Notes on the Talk by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, June 5, 2008
at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary
June 5, 2008
Patrick Henry Reardon has had a remarkable personal history. He was a Trappist monk with Thomas Merton, was trained in theology in Rome, became an Anglican and was professor of New Testament at Nashotah House Seminary and of Old Testament at Trinity. More recently he has become a priest of the Antiochene Orthodox Church and the pastor of All Saints parish in Chicago. His parish was an independent Evangelical congregation for twenty years before it decided to become Orthodox. His congregation has a number of parishioners who have been associated with Moody Bible Institute and Fr. Reardon occasionally teaches at Moody.
His topic was “The Holy Scriptures and The Evangelization of America.” Fr. Reardon began with a reference to Luke 24:45. Jesus opens the minds of the disciples that they might understand the scriptures. “That is the context of ‘go make disciples.’ Those who receive the Gospel become part of the narrative.” Fr. Reardon pointed to the reiteration of the connection between Jesus and the scriptures in the Gospels. “He died for our sins according to the scriptures. He rose again according to the scriptures.” Fr. Reardon continued, “We get light on Jesus through the scriptures and light on the scriptures through Jesus. The Old Testament should be read as Christian scriptures. My family history has been engrafted into the Biblical history and there is no way to become a child of God without becoming a child of Abraham.” Fr. Reardon critiqued the disconnect between kerygma and incorporation in church practice and argued that kerygma or proclamation should lead to Baptism which then should lead to catechesis which leads to Eucharist. Catechesis is grounded in the representation of the fundamental Biblical narrative which is also the narrative of the spiritual life as we find ourselves somewhere between the Exodus and the promised land. For this reason Fr. Reardon reads Hebrews through every week at the pace of two chapters a day.
The next section of Fr. Reardon’s talk was on the Bible and History. “The Bible not only records history, it also creates history. We ourselves are part of the history created by the scripture.” A break between the Bible and its interpretation is “a break in salvation history.” This is what heresy is. Holy tradition is the handing on of the identity of the church which has been created by the scripture and it is therefore a handing on of the Holy Spirit. “Biblical history is the first part of church history.”
Fr. Reardon’s talk then turned to “The Evangelization of America.” Culture is the handing on of identity. The Bible is inextricably interwoven with the identity of the American people, “underlying the cultural expectations of the American people.” Fr. Reardon challenged the Orthodox to take Biblical preaching more seriously. He pointed out that many of the Church fathers preached daily, expositing the Bible in a systematic way and that much of the Patristic material consists of these daily sermons. In his parish fifty people come out every Wednesday night for a service of Orthodox Vespers with a chapter by chapter exposition of a book of the Bible in course. “If the Orthodox are to evangelize America they must reject the ideas that the liturgy will take care of it.” Preaching is required and this should include the tropological and moral sense of the scripture as it is applied to daily living.
In the question and answer time Fr. Reardon gave his opinion that Evangelicals are the primary mission opportunity for the Orthodox. When asked about the unchurched, he said that our times are like the times of the Apostles and that much of the Apostolic mission started with those who were already familiar with the scriptures of Israel, were monotheists and Godfearers and thus open to the Gospel and that was the mission to which the Orthodox were being called.