*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 3rd of July 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
Today’s question on our week of going to the mailbag comes from Kevin in Aurora, Colorado. (as always- you can email us at CHA or DANV@1517.org)
“Thanks for the show Dr. Van Voorhis, I have loved learning about so many figures in the church from different times and places. I would love to learn more about the Church Fathers- where can I start?”
Well, Kevin, you can start by doing what you did, writing the show, and asking. The church fathers are fascinating but it can be a little intimidating to jump into documents that are that Ancient. So let me break down the major characters, where you might look to read more, and why I recommend a study of them to any Christian.
There are A LOT of “Church Fathers”. The term is so elastic as to make it almost useless. We might as well just call them: Theologians of the church’s first 500 Years. You might see a distinction of Ante-Nicene and Post-Nicene. This just tells us which side of the 325 break they land on.
I think, for starters, we can break the big ones down into three categories:
The Apostolic Fathers: Clement of Rome, Polycarp, and Ignatius of Antioch
The Four Doctors of the Church: Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory the Great, Jerome
Three Holy Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and John Chrysostom
I believe we have an episode for all of these characters but if not we can rectify that easily. I recommend reading sermons and you can find so so much at CCEL.ORG.
Also, I love the series “The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture” 29 volumes edited by Thomas Oden.
I find reading the Church Fathers to be especially helpful for a few reasons
- It’s all focused on Scripture. How they define it, what it does, what it teaches… this is the whole ball game for many of them.
- There is diversity amongst them and a distance from them that allows us to be critical. I love Origen but the dude was nuts. Augustine is a giant but he’s terrible on issues pertaining to the body. Gregory the Great was a Pope, and I as a Protestant can give him the big thumbs up. But they weren’t cool with just any teaching- they were diverse but also understood the need to agree on essentials.
- And finally, it’s all done in the context of the church. There are no tenured university posts for the super-smart ones. Everything happens in the context of the church: the interpretation of Scripture is done to guide the worship, theology, and mission of the church. It is practical and pastoral.
Thank you Kevin in Aurora, Co for your question.
The last word for today comes from Clement of Rome, the first Apostolic Father of the Church who was born in AD 35.
“And we, too, being called by His will to Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 3rd of July 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man whose favorite person from Aurora Colorado is actor Zachery Ty Bryan of Home Improvement fame, he is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis who was always more of a JTT guy.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.