ad fontes

The hunter was hot and grimy from the heat of the day. As he walked across the valley, he came to the river. It seemingly flowed bright and clear over the rocks, and he was thirsty.

But he began to reflect on what might lie upstream. Had he not seen a factory, its smokestack spewing black smoke into the air?

Perhaps it also allowed effluent into the river, too. And early that morning had he not seen cattle standing in the water and drinking? He looked at the hills beyond both factory and farm, however, and thought, “The spring must be there. The water there must surely be pollutant free.”

He began to make his way toward the hills. When he found the spring, the water was, as he had hoped, clear and sweet. There he drank his fill.

You remember the names from high school history, no doubt. There was Copernicus and Galileo, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. These were the heroes of the Renaissance. Their philosophy was often summed up in the Latin phrase, ad fontes, “back to the spring,” or “back to the source.”

They believed that the squalor and suffering of the Middle Ages had to be bypassed in order to recover the glories of classical Greece and Rome, a period when civilization seemed to be greatest. One method of achieving this was to recover the ancient texts of the classical world — the writings of Plato, Seneca, Aristotle and so on, and studying them.

It was not long before leaders in Christendom began to seek a similar renewal by bypassing the clutter and debris of medieval theological writing and returning to the Bible.

Such historical figures as Erasmus of Rotterdam sought the “title-deeds” of Christianity — the Bible itself. They began searching monasteries across Europe and the Middle East for manuscripts of the Bible.

They sought the source of Christianity, the spring itself, where the water would be pure and sweet. That is still our task today — to find the spring, and drink from it, and it alone.

Some will tell you that we need to find the latest ideas, the state-of-the art thinking of best-selling religious authors. My preference is to dig beyond the dust and rubble of the ages. No human writer, ancient, modern, reformation or medieval, can compare with the purity of the word of God.

Jesus declared:

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water'” (John 7:37,38).

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