Saturday, November 13, 2010

Innocent III vs. Benedict XVI -- Use Scripture as Your Standard Instead

"Here I wish to affirm once more that religion can never justify intolerance or war. We cannot kill in God's name!" (Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, September 30, 2010, Part 3)

Desiring with an ardent desire to liberate the Holy Land from the hands of the ungodly, we decree with the advice of prudent men who are fully familiar with the circumstances of the times, and with the approval of the council, that all who have taken the cross and have decided to cross the sea, hold themselves so prepared that they may, on June 1 of the year after next (1217), come together in the Kingdom of Sicily, some at Brundusium and others at Messana, where, God willing, we [the Pope, Innocent III] will be present personally to order and to bestow on the Christian army the divine and Apostolic blessing.
Holy Land Decrees of the Fourth Council of the Lateran (source for translation)

Everybody knows that popes only extremely rarely exercise their alleged power of infallibility. And, of course, any time a contradiction between popes is noted, it is simply alleged that one or the other or both of the popes is not exercising his infallibility.

But my point is a little different. My point is that papal teachings are not generally trustworthy, because they contradict one another. Innocent III justifies the crusades on religious grounds. Benedict XVI says, in effect, that Innocent III (and the fourth Lateran council in general) was wrong.

How can you know who is right? The answer is that you're going to have to exercise private judgment. You're going to have to look to a source that's more reliable than the Roman bishops. May I respectfully submit to you, dear reader, that the standard by which you should be judging the teachings of both Innocent III and Benedict XVI is Holy Scripture.


(This is obviously based on yesterday's blog post, but I've tried to make the point of this a little more clear.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Can Religions Justify War?

"Religions can never justify intolerance and war." - Benedict XVI (according to this article)

UPDATE Citation/Quotation from Authoritative Source: "Here I wish to affirm once more that religion can never justify intolerance or war. We cannot kill in God's name!" (Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, September 30, 2010, Part 3)

Compare to the Holy Land Decrees of the Fourth Council of the Lateran (source for translation):
Desiring with an ardent desire to liberate the Holy Land from the hands of the ungodly, we decree with the advice of prudent men who are fully familiar with the circumstances of the times, and with the approval of the council, that all who have taken the cross and have decided to cross the sea, hold themselves so prepared that they may, on June 1 of the year after next (1217), come together in the Kingdom of Sicily, some at Brundusium and others at Messana, where, God willing, we (the Pope) will be present personally to order and to bestow on the Christian army the divine and Apostolic blessing. Those who decide to make the journey by land, should strive to hold themselves prepared for the same time; for their aid and guidance we shall in the meantime appoint a competent legate a latere. Priests and other clerics who are with the Christian army, subjects as well as prelates, must be diligent in prayer and exhortation, teaching them (the crusaders) by word and example that they have always before their eyes the fear and love of God, lest they say or do something that might offend the majesty of the eternal King. And should any have fallen into sin, let them quickly rise again through true repentance, practicing humility both interiorly and exteriorly, observing moderation in food as well as in clothing, avoiding dissensions and emulations, and divesting themselves of all malice and ill will, that being thus fortified with spiritual and material arms, they may fight with greater success against the enemies of the faith, not indeed relying on their own strength but putting their trust in the power of God. To the clerics we grant for a period of three years as complete an enjoyment of their benefices as if they actually resided in them, and they may, if necessary, even give them as pledges during this time. Therefore, that this undertaking may not be impeded or retarded, we strictly command all prelates that each one in his own territory induce those who have laid aside the crusader's cross to resume it, and carefully to admonish them and others who have taken the cross, as well as those who happen to be engaged for this purpose, to renew their vows to God, and if necessary to compel them by excommunication and interdict to abandon all delay.

Moreover, that nothing connected with the affairs of our Lord Jesus Christ be omitted, we wish and command that patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, abbots, and others who have the care of souls, diligently explain the meaning of the crusade to those committed to them, adjuring-through the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, one, only true, and eternal God-kings, dukes, princes, marquises, counts, barons, and other prominent men, as well as cities, villages, and towns, that those who cannot go personally to the Holy Land, will furnish a suitable number of soldiers and, for a period of three years, in proportion to their resources, will bear the necessary expenses connected therewith for the remission of their sins, as we have made known in the general letters already sent over the world and as will be,exprcssed in greater detail below. In this remission we wish not only those to participate who for this purpose furnish their own ships, but those also who undertake to build ships. To those declining to render aid, if perchance any should be found to be so ungrateful to God, the Apostolic See firmly protests that on the last day they will be held to render an account to us in the presence of a terrible judge. Let them first consider with what security they can appear in the presence of the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, into whose hands the Father has given all things, if in this matter they refuse to serve Him who was crucified for sinners, by whose favor they live, by whose benefits they are sustained, and by whose blood they were redeemed.

But, lest we should seem to place grave and unbearable burdens on the shoulders of the people, we ourselves (the Pope) donate to the cause what we have been able to save by strict economy, 30,000 pounds, besides a ship to convey the crusaders from Rome and vicinity and 3,000 marks silver, the remnant of alms received from the faithful. The remainder we have given to Albert patriarch of Jerusalem, and to the masters of the Temple and Hospital for the necessities of the Holy Land. With the approval of the council we further decree that absolutely all clerics, subjects as well as superiors, shall, in aid of the Holy Land and for a period of three years, pay into the hands of those appointed by the Apostolic See for this purpose, one twentieth part of ecclesiastical revenues; some religious orders only being excepted and those (clerics) also who take or already have taken the crusader's cross and are about to set out personally. We and our brethren, the cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, will pay one-tenth of our revenues. All are bound to the faithful observance of this under penalty of excommunication, so that those who deliberately commit fraud in this matter will incur that penalty.

Since by the just judgment of the heavenly King it is only right that those who are associated with a good cause should enjoy a special privilege, we exempt the crusaders from collections, taxes, and other assessments. Their persons and possessions, after they have taken the cross, we take under the protection of Blessed Peter and our own, decreeing that they stand under the protection o f the archbishops, bishops, and all the prelates of the Church. Besides, special protectors will be appointed, and, till their return or till their death shall have been certified, they shall remain unmolested, and if anyone shall presume the contrary, let him be restrained by ecclesiastical censure.

In the case of crusaders who are bound under oath to pay interest, we command that their creditors be compelled to cancel the oath given and to cease exacting interest. Should any creditor force the payment of interest, we command that he be similarly forced to make restitution. We command also that Jews be compelled by the secular power to cancel interest, and, till they have done so, intercourse with them must be absolutely denied them by all Christians under penalty of excommunication. For those who cannot be their departure pay their debts to the Jews, the secular princes shall provide such a delay that from the time of their departure till their return or till their death is known, they shall not be embarrassed with the inconvenience of paying interest. If a Jew has received security (for example, a piece of ground) for such a debt, he must, after deducting his own expenses, pay to the owner the income from such security. Prelates who manifest negligence in obtaining justice for the crusaders and their servants, shall be subject to severe penalty.

Since the corsairs and pirates too vehemently impede assistance to the Holy Land by capturing and robbing those who go there and those returning, we excommunicate them and their principal abetters and protectors, forbidding under threat of anathema that anyone knowingly hold intercourse with them in any contract of buying and selling, and enjoin upon the rulers of cities and their localities that they check and turn them away from this iniquity. And since an unwillingness to disturb the perverse is nothing else than to favor them, and is also an indication of secret association with them on the part of those who do not resist manifest crime, we wish and command that severe ecclesiastical punishment be imposed by the prelates on their persons and lands. We excommunicate and anathematize, moreover, those false and ungodly Christians who furnish the enemies of Christ and the Christian people with arms, iron, and wood for the construction of ships; those also who sell them ships and who in the ships of the Saracens hold the post of pilot, or in any other way give them aid or advice to the detriment of the Holy Land; and we decree that their possessions be confiscated and they themselves become the slaves of their captors. We command that this sentence be publicly announced in all maritime cities on all Sundays and festival days, and that to such people the church be not opened till they return all that they have obtained in so reprehensible a traffic and give the same amount of their own -in aid of the Holy Land. In case they are not able to pay, then let them be punished in other ways, that by their chastisement others may be deterred from undertaking similar pursuits.

