Pillar 1: Preaching- John Chrysostom (349-407)
• Born around 349, to a widowed 20 yr old mother named Anthusa (her late husband Secundus was a High-ranking government official). She never remarried and made it her goal in life to train her son in the ways of the Lord and pray that he would grow in the faith
• When John was old enough, he began studying law under a pagan rhetorician Libanius. When Libanius was dying he wished John to take over his work, but in his own words “the Christians have stolen him from us”
• John dove into the scriptures following his studies in in Rhetoric
• He became a disciple of a Meletius the Confessor in Antioch. He was the Bishop of the exiled Nicene community (they would meet in open air gatherings wherever they could find space
• John was baptized on Easter Sunday in 368 and began additional studies under Diodore of Tarsus who was Meletius 2nd. He was task with personally training those seeking a deeper knowledge of scripture and the faith.
• Diodore held to a strict literal interpretation of the scripture in historic Antiochene fashion. Rejected the ideas of Alexandria as going beyond the bounds of the text. He taught a rigorous study in the meaning of words and their historical settings. This would be foundational to John’s future preaching ministry
• John left Antioch in 372 to join the hermits in Mt. Silpios rather than be ordained into the ministry. (he felt his life did not measure up at that time to the work of a presbyter)
• He remained there for 6 years during this time his health suffered greatly under the strain of his rigorous discipline., leading to his return to Antioch
• In 380 he was officially ordained to the Diaconate of Antioch, a few years after Meleteius death the new Bishop Flavian would ordain John to the Presbytery in 386, giving him the opportunity to preach, a task that would consume the remainder of his life.
• He would remain in Antioch for 12 more years preaching and teaching, gaining notoriety throughout the empire for his abilities and popular support.
• He would preach verse by verse through the scriptures attacking the sins of all equally. Call for repentance and humility from the richest to the poorest in society. His sermons were preserved by those who wrote them down as he preached.
• He also wrote often: His most famous wok is On the Priesthood where he details the responsibility and work of the pastorate. Here he claims that the monastery rather than being a gift to the pastorate actually is one of its greatest weaknesses, for while it trains men in the word and discipline it doesn’t train them to deal with people and sin. His 2nd most famous book was on how to raise Children in the faith.
• In 398 He was the most famous preacher in the eastern world, and as such was forced to leave Antioch and assume the role as Bishop of Constantinople under order of the Emperor Arcadius.
• He was just as famous a preacher in Constantinople among the people, however his preaching earned him the hatred of many in the ruling classes, especially the Empress.
• He criticized the wealthy open and often from the pulpit as scripture dictated reminding them of their duty as believers to care for the least around them. When sin took place blatantly, he spoke openly against it. In one case equating the empress with Jezebel when she stole a vineyard from a widow in the city.
• He also sought to reform the Bishops of the city. removing their lavish expenses and moving the money to caring for and training the people in the truth of scripture. He founded several hospitals around the city along with homes for the poor and homeless
• Also invested heavily in the training of women in the truth of scripture with the help of a Deaconess Olympias who had dedicated her life to the church following the death of her husband 2 years into their marriage. They together (but not together) reshaped the church and its work in the community
• While Chrysostom brought great honor to the church in Constantinople and His preaching resounds to this day, it is also because of his preaching that he would be exiled and, in the process, killed.
• The ruling classes in the city were becoming more and more angered by His preaching against their sins, and alone the way other bishops were becoming more and more angry at his refusal to enforce their orders against men they charged with heresy. (specifically, he granted sanctuary to four monks from Egypt who the Bishop there Theophilus condemned) Theophilus would travel to the city in 403 put together a council of Bishops drew up faulty charges and condemned John, the Emperor pressured by his wife agreed with their findings and had him arrested. He went without a fight, but on his way to be exiled a earthquake hit the city, and seeing this as a warning from God the emperor had him recalled, but the battle was far from over their same angers flared up again some months later and he was again deposed.
• He would eventually be exiled again after he was placed under house arrest and continued to preach. His exile ended when the Empire gave orders to march John to the furthest outreaches of the empire without regard for health. He died walking along the way.
• in 438. Arcadius Son Theodosius II would bring his remains back to the city and give them a proper burial repenting of his parents’ evil acts and condemning them. Up until his remains were returned the Constantinople churches were divided between supports of John and the supporters of the crown.
