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					                                  EARLY CHURCH FATHERS

         A. Antiquity (-AD 200 - -AD 750)
                   The Early Church Fathers lived. . . . . . . a long time ago. It is generally
                   accepted that to qualify as an Early Church Father one must have lived
                   during the period of time from AD 200 to AD 750 (some church historians
                   go as late as AD 800).

                   (Apostolic Fathers: AD 76 to - AD 200)

         B. Holiness of life
                   1. Demonstrated by their zeal for God. Many lived the austere monastic
                   life, denying themselves the material things of this world (which can so
                   easily sidetrack a believer), in order that they may attain as best they can
                   to the holiness of God. Many of these men, like Gregory of Nazianzus,
                   were attracted to lives of solitude in order to devote themselves to Bible
                   study and prayer for hours each day.

                   2. Demonstrated by their zeal for the Gospel. All these men had a zeal for
                   the gospel that compelled them to speak out against the heresies of the
                   day. For example, it is known that Athanasius had at times run up to
                   Emperor Constantine as he rode through the streets, and grabbing the
                   bridle of his horse, scolded him concerning his theological stance (or lack
                   thereof) on various issues.
         C. Orthodox Doctrine
                   1. Writings (they must have written something)
                   2. These writings must be Biblical and line up with apostolic tradition.
                             Writings must be orthodox and must align with what the apostles
                             themselves taught and modeled. There were other men who wrote
                             during this time, like Arius, but their doctrinal views differed from
                             that of the apostles and were considered heretical. Therefore men
                             like Arius don't meet the "Orthodox Doctrine" criteria.

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         D. Identified (recognized) and Approved by the Church.

                   These men are recognized by the church as being "fathers" of the faith.
                   When we talk about being recognized by the church, some will jump to
                   the conclusion that this refers to the catholic Church, and it does.
                   "catholic" meaning, "universal, general, all inclusive" In other words, the
                   church in general, both Roman Catholic and Protestant.

II. Why study the Early Church Fathers?
         A. Their example
                   1. Zeal for God and His Word. There are men in this group for whom it
                   seemed there were not enough hours in the day for prayer and bible study.
                   2. Dedication and faithfulness. The example that these men set for us
                   today should not be ignored. These were men who would have gladly
                   given their lives for their Lord. Some, like Athanasius, stood up to the
                   prevailing heresy of the day to the point where it was said of him that it
                   was, Athanasius contra mundum (i.e. Athanasius against the world).
                   It should be noted that these men were by no means perfect. They clearly
                   had faults. In his book, Reading Scripture with the Early Church Fathers,
                   Christopher Hall quotes from Robert Payne concerning the Early Church
                   Father Jerome that he was "tender and violent, gentle and rude, viciously
                   proud and childishly humble, a man of deep hates and morbid passions. . .
                   .he was a tissue of contradictions."
                   3. Tremendous intellect.
                   Athanasius, for example, wrote two very important works, An Oration
                   Against the Heathen and On the Incarnation, before he was 20 years old.
                   He became Bishop of the Church in Alexandria when he was 33 yrs old.
                   Some, not all, of these men were truly gifted and brilliant thinkers. Their
                   writings are worth reading because they present Biblical doctrines (e.g. the
                   incarnation of Christ, the triune nature of God) that the church adheres to
                   this day.
                   4. Early church worship
         B. Doctrine
                   1. They were used by God in the early formulation of key doctrines.
                             Incarnation: They were answering the question, "How can Christ
                             be fully human and fully God at the same time?"
                             Trinity: They were answering the questions, "How can God be
                             one yet three?, Is Christ really God? Is the Holy Spirit God?"

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                   2. Hermenuetical Proximity
                             They were nearer to the Apostolic Fathers and the life and times of
                             Christ. Their witness to the culture and the apostles gives them an
                             insight that was much closer to the "action." Their writings are
                             more likely to reflect the thinking and culture of the times when
                             the New Testament was written.
                             The best example I can think of for this is our present day
                             courtroom. When there is going to be a trial the lawyers look for
                             witnesses that were closest to the action. An eye witness is better
                             than someone who was far removed from the action.
                             Unfortunately for us, we are far removed from the action. So we
                             must rely on the Holy Spirit, Bible, archeology, the Apostolic
                             Fathers, and the Early Church Fathers--on those who were "closest
                             to the action."
                             Finally, no ideas are shaped/formed in a vacuum. Instead ideas are
                             shaped to some degree by various influences. The following list
                             represents some of those influences:
                                       Familial influences
                                       Cultural influences
                                       Moral influences
                                       Ecclesiological (Church) influences
                                       Theological influences
                                       Translational (Bible) influences.
                             The writings of the Early Church Fathers influence the church
                             today. The writings they produced have been read and reread by
                             theologians and men of God who have at times refined the
                             doctrines even more. Many of the basic Biblical truths they
                             developed from a close study of the Bible, and put down in writing
                             to battle heresies of the day, are accepted by the church today. It
                             may not be possible to quantify the influence that they have on us
                             today, but it is interesting to note that the heresies that they battled
                             have reappeared through the ages and these heresies are battled
                             using essentially the same arguments/doctrine put in writing by the
                             Early Church Fathers.

Fathers – Glenwood Community Church Early Church Fathers 3

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