Furthermore, under penalty of anathema, we forbid all Christians for a period of four years to send their ships to Oriental countries, inhabited by the Saracens, in order that a greater number of ships may be available to those who wish to go to the aid of the Holy Land, and that to the Saracens may be denied the benefits that they usually reap from such commercial intercourse.

Though tournaments have been, under certain penalties, generally forbidden by different councils, since however at this time they are a serious obstacle to the success of the crusade, we strictly prohibit them under penalty of excommunication for a period of three years.

But, since for the success of this undertaking it is above all else necessary that princes and Christian people maintain peace among themselves, we decree with the advice of the holy council that for four years peace be observed in the whole Christian world, so that through the prelates discordant elements may be brought together in the fulness of peace, or at least to the strict observance of the truce. Those who refuse to acquiesce in this, are to be compelled by excommunication and interdict, unless the malice that inspired their wrongdoings was such that they ought not to enjoy such peace. But, if by chance they despise ecclesiastical censure, they have every reason to fear lest by the authority of the Church the secular power will be invoked against them as disturbers of the affairs of the One crucified.

We, therefore, by the mercy of the omnipotent God, trusting in the authority of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, in virtue of that power of binding and loosing which God has conferred on us, though unworthy, grant to all who aid in this work personally and at their own expense, a full remission of their sins which they, have sincerely repented and orally confessed, and promise them when the just shall receive their reward an increase of eternal happiness. To those who do not personally go to the Holy Land, but at their own expense send there as many suitable men as their means will permit, and to those also who go personally but at the expense of others, we grant a full remission of their sins. Participants of this remission are, moreover, all who in proportion to their means contribute to the aid of the Holy Land, or in regard to what has been said give opportune advice and assistance. Finally, to all who in a spirit of piety aid in bringing to a successful issue this holy under. taking, this holy and general council imparts the benefits of its prayers and blessings that they may advance worthily to salvation. Amen.
Yes, yes - I know the usual retort: Benedict XVI was not speaking infallibly in the instance above.

But isn't there a more obvious issue? Benedict XVI's beliefs on this subject are clearly in disagreement with those of medieval Rome.

There's another possible answer, by the way. Sometimes the newspapers don't accurately report what the pope says. In this case, I tried to check the official Bulletin, but I could not find text corresponding to the text quoted above. So, there's an additional grain of salt to be added to the consideration. (UPDATE: Since I have confirmed this from the official source, the newspaper issue is moot.)

- TurretinFan

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Formal Sufficiency of Scripture: Third Century Fathers (Guest Series)

Formal Sufficiency of Scripture
Stated and Examined from Scripture and the Fathers, with scholarly confirmation regarding the Fathers' views.

After explaining the nature of formal sufficiency (i.e. the Reformed view) in an introduction section (link), we explored Scripture's own testimony to its sufficiency (link). Although we could have stopped there, we have begun to explore the patristic testimony to the matter, beginning with the earliest Christian writers (link to discussion), and now continuing with the fathers of the 3rd century - some of whom were born in the 2nd century.

The writings of the 3rd century are in may respects better preserved than the writings of the preceding centuries. Consequently, we have a larger pool from which to draw. This larger pool also necessarily means that we have more specific discussions on more areas of theology, including discussion of Scripture. The following are some examples of what one finds in the third century.

Clement of Alexandria (150 - c. 215):
It is now time, as we have dispatched in order the other points, to go to the prophetic Scriptures; for the oracles present us with the appliances necessary for the attainment of piety, and so establish the truth. The divine Scriptures and institutions of wisdom form the short road to salvation. Devoid of embellishment, of outward beauty of diction, of wordiness and seductiveness, they raise up humanity strangled by wickedness, teaching men to despise the casualties of life; and with one and the same voice remedying many evils, they at once dissuade us from pernicious deceit, and clearly exhort us to the attainment of the salvation set before us.
ANF: Vol. II, Exhortation to the Heathen, Chapter 8.

Clement is here affirming not only that Scripture has the content necessary, but also the form necessary, to bring believers to a saving knowledge of the truth.

We see something similar in the next quotation.

Clement of Alexandria (150 - c. 215):
But godliness, that makes man as far as can be like God, designates God as our suitable teacher, who alone can worthily assimilate man to God. This teaching the apostle knows as truly divine. “Thou, O Timothy,” he says, “from a child hast known the holy letters, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith that is in Christ Jesus.” For truly holy are those letters that sanctify and deify; and the writings or volumes that consist of those holy letters and syllables, the same apostle consequently calls “inspired of God, being profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to every good work.” No one will be so impressed by the exhortations of any of the saints, as he is by the words of the Lord Himself, the lover of man. For this, and nothing but this, is His only work — the salvation of man. Therefore He Himself, urging them on to salvation, cries, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Those men that draw near through fear, He converts. Thus also the apostle of the Lord, beseeching the Macedonians, becomes the interpreter of the divine voice, when he says, “The Lord is at hand; take care that ye be not apprehended empty.” But are ye so devoid of fear, or rather of faith, as not to believe the Lord Himself, or Paul, who in Christ’s stead thus entreats: “Taste and see that Christ is God?” Faith will lead you in; experience will teach you; Scripture will train you, for it says, “Come hither, O children; listen to me, and I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” Then, as to those who already believe, it briefly adds, “What man is he that desireth life, that loveth to see good days?” It is we, we shall say — we who are the devotees of good, we who eagerly desire good things. Hear, then, ye who are far off, hear ye who are near: the word has not been hidden from any; light is common, it shines “on all men.”
ANF: Vol. II, Exhortation to the Heathen, Chapter 9.

Observe that Clement ascribes a magisterial function to the Scriptures themselves. Who will train you? Scriptures will. And, of course, Clement appeals to the same Scripture we do to glean the same doctrine we glean.

Clement provides a slightly different twist on the same theme in the next quotation.

Clement of Alexandria (150 - c. 215):
And now we must look also at this, that if ever those who know not how to do well, live well; for they have lighted on well-doing. Some, too, have aimed well at the word of truth through understanding. “But Abraham was not justified by works, but by faith.” It is therefore of no advantage to them after the end of life, even if they do good works now, if they have not faith. Wherefore also the Scriptures were translated into the language of the Greeks, in order that they might never be able to allege the excuse of ignorance, inasmuch as they are able to hear also what we have in our hands, if they only wish. One speaks in one way of the truth, in another way the truth interprets itself. The guessing at truth is one thing, and truth itself is another. Resemblance is one thing, the thing itself is another. And the one results from learning and practice, the other from power and faith. For the teaching of piety is a gift, but faith is grace. “For by doing the will of God we know the will of God.” “Open, then,” says the Scripture, “the gates of righteousness; and I will enter in, and confess to the LORD.”
ANF: Vol. II, The Stromata, Book I, Chapter 7.—The Eclectic Philosophy Paves the Way for Divine Virtue.

Notice how Clement affirms that the Greeks cannot allege ignorance. This implies that the truth is discernible from the Scriptures themselves, and "the truth interprets itself" confirms that this is Clement's meaning.

Clement of Alexandria (150 - c. 215):
But if from any creature they received in any way whatever the seeds of the Truth, they did not nourish them; but committing them to a barren and rainless soil, they choked them with weeds, as the Pharisees revolted from the Law, by introducing human teachings, — the cause of these being not the Teacher, but those who choose to disobey. But those of them who believed the Lord’s advent and the plain teaching of the Scriptures, attain to the knowledge of the law; as also those addicted to philosophy, by the teaching of the Lord, are introduced into the knowledge of the true philosophy: “For the oracles of the Lord are pure oracles, melted in the fire, tried in the earth, purified seven times.” Just as silver often purified, so is the just man brought to the test, becoming the Lord’s coin and receiving the royal image.
ANF: Vol. II, The Stromata, Book VI, Chapter 7.

I haven't placed anything in bold in the quotation above, because I'd have to put almost everything in bold. Notice how Scripture is treated as being the seeds of the Truth, the Law (the books of Moses) is referred to as a Teacher, believers are those who "believed in the Lord's advent and the plain teaching of the Scriptures" and these attain to knowledge of the law.

