Early Church

Macrina

In the fourth century, there was a Christian Roman woman who was very significant in her lifetime. She was named Macrina. Now, we have to make a distinction. This woman is known as Macrina the Younger to distinguish her from her grandmother, Macrina the Elder. They were very wealthy, aristocratic Romans. And they were devoted Christians, very committed to the church and very committed to the Christian faith. Macrina the Younger was born in 330, but her grandmother—a very godly woman—lived before the reign of Constantine, at a time when Rome was persecuting the church. So, this was a family that experienced persecution, and then, all through Macrina the Younger’s lifetime, grew up in that post-persecution Constantinian Roman world. Macrina is interesting in her own right, but she is also interesting because of her brothers.

Macrina came from a very large family. There seems to be a consensus that there were ten children in the family, of which she was the oldest. When she was a young lady, she was betrothed to be married, but her fiancé died. She never fell in love again and never sought marriage again. She felt that her betrothal was almost a marriage, and so she considered herself to be still married. At various times, she would say that her husband was on a journey far away from her and she was making her way to him. Consequently, she committed her life to service and turned the family’s large estate into a monastery and a convent.

So, we have her contribution in her own right, but what’s also interesting is her brothers. She had two brothers who were very significant. One of them was Basil, who went on to be bishop of Caesarea, and the other brother was Gregory. There are a lot of Gregories in the early church, but this one is Gregory of Nyssa. He was a bishop too. Basil and Gregory are two of the three theologians known as the Three Cappadocians.

Gregory wrote of Macrina and her death. He wrote as if she were sharing her testimony at her death. He reports that she said:

You, God, did break the flaming sword and did restore to Paradise the man that was crucified with you and implored your mercy. Remember me too in your kingdom because I too was crucified with you, having nailed my flesh to the cross for fear of thee, and of thy judgments have I been afraid. Let not the terrible chasm separate me from the elect, nor let the slander stand against me in the way, nor let my sin be found before thine eyes. If in anything I have sinned in word, or deed, or thought, or have been led astray by the weakness of our nature.

She then pleaded for God’s mercy.

I find that first line fascinating: “You did break the flaming sword.” Of course, this is a reference to the angel who is keeping us from Paradise after Adam and Eve fell and were expelled from the garden. But God, through what Christ has done, has broken that flaming sword and has restored us to Paradise.

Just War

Augustine of Hippo provided the church with a number of crucial phrases. We have the phrase ex nihilo, meaning that creation was made out of nothing. Another phrase that Augustine gave us is not only important for the church but actually one that’s important for political philosophy. The Latin expression is jus ad bellum, or “just war.”

Augustine’s thinking on the topic grew out of his circumstances. In 410, as the Visigoths were laying waste to Rome, the Romans blamed the Christians and their refusal to participate in the civic religion for the city’s downfall. Augustine wrote an apologetic response: The City of God. In this book, Augustine provides helpful guidance for thinking about what it means to be a Christian in challenging times. But he also sketches out his idea of a just war. He laid out two components to his theory of just war: the first concerned legitimate reasons for going to war, and the second concerned how a state or a military ought to conduct itself in order to wage war in a just manner.

These were important questions for Christians. Many Christians up until Augustine’s day were pacifists, based on their reading of the sixth commandment—“Thou shalt not kill.” Augustine thought about the issue a little bit differently. His reading of the New Testament, and particularly regarding Christians’ obligation to the state as outlined in Romans 13, led him to believe that the state does have an obligation in waging war. So he moved away from a pacifist understanding of war. But how are we as Christians to approach the topic of war from a Christian perspective? This is where Augustine helps us. The first thing he does is ask how we are to think about war and about the point of war. It sounds counterintuitive, but this is what Augustine says: “We wage wars because we are interested in peace. It is ultimately peace that we seek, not war, and war is a means not to itself, but it is a means to peace.” He goes on: “For it is the wrongdoing of the opposing part which compels the wise man to wage just wars, and this wrongdoing, even though it gave rise to war, should still be a matter of grief to man because it is man’s wrongdoing. Let everyone, then, who thinks with pain on all these great evils—so horrible, so ruthless—acknowledge that this is misery.” Augustine is saying that war is misery, but it is necessary for peace.

