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Lumina, non Numina: Patristic Authority According to Lutheran Arch-Theologian Johann Gerhard

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Chapter Summary

Even a casual reading of post-Reformation Lutheran "arch-theologian" Johann Gerhard (1582-1637) shows the enormous role that the early church fathers play in his theology. An examination of his Method of Theological Study, which includes an extensive section on how to read the fathers, reveals some positive approaches to the fathers' authority that do not comport with the prevailing models. While Gerhard does not accord the fathers divine authority, he does still recognize that they retain some positive authority among all who claim to be their heirs. They are lumina, non numina ("lights, not divinities"). Constructively for Protestant theology, Gerhard recognizes that without the writings of the fathers, many exegetical insights would be lost. Thus one cannot simply replace the fathers with an appeal to sola Scriptura. The fathers are irreplaceable. Without the fathers, the church's knowledge of Scripture would be decreased.

Keywords: early church fathers; lumina; Lutheran arch-theologian Johann Gerhard; non numina; patristic authority



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