Thesis 2: A Christian moral community must be grounded in the past.
“Within the church’s defining past I include both scripture and tradition. The Marcionite experiment sought to sever all ties with the past, and that proved enormously attractive to a great many people. Perhaps the fiction of an absolutely fresh start appeals perennially to all of us who are pretty much stuck in the beds we have made for ourselves. I am sure as the end of our millennium approaches [Meeks was writing in 1993] that we shall witness a new outbreak of the flying-saucer cults, this century’s rough equivalent to Marcion’s faith in the Alien God. From outer space will come the saviors, having no connection with our world or our past, who in a blinding flash that obliterates all previous logic will give to the elect the answers, unprecedented and irrefutable, and will pluck those few fortunate saints out of the stream of causation into a pure and uncontingent future. It is a pathetic fiction, as Justin and Irenaeus and Tertullian had sense enough to see. Less obviously, cutting ourselves off from the past by ignorance and neglect corrodes our sense of who we are.
The early Christians, for practical as well as principled reasons, had to have a past. Without scripture and tradition they would have had no identity. In time they expanded scripture and began a new tradition, and there are times when both seem to us more a burden than an illumination. Nevertheless, the church has defined itself in these terms, and the Marcionite temptation, which today is more likely to arise from neglect than from choice, must still be resisted. The elementary rule is that Christians must know the church’s past in order to be faithful.” (Wayne A. Meeks, The Origins of Christian Morality: The First Two Centuries, p. 214)