There are thousands of different Christian denominations. They vehemently disagree on how to interpret the Bible and what’s required for salvation. That’s kind of a big deal if eternity is at stake.
It’s a monumental task to interpret scripture on our own. People with doctorates can’t even agree on what it says. Is baptism essential for salvation? Are we saved once and forever? Are we saved by faith alone or judged by our works? What about the rapture, final judgment, Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory? What is the role of the Virgin Mary? Is Jesus truly present in the Eucharist? Can sacraments fortify us with the graces needed to cross the finish line? Or is communion just symbolic? They can’t all be right because they contradict each other… sometimes dramatically. Can these contradictions be resolved? Can we ever know if we are on the right path?
I found clues in the writings of the early church fathers. These were men who learned directly from the Apostles and their apostles. These were the men who taught the faith by way of oral tradition before the printing press existed or there was a formal canon of scripture. Wouldn’t it make sense that the Apostles probably had a fairly good understanding of Christ’s teachings? Wouldn’t looking at the beliefs of the early Church help settle some of the disputes between denominations that have risen today? Doesn’t the Bible itself even tell us to stand firm and hold to the traditions which were taught by both word-of-mouth and by letter? If God gave us inspired scripture, wouldn’t He give us a way to protect it?
The Apostles and their Apostles (The Traditions of the Early Church Fathers)
It’s through the writings of the early church fathers that historians know how the books of the Bible were chosen and who wrote the gospels. The early church fathers were the Apostles and their apostles. They taught in a time before the printing press existed. It was from their writing that the new testament was compiled hundreds of years after Christ’s death. To protect the integrity of Christ’s teachings, early Christians formed synods and councils and created canons and decrees explaining and clarifying their collective understanding of Christ’s teachings. Their writings shed light on which modern Christianity beliefs differs from early beliefs and which have remained the same over 2000 years. These early writers spoke the languages in which the Biblical texts were originally written. They understood the customs of the times bringing a unique perspective to interpreting controversial Bible passages.
Church Fathers: Rod Bennett discusses how the writings of the Early Church Fathers (Apostles and their apostles) convinced him that the early Christian’s beliefs were similar to modern-day Catholic’s.
Steven Ray: A video examining what the Apostles believed based on early writings and what they taught their apostles.
Dr. Scott Hahn: Explains what it felt like to be on the path to being a Protestant minister and later become “Luther in Reverse” due to his study of early church history.
Marcus Grodi: Lutheran Minister who researched the writings of early Church Fathers. Reads quotes from 100-400 A.D. writers showing Catholic doctrine being taught by the Apostles and their apostles.
Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historical Church: The story of a devout Baptist who relates how he overcame his hostility to the Catholic Church by a combination of serious Bible study and vast research of the writings of the early Church Fathers. Thoroughly documented with hundreds of footnotes, this contains a compilation of biblical and patristic quotations and commentary available on Baptism and the Eucharist, as well as a detailed analysis of Sola Scriptura and Tradition.
Jimmy Swaggart Made Me Catholic by Tim Staples: I love love love this CD. Tim was a self-proclaimed “on fire” Protestant who wanted to be a preacher just like Billy Graham. He was extremely anti-Catholic on a mission to “save” his Catholic brethren from going to Hell. How could a man who was determined to prove the Catholic Church wrong ever be persuaded otherwise? The CD or MP3 can be purchased here (I don’t have any affiliate relationship and do not get paid to share this link… I just love the story).
If you want to check Tim out for free on youtube for free, here are a few really good interviews as well:
Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historical Church: The story of a devout Baptist who relates how he overcame his hostility to the Catholic Church by a combination of serious Bible study and vast research of the writings of the early Church Fathers. Thoroughly documented with hundreds of footnotes, this contains perhaps the most complete compilation of biblical and patristic quotations and commentary available on Baptism and the Eucharist, as well as a detailed analysis of Sola Scriptura and Tradition.
The Fathers Know Best by Jimmy Akin. An Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church. Well researched and easily organized book that features over 900 quotations from early Church Fathers. Addresses nearly 50 topics including modern hot-button issues.
The Apostasy that Wasn’t: The Extraordinary Story of the Unbreakable Early Church. This idea of a Great Apostasy is one of the cornerstones of American Protestantism, along with Mormonism, the Jehovah s Witnesses, and even Islam. Countless millions today profess a faith built on the assumption that the early Church quickly became broken beyond repair, requiring some new prophet or reformer to restore the pure teaching of Jesus and the apostles. Bennett claims that while the theory might be popular, it’s also fictional and he lays out his case in this book.
Epic: The Early Church (Study Program) by Steve Weidenkopf
The Early Church is a 10-part program that presents in detail the first 500 years of the Church through the lives and events of the saints, philosophers, theologians, martyrs, and ruthless emperors. For group or private study.
9 of the Most Profound Quotes of the Church Fathers on the Eucharist: Is the Eucharist just a symbol? Or is Christ truly and mysteriously present? Well, there’s no question where the early Church stood on the question: the Eucharist is Christ himself! The faith of the Catholic Church has not changed. Yes, we Christians today can benefit from two millennia of theology and doctrinal development; yet the early Church Fathers had such profound insights into the mysteries of the faith. For any Christians who don’t believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, here’s a friendly challenge: As you read the quotes below, ask yourself if agree with them. If not, realize that your beliefs put you out of line with the earliest Christians. [Read More…]
This One Quote Convinced Me to Convert to Catholicism: When an Evangelical Pastor, and good friend, asked me, “What’s more important, the Bible or Tradition?” I’d made a fatal mistake and would learn later that I had begun to, “be fair,” to the Catholic Church. A mistake which famous convert G.K. Chesterton calls the first step towards conversion. [Read More…]
Early Christian Writings: Click here to read early source writings.