15th November 2016

Ad Fontes

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
2 Timothy 2:15 (NIVUK)

When the Reformation began in the early 1500’s the Renaissance had already taken root in Italy and northern Europe. The Renaissance, which means re-birth, looked back to the classical world of ancient Greece and Rome as the golden period of civilisation and as a source of inspiration. Those that were the driving force behind the Renaissance adopted the slogan “Ad Fontes” which means “back to the sources” or “back to the fountainhead.”

The protestant reformers considered that the medieval church had lost its way particularly in its understanding of grace. For the reformers “back to the sources” meant going back to the scriptures and the writings of the church Fathers’. They read the Bible in its original languages and formulated their theology from those sources, rather than the Latin Vulgate Bible which was found to contain errors in translation. The moderate reformers considered the first five centuries of the church, the patristic and supremely the apostolic eras, as the golden age of the church.

It is a mistake to assume that the mainstream reformers rejected all the scholarship that had gone before them. They evaluated the relative merits of the church Fathers’ writings and accepted their theology provided that their interpretations could be justified from the scriptures. They came to the conclusion that historical and institutional continuity, for example tracing an unbroken line of bishops back to the first and second centuries, did not guarantee spiritual fidelity. Rather, what was more important was continuity with the apostolic teaching. They prized theological continuity rather than historic institutional continuity.

This year is the centenary of a little recognised event. In the summer of 1916 Karl Barth, disillusioned with the protestant liberal theology he had been taught and followed, went back to the sources and began an intensive study of the Epistle to the Romans. Thus began his epic journey towards Trinitarian theology. Over the following decades Barth re-discovered the centrality of the theology of the Trinity and the Christology of the ancient church which had been obscured particularly during the period of the enlightenment. Trinitarian theology did not originate with Barth, it is reflected in the early Christian Creeds and there is theological continuity that can be traced back through the church Fathers’ (patristic era) to the apostolic age and is rooted in scripture. Barth has been considered by many to be the most influential theologian of the 20th century and Christ-centred Trinitarian theology forms the basis of GCI/WCG theology (1)

Heavenly Father, help us to conduct ourselves as becomes the gospel of Christ and to discern and confirm the essentials of the Christian faith.

Study by Eddie Marsh

(1) A Brief Introduction to Trinitarian Theology GCI/WCG literature



eddiemarshAbout the Author:
Eddie Marsh attends Grace Communion International in Sheffield.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion, Sheffield
Please email for Meeting Place

Meeting Time:
Saturday 10:30am

Local Congregational Contact:
Email: sheffield@gracecom.org.uk

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