Saturday, November 17, 2012

Rediscovering Classic Christianity by Reading the Fathers

For a while now I've been reading the postings at The Pocket Scroll: Classically Christian.  The owner says this about the blog:

  • A place to look back on the lives of those who have gone before us.  
  • A place to reflect upon their writings.  
  • A place to reflect upon their devotional practices.  
  • So brew some tea, grab a caramel digestive, and enjoy!

As an introduction to a Classic Christian Manifesto, the blog owner writes the following:

We stand pretty much 2000 years into Christianity. The tradition that stretches out behind us is vast (albeit nothing compared to the Eternity that awaits us in the New Heaven and the New Earth). Many voices, Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, are calling us to rediscover that tradition. I believe that the rediscovery of what I call “Classic Christianity” is a task well worth investing ourselves in. ... Classic Christianity — more than just the old books. The poetry, liturgy, prayers, lives, art, songs, hymns, theology, devotional works, mysticism, contemplation, disciplines, worship practices, virtues, and history of 2000 years of Christianity — this is Classic Christianity.

The Pocket Christian is a wonderful resource for rediscovering "Classic Christianity" and thus for moving beyond what Thomas Oden calls the "inveterate modern chauvinism that assumes that human consciousness today is intrinsically superior to all premodern modes of thinking - and, conversely, that all premodern thinking is assumed to be intrinsically inferior to modern consciousness." Put positively, rediscovering "Classic Christianity" entails moving beyond the limited truths obtained via personal experience and the individual's exercise of reason into the conviction that the historic, universal Church is, indeed, the Body of Christ that contains treasures of wisdom and truth that far exceed our capacity to fully understand or rationally comprehend, much less experience in its fullness.  It's hard to imagine a more exciting or transformative journey!

As a practical means for rediscovering "Classic Christianity," The Pocket Scroll commends a website called Read the Fathers.  Here's the invitation on that website's homepage:

By reading seven pages a day for seven years, you can study a vast library of theology, history, liturgy, apologetics, biblical commentary, and devotion written in the first seven centuries of the Christian church. We provide a schedule of readings, the texts in English translation, and—most important—a community to discuss what you're learning. Laypeople, clergy, seminarians, students, and Christians of all denominations will benefit from joining our community to read the church fathers.

The website offers suggestions for getting started and a calendar of daily readings.

This is a fantastic idea that I hope to take advantage of!


Anonymous said...

Hearty thanks for this recommendation of my blog! I hope many people are drawn more fully into the embrace of the Trinity through sites such as these -- and that lots join in to Read the Fathers!

Lincoln Mullen said...

Thanks for the recommendation of Read the Fathers—much appreciated. I hope you'll be able to join in on the readings. If you ever want to post there about the Fathers, please let us know.

By the way, since you have a parish, here is a poster or flyer if you want to let other people know about Read the Fathers.

Bryan Owen said...

It's good to have you commenting here, Pocket Scroll! By offering concrete resources for engaging "Classic Christianity," your blog offers an important ministry to the larger Church and world. Thank you for what you're doing!

Bryan Owen said...

Hi Lincoln. Thanks for taking time to comment, and thanks for the link to the poster/flyer. I think what you're doing with the Read the Fathers website is brilliant! Thanks for making it happen.

Jon in the Nati said...

What a great post.

I'd like to recommend two books in this vein, if I could. The first is Thomas Oden's "Classic Christianity", which is hinted at but not referenced explicitly in the post. It is a massive, dense work of systematic theology; certainly it is not for casual reading, but its engagement with the Patristic consensus is immensely valuable.

Additionally, there is "Readings for the Daily Office from the Early Church", edited by J Robert Wright, which contains patristic readings for the daily office for the entire year. When I prayed the Divine Office as an Anglican, it is what I used.

Bryan Owen said...

Thanks for sharing those two recommendations, Jon in the Nati. Both are excellent!

Daniel McLain Hixon said...

I've enjoyed daily devotion-type readers such as "Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers" (see here: )

AND (what I am reading now) "A Year with the Church Fathers" (see here: )

Bryan Owen said...

Thank you, Daniel, for sharing these resources. Much appreciated!