Patina occurs over time on surfaces of such things as bronze, wood, and cloth. It changes the surface of the object, over time, covering the original object with change producing a different surface, or even hiding the original surface. The Statue of Liberty is an example of what patina does to copper. The James Ossuary Box was examined according the patina that had settled over the years, as has the Shroud of Turin. So too Christianity must be.
The Christian Faith has existed for nearly 2000 years; it is bound to have patina covering it. The Reformation scraped some off; current theological trends are attempting to do the same thing, to go further to the original source through biblical studies of context and culture. Many are afraid at what is being discovered and how it is affecting their belief system. No longer are we only to accept the words and works of those who have come before us, but we can get to the source of thought for the writers of the New Testament. It is difficult for some, because studies are showing that some of that patina is indeed the thoughts of us. That is not to say that we do not add by our experience some truth to the base material. Indeed, many that have come before have accurately portrayed the faith of the early Church.
A previous congregation that I attended serves today as a prime example of patina. They loved their former pastor, no doubt, but they quoted him extensively. As humans do, sometimes those quotes contradicted each other in minute details. It was not until they started to quote him has saying something where it was originally recorded in Scripture that I began to wonder if they were following the deceased pastor or the Scriptures themselves. They would quote him as saying something, but the very words that he said were found in Scripture. Further, they would use his facts, and although he was not an ignorant man he was misinformed on more than a few things, to substantiate their own knowledge and weigh anything new against what he determined should be the truth. The Scripture, while verbally was the source of thought, became secondary because the congregation focused only on his interpretation and viewed Scripture, history and science through his words. They insulated themselves from examining Scripture through the patina of their recent tradition.
This is why I desire to focus on biblical studies, instead of theology. There is no doubt that theology must play a role in biblical studies but I intend to focus not on Tradition or developed theology, but on the theology which first bound the early followers of Christ together, gave rise to their interpretation of Him, and what finally defined their words as they first took to pen the Gospel Story or answer questions posed to the new community.
Like any scraping of patina, there are times when the violence of the worker will damage something, but we must judge to see if that damage harms the patina or the original source. Violence is not always a terrible thing, in that a certain amount of gentle roughness is need to removed the long entrenched viewpoints and understanding of what Scripture says. The Scriptures were not written in our culture, context or time, and yet, we seem to passively accept that the Apostles and Prophets wrote according to our ears. Ignoring the culture and context, which is the rich beauty of the times in which the writers lived, and supplanting it with our own, is a heinous act which should be stopped.
Generally, Christians have little to no problem challenging new trends in the religion, such as the Prosperity Gospel which has gripped the United States and now threatens to maim Africa, and rightfully so, but when it comes to examining their own viewpoints, they bulk. Why? Surely if we can examine these new fads by the light of Scripture, we can examine our viewpoints, no matter how right they are, by light of the authors of Scripture.
I intend in my studies to get past the patina of tradition, to the heart of the matter.