Jimmy Akin’s book the Father’s Know Best provides hundreds of quotations from the Church Fathers on various topics allegedly showing the link between the early church and modern Roman Catholicism. Of greatest interest to me were the 143 quotations from the Fathers in support of the Papacy. Reading the book gave me an opportunity to learn more about the Fathers.
Below is a matrix of the results of my review. However, given my review I will risk providing some overall conclusions.
I didn’t find anything in the Fathers that explicitly taught Papal infallibly or got into ex cathedra vs. non-ex cathedra statements by Popes. So right off the bat I would say the Fathers were not Roman Catholic. However, that doesn’t mean they were Southern Baptists either. Many times they were somewhere in-between. As such, I categorized each quotation from the Fathers Know Best on the Papacy in degrees of agreement. My categories were:
1. No objection
2. No biggie
3. Don’t like the wording, but OK
4. I disagree
5. I strongly disagree
6. Roman Catholic
Please note, I never had to use category six but out of the 143 quotes I disagreed nine times and strongly disagreed another nine times. Wherever I didn’t like the wording or disagreed, I looked for the quotes online and read them in their broader contexts.
Two areas of disagreements with the Fathers stood out. First, Leo, around 450, was acting like the boss of the church. That doesn’t mean he thought he was infallible, but he certainly wasn’t a Congregationalist or Presbyterian. Second, in 251 Cyprian of Carthage’s Treaties on the Unity of the Church says the Chair of Peter is the intrinsic reason for unity in the Church. Interestingly there are two versions of the treaties - one of which is fine. Since there’s nothing before Cyprian that I disagree with and nothing after until about 312, Cyprian becomes fairly important. Time permitting, I would like to dig into that work by Cyprian further.
Before getting into the review, I must qualify the ongoing by saying I am only reviewing arguments that the Father’s supported the Papacy. So this review is consciously one sided and can present an unbalanced picture. To get a broader picture one would have to look at arguments from the Fathers against the Papacy – but I will leave that for another day. Here’s the analysis. (link)