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Historical Reference:
402 History of the Early Church

Changes in 4th Century Theology – Determinism, Divorce

The Value of Historical Awareness
Introduction to the Early Church
The Apostolic Church, a House Church System
Fourth Century Changes in Church Meetings
Other Major Changes of the Post-Apostolic Church
Ideological Competitors of Early Christianity
Changes in 4th Century Theology – The Gospel
Changes in 4th Century Theology – Church and State
The Apostolic Church vs. Greek Mysticism
Changes in 4th Century Theology – Determinism, Divorce
Conclusions, Does God Care About These Changes?

Changes in Fourth Century, Christian Theology – Divine Determination of Destiny

Now that we have established what the earliest church believed and what the Gnostics believed, we can identify another major deviation that engulfed the church during the fourth century.

We have already seen that men like Origen and Augustine embraced the Gnostic teaching that the physical world was evil and that salvation meant leaving this earthly world behind. As a result of his embrace of Neo-Platonism and Gnosticism, Augustine discarded the version of the gospel taught by the earliest church. He replaced the gospel of the coming earthly Messianic kingdom with an allegorical kingdom where the saints receive an eternal, heavenly inheritance. The Reformers all followed Augustine and Origen in the rejection of the Jewish and apostolic church’s understanding of the gospel of an earthy kingdom. Instead, the Reformation continued to uphold the fourth century version of the gospel that fit with Greek mystical ideas of salvation as an escape from our material existence to a heavenly destiny.

Amillennialism –
Amillennialism (Latin: a- "no" + millennialism)…rejection of the theory that Jesus Christ will have a…physical reign on the earth…
none of the available Church Fathers advocate amillennialism in the first century… With the influence of Neo-Platonism and dualism, Clement of Alexandria and Origen denied premillennialism…Origen's idealizing tendency to consider only the spiritual as real led him to combat the "rude" or "crude" Chiliasm of a physical and sensual beyond.

Eschatology, Eschatology in religions of the West, Post-Biblical Christianity, The views of Augustine –
The literalistic descriptions…found in such apocalyptic works as the Book of Revelation were interpreted allegorically by Augustine…Augustine's allegorical millennialism became the official doctrine of the church, and apocalypticism went underground…
Encyclopedia Britannica

Amillennialism –
Amillennialism was the dominant view of the Protestant Reformers. The Lutheran Church formally rejected chiliasm in the The Augsburg Confession— “Art. XVII., condemns the Anabaptists and others ’who now scatter Jewish opinions that, before the resurrection of the dead, the godly shall occupy the kingdom of the world, the wicked being everywhere suppressed.’" Likewise, the Swiss Reformer, Heinrich Bullinger wrote up the Second Helvetic Confession which reads "We also reject the Jewish dream of a millennium, or golden age on earth, before the last judgment."

Premillennialism – (Redirected from Chiliasm)
The Anglican Church originally formalized a statement against millennarianism in the Anglican Articles. This is observed in the 41st of the Anglican Articles, drawn up by Thomas Cranmer (1553), described the millennium as a 'fable of Jewish dotage.'

Along with this rejection of a coming earthly Messianic kingdom, Augustine and the Reformers after him all have taught the views of Greek mysticism and Gnosticism: 1) that all men are born evil, 2) that some men are fated by God to be saved while others, by God’s choice, are not, and 3) that salvation is not attained through a rational, objective consideration or contemplation of evidence and a man’s free choice to believe and obey. Instead, they taught that salvation can only come from a direct, inward, subjective, divine illumination that does not involve man’s consideration or choice.