• In the years to come he was given the title of Chrysostom as he is known today meaning Golden-tongued or mouthed.
Pillar 2: Scholarship- Jerome (347-420)
• The second pillar we come to in this period is well known by name but not as much for who he is.
• Jerome was a scholar dedicated to the scriptures and to language.
• He studied in Rome and was baptized in 370 where he then began to travel throughout the empire to grow in his knowledge of the faith.
• in 374 he ended up in the Syrian desert studying the Hebrew language, a feat that few others in the church had done up to this point. (most relied on the Septuagint)
• He was ordained a Presbyter in 378 in Antioch, from which he traveled to Constantinople to study under Gregory of Nazianzus 4 years later on a journey to Rome he was commissioned by Bishop Damsus to translate the scriptures into the language of the western speaking world. it took 23 years and the help of several others for him to complete the Vulgate. His unlike many others was translated from both the Greek and Hebrew texts.
• While in Rome he began recruiting men and women to join him in founding new monastery. Many in the aristocracy joined him in the task selling everything they had to give it to the poor and transforming their family estates into monasteries for men and women.
• We wrote constantly, attacking often the worldliness of the church and the moral decay that had taken over the clergy in the empire. He had no qualms about attacking anyone who wrote against him and was extremely quick witted and cutting. (He was in many ways the Luther of His day)
• He was eventually banned from Rome and moved to Jerusalem (Bethlehem) in 386, where he would spend the remainder of his life, studying the scriptures and defending the faith. Especially against the growing threat of Pelagianism that was gaining traction in Jerusalem. A group of Pelagian followers would eventually burn down his monasteries in 416.
• During his life he championed the need for academic pursuits in the studying of the original languages and truly understanding the truths of scriptures
• In 413 reflecting on the fall of Rome and the dispersion of the saints He said these famous words of Reflection:
Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 2.6: St. Jerome: Letters and Select Works Letter CXXVIII
The world sinks into ruin: yes! but shameful to say our sins still live and flourish. The renowned city, the capital of the Roman Empire, is swallowed up in one tremendous fire; and there is no part of the earth where Romans are not in exile. Churches once held sacred are now but heaps of dust and ashes; and yet we have our minds set on the desire of gain. We live as though we are going to die tomorrow; yet we build as though we are going to live always in this world. Our walls shine with gold, our ceilings also and the capitals of our pillars; yet Christ dies before our doors naked and hungry in the persons of His poor.
• Jerome Died in 420 his writing and influence over the next 1000 years were second only to the greatest theologian of his era: Augustine.
Pillar 3: Theology- Augustine (354-430)
• The final pillar comes to us in the man Augustine of Hippo
• Augustine will write more lasting words than anyone else of his generation, much like Origen before him his works will be used through history to champion both Orthodoxy and Heresy
• We know more about the man than any other figure from the era of the church fathers thanks to his work Confessions: In this work set as a prayer to God Augustine reveals the totality of his life up to his conversion from his
• He was born to a pagan father and a devoted Christian Mother Monica (similar to Chrysostom’s mother dedicated herself to her sons need for Christ)
• Moved to Carthage to study, while there he rejected Christianity in pursuit of other philosophies
• Joined the Manichees who were a Gnostic sect, who believed that through pure reason you could understand God. They rejected the OT. (he spent 9 years there)
• Got a teaching position in Rome, then he moved on to Milan in 384 (while there he rejected the Manichees believe reason could not answer the meaning of life)
• In Milan he took up Neoplatonism in his search for knowledge. In this study he found a new appreciation for the Soul and the thought of a divine reality setting God apart from Humanity and away from the physical realms, while studying these New ideas eh also began listening to the preaching of Ambrose of Milan. (they one who exercised great control over Emperor Theodosius I)
• Ambrose’s teaching and His allegorizing of the OT eased Augustine’s nerves about Christianity. Here then be understood Christianity to be true but struggled to accept it as a way of life. until in 386 he heard the words take up and read; take up and read
Romans 13:13–14 ESV
Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
• He was baptized along with his son Adeodatus on Easter Sunday 387.