In thinking about war, Augustine lays out criteria for a just war, reasons why a nation should go to war. He makes the case that, first of all, war should be a last resort. Are there other options? States should exhaust diplomatic options before going to war. He then asks, what are the parameters of war? He talks about whether the war will end once the cause for the war is avenged and the reason for the war is accomplished. He asks if there has been a wrong committed that warrants a war. Then he asks, is force used properly? In a war, there should be a distinction between combatants and noncombatants, and civilians should be protected. In asking these questions, Augustine helped us as Christians to think about just war.

On the Canon

Stephen Nichols (SN): Today we have a very special guest: Dr. Michael Kruger. He is the president and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. Dr. Kruger, welcome.

Michael Kruger (MK): Thanks, Steve. Great to be here.

SN: I’m looking forward to having a conversation with you about a very important topic. You’ve given a lot of attention and energy to the topic of the canon.

MK: Yes.

SN: So, let’s talk about the canon. Now, let’s get one thing straight. We’re talking about canon with one n in the middle. Is that right?

MK: That’s right. Canon, not cannon that would blow somebody up. This is a standard or list or rule.

SN: Okay, so we’ve got that established. This is canon with one n. What do we need to know about the canon in the early church?

MK: Well, there’s a lot to say there, Steve. I think most people probably labor with a number of misconceptions about the canon, and so one of the things I try to do is to help people undo those misconceptions. Probably the largest misconception out there is this idea that canon is a late imposition on books written for another purpose. In other words, people think these books were written with no intention of being authoritative documents; they were written sort of as occasional texts that only later—centuries later—Christians began to realize, “Wow, these are really great books and maybe we should consider these Scripture. Tell you what, let’s have a canon and put these in it,” something like that. So, the first thing, I think, that people need to understand is that these books were not just written as texts that had bearing only a certain situation or people; that Paul, for example, as an Apostle, wrote with conscious authority. Even in the first century, he understood himself as writing books to govern and guide the church. And this is an important thing that I think people miss.

SN: We find Peter speaking of the writings of Paul—and I always find this helpful because I get stumped by Paul sometimes; it’s helpful to know, well, Peter was stumped by Paul—and he’ll say, “There are some things in [Paul’s letters] that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (2 Pet. 3:16).

MK: Yes, absolutely. And that shows you that even in the first century how in that text, somewhere in the 60s, people were already viewing Apostolic books as scriptural books. So, you didn’t have to wait for the third or fourth century for this idea that you ought to have books that are regarded as Scripture in the New Testament.

SN: Now, as you look at the essence of the New Testament, we see a general consensus around the Gospels, we see a general consensus around Paul, but there were some sort of fuzzy boundaries there in those early centuries. What were some of the issues that were going on?

MK: What I like to help people understand is that by the early second century or middle second century there was really a wide and unified consensus on what we might call the core of the New Testament canon. The core of the New Testament canon would include things like the four Gospels, Acts, Paul’s thirteen letters, books like 1 Peter, 1 John, Revelation, and so on. So, about twenty-two out of the twenty-seven would have been pretty well established. What that means, then, is that for the books that were under discussion, if you will, there was maybe a little bit more disagreement about them were the small ones. So, this would have been books like 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, James, books like that.

SN: Was Philemon ever an issue?

MK: Philemon wasn’t really ever an issue. Philemon was just not talked about very much and often just no one mentioned it. So, for example, Irenaeus, a second-century church father, when he mentions all of Paul’s letters except Philemon, that doesn’t mean he rejects Philemon; it just means that Philemon is such a little book that he may not get around to saying much about it. I imagine that is still true in the modern day.

SN: Then there were other books that we do not have in our twenty-seven books of the New Testament.

MK: Correct.

SN: So, what were some of those?

MK: In the second century there were books in circulation that people sometimes used that they were kind of hanging on the edges. An example of this is the Shepherd of Hermas, which was a popular book in early Christianity, or 1 Clement, which was a letter that some valued. And then you have what we call apocryphal gospels, gospels that are outside the canon such as the Gospel of Thomas or the Gospel of Peter. We know people read them now and then but they never had much popularity and they never really were true contenders for the canon.

SN: In fact, we find some very early church fathers outright rejecting these gospels as false gospels.

MK: Yes, despite the claims of many modern scholars that these were popular and widely received, the fact of the matter is that when they were mentioned, which isn’t very often, they were condemned quite directly. So, there was never really a chance that they would be in the canon.

SN: Well, Dr. Kruger, thank you for being with us. I’ve been enjoying our conversation. Maybe we’ll have to have another conversation about the cannon with two n’s sometime. That would be just as explosive.

MK: That would be fun.

