In my previous vignette, I tried to explain why I mostly avoid modern theologians like the plague. I also mentioned the “Fathers” in many of my posts and comments. So, today, I will make a small introduction to one such “Father” and even recommend what I see as a *perfect* introductory booklet to this entire topic.
First things first – in spite of the (often misunderstood) words from Christ “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” (Matt 23:9) it so happens that Christians call a lot of people “Father”. First, we refer to the God “Father”. We also call of male parents “father” (for the literalists, that could be construed as a violation of Christ’s commandment). We also refer to our priests (deacons, presbyters) as Father A or Father-Deacon B. As for our bishops, we refer to them as “Master” (despota, vladyka). And on top of this structure, we have the so-called “Church Fathers”.
But who are these Church Fathers anyway?!?!
The point here is not the interpretation of the words of Christ, but the fact that early Christians were never literalists. In fact, many Church Fathers have made fun of literalists. For example Saint Basil the great made fun of those who believe that “God has legs” since He was “walking in the Garden of Eden”, see for yourself: “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden” (Gen 3:8). By the way, this passage would imply, for the literalists, that God could not see behind tree branches!
Here is another perfect example of how literalism is deeply alien to the original Christianity:
We cannot, as mad people do, profanely visualize these heavenly and godlike intelligence as actually having numerous feet and faces. They are not shaped to resemble the brutishness of oxen or to display the wildness of lions. They do not have the curved beak of the eagle or the wings and feathers of birds. We must not have pictures of flaming wheels whirling in the skies, of material thrones made ready to provide a reception for the Deity, of multicolored horses or of spar-carrying lieutenants or any of those shapes handed on to us amid all the variety of revealing symbols of scripture.
These words were written by Saint Dionysios the Areopagite (who knew Saint Paul and the Virgin Mary personally, and lived in the 1st century. Modern “theologians” often deny his existence and/or the authorship of his writings in an attempt to discredit him and paint Christians are neo-Platonists (which is garbage, to put it mildly).
So for early/original Christians literalism is “out” (or we would have to believe that Christ was a “stone” or even a “door”). As is any form of sola scriptura.
So how do we interpret the Scripture?
Early Christians soon found out that on some issues they were totally united. But on others, they had differences of opinion, which is both good and healthy as Saint Paul himself told us to “test every spirit”. Last, but sure not least, Christ Himself told us that we are “friends” of God, created in His image and likeness, and that we shall know the truth and that truth will make us free. So while we call ourselves “servants/slaves of God”, this is a voluntary servitude given out of love. But we are all absolutely free to investigate, question, doubt, and otherwise seek the truth.
Anyway, over the years it became clear that there was a corpus of teachings, written AND oral, upon which all the Christians agreed upon and with time this became known as the “consensus of the Fathers“. We will deal with that issue many times again, but my point here is very simple, the idea was given to me by a Buddhist friend who told me this: I can very exactly describe a papaya to you, its weight, structure, parts, chemical composition, etc. etc. etc. I can even write a full book on papayas and give it to you. But none of that will never convey the real and full taste of a papaya to you – you need to taste one for yourself“. I agree 1000% with him.
So, rather than making a list of “Church Fathers” or discussing this concept ad nauseam, I will do something else here: I will “plug” what is, in my opinion, THE best way to “get a taste” of the Fathers – recommend a small booklet to you.
Here it is: “On Marriage and Family Life: St. John Chrysostom”
Here are two Amazon links for this booklet:
These small booklets are cheap, nicely printed, short and truly priceless so that is a good deal.
However, all this small volume contains are the following homilies of Saint John Chrysostome:
- Homily XIX: 1 Cor 7:1,2
- Homily XX: Ephesians 5:22-24
- Homily XXI: Ephesians 6:1-3
You can, of course, find them elsewhere, and even online. But 16-18 bucks is a steal, so get it, especially if you have never really read any of the original writings of the Fathers.
Here are my reasons for this recommendation:
- By reading these three homilies you will “taste” the “Patristic papaya” BEFORE you hear me droning on about it for for pages and pages about how awesome these “Fathers” were (and still are!)
- These homilies are very down to earth and written in a simple language everybody can understand (some Fathers, like Saint Maximos the Confessor, are hard, very hard, to read, whether in the original language or in translations) .
- These homilies are also a true “gem” showing you what both a Christian marriage and Christian family ought to look like and how a Christian family ought to operate. In our sad days of Bible-thumping crooks and gender-fluid wokes, this might well be the most needed text to read for any person trying to become a real Christian or have a truly Christian family.
- These homilies also debunk (preemptively, since they were written down in the 4th century!) all the modern feminist/woke myths about “the patriarchy” and how “women must obey their husbands” (true, but completely misinterpreted AND missing a crucial part of the full quote!)
- I have personally seen at least two marriages saved by the reading of this small text (true, I promise), so if you are in any kind of loving relationship (even outside marriage and if you a secular or non Christian!) which is in crisis (for whatever reason) – get the booklet like your life depends on it (because it does!).
- Saint John Chrysostome was called the “Golden Mouthed” for a reason: he was a truly phenomenal speaker whose words were simple, yet they correctly conveyed even very subtle and complex nuances.
Yes, I promise, I will come back to the issues of “the Fathers” and their “consensus” in the near future, but if you could “taste” what Saint John Chrysostome wrote (well, actually, said in public, and then was written down) you will have a HUGE advantage over those who will not follow my advice. I also promise you that if you read these homilies you will quickly grasp why reading modern theologians is almost always a total waste of time (at best) and actually detrimental to the correct understanding of Christianity. It will feel like first tasting a delicious papaya (or any other succulent tropical fruit) only to be then offered say, a plate of melted, cold and moldy Velveeta “cheese”. The contrast will be huge, to say the least.
The choice is, of course, entirely yours :-)
PS: we know have 84 registered members, and you still can sign up if you want!
I, Andrei Raevsky, aka The Saker, have absolutely no authority whatsoever to teach anything to anyone. None. Zero. Ziltch. Nada! The “Christian Vignettes” are NOT a catechism, or a course in dogmatics or anything else formal. These vignettes are only one guy’s strictly personal musings on various topics. Nothing more.