I have been reading through the Ante-Nicene Church Fathers (church fathers before the Council of Nicaea). As a history podcaster, that might not surprise you. However, I started reading the Church Fathers long before I considered a church history podcast.
Why would I read the Church Fathers?
There are traditions within Christianity that heavily rely on the Church Fathers. However, I’m a Baptist and Baptists are not known for their interest in patristics. In fact some Protestants act as if Christianity jumped from the Apostle Paul to Martin Luther.
While I don’t give the same authority to the Church Fathers as I do the Bible, I find reading their writings to be quite rewarding.
As a person living two thousand years after the time of Jesus, it is good to read from those much closer to the events. Many of these knew people who knew the apostles. Their reading of the Bible can be helpful to us.
These Church Fathers were also trying to integrate their faith into their cultural context. At this point, Christianity was not yet a legal religion, much less the official religion of the Roman Empire. What areas could be compromised and what could not?
It is interesting to read about the reactions to and against philosophy. Some brought the philosophical training over, baptized it and used it for the church. Others, such as Tertullian, warned that Jerusalem had nothing to do with Athens.
Some of the earliest Christian writings were in the area of apologetics. These Christians responded to other religious views and expressed why they believed Christianity to be true.
We also see how they wrestled with what would become orthodox Christianity. Was Jesus only man, only God or both God and man?
While many things have changed in the past centuries, in other ways things are quite similar. Our post-Christian world has much in common with the pre-Christian society of the Church Fathers.
I would encourage you to read the Church Fathers and learn from their teachings.