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There is a movement of evangelical Christians back to the sources ad fontes; something of the sort that we saw take place in the 16th easternorthodoxcentury among Christian thinkers like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Peter Martyr Vermigli, et al. A movement away from what many an evangelical likely considers the shallow end of Biblicism, and a move into the deep end of Christian thought; away from, as many of these movers perceive, their rather vanilla evangelical upbringing. How this movement happens takes various expressions, nevertheless, it is happening. Note Jason Radcliff as he highlights this in his PhD dissertation:

The latter half of the twentieth century and beginning of the twenty-first century has seen a paradigm shift from modernism to postmodernism which opened the door for evangelicals to return to classical Christianity. Accordingly, during this time there has been a resurgence of patristic studies among evangelicals. Indeed, there has been a move towards ressourcement within evangelicalism, in which Torrance has played and continues to play an influential role. This may be a sign of something big. As Webber puts it, “throughout history a revived interest in the insights of the early church has usually been accompanied by significant renewal in the church.” Thus, it seems highly probable that the current trend towards the classical church Fathers signifies Christianity is currently on the brink of important revival, making Torrance highly relevant as a figure to be uplifted as an example.[1]

As you can see, Radcliff believes Torrance is the type of teacher the church is ripe for; I agree. But more broadly, and to the point, this movement of ressourcement is an encouraging thing. Us evangelical Calvinists see ourselves dead center in this movement, and of course we see TF Torrance the teacher par excellence in this regard.

Having said that, I also have some concern. I think as a Protestant (Reformed) Christian, and I think that the best of that has always been a return to the theology of the early Church Fathers. But my concern comes in directly at this point; I am aware of many who do indeed have this desire of ‘return,’ but this movement has taken the form of abandoning Protestant theology wholesale, and simply converting to Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism. Why does this concern me? Because I am Protestant (a very principled one). If the best of Protestant theology has been shaped by its ressourcement of Patristic theology (historically), then who are these folks who are returning to Rome or Constantinople? Many of them are indeed Reformed Protestant thinkers and theologians, but the majority, I would contend, are people with not a lot of theological training, but who sense a hollowness in their lived Christian experience as evangelicals (with a Fundamentalist doctrinal pedigree). They are making this ‘return’ without ever realizing (because of the naked Biblicist backgrounds they are coming from) that there is a depth dimension and reality within Protestant theology that they have never been exposed to; and so they end up skipping right over it (not ever realizing that it was right under their noses all the time), and plunge head first into the Tiber or even the Black Sea.

[1] Jason Radcliff, T.F. Torrance and the Consensus Patrum: A Reformed, Evangelical, and Ecumenical Reconstruction of the Church Fathers (Scotland: University of Edinburgh, Unpublished PhD Dissertation, 2013), 50.

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Hello my name is Bobby Grow, and I author this blog, The Evangelical Calvinist. Feel free to peruse the posts, and comment at your leisure. I look forward to the exchange we might have here, and hope you are provoked to love Jesus even more as a result. Pax Christi!

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A Little Thomas Torrance

“God loves you so utterly and completely that he has given himself for you in Jesus Christ his beloved Son, and has thereby pledged his very being as God for your salvation. In Jesus Christ God has actualised his unconditional love for you in your human nature in such a once for all way, that he cannot go back upon it without undoing the Incarnation and the Cross and thereby denying himself. Jesus Christ died for you precisely because you are sinful and utterly unworthy of him, and has thereby already made you his own before and apart from your ever believing in him. He has bound you to himself by his love in a way that he will never let you go, for even if you refuse him and damn yourself in hell his love will never cease. Therefore, repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.” -T. F. Torrance, The Mediation of Christ, 94.

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