Lesson 5B Preview: Selections from Irenaeus’ The Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching; the text of “The Rule of Faith”; A Video on “The Rule of Faith”;  Prof. Michael Haykin lectures on “The Roman Empire and Irenaeus of Lyons”

Selections from Irenaeus’ The Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching

“1. Knowing, my beloved Marcianus, your desire to walk in godliness, which alone leads man to life eternal, I rejoice with you and make my prayer that you may preserve your faith entire and so be pleasing to God who made you. Would that it were possible for us to be always together, to help each other and to lighten the labor of our earthly life by continual discourse together on the things that profit. But, since at this present time we are parted from one another in the body, yet according to our power we will not fail to speak with you a little by writing, and to show forth in brief the preaching of the truth for the confirmation of your faith…

Now, since man is a living being compounded of soul and flesh, he must needs exist by both of these: and, whereas from both of them offences come, purity of the flesh is the restraining abstinence from all shameful things and all unrighteous deeds, and purity of the soul is the keeping faith towards God entire, neither adding thereto nor diminishing therefrom. For godliness is obscured and dulled by the soiling and the staining of the flesh, and is broken and polluted and no more entire, if falsehood enter into the soul: but it will keep itself in its beauty and its measure, when truth is constant in the soul and purity in the flesh. For what profit is it to know the truth in words, and to pollute the flesh and perform the works of evil? Or what profit can purity of the flesh bring, if truth be not in the soul? For these rejoice with one another, and are united and allied to bring man face to face with God. Wherefore the Holy Spirit says by David: Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly: that is, the counsel of the nations which know not God: for those are ungodly who worship not the God that truly is. And therefore the Word says to Moses: I am He that is; but they that worship not the God that is, these are the ungodly. And hath not stood in the way of sinners: but sinners are those who have the knowledge of God and keep not His commandments; that is, disdainful scorners. And hath not sat in the seat of the pestilential: now the pestilential are those who by wicked and perverse doctrines corrupt not themselves only, but others also. For the seat is a symbol of teaching. Such then are all heretics: they sit in the seats of the pestilential, and those are corrupted who receive the venom of their doctrine…

5. Thus then there is shown forth  One God, the Father, not made, invisible, creator of all things; above whom there is no other God, and after whom there is no other God. And, since God is rational, therefore by (the) Word He created the things that were made; and God is Spirit, and by (the) Spirit He adorned all things: as also the prophet says: By the word of the Lord were the heavens established, and by his spirit all their power. Since then the Word establishes, that is to say, gives body and grants the reality of being, and the Spirit gives order and form to the diversity of the powers; rightly and fittingly is the Word called the Son, and the Spirit the Wisdom of God…

This then is the order of the rule of our faith, and the foundation of the building, and the stability of our conversation: God, the Father, not made, not material, invisible; one God, the creator of all things: this is the first point of our faith. The second point is: The Word of God, Son of God, Christ Jesus our Lord, who was manifested to the prophets according to the form of their prophesying and according to the method of the dispensation of the Father: through whom all things were made; who also at the end of the times, to complete and gather up all things, was made man among men, visible and tangible, in order to abolish death and show forth life and produce a community of union between God and man. And the third point is: The Holy Spirit, through whom the prophets prophesied, and the fathers learned the things of God, and the righteous were led forth into the way of righteousness; and who in the end of the times was poured out in a new way upon mankind in all the earth, renewing man unto God. [my emphasis]

The Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching continues…

The Rule of Faith: According to Henry Chadwick, author of The Early Church, the Rule of Faith is a summary statement, essentially the earliest creed, that served both Irenaeus and Tertullian in their doctrinal battles with heretics, especially the Gnostics. Chadwick describes it as a “summary of the main revelatory events of the redemptive process” (44). (See the above passage in bold type.) This video offers a reading of the Rule of Faith following a brief overview.


The Encyclopedia Britannica provided the above photo.

A Bonus: another audio lecture from the church historian, Michael Haykin. Dr. Michael Anthony George Haykin , as you learned in lesson 1B, is currently Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  The lecture is titled The Roman Empire and Irenaeus of Lyons (click here). Prof. Haykin provides information on the Roman and Greek cultures and Gnosticism, information you may have never heard before. You don’t want to miss this exciting presentation! Be patient if there is a blank segment for 5-10 seconds. The lecture will pick up again.

You will also hear Dr. Haykin’s reference to The Epistle to Diognetus in his audio lecture. If you would like a full text of this letter and more information on this very early Christian apology, click here.

Bible Verses for Reflection: Exodus 6:6; Matt 11:29-30Gal 6: 1-5;

A Quote for Your Consideration: “…man is responsible for his sin, or [is] a sinner…, in spite of the fact that he is misled into sin and held captive in it by the devil…the proper seat of sin, is the soul (intellect and will) of man, though the body shares in his sin, since it is the organ of the soul. To regard the soul as pure and the body as polluted is a pagan error (Gnosticism).” (John Theodore Mueller, Christian Dogmatics, 215).

Questions for discussion:

1. Turning to the Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching, cite those statements of Irenaeus which you believe could be used in countering the Christological claims of Gnostics.

2. According to Irenaeus, who are the “pestilential” and what do they cause?

3. According to the video on the Rule of Faith, who originally “recorded” the Rule? As you read it, did you discern an underlying theological emphasis, perhaps more than one, that ties to our discussions of orthodoxy and heterodoxy in the second century?

4. In your Sunday School class, a member asks, “why did the Church Fathers think a Rule of Faith was necessary? Couldn’t they simply read passages from the Bible to new believers?” How will you respond to this question?

5. A Sunday School participant asks “If we grant that the devil exists and is the cause of evil in the world, why should man be held responsible for the bad things he does when the devil has a lot more power and can make him do whatever he wants?” What will you say to this student?

6. The Great Fire of Rome, under Emperor Nero, is discussed by Haykin. Years later the Roman historian Tacitus describes these events. What do we learn of early Christians as viewed by this pagan historian?

7. Haykin discusses the word “pagan“. What insight can we gain, according to Haykin, into the early social impact of the spreading Gospel message by studying this word and its usage?

8. How did the typical Gnostic view suffering and possible martyrdom for Christ and the Faith, according to Haykin?


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