Sheamus MacLean on Church Fathers, Semipelagianism

Saints killing Dragons, Sheamus MacLean, Hagiography

Last weekend we had a delightful presentation by Sheamus MacLean focusing on Dragons and Saints and how early Churchmen often make their reputations by killing Dragons which I wrote about on WonderCafe.

Sheamus is a passionate theologian as well as an calculating economic performance architect who works with senior management to consult and help close strategically important deals whereby clients achieve more significant financial gains, including increased valuation. But in his spare time Sheamus like to delve deep into the scriptures.

St. Clement is a leading Church Father

The Pope, St Clement, papacy, Vatican, logo, heraldry, emblemThe Fathers of the Christian Church were evangelical churchmen bishops, deacons and even laymen who were passionate about Christ and left writings that help define the church today. By being so literate they helped bring the religion out of its infancy and into its youth. The are the teachers and curators of the scriptures and they lived from 100 to about 750 Ad. Inside these six and a half centuries are many periods of change. First its important to remember that Christianity was illegal in the beginning and the Anti – Nicean Fathers (anti means ‘before’ in this context) who were alive when the apostles were alive, would be considered criminals if they were captured by many agents of Rome or whatever state hosted their work, as it was contrary to the official beliefs and power structures. Indeed, according to a tradition not earlier than the 4th century, Clement was imprisoned under the Emperor Trajan but nonetheless led a ministry among fellow prisoners. He was then executed by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea.

St. Clement stands foremost among the Apostolic Fathers who were alive during the time of the apostles; they lived from about 60 – 150 AD and their writings begin to come in the year 95 AD with St Clement’s letter from Rome to Corinth.  Think about how important these people are because they are contemporary to the apostles and knew their minds enough to best translate and proliferate their words and actions. Today St. Clement’s lends its name to many regional Grammer schools and a notable school for girls in Toronto Ontario Canada simply because he is the foremost Church Father.

The Four Marks of being a Church Father

The four marks of being a Church Father are 1) antiquity 2) orthodoxy 3) sanctity and 4) approval.

1) Antiquity , anyone has the property of antiquity if they lived between the age of the apostles and about the middle of the eighth century – the age of the
church fathers is generally considered to close around the time of St John of Damascus who died in 749 AD

2) Orthodoxy – or whether or not they had sound beliefs, in at least as far as belief was defined in their day.  Some early Church Fathers had beliefs which would later be ruled unorthodox. St John Cassian for example who authored Semipelagian discourse contrary to Saint Augustine, taught that man cannot come to God without the grace of God. In Semipelagian thought, therefore, a distinction is made between the beginning of faith and the increase of faith. Semipelagian thought teaches that the latter half – growing in faith – is the work of God, while the beginning of faith is an act of free will, with grace supervening only later. It too was labeled heresy by the Western Church in the Second Council of Orange in 529.  But St John Cassian is still a respected Church Father.

3) Sanctity–  Is the person considered a saint? Most of the church fathers are considered saints, but not all.

4) Approval – people could be considered orthodox but not get the approval of later Churchmen and so be denied the status of being a Church Father.

Next came the Apologists and they were named such because they defended the Church from those who would see it reduced in influence other religious. Hopefully Sheamus MacLean will return, a few Sundays from now, and give us more understanding of them.

 

 

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