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Many Protestant communions have issues with giving adherence to the traditional Creeds. Creeds bind individual believers to a formal expression of Scriptural truths. Creeds were created to eliminate gray areas which lead to false understandings of eternal truths. Many would view Creeds as intolerant. Especially in this politically correct world, Creeds can be somewhat insensitive to those who would rather hold positions that allow both orthodox and heretical views.

Indeed, Creeds are designed to be just that- intolerant, insensitive, unforgiving. For a Creed defines the boundary with which the enemy Satan is not permitted to enter, nor any of his followers. Heresy is a half truth at best and provides a false sense of security which brings spiritual destruction and in some case physical destruction on a wide scale throughout history. So while Creeds seem to turn on points of scriptural, philosophy & ecclesiastical concerns which they do; they make their mark by sealing literally with the blood of thousands of martyrs as to what is truth.

Christology is the discipline in theology for the study of the Person of Jesus Christ. Since Christ is the basis of belief for all Christians, it is critical to understand who Christ is and who He isn’t; since our belief and salvation are dependent upon Him.

Many of the early church heresies turn on either Christ’s personhood or His natures (Divine & Human). It should be noted that many of these heresies were based on a misunderstanding of scripture and in defense against some other heresy, yet the defense formed to refute a given heresy & supporting a true belief in Christ turned out to be heretical as well.

Today we have many Christians who possess an uninformed or ill formed view of Christ. And like heresies of old these are simply remakes of their older heretical versions. Perhaps the greatest of these today is Nestorianism. This is the belief that Christ has two natures and two persons(human & Divine). Now the reformers would never profess two persons in Christ, however, those who came after them, that have discarded the creeds over the centuries are not generally aware of this dogma nor the history and sacrifice of saints who died for these truths.

Protestants have some motivation for supporting this heresy. Catholicism affirms that Mary is the Mother of God. Various cultures that have significant numbers of Catholics have developed traditions which celebrate this truth of the church and of course the prayer “Hail Mary” also contains this phrase as well. In reaction to this display of honoring Jesus and His mother, Protestants have felt the need over the centuries to counteract this piety, which seems excessively focused on Mary. Part of this is simply because Protestants are not familiar with the theological distinctions about giving honor to a person and for that matter most Catholics haven’t been taught it and don’t understand it either. The average Catholic does not know or likely heard about Latria (worship given to God alone) and Hyperdulia & Dulia (honor given to Mary and honor given to Saints respectfully). The majority of Catholic do however understand that they are not to worship Mary, but likely are not able to explain the process. Hence, the Protestants concern with whether the Catholic is honoring Mary or worshiping her. We must also remember that external actions do not necessarily relay what is going on in the believers mind and spirit. I think a strong reminder once a year from the pulpit on reflecting what these theological categories mean would be helpful.

Those who reconcile with the Catholic church coming from one of the Protestant confessions many times have difficulty with this dogma. However, if one keeps the Creed in mind and why those at the Third Ecumenical Council (Ephesus)
rejected Nestorianism would be beneficial.

In their zeal to defend against a perceived false worship of Mary, some will reject that Mary is the Mother of God. The individual will attempt to apply logic and state that if Mary is the Mother of God that she must be Divine herself in order to give birth to a Divine person. Such reasoning is false because Christ is one Person – not two. Christ has two natures, but once the Protestant attempts to separate the Incarnation of Divine and Human natures they are forced to falsely create two Persons of Christ (one human and one Divine). This destroys the Trinity and creates 4 person in one God.

Given the utter victory of the church in defining the Trinity, this should make any Christian recoil from this type of  reasoning. Yet if they still are unable to accept Mary as Mother of God and they recognize that God is a Trinity there is a host of other heresies waiting for the believer.

Docetists- Christ appeared to have a real human body, but actually was an ethereal being much like an angel. It derives its name from the Greek, dokein, “to seem, to appear.”

Next is Ebionism who rejected the teachings of Paul and emphasized the importance of the law of Moses. Generally, they regarded Jesus as a divinely inspired prophet but not as God.

