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‘Getting to Know the Church Fathers’, Book Review Example

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Book Review

The author, Bryan Liftin, is an associate professor of theology at Moody Bible Institute and is also an author of two popular books, ‘Getting to Know the Church Fathers’ and ‘The Sword’. The following sections of this paper provide a critical review on Bryan’s first book, ‘Getting to Know the Church Fathers’ published by Brazos Press.

The book, ‘Getting to Know the Church Father’, mainly deals with early church history, the key events and relevant figures, which have influenced the formation of old Catholic Churches. In the book, by introducing ten Christians, Bryan dispels the misconceptions that have clouded many church fathers in today’s world. He clearly points out in the introduction saying that all patristic writers are dismissed due to misconceptions such as the church fathers are Roman Catholic, the church fathers lacked biblical authority and the church fathers are the representation of fall of Christianity in the Middle Ages.  In my intention, unlike the other historical writers, Bryan can be seen as an author, who strongly believes the idea that the ancient patristic leaders of Christianity provide the discipleship for the future. This idea can be considered as the main theme of the book. In Getting to Know the Church Fathers, Bryan introduces one church father in each chapter. The specialty of the book is Bryan providing much of his personal perspective on each church father. The personal perspective of Bryan makes this book much different than regular history book on Christianity.

The first five chapters of the book deal with Church fathers who live in the context of extreme adversity and the next five chapters talk about church fathers that live in developed context and environment. The church fathers ‘Ignatius of Antioch’, who is a determined person, would always like to safeguard his church congregation until his death, ‘Justin Martyr’, who was known for breaking path towards new era of Christianity, ‘Irenaeus of Lyons’ who defeated the unusual perceptions of people in the Christianity with the help of Canons and Creed and ‘Tertullian’, who was known for his high leadership qualities and was of course safeguarded people of Christianity from Gnostics. The only woman in the ten Characters was ‘Perpetua’, who was described as an amazing woman, who was sensational for her activities such as leaving her child with her grandparents when she was rewarded as martyrdom.

In the final five chapters, Liftin described about church fathers who displayed great leadership skills to make Christians work together to transform the course of churches.  They were ‘Origen’ who was considered as foremost individual to try to settle the disclosure of Bible with the philosophy of Greeks, ‘Athanasius’, who was a Dutch boy known for saving the Holland by closing the hole with the help of one hand to amass the water for whole night, ‘John Chrysostom’, who was known for impressing pagan teachers with his powerful communication skills, ‘Augustine’, who stood against Donatism and ‘Cyril of Alexandria’.

Each chapter in the book starts with anecdote, which gives a brief introduction about a particular father. Starting each chapter with anecdotes and asking questions at the end of each chapter makes the story applicable to wider range of audience. Moreover, Liftin’s portrayal of church fathers as real people or real lives helps readers understanding the problems of church fathers in olden days. Apparently, the factors that are mentioned in the book definitely increase the respect towards the church fathers in olden days.

The first major theme of the book as described by Bryan is ‘Church Fathers as Developmental instead of Destructive to the Faith’. Though, this is the strength of the book, the improvement of the conviction has become an ingredient that harms the Christianity because in consequent days, Christianity has been translated itself from a simple ideology, which most of the people could comprehend to a complex ideology that could never be understood by any church father. The complicated faith, which evolved in subsequent times, could only be understood by Roman Inquisitors. In a narrow view, the developmental work of very good initially very similar to bureaucracy in the initial phases but over a period of time, too many church fathers made the transforming Christianity as a severe mental pressure which is known to be accepted by very few people that are highly guarded. Everybody knows that law and order does not gel well with the society if there are too many laws implemented at the same time. A bureaucracy with too many laws is a perfect example of the transformational Christianity in the Middle Ages.

The second theme of the book is’ Church fathers are known for leading the people to transform the church course. Though, we can’t deny the fact that without the involvement of other people in the course of the transformation, it is an impossible task. However, the credit goes to the church fathers for their leadership qualities and team working ability. Of course, a single person can’t change anything; it is a known fact that Alexander did not try to win the world just by himself. A lot of people, his army, joined hands with him to conquer the world. Liftin has clearly explained how church fathers lead people to achieve something measurable. Liftin was able to convince the readers by giving several examples even though there is a criticism that the fathers of church, in a person’s view, are considered as lonely people who had thick and different opinions. Despite the criticism, Liftin was succeeded in expressing his views on how church people interacted with highly respected church fathers, though, the church people work was considered as a thin skim in the historical purposes.

The general theme of the book, using questions at the end of the chapter and beginning of the chapter correlates each father to contemporary context. Though, the theme is good to ensure the book reach wide range of readers, the danger of using this theme is that criticisms from the experts of Christianity for not interrelating the subject matter of the historical context. To conclude, the book can go well into the readers like college students and regular readers but it can be a weaker source for the research and academic discipline.

 

References

Litfin, Bryan. “Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction”.
(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazon Press, 2007).

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