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Early Christians, lately


by Jerome Weeks 28 Feb 2008

Whatever the exhibition’s aesthetic or scholarly value, it was easy enough to conclude that the Kimbell Art Museum’s current show, Picturing the Bible: Early Christian Art, was going to be popular in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Just consider the number of superchurches here. But here’s another, somewhat surprising reason: According to Christianity Today, there’s been […]

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Whatever the exhibition’s aesthetic or scholarly value, it was easy enough to conclude that the Kimbell Art Museum’s current show, Picturing the Bible: Early Christian Art, was going to be popular in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Just consider the number of superchurches here.

But here’s another, somewhat surprising reason: According to Christianity Today, there’s been an upsurge of interest in patristics, the study of the church fathers from the first seven centuries.

Ancient traditions have long been viewed as more a “Catholic thing” than an evangelical Protestant one, so this cross-faith trend is notable. It’s wide and deep enough that it even has enumerated dangers, including traditionalism (“being unwilling to see the flaws in the early church’s traditions”) and eclecticism (“selectively appropriating ancient practices without regard to their original purposes or contexts”). Says Baylor University professor D. H. Williams, author of Evangelicals and Tradition:

Who would have thought, a decade ago, that one of the most vibrant and serious fields of Christian study at the beginning of the 21st century would be the ancient church fathers? There has been an opening of new avenues, especially among free-church Protestants, by the almost overnight popularity of bishops and monks, martyrs and apologists, philosophers and historians who first fashioned a Christian culture 1,500 years ago.

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  • Picturing the Bible: Early Christian Art runs through March 30 at the Kimbell. Read the review here.

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