Support via Patreon | Subscribe

Header Image: ntrf.org

Quite often in discussions which are about or involve some aspects of early church history or practices earlier Christians did, someone will inevitably throw out the "show stopper" that is "it's all just man made tradition" therefore not valid and the discussion is over. It’s as though saying it's "man made", without considering anything other than that they can't find an isolated chapter and verse in the bible which states something explicitly, means they've "won" the debate!


Nothing more to see here folks, someone told us it's man made so we can all go home now.

Either that, or the mere mention of the word “tradition” and suddenly you’re accused of being a Roman Catholic or that any Church tradition only has its basis in the Roman Catholic Church, and is therefore automatically wrong and invalid in a discussion, and/or in practice.

Except that's not exactly true nor a good way to discuss anything (and probably falls under the Post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy).

Advertisement

Traditions and creeds go back much further than you might think – all the way back to a time of the Apostles.

Yes, Jesus had a go at all the Pharisees for making their traditions greater than Scripture (Matt 15:2-3; Mark 7:9) and in that case dismissing something as "man made" is valid.

But what about when it's something based on or inspired by Scripture, something that becomes almost 'living exegesis' rather than just head knowledge? I've been thinking of Lent lately, as that often is dismissed as "man made” or “Catholic tradition" without looking at the history or how the practice came to be.

Generally, no one has an issue with you saying that you're going to fast, but say you'll do it at a specific time of year or for a certain length of time, and suddenly it's wrong and “man made”?

What do the Scriptures say?

Colossians 2:8
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.

 

This is often something quoted as a backup to arguing against traditions. Paul’s warnings here are quite valid, we should be careful what we believe and follow as Christians. This is a warning against "man made traditions" but what if I told you that Paul also tells the churches to FOLLOW traditions too?

1 Corinthians 11:2
I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I handed them on to you.

2 Thessalonians 2:15
So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.

2 Thessalonians 3:6
Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us.

Philippians 4:9
Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.


Did you catch the theme here? "Hold fast to the traditions" that the apostles taught the believers, either “by word”, action, or by letter!

There is a big difference between "man made tradition" and Apostolic tradition. The former meaning heathen or non-Christian beliefs, or those added as extra rules on top of God’s commands, and the latter being things which will help the Church grow together in Christ.

The key word here is “Apostolic”.

We only have a handful of the apostles letters still, which now forms our New Testament, so anything else they taught was done orally and in person to the people they discipled. These were the traditions they handed down to be observed.

How can we know what else they taught?

All's not lost though! Those who followed the apostles wrote down many things which they were taught, so that they could then in turn, teach the churches the "traditions" passed onto them. These early Christians well understood the difference between the “man made traditions” which Jesus warned against, and those of apostolic origin.

Bishop of Carthage, Cyprian, who was a prominent early leader and writer (c. 250 AD), sums up the view on human tradition rather well, when he says:

...what presumption, to prefer human tradition to divine ordinance, and not to observe that God is indignant and angry as often as human tradition relaxes and passes by the divine precepts … for custom without truth is the antiquity of error.

Cyprian, Epistle 73:3,9

In contrast, he also says this about “divine tradition”:

…you must diligently observe and keep the practice delivered from divine tradition and apostolic observance, which is also maintained among us, and almost throughout all the provinces

Cyprian, Epistle 67:5

Said no apostle ever meme
Said no apostle ever.

There is actually much said about apostolic traditions which were handed down to the bishops and churches by the Apostles themselves, and which were followed and contrasted with the Scriptures that those same apostles wrote. Tradition wasn’t blindly accepted in the early church, but only followed if it could be shown to have originated with apostolic teaching, either by word or by letter; and if it were by word, it was checked against Scripture to make sure it was all in harmony.

That doesn’t necessarily mean they looked for “chapter and verse” (since chapter and verses didn’t exist in Scripture fully until 1553), but to see if what was being taught was consistent with the principles behind what was written down by the Apostles.

Let's explore a few examples of how Apostolic tradition was understood:

If then, any one who had attended on the elders came, I asked minutely after their sayings—what Andrew or Peter said, or what was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the Lord's disciples: which things Aristion and the presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, say. For I imagined that what was to be got from books was not so profitable to me as what came from the living and abiding voice.

