Irenaeus Condemns Heretic Marcion’s Notion of Jesus’ Descent into “Hell”

Irenaeus rebukes Marcion for holding that Can and the men of Sodom and other great sinners were saved by Jesus’ descent into “hell”:

“In addition to his blasphemy against God Himself, he advanced this also, truly speaking as with the mouth of the devil, and saying all things in direct opposition to the truth—that Cain, and those like him, and the Sodomites, and the Egyptians, and others like them, and, in fine, all the nations who walked in all sorts of abomination, were saved by the Lord, on His descending into Hades, and on their running unto Him, and that they welcomed Him into their kingdom.” From Book I, chap. 27 of his monumental Against Heresies, as found in ANF, p. 352.

Dogmatic Theology 1.4: Organic Development of Doctrine

In this podcast, I defend the place of “propositions” in theology, I discuss the Magisterium and its exercise in greater detail, and I discuss the authentic notion of organic development of doctrine, against the “evolutionary” reading of dogmatic development. The notion of dogmatic development as “evolutionary” is a war against the very faith itself. It is at bottom, wittingly or not, a Pelagian attempt to make man into the God who speaks.

Irenaeus Exposes Secret Heresies

From Book I, chap. 1 of his monumental Against Heresies, as found in ANF, p. 315:

“Inasmuch as certain men have set the truth aside, and bring in lying words and vain genealogies, which, as the apostle says, minister questions rather than godly edifying which is in faith, and by means of their craftily-constructed plausibilities draw away the minds of the inexperienced and take them captive, [I have felt constrained, my dear friend, to compose the following treatise in order to expose and counteract their machinations.] These men falsify the oracles of God, and prove themselves evil interpreters of the good word of revelation. They also overthrow the faith of many, by drawing them away, under a pretence of [superior] knowledge, from Him who rounded and adorned the universe; as if, forsooth, they had something more excellent and sublime to reveal, than that God who created the heaven and the earth, and all things that are therein. By means of specious and plausible words, they cunningly allure the simple-minded to inquire into their system; but they nevertheless clumsily destroy them, while they initiate them into their blasphemous and impious opinions respecting the Demiurge; and these simple ones are unable, even in such a matter, to distinguish falsehood from truth.

Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself. One far superior to me has well said, in reference to this point, A clever imitation in glass casts contempt, as it were, on that precious jewel the emerald (which is most highly esteemed by some), unless it come under the eye of one able to test and expose the counterfeit. Or, again, what inexperienced person can with ease detect the presence of brass when it has been mixed up with silver? Lest, therefore, through my neglect, some should be carried off, even as sheep are by wolves, while they perceive not the true character of these men,— because they outwardly are covered with sheep’s clothing (against whom the Lord has enjoined Matthew 7:15 us to be on our guard), and because their language resembles ours, while their sentiments are very different—I have deemed it my duty (after reading some of the Commentaries, as they call them, of the disciples of Valentinus, and after making myself acquainted with their tenets through personal intercourse with some of them) to unfold to you, my friend, these portentous and profound mysteries, which do not fall within the range of every intellect, because all have not sufficiently purged their brains. I do this, in order that you, obtaining an acquaintance with these things, may in turn explain them to all those with whom you are connected, and exhort them to avoid such an abyss of madness and of blasphemy against Christ. I intend, then, to the best of my ability, with brevity and clearness to set forth the opinions of those who are now promulgating heresy.”

Demons, I suppose, Were Children of God Once

This is a truly terrifying thought.

Satan was once in the friendship of God. Once, he was wrapped in the divinizing light of grace. Once, he was raised up above all nature and endowed with charity and faith.

Judas, too, was once an Apostle, entrusted with the money bag.

But now….

(By the way, no offense to lawyers.)



there reigned a pope who caused a great stir. Your waning time, kind reader, I shall spare; all a gory detail shall not be shared.

This pope signed off on a document that shook the confidence of the devout and rattled the faith of believers but won the applause of the ruling elite and of many straying bishops, in the midst of an age of confusion and rebellion, an age that loved the praise of men more than the glory of God.

The remnant faithful had, for some several decades, been defending the teaching of the faith, and doing so under duress and great adversity. These were battle weary, yet they marched forward. Families protected their children from the poisonous fumes of rebellion, fostered and dominant among political rulers and even bishops and priests.

The pope’s document shattered their confidence. It seemed on its surface a capitulation of the One True Faith, a capitulation that won the applause precisely of those who rejected or watered down that faith. Upon hearing of the pope’s document, these devout parents were devastated, heartbroken. “What to do? This is our father in the faith; he has spoken. Yet, his document undercuts precisely what the faithful have defended for decades, and what goes back to the very foundations of the Church. It touches the very worship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the Sacraments. Sure, it has good elements, but its problematic elements undercut these good elements.”

