Hadrian of Rome: A Pre-Reformed Pope?

Pope Paul IIIPope Hadrian of Rome & Augustinian Predestination Soteriology

During the reign of Pope Hadrian of Rome (772-795) the Church in Spain was going through internal and extremely fascinating controversies. One of the controversies concentrated on what was the proper way of understanding God’s divine choice and predestination. Two major traditions crossed swords. Those who held the Augustinian predestination soteriology led by Elipandus of Toledo and those who rejected it led by Migetius. The clanks and clangs of their swords reached Pope Hadrian of Rome.

In a nutshell Augustinian predestination soteriology stressed the sovereignty of God in electing in Christ Jesus some fallen humans who are in bondage of sin (Jn. 8:34) and hostile towards God (Ro. 8:7) to receive his mercy and compassion while passing over other equally fallen humans to receive his righteous justice (Ro. 9-11). Those whom God the Father elected are given to His Son and they are kept to the end of time (Jn. 6) We, the Church, choose Christ because He chose us first (Jn. 15:16, Acts 13:48, Eph. 1:3-11). Faith is thus not the cause of our election but its effect (Jn. 10:26-28). Augustine expounded:

Let us, then, understand the calling by which they become the chosen, not those who are chosen because they believed, but those who are chosen in order that they may believe. ‘You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you’ (Jn. 15:16). For, if they were chosen because they believed, they would, of course, have first chosen Him by believing in Him in order that they might merit to be chosen.(PS 17.34)

Elsewhere Augustine wrote: Continue reading

The Luther I Love is the Luther I am Shamed Of

 LutherIt is Saturday 6th of July 1415. Today, the goose is going to be cooked. John Hus. He is the follower of John Wycliffe and has been advancing his heretical ideas. The Church is at its flimsiest time. The previous years saw the Great Schism of the papacy. It was the years that saw two popes claiming to be the true Vicar of Christ. Urban reigning from Rome and Clement from Avignon.

The Council of Pisa (1409), which was set to resolve this matter, added more problems. They denounced both popes and appointed yet another, Alexander V. Urban and Clement did not recognised Pisa’s authority, thus did not let go of the chair of St. Peter. Alexander V, thus, joined the two. Now, we did not only have two but three popes at the same time. This was the great wall of shame in our Catholic Church history.

Reformers were no better. They were not saints neither. They had greater walls of shame. A century after the goose was cooked, burned at the stalk, a swan nailed 95 Theses of Contention at church of Wittenberg. Using the Swan’s own words:

“St. John Huss prophesied of me [Martin Luther] when he wrote from his prison in Bohemia, “They will roast a goose now (for ‘Huss’ means ‘a goose’), but after a hundred years they will hear a swan sing, and him they will endure.” And that is the way it will be, if God wills.”(LW 34.104)

Luther’s Wall of Shame: His Odium Theologicum Against Jews Continue reading

Early Christians’ Order of the Last Things


One of the very first things my wife Lea learned about me was my terrible habit of easily forgetting where I last place my wallet, keys and mobile phone. Helping me end this habit, she often would, with great love and patience, ask me to rework as much as possible my that-day  routine, every time I lost these items. She taught me to take a backward walk into my day’s past to look for what I had lost. Reading Church history is traveling back in Christians’ family story to learn, relearn or discover some of the lost Christians wisdom.

This series of article covers what the early Christians believe about the future time where Christ Jesus returns. Since early Christians strongly and passionately fond great consolation beholding this hope of future glory in a period where they were persecuted by the Jews and pagans, it is worthy to know what they believed about the unfolding of end-times.  It is a fact that this hope brought them unimaginable consolation through those hard times. As Apostle Paul, they considered their suffering not worth compared to the future glory that the whole creation is eagerly longing for (Rom. 8:22). How the future glory’s events would be unfolded is what this series attempted to investigate, mainly in the writings of Pseudo-Barnabas, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Papias, Hermas, and Tertullian. Continue reading

Gnosticism: Concise Introduction For Skeptics

Burne-Jones Edward Mirror of Venus

A first three centuries A.D. diverse religious and theosophical movement, which sponged some of Platonic Philosophy, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Christianity traditions together. An gnostic held an “ontological dualism between the supreme, ineffable God of love and the material world, considered evil or, at best, indifferent.”(Myers 1987, 421)

A gnostic  believed that though she was imprisoned in the body, which is evil, she possessed a divine pneúma and can be set free through mediate, divine savior, by means of gnosis, a mystical knowledge of true seeing and hearing, to ascend to a state known as Pleroma.