Papias, fragments of. 

Just in this short quote from Papias (a bishop of Hierapolis, c. 70-163 AD), it displays that there was a value in seeking after those who had had direct contact with the source, and that was the preferred method over reading what was in books, to make sure that what they learned was as accurate as possible.

But, again, when we refer them (the Gnostics/heretics) to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles

Irenaeus, Against Heresies III, 2:2

If something was handed down and received from the Apostles, it was held in high regard and used as a means to defeat heresies which often tried to creep into the Church and corrupt the faith. This is also the purpose of the creeds (see 1 Cor 15:3-7 for the earliest type of New Testament creed; or the Apostle’s Creed and Nicene Creed for later adaptations).

Irenaeus talks a lot about the traditions handed down in his Against Heresies, and as a bishop himself, took this responsibility very seriously to keep that which he had received “by … succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles … which has been preserved in the church from the apostles until now” (Against Heresies III, 3:3).

Basically, whatever the Apostles taught and did, that was Apostolic Tradition!

The early Christians who were close to the time of the Apostles, relied on this tradition for their learning in not only the faith, but in how to go about “doing church” and as a means to settle any disputes that arose over certain things which weren’t written down. They still had available to them churches which were founded or led by apostles, and so could enquire of them, or those who succeeded the apostolic bishop.

The Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies III, 3:3

Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, [in that case,] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches?

Irenaeus, Against Heresies III, 4:1

Advertisement

The expectation was that anyone could consult the ancient, apostle founded churches, and learn from them the things which had been taught – especially in cases where it concerned something that hadn’t been written down, and learn the truth. But not only learn it, but be able to fully trust it because of its long preserved, historical ties back to the apostles themselves.

In cases where there were people that had been directly taught by the apostles still around, or who had left writings on what they were taught, this was also preferential to learning the traditions of the apostles.

In this line of thinking, Irenaeus, again, speaks highly of Polycarp as one who could be relied on to learn about the apostles and their teachings, as he had faithfully handed these things on to those who succeeded him.

But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna … having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down … to these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies III, 3:4

But in the case where someone couldn’t directly speak with a bishop from one of these churches, letters which were still in existence were favoured:

There is also a very powerful Epistle of Polycarp written to the Philippians, from which those who choose to do so, and are anxious about their salvation, can learn the character of his faith, and the preaching of the truth.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies III, 3:4

Advertisement

And the amazing thing is, we still have Polycarp’s letter today! It has survived and been preserved by the Church for over 2000 years, so we can still learn from him today as one who “would speak of the conversations he had held with John and with others who had seen the Lord” (a description by Irenaeus, who knew Polycarp).

Traditions and creeds
Know your history, know your heresy

What about the Bible?

Scripture was canonised to preserve and teach the basics of the Gospel and the way of salvation. Not everything that was written was canonised but certain other texts were held as important for teaching within the early church

The dependence on other people in the church body for learning and interpretation possibly came from taking those with the teaching gift seriously as Spirit led individuals, which Scripture expects (James 3:1; 1 Tim 3:2), and also from an understanding of Peter’s epistle warning against just making up your own interpretations:

2 Peter 1:20
First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation

Advertisement

Just as Jesus didn't write anything down, but taught his disciples personally, they also taught people in the same way, mainly orally and in person, and wrote few things down when the occasion presented itself. Their followers then wrote down the things which they learned from the Apostles instead, probably more so as the Church grew and as time went on, to better preserve all they had learnt.

If we look at Hebrews, we can see what the basic teaching is considered to be:

Hebrews 6:1-2
Therefore let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith toward God, instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

These things listed here were considered to be the “basic teaching about Christ” (and are basically a summary of much of the New Testament doctrine) which implies that there is more to learn apart from these things listed!

Advertisement

If we are serious about our faith and learning all we can in order to fully walk in the way of Christ and his Apostles, then we must consult our forefathers in the faith and learn from them, just as they learned from those who preceded them, and those before them all the way back to the Apostles and Christ himself.