Platonism, Platonism in the world of revealed religions - Augustinian Platonism –
In his epistemology Augustine was Neoplatonic, especially in the subjectivity of his doctrine of illumination—
in its insistence that in spite of the fact that God is exterior to man, men's minds are aware of him because of his direct action on them…and not as the result of reasoning from sense experience. For a Platonist…Sense experience, therefore…cannot be a basis for metaphysical or religious thinking. This must be the result of the presence in the soul of higher realities and their action upon it. In Plotinus the illumination of the soul by…the One was the permanent cause of man's ability to know eternal reality; and Augustine was at this point very close to Plotinus.
Encyclopedia Britannica

The following quotes all recap the historical fact that Reformation and modern theology are founded on Augustine’s teachings.

Augustine –
perhaps the most significant Christian thinker after St. Paul.
Augustine's adaptation of classical thought to Christian teaching created a theological system of great power and lasting influence…shaped the practice of biblical exegesis and helped lay the foundation for much of medieval and modern Christian thought…
Encyclopedia Britannica

Augustine, Saint –
St. Augustine's influence on Christianity is thought by many to be second only to that of St. Paul, and theologians, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, look upon him as one of the founders of Western theology.

Columbia Encyclopedia

Teaching of St. Augustine of Hippo –
Protestant as well as Catholic, are almost unanimous in placing St. Augustine in the foremost rank of Doctors and proclaiming him to be the greatest of the Fathers

The Catholic Encyclopedia

Patristic Literature (Christianity) –
In the 4th and 5th centuries, Augustine of Hippo and others laid the foundation for much of medieval and modern Christian thought.
Encyclopedia Britannica

Eschatology, Eschatology in religions of the West, Post-Biblical Christianity, The views of Augustine –
…the doctrine of Augustine remained unchallenged until the 17th century. The Protestant Reformers of the Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anglican traditions were not apocalypticists but remained firmly attached to the views of Augustine, for whose theology they felt a particular affinity…
Encyclopedia Britannica

Premillennialism – (Redirected from Chiliasm)
Augustine’s (354-430) influence shaped not only the Middle Ages, but it also influenced the Reformers.

Since Augustine borrowed so heavily from Neo-Platonism and Gnosticism and since Reformation Theology relies so heavily on Augustine, it is no surprise to see Reformation scholars and Reformation documents paralleling Gnostic teaching. Below are some references discussing how Augustine, in true Gnostic fashion, incorporated these pagan mystical teachings that he was so fond of into Christian theology.
Teaching of St. Augustine of Hippo, II. HIS SYSTEM OF GRACE –
Only those are the elect for whom God chooses the invitation which is foreseen to be efficacious, but God could convert them all…
Is there in this a vestige of an irresistible grace or of that impulse against which it is impossible to fight, forcing some to good, and others to sin and hell?
The Catholic Encyclopedia

Teaching of St. Augustine of Hippo, II. HIS SYSTEM OF GRACE –
…St. Augustine has remarked that man is not the master of his first thoughts; he can exert an influence on the course of his reflections, but he himself cannot determine…consequently, the motives…it is God who determines at His pleasure these first perceptions of men, either by
the prepared providential action of exterior causes, or interiorly by a Divine illumination given to the soul… God, therefore, can, at His pleasure, obtain the salvation of Judas, if He wishes, or let Peter go down to perdition. No freedom, as a matter of fact, will resist what He has planned…Consequently, it is God alone, in His perfect independence, who determines, by the choice of such a motive or such an inspiration…whether the will is going to decide for good or for evil.
The Catholic Encyclopedia

Teaching of St. Augustine of Hippo – II. HIS SYSTEM OF GRACE –
…It is therefore prior to any merit of Peter, or any fault of Judas, that God decided to give them the graces which saved Peter and not Judas…Why did not God, seeing that another grace would have saved Judas, give it to him? Faith can only answer, with Augustine: O Mystery!
The Catholic Encyclopedia

