According to Wikipedia in it's entry of 'perseverance of the saints', eternal security has its roots in Church Father St. Augustine of Hippo. Considering that Augustine lived centuries after the Apostolic Age, and the variety of theologians that have predated him (from Origen to Athanasius the Great, Polycarp to Ignatius of Antioch), were the Early Church Fathers really so uniform in thought concerning salvation?

I find it especially hard to believe because of the fractured and polemical nature of early Christianity, as it was full of controversy and wavering opinions surrounding essential doctrines (ie. Christology).

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  • 'Having its roots' is—even being generous and accepting that it is a root at all for it, which it can't be; read on—is not the same as 'believed by.' Augustine explicitly and clearly teaches people can lose their salvation—or perhaps more precisely, be justified, and then unjustified. In addition to his believing in the sacraments and the rest, which those who cite him as a 'root' deny anyway, making one wonder what the significance of a random opinion of a Church Father who disagrees with them on everything else actually is as far as showing it was believed by any early Christian... Aug 8 '18 at 18:44
  • "This gift of [perseverance from] God, therefore, can be obtained by supplication" speaks volumes, and sums up how Augustine has the Catholic view of perseverence, not anything remotely like the Protestant/Calvinist. (The Gift of Perseverance, 6, 10) Aug 8 '18 at 18:44
  • Cf. "perseverance by which we persevere in Christ even to the end is the gift of God; and I call that the end by which is finished that life wherein alone there is peril of falling. Therefore it is uncertain whether any one has received this gift so long as he is still alive."(ibid.,1) Aug 8 '18 at 18:50

The answer seems to be NO. It looks like that a lot of early church fathers taught the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. Of course they may not call it by that name, or by "Once saved always saved" label (after we translated their writings from Latin / Greek into English), but according to Rev C. Matthew McMahon whose Th.D dissertation is titled Augustine's Calvinism: The Doctrines of Grace in Augustine's Writings, many church fathers taught the doctrine, as shown from a blog article he wrote Did the Early Church Believe the Doctrines of Grace? which contains nicely formatted quotes tagged with the related Calvinist Doctrine.

For example, you can easily see quotes related to the Perseverance of the Saints by doing a web page search for "(Per.)" which yield 15 matches such as:

Clemens Romanus, AD 69: (Per.) “Whereas it is the will of God, that all whom he loves should partake of repentance, and so not perish with the unbelieving and impenitent, he has established it by his almighty will.’ But if any of those whom God wills should partake of the grace of repentance, should afterwards perish, where is his almighty will? And how is this matter settled and established by such a will of his?” (Ep. 1, ad Cor. p. 20).

Irenaeus, AD 180: (Per.) Concerning Christians, “but the Spirit encompasses man within and without, as always abiding, and never leaves him,” (Iren. adv. Haeres. 1. 5, c. 12, p. 450; vide Fragm. Graec. ad Calcem Ireuaei.).

Tertullian, AD 200: (Per.) Tertullian asserts, that the work of God cannot be lost, extinguished, or cease; “for what is of God is not so extinguished, as it is overshadowed; for it may be overshadowed,, because it is not God;. it cannot be extinguished, because it is of God,” (de Anima, c. 4,1, p. 342.).


The quotes themselves came from Michael Horton's 2011 book Putting Amazing Back Into Grace: Embracing the Heart of the Gospel.

  • WARNING! These 3 quotes are either falsified or taken out of context: The 1st quote is not even found in Clement's letter but is taken from a commentary on the letter written by John Gill. The 2nd quote deceives the reader on what Spirit Irenaeus is talking about. The context of the passage is the animating principle of the body: what we all have that makes us physically alive, not the Spirit of God. The 3rd quote's context is Tertullian saying how even in our corruption, there is still good in us because our souls derive from God and so could never be completely extinguished.
    – Jess
    Nov 7 '20 at 11:06

No, it's not true. Here are examples of ECFs teaching about salvation by grace through faith (aka our assurance of salvation).

It is indeed proper to God, and befitting His character, to show mercy and pity, and to bring salvation to His creatures, even though they be brought under danger of destruction. “For with Him,” says the Scripture, “is propitiation.” -Irenaeus-

Do we believe as Irenaeus did in what Scripture says?

Let us attend to what is good, pleasing, and acceptable in the sight of Him who formed us. Let us look stedfastly to the blood of Christ, and see how precious that blood is to God,35 which, having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world. -Clement of Rome-

Look to blood of Christ and know it is precious.

Let my spirit be counted as nothing for the sake of the cross, which is a stumbling-block to those that do not believe, but to us salvation and life eternal. -Ignatius-

My spirit, my work, my deeds be counted as nothing, like Paul said. Ahh, but the cross has been and always will be a stumbling block. But to those who believe, it is, nay Christ is salvation and life eternal.

And I answered, “Attend to me, I beseech you, while I speak of the statement which the Holy Spirit gave utterance to in this Psalm; and you shall know that I speak not sinfully, and that we2225 are not really bewitched; for so you shall be enabled of yourselves to understand many other statements made by the Holy Spirit. ‘Sing unto the Lord a new song; sing unto the Lord, all the earth: sing unto the Lord, and bless His name; show forth His salvation from day to day, His wonderful works among all people.’ He bids the inhabitants of all the earth, who have known the mystery of this salvation, i.e., the suffering of Christ, by which He saved them, sing and give praises to God the Father of all things, and recognise that He is to be praised and feared, and that He is the Maker of heaven and earth, who effected this salvation in behalf of the human race, who also was crucified and was dead, and who was deemed worthy by Him (God) to reign over all the earth. -Justin the Martyr-

In all of these texts is the thought that it is God who saves those who believe Him through the work of Christ Jesus.

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    This doesn't seem to get at the question asked – assurance of salvation means something more than just "salvation by God's grace." Relying on the doctrine of perseverance of the saints (or "once saved, always saved"), it's the idea that a Christian can be confident that he is saved and will never be lost. I don't see anything like that in these quotes. Aug 8 '18 at 13:21
  • @Nathaniel Stumbling on the cross is all I see in your comment.
    – SLM
    Aug 8 '18 at 14:39
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    I don't follow? What do you mean by your comment? Aug 8 '18 at 15:32
  • Yeah Nathaniel gets what I mean. I'm talking about 'once saved always saved'; I'll edit the question so that no one else gets confused.
    – Judicaël
    Aug 8 '18 at 16:56
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    Practically all Christian denominations will say that we are saved by Christ, but is it conditional salvation unconditional salvation. @Nathaniel I'm pretty sure SLM meant to use his comment as an ad hominem towards you.
    – Judicaël
    Aug 8 '18 at 16:58

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