Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson – Dueling Theologians

On Sunday night after leading his Green Bay Packers to victory over the Seattle Seahawks, Aaron Rodgers gave credit to God.  Rodgers said to reporters afterwards: “I think God was a Packers fan tonight, so he was taking care of us.”

There is background here that makes this much more amusing.  Last year the two teams played, with the winner going to the Super Bowl.  The Seahawks won despite a dismal performance from their quarterback Russell Wilson.  Wilson gave credit to God, saying, “”That’s God setting it up, to make it so dramatic, so rewarding, so special.”

Rodgers responded to Wilson’s words then by saying that while God cares for the people involved, God is not invested in who wins the games.  Clearly though, Rodgers words this past week were a poke in the ribs towards Wilson.

Both Rodgers and Wilson are Christians, and their differing views here point to different ways Christians may deal with suffering.  They are skirting the edges of the debate about freedom vs. determinism.  Some, like Wilson, see God as pulling all the strings.  So for Wilson God not only is praised for strength in order to succeed but God goes further and directly causes the evil and suffering in the world.  Wilson throws four interceptions and loses?  God caused it.  Wilson comes through in the end for the win? God did it?

You have to assume then that this sort of God also directly causes genocides and wars, rapes and murders.  But it is all for the greater good.  As some Christians say, “God has a plan.”  No matter what evil or suffering you encounter, rest assured that it is all part of God’s plan.

Rodgers, on the other hand, recognizes that God does care about everything.  But this care does not go down to micromanaging football games, or directly causing suffering and evil.  God cares about people but how this care works out, the level of freedom God gives, is somewhat a mystery.

Interesting how this theological debate about who God is and how God interacts with the world ends up on a football field.

I for one think Rodgers’ theology is better, more satisfying.  I also respect a good ribbing.

Defending Calvinism: Being Grateful For the Good Rather Then Fleeing From the Name

I am very grateful for the work of Ben Corey.  His blog is one that I frequently read and often find myself “liking” his posts on Facebook.  I found his book Undiluted to be challenging, well-written and all around fantastic.  And his podcast, That God Show, with Matthew Paul Turner is fun and interesting.

So I was surprised to find myself disappointed with his recent post calling on people to flee from Calvinism.  To be clear – I am not a Calvinist.  If anything I am probably quite close to Corey in my theology.  I have many issues with much theology that goes by the name Calvinism, which I will not get into here.  But I also realize that “Calvinism” is a blanket term that covers a lot of people and movements.

For Corey to say you ought to flee from “Calvinism” because some segments, specifically those in the “young, restless and reformed” world, are damaging seems overly simplistic.  Ought we do the same to any other group?  Would Corey be okay with a warning to flee Anabaptism due to a few examples on the worst side of it?  Do we jettison Christianity as a whole because of a few segments that are awful?

To be fair, the sort of Calvinism that Corey seems to be targeting, which has been labelled is the most vocal in the evangelical world right now.  It is easy to equate all Calvinism with these so-called New Calvinists.  That said, a writer of Corey’s stature, someone pursuing a doctoral decree, owes more to the Christian community.

While I am not a Calvinist, I have been greatly blessed by the work of many Calvinists.  Whatever you think of Calvinism, there is much good in there.

1. Marilynne Robinson – She’s one of the best novelists living today and her books of essays, such as When I Was a Child I Read Books, are fantastic.  If you haven’t read Gilead and its sequels you must.

2. James K.A. Smith – He has become one of my favorite authors and his books have a ton to offer, from summarizing the work of Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor to a slightly different (or at least not well-known enough) spin on Calvinism.

3. John BunyanPilgrim’s Progress is a classic that all Christians should read.

4. John Newton – Once a slave trader, ended up being one of the first to speak out against that evil.  Greatly influenced Wilberforce and is most known for the hymn Amazing Grace.

5. Tim Keller – His books and sermons illustrate how a pastor can also be a thoughtful theologian and apologist; the success of his church in NY city is impressive.  His book The Reason for God is still my favorite apologetic work.

6. Alvin Plantinga – He is probably the top living Christian philosopher.  His works are demanding, the few I have read have made my brain hurt.  Any Christian would benefit from wrestling with his work.  I hope to finally read his book, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion and Naturalism, this summer.