Predestination – History of the doctrine – Church Fathers on the doctrine –
The early church fathers consistently uphold the freedom of human choice. This position was crucial in the Christian confrontation with Cynicism and some of the chief forms of Gnosticism, such as Manichaeism, which taught that man is by nature flawed and therefore not responsible for evil in himself or in the world.
At the same time, belief in human responsibility to do good as a precursor to salvation and eternal reward was consistent...The early church Fathers taught a doctrine of conditional predestination...Conditional Predestination, or more commonly referred to as conditional election, is a theological stance stemming from the writings and teachings of Jacobus Arminius, after whom Arminianism is named... Augustine of Hippo marks the beginning of a system of thought that denies free will and affirms that salvation needs an initial input by God in the life of every person. While his early writings affirm that God's predestinating grace is granted on the basis of his foreknowledge of the human desire to pursue salvation, this changed after 396. His later position affirmed the necessity of God granting grace in order for the desire for salvation to be awakened.

Original sin –
in Christian theology, the sin of Adam, by which all humankind fell from divine grace. Saint Augustine was the fundamental theologian in the formulation of this doctrine,
Columbia Encyclopedia

Original Sin, I. MEANING –
Original sin may be taken to mean:… the hereditary stain with which we are born on account of our origin or descent from Adam…[this] sense of the word…may be seen by St. Augustine's statement: "the deliberate sin of the first man is the cause of original sin" (De nupt. et concup., II, xxvi, 43). It is the hereditary stain that is dealt with here.
The Catholic Encyclopedia

The following quotes from Reformation theologians are simply restatements of Augustinian teaching. Like Augustine and the Gnostics, these Greek mystical ideas are explained in Christianized language. In each quote we can see how Reformation theology directly follows Augustine’s adoption of Gnostic teaching. Unlike the apostolic church, Reformation Theology asserts that all men are born wicked by nature, that salvation is not available to all men, that salvation comes through a direct, inward, subjective, imputation from God. Salvation cannot be attained through rational inquiry or objective and reasonable contemplation of evidence or biblical teaching. Likewise, Reformation theologians teach that salvation is not the result of man’s free choice and ability to believe, repent, and obey. And they hold that God sovereignly destines some men to be saved and others not to be saved without regard for man’s will or what a man’s choices or actions deserve. And they teach that for those who are divinely destined to be saved by God’s sovereign choice and not their own will or merit, salvation is certain and cannot be lost due to discontinued belief or later disobedience.

Predestination -
predestination in theology, doctrine that asserts that God predestines from eternity the salvation of certain souls. So-called double predestination, as in Calvinism , is the added assertion that God also foreordains certain souls to damnation...St. Augustine's interpretation of the doctrine has been the fountainhead for most subsequent versions, both Protestant and Roman Catholic.
Columbia Encyclopedia

Free Will -
free will in philosophy, the doctrine that an individual, regardless of forces external to him, can and does choose at least some of his actions. The existence of free will is challenged by determinism A denial of free will was implicit in Plato 's argument...Martin Luther and John Calvin both followed Augustine's doctrine of predestination,
Columbia Encyclopedia

In the first quotes below we can even see how Reformed pastor R.C. Sproul of St. Andrew’s Chapel and Ligonier Ministries, condemns those who hold to the same views as the apostolic church (Arminians) and criticizes that they are embracing New Testament Judaism.

R.C. Sproul is host of the daily radio program Renewing Your Mind, author of more than sixty books, founder and president of Ligonier Ministries, and senior minister at St. Andrews Chapel, Lake Mary, Florida.

Dr. R. C. Sproul, theologian, pastor, and teacher is chairman of the board of Ligonier Ministries and can be heard teaching daily on the "Renewing Your Mind" radio broadcast on more than 300 radio outlets in the United States and throughout 120 countries. He holds degrees from Westminster College, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, the Free University of Amsterdam, and Whitefield Theological Seminary. He has written more than 50 books and has authored scores of magazine articles for evangelical publications. Besides serving on the council of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Dr. Sproul currently teaches at several seminaries.

