Monday, December 17, 2018

Why did Christians celebrate the Birth of Jesus on the 25th of December?

Why did Christians celebrate the Birth of Jesus on the 25th of December?

In my previous post, I talked about how Hippolytus of Rome (around the year 200) took for granted that Jesus was born on the 25th of December.  This places the dating of Christmas well before Theodosius made Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire (380), before Constantine made Christianity a legal religion in the Roman Empire (312), and also before Sol Invictus became the Pagan holiday on December 25th (274).  This of course leads to the natural question, where did early Christians get the idea of celebrating the birth of Jesus on December 25th.

I believe the answer to such a question can be gleaned from the New Testament.  The Day of Atonement/ Yom Kippur takes place on the 10th day of the month of Tishrei, which is nine days after Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year).  The joys of working with a Jewish calendar versus the Julian or Gregorian calendars is that there is not a one to one correspondence.  This means that, according to the calendars of the goyim, Yom Kippur falls somewhere between middle September to middle October.  All of this is relevant because of some dating in Luke’s Gospel.

If we take that Yom Kippur happens sometime around the beginning of October or late September, and we add that the priest only entered the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, then we can do simple math to figure out the date when Jesus was born.

In Hebrews 9:7, we are told about the Holy of Holies that “only the high priest goes, and he but once a year.”  This means that only once a year would a priest enter the Holy of Holies to burn incense and sprinkle blood on the altar inside the Holy of Holies.[1]

Turning to Luke, we find that Zechariah was “was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense” (Luke 1:9).  Luke goes on to tell how “the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.” (Luke 1:10).  At this moment, Zechariah saw the angel of the Lord standing on the right of the altar of incense.  The angel announced that Zechariah and Elizabeth would have a son in their old age.  This all happened between the middle of September and the middle of October.

 Then we arrive at the important (for the purpose of their inquiry) statement in Luke 1:23–24:
And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.  After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived.”  This is important because Elizabeth conceived after Yom Kippur.  But how soon?  This is the weakest part of the argument.  I think that the best understanding for the phrase “after these days” is that the conception of John the Baptist took place directly after Zechariah’s time of service.  If this is the case, then we can plot out the timeline fairly easily.

“Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, "Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people." In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary.”  (Luke 1:24–27)

Following the timeline, Elizabeth was six months pregnant when Mary conceived Jesus.  Now for the math:
John the Baptist was conceived somewhere between middle September to the middle of October (tradition puts this on the 23rd of September).
Six months later, Mary conceived sometime in March or April (tradition puts it at March 25th)
Nine months after March or April puts us into late December or early January.
This is terribly imprecise, but it shows that December 25th is a biological and mathematical possibility for the birth of Jesus.  Thus when taken together with early Christian attestations for the birth of Christ being on December 25th, the onus is put squarely on those who argue for a date other than December 25th for the birth of Jesus.  It is an argument against Scripture and Tradition.

[1] See also: Leviticus 16:12–13 “And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil and put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die.”

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Date of Christmas

The Date of Christmas

It seems as though every year I encounter the assertion that  the 25th of December was chosen to be celebrate Christmas because this day coincided with a major pagan holy day.  This assertion is even found in “scholarly works.”  Not too long ago when reading Strauss' Four Portraits One Jesus, I was struck by his statement “the traditional date of the Western church is December 25, and in some eastern Churches January 6th.  The former seems to have arisen in the time of Constantine (circa 325).”[1]  Sadly, this is both wrong and oft repeated in both “scholarly” and unscholarly works.
This argument has several flaws.  Firstly, with a little effort, one could find a pagan celebration occurring on every day of the calendar during the Early to Middle Roman Empire.  The Romans accepted every religion of the peoples they conquered (with the exception of religions that practiced human sacrifice, those were ruthlessly crushed) and practiced some interesting syncretism with the various pantheons.

Secondly, Struss is completely unaware of the change in calendars and how January 6th is still December 25th according to the Julian Calendar, which continues to be used in some ecclesiastical bodies in the East.  Therefore, everyone is still celebrating on December 25th, they are just relying upon pre-Gregorian Calendars.

