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List of the Holy Fathers?


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#1 Timothy Mulligan

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 05:18 PM

I am assuming that there is a list of the Fathers of the Church. Could someone link to a list on the Web? Of course, the more authoritative, the better.

Thanks!

#2 Jeremy Troy

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 06:19 PM

There is no such list that I'm aware of. There may be a list of authors who are definitely among the Holy Fathers (Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom, John of Damascus, etc.). But there are some saints who are considered Holy Fathers by some but not by others (Theophan the Recluse, Nilus of sora, etc.). There are no authoritative criteria for calling one saint a Father of the Church and others not.

#3 Kosta

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 05:23 AM

I would have to agree with Jeremy Troy. Things get especially sticky when we analyze the pre-Nicene fathers. Should Origen be considered a church Father or a heretic? Even if he is a condemned heretic does this mean his writings have no value? How about less known christian authors whose writings are known to us from papyrus fragments? Tertullian is considered a church Father yet his later writings are heretical. Eusebius the historian is a valuable christian witness, yet he was an arian.
Then there are saints who probably should not fall under the heading of a Church Father such as Augustine possibly even St Isaac the Syrian etc.

#4 Rick H.

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 12:38 PM

There are no authoritative criteria for calling one saint a Father of the Church and others not.


Is this true?

When I read things like St. Theophan, I just assumed he is a saint in "the church."

This is an eye opener.

#5 Jeremy Troy

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 07:44 PM

St. Theophan is a saint in the Church. That's not the same as saying the he's a Church Father (which I think he is). "Church Father" is a special title that some authors are informally given when their writings (at least some of them) have had a significant impact on the theology of the Orthodox Church and have been trusted over time to contain Orthodox truths. It is not a title that is given to all saints, nor is it a title that is given to only saints (as we can see, perhaps, in the cases of Tertullian, Lactantius, etc.). It is also not a title that is applied evenly and without controversy in some cases.

#6 Rick H.

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 08:54 PM

Thanks for explaining that Jeremy. I guess I never really gave it much thought.

I'm starting to like uncertainty and ambiquity now. :) It really is easier. In fact, I'm starting to think there is bliss in uncertainty.

#7 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 09:02 PM

What uncertainty? I know with certainty those I acknowledge as Fathers of the Church and I can certainly acknowledge that your list might be a little different than mine. I can be certain in the love of Christ and that if I keep knocking the door will be opened. I am certain that as I walk with Christ the things I may be uncertain about will be resolved. It is not about uncertainty but it is about mystery. They are not the same thing at least in the admittedly liitle brain of this particular pooh.

Herman the certain Pooh

#8 Timothy Mulligan

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 09:20 PM

It is not a title that is given to all saints, nor is it a title that is given to only saints (as we can see, perhaps, in the cases of Tertullian, Lactantius, etc.).


I heard (on "Search the Scriptures" on Ancient Faith Radio) that the title of Father of the Church is only given to saints. That is one of the criteria. There were about four mentioned, including the Father's learning.

#9 Jeremy Troy

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Posted 29 September 2011 - 12:36 AM

Well, I'm sure that the person you were listening to on AFR knows more about this than me, so they're probably right.

Herman, there is some uncertainty for me. Mostly because I don't know who I "acknowledge as Fathers of the Church", nor do I think that it's my place to acknowledge anyone as a Father of the Church apart from the Church's acknowledging them as such. I'm not a theologian or a Church historian, and any list of "Fathers of the Church" that I could make would accidentally exclude some authors whose place on such a list should be non-controversial (another St. John of Damascus who I just haven't been exposed to). This doesn't mean that I don't "acknowledge" them; it just means that I don't know who they are!

#10 Kosta

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Posted 29 September 2011 - 03:33 AM

I heard (on "Search the Scriptures" on Ancient Faith Radio) that the title of Father of the Church is only given to saints. That is one of the criteria. There were about four mentioned, including the Father's learning.


I would say this is a good rule of thumb for the post Nicene Fathers; along with Jeremy;s clarification that their writings have had a theological impact, i would also add that the label tends to apply to saints who were bishops (st John of Damascus being an exception). Never heard of St. Justinian the emperor being considered a church father even though he took an active theological role in the 5th ecumenical council. Nor have i ever come across St Romanos the melodist be considered a church father, on the other hand St Andrew bishop of Crete also a hymnographer seems to fall under the label of Church Father. In the west St. Augustine is a doctor of the church, but since his theology is amiss in many areas its best he not be considered a church Father in Orthodoxy.

