As I was preparing for Sunday’s sermon in Acts 2:13-14 on making sense of the Holy Sprit and reading texts Christologically, I pulled my copy of Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers off the shelf. I enjoyed this book when I read it a few years ago. When I flipped through it, I found great underlining of the text in an early section of the book that will make for good use in the “Meditation” section in my church’s Sunday bulletin:
Learning to read the Bible through the eyes of Christians from a different time and place will readily reveal the distorting effect of our own cultural, historical, linguistic, philosophical and, yes, even theological lenses. This is not to assert that the fathers did not have their own warped perspectives and blind spots. It is to argue, however, that we will not arrive at perspective and clarity regarding our own strengths and weaknesses if we refuse to look beyond our own theological and hermeneutical noses. God has been active throughout the church’s history and we rob ourselves of the Holy Spirit’s gifts if we refuse to budge beyond the comfort zone of our own ideas….
Listening will not come easily. We will struggle to overcome deep-set suspicions. Past prejudices will need silencing. Some of us will be tempted to react too quickly to perceived error. We will need to familiarize ourselves with new words, themes and concepts. And yet the effort will prove rewarding if we persevere….
We will occasionally find the fathers infuriating, dense and perplexing. At other times we will wonder, Why have I never seen this in the Bible before? Why was I never taught this? How could I have been so blind? In their best moments the fathers will lead us into a renewed sense of wonder, awe and reverence for God and the gospel. Through the fathers’ influence, prayer and worship may well become more frequent companions to our exegetical study….
Simply put, reading the fathers can be surprisingly relevant for the contemporary Christian because the fathers tend to grasp facets of the gospel that modern sensibilities overlook. They hear music in Scripture to which we remain tone-deaf. They frequently emphasize truths that contemporary Christians clearly need to remember.
Christopher Hall, Reading the Scriptures with the Church Fathers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1998): 35, 36, 37, 38.