7. John Calvin – The man who started it all!  I read his classic work The Institutes of Christian Religion a few years back.  There were times I got so mad I wanted to throw it across the room!  But I also found it encouraging and challenging.  Of all the Christian “classics” I have read, I was most impressed by the style of writing.  This book was clearly written for normal people to read and learn from.

8. Pine Springs Camp – Moving from writers, I worked at this camp in Western PA for two summers in college.  It was one of the most influential and life-shaping experiences of my life.  Had I “fled” from the Calvinism of this place, I would have been the one at loss.  It was also here that I first learned what Calvinism was, being introduced to TULIP, which I thought was nuts.  But in the midst of disagreement, lots of good was done.  The number of individual persons here whose life and work impacted me would be too long to list.

9. Jubilee – I never attended this conference for college students while in college, but I have taken students there.  I can’t say it is the best conference for college students, but it is fantastic and unique.  The focus is not, like so many conferences, on just getting kids fired up for Jesus.  Instead the focus is helping them think through their major and career in relationship with their faith.

 

Drunkeness, Weddings and Taking Part in Sin

When faced with the question of baking a cake for the wedding of two women, some Christian bakers have refused.  They cite their Christian faith, arguing that they cannot take part in something God has condemned.  Others argue you should not even attend a gay wedding.

A ton of questions flurry around this – should they be fined?  Is this infringing on their religious freedom?  Bring this topic up at a holiday picnic and watch the sparks fly.

I was at a wedding a few weeks back.  It was a wonderful time seeing two great people, one a former student, commit their lives to each other.  Like many weddings, this one had an open bar and the beer, wine and mixed drinks flowed freely.

I couldn’t help but think of some of the controversy with gay weddings and wonder if these bakers have denied their services to weddings that had open bars?  After all, here is just a sampling of what the Bible says about drunkeness:

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, – Ephasians 5:18

Envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. – Galatians 5:21

Nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. – 1 Corinthians 6:10

Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags. – Proverbs 23:20-21

Whoredom, wine, and new wine, which take away the understanding. – Hosea 4:11

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. – 1 Corinthians 5:11

Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. – Romans 13:13

This is just a sampling, there are many more that speak of drunkenness negatively (though there are many that speak positively of drinking alcohol too).  From this I gather that to be consistent, if you truly did not want to take part in sin, you would have to refuse to bake a cake or attend any wedding that served alcohol.  Or, on the other hand, if you’ve baked cakes for those weddings, just bake the cake for the lesbian one too.

 

What if This Was the Sort of Thing People Thought About When They Heard “Christian”?

Evangelicals Denounce Payday Lenders, Join Fight For New Regulations.

Payday loans are an evil that take advantage of people in need.  I was so happy to see this headline, as this is the sort of thing I wish Christians were known for.

When people, such as students at Penn State Berks, hear “Christian”, many words come to mind.  Some of these words are positive: loving, caring, friend.  But too often these words are negative: hypocrite, judgmental, anti-gay, anti-science.*

What if this was the sort of thing people thought of when they heard “Christian”?

I had a vague memory of writing about payday loans before, and it turns out I did back in August, 2013: Collecting Interest on Loans, Sinful?  

And of course, the brilliant John Oliver did a whole segment on the evils of payday lending which is both hilarious and informative: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDylgzybWAw

*CSF did a survey back in the fall so I am not just guessing here, these really are the words people think of.

Turn the Other Cheek – The Verse Curiously Absent When We Offer Prooftext Arguments

A couple weeks back the news came down that Tsarnev had been condemned to death for the Boston Marathon bombing.  As is common when I hear big news nowadays, I went to Twitter to check out what people were saying, specifically Christian leaders.  What surprised me, though perhaps it shouldn’t have, is that many who are so quick to cite a verse or two in order to settle other issues did not do the same here.  This is surprising because there is a verse in Jesus’ most famous sermon that would fit, Matthew 5:38-39:

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[h] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also

It seems rather clear – if someone harms you, do not harm them in return. As Christians we ought then to advocate for forgiveness rather then seeking death.  Yet much discussion about the death penalty around this verse ends up arguing about why this simple statement of Jesus is not applicable.  Perhaps other passages are brought forward to tip the scales in favor of death.  Or we are told that Jesus is here concerned with personal morality and not with what governments do.

