HT to William Tighe for sending me this link to this new book: “Inventing Authority: The Use of the Church Fathers in Reformation”, by Esther Chung-Kim. It is published by Baylor University Press. On their website, the book has this description:
Adding great historical insight to the events of the sixteenth century, Inventing Authority uncovers how and why the Protestant reformers came, in their dissent from the Catholic church, to turn to the Church Fathers and align their movements with the early church. Discovering that the reformers most frequently appealed to patristic sources in polemical contexts, Esther Chung-Kim adeptly traces the variety and creativity of their appeals to their forebears in order to support their arguments—citing them to be authoritative for being “exemplary scriptural exegetes” to “instruments of choice”.
Examining three generations of sixteenth-century reformers—from such heavy-weights as Calvin and Luther to lesser-known figures like Oecolampadius and Hesshusen—Chung-Kim offers an analysis of striking breadth, one that finds its center by focusing in on the perennially contentious topic of the Eucharist. Filling a significant lacuna in the early history of the Lutheran and Reformed traditions, Inventing Authority is an important and eye-opening contribution to Reformation studies.
That doesn’t really tell us much about Dr Chung-Kim’s assessment of the Reformers’ use of the Fathers. However, like William, I have not heard of Chung-Kim before, so of course, I googled her. She is a lecturer at the Claremont School of Theology. Their website has this information:
Dr. Chung-Kim teaches and researches the Reformation and the Early Modern Period. Her current projects are on the reception of the early church fathers in the early modern period, the history of biblical interpretation and the use of wealth, property and possessions.
She offers courses on the History of World Christianity, The Protestant Reformation and its Medieval Heritage, Women in the Early Modern Era, History of Biblical Interpretation, The Life, Thought and Influence of Martin Luther and John Calvin, and The Radical Reformation and Nonviolent Traditions.
B.A., Drew University
M.Div., Th.M., Princeton Theological Seminary
Ph.D., Duke University
Excerpt from her book (forthcoming 2010):
“Calvin and Westphal deployed an increasing number of the ancient writers as the disagreement intensified. But the nature of the appeal to the fathers shifted in such a way that the actual views of the fathers mattered less, even though the number of references to the ancient church fathers increased.”
Now that last comment is indeed very interesting, and makes me want to buy the book to see how she demonstrates this position. However, it does accord with my experience of Lutheran use of the Fathers, and (in particular) Pastor Mark’s use of the Fathers on his blog “Lutheran Catholicity”. I have said to him before that I think he quotes the Fathers in isolation, not taking into account the overall Catholic faith which they held and passed on to the Church.
It will be interesting to see what Dr Chung-Kim has to say about the 16th Century use of the Fathers.