A devout priest, seeking neither title nor recognition, not hoping for ecclesiastical advancement, longing only for the courts of Our God and for the salvation of souls, the only ultimate pastoral end worthy of a cleric, reassured them. He told them,

“The gates of hell cannot prevail against the One True Church, though the gates of hell march to the very door of the Church herself. Now, you seek my counsel, my advice. Of course, do not show your young and impressionable children this document, lest they read it and be led astray. Then, their eternal salvation would be put in peril. Teach them the true faith. As they grow older, you may expose them to the shame of this document in the context of the security of knowledge of the never-changing faith. For that matter, if you have relatives insufficiently formed in the True Faith, do not expose them to this text, lest they take occasion to blaspheme Our Lord. Some of those who are adults in the faith and those who are theologians have the grace and duty to read it and, while doing so, not to let go of our Sacred Tradition.”

And so these parents did what that wise and loving priest advised. Their domestic church rendered this document another item proscribed on their wisely-constructed “Index of Forbidden Books,” along with false philosophies, degenerate literature, subtle heretical subversions of the faith by Marcion and Valentinus and Mani, confusions and mistakes of earlier theologians whom otherwise they revered greatly. Some of this literature they deemed appropriate for no one; some of it they deemed appropriate only for mature and formed readers. Now, some gainsaid the educational principles of these parents. Some insisted, with pseudo open-mindedness, that even the young and the not yet virtuous could read all such literature without harm. Dear Reader, you may agree with me in retorting, “Not so!” To drag unformed minds through difficulties without adequate preparation and guidance is like a big brother beating his younger sister. Have pity, O Man! Or do you get a thrill from watching the susceptible squirm under your care? Well, then, O Teacher!

But I say, the teacher is not the end, so as to delight in the squirming of hungry souls like sheep without a shepherd under the power of your mighty mind; rather, the Truth is the end. And Truth Exists. Truth Reigns. We are all for Truth. Hence, to stir up a young mind to an active frenzy and not to lead it to Truth, when Truth calls and beckons and is ready to feed with Ample Power… – This is no good service.

Still deeply troubled, these parents asked each other, “How could the Pope have done this?” Among the faithful, there was massive confusion. The Pope had caused grave scandal. Arguments this way and that. The pope’s name was… Liberius. He reigned in the 4th century, after the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea and before that of Constantinople.

Eventually, four ‘iterations’ of his creed made their way around. No one knew which was the creed Liberius actually signed. The best of these iterations was a creed so ambiguous that an Arian could say “yes” to it, so watered down that one could safely ignore the saving truth infallibly clarified at Nicaea. The worst iteration was a pro-Arian formulation explicitly contradicting Nicaea.

These good parents saved their children from probable ruin by ignoring each of these Liberian creeds in the domestic abode and nurturing their children in the Ancient Faith and Practice of Holy Mother Church, so crisply and authoritatively taught at Nicaea. To this day, many wise parents ignore that sad and unfortunate creed(s) of Liberius.

Perhaps, such parents could have culled good elements from this otherwise lamentable creed, such as belief in God the Father, etc. But the parents about whom this tale is told saw these good elements already taught in Nicaea. So, they remained content with their library until, in their old age, Constantinople I added authoritative, important additions, organically reaffirming the entire authoritative past and building thereon, not lopping off life-giving limbs here and there, but remaining true to the same judgment and the same sense as that pronounced in Nicaea: That of the One True Faith.

Other parents were less pessimistic (less realistic?) and did their best to interpret the objectively sad creed in accordance with the Ancient Faith, rejecting any proposed interpretation that contradicted that Faith. Such optimists  tried to stress the good points, and squeezed, out of the ambiguous statements, the stark dogma of Nicaea. Eyes perplexed, straining, and twirling…. Concerning the pro-Arian creed, even the optimists simply passed it over in silence, recognizing it as anathema, though they didn’t like to think of this.

Both types of parents sought to defend the One True Faith, and both were deeply concerned about the massive confusion among the faithful and the tragic, self-serving ways of pro-Arian bishops who took this creed as license for the very rebellion against the Faith that they had covertly supported for decades. And then there was the sack of good old Athanasius. Liberius had the gall to boast of his ousting. And there was much rejoicing of the world.

At length, after many trials, God in his Wisdom vindicated his true children. Those brave parents, in their old age, took great solace that the Nicene Creed was at last reaffirmed and even augmented at Constantinople. They had, after all, some apprehension that perhaps they should have turned off all reason, and blindly accepted the creed of Liberius. These apprehensions caused them trouble, even anguish. The pain of these apprehensions they offered up for this Vicar of Christ. Still, their apprehensions were not so significant as to disturb the deep peace they retained. After all, God had given reason. Right? Further, he called for its use, right? Finally, should they turn off all reason and listen to the latest confusing creed on Day X of year XYZ, ignoring the once authoritative statements of the past, should they not simply reject altogether the papal authority, given that on Day W of year ZZZ, some future pope could simply reverse the awful confusion of year XYZ? Is Christ even with his Church any longer? “But no!” they commanded, discerning evil spirits. “These thoughts are more confusions. The seed of the Devil. Let us simply accept the already defined faith, and offer up our pain.” When Constantinople reaffirmed what was already definitively laid out, they drank deeply of the great peace of Christ that comes, not from a mere man, not from the world, but only from God.