Yet, when it comes to other issues Christians are often more then willing to settle it by prooftext which begs the question: why in some cases we love referencing a verse or two in order to settle the issue while in others we do not.  

For comparison, just think of gay marriage.  When discussions or arguments about gay marriage happen, the side opposing gay marriage will quote the 5-6 passages in scripture to settle the issue.  Often they will go on to argue that this piece of Christian morality ought to be the law of the land.  As it tends to be more conservative Christians who support the death penalty and oppose gay marriage the irony is clear – why seek to make Christian morality the law of the land in one case but not the other?

I do not think it is only conservative Christians who are guilty here.  Both sides kind of do the same thing:

Some Christians cite the verses that condemn gay relationships while explaining that Jesus’ clear commands in Matthew 5 against violence are more complex.  

Other Christians take Jesus’ words as the final word while explaining that the verses condemning gay relationships are more complex.  

If I am harder on one group then the other it is because I tend to be harder on the Christian subculture I came from and we were all against gay relationships but also big into making sure murderers got the death penalty.

At any rate, as I recognize this tendency it makes me realize that more often then not we do not let scripture shape us, instead we bring our views to scripture and work scripture to support us.  If a cut-and-dried prooftext supports what we think, great!  If not, then we engage in deeper interpretation to get to where we want to be.

I hope this does not sound too cynical.  I do think scripture helps us as we seek answers, but there are better ways to read scripture then others.  Ultimately we need a Jesus-centered view of scripture that recognizes Jesus as the culmination of the story.   Along with this, scripture is not there to mine for isolated verses to trot forth as evidence for our views, scripture is there to tell us the story of God’s interaction with humanity (which again, culminates in the person and work of Jesus).

In other words, arguing about these issues are surface level arguments.  The real differences lie beneath, in how we understand the function and use of scripture in the first place.

Are You Mocked Because of Jesus or Because You’re a Jerk?

When I was in college I bought a shirt that said, “Jesus is Not For Everyone, He’s Just for Those who Want to Go to Heaven.”

Yes, I actually paid money for a shirt that said that.  I purchased it at Creation Festival, a weekend dedicated to getting thousands of youth fired up about God.  It worked on me, I was fired up and wanted to express my passion via shirt and this was the best one, I guess, that I could find.

I think I only wore it a couple of times because even as I bought it, I knew it was kind of an awful message to walk around with on my shirt.  The very day I got home I wore it to the movies where I was meeting some of my buddies and they rolled their eyes at me.  Another one of the few times I wore it I remember walking past a couple of people and hearing them snicker, no doubt finding humor or offense at the message.

If I wanted to, I could have taken such snickering as persecution of my faith and I could have cited a passage from the Bible such as Matthew 5:11-12 – Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  I could have taken solace that people mocking my shirt were persecuting my faith, the sort of persecution true Christians always face.

The thing is, Jesus is speaking of persecution “because of me.”  And I was not being mocked because of Jesus, I was laughed at because I wore such an idiotic shirt.  No one looked at the shirt and asked about Jesus.  Really, the shirt was not about Jesus, it was about me sticking it to other people, callously reminding them they were destined for eternal torment while I smugly looked on from eternal bliss.

Anyway, I bring up that embarrassing story because I was reminded of it after reading this article.  Specifically, this section:

Have you ever heard someone say, “I like Christ. I just don’t like Christians.” Jesus says that if you don’t like his disciples—if you reject them—you are rejecting Him. There is no version of Christianity that allows you to follow Christ while mistreating His body. And it won’t matter how much you profess your love for Christ if you reject andmistreat his body. What you do with Christ’s people will tell everything that needs to be told about you at the judgment.

This text is not about poor people generally. It’s about Christians getting the door slammed in their face while sharing the gospel with a neighbor. It’s about the baker/florist/photographer who is being mistreated for bearing faithful witness to Christ. It’s about disciples of Jesus having their heads cut off by Islamic radicals. In other words, it’s about any disciple of Jesus who was ever mistreated in the name of Jesus. This text shows us that Jesus will judge those who show contempt for the gospel by mistreating gospel-bearers.