“The focus of Gnostic redemption is not on God”, explained A.C. Myers, “but ultimately upon the individual’s self-understanding and the resulting freedom it provides.”(ibid: 421). Myer noted that many Gnostics tracked their teaching back to Christ Jesus’ secret teaching but “Gnostic christologies offer a savior without the incarnation (a Christ-spirit) who gives knowledge instead of calling for faith (cf. Mark 12:14; Gal. 2:16).”(ibid, 422)

Nicholas Perrin pointed out that “[f]or Gnosticism, existentialism, and deconstructionism alike, salvation/knowledge is obtained individualistically, quite apart from the mediation of communal interpretations and structures”(Perrin 2005, 258) He contended that by “the end of the second century, the church fathers (and rabbis) were eager to refute Gnostic claims.” because virtually every aspect of Gnostic teaching “stood at odds with emerging orthodoxy.”(ibid, 258)


Myers, A. C. (1987). The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (421). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.

Perrin, Nicholas(2005): “Gnosticism” in Vanhoozer, K. J., Bartholomew, C. G., Treier, D. J., & Wright, N. T. Dictionary for theological interpretation of the Bible. London; Grand Rapids, MI.: SPCK; Baker Academic.

Tertullian, Jehovah’s Witnesses And Trinity


There are few pillars in Christian Church history that can tower one of the finest North African’s Latin theologian and apologist Tertullian (ca. 160- ca. 225 A.D.)

My interest in the life and works of Tertullian sprouted from an encounter with door-to-door Jehovah’s Witnesses. In one of our dialogues, I was handed the Watch Tower Bible And Tract Society’s brochure, “Should You Believe in the Trinity? Is Jesus Christ the Almighty God?” in which the Watch Tower Society argued that the doctrine Trinity God was alien to early Christians.

Noticing that “trinitas” appeared in the works of Tertullian, Watchtower Society contended that, “this is no proof in itself that Tertullian taught the Trinity”(Watchtower 1989: 5).  It took a decade for Watchtower’s organization to discover their mistake. Contrary to what they believed, Tertullian defended not only the doctrine of Trinity God but also the deity of Christ Jesus and the bodily resurrection, among other doctrines, which they deny. The Watchtower Society admitted,

“[Tertullian] coined the formula “one substance in three persons.” Using this concept, he attempted to show that God, his Son, and the holy spirit were three distinct persons existing in one divine substance. Tertullian thus became the first to apply the Latin form of the word “trinity” to the Father, the Son, and the holy spirit.”(Watchtower 2002: 31)

In this article, I pointed out a small potion of Tertullian’s work that caused Watchtower’s organization to alter their understanding of this Northern African’s giant.

Tertullian view of Doctrine Of Trinity

Writing against Praxeas, who taught Monarchianism viz., the doctrine that held the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to be one and the same person, Tertullian presented one of the earliest and most robust defenses of one and only God in three distinct persons. Tertullian contended:

Bear always in mind that this is the rule of faith which I profess; by it I testify that the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit are inseparable from each other, and so will you know in what sense this is said. Now, observe, my assertion is that the Father is one, and the Son one, and the Spirit one, and that They are distinct from Each Other. […] Father and the Son are demonstrated to be distinct; I say distinct, but not separate[1].(Tertullian 1885: 603)

Quoting Isaiah 42:1, 45:1 61:1(Luke 4:18) 53:1-2, Psalms 71:18, 3:1, 110:1, Tertullian argued:

Still, in these few quotations the distinction of Persons in the Trinity is clearly set forth. For there is the Spirit Himself who speaks, and the Father to whom He speaks, and the Son of whom He speaks.(ibid)

Pointing to Moses’ usage of plural phrases “us”, and “our” instead of “me” and “my” uttered by God in Genesis 1-3, Tertullian correctly reasoned, that  God the Father “had already His Son close at His side, as a second Person, His own Word, and a third Person also, the Spirit in the Word, that He purposely adopted the plural phrase”(ibid).

Though Tertullian did not contend in detail the deity of the Holy Spirit, he showed that the Spirit was the third person of tres Personae, una Substantia.

 Question: Did you know that the doctrine of one God in three persons was taught by early Christians?


Watchtower (1989) Should You Believe in the Trinity?  Is Jesus Christ the Almighty God? Watch Tower Bible And Tract Society of Pennsylvania.

