The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Reading the church fathers

with 2 comments

church-fathersIn response to a recent post on the early church, my friend Paul asked what might be recommended reading for those looking to get their teeth into the church fathers . . . not literally, of course, that would be gruesome.

In responding, I should make clear that I am no expert on Patristics.  So, you get personal opinions from someone not that widely read in this sphere, and whose taste may not be too well-developed.

That said, I imagine that for many the classic introductory text would be Augustine’s Confessions (or here).  It is essentially a spiritual autobiography that contains much instruction.

Also from Augustine, I profited a great deal from The City of God.  Written in the aftermath of the sack of Rome by the Goths, it considers the true identity of God’s kingdom and the activity of God in the history of the world, with much that remains relevant today.

Athanasius On the Incarnation is another that ought to be read, if only because it was written by a man who famously stood against the world for the sake of the truth.  Though probably written before the Arian controversy in which he became embroiled, here he lays the foundation for his stance in that most monumental battle for the full divinity of Christ Jesus.

Another with similar steel in his spine was the author of Against Heresies, Irenaeus of Lyons.  Forced by circumstance to take up the polemic pen, he identified, studied and exploded various poisonous theological opinions.

If history is your thing, and you want to get to know some of the names and issues, then Eusebius is probably your man.

Gregory Nazianzen wrote On the Holy Spirit which you might be able to track down.

If you like sermons (and you should!), then you might try the homilies of Goldenmouth himself, John Chrysostom.  There is a selection here.  For plain and penetrating explanation, still helpful and stimulating.

If all this seems a little daunting to anyone, two modern works that would serve as excellent introductions are Michael Haykin’s Defence of the Truth or Nick Needham’s 2000 Years of Christ’s Power, volume 1 (sadly seems to be out of print at the moment).  Michael gives you a brief outline of several men and their battles.  Nick gives more of an overview of the early church, with the advantage that after each significant section you get a chunk of primary source material from various authors.  Both are highly recommended.

You will also be pleased to know that I remembered something from a real expert: Michael Haykin gives his own suggestions here and here.

If you are looking for the works of the early church fathers, then this seems to be the mother of all sets!

I trust this serves its purpose of giving you some idea of where you might begin.  Any other suggestions, feel free to post below.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 24 March 2009 at 14:04

2 Responses

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  1. Thanks for the list Jeremy.

    My only exposure to the Fathers was in Sam Waldron’s Apologetics and Historical Theology courses, but I have not really read any primary sources as such, and it must be 10 years since I went through that material.

    Paul

    Tuesday 24 March 2009 at 15:01

  2. There’s always the Penguin Early Christian Writings.

    berenike

    Wednesday 1 April 2009 at 10:55


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