The Early Fathers Didn’t Know Either

I am studying for Early Christian Thought. There are concepts and ideas and an understanding of just how close these writers were to Jesus. There is history and culture and everyone trying to explain the trinity without being a heretic (I don’t know if that can be done.) I am learning, learning, learning. Hopefully. We have a test on Thursday. I guess I will find out.

I am struck by how willing the early theologians were to say “I don’t know.” Or, “I believe this crazy thing but I don’t quite have the language for it.” Augustine and Origen, people who are in text books, who shaped my faith in ways that are permanent. Who shaped THE faith in ways that have not been questioned for centuries. These guys knew what they did not know. They knew when their explanations were coming up short. They knew it, and they were not afraid to admit it. And I find their honesty to be strangely familiar.

If you come to seminary for all the answers you will be brutally dissapointed. I don’t know if I have any answers. I think I may have less than I started with (yes, already) but I am certainly learning to ask better questions.

Today, while studying for my Early Christian Thought test, I am wondering where I learned that I was supposed to have all the answers, all the language for all the answers. If Augustine and Justin Martyr and Irenaus were coming up short, I wonder where I was taught that I was expected to have them. I don’t, and that seems to be okay.

The church that I love was built on people who had encounters with Jesus, with the Holy Spirit and walked away changed. Some of them spent the rest of their lives trying to explain it, and still they came up short. Because our God is a God beyond even our most wildly good imaginations. Because our God cannot be confined by our thoughts and words. Because it is a Holy Mystery and isn’t that amazing?

I am studying for Early Christian Thought, and I am being freed from the chains of my own making. I do not have to have it all figured out. God can build the church on my meager understanding. These words that come up short, the deeds, even the imaginings that are not as big as God, are received as imperfect bricks, that God can make a beautiful cathedral from. One that can last forever.

How? I don’t know. But I can bring you to it. Show it to you. You can experience Jesus. You can experience the Holy Spirit. It is a holy mystery, beyond all understanding. Isn’t beautiful?

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