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Crossway Books & Bibles Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church - eBook

While the church today looks quite different than it did two thousand years ago, Christians share the same faith in Jesus Christ with those who lived in the Patristic era of the church. Yet, all too often we forget the lessons, theological and moral, that the Fathers of the church have to teach us.

Rediscovering the Church Fathers is an organized and eminently readable introduction that prepares readers to engage with church fathers who lived from AD 100 to 500. Michael Haykin surveys the lives and teachings of several Fathers, outlining their respective roles in theological issues such as baptism, martyrdom, church-state relations. He also documents how their leadership affected the church and its mission in the world. Specific fathers covered in this book include:

  • Ignatius
  • Cyprian
  • Origen
  • Basil of Caesarea and Ambrose
  • St. Patrick
  • and others...
Each father was foundational in the growth of early Christianity, and their impact continues to shape the church today.

Evangelical readers interested in the historical roots of Christianity will find this to be a helpful introductory volume.
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Customer Reviews for Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church - eBook
Review 1 for Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church - eBook
Overall Rating: 
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Forgotten Heros

Date:August 29, 2011
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Pastor Rob
Location:VA
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Rediscovering the Church Fathers is the most recent work of Michael A. G. Haykin who serves as professor of church history and biblical spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has authored more than twenty-five books, including The Emergence of Evangelicalism: Exploring Historical Continuities.
Haykin writes this book to address the question: “Why should evangelical Christians engage the thought and experience of these early Christian witnesses [the church fathers]?” (p.17). In his assessment, “far too many modern-day evangelicals are either ignorant of or quite uncomfortable with the church fathers” (p. 13). The reasoning he puts forth to study the church fathers is logically sound. These reasons include: “to aid [the church] in her liberation from the Zeitgeist of the twenty-first century; to provide a guide in her walk with Christ; to help her understand the basic witness to her faith, the New Testament; to refute bad histories of the ancient church; and to be a vehicle of spiritual nurture” (pp. 28-29). The manner in which he seeks to promote his assertion is through selected case studies of the men themselves. He dedicates a chapter to each of the following:
Dying for Christ: The Thought of Ignatius of Antioch
Sharing the Truth: The Letter to Diognetus
Interpreting the Scriptures: The Exegesis of Origen
Being Kissed: The Eucharistic Piety of Cyprian and Ambrose
Being Holy and Renouncing the World: The Experience of Basil of Caesarea
Saving the Irish: The Mission of Patrick
One of the main strengths of Rediscovering the Church Fathers is Dr. Haykin’s ability to take us into the church fathers’ world. When we enter their world, we can see life through their eyes. We see the Christian faith through the lens of their era as opposed to the 20th and 21st centuries. They battled many of the same issues we face. They were dedicated to defending the Christian faith against false teachings and beliefs; and they were committed to live out their faith in a practical way during a hostile time.
A second strength of the book arises from Dr. Haykin’s ability to bring us into the church father’s world. Once we see through their perspective, we learn that many of the issues and concerns we might have with them are misplaced. They were not power-hungry men seeking a way to control the church. They were men who tried to legitimately defend the faith and live out the Christian life in a context that constantly challenged solid biblical doctrine. We begin to understand why they reached many of the decisions they made regarding their beliefs and practices, when we see these decisions were brought about as a means to stand against the challenges from their culture. While we learn that they took some of these issues they dealt with to the extreme, we can also see (if we are honest) how evangelicals took many of these same issues to the opposite extreme in the Protestant Reformation.
With all the strengths of the book, I would have preferred for Dr. Haykin to interact more with how each of these issues they dealt with applies to our culture today. This interaction would strengthen his argument that modern evangelicals should spend more time reading the church fathers’ writings. This interaction could involve spending more time wrestling with the questions: How does Ignatius’ willingness to die for Christ overlap with our selfish, prosperity mindset? How does Basil’s piety stand in stark contrast to our worldly-Christian culture? How does the Eucharistic piety of Cyprian and Ambrose directly challenge the often too-low view many evangelicals have of the Lord’s Supper? There is an insinuation throughout the book that perhaps evangelicals overreacted to many of the themes and issues in the Protestant reformation and discarded a wealth of knowledge along with the rejection of the entire Roman Catholic Church. There is a measure of truth to this insinuation which needs to be articulated more clearly. It is my fear that too many people will miss the subtle hint implied throughout the histories of these great men.
I would definitely recommend the book to anyone who is familiar or unfamiliar with the church fathers because it is an easy to read and understand introduction to some of the first men who contended for the Christian faith.
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Review 2 for Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church - eBook
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5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Learn from the past but stand in the Gospel