Clement also puts the idea of formal sufficiency another way:

Clement of Alexandria (150 - c. 215):
Therefore, in the divine education, it is necessary that duties be imposed upon us, as things commanded by God and provided for our salvation. But, since of things that are necessary, some are for this life alone, while others cause the soul to aspire after a good life in the next world, it is but right that some obligations be imposed merely for living, and others for living well. Whatever is imposed for material life is binding upon the multitude, but what is adapted to living well, that is, the things by which eternal life is gained, should be able to be gathered from the Scriptures by those who read them, gathered at least in their general outline.
FC, Vol. 23, Clement of Alexandria: Christ the Educator, Chapter 13, §103 (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1954), p. 91.

This is not a surprising doctrine, of course. It is just what the Scriptures themselves teach, but the point that we can gain a knowledge of those things necessary for eternal life from reading the Scriptures is plainly Clement's teaching.

Clement of Alexandria (150 - c. 215):
But if philosophy contributes remotely to the discovery of truth, by reaching, by diverse essays, after the knowledge which touches close on the truth, the knowledge possessed by us, it aids him who aims at grasping it, in accordance with the Word, to apprehend knowledge. But the Hellenic truth is distinct from that held by us (although it has got the same name), both in respect of extent of knowledge, certainly of demonstration, divine power, and the like. For we are taught of God, being instructed in the truly “sacred letters” by the Son of God.

Εἰ δὲ καὶ πόῤῥωθεν συλλαμβάνεται φιλοσοφία πρὸς τὴν ἀληθείας εὕρεσιν, κατὰ διαφόρους ἐπιβολὰς διατείνουσα ἐπὶ τὴν προσεχῶς ἁπτομένην τῆς ἀληθείας τῆς καθʼ ἡμᾶς εἴδησιν, ἀλλὰ συλλαμβάνεταί γε τῷ λογικῶς ἐπιχειρεῖν ἐσπουδακότι ἀνθάπτεσθαι γνώσεως. χωρίζεται δὲ ἡ Ἑλληνικὴ ἀλήθεια τῆς καθ' ἡμᾶς, εἰ καὶ τοῦ αὐτοῦ μετείληφεν ὀνόματος, καὶ μεγέθει γνώσεως καὶ ἀποδείξει κυριωτέρᾳ καὶ θείᾳ δυνάμει καὶ τοῖς ὁμοίοις· θεοδίδακτοι γὰρ ἡμεῖς, ἱερὰ ὄντως γράμματα παρὰ τῷ υἱῷ τοῦ θεοῦ παιδευόμενοι·
Stromatum, Liber Primus, Caput 20, PG 8:816; translation in ANF: Vol. II, The Stromata, Book I, Chapter 20.

Notice that Clement is here affirming that God himself teaches us, and this is described as being instruction in the "sacred letters."

Turning from Clement in Alexandria, we can travel west across Africa to Tertullian, who is often called the "Father of Latin Christianity." The earliest major father who wrote in Latin, Tertullian had significant influence in the West, even though he eventually fell into Montanism.

Tertullian (c. 160-c. 220):
But what hinders them from readily perceiving this community of the Father’s titles in the Son, is the statement of Scripture, whenever it determines God to be but One; as if the selfsame Scripture had not also set forth Two both as God and Lord, as we have shown above. Their argument is: Since we find Two and One, therefore Both are One and the Same, both Father and Son. Now the Scripture is not in danger of requiring the aid of any one’s argument, lest it should seem to be self-contradictory. It has a method of its own, both when it sets forth one only God, and also when it shows that there are Two, Father and Son; and is consistent with itself [i.e. sufficient itself, suficit sibi, PL 2:177]. It is clear that the Son is mentioned by it. For, without any detriment to the Son, it is quite possible for it to have rightly determined that God is only One, to whom the Son belongs; since He who has a Son ceases not on that account to exist, — Himself being One only, that is, on His own account, whenever He is named without the Son.
ANF: Vol. III, Against Praxeas, Chapter 18.

Notice Tertullian's confidence in the Scriptures. Although he obviously is explaining the Scriptures, he is bold to state that the Scriptures are sufficient to themselves - they don't require someone's supporting argument.

As excellent as those comments are, Tertullian's next comments are even more appropriate in dealing with modern Rome.

Tertullian (c. 160-c. 220):
He, therefore, will not be a Christian who shall deny this doctrine which is confessed by Christians; denying it, moreover, on grounds which are adopted by a man who is not a Christian. Take away, indeed, from the heretics the wisdom which they share with the heathen, and let them support their inquiries from the Scriptures alone: they will then be unable to keep their ground. For that which commends men’s common sense is its very simplicity, and its participation in the same feelings, and its community of opinions; and it is deemed to be all the more trustworthy, inasmuch as its definitive statements are naked and open, and known to all. Divine reason, on the contrary, lies in the very pith and marrow of things, not on the surface, and very often is at variance with appearances.
ANF: Vol. III, On the Resurrection of the Flesh, Chapter 3.

Notice that Tertullian seems to suggest "scriptures alone" as the solution to heresies. His comment about taking away the wisdom they share with the heathen reminds me of the issue of transubstantiation - a dogma that is only possible by importing Aristotelean categories into the text of Scripture, but I digress.

Heading back to Alexandria, we encounter a man 35 years younger than Clement and 20 years younger than Tertullian, but teaching the same doctrines. Again, we note that not everything that Origen taught was good. His hermeneutic of metaphor and his apparent universalism are not to be followed (and we might add some other things as well). Nevertheless, Origen was perhaps as influential in the East as Tertullian was the in West. Much of his vast body of work has been lost, but an enormous amount still remains.

Origen (c. 185-c. 254):
Celsus next proceeds to say, that the system of doctrine, viz., Judaism, upon which Christianity depends, was barbarous in its origin. And with an appearance of fairness, he does not reproach Christianity because of its origin among barbarians, but gives the latter credit for their ability in discovering (such) doctrines. To this, however, he adds the statement, that the Greeks are more skillful than any others in judging, establishing, and reducing to practice the discoveries of barbarous nations. Now this is our answer to his allegations, and our defense of the truths contained in Christianity, that if any one were to come from the study of Grecian opinions and usages to the Gospel, he would not only decide that its doctrines were true, but would by practice establish their truth, and supply whatever seemed wanting, from a Grecian point of view, to their demonstration, and thus confirm the truth of Christianity. We have to say, moreover, that the Gospel has a demonstration of its own, more divine than any established by Grecian dialectics. And this diviner method is called by the apostle the “manifestation of the Spirit and of power”of “the Spirit,” on account of the prophecies, which are sufficient to produce faith in any one who reads them, especially in those things which relate to Christ; and of “power,” because of the signs and wonders which we must believe to have been performed, both on many other grounds, and on this, that traces of them are still preserved among those who regulate their lives by the precepts of the Gospel.
ANF: Vol. IV, Origen against Celsus, Book I, Chapter II.

Notice how Origen is quite bold to proclaim the power of the Scriptures not only to establish their own truth, but also to produce saving faith in anyone who reads them. That's one way of expressing the formal sufficiency of Scripture, as we've already explained it.

That is, of course, not the only time Origen makes this kind of claim for Scripture. Here's another example.

Origen (c. 185-c. 254):
The more one reads the Scriptures daily and the greater one’s understanding is, the more renewed always and every day. I doubt whether a mind which is lazy toward the holy Scriptures and the exercise of spiritual knowledge can be renewed at all.
Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 308.

The point here is slightly tangential at first glance. But consider the point that what Origen is saying is that reading the Scriptures is the way to better understand the Scriptures.

That's why we also find Origen saying this:

Origen (c. 185-c. 254), commenting on Romans 9:20:
If we want to know something of the secret and hidden things of God and if we are not people of lusts and contentions, then let us inquire faithfully and humbly into the judgments of God which are contained more secretly in holy Scripture. For even the Lord said: Search the Scriptures, knowing that these things are applicable not to those who are busy with other matters and only hear or read the Bible from time to time, but to those who with a pure and simple heart endeavor to open up the holy Scriptures by their labor and constant attention. I know well enough that I am not one of them! But anyone who is, let him seek and he will find.
Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), pp. 259-260.

