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Quotes About the Early Church Fathers
These are quotes by later writers about studying the early Church fathers. The "fathers" themselves did not call themselves that, and probably none of them realized their hand-written page would be read by their descendants 1700 to 2000 years later.
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To see their thought of the role of early Christian teachers, see Apostolic Tradition Quotes.
Martin Luther, 1538 – 1539
In the first place, it is plain that the councils are not only unequal, but even contradictory, and the same is true of the fathers. If we were to try to harmonize them, there would be greater disagreement and disputing than there now is, and we should never get out of it anymore. For since they are unlike and often contradictory, our first undertaking would be to see how we could cull out the best and let the rest go. Then the trouble would start! (On the Councils and the Church)
If St. Augustine is not here a heretic, then I shall never become a heretic. He throws the opinions of so many bishops and so many churches all on a heap in the fire and recommends only baptism and the Sacrament, believing that Christ did not will to impose any further burden on the Church, if, indeed, that can be called a burden which is all comfort and grace. (On the Councils and the Church)
John Wesley, 18th century
Can anyone who spends several years in those seats of learning, be excused if they do not add to that learning the reading of the Fathers? The Fathers are the most authentic commentators on Scripture, for they were nearest the fountain and were eminently endued with that Spirit by whom all Scripture was given. It will be easily perceived, I speak chiefly of those who wrote before the council of Nicaea. (The Works of John Wesley, 3rd edition)
Our Lady of Czestochowa Church, 2010
I do not include this quote to defend the Catholic Church's twisting of early Christian history. I specifically argue against it in several places (here and here, for example). However, I believe this assessment of how to use the early church fathers is very well said, even if I believe the Roman Catholic "magisterium" is an enemy of the Gospel of King Jesus.
The Catholic Church does not look to one Church Father in isolation — or even a select group of Fathers — and claim their teachings are infallible or definitive. Rather, the Church views their writings as valuable guides providing insights and perspectives that assist the Magisterium — the teaching office of the Church — in defining, clarifying, and defending Church doctrine. ("The Rapture Refuted," Part 4 on The Hejnal blog, emphasis mine)