 Thirdly, his view utterly fails to account for how early Christians viewed the date of Christmas.  Hippolytus, writing sometime around 200, provided a rather exact dating for the birth and the death of Jesus:

For the first advent of our Lord in the flesh, when he was born in Bethlehem, was December 25th, Wednesday, while Augustus was in his forty-second year, but from Adam, five thousand and five hundred years. He suffered in the thirty-third year, March 25th, Friday, the eighteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, while Rufus and Roubellion were Consuls.”[2]

Hippolytus here completely dismantles the erroneous assertions about the date of Christmas being a syncretistic practice to make the newly legalized Christian religion more syncretic with Ancient Paganism.  Indeed, Hippolytus is simply stating the facts as he had received them at a time when Christianity was still illegal and violently persecuted.

This fact then forms the basis for how he interpreted the "days" in Daniel as referring to the entire history of the world.  

But one will always say, “How will you demonstrate to me whether the Savior was born in the five thousandth and five hundredth year?  Be easily instructed, O man. For in the desert long ago under Moses there were models and images of spiritual mysteries which concerned the tabernacle and they fulfilled this number, so that having come to the fulfillment of truth in Christ you are able to apprehend these things which are fulfilled.  For he says to him, “And you will make an ark of incorruptible wood and you will cover it with pure gold inside and outside and you will make its height two cubits and a half and its breadth a cubit and a half and its height a cubit and a half.” The measure of which added together makes five and a half cubits, so that the five thousand five hundred years may be demonstrated, in which time the Savior comes from the Virgin, and then he offered the Ark, his own body, into the world, covered in pure gold, inside with the Word, outside with the Holy Spirit, so that the truth may be shown and the Ark may be manifested.  And so from the generation of Christ it is necessary to count the remaining five hundred years to the consummation of the six thousand years, and in this way the end will be. But because in the fifth and a half time the Savior arrived in the world bearing the incorruptible ark, his own body.  John says, “and it was the sixth hour,” so that half of the day may be demonstrated, a day of the Lord is thousand years. And so the half of these is five hundred years.[3]

Hippolytus' exegetical argument for his dating which in itself is quite revealing.  He does not provide an argument for the birth of Jesus on December 25th, but argues that the birth of Jesus was at a set point in the history of the world.  He treats the birth of Jesus on December 25th as a given.  Whether or not we follow Hippolytus’ numerology and exegesis (he clearly was wrong about when the world will end), his argument for the date of Christmas is not based upon finding a means to relate the celebration of the birth of Christ to a pagan holy day, but it is a blanket assertion that he ues to construct a interpretation of an ambiguous passage.  This in itself is an important clue that Hippolytus was not dealing with a recent alteration to the Church calendar, but something that predated him.  This means that one cannot point to Constantine (over 100 years after Hippolytus) as the time when the date for Christmas was set.  Rather one finds an early practice of celebrating the birth of Christ on the 25th of December even when the Church was still an illegal and persecuted entity within the Roman Empire.
The point from all of this is that the next time you encounter someone who states that December 25th is a pagan influenced date for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, you can now be aware that the assertion is silly and baseless.  

[1] Strauss, Four Portraits One Jesus, 406.
[2] Hippolytus, Commentary on Daniel, 23.3.
[3] Hippolytus, Commentary on Daniel, 24.1-5

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Second Language Acquisition: by Grammar or by Speech?

Second Language Acquisition: by Grammar or by Speech?

I have spent almost the last 4 years of my life teaching Latin to middle-school students.  As I have sought to improve my Latin and teaching abilities, I have looked more broadly at the movements in second language acquisition and how they can help me improve as a teacher.

One of the big movements in second language acquisition is Comprehensible Input.  C.I. teaches grammar subconsciously.  The expectation is that the learners will understand how the grammar of the new language works through repeated examples of the correct grammar.  Often times, C.I. is experienced in a partial immersion of spoken language in the class room.  The goal is to produce students who can speak the language.

The school I teach at uses a grammar based approach to teaching Latin. The grammatical approach teaches the grammar concepts first.  Often times, this is done in the first language of the students and not in the target language.  The Grammatical Approach relies upon grammatical rules to produce precise renderings into and out of the target language.  The goal is to produce students who understand the target language.

There is yet an older method of total immersion.  I like to think of it as incomprehensible input.  In this manner, everything is conducted in Latin.  This is how Martin Luther learned Latin (complete with students wearing donkey masks for speaking German instead of Latin in class).  Both the teacher and the students were expected to speak only in Latin and the grammar rules were taught using the Latin language. The goal was to produce someone who was fluent in Latin.

