The Relevance of the Fathers

I have often a strange feeling. When I read the ancient classics of Christian theology, the fathers of the church, I find them more relevant to the troubles and problems of my own time than the production of modern theologians. The fathers were wrestling with existential problems, with those revelations of the eternal issues which were described and recorded in Holy Scripture. I would risk a suggestion that St. Athanasius and St. Augustine are much more up to date than many of our theological contemporaries. The reason is very simple: they were dealing with things and not with the maps, they were concerned not so much with what man can believe as with what God had done for man. We have, “in a time such as this,” to enlarge our perspective, to acknowledge the masters of old, and to attempt for our own age an existential synthesis of Christian experience.

Father Georges Florovsky. Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View. Collected Works, volume III. (Belmont, Massachusetts: Nordland Publishing Company, 1972) page 16.

4 Replies to “The Relevance of the Fathers”

  1. I think Florovsky has a very good point in that quote. The fact that the fathers proceeded from the existentials of humans – fear of death, the lack of power over one self and one’s life, what is a good life – makes them far more relevant that modern theology caught up in describing our time. This is something one realizes again and again when one reads the fathers.

  2. As I study Gnosticism, and it’s newest manifestations in the 21st Century, I really am pleased to find that the Fathers have done the hard work & we can enlist their help. Or better yet, maybe they’re enlisting our help…? Nice quotation from from Fr. Florovsky.

  3. I too have a very high opinion of Fr Florovsky’s writings. The volumes of his collected works are hard to come by, particularly this one.

    The “return to the Fathers” is something that I’ve noticed happening more and more: the IVP Ancient Christian Commentary series, the Blackwell reception history commentaries, and the interest in the Didache, even in a recent Christianity Today article, just to name a few, are all evidence that even in the “non-Traditional” churches, something is at work (those who have ears to hear…) to align people with not only orthodoxy, but Orthodoxy, it seems, where our Fathers (and Mothers!) among the Saints are all a living witness. I can’t imagine a valid Christian witness without them. A Christianity without the Fathers is a house without a foundation.

    Please also read Mike Aquilina’s blog, The Way of the Fathers. And see Roger Pearse’s excellent site, Early Church Fathers, where he posts public domain English translations of many works, an outgrowth of his excellent site on Tertullian.

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