So now we move on to Tertullian. He shows here in his writing “The Prescription Against Heretics” around A.D. 200 that the Church is referred to as the Catholic Church. It’s been 100 years since Ignatius of Antioch first recorded the Church being called Catholic. Too bad Tertullian didn’t heed his own advice when he later succumbed to the heresy of Montanism, a heresy that claimed the revelation of Truth was continuing past the Apostolic age.
Where was Marcion then, that shipmaster of Pontus, the zealous student of Stoicism? Where was Valentinus then, the disciple of Platonism? For it is evident that those men lived not so long ago – in the reign of Antoninus for the most part – and that they at first were believers in the doctrine of the Catholic Church, in the church of Rome under the episcopate of the blessed Eleutherus, until on account of their ever restless curiosity, with which they even infected the brethren, they were more than once expelled (The Prescription Against Heretics 22,30 [A.D.200]) –> Read online in its entirety here
Saint Clement of Alexandria, near the end of the second century and the beginning of the third talks about how the Church has a hierarchy of bishops, priest and deacons. Again, this is before the claimed corruption of the Church by Constantine. Just sayin’.
Clement of Alexandria
A multitude of other pieces of advice to particular persons is written in the holy books: some for presbyters, some for bishops and deacons; and others for widows, of whom we shall have opportunity to speak elsewhere (The Instructor of Children 3:12:97:2 [A.D. 191]). –> Read online in its entirety here
Even here in the Church the gradations of bishops, presbyters, and deacons happen to be imitations, in my opinion, of the angelic glory and of that arrangement which, the Scriptures say, awaits those who have followed in the footsteps of the apostles and who have lived in complete righteousness according to the gospel (Stromateis 6:13:107:2 [post-A.D. 202]). –> Read online in its entirety here
In the following, Saint Hippolytus discusses how the bishop is to ordain priests and deacons by the laying on of hands, and how only bishops have the authority to do so. Again, this is 100 years before Constantine ever became Emperor. This is important to remember as this is exactly as the bishops today ordain priest. I have been to a couple of ordinations and yep, it’s the same.
When a deacon is to be ordained, he is chosen after the fashion of those things said above, the bishop alone in like manner imposing his hands upon him as we have prescribed. In the ordaining of a deacon, this is the reason why the bishop alone is to impose his hands upon him: He is not ordained to the priesthood, but to serve the bishop and to fulfill the bishop’s command. He has no part in the council of the clergy, but is to attend to his own duties and is to acquaint the bishop with such matters as are needful. . . . On a presbyter [priest], however, let the presbyters impose their hands because of the common and like Spirit of the clergy. Even so, the presbyter has only the power to receive [the Spirit], and not the power to give [the Spirit]. That is why a presbyter does not ordain the clergy; for at the ordaining of a presbyter, he but seals while the bishop ordains. (Apostolic Tradition 9 [ca. A.D. 215]). –> Read online in its entirety here
Last but not least, we arrive at Saint Cyprian of Carthage who is writing on the unity of the Church in the year A.D. 251. You can also see that he is referring to Matthew 16:18-19 speaking of how the Church will be protected by the Holy Spirit from ever being overcome by separations and divisions and from teaching error. Notice, that even though the Church has experienced separations and divisions through the Protestant revolt and the Schisms that split the East from the West, the One Catholic Church is still standing and is without any doubt the greatest pillar of Truth in the world.
Cyprian of Carthage
The spouse of Christ cannot be defiled; she is uncorrupted and chaste. She knows one home . . . Does anyone believe that this unity which comes from divine strength, which is closely connected with the divine sacraments, can be broken asunder in the Church and be separated by the divisions of colliding wills? He who does not hold this unity, does not hold the law of God, does not hold the faith of the Father and the Son, does not hold life and salvation (On the Unity of the Catholic Church 6 [A.D. 251]). –> Read online in its entirety here
Peter speaks there, on whom the Church was to be built, teaching and showing in the name of the Church, that although a rebellious and arrogant multitude of those who will not hear or obey may depart, yet the Church does not depart from Christ; and they are the Church who are a people united to the priest, and the flock which adheres to its pastor. Whence you ought to know that the bishop is in the Church, and the Church in the bishop; and if anyone be not with the bishop, that he is not in the Church, and that those flatter themselves in vain who creep in, not having peace with God’s priests, and think that they communicate secretly with some; while the Church which is Catholic and one, is not cut nor divided, but is indeed connected and bound together by the cement of priests who cohere with one another (Letters 66 [A.D. 253]). –> Read online in its entirety here
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the pre-Constantine writings that show that the Church was One, Holy and Apostolic, but if gives a good overview of what the Early Church Fathers saw the Church of their time appeared, and it looks just like the Church today. Not the buildings, but the unity, the hierarchy, and the authority. It is only in a Church like this that the following scripture passage has any validity and make any sense.
15 “If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. 16 If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. 18 Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. – Matthew 18:15-18
If the Church was not unified, which Church would I take my brother to if he won’t listen to me concerning his sin? The Baptist? The Episcopal? The Presbyterian? The Reformed Calvinist? The non-denominational church down the street? This passage only makes sense when you have one unified church as the true protector of God’s truth on earth, and is supported when you read the quotes from the earliest Christian writers. As Paul attest, the Church is the protector of Truth, without a doubt!
But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth. – 1 Timothy 3:15
About the Author: Kenneth Henderson
In 2002 I had a miraculous conversion, the details of which can be read about in “Amazing Grace for Married Couples” by Ascension Press (edited by Jeff Cavins, Patti Armstrong, Matthew Pinto) As a result, I gave my first public testimony of my conversion at my home parish of Church of St. Benedict in Broken Arrow. Some time after that began a ministry called True Knights that was founded to encourage the spiritual growth of men, to promote a true and courageous faith among men of all vocations world-wide.
I started speaking nationwide at parishes and Men’s Conferences and even appeared on several EWTN programs, including twice on “Life on the Rock” and once on “The Journey Home with Marcus Grodi”. I was also a guest on several Catholic radio shows including my good friends Jesse Romero and Teresa Tomeo.
I was involved with that ministry full-time. However, it was taking a toll on me and my family. After much prayer, in 2009 I needed to put True Knights on hiatus and remove myself from public ministry to concentrate on being the best husband and father I can possibly be, my first and most important vocation.
This website came about after a couple of good friends asked me to form a group to help men grow in their faith. We were inspired to attempt to start a Pint, Pipe and Cross Club based upon a post on Facebook on Aug 6, 2013 by The Catholic Gentleman. He had posted a GK Chesterton quote, “the pint, the pipe and the Cross can all fit together.” What a marvelous idea. I really enjoying having a good pint of strong ale , smoking my pipe and enjoying good, even spirited conversation about the Catholic faith. I think it was all kind of spontaneous, but I immediately envisioned a group of men gathering once or twice a month and partaking of this type of activity. Cheers!