by HFH Reuvers


The Church fathers were the great theologians of the first centuries after Christ. They made a stand against the heresies like Gnosticism and Arianism that tried to distort Jesus' doctrine.
In gnostic opinion, man is living in a shadow world, created by an evil demiurge, and has to learn to know himself in order to restore contact with his divine origin. This makes us think of medieval movements like Catharism and of modern movements like Anthroposophy and New Age.
The followers of Arius denied that Jesus has the same essence as God the Father. This makes us think of Modernism in our own time. Other heresies denied that Jesus was entirely human.

The most important Church father was Saint Augustine of Hippo. Much to the distress of his mother, Saint Monica, he led a loose life when he was still a youngster. In these years, he had gnostic opinions. But after reading a certain bible text, he was suddenly converted to Christianity. He himself reports about this as follows:
" ... (I prayed) like this: 'How long, my Lord, will you stay angry?' Because those old iniquities held me back ...
And I heard a voice like of a little boy or girl, singing: 'Take and read!'; and I began intently thinking whether children use to sing something like this when playing some game; but I couldn't remember I heard something of the kind before. The only explanation I could give was God ordered me to open the book and read the first passage my eyes would see.
I took the bible, opened it, and read in silence the first passage my eyes saw: 'not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying (will you find fulfilment); but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires."
After reading this, Saint Augustine saw that evil is in fact nothing else but the absence of the good which Jesus preaches, and an evil demiurge doesn't exist.