What It Means to Be Classically Christian: A Manifesto

Having looked back, this blog of mine has been published here since August 25, 2014. I wish to thank anyone who’s had an interest in anything I’ve written, and even those who’ve disagreed. I’ve been told that my particular blog on Start2Finish is most popular among preachers, so I thank you, my fellow laborers, for counting me trustworthy of your time and notice. I think that on the eve of my fourth year of publishing this blog it might be time to define what I view as my aim and goal as Classically Christian.

First, I hold the Bible to be the final authority in all matters of life and faith. However, I hesitate to affirm any sort of doctrine of inerrancy not because I believe the Bible to be with fault, but because, due to the circles in which I run, I find the term itself to have a variety of usages (e.g. limited inerrancy, qualified inerrancy, critical inerrancy, etc.) and often brings more division than unity. Perhaps my greatest regret to date has been a post I wrote on here that was poorly worded on the topic itself, so I tried to resolve such with a clarification you can read here. This referenced post also states my positive affirmation of my views of the Scriptures, so though I avoid using the term “inerrancy” because of the theological baggage it carries, I hope that what I believe about the Bible is enough for God. Whether it is to a brother or sister is of no great concern, because He is my judge in the end.

Second, I believe that to properly interpret the Bible it is pertinent for me to utilize Greco-Roman classics as well as early church writings to best ascertain how the first century Christians understood the Scriptures and lived. Therefore, if a question is asked of the Bible, I immediately wonder if the earliest Christians would have asked it. If not, I tend to avoid it not because it doesn’t warrant an answer, but because if it wasn’t a focus for them I think it not as vital for myself. If so, I see how they might have answered such a question. As an example, I seriously doubt that anyone would have asked why instruments weren’t used in the early church. It was a non-issue. Scripturally and historically, they just didn’t, and this is usually the explanation I give rather than trying to attach a theological justification to such. I also don’t think the early Christians would have been greatly concerned with the age of the earth, so I don’t try to proof-text terms and words to find an answer when I don’t believe that was the purpose of the creation account. While these are questions that appear today, that doesn’t mean that the Bible can’t answer them. However, I have found that the Bible is sometimes used to answer many modern questions that wouldn’t have existed then and that when done so the Scriptures tend to be bent to the bias of the interpreter.

Third, though I use the classics and early church writings, this doesn’t at all mean that they are 100% correct. Much to the contrary. They are sometimes contradictory and, therefore, Scripture must be allowed to have the final say. If anything, the classics and early church literature serve more like a commentary, and who better to comment on Scripture than a third century Christians versus a twenty-first-century preacher? At least, that’s how I view it. This doesn’t mean that the preacher will be wrong, but it can be hard to discern Scripture through twenty-first-century lenses given the baggage we all tend to bring to interpretation.

Fourth, alongside the classics and early Christian writings, I believe modern scholarship has a place in interpretation, but I’m very picky about who I read. I enjoy the works of certain scholars very much, but there are some who are biased by their denominational or confessional heritage (e.g. John Piper, John MacArthur). In actuality, some of the best scholarships I’ve read has been from those who don’t have a dog in the fight either way, but this isn’t also to discredit those who do (e.g. Craig Keener, D. A. Carson). We can and should exercise discernment in all materials not inspired.

Fifth, and finally, as important as orthodoxy is, I believe orthopraxy is equally important. It makes no difference to me if someone is the greatest expositor of the Scriptures. What is most needed is that we allow them to bend our will to mirror that of God. I have read some of the most intelligent arguments and interpretations of the Scripture, but have been turned off because they author was unkind and egotistical. You may be able to interpret Scripture better than I, but if you fail to embody the character of Christ, it’s hard for me to take you seriously. I endeavor to be gracious to everyone, even if I think them wrong. There are times when it’s necessary to take a stand, but we mustn’t be ugly about it. Some of the most liberal people I’ve engaged have been the most gracious to me while some conservative brethren have been most hateful and vitriolic. One of the latter actually accused me of writing click-bait titles to get readers thus presuming to know my heart. There’s no place for ad hominem attacks. Let us not only be sound in doctrine but let us be charitable and loving of our neighbor when we may disagree. This, to me, is what it means to be Classically Christian.

Steven Hunter (PhD, Faulkner University) is the preaching minister for the Glendale Road Church of Christ in Murray, KY. He's also authored several books for Start2Finish, and Classically Christian explores Christianity from a church-historical perspective. Steven enjoys reading books, drinking coffee, and is a practitioner of Goshin Ryu Jujutsu—a traditional Japanese martial art.