Review of Rediscovering the Church Fathers

Posted by on Apr 29, 2011 in Book Reviews, Reviews

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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Christocentric by Matthew Fretwell

Posted by on Apr 28, 2011 in The Gospel and the Christian Life, The Gospel and the Ministry, What We Write About

Incarnational living is Christ-centeredness; meaning, Christ is interwoven into the warp and woof of the homogeneous fabric of faith. Christ is above culture. Sure, the church strives to place Christ “in” culture, but the sovereignty of Christ means that He already supersedes culture. His position is outside of time. Being Christocentric means that I acknowledge all things are in, through, for, and by Him (Eph. 1:3-14). When the Lord stated “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Mt. 22:21), Jesus implied three things: (1) Caesar may claim to be “Augustus” (the title denotes god-like, or majestic), but God is the One and only God; (2) all things are God’s, and government exists for God’s purpose, and (3) all things pertain to, and are created for, God. Caesar owns nothing! He is a created being. Christ, is above culture, but has established all things “in” Him. The Word of God launches this understanding past our human finite minds, more than once: Christ was/is the Creator (Jn. 1:1; Col. 1:16-17; Rom. 11:36).

The ancient Christian church acknowledged Christ as the entirety of their lives. They lived the Gospel within every community they reached. With no personal Bibles, buildings, or Sunday school classes, the church thrived on what they knew to be true in their hearts: the Gospel. “Classical Christianity affirms the centrality of Christ to all creation and offers a distinct way to deal with the problem of evil…which permeates all the structures of existence…they affirm the unity and coherence of all things in Christ (Col. 1:16-20).”[1] For this reason, believers are to meditate on Christ (the Word) to renew minds (Rom. 12:2) and pray for one another (James 5:16). We are to seize Christocentric-living (Eph. 4:15), which knows humility (Phil 2:3), and love (2 Cor. 5:14); “put[ting] on Christ” (Col. 3:12), and crucifying the flesh (Rom. 7:5). Bringing the Kingdom principles into community is more than a church plant; it is more than meeting unmet needs; more than a Bible study in the local barista; it comes from the implementation of Christocentric living, coupled with intentional discipleship and interaction with the unsaved.

If Christians truly believed that Christ was resurrected and lives, then there would be a transformation so powerful; so evident, so infectious, that no emperor, culture, or government would be able to squelch its growth. George Hunter, in his book The Celtic Way of Evangelism, expresses the nature of how powerful and comprehensive the understanding of living Christ was for the Celts. He states, “Celtic Christians had no need to seek [outside secularism]. Their Christian faith and community addressed life as a whole…help[ing] people [to] live and cope as Christians day to day in the face of poverty, enemies, evil forces, nature’s uncertainties, and frequent threats from many quarters.”[2] While this may not seem like evangelism, the act of living out one’s faith by Christocentric-driven devotion was indigenous for the Celts; something which needs to be engulfed into a paradigm shift of thinking in Westernized Christianity. Let us all reflect upon this:

“[This] is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” ~ Ephesians 4:20-24

[1] Webber, Ancient-Future Faith, 40-41.

[2] George Hunter, The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West…Again, (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2010), 20-21.


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