The New Testament letters and Gospels serve as a basis for our faith and doctrine, and as an introduction to the traditions of the Apostles as we can see the things they did and said, and what they taught the churches. But Christianity didn’t (and doesn’t) stop with the New Testament. Jesus himself promised the Holy Spirit to us as a means to be taught more (Jn 14:26) so that we wouldn’t be left alone or have everything he taught, lost to the sands of time.

The truth of the Gospel and how believers should act and live, and how to conduct ourselves in Church gatherings, was tied closely to what the Apostles taught and those traditions of theirs which were handed down to the succession of Bishops in all the churches. These Bishops and church leaders wrote many things which we can learn from, and better understand our faith in light of apostolic tradition, many of whose letters still survive.

But why should we trust them?

Ever sceptical, we should check our sources as there were many forgeries and heretical sects rising up and also writing letters trying to push their agendas. Firstly, historical resources will tell us who is a legitimate author if the date of the letter actually matches the lifespan of the claimed author. Not only that, other historical sources will validate certain people – such as Irenaeus validating Polycarp (and many others) when he makes a list of Bishops in the churches, all whom link back to the apostles. Then we have the vast resources of early Christian writers who took it on themselves to preserve and verify older texts to show which ones were truly written by an Apostle or by “apostolic men” as Tertullian calls them (Prescription against Heretics, ch. 32), meaning the companions of the apostles, like Luke and Mark or Clement (Phil 4:3).

Advertisement

Other than Polycarp’s letter, some of these other texts were so highly regarded and read in the early church, that some were included in early lists of canonical books, possibly due to their close ties with apostles, such as: the Epistle of Barnabas and 1 Clement. Later on, other books such as the Letter to Diognetus; the Shepherd of Hermas and the Didache were also included or widely read and used for teaching.

Better still, all of these texts still survive today and can be read and consulted as a modern way to seek to learn from apostolic tradition, since we can no longer just pop to the Ephesus church and enquire after the things John taught, or go to Corinth and ask after the things Paul which weren’t written down. You can view each of these letters by clicking the corresponding links above.

The references to apostolic traditions and the writings of those who followed and succeeded the apostles in the churches they founded are many. These texts make up a much larger collection than the New Testament, which just goes to show in itself that there was much more to be said and expounded on about the faith which many of us are unaware of.

Many questions that arise from reading the Scriptures have been dealt with quite thoroughly by the early Christians and church leaders and we’d do well to invest time in learning from them too.

Advertisement

So, as John Wesley puts it, “can anyone … 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.”.

Happy reading!

 

 


Further Reading

Contribute on Patreon

Enjoying this? Consider contributing regular gifts for this content on Patreon.
* Patreon is a way to join your favorite creator's community and pay them for making the stuff you love. You can simply pay a few pounds per month or per post that a creator makes, and in return receive some perks!

Subscribe to Updates
Order my new book today from Amazon or fortydays.co.uk

Subscribe to:

Have something to say? Leave a comment below.

Leave a comment   Like   Back to Top   Seen 3.3K times   Liked 0 times

Subscribe to Updates

If you enjoyed this, why not subscribe to free email updates and join over 184 subscribers today!

Order my new book today from Amazon or fortydays.co.uk

Subscribe to Blog updates

Enter your email address to be notified of new posts:

Subscribe to:

Alternatively, you can subscribe via RSS RSS

‹ Return to Blog

All email subscriptions must be confirmed to comply with GDPR.