Date:June 1, 2011
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Dave Jenkins
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Rediscovering the Church Fathers Who They Were and How They Shaped The Church is written by Michael A. G. Haykin Professor of church history and spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This book explores the importance of the church fathers to evangelicals, and then turns to looking at Ignatius, the letter to Diognetus, the exegesis of Origen, Cyprian, Ambrose, Basil of Caesarea, Patrick and the authors experience with reading the Church Fathers.
Being an avid reader I regularly look for what's coming in the pipeline from a variety of publishers so that I can be kept aware of what's upcoming that looks interesting to read. When I read the title of Rediscovering the Church Fathers, I immediately knew that I was going to be interested in reading this book. Having now read this book I can say that I am even more excited about it.
First, I have a confession, I personally find Church History fascinating. I love learning about the men and women who have gone before me in the faith. In particular I love to read about the Church Fathers and also the Reformers along with the Puritans. Being that I regularly read a lot of blogs and read a lot of books every year- one of the areas theologically that I see lacking in the Church is in the area of historical theology.
As I just said Church History has much to teach the Church today about what it means to live out the faith. This book addresses two issues that I think are huge in the Church today. The first issue is a lack of rootedness in history and the second is celebrity hero culture of much of American evangelism.
The first issue that this book addresses is the lack of rootedness in history. Christians have received the faith passed on by many godly men and women- many of whom have died brutal deaths for the faith in order to hand on the faith to the next generation. Earlier I mentioned that one of the biggest issues I see lacking is in the area of historical theology. I'm thankful for books like Rediscovering the Church Fathers because it exposes Christians on a popular level to the lives of men who made an impact in their generations for Christ. So, when I say that many Christians lack a rootedness in history, I am speaking to the fact that many Christians may have never considered how their faith has been passed on for the last two thousand years. Knowing Church History is important for a variety of reasons but the biggest is to know what theological error has occurred in the past (and continues to do so in the present) and how the Church has defended such error and refuted such error historically (and continues to do so in the present).
The final issue is one that this book does not address directly but rather by way it is written. Dr. Haykin excels in this book discussing the life of the men but setting the life of the men he considers in their proper historical context. When the life of these men are considered in light of the history in which they lived in their lives- their lives are all the most spectacular. In reflecting on reading this book I came to the conclusion though that Dr. Haykin's strength lies not in just setting the proper context or even his examination of the men he writes about, but in showing what kind of men Ignatius, Origen, Cyprian, Ambrose, Basil of Caesarea, and Patrick were. In doing that, I believe Dr. Haykin's book goes beyond just being a teaching on the Church Fathers but takes one immediately into the present and causes the reader to examine how one is living his/her life today.
Finally, studying Church History is vital but knowing one's Bible is far better. In reading and studying Church History one must ultimately open one's Bible and test and examine the theology of the teacher holding fast what is biblical in regards to the teaching, and discarding what is not. Thankfully Dr. Haykin in his book takes the reader on a journey of men who lived courageously and boldly for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their generations. This is a book every Christian ought to read if not only to get familiar with the Church Fathers but to become acquainted with men who influenced the faith. Rediscovering the Church Fathers is a book that ought to be read by every Christian of all stripes to learn about the lives of some of the men who have gone before us and who still today influence the Church. I recommend you read this book and be encouraged at how God has used men in the past and then consider how He might use you in the present to stand courageously for the sake of the Gospel in our own day.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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Review 3 for Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church - eBook
Overall Rating: 
4 out of 5
4 out of 5