It's hard to imagine the Bible being more formally sufficient than that. Origen is quite explicit that anyone who is willing to give constant attention to the Scriptures can seek and find the truth in them.

We might add, at this point, that Origen also viewed the authority of Scripture as sufficient to refute heretics.

Origen (c. 185-c. 254):
And now, what we have drawn from the authority of Scripture ought to be sufficient to refute the arguments of the heretics.
ANF: Vol. IV, Origen De Principiis, Book II, Chapter 5, §3.

It might not appear that this is directly related to the sufficiency of Scripture, but consider that if Scripture cannot be properly understood without tradition and the magisterium, any argument that is only based on the authority of Scripture would inherently be insufficient. Thus, by affirming the sufficiency of the authority of Scripture, Origen is affirming the formal sufficiency of Scripture.

Heading north from Egypt, we can turn to Firmilian, who naturally teaches the same doctrine on this point.

Firmilian, Bishop of Caesaria (c. 200-268):
But to what they allege and say on behalf of the heretics, that the apostle said, “Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached,” it is idle for us to reply; when it is manifest that the apostle, in his epistle wherein he said this, made mention neither of heretics nor of baptism of heretics, but spoke of brethren only, whether as perfidiously speaking in agreement with himself, or as persevering in sincere faith; nor is it needful to discuss this in a long argument, but it is sufficient to read the epistle itself, and to gather from the apostle himself what the apostle said.
ANF: Vol. V, The Epistles of Cyprian, Epistle 74 - To Cyprian, Against the Letter of Stephan 254 A.D., §20.

Obviously, the scope of Firmilian's comment is related to a specific doctrinal issue, but it is evidence of his overall hermeneutic, in which it is not necessary to supplement the authority of Scripture with additional sources of authority - nor is it necessary to do more than read Scripture to determine the meaning of Scripture.

The following quotations are the two prefaces to Cyprian's treatise XII, the first from Book I, the second from Book III. The remainder of the three book treatise is essentially just verbatim quotations from Scripture (excluding the chapter headings).

Cyprian of Carthage (d. 258):
Cyprian to his son Quirinus, greeting. It was necessary, my beloved son, that I should obey your spiritual desire, which asked with most urgent petition for those divine teachings wherewith the Lord has condescended to teach and instruct us by the Holy Scriptures, that, being led away from the darkness of error, and enlightened by His pure and shining light, we may keep the way of life through the saving sacraments. And indeed, as you have asked, so has this discourse been arranged by me; and this treatise has been ordered in an abridged compendium, so that I should not scatter what was written in too diffuse an abundance, but, as far as my poor memory suggested, might collect all that was necessary in selected and connected heads, under which I may seem, not so much to have treated the subject, as to have afforded material for others to treat it. Moreover, to readers also, brevity of the same kind is of very great advantage, in that a treatise of too great length dissipates the understanding and perception of the reader, while a tenacious memory keeps that which is read in a more exact compendium. But I have comprised in my undertaking two books of equally moderate length: one wherein I have endeavoured to show that the Jews, according to what had before been foretold, had departed from God, and had lost God's favour, which had been given them in past time, and had been promised them for the future; while the Christians had succeeded to their place, deserving well of the Lord by faith, and coming out of all nations and from the whole world. The second book likewise contains the sacrament of Christ, that He has come who was announced according to the Scriptures, and has done and perfected all those things whereby He was foretold as being able to be perceived and known. And these things may be of advantage to you meanwhile, as you read, for forming the first lineaments of your faith. More strength will be given you, and the intelligence of the heart will be effected more and more, as you examine more fully the Scriptures, old and new, and read through the complete volumes of the spiritual books. For now we have filled a small measure from the divine fountains, which in the meantime we would send to you. You will be able to drink more plentifully, and to be more abundantly satisfied, if you also will approach to drink together with us at the same springs of the divine fullness. I bid you, beloved son, always heartily farewell.
- Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise XII, Book 1, Preface, ANF5

Cyprian of Carthage (d. 258):
Cyprian to his son Quirinus, greeting. Of your faith and devotion which you manifest to the Lord God, beloved son, you asked me to gather out for your instruction from the Holy Scriptures some heads bearing upon the religious teaching of our school; seeking for a succinct course of sacred reading, so that your mind, surrendered to God, might not be wearied with long or numerous volumes of books, but, instructed with a summary of heavenly precepts, might have a wholesome and large compendium for nourishing its memory. And because I owe you a plentiful and loving obedience, I have done what you wished. I have laboured for once, that you might not always labour. Therefore, as much as my small ability could embrace, I have collected certain precepts of the Lord, and divine teachings, which may be easy and useful to the readers, in that a few things digested into a short space are both quickly read through, and are frequently repeated. I bid you, beloved son, ever heartily farewell.
Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise XII, Book 3, Preface, ANF5

Notice the way that Cyprian views these Scriptures as sufficient in themselves to provide instruction, once they have been brought to the reader's attention. He provides a compendium, yes, but he's providing a list of verses - not a commentary on the verses.

Cyprian of Carthage (d. 258):
These things were before declared to us, and predicted. But we, forgetful of the law and obedience required of us, have so acted by our sins, that while we despise the Lord's commandments, we have come by severer remedies to the correction of our sin and probation of our faith. Nor indeed have we at last been converted to the fear of the Lord, so as to undergo patiently and courageously this our correction and divine proof. Immediately at the first words of the threatening foe, the greatest number of the brethren betrayed their faith, and were cast down, not by the onset of persecution, but cast themselves down by voluntary lapse. What unheard-of thing, I beg of you, what new thing had happened, that, as if on the occurrence of things unknown and unexpected, the obligation to Christ should be dissolved with headlong rashness? Have not prophets aforetime, and subsequently apostles, told of these things? Have not they, full of the Holy Spirit, predicted the afflictions of the righteous, and always the injuries of the heathens? Does not the sacred Scripture, which ever arms our faith and strengthens with a voice from heaven the servants of God, say, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve? " [Deuteronomy 6:13] Does it not again show the anger of the divine indignation, and warn of the fear of punishment beforehand, when it says, "They worshipped them whom their fingers have made; and the mean man bows down, and the great man humbles himself, and I will forgive them not? " [Isaiah 2:8-9] And again, God speaks, and says, "He that sacrifices unto any gods, save unto the Lord only, shall be destroyed." [Exodus 22:20] In the Gospel also subsequently, the Lord, who instructs by His words and fulfils by His deeds, teaching what should be done, and doing whatever He had taught, did He not before admonish us of whatever is now done and shall be done? Did He not before ordain both for those who deny Him eternal punishments, and for those that confess Him saving rewards?
- Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise 3, Section 7

I know that some of the Roman communion will be tempted to say that Cyprian's words above simply reflect a high view of Scripture. They do reflect a high view of Scripture, of course, but they actually go so far as to describe the Scripture as teaching and to attribute to Scripture the very actions of arming our faith and strengthening it with a voice from heaven. I'm not sure it would be possible to have a higher view of Scripture than that.

From Carthage we can journey north to Rome, and slightly back in time. Hippolytus was born approximately in the middle between Tertullian and Origen, but obviously has a significant overlap with each, in terms of his lifespan.

Hippolytus (c. 170-c. 236):
In this way, then, they choose to set forth these things, and they make use only of one class of passages; just in the same one-sided manner that Theodotus employed when he sought to prove that Christ was a mere man. But neither has the one party nor the other understood the matter rightly, as the Scriptures themselves confute their senselessness, and attest the truth. See, brethren, what a rash and audacious dogma they have introduced, when they say without shame, the Father is Himself Christ, Himself the Son, Himself was born, Himself suffered, Himself raised Himself. But it is not so. The Scriptures speak what is right; but Noetus is of a different mind from them. Yet, though Noetus does not understand the truth, the Scriptures are not at once to be repudiated. For who will not say that there is one God? Yet he will not on that account deny the economy (i.e., the number and disposition of persons in the Trinity). The proper way, therefore, to deal with the question is first of all to refute the interpretation put upon these passages by these men, and then to explain their real meaning. For it is right, in the first place, to expound the truth that the Father is one God, "of whom is every family," "by whom are all things, of whom are all things, and we in Him." Let us, as I said, see how he is confuted, and then let us set forth the truth. Now he quotes the words, "Egypt has laboured, and the merchandise of Ethiopia and the Sabeans," and so forth on to the words, "For Thou art the God of Israel, the Saviour." And these words he cites without understanding what precedes them. For whenever they wish to attempt anything underhand, they mutilate the Scriptures. But let him quote the passage as a whole, and he will discover the reason kept in view in writing it.
ANF: Vol. V, Against the Heresy of One Noetus, §§3-4.

