“Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction” by Bryan M. Litfin

Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical IntroductionGetting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction by Bryan M. Litfin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bryan Litfin holds a Bachelor’s degree in Print Journalism from University of Tennessee, a Master’s degree in Historical Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D in Ancient Church History from University of Virginia.

He has taught at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago since 2002 in the fields of Theology, Western Civilization (from the ancient in medieval periods), and Church History. In addition to authoring this book, Litfin has published several scholarly articles and The Chiveis Trilogy, a fictional tale of a post-apocalyptic land where Christianity no longer exists.

Litfin explores the the life events of the church fathers of Christianity. Focusing specifically on ten primary church fathers (Ignatius, Justin, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Perpetua, Origen, Athanasius, Chrysostom, Augstine, and Cyril), in a sense, Litfin takes readers through the formative events of each father’s faith, as well as their contributions to early Christianity. Litfin presents the fathers in their complete humanity – what their shortcomings were, along with their greatnesses, to help Christians today be aware of who the church fathers were and why they were instrumental in the growth and spread of Christianity.

Litfin’s examination the church fathers is thorough, yet highly opinionated and surprisingly absolute in situations that may not necessarily be known as complete fact. Litfin presents underlying arguments throughout the covering of the church “fathers” of his preferred theology, being one of replacement theology. Additionally, it appears that Litfin ignores several martyrs and influential leaders that could be considered church fathers and focuses solely on his preferred “top ten,” of which one is technically not a “father” and many of them seem to have little to no overall history with the Christian church (such as Perpetua and in some ways, even Ignatius).

Litfin’s decision to promote the good works of these fathers, and in some cases, the sainthood of them, is highly disturbing when considering the lives the individuals lived. Litfin presents the early church in such a manner that it appears to be solely one of chaos, inebriety, and corruption. Litfin’s work is not recommended for introductory readers of the Christian faith and should only be referred to for advanced studies of church history. While he does a fair job of an accurate depiction of the past, it can only fill the reader with regret of the formation of the Christian church. Litfin seems to glorify the works of his top ten founders of the faith. While indicating their weaknesses, he glosses over them and shows their accomplishments as outweighing them.

Litfin does an exemplary job at showing the humanity, both negative and positive, of the church fathers, despite the limited number reviewed and perhaps not the best selection to consider. In all, this book is an interesting read, even if a discouraging one for the history of Christianity.

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