Let me first apologize for the lack of posts this past month. I was very excited for you all to be able to read one of Soma’s best writers take on another spiritual discipline for you to meditate and practice. But, unfortunately, Mr. Shepherd’s entire computer crashed while in the writing process and it has taken longer to restore. But whenever he can get his post in to us we will publish it immediately- I believe its topic is very valuable but I will let tension build for its arrival!
As some of you have noticed, there are several spiritual disciplines that were not discussed that are core to the Christian life. The initial aim of this small series was to post articles that dealt with spiritual disciplines that are less practiced or given less attention. But as we enter into the school year I wanted to conclude the series with those core disciplines that we oft take for granted.
Recently I had the privilege of accompanying a mentor of mine to a luncheon in Wheaton. When he first extended the invitation he told me that we would be going to lunch with a few of his friends, and one of them happened to be a famous apologist. On the car ride down to our destination my mentor spent a few minutes telling me about the men that would be joining us for lunch. All of them were, by my understanding, wealthy businessmen, Christians, and were currently involved in some way with the ministry that my mentor presides over. Their involvement in the ministry varied from attendees to elders, but their primary occupation existed outside the church. He then began to explain to me how he met the apologist in the mid nineties at an event. After a period of time my mentor was offered a position within the ministry of the apologist but he declined choosing instead to take the position he now currently holds. Nevertheless the two have remained very close for nearly twenty years and my mentor often gets people involved, in one way or another, with the ministry of the apologist. Continue reading
Below you will find a unique feature here on the Soma blog: two essays written to answer a single question: Why is the study of ancient Christianity important for the future of evangelicalism? The question was originally posed by Moody Bible Institute – Spokane’s premier scholar of the ancient Christian past, Dr. Jonathan Armstrong. With the vision of one day founding an Ancient Christian Studies degree program on campus, Armstrong not only challenged us to consider why we would like to study in such a program, but also what sort of difference a program dedicated to understanding the beginnings of the Church Universal would have on the trajectory of evangelicalism. As we share our thoughts with you, our loyal readers, we hope that our words will inspire you to pick up and read the great works of our ancient ancestors and perhaps save evangelicalism in doing so.
Ancient Christianity has fortunately been preserved for believers of today through the existence of numerous manuscripts. These writings, containing a wealth of knowledge advantageous to current Christian circumstances, are frequently and sadly overlooked. But upon further inspection, most Evangelicals would quickly recognize that much is to be gained from Patristic study in two main areas: the solidification of our own theological stances and the facilitation of cordial communication with those of other Christian traditions.
First, an in-depth understanding of ancient Christian thought and practice would undoubtedly lead to a clarification of our own Evangelical beliefs. Sometimes it seems as though we of a conservative and Evangelical persuasion think that because we stress the historical-grammatical approach to exegesis, everything we believe and practice is fully supported by Scripture and uncontested. Yet, we clearly operate within the framework of a tradition, sometimes very scriptural and other times nothing more than familiar or comfortable.
The study of ancient Christianity is important for the future of evangelicalism for three reasons: 1) the work of ancient Christians laid the foundation for orthodoxy as it has been known and defended ever since, 2) a thorough understanding of the history of the Church, both in its ideas and practices, will save evangelicalism from repeating the mistakes of the past, and 3) will ultimately right the misaligned course currently being run.
At no other time were the convictions of the Church more malleable than during the first few centuries (roughly until the early 4th century) after the resurrection and ascension of Christ. During this time, just about every major doctrine of the faith was established as orthodoxy, set apart from the surrounding heresy of the day. The early Church fought with everything they had to uphold and defend these beliefs, even to the point of death, so that generation after generation to come may know what it meant to be a follower of Christ. However, it seems that modern evangelicals have been traditionally taught to devalue tradition, neglecting to study the establishment of traditional orthodoxy. This has resulted in a stagnation of academic progress, as countless scholars spend most of their time and energy defending that which has already been so valiantly defended or attempting to establish orthodoxy where it has already been so firmly established. From the foundation of what the early Church has previously paved, evangelicals can progress beyond the basic tenants of the faith, laying down new sediment on the path toward truth.