Saint Andrew's Chapel is a confessional church whose system of doctrine is formulated in the Westminster Confession of Faith. The Westminster Confession adopts a theology that may be defined as catholic, evangelical and reformed…This is a brief summary of the articles contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith.
R.C. Sproul, saintandrewschapel.org

What is the source and status of faith? Is it the God-given means whereby the God-given justification is received? Or is it a condition of justification which is left to us to fulfill? Is your faith a work? Is it the one work that God leaves for you to do? I had a discussion with some folks in Grand Rapids, Michigan, recently. I was speaking on sola gratia, and one fellow was upset…And after we discussed this for fifteen minutes, he said, "OK! I'll say it. I'm a Christian because I did the right thing, I made the right response, and my friend didn't." What was this person trusting in for his salvation? Not in his works in general, but in the one work that he performed…It is no wonder then that later Reformed theology condemned Arminianism…because, in effect, it turned faith into a meritorious work, and a betrayal of the Reformation… Arminianism was indeed, in Reformed eyes, a renunciation of New Testament Christianity in favor of New Testament Judaism…For to rely on oneself for faith is no different in principle than to rely on oneself for works, and the one is as un-Christian and anti-Christian as the other.
R.C. Sproul, Modern Reformation, Vol 10, Number 3 (May/June 2001), pp. 22-29., The Pelagian Captivity of the Church

Westminster Confession –
According to the confession, the doctrine of the eternal decree (predestination) is that ‘some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death,’

Encyclopedia Britannica

Augustine, Saint –
From his writings the great controversies on grace proceed, and as professed followers of Augustine, John Calvin…developed predestinarian theologies.

Columbia Encyclopedia

Calvinism –
The religious doctrines of John Calvin.
Calvin stressed that people are saved through God’s grace, not through their own merits. The most famous of Calvin’s ideas is his doctrine of predestination
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy

Calvinism –
The five chief points of Calvinism are:… the total depravity of the natural man, which renders it morally impossible to believe and turn to God of his own free will
Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

Calvinism –
…the name of that system of doctrine accepted by the Reformed churches (see Presbyterianism), i.e., the Protestant churches…Early Calvinism…its rigid doctrine of predestination, in its notion of grace as irresistible, and in its theocratic view of the state…Calvinism, stressing the absolute sovereignty of God’s will, held that only those whom God specifically elects are saved,
that this election is irresistible, and that individuals can do nothing to effect this salvation. This strict Calvinism was challenged by Jacobus Arminius, whose more moderate views were adopted by the Methodists and the Baptists.”
The Columbia Encyclopedia

It is Augustine who gave us the Reformation…Luther was an Augustinian monk…Calvin quoted Augustine more than any other theologian…the Reformation witnessed the ultimate triumph of Augustine's doctrine of grace over the legacy of the Pelagian view of man. Humanism, in all its subtle forms, recapitulates the unvarnished Pelagianism against which Augustine struggled. Though Pelagius was condemned as a heretic by Rome, and its modified form, Semi-Pelagianism was likewise condemned by the Council of Orange in 529, the basic assumptions of this view persisted throughout church history to reappear in…Arminianism…The seminal thought of Pelagius survives today not as a trace or tangential influence but is pervasive in the modern church. Indeed, the modern church is held captive by it.
R.C. Sproul, Augustine and Pelagius, monergism.org

Briefly, total depravity declares that all men are…morally unable to incline himself to God, or to convert himself, or to exercise faith without first being spiritually reborn by the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit.
R.C. Sproul, saintandrewschapel.org

Original sin…refers to our inherent corruption, by which we are born in sin…We are not born in a neutral state of innocence, but we are born in a sinful, fallen condition…
R.C. Sproul, The Pelagian Captivity of the Church, bible-researcher.com

2. Unconditional Election…God's choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world rested solely in His own sovereign will.
The Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics (CRTA), reformed.org

This is why Total Depravity has also been called "Total Inability." The man without a knowledge of God will never come to this knowledge without God's making him alive through Christ
Reidville Presbyterian Church, reidville.org

