Throwback Thursday: An evangelical looks at the “fathers”

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on September 16, 2016 and has been revised.


The Church of Rome at the Bar of History
By William Webster
The Banner of Truth Trust, 2003, 244 pages

4 Stars

The Roman Catholic church boasts that it has taught the same doctrines since the apostolic era through an unbroken line of papal succession. One of the church’s mottos is Semper Eadem, “Always the Same.”  But even casual students of Catholicism know the church’s doctrines have been constantly evolving. As the early church became increasingly institutionalized, the preaching of personal, saving faith in Jesus Christ as found in the New Testament, devolved into sacramentalism, impersonal rituals, ceremony, and religious legalism. When did the drift from orthodoxy start? In his letters to the 1st century churches, apostle Paul warned the believers of false teachers and works religionists creeping in even back then.

Rome often appeals to the writings of the “Church Fathers” to support its doctrinal claims. But anyone who has studied the fathers knows its a very mixed bag. The fathers include a long list of individuals writing from many locations over a four-century time frame. Their writings can often be interpreted various ways and have been used to support both Catholic and Protestant viewpoints.

In this book, evangelical William Webster compares the writings of the fathers to the theology of the Catholic Tridentine and Vatican Councils. Not being a historian or theologian and disinclined to personally sift through the writings of the fathers myself, I appreciated Webster’s efforts. Catholic apologists are faced with the dilemma that much of what passes for Catholicism today cannot be found in the writings of the early fathers. On the other hand, evangelicals would find some of the fathers’ theology, especially the later fathers, to be drifting into unorthodoxy and heresy, an issue Webster avoids. The moral of the story: Get your theology from God’s Word, not from the fathers.


  1. The Authority of Scripture
  2. Scripture and Tradition
  3. Tradition and Roman Catholicism
  4. The Papacy and the ‘Rock’ of Matthew 16
  5. Papal Authority and Infallibility: The Test of History
  6. Marian Dogmas
  7. Salvation and the Sacramental System
  8. The Eucharist
  9. Faith and Justification
  10. Truth: The Defining issue

11 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: An evangelical looks at the “fathers”

    1. It was interesting except that Webster presented only the patristic writings that are problematic for Catholics, but leapfrogged over the writings that are problematic for evangelicals.
      RE: Papias
      Sorry, but I’m not even an amateur when it comes to Patristics. I’ve read this book and several articles, but that’s about it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was my intention to mostly rest today, but Corinne talked me into filling in the crevices between the concrete patio slabs with sand. I quit at 3. 90F out there. About 1/3 done. Couch duty until 9.
        How’s your Thursday going?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I was going to ask if you were going to put sand in your patio but I had a sense to be quiet!!!!!!!! It is a scorcher for sure. I am plugging along with my classes. We are rabbit sitting and I am allergic to the rabbit and her hay and so I am just trying to survive until Saturday when the bunny leaves!!!! I have said to take us off of your bunny watchlist!!!! She’s a beautiful bunny and super friendly but 8 days is too long!!!!!!!! Any idea what your shift will be like tomorrow?!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That is tortuous to babysit the rabbit along with its hay you’re both allergic to.

        RE: shift
        Thanks. I’m hoping it’ll be slow since it’s the start of a new quarter, but the schedule sometimes defies logic.
        Have a good weekend!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Nice to see its a 4 star! I heard of Bill Webster long ago from Hank Hanegraff with an interview and also from James White; never have read his book yet but this seems awesome as a resource concerning the historical dimension with Romanism’s claims. Especially with Catholic apoogist’s proof texting of history.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, it’s an excellent resource for seeing how some of the fathers contradicted various RC doctrines. The problem with the book is that Webster doesn’t acknowledge there are also patristic writings that are “problematic” for evangelicals.

      Liked by 1 person

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