As I have reflected upon these methods of second language acquisition, I also reflected upon first language acquisition.  The first several years of my life English was incomprehensible.  I entered into the world and knew none of it.  To be fair, I had no language skills at birth except for assorted levels of crying.  Moving into the early childhood years, I entered a stage of comprehensible input through children’s books and my own family communicating with me.  Yet, for some reason C.I. did not subconsciously produce a correct use of grammar let alone a correct understanding of grammar.  I needed to be taught the grammar of the language I had already been speaking for years. 

How I learned English ought to influence how I teach students to acquire a second language. C.I. was the way I first truly learned English.  However, C.I. in English only taught me to understand English at a grade school level.  Likely around the 3rd grade level.  Even though I was immersed on a daily basis in the English language, my grammar was poor.  I needed to be taught grammar in order to become truly adept at the use of English.  And, for some strange reason, schools that promote C.I. as THE way to learn a second language still teach English Grammar as a part of English acquisition.

Now, the real question is what is the goal of second language acquisition? 

If we merely want people to converse and read at the level of elementary students, then C.I. will meet your needs on its own.

If we merely want students to be masters of grammar, then the grammatical method suffices.

If we want people to master the language, then we really ought to teach both in the same manner that was done historically: immersion, C.I., and grammatical instruction. 

The real question that must be answered is, what is the goal of learning a second language?  If the goal is to actually know and use the language, then all three of these teaching methods ought to be utilized.  It seems to be a silly expectation that a second language will be taught to mastery apart from these same methods that were used to teach a first language.

Therefore, I am supportive of C.I. and an immersive Latin experience, but, at the same time, I am supportive of teaching grammar.  I want to teach to mastery, and mastery requires immersion and grammar.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Some Thoughts on Second Language Acquisition. Part I: Why Learn a Language?

Some Thoughts on Second Language Acquisition.

Part I: Why Learn a Language?

Language is a necessity.  Apart from language we lack the most nuanced and versatile means of communication with our fellow humans.  Despite the centrality and necessity of language, language is incredibly complex and difficult to master.  This is true for both a first language and a second language.

In recognition of this, the powers that be have determined that all students ought to learn another language before graduation from high school.  The difficulty is that truly learning a language is incredibly difficult.  Therefore, in America (other countries do this much better), we have settled on the practice that requires just a basic introduction to a language and possibly offer an elective when the actual content of the language becomes more difficult.  The truth is, our system does not require competency in another language, but a mere exposure to another language.

Moving beyond the failures of the American education system, there are many benefits to learning a second language. 

Learning a second language improves one’s understanding of language in general.  The things which were often half understood implicitly are now encountered and understood in an explicit manner.  It was not until I took Greek that I actually understood the difference between a gerund and a participle (they look exactly the same in English). 

Learning a second language to a level of fluency allows one to think differently.  I am functionally fluent in Latin.  There are ways of speaking and thinking in Latin that a mind structured in English would have a difficult time processing.  The inverse is also true.  This means that being able to think in another language opens up one’s mind to think in different manners.

A second language also opens up a world of literature in another language.  Latin has done this for me.  I am ever amazed at what can get lost in translation when I read a work in Latin which I had previously read in English translation (this goes back to my statement about the ability to think differently in another language).

The benefits of learning a language are locked behind a door of ignorance which can only be opened with the key of hard work.  There are very few people who can learn a second language without great efforts.  Some teaching styles may lessen or increase the amount of effort required to learn a second language.  However, the sheer amount of work and time that it takes to achieve a functional level of fluency makes learning a second language a difficult and long-term proposition.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Funeral Oration for my Grandmother

The passing of my Grandmother, Mary Sue Bennett, on August 21st has been an emotionally difficult time for myself and my family.  Long before she passed, she had told me that I was to preach at her funeral.  Grammie must have seen something in me as a teenager to entrust me with that task.  Of course, at the time, I just told her that I would tell several embarrassing stories about her.  Being a man of my word, about half of those stories were included or referenced in this oration.

Composing her funeral oration was equal parts grieving and smiling.  The sorrow and joy are mingled throughout this work.  I offer it here as a tribute to my Grammie.  May her memory be eternal!

Funeral Oration for Mary Sue Bennett:

Mary Sue Bennett was known to most as Sue, but she was always Grammie to me.  Sometime in my teenage years, Grammie asked me to preach at her funeral.  Asked is probably not a strong enough word.  If you knew my Grammie, her asking had all the authority of a divine command.  And, if for whatever reason, I might balk at one of her requests, she would give a brief encouragement often concluding with “cha cha cha.”  Once “cha cha cha” was uttered, we were committed to whatever plan of action Grammie had in mind.