Valentinianism, Monarchianism, Sabellianism/Modalists all had there respective day in the Sun. St. Epiphanius writes about them:

“Their doctrine is, that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one and the same being, in the sense that three names are attached to the one substance. A close analogy may be found in the body, soul and spirit of man. The body as it were the Father: the soul as the Son ; while the Spirit is to the Godhead as his spirit is to a man. Or take the sun: it is one substance, but it has three manifestations, light , heat and the orb itself. The heat…( is analogous to) the Spirit; the light to the Son; while the Father himself is represented as the actual substance. The Son was at one time emitted, like a ray of light; he accomplished in the world all that pertained to the dispensation of the Gospel and man’s salvation, and was taken back into heaven , as a ray is emitted by the sun and then withdrawn again into the sun.”(Epiphanius Bishop of Salamis 375 AD. Adv. hareses Ixii.1)

If this theological position rings a bell, it’s likely that you know or where at one time a Oneness Pentecostal for they are anti-Trinitarians holding to the belief that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God and one Person.

Adoptionism is where Christ is/was created by generation and nature, and became divine by adoption and grace as an adult. Arians which was created by Arius a presbyter of the Alexandria church in the 4th century taught Christ was not God like the Father, but a creature made in time. Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses hold similar beliefs.

Eutycheanism/Monophysites– archimandrite of Constantinople held that Christ is One person and One nature.

Therefore, following the holy Fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance (homoousious) with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer (Theotokos); one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us.

This is called the Definition of Chalcedon.

Note that there is a great balance between the two heretical positions of One Person & One nature on the one hand and two persons and two natures on the other.

Christians rightly think of Jesus as God and hence many of us tend to think of Him in exclusively Divine concepts. However Jesus is fully human in nature and therefore we should also realize that He sanctifies us by and through His Incarnation. Eastern Orthodoxy has a wonderful saying that all that Jesus touches is redeemed.

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Perhaps its the internet or more specifically the blogs that I read weekly, but over the past 3 years or so there seems to be a concerted effort in some quarters to reclaim(from their viewpoint) the term “Catholic”.  As a Catholic myself I have some problems with them doing so; their claim is that one can be “Catholic” without formally being a member of that communion. Indeed, they are members of the Catholic Church, but only informally as the Catholic church proclaims based on their membership in the body of Christ. Some individuals however have taken an additional step and chosen to alter IMO the meaning of the term, so that they may in fact reject some or a number of doctrinal and/or dogma definitions and would claim the title to Catholic and that those of us in communion with Rome are historically wrong in these positions, which in any-ones church language is referred to as heresy. Nothing wrong with that, it’s good for dialog for all parties to take a stand on what they believe is true. While it creates conflict, if the parties are concerned about the truth, then there is no inherent problem in having conflicting positions. Of course, traditionally Catholics have define these individuals as heretics or schismatics themselves. Which brings us to the issue – What does “Catholic” mean from the historical aspect in the Christian era?

I’m not a scholar, but experts will agree that the Greek word “katholikos”means universal, generally from kata (by) + holos(whole). The primary sources are pretty easy to gather together for the first 200 years since the pool of material is very limited. But after that it grows substantially. In selecting my material I attempted to draw from the first three periods of the church (Apostolic Father, the pre-Nicene, & Nicene fathers) as well as the first 5 centuries from the three primary geographic regions of the Christianity(Africa, the west & the east) as it existed back then and from both Latin and Greek fathers.

Please consider everything after 200 A.D. as a sample of available texts, hopefully it’s  a representative one, but I admit that I have my biases as well. I welcome any-ones input for primary sources that they feel would add to that which is already here. I was deliberate in trying to avoid texts that historically been use to justify papal claims. To some extent it was unavoidable to do so, since there is a linkage between both issues, but the papacy is secondary to this broader topic.

I will list the primary sources first, then reference back to them with my analysis after, so the reader will get a chance to absorb the material without to much bias input on my part other then the selection of text and the bolding and underlining as to it’s importance to my position. Anyone who has read even a limited amount of the church fathers will recognize these passages a  glance, so there isn’t any obscure quote that can’t be found on a number of internet sites for broader context.

The first preserved written use in the Christian tradition of the term “Catholic” about 105 A.D by St. Ignatius of Antioch(Greek):

ignatius.jpg1)See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. .It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid. St Ignatius of Antioch to the Smyrneans

TheMartyrdom of St. Polycarp around 155A.D. (Greek)

polycarp.jpg

2)The Church of God which sojourns at Smyrna, to the Church of God sojourning in Philomelium and to all the congregations of the Holy and Catholic Church in every place: Mercy, peace, and love from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, be multiplied.

