The Forerunners of the Reformation with Dr. Scott Hahn

Peter Kreeft once said everything Scott Hahn touches turns to gold and this talk seems evidence of that.  This talk gave me so much to think about.  Hahn summarizes the broad scope of Western intellectualism, where it rose, where it began to fall, and how we are today living with the consequences.

“Intellectuals rule the world but they usually do so from the grave.  Because it takes a while, it takes time, for their ideas to catch on.  In fact it takes several generations for people to really work out the implications of these novel ideas.  In fact the novel ideas have to reach a point where they no longer seem novel.  They have to reach a point where people think that way without even having to think about it.”

–Scott Hahn, The Forerunners of the Reformation

More lectures on history can be found at the Coming Home Network Deep In History series.


What else does Irenaeus say?

Irenaeus of Lyon, from Wikipedia

Irenaeus of Lyon, from Wikipedia

It seems that most Christians who study the early church love Irenaeus. It’s probably because he battled the gnostic heresies so well in his 5-volume work Against Heresies in the 180s A.D. Since there are no more Valentinians or Marcionites (at least not purposefully) we can all look to him as a hero of the faith and cheer at most of what he wrote.

However, within Christian circles the main question is whether Irenaeus was more Catholic or Protestant.  Now it didn’t take me long to sense that he was more Roman Catholic than Protestant. Yet many Protestants claim him too and do their best to show his words to be in line with Reformation doctrines.

Probably the main quote they love is in 3, 1, 1. Irenaeus says,

We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith…. When, however, they [the heretics] 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 vivâ voce: wherefore also Paul declared, “But we speak wisdom among those that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world.”

Protestants use this passage of Irenaeus to prove that he believed in sola scriptura. I’m not so sure because he still goes on to approve of traditions passed down by the apostles through the bishops.

But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, and which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth. (3, 2, 2)

So he still believes in the traditions passed down straight from the apostles and in the next several chapters he shows how the heretics are not part of the apostolic succession and therefore cannot have a “secret” tradition from the apostles. Irenaeus does not condemn traditions of the apostles but rather shows how the heretics can’t have it because they do not have apostolic succession.

However, for the sake of argument, what if Irenaeus did actually believe in sola scriptura the same way Protestants do? If we trust him enough as a source to believe this passage we musn’t stop there, right? We must continue on and find out what else he said and take it seriously.

So what else did Irenaeus say?

What did Irenaeus consider Scripture?

septuagintIrenaeus quoted from the deuterocanonical books in the same way he quotes Scripture.

For example, in 4, 26, 3 Irenaeus quotes from Daniel 13 (which is not in Protestant Bibles) and in 5, 35, 1 quotes the entire chapter of Baruch 5.  Both times he did this alongside other Scripture without making any distinction.

Even other Protestants agree that Irenaeus considered the deuterocanonical books as Scripture.

Anglican J.N.D. Kelly said that in the first couple centuries “the deuterocanonical writings ranked as Scripture in the fullest sense” and gives multiple examples including Irenaeus who “refers to Wisdom, the History of Susannah, Bel and the Dragon and Baruch.” (Early Christian Doctrines ch. 3)

Protestant Evangelical F.F. Bruce also said, “Irenaeus is well able to distinguish ‘the writings of truth’ from ‘the multitude of apocryphal and spurious writings.’ The Old Testament writings are indispensable witnesses to the history of salvation; the Septuagint version was divinely inspired, the writings which we call the Apocrypha being evidently invested with the same authority as those translated from the Hebrew Bible.” (The Canon of Scripture ch. 13).

So Irenaeus considered the deuterocanonical books to be Scripture. Therefore, even if he did believe in sola scriptura, his Bible includes books that the Reformers removed. Protestants do not believe these books are inspired but Roman Catholics do.

What did Irenaeus say about the Eucharist?

eucharistAgain, giving directions to His disciples to offer to God the first-fruits of His own, created things — not as if He stood in need of them, but that they might be themselves neither unfruitful nor ungrateful — He took that created thing, bread, and gave thanks, and said, “This is My body.” And the cup likewise, which is part of that creation to which we belong, He confessed to be His blood, and taught the new oblation of the new covenant; which the Church receiving from the apostles, offers to God throughout all the world, to Him who gives us as the means of subsistence the first-fruits of His own gifts in the New Testament, concerning which Malachi, among the twelve prophets, thus spoke beforehand: “I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord Omnipotent, and I will not accept sacrifice at your hands. For from the rising of the sun, unto the going down [of the same], My name is glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure sacrifice; for great is My name among the Gentiles, saith the Lord Omnipotent;” — indicating in the plainest manner, by these words, that the former people [the Jews] shall indeed cease to make offerings to God, but that in every place sacrifice shall be offered to Him, and that a pure one; and His name is glorified among the Gentiles. (4, 17, 5)

So Ireaneus saw the Eucharist as a sacrifice and a fulfilment of Malachi 1:10-11 which prophesied a “pure offering” that would one day be offered by all nations. That’s still Roman Catholic doctrine, not Protestant. (CCC 1330, 1350)

Inasmuch, then, as the Church offers with single-mindedness, her gift is justly reckoned a pure sacrifice with God….And the Church alone offers this pure oblation to the Creator, offering to Him, with giving of thanks, the things taken from His creation. (4, 18, 4)

So the only place we can offer this oblation is in the Church. Not just anyone can offer this sacrifice to God. That’s still Roman Catholic doctrine, not Protestant (CCC 1330, 1350). Protestants just don’t talk like this.