Of course the above characterization cannot apply to the pre-nicene fathers many of whom are not recognized saints. The fragments of Claudius Apollinaris of hierapolis are quite important but as far as i know he is not a saint. How about Clement of Alexandria or Aristides or Hegesipus etc. Perhaps thats why some make a distinction and refer to 2nd and 3rd century fathers as Apostolic Fathers while the Nicene Fathers are called Church Fathers.

It definately not something thats clearly black and white but we can decipher certain factors for the designation.

#11 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 29 September 2011 - 02:09 PM

Well, I'm sure that the person you were listening to on AFR knows more about this than me, so they're probably right.

Herman, there is some uncertainty for me. Mostly because I don't know who I "acknowledge as Fathers of the Church", nor do I think that it's my place to acknowledge anyone as a Father of the Church apart from the Church's acknowledging them as such. I'm not a theologian or a Church historian, and any list of "Fathers of the Church" that I could make would accidentally exclude some authors whose place on such a list should be non-controversial (another St. John of Damascus who I just haven't been exposed to). This doesn't mean that I don't "acknowledge" them; it just means that I don't know who they are!


Not sure how important that is. As long as a reputable source acknowledges a certain author as a "Father", then that "Father" is worth reading. I believe it is more of an honorific than anything else. Different Churches (Greek/Russian/Etc.) recognize some of the same "Fathers" but also recognize others as "Fathers" that the other churches might not be so familiar with. It means that what they write can be trusted to correctly reflect the mind of the Church.

It is worth remembering that the Church is a living thing. There are people today who eventually may be added to the list by future generations as "Church Fathers". We are not a historical society or a museum. We are the dynamic, living Body of Christ. New saints and "Fathers" (and "Mothers") are being "created". So the list is not complete, nor, God willing, will it ever be until Christ comes in Glory.

Finally, if you are really concerned about who is or is not considered a "Church Father", spend as much time reading and learning the prayers and hymnody of the Church. Start with the major feasts, then look to the prokimens for a particular saint you are interested in. If the terms "teacher of the Church" or "defender of the Faith" or "theologian" are in there, that person is probably on somebody's list.

Or so it seems to this bear of little brain.

Herman the not on anybody's list Pooh

#12 Jeremy Troy

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Posted 29 September 2011 - 07:53 PM

I agree with all of that. :)

#13 Timothy Mulligan

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 04:55 PM

Eugenia Constantinou, who hosts Search the Scriptures on Ancient Faith Radio, says that these are the general standards accepted by the Orthodox Church for recognizing Fathers:

1. Brilliance of mind.

2. Orthodoxy of doctrine.

3. Holiness of life: he died as a saint.

4. Catholicity: he must have belonged to the Church, and must not have died a schismatic.

The relevant podcast is here:

http://ancientfaith....hurch_fathers_3

#14 Richard A. Downing

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 06:36 PM

So when we pray: "Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers,...", who are we expecting to pray for us?

My own answer is: All those who helped form the understanding of the Orthodox faith that has come down to us today. It's not a list, I know, but since Christ knows who they are, I don't have to. It probably includes all those in the usual reading lists, and the bishops of the councils, a few emperors, but a whole heap more, some of whom we have probably lost all record of.

Love, Richard.

#15 Ken McRae

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 08:25 PM

... there are saints who probably should not fall under the heading of a Church Father such as Augustine ...


Unless you want to contradict an Ecumenical Council, then Augustine is numbered among the Holy Fathers, according to the following:-

The Fifth Ecumenical Council on St. Augustine — Classical Christianity -- http://classicalchri...l-on-augustine/

The Fifth Ecumenical Council Constantinople II 553

We further declare that we hold fast to the decrees of the four Councils, and in every way follow the holy Fathers, Athanasius, Hilary, Basil, Gregory the Theologian, Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose, Theophilus, John (Chrysostom) of Constantinople, Cyril, Augustine, Proclus, Leo and their writings on the true faith. (Session 1 – Extracts from the Acts: Emperor Justinian’s Letter Read Before the Fathers)
For with us the holy multitude of the supernal spirits adore one Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover several letters of Augustine, of most religious memory, who shone forth resplendent among the African bishops, were read, showing that it was quite right that heretics should be anathematized after death. And this ecclesiastical tradition, the other most reverend bishops of Africa have preserved: and the holy Roman Church as well had anathematized certain bishops after their death, although they had not been accused of any falling from the faith during their lives: and of each we have the evidence in our hands. (The Sentence of the Synod)

