Who Is The Church According to the Fathers?
Tertullian: Against Heresies in Ch, XVIII:
But if there be any (heresies) which are bold enough to plant themselves in the midst of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down by the apostles, because they existed in the time of the apostles, we can say: Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that [that first bishop of theirs] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men,—a man, moreover, who continued steadfast with the apostles. For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter. In exactly the same way the other churches likewise exhibit (their several worthies), whom, as having been appointed to their Episcopal places by apostles, they regard as transmitters of the apostolic seed. Let the heretics contrive something of the same kind.
To this test, therefore must be submitted for proof by those churches, who, although they derive not their founder from apostles or apostolic men (as being of much later date, for they are in fact being founded daily), yet, since they agree in the same faith, they are accounted as not less apostolic because they are akin in doctrine.
*Apostolic succession via paradosis is the test.
St. Ignatius of
, Letter to the Magnesians, 6-7 (Vol., I) Antioch
I exhort you to study to do all things with a divine harmony, while your bishop presides in the place of God, and your presbyters in the place of the assembly of the apostles, along with your deacons, who are most dear to me, and are entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ… Let nothing exist among you which may divide you; but be united with your bishop, being through him subject to God in Christ. As therefore the Lord does nothing without the Father, for says He, "I can of mine own self do nothing," so do you, neither presbyter, nor deacon, nor layman, do anything without the bishop.
*One doctrine only is allowed and it begins with the bishop who has the task of retaining the unaltered faith.
St. Cyprian of
, Letter to Magnus (Vol, V, Epistle 75) Carthage
Wherefore, since the Church alone has the living water, and the power of baptizing and cleansing man, he who says that any one can be baptized and sanctified by Novatian must first show and teach that Novatian is in the Church or presides over the Church.
For the Church is one, and as she is one, cannot be both within and without. For if she is with Novatian, she was not with Cornelius. But if she was with Cornelius, who succeeded the bishop Fabian by lawful ordination, and whom, beside the honor of the priesthood, the Lord glorified also with martyrdom, Novatian is not in the Church; nor can he be reckoned as a bishop, who, succeeding to no one, and despising the evangelical and apostolic tradition, sprang from himself. For he who has not been ordained in the Church can neither have nor hold to the Church in any way.
* There cannot be more than one church and one doctrine.
St. Irenaeus, Against All Heresies, IV, 26, 2 ( Vol. I)
Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church,—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, [looking upon them] either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory. For all these have fallen from the truth.
*No apostolic continuity results in false church.
St. Cyril of
, Catechetical Lectures, XVIII (NPNF-II, Vol. VII) Jerusalem
The Faith which we rehearse contains in order the following,
"AND IN ONE BAPTISM OF REPENTANCE FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS; AND IN
; AND IN THE RESURRECTION OF THE FLESH; AND IN ETERNAL LIFE"... ONE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH
It is called Catholic (of the whole) then because it 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. And it is rightly named (Ecclesia) because it calls forth and assembles together all men.
*One doctrine without exception of persons or race.