It may seem bad form to single out what might appear to be small potatoes from the rich and delectable stew that is an otherwise very thoughtful, hopeful, and encouraging essay pleading for a return to the writings of the Church Fathers ("The Return of the Fathers," November). I feel compelled, however, to point out that Paul Tillich would hardly be averse to a rediscovery of ancient Christian thought. Indeed, his writings, as well as his life, bespoke a familiarity with Augustine, Athanasius, Origen, Chrysostom, and others.
Some ancient Christian thinkers, notably Justin Martyr and Origen, believed their mission involved grappling with the leading philosophers of their day, as did Tillich. Comments such as "the Paul Tillich Society may soldier on" and "[Cyril of Jerusalem] did not expound a philosophy of New Being" are rather weak and disparaging, to say the least.
A renewal of faith and Christian culture may come in many forms, even as barbarians stand at the gate, as they always have and always will. I would simply add Paul Tillich to an already formidable arsenal--an arsenal of which R.R. Reno has so eloquently reminded us.
Fort Collins, Colorado
Regarding R.R. Reno's "The Return of the Fathers": I am puzzled that anyone could find the early Fathers consistently spiritually rewarding. Perhaps the best description of my reaction is from Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield:
"There is no other such gulf in the history of human thought as that which is cleft between the apostolic and the immediately succeeding ages. To pass from the latest apostolic writings to the earliest compositions of uninspired Christian pens is to fall through such a giddy height that it is no wonder if we rise dazed and almost unable to determine our whereabouts. Here is the great fault--as the geologists would say--in the history of Christian doctrine. There is every evidence of continuity--but, oh, at how much lower a level! The rich vein of evangelical religion has run well-nigh out; and, though there are masses of apostolic origin lying everywhere, they are but fragments, and are evidently only the talus which has fallen from the cliffs above and scattered itself over the lowered surface." (From his 1897 address "The Significance of the Westminster Standards as a Creed")
Professor Reno should return to the Apostles, not to the Fathers. The careful study of the Apostles' writings, using all the help available from the communion of saints, past and...