What did Irenaeus say about Mary?

Though he didn’t use the phrase, Irenaeus saw Mary as the New Eve. Just as Jesus is a type of Adam so Mary is a type of Eve. Adam and Eve disobeyed and brought destruction upon mankind but Jesus and Mary obeyed and brought salvation to mankind.

mary-and-jesusIn accordance with this design, Mary the Virgin is found obedient, saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” But Eve was disobedient; for she did not obey when as yet she was a virgin….so also did Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race…. And thus also it was that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith. (3, 22, 4)

Protestants just don’t talk like this about anyone and certainly not about Mary. Meanwhile, Roman Catholics still see Mary as the New Eve and a Mediatrix.


Scripture, the Eucharist, and Mary are three very big and contentious issues between Protestants and Catholics and yet it seems Irenaeus is far closer to Roman Catholicism than to Protestantism.

So what do we do?  It seems there are three options.

  1. Accept his quote about the Scripture being the “ground and pillar of our faith” as more truthful than his other doctrines and therefore the others can be safely ignored.
  2. Explain away many of his other doctrines to mean something other than what they actually sound like.
  3. Accept that he was just not a Protestant.


Are Protestant Apologists Ushering People into the Roman Catholic Church?

1601134_701317589911941_1584487051658798835_nFor this post I’d like to discuss one of the major reasons why I’m probably going to join the Roman Catholic Church; and that reason is, ironically, Protestant apologists.

When a simple layman such as I can see through the distorted use of history and misrepresentations employed by most of these “defenders of the faith” what other conclusion should I hold except that their arguments are illegitimate? If the “silver bullet” existed they would be all over it, right? It suggests the “silver bullet” doesn’t exist when Protestants are forced to use foolish arguments.

Some friends and I recently watched this DVD from Always Be Ready (ABR) Apologetics Ministry with some guy named Charlie Campbell. Viewers of this DVD would be wise to verify any information contained in this talk; maybe even see how Catholics explain their own faith (a novel thought). I’d recommend Catholic Answers for starters.

Campbell’s use of argumentation is painful to watch and his use of history is so bad one is forced to conclude he relied solely on secondary sources that he felt were trustworthy enough to not bother verifying the information contained.

It was an hour-long talk so I will not go over every point. It would take too long. However, a few some simple examples should suffice to show the shallowness of his talk. If anyone watches this DVD, take everything said with a huge grain of salt and not at face value. This guy is dealing with issues that do not have a cut-and-dried answer, and he did not even do his homework well.

Example 1: Bad Argumentation

Towards the beginning, Campbell said, “Most scholars, outside of the Catholic Church, reject the popular teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that the church at Rome was established by Christ Himself through the apostle Peter. Why is that?”

Well…… If a person truly believes the church at Rome was established by Christ Himself through Peter, then that person would be Roman Catholic, right? That sort of argumentation is like saying, “Only those people who like bacon actually like bacon. Most people who don’t like bacon don’t like bacon. So that proves we should not like bacon.” Uhhhh….what?

Campbell is apparently trying to create an “ah-ha!” moment in our minds but such argumentation only suckles the cravings of those who already reject the RCC and are willing to grab hold of any “proof” against it, whether the proof is true or not. There are many scholars who have studied the early church and joined the RCC. Maybe Campbell should actually read some of those guys and find out their reasons (men like John Henry Newman, Robert Hugh Benson, G.K. Chesterton, or Scott Hahn).

Example 2: Bad History

Apparently feeling firmly grounded upon his argument of sand, Campbell went on and gave two successive points.

  1. There is no historical evidence Peter was ever bishop in Rome.
  2. The list given by Irenaeus lists Linus, not Peter, as the first bishop in Rome.

Campbell even praised Irenaeus as a “very trusted source for early church history.” But if Campbell had actually read Irenaeus he would have seen these statements.

  • Irenaeus stated “Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church” (vol. 3 chap. 1).
  • Irenaeus talked about “the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul” and said “For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority” (vol. 3 chap. 3).
  • Irenaeus then said, “The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate” (vol. 3 chap. 3).

So Campbell’s two points are utterly destroyed by the trustworthy source of his own choosing. Irenaeus himself says that Peter founded the church in Rome, the Roman church had pre-eminent authority, and Peter passed the “episcopate” to Linus. (We get the word “bishopric”, and therefore “bishop”, from the word “episcopate.”)

Needless to say, at this point Campbell’s credibility is already waning and he’s only 9 minutes into his talk.

But wait! Campbell gave a recommendation for anyone “in the dark when it comes to church history.” What is the recommendation? Wait for it…. The movie “Luther” starring Joseph Fiennes…… Hhmmm…. Considering his constant appeal to “most scholars”, I was hoping for something a little more, I don’t know, scholarly.

The next blog post will be about the questionable hermeneutics Charlie Campbell employs.



Disclaimer – This blog post is just that: a blog post with my personal thoughts. I am not a Catholic apologist or theologian. What I say here is not official doctrine of the Catholic Church. I am still learning and am susceptible to error. Don’t take anything here as Gospel. Don’t be stupid. Do your own research and learn for yourself what the Church teaches.

Catholics: if my understanding of Catholic doctrine needs adjustment, please point out my error.