Steve’s Writings

Unanimous Consent of the Fathers

By Steve Ray

The Unanimous Consent of the Fathers (unanimem consensum Patrum) refers to the morally unanimous teaching of the Church Fathers on certain doctrines as revealed by God and interpretations of Scripture as received by the universal Church. The individual Fathers are not personally infallible, and a discrepancy by a few patristic witnesses does not harm the collective patristic testimony.

The word “unanimous” comes from two Latin words: únus, one + animus, mind. “Consent” in Latin means agreement, accord, and harmony; being of the same mind or opinion. Where the Fathers speak in harmony, with one mind overall—not necessarily each and every one agreeing on every detail but by consensus and general agreement—we have “unanimous consent”. The teachings of the Fathers provide us with an authentic witness to the apostolic tradition.

St. Irenaeus (ad c. 130–c. 200) writes of the “tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome’ (Against Heresies, III, 3, 2), and the “tradition which originates from the apostles [and] which is preserved by means of the successions of presbyters in the Churches” (Ibid., III, 2, 2) which “does thus exist in the Church, and is permanent among us” (Ibid., III, 5, 1). Unanimous consent develops from the understanding of apostolic teaching preserved in the Church with the Fathers as its authentic witness.

St. Vincent of Lerins, explains the Church’s teaching: “In the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense “Catholic,” which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors” (Commonitory 2). Notice that St. Vincent mentions “almost all priests and doctors”.

The phrase Unanimous Consent of the Fathers had a specific application as used at the Council of Trent (Fourth Session), and reiterated at the First Vatican Council (Dogmatic Decrees of the Vatican Council, chap. 2). The Council Fathers specifically applied the phrase to the interpretation of Scripture. Biblical and theological confusion was rampant in the wake of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther stated “There are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads; this one will not admit Baptism; that one rejects the Sacrament of the altar; another places another world between the present one and the day of judgment; some teach that Jesus Christ is not God.  There is not an individual, however clownish he may be, who does not claim to be inspired by the Holy Ghost, and who does not put forth as prophecies his ravings and dreams.”

The Council Fathers at Trent (1554–63) affirmed the ancient custom that the proper understanding of Scripture was that which was held by the Fathers of the Church to bring order out of the enveloping chaos. Opposition to the Church’s teaching is exemplified by William Webster (The Church of Rome at the Bar of History [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1995]) who misrepresents the Council Fathers by redefining and misapplying “unanimous consent”.

First in redefining, he implies that unanimous consent means each Father must have held the same fully developed traditions and taught them clearly in the same terms as used later in the Church Councils. This is a false understanding of the phrase and even in American law unanimous consent “does not always mean that every one present voted for the proposition, but it may, and generally does, mean, when a [verbal] vote is taken, that no one voted in the negative” (Black’s Law Dictionary). Second he misapplies the term, not to the interpretation of Scripture, as the Council Fathers intended, but to tradition. His assertions are not true, but using a skewed definition and application of “unanimous consent”, he uses selective patristic passages as proof-texts for his analysis of the Fathers.

As an example, individual Fathers may explain “the Rock” in Matthew 16 as Jesus, Peter, Peter’s confession or Peter’s faith. Even the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the “Rock” of Matthew 16 as Peter in one place (CCC 552) and his faith (CCC 424) in another. Matthew 16 can be applied in many ways to refute false teachings and to instruct the faithful without emphasizing the literal, historical interpretation of Peter as the Rock upon which the Church has been built his Church. Webster and others emphasize various patristic applications of a biblical passage as “proof” of non-unanimous consent.

Discussing certain variations in the interpretations of the Fathers, Pope Leo XIII (The Study of Holy Scripture, from the encyclical Providentissimus Deus, Nov., 1893) writes, “Because the defense of Holy Scripture must be carried on vigorously, all the opinions which the individual Fathers or the recent interpreters have set forth in explaining it need not be maintained equally. For they, in interpreting passages where physical matters are concerned have made judgments according to the opinions of the age, and thus not always according to truth, so that they have made statements which today are not approved. Therefore, we must carefully discern what they hand down which really pertains to faith or is intimately connected with it, and what they hand down with unanimous consent; for ‘in those matters which are not under the obligation of faith, the saints were free to have different opinions, just as we are,’ according to the opinion of St. Thomas.”

