If I had my time again, I would probably have spent it studying patristic or medieval theologians. The reason? Reformed theology, at least as developed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, drank deep at the wells of the early fathers and the greats of the Middle Ages; and, ironically, to understand Reformation theology one really needs first to have a good grasp of that which came earlier and which frequently stood in continuity with later Protestant developments. From understanding Christ to living the Christian life, thoughtful Protestantism never cut itself off from the wider Christian tradition. Sadly, more recent Evangelicalism has, by accident or design, frequently isolated itself from such historic sources through a sincerely intended but naively executed commitment to the notion of scriptural sufficiency. This has borne unfortunate fruit. Over recent decades, the movement of many evangelicals to Rome or to Eastern Orthodoxy has been, in part at least, a reaction to such impoverishment of the Christian tradition within evangelical ranks. As people look for historical roots, Evangelicalism seems inadequate to meet the challenge, and such moves, though misguided, are at least understandable.
Carl R. Trueman is professor of church history and vice president for academic affairs at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia).
Issue: "The Art of Self-Justification" Sept./Oct. 2007 Vol. 16 No. 5 Page number(s): 56-57
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