I've already subscribed / don't show me this again

Recent Posts

The Relationship Between Jesus and Sophia

| 22nd July 2021 | Christology

The Relationship Between Jesus and Sophia

Now you may be wondering about the title, or thinking “who the heck is Sophia??” — well, bear with me, and all will be revealed. It’s not as sinister or weird as it may first appear. I saw a post on my Instagram feed the other day that just got me a little riled up. I’ll admit it, I can be a little short-tempered at times, especially around the subject of Jesus and seeing him/the Christian faith misrepresented to such a degree that it could mislead others down the wrong path. I don’t normally write responses to things like this, but I felt this one deserved it, mainly just to add some clarity to a somewhat confusing topic, and so there’s a place I (or you, if you fancy sharing my posts!) can point people to if this type of ideology is going to spread. Here’s the Instagram post in question, but it’s the caption below it that got to me. I’ll quote the caption below, too, in case the embedded post doesn't work (here’s a direct link too). View this post on Instagram A post shared by Adam Ericksen (@adamericksen)   Jesus had two moms.Their names areMary and Sophia.You’ve heard about Mary, but do you know about Sophia?Sophia is the Greek word for God’s Wisdom.And God’s Wisdom is a Woman. Her name is Sophia.Sophia was there at the beginning of creation. She birthed the world into existence.Deuteronomy 32 says that God gave birth to the people. That was Sophia.Christians began to associate Sophia with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is Sophia. She is the divine feminine who is the Third Person of the Trinity.Sophia is our divine Mother.God is She who loves you.❤️❤️❤️ — via @adamericksen A lot of the comments under that post seemed to find it quite affirming in some ways, others were confused as they’d never heard this before (and rightly so) but were keen to look into it. There were also a lot of references to a single author, and book, called, She Who Is, by Elizabeth A. Johnson, where this idea seemed to have originated in some form. In fact, the majority of the comments were wanting to explore this idea in more depth. So, I think maybe there’s something to be said there for the lack of female representation in the Church if it garnered this type of response, but I also thought if people are this taken by the idea, I wanted to write something to offer some Biblical and historical views on this “Sophia”, as she isn’t a new concept at all. The caption under the Instagram post sounds nice, but it’s ever so slightly off-kilter that it misrepresents everything. Let’s look at the claims line by line: Jesus had two moms.Their names areMary and Sophia. Well, not much to say here yet, but… nope. You’ve heard about Mary, but do you know about Sophia? Well, yes, I do. Maybe you, dear reader, know as well. But I began to question whether the author of the caption did. Sophia is the Greek word for God’s Wisdom. OK, finally. Getting to some facts and less conjecture. Although I would clarify that “sophia” (σοφία) is simply the Greek word for “wisdom”, not specifically “God’s wisdom” (or a name), per se. It’s a minor point though, I’m just nit-picking now. Sophia was there at the beginning of creation. She birthed the world into existence. Right, so here’s where it gets a little “squiffy”. It’s true that Wisdom, or “Sophia”, was there at the very beginning before anything was created, and that she stood beside God during creation. We can see all of this in the book of Proverbs, and it’s all very interesting. I’m sure you’ll notice parallels with John 1. But was this Sophia a separate entity from who we normally think of as being there in the beginning? Who created everything — the Word or the Holy Spirit? Proverbs 8:22–31The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,the first of his acts of long ago.Ages ago I was set up...

An Examination of Conditional Immortality (Part Two)

| 03rd July 2021 | Hell

An Examination of Conditional Immortality (Part Two)

