A Patriarch I Not Be
I had the immense pleasure of talking with an old family friend from my Evangelical-Pentecostal day who engaged me on the phone in what was delightful chat that brought back many memories of those days which I had entirely forgotten. It is good, my reader, to always remember your roots, that is to look back from where you came so that you might better understand where you are going. It is not the nostalgic who look back, but the hopeful; a man caught up in nostalgia longs for days past, even if the reality of those days past is not at all in keeping with his memory but the hopeful man looks back to see providence moving things where he ought to be. So it is that I had the immense pleasure of chatting it up with an old friend who reminded of my roots and where I came from in my faith journey.
Of particular interest was when I was asked what I was studying, to which I answered philosophy but also made mention of my love of the Early Church fathers. When she heard about my love of Patristics she immediately proclaimed, “Oh, they really needed to get into the Word more.” Remembering my evangelical lexicon, I politely countered that the Fathers were quite aware of Scriptures and have influenced it’s interpretation far beyond their own time, which prompted her to state, “Yes, maybe, but they really needed to learn it from God’s perspective.” I finished up the conversation in an otherwise good chat and when I hung up the phone I just had to laugh at the fact that I once spoke with such pride and enthusiasm. Truly, it was a time to ask myself, “Who did I think I was?”
As an Evangelical I fully believed that Catholics just did what they were told and were brain washed by thousands of years of “mans tradition” but never took a moment to ask myself why I felt so sure of my interpretation of scriptures. It takes pride beyond measure to believe that you have greater authority over scripture, that God illuminates its meaning more to you and Pastor Bob, than any member of the Church speaking withing two generations of Christ’s resurrection. I truly believed that the Holy Spirit had spoken to us, in our sixty-year old religion, better and greater than anyone before us and that we were the true Christians living at the end of time. I am thankful that humility entered me and that I no longer embrace such an ideology.
When I said of Catholics that they didn’t think for themselves, I realized the irony of that statement. A man who thinks for himself begins by stating that he knows nothing and has no original thought and then embraces the world in wonder. Wonder is the mother of all disciplines and it can only be possessed by the humble hearts whose minds are not clouded by pride when gazing upon the cosmos. A student who begins at believing to have exclusive knowledge will not learn, for Truth wants her servants to be willing and submissive; it is rather the student who knows how little he knows that may advance in his studies. Realizing how little I knew, I was able to embrace the Patristics of the Church and understand how little baring my emotions and beliefs about exegesis mattered. The world became great because I did as Chesterton asked, made myself small in it.
I am happy to say that all I can do is laugh at my former position. I could not accept the doctrine handed down from tradition, but I could accept it from Pastor Steveo at Open Bible New Life Faith Center or someone who had a vision on live TV in his three-piece suit. While I was appalled at the man-made traditions of Catholicism, I myself embraced the recent man-made traditions of Pre-Millennial Dispensationalism and Once-Saved-Always-Saved soteriology without question. In fact, my first step to the Catholic faith was to inquire into the historical roots of my Evangelical faith and I had to concluded along with Newman, “To love history is to cease to be Protestant.” I am thankful that I had the presence of mind to realize that I had no authority over scripture and that I was no Patriarch but a mere laymen standing on the shoulders of giants gazing at the Word who is eternal life.