Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Iranaeus on the Rule of Faith

Today's Worship Quote of the Week:

The church which is scattered over the whole world all the way to the ends of the earth received from the apostles and their followers this faith: We believe in one God the Father Almighty, "who made heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them" (Exod. 20:11): and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God who became incarnate for our salvation; and in Holy Spirit, who through the prophets predicted the plans of God.

These divine plans included the first advent; the birth from a Virgin; the passion; the resurrection from the dead; the bodily ascension of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ into heaven; and his second coming from heaven in the glory of the Father to "recapitulate all things" (Eph. 1:10) and to resurrect the bodies of the whole human race, so that to Christ Jesus our Lord and God and Savior and King "every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess Him" (Phil. 2:10-11). This was the good pleasure of the invisible Father.

Christ will raise the dead in order to execute righteous judgment upon everyone. Into eternal fire he will send the "spiritual forces of wickedness" (Eph. 6:12), and the angels who sinned and became apostate, and every person who is profane, unjust, sinful, and blasphemous. But there are others: the righteous and holy, and all who have kept his commandments and remain in his love (John 15:10). The apostles persevered from the beginning of his ministry (John 15:27), while others began at the point of their own repentance. To all of these he will give incorruptible life by his grace, and will clothe them with eternal glory.

Now as I was just saying: the Church which is spread out through the whole world has received this preaching and this faith. And so we Christians diligently guard it as if we were living together in a single house. Or to put it another way: clearly we all believe these things so much, it's like we have a single heart and soul (Acts 4:32). We so consistently preach, teach, and hand down these truths, it's as if we have but one mouth.

For although the languages of the world are dissimilar, the meaning of our tradition is one and the same. The churches founded in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different; neither do the churches established in Spain, or among the Celts, or in the Far East, or in Egypt, or in Libya, or in the middle of the world. Just as the sun which was created by God is one and the same throughout the whole world, so the light which is the preaching of Christian truth shines everywhere, and illumines everyone who wants to come into knowledge of the truth.

No pastor of any congregation, even if he is extremely eloquent, will say anything that varies from the truth. For we all recognize that "no one is above the Master" (Matt. 10:24). Likewise, the pastor who is lacking in eloquence will not diminish the tradition. For since the faith is one and the same, he who can discourse at length about it does not really add to it, and he who is less theologically capable does not diminish it in any way.

— Irenaeus of Lyons, in "Against Heresies," as excerpted by Bryan M. Litfin in GETTING TO KNOW THE CHURCH FATHERS: AN EVANGELICAL INTRODUCTION. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2007), pp. 95-96. ISBN 978-1-587-43-196-8. Highly recommended. There are also chapters on Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Perpetua, Origen, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Augustine, and Cyril of Alexandria.

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