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Referred works:

St. Irenaeus’ quote: Ante-Nicene Fathers. Roberts and Donaldson, Eerdmans, 1985, vol. 1, p. 415, 417).

St. Vincent’s quote: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Eerdmans, 1980, vol. 11, p. 132.

Luther quote: (Leslie Rumble, Bible Quizzes to a Street Preacher [Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1976], 22).

William Webster’s quote: (William Webster, 31).

Black’s Law Dictionary: Black’s Law Dictionary, Henry Campbell Black, St. Paul, MN: West Publ. Co., 1979, p. 1366.

Pope Leo XIII quote: Henry Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma [London: B. Herder Book Co., 1954], 491-492).

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Salvation by Faith Alone?

by Steve Ray on July 30, 2015

Since the days of Martin Luther it has been popular to reduce salvation to a sound bite. Salvation is not by works but by “faith alone.”

However, the Bible seems to have another idea. In my book CROSSING THE TIBER I mention a few passages from Scripture to give a more biblical perspective.

Here is a section from page 100 in my book:

“One last comment, even though it will be discussed in more detail later: there is no attempt here to pit baptism against faith, or belief against baptism.  Things are rarely that simple.  Faith and baptism are two sides of the same coin.  Are we saved by faith or by baptism?  Are we saved by believing or by the Spirit?  These are false dichotomies that should have no place in our thinking.

screen-capture“How does one receive salvation, justification, new birth and eternal life?

By believing in Christ (Jn 3:16; Acts 16:31)?
By repentance (Acts 2:38; 2 Pet 3:9)?
By baptism (Jn 3:5; 1 Pet 3:21; Titus 3:5)?
By the work of the Spirit (Jn 3:5; 2 Cor 3:6)?
By declaring with our mouths (Lu 12:8; Rom 10:9)?
By coming to a knowledge of the Truth (1 Tim 2:4; Heb 10:26)?

By maintaining the faith (Col 1:22-23; Mt 24:13)?
By works (John 5:28-29; Rom 2:6, 7; James 2:24)?
By grace (Acts 15:11; Eph 2:8)?
By his blood (Rom 5:9; Heb 9:22)?
By His righteousness (Rom 5:17; 2 Pet 1:1)?
By His cross (Eph 2:16; Col 2:14)?

“Can we cut any one of these out of the list and proclaim it alone as the means of salvation?  Can we be saved without faith? without God?s grace? without repentance? without baptism? without the Spirit?  These are all involved and necessary; not one of them can be dismissed as a means of obtaining eternal life.  Neither can one be emphasized to the exclusion of another.  They are all involved in salvation and entry into the Church.  The Catholic Church does not divide these various elements of salvation up, overemphasizing some while ignoring others; rather she holds them all in their fullness.

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The Last Nightmare
A Short and Terrifying Story by Steve Ray

Munchs-Vampire-to-go-up-for-auctionEverything went blank for a moment, but that moment seemed like eternity. He felt a motion, not with wind and breeze, but a motion none the less. He was traveling, moving, floating, transcending-he wasn’t really sure. The sudden blackness gave him time to regain his thoughts, just enough time to recapture the last moments.

Though his first thoughts were garbled and dreamlike, they slowly began taking shape, like a tree seen through a thick fog, slowly it all came back to him out of the swirling, traveling, blank void. Utter confusion was giving way to bits of clarity.

They had rushed him to the hospital. He remembered the sirens and the cold hands of the paramedics. Cold hands all over his body, probing and poking. Yes, there had been screams, he remembered now—and the sound of sobbing.

Then the horrendous sound resurfaced, a sound that could be felt. It was a sound that had subsumed his whole being, wrapping itself around him, ripping through him. Then the sound of crunching metal, broken glass, and twisted carnage. What must have lasted only seconds seemed to him a long and troubling nightmare—then the dark, foggy void.

For the rest of the 12-page terrifying story, click here.

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Meet St. Paul as he Writes to the Romans; A Brief Study to Make it Easy

April 12, 2015

I love St. Paul and love to write about him and his epistles. I also enjoyed traveling through six countries filming his life story and theology. St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans is often seen as impossible to understand except by theologians — and most skip right over this masterpiece. With hopes that you will [...]

