Monday, May 7, 2018

Learning from the church fathers

I am really enjoying the reading group that is working through Historical Theology by Alister McGrath. Here are some thoughts on chapter 1 which looks at the early church fathers (Patristic Period, c. 100-450). The video below gives a brief overview of the corresponding chapter in McGrath's Introduction to Christian Theology.

Theological debates occurred in the context of Greek philosophy. 
Ideas about the Trinity and the personhood of Christ were heavily influenced by Greek ideas about the perfection of God. (p. 12-13)
God is infinite and unchanging. How then can God suffer?
Theology has to be logically self-consistent.

But, what if we compare these Greek ideal of intellectual "perfection" to the teachings of Jesus? He did not present truth as a set of logical propositions. He told stories. Furthermore, he seemed to like paradoxes and “contradictions”. For example, “the first will be last and the last will be first.”

Same old same old.
Some of the issues of the past are the same today. For example, how is theology related to secular academic disciplines?
Tertullian asked “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem”?
i.e,, what do Greek intellectual ideas have to do with the church?
Augustine said Christians should “plunder the Egyptians”, i.e. freely make use of non-Christian ideas, such as Greek philosophy, in order to advance their cause.

Other questions theologians wrestled with include the following.
Can one find God in popular culture? How far does “common grace” extend?
What are the qualifications of church leaders?
Who can be a member of a church?
Is the ministry of a “fallen” church leader valid?
What is the role of analogical thinking

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