"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Apostolic Fathers: The Sweet Exchange

"And when our iniquity had been fully accomplished, and it had been made perfectly clear that punishment and death were expected as its reward, and the season came which God had ordained, when He should show His goodness and power (O the exceeding great kindness and love of God!), He did not hate us, nor did He reject us, nor did He hold a grudge against us, but was patient and forebearing, and in pity for us took upon Himself our sins, and Himself parted with His own Son as a ransom for us, the Holy One for the lawless, the guiltless for the guilty, the just for the unjust, the incorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for the mortal. For what else but His righteousness would have covered our sins? In whom was it possible for us lawless and ungodly men to have been justified, save only in the Son of God?

O the sweet exchange, O the incomprehensible work of God, O the unexpected benefits; that the sinfulness of many should be hidden in One Righteous Man, and the righteousness of One should justify many that are sinners!

Having then in the former time demonstrated the inability of our nature to obtain life, and having now revealed a Saviour able to save even creatures which have no ability, He willed that for both reasons we should believe in His goodness and should regard Him as nurse, father, teacher, counsellor, physician, mind, light, honor, glory, strength and life."

(Epistle to Diognetus. 9:2-6. circa 130 AD)


Andrew said...

This is officially the first time I've seen the Reformed Doctrine of Justification by Christ's imputed righteousness taught. PLEASE!@!!#!$ let me know if you can find anything else that teaches Reformed doctrine unequivocally in the Church Fathers. You might even make me a - dareIsay - Presbyterian.

Andrew said...

Correction - I meant to say, it's the first time I've seen the early fathers teach imputed righteousness and substitutionary atonement. I got a little excited with the whole Presbyterian thing lol but seriously, if you find more stuff like that let me know because I spent so long looking for "protestant" church fathers.

Matthew Lush said...

Clement teaches a healthy balance of sola fide and works. (i.e. works are the fruit of sola fide)

Honestly Andrew at the end of the day I think your biggest problem is Sola Scriptura, and will always be Sola Scriptura. I would stress the issue of authority, what is an authority that which authenticates or that which is? Anyways, not looking for a debate. Glad to see you are back and doing well.

Jared, great post as usual, thank you again. :)

Andrew said...

ya, I think I'm just going to be haunted for the rest of my life with whether I made the right choice or not. All I want to do is be a Christian and follow God, but I never imagined it would be so hard. I still don't feel like God will ever give me the answer, just human arguments on both sides and me left to pick the "winner" (which I currently believe is Catholicism)

Jared Nelson said...


Have you heard of Thomas Oden's book: Justification Reader? Oden does a study that looks at this very issue (justification/imputed righteousness in the early church). It is helpful because it is honest. He does not say what some Protestants that have not read the early church say: That the early church taught Reformation soteriology and it was lost in the Middle Ages. He also does not say what Catholics say: Luther invented his gospel out of thin air and it had no precident in church history. Instead, Oden sees a diversity in details, but agreement in basics.

So to ask "Does the early church teach a doctrine of imputed righteousness in justification like Luther" requires an answer of "No/Yes." There are traces like this and actually, contrary to what some Protestants will say, places in Bernard, Chrysostom, and Bonaventure that sound very Lutheran...

Or did you want quotes? I can go back and find some I've highlighted if you want, (seriously) but I think Oden is a better place to get context and a walk through of the issue.