What Has Alexandria To Do With Wheaton?
The famous early Christian curmudgeon Tertullian once asked, "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?" What he meant was that Christianity, rooted in the God of the Hebrews and identified with that God's revelatory presence in Jerusalem, would be corrupted if infiltrated by the Greco-Roman learning of pagan Athens.
Today another question vexes another suspicious lot—though perhaps we evangelicals are less curmudgeonly than Tertullian: "What does Alexandria (the traditions of the early church fathers) have to do with Wheaton (evangelicalism)"?
Young evangelicals are increasingly wondering what it means to be evangelical—and indeed to be faithfully Christian at all, in this "post-Christian" age. The rationalistic doctrinal approaches of old-style fundamentalists and the pragmatic, culture-imitating approaches of boomer-era mega-churches both seem to many young Christians somehow less than authentically Christian. Instead, young evangelicals are embracing ancient liturgies, reading Bible commentaries penned by church fathers, even studying the early church at the graduate level. In The Younger Evangelicals (2000), the late Robert Webber recorded the battle cry of these modern seekers: "The road to the church's future runs through our past."
In the spring of 2007, the 16th Annual Wheaton Theology Conference, instigated by Webber, convened to ask how we can find an "ancient faith for the church's future." And the new book of that title (dedicated to Webber) reports some of the conference speakers' answers. Their consensus runs something like this:
First, although Scripture is our primary authority, tradition—for example, the writings ...