When I was studying the Eastern church fathers and praxis, I would come across statements that would make me cringe. I wanted to read theology and the Bible in light of “tradition” and the church, but even at times when I would try to give the most positive spin on a patristic gloss, I would go away thinking, “I just don’t know if that really cuts it.” Here is an example:
“When Moses pitches his tent outside the camp – that is, when he establishes his will and mind outside the world of visible things – he begins to worship God. Then, entering into the darkness – that is, into the formless and immaterial realm of spiritual knowledge – he there celebrates the most sacred rites.” – St. Maximos the Confessor
If we are to read the Bible in light of the patrum consensus, can we really affirm the above exegetical gloss seriously? Here are a number of questions that come to mind:
- On what grounds do we say that Moses’ pitching his tent = contemplating the world beyond and not something else? Literally, the sky is the limit among options!
- I asked a Roman Catholic a similar question about allegorical exegesis, and he replied, “You have to read it in light of the church.” I responded, “Well, doesn’t that give Scripture about as much authority as the British monarchy?”
This is why I hold to Common Sense Realism.