Surprised by Orthodoxy
Classic Christianity lives out of a history of consensual ecumenical worship. It depends not upon any particular individual's view but upon how the classic consensus molds a particular person's daily life. My story is living evidence of how a life can be radically reversed by meeting the saints of classic Christianity.
After Ph.D. studies at Yale, I taught in two seminaries. Although it was assumed that I was teaching theology, my heart was focused on radical visions of social change and on the blatant politicizing of the mission of the church. I was uncritically accommodating to the very modernity that pretended to be prophetic, yet I did not recognize modernity's captivity to secular humanistic assumptions.
The reversal occurred when Will Herbert, my irascible, endearing Jewish mentor told me that I would remain theologically uneducated until I had studied carefully Athanasius, Ambrose, Basil, and Cyril of Alexandria.
In his usual gruff voice, he said, "Tom, you have not yet met the great minds of your own tradition. Just as I, after my Communist days, found it decisive to read the Talmud and the Midrashim carefully to discover who I was as a Jew, you will have to sit at the feet of the ancient Christian writers to discover who you are as a possible person of faith. Without solid textual grounding, you will become lost in supposed relevance. If you are going to deepen to become a working theologian instead of a know-it-all contemporary pundit, you had best get at it." I was stunned. He had nailed me.
As I worked my way through the beautiful texts of classic Christianity, I reemerged out of the secularizing maze to delight in the holy mysteries of the faith and in the recurrent puzzles of human existence. Rather than interpreting ...