostitute said to him after he became a changed man through Christ. This story has been repeated by some conservative evangelical preachers.

‘Grace to You’ cited it

John MacArthur’s organisation, Grace to You, is one such group telling this story:

Augustine, great saint of God had lived with a prostitute before his conversion.  After he was wonderfully saved, he was walking down the street and this prostitute saw him.  She shouted his name and he kept walking.  He saw her, but kept his eyes straightforward and walked. She continued crying after him and ran after him.  And finally, she said, Augustine, it is I.  To which he replied, I know, but it is no longer I (Grace to You, ‘Whose fault is our temptation?‘)

Spurgeon also used it

C H Spurgeon’s sermon quotes a view that is now espoused on the Internet in Spurgeon’s sermon, ‘The way to honor‘:

This was the teaching of our baptism. When we were baptized we were buried in the water. The teaching was that we were henceforth to be dead and buried to the world and alive alone for Jesus. It was the crossing of the Rubicon—the drawing of the sword and the flinging away of the scabbard. If the world should call us we now reply, “We are dead to thee, O world!” One of the early saints, I think it was Augustine, had indulged in great sins in his younger days. After his conversion he met with a woman who had been the sharer of his wicked follies; she approached him winningly and said to him, “Augustine,” but he ran away from her with all speed. She called after him and said, “Augustine, it is I,” mentioning her name; but he then turned round and said, “But it is not I; the old Augustine is dead and I am a new creature in Christ Jesus.” That—to Madam Bubble and to Madam Wanton, to the world, the flesh, and the devil—should be the answer of every true servant of Christ: “I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me. Thou art the same, O fair false world— thou art the same, but not I. I have passed from death unto life, from darkness into light. Thy siren charms can fascinate me no more. A nobler music is in my ear and I am drawn forward by a more sovereign spell towards other than yours. My bark shall cut her way through all seas and waves till it reaches the fair haven and I see my Savior face to face.” ‘Tis irretrievable, then, this step which we have taken, the absolute surrender of our whole nature to the sway of the Prince of peace. We are the Lord’s. We are his for ever and for ever. We cannot draw back, and blessed be his name, his grace will not suffer us to do so. The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”

Searching for the truth

I’ve searched quite a bit on the Internet, including an electronic search through all of the 13 chapters of Augustine’s Confessions, but couldn’t find any mention of this story. I did find this comment by Rev. Richard J. Fairchild who wrote:

Sources: Using Google I tried in 2005 to locate the St. Augustine quote (first taken from a sermon illustration journal many years ago) but could not find it. It seems that online at least, ours is the oldest citation of what may be an apocryphal reference?

It is said that St. Augustine was accosted one day on the street by a former mistress some time after he had become a Christian. When he saw her he turned and walked the other way. Surprised, the woman called out, “Augustine, it is I”. Augustine as he kept going the other way, answered her, “Yes, but it is not I.”

Did Augustine say it or not?

Seems like it was fiction

This is on a website by Timothy Kauffman, ‘Speaking the love in love‘, in which he exposes this story about Augustine as fiction:

In the process of this self-revelation, Brown[1] instead reveals how woefully uninformed he actually is about Church history. His first example is of Augustine’s encounter with his mistress in the streets of Milan. Brown tells his listeners that if they have not read Augustine’s Confessions as he has, “you’ve missed one of the great books of western civilization.” (12:05). Then he continues with the story:

“And there’s a wonderful story about the time that his mistress saw him down town and he saw her and turned and started running. And she said, ‘Augustine, Augustine, it is I.’ And Augustine looked back over his shoulder and said ‘Yes, but it is not I!’” (12:30 – 12:50).

This sort of creative historical revisionism makes for great sermon illustrations, especially when the preacher does not, as Brown does not, care about truth. What Brown relates as a key point in Augustine’s life was, as Ambrose clearly stated, a fable that had nothing to do with Augustine at all:

Let the man deny himself and be wholly changed, as in the fable they relate of a certain youth, who left his home because of his love for a harlot, and, having subdued his love, returned; then one day meeting his old favourite and not speaking to her, she, being surprised and supposing that he had not recognized her, said, when they met again, “It is I”. “But,” was his answer, “I am not the former I”. (Ambrose, Concerning Repentance, Book II, Ch 10.96)

This story floating around the Internet and in sermons has no relation to Augustine at all and certainly is not to be found anywhere in Augustine’s Confessions. It was, as Ambrose said, a ‘fable’. But Kauffman goes on with “the rest of the story”:

I’ve told that story for years. Let me tell you the rest of the story. She wasn’t looking for sex, she was looking for food. They had a son together and she wanted him to acknowledge their son and give them something to eat. What’s with that? When he did his Confessions, he confessed to stealing apples when he wasn’t hungry, but he {Brown pauses here, getting choked up} … he never mentioned his son. I love Augustine. Augustine R Us. (12:50 – 13:30)

Yet “the rest of the story” is as much a fabrication as the beginning. We believe Brown has probably read Augustine’s Confessions, but the passage of time seems to have dimmed his memory, for in his Confessions Augustine explicitly acknowledges his illegitimate son by name. He not only confesses his great sin, but also thanks God for giving the son to him, and acknowledges that he even took custody of the boy:

“Meanwhile my sins were being multiplied. My mistress was torn from my side as an impediment to my marriage, and my heart which clung to her was torn and wounded till it bled. And she went back to Africa, vowing to thee never to know any other man and leaving with me my natural son by her.” (Augustine, Confessions, Book 6, Chapter 15.25)

“When the time arrived for me to give in my name, we left the country and returned to Milan.  … We took with us the boy Adeodatus, my son after the flesh, the offspring of my sin. Thou hadst made of him a noble lad.” (Augustine, Confessions, Book 9, Chapter 6.14)

Clearly Augustine acknowledges his son in his Confessions, but Steve Brown’s point is moot because the fabled encounter with Augustine’s former mistress or prostitute never occurred in the first place. Whence, therefore, the fabrication? Surely Brown has a source for this story but it was not mentioned.

All we can conclude is that the beautiful and emotionally charged story about Augustine and the prostitute is a heart-throb of fabrication that has no relation to fact.

Notes


[1] Kauffman is referring to ‘Steve Brown [who] is a radio show host, author, seminary professor, PCA [Presbyterian Church of America] pastor and occasional “shock jock.”’. Available at: http://www.whitehorseblog.com/2014/08/10/speaking-the-love-in-love/ (Accessed 17 November 2014).

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1 May 2016.