Marcion

“Do you know who I am?” That question was posed to Polycarp, the great early church bishop. Polycarp was faithful right up to the very end, and he was one of the early martyrs for the faith. And he had an interesting encounter with another very well known figure in the early church, one who is well known not for the good things he did but for the bad things he did.

This figure was also apparently very impressed with himself. On one occasion, he met Polycarp. He went up to Polycarp, looked him right in the eye, and said, “Do you know who I am?” Polycarp would have none of this posturing. He looked him right back in the eye and quickly retorted, “Yes, I know you very well, you firstborn son of the devil.” This figure was Marcion. He was a well-known heresiarch, or founder of a heresy.

Marcion’s birth year is unknown; estimates range from AD 85 all the way up to 110. We do know that his death was around 160. He was the son of a bishop in Turkey. Marcion was apparently in the shipping trade, and he did very well for himself. Around 140, he made his way to Rome. He wanted to buy influence in the church, so he turned over a significant amount—one estimate says twenty thousand coins—to the church at Rome. Early on, however, church officials saw that he was not a good guy and this was not a good direction for the church to go, so he was quickly excommunicated and sent away with all of those twenty thousand coins.

What was the teaching of Marcion that was so problematic? Marcion had bought into Plato’s idea that matter is bad, and so, the God of the Old Testament, the God who created the world, was not a God that he could stomach. There needed to be a distance between God and matter in Marcion’s thinking, so the creator God of the Old Testament was not a true God or He was a lesser God. As a result, Marcion basically wrote off the entire Old Testament. He also wrote off those New Testament books that are very dependent on the Old Testament. Of the four Gospels, he really only liked Luke. And among the Epistles, he certainly didn’t like Peter or Hebrews. Marcion’s canon—his understanding of what God’s revelation is to us—was a very short canon. It consisted of Luke and ten of Paul’s epistles, and even then he went back into some of Paul’s epistles and excised some of his teachings.

Marcion’s canon actually had a positive side effect: his heretical teaching prompted the church to think about the canon. By the end of the second century, the church was articulating the canon of the Old Testament, largely in response to Marcion and his heresy. The church also responded to Marcion’s view of Christ. Obviously, Marcion did not have a good view of the incarnation—because he denigrated the material world, he denied the true humanity of Christ. Church fathers such as Irenaeus and Tertullian went after Marcion on this too.

So, “Do you know who I am?” Yes, Polycarp knew who he was, and Polycarp knew that he was bad for the church.

Augustine’s Handbook for Life

Augustine of Hippo wrote many books, including his Confessions and City of God. One of his somewhat lesser-known works is a book from the year 420 called the Enchiridion. Augustine was around sixty-six years old at the time he wrote it, and he had been a Christian for thirty-five years. The Enchiridion is a short handbook or manual. Sometimes it’s called Augustine’s Catechism or his treatise on faith, hope, and love or faith, hope, and charity. I’d like to simply call it Augustine’s “Handbook on Life.”

The book is addressed “to my dearest son, Laurence.” Laurence was not Augustine’s actual son; Augustine is referring to Laurence as a sort of spiritual son or a son in the faith. We don’t know much about Laurence. He was a Roman official, a tribune, living in Africa, and he was a man of some importance and some stature in that day. He had written to Augustine to ask a significant question: How can Christian doctrine be summarized? Augustine takes the question and he sort of says, “Well, Laurence, let me help you articulate the question you’re really asking.” And the question is this: How can God be worshiped? This tells us a lot about what Augustine thinks of doctrine and what he thinks doctrine ultimately leads us to. And not only is the worship of God a way to talk about theology, it is also for Augustine a way to talk about life. So, what we are after here in this little book is, “How shall we then live? How shall we worship God?”

Augustine answers, “God is to be worshiped with faith, hope, and charity.” Now, the majority of the book is about faith. We worship God based on what we believe in and what we believe about God. In order to unfold this idea, Augustine walks Laurence through the Apostles’ Creed. At one point, he talks about faith in Christ the Redeemer and says we are under the wrath of God because of original sin: “We are the enemies of God and God is angry at us.” And then Augustine says this: “When God is said to be angry, this does not mean that his mind was disturbed, like the mind of a person who is angry, but his vengeance, which is nothing but just, is, by an extension of meaning, called his anger.” We are under the wrath of God, the vengeance of God because we are sinners. Then he says this: “So our reconciliation with God by a mediator and our reception of the Holy Spirit to make us children of the one to whom we were enemies . . . this is the grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is what we believe; this is where our faith lies.