Date:May 17, 2011
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Ricky Kirk
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Many young, reformed, evangelical types today tend to follow a select number of 'modern' or 'current' church fathers. You know who they are, MacArthur, Piper, Keller, Mahaney, Driscoll, Chan, and even Platt. Don't get me wrong, these are excellent teachers and preachers and they are definitely shaping us young leaders and I have personally benefited from their teaching and practice.
What is missing in our understanding of church polity, orthodoxy and orthopraxy is some guidance from our church fathers from ages past. You know who they are (well, actually we don't, but just go with it), Ignatius, Origen, Ambrose, Basil and Patrick. There is a wealth of guidance that should be gleaned from these early church fathers, and it is to this end that Haykin has written Rediscovering the Church Fathers. Many evangelicals are unfamiliar with any church father outside of the apostles in the New Testament canon, this book is perfect to introduce these fathers to a new generation of believers. This volume provides an overview of the early church fathers and the insights they contributed to Christendom in apologetics, worship, suffering, evangelism/mission, and God's Word.
Many times it seems there are questions I am struggling with and no one else has ever had to figure out how to answer them. Then, I turn to the early church fathers and see they not only had similar questions, but they have profound and deeply biblical answers. It is in turning to those who have gone before us, that great cloud of witnesses, that I can find encouragement, strength and the realization that I am not the first to have these struggles.
This book is only the tip of the iceberg as it relates to the writings of the church fathers. Included is an appendix that helps the reader go further in their study of the church fathers, recommending a few helpful books and a few places to start exploring. For some who read this book, they will find themselves 'rediscovering' the church fathers, but I believe a greater majority of those who read this book just might find they are 'discovering' the church fathers for the first time.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Crossway as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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Review 4 for Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church - eBook
Overall Rating: 
2 out of 5
2 out of 5

"Rediscovering the Church Fathers" Book Review

Date:April 21, 2011
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Da Panda
Location:Taylorsville, NC
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1 out of 5
There seems to be a resurgence of interest as of late in church history. No doubt this is in part to authors such as John Piper, who quotes extensively from Jonathan Edwards and John Calvin. Men such as N.T. Wright have also sparked much interest in Early Judaism as well. However, one area where students in my generation simply do not seem as interested is the early church fathers. Michael A.G. Haykin's book Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church seeks to educate and, hopefully, rekindle an interest in the church fathers.
Unfortunately, Haykin's book, while educational, does little to rekindle interest. The book mostly feels like a random collection of essays concerning different fathers in the church. Perhaps the biggest shortcoming of the book is that Haykin provides little commentary on why these church fathers are relevant for today. While he insists on their contemporary importance, little application is given.
Some chapters are particularly perplexing within his book, such as his chapter on Origin's exegetical practices. After spending the entire chapter pointing out the shortcomings, Haykin never comes around to explaining what we can learn. The question is simply crying out to be asked, "Why did he decide to pick Origin?" Again, Haykin spends a great deal of time discussing Ignatious of Antioch's somewhat graphic (and joyous) description of martyrdom. While he dismisses any suggestion that Ignatious was wrong in his perspective on suffering, he never builds a conclusive case as to why we should listen to Ignatious.
Haykin's book also seems to ramble. His final chapter discusses his own experience with the church fathers. While interesting, the chapter simply concludes with Haykin essentially saying, "That is how I got into the church fathers." What is left out is how they are relevant, what we can learn from them, and how to apply them to today.
All is not lost, however. Chapter 6, on Basil of Caesarea, stands out as a particularly practical and powerful chapter. His chapter on St. Patrick is also quite interesting as well. Also, Haykin should be commended for his use of quotations of the early fathers. He quotes extensively from the original sources without using so many quotes that it disrupts the flow of the book. Each chapter was also quite readable and the chapters seemed to be a good length.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Haykin's book is that it does not really offer anything new to the market of introductory studies on the church fathers. For example, Learning Theology with the Church Fathers by Christopher Hall offers both a thorough introduction to the thinking of individual fathers and provides relevant application. In my mind, at least, Hall's works are a sort of paradigm for introductory material. Rediscovering the Church Fathers simply does not measure up. With so many better books out there on the church fathers, I would suggest passing this one up.
*Thanks to Crossway publishers for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair review*
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Review 5 for Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church - eBook
Overall Rating: 
4 out of 5
4 out of 5

The early church fathers have a lot to teach us!

