Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Those neglected fathers of the church

From Early Christian Readings of Genesis One, by Craig D. Allert—a book I picked up at the recent AAR/SBL Annual Meeting.
Severa1 years ago I was invited to give a presentation to an adult Sunday school class at a Mennonite church in my community. I called the presentation “Back to the Sources: An Introduction to the Great Thinkers of the Early Church” and was excited to share my passion for the church fathers with this audience. Unfortunately, my hearers did not share my excitement. At best they could not understand why we would need anything other than what we have in our Bibles. At worst, they could not understand why a good conservative Christian would recommend these figures from a church and an age that was, in their opinion, far from the purity of New Testament Christianity. Granted, my experience above may be unique, but I doubt it. An argument could be made that the necessity of an introductory chapter in this book about the importance of the church fathers is a symptom of a greater problem within our churches that my experience illustrates. For reasons beyond the scope of this book, our own Christian heritage, which includes the church fathers, has been deemed, at best, marginally helpful for the twenty-first-century Christian. At worst, the history between the apostles and the Reformers has been judged as an era best left in the past because of its perceived distance from “true” Christianity. For many Christians the idea that we should appeal to the church fathers, who belong to that era, as part of our own Christian heritage is foreign, suspect, or even impious. The Christianity of that age has been seen as transitory, naive, and even problematic, and therefore an unnecessary resource for Christian faithfulness today. (pages 13–14)
<idle musing>
I believe he sums up well the antihistorical attitude (and hubristic pride!) of the normal evangelical Christian—at least in my experience. I once had a seminary graduate say to me about the church fathers, "Those clowns? Why should we listen to them?" I could hardly believe it! Sure, they got some things wrong, but I suspect we have a whole lot more wrong than they do—especially with an attitude like that!
</idle musing>

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