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Jack Bates

Jack is writing his dissertation on the soteriology of St. Maximus the Confessor

Jack Bates

Like many evangelicals, I have been heavily influenced by the writings of C.S. Lewis. One essay in particular changed the shape of my academic life, resulting in my eventual study at the Center for Early Christian Studies at Wheaton College. In Lewis’s “On the Reading of Old Books,” Lewis argues that one ought to read old books, not because the authors thereof made no mistakes, but that they made different mistakes than characteristically modern thinkers do. Because their errors have mostly become clear to us through developing scholarship on their thought, we are in little danger of following them into their errors. Further, the blind spots endemic in modern thought mostly were not present in pre-modern thought, and the authors of old books can therefore correct our own thought. 

Further, the Church Fathers and Doctors of pre-modern Christianity have a further claim on our attention and devotion as those men and women whom God particularly used to shape our own theological heritage. Historical theologian Ellen Charry has written, “I have sought to read the [early Christian] tradition sympathetically because a community that rejects its past is doomed.” 

These considerations have led me to pursue the study of historical theology, in hope of recapturing some of the theological vision of the early Christian period, to learn from our brothers and sisters of the past those things they knew about God, but which we have forgotten.

I am grateful for the opportunity to study at Wheaton College, as it has given me the intellectual freedom to engage seriously, charitably, and constructively with patristic, medieval, and modern Protestant theology. I can think of no other institution at which this freedom is possible to the same degree I have experienced here.