_____________ (2002) Who Is God? May 15th. Watch Tower Bible And Tract Society of Pennsylvania.

Tertullian. (1885). Tertullian In A. Roberts, J. Donaldson & A. C. Coxe (Eds.), The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume III: Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian (A. Roberts, J. Donaldson & A. C. Coxe, Ed.) Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

[1] Tertullian explained further that its “on the ground of Personality, not of Substance—in the way of distinction, not of division.”

Apollinarianism: Concise Introduction For Skeptics

Church Fathers

Apollinarianism is a fourth century doctrine that taught that Christ Jesus possessed a human body with a divine mind and spirit. A bishop of Laodicea in Syria, and a friend of Athanasius, named Apollinarius (ca. 310- ca. 390 A.D.) understood human mind and spirit/soul as the seat of sin.

He viewed Jesus as having a mental and spiritual life of Logos operating through human flesh. Phillip Schaff explained:

Apollinarius, according to S. Gregory, declares that the Son of God was from all eternity clothed with a human body, and not from the time of His conception only by the Blessed Virgin; but that this humanity of God is without human mind, the place of which was supplied by the Godhead of the Only-begotten.(Schaff & Wace 1894:  437)

Being frightened by Arianism, a doctrine of a created Logos, Apollinarius adopted this position because he  wanted to preserve Christ’s deity.  By safeguarding Him from sin, Jesus’ deity remained intact.  Apollinarius’ Christology was of Alexandrian School of Athanasius and Cyril which were “strong in declaring for the deity of Christ and the union of the two natures in his incarnate person.”(Ferguson & Packer 2000:35),

Alex B. Bruce correctly recorded that the opponents of this view contended against it mostly because of it’s soteriological implication. He wrote,

Gregory Nazianzen put the matter in a nut-shell when he said: ‘That which is not assumed is not healed.’ The patristic theory of redemption was, that Christ redeemed man, so to speak, by sample, presenting to God in His own person the first-fruits of a renewed humanity. Athanasius contrasts the Apollinarian and the orthodox theories of redemption thus: ‘Ye say that believers are saved by similitude and imitation, not by renovation, or by first-fruits.’ Salvation being by first-fruits, of course the Saviour must be physically like His brethren in soul as well as in body, otherwise the sample would not be like the bulk. As Cyril put it: Christ must take flesh that He might deliver us from death: and He must take a human soul to deliver us from sin, destroying sin in humanity by living a human life free from all sin,—rendering the soul He assumed superior to sin by dyeing it, and tinging it with the moral firmness and immutability of His own divine nature(Bruce 1900:45-46)

For Christ to save the whole of us, He must have assumed all of human body, mind, spirit and soul. It was mainly because of this reason that Apollinarianism was rejected by several church councils, from the Council of Alexandria in a.d. 362 to the Council of Constantinople in a.d. 381.(Grudem 2004: 555).

Question: Have you heard of Apollinarianism before?


Bruce, A. B. (1900). The humiliation of Christ in its physical, ethical and official aspects. Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark.

Ferguson, S. B., & Packer, J. (2000). New dictionary of theology (electronic ed.) Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: An introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

Stevenson, J & Kidd, B. J. (1966) Creeds, councils, and controversies: Documents illustrative of the history of the church A.D. 337-461.. New York: Seabury Press.

Schaff , P & Wace H. & Gregory Nazianzen. (1894). Select Letters of Saint Gregory Nazianzen C. G. Browne & J. E. Swallow, Trans.). In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Volume VII: S. Cyril of Jerusalem, S. Gregory Nazianzen (P. Schaff & H. Wace, Ed.) New York: Christian Literature Company.

Stevenson, J & Kidd, B. J. (1966) Creeds, councils, and controversies: Documents illustrative of the history of the church A.D. 337-461. New York: Seabury Press.

Elizabeth’s Poetic Case Against Transubstantiation

Queen Elizabeth I

Is the communion bread and the wine a physical or spiritual, or only symbolical body and blood of Christ Jesus? Ludwig Ott correctly presented Roman Catholicism answer to our question, viz.,

“The Eucharist is that Sacrament, in which Christ, under the forms of bread and wine, is truly present, with His Body and Blood, in order to offer Himself in an unbloody manner to the Heavenly Father, and to give Himself to the faithful as nourishment for their souls.” (Ott 1954 370.)

From this view, Christ Jesus is truly, really, and substantially present in forms of bread and wine. The communion bread and wine transubstantiate to actual body and blood of Christ. Thus as pope Paul VI concluded that “they are holy of themselves, and owing to the virtue of Christ they confer grace to the soul as they touch the body”(Paul VI 1965: 38)

Martin Luther rejected this view and contended for consubstantiation. He argued that “[i]t is not that the bread and wine have become Christ’s body and blood, but that we now have the body and blood in addition to the bread and wine.”(Erickson 1986: 1117). Lady Elizabeth rejected both the Roman Catholicism and Germany Reformed views in favor of the French/Geneva reformed understanding.