I, being utterly committed to preaching at her funeral, told her that it would come at the cost of my telling some stories about her.  And being of the same stubborn stock as my grandmother, allow me to share some stories about Grammie.

My earliest notable memory of Grammie was when I spent the night at her house when I was three.  Apparently I felt a little homesick when I woke up.  However, Grammie knew that ice cream for breakfast was the surefire cure for homesickness.  By the time my mom called to see how I was doing, life was great because I had ice cream for breakfast!  I believe that my pleasure was offset by my mother’s displeasure.  I cannot say for certain…  What I do know is that Grammie understood the power of ice cream and shared her love of ice cream with all her grandchildren.

Grammie showed love to all of her grandchildren equally.  Each one of us could tell you about the trips and adventures she took us on.  One of my most memorable trips was our trip to Alaska.  Grammie was driving the motorhome as we were in the Yukon Territory.  Grandad was playing a card game with Thomas and me in the kitchen area of their motorhome.  Then Grammie asked us what a “Can O” was.  All three of us guys were stumped.  The card game came to a stop as we were working through just what that could be and what would Canadian slang be like.  She told us there was a billboard saying that there were “Can O’s” for sale.  We asked her how to spell “Can O” and she said, “C A N O E.”  We started laughing and said, “You mean canoe; the little boat you paddle.”  At that moment, with her mistake known to all, Grammie replied, “Oh hush.”

Now, having been told in no uncertain terms that I would need to preach, I need to talk about Grammie’s faith in the Triune God.  I am faced with a great difficulty in this task.  Because her faith so pervaded her life, I am forced to leave out important things and so do an injustice against my own grandmother. 

After retirement, Grammie and Grandad decided to give away or sell most of their possessions and travel around the country serving others.  While many might have struggled in a similar situation, Grammie was ever ready to give.  She even gave away furniture twice.  Once she gave the kitchen table away and they ate off of a cardboard table.  Several years later, she gave the couch away to a family who did not have a couch.  Grandad retorted, “Well, now we do not have a couch either.”  But, Grammie had the gift of giving and was blessed for it.  Her possessions never possessed her.  It was more than one occasion that I questioned Grammie about giving something.  I do not remember how many times this happened.  I do remember her reply, however, “Well no one else needs to know.  It will be our little secret.”

Now, if you have spent any time with Grammie, you know that her idea of a secret was; only telling on person at a time!  Yet, our family talked freely about our lives with her.  I guess I always knew that everything I told Grammie could be shared with the family, but I never considered her to be a gossip.  She loved every one of us and was just happy to tell us all about the people she loved.  I remember meeting people who knew me very well simply because they were friends of Grammie.  She always wanted to know about our lives because she cared about our lives.

Somewhere below family and yet still linked to her love of God was Grammie’s love of singing.  While she would sing around the house, she loved to sing at Church.  Now Grammie always liked to have herself put together.  Her basic approach was “brush your hair and put on some lipstick.”  Yet, when Grammie sang in church she carried herself with all the professional seriousness of an opera singer performing with a philharmonic.  Because Church was a special place that she treated seriously.  Church is where we went to worship the Uncreated Creator, Jesus Christ.

As Grammie aged, her faith never waned.  She has read through the Bible every year for much of my life.  Her favorite book was the prophet Isaiah.  In the rather long book of Isaiah, she found beautiful promises that shaped the way she viewed the world and understood all that happened in life.  Her favorite passage was Isaiah 40:28–31. 

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Then shortly after this passage, and connected to it in her mind was Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Grammie was formed by these verses in so many ways that I cannot recount them all.  The God she worshipped and trusted was the God who created all that exists out of nothing.  It is this God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Grammie, who does not grow weary or lack understanding.  Indeed, we cannot fathom his knowledge or His power.  Yet this God is not far removed, but He helps those who hope in Him.

The metaphor of soaring on wings like eagles became a guiding metaphor for Grammie.  Grammie loved eagles.  She had dozens of figurines and pictures of eagles.  But Grammie did not love eagles simply because they were eagles.  For her, eagles are a symbol of the promises of God that He is with her in her weakness and that He will lift her up, as He has done.  Grammie put the eagles anywhere she could; from gravestones, to a scholarship fund, to her own house.  Whenever possible she would also write Isaiah 40:31 as a reference or as a full quotation.