O Heavenly Father of us all, thank you for the courage and far-sightedness of those who trusted that, with your grace, all things are possible, including obedience to the Law that you have re-iterated for us in your Divine Son, the Law that gives life to and fattens the bones and which is a way and condition of final salvation. Not only did they obey your Law, but under great adversity they held fast to your saving Truth. Charity is born of Truth and lives only in Truth. The Truth takes flesh in real life, making right living possible, able to convert those who are sinfully alienated from God into his true lovers and friends. Let us not doubt or deny that Truth can come into the flesh of our circumstances and heal them.

Who is it that doubts that Truth has come in the flesh and still comes into the flesh of our morass, with grace sufficient to generate children of Abraham from stones of death?

Why shorten God’s legislating and judging hand? Why quench the flame of his healing love? Why deny the dignity of the freedom of the children of God? Can True Life be found by leaping from the lying sin of pessimism (“Did God say you can eat of no tree at all?”) to the defiant sin of presumption (“You shall not be judged according to any works but accepted entirely by mere faith though you sin and sin boldly”) to the anomian denial of law (“What is sin? Quid est Veritas?”)? Why cover under a bushel the Light that streams not from your face but from Christ’s, the Light that is to enlighten the darkness of the human mind (“Am I my brother’s keeper?”)?

Who is it that doubts that Truth has come in the flesh? Who is it that doubts that Truth still comes into the flesh of our morass, with grace sufficient in power to generate children of Abraham from stones of death? Shorten not the arm of God, lest his patience — meant for our conversion and not for our presumptive indulgence (Rom 2) — be likewise shortened. Let the reader understand.

St. Alphonsus Liguori on Luther and his Marriage

The words of the man of God, Alphonsus:

“Luther was now quite taken with Catherine Bora, a lady of noble family, but poor, and who, forced by poverty, embraced a religious life, without any vocation for that state, in a Convent at Misnia, and finally became Abbess. Reading one of Luther’s works, she came across his treatise on the nullity of religious vows, and requested him to visit her. He called on her frequently, and finally induced her to leave her Convent, and come to Wittemberg with him, where, devoid of all shame, he married her with great solemnity, the Elector Frederic, who constantly opposed it, being now dead; and such was the force of his example and discourses, that he soon after induced the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order (6) to celebrate his sacrilegious nuptials, likewise. Those marriages provoked that witticism of Erasmus, who said that the heresies of his day all ended, like a comedy, in marriage” (Alphonsus Liguori, History of Heresies [Dublin, 1857], p. 267).


Dogmatic Theology 1.3: Scripture and Tradition

How is the once-given Revelation passed on to you and me? God spoke to the prophets and as our Incarnate Lord, but how does that speech, how do those deeds, get passed on to you and me? How do we come to learn of them?

Through Scripture and Tradition. These are the Two Sources of Revelation. The Magisterium is the interpreter of these two sources. (Note: An earlier version stopped at about 36 minutes. Apparently, the file was too large. I’ve fixed this.)

New Title to Podcast Series: DOGMATIC THEOLOGY

A couple of suggestions regarding my podcast series have come in.

  1. That I should make the content a little more accessible. I like this suggestion. I’ll not change the past two but will change the level of future ones. The level will be for a wider audience, though the judgment informing the contents will, hopefully, be responsible and with sufficient precision and nuance.
  2. The title. I’ll change the series to DOGMATIC THEOLOGY. This title is classical.
  3. Some have suggested that I charge. It takes considerable effort to produce. I will continue to consider this suggestion, but meanwhile I am trying to accomplish my primary aim, which is to serve in the knowledge of Christ and his only Church, against the many agitations against the faith, both witting and unwitting, both outside the Church and (more treacherous) inside the Church.
  4. Spread the word. I cannot spread the word, but you can. Share the links with your friends if you think these are of help in theological formation.

Does Justin “Judge” by Preaching Truth?

The question will be raised, By preaching to his Jewish companions the Truth of Jesus as Christ and God, does he not judge their persons?

The response: Why should God bind Justin in an impossible situation? For command him to preach He our God did do. And not to render definitive judgment on the soul of another he did do. Justin can share the good news, while not rendering definitive judgment on those who are slow to or finally reject his words (see Dialogue with Trypho, chap. 9, opening lines). Yet, he knows that if he shares not the Love of Truth, he shall not be able to say “That I myself may be innocent in the day of judgment” (chap. 38).

The Gospel is a gift from God to be shared, prudently and with tact, but really and truly. To take shame in sharing it is to suggest that it is the invention of man, and what mere man could Lord a Gospel over another?