Elizabeth’s Calvinistic Theology + Case Against Transubstantiation

At twelve years old, Elizabeth had access to the first French copy of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (Geneva, 1541), to which she later translated the first chapter for Queen Katherine. (Elizabeth I 2009: 204-207)

Following John Calvin’s reformed theology, Lady Elizabeth, imprisoned on suspicion of her pro-Protestant stance during the reign of Queen Mary, gave a profound poetic case denying the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper.

Lady Elizabeth, in prison, wrote:

Twas God the Word that spake it,
He took the Bread and brake it:
And what that Word did make it,
That I believe and take it.

The depth of Elizabeth’s theology is expounded in her poem, A Meditation how to discern the Lords Body in the Blessed Sacrament, that embodied Calvin’s theology.

Calvin rejected both transubstantiation and consubstantiation. He pointed out that even some of the Catholic father opposed others. He cited Gelasisus Papa expound: “That the substance of bread and wine in the Eucharist does not cease but remains, just as the nature and substance of man remains united to the Godhead in the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Gelasius Papa in Conc. Rom. Gelasius I, 492-96. cited by Calvin) as an example.

For Calvin, Eucharist is a spiritual feast to which “souls are fed by Christ just as the corporeal life is sustained by bread and wine”. He contended,

Thus when bread is given as a symbol of the body of Christ, we must immediately think of this similitude. As bread nourishes, sustains, and protects our bodily life, so the body of Christ is the only food to invigorate and keep alive the soul

When we behold wine set forth as a symbol of blood, we must think that such use as wine serves to the body, the same is spiritually bestowed by the blood of Christ; and the use is to foster, refresh, strengthen, and exhilarate.(Calvin 2007: n.p)

In A Meditation how to discern the Lords Body in the Blessed Sacrament, Lady Elizabeth wondered how men, who are not able to make with their own fingers wheat that makes the bread, can make God of wafers. She poetically reductio ad absurdum the  notion that the bread and wine were real body and blood of Christ Jesus since if:

He gave his Flesh, and Blood in Bread and Wine:
For if his Body he did then divide,
He must have eat himself before he dyd.

She expounded, what I believe is correct, what happens when we take bread and wine:

We must believe the Words of him, who said,
This is my Body; when he gave the Bread:
And sure that Blood which curdld in each Vein,
Did in his Sacred Body still remain,
Till he was Crucifyd and Slain.
However, theres great Influence therein,
Which expiates and cleanseth us from Sin:
We are made One with him in Holy Union,
When we in Faith receive the Blest Communion.
In Commemoration of his bitter Passion,
Who shed his Blood to purchase our Salvation;
We on his Merits must depend alone,
Sufficient tis that Merit we have none:
Nor can there any other Name be given
To save us, but by him who sits in Heaven.
His Body here on Earth need not appear,

She offered compelling reasons not to take the bread and wine literally as true body and blood of Christ Jesus when she poetically expounded,

He calld himself a Vine, and yet we see,
He was a perfect Man, and not a Tree.
He calld himself a Door; tis understood,
We enter Heaven through Him, and not thro Wood.
He calld himself a Way, the which doth lead
Our Steps to Heaven, yet none doth on him tread.(Elizabeth I 1688: n.p)

If, indeed, this is Queen Elizabeth I work, I solute her brilliancy since she did not only captured French reformed position but transformed it in a poetic way. Even though, Elizabeth does not comprehensively capture the whole of  Calvin case  in his Institute of the Christian Religion but does, I believe, she successively  presented Calvin’s opinion concerning the Eucharist.

Question: Do you agree with lady Elizabeth’s theology? Give reasons.


Calvin, J. (1997). Institutes of the Christian religion. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Elizabeth I   (1688) Queen Elizabeth ‘s Opinion concerning Transubstantiation: London: Printed for F.E.  English Broadside Ballad Archive

________  (2009) Elizabeth I: Translations, 1544-1589. University of Chicago Press

Erickson, Millard J.(1986) Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Bake.

Paul IV (1965) Mysterium Fidei: Encyclical Pope Paul VI On The Holy Eucharist. Vatican.

Ott, Ludwig (1954) Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Ed. James Canon Bastible, Trans. from Germany: Patrick Lynch. Roman Catholic Books. Fort Collins.