I first became aware of Fr. John Behr because I want to read his book The Nicene Faith. I haven’t yet because, quite frankly, the enormity of scholarship about fourth-century Christianity makes me shy away from it and stay happy in the fifth and sixth centuries instead!
Nonetheless, I have recently encountered two lectures given by Fr. John. The first I encountered will appeal more to those interested in early Christianity, the core of orthodoxy, and such things; the second is of interest to the same crowd as well as those who do theological anthropology and gender studies.
The First Lecture ‘The Shocking Truth About Christian Orthodoxy’
I found the first through a post on Bosco Peters’ excellent website Liturgy. This lecture was part of Augustine College’s annual lectures (the name of the series escapes me), only one of which I attended whilst living in Ottawa, that given by Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft.
The video, which is embedded below, is an hour long; but I highly recommend it. Dr. Behr addresses the two presuppositions of modern scholarship on Christ:
i. We must get behind the crucifixion and the apostolic writings to the ‘real’ Jesus
ii. Orthodoxy claims a strict uniformity and is opposed to any diversity
He deals with both of these presuppositions quite while, observing that all Jesuses are interpretations of the evidence and experiences of the historical events, coloured by each interpreter’s own cultural presuppositions. We will never be able to reach that ‘real’ Jesus of the Quest for the Historical Jesus.
He then makes the interesting shift in interpretation that the early heretics were driven out of a church unwilling to accommodate diversity by arguing that, in fact, people such as Marcion and Valentinian separated themselves from the Church because they found the Church unwilling to silence the symphony of voices and listen only to their monotones.
Orthodoxy contains much diversity. Anyone who has read the Fathers would know this, yet presupposition ii. above lies beneath much discourse about early Christianity. One can only hope Fr. John Behr and others of the current orthodox resurgence in Patristics can help dispel these false visions.
Here it is:
The Second Lecture: ‘Male and Female He Created Them’
With the second lecture, I was a bit more out of my league. I don’t even think I can properly reiterate his thoughts without getting into hot water with gender studies people. But it was a good, challenging talk! He addressed the question of men and women and humanness primarily through the Old and New Testaments, but drawing in strands of thought from rabbinical teachings, modern commentaries, modern Orthodox theologians, and the Fathers. I highly recommend it, especially if matters surrounding gender are important to you. It is available through the lovely people at Ancient Faith Radio.