Joey Cochran served as the High School Pastor at Fellowship Bible Church Tulsa for four years before transitioning to serve as the Resource Pastor at Cross Community Chicago, a plant of The Village Church. He is a graduate of Dallas Seminary. Joey blogs regularly at jtcochran.com. Follow @joeycochran on Twitter.
History has always fascinated me. In studying history we discover where we come from and how we got here. We observe progress. We also observe errors repeated. Most often, when errors of the past repeat it is because we forgot the past.
In RetroChristianity: Reclaiming the Forgotten Faith, Dr. Michael Svigel, Associate Professor of Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, warns, “It only takes one negligent generation to forget the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of the entire history of the church” (Svigel, 50).
Do we run the risk of being that generation? To protect from this error, it is wise to read those who came before us, especially the Church Fathers.
Most scholars agree that the Church Fathers are the men who wrote during the beginnings of the Church up to medieval times. These are our earliest leaders. They lived closer to Christ’s time and offer solidarity to scripture’s message. The earliest of these men sat at the feet of our New Testament writers.
There is wealth in reading these writings. Here are three values of reading the Church Fathers:
Value 1: We learn from the Church Fathers’ challenges
In reading the Church Fathers, we read of the battles they fought. The creeds and the council’s primary purpose were to eradicate erred doctrine. Much of these writings were apologetic. The writer’s responded to those who perpetuated false-doctrine.
Justin, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Tertullian wrote against Gnoticism and Marcionism. Athanasius championed Trinitarianism against Arianism. The Cappadocian Fathers (Basil the Great, Greggory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus) wrote against Arianism and Apollinarianism. Augustine wrote against Pelagianism.
Yes, a lot of big words and no time to explain. It seems overwhelming, doesn’t it? Likely, you have heard these terms but may not know the meaning. Does knowing about these controversies matter today?