Here is a sulphurous discharge from the fumaroles of hell:
Infinity is all around, so wherever you are, you are in the center of the universe. Deepak Chopra
Here is fine gold, worked into a christological setting:
But following the holy Scriptures I believe that there is one God and his only-begotten Son or Word, who ever exists with the Father and has never in any sense had a beginning of existence, truly having his being from God, not created, not made, but ever being with, ever reigning with God and the Father, “of whose kingdom,” according to the testimony of the apostle, “there shall be no end.” Marcellus of Ancrya
A few months back I blogged about my reading of Ancient Christian Doctrine, Volume 1, We Believe in One God, edited by Gerald Bray. (And I’m pleased to find that David Neff also finds it good devotional reading.) Having finished reading that volume, I turned with much anticipation to Volume 2, We Believe in One Lord Jesus Christ, edited by John Anthony McGuckin. I have not been disappointed. If anything, this volume is better yet!
McGuckin’s substantial notes, are a particularly valuable feature of this volume. Whether explicating “a dense set of allusions” by Gregory of Nyssa or explaining Theodoret’s deviation from the prevailing semantic rules guiding the use of the term hypostasis, McGuckin’s expertise guides us through the deliberations of the Fathers. We observe the great doctrines of the faith slowly take shape as the Fathers write their treatises, letters, commentaries and sermons. Or to try a contemporary angle—it is as if we are reading the theological blogs of the Fathers as they daily wrestle with expressing facets of the glory of Christ.
If I were teaching Christology to seminarians, I would put this volume on my required reading list without hesitation. But I can hear the criticism already: “It would be much better for students to read complete texts of the fathers.” Sure. And it would be much better if their teacher were to read them entirely in the original languages. But life is short, and shorter still is a quarter or semester. This is a valuable patristic reader in Christology that will richly inform the minds of the broad middle, taking them to a new level, and beckon the minds of your best students to go deeper.
In McGuckin’s Conclusion he reflects back on the course of the book:
Often patristic theology has been caricatured as some form of lapse from the higher standard of the biblical age that preceded it. The thought of the Fathers is supposed, by some, to represent dogmatizing at its worst: wrangles of venal bishops, summons to the secular arm to enforce orthodoxy when reasonable debate has failed and cartloads of obscure philosophy and semantics muddying the clear streams of the Scriptures. This is, perhaps, a widespread sentiment, though few, when asked, can ever confess to having read much of the Fathers . . . . The reader of this volume will have seen what a vacuous cliché such a view of patristic decline represents. If any single fact emerges from this collection of sources on the early church’s understanding of Jesus, it must surely be that the Christians of the first five centuries were so deeply rooted in Scriptures that they could not conceive any theological formulation of the faith that was not, demonstrably and primarily, rooted in, based on and inspired by the evangelical account, as that was read through the illustrative lenses of the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms. (p. 179)
Then, speaking of the “profound character of pastoral guidance that illumines all this deep theological argument” in the fathers, McGuckin comments:
Bloviation, the abstraction of hot air in immense measures, is not peculiar to theologians, one presumes. But theologians have been guilty of more of it than most other professions of late. There is, in these patristic citations, a recurring current of pastoral practicality. What they want to know is, how do these saving truths help the faithful to remain faithful? How is theology connected with the real life of the church and with the real prayer life and real temptations of those who continue to profess Jesus as their Lord? How does it all lead us into a new standard of life that itself represents compassion to others? This is authentic theology. It speaks to the heart as well as the mind. It is intellectually elevated and spiritually illuminating all at the same time.
It gives us a gold standard of what Christian reflection can be. The gleam of gold endures, even through the sometimes dreary shroud of translation, and the necessary dust of the ages lying between us and them. For these reasons it has been a labor of love to present this literature yet again. Collected together, and multiplied by five as we proceed through the other volumes devoted to the Nicene Creed in this series, we will find no less than a magnificent monument to the apostolic faith. This is the heart of what the writer of 1 Timothy spoke about: “The church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” (p. 181)
No bloviation here. Just gleams of pure gold.
Posted by Dan Reid
at October 5, 2009 8:28 AM