Restoring Catholicity (One Course at a Time)

With a new year comes a new semester and I am particularly looking forward to this coming semester at Providence Theological Seminary.  In addition to the introductory “Theological Foundations” course, I am also going to be teaching an intensive course on the Holy Spirit and Eschatology in March and, beginning next week, a semester-length course entitled “Reading with the Fathers.”  A keen and bright group of students have registered for the course and I am excited about what we will discover as we dig into the writings of Irenaeus, Origen, Athanasius, Gregory Nazianzus, and Augustine.

Here’s a few quotes from D.H. Williams, in which he clearly elucidates the need for Protestants to carefully engage with the work of the Fathers:

“The Protestant mind has been shaped in specific ways to think about itself as the Christian faith, not as a reform movement of Catholicism, but as a restoration of the apostolic church and therefore a dismissal of everything that followed the New Testament church and was prior to the “Reformation.” In the name of rejecting ecclesiastical authority as “hierarchy” or “tradition” as theological manipulation and bondage, we have instead created a hermeneutic of suspicion and have invested every biblically informed conscience (instead of a pope) to speak ex cathedra. It is a Pyrrhic victory for Free church Protestantism when the net effect of its teaching results in the replacing of the tyranny of the magisterium with the tyranny of individualism.”1

“If the Protestant Reformation tried to do anything, it tried to restore the ancient catholicity of the church – which arguably ought to be the goal of today’s evangelical Protestants.” 2

  1. D.H. Williams, Retrieving the Tradition & Renewing Evangelicalism: A Primer for Suspicious Protestants (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), Loc. 2334. Kindle.
  2. Ibid., Loc. 2344.

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