This seemed a bit too self-aggrandizing to me.  It seemed to encourage the kind of mindset I had while wearing my shirt – I can do what I want as a Christian and if anyone gets offended its their problem and if they say anything then they are persecuting me!

But the reality is that if someone slams the door on your face when you are trying to share the gospel with them it is not because they hate Jesus. It could be for any variety of reasons – maybe you’ve been a bad neighbor in the past and never asked forgiveness and they don’t want to hear from you, maybe the kids are crazy and this is not a good time to discuss the depths of spiritual truth.  Simply assuming that any opposition = persecution feeds our American evangelical persecution complex.  And implying that getting the door slammed in your face or facing opposition for not taking part in a gay wedding is anything close to getting your head cut off by ISIS is wrong.

The issues seems to be whether we are being persecuted/harrassed/mocked on account of Jesus or on account of our own jerkiness.

*For the record, I engaged with the author of this piece on Twitter and it seems clear he’d agree that the key is why people are mocking us.

*A good book that relates is Candida Moss’ The Myth of Persecution which studies the martyrdom narratives in the early church.  This book made me realize that when Christians living in comfort in America claim to be persecuted this actually does damage to our brothers and sisters who truly are facing persecution.  Our claims basically tire people out to any claims of Christian persecution.

A Day Late…Christians Ought to Support #IDAHOT

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God – Jesus

Yesterday was the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.  I did not know such a day existed until I saw a well-written article by Adrian Warnock on Twitter arguing for why Christians should support such a day:

I know of no Christian in the West who would advocate homosexual sex becoming illegal once more in our countries, still less that the punishment should be death. But we do not often hear Christians advocating for a change in the law in other countries so that homosexual behaviors should be legalized. Christians would do well to add their voices to campaigns for the repeal of such anti-homosexual legislation. We must speak out for true tolerance everywhere.

God loves everybody and teaches us to do the same. Even till today in more liberal and theoretically accepting societies like America and the UK, gay people are stigmatised, verbally abused, and even sometimes physically attacked because of their sexual orientation. Christians should stand up for them, and argue strongly for fair treatment for all. We must speak out for the persecuted, the oppressed, and for the minority. Imagine a day when the Church is known for its love for gay people.

Christian, when you think of gay people what is your immediate thought? Is it revulsion? Do you avoid them? Do you angrily denounce them? Then you are contributing to the notion our society now has that Christians hate gay people. It is no longer considered to be acceptable to be feel such animosity towards people who are of a different race, so why should it be acceptable to react in such a way towards those of a different orientation?

The way the Church has treated gay people historically has not been her finest hour. There is no doubt in my mind that Christians will one day look back on this previous approach with the same degree of shame and embarrassment currently felt over the Church’s history with slavery, racism, and apartheid.

I do not know whether Dr. Warnock supports gay marriage, though I am pretty sure he falls on the more conservative end of the theological spectrum and thus thinks marriage ought to be between a man and a woman only.  That is why such an article is so impressive and important.  Whether you think gay marriage ought to be blessed by churches or not, whether you think God approves of gay relationships or not, hopefully we can all agree that violence against anyone is simply wrong.

When it comes to morality and ethics, Christians disagree with non-Christians and with each other on a whole host of issues.  Traditionally Christians have been against everything from divorce to greed to drunkeness.  But we do not wish violence or pain on those who get divorce or who are greedy or getting drunk.

The rates of suicide by GLBT teens, the rates of violence against GLBT people throughout the world ought to sadden all of us.  And we ought to speak out against it.  So I may be a day late, but I agree with Dr. Warnock that Christians should join our voices to those speaking out against violence directed towards gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.

Is God Responsible For Human Sin? (Weekly Word)

This summer I am going to dedicate each Friday to questions that students have asked me about God, faith and such.  Some of these questions come were forwarded to me from Christian students or their skeptical friends.  Others are questions that I have been asked in some way, shape or form many times.  I do not claim to offer the final answer on any of these questions, though I do hope to offer something helpful.