Then we have hope. When Augustine turns to hope, he turns to the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer gives expression to our hope, our hope for our needs and ultimately, our hope for the kingdom of God. As the Lord’s Prayer ends, “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, amen.” Then Augustine ends with charity. We live in love to God and in love to others. And that, according to Augustine, is a handbook for life.

Augustine on the Psalms

Augustine’s Explanations of the Psalms has been called “Augustine’s longest and at the same time the least read of Augustine’s works.” It is a long book—more than twice as long as The City of God, and recently published as a five-volume set—and it was also a long time in writing. Augustine first worked on it in 392 and he did not finish it until 418. He preached and taught and dictated his way all through the Psalms through those decades. Throughout his interpretations of the Psalms, Augustine’s focus is on Christ. In fact, at one point he says, “Christ is the comprehensive mystery underlying all of Scripture.”

He started his Psalms in 392. That is an important date. He was born in 354, he was converted in 386, and he was ordained as a priest in 391. In fact, it was right after he was ordained as a priest that he requested a leave of absence so that he could pull away from his work and immerse himself in Scripture. Of course, Augustine was quite the scholar. Before he was a Christian, he was a teacher and an academic. He had read all the works of Plato and the works of Aristotle and the works of the great Greek and Roman thinkers. He had written many of his own books. But it was time for him as a priest to immerse himself in Scripture.

This is almost the opposite of how we do it now. Now, if someone wants to be a pastor, they’ll go to college, then go to seminary, then they’ll get ordained. Augustine did it in reverse; he was ordained first and then he put himself through this intense study in Scripture. One of the books that was his focus was the book of Psalms.

And so, in 392, as a newly ordained priest, preaching what would be his first sermon series, he struck out on a series of the Psalms and wrote what amounted to thirty-two lectures on the Psalms. It was just the beginning of his work, and as I said, he continued to work on this through his life and did not finish until 418.

At one point, Augustine calls Scripture the unus sermo Dei—that Scripture is the one sermon of God. What he was stressing in that is that there is an absolute unity, not only of the divine authorship of Scripture, but a unity of the message. And again, that message centered on the Psalms. At one point, Augustine said that the only thing he wanted to know in life was the knowledge of God and the knowledge of his own soul. And in many ways, Christ brings those two together. Christ the God-man—He who is truly God and truly man—gives us the clearest possible answers to the questions “Who is God?” and “Who am I?” In the end, that is the singular message of Scripture, and Christ is the One who holds it together.

Augustine believed that we should be very active readers of Scripture. At one point, he says this about the Psalms: “If the psalm prays, you pray. If the psalm laments, you lament. If the psalm exalts, you rejoice. If it hopes, you hope. If it fears, you fear. Everything written here is a mirror for us.” That’s Augustine on the Psalms.

The Three Cappadocians

Who were the Cappadocian Fathers? Cappadocia is in Turkey, and the three Cappadocians were early Greek church fathers. Two of them were brothers, and all three of them were friends.

The first was Basil of Caesarea. He was born in 330 and he lived to 379. And then we have his brother, Gregory of Nyssa. He was born two years after his older brother, Basil, so he was born in 332 and he lived until 395. And then there is the third Cappadocian, and this is another Gregory, Gregory of Nazianzus. He was the oldest of the three; he was born in 329 and he died in 389. So, the three Cappadocians are Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus.

Basil and Gregory of Nazianzus—and sometimes they just called him Gregory the Theologian—were friends. They knew each other through their studies. They had met numerous times in Caesarea and then spent six years together studying in Athens. After his studies, Basil thought he would have a career in rhetoric and as a philosopher, but he was challenged and encouraged by a bishop to pursue ministry, so he became a presbyter. Then, when Eusebius, the bishop of Caesarea, died, Basil became the bishop of Caesarea. His brother Gregory later became bishop of Nyssa.

The reason we talk about these three Cappadocians is they made significant contributions to the development of the doctrine of the Trinity and also contributed to the development of the doctrine of Christology. This was a crucial time in the life of the church. In 325, there was the council at Nicea, where it was firmly established that Jesus Christ is truly God and truly man. But after Nicea, there were many bishops who drifted away from the Nicene Creed. There arose in the church significant numbers of bishops who rejected the teachings of Nicea and rejected the teaching that Jesus Christ is truly God. Soon, another council was called, this time at Constantinople in 381. By then, Basil the Great was dead, but both Gregorys were still alive, and the works of all three contributed to the thought at the Council of Constantinople. At that council, the Nicene Creed was reaffirmed and reestablished in the church. In fact, when we recite the Nicean Creed, we’re technically reciting the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, but that, of course, is a mouthful, so we just call it the Nicene Creed.