Polycarp was one, having in our own times been an apostolic and prophetic teacher, and bishop of the Catholic Church which is in Smyrna Chapter XVI

For, having through patience overcome the unjust governor, and thus acquired the crown of immortality, he now, with the apostles and all the righteous [in heaven], rejoicingly glorifies God, even the Father, and blesses our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of our souls, the Governor of our bodies, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world Chapter XIX

We move now to St. Irenaeus of Lyon (Greek) – Against Heresies, book 3 (180 A.D.) For this discussion we can ignore what St. Irenaeus means by authority.

200px-saint_irenaeus.jpg3) For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church{that is the church of Rome}, on account of its pre- eminent authority,that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolic tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere. Chapter III paragraph 2.

The truth is to be found nowhere else but in the Catholic Church, the sole depository of  apostolical doctrine. Heresies are of recent formation, and cannot trace their origin up to the apostles. Chapter IV

Note: St. Irenaeus famous passage has been used unmercifully by Catholic apologists to bludgeon our fellow Anglicans and Orthodox alike on the topic of papal primacy. That is not the focus of this issue.

Tertullian(African/Latin) (from his Catholic period 200 A.D.)  

4)Where was Marcion then, that shipmaster of Pontus the zealous student of Stoicism? Where was Valentinus then, the disciple of Platonism? For it is evident that those men lived not so long ago,—in the reign of Antoninus for the most part, and that they at first were believers in the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in the church of Rome under the episcopate of the blessed Eleutherus until on account of their ever restless curiosity, with which they even infected the brethren, they were more than once expelled. Prescription against Heretics – Chapter 30

St. Cyprian(African/Latin) to Antonianus – 252 A.D.

150px-stcyprian.jpg5)Cyprian to Antonianus his brother, greeting. I received your first letters, dearest brother, firmly maintaining the concord of the priestly college, and adhering to the Catholic Church, in which you intimated that you did not hold communion with Novatian, but followed my advice, and held one common agreement with Cornelius our co-bishop. You wrote, moreover, for me to transmit a copy of those same letters to Cornelius our colleague, so that he might lay aside all anxiety, and know at once that you held communion with him, that is, with the Catholic Church. Epistle 51

First Ecumenical Council in 325 A.D – (only 5 western/latin bishops represented of the 318 total)

180px-nicaea_icon.jpg6) We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of his Father, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father. By whom all things were made, both which be in heaven and in earth. Who for us men and for our salvation came down [from heaven] and was incarnate and was made man. He suffered and the third day he rose again, and ascended into heaven. And he shall come again to judge both the quick and the dead. And [we believe] in the Holy Ghost. And whosoever shall say that there was a time when the Son of God was not, or that before he was begotten he was not, or that he was made of things that were not, or that he is of a different substance or essence [from the Father] or that he is a creature, or subject to change or conversion–all that so say, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes them. Nicene Creed

St. Cyril of Jerusalem Catechism – 347 A.D. (Greek)

st-cyril-of-jerusalem.jpg7) 22. The Faithwhich we rehearse contains in order the following, And in one Baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; and in one Holy Catholic Church; and in the resurrection of the flesh; and in eternal life.” Now of Baptism and repentance I have spoken in the earliest Lectures; and my present remarks concerning the resurrection of the dead have been made with reference to the Article “In the resurrection of the flesh.” Now then let me finish what still remains to be said for the Article, “In one Holy Catholic Church,” on which, though one might say many things, we will speak but briefly

23. It is called Catholic then because it span extends over all the world, from one end of the earth to the other; and because it teaches universally and completely one and all the doctrines which ought to come to men’s knowledge, concerning things both visible and invisible, heavenly and earthly and because it brings into subjection to godliness the whole race of mankind, governors and governed, learned and unlearned; and because it universally treats and heals the whole class of sins, which are committed by soul or body, and possesses in itself every form of virtue which is named, both in deeds and words, and in every kind of spiritual gifts.