Date:April 13, 2011
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Grex77
Location:Visalia, CA
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4 out of 5
Here's a quick pop quiz.
1) Who called Islam a "still-prevailing superstition of the Ishmaelites that deceives people" and "the forerunner of Antichrist"?
a) Franklin Graham
b) Glenn Beck
c) John of Damascus
d) What is an Ishmaelite and who is John of Damascus?
2) When was the following statement made: "Now, this is the perfect and consummate glory in God: not to exult in one's own righteousness, but, recognizing oneself as lacking true righteousness, to be justified by faith in Christ alone."
a) During the Protestant Reformation
b) During last year's Desiring God conference
c) During the fourth century
d) In Paul's letter to the church at Rome
3) Saint Patrick first came to Ireland:
a) As a missionary
b) As a slave
c) As a young child and grew up there
d) Because they were after his lucky charms
The answers are down below if you're curious...
But you're probably thinking Who cares? And you'd be right. These questions all have to do with the early church fathers (Christians from the first five centuries or so of church history), and the truth is most evangelicals don't care about patristics. My point in this silly quiz was to show just how relevant the lives and writings of these ancient Christians are for us today. The church fathers wrote about issues that modern Christians care deeply about and they lived their lives amidst a changing world. Some were learning how to live as persecuted people and knew that to follow Christ was to run the risk of being executed. Others struggled with living authentic Christian lives when Christianity became the official state religion and was watered down.
In Rediscovering the Church Fathers, Michael A. G. Haykin, a church history professor at SBTS invites evangelicals to explore this ancient world that we often overlook. Albeit, not every the church fathers wrote or believed is gold. In fact, many of them struggled to figure out exactly what orthodoxy was (and wandered into heresy). But we have them to thank today for what we've inherited. They fought important theological battles first and we have received the blessing of their work and their faithfulness.
I mean, just look at the quote above in question # 2. That could have come from the pen of Martin Luther or John Calvin or from a multitude of reformed pastors today, but it came from a relatively unknown theologian of the [spoiler alert!] fourth century, Basil of Caesarea. Although it's popular for emergent types today to say that the issues being addressed by the Reformation were unique to that day, but clearly the concepts of Sola Fide and Sola Christus (and all the other solas) were not invented by the reformers!
The book is presented as a brief survey of the early Christian world. In fact, "survey" might be too strong a word. It's more like a sampler pack of early church history. You get some variety, but some of the best flavors are missing. (For example, there's no Didache, and there's no Augustine.) With that in mind, each chapter stands by itself (although there is some cross-referencing when themes or lives intersect). This can make the work appear more or less like a textbook at times. On the other hand, this book is a great introduction to some wonderful early Christians and could serve as a springboard for more detailed study. I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more of the actual writings from the fathers. For me, the highlights in this book were the chapters on Ignatius of Antioch, Origen, Basil of Caesarea, and Patrick. I wouldn't say this is a book for everyone, but if you like historical theology
If you got to the end of this review, here's your reward. The answers are: 1) c. 2) c. 3) b.
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Review 6 for Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church - eBook
Overall Rating: 
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Great Resource

Date:April 11, 2011
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Todd
Location:Oklahoma City, OK
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If you are a theological nerd or church history enthusiast like me you will greatly enjoy this book. However Rediscovering The Church Fathers is for all believers. Dr. Haykin does a superb job of showing how much of what we treasure in Christendom is due to the early Church Fathers. Knowing this information keeps us connected to the whole body of believers since the time of Christ. Learning of this shared faith and theology is indeed a joy and is due to God’s Glory of Himself throughout the ages. I suggest you grab of copy of this book and enjoy it deeply.
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Review 7 for Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church - eBook
Overall Rating: 
4 out of 5
4 out of 5

Good introduction to the topic

Date:April 11, 2011
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Debbie from ChristFocus
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"Rediscovering the Church Fathers" is an introduction to early church history which focused on seven men whose lives and teachings helped shape church doctrine. The writing is somewhat formal in tone, but it's a quick read and easy to follow. The author gave some historical background for each man, quoted from some of their writings, and commented on those writings. I'd recommend this book to those who'd like a quick overview of how some current Christian doctrines were formed.
The first chapter explained why we should care about what the early church fathers taught. Chapter 2 was about Ignatius of Antioch and mainly focused on his letter about martyrdom, it's historical context, and what it showed about his view of martyrdom and of Christ. Chapter 3 was about the contents of the Letter to Diognetus (a defense of the Christian faith against the pagan misrepresentations of it) plus what can be gleaned from it about how the writer viewed Christ.
Chapter 4 was about Origen's life and writings, what he taught about Christ (against heresy and in his Bible commentaries), and about his method of Bible interpretation. Chapter 5 was about the teachings of Cyprian and later of Ambrose about the Lord's Supper (and the rise of the Catholic doctrine about it). Chapter 6 was about Basil of Caesarea's life and writings with a focus on the monastic movement (why Christians became monks/nuns, etc.).
Chapter 7 was a brief history of how Christianity came to Britain and about the writings of St. Patrick on his life and in promotion of missionary work aimed at "barbarian" peoples. Chapter 8 was about how the author got interested in early church history. The appendix contained suggested books for further research on church history and information on the writings of Jaroslav Pelikan about church history.
I received this book as a review copy from the publisher.
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Review 8 for Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church - eBook
Overall Rating: 
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

