A patristics center at an Evangelical Protestant Bible College? You’ve got to be kidding, right? No, it’s for real and it’s about time.
Bobby Maddex, of Ancient Faith Radio, has done a special podcast on the new Center for Early Christian Studies which has opened at Wheaton College, an Evangelical Protestant institution in the Chicago area.
I’ve often said that many Evangelicals tend to have a “blind spot” when it comes to Church history, especially with regards to the Eastern Church. For many Evangelicals, Church history jumps from the book of Acts to Martin Luther in 1517 AD.
This “blind spot” often becomes real apparent when Evangelicals discuss historical theology and only mention Catholic writers from the West. For example, traditional Evangelical Protestant apologetics countering the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist most likely will focus on medieval Catholic writers and the Catholic council that defined Transubstantiation. Byzantine, Syrian, and Coptic Christian writers from the Early Church on the Real Presence are routinely ignored. The average Evangelical believes that the idea of Real Presence dates from the thirteenth century and was one of those “Roman inventions.” The fact that the belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist was a universal belief of the Ancient Church is lost on most Evangelicals, often because many of them don’t even know about the Eastern Christian Churches. Many Evangelicals confuse Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism, let alone Coptic, Syrian or Armenian Orthodoxy.
How will this new Center at Wheaton impact Evangelicalism? Maddex has some great interviews with Wheaton staff and administrators and asks some pointed questions. He also interviews some Orthodox priests and some alumni of Wheaton who are now Orthodox. Maddex’s podcast is definitely worth a listen.
For those interested in more detail, the inaugural address for the Wheaton Center for Early Christian Studies, given by Robert Louis Wilken, is also available for download. It gives an idea about the direction the Center intends to go.