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Church Fathers

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Definition:   The teachers who influenced Church doctrine in the five centuries following the death of the apostles. The Catholic Church uses these teachings (and certain writings that were found to be forgeries) to support its extra-biblical doctrines. Catholic teaching holds that the word of God consists of both the written scriptures and the oral teachings handed down by the apostles. These oral traditions are known as the “sacred deposit” of Tradition, and are binding upon Catholics. Doctrines such as the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, the perpetual virginity of Mary, the papacy, purgatory and transubstantiation are alleged to be supported in these early writings.

Discussion: Some of the writings attributed to the “Church Fathers” have been found to be forgeries, while others have been taken out of context. Also, the fact that error would afflict the early church is foretold in the New Testament. The epistles of Paul were usually written to correct false understandings that were occurring during his life. He predicted that “wolves” that would infiltrate the church at Ephesus (Acts 20:30). Peter warned about false teachers who would bring destructive heresies (2 Pt. 2:1). Antiquity is not equivalent to accuracy. It is to be expected that erroneous teachings would result from oral traditions. For this reason, traditions must be compared with the sole authority the God’s written Word, which is truth (Jn. 17:17).

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