I really enjoy church history. Without a grounding in the early church fathers, we’re a bit rudderless. They see with different eyes and I deeply appreciate their perspective. They help me glimpse Jesus a bit better.
I have especially loved Nick Needham’s devotional that takes the reader through twelve different church fathers. He takes a verse that a father wrote or preached on and then gives a few paragraphs worth of an excerpt from the father to expound the text.
While this month is Gregory of Nyssa, June was full of excerpts from St. Jerome (A.D. 347-420). I had always understood Jerome to be a bit of a jerk. From what I’ve read of him, he was irritable, very short with people, and had a biting tongue. But I also knew he was a brilliant scholar, the only Latin father to be fluent in biblical Hebrew, and was responsible for getting the Scriptures into the vulgar tongue of the Roman Empire (the Latin Vulgate).
Yet I had never read him. But in the first excerpt for the month of June, going off of Ecclesiastes 5:2 (Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God.), Jerome considers the majestic mysteries of the Trinity, the Incarnation, the atonement, hell, angelology, the soul, the doctrine of the resurrection, and then mocks the naive critic who hears one sermon and dismisses Christianity out of hand.
“When Paul encountered the mystery that was hidden from the past ages and generations, and the depth of the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge, he didn’t so much discuss it as gaze in adoration.” Rather than putting the Trinity under the microscope, Jerome is content to lay down his telescope and wipe the tears from his eyes and worship.
Theological study and contemplation are wonderful and necessary in the life of a believer. But from Paul to Jerome to Calvin, “speculation” – the rash and hasty dissecting of what ought to be awe-inspiring- is seen as something that is ultimately mistaken. When we come across God’s wisdom or his grace, perhaps our first response should be simply “gaze in adoration.” A little adoration might just go a long way.