Wherefore on account of our desire that you, my brothers, should know what we have done in this matter, we make it known to you by this letter. For no one can doubt how many were the discussions raised on account of the Three Chapters, that is, concerning Theodore, sometime bishop of Mopsuestia, and his writings, as well as concerning the writings of Theodoret, and concerning that letter which is said to have been written by Ibas to Maris the Persian: and how diverse were the things spoken and written concerning these Three Chapters. Now if in every business sound wisdom demands that there should be a retractation of what was propounded after examination, there ought to be no shame when what was at first omitted is made public after it is discovered by a further study of the truth. [And if this is the case in ordinary affairs] how much more in ecclesiastical strifes should the same dictate of sound reason be observed?

Especially since it is manifest that our Fathers, and especially the Blessed Augustine, who was in very truth illustrious in the Divine Scriptures, and a master in Roman eloquence, retracted some of his own writings, and corrected some of his own sayings, and added what he had omitted and afterward found out. We, led by their example never gave over the study of the questions raised by the controversy with regard to the before-mentioned Three Chapters, nor our search for passages in the writings of our Fathers which were applicable to the matter. (The Decretal Letter of Pope Vigilius in Confirmation of the Fifth Synod)

#16 Ken McRae

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 09:34 PM

In the west St. Augustine is a doctor of the church, but since his theology is amiss in many areas its best he not be considered a church Father in Orthodoxy.


Blessed Augustine of Hippo. His Place in the Orthodox Church: A Corrective
http://faculty.georg...e/bless_aug.htm

Watch "What is Salvation?" - By Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Antiochian Orthodox Priest || YouTube Video (English)
https://youtu.be/o2LzFp7cFPQ

Watch this video between 0:54-2:34, where Fr Reardon insists that Blessed Augustine is one of the Holy Fathers; and he criticized Father John Romanides, saying it's a huge mistake for Orthodox seminaries to teach from the books of Fr Romanides.

#17 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 10:41 PM

I wonder if the idea of a list, which rather suggests who's in and who's out, is really an Orthodox notion. Today is the Feast of St Silouan the Athonite; is he a Church Father? I guess he must be.



#18 Ken McRae

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Posted 25 September 2017 - 11:58 AM

My daughter was born St. Silouan's feast day. She turned 21 yesterday; but in regard to whether or not St. Silouan is a "Church father," I am inclined to say he isn't.

According to blessed Elder Sophrony, St. Silouan was barely literate, though he was a great saint and master ascetic for our times. No question about that much.

#19 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 25 September 2017 - 08:54 PM

Analysis St Augustine's 'place' in the Church is complex: on the one hand he was highly regarded in much of the West (hence Vigilius' speaking of him as a holy father), though not Gaul, for his efforts against Pelagius and for his biblical commentaries; on the other hand much of his Theology relies on his own reasoning and departs from the teachings of the Holy Fathers. I think that though in general we ought to hide rather than expose the nakedness of the saints to paraphrase an expression, the controversy around St Augustine and the influence of his works requires us to examine and when necessary criticise and condemn his teachings. The primary concerns therefore regarding him are: his teaching regarding the Trinity which departs from the understanding of the Church being an exercise in Neo-Platonism, and his Soteriology i.e. the fall of man and how we are saved both as a whole in Christ's incarnation and the life of each of us. To a lesser degree also the notion of created visions in the Old Testament, his division of the Church militant and triumphant, and his proto-psychoanalysis, all of which influenced (negatively) later Western thought.  

 

In regard to the Fifth Council the most pious Emperor's opinion is to be respected but should not be taken view as representing that of the Fathers of the Fifth Ecumenical council as a whole, indeed I doubt most had read anything by St Augustine prior to hearing the letters read at the council let alone enough to form an opinion. The main reference to Augustine was in regards to his approval of posthumously anathematising heretics and he is not spoken of as amongst the Holy Fathers but only 'Augustine, of most religious memory, who shone forth resplendent among the African bishops'. 

 

St Augustine upon hearing the words of our Holy Father Ambrose (the western St Basil) converted from a life of apostate intemperance in Manichaeanism and turned back to Christ. His repentance and care for his flock mark him out as a saint but not in my view as a Holy Father. If we look to St Vincent of Lerins he sets out what it is to hold to the Orthodox Catholic* faith in his Commonitorium (which may have been written against St Augustine's Soteriology) which is to hold fast to that 'believed everywhere, always and by all'. When we read the Fathers of the Church there are times when they are giving merely their opinion in which they could be in error but as a whole they set out that 'believed everywhere, always and by all'. The same cannot be said about St Augustine rather he gives opinions on a great deal of matters which contradict the Apostolic Faith. To me this is the test of St Augustine and anyone else as to whether they should be numbered amongst the Holy Fathers; which is why I honour him as a saint but not as a father of the church.