• He returned to Africa and began a Monastery in his home of Thagaste. While here he began his writing ministry that would last the rest of his life
• In 391 while visiting the church in Hippo just outside of Carthage he was compelled by the dying Bishop to be ordained as a Presbyter of the church. He would serve 40 years the city and its people. 5 years later he would become the cities Bishop. (He did it all)
• Dealt with 2 Major Issues in the church 1 Schismatic the other Theological
• Donatism was still alive and well, but only in North West Africa. (Modern Day Algeria)
• He found their continued rejection of the church a sign of a divisive spirt and uncharitable, thus proving the spirit of God was not in them. (While he would accept their baptism as valid, he would reject it as salvific)
• He also rejected their pleas for a morally pure church, he believed the church would be made up of both sinner and saint and it was not our job to sort them out, since many can fake it either way.
• He eventually accepted the governments help in forcing the issue and bringing them in line, something he at first rejected, but seeing as some of the more extreme members of the Donatist were burning down building and attempting to assassinate bishops agreed.
• The fact that the persecution lead many to abandon Donatism for the Catholic church strengthened his resolve that it was an acceptable step, like a father disciplining his children for their own good.
• His argumentation would be used by later rulers to justify the executions and murders of conformists in the future (something Augustine was against, the strongest he felt they should go is fines and exile)
• Belief circulated by the Pious British Monk Pelagius
• Arose out of his distaste for the Christian church he found in Rome, where the faith seemed reduced to ritualistic practices meant for future life in heaven, with no regard for current holiness.
• From this moment in 383 he felt his mission was to bring the holiness of Monastic living into the homes of all Christianity. The monastic life of Holiness was a Christian life that could be lived in the home just as well as in a monastery or cave.
• However, this very Biblical zeal was coupled with a very real unorthodox belief in salvation and human nature
• Pelagius believed that human nature is not corrupted because of the fall, rather everyone is born as Adam was, but have willfully choose sin over godliness. He believed it was possible to live a sinless life. for him anyone could through right effort become sinless.
• He understood grace to be God’s giving man free will and the appointing of the Law as a means to attain a holy life.
• Heaven is a reward for holy living
• After the sacking of Rome, he and his disciple Celestius fled to North West Africa. Here Celestius would seek ordination as a presbyter but would be rejected by the Council of Bishops and rather than ordained he found himself condemned as a heretic.
• It is at this Point that Augustine begins to write against their false doctrines and practices. This controversy birthed some of his most well-articulated and important works on the meaning of sin and salvation. (much of which would be recaptured by the Protestant reformation a 1000 years later)
• He argued that in Adam all of humanity had sinned, the fall had led to the death of our human nature’s ability for righteousness. (thus, articulating original sin)
• He will argue extensively that original sin is the need and basis for the baptism of infants to cleanse them of its affects.
• The only free will man has at birth is the freedom to sin, and seek out sin, this is our drive and desire. It is only the grace of God that can force us not too
• It is therefore only by God’s work is salvation possible. He does it all (Monergism)
• the unwilling become willing by God’s grace and work alone
John 15:16 ESV
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
• He argued against the ability of humanity to achieve sinless perfection with the same argument she used against the Donatist
• He did though advocate though that faith and perseverance are two separate gifts of God….
• Finding no home in Africa Pelagius moved east and set up shop in Jerusalem where he was welcomed and cleared of heresy by the Bishop in Jerusalem, against Jerome’s Protestations and writings.
• in 417 a group of Pelagians attacked and killed a bishop whom disagreed with them, this spurred the other bishops and empire to act and exiled Pelagius and Celestius.
• The council of Ephesus in 431 Would declare Pelagianism as heretical, though a semi-Pelagian view would quickly spring up and win the day as the primary view in the church Catholic.
• The Final Hallmark of Augustine is His work The City of God: where he pondered the reality of the fall of Rome and noted that throughout all of history countries and empires rise and fall but god’s people remain and are found in them both. So, in the end there are only two cities one of this earth and one of heaven and only the one of heaven will last. So, No earthly kingdom can represent God’s Kingdom or bears its name, for they all come to ruin. God’s kingdom is not affected by the rise and fall of countries, his remains alive and well where the will of God goes forth.
• Augustine will go down as the greatest thinker of the western church and his work will be a central point of thought for the church