Sunday, January 22, 2006

Jerome Against the Luciferians

Clicking around the web, I came across one of the classics of the anti-Arian debate: Jerome's Dialogue Against the Luciferians, at New Advent. It's an important source for the pre-history of Nicene orthodoxy. It's a good discourse, too, although not quite as exciting as the title makes it sound: 'Lucifer', of course, is a perfectly respectable Latin name, and the Luciferians in the question are the followers of a bishop named Lucifer. Lucifer was excessively zealous against Arianism (in particular, he refused to regard any formerly Arian bishops as legitimately ordained). To which Jerome rightly replies:

It is not the sheep only who abide in the Church, nor do clean birds only fly to and fro there; but amid the grain other seed is sown, "amidst the neat corn-fields burrs and caltrops and barren oats lord it in the land." What is the husbandman to do? Root up the darnel? In that case the whole harvest is destroyed along with it. Every day the farmer diligently drives the birds away with strange noises, or frightens them with scarecrows: here he cracks a whip, there he spreads out some other object to terrify them. Nevertheless he suffers from the raids of nimble roes or the wantonness of the wild asses; here the mice convey the corn to their garners underground, there the ants crowd thickly in and ravage the corn-field. Thus the case stands. No one who has land is free from care. While the householder slept the enemy sowed tares among the wheat, and when the servants proposed to go and root them up the master forbade them, reserving for himself the separation of the chaff and the grain. There are vessels of wrath and of mercy which the Apostle speaks of in the house of God. The day then will come when the storehouses of the Church shall be opened and the Lord will bring forth the vessels of wrath; and, as they depart, the saints will say, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us." No one can take to himself the prerogative of Christ, no one before the day of judgment can pass judgment upon men. If the Church is already cleansed, what shall we reserve for the Lord? "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." When our judgment is so prone to error, upon whose opinion can we rely?

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