It was also the three Cappadocians who firmly entrenched the definition of the Trinity in the life of the church. This goes back to Tertullian. He was the one who gave us the definition of the Trinity, that God is one substance in three persons. And it was the three Cappadocians who helped that sentence work its way into the life of the church and to be firmly established in the life of the church. It was also Basil who helped us think about the Holy Spirit and recognized that, not only do we need to talk about the deity of Christ, we also need to talk about the deity of the Holy Spirit.

These three theologians were all quite different personalities. Basil was a man of action. Gregory of Nyssa was also a man of action. And then there was the brains of the three, Gregory of Nazianzus, and so that is why we sometimes call him Gregory the Theologian.

So, who were the Cappadocians? They were three early church fathers who significantly helped the church at a crucial moment in its existence.

Clement, Again

Let’s go back and spend a little bit more time with Clement of Rome. His is known for his Epistle to the Corinthians, or 1 Clement. One of the things that’s fascinating to me about this letter from Clement is that it was likely written right at the time the Apostle John was writing the book of Revelation or even possibly right before John wrote Revelation. Now, Clement’s letter is not canonical, because he did not write under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But it is still a significant work. Clement likely had associations with the Apostles Peter, Paul, and John, and his letter comes to us from the time of the early church, around the time of the closing of the New Testament canon. So, this is a fascinating read.

We previously looked at how Clement talks about justification by faith alone and how he deals with works once we have been justified. I want to focus now on chapter 37. Here, Clement tells us that Christ is our leader and we are His soldiers:

Let us then, men and brethren, with all energy, act the part of soldiers in accordance with His holy commandments. Let us consider those who serve under our generals with what order, obedience, and submissiveness, they perform the things which are commanded them. All are not prefects nor commanders of a thousand nor of a hundred nor fifty nor the like, but each one in his own rank performs the things commanded by the king and the generals. The great cannot subsist without the small nor the small without the great. There is a kind of mixture in all things and thence arises mutual advantage. Let us take our body for example. The head is nothing without the feet, and the feet are nothing without the head. Yea, the very smallest members of our body are necessary and useful to the whole body but all work harmoniously together and are under one common rule for the preservation of the whole body.

Clement goes on to talk about how these members of the whole body are an illustration of an army and the various ranks within it. These metaphors stress the body of Christ, both the uniqueness and the necessity of each of the members of the body of Christ as they perform their tasks. He reminds us that whether it is the work of the great ranks or the work of the lesser ranks, all of that work is necessary and all of that work is in a sweet, mutual harmony to accomplish the aims and intentions of the army and to move the army forward and to advance its mission.

And so, we have this testimony of an early bishop in the church, who learned this lesson very well from the Apostle Paul. He also learned the lesson very well from James, the brother of Christ, who reminds us that we should not show partiality and say to the rich man, “Here, come here, we have a place of prominence for you,” while relegating to the back rows the sort of person who is of lesser social status. Clement learned his lesson well from the New Testament Epistles when he sat down to write his epistle to the believers at Corinth to encourage them to think about what it means to be a part of the body of Christ.

And so, here we are, two thousand years later, with this testimony of an early church father reminding us of what the church is all about.

Clement

When you want to talk about Clement, the question is, which Clement? There were a number of Clements in the early church. The Clement we want to talk about is the first one, and he goes all the way back to the first century. This is Clement of Rome.

Clement was bishop of Rome from 88 to 99. We actually know very little about him. We know that he was bishop over Rome at an intense time of persecution. We have one piece of writing that comes down to us from the hand of Clement. It’s often called the First Epistle of Clement or 1 Clement, or sometimes it’s called the Letter of Clement to the Corinthians. The letter begins, “The church of God which sojourns at Rome, to the church of God sojourning at Corinth.” We also read in these opening lines of this epistle, “Of the sudden and successive calamitous events.” What Clement is referring to here is likely the persecution under Emperor Domitian.

Domitian was emperor from 81 to 96. The Roman historian Pliny calls him “the beast from hell.” One of the things that Domitian did was institute emperor worship; he considered himself the almighty god and the very presence of all of the gods on earth and he demanded that all his loyal subjects of Rome actually worship him. Of course, this was difficult for Christians to do—it was also difficult for Jews to do—and under Domitian there was an intense time of persecution of both Jews and Christians. When Clement writes of the sudden and successive calamitous events, it very likely has to do with Domitian’s persecution.

