Common Grace and Christian Piety in the Patristics

There are some awesome pieces of Christian literature in the Ante Nicene Fathers.  One that stands out is Theonas of Alexandria’s epistle to Lucianus, a Christian who worked in the office of the emperor (around the end of the 3rd Century AD). Bishop Theonas exhorted Lucianus to do his job for the government with utmost Christian prudence so that Christ would be glorified.  Here’s one section where Theonas tells Lucianus what a Christian should do if he has to take care of the books of his employer.  Notice how this sounds like Calvin’s famous statements of not despising God’s gifts among all men:

If, therefore, it should happen that a believer in Christ is called to this same office, he should not despise that secular literature and those Gentile intellects which please the emperor.  To be praised are the poets for the greatness of their genius, the acuteness of their inventions, the aptness and lofty eloquence of their style. To be praised are the orators; to be praised also are the philosophers in their own class. To be praised, too, are the historians, who unfold to us the order of exploits, and the manners and institutions of our ancestors, and show us the rule of life from the proceedings of the ancients.”

Here’s another section of the same epistle where Theonas commends the habitual reading of the Holy Scriptures – this sounds like the Puritans.

Let no day pass by without reading some portion of the Sacred Scriptures, at such convenient hour as offers, and giving some space to meditation.  And never cast off the habit of reading in the Holy Scriptures; for nothing feeds the soul and enriches the mind so well as those sacred studies do. But look to this as the chief gain you are to make by them, that, in all due patience, ye may discharge the duties of your office religiously and piously that is, in the love of Christ, and despise all transitory objects for the sake of His eternal promises, which in truth surpass all human comprehension and understanding and shall conduct you into everlasting felicity.”

This whole (brief) epistle is well worth reading.  I’m sure it is online somewhere, so google it, print it, and carve out 20 minutes or so today or this week to read “The Epistle of Theonas, Bishop of Alexandria, To Lucinus, the Chief Chamberlain.”

shane lems

sunnyside wa

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