From Luke – In a discussion with an atheist, one of the things he said was that God created sin (and the question of free will comes ect.)(The irony was the person contested that God did not create, and yet he just said he created sin). How would you as a pastor instructed in God’s Word respond to that? Thanks

Thanks Lukas  I am glad to hear you are having meaningful discussions that lead to good questions such as this one.  As I look at what you wrote, I imagine your friend was saying that his understanding of Christianity ends up with a God who creates sin. He is not saying that he believes in God, only that the God of Christians, as he understands what Christians are saying, would be culpable for sin.  Perhaps this is a reason why this person rejects God?

What may be surprising to you and your friend, if not a bit disconcerting, is that this is a question that the Bible never directly answers.  To go to the creation story in Genesis it appears that Adam and Eve were given the freedom to choose to obey or disobey God.  The author of Genesis is not concerned with how such freedom relates to an all-powerful and all-knowing God.

This leads to what I think is an important, and not often cited, point – the Bible writers are not always answering the questions we are asking.  They lived and wrote and worshipped in a different culture with different ideas then we do.  On that note, it wasn’t really until the early Christians, specifically Paul in Romans, began writing that the story of Genesis 3 became one of the entry of “sin” as some sort of corrupting object , into the world.  If Adam’s sin was so ground-breaking and earth-shattering, it is interesting to note that Adam is not really mentioned much in the rest of the OT.  Of course, this does not mean that the sin of Adam, the fall of humanity, as understood by Christian theologians is wrong (we do include Romans in the Bible!), it is just to say that our first stop ought to be understanding what the story in Genesis means on its own terms.

Another way of looking at Genesis 3 that I find quite intriguing is to see it more in line with Wisdom literature.  If you read Proverbs you see clearly there are two paths put before the person – the way of wisdom and the way of foolishness.  The way of Wisdom leads to life while the way of foolishness leads to death.  We see the same thing in Genesis – Adam and Eve rejecting wisdom and choosing foolishness, and dying.  It is also helpful to read Adam and Eve as the beginning of Israel, for it was Israelites who first wrote the story.  Israel had experienced many failures in their own pursuit of wisdom and of obeying the Law.  For them, the Adam story illustrates that their people have always struggled with this.  Or, the other way around, Adam’s choices foreshadow Israel’s later choices.

Above I said that the Bible writers are not necessarily answering the questions we are asking.  I think if we look at the creation story, in light of the rest of the Old Testament, we see a focus on the importance of personal choice.  In other words, humans are culpable for their sins.  The path is laid before us – like it was for Adam, Israel and the man in Proverbs.  Will we choose the way of life or the way of death?  We cannot blame God (or the devil).

With that out of the way, I want to take a shot at offering the actual question you were asked.  But that will have to wait till next week.

 

Another Day, Another Study Shows Shrinking Affiliation to Christianity

I’ve seen a bunch of news stories on a new Pew Research Center study that shows a decline in the percentage of Americans who identify as Christians as well as growth, especially among those born since 1980, of those who identify as non-religious.  This group includes atheists, agnostics and those who may believe in God but do not identify with any institution.

I want to comment, share a witty story from campus or something, but I am coming up blank.  So I’ll just share some links and you can read for yourself:

The Rise of Young Americans Who Don’t Believe in God

A remarkable 25 percent of Americans born after 1980, the group often known as Millennials, are not religious…It’s not clear that Millennials will become more religious as they age, either.

America’s Changing Religions Landscape

But the major new survey of more than 35,000 Americans by the Pew Research Center finds that the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. And the share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths also has inched up, rising 1.2 percentage points, from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.9% in 2014. Growth has been especially great among Muslims and Hindus, albeit from a very low base.

The drop in the Christian share of the population has been driven mainly by declines among mainline Protestants and Catholics. Each of those large religious traditions has shrunk by approximately three percentage points since 2007. The evangelical Protestant share of the U.S. population also has dipped, but at a slower rate, falling by about one percentage point since 2007.

Self-Defeating Religion

The number who self-identify with historic denominations and movements has declined, and the number of “unaffiliated” has gone up. That category is not primarily agnostics and atheists, but people who say they are “nothing in particular.”

Musings on Scripture, Tradition and Reading Long Dead Christians

One of the things that has divided Roman Catholics from Protestants for centuries is the question of what has authority.  The Protestant movement from the beginning held to sola scriptura, scripture alone.  This does not mean that scripture is the only authority but rather that scripture is the final authority, or that it “trumps” all others.  Roman Catholics, on the other hand, affirmed there are two streams that flow together – scripture and tradition.  Together these form the authority.

