A purple theology believes that to one degree or another the Reformation is over. By that it means that the Reformation’s summons of the Church to return to the Bible (sola scriptura) and to faith as the sole means of justification (sola fide) and to grace alone as that which saves us (sola gratia) has done its job. Those are no longer the central issues.
Has the time come for those sola-cutting instruments to admit that they did the job and that they have influenced Catholics and the Orthodox, and that there is therefore now a moment for us one more time to come together?
And there is always one sola many have forgotten: Is there a time for the post-Reformation folks to admit that they forgot the sola ecclesiam (the church alone)?
My friend, Scott Hahn, a well-known former evangelical and now leading Catholic voice at Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH, and I were once discussing matters not unlike this one when I said to him that if the 15th Century Roman Catholics had been like Scott there would never had been a Reformation. He chuckled. I’ve been on the same page of faith, etc., with some other Roman Catholics over the years, like my former students Tom Scheck and David Palm and Vaughn Treco — and I could name some more.
Post-Reformation Protestant evangelicals don’t quite have the relationship to the Easterns as they do the Catholics, mostly I guess because of their not being quite so numerous in our neck of the woods, but time and time again I’ve come into contact with Orthodox ideas and I say to myself that those Cappadocian fathers carved out the orthodoxy that we all believe.
And now with Alan Jacobs saying what he said in First Things I wonder …
Here’s what I wonder: Is it not the case that most of us really do anchor our faith in the orthodox statements of faith (Nicea, etc)? Is it not the rise of trinitarian theology at the end of the 20th Century that has provoked so many invigorating perspectives on theology? And do we not have so much to learn from one another?
And here’s what I observe about converts. Those who leave the evangelical Protestant world do so to find Tradition and Church; those who leave the Orthodox tradition find a non-ethnic, personal faith; those who leave the Catholic Church find a personal, vibrant, music-loving worship.
This is no silly utopia I have in mind: I’m not talking about John Stott, Pope Benedict and the big hats of the Orthodox organizing a Summit of Unity, once again in Nicea, and walking away with centuries of history swished off the stage into forgiveness. That ain’t gonna happen.
What I do have in mind is a commitment on the part of the purple theology generation to read one another, listen to one another, and begin day by day in the process of embracing the greatness of the Church, regardless of where it comes from. Emergence is convergence at some levels.
Purple theology is not, however, a theological movement.
Instead, it is a missional movement. It wants to see the whole of the Church’s theological tradition bathed into the heated, swirling waters of praxis so that the Church’s theology is no longer a set of lines but a set of lives that turn the lines into bold, believable, beautiful lives.