Friday, January 15, 2016

A Sheep's Guide to Wolves

"He is lying, fraudulent, soothing, flattering, treacherous, rhapsodical, trifling, inharmonious, verbose, sordid, and timorous."

This is how a wise old man, a bishop who would be martyred, St. Ignatius, described false teachers in his Epistle to the Ephesians. It was an uncertain time for the early Church, and the Adversary was sending many false teachers abroad to sow error. St. Ignatius wanted Christians to be able to recognize some of the warning signs. (Capital letters are St. Ignatius'; the rest are brief comments by the Bear.)

  • LYING -- He substitutes false new teachings for the historical faith. He will not tell the truth even about facts of the world. Some of his biggest lies are lies of omission: failing to tell the truth, or the whole truth. Dogmas are "forgotten" when they become inconvenient.
  • FRAUDULENT -- Fraud is deceitfully acting with apparent authority to trick someone, in this case the faithful. Every effort will be made to make the fraud look like the genuine article.
  • SOOTHING -- He calms fears by assuring people that nothing has really changed. He speaks in reasonable tones to avoid spooking the sheep.
  • FLATTERING -- he appeals to people's desire to be thought well of, or worthy of trust. They have "outgrown" some old teaching. They have "grown up," and are ready to cast off old superstitions and discover the real faith.
  • TREACHEROUS -- That means to betray a trust. "You've got to be trusted / by the people that you lie to." Pink Floyd, Animals.
  • RHAPSODICAL -- Instead of recognizing sober facts, he numbs the mind with flowery language that paints a lovely picture. He avoids actually saying anything, but instead creates an impression that he has, so he can change or deny the message if necessary. Also, no one can effectively argue against an impression. 
  • TRIFLING -- He does not treat important subjects with the diligence and depth they require, nor what is holy with respect. 
  • INHARMONIOUS -- If the Church in Her history is a song, he does not sing in harmony, but introduces false notes.  Also, he stirs up division. He employs "the hermeneutic of rupture" and teaches novelties.
  • VERBOSE -- Nothing may be straightforward and simple. Documents must be lengthy, ambivalent, and hard to understand. Now he says one thing, here he says the opposite. A tradition is affirmed in one paragraph, then discarded in the next. The shell of truth remains, but drained of all meaning. This allows whatever interpretation suits him at the moment, and also discourages people from even trying to penetrate the dense overgrowth of verbiage. 
  • SORDID -- His personal behavior or that of those of his party is vile, or his teachings encourage sin. 
  • TIMOROUS -- He shows a lack of boldness when it counts, and preaches what will draw approval of people, or avoid controversy, rather than the truth.

There have been wolves after the sheep from the beginning. The wolves haven't changed since St. Ignatius' day. Sheep would do well to be able to recognize them.


  1. Dear Bear,

    The text of the quote is certainly true. However, I did some research and cannot determine for certain if this is an actual excerpt from St Ignatius' Letter to the Ephesians or not. I went on the New Advent web site and the Early Christian Writings web site, and neither have this text in the letter. I then went onto the St Takla web site and found it at "Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol I: Ignatius: Chapter IX." I think the text is an addition made later on by a scribe perhaps doing translating from Koine Greek to Latin (???). But I am unsure. I do have the Greek text of St Ignatius' epistles at home and will check tonight. Nevertheless, maybe I missed something in my researching. In any event, whoever wrote that saying about lying, fraudulent and sordid teachers, this is an excellent post. Thanks.

    1. "But the spirit of deceit preaches himself, and speaks his own things, for he seeks to please himself. He glorifies himself, for he is full of arrogance. He is lying, fraudulent, soothing, flattering, treacherous, rhapsodical, trifling, inharmonious, verbose, sordid, and timorous."

      Ignatius of Antioch. (1885). The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians. In A. Roberts, J. Donaldson, & A. C. Coxe (Eds.), The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (Vol. 1, p. 53). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

    2. This is longer version. I don't know whether it has been established to be spurious, but I'm not an expert. As even with scripture, there are manuscripts that contain pericopes that are not in other manuscripts. For example, the beloved story of the woman caught in adultery is believed by hardly any scholars to be genuine. Bear shrugs, and figures we have the Bible God wants us to have.

    3. Thank you, Bear. I reviewed my Greek edition of St Ignatius' letters. The text isn't in there. But the phrase is something he would have said. He has damning things to say about false teachers in most of his epistles except the one to the Romans. That one was preparatory for his impending martyrdom - different subject. I agree with you about John's account of the woman caught in adultery. It likely is a misplaced Lucan account. But we got what God wanted us to have. I just was interested in this subject of text origins. Thanks.

  2. Very intriguing. That St. Ignatius was able to articulate this comprehensive list of very incisive descriptors illustrates his fine intellect. Can you imagine one of our latter day bishops coming up with anything so useful?

    Now, the task at hand is to inventory all that has occurred since March of 2013 and demonstrate the lupinesque characteristics of it all. Off the top of my head I can list five or six SORDID examples and one huge VERBOSE example.

    I think you should start an institute for this important work. If not that, use it as a new framework for your posts--helping the world to see what Faithful Catholics are up against.

    1. The Catholic Ephemera have indeed documented it all. Once your doctor diagnosis you with hemorrhoids he doesn't need to keep examining your posterior. The Church has a bad case of hemorrhoids. The real task is to figure out HOW the Church developed hemorrhoids, since it is supposed to be immune to them -- indefectible, if you will. It is impossible for the Church to teach error in the matter of faith or morals. How, for example, can the Church publish a video that celebrates the heresy of indifferentism? Even though Jimmy Aikin explains it all away in his most recent column (Jimmy Bacon is upset that it seems awfully close to his piece) it is slick propaganda that at the very least is too close to indifferentism for the Church to prudently publish.

      Let the Bear put this as bluntly as possible. We're supposed to be divinely protected from people like Jorge Bergoglio.

      The Bear is going to have to put his 450 gm. brain to work on this and come up with an article.

    2. You may, Bear, be aided in your research by this post from Rorate if you have not seen it already:

      "As ordinary baptized Catholics wishing to apply the theological censures of the Church to this video, we should have to define it as: inducing heresy as far as the content is concerned; equivocal and insidious as far as the form is concerned; scandalous as far as its effects on souls are concerned."

  3. No, not much has changed since St. Ignatius' day, except that the wolves have better tools with which to spread the false teaching on a widespread basis. The sheep must be certain to test everything they hear, no matter who they are hearing it from. Sad but true.

  4. That is a very useful list. A great example of how the Catholic Faith protects and guides future generations. Thank you.

  5. Very good! Thank you!

  6. A warning list to be posted in every Church of those who remain true to Mary and her Son.


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