A Great Indepth Intro to the Fathers

Date:April 8, 2011
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sheep23
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Generally, I am a tough critic when it comes to book reviews, giving books three stars if I thought they were well written and informative. Yet, every once in a while there comes across my way a book that that compels me to dig in deeper and to appreciate the subject matter in a more refreshing way, such is Michael Haykin's new book entitled Rediscovering the Church Fathers. Haykin, a professor of church history and biblical spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written a lucid, provocative, informative and appreciate book on the early church fathers. I have not quite read a book written both as an apology for reading the fathers and as an introduction of the early fathers that is so compelling as this book.
The first chapter of the book devotes itself to the renewal of interest in church fathers study by evangelicals, the question of who are the church fathers, and the more actute statments regarding the value of studying the fathers. In reading through his analysis of our debt to the church fathers, I was once again reminded that, "Every age has its own distinct outlook, presuppositions that remain unquestioned even by opponents. The examination of another period of thought forces us to confront our innate prejudices, which would go unnoticed otherwise" (17). To study the fathers is to cast off the mask of historical amnesia that we put over our faces, proclaiming that our era is better and that we are more advanced than the past generations. Haykin's claim is that without adequate study of the past, especially the church fathers, we live uncritically by accepting the culture's main philosophy and ideas without seeing how other Christians lived their faith out in the world. Although most Western Christians do not face persecution on a daily basis, many others do face the threat of death and physical damage. Many church fathers were able to stay strong in their faith in the midst of terrible atrocities, and therefore give us a firm witness on how to stand firm in the midst of persecution.
Secondly, Haykin points out that studying the church fathers gives us a 'map for the Christian life' (18). We can go back to the Nicene Creed, to Athanasius's defense of the Trinity and see how these men sought to integrate a biblical understanding of their faith in concrete terms, therefore fending off abberant ideas. Although the fathers are fallible, they provide concrete examples of the setting down of their faith in forms that point us to key doctrines that we must understand. I hope from here on out to point out some of the highlights in an overall stunning book filled with great examples of these faithful fathers.
In the second chapter, Haykin focuses on Ignatius of Antioch. Arrested in Antioch between 107/110, Ignatius was to be taken to Rome for execution (37). Ignatius knew many influential and well to do Christians who were in Rome who could easily pull some strings and get him out of his sentence, and yet he vehemently wanted silence on this issue. "In other words, the silence of the Roman believers will mean that Ignatius, by his martyrdom, can proclaim to the world the sincerity of his faith" (40). Martyrdom was not taken lightly for Ignatius, it was an honorable way to show forth the redemptive faith that he held. Just as the Son's death was pleasing to his Father, so Igantius's death is an example of pleasing God in sacrifice (42). What is amazing is both the tenacity at which Ignatius held his faith and the desire to imitate Christ in his own life. In understanding this great act of faith, Ignatius wed his theology with his practice, his life with his faith in an unyielding way, even to the point of death.
The next chapter dealing with the Letter to Diognetus is an amazing ecample of the clarity with which early Christians bore witness of their faith through argument and example. The recipient presumably named Diognetus is a 'Greco-Roman pagan' whom the author is seeking to make a case for the Christian faith (50). As we read on, we find that the author arguments much in the same vein as Paul does in his address to the Athenians at the Areopagus. This author makes a hard case against the absurdity of the false Greco-Roman idols and their ability to be none other than common objects. At one point, the author says, "Do you really call these things gods, and really do service to them? Yes, indeed you do; you worship them-and you end up by becoming like them. Is it not because we Christians refuse to acknowledge their divinity that you dislike us so? (54). From this point on, the author builds a case for the existence of the one true God and the way in which we receive knowledge and true understanding of Him via revelation. Later on in the letter, the author posits five different ways that Christ is our substitute (60). The richness of the letter combined with its theological integrity and clarity are hallmarks of the author's witness to the Christian faith. Secondly, the author makes a strong apologetic against what he sees are the crass consequences of paganism in order to build his testimony on the basis of revelation.
The rest of the book is filled with concrete examples of those early fathers who laid their lives on the line for their faith. When writing about St. Patrick, Haykin writes, "His Confessions reveals a transparent personality: a zealous evangelist and loving pastor who was willing to be a stranger in Ireland not his own that Irish men and women might come to know the Savior" (148). In due course, we learn that Patrick was not originally from Ireland but rather from Northern Britain. The only small criticism I have of the book is rather a fault of mine own, for I could not get my head around the section on Basil of Caesarea. Haykin writes, "to come to the Spirit for sanctification we must have purified our souls" (124). This reference comes after a section of text from Basil's work on the Holy Spirit. What I don't really get is what is regarded as purifying one's soul and what kind of process does this entail?
Haykin does a great job at providing the reader with a glimpse into his journey with the church fathers from early on in college all the way through to his doctoral work. Haykin is wise to point out that careful study of the fathers demands ancient language acquisition and a careful study of the ancient world surrounding the Fathers (156). For pastors, those starting their church history course in seminary, or those in church who are asking questions regarding the first few centuries of the church, this book is a rare gem. Part of the reason I rated it so highly is that a great book should cause the reader to want more of the subject, to go on into the sources themselves. This work has certainly caused me to see the need for a careful primary source study of the Fathers, for none other than a good study points us back to our Savior.
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Review 9 for Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church - eBook
Overall Rating: 
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Why should we read the Patristics?