Welcome to Part Two of my study and examination of Conditional Immortality (aka Annihilationism). If you missed part one, you can read that one here. As with part one, this will be a long post as there is still much ground to cover before we can really grasp the bigger picture about what Scripture teaches. So with that said, I’ll pick right up where we left off. In part one, I covered a lot of New Testament texts, a few Old Testament passages, plus a look at what some of the earliest church leaders also wrote on the topic to the early church. In this one, we will be looking at a few more Old Testament examples and how they relate to the imagery used in Revelation, amongst other things. Unquenchable Fire and Undying Worms What of unquenchable fire and undying worms? Do these phrases really mean that the fuel of the fire and the worms must last forever and ever? We have a few references to shed some light on the meaning of these phrases which we can examine below: Ezekiel 20:46–48Mortal, set your face toward the south, preach against the south, and prophesy against the forest land in the Negeb; say to the forest of the Negeb, Hear the word of the Lord: Thus says the Lord God, I will kindle a fire in you, and it shall devour every green tree in you and every dry tree; the blazing flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from south to north shall be scorched by it. All flesh shall see that I the Lord have kindled it; it shall not be quenched. So, in our first example, Ezekiel was obviously not prophesying that the forests of Negeb would burn forever and never go out. Instead, fire that “shall not be quenched” is used to mean fire that cannot be interrupted or stopped in its destructive purpose. No one is able to stop a fire like this until it has run its course, or it is stopped by something greater, which is what the word “quench” actually means. It is an action performed by something external which stops the flames — what it doesn’t mean is a fire burning out naturally once it consumes its fuel. The fire will continue regardless. Jeremiah 17:27But if you do not listen to me, to keep the sabbath day holy, and to carry in no burden through the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates; it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem and shall not be quenched. Here is another reference to an unquenchable fire consuming something and not being stopped even after the object of destruction has been “devour[ed]”. The image is one of a fire which rages on and on, even after everything in it is burnt up and destroyed. Now let’s move onto the “undying worms” and see how that phrase is used. In the New Testament we see this phrase used in Mark 9:47–48, which originally comes from Isaiah, and also a similar theme in Jeremiah. Isaiah 66:24And they shall go out and look at the dead bodies of the people who have rebelled against me; for their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh. A little earlier in Isaiah 66 (v.16) we see that God executes judgement with fire and “by his sword, on all flesh”, and that the dead will be many, ending the chapter with the verse quoted above. Jeremiah picks up on a similar theme of God’s judgement, people being killed to such an extent there won’t be room to bury them. This is also where we find a reference to Gehenna, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, as its name means (also called Topheth), in chapters 7 and 19. The concept of Gehenna as a place of punishment is then picked up by Jesus in Matthew 10:28, which he uses in a more eschatological sense. Jeremiah 7:32–33Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of Slaughter: for they will bury in Topheth until there is no more room. The corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the air, and for the animals of ...

Does Easter Have Pagan Origins?

| 22nd March 2021 | Easter

Does Easter Have Pagan Origins?

Much like any major Christian holiday, there are the usual arguments and accusations about how it’s all just pagan festivities with a “Christian mask”. Easter is no different, and usually gets hit the hardest over its so-called “pagan roots”, or in the month or so preceding it, Lent being some “invention of the Catholic Church”. Table of Contents The Lenten Fast The Easter controversy and why we celebrate it when we do Is the Name “Easter” really the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre? Chocolate eggs and bunnies? Concluding Thoughts Further Reading and Sources I like to try and observe Lent, as it is one of the most ancient customs in the Church, which led me to researching its origins, along with the Easter celebration, to see where they have their basis. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that much of the accusations against Easter and Lent as “pagan” are either fabricated or is just misinformation. So let’s examine the different aspects of Easter to see how we got from Passover to resurrection, to little bunnies and chocolate eggs! The Lenten Fast A forty day fast prior to Easter has been a long established practice within the Church dating back to possibly within the first century. This is well established from ancient letters we still have available, such as from Irenaeus in the second century: For some consider themselves bound to fast one day, others two days, others still more. In fact, others fast forty days … And this variety among observers [of the fasts] did not have its origin in our time, but long before in that of our predecessors.–Irenaeus (c.180) Notice here that Irenaeus mentions that this was a practice passed onto them by their “predecessors”, a term often used in conjunction with the Apostles themselves, or those who immediately came after them, putting the origins of this Lenten fast much earlier than when Irenaeus wrote in 180, and also possibly having Apostolic origin. The Easter controversy and why we celebrate it when we do Back in the days of the early church, there arose a controversy around the celebration of Easter (or “pascha” as it was known then). But no, before your imagination runs wild, it wasn’t quite as exciting as it sounds and still had nothing to do with “paganism”. The dispute was over which day to hold the festival! Yep, the controversy really is as mundane as that. In fact, it was one of the issues raised at the council of Nicea to be discussed and hopefully settled, and is officially known as the Quartodeciman (lit. Fourteenth) controversy/dispute. It’s called this due to the issue being over whether the Easter celebration should follow the Jewish pattern of Passover on the 14 Nisan or not and simply follow the days of the week (Friday and Sunday). It became a bigger issue when the not only the Jewish community of believers wanted to follow this method, but when the Gentile Asian communities also claimed that their Quartodeciman practice was of Apostolic origin! It was a disciple of John the Apostle, and bishop of Smyrna, called Polycarp (c.69–c.155) who followed this practice in one of the seven churches of Asia as well as Melito, bishop of Sardis (died c.180). Irenaeus tells us that, in his old age, Polycarp visited the bishop of Rome to discuss this matter with him as the Roman church had diverged from the Quartodeciman custom and celebrated the resurrection according to the day Jesus rose instead: Sunday (the first day of the week). We gain an important glimpse about this whole dispute from Irenaeus though, when he tells us of the meeting between Polycarp and Anicetus: Neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe what he had always observed with John the disciple of our Lord, and the other apostles with whom he had associated; neither could Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe it, as he said that he ought to follow the customs of the presbyters that had preceded him. … And they parted from each...

