For anyone who has even a passing interest in church history, F.F.Bruce’s The Spreading Flame (can’t believe this is currently out of print on amazon) is one of those all-time classics that should be on the reading list. I’ve had a copy for years, since I was at college in fact, doing my degree. But I’ve only ever dipped into relevant sections when needed. So I decided to sit down and read the whole book, all 418 pages and 8 centuries worth of it. It took me more than one sitting to do this though.
I’d like to share a few quotes that I found particularly helpful. Recently I’ve been going through a sort of deconstruction of my faith – now before you consign me to realm of heretic along with Gene Robinson and David Jenkins, I don’t mean I’ve changed my belief, simply looked at it, reassessed it with a critical eye. In other words, if you excuse the christianeze, I’ve been spending some time in inner reflection with my God.
I’m sure I’ll return to this at a later point, but let’s get back to Prof Bruce. The Spreading Flame was first published in 1958, and so falls into the modern era. This was by no means a postmodern manifesto and yet I found plenty that resonated with this Gen Xer. I hope that you’ll find these quotes worth thinking over. I’ll try and set the quotes in context, but most of them come from when the early church was defining its faith, which leads us neatly to…
‘Intellectual orthodoxy is good, of course, if it be not blindly accepted from tradition but reached intelligently from first principles; but it is no substitute for love to Christ and life in Christ’
So often we feel that ticking the boxes is more important than what we do. What is more important, the ‘believing’ or the ‘being’? I’ve found this a challenge recently.
‘Our conception of God must fall far short of His real being, and our language about Him must fall far short of our conception.’
I think this may well be my favourite quote from the book. The western church has lost the awe and wonder of God. It is about time we stopped defining and began worshipping, and by worshipping I mean living. (Interesting point is that F F Bruce does use a capital H for the personal pronoun, well I found it interesting).
‘Christian behaviour is rooted in a lifelong response of thanksgiving for the divine gift. (In the New Testament, another epigrammatist has said, theology is grace, and ethics is gratitude.)’
Well, as I just said above.
‘Happy are those who have learned that the truth in this matter lies, as Charles Simeon said, “not in the middle, and not in one extreme, but in both extremes.” ‘
If there is anything that will divide Christians, apart from a discussioon about the carpet colour, it is a little debate about predestination. This quote came from the bit in the book about Augustine but referred to the later debate between Calvin and Arminius. But what wisdom does it take to make such a comment. And that brings me full circle to where I am in my own deconstruction.
I believe in a God who is beyond my own imagination and yet, I believe in that same God becoming one of us, human. I love to deconstruct, because everything becomes clearer, just like a foggy day.