On Saturday mornings I try to meet with a group of men reading through the church fathers. This past week we read 2 Clement- an ancient Christian sermon. While not the thrust of the sermon, there is a bit of robust ecclesiology:
So then, brothers, if we do the will of God our Father we will belong to the first church, the spiritual one, which was created before the sun and the moon. . . the Books and the Apostles declare that the church not only exists now, but has been in existence from the beginning. For she was spiritual, as was also Jesus, but was revealed in the last days in order that she might save us.
In the mornings I read from the fathers just for myself. Currently I am working through Origen’s work on Song of Solomon. This week he too got to talking about my mom:
For you must please not think that she is called the Bride or the Church only from the time when the Savior came in the flesh: she is so called from the beginning of the human race and from the very beginning of the human race and from the very foundation of the world—indeed, if I may look for the origin of this high mystery under Paul’s guidance, even before the foundation of the world.
Clement goes on to say that no one can know the marvels God has prepared “for his chosen ones.” Origen immediately quotes from Paul’s overflowing sentence on election and predestination in Ephesians 1. This mixture of an eternal mother and predestination plays out in rather fascinating ways today.
The Orthodox Church believes in an eternal church, but not predestination—man must be free to choose. Plenty of evangelicals believe in predestination, but not an eternal church—Israel and the church must never meet. Speaking broadly, it is only orthodox Reformed congregations that would hold to the teachings of the fathers. Because God has eternally chosen all who will believe, that assembly has existed forever.