Church Fathers on Doctrine versus Discipline

This page is supposed to gather some selections from the Church Fathers on doctrines and disciplines. I made this post to show that the Church's current stance has its roots in Church history. Disciplines can change and vary with time and place, but the Church's doctrines must be the same everywhere and always. So what about you, friends? Do you know of any other places where the Fathers talked about the difference between doctrines and disciplines?

Church Fathers on Doctrine versus Discipline

~190 A.D. - St. Irenaeus of Lyons - “[S]ome think that they should fast one day [before Easter], others two, yet others more... Yet all of these lived none the less in peace, and we also live in peace with one another; and the disagreement in regard to the fast confirms the agreement in the faith.” (Irenaeus, On Easter, as quoted in Eusebius, Church History Book 5 Chapter 24 Paragraphs 12-13)

206 A.D. - Tertullian - “Throughout Greece, and certain of its barbaric provinces, the majority of Churches keep their virgins [veiled]. [Other churches do not.] … What shall we observe? What shall we choose? We cannot contemptuously reject a custom which we cannot condemn…[for] it is not among strangers that we find it, but among [Christians]. They and we have one faith, one God, the same Christ, the same hope, the same baptismal sacraments; let me say it once for all, we are one Church. Thus, whatever belongs to our brethren is ours: [only the custom] divides us.” (On the Veiling of Virgins Chapter 2)

375 A.D. - St. Basil the Great - “To the clergy of Neoc├Žsarea. ... [You] allege [that I permit] psalms and a kind of music varying from the custom which has obtained among you... [You] ought to be ashamed [of this complaint]. … [You have] alleged [that] these practices were not observed in the time of the great Gregory. My rejoinder is that even the Litanies which you now use were not used in his time. I do not say this to find fault with you...[but] beware lest, in your disputes about the mode of singing psalms, you are straining at the gnat and setting at naught the greatest of the commandments. … Only [allow] great matters [to] prevail, and do not allow innovations in the faith to make themselves heard.” (Letter 207)

~384 A.D. - St. Ambrose of Milan - “When I am here [in Milan] I do not fast on Saturday; but when I am at Rome I do: whatever church you may come to, conform to its custom, if you would avoid either receiving or giving offense.” (As quoted in St. Augustine’s Letter 36 Chapter 14)

Before 397 A.D. - St. John Chrysostom - “[At Nicea] the Fathers decided to come together from widely separated places and to fix the Easter date; the Church paid respect to the harmony of their thinking, loved their oneness of mind, and accepted the date they enjoined. [But] it [was] impossible for [them] to arrive at the exact date of [the original Easter]. So let us stop fighting with shadows, let us stop hurting ourselves in the big things while we are indulging our rivalry over the small [things]. ... Fasting at this or that time is not a matter for blame. But to rend asunder the Church...[and] to create dissension...these are unpardonable, these do demand an accounting, these do deserve serious punishment.” (Against the Jews Discourse 3 Section 6 Paragraphs 12-13)

And: “When I have [said this] against them, what argument of theirs will seem clever? They ask: 'Did you not observe this fast before?' It is not your place to say this to me, but I would be justified in telling you that we, too, fasted at this time in earlier days, but still we put more importance on peace than on the observance of dates. ... Three hundred Fathers or even more gathered together in [Nicea] and ordained this by law... [They] passed a decree that [we] celebrate the paschal feast in harmony together.” (ibid. Section 3 Paragraphs 1, 3, & 4)

398 A.D. - St. Jerome - “You ask me whether you ought to fast on the Sabbath and to receive the eucharist daily according to the custom—as currently reported—of the churches of Rome and Spain. ... The best advice that I can give you is this. Church-traditions—especially when they do not run counter to the faith—are to be observed in the form in which previous generations have handed them down; and the use of one church is not to be annulled because it is contrary to that of another. ... In such matters each province may follow its own inclinations.” (Letter 71 Paragraph 6)

400 A.D. - St. Augustine of Hippo - “[If] the authority of Scripture has decided [something], there is no room for doubting that we should do according to that which is written... In like manner, if the universal Church follows any [custom], there is no room for doubt as to our duty... But [some things are] not decided either by Scripture or by universal practice. [They] must therefore be referred to [a] third class—as pertaining, namely, to things which are different in different places and countries. Let every man, [in such matters], conform himself to the usage prevailing in the Church to which he may come.” (Letter 54)

And: “[Any] custom, if it is clearly not contrary to the faith [or] morality, is to be held as a thing indifferent, and ought to be observed for the sake of fellowship with those among whom we live.” (ibid.)

~429 A.D. - St. John Cassian - “In the country of Egypt [a] custom is by ancient tradition observed [involving] Epiphany… [T]he priests of that province regard [Epiphany] as the time, both of our Lord's baptism and also of His birth in the flesh… [So they] celebrate the commemoration of [Christmas and the Baptism of the Lord] not separately as in the Western provinces but on the single festival of this day.” (Conference 10 Chapter 2)

439 A.D. - Socrates Scholasticus - “[T]hose who agree in faith, [sometimes] differ among themselves on questions of usage. [For example:] Those at Rome fast three successive weeks before Easter, excepting Saturdays and Sundays. Those in...Greece and Alexandria observe a fast of six weeks, which they term 'The forty days' fast. … Nor is there less variation in regard to religious assemblies. For although almost all churches throughout the world celebrate the sacred mysteries on the sabbath of every week [besides on Sunday], yet the Christians of Alexandria and at Rome, on account of some ancient tradition, have ceased to do this. … [In] Alexandria, readers and chanters are chosen indifferently from the catechumens and the faithful; whereas in all other churches the faithful only are promoted to these offices. … However, to give a complete catalogue of all the various customs and ceremonial observances in use throughout every city and country would be difficult—rather impossible.” (Church History Book 5 Chapter 22)

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