SPIRITUAL FATHERHOOD IN THE EARLY CHURCH: A BIBLICAL NOTION WITH UNBIBLICAL TRAJECTORIES

The contention of this paper is that the early church established the notion of spiritual fatherhood as an edifying and biblical depiction of ecclesial leadership, but the concept of spiritual fatherhood must be guarded from unbiblical trajectories that began with the church fathers. To defend this conclusion, writings from church fathers across multiple centuries and places will be examined. Key leaders will include Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Alexandria, Antony the Great, the Cappadocian Fathers, Ambrose, Augustine, and Gregory the Great.

After examining the writings of these church fathers, this paper will uncover three consistent themes that emerge concerning spiritual fatherhood in the early church. First, the sacramental privilege of clerical leaders will be exposed. Second, the importance of clerical instruction will be seen. Third, the power of ascetic introspection will be investigated.

These three themes provide the framework necessary for three additional observations to benefit ecclesial fatherhood in Protestant churches today. First, the Bible precludes sacramental fatherhood for spiritual leaders, especially as it relates to forgiveness of sins. Second, spiritual fathers in the church reproduce themselves through evangelistic teaching of the Word. Finally, spiritual fathers in the church guide others in the Spirit along with all the family of God in the church.

3 thoughts on “SPIRITUAL FATHERHOOD IN THE EARLY CHURCH: A BIBLICAL NOTION WITH UNBIBLICAL TRAJECTORIES”

  1. Interesting
    This seems like an interesting topic — perhaps acceptable somewhere (Ecclesiology, History of the church). Possibly not the best for SF. It might be a bit thin — but some historical interest and practical interest.

    Reply
  2. I am not clear what the
    I am not clear what the unbiblical trajectories are unless one is the sacramental fatherhood and forgiveness of sin. It doesn’t seem to be carefully developed or presented.

    Reply

Leave a Comment