Thursday, September 05, 2013

An Evening with Irenaeus

Last night was the second session of our Readings in Theology class at the PIU Seminary. The reading for the evening was Irenaeus’ “Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching.” The discussion was led by Dr. M. James Sawyer. Irenaeus is one of those guys I have read about in my seminary education but I never actually read one his works. I knew that he was only two generations removed in church history from the Apostle John  and that he was less concerned with being an original thinker than passing down apostolic teaching to the next generation. This makes him very important for understanding and interpreting apostolic teaching. The book was basically a catechism that could be easily used today with minor modifications.

Here is what stood out to me from reading Irenaeus….

First, though the doctrine of the Trinity was not yet fully formulated, his theology was thoroughly Trinitarian,

This then is the order of the rule of our faith, and the foundation of the building, and the stability of our conversation: God, the Father, not made, not material, invisible; one God, the creator of all things: this is the first point of our faith. The second point is: The Word of God, Son of God, Christ Jesus our Lord, who was manifested to the prophets according to the form of their prophesying and according to the method of the dispensation of the Father:through whom all things were made; who also at the end of the times, to complete and gather up all things, was made man among men, visible and tangible,in order to abolish death and show forth life and produce a community of union between God and man. And the third point is: The Holy Spirit, through whom the prophets prophesied, and the fathers learned the things of God, and the righteous were led forth into the way of righteousness; and who in the end of the times was poured out in a new way upon mankind in all the earth, renewing man unto God.  Chapter 6

His theology of salvation sometimes sounded almost reformational, “we also are justified not by the law, but by faith, which is witnessed to in the law and in the prophets, whom the Word of God presents to us,” but his picture of the atonement was less judicial and more focused on the restoration and recapitulation of the image and likeness Christ in humans.

He also placed heavy emphasis on the Old Testament as a typology of Christ and prophecy in symbol of who He would be and what he would do. Most of the content of the book was focused on the Old Testament and how Christ fulfilled it.

As Irenaeus’ summed up his book: “This, beloved, is the preaching of the truth, and this is the manner of our redemption, and this is the way of life, which the prophets proclaimed, and Christ established, and the apostles delivered, and the Church in all the world hands on to her children. This must we keep with all certainty, with a sound will and pleasing to God, with good works and right-willed disposition.”

I think the students and staff have enjoyed the first two discussions very much and we would invite anyone interested to come join us next Thursday at 6.30 PM in the Pacific Islands Evangelical Seminary classroom as we discuss On the Incarnation by Athanasius.

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