Thank God for the Church Fathers!

The Protestant Reformers were very Bible-centered (as we might call it today). They were very concerned with the truths of Scripture. They labored to read, study, interpret, and biblically apply Scripture. However, they did not reject Christian interpreters, commentators, and preachers before them. They weren’t anti-tradition. One example is John Jewel, a student of Peter Martyr who later became one of the leaders in the 16th-century English Reformation. In his booklet, A Treatise of the Holy Scriptures, Jewel wrote the following about the church fathers. (Note: I take the term “deceived” below to mean “mistaken in some things.”) This is excellent!

…They be interpreters of the Word of God. They were learned  men, and learned fathers; the instruments of the mercy of God, and vessels full of grace. We despise them not, we reverence them, and give thanks unto God for them. They were witnesses unto the truth, they were worthy pillars and ornaments in the church of God. Yet may they not be compared with the Word of God. We may not build upon them: we may not make them the foundation and warrant of our conscience: we may not put our trust in them. Our trust is in the name of the Lord.… I weigh them not as holy and canonical scriptures. Cyprian was a doctor of the church, yet he was deceived: Augustine was a doctor of the church, yet he wrote a book of Retractations; he acknowledged that he was deceived.… They are our fathers, but not fathers unto God; they are the stars, fair, and beautiful, and bright; yet they are not the sun. They bear witness of the light, they are not the light. Christ is the Son of Righteousness, Christ is the Light which lighteth every man that cometh into this world. His word is the Word of Truth.

The above quote is found in Timothy George, Reading Scripture with the Reformers (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2011), 81–82.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

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