Thursday, September 14, 2006

Carl Trueman on the World of the Patristic Fathers

Trueman from the Reformation21 blog:
I was struck by this description of social and intellectual attitudes in the ancient world in Ivor Davidson's Birth of the Church (Baker):

"The followers of Graeco-Roman religions would not have felt the same kinds of responsibilities spiritually as those from Jewish backgrounds. The idea of sin as moral guilt, concepts of estrangement and alienation from divine favor; and the prospect of judgment in a life beyond the present one would not have been automatically assimilable by pagan hearers....Many in the ancient world would not instinctively have understood conversion as a process by which a guilt-ridden, broken individual found inner peace and joy through a crisis of repentance and dedication to God, but they would have known very well what was meant by a shift from one way of living to another in terms of intellectual commitments, social identity, and ethical behaviour."

Given that this was the context for the exponential growth of Christianity in the second and third centuries, it is surely encouraging to see that many of the same factors apply today. It reaffirms my belief that the patristic authors are as valuable to us for the way they ask the right questions, as to any particular answers they may give.

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