The Instigator
Con (against)
3 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
0 Points

Evangelical Protestantism is Apostolic Christianity

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Post Voting Period
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after 1 vote the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/24/2014 Category: Religion
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,094 times Debate No: 49775
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
Votes (1)




Evangelical Protestantism is defined as non-infant-baptizing evangelical protestantism.

Pro will be arguing that it is Apostolic Christianity.

Con (me) will be arguing that it is not Apostolic Christianity.

Apostolic Christianity is defined as pre-Nicene, pre-Edict of Milan, Christianity as practiced by the Apostles and their successors.

Scriptural and historical evidence will both be accepted.

Round 1 is for acceptance only.


I accept this debate.

Wikipedia will be considered a legitimate source
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks to Pro for accepting.

I will be arguing for a mix of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox view.

Wikipedia will only be permitted if you can demonstrate that the information in Wikipedia is reliably sourced (in other words, it might be better to use the sources that Wikipedia cites).


1. Infant baptism was practiced in the early Church


In the Old Testament, the sign of faith (circumcision) is given to infants (Genesis 21:4). In the New Covenant, there is no declaration anywhere that the sign of faith is no longer to be given to infants, and therefore there is no reason to think that the sign of faith was no longer given to infants.


The vast majority of the pre-Nicene Fathers supported the baptism of infants:

Irenaeus (hearer of Polycarp, who was a disciple of St. John the Apostle, who was one of the 12 Apostles): "He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age" (Against Heresies 2:22:4 [A.D. 189]). [1]

This indicates that Irenaeus supported infant baptism because spiritual rebirth was considered the same as baptism in the early Church:

It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]" (Irenaeus, Fragment 34 [A.D. 190]). [2]

Hippolytus was more direct:

"Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them" (The Apostolic Tradition 21:16 [A.D. 215]). [3]

The same is true of Origen:

"The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit" (Commentaries on Romans 5:9 [A.D. 248]). [4]

And of Cyprian:

"As to what pertains to the case of infants: You [Fidus] said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, that the old law of circumcision must be taken into consideration, and that you did not think that one should be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day after his birth. In our council it seemed to us far otherwise. No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken. Rather, we all judge that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born" (Letters 64:2 [A.D. 253]). [5]

In fact, there was only one early Church Father who opposed the baptism of infants: Tertullian. However, the reason he rejected it (among others) was because he held the view that no sin may be forgiven after baptism, which is a view that evangelicals reject:

If any understand the weighty import of baptism, they will fear its reception more than its delay: sound faith is secure of salvation.” (Tertullian, De Baptismo 18 [A.D. 210]) [6]

2. Penal substitution was not a model of the atonement that was used in the Apostolic times

Penal substitution is the evangelical protestant model of the atonement that holds that Christ's sacrifice on the cross “paid the price” of our sin to the Father on the cross. This model of the atonement, however, was not held by the early Christians. Instead, they held views such as the “Christus Victor” view of the atonement, which views Christ's death and resurrection, and not His suffering on the cross, as defeating death and sin and liberating humanity from Satan's dominion. [7] Penal substitution, on the other hand, was invented during the reformation and cannot be found in pre-Nicene writings.



Thank you Con for your opening arguments.

I will start off my opening arguments by highlighting the main beliefs of Evangelical Protestants and their support from the church fathers.

The Five Solas

Sola Scriptura - this is the belief that the Bible alone "teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured." [1] Catechisms and traditions may be useful in understanding scripture but are not inspired from the Holy Spirit and should not be treated as equal in authority to the Bible. Supported by church fathers such as Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement, etc. [8]
Athanasius said "In these (27 writings) alone, the teaching of godliness is proclaimed, no one may add to them, and nothing may be taken away from them."[2]
Quoted from the collection of writings by the Early Church Fathers:
"We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith."[4]

Solus Christus - this is the belief that salvation comes through Christ and Christ alone. Various theories on exactly how this happens will be discussed later. Priests and church leaders are not intercessors between God and man. [3]
Origen writes in a commentary on Romans "For at the end of the age, in the most recent times, God has manifested his righteousness and given Christ to be our redemption. He has made him our propitiator" so that by having faith those (who) could not be justified by their own works might be justified." [5]
Bede, an early church father, writes "For there is no redemption of human captivity [to sinfulness] except in the blood of him who gave himself as a redemption for all." [6]
Augustine, an early church father, writes "I sought, therefore, some way to acquire the strength sufficient to enjoy thee; but I did not find it until I embraced that "Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus," "who is over all, God blessed forever," who came calling and saying, "I am the way, the truth, and the life."" [7]

Sola Gratia - this is the belief that salvation from the wrath of God is offered because of His grace alone and not because of the works of man. [1]
Ambrose, a church father, writes "Do not rely on your own efforts, but on the grace of Christ. 'You are,' says the apostle, 'saved by grace.' Therefore it is not a matter of arrogance here but faith when we celebrate: we are accepted."

