Sunday, February 21, 2010

Living the Tradition

Welcome to the new look of hyperekperissou and to my return to the basics. I think that one of the reasons why I have been having such writers block the last few months (besides sheer busyness) is that I’ve been trying to write entries which were just not me. So, I found myself facing the temptation towards trying to be respectable to the academy and produce ‘useful’ work such as translations or scholarly analyses. Not that this ‘useful’ work is a bad thing. It just doesn’t fit what I want to do with my writing.

For better or worse, I am an amateur patrologist and theologian. I make no apologies because I read the Fathers because I love them, because they are my teachers. I write about them because I want to apply what I've learned from them to my life. If firmly believe that the reason why Christians need to read the Fathers is not to mine them for some nugget of theological data, but rather return ad fontes and rejoice in swimming in that capacious pool from which all Christian thought has sprung.

This, of course, not a mainstream approach to theology or the Christian life. I don't mind that. Yet, what a growing number of Christians are realizing is the extent to which our iconoclastic dismissal of tradition in the later part of last century has brought us is theological incoherence and confusion of tongues. I'm not saying that tradition is a cure-all for all ills facing the Church today. Of course, tradition is a double-edged sword. It can stifle and restrict as often as it guides and supports faith. We all know periods when tradition's weight crushed faith and faithful inquiry. I don't advocate a return to those bad ol' days. I also don't think we're remotely close to that extreme today.

Tradition, at its best, supports faith. It gives the necessary boundaries to allow the faithful to dig deeper into the wealth of experience embodied in the lives of the many millions of faithful departed in the history of the Church. It allows us to learn from the successes and the mistakes of others throughout time. It helps us to see that our answers and even our most time-honoured truths developed over time and, likely, will continue to do so, but within agreed upon boundaries. It also allows us to both disagree with others within our tradition, but, also, allows us the resources to work out those disagreements in a productive and constructive manner. A living tradition is one that intersects with the world around it and develop its own answers to the dilemmas of its time. A tradition which isn't flexible enough to do that is dead and good riddance to it. If a tradition doesn't speak to each successive generation anew, it is worse than useless. It is fit only for the dumpster.

We all live in more than one traditions, whether we chose to acknowledge it or not. Some traditions are religious; others are ethnic; some are simply familial. Still others are cultural including the current tradition embodied by the modern university and the modern journalist. Usually, these traditions coincide quite peacefully with a minimum of friction. Sometimes, traditions clash and create dilemmas for those bound up in both. We are, I suggest, living at a time when the Christian tradition and what can be only called the dominant intellectual traditions clash on a regular basis. While we can always appeal to the strong undercurrent of tolerance which runs in the dominant intellectual traditions today (thank God!), there is no mistaking that it is harder and much less intellectually respectable to be a Christian today than it was, say, fifty years ago. A commitment to the Christian tradition isn't mainstream anymore, but, I submit, our witness to Christ in this increasingly secular world needs to be grounded in this commitment or we will become as rudderless as the culture we find ourselves in.

All this brings me back to what I'm trying to do in this blog. I am not interested in excavating the artifacts of the Christian traditions like little potsherds on an archaeological site. Nor am I interested in creating a two-dimensional gallery of long-dead heroes and heroines of faith. Nor do I want to know my tradition so I can ace a Jeopardy category on dead Christian writers. I want to learn from my tradition, certainly; not only from the good, but also from the bad and the ugly. But, as I know very well from teaching, knowledge is pointless unless it is applied in some relevant way to today's concerns and problems. And that is what exactly what I want to do. I want to learn from the Christian tradition, but, more importantly, I want to use the resources this tradition gives me to explain and to cope with the problems facing Christians today.

All of this is, of course, ambitious and I don't claim any special expertise or wisdom in attempting it. What I do claim is a willingness to listen to the teachings of traditional Christianity and to see how it fits my life. God willing, my reflections on how to apply the insights of my tradition will be useful to more people than just me.



Sunday, February 14, 2010

Future Directions

Hi all;

Things have been very quiet on hyperekperissou recently, as my faithful readers know, so, now that we've hit the fourth anniversary of this blog, I thought I would update all of you about where I see this blog is going in the next little while.

First, the good news. I hope to get back to regular blogging starting next week. Things at work remain busy, but the worst of the craziness seems to be abating. So, now is a good time to resume. I should note that, while I'm intending to return to weekly posts, I'm not putting as much pressure on myself if I miss a week or two here and there. If I'm too busy or just have no ideas, I'm not posting. Still, I have built up a bit of a bank of ideas over the last few months that I'd like to blog on, so I look forward to getting back to it.

Along with that, I'm going to re-launch this blog with a new look and a slightly new focus. Well, really, it is a return to basics for me. Part of my reason for my dry spell, I think, is that I was starting to twist myself into a pretzel that my patristics writing just wasn't academic enough and that, gasp, I was being listed as a related, devotional blog, not as a 'real' blog on the biblioblog rating system. I realized that this really just doesn't matter and that the point, self-indulgent as it sounds, is that I enjoy what I'm writing and, hopefully, that all of you do as well. So, more on this later with the kick-off post for the new look and focus next week.

Now, the bad news is that, after some prayer and thinking over the last few months, I've realized that I need to let the Patristics Carnival go. I just don't have the energy to do it and do what I want to do on this blog and, frankly, it has been feeling rather like an unending chore the last few months. If anyone wants to take it over, feel free. I'll happily hand over the log-in information for both the dedicated e-mail and the Carnival site (which I have to update this week). Just e-mail me at the dedicated e-mail and we'll work that out.

So, the long and short is keep an eye out next weekend for the triumphant re-launch of hyperekperissou. Have a good week. I wish you happy pancakes (for those of you who do Pancake Tuesday) and the start of a holy Lent.