Notice, in the quotation above, that Hippolytus not only ascribes to the Scriptures themselves the power to confute heresy, but also explains that when one simply reads the passage of Scripture as a whole, the meaning becomes clear. Of course, he's only applying this principle to this specific passage, but there is not something special about this passage or about the way he is writing that make us think that this is an isolated case.

Indeed, later in the same treatise, we find the following:

(c. 170-c. 236):
There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source. For just as a man, if he wishes to be skilled in the wisdom of this world, will find himself unable to get at it in any other way than by mastering the dogmas of philosophers, so all of us who wish to practise piety will be unable to learn its practice from any other quarter than the oracles of God. Whatever things, then, the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us look; and whatsoever things they teach, these let us learn; and as the Father wills our belief to be, let us believe; and as He wills the Son to be glorified, let us glorify Him; and as He wills the Holy Spirit to be bestowed, let us receive Him. Not according to our own will, nor according to our own mind, nor yet as using violently those things which are given by God, but even as He has chosen to teach them by the Holy Scriptures, so let us discern them.
ANF: Vol. V, Against the Heresy of One Noetus, §9

Someone may wish to claim that the sola Scriptura reference at the beginning of the preceding quotation is just referring to material sufficiency. But it is not simply saying that Scriptures have everything we need to know - it is saying it is the one source. There are not, for Hippolytus, two sources (Scripture and Tradition) or three sources (Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium). And while someone might say that he is simply saying that there is a single source, but he's not denying the need to have that single source opened by a non-source Magisterium, his comments about learning from none but Scripture, and especially his final comment about learning in the way in which God teaches them by the Scriptures should seal the matter.

Next, we can turn back east to Asia Minor and Gregory Thaumaturgus, also known as Gregory the Wonderworker.

Gregory Thaumaturgus (213-270):
With respect to these human teachers, indeed, he counseled us to attach ourselves to none of them, not even though they were attested as most wise by all men, but to devote ourselves to God alone, and to the prophets. And he himself became the interpreter of the prophets (ὑποφητεύων) to us, and explained whatsoever was dark or enigmatical in them. For there are many things of that kind in the sacred words; and whether it be that God is pleased to hold communication with men in such a way as that the divine word may not enter all naked and uncovered into an unworthy soul, such as many are, or whether it be, that while every divine oracle is in its own nature most clear and perspicuous, it seems obscure and dark to us, who have apostatized from God, and have lost the faculty of hearing through time and age, I cannot tell. But however the case may stand, if it be that there are some words really enigmatical, he explained all such, and set them in the light, as being himself a skilled and most discerning hearer of God; or if it be that none of them are really obscure in their own nature, they were also not unintelligible to him, who alone of all men of the present time with whom I have myself been acquainted, or of whom I have heard by the report of others, has so deeply studied the clear and luminous oracles of God, as to be able at once to receive their meaning into his own mind, and to convey it to others. For that Leader of all men, who inspires (ὑπηχῶν) God’s dear prophets, and suggests all their prophecies and their mystic and heavenly words, has honoured this man as He would a friend, and has constituted him an expositor of these same oracles; and things of which He only gave a hint by others, He made matters of full instruction by this man’s instrumentality; and in things which He, who is worthy of all trust, either enjoined in regal fashion, or simply enunciated, He imparted to this man the gift of investigating and unfolding and explaining them: so that, if there chanced to be any one of obtuse and incredulous mind, or one again thirsting for instruction, he might learn from this man, and in some manner be constrained to understand and to decide for belief, and to follow God. These things, moreover, as I judge, he gives forth only and truly by participation in the Divine Spirit: for there is need of the same power for those who prophesy and for those who hear the prophets; and no one can rightly hear a prophet, unless the same Spirit who prophesies bestows on him the capacity of apprehending His words. And this principle is expressed indeed in the Holy Scriptures themselves, when it is said that only He who shutteth openeth, and no other one whatever (Is. 22:22; Rev. 3:7); and what is shut is opened when the word of inspiration explains mysteries. Now that greatest gift this man has received from God, and that noblest of all endowments he has had bestowed upon him from heaven, that he should be an interpreter of the oracles of God to men (Eph. 3:8-9), and that he might understand the words of God, even as if God spake them to him, and that he might recount them to men in such wise as that they may hear them with intelligence (The text gives ὡς ἀκούσωσιν with Voss. and Bengel. The Paris editor gives ἀκούουσιν). Therefore to us there was no forbidden subject of speech (ἄῤῥητον); for there was no matter of knowledge hidden or inaccessible to us, but we had it in our power to learn every kind of discourse, both foreign (Barbarian) and Greek, both spiritual and political, both divine and human; and we were permitted with all freedom to go round the whole circle of knowledge, and investigate it, and satisfy ourselves with all kinds of doctrines, and enjoy the sweets of intellect. And whether it was some ancient system of truth, or whether it was something one might otherwise name that was before us, we had in him an apparatus and a power at once admirable and full of the most beautiful views. And to speak in brief, he was truly a paradise to us after the similitude of the paradise of God, wherein we were not set indeed to till the soil beneath us, or to make ourselves gross with bodily nurture (σωματοτροφεῖν παχυνομένους), but only to increase the acquisitions of mind with all gladness and enjoyment,—planting, so to speak, some fair growths ourselves, or having them planted in us by the Author of all things.
ANF: Vol. VI, Acknowledged Writings, The Oration and Panegyric Addressed to Origin, Argument XV.

The discussion above mentions the fact that the Scriptures may be clear in their own nature (as one of two possibilities) and that men are simply blind to it. Gregory goes on to explain that the solution to this blindness is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is essentially the same presentation we made in our explanation of what formal sufficiency means, although Gregory does not use precisely the same words.

Finally, we can go even further east to Archelaus from Caschar in Mesopotamia.

Archelaus (circa 277):
But now, what it is necessary for me to say on the subject of the inner and the outer man, may be expressed in the words of the Saviour to those who swallow a camel, and wear the outward garb of the hypocrite, begirt with blandishments and flatteries. It is to them that Jesus addresses Himself when He says: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of uncleanness. Or know you not, that He that made that which is without, made that which is within also? " Now why did He speak of the cup and of the platter? Was He who uttered these words a glassworker, or a potter who made vessels of clay? Did He not speak most manifestly of the body and the soul? For the Pharisees truly looked to the "tithing of anise and cummin, and left undone the weightier matters of the law; " and while devoting great care to the things which were external, they overlooked those which bore upon the salvation of the soul. For they also had respect to "greetings in the market-place," and "to the uppermost seats at feasts:" and to them the Lord Jesus, knowing their perdition, made this declaration, that they attended to those things only which were without, and despised as strange things those which were within, and understood not that He who made the body made also the soul. And who is so unimpressible and stolid in intellect, as not to see that those sayings of our Lord may suffice him for all cases? Moreover, it is in perfect harmony with these sayings that Paul speaks, when he interprets to the following intent certain things written in the law: "You shall not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treads out the grain. Does God take care for oxen? Or says He it altogether for our sakes? " But why should we waste further time upon this subject?
ANF: Vol. VI, The Acts of the Disputation with the Heresiarch Manes, §21.

Archelaus does go on to add some additional thoughts, but notice that he does speak as though he believes that the plain reading of Scripture, in harmony with itself, is sufficient. Thus, this final quotation (for this segment) is really more of an illustration of someone using the Scriptures as though they are formally sufficient, rather than an explicit teaching that they are formally sufficient.

(to be continued)

Today's ISI Discussion on Formal Sufficiency

We meandered off into a few other topics related to Roman Catholicism, but the bulk of the discussion was on the formal sufficiency of Scripture (link to mp3).


