Read the Fathers, With the Humility of the Fathers

The territory of theological discovery and retrieval often comes unfounded arrogance.

The love we have for the theology of the Fathers does not mean we should belittle those who have not had spent much time in the classics. The love we have for the theology of the Fathers does not mean we should take to social media to broadcast each time we read the Fathers in order to demonstrate how well read we are. The love we have for the theology of the Fathers does not mean we should feel the need to degrade other eras of theological antiquity.

 

Throughout the antiquity of the Church, there have been seasons in which it seemed the Lord was pleased to open the eyes of Christian thinkers to see that aspects of the predominant theologies of the day were lacking. In some of these cases, mental breakthrough took the form of theological innovation in which the Church began to articulate, for the first time, truths that lead to her flourishing.

On the other hand, theological health and fidelity have often come not by way of innovation, but retrieval. This occurs when insightful theologians, looking backward, see that the Church previously stated and conceived of different theological realities with greater clarity than in their own day. Theological retrieval roots itself in Christian theologians prizing nuance over novelty, which in turn, leads us to champion the voices of saints of the past. In a reversal of Lewis’ chronological snobbery, retrieval aims to show the value in history.

We can see the spirit of retrieval in the ad fontes posture of the Reformation and more recently in the emergence, during the last few decades, of the doctrines of grace as Christians looked back for help in articulating our soteriology.

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (and Augustine)

It seems apparent that evangelical theology, at least in some circles, is currently in such a state of retrieval.

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