1. Total Inability or Total Depravity
Because of the fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the gospel…His will is not free…he will not - indeed he cannot - choose good over evil in the spiritual realm. Consequently, it takes much more than the Spirit's assistance to bring a sinner to Christ - it takes regeneration by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature. Faith is not something man contributes to salvation but is itself a part of God's gift of salvation - it is God's gift to the sinner, not the sinner's gift to God.
The Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics (CRTA), reformed.org

"T" for Total Depravity…before they became Christians, all members of that church were spiritually dead. They were not able to believe and be saved…In other words, they weren't ABLE to repent and believe in Christ!...So total depravity means that we were born in unbelief
Orthodox Presbyterian Church, opc.org

3. Man…lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.

1. Our first parents…being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.
4. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.
6. Every sin, both original and actual…bring guilt upon the sinner
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH, CHAP. VI. - Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment thereof, pcanet.org

God’s election is based purely on His sovereign grace and not upon anything done by humans.
R.C. Sproul, saintandrewschapel.org

Unconditional Election…God has chosen people whom He would rescue without regard of any "worthiness" in them. In addition they were not chosen because they would accept the grace offered in the Gospel. God has chosen people, based solely upon the counsel of his own will, some for glory and others for damnation Reidville Presbyterian Church, reidville.org

Unconditional Election
Unconditional Election is the doctrine which states that God chose those whom he was pleased to bring to a knowledge of himself, not based upon any merit shown by the object of his grace and not based upon his looking forward to discover who would "accept" the offer of the gospel. God has elected, based solely upon the counsel of his own will,
The Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics (CRTA), reformed.org

2. This effectual call is of God's…alone, not from any thing…in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH, CHAP. X. - Of Effectual Calling, pcanet.org

In the Augustinian and Reformation view, regeneration is seen first of all as a supernatural work of God. Regeneration is the divine work of God the Holy Spirit upon the minds and souls of fallen people…the monergistic work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit is an immediate work. It is immediate with respect to time, and it is immediate with respect to the principle of operating without intervening means…when that work is accomplished, it is accomplished instantaneously…When the Spirit changes the disposition of the human soul, He does it instantly.
R.C. Sproul, The New Birth, ligonier.org

Dort, Synod of –
assembly of the Reformed Church of the Netherlands…The canons of Dort were…that Christ did not die for all…remain the theological basis of the Reformed Churches in The Netherlands and of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.”
Encyclopedia Britannica

Christ died for many people, but not for all
Reidville Presbyterian Church, reidville.org

Christ's redeeming work was intended to save the elect only The Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics (CRTA), reformed.org

Irresistible grace refers to the grace of regeneration by which God effectually calls His elect inwardly, converting them to Himself, and quickening them from spiritual death to spiritual life. Regeneration is the sovereign and immediate work of the Holy Spirit, working monergistically. This grace is operative, not cooperative…they are made willing to come to Christ
R.C. Sproul, www.saintandrewschapel.org

…the Holy Spirit extends to the elect a special inward call that inevitably brings them to salvation. The internal call (which is made only to the elect) cannot be rejected; it always results in conversion. By means of this special call the Spirit irresistibly draws sinners to Christ. He is not limited in His work of applying salvation by man's will, nor is He dependent upon man's cooperation for success. The Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics (CRTA), reformed.org

1. All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only…enlightening their minds spiritually…by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good…being made willing
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH, CHAP. X. - Of Effectual Calling, pcanet.org

God gives this saving grace according to the good pleasure of His will, and not according to some unforeseen actions, responses, or conditions met by men. R.C. Sproul, saintandrewschapel.org

Perseverance of the saints means that those who are truly regenerate and truly come to saving faith will never lose their salvation. R.C. Sproul, saintandrewschapel.org

…although they can never fall from the state of justification, yet they may, by their sins, fall under God's fatherly displeasure

1. They…can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.
2. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from…God the Father
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH, CHAP. XVII. - Of the Perseverance of the Saints, pcanet.org