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

ISI Today

Lord willing, I will be appearing on Chris Arnzen's radio show, Iron Sharpens Iron, from 7-8 pm EST (4-5 pm PST). The topic will be the Formal Sufficiency of Scriptures. The show can be heard over the air in Long Island and Connecticut, and can be heard via live streaming anywhere there is Internet ( & It is a call-in show, so feel free to call in at (631) 888-8811. This is a topic that divides Rome from the Reformed Churches, so calls from Roman Catholics are especially welcome.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Formal Sufficiency of Scripture: Early Christian Writers (Guest Series)

Formal Sufficiency of Scripture
Stated and Examined from Scripture and the Fathers, with scholarly confirmation regarding the Fathers' views.

In an introduction section (link), we discussed the nature of formal sufficiency that we, the Reformed, affirm. In the next section (link), we saw Scripture's own testimony to its own sufficiency. If we were simply establishing the Reformed position, that would be completely sufficient. It would not be necessary to add anything to that.

Nevertheless, our challenger from the Roman side has requested some patristic confirmation. Frankly, we are not sanguine about the possibility that he'll actually carefully read and consider the evidence that we present, yet perhaps these evidences will be sufficient to help establish that our insight into Scripture is not a novel insight.

Thus, in this section, we will focus on some early Christian writers and identify what they had to say about the Scriptures. One logical place to start is with Justin Martyr.

Justin Martyr (wrote after 151)(ANF 1):
And I replied, “I would not bring forward these proofs, Trypho, by which I am aware those who worship these [idols] and such like are condemned, but such [proofs] as no one could find any objection to. They will appear strange to you, although you read them every day; so that even from this fact we understand that, because of your wickedness, God has withheld from you the ability to discern the wisdom of His Scriptures; yet [there are] some exceptions, to whom, according to the grace of His long-suffering, as Isaiah said, He has left a seed of salvation, lest your race be utterly destroyed, like Sodom and Gomorrah. Pay attention, therefore, to what I shall record out of the holy Scriptures, which do not need to be expounded, but only listened to.
ANF: Vol. I, Dialogue of Justin, Chapter 55.

There are a couple of key points to notice in this quotation from Justin. First, Justin recognizes the need for God to enlighten the mind of the hearer. He suggests that God withheld wisdom from Trypho, but Justin still insists that the testimony of Scripture is so clear that it can simply be listened to. When you compare that to our presentation in the introduction section, and when you look at the Scriptural testimony, you see that Justin's words seem to be consistent with both.

Moving on from Justin, we can consider Irenaeus. Irenaeus offers the following testimony to the perspicuity of Holy Scripture.

Irenaeus (130 - c. 200)(ANF 1):
A sound mind, and one which does not expose its possessor to danger, and is devoted to piety and the love of truth, will eagerly meditate upon those things which God has placed within the power of mankind, and has subjected to our knowledge, and will make advancement in [acquaintance with] them, rendering the knowledge of them easy to him by means of daily study. These things are such as fall [plainly] under our observation, and are clearly and unambiguously in express terms set forth in the Sacred Scriptures. And therefore the parables ought not to be adapted to ambiguous expressions. For, if this be not done, both he who explains them will do so without danger, and the parables will receive a like interpretation from all, and the body of truth remains entire, with a harmonious adaptation of its members, and without any collision [of its several parts]. But to apply expressions which are not clear or evident to interpretations of the parables, such as every one discovers for himself as inclination leads him, [is absurd.] For in this way no one will possess the rule of truth; but in accordance with the number of persons who explain the parables will be found the various systems of truth, in mutual opposition to each other, and setting forth antagonistic doctrines, like the questions current among the Gentile philosophers.
ANF: Vol. I, Against Heresies, 2:27:1.

Like Justin, Irenaeus acknowledges that a sound mind is a gift from God, and Irenaeus further explains that there are clear and unambiguous teachings in Scripture. He similarly places understanding of these Scriptures within the provenance of individual men who daily study the Word.

Here's another example from Irenaeus:

Irenaeus (130 - c. 200)(ANF 1):
According to this course of procedure, therefore, man would always be inquiring but never finding, because he has rejected the very method of discovery. And when the Bridegroom comes, he who has his lamp untrimmed, and not burning with the brightness of a steady light, is classed among those who obscure the interpretations of the parables, forsaking Him who by His plain announcements freely imparts gifts to all who come to Him, and is excluded from His marriage-chamber. Since, therefore, the entire Scriptures, the prophets, and the Gospels, can be clearly, unambiguously, and harmoniously understood by all, although all do not believe them; and since they proclaim that one only God, to the exclusion of all others, formed all things by His word, whether visible or invisible, heavenly or earthly, in the water or under the earth, as I have shown from the very words of Scripture; and since the very system of creation to which we belong testifies, by what falls under our notice, that one Being made and governs it,—those persons will seem truly foolish who blind their eyes to such a clear demonstration, and will not behold the light of the announcement [made to them]; but they put fetters upon themselves, and every one of them imagines, by means of their obscure interpretations of the parables, that he has found out a God of his own. For that there is nothing whatever openly, expressly, and without controversy said in any part of Scripture respecting the Father conceived of by those who hold a contrary opinion, they themselves testify, when they maintain that the Saviour privately taught these same things not to all, but to certain only of His disciples who could comprehend them, and who understood what was intended by Him through means of arguments, enigmas, and parables.
ANF: Vol. I, Against Heresies, 2:27:2.

This is similar to the last two quotations. It also shows that Irenaeus believed that the Scriptures could be understood by everyone, although some people handcuff themselves.

Moreover, Irenaeus informs us that the notion of a “living voice” being needed to the interpretation of Holy Scripture originated with Gnostic heretics.

Irenaeus (130 - c. 200)(ANF 1):
When, however, they are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. For [they allege] that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but viva voce: wherefore also Paul declared, “But we speak wisdom among those that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world.” And this wisdom each one of them alleges to be the fiction of his own inventing, forsooth; so that, according to their idea, the truth properly resides at one time in Valentinus, at another in Marcion, at another in Cerinthus, then afterwards in Basilides, or has even been indifferently in any other opponent, who could speak nothing pertaining to salvation. For every one of these men, being altogether of a perverse disposition, depraving the system of truth, is not ashamed to preach himself.
ANF: Vol. I, Against Heresies, Book 3:2:1.

What's interesting about this point that Irenaeus raises is that he is directly addressing the error of those who try to argue that although Scripture may have the teachings, they are too ambiguous to be extracted simply by reading the Scripture, and that consequently tradition is needed.

This provides a good chance to turn to the testimonies of the ancients regarding the perspicuity of Holy Scripture.

Irenaeus (130 - c. 200)(ANF 1):
And in every Epistle the apostle [i.e. Paul] plainly testifies, that through the flesh of our Lord, and through His blood, we have been saved.
ANF: Vol. I, Against Heresies, Book 5:14:3.

Irenaeus' comments are pretty self-explanatory. We see a similar idea in Theophilus of Antioch.

Theophilus of Antioch (A.D. 115–168 or 181)(ANF 2):
Therefore, do not be skeptical, but believe; for I myself also used to disbelieve that this would take place, but now, having taken these things into consideration, I believe. At the same time, I met with the sacred Scriptures of the holy prophets, who also by the Spirit of God foretold the things that have already happened, just as they came to pass, and the things now occurring as they are now happening, and things future in the order in which they shall be accomplished. Admitting, therefore, the proof which events happening as predicted afford, I do not disbelieve, but I believe, obedient to God, whom, if you please, do you also submit to, believing Him, lest if now you continue unbelieving, you be convinced hereafter, when you are tormented with eternal punishments; which punishments, when they had been foretold by the prophets, the later-born poets and philosophers stole from the holy Scriptures, to make their doctrines worthy of credit. Yet these also have spoken beforehand of the punishments that are to light upon the profane and unbelieving, in order that none be left without a witness, or be able to say, “We have not heard, neither have we known.” But do you also, if you please, give reverential attention to the prophetic Scriptures, and they will make your way plainer for escaping the eternal punishments, and obtaining the eternal prizes of God. For He who gave the mouth for speech, and formed the ear to hear, and made the eye to see, will examine all things, and will judge righteous judgment, rendering merited awards to each. To those who by patient continuance in well-doing seek immortality, He will give life everlasting, joy, peace, rest, and abundance of good things, which neither hath eye seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive. But to the unbelieving and despisers, who obey not the truth, but are obedient to unrighteousness, when they shall have been filled with adulteries and fornications, and filthiness, and covetousness, and unlawful idolatries, there shall be anger and wrath, tribulation and anguish, and at the last everlasting fire shall possess such men. Since you said, “Show me thy God,” this is my God, and I counsel you to fear Him and to trust Him.
ANF: Vol. II, Theophilus to Autolycus, Book I, Chapter 14.

