I am attending a conference in Wheaton, Evangelicals and the Early Church, and Christopher Hall gave an especially insightful paper this morning (the best of the day). Hall explored causes behind, or reasons for, what he termed “evangelical inattentiveness” to early Christian voices.
According to Hall, and I thought this was brilliant, evangelicals have low attention spans; they want immediate answers that don’t require patient reading of difficult texts. As he put it, “Give me soundbites, not discourse!” Hall contends, however, that ancient texts require a patient mind and heart. They demand “theological empathy”, not rejecting out of hand difficult or foreign ideas.
Required of us is not the impatience that characterizes much of contemporary evangelical thought but “slow-paced” reading with the dispositions, community, and “habit patterns” of our forebears. Evangelicals, if they are going to retrieve the sources of the early church, must also retrieve the habit patterns of the patristic writers such as patience, repetition, wisdom, and discernment.
Do you resonate with Hall’s point concerning evangelical impatience?