The Fundamentals of New Testament Faith:
and the so-called post-apostolic fathers
By: Stephen Kuntzman
Some time back I interviewed a Roman Catholic priest from an Evansville, IN, parish for some research I was involved in. When I asked him what the Roman Catholic Church followed as a "plan of salvation" he quickly replied that the RCC follows "the apostolic tradition of the 3rd century." Since I know that the Church began in the 1st century and was firmly established on the foundation of the Apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ as the Chief cornerstone, this puzzled me.
So, here are a few of my thoughts on the the so-called post-apostolic fathers and the fundamentals of our faith. I know it may be odd to begin my first post on this topic, but it is what I've been working on today.
There were a number of men listed in books who are registered as having been a part of the post-apostolic era, but for this exercise I'll take a synoptic view of only five of these men and their doctrine in comparison to the true orthodox practices of the early church in the New Testament. The "post-apostolic fathers" I'm referring to are Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement, Justin (Martyr), and Hermas.
The fundamentals of our faith are based solely on the teachings of Jesus Christ and the twelve Apostles (referred to as the "
Apostles' Doctrine"), which includes total adherence to Acts 2:38 as the only plan of salvation and a biblical understanding of the oneness of God (monotheism). The Apostles' Doctrine then must be followed to be a true Biblical Christian, which is:
- Baptism by immersion in the name of Jesus Christ.
- Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost evidenced initially by speaking in tongues as the Holy Spirit gives the ability to do so.
- The Oneness of God.
Any deviation from the original teachings and practices of the Church at Jerusalem is an obvious rejection of the true message of Christ and not in accordance with the true orthodox Christian Church of the New Testament.
Repentance as practiced by these men was largely based on works since they do not appear to have any real understanding of the true spiritual significance of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. They did not understand the concept of justification by faith and were constantly looking towards martyrdom as a way to assure their place in heaven. These men also began to buy into the idea that repentance could involve confession to a priest. This is in direct contradiction to the scriptural teaching on repentance. We need only go to Jesus Christ in prayer to find forgiveness of sins.
The doctrine of water baptism was also perverted at this time. The writings of Clement would cause one to believe that these men taught baptism in name of Jesus Christ, but further studies show this to be incorrect because Justin began the formation of what became the trinitarian formula. Prior to this, the early Church baptized only in the name of Jesus Christ (as they had been taught by Jesus and the Apostles). Besides using the wrong formula for baptism, it also appears that at this time immersion began to be replaced by pouring water on the head, sprinkling, and even infant baptism. Such disregard for the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles should reveal something about the true nature and feeling these men had for Jesus Christ.
As far as the speaking in tongues is concerned, it is evidenced by different books and writers that none of the so called post-apostolic fathers wrote about or stressed the importance of receiving the Holy Ghost with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues. This leads us to believe that in this area they had thrown away the doctrine of the Apostles and most importantly the teaching of Christ. These men covered many different subjects in relation to the Church (like eschatology, responsibilities of the bishops, and so on), but never spoke of the gift of the Holy Ghost or speaking in tongues, as far as I have found. Without this experience in their lives they could not truly say that they were adherents to Christ or even Apostolic in doctrine.
From the many quotations taken from the writings of these men, we understand that they did not have a true understanding of the oneness of God and thus were not strict biblical monotheists, but rather tri-theists, or dualistic, in their understanding of God. Although it is highly improbable that these men used the word “trinity”, their thinking on the matter was evidently a primitive form of what came to be known as trinitarianism.
Because of their total disregard for the scriptural mandates of the Word of God as to salvation, we must deduce that the post-apostolic fathers did not truly believe that the Word of God is the final authority. They were already at ease with changing what God had established as the plan of salvation for all mankind.
I think it is safe to say the post-apostolic fathers are not extensions of the true Church, but rather they broke off with the teachings of the Apostles almost from the moment that the last Apostle died. These men did not follow any of the fundamentals of faith and because of their lack of obedience to the Word of God, their personal faith in Christ is suspect and without any real credibility. I find it quite sad that many believe that these men were in some way a part of the heritage of the Apostolic doctrine. These men are a stain on the pages of Church history and helped to bring many to apostasy and heresy by their doctrine, not the Apostles' Doctrine.