I read a blog post a few days ago arguing for the Protestant position.  The argument was that the early church fathers, Christians writing from the end of the New Testament era (100 AD) through to the end of the Roman Empire (around 400 AD) supported sola scriptura.  The implication then was that the Roman Catholic view only arose in the medieval era as the Roman Church married the secular state and ruled over Christendom.

Now the author of this post is much more educated then I am, he is a professional scholar while I am just a campus minister with a large interest in historical theology.  That said, recently I have read both Basil of Caesarea’s On the Holy Spirit and Gregory of Nazianzus’ Five Theological Orations.  Both of these writings come from the late 300s and were hugely influential in solidifying the doctrine of the Trinity.  And both make statements about the importance of tradition.  First Basil:

Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us “in a mystery”2 by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force.

In answer to the objection that the doxology in the form “with the Spirit” has no written authority, we maintain that if there is no other instance of that which is unwritten, then this must not be received. But if the greater number of our mysteries are admitted into our constitution without written authority, then, in company with the many others, let us receive this one. For I hold it apostolic to abide also by the unwritten traditions. “I praise you,” it is said, “that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances as I delivered them to you;” and “Hold fast the traditions which ye have been taught whether by word, or our Epistle.”2 One of these traditions is the practice which is now before us, which they who ordained from the beginning, rooted firmly in the churches, delivering it to their successors, and its use through long custom advances pace by pace with time.

Time will fail me if I attempt to recount the unwritten mysteries of the Church. Of the rest I say nothing; but of the very confession of our faith in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, what is the written source? If it be granted that, as we are baptized, so also under the obligation to believe, we make our confession in like terms as our baptism, in accordance with the tradition of our baptism and in conformity with the principles of true religion, let our opponents grant us too the right to be as consistent in our ascription of glory as in our confession of faith. If they deprecate our doxology on the ground that it lacks written authority, let them give us the written evidence for the confession of our faith and the other matters which we have enumerated. While the unwritten traditions are so many, and their bearing on “the mystery of godliness is so important, can they refuse to allow us a single word which has come down to us from the Fathers;—which we found, derived from untutored custom, abiding in unperverted churches;—a word for which the arguments are strong, and which contributes in no small degree to the completeness of the force of the mystery?

Then, Gregory:

For the matter stands thus. The Old Testament proclaimed the Father openly, and the Son more obscurely. The New manifested the Son, and suggested the Deity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit Himself dwells among us, and supplies us with a clearer demonstration of Himself. For it was not safe, when the Godhead of the Father was not yet acknowledged, plainly to proclaim the Son; nor when that of the Son was not yet received to burden us further (if I may use so bold an expression) with the Holy Ghost; lest perhaps people might, like men loaded with food beyond their strength, and presenting eyes as yet too weak to bear it to the sun’s light, risk the loss even of that which was within the reach of their powers; but that by gradual additions, and, as David says, Goings up, and advances and progress from glory to glory, the Light of the Trinity might shine upon the more illuminated.

Basil emphasizes unwritten tradition as a source for truth while Gregory emphasizes the experience of the Holy Spirit.  Of course, non-Catholics agree that there is truth found in tradition and experience.  And, of course, I am writing as a non-Catholic, though as one who wrestles with the interplay of scripture, tradition, reason and experience.

What I draw from this is that this is an issue that cannot be solved by selective proof-texting.  The author of the blog post above has plenty of quotes to demonstrate that early Christians held scripture in high regard, but Catholics have just as many quotes to support their view.  I imagine part of the reason for this is that the early Christians were not fighting our battles, so it is somewhat an anachronism to go back and try to mine support for views that were not well defined as they were a millenia later.

So what I take from this, as a pastor with an amateur interest in historical theology, is to not try to fit Christians of the distant past into the sides of debate we have today.  Rather than reading a series of proof-texts, read the actual works from this long-dead saints.  In those works we will find things we whole-heartedly agree with and things that make us pause, even trouble us.  We will also realize that the Christian church through the ages is a big tent that includes people with all sorts of views.  As we realize that, perhaps we will be more accepting of those Christians who disagree with us today.