…in the doctrine of monergistic regeneration. 2... At the time of the Reformation, all the reformers agreed on one point: the moral inability of fallen human beings to incline themselves to the things of God; that all people, in order to be saved, are totally dependent, not ninety-nine percent, but one hundred percent dependent upon the monergistic work of regeneration…It's not that we are offered salvation and that we will be born again if we choose to believe. But we can't even believe until God in his grace and in his mercy first changes the disposition of our souls through his sovereign work of regeneration... If you mean by free will the ability for fallen human beings to incline themselves and exercise that will to choose the things of God without the prior monergistic work of regeneration then, said Calvin, free will is far too grandiose a term to apply to a human being...
R.C. Sproul, saintandrewschapel.org

In his writings, Sproul teaches that the dispute over man’s free will and capacity to believe through rationale consideration and biblical teaching first arose with Augustine in the fourth century. It is not surprising that Reformers, who follow Augustine in their view of these issues, would either fail to address or acknowledge that the earliest church explicitly refuted the Augustinian-Reformed position or that Augustine got the views, which they themselves endorse, from the pagan mysticism of Neo-Platonist and Gnostic heretics.

Original sin…refers to our inherent corruption, by which we are born in sin…We are not born in a neutral state of innocence, but we are born in a sinful, fallen condition…This is precisely what was at issue in the battle between Augustine and Pelagius in the fifth century. Pelagius said there is no such thing as original sin…There is no transmission or transfer of guilt or fallenness or corruption to the progeny of Adam and Eve. Everyone is born in the same state of innocence in which Adam was created.
R.C. Sproul, The Pelagian Captivity of the Church, bible-researcher.com

It's the second part of the prayer that Pelagius abhorred when Augustine said, "and grant what thou dost command." He said, "What are you talking about? If God is just, if God is righteous and God is holy, and God commands of the creature to do something, certainly that creature must have the power within himself, the moral ability within himself, to perform it or God would never require it in the first place." Now that makes sense, doesn't it? What Pelagius was saying is that moral responsibility always and everywhere implies moral capability or, simply, moral ability…But..In simple English, what Augustine was saying is that in the Fall, man loses his moral ability to do the things of God and he is held captive by his own evil inclinations.”
R.C. Sproul, The Pelagian Captivity of the Church, bible-researcher.com

Now, let's return briefly to my title, ‘The Pelagian Captivity of the Church.’ What are we talking about? Pelagius was a monk who lived in Britain in the fifth century. He was a contemporary of the greatest theologian of the first millennium of Church history if not of all time, Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in North Africa…And as long as semi-Pelagianism, which is simply a thinly veiled version of real Pelagianism at its core - as long as it prevails in the Church, I don't know what's going to happen.
R.C. Sproul, The Pelagian Captivity of the Church, bible-researcher.com

…the distinctive theology of historic Augustinian and Reformed thought is the watershed assertion that distinguishes that theology from all forms of semi-Pelagianism. That is, it distinguishes it from almost all forms of semi-Pelagianism…between Augustinianism and semi-Pelagianism…In the Augustinian and Reformation view…
R.C. Sproul, The New Birth, ligonier.org

From these quotes we can see that, by the end of the fourth century, men like Augustine accomplished a significant departure from earlier Christian theology. This divergence discarded Jewish teachings held by the apostolic church since the earliest times. And in the place of the apostolic church’s views, these Neo-Platonic mystics held to Gnostic teachings and incorporated them into Christian Theology.

The apostolic church since the earliest era of Christianity had believed that salvation was equally available to all men and involved participation in a coming earthly Messianic kingdom. They believed that all men had free will, were born innocent, were capable of believing through rational contemplation, and were able to choose to believe and obey God.