* I.e. Universal, the title Catholic properly belongs to the Orthodox Church which holds fast to that 'believed everywhere, always and by all' not to the papal heretics. 

 

P.S. I feel I must make a comment regarding the video by Father Patrick Reardon. Having watched it I have found the Christology he sets out in it is deeply deeply heretical and entirely contradictory to the Orthodox Faith as set out in Holy Ecumenical Councils. I would not recommend watching it to anyone. 

 

 

In Christ.

Daniel,



#20 Ken McRae

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Posted 26 September 2017 - 01:23 AM

Blessed Augustine of Hippo. His Place in the Orthodox Church: A Corrective http://faculty.georg...e/bless_aug.htm


Saint Augustine in the Greek Orthodox Tradition - Theology || Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
https://www.goarch.o...orthodox-chur-1

The following is quoted from the above article:-

The celebrated theologian of the eighteenth century, Nikodemos the Hagiorite, included the name of Saint Augustine in the Synaxaristes (the book of the saints). He states the following: "In memory of our father among the saints, Augustine, Bishop of Hippo."[31] And he includes two verses as follows: "You were enflamed by the love of God, you demonstrated to be all splendid, blessed Augustine."[32]

Nikodemos refers to Augustine as the "divine and holy" (Theios kai ieros), writing that Augustine is a great teacher and theologian of "great fame in the Church of Christ." Nikodemos praises him for the great number of books he authored. However, he regrets that very few have been translated into Greek for the spiritual benefit and edification of the Greek Orthodox people. He says we are deprived (sterometha) of the spiritual wealth of these valuable writings.[33]

Subsequent to Nikodemos the name of Saint Augustine appears in the book of saints and also in the calendar (June 15) both in Greece and Russia.

In the modern patrology and dogmatic handbooks of the Orthodox writers, Augustine is included. He is given equal space as a father and hierarch of the Church and is praised for his great number of writings and for his depth.[34]

Also, the philosophy of Saint Augustine has been praised and analyzed by modern Greek Orthodox thinkers such as Constantine Logothetis and Ioannis Theodorakopoulos.[35]

Eusebius Stephanou wrote several years ago that Saint Augustine must be reinstated in his rightful place within the Church. Only in Orthodoxy can his thought be objectively evaluated because of the western errors based on his thought.[36]

Other Greek Orthodox theologians found Saint Augustine to be an Orthodox theologian-philosopher. Recent works that are sympathetic to Saint Augustine were promoted by Metropolitan Bishop Augustinos Kantiotes of Northern Greece. A symposium was held in Thessalonike and three small volumes were published that extol the works and teachings of Saint Augustine. These circulated for popular consumption.[37] Another book claims that "Saint Augustine belongs to the universal undivided Church of Christ, equally to the West as well as to the East, because he lived before the schism."[38]

Conclusion

In reviewing the Greek Orthodox literature we see that the Greek Orthodox theologians are very critical of Augustine and his errors. Nowhere, however, did we find evidence in the patristic writings for the claim that his name should be eliminated from the list of the saints.

Beginning with Photios, generally, the Greek Orthodox perceive Augustine as a saint whose doctrines have been deformed or distorted by the West and that as a human being he erred on certain teachings. As Greek Orthodox we reverence the person of Saint Augustine. The view of Vladimir Lossky is that, through a better understanding of Augustine by the East, it is possible to bridge the two positions in theology. To quote Lossky:

"Reconciliation will be possible and the filioque will no longer be an impedimentum dirmens at the moment when the West, which has been frozen for so long in dogmatic isolation, ceases to consider Byzantine theology as an absurd innovation which can be found in a less explicit form in the Fathers of the first centuries of the Church."[46]

I would like to conclude with the Dismissal Hymn chanted in the Orthodox Church on June 15, the Feast of Saint Augustine:

"O blessed Augustine, you have been proved to be a bright vessel of the divine Spirit and revealer of the city of God; you have also righteously served the Saviour as a wise hierarch who has received God. O righteous father, pray to Christ God that he may grant to us great mercy."[47]




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