26…since one might properly and truly say that there is a Church of evil doers, I mean the meetings of the heretics, the Marcionists and Manichees, and the rest, for this cause the Faith has securely delivered to thee now the Article, “And in one Holy Catholic Church;” that thou mayest avoid their wretched meetings, and ever abide with the Holy Church Catholic in which thou wast regenerated. And if ever thou art sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord’s House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God St. Cyril of Jerusalem – Lecture XVIII

Optatus of Milevis, Against the Donatists 366 A.D. (African/Latin)

(8)You cannot then deny that you do know that upon Peter first in the City of Rome was bestowed the Episcopal Cathedra on which sat Peter, the Head of all the Apostles(for which reason he was called Cephas), that, in this one Cathedra, unity should be preserved by all, lest the other Apostles might claim—-each for himself—-separate Cathedras, so that he who should set up a second Cathedra against the unique Cathedra would already be a schismatic and a sinner. Well then, on the one Cathedra, which is the first of the Endowments, Peter was the first to sit. Against the Donatists-book 2, chapter 2

II. He proves from the Cathedra Petri that the Cathedra which is the first endowment of the Church belongs to Catholics, not to Donatists.

So we have proved that the Catholic Church is the Church which is spread throughout the world. We must now mention its Adornments and see where are its five Endowments (which you have said to be six, amongst which the CATHEDRA is the first; and, since the second Endowment, which is the ‘Angelus,’ cannot be added unless a Bishop has sat on Cathedra, we must see who was the first to sit on the Cathedra, and where he sat. If you do not know this, learn. If you do know, blush. Ignorance cannot be attributed to you—-it follows that you know. For one who knows, to err is sin. Those who do not know may sometimes be pardoned.

ST. PACIAN, BISHOP OF BARCELONA,EPISTLES TO SYMPRONIAN- 375 A.D. (Spaniard/latin)

9)7. And shall the Fathers rather follow our authority, and the antiquity of Saints give way to be emended by us, and times now putrifying through their sins, pluck out the grey hairs of Apostolic age? And yet, my brother, be not troubled; Christian is my name, but Catholic my surname. The former gives me a name, the latter distinguishes me. By the one I am approved; by the other I am but marked.

8.   And if at last we must give an account of the word Catholic, and draw it out from the Greek by a Latin interpretation, “Catholic” is ‘every where one,’ or, as learned men “obedience in all,” i. e. all the commands of God. Whence the Apostle, Whether ye be obedient in all things;and again,For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous. Therefore he who is a Catholic, the same man is obedient. He who is obedient, the same is a Christian, and thus the Catholic is a Christian. Wherefore our people when named Catholic are separated by this appellation from the heretical name. OF THE CATHOLIC NAME

Jointly from three emperors written in 380 A.D. for all the empire. Note: this is one year prior to the 1st synod of Constantinople (later known as the 2nd Ecumenical council):

10) C. Th.XVI.i.2: We desire that all the people under the rule of our clemency should live by that religion which divine Peter the apostle is said to have given to the Romans, and whichit is evident that Pope Damasusand Peter, bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic sanctity, followed; that is that we should believe in the one deity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with equal majesty and in the Holy Trinity according to the apostolic teaching and the authority of the gospel. Gratian, Valentinian and Theodosius Augusti. Codex Theodosianus.

Nicene Constantinopolitan creed 381 A.D. (150 Greek bishops -no latins)

314px-gregor-chora.jpg11)We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God, and born of the Father before all ages, (God of God) Light of Light, True God of True God, Begotten, not made, of one essence(one in being) with the Father, by Whom all things were made: Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man;And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried;And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures;And ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father;And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke by the Prophets;

And we believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.We acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.We look for the Resurrection of the dead, And the Life of the world to come. Amen.

Pope St. Damasus I – 382 A.D.

damasus.jpg

12) 1.After all these [writings of] the prophets and the evangelical and apostolic scriptures which we discussed above, on which the catholic church is founded by the grace of God, we also have thought necessary to say what, although the universal catholic church diffused throughout the world is the single bride of Christ, however the holy Roman church is given first place by the rest of the churches without[the need for] a synodical decision, but from the voice of the Lord our saviour in the gospel obtained primacy: ‘You are Peter,’ he said, ‘and upon this rock I shall build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; and to you I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you shall bind upon Earth shall be bound also in heaven and whatever you release upon Earth shall also be released in heaven’.