However, 300 years later under the leadership of men like Augustine who had a fondness for the Gnostic manner of blending Neo-Platonism with Christianity, the church rejected the beliefs of the apostolic church. Instead, they taught the doctrine of pagan mystics and Gnostic heretics that salvation is escape from this world into an eternal heavenly destiny which is not available to all men, but only to some men. These particular men are destined to receive a salvation which is by God’s determination alone and which does not involve or depend on a man’s own choice to repent and believe. According to this Gnostic and Augustinian view, salvation is the result of a direct, inward, immediate, impartation of illumination by God without regard for man’s will and that faith cannot result from rational contemplation or consideration of biblical texts or evidence.

These are serious changes in what the church believed. And, as we have seen, they were accompanied by significant changes in church life and Christian practice.

Changes in Fourth Century, Christian Theology and Practice – Divorce and Remarriage

To this list of changes we can also add one other departure the modern church has made from the faith and practice of the apostolic church. This is the issue of divorce and remarriage. The official and unofficial position of the church today is to allow Christians into church fellowship if they are remarried after a divorce. However, from the earliest times, the apostolic church strongly opposed this practice. Instead, they condemned marrying someone new after a divorce as adultery and they required either the ending of the adulterous marriage or a removal from church fellowship.

CHAP. VI. Envy has alienated wives from their husbands, and changed that saying of our father Adam, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh."

CHAP. XV. "Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced from another husband, committeth adultery."(4) And, "There are some who have been made eunuchs of men, and some who were born eunuchs, and some who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake; but all cannot receive this saying."(5) So that all who, by human law, are twice married,(6) are in the eye of our Master sinners,

CHAP. XV. "Learn, therefore, to keep the true fast of God, as Isaiah says, that you may please God. Isaiah has cried thus: …This is not the fast which I have chosen, saith the Lord; but loose every unrighteous bond, dissolve the terms of wrongous covenants, let the oppressed go free, and avoid every iniquitous contract.
PHILOSOPHER AND MARTYR, WITH TRYPHO, A JEW CHAP. XXVI. 3. They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. The character of these men is very plainly pointed out in the Apocalypse of John, [when they are represented] as teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practise adultery, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.

…if the woman does not repent, but persists in her fornication…the husband should put her away, and remain by himself. But if he puts his wife away and marries another, he also commits adultery...the husband should not marry another after his wife has been put away. In this smatter, man and woman are to be treated exactly in the same way.
Shepherd of Hermas (c. 150, W), 2.21

A person should either remain as he was born, or be content with one marriage. For a second marriage is only a specious adultery. Jesus says, “For whoever puts away his wife and marries another, commits adultery.” He does not permit a man to send her away whose virginity he has brought to an end, nor to marry again.
Athenagoras (c. 175, E), 2.146, 147

Christ forbids divorce, saying, “Whoever puts away his wife and marries another, commits adultery. And whoever marries her who is put away from her husband also commits adultery.” In order to forbid divorce, He makes it unlawful to marry a woman who has been put away.
Tertullian (c. 207, W), 3.404

Being a heretic by his very nature…he maintains repeated marriages.
Tertullian (c. 200, W), 3.477

The Lord…pronounced as an adulterer even the man who married a woman who had been put away by her husband.
Tertullian (c. 207, W), 3.405, 406

We gladly abide by the bond of a single marriage. In the desire of procreating, we know either one wife, or none at all.
Mark Minucius Felix (c. 200, W), 4.192

A wife must not depart from her husband. Or if she should depart, she must remain unmarried.
Cyprian (c. 250, W), 5.553

He who marries a woman divorced from her husband is an adulterer. So is he who divorced a wife for any cause other than adultery, in order to marry another. Lactantius (c. 304-313, W), 7.190

In point of fact, this strict prohibition against divorce and remarriage was maintained by the church until the Reformation and did not become widely discarded until cultural trends of the mid to late twentieth century. However, since this too represents another significant difference between the early church and the modern church it deserves to be included in our study.

Related Outlines
> Church History Study

> Early Church Consensus

> Addendum