Fr. John Behr, dean of St. Vladimir’s Academy, is visiting Serbia where he delivered a lecture earlier this week which you can read about here. Pictured above is Fr. John visiting with His Holiness Patriarch Irinej together with Bishop Atanasije (Rakita), vicar to the Patriarch and Bishop Maxim of Western America.
The following is taken from his book Formation of Christian Theology. Volume 1: The Way to Nicea, which, by the way, you can read more from here:
“…The picture of an originally pure orthodoxy, manifest in exemplary Christian communities, from which various heresies developed and split off, as it was presented for instance in the book of Acts and, in the fourth century, in the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius of Ceasarea, has become increasingly difficult to maintain, especially since the work of Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity. And rightly so: the earliest Christian writings that we have, the letters of Paul, are addressed to churches already falling away from the Gospel which he had delivered to them.
….Debates certainly raged from the beginning about the correct interpretation of this Gospel; it is a mistake to look back to the early Church hoping to find a lost golden age of theological or ecclesiastical purity – whether in the apostolic times as narrated in the book of Acts, or the early Church, as recorded by Eusebius, or the age of the Fathers of the Church Councils, or the Empire of Byzantium. Nevertheless, the Gospel was delivered, once for all. However, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Gospel of the Coming One and accordingly the citizenship of Christians is not on earth but in heaven, from which they await their Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. In life manner the Gospel is not located in a specific text; what came to be recognized as “canonical” Gospels are always described as “The Gospel according to…” The Gospel is not fixed in a particular text, but, as we will see, in an interpretative relationship to the Scriptures – the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets.
Inseparable from the debates about which works were to count as Scripture,was the issue of the correct interpretation of Scripture. Not only was there a commitment to a body of Scripture, but there was also the affirmation that there is a correct reading of Scripture, or more exactly, that there is a correct canon for reading Scripture, a canon expressing the hypothesis of Scripture itself. Even if it was expressed in many different ways and its articulation continued to be refined, a process which continues today, nevertheless there was a conviction that there is one right faith; and this conviction that there is one right faith, one right reading of the one Scripture, is intimately tied to the confession that there is one Jesus Christ, the only Son of the one Father, who alone has made know (…”exegeted”, Jn 1:18) the Father. The assertion that there is such a thing as right faith came to be expressed, by the end of the second century, in terms of the canon (rule) of faith or truth, where canon does not mean an ultimately arbitrary list of articles of belief which must be adhered to, or a list of authoritative books which must be accepted, but is rather a crystallization of the hypothesis of Scripture itself. The canon is this sense is the presupposition for reading Scripture on its own terms – it is the canon of truth, where Scripture is the body of truth. “