BOOK REVIEW: Four Views on Hell 2nd edition

| 17th March 2021 | Book Review

BOOK REVIEW: Four Views on Hell 2nd edition

This is a guest post by David Jakubovic. The views are that of the author and don't necessarily reflect the views of That Ancient Faith. A 20 year update of the 1996 book by the same name, this slim volume (211 pages) is a helpful cross-section of current evangelical thought on Final Punishment, sampling Denny Burk on Eternal Conscious Torment (ECT hereafter), John Stackhouse Jr on Conditional immortality (CI hereafter), Robin Parry on Christian Universalism (CU hereafter) and Jerry Walls on (a Protestant) Purgatory. Preston Sprinkle pens both Introduction and Conclusion, plus there are Scripture, Author and Subject indices. The Introduction sets the scene, listing the 3 historically available views along with speculation about post-mortem purgatorial sanctification, before clarifying that it is not the existence of hell that is here in doubt: “They agree that hell exists, but they differ on what this hell is like.” (11) Sprinkle lists verses used by all 4 views, then introduces the academic background of the 4 essayists. He finally issues a substantial challenge to the reader: “You, of course, will probably agree with only one of the following essays and disagree with the other three. But keep in mind: disagreement is not refutation. We must be able to refute the evidence of the views that we disagree with and then provide more compelling biblical evidence for the view that we uphold.” (15) Burk kicks off Chapter One (‘Eternal Conscious Torment’) with a startling parable. He visualizes a man torturing creatures in increasing order of complexity and dignity: first torturing a grasshopper, a frog, a bird, a puppy and finally a human baby. Burk states: “In each of the scenarios above, the ‘sin’ is the same – pulling the legs off. The only difference in each of these scenarios is the one sinned against…The seriousness of the sin is not measured merely by the sin itself (pulling off the legs) but by the value and the worth of the one being sinned against.” (19, italics his) This macabre thought-experiment is of course a gruesome version of Anselm’s ‘Status Principle’, namely that to sin against an infinitely good God merits infinite or eternal punishment. But fellow pro-ECT essayist Walls squashes this analogy: “There is profound disanalogy in the parable that undermines the central point he wants to establish. This resides in the fact that we do not have the power to do anything to God that is remotely analogous to the harm the character in the parable inflicts on helpless creatures ranging from grasshoppers to human infants. Indeed, God is so far above us in power, glory, and moral perfection that we are utterly incapable of harming him.”1 Burk even ventures that ECT “will ultimately become a source of joy and praise for the saints as they witness the infinite goodness and justice of God.” (20) Yet it is grossly incongruous to place ECT side by side with notions of ‘joy’, ‘goodness’ or ‘justice’ as these are universally understood. The very philosophical logic behind the ‘Status Principle’ is itself highly suspect, as Kronen points out when dismantling the ‘Classical Doctrine of Hell’ (CDH): “It is by no means obvious that an offense against an infinite being must be punished by the sorts of torments envisioned by CDH. One might sin more or less gravely against such a being, and in that case it does not seem that just any sin against an infinite being would merit eternal, continuous, and excruciating pain.”2 Spiegel adds that “human guilt is at most maximally great, not infinitely great”3, meaning that human guilt is still finite: “Finite guilt, however great, presumably does not warrant endless punishment in the form of ECT.” (Spiegel, op. cit. 41) He adds that, under the ‘Status Principle’, even the first sin you commit as a child is enough to incur ‘infinite guilt’, but this does not allow for the vast spectrum of p...