St Hilary of Poitiers: Will You Endure Sound Doctrine?

Feast of the Martyr Paphnutius

THE APOSTLE Paul was cognizant of the sinful tendencies of the will, and besides his numerous admonitions to defend the faith and to preach the word, he said in his Epistle to Timothy: “There will come a time when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but having itching ears, will heap up to themselves teachers according to their lusts, and they will turn away their hearing from the truth and turn aside rather to fables” (2 Tim. 4.3-4). When they will no longer endure sound doctrine in their eagerness for godlessness, they will gather teachers together for these things which they desire, that is to say, they will compile a doctrine that fits in with their desires, since they are no longer eager to be taught, but to bring together teachers for that which they desire in order that this large number of teachers whom they have sought and assembled may satisfy the doctrines of their own passionate desires. Finally, if they are unaware of the spirit by which this so great fury of foolish impiety will not endure sound doctrine, but will desire what is debased, let them learn about it from the words which the same Apostle writes to the same Timothy: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in after times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, speaking lies hypocritically” (1 Tim. 4.1).

And what gain is there in a doctrine that seeks after what is pleasing rather than what is to be taught? Or what holiness is there in a doctrine where they do not desire what is to be taught but to assemble doctrines for that which they desire. But these things offer inducements to seducing spirits and confirm the errors of the pretended worship of God. Lying hypocrisy follows upon the apostasy from the faith, so that the godliness, which has disappeared from their consciousness, is at least preserved in their words. Indeed, they cause even this pretended worship of God to become impious by employing lying words of every description, while they distort the holiness of the faith through the precepts of their false teachings, since the doctrine which they build up rests upon their desires and whims rather than upon the faith of the Gospels. Since their itching ears are tickled when in their uncontrolled yearning for hearing they are touched by a new doctrine in accordance with their fancies, they themselves are completely estranged from the truth and devote their whole attention to fables, in order to acquire the outward appearance of truth for these things which they teach, while they are unable to speak of or hear the things that are true.

We have arrived, without doubt, at this most troublesome time mentioned in the apostolic prophecy. Since teachers are now being sought who will proclaim the creature rather than God, and they are more concerned with human desires than with the teaching of sound faith.

~St Hilary of Poitiers, The Trinity, 10.2

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