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

Was Justin Martyr a premillennialist or amillennialist?


Appealing to the testimonies of Justin Martyr in support of a particular view of millennialism can be very tricky.  In eschatological debates Justin Martyr is often  evoked, and rightly so, in support of historical premillennialism, a view that Christ Jesus will reign for literally a millennium after his second return.  Justin, for example in his dialogue with Trypho the Jew, understood  the prophesies of Ezekiel and Isaiah and other prophets will be fulfilled at the second coming of Christ Jesus (Just. Dial.c. Tryph. 80, 81).

What is often overlooked is the fact that Justin was far from being consistence in his eschatological views. In his First Apology, the works that does not mention the great tribulation, antichrist or millennium for example, Justin presented a totally different understanding of Old Testament’s prophecies compared to his Dialogue with Tyrpho. The prophecies of Isaiah 2:3 and Psalms 110:2, for instance, are not applied in future millennial reignship of Jesus, as we would expect from his premillenialistic views in Dialogue. Justin understood these prophecies, in realized eschatological and amillennialistic sense, viz., the prophecies has already been fulfilled in the times of Jesus’ disciples and their followers (Just. 1 Apol. 39; 45; 50-52). 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

Clement of Rome: Penal Substitution Atonement


The atoning work of Christ Jesus is immeasurably deep in value. All orthodox theories of atonement, in diverse viewpoints yet a unified picture, disclose  certain truths about what happened when Christ died on the cross. Penal substitution is one of the theory that fathoms Christ Jesus as vicariously suffering the judicial penalty, viz., the holy and righteous wrath of God, in the place of those He substituted at Golgotha.

This view, according to Paul S. Fiddes, was an outcome of John Calvin reworking of the atoning work on Christ Jesus through the lens of Anselm’s satisfaction theory (Fiddes 1989:98). Granting that the church fathers clearly taught substitutionary atonement, Derek Flood contended that they did not teach penal substitution”(Flood 2010: 142) Is it true that penal substitution was not taught by the church fathers? Is it true that they did not teach that the penalty of sin that we justly deserve from God has being borne  by Christ Jesus in our place?

This series of articles answered both questions with a negative. Exploring some passages from ante-Nicene and post-Nicene church fathers’ writings, it is clear that they taught penal substitution atonement.

Clement of Rome and Penal Substitution

Commending the Corinthians to exemplify Christ mildness Clement of Rome, in circa 96 A.D., cited Isaiah 53’s prophecy and applied it to Christ Jesus. The servant of God was prophesied to bear our iniquities. “He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities.” And that it was God who “delivered Him up for our sins” and was “pleased to purify Him by stripes”. Clement understood Christ Jesus as making an offering for our sin. At Golgotha Christ Jesus carried our sins. Christ Jesus “bare the sins of many, and for their sins was He delivered.”(Cle 1 Cor. 16)

Using the salvation of Rehab the harlot when Joshua took over Jericho as an example to teach Corinthians the rewards of faith and hospitality Clement understood the sign, which Rehab was given to hang forth from her house as “manifest that redemption should flow through the blood of the Lord to all them that believe and hope in God.”(1 Cor. 12)

Expounding the nature of love, Clement wrote,

By love have all the elect of God been made perfect; without love nothing is well-pleasing to God. In love has the Lord taken us to Himself. On account of the Love he bore us, Jesus Christ our Lord gave His blood for us by the will of God; His flesh for our flesh, and His soul for our souls.(1 Cor. 49)

As Ninevites, in time of Jonah, repented “of their sin, propitiated God by prayer, and obtained salvation” Christians, commended Clement, are to “look stedfastly to the blood of Christ, and see how precious that blood is to God, which having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world.”(1 Cor. 7)

Polycarp in The Epistle to the Philippians underlined that Christ Jesus is He “who for our sins suffered even unto death”(Poly Phil 1). Ignatius echoed Polycarp in The Epistle to the Smyrnæans when he argued that the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ “suffered for our sins”(Ign 1 Smyr 7)

From these passages I concluded that Clement viewed Christ Jesus’ atoning work as bearing death, our  justly deserved penalty of sin from God, in our place. In his works we can deduce that Christus Victor was the goal of atoning work of Christ Jesus, which brought us victorious over sin, death, Satan. This victory was archived through the means of penal substation atonement. Going beyond the goal and means of atonement out-flowing outcome, Christ’s humbleness to the point of death, according to Clement, is also a moral exemplary attitude for Christians to mimic.