Domitian was not the first emperor to go after Christians. In fact, in chapter three of his epistle, Clement informs us of the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul. This is one of the earliest extrabiblical references to the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul in Rome under Nero. Nero was another emperor who hated Christians and persecuted them viciously and violently, just as Domitian did.

As we read further along in Clement’s epistle, we come to chapter 32, where Clement affirms that wonderful doctrine of Paul and of the Reformers: the doctrine of justification by faith. Clement writes, “And we too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, not by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works, which we have wrought in holiness of heart, but by that faith through which, from the beginning, almighty God has justified all men, to whom be glory forever and ever, amen.” Then he quickly asks, “What shall we do then, brethren? Shall we become slothful in well-doing and cease from the practice of love? God forbid that any such course should be followed by us! But, rather, let us hasten with all energy and readiness of mind to perform every good work.” He goes on to say, “Above all, with His holy and undefiled hands, God formed man—the most excellent of His creatures and truly great, through the understanding given him, the express likeness of His own image. For thus says God, ‘Let us make man in our own image and after our likeness.’ Having thus finished all these things He approved them and blessed them and said, ‘Increase and multiply.’ We see, then, how all righteous men have been adorned with good works and how the Lord Himself, adorning Himself with His works, rejoiced. Having, therefore, such an example, let us without delay accede to His will and do His work, the work of righteousness, with our whole strength.”

And there we have it, the doctrine of justification by faith and a sincere and zealous call to live as Christians in this world from Clement.

Ambrose of Milan

In the city of Milan, Italy, there once lived a man named Ambrose. He was born around A.D. 340 and died in 397. He was the bishop of Milan, but he did not start off being a bishop. He came from a political family and initially was a political figure.

Ambrose came from a very established family. He was born in Trier, in the Rhineland region of Germany. In fact, Trier might have been one of the earliest cities in Germany; it was an established Roman city. Ambrose’s father was a Praetorian prefect. He oversaw a number of cohorts of that elite force in the Roman army, the Praetorian Guard.

When Ambrose was a young man, he was sent back to study at Rome, and after his studies, he began his political career. By the age of 34, he was governor of northern Italy and was seated at Milan. The bishop at Milan at the time was an Arian—he rejected the deity of Christ and the Nicene Creed. When this bishop died, there was a dispute between the Arians in the city and the non-Arians, and both groups came together and started chanting for Ambrose.

This is probably one of the most unique elections of a bishop in the early church. Ambrose was elected bishop by popular acclaim, as both sides wanted him. The non-Arians liked that Ambrose was not an Arian and the Arians thought that he was a good ruler and a fair governor and that he would treat them fairly. Ambrose didn’t want the position, however, and he went and hid out in someone’s house. Finally, the pope sent that person a letter and told him to turn over Ambrose. So, Ambrose reluctantly ascended to the bishopric of Milan.

Ambrose made three marks as bishop. First, he strongly stood against Arianism. The Arian party had miscalculated; they did not realize how crucial the doctrine of the deity of Christ was to Ambrose. He rejected Arianism as a heresy and devoted his energies to routing it.

The other influence of Ambrose comes in terms of hymnody. Before Ambrose, hymns tended to be unmetered and were more in a prose style. They didn’t necessarily rhyme, sort of like the Gloria Patri. Ambrose and a few others contributed to the development of rhymed, metrical hymns. One of Ambrose’s hymns is titled “The Eternal Gifts of Christ the King.”

But the third mark of Ambrose has to do with his influence over Augustine. At this point, I’ll step aside and let Augustine tell us about Ambrose’s influence. In his Confessions, Augustine says:

In Milan, I found your devoted servant, the bishop Ambrose, who was known throughout the world as a man whom there were few to equal in his goodness. At that time his gifted tongue never tired of dispensing the richness of your word and the joy of your word. . . . Unknown to me, it was you, God, who led me to Ambrose so that I might knowingly be led by Ambrose to you. This man of God received me like a father, and as a bishop told me how glad he was that I had come. My heart warmed to him, not at first, as a teacher of the truth, which I had quite despaired of finding in your church, but simply as a man who showed me kindness.

And as Augustine was impressed by his kindness and by his ability in the pulpit, eventually God used Ambrose to lead Augustine to the truth.