Date:March 19, 2011
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Pastor Dan
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5 out of 5
First of all I would like to thank Crossway books and especially Angie Chetham for sending me this advanced review copy so that I could give an opinion on Michael Haykins new book.
Rediscovering the Church Fathers is a very well written book intended to reacquaint the Christian Church with the early exegetes of Scripture. We pastors and laypeople have a tendency to pick up commentaries that are written by modern day theologians (modern being from the 1800 to present day) to help us better understand scripture.
But we have a tendency to ignore those writers from the early 1st century through the 8th century. These works have been translated and made available in several volumes that make up the larger work known as the Nicene Fathers and the Anti-Nicene Fathers.
One of the Haykin's premises is that when we have ignored the early church Fathers even though they "can provide us with a map for the Christian life." He uses the illustration that we would not try to sail from New York to London across the Atlantic without some navigational guides. We often use guides that were written by the early explorers and take them as "gospel." So, why don't we take the early writings of the Church Fathers and give them the weight of value that they deserve?
Most likely we don't read them because we believe that they will be hard to read, hard to understand and that they won't understand our culture because they wrote at a time when life was totally different.
But as Haykin points out these early writers were giving us insight into the scriptures during a time of great persecution of the church. They personally knew the men and women that were being martyred for the faith. Many of the martyrs were their students. So, who better to give us insight into scripture knowing that their stand against the Greeks and the Romans could very much cost them their lives.
An interesting fact that Haykin points out is that many of these writers were having to answer the questions of other scholars as to why this "New Teaching" of Christians should be listened to. The Greeks and Roman scholars believe that if the writing or thoughts were ancient they must be true, but if they were new they must be suspect.
So, given the fact that today we have people who question the validity of the Scriptures and their relevancy we will find a common bond with the Early Church Fathers because they were wrestling with that same issue even in the 1st and 2nd century after Christ death.
The early Church Fathers looked as Martyrdom as a Gift of the Spirit. Ignatius wrote as he awaited death for espousing the Gospel, "Earthly longings have been crucified and in me there is left no spark of desire for mundane things, but only a murmur of living water that whispers within me, 'Come to the Father.' He truly understood that the things of this world are worthless when put into the perspective of what Christ suffered and what He calls his followers to do.
After an introductory chapter regarding why we should read the early Church Fathers Haykin goes on in the next chapters to introduce us to some very key writers. Chapters include background and details about;
Ignatius of Antioch
Origen, nicknamed Adamantius "Man of Steel"
Cyprian and Ambrose of Alexandria
Basil of Caesarea
and the Mission of Patrick
If these names don't sound familiar that's because we have neglected to read about the early history of the church.
This work is a great primer for the early Church Fathers. It ignited in me a desire to dig deeper into the writings of these early Church Fathers, The Patristics as they are known.
So, how do I start? Well Haykin answers that question. In Appendix #1 he gives you "A Beginners Guide to Reading the Fathers." This short appendix is a great summation of the book and gives you the tools to start into a deeper study.
If you are unfamiliar with the early Patristics this book will wet your appetite. If you are familiar with them but have been ignoring them because you want to read works from modern commentators, this book will wet your appetite to get back into reading the early writings.
The year is early, but this book is right now my #1 recommendation for the year. It might not stay there, but it will take a pretty good book coming in the future to knock it from the top slot for this year.
Enjoy!
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