Sola Fide - this is the belief that salvation is achieved by faith alone and not by merit. [1][3]
Origen writes "A man is justified by faith. The works of the law can make no contribution to this. Where there is no faith which might justify the believer, even if they are good in themselves they cannot justify the one who does them, because faith is lacking, and faith is the mark of those who are justified by God." [9]

Soli Deo gloria - this is the belief that glory is to be given to God and God only because the salvation he gives us comes from his grace, love, and mercy. [1][10]
Augustine, in his writings, indicated he believed in this doctrine. [10]

I request Con, due to time constraints, to attempt to counter my above arguments in the next round. I will refute Con's arguments in the last round, but I will not present any new arguments. Thank you.

[2] Galli, Mark, and Ted Olsen. 131 Christians Everyone Should Know. Nashville, TN: Broadman

Sources for direct quotes will be provided in the last round
Debate Round No. 2



I would like to point out, first and foremost, that even if Pro had successfully demonstrated that the 5 solas were held by the early Church, it would not demonstrate that Evangelical Protestantism, as defined in the first round, was practiced in the early Church. This is because Pro has not demonstrated that the early Church rejected infant baptism and has not demonstrated that the early Church adhered to penal substitutionary atonement.

On top of that, Pro neglected to include a number of important citations, but indicated that he planned to include them in the final round.

Sola Scriptura

The understanding of the authority of Scripture in the early Church was not the same as it was in the Reformation Era. For one thing, the New Testament itself was not compiled for centuries after Christ. Not only does this mean that the early Church Fathers you mentioned may have simply been referring to the Old Testament, but it also shows that the definition of the Canon is dependant on sources outside of Scripture. This in and of itself disproves the protestant definition of the authority of Scripture because without the Tradition of the Church in defining what books comprise the New Testament, there is no way of determining authoritatively what is and isn't Scripture.

Solus Christus

All Christians believe that salvation is through Christ, and Orthodox Christians believe that the priest in the Sacrament of Penance is a witness, and not necessarily a mediator.

Sola Gratia

All Christians believe that we are saved by grace, the difference is that Orthodox Christians, like the early Church, view grace differently from protestants. Protestants view grace as something that "frees us from our debt of sin". Early Christians, on the other hand, viewed grace as a sanctifying force, much like how grace is described in Titus 2:11-12 (DRA):

For the grace of God our Saviour hath appeared to all men; Instructing us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly, and justly, and godly in this world,

God's grace doesn't just grant us pardon, it saves us from sin through our sanctification, and since the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), by saving us from sin, God saves us from death.

Soli Deo gloria

All Christians believe in giving glory to God through worshipping Him.

Thanks to Pro to the debate. I would like to reiterate that for this debate Evangelical Protestantism was defined as non-infant-baptizing evangelical protestantism, so Pro still has yet to demonstrate that the early Church believed in penal substitution and that the early Church rejected the baptism of infants.


Thank you Con for your prompt response.

For my closing arguments I will rebut Con's arguments found in Round 2.

Infant Baptism

I concede to the point that the Early Church did practice and encourage infant baptism.
Whether it is truly biblical or not, I assume is a different debate considering that in this one, Apostolic Christianity is defined as including the activities of early church fathers and not just the Apostles themselves. The practice of infant baptism in the Early Church does not nullify Evangelical Protestantism because it is our belief that regarding matters not explicitly commanded or forbidden by the Bible, it is up to the conviction of the believer. Their are indeed cases of early church fathers who did not believe infant baptism was required. [11]

Penal Substitution

Con claims that Penal Substitution was invented in the Reformation era and was not found in pre-Nicene writings. A simple look at the writings of early church fathers will prove otherwise.

Clement of Rome
"Because of the love he felt for us, Jesus Christ our Lord gave his blood for us by the will of God, his body for our bodies, and his soul for our souls." [12]

"Now, He suffered all these things for our sakes [sic.], that we might be saved." [12]

Eusebius of Caesarea
"And the Lamb of God not only did this, but was chastised on our behalf, and suffered a penalty He did not owe, but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins; and so He became the cause of the forgiveness of our sins, because He received death for us, and transferred to Himself the scourging, the insults, and the dishonour, which were due to us, and drew down upon Himself the appointed curse, being made a curse for us." [12]

Basil the Great
"By the blood of Christ, through faith, we have been cleansed from all sin." [12]

Penal substitution and Christus Victor are not mutually exclusive. Victory over Satan by the death of Christ and his subsequent resurrection goes hand in hand with the belief that His death was for our sake. [12]

Thank you Con, for a thoughtful, challenging debate. My belief is that the two arguments Con initially presented are not essential doctrines in Christianity and therefore are not really true differences between Evangelical Protestantism and Catholicism/Orthodox. Below are my sources.


[6] Martin, Francis. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. Ed. Thomas C. Oden. Vol. VIII. Downers Grove (Ill.): InterVarsity, 2006. Pg. 49
[7] Lawson, Steven J. Pillars of Grace: A Long Line of Godly Men. Vol. 2. Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Pub. 2010. Pg. 221
[9] Oden, Thomas C. The Justification Reader. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2002. Print.

(sources for direct quotes in source 12 can be found in the text.)
Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by ksang 6 years ago
Please also identify your denomination. Thank you.
Posted by peacenow 6 years ago
I added it, let me know if you want a revision to the definition.
Posted by ksang 6 years ago
Can I have a working definition of Apostolic Christianity?
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Geogeer 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: While I'm unsure if the issue of infant baptism is sufficient to prove the point, the unaddressed issue of which scriptures were valid does blow a hole in sola scriptura. Points con.

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