Clement, First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, eds. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, vol.1 (1885) Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

Fiddes, Paul S. (1989) Past Event and Present Salvation: The Christan Idea of Atonement. Westminster/John Knox Press Lousiville, Kentucky.

Flood, Derek (2010) “Substitutionary atonement and the Chruch Fathers: A reply to the authors of Pierced for Our Transgressions,” in Evangelical Quarterly, 82/2:142-159

Early Church’s Kingdom of God: Hail King Jesus


The kingdom of God, the restoration of God’s eternal and sovereign lordship over earth as it is in heaven, was understood by some of the early Christians to encompass the present and future dimensions, and both the physical and spiritual aspects. Their understanding has being echoed throughout the church history.

The future dimension of spiritual and physical aspect is of Christians commanded to live a life of holiness, love and peace in order to inherit the Kingdom of God (Iren. Frag. 42; Pol. Phil. 5.3; Barn. 21.1) while on the other hand, the present dimension, also of spiritual and physical aspect, is of Christians being the people who are redeemed, the prince of evil has no authority over them nor cannot he thrust them out of the kingdom of Christ (Barn. 4.13) and “where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace.”(Iren. Aga. Her. 3. 24.1)

Some of post Apostolic fathers also followed a similar understanding of the Kingdom of God. Clement of Alexandra contended that Christians are called to the kingdom of God with a calling that require them to live a life worthy of the kingdom, loving God and their neighbour. He wrote, “[b]ut love is not proved by a kiss, but by kindly feeling. But there are those, that do nothing but make the churches resound with a kiss, not having love itself within.” (Clem. Al. Paed. 3.11)

In a similar manner John Calvin, during reformation, echoed the same theme when he explained that when the Church is sincere with the word of God, “there we cannot have any doubt that the Church of God has some existence, since his promise cannot fail, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”(Calvin Ins. 4.1.9) N. T. Wright established this point even better: “If we believe it and pray, as he taught us, for God’s kingdom to come on earth as in heaven, there is no way we can rest content with major injustice in the world.”(Wright 2009: 97)

Wright rightly captured the long echoed traditional understanding of the kingdom of God,

The kingdom comes through the ministry of Jesus and the preaching of the gospel in all the world. It is both the reign and the realm of God for, although in the present age the locus of the kingdom in the world is diffuse, it is defined by the presence of Jesus at the right hand of the Father. It is both present and future until its consummation at Jesus’ return. It is also at least one possible theme by which biblical theology can be integrated. It is the focus of both creation and redemption: God’s plan of redemption is to bring in a new creation. The entire biblical story, despite its great diversity of forms and foci, is consistent in its emphasis on the reign of God over his people in the environment he creates for them. (Wright 2004, 218)

There is both futuristic and present dimension, the physical and spiritual aspect of God’s kingdom.  Christians, it’s citizens, are called to live now, caring for the poor, widows and orphanage, feeding the hungry, makers of peace as they love and bless those who prosecute them but at the same time proclaim the lordship of Christ and the hope of the future when God’s reign on earth as in heaven is restored. For Christians both now and future, physical and spiritual counts because Christ reigns over all.


Calvin, John (1949), Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge. London: J. Clarke.

Wright, N. T. (2004). Matthew  Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 16-28. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

_________________ (2009) ‘Building for the Kingdom: Our Work is Not in Vain’, in Ralph Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne (eds.), Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader 4th edn.; Pasadena: William Carey Library.

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.”