Grammie was uncompromising.  Whether it was her standard of what constituted clean, or her faith, or her morals.  Grammie practiced her faith.  Her faith was a lived faith and a clearly defined faith.  This was especially evident in moments of disagreement.  Grammie did not bend what she believed to get along with others.  And, at the same time, she continued to love and care for those with whom she disagreed.  This was yet another of the ways she lived out her hope in the living God.

Even after Grammie’s stroke, her faith was not shaken.  She continued reading through the Bible every day.  She regularly went to Church on Sunday.  She did this even though she could not hear much of what was said because she disliked wearing her hearing aids.  In many ways, her stroke took away much of her personality.  Yet her faith remained as did her love of ice cream.

Grammie is now free to, once again, sing the praises of her savior Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with the eternal Father and the life giving Holy Spirit.  She has moved from our company to the companies of angels and the faithful of the ages past. She has joined them in enjoying the uncreated light, the very glory of God; and worshipping the only God with them forever.  She also joined her beloved husband Bill, or Grandad as I knew him.  Together they await the resurrection of their bodies and the final judgement, whereupon they will be like the angels in that they will not marry or be given in marriage, but their love for each other remains.  This is just as the Apostle Paul said, “now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”  These three things: faith, hope, and love, the things that made Grammie who she was and is yet remain with her for eternity.

There are some stories which Grammie strictly forbade me to tell at her funeral.  I cannot tell you about the time that the gray water backed up into the motorhome bathtub and got the clean laundry extra dirty.  And the word which Grammie said when she found that mess.  I cannot tell you about the time she misspoke while ordering and received hot water and freshly brewed decaf instead of hot freshly brewed decaf and a glass of water.  There are many, many other stories which time does not permit me to share.  The importance of these stories is found in the fact that Grammie lived her life with her family.  We have our Grammie stories because she was present with us sharing in our lives and loving us as much as she was able.  We remember these stories because we loved her in return.              

Friday, May 25, 2018

Becoming un-Baptist Part 7: Becoming Orthodox

Becoming un-Baptist Part 7: Becoming Orthodox

At the end of my theological journey, I found myself facing two choices: Roman Catholicism or Orthodoxy.  I bumbled around and found myself listening to Ancient Faith Radio and Scott Hahn.  I admit that Scott Hahn had some compelling arguments for Roman Catholicism.  However, his most compelling arguments did not lead me to Rome.  My study of Church History showed me that Rome had made some moves away from Biblical and Early Christian thought and practice.[1]  This then left me with one valid option: go to an Orthodox church.

So, I went to an Orthodox Church and shocked the local priest by telling him that my wife and I had come for the purpose of becoming Orthodox.  The priest replied that we should start by coming to liturgy first for a few weeks, which we did.  I had already reasoned my way to the conclusion that Orthodoxy was true and I needed to be a part of it.

The first thing I noticed was how much Scripture I encountered in the Liturgy.  Not only that, but some exegetical work I had done in my earlier studies actually showed up in the liturgy, translated into English just as I had earlier argued that it should be translated.[2]  I was stunned.  At the same, I found that reading the Fathers became less and less like I was reading a foreign text and more like I was reading someone who shared in the same things in which I was sharing.  I did not feel the need to read the Fathers with an implicit distrust of their conclusions and methods as I once had done.

After my initial impressions, I realized something quite important; becoming Orthodox was not a mere rearranging of my mental assent about various points of doctrine or practice.  It was an entrance into a way of life that was quite distinct from what I had experienced as a Protestant.  I found myself with set fasting, which we practiced as a community.  I entered into a worship that did not cater to my feelings, but was centered upon the worship of God. 

Becoming Orthodox was also a significant shift in my world-view.  One example of this is how I lost my Baptist Salvation Calculus Formula that allowed me to determine the state of another person’s salvation, and I found myself praying for God’s mercy upon others and upon myself.  I began to practically understand that God is the Judge and that I will be judged along with everyone else.

I would like to say that since becoming Orthodox, I have purged myself from all sin and am a resplendent example of how all others should be.  Such is decidedly not the case.  I managed to maintain all my personal flaws.  However, I have entered into an ancient (yet new to me) way of living as a Christian with a set and proven pattern for spiritual growth.

