Early Christian Thinkers edited by Paul Foster.

It has been a while since I posted since I wrote a response to reading a chapter from Early Christian Thinkers: The Lives and Legacies of Twelve Key Figures edited by Paul Foster. I wrote on Justin Martyr on January 5th (see here) and Tatian on January 6th (see here). I apologize for the delay!

In this book Denis Minns discusses Irenaeus of Lyons. I have like Irenaeus for a while now. I don’t know if it is because he is from Lyons which is in modern day France, the land of my ethnic heritage, his emphasis on the four-fold Gospel, his snappy wit when combating heretics, his pastoral care for a suffering church, or his wonderful, timely earth-honoring eschatology toward the end of Against Heresies. This chapter added to my respect for this great man.

Minns describes Irenaeus as a man likely from Asia Minor who spoke and wrote in Greek. He knew Polycarp and Polycarp has been connected to John the Elder (Apostle?) so there seems to be quite a heritage there (p. 37).

Most of Irenaeus’ surviving works combat forms of gnosticism, like the aforementioned Against Heresies. Minns explores how Irenaeus lumped several heretical groups together seeing them as sharing “the denial that the Creator is the God and Father of all.” This is the common mistake shared by everyone from Marcion to the Valentinians (pp. 38-39). Irenaeus fought the heretics with Scripture, but more so with the “rule of faith”. He understood his views to trace back to the apostles and he thought the heretics had no such claim (pp. 41-44). Remember, the canon wasn’t finalized in his day so the “canon of faith” were the passed along traditions of the church.

Irenaeus contributed to Christian Christology, Soteriology, Eschatology, and some may argue forms of proto-Trinitarianism. Minns notes that in recent years Irenaeus has been rediscovered. Some of his views weren’t popular for the church for many years, especially his eschatology, but this has changed as has his status (pp. 49-50).

Next chapter covers Theophilus of Antioch.