Like other blogging projects of late, this fell quickly to the wayside. But I’m hoping to fix that.

Lately, I’ve been reading some about the development of doctrine in the early church. Some of it is incredibly simple, but some — like Origien — mind-boggling in both its logical and theological leaps. Most of the early church fathers held to what I will concede are big-C Catholic ideas, but they were the shorter form of doctrines that were significantly developed later. Real presence in the eucharist — yes; transubstantiation — no.

Much like the ecclesiology of the early church, some basic theologies were very early confused, very often contradictory, if you held to them may have depended on where you lived and were certainly not the clean, polished ideas we have today. At least one of the early popes would have rejected what is now considered the standard Trinitarian formula, and I can’t even begin to touch the mess of Christological development in the first three centuries. Remember, these people may have [generally] known what writings were and were not scripture, but they weren’t working with a codified biblical canon.

But something else was striking — amidst the chaos, there was an astounding amount of unity. For a group of people who did not yet have a whole lot of capital-T Tradition to fall back on, the Church knew where to draw its lines, and the confusion I alluded to earlier was largely contained, addressed and, eventually, forgotten. (Except, of course, by church historians.)

People who talk about wanting to go back to the early church need to read about this period. The writings are both theologically and historically enlightening, but they remind us that, even when it was undivided, the Church has always been what it is — a collection of people with a bunch of different ideas, unified by a risen savior.

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