Notice how Theophilus not only explains his own personal story about coming to faith through reading the Scriptures, but also claims that the Scriptures will make things plain for others. This is the same role of illumination we discussed in the previous sections of this series.

And that's not all Theophilus has to say:

Theophilus of Antioch (A.D. 115–168 or 181) (ANF 2):
Likewise spoke the other prophets of the truth. And why should I recount the multitude of prophets, who are numerous, and said ten thousand things consistently and harmoniously? For those who desire it, can, by reading what they uttered, accurately understand the truth, and no longer be carried away by opinion and profitless labour. These, then, whom we have already mentioned, were prophets among the Hebrews,—illiterate, and shepherds, and uneducated.

Original Greek:
ὁμοίως εἶπον καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ τῆς ἀληθείας προφῆται. Καὶ τί μοι τὸ πλῆθος καταλέγειν τῶν προφητῶν, πολλῶν ὄντων καὶ μυρία φίλα καὶ σύμφωνα εἰρηκότων; οἱ γὰρ βουλόμενοι δύνανται ἐντυχόντες τοῖς διʼ αὐτῶν εἰρημένοις ἀκριβῶς γνῶναι τὸ ἀληθὲς καὶ μὴ παράγεσθαι ὑπὸ διανοίας καὶ ματαιοπονίας. οὗτοι οὖν οὓς προειρήκαμεν προφῆται ἐγένοντο ἐν Ἑβραίοις, ἀγράμματοι καὶ ποιμένες καὶ ἰδιῶται.
Ad Autolycum, Liber II, §35, PG 6:1109; ANF: Vol. II, Theophilus to Autolycus, Book II, Chapter 35.

Notice again how Theophilus views the Scriptures as something that can readily be understood through simply reading them.

Other early Christian writings that have sometimes been dated as early as the 1st or 2nd century also give a similar picture.

1 Clement has been dated by some as early as the the late 90's and as late as A.D. 140 or later. Also, the authorship of the book is uncertain. Thus, this is not necessarily the writing of a church father, but it is an early Christian writing.

1 Clement 45:1-3
(Lightfoot Translation)
Be ye contentious, brethren, and jealous about the things that pertain unto salvation. Ye have searched the scriptures, which are true, which were given through the Holy Ghost; and ye know that nothing unrighteous or counterfeit is written in them.

Alternative translation (Roberts Translation): Ye are fond of contention, brethren, and full of zeal about things which do not pertain to salvation. Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit. Observe that nothing of an unjust or counterfeit character is written in them.

Greek: Φιλόνεικοί ἐστε, ἀδελφοί, καὶ ζηλωταὶ περὶ τῶν ἀνηκόντων εἰς συτηρίαν ἐγκεκύφατε εἰς τὰς γραηάς, ρὰς γραγάς, τὰς ἀληθεῖς, τὰς [διὰ] τοῦ ὰγίου ἐπίστασθε ὅτι οὐδὲν ἄδικον οὐδὲ παραπεποιημένον γέγραπται ἐν αὐταῖς.
This is less explicit than some of the passages above, but it is clear that the author of 1 Clement thinks that his readers will be familiar with Scripture and that they will obtain their information about salvation from those entirely trustworthy books.

1 Clement 53:1
(Lightfoot Translation)
For ye know, and know well, the sacred scriptures, dearly beloved, and ye have searched into the oracles of God. We write these things therefore to put you in remembrance.

Alternative translation (Roberts Translation): Ye understand, beloved, you understand well the Sacred Scriptures, and you have looked very earnestly into the oracles of God. Call then these things to your remembrance.

Greek: Ἐπίστασθε γὰρ καὶ καλῶς ἐπίσταθε τὰς ὶερὰς γραφὰς, καὶ ἐγκεκύφατε εἰς τὰ λόγια τοῦ Θεοῦ πρὸς ἀνάμνησιν αῧν ταῦτα γράφομεν.
Similarly, as in the previous instance, the author of 1 Clement assumes familiarity with Scripture and does not claim to write so much to instruct as simply to remind.

A similar remark can be found in a letter ascribed to Polycarp (whether it is actually Polycarp's work is probably less certain, but it is a fairly early Christian writing):

Polycarp to the Philippians, Chapter 12:
(Roberts Translation - ANF 1)
For I trust that ye are well versed in the Sacred Scriptures, and that nothing is hid from you; but to me this privilege is not yet granted.

(Lightfoot Translation)
For I am persuaded that ye are well trained in the sacred writings, and nothing is hidden from you. But to myself this is not granted.

(Lake Translation)
For I am persuaded that ye are well trained in the sacred writings, and nothing is hidden from you. But to myself this is not granted.

Latin (the original Greek was not preserved, to my knowledge):
Confido enim vos bene exercitatos esse in sacris literis, et nihil vos latet; mihi autem non est concessum.
And there is more from Polycarp:

Polycarp to the Philippians, Chapter 3
(Roberts Translation - ANF 1)
These things, brethren, I write to you concerning righteousness, not because I take anything upon myself, but because ye have invited me to do so. For neither I, nor any other such one, can come up to the wisdom of the blessed and glorified Paul. He, when among you, accurately and stedfastly taught the word of truth in the presence of those who were then alive. And when absent from you, he wrote you a letter, which, if you carefully study, you will find to be the means of building you up in that faith which has been given you, and which, being followed by hope, and preceded by love towards God, and Christ, and our neighbour, " is the mother of us all." For if any one be inwardly possessed of these graces, he hath fulfilled ths command of righteousness, since he that hath love is far from all sin.

(Lightfoot Translation)
These things, brethren, I write unto you concerning righteousness, not because I laid this charge upon myself, but because ye invited me. For neither am I, nor is any other like unto me, able to follow the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, who when he came among you taught face to face with the men of that day the word which concerneth truth carefully and surely; who also, when he was absent, wrote a letter unto you, into the which if ye look diligently, ye shall be able to be builded up unto the faith given to you, which is the mother of us all, while hope followeth after and love goeth before--love toward God and Christ and toward our neighbor. For if any man be occupied with these, he hath fulfilled the commandment of righteousness; for he that hath love is far from all sin.

(Lake Translation)
These things, brethren, I write to you concerning righteousness, not at my own instance, but because you first invited me. For neither am I, nor is any other like me, able to follow the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, who when he was among you in the presence of the men of that time taught accurately and stedfastly the word of truth, and also when he was absent wrote letters to you, from the study of which you will be able to build yourselves up into the faith given you; "which is the mother of us all" when faith follows, and love of God and Christ and neighbour goes before. For if one be in this company he has fulfilled the command of righteousness, for he who has love is far from all sin.

Ταῦτα, ἀδελφοί, οὐκ ἐμαυτῷ ἐπιτρέψας γράφω ὑμῖν περὶ τῆς δικαιοσύνης, ἀλλ' ἐπεὶ ὑμεῖς προεπεκαλέσασθέ με. Oὔτε γὰρ ἐγὼ οὔτε ἄλλος ὅμοιος ἐμοὶ δύναται κατακολουθῆσαι τῇ σοφίᾳ τοῦ μακαρίου καὶ ἐνδόξου Παύλου, ὃς γενόμενος ἐν ὑμῖν κατὰ πρόσωπον τῶν τότε ἀνθρώπων ἐδίδαξεν ἀκριβῶς καὶ βεβαίως τὸν περὶ ἀληθείας λόγον, ὃς καὶ ἀπὼν ὑμῖν ἔγραψεν ἐπιστολάς, εἰς ἃς ἐὰν ἐγκύπτητε, δυνηθήσεσθε οἰκοδομεῖσθαι εἰς τὴν δοθεῖσαν ὑμῖν πίστιν. ἥτις ἐστὶν μήτηρ πάντων ἡμῶν, ἐπακολουθούσης τῆς ἐλπίδος, προαγούσης τῆς ἀγάπης τῆς εἰς θεὸν καὶ Χριστὸν καὶ εἰς τὸν πλησίον. ἐὰν γάρ τις τούτων ἐντὸς ᾖ, πεπλήρωκεν ἐντολὴν δικαιοσύνης· ὁ γὰρ ἔχων ἀγάπην μακράν ἐστιν πάσης ἁμαρτίας.
Notice that he not only praises the wisdom of Paul, but he affirms that Paul's letter to the Philippians is "the means of building up in" the faith that Paul had delivered to them by preaching to them.