[1] The first thing that comes to my mind are the liturgical deviations which have come to pass since Vatican 2.  To these I would add the addition of the Filioque to the Nicene Creed, forced clerical celibacy, the ability to merit God’s grace, and Papal Supremacy.
[2] In particular the passage from James 1:17.  The ESV reads “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” I argued that the text ought to be translated as: “All good giving and every perfect gift…”  Then to my amazement, the priest comes out and states exactly what the Greek actually states!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Becoming un-Baptist 6: When Protestant Theology Crumbles Or, How Gerry Breshears Helped Me Become an Orthodox Christian

Becoming un-Baptist 6: When Protestant Theology Crumbles
Or, How Gerry Breshears Helped Me Become an Orthodox Christian

In my previous series of posts entitled “Becoming un-Baptist,”[1] I recounted how I went from being a confessional Baptist to no longer even being baptistic in my theology.  The crumbling of my Baptist theology was not the end of my reconsideration and shifting of my theological views.  Indeed, it was part of a larger shift in my theological paradigm.

I consider myself to have been privileged to have studied at Western Seminary.  One of the professors there who helped me become a better thinker was Gerry Breshears.[2]  Sometimes this came through my own disagreement with some of his positions.  However, this came primarily through his practice of Sola Scriptura (even though he would likely be displeased by my use of a Latin phrase instead of the English “Scripture Alone”).  Gerry constantly and helpfully pressed me and others to support our beliefs and opinions directly from Scripture. 

I still remember one comment he made on a doctrinal statement I submitted.  Gerry’s
brief comment was, “Do you have a Bible verse for this?”  The fact was, that I did not have a Bible verse.  I had reached a point where I could not find a passage of Scripture that would clearly support limited atonement.  While I know it is very dangerous to speculate about another’s feelings and thoughts, I strongly suspect that Gerry took no small satisfaction in compelling his students to completely reevaluate their theological positions in light of the biblical texts.  He set me upon a trajectory of critically examining every doctrine I had held in light of Scripture.  Ideally, I suppose that I should have figured this all out during my 5½ years that I was a student at Western Seminary.  This was decidedly not the case. 

I found that reading the Bible continued to crumble my doctrinal views.  At the same time as this process was ongoing, I entered into a journey of studying the Church Fathers.  This resulted in even further problems for my doctrinal positions.  The Fathers were quoting verses and interpreting them in ways that were often utterly foreign to my doctrines.  This led me to reread the Bible and find that those verses which I had overlooked (or interpreted around) suddenly came to bear upon my understanding of doctrine. 

I went through a theological crisis.  As one doctrine crumbled after another, I found that I was less certain of more and more things which led me to question ever further and find even yet more questions.  This was a ridiculous time in my life.  I found that simply reading the Bible became difficult because I was constantly beset with the problem of a shifting paradigm.  Passages which once made sense, suddenly did not; and passages which were once overlooked gave answers which were not compatible with what I had believed.

Being beset with questions, I decided to find answers.  The answers I found were significantly unsettling.  It was my journey to find answers that led to the collapse of my Protestant theology.  At first my questions and answers in no way threatened my Protestant beliefs.  I should note that none of my questions arose from any sort of perniciousness.  These were sincere questions as I was attempting to discern the Truth which I should believe.

The first issue that I had was imputed righteousness.  I could find no textual support for this understanding of righteousness.  The answer I was given was that if righteousness is not imputed, than it must be imparted, and that view is clearly wrong.  Meanwhile I was thinking that perhaps both were wrong.

There were several other fairly significant theological questions that I had.  However, the most important came when I was sitting at the kitchen table reading the New Testament in the Greek, and I realized that I could not support Sola Scriptura from Scripture alone.  This was troubling, and doubly so, because I realized I could make a better argument for tradition from the New Testament (especially when I was reading the Greek) than I had previously thought possible.  In fact, by following Scripture, I ended up realizing that Paul taught that He had handed down an unwritten tradition.  This can be seen in:

2nd Thessalonians 2:15 “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.”
1st Corinthians 11:2 “Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.”

I looked at these and other verses and I realized that the Bible taught that that unwritten traditions handed down from the Apostles were to be kept. This then was the moment when it all imploded.  The very exegetical method I had been taught led me to a point where it killed itself and thrust me into the arms of Tradition.  I found myself pondering the probability that there was an Apostolic Tradition beyond the books of the New Testament and I began reading the writings from the Early Christians with an eye towards discerning what these unwritten Apostolis Traditions were.

This was all happening while I was almost Anglican.  However, as I was entering into the Apostolic Tradition, Anglicanism seemed less and less like a valid option, I was left with two real choices: Roman Catholicism or Orthodoxy. 

[2] There were several others, but this post is about the formative effect that Gerry’s methodology had upon my own way of thinking about theology.