Monday, March 12, 2012

Why my research matters, theologically and ecclesiologically

This past week I've been reading the recent book, "Journeys of Faith", about conversions from Evangelicalism to Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Anglicanism, and from Roman Catholicism to Evangelicalism. One of the issues that resonates through quite a few of the narratives is the issue of authority, and particularly authority relating to post-NT theological solidification. ie, how does the NT canon get settled, and what authority can Conciliar creeds of the Early Church carry? There is a truth in the fact that such articles of faith are, by definition, extra biblical. The solution of those journeying away from sola scriptura is that the Church institutional must therefore by the authoritative decider of such matters. Such a reasoning is, in fact, as circular as the Evangelical's appeal to the Scriptures' authority, and indeed any appeal to ultimate authority must be circular, otherwise the claim of ultimate authority is undermined.

Nevertheless, the whole overriding issue of investigation in both my Masters, and now Doctoral, research is how Nicaea got resolved into Constantinople. I believe that a careful examination of the evidence will reveal that at its heart the debate, and its resolution, is about theological method, and particularly hermeneutical method. It is, I suggest, the issue of how to read the Bible that is at stake, and it is this question that in turn resolves the Christological and Theological dilemmas of the 4th century. Secondarily, but not unimportantly, to reject Patristic exegesis in toto while embracing the creeds creates an ecclesial instability that will eventually out - if you embrace the creeds but reject the Fathers' biblical basis for the creeds, you must abandon sola scriptura and give up Protestantism, or you must give up the creeds (the creed of the anti-creedalists). Part of what I hope to show is that one shouldn't give up either of them, that a careful appropriation of patristic exegesis teaches us to be better Bible readers, i.e. more discerning Bible readers, it expands (properly) our sense of Christocentric exegesis and theological reasoning, and it lets us hold fast and firm to the creeds without an epistemological disconnect.

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