The following selections are taken from Ignatius letters. These letters are thought to be authentic, and quite early, but their existence in long and short forms suggests significant tampering. The date of the tampering is not very clear. So, I would not suggest that we should assume that these letters can be definitively dated to the first two centuries, but many folks certainly would date them that early. In general, the short recension is what we would expect to be more likely the authentic original where the long and short differ.

Ignatius to Philadelphians (Long recension only), Chapter IV (ANF 1):
Fathers, "bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; "31 and teach them the holy Scriptures, and also trades, that they may not indulge in idleness. Now [the Scripture] says, "A righteous father educates [his children] well; his heart shall rejoice in a wise son."
The interesting thing about the preceding quotation is that Ignatius expects parents to be teaching their children the Scriptures. That may not say much directly to the topic of perspicuity, but it does suggest that the Scriptures are something that a child is capable of understanding - and that parents are competent to teach their children from the Scriptures.

Ignatius to Philadelphians, Chapter VIII (ANF 1):
(short) And I exhort you to do nothing out of strife, but according to the doctrine of Christ. When I heard some saying, If I do not find it in the ancient Scriptures, I will not believe the Gospel; on my saying to them, It is written, they answered me, That remains to be proved. But to me Jesus Christ is in the place of all that is ancient: His cross, and death, and resurrection, and the faith which is by Him, are undefiled monuments of antiquity; by which I desire, through your prayers, to be justified.

(long) I therefore exhort you that ye do nothing out of strife, but according to the doctrine of Christ. For I have heard some saying, If I do not find the Gospel in the archives, I will not believe it. To such persons I say that my archives are Jesus Christ, to disobey whom is manifest destruction. My authentic archives are His cross, and death, and resurrection, and the faith which bears on these things, by which I desire, through your prayers, to be justified. He who disbelieves the Gospel disbelieves everything along with it. For the archives ought not to be preferred to the Spirit. "It is hard to kick against the pricks;" it is hard to disbelieve Christ; it is hard to reject the preaching of the apostles.
The main point to observe here is that Ignatius seems to be addressing folks who are challenging the Gospel on the basis that it is not fully supported by the Old Testament Scriptures. Ignatius doesn't correct this essentially sola Scriptura view, but instead insists on the equal authority of the New Testament. I realize, of course, that Ignatius' words above can be explained differently. I'm simply showing that they can be reasonably understood within the milieu of other early writings and, of course, the Scriptures themselves.

Ignatius to Magnesians (long only) Chapter IX (Roberts translation):
If, then, those who were conversant with the ancient Scriptures came to newness of hope, expecting the coming of Christ, as the Lord teaches us when He says, "If ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed Me, for he wrote of Me;" and again, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad; for before Abraham was, I am;" how shall we be able to live without Him? The prophets were His servants, and foresaw Him by the Spirit, and waited for Him as their Teacher, and expected Him as their Lord and Saviour, saying, "He will come and save us."
Again, this testimony only touches quite obliquely on the issue of the perspicuity of Scripture. I really only have included it for the sake of completeness. It does show that Ignatius (or the author of this long version, if not Ignatius himself) viewed Christianity as an extension of the same book-taught religion as existed before the Incarnation. This then has implications for perspicuity, for the Old Testament Scriptures were less clear than the New, and yet people who were conversant with the Old Testament Scriptures expected Christ's coming with hope.

Tatian (c. 160) Chapter 29 - Account Of Tatian’s Conversion:
Wherefore, having seen these things, and moreover also having been admitted to the mysteries, and having everywhere examined the religious rites performed by the effeminate and the pathic, and having found among the Romans their Latiarian Jupiter delighting in human gore and the blood of slaughtered men, and Artemis not far from the great city sanctioning acts of the same kind, and one demon here and another there instigating to the perpetration of evil, — retiring by myself, I sought how I might be able to discover the truth. And, while I was giving my most earnest attention to the matter, I happened to meet with certain barbaric writings, too old to be compared with the opinions of the Greeks, and too divine to be compared with their errors; and I was led to put faith in these [i.e. the Scriptures] by the unpretending cast of the language, the inartificial character of the writers, the foreknowledge displayed of future events, the excellent quality of the precepts, and the declaration of the government of the universe as centered in one Being. And, my soul being taught of God, I discern that the former class of writings lead to condemnation, but that these put an end to the slavery that is in the world, and rescue us from a multiplicity of rulers and ten thousand tyrants, while they give us, not indeed what we had not before received, but what we had received but were prevented by error from retaining.

Ταῦτʼ οὖν ἰδών, ἔτι δὲ καὶ μυστηρίων μεταλαβὼν καὶ τὰς παρὰ πᾶσι θρησκείας δοκιμάσας διὰ θηλυδριῶν καὶ ἀνδρογύνων συνισταμένας, εὑρὼν δὲ παρὰ μὲν Ῥωμαίοις τὸν κατʼ αὐτοὺς Λατιάριον Δία λύθροις ἀνθρώπων καὶ τοῖς ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνδροκτασιῶν αἵμασι τερπόμενον, Ἄρτεμιν δὲ οὐ μακρὰν τῆς Μεγάλης πόλεως τῶν αὐτῶν πράξεων ἐπανῃρημένην τὸ εἶδος ἄλλον τε ἀλλαχῆ δαίμονα κακοπραγίας ἐπαναστάσεις πραγματευόμενον, κατʼ ἐμαυτὸν γενόμενος ἐζήτουν ὅτῳ τρόπῳ τἀληθὲς ἐξευρεῖν δύνωμαι. περινοοῦντι δέ μοι τὰ σπουδαῖα συνέβη γραφαῖς τισιν ἐντυχεῖν βαρβαρικαῖς, πρεσβυτέραις μὲν ὡς πρὸς τὰ Ἑλλήνων δόγματα, θειοτέραις δὲ ὡς πρὸς τὴν ἐκείνων πλάνην· Καί μοι πεισθῆναι ταύταις συνέβη διά τε τῶν λέξεων τὸ ἄτυφον καὶ τῶν εἰπόντων τὸ ἀνεπιτήδευτον καὶ τῆς τοῦ παντὸς ποιήσεως τὸ εὐκατάληπτον καὶ τῶν μελλόντων τὸ προγνωστικὸν καὶ τῶν παραγγελμάτων τὸ ἐξαίσιον καὶ τῶν ὅλων τὸ μοναρχικόν. θεοδιδάκτου δέ μου γενομένης τῆς ψυχῆς συνῆκα ὅτι τὰ μὲν καταδίκης ἔχει τρόπον, τὰ δὲ ὅτι λύει τὴν ἐν κόσμῳ δουλείαν καὶ ἀρχόντων μὲν πολλῶν καὶ μυρίων ἡμᾶς ἀποσπᾷ τυράννων, δίδωσι δὲ ἡμῖν οὐχ ὅπερ μὴ ἐλάβομεν, ἀλλʼ ὅπερ λαβόντες ὑπὸ τῆς πλάνης ἔχειν ἐκωλύθημεν.
Oratio Adversus Graecos, Caput 29, PG 6:865, 868; translation in ANF: Vol. II, Tatian’s Address to the Greeks, Chapter 29.

Notice that Tatian attributes clarity to Scripture but simultaneously attributes his conversion to the direct work of the Holy Spirit in his heart, teaching him.

This look at the earliest period shows us some of the views of some of the earliest Christian writers, but in the coming segment or segments, we will look at some of the next generation of Christian writers, as we enter the 3rd century and beyond.