2. In addition there is also the presence of the blessed apostle Paul, ‘the chosen vessel’, who not in opposition, as the heresies jabber, but on the same date and the same day was crowned in glorious death with Peter in the city of Rome suffering under Nero Caesar; and equally they made the above-mentioned holy Roman church special in Christ the Lord and gave preference in their presence and veneration-worthy triumph before all other cities in the whole world.

3. Therefore first is the seat at the Roman church of the apostle Peter ‘having no spot or wrinkle or any other [defect]’. However the second place was given in the name of blessed Peter to Mark his disciple and gospel-writer at Alexandria, and who himself wrote down the word of truth directed by Peter the apostle in Egypt and gloriously consummated [his life] in martyrdom. Indeed the third place is held at Antioch of the most blessed and honourable apostle Peter, who lived there before he came to Roma and where first the name of the new race of the Christians was heard. Section 3

Next is St. Augustine of Hippo who wrote Against the Epislte of Manichaeus in 397 A.D. (African/Latin)

saint_augustine_oldest_image_sm.jpg13) 5. For in the Catholic Church, not to speak of the purest wisdom, to the knowledge of which a few spiritual men attain in this life, so as to know it, in the scantiest measure, indeed, because they are but men, still without any uncertainty (since the rest of the multitude derive their entire security not from acuteness of intellect, but from simplicity of faith,)—not to speak of this wisdom, which you do not believe to be in the Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep, down to the present episcopate. And so, lastly, does the name itself of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house. Such then in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian name which keep a believer in the Catholic Church, as it is right they should, though from the slowness of our understanding, or the small attainment of our life, the truth may not yet fully disclose itself. But with you, where there is none of these things to attract or keep me, the promise of truth is the only thing that comes into play. Now if the truth is so clearly proved as to leave no possibility of doubt, it must be set before all the things that keep me in the Catholic Church; but if there is only a promise without any fulfillment, no one shall move me from the faith which binds my mind with ties so many and so strong to the Christian religion.

6.For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church. So when those on whose authority I have consented to believe in the gospel tell me not to believe in Manichæus, how can I but consent? Take your choice. If you say, Believe the Catholics: their advice to me is to put no faith in you; so that, believing them, I am precluded from believing you;—If you say, Do not believe the Catholics: you cannot fairly use the gospel in bringing me to faith in Manichæus; for it was at the command of the Catholics that I believed the gospel;—Again, if you say, You were right in believing the Catholics when they praised the gospel, but wrong in believing their vituperation of Manichæus: do you think me such a fool as to believe or not to believe as you like or dislike, without any reason? It is therefore fairer and safer by far for me, having in one instance put faith in the Catholics, not to go over to you, till, instead of bidding me believe, you make me understand something in the clearest and most open manner. To convince me, then, you must put aside the gospel. If you keep to the gospel, I will keep to those who commanded me to believe the gospel; and, in obedience to them, I will not believe you at all. But if haply you should succeed in finding in the gospel an incontrovertible testimony to the apostleship of Manichæus, you will weaken my regard for the authority of the Catholics who bid me not to believe you; and the effect of that will be, that I shall no longer be able to believe the gospel either, for it was through the Catholics that I got my faith in it; and so, whatever you bring from the gospel will no longer have any weight with me. Wherefore, if no clear proof of the apostleship of Manichæus is found in the gospel, I will believe the Catholics rather than you.But if you read thence some passage clearly in favor of Manichæus, I will believe neither them nor you: not them, for they lied to me about you; nor you, for you quote to me that Scripture which I had believed on the authority of those liars. But far be it that I should not believe the gospel; for believing it, I find no way of believing you too. For the names of the apostles, as there recorded do not include the name of Manichæus. And who the successor of Christ’s betrayer was we read in the Acts of the Apostles; Acts 1:26 which book I must needs believe if I believe the gospel, since both writings alike Catholic authority commends to me. Chapter 4 & 5.

St. Augustine  – Letter to Vincentius – 408 A.D. 

14) 23. You think that you make a very acute remark when you affirm the name Catholic to mean universal, not in respect to the communion as embracing the whole world, but in respect to the observance of all Divine precepts and of all the sacraments, as if we (even accepting the position that the Church is called Catholic because it honestly holds the whole truth, of which fragments here and there are found in some heresies) rested upon the testimony of this word’s signification, and not upon the promises of God, and so many indisputable testimonies of the truth itself, our demonstration of the existence of the Church of God in all nations. In fact, however, this is the whole which you attempt to make us believe, that the Rogatists alone remain worthy of the name Catholics, on the ground of their observing all the Divine precepts and all the sacraments; and that you are the only persons in whom the Son of man when He comes shall find faith. Letter 93, Chapter 7, para.23

Next is Sozomen a Greek church historian 425 A.D. as background on the previous law issue by the Emperors quote above (#7)

15)Finally we as Gaul was about this period infested by the incursions of the Alemanni, Gratian returned to his paternal dominions, which he had reserved for himself and his brother, when he bestowed the government of Illyria and of the Eastern provinces upon Theodosius. He effected his purpose with regard to the barbarians; and Theodosius was equally successful against the tribes from the banks of the Ister; he defeated them, compelled them to sue for peace, and, after accepting hostages from them, proceeded to Thessalonica. He fell ill while in this city, and after receiving instruction from Ascholius, the bishop, he was initiated, and was soon after restored to health. The parents of Theodosius were Christians, and were attached to the Nicene doctrines; he was pleased with Ascholius, who maintained the same doctrines, and was, in a word, endowed with every virtue of the priesthood. He also rejoiced at finding that the Arian heresy had not been participated in by Illyria. He inquired concerning the religious sentiments which were prevalent in the other provinces, and ascertained that, as far as Macedonia,all the churches were like minded, and all held that equal homage ought to be rendered to God the Word, and to the Holy Ghost, as to God the Father; but that towards the East, and particularly at Constantinople, the people were divided into many different heresies. Reflecting that it would be better to propound his own religious views to his subjects, so as not to appear to be using force by commanding the unwilling subject to worship contrary to his judgment, Theodosius enacted a law at Thessalonica, which he caused to be published at Constantinople, well knowing that the rescript would speedily become public to all the other cities, if issued from that city, which is as a citadel of the whole empire. He made known by this law his intention of leading all his subjects to the reception of that faith which Peter, the chief of the apostles, had, from the beginning, preached to the Romans, and which was professed by Damasus, bishop of Rome, and by Peter, bishop of Alexandria. He enacted that the title of Catholic Church should be exclusively confined to those who rendered equal homage to the Three Persons of the Trinity, and that those individuals who entertained opposite opinions should be treated as heretics, regarded with contempt, and delivered over to punishment. Ecclesiastical History (Book VII)

Drawing from St. Vincent of Lerins 434 A.DCommonitory chapters 2 & 3 otherwise known as the Vincentian Canon which is used by our Orthodox and Anglican friends to bludgeon my fellow Catholics;>)

16) [6.] Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense Catholic; which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.

Analysis. Still here? Well I hope this will be worthy of your time & effort.

  • From #1(St. Ignatius) we find that a “bishop is need” in the Catholic Church and that Christians “follow” him as “Jesus does the Father”. IOWs “obedience” &instituted” by God
  • From #2 (St. Polycarp) we see his use of the term “church of God” with various locations, but regardless they are all congregations of the Holy Catholic Church. IOWs “unity”.Jesus Christ is the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world.
  • From #3 (St. Irenaeus of Lyon) dealing with Gnostics who’s claim is hidden knowledge, not known to the general public; his solution is that every church should agree with the church of Rome, based on some undefined authority, and a unity with all other Apostolic church in the world.
  • Secondly, of more importance is that the Truth is found nowhere else but in the Catholic church & is the sole depository of apostolic doctrine. IOWs preservers of the “deposit of faith”.
  • Next is #4 (Tertullian) our have our first latin and first African. Prior to this we heard only from Greeks in the east. Tertullian deals with internal descent of believers who are misleading/”infecting” other believers. The solution is to “excommunicate” those formally within the church.
  • And #5 (St. Cyprian) deals with schism over the issue of liberal or rigorist application of christian principles. The Novatian issue. He solution is to send a letter to the bishop of Rome(Cornelius) stating that he was in communion with him and therefore with the Catholic Church. IOWs “unity with the bishop of Rome” is somehow connected to “communion with the Catholic Church”.

That closes out the Apostolic Father and pre-Nicene era.

B) The next section, I have separated because of the course altering change of the imperial gov’t of Rome saw the light of truth. It is critical to understand the period between 350 A.D. & 451 A.D. for a proper take on Christiology & church authority. There are just about as many creeds as there were local churches in the 4th century.

  • The Nicene Creed(#6) we see not just the affirmation of faith, but the penalty for those who profess something other then the Trinity. Namely the Arians and also Monarchianists. The term Apostolic is added as a requirement to be Catholic.
  • St. Cyril of Jerusalem (#7) attended the 2nd Ecumenical Council. In his catechism he adds the space to the requirement as well as teaching a unified comprehensive doctrine from one end of the earth to the other. One is to avoid membership in churches which teach heresy, it is not enough to be called the church of God.
  • Optatus of Milevius (#8) adds that the chair of St. Peter is required for unity. This is in reaction to the Donatist. IF one reads about the history of this sect there is IMO a striking similarity between it and modern day schismatics. The Catholic church was considered to “liberal” the Donatist after all had in fact remained true to the faith under persecution and dead by the pagan emperors. They refused to turn over the Sacred Scriptures and liturgical & Church father writings. They referred to the Catholics who were permitted back into the church after the persecutions as  traditor. This will come up again when dealing with St. Vincent’s canon.
  • St. Pacian (#9) adds the word obedience as the quality of a Catholic.
  • The 3 emperors (#10) place into Imperial law not the Creed of the 318 which was the rallyin cry throughout the turbulent times of this century, but the faith delivered by St. Peter the Apostle to the Romans (not the empire, but the local church in Rome, headed by it’s bishop) and St. Peter II bishop of Alexandria, who lived in exile in Rome, prior to being restored. Confirmed in (#15). It is now civil law that all who would be Catholic were required to profess a Trinitarian belief.
  • The Nicene-constantinopolitian Creed (#11 -Greek-easterners) is the most used in liturgies for all parties involved in this topic. These truths are to be held by everyone who is called by the name Catholic. It dealt with the Macedonian heresy( the three great Cappadocians fathers fought against this) , however the church in Antioch was in schism at the time and St. Meletius of Antioch (who was president of this council) was not in communion with the west or Alexandria (being suspect of Semi-Arian leanings). It’s creed was not used in the liturgy for centuries after the fact in the west and it was not until the Ecumenical council of Chalcedon(451 A.D.) that the creed was considered an Ecumenical council by Pope Leo the Great. The numerical number of “one” is included as a requirement of the Catholic church. There is no other.
  • St. Damasus I (#12) delivers his tome possibly accepted by the council of constantinople in 382, adds what has become to be known as papal supremacy as a condition of being Catholic. It establishes the gov’t structure as being of divine origin and the two other Petrine sees(Alexandria & Antioch) share in this authority bases on St. Peter.
  • St. Augustine (#13 &14) is simply dialog which I think explains what is not Catholic as much as what is.
  • St. Vincent (#16)  as stated above is IMO the primary quote used by those who desire to make a claim on the term Catholic, while not being in obedience, unity or communion to the bishop of rome, successor to St. Peter’s chair. He  uses examples to clarify what he meant by his theory, which can be found in the same book and link under #16  Chapters 4, 5, & 6
  • He draws on the example of the Donatists who as mentioned were schismatics, then the Arians who were heretics, then Martrys as witnesses to the Catholic faith, then one would think strange statement from Pope Stephen ” Let there be no innovation—nothing but what has been handed down.” This example point to communion with the bishop of Rome in the historical record. One would think then that this canon appeals in communion with Rome and required to be in global unity, doctrine, obedience with(not necessarily under) the chair of St. Peter in Rome.

As one can see from the primary sources the western church dealt with a lot of internal schism, from rigiorist mostly in Africa, heretics from the east and west, whereas the east deal more with theological speculation, which created heresy. It is my opinion that Christ select St. Peter as an integral part of the church and due to historical circumstances St. Peter chose Rome as his permanent chair. One of the theme’s that the fathers speak about is Catholic is from one end of the earth to the other. The ancients thought that they had achieved that goal; however today we know they were off a bit. That doesn’t change their claim however and I believe it is achieve by the Catholic church. A map of the Dioceses in the World

My conclusion is that Catholic is universal in geographic scope, unity in doctrine, unity with the bishop of Rome, obedience to scripture and the deposit of faith.

IOW’s your Catholic if your in communion with his guy:

pope-b16.jpg

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