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How Many Denominations are Too Many?

March 29, 2015

I am rushing to get packed — my wife and I leave next Monday for Portugal (Fatima), Spain (Avila) and France (Lourdes) with a group of 65 excited pilgrims. You will be able to join us by video for a Virtual Pilgrimage right here on this blog. Each night, Lord willing, I will upload video [...]

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The Cross & the Crucifix: Letter to a Fundamentalist

December 21, 2014

The Cross & the Crucifix (From a letter Steve wrote to a Evangelical Protestant who asked about the Catholic Crucifix) Dear Evangelical Friend: You display a bare cross in your home; we display the cross and the crucifix. What is the difference and why? The cross is an upright post with a crossbeam in the [...]

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Catholic Church: “Don’t Read the Bible!”

November 8, 2014

We often hear that the Catholic Church has forbidden the reading of the Bible! Have you heard this? Yeah, me too! But, this is another one of those big myths which has worked its way into the popular dialog but one that has not been proved from Church teaching and documents. There are two good [...]

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What Does the Word Catholic Mean? A History of the Word “Catholic”

July 10, 2014

As a Protestant, I went to an Evangelical church that changed an important and historical word in the  Apostles Creed. Instead of the “holy, catholic Church,” we were the “holy, Christian church.” At the time, I thought nothing of it. There was certainly no evil intent, just a loathing of the Catholic Church and a [...]

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Finalizing My Book on Genesis…Here are a Few Favorite Paragraphs about Creation

July 5, 2014

Here are a few paragraphs from my new book on Genesis which is nearly done. Genesis 2:7 is foundational and crucial to the whole story of the cosmos, Man and salvation. God takes dust or clay from the ground and like a potter he fashions a human being. The scientific formulas used by God still [...]

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So, Why is Abraham the Father of our Faith?

May 19, 2014

To purchase Steve Ray’s Talk “Abraham: Father of Faith & Works” on CD or MP3 visit SteveRaysStore.com. Well for starters, let’s see how he DID or DIDN’T respond to God when called to leave his homeland and go to a place that God would show him. Let’s put ourselves in his sandals and see what WE [...]

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Purgatory? Doesn’t that Deny the Work of Christ?

May 11, 2014

What’s the Deal with Purgatory? by Steve Ray Isn’t the finished work of Christ sufficient? Didn’t he pay for all my sins? Why the heck do Catholics teach that we have to suffer in Purgatory for our sins? Plus, the Bible never mentions purgatory so it must be an unbiblical doctrine, right. Wow! Sounds like [...]

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Do Catholics Worship Mary?

May 7, 2014

In response to the show I did with Drew Mariani on Relevant Radio: I thought it would be a good time to respond to an e-mail I received a while ago. It was a questions from a friend wrote to ask me for my take on Mary. He was corresponding with someone that said Catholics [...]

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The Trail of Blood or Baptist Successionism

May 3, 2014

The Trail of Blood by Steve Ray What is the history of Baptists? Can they trace their roots back to the 1st century? Many ”fundamentalist” Baptists believe they can. Are they correct? There is a booklet that is very popular among this fundamentalist crowd. It is entitled “The Trail of Blood”. The booklet claims that Catholics persecuted the [...]

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Follow Steve in Twitter

March 19, 2014

I can’t put everything on my blog that I can quickly share on Twitter. Plus, Twitter notifies all my followers immediately of everything I share on my blog. Ain’t technology grand? If you want to keep up with all our adventures, blog posts, pictures and videos, pilgrimages and other fun stuff – as well as [...]

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God said “Please”; Abraham said “OK”

February 2, 2014

Studying Scripture like this is one of my favorite things to do in the whole world. Nice little tidbits pop out, like the one Which I share from you while visiting the sites related to Abraham in Hebron in the Palestinian a West Bank. When God said to Abraham: ”Take Isaac, your only son, the one whom [...]

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A Walk thru Bethlehem’s History for Christmas – Steve’s End of Year Newsletter

December 21, 2013

To see the content rich and colorful Newsletter with stories, news,  a free gift, upcoming trips and speaking events and riddles, click here. The Real Bethlehem   by Steve Ray The donkey tried to bite me as I climbed on his back. Flies were buzzing incessantly around my head and my clothes were drenched with perspiration. The [...]

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