A Plug for Patristics
I figured out that I probably ought to get a handle on patristics last year when we used Tom Oden’s text for my systematic theology class. Oden (not to be confused with Odin, the father of the gods in pagan mythology) calls his theology paleo-orthodoxy. This means that he gives the heaviest weight in his theology to the early fathers of the church (not to be confused with Odin and Zeus, the fathers of the gods in pagan mythology).
So I’m finally reading a bit of patristics and I feel like I have been really cheated in my Protestant heritage. Martin Luther read patristics, but now we just read Luther. Why? Because, I was told, the church fathers quickly blew off the doctrine of salvation by faith. But now I’m reading them for myself and I’m thinking these guys were sharp. Sure, they’re not Inerrant, but I have discovered that they are at least Trustworthy.
I’m still working through what I even think about theology, what the task of theology is, and its relation to knowledge. But this much I have discovered: however we define theology, guys like Basil, Athenasius, and Irenaeus were doing it. I can no longer imagine doing theology that ‘skips over’ the first 1500 years of church history (or gives little more than a nod in their direction).
I’m not going to jump in the paleo-orthodoxy boat though. I think theological reflection on scripture ought to begin with the fathers, but it can’t end there. We have to rethink issues from within our own cultural context with the help of the Holy Spirit (and guys like Calvin, Wesley, and Wright). But Protestants have just as much right to claim the fathers as the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox churches have.