quotes from The Emergence of the catholic tradition (100-600) by Pelikan


I finally finished Jaroslav Pelikan's first installment of his massive 5 volume series on The Christian Tradition: A history of the development of doctrine. He covers the first 500 years, before the East and West split. The end of the book focuses on Augustine and how the church worldwide interacted with and rejected his fatalism. That was new information to me, but that's why I read history books. Part of the rejection had to do with his inconsistency with the received tradition and teaching of the fathers before him. In light of recent controversies among the evangelical Christian reading public. Pelikan explains the united church's perspective so,
The apostles had ruled the church by their proclamation, and now their place had been taken by others who continued to rule by the same proclamation. The succession was uninterrupted and the continuity unbroken.
Yet the norm of antiquity did not automatically elevate to authoritative status every theologian of the past, regardless of what he taught. In his defense of the catholic faith against Manicheism, Augustine had rejected "all the testimony you can bring in favor of your book from antiquity or tradition" so long as it did not agree with "the testimony of the catholic church ... supported by a succession of bishops from the original sees of the apostles to the present time." Vincent, for his part, insisted that the prestige of the theolgians of the church, including that of Augustine himself, defer to "the decisions of the antiquity." A prime instance of this requirement was the case of Origen [my emphasis], who although an ornament of the church for his piety and his learning, fell into error and corrupted the ancient faith. Vincent's judgment of Origen was made official at the Second Council of Constantinople, at the urging of Justinian. Justinian cited the authority of "the holy fathers who, following the inspired Scriptures, condemned such doctrines {as the preexistence of the soul}, together with Origen, who made up such myths." By his doctrines Origen had "forsaken the divine Scriptures and the holy fathers whom the catholic church of God regards as its teachers and through whom every heresy everywhere was driven out and the orthodox faith was explained." Within antiquity, then, some teachers were to be preferred to others; there was ancient heresy as well as ancient orthodoxy, and any teaching was to be condemned despite its age if it deviated from what had always been taught by the true succession of orthodox bishops and theologians. In Augustine's case, there was probably no possibility of anything so drastic as a formal condemnation by a duly constituted synod of the church. Instead, later Augustinism discreetly eliminated what was objectionable in Augustine even as it celebrated his authority. Antiquity was vindicated and orthodoxy was preserved.
...Cassian put the case for consensus perhaps more completely than any other theologian of the fifth and sixth centuries: "There has never been anyone who quarreled with this faith without being guilty of unbelief, for to deny what has been proved to be right is to confess what is wrong. The consensus of all ought then of itself to be enough to refute heresy; for the authority of all shows indubitable truth, and a perfect reason results where no one disputes it. Therefore if a man seeks to hold opinions contrary to these, we should, at the very outset, condemn his perversity rather than listen to his assertions. For someone who impugns the judgement of all announces his own condemnation beforehand, and a man who disturbs what had been determined by all is not even given a hearing. For when the truth has been established by all men once and for all, whatever arises contrary to is by this very fact to be recognized at once as falsehood, because it differs from the truth." pp. 337,8,9

The weakness of Christian liberalism and cults in whatever form taken through the years is it's hubris to question again what has been settled for centuries. Some things are settled. There's no need to have a conversation about some things. Time does not unsettle some things.

update: for a brief compendium on pre-Augustine teachings on free will by the church fathers, see this link.
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