What we can draw from the Patristic church is the genuine concern to remain faithful to the truth as it is revealed from the Person and work of Jesus Christ. He is the Light that has come into the world and it shines in our darkness. His Light sheds light on how dark our understanding is of the ways and works of God. When we walk in the Light of Christ it is His Light we shine. It is not anyone’s interpretation of the Light of God. It is God’s own interpretation of Himself through His unique self-declaration as the Person of Jesus Christ. It is the Truth Personified. The question of the Truth of God does not lie outside of God as this is what John means by darkness. Knowledge regarding God sourced outside of God is nothing but darkness. The term εκ τες ουσια was applied to Jesus Christ and means out from within the being of God. Thus what He had to say was straight from the heart of the Father. No one knows the Father except the Son and no one knows the Son except the Father (Matt 11:27) was also central to the concern of the Patristic Church. We have the same problem confronted by every single human being. We can only speak of God’s truth when our conversation lines up with the conversation of Jesus Christ to humanity. We cannot add to the conversation by ideas outside the gospel as this will distort the beauty of God’s Personal self disclosure in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
Generally speaking, we can find the same approach is exercised in modern science. They too have a genuine concern to remain faithful to the truth disclosed by their object of study. The same term εκ τες ουσια can also be applied here. There is a form or self-communication from the object to the observer who seeks to draw out what is inherently true in it. The observer then testifies to that truth as a witness to what they see in it. The object will disclose only what is inherently true to its nature and not anything else. It is also incumbent on the observer to maintain integrity as they try to deliver what they see and their interpretation of it to the rest of the community. It is also incumbent on the observer to be open to correction. Being that the object is what it is and nothing else, our rationality is governed by its rationality. As we investigate it, we rigorously interrogate it so that we draw out answers to better understand its inherent nature.
Ideally, if we are going to embark in university to undertake any level of academic then the least we can strive for is a community who are primary concerned with the truth as it is revealed to us, without partiality. What we do not need are people who come into the community as means of shaping outcomes to meet their own agendas, premises and theories. We need to move away from ideas that isolate people within their own specialised fields. Rather, what is need is an integrative and constructive approach that will unite all in a common pursuit.
Even when I was at the seminary, there appeared to be a divide between the schools of theology and ministry. One cannot do without the other and each inform one another. The ultimate of aim of each school is to play their part in pointing people to Jesus Christ. We cannot divide the Person of Jesus Christ into theology and ministry. What we see in Him is God speaking as He is doing and doing as He is speaking. It would appear the two schools would better serve the truth of God if they could be integrated together constructively so as to better serve the Truth Personified in Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is not the faculty who have the last word. It is Jesus Christ who has the last word.
In a similar way, our expectations of any university we choose to apprentice ourselves to must have an overwhelming commitment to the truth. Lecturers and teachers are not the ultimate authority based on their own opinion of things. What they do is to lead and guide others in the discipline of enquiry to uncover the truth. It is a discipleship, discipling others to learn the essential means of undertaking scientific and scholarly enquiry while maintaining an overwhelming commitment to the truth as the governing factor. If the truth is set aside for the sake of some political or social pressure that may try to reshape it into something else, then the outcome will mean the campus will be placed under a form of slavery to outside agendas. As we have seen in these series of blogs, an overall commitment to the truth can bring about enormous benefits to society at large.
Theological seminaries are not immune to outside pressures to govern the manner it proceeds in the task of equipping those to ministry. These seminaries are not the truth itself. They should be guardians of the truth. Thus the touchstone for all that seminary teaches should always be governed by the Truth of Jesus Christ in His Person and work. There is a tendency to place a priority on doctrines and statements of beliefs over the quest for Truth, even if they are contrary to the revealed Truth of God as the Man Jesus Christ. All doctrines and statements of belief must be critiqued in the Light of Jesus Christ. The Truth begins in His Person in relationship to His Father and His union with humanity. His Person is the declaration of the way things really are.
Contingency can and should play a key role in both the secular and Christian universities. In the Christian context, it is Jesus Christ through whom all things are created and in Him in which all things consist and are held together. He is the way the Truth and the Life. He is Creator who is from eternity who has revealed and made Himself known to us. Jesus Christ is the One is which all creation is contingent upon. There is a growing acceptance in the scientific community that there is ‘something’ upon which the universe is contingent upon. In addition there is the growing acceptance of a rationality in the universe that corresponds with our rationality giving us the ability to lend an ear, hear its secrets, and learn from it. There is a place both in theology and other scientific fields where the two operate in an auditive manner that the New Covenant promised in Jesus Christ. Whatever intelligibilities that lie in the universe can be brought to rational expression in a way that corresponds with the internal truth inherent in it